Black hole Imicus

15th September 2014 – 5.35 pm

Mission accomplished. A scant twenty minutes or so since coming on-line has seen me brutally destroy a rookie frigate with extreme prejudice—albeit without a pilot—and find a route back to our w-space home for my glorious leader. I think I'm doing pretty well so far this evening, and although the wormholes behind me in our neighbouring class 3 system are all close to collapsing I can see a few extra signatures to investigate in this high-sec system in The Citadel.

I am about to shed my cloak, always activated on any wormhole, even in high-sec, to deny information to other pilots, when the K162 from C3a crackles with a transit. Who is that, and what are they doing? I doubt the dying wormholes would be used, and neither would the critically unstable K162 from class 5 w-space. I take a peek at the local communication channel, rather filled with pilots in this relatively safe system, and see an orange. Is the capsuleer a newly woken occupant of C3a? And would I even recognise the corporation if I saw its name?

Thankfully, any intelligence I need to bring to bear on the situation is negated by the ship jumped through the wormhole decloaking before too long. It's an Imicus scanning frigate, piloted by an orange, and almost certainly an occupant of C3a. I can't do much to him in high-sec, but happily he turns around and jumps right back to his home system.

Normally, I wouldn't stand much chance in catching such a frigate as the Imicus, not whilst in my Proteus strategic cruiser. It doesn't normally stop me, and won't this time either, but I'm feeling more optimistic about this chase. For a start, the Imicus will be polarised, so if I catch him he will stay caught. Better still, I stand an improved chance of catching the Imicus because of the agility-sapping black hole in C3a. Even a frigate turns slowly under a strong gravitational pull.

I chase the frigate through the wormhole, decloaking immediately after my jump and getting my offensive systems hot in anticipation of the Imicus's re-appearance. There he is, and with my targeting systems twitching I start to gain a positive lock on the slowly turning frigate. The seconds tick down on the targeting timer, the Imicus turns, turns, and I gain a positive lock as the frigate simultaneously enters warp. Damn.

Trying to catch an Imicus in a black-hole system

The Imicus snatched away from my attentions warps towards the tower in C3a. I follow, cloaked, to see two Imicuses inside the force field. One warps back towards the wormhole, the other blinks off-line. I head back to the wormhole too, not really expecting to catch a ship but curious to see what it does. I dunno, jump out, perhaps, or cloak. Either way, the smaller ship reaches the wormhole before me and does what it does under the coarse watch of d-scan.

I loiter with intent, which is w-space code for wasting time, until Fin makes her way to the high-sec system. That was quick, and I see her enter C3a and follow her to our K162, if only because it feels like a long while since I've not wanted to shoot a ship I've seen in w-space. Fin busies herself with whatever administration tasks she gets up to that I should probably understand. I should probably see if I can find us some targets. I turn my Proteus towards the exit to high-sec, where I can scan the signatures there for wormholes.

Finding a way home for Fin

14th September 2014 – 3.41 pm

I return after a little time away exploring what is new and currently relevant in the world of SF, and quasi-stalking Christopher Priest, to see the return of my glorious leader. Almost. Fin has got herself shut out of our home w-space system, and rather than waste time trying to find a route home the hard way has taken to spending copious amounts of ISK on a marauder to earn an order of magnitude less ISK clearing missions efficiently. Before Fin suffers too much from the space madness, I should work on getting her home.

The home system has a bunch of new anomalies spawned that I can do something with soon, plus three unidentified signatures. And a ship, according to my combat scanning probes. A visitor! The ship's signature looks quite chunky, giving me hopes of catching something significant, until I get within directional-scanner range of the ship. It's just an Ibis rookie frigate. I dunno what it's doing here, but Fin's already urging me to kill it. Okay, then.

I scan, roughly, because I don't care if I scare the rookie frigate away, and get a solid hit within three scans. I hide my probes—now that I've found it I don't want to lose it carelessly—and warp across to the Ibis. It's empty. Fair enough, and it will be emptier in a few seconds. I decloak, take care of the dread Ibis threat to our homesystem security, and get back to scanning. The signatures are just gas and our static wormhole, which I warp to and jump through.

Overpowering the unpiloted Ibis in my Proteus

Updating d-scan on our K162 in the neighbouring class 3 system shows me a tower but no ships, and I can see a black hole ominously puckering at me in the background of space. The system is small, and as the tower is not around the planet nearest to our K162 it's obvious I won't be able to get out of range of it, so I simply launch probes at the wormhole. Performing a blanket scan reveals seven anomalies and seven signatures, and my notes tell me the system holds a static exit to high-sec. That bodes well for getting Fin home.

Scanning gives me a couple of gas sites; a mid-strength wormhole that I take to be the static connection; a second wormhole; a third that is obviously a wormhole before I even identify it, given how high above the ecliptic plane its signature is; and a fourth wormhole. C3a is more connected than I expected. The dying T405 to class 4 w-space is mildly interesting but not worth using, a tiny K162 from class 5 w-space is clearly on the verge of collapse, a second T405 is also at the end of its life, which makes me wonder about the health of the exit to high-sec. Hey, it's fine. Fancy that.

The exit to high-sec also looks like it leads to The Citadel, which is confirmed by jumping through, landing me in a system a mere nine hops to Amarr, where Fin is, and six to Jita, where pilots can buy anything they want. Do I want to buy anything? Maybe, I can never remember, but Fin's happy at the convenience of the exit. 'Holy cow and sweet' is not really an expression I'm familiar with, but it sounds positive. 'On my way', she says, completing a good start to the evening.

Taking it out on a wormhole

13th September 2014 – 3.35 pm

A new signature in the home system is a rather unfortunate find. I may be coming back from a lacklustre scouting expedition, but I am returning feeling a little tired and wanting to head off-line. I know that I will be absent for a few days from now, though, and if this is a new pocket of gas I'd prefer it to be activated and gone on my return.

The signature certainly smells like gas when I perform a blanket scan of our home system, although I have to admit that I scout on instinct more than pure numbers. That perhaps explains why the signature resolves not to be gas but a newly spawned wormhole. I warp my Proteus strategic cruiser across to the connection, landing to see a K162 from class 3 w-space that I've probably got time to poke.

Jumping to C3b immediately sees a pulsar like our own. I think I'm in the wrong boat for this connection, but only if I get in to a fight. There is a ship visible on my directional scanner too. Only a Buzzard, though. If a covert operations boat can give me a run for my ISK, even shield tanked in a pulsar w-space system, then I need to rethink my fitting strategies.

The Buzzard is on d-scan with no sign of a tower. There's no sign that he's cloaking any time soon either, which is curious. The cov-ops remains on d-scan, remains on d-scan, and continues to remain on d-scan. Maybe I should launch probes and scan for his position. Or maybe the Buzzard will come to me, as I see the ship drop on to the wormhole and jump to our home system.

Watching a Buzzard jump past me to our home system

I'm clearly tired, because I know, given that my session-change cloak from the jump is still active, that I will be polarised if I chase the Buzzard through the wormhole. I know that the Buzzard will be able to evade the attentions of my relatively slow-locking Proteus without any troubles. I know that, because I've just missed another cov-ops in another system, and that one didn't cloak when it warped clear, so even if this one can't it won't matter.

Even knowing the disadvantages I face, my optimism is piqued by my fatigue affecting my reasoning capabilities. I jump back to our home system, polarising my hull, and decloak my polarised ship immediately, making myself vulnerable to get my weapon systems hot in a bid to make the Buzzard, a ship vastly less expensive than my own, potentially vulnerable.

The cov-ops doesn't shed his session-change cloak, but sits, weighing his options. He's going to run, it seems, and not jump. I get my targeting systems working, obtain a positive target lock, and start shooting. I'm shooting the wormhole, but that's got to be a little intimidating, surely. If you run, so the message will be heard, I will destroy your way home. Or the Buzzard will warp clear easily, leaving me to reload my guns on an empty wormhole. My polarised hull is okay with this.

I think I can leave my adventure here, at this point. There's little need to embarrass myself further, even when the Buzzard returns to the wormhole and jumps back to C3b just as my aggression timer ticks down, simultaneously announcing the end of my polarisation. I'm not chasing him again, but at least he's gone from our system.

Having a crack at a cov-ops

12th September 2014 – 5.59 pm

Let's off-road! I swap back from Sleeper combat to my scouting Proteus strategic cruiser, sending it directly towards our static wormhole, which I hope I'm opening. Kinda. I'd rather it had been closed whilst I was shooting Sleepers, but not many newly opened wormholes catch other pilots unawares these days. Mind you, I don't suppose stale wormholes serve that purpose either, and finding targets is more about luck and other people's carelessness than anything. Yeah, let's off-road!

Jumping to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system doesn't see much more than bubbles on my directional scanner from the K162, although one object that catches my eye is a canister labelled 'sucky place'. That's a promising start to tonight's exploration. As there are no ships and no towers within d-scan range, I launch probes at the wormhole and perform a blanket scan of the system, revealing six anomalies, fourteen signatures, and no ships. Canister, I agree with you so far.

Sucky Place

My notes for this system date back over two-and-a-half years, when there was no occupation and a static exit to low-sec. Adjusting my filter, I can see a lot of structures under my probes, but they are all clustered around the closest planet, easily covered by d-scan. The bubbles will be left over from an abandoned tower, I imagine. Swapping d-scan filters sees the off-line tower and defences, which I ignore. I also ignore the combat scanning probe on d-scan, once I realise it is mine. Our K162 is almost 6 AU from the nearest planet and high above the ecliptic plane, coincidentally keeping one of my probes in range.

There's no one else around to see my probe, luckily, so I call them in and start to scan. The system holds its allotted gas clouds, plus a few data and relic sites, and a single wormhole. I suppose I'm heading to low-sec to continue my adventure, and low-sec Lonetrek it seems, the greyness an obvious indicator of the Caldari region. The wormhole is in pristine condition too, having only just been opened by me. No one has been this way for over a day.

Exiting to low-sec gets me four hops away from Jita, which would be vaguely alluring if I weren't in low-sec and sharing the system with a dozen other capsuleers all probably wanting to kill me. Or maybe they're not, what with this being a dead-end system, and unlikely to provide much traffic for gate campers. Still, we have plenty of fuel for now, I can wait for a high-sec connection, and I can't think of anything else I want to buy.

There are two extra signatures to keep me engaged. Scanning them resolves two wormholes too. One is a K162 from deadly class 6 w-space—again?—the other an N944 wormhole to further low-sec space. I thought deja vu was meant to be interesting. Well, I'll hit C6a, why not. In I go, and I appear back in w-space just over eight kilometres from the wormhole, a reasonable sign of inactivity. Even so, there are core scanning probes visible on d-scan. Nothing else, mind you, and only one planet out of range.

Over eight kilometres from a wormhole used to be a sign

As the probes are of the core variety, and won't detect my ship, I decloak, launch my combat scanning probes, and blanket the system. Twenty anomalies, fourteen signatures, no ships. My last visit was eight months ago, when there was no occupation and I resolved a static wormhole to class 4 w-space. Checking my probes for structures finds one, and just the one, a warp bubble. There is still no occupation.

Rather than scan to another empty system, I simply wait on the wormhole for a potential scout to pass me by. The probes disappear from d-scan, but no ships come my way. Not for a minute, anyway, at which point a Helios materialises on my overview. I look for him and find the covert operations boat crawling towards the wormhole. I won't catch the tiny ship, of course, but I will try. I will try on his return.

Trying to ambush a Helios on a wormhole

The Helios exits C6a for low-sec Lonetrek, at which point I throw a small amount of caution to the solar breeze and decloak my Proteus in anticipation of the cov-ops's return. The wormhole crackles once more, and here we go. And there he goes, the Helios aligning and, with a pop of his drive, accelerates in to warp barely fazed by my presence. Never mind, it was worth a go, particularly at this late hour when I'm unlikely to find anything else. As I've alerted whoever was active in this chain of my presence, I also have a convenient excuse to turn around and go home.

Pulling in profit from Sleepers

11th September 2014 – 5.51 pm

How closed is our system? It looks pretty closed to me at first glance, the silly discovery scanner showing me two signatures amongst the anomalies I'm already eyeing up. Those will be the relic site I scanned yesterday and today's static wormhole to class 3 w-space. I launch probes anyway, because I'll want to know the location of today's wormhole at some point, and initiating warp to the bookmarked relic site confirms its persistence.

Our system is closed. I'll be clearing those two anomalies, in that case. I resolve the new wormhole, and take my Proteus strategic cruiser in to our tower's force field, having already warped to a safe spot on-grid with the tower in anticipation. Swapping to the Golem marauder, I make a systems check and take one last look at the silly discovery scanner, refreshed from the session change. All is clear. I warp in to the first anomaly, drop the equally silly mobile tractor unit, and start shooting Sleepers for profit.

It is finally revealed at the end of Oblivion that Jack Harper and Victoria were on a mission that was diverted to investigate what turns out to be the Tet. Their spaceship gets to the Tet, yet only the two of them are awake. The rest of the crew aren't woken up and remain in stasis. Why? That would be like Neil and Buzz getting in to the Moon's orbit and letting Michael have a lie in, because he's just been working so hard, the little dear. Admittedly, the Tet is a secondary objective, but if you have a spaceship full of trained personnel, you want them awake and alert before you reach that objective.

Shooting even more Sleepers in the Golem

The first anomaly is cleared of Sleepers, the last two wrecks left behind for the purposes of efficiency and safety. I can sweep them up later in a cheap salvaging destroyer, instead of waiting another couple of minutes in a rather expensive marauder for the silly MTU to bring the wrecks closer. I'd rather fly a Noctis salvager, of course. Or, indeed, have the challenge of pathing through an entire field of wrecks in a destroyer not bonussed for salvaging. Those were the days.

These days, I have my hold of loot and salvage in the Golem, and, again for safety, I warp back to the tower and drop the potential ISK in to a hangar before for safe keeping. The system is still closed, giving me opportunity to clear the second site as well. Remembering to activate the bastion module on the marauder before too long gives me a better chance of surviving this opportunity too, which is nice.

The spaceship gets pulled towards the Tet. Jack says that full retro thrust isn't stopping them, and because they can't escape the pull he decides to jettison the sleeping quarters. Why, Jack? Because the bigger, more massive part of the ship will be able to escape by being thrown back merely from detonating some separation charges? Yeah, I'm sure that it won't just continue drifting towards the Tet itself, or that the Tet will ignore it and only pull in the cockpit module.

The tactic used made more sense in Pitch Black, where Fry had her motives right: jettison the sleepy heads in the back to die like dogs in order to give her a significantly better chance of survival. If Jack wanted to get rid of the dead weight to give his command module more chance of surviving that would be interesting. But expecting the jettisoned part of the ship to evade the Tet's attention makes no sense, and not just because the Tet has no reason to know which part of the ship jettisoned the other.

Salvaging rogue wrecks in a destroyer

The second site is cleared much like the first, most of the loot and salvage taken back to our tower with the Golem. I store the plunder with the rest, resupply the marauder's ammunition, and swap to my Cormorant destroyer, an elegant salvager for a more civilised age. I sweep up the last two Sleeper battleship wrecks in the two anomalies, and tot up the profit for the evening. It's a good haul, made better by the finishing sweep, bagging me close to two hundred million ISK for the two sites. I'm happy with that.

Plenty of ships and nothing I can do about it

10th September 2014 – 5.31 pm

Pumped from watching ships go through a wormhole with nothing I could do about it, I head back home and across to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to see what else I can watch without getting involved. Pinging my directional scanner from our K162 in C3a sees ships and towers, but no wrecks. Perhaps the Hyperion battleship, Loki and Proteus strategic cruisers, Vexor Navy Issue and Thorax cruisers, and Magnate frigate aren't doing anything.

A lack of activity seems likely, given the near lack of anything out there for them to do. One planet is in range, the second in the system, and the first planet is 24 AU away, almost hugging the star. That's pretty much it. No wonder the towers and ships are all nearby. The silly discovery scanner shows me only three anomalies, three signatures. I'd be surprised if anything was happening.

Two planets only in this class 3 w-space system

Okay, I'm surprised. The Proteus disappears from d-scan and drones pop up. That must be happening outside of a force field, but where? Poking each anomaly with d-scan sees nothing at all. One signature is our K162, a second the static wormhole for this system, and I suppose the third could be a site. It would be a rarity to find ships clearing a relic or data site, and there are still no wrecks visible.

I point d-scan at the planet. All the towers, none of the ships. They are all out in space, perhaps at a wormhole, waiting for someone. I can make an educated guess, and start hunting the fleet with d-scan, after warping to the centre of the system to launch probes. I narrow down the fleet's position in space to within five degrees on d-scan, and gauge their range at, well, 4·9 AU from a planet almost certainly makes it a wormhole. Plus there are still no wrecks.

On top of the ships and drones, I note the presence of two large warp bubbles and one medium one, which are almost guaranteed to be draped over the wormhole to snare anyone wanting to use the wormhole. They will also catch my Proteus if I try warping in, which with drones around could be trouble for me. I need to take care. I call my probes in to scan, mostly out of curiosity, and see nothing. I've got the range of the probes wrong, a careless mistake but relatively harmless in this circumstance. The fleet clearly are prepared for an intruder, it's not like I'll be a massive surprise for them. I reposition my probes and scan again, a little more casually.

Scanning the fleet on the wormhole

I've resolved all the ships in the fleet, its drones, and the wormhole its sitting on. Now what? I could warp in, but I will get dragged in to a bubble and possibly decloaked. Balls to it, I'll locate the towers, do a bit of scouting. That makes for a good adventure. My notes help a bit, my last visit only being a week ago, although I still need to find a new tower erected since then. That done, though, I wonder what to do next. And whose probes those are on d-scan.

What the hell, I'll scan that other signature. It's another wormhole, sans fleet, letting me warp freely to it and see the static exit to Aridia. Well, what a choice, Aridia or getting caught by a fleet. Ah, what the second level of hell, I'll warp to the fleet. Rather than warp to the wormhole, though, I'll warp to a ship that may perhaps not be inside the bubbles. I choose you, Hyperion Innerzone Shipping Edition! Sure enough, I am dragged to the edge of one of the warp bubbles, but thankfully not in to one of the three canisters strategically placed to catch curious fools.

Fleet sits in wait on a wormhole from high-sec Domain

The large warp bubbles are nice and big, which only helps me now because all of the ships in the fleet are kilometres away from my cloaked Proteus, which can stay cloaked as I crawl away from the bubbles and further from the fleet. They are crowding a K162 wormhole from high-sec Domain, by the looks of it, perhaps even from Amarr considering the attention they are paying. At first glance, there is not much I can do. Looking a little closer, there still isn't, really.

I could try to crawl in to the bubble, decloak to get the fleet's attention, and hopefully unexpectedly aim only for the Magnate, hoping to crack it open before it panic-jumps to high-sec, before doing that myself. However, this wormhole would then be my only entrance back to w-space, I would certainly have their attention, and all for a crappy frigate kill. That's if I can crawl through the bubbles and fleet to get in range of the Magnate and wormhole in the first place. I dare say it's not worth trying.

Hyperion Innerzone Edition

Thankfully, to stop me thinking further about being stupid, the Magnate bounces around the three bubbles, out of jump range of the wormhole. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was unanchoring the hardware in preparation of the fleet standing down. It certainly looks that way, and even if they aren't going straight away I can safely say I won't be using this K162, and probably not the static wormhole either, not if this is the locals' response. Maybe if they had more to play with at home they wouldn't get so bored. Never mind, it's late, and I've seen plenty of ships whizzing around tonight, even if I've not really done owt.

Waiting for what doesn't return

9th September 2014 – 5.32 pm

Another day in space. I'm greeted by two new sites, which could ease me in to the evening if it weren't for the extra signature. Probably. I dunno, I've not even launched probes yet. There they go, whizzing off, converging on that... second wormhole. No sites for me tonight, instead I'm going through the K162 from class 5 w-space.

I resolve and bookmark our static wormhole before leaving the home system, jumping to C5a where my directional scanner is swimming in hangars. I think there are ships somewhere too, but who can tell? I switch my overview for a more ship-orientated version and update d-scan again, seeing rather more clearly the Astero frigate, Brutix battlecruiser, Cheetah covert operations boat, Ishtar heavy assault cruiser, Loki strategic cruiser, and Sabre interdictor.

There are no wrecks to be seen, so I am assuming the ships aren't really doing anything. I could find them, and probably will. Despite the billion or so hangars in the system, there are only five active towers, which won't take long to locate. I concentrate on the towers with ships, and find the Cheetah and Astero piloted at one tower, with the Sabre and Ishtar empty alongside them, and the Loki and Brutix piloted at a second tower.

That's all the ships accounted for. Will they do anything? I doubt it, which is why I'm not paying nearly enough attention when the Brutix is apparently swapped for an Iteron V, and am too late to change my view to see where the hauler is accelerating. I take a punt that, with a limited four anomalies and three signatures visible, the Iteron is heading towards our system, perhaps looking to use the exit in C3a, and align and warp to the wormhole ahead of the hauler.

Well, I say 'ahead of the hauler', but what I mean is 'instead of the hauler'. I make it to the wormhole in time to see nothing drop out of warp next to me, with the Iteron still on d-scan. As far as I can tell, the Iteron doesn't even leave the system, sending me back to the tower to loiter a little longer. It's curious that the Iteron is at the tower and now the Loki is not, and that the Loki is not in the system. If I knew any better I'd say the first Iteron jumped out and the Loki was swapped for a second Iteron. But who knows.

This Iteron, original or second, starts moving too. I'm close enough to see where it's headed, which is directly in to a ship maintenance array, repeatedly, for a good minute, until the pilot retakes control of the ship and guides it to rather emptier space inside the tower's force field. Free from obstruction, the ship accelerates in to warp again, making it this time, and heading to a point in space I can't identify. It's definitely not our wormhole, and it's definitely not a celestial object.

I should probably scan for what must be another wormhole. I have a rough vector for the Iteron, letting me scan a bit more quickly. Or it would, if I also had a rough range, which I don't, so it still takes me a few scans to resolve what is indeed another wormhole. It's a K162 from low-sec, Khanid from the colours, dying from its wobble. I won't poke out, but loiter with intent.

An Iteron returning from low-sec can keep my attention for quite a—you know, I should probably scan that other signature, just in case this isn't the right wormhole. I call my probes in, identify yet another wormhole, and realise that it is so far from the vector the Iteron warped that there was a reason why I scanned this signature I'm sitting on in the first place. Still, I've started to scan, I finish scanning. I won't visit the wormhole yet, not with the promise of an Iteron coming home.

Wait, wait, wait. It's been a while since I've done this, and it's comforting to know that all the requisite skill in doing nothing hasn't been lost. I may even be rewarded, as the wormhole eventually crackles with a transit. Is the Iteron about to be surprised? Nope, as a Stiletto decloaks and warps away, presumably to a tower. The interceptor is not quite what I was expecting, and neither was a double jump, a second ship shedding its session-change cloak as I'm starting to relax.

The second ship isn't an Iteron either, but it is an industrial ship, a Viator transport. I doubt I'll be able to catch it, but as my incautiously safe orbit around the wormhole bumps me in to the Viator, unwittingly dropping my cloak, I think I'll try. Nope, it warps, hopefully before my cloak was fully shed, but I bet it saw me. I suppose the jig is up. If it is, the locals don't care, at least not enough not to send the Viator back out to low-sec. I let it jump past me and return to a state of wait.

Viator returns to low-sec

Watching d-scan as I listen to the wormhole sees the Stiletto swapped for a Burst frigate, the Burst disappear and a Proteus in its place. The Burst comes back, and comes to the wormhole, jumping to low-sec. Still I wait, still I watch, and there really isn't anything happening. Ah, finally, the wormhole crackles with a transit from low-sec. I perk up, get myself ready to ambush, and see an Anathema cov-ops decloak and warp clear. Why am I still here?

Anathema is the next ship to pass me on the wormhole

I warp to the other wormhole in the system to see what it is, but I'm not particularly enamoured on seeing a dying K162 from null-sec. Taking one last look at the low-sec K162 sees, holy crap, an Archon warping away as I drop out of warp. The carrier probably wasn't brought in from low-sec, as the wormhole, although still dying, remains mass stable. Wherever it came from, it's gone now, perhaps as I should be.

Crossing paths with a Sabre

8th September 2014 – 5.33 pm

Hopping back in to my Proteus strategic cruiser to go scouting through our constellation, it's oddly comforting to be able to cloak again after a spell in a Golem marauder and a test firing in our Revelation dreadnought. No one can see me fly! Maybe I can sneak up on others. Probably not through an outbound wormhole, but you never know. I jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to find out.

Nothing appears when I update my directional scanner from our K162, which isn't a terrible result yet, not with a couple of planets out of range. I launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, looking for ships and finding two, along with seventeen anomalies and eight signatures. The two ships don't look exciting, though, having tiny signatures that already convince me they are covert operations boats floating empty inside a distant tower.

I should at least check to see if there are pilots potentially watching for me, and warping across the system indeed sees a tower on d-scan, but no cov-ops ships. Instead, I see a Sabre interdictor and Drake battlecruiser. The interdictor, sure, it is based on a destroyer hull and isn't particularly big, but what Drake has such a small signature? Not this one, in fact, as updating my probes pings the fat ship now.

Obviously a ship swap has taken place, so it is no surprise to see the Drake piloted when I locate the tower. The Sabre is empty. Is the lone pilot considering an excursion to exterminate some of the Sleeper population? I'd like that, as it could be fun to spend an hour or so chipping away at a Drake's shields. Or maybe I'll spend an hour watching a pilot idle. I should scan whilst I wait.

All of the signatures in C3a are far enough from the tower that my probes will remain out of d-scan range, and there aren't many either. I resolve four gas sites—which I bookmark, in case the Drake wants to clear one of those of Sleepers—a data site, and two wormholes. A second wormhole already would suggest the Drake pilot isn't going to be up to much, even if the silly discovery scanner hasn't alerted his non-scanning ship to our K162. The pilot's swapping to a Corax destroyer—perhaps the first ship I saw under my probes—is another good indicator that the Drake won't go anywhere.

I'll check the wormholes. The static exit to low-sec looks like it leads to Metropolis, but the reds are softened somewhat, more suggestive of Molden Heath. The second wormhole is a K162 from null-sec, which I use before the U210, taking me to a system in Esoteria which I share with two other pilots. One appears to be scanning, with core probes visible on d-scan. I loiter on the wormhole for a minute, but the scout isn't interested in w-space, recalling his probes and leaving the system, not past me. Scanning the other signature identifies a combat site, so he didn't go that way either and must have used a stargate.

With nothing in null-sec for me, I head back to C3a and across to the low-sec exit, jumping through to appear in Egbinger, Molden Heath, with a dozen stinking pirates roaming the system. There are the same number of signatures, surprisingly, and I ignore the locals to scan. A quick check for wormholes pulls up a few, not that I'm optimistic about the results.

The first is as I suspect, a K162 from more low-sec, the second a K162 from null-sec. A third wormhole connects to w-space, being a K162 from deadly class 6 w-space, and a fourth is an N944 outbound link to more low-sec. I don't know if empire pilots like all these extra wormholes, but they are frustrating non-results for me. It's almost a return to the days of the 'unknown' signatures that resolved to be combat sites, wasting scanning time when looking for w-space.

Sabre jumps in to low-sec from class 6 w-space

I can at least check the C6 system for activity that will squash me like a Sleeper frigate, because that's fun, and I warp across to the C6 K162. Before I jump, though, the wormhole crackles with activity. A Sabre appears in low-sec, alone, and warps to the N944, judging by his direction. Well, whatever. He's gone from the system, no one follows, so I continue onwards and jump to C6a. The wormhole is clear, d-scan is clear, and, oh, the system is tiny. Nothing sits out of range, giving me no occupation and no activity. Okay, it's time to go home.

I jump back to low-sec and, huh, the Sabre looks to be waiting for me. I am almost certainly polarised, so even though the other ship is only a Sabre I don't want to be caught by anything else. I still have my session change cloak for a little while, so I tag the Sabre pilot and check the other pilots in the system. He appears to be alone. That's only weird because another ship decloaks at that moment, a Viator transport revealing itself on the wormhole without the Sabre doing anything about it.

Sabre returns with a Viator in tow

Maybe the Sabre isn't alone. Maybe he is. I don't think I want to gamble my Proteus over it, though, and simply move from the wormhole and cloak. The Viator jumps through to C6a, the Sabre waits a moment before following, and all looks to be clear. That works for me, as I was going home anyway. I make a diversion to check the tower in C3a on my way back, the Drake/Corax not in the force field or the system as a whole, leaving me to return home to get some rest. Or to scan the new signature the silly discovery scanner insists on showing me. Thankfully, it's just a relic site. I'm going off-line.

Music of 2014, part 3

7th September 2014 – 3.54 pm

What a corker of a selection I've managed to make for my third collection of music this year. I like to think it's because I've got impeccable taste in music, but it's rather obvious that I've just got a bit lucky with my selections this time. Even so, it's fabulous when I get this lucky, as it gives me some amazing music to enjoy.

There's no chance of my passing over the latest album by White Hinterland, given that previous album Kairos is perhaps one of my most-played CDs. Baby is another change in direction for Casey Dienel, albeit not as major as between the first two albums. Her focus remains on keyboards, samplers, and Casey's strong vocals, but this time without the backdrops created by Shawn Creedon. It's a tentative first listen for me, as the feel of the music is definitely not within my normal range of genre, but perseverance pays off. Curiously, it is the vocals that engage me first, despite their somewhat operatic feel being more out of my normal range than the predominantly electronic music they power over, but Casey's voice will do that to a person. Once locked in to the vocals, the electronic music is freed to take shape, adding further contours to the songs that imbue each other them with a keen identity. Baby is another fine album by White Hinterland.

Another slow burner comes from Coves with their album Soft Friday. Most of my favourite albums creep up on me, but it's difficult to tell which are slow burners, which just aren't clicking, and which are simply poor efforts. Fuzzy guitars and dreamy vocals make me think Soft Friday will at least keep me mildly entertained until another album comes along, but, again with repeated listens, it's when I find myself idly humming a refrain that I initially can't place and then realise it's from the album that I realise Coves have their hooks in me. For that, I am glad. Rather than letting the music wash over me as a pleasant distraction, I can really listen to it and appreciate the nuances within the songs. It's still fuzzy guitars and dreamy vocals at its heart, but Coves has some really good fuzzy guitars and some really dreamy vocals, and is becoming a firm favourite album of this year.

The minimalist electronica of Psychic 9–5 Club by HTRK is relaxing, calming. In its way. There is an undercurrent of difficulty within the music and vocals, adding corners to the smooth landscape. It's immediately gripping, even feeling like it would have some obvious mainstream appeal, and there is a flow to the album, although it's perhaps less floating in a sensory deprivation tank and more a feeling of sinking. But still in a good way. The muted, low-frequency blips play with the electronic rhythm section, often contrasting with and against each other, vocals adding highlights just where they are needed. The only aspect of Psychic 9–5 Club that works against it is the time of year I buy it. Although starting strong within the playlist, delving deeper in to Coves and Fear of Men makes me want to listen to HTRK less. That isn't an issue with the album itself, though, more a reflection of how strong the rest of the albums in this collection are.

Bo Ningen's third album, unashamedly named III, could be summed up as more of the same psychedelic rock as their previous two albums. That would be underplaying the level of commitment Bo Ningen have. Yes, it's more of the same, but the same pumping bass-lines, energetic drumming, and wailing, squealing, screaming guitars that coalesce in to a well-defined polyhedron that's so sharp on every one of its myriad corners that you're going to get cut. The apparent production difficulties that had the sound levels so muddled on second album Line the Wall have been left behind, with every instrument and vocal clear and piercing. There is also the first song where the London-based Japanese band sing in English, and a collaboration with Jenny Beth of Savages. The low point is the slow and long Mukaeni Ikenai, which when not impressed by it live I hoped it would translate better to recording, but it doesn't. But that's small fry when the rest of III is a pulsating, pounding aural violation that keeps Bo Ningen rising.

I have a curious relationship with Fujiya & Miyagi. I really like their music, I find their lyrics to be uninspiring. First album Transparent Things kept me very much entertained, and the lyrics felt quirky. Second album Lightbulbs unfortunately emphasised the lyrics and turned me off the band. I came back for Ventriloquizzing and worked out that it is best to consider the vocals as foreign language. That's the method I continue to use for fourth offering Artificial Sweeteners, where the lyrics once again rely on saying one line, normally rather nonsensical to start with, then repeat it with a different cadence, normally more than once. The soft, soothing vocals help ignore what is spoken and allow the lyrics to be heard more as another instrument, adding to the stripped down guitar and excellent keyboards and sampling. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fujiya & Miyagi's strength remains in their instrumental works, another two songs being instrumentals on Artificial Sweeteners, where the music is unencumbered and can flow freely. The music is great, the vocals are great, the lyrics work when not parsed, and it all adds up to another good album.

What a great find in Fear of Men. An almost unbearably sweet voice opens with the simplest of tracks in Alta, which ramps up to segue in to Waterfall, where the vocals remain pure and the music swells and declines around them. There is a touch of GLaDOS in the vocals, but with a whole load of fragility in place of the menace, and you can't help but feel touched by the lyrics because of this. It's not just the sublime quality of the voice that draws you in to the lyrics, but the lyrics themselves, ripe with metaphor that I wouldn't be able to explain but still enjoy trying to read meaning in to. For this, it is worth reading the lyric book, thankfully included in the CD case. The landscape of the songs is perhaps defined by the drums, and although the machine gun-like bursts seem perhaps overused at first, they become an expected and welcome motif of the album, and there is plenty of texture added by excellent use of the cymbals and off-beats. The jangly guitar further adds to making this as close to a perfect album for me as there can be, and are perhaps suitably put to best use in the final song, Inside, before a refrain for the opening track closes the album. Fear of Men have created an album that has been played more than any other in my collection in the past two years, and Loom continues to be the album I want to listen to more than any other. It's a rare find indeed.

Sleepers and a Revelation

6th September 2014 – 3.46 pm

A few days away from space must mean the gas is gone. Seems so. Just about everything has gone, in fact. Still, two good anomalies have popped up, available to be cleared, and a single signature means a single wormhole, our static connection to class 3 w-space. That makes it time to slay some Sleepers.

I swap my scouting boat for the Golem marauder, do a systems check, and head out. The Sleepers are waiting for me, I bring some gunboat diplomacy, and launch a silly mobile tractor unit to make the ISK-making stupidly easy. I wonder if shooting the structure in the site would disable all of the Sleeper drones within range. Surely not, as that would be a serious design limitation. But who knows?

Shooting Sleepers and salvaging wrecks simultaneously in a Golem marauder

The drones in Oblivion don't just act at the speed of plot in the climactic final battle, they are also apparently entirely governed remotely. The first wave of drones is defeated, the surviving humans set in motion their sacrificial plan to destroy the Tet, but to add further tension a second wave of drones is sent towards the base. Oh my, how will they survive this new wave?

The humans survive by destroying the Tet, which immediately incapacitates all the drones everywhere, the ones almost at the base dropping out of the sky like bricks. That's as dumb here as it was in The Phantom Menace. You would think that an advanced drone would have some kind of autonomous behaviour and internal control built in to its circuitry and programming, as a fail-safe mechanism against possible communication glitches and the obvious threat of jamming the control signal disabling the drone.

Golem against the Sleepers

Not only should autonomous control be obvious for an advanced drone, but it clearly exists. Jack goes down that hole in to some library to find a drone, and when ambushed is rescued by a drone's timely arrival. A fairly neat scene in itself. But it is established that Jack, so far down that hole, has lost communication with his base of operations and the Tet. If he's lost communications, then so has the drone when in the same position, surely. Yet the drone is just fine in that scene.

The climactic ending therefore just becomes an exercise in faux-tension building, adding a new threat that is neutralised by a coincidence completely outside the control of those in peril. Maybe I should pretend that the last Sleepers come close to breaking the shields of my Golem, sucking my capacitor almost empty, and it is only through determined self-sacrifice that I prevail. Or I sail through these two anomalies like I do all the others, and bring back an unspectacular 150 Miskies of loot and salvage.

I could go and scout through our wormhole now, but our system remains isolated from the rest of w-space, and there is one activity I'd really like to try out. A ship, in fact. It is, of course, the Revelation dreadnought that we built and fit. We still have that rogue tower from the previous occupants in our home system, partly because I kinda interrupted an external operation to take it down a short time ago. That gives me a fat, stationary, passive target to shoot at, perfect for the Revelation. I just hope no one interrupts me.

Swapping the Golem for the Revelation, I check that everything looks okay, not that I'd know. I make a sanity check, ensuring that no new signatures are in the system, and that I at least kind of know what I'm doing. I think so, and I don't plan to be out of the tower for longer than a test firing will take. That, though, will require starting a siege cycle, which cannot be cancelled, and will keep me quite firmly in one position in space until it ends. That's five minutes, I think. Well, I've just done the same with the Golem and its bastion mode, the dreadnought is just a little more expensive.

Taking the Revelation dreadnought out for a spin

I warp the Revelation out of our tower—its first flight!—and slowly, ever-so slowly, the dreadnought accelerates, enters warp, and crosses the system to the off-line tower. I've checked the range of the weapons, letting me drop out of warp within optimal range. I just want to loose a few rounds, see what this can do, and turn back. I lock on to the tower, start shooting, and am relatively unimpressed. I'm doing a decent amount of damage, and even though I'm only firing three guns instead of six or eight, or whatever, I'm only really matching one of our Oracle battlecruisers. Time to activate the siege module.

The dreadnought sucks down some strontium and enters its siege mode. The target lock on the tower drops immediately, which is a bit annoying, particularly as sensor resolution is severely hampered in siege mode. I gain a new target lock, eventually, and start shooting again. Holy cow, that's more like it. Standard hits are now doing an order of magnitude more damage than before, which is really quite impressive, and good hits are adding on to that. If only it were making a positive dent in the tower, but that's more a function of the tower and our pulsar than a drawback in the dreadnought's capability.

Shooting the w-space equivalent of a barn door

I keep shooting for the entirety of the siege cycle, dropping out of siege mode after the first cycle, and see what I've done to the tower. Shields are at 97%. Okay, so I'm hitting for some serious damage, and the tower would eventually be destroyed, but the process is still far too slow for me to do this alone, particularly as the siege cycle is actively fuelled by strontium, even if the lasers only require capacitor juice. Still, this was just a test firing, a display of what our Revelation can do. I'm impressed. I still don't know what we'll do with it, but it's a nice toy.