Daring a destabilised wormhole

28th May 2010 – 5.27 pm

All alone, I scan. I find our home system's static wormhole and warp to it, but I don't jump. Examining the wormhole shows it to be on the verge of collapse, because of the total mass of ships that has passed through it, but it isn't at the end of its natural lifetime. This is as unusual as it is interesting. Because it isn't EOL, and our corporation's peak time of activity is still to come, the wormhole cannot have been destabilised by colleagues. The effort to collapse the wormhole must have come from the other side, suggesting not only occupancy but activity. Our neighbours don't want to be disturbed. This is all the encouragement I need.

That the wormhole has been destabilised by our neighbours also indicates that a colleague already scanned and jumped through the connection. There is growing evidence that a static connection doesn't create the K162 in the corresponding system unless the wormhole is 'activated' by warping to its grid. Only recently did I note the appearance of a K162 wormhole in a system whilst I was actively scanning, two return signals becoming three between consecutive results. I am keen to go through to the next system to see what activity is occurring but I would rather not alert them to my presence, and it is a big help if there are bookmarks already made. I warp back to our tower and check the shared can, neglected because I assumed that I was the first person to arrive, and indeed there are some bookmarks. Not just any bookmarks, but a position near our neighbour's tower, the location of a couple of gravimetric sites, and an exit to empire space. I'm ready.

The wormhole is on the verge of collapse, I have no idea how much more mass it will let through before it collapses. My first visit to our neighbouring system will be in my Buzzard covert operations boat, which is stealthy, has scanning probes, and is only a frigate-sized hull. I may get isolated, if I'm unlucky, but I won't get trapped. I jump through and the wormhole holds together. A quick check of the directional scanner shows a Rorqual capital industrial ship and several Hulk exhumers. I need to find them. The first step of the process is to visit the occupants' tower, which will quickly show if all the ships are floating idly. The Rorqual is at the tower, and piloted, the Hulks are elsewhere. And a jet-can is now visible on d-scan. I have targets.

I am loath to launch probes to try to find the miners, as any obvious activity will change the situation. The miners will at least return to their tower, and possibly even swap to combat ships. I already have implicit evidence that these pilots are active in keeping their system safe, trying to close off our connection to them. The bookmarks made by a colleague are therefore highly valuable. I pick one of the two gravimetric sites bookmarked in the system and warp to it at range. What a pretty sight, five hulks hugging each other whilst mining the same rock.

The miners have even offered a jet-can as a handy reference to bookmark, which I do. Before I return to the tower I check the other connection in the system, to see if the exit to empire space exists. If it does, I can risk squeezing a bigger ship through our destabilised connecting happy in the knowledge that I can flee in a different direction. But, perhaps predictably, the occupants have collapsed their own static wormhole. I don't want to look for the new one, as that would alert them to my presence, so getting potentially stuck in this system will affect my plan. I warp back to our wormhole and jump, happy to see it still remain when I get to the other side, and return to the tower to formulate a plan. I need a ship that is small, can deal damage, and has scanning capability. Not much fits the bill.

I board my Manticore stealth bomber. It, too, is based on a frigate's hull, making it light, and it is designed to engage larger ships, so is fitted with siege launchers. It also can fit a covert operations cloak, letting me move around undetected, good for initial positioning, escapes, and safe scanning. Ah, scanning. I cannot fit both a bomb launcher and probe launcher on to the Manticore, making me choose the probe launcher for safety. There is no point attacking the miners if I cannot get out of the system again, and although a bomb does a nice amount of alpha strike damage I am assuming that time won't be an pressing concern when attacking miners. To finish my adapted fitting, I fit as many warp disruptors as I can, wanting to hold as many Hulks in the site as possible. I have no idea what will happen next, but nothing ventured in a frigate-sized hull, nothing gained. I warp back to our wormhole and jump. Lucky for me, the wormhole doesn't collapse. Maybe I should have brough the Onyx. But no time for second thoughts, I move away safely from the wormhole and activate my cloak.

When I warped in to the gravimetric site before my vector put a lot of rocks in my way, which may mean I get decloaked unintentionally if I warp to optimal range from the can. But I remember that I warped from the occupants' tower before, and now I am at the wormhole. I check the relative positions of each bookmark on the system map and see I will be approaching from the opposite direction this time. I prefer to be safe and make an initial warp to the can at maximum range. Seeing that my path to the can is completely clear, I warp back to the wormhole—at range, not wanting to break my cloak—and warp back to the can at optimal range. I get a good view of all the Hulks and start lining them up.

I have no bomb, so I simply decloak and start locking on to targets. I pick three Hulks at random, only having three disruptors, and shoot one unlucky miner. My torpedoes are taking a while to chew through the exhumer and it is only then I consider how my modifications are affecting my capacitor's stability. My ship will run out of energy really quickly now, the disruptors drinking much more juice than I expected. I cannot hold all three ships for long enough. Instead, I start cycling the modules, disrupting one of the three ships at a time, but swapping between modules to mitigate any de-activation delay. I am able to prevent the Hulks from warping off, if they are even trying, and the first exhumer explodes in a rather satisfying explosion.

My focus shifts to a second Hulk, and I target the remaining two and the ejected pod to be thorough. The pod warps away safely, unsurprisingly, and the miners have finally woken up. I think I am still safe for the moment, cycling the warp disruptors to keep the Hulks from escaping and having plenty of torpedoes in my hold, but then one of the Hulks launches some Tech II Infiltrator combat drones. They lock me and start shooting, my shields quickly disappearing. I disengage and warp out of the site with minor armour damage, content with my one Hulk kill. It could have been more, certainly with a different ship, but this is my first successful solo Manticore kill, I believe, and I was restricted by the wormhole's lack of stability. I warp back to our wormhole and jump through. Still it remains.

Had I launched a bomb at the miners the damage would have been applied to each ship, meaning few torpedo volleys would have been required. And the bomb would have destroyed all the ore. But without an escape route the risk was too great. With more experience of the modules I could have fitted warp scramblers instead of disruptors, using less capacitor, and their greatly reduced range wouldn't have mattered for this engagement. Never the less, I squeeze through the wormhole and cause a little bit of mayhem, destroying a Hulk for no loss. That's a good result and is as much a victory for the earlier scout who scanned and bookmarked the site as it is for me. Never think that scanning is unrewarding. And today also shows that a wormhole on the verge of collapse is not perfect protection against incursions. As a consequence, the miners get a lesson in doing the job properly. Now I just need to repair my armour.

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