Chasing shadows

30th July 2010 – 7.28 pm

There are a bunch of bookmarks waiting for me, including one to a 'heavily inhabited' class 2 w-space system, as a colleague describes it. He wants to shoot some of the occupants' ships but none of the caspuleers are coming out to play, frustrating his efforts. Instead, he warps his ship to all of the anomalies in the C2, activating them, before taking a break. I launch my Manticore steatlh bomber and take a look around today's local w-space systems for myself.

A class 4 system connecting in to our own is my first destination, a system it turns out I visited about five months ago. The C4 was unoccupied previously and now has a tower present, but the lack of ships or activity has me returning home and jumping through our static wormhole to look for life to extinguish. Our neighbouring C4 is empty but has an extra wormhole connecting to it, the static wormhole to a C4 accompanied by an incoming connection to the class 2 system my colleague mentioned. The C2 sounds like my best option for activity and I jump through to investigate.

I've been in this C2 before, only a fortnight ago. Presumably the towers are in the same location after only a short period, but the two bookmarks made by my colleague that I copied send me to unexpected destinations, making me wonder if my notes were inaccurate. A bit of warping around and use of the directional scanner shows my notes to be accurate but now incomplete. My notes guide me to two towers as expected, the bookmarks send me to two more, and a fifth tower is also found in the system. It is indeed heavily inhabited here. But there are almost more towers than ships in the system and none of the ships are moving.

I passively scan for some of the C2 system's anomalies and bookmark their locations in case the inhabitants decide to leave their towers later. But nothing much is happening here and I have at least one more system to explore, so I warp back to the wormhole to the C4. I see a Cheetah covert operations boat at the wormhole but he cloaks before I drop out of warp, leaving me no option but to continue along my way. I jump through to the C4 and continue on through its static connection to another class 4 w-space system. The system is unscanned and I ensure that I bookmark this side of the wormhole so that I can return, then check d-scan for occupancy.

My notes show that I have been in this class 4 system before too. D-scan doesn't show the tower that I have in my notes, the capsuleers apparently having moved on. But what I see is more interesting: Sleeper wrecks and a Catalyst destroyer. A target! I activate my on-board scanner to search passively for anomalies, hoping that the site is still active and I can catch the Catalyst unawares. As the thirty second scan progresses I return to check d-scan and see a Myrmidon battlecruiser now in the system. He may be protecting the Catalyst or returning as part of a fleet to battle more Sleepers. Either way, the system looks active.

I get quite a few anomalies returned from my ship's scanner. To try to find the Catalyst—and now also the Brutix battlecruiser and Thorax cruiser—I stay in the solar system map to use d-scan. I can align my current position with the green scan results highlighting anomalies and get a precise determination of a ship's presence in each anomaly in turn. If I find the Catalyst I can engage it immediately, if I find other ships I can bookmark a point in their current anomaly and wait for the Catalyst to come and salvage after they leave. But, try as I might, I simply cannot locate any of the ships.

I try scans from different positions and warping to potential anomalies despite unfavourable d-scan returns, but simply find no ships anywhere. It isn't helping that opening the system map has a tendency to crash my client, losing the positions of the anomalies, potentially making my ship visible on d-scan, and wasting time having to restart. A single crash is irritating, continued crashes are incredibly frustrating. Having the client crash when hunting targets doesn't make me want to take time now to file a bug report, I just want to get back in to space so as not to lose the opportunity. But after the eighth or so crash I realise I am not likely to be successful in my hunt and report the problem.

I am back in the class 2 w-space system and, surprisingly, so are the Brutix, Catalyst, and Thorax. I doubt my ability to find them but I have another idea. If I can't warp to them maybe they'll warp to me. I go back to our tower and swap the Manticore for my Onyx heavy interdictor. I can plant this on the other side of the wormhole and catch them in its warp bubble when they jump out. I have my doubts, though, and instead set up at a point seventy kilometres from the K162 coming from the class 2 system, in a direct line to the C4. They can fly in to me here instead. But I still have doubts, mostly that they could easily burn out of my warp bubble and warp to safety, my Onyx not being entirely effective as a single ship in this situation.

Then it dawns on me that the ships I've seen in the other C4 are not heading out in my direction anyway but through another wormhole in the system. I have been wasting more of my time. In a last-ditch effort to salvage the evening I change ships again, swapping to my Buzzard cov-ops to scan for wormholes in the active system and hope to find the pilots active in a connecting system. The Catalyst and Thorax have gone when my Buzzard jumps in to the C4, the Brutix still around. I assume he is collecting some metal scraps, left behind from salvaging, in a jet-can or two also seen on d-scan.

I launch probes to begin scanning for wormholes. Another jet-can then appears on d-scan, which can't be right. There are no wrecks visible, so there is no reason why the Brutix should be jettisoning items. Unless my evening's incompetence is being further compounded, which it certainly looks like when I realise the Brutix is mining gas. He's in a ladar site and is a viable target! I can find him by getting a bearing on d-scan and locating the site. At least, I could, if opening the system map didn't cause yet another client crash.

I return in time to see the Brutix gone and an Iteron in the system, no doubt collecting the gas mined judging by the disappearing jet-cans on d-scan. My probes perhaps have caused the miner to wisely halt his operation. What a terrible evening. Failing to find salvagers to ambush and client crashes frustrating me whenever I try, not realising for far too long that the ships are not travelling in my direction and sitting in an entirely ineffective ambush as a result, then being oblivious to fairly obvious signs of gas mining before having a final client crash scupper any chance of regaining some dignity. I've had enough, I'm going home.

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