Taking the scenic route home

14th October 2010 – 5.06 pm

The atmosphere at the tower is pricked by the scent of blood. A new wormhole connects to us from a class 2 w-space system and our scout finds a Cormorant destroyer salvaging on the other side. There are also a few Drake battlecruisers creating the Sleeper wrecks to be salvaged, giving us two choices of targets. I board my Onyx heavy interdictor and prepare to move out alongside a Wolf assault ship, but the Cormorant disappears before we even leave the tower. The Drakes remain in the system but no new wrecks appear, and they only loiter a little longer before disappearing themselves.

Our scout looks for a wormhole in the class 2 w-space system and I go out to join him, now in my Buzzard covert operations boat. The C2 should be familiar to me, as I bombed an Iteron unanchoring tower defences only a month ago. Revisiting it now gives me a chance to update my records, as I imagine my notes are now wrong on the tower locations here. I find one tower has been moved out of the system, a new one anchored, and one where it was last time. As I am distracted by bookkeeping my colleague resolves a wormhole, an exit to high-sec empire space, which couples with the connection to our own class 4 w-space system to provide the two expected static wormholes in this C2. The exit from this system is also only four jumps from Jita, which is convenient for anyone wanting to hit the market. But I would like to know if the previously seen ships came from high-sec or entered through a K162, and I continue scanning.

There is another wormhole in the C2, an outbound link to a class 3 system being interesting but unlikely to carry raiders in to this system. The resolution seems to come from finding the fourth wormhole in the system, a K162 coming in from another C2. I jump through the inbound connection to find only an off-line tower on my directional scanner, but there is a planet further out of the system that could hold activity. Warping out to investigate reveals a a Viator transport ship, Helios cov-ops boat, Drake battlecruiser, and Dominix battleship all piloted inside the shields of a second tower. It is fun to learn that these four pilots comprise fully two-thirds of the corporation controlling the tower.

I warp back to the inner system and launch probes, returning to monitor the four pilots as I perform a blanket scan at maximum probe range, keeping each of my actions out of d-scan range of the tower. The scan shows only a single anomaly in the system and five signatures, at least two of which should be wormholes. As it looks like all five signatures are out of d-scan range of the tower I should be able to resolve them discreetly, which I start to do. I manage to bookmark some rocks and gas, and the second wormhole, before the pilot of the Viator swaps in to a second Drake, followed by the other pilots doing the same. I quickly move my probes out of the system as four Drakes warp away from the tower. Looking for the battlecruisers is easy, a brief check of the inner sytem finding the ships and now their drones on d-scan, a refined search locating them in the lone anomaly here. Targets!

I communicate my find to colleagues and those who are paying attention start warming up their ship's systems. I warp in to the anomaly to reconnoitre the situation and find the Drakes sharing capacitor or shields between themselves, and that they aren't moving much. I bookmark a couple of wrecks and head out of the system, returning home to swap ships myself. Needing some firepower to overcome the Drakes' impressive shields I choose my Sacrilege heavy assault ship, and I guide a colleague in his Vagabond cruiser out to the K162 of the target system. A third ship arrives, an Onyx heavy interdictor to provide superior warp disruption effects, and we are ready. I give the command and two of us jump through the wormhole in to the class 2 system, disappearing from the Onyx's view much like the wormhole does.

The Onyx does not follow us because it cannot, the wormhole collapsing behind us! It is my own fault, I failed to check the status of the wormhole thoroughly, only taking its lack of wobbliness as a sign of health. Instead it turns out to have been critically unstable and on the verge of collapse, but as the mass limit is displayed by the wormhole's size, and size is relative in the vastness of space, it is difficult to tell by looks alone the mass-health of a wormhole. I should have called up the information window to be sure. But there's nothing we can do about it now. I warp us to the anomaly to engage the Drakes, but there is no sign of them on d-scan and indeed the pilots completed the relatively easy anomaly in little time.

I have often worried about getting trapped on the wrong side of a wormhole, isolated from the home system with no easy way to return without assistance. I mitigate this risk by generally only using heavily unstable wormholes when in a scanning boat so that I can at least find my way to empire space and not be trapped without an exit. So it's considerable relief that we are in a C2 system, which generally has two static wormholes, and that I was able to scan the second connection before I swapped ships. More importantly, this second wormhole leads out to low-sec empire space, so we won't have to hit the self-destruct buttons today. I warp the two of us to the wormhole and we jump out of w-space.

We may not have caught the Drakes but fortune smiles on us in another way, the system we exit to being only eight jumps from the other known exit to high-sec scanned earlier. It is only a short journey through low-sec and a few high-sec hops and we can both return to our tower with little fuss. It is interesting that such a journey is made with little fuss when I realise that I am passing by an old mission base. I used to be quite nervous about its proximity to low-sec space and worried about ever having to leave the security of high-sec, but now we're not only casually travelling through these systems but also considering engaging a Maelstrom battleship that we encounter. We lose track of the ship on a gate and don't concern ourselves about pursuing it, instead focussing on getting home. A few more stargate passages and we're warping to a wormhole, jumping through to w-space, and back in our home system after our little adventure.

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