Stumbling in to a scout

23rd October 2010 – 3.43 pm

Another day, another wormhole collapses like a punctured lung. I scan for the fresh static wormhole that will let me venture beyond our home system to explore the new w-space constellation. The class 4 system connecting to our own is unoccupied, as it was four months ago, and as a result is full of anomalies and signatures. I start sifting through signatures, ignoring rock and gas mining sites, until a static connection is found. Jumping onwards brings me to a class 2 system, also unoccupied and lacking targets. But a C2 holds two static wormholes, so even finding an exit to empire space won't end my exploration early. I just need to find the wormholes in the system.

There are loads of gas and rock sites to ignore. At least I only need to identify them as such, needing just a 25% signal to do so, and the mining sites are generally fatter signatures in the first place. But nothing looks like much like a wormhole here, except for the K162 leading homewards. Plan B is to resolve the weakest signatures which, after a radar site, finds a static connection to a class 5 system. Wormholes leading to C5s always seem really weak, except in C5s themselves. There is another wormhole waiting to be revealed and I continue scanning, finding the exit to null-sec space as the last signature in the system. I managed to approach it from both ends of the signature strength scale in a masterful display of bad judgement.

I'll have a quick peek in to the null-sec system, for a red dot of exploration, before continuing deeper in to w-space. Pushing my Buzzard covert operations boat through the wormhole sends me to RF-K9W in the Delve region, where I sit alone. The lack of other pilots in the local communication channel is informative in k-space, conveniently telling me no one else is in the system. I use the certain isolation to consult my atlas, seeing I am close to a dead-end system. I consider visiting it whilst I am here but the calm of empty space changes abruptly with a spike in local. Two more pilots enter the system and I start to feel claustrophobic, my hand wavering over the controls to send me back to w-space, but the pilots leave and I am alone again. I bookmark this side of the wormhole and warp off to visit more systems.

Stargates take me to E3OI-U, T-J6HT, and R5-MM8, seeing only one pilot on my brief excursion, a ratting Raven battleship visible on my directional scanner, before I use the more familiar wormhole to return to w-space. I pass through the C2 and jump in to the C5, another unoccupied and empty system. Even with fewer signatures to scan the static wormhole is resolved quickly, the signature strength of a C5 connection in a C5 not being attenuated as it is in the lesser classes. And this new class 5 system holds occupation at last, a tower and two Myrmidon battlecruisers on d-scan. I start to locate the tower and ships using a narrow d-scan beam but get distracted when I find a couple of gun batteries sitting by themselves, on-line and active despite there being no tower nearby.

I shake off my confusion and locate the tower, seeing both Myrmidons sitting unpiloted inside the shields. Only seven signatures in here encourages me to continue to scan, despite the system having an 80 AU radius, and a corporation fleet of strategic cruisers forming to engage Sleepers in our neighbouring C4. I appear to be avoiding other people, both accidentally and intentionally. Scanning finds a K162 leading in from null-sec space and the system's static wormhole, the connection to class 3 w-space looking like a target itself. But jumping in to the C3 finds a tower and no ships, a dead system too far from home to make me want to scan further.

I head back, poking my nose out of the C5 to visit D-PNP9 in Esoteria, where a Raven sits a few kilometres from the exit wormhole. I don't know if he's paying attention but he doesn't follow me back to w-space, although a battleship trying to catch a covert operations boat would be a lesson in futility. I start moving closer to home, pausing in the C2 when a habitual use of d-scan reveals probes in the system. I linger long enough to determine that he is scanning the wormhole I just passed through, and that after finding it he continues to scan, before continuing homewards where I swap in to my Manticore stealth bomber. I quietly warp past my colleagues shooting Sleepers and return to the C2.

I don't stray far from the homewards connection, hoping the scout will fly to me and let me shoot him, but when the probes disappear from the system nothing happens. With three wormholes to choose from I may just be unlucky, and I warp to the other two to look for signs of activity. Even jumping in to null-sec sees the transparent local channel empty and I give up my feeble hunt, heading home again. I jump back to the neighbouring C4 and as I move away from the wormhole it flares, a second ship jumping in behind me. I prepare my combat systems and ready for the ship to reveal itself, only to remain hidden behind my cloaking device as a Tengu strategic cruiser appears.

The fleet should know about the Tengu's presence and I alert them to its entrance. As the cruiser drops some scanning probes I become daring and decloak, locking and launching torpedoes. My flimsy ship doesn't stand a chance of surviving against the weapons systems of even a covert Tengu, nor will my torpedoes do more than tickle the ship's shields, yet it flees. Escaping is probably wise, though, particularly as the pilot has no doubt consulted d-scan to see a fleet of strategic cruisers engaging Sleepers and cannot be sure that they will not come to my aid. The scanning probes disappear from d-scan, no doubt recalled by the Tengu pilot, and I wait cloaked on the wormhole for his return.

Having the Tengu flee from my tiny Manticore tickles me. When the strategic cruiser returns the way he came, jumping through the wormhole back to the C2, I follow. It can't end well as I attempt to gain a positive lock and disrupt the ship's warp drives, but the ship's cloaking device activates and confuses my targeting systems. I still manage to chase off a Tengu in my Manticore a second time. I try to give chase but don't find him at either wormhole, yet the Tengu and now a Buzzard remain in the system for a while longer before vanishing. I again return to our tower, and again I shan't be staying. D-scan put the ships separate from a celestial body and the known wormholes remained clear, which suggests another wormhole has opened in to the class 2 system, bringing with it active capsuleers. A new fleet forms, one hunting more than Sleepers.

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