Unwittingly dropping short

20th January 2011 – 5.32 pm

The constellation has been revealed. Exploration has found three more class 3 w-space systems beyond our normal neighbour, with a couple of systems occupied, creating plenty of opportunity for mayhem. I have bookmarks for all the known wormholes, which are plenty, and anomalies in the systems. Now it is time to take my Manticore stealth bomber out for a roam, hoping to run in to a salvager or two, but mostly looking for signs of activity. I already know of one active ship, as Fin is around and has copied for herself the bookmarks I left in the shared can. And there is a second ship somewhere, Fin having heard a wormhole flare but not seeing who or what jumped. There is at least one pilot to hunt.

Our neighbouring class 3 system, designated 'C3a', is quiet, as is the class 3 system connected via a random outbound wormhole from C3a. This second system, C3b, is also quiet, but it holds two more outbound connections, both to class 3 w-space themselves, and I choose to pass through the link leading to C3d, as that system holds an on-line tower. Right before I jump Fin reports a Primae industrial ship jumping through the exit from C3b to high-sec empire space, Fin having exited to high-sec to check the market. She holds her position, seeing the Primae warp away in high-sec and waiting a few minutes for the same pilot to return in a pod and jump back to C3b. I have repositioned myself on the exit wormhole and see the pod jump in, but I don't try to catch it. Doing so would be futile for such a small and agile target, particularly one that could jump right back to high-sec. Instead, I note its vector as it warps away. It may have gone towards the wormhole to C3d, although its path looked a little high, and I continue with my original plan to check that system.

In the fourth class 3 system uncovered today I see on my directional scanner a Tempest battleship, and a Buzzard and Cheetah covert operations boat, but no pod. I warp to the tower, which I found and bookmarked earlier, to see all the ships inside the shields, and piloted. Capsuleers have woken up but they don't seem active yet, and there is no sign of the Primae pilot. In fact, Fin sees her, back in high-sec, in a second Primae. Maybe she's shipping out of w-space, her pod warping back a few minutes later almost confirming another repeat appearance. I often say that predictability is dangerous, and if she makes more trips between empire and w-space she has become a prime target. I jump back to C3b to see her pod briefly on d-scan, and as it doesn't jump past me she clearly isn't going to C3d. I warp to the wormhole connecting to C3c and lurk, but when an Iteron hauler appears on d-scan it seems that she isn't coming from any of the known connections.

Warping to the exit to high-sec sees the Iteron jump out, confirming the appearance of another wormhole in the system. It could be deeper w-space, or it could be from a null- or low-sec system, the pilot making using of the convenient high-sec connection to move assets more safely. At least, it was safe, moving through an unoccupied and apparently inactive system, but now we have a bead on her and I intend to set a trap. I assume the capsuleer's pod will return, she'll get another ship, and warp out again, so I go back home myself, jumping to C3a and then our C4, to swap the stealth bomber for my Onyx heavy interdictor, the HIC's warp bubble being key to catching the ship before it reaches high-sec. If I can get back to the wormhole and activate the bubble before the other pilot's ship enters warp in C3b, the bubble will pull the ship out of warp too far from the wormhole to jump, and she'll be in some amount of trouble. If, however, she gets her ship in to warp before the bubble is active then her navigation systems will have locked in to the destination and she'll pass through the bubble cleanly, letting her reach the wormhole and jump out of the system immediately. I need to be quick.

I jump back in to C3b and warp to the wormhole, urging my HIC's engines to speed our way. Dropping out of warp at the wormhole I activate the warp bubble, seconds before my continued punching of d-scan reveals the appearance of a Brutix battlecruiser in the system. I could be lucky, maybe I got the bubble up in time, even if a battlecruiser is a rather harder target than what has passed through so far, but I'm not, and I don't. The Brutix sails through my warp bubble as though it weren't there, jumping through the wormhole to the safety of high-sec without delay. Not only do I not catch the ship but I've also been made. The pilot will undoubtedly return, but my presence will be no surprise, and if I stay the capsuleer will merely wait for the session change timer to end and jump out of the system to return to high-sec, leaving me with nothing to do. It will be a stalemate, with me not catching anyone and the other pilot simply waiting until I leave. I have no desire to waste my time and so admit that I was just a bit slow, as I warp my Onyx away, returning home.

I swap back to my Manticore, returning the stealth bomber to C3b and the wormhole to high-sec. The caspuleer would be a fool to try to take another ship out to empire space after what's just happened. The Onyx has certainly been removed from the wormhole, but its presence in the first place is a good indicator that her activity has been noted. Never the less, it is no surprise that the pod returns. As I mention, it can easily see if a ship sits waiting, using the session change cloak to hide, before deciding to carry on homewards or to retreat back to high-sec. And I often rely on the folly of other pilots, which is why I am loitering cloaked on the wormhole in my Manticore, watching as the pod warps back through the class 3 system. But it looks like the pilot has either finished moving ships or is sensible enough to wait for another day before continuing, as I end up merely floating in space, passing the time with Fin nearby in her cloaked Buzzard. But maybe not. An Iteron appears on d-scan, the pilot obviously believing the lack of the Onyx has made it safe to make another journey. That much is true. But what the pilot didn't notice is what I did with the Onyx before I took it back home: I moved the wormhole.

I have known for ages that it is possible to move wormholes, finding out by accident. And when I posted about it a little while back a colleague performed some excellent research on how to move wormholes efficiently, noting that a HIC's bubble affects the ship's inertia to make moving the wormhole a quicker prospect, as a ship needs to be entirely stationary before it can shift a wormhole. I remembered this as the Brutix passed me, and on a whim started shifting the wormhole away from its current position. I knew I didn't have long, as I didn't want to remain there when the pod came back, having to exit the system myself to make it look safe to continue operations. I also had to cut short shifting the wormhole as I didn't want to risk another thirty-second cycle of the warp bubble. But before warping clear I managed to push the wormhole over seven kilometres from its original position.

What is important to know is how moving the wormhole affects bookmarks. Wormholes act like stargates, but can only be referenced indirectly. A bookmark identifies not the wormhole but a point in space, which if made properly will certainly coincide with the wormhole's position. But were the wormhole to move, the bookmark would still identify the original point of space, even though the wormhole would no longer be there. Our current target pilot would not realise the wormhole's new position when using it to jump back in to the system, as bookmarks are abstract and not indicated on the overview, so she warped away in her pod oblivious to what I had done. And this is why the Iteron now drops out of warp over seven kilometres away from the wormhole, and no doubt a little flustered.

It is possible to jump through a wormhole at a range of five kilometres. Being roughly seven kilometres away gives me and Fin only the time it takes to traverse a couple of kilometres to get the kill. Luckily, an Iteron doesn't move very fast and is quite fragile. A webbed Iteron moves even more slowly, Fin's Buzzard making sure of that. My Manticore is in minimum bombing range, as I was unsure whether I would have the time or inclination to open the assault with a bomb launch, but an Iteron should pop quickly enough with mere torpedoes, and I burn towards the hauler, just as it disappears. There is a moment of confusion, as it was too far from the wormhole to jump and we didn't see a flare. I realise that it must have cloaked, no doubt some measure of protection in case the Onyx was still around. But not only does an Iteron move slowly, a cloaked Iteron barely reaches a snail's pace. I surge my engines forwards again, thankful that I had started to close, and even from twenty kilometres out I am able to bump in to the hauler and break its cloak. Now the shooting starts.

Fin and I lock on to the Iteron, Fin's web keeping it from gathering pace, my point preventing it from warping away, and it gets pounded with torpedoes and a single light missile launcher as it tries desperately to reach the—inexplicably to her—out-of-reach wormhole to jump to safety. But her efforts are in vain. The Iteron explodes with a richly rewarding flash of light, and my sensor-boosted Manticore lunges for the ejected pod. I lock on and get a point on the pod too, the pilot either disorientated enough not to get away, or inexperienced enough to try to escape through the wormhole whilst a session change timer is in effect, and a few more shots results in a fresh corpse for me to scoop.

We have the wreck of an Iteron to loot. And what loot it is! A Proteus strategic cruiser subsystem catches my eye immediately, and I make sure I have room to grab that, but there is so much more. An extra-large ship maintenance array, corporate hangar array, and Tech II modules galore all survive the explosion, although the debris suggests just as much was also destroyed. We need our own hauler to recover all of this, as the Iteron was optimised for cargo space and quite obviously full. Thankfully, we get the pod kill, leaving our position and site of the wreck relatively safe, particularly considering the complete lack of traffic beyond this lone pilot. I stay in my Manticore as Fin returns home to get a Bustard transport ship back here. A couple of trips recovers all the loot safely, after which I shoot the wreck to leave no trace of our mischief.

The kill turns out to be a half-billion ISK loss for its pilot. Considering we missed a couple of Primae ships and a Brutix, this trophy Iteron is hitting the jackpot. And moving the wormhole in order to capture it was inspired, even if I say so myself. Taking the theoretical and making it workable has made w-space even more deadly.

  1. 7 Responses to “Unwittingly dropping short”

  2. But not that deadly, as changes in Incursions 1.1.0 makes moving wormholes impossible. The two kilometre 'event horizon' of wormholes is now an impenetrable sphere, preventing ships from moving closer to the actual centre of the wormhole to force the shift.

    Whilst the change will mean the end to moving wormholes, it also makes ambushing ships on wormholes much more awkward. The event horizon acts like any other structure, making ships bounce off it when approached, and intercepting cloaked ships on a wormhole could become an exercise in frustration.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this change were to be reversed and a more elegant solution found to keeping wormholes at their spawned location.

    By pjharvey on Jan 20, 2011

  3. The wormhole change is just sad.
    Especially as i didn't have a chance to really use the wh moving to catch anyone.
    I'm glad at least you did get a chance and used it to a great effect. :)

    By Mick Straih on Jan 20, 2011

  4. Nice kill Penny, Congrats as always on your hunting instincts. :)

    By Bob Fenner on Jan 20, 2011

  5. Thanks, chaps! It's one of my finest moments.

    It is a shame this change is being made, as the opportunities to use it are slim and difficult to manipulate. But I suppose it's unsurprising, given the undetectable nature of wormhole shifts.

    By pjharvey on Jan 21, 2011

  6. While it's a neat hunting story, I think it also explicitly outlines why CCP would change the way wormholes work. The other pilot (foolish though he may have been for continuing to move stuff after being spotted), had no way to know that it'd been moved short of rescanning it. It's simply not a reasonable proposition to have people feel they need to rescan a wormhole every time they want to use one on the off chance someone moved it. Wormhole travel is already dangerous and uncertain, and I think the pilot who dropped out of warp on a bookmark only to lose 500m+ isk would probably agree this particular aspect of it is needless and a little silly.

    By Frosstbyte on Jan 25, 2011

  7. Yep, I fully understand why the change was made and, as I say above, don't find it surprising.

    I think the implementation of the change is a bit of a hack, and hopefully more a quick-fix prior to a robust solution, because it makes normal interception on a wormhole more difficult. But perhaps that is the intention of the fix too. Time will tell.

    By pjharvey on Jan 25, 2011

  8. That was nice and quick. In the EVE Online Incursions 1.1.2 patch notes:

    Wormholes will no longer bump you when you are on top of them.

    By pjharvey on Jan 27, 2011

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