Prowling for fuel

13th March 2011 – 3.53 pm

We could use some fuel and fittings. We tend to run out of the first quite regularly, almost on a schedule, and shortage of the second only let themselves be known right before we want to use them. It's difficult keeping a fully stocked hangar of modules for all eventualities when there are so many of them, even with so few of us. Trying a new ship configuration, completing skill training to let us finally use a more advanced module, or getting blown up all contribute to needing more stock. Fin's out looking for our static wormhole already, which she finds and confirms as being the only one in the system, and I get a free ride out to the connection without launching a scanning probe.

Our neighbouring class 3 w-space system looks empty from where the K162 appears, and a quick scan shows it to be quite dull. It was unoccupied ten months ago, when I was last here, and still is now. There is one anomaly, no ships, and an exit to null-sec space to find, but we're not going to bother. Null-sec won't let us refuel our tower or buy new fittings, and the single anomaly is hardly worth the time of swapping ships. Having only just found our static wormhole we decide to collapse it and start again. Fin pushes her Orca industrial command ship through a few times, I help in my Widow black ops ship, and the connection collapses on schedule.

Scanning a second time is made easier by Fin holding her final trip as I make a blanket scan of our system, ignoring all the results whilst the current, and now critical, wormhole still exists. With all current signatures ignored Fin jumps home to collapse the wormhole and, after a short wait, one new signature appears. The new static is never easier to isolate, and it is mere seconds later that we are both warping to it. And jumping in to the class 3 system sees two towers on our directional scanners and lots of ships, from battleships and battlecruisers to industrial ships. The two towers appear to be around a single planet, which handily has only two moons, so Fin picks one and I the other and we warp to the towers to reconnoitre.

I find two Iteron haulers at the tower I land near, one of the ships piloted. More interestingly, the piloted Iteron is outside of the tower's shields, bringing defences on-line. Fin finds no pilots at the second tower, despite there being more ships. It looks clear to take a shot at the vulnerable Iteron, but not in my Buzzard covert operations boat. I warp home, noticing core scanning probes on d-scan as I jump out of the C3, and swap the Buzzard for my Manticore stealth bomber. Fin monitors the tower with the Iteron, unfortunately seeing the Iteron move back to the safety of the shields before I am back in the system in my Manticore.

The bombing opportunity is gone, but it may not be the only one. I jump in, cloak, and warp back to the tower to see if the Iteron pilot will come out of the shields again. It looks like he has finished placing defences and is now suitably paranoid, or sensible, and is using the tower management console to bring the defences on-line, rather than doing it manually at each defence. I don't suppose he'll be coming out of the shields for now. Maybe it's because there are scanning probes still on d-scan, as we are not sure if they are probes of other visitors or local scouts that we have yet to see.

A Helios cov-ops ship appears on d-scan briefly. Fin monitors our K162 but sees no jumps, although she may have got there late and missed the transition. As Fin warps away from the wormhole she spots a transport ship, although her speed made it difficult to see if the ship was jumping out of the C3 or coming back in. I head to the K162 to loiter menacingly and, not soon after I get there, the wormhole flares and a Prowler transport ship decloaks. I decloak my Manticore, lock the ship, and throw a bomb towards it, knowing that the ship is not only under a session change timer but also polarised. If I can disrupt his warp engines before he can escape I will have plenty of time to pop the ship. But I activate my warp disruptor only to see the Prowler warp off, even before the bomb detonates.

I know I got a positive lock, and that I was in the module's effective range, and I don't think I suffered from finger stutter. My best guess is that the ship had warp core stabilisers fitted, letting it ignore my single disruptor, which makes sense when sending a transport ship to investigate a new connection. It doesn't make a bit of sense for a transport ship to be the first to enter a new system, though, regardless of warp core strength. Oh well, the Iteron decided to be sensible, the Prowler got away, and now there is a Hound stealth bomber on d-scan. Resistance is only to be expected when hostiles appear in a system, but it does rather endanger any attempt we may make in getting fuel through this C3. Our best opportunity is to collapse the wormhole a second time and start again.

Fin uses the Orca to speed the destabilisation of the wormhole, and I pilot my second Widow to protect it, this one fitted with ECM modules. Breaking a positive lock on the Orca would be better than relying on destroying the attacking ship, particularly when you don't know what you may be facing. Nothing comes looking for us, though, at least nothing that we see, and the second wormhole of the evening is collapsed smoothly. But in our haste to clear the C3, and to keep the Widow's ECM available for the Orca, we don't perform a blanket scan to ignore of all the home signatures, which means I need to sift through them all to resolve the third static wormhole of the day.

We should have taken a minute to ignore all the signatures. It would have been easier, certainly, but I simply can't find the new wormhole, no matter where I look. It gets to the point where I think we have exhausted whatever Sleeper technology it is that spurts the connections in to existence and that we're just going to have to wait for another day before a new wormhole appears. It's getting late anyway, and even if we find a suitable exit there is not much time to get any fuel home.

Fin calls it a night, and I would too if I weren't intent on finding this stupid wormhole. I even think I have discarded every signature in the system as irrelevant, until a desperate blanket scan shows one final signature to be resolved. Inevitably, it is our new static connection. I don't visit it, which would activate it, but merely bookmark the signature, label the bookmark, and copy it to our shared can. The connection will stay available until it is activated, the bookmark giving us a head start for tomorrow's exploration. Now it is time to rest.

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