Separated scanning

26th May 2011 – 5.28 pm

From home, to class 3 w-space, to low-sec empire space. The current constellation is mapped and bookmarks are available, which I copy and head out to check for any activity and maybe new connections. Jumping in to our neighbouring system sees someone definitely around, as there is a pod visible on my directional scanner, and a host of large and scary ships hopefully sat at the tower. Carriers, dreadnoughts, and T3s, oh my! Warping to the bookmarked tower gives me time to check my notes, seeing that I've made a previous visit to the system six months ago. The tower is in the same place, but with a Chimera and Nidhoggur carrier, and Pheonix, Naglfar, and Moros dreadnoughts I'm not surprised they haven't moved. I am rather more surprised at finding out that, although there are piloted strategic cruisers at the tower, the pod has no capsuleer inside.

I think our best chance of having a productive evening is to isolate ourselves from the neighbours, and Fin starts pushing an Orca industrial command ship through our wormhole to destabilise it. I keep my Widow black ops ship nearby, but no one chases Fin home and the wormhole collapses with little ceremony. Mick scans the replacement static wormhole and reports the new C3 to be unoccupied and leading to null-sec k-space. There are a couple of good anomalies we can clear for some quick profit, which we decide to do. My Golem marauder comes out once more to team with a pair of Tengu strategic cruisers, and we blast our way through waves of Sleepers. Not as many waves as usual, though, as the second anomaly has already been started, diminishing our profit a little. We still get home with a little under a hundred million iskies, which is a pretty decent return for our time. Now we collapse our wormhole again.

All goes according to plan with the wormhole's destabilisation, the added Golem and Tengu trips speeding the process up, until the connection collapses behind Fin's Orca. That wasn't meant to happen. Maybe we got a wormhole that could tolerate less mass than normal, as we understand there to be a margin of ten percent either way on the allowed total transit mass. It normally seems to make the wormhole 'fatter', but in this case we got one on a diet, and it simply couldn't take one more Orca trip. At least the Orca has scanning probes, even if it means Fin's only exit is out to null-sec. Mick and I can try to help by finding our new connection and seeing if, by chance, we can also get out to k-space near Fin's exit, and get her home safely as soon as possible.

The new wormhole is found again, Mick reporting a tower and no ships in the class 3 w-space system beyond. There are two core scanning probes visible on d-scan, though, and rather than follow Mick in to the C3 to scan I plant my Malediction interceptor on our wormhole in case the unidentified scout heads our way. But we may have a better opportunity, as Mick finds a second tower and a piloted Mammoth hauler, and it looks like it is warping around collecting planet goo. Mick watches the hauler closely, I sit in readiness on our wormhole. 'Planet three, customs, go!' I jump in, bookmark the wormhole home, and surge my interceptor towards the customs office around the third planet. I drop out of warp to empty space, Mick informing me that the Mammoth left almost as soon as it landed, perhaps spotting my Malediction on d-scan as I was in warp. It was close, but for now I take my ship back to the wormhole and loiter with intent.

There is a bit of to and fro with ships at the tower in the C3 and with me at ours, as our targets try to decide how to counter my interceptor, and Mick and I work out how to counter their counter. It all comes to nought, with the targets going quiet, maybe making their manoeuvres more defensive than aggressive. Mick takes the time to scan the C3 as he watches their tower, resolving a K162 connection from class 5 w-space and the static exit to high-sec empire space. The exit doesn't get us close to Fin, but at least it connects us again. I'm interested in the two other w-space systems at the moment, and when Mick comes home to copy the bookmarks to me I take my Buzzard covert operations boat out to explore.

My first choice of system is the class 5, entering which gives me a clear result on d-scan. A blanket scan of the system reveals four ships, which turn out to be unpiloted at a tower, and only five signatures, which even though I entered through a K162 is far from a burden to scan to see if the rabbit hole goes deeper. And indeed it does, two more wormholes cropping up in the system. The first is a K162 coming from null-sec empire space, and although it is reaching the end of its natural lifetime I jump out to see if it is close to Fin's position. Seventy jumps, she says. I return to the C5 and warp to the other wormhole, this one a K162 from class 1 w-space. I may as well continue exploring, and jump in.

D-scan shows me a beautiful sight, a Retriever mining barge, five mining drones, and an Iteron hauler all together in the system. I excitedly update Mick, giving him directions to get to the C1 through the previously unscanned C5, as I try to find a spot when I can launch probes covertly. I can't get out of d-scan range of the miners without then being visible to a second tower, where a Drake battlecruiser sits piloted. I take the view that the Drake is probably paying less attention to d-scan than the miners and decloak to launch probes where he but not they can see. I fling the probes out of the system, reactivate my cloak, and warp off to get close to the Retriever.

He's still mining, I think I got away with launching my probes. Now I need to position the probes so I can warp in to give him a surprise. I can get within 3·5 AU of the Retriever, and from there locate him on d-scan to a five degree cone in space. He's above the ecliptic plane and happily oblivious to me so far, and I take care placing my combat scanning probes on and around where I think he is. And, with that done, I warp back to the wormhole leading to the C5, where Mick now sits in his cloaked Loki. I am ready to scan and warp Mick in the direction of the miner. I hit 'scan', calling my probes in, and hope I've been accurate enough. Damn, a 99·99% strength hit is good, but not enough to warp to. I quickly reposition and scan a second time, again getting a cosmic hair's breadth away from locating the miner. And this time, so sure was I of a successful scan, I recalled my probes.

Recalling my probes is probably not a disaster. If the miner was paying any kind of attention he'll be leaving now, not waiting for a third scan to find him, and if he wasn't paying attention I have time to relaunch and try again. The Iteron has warped out already, returned to a tower, but the Retriever and drones remain. Maybe it's coincidence, the Iteron returning to drop off mined ore, and I warp away again to relaunch my probes, but by the time I've done that the Retriever too has gone from the site. Maybe a third scan would have been quick enough to get a definite position for the Retriever, Mick's Loki warping quickly enough to catch him, but tonight my aim was off. It happens. I at least scan the gravimetric site the Retriever was in, having a really good idea of where it is, in case they come back, but both ships have now disappeared from the system. I doubt they're coming back.

Scanning for the gravimetric site also happens upon another wormhole, which I take time to resolve too. It turns out to be the system's static exit to high-sec, and again not likely to help with getting Fin home. But Mick has negotiated with some allies for a scout to help Fin navigate some null-sec, and she has advanced a few systems without bumping in to any hostile activity. And the last, safe null-sec system she lands in holds a wormhole leading in to class 5 w-space, which is a much safer place for her to be in that null-sec, and also offers the possibility of exiting to low- or even high-sec space with more scanning. Probably quite a bit more scanning. But Fin's situation is much improved from earlier and we can continue looking for connections to bring her home. For now, with this C1 quiet, the C5 still asleep, and the C3 also empty, I simply head home to get some rest.

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