Almost finding trouble

13th November 2011 – 3.27 pm

I arrive just as Fin is about to peek through one of the two K162s in the system. My glorious leader has scanned our home and found not only our static wormhole to class 3 w-space, but also connections coming from class 2 and class 5 w-space. That gives us plenty to explore to start the evening, so with Fin heading to the C2, and bookmarks waiting for me in our shared can, I head off in the other direction to see what the C5 holds. Not much, it seems, at least not that my directional scanner shows me on the other side of the wormhole. If I didn't know any better I'd say the system is unoccupied, but opening the system map shows there to be several planets out of range of d-scan, giving plenty of space to hide in.

I warp away from the wormhole to launch probes. Normally when there are no ships around, and particularly if I believe I have just opened the connection, I will brazenly launch scanning probes on the wormhole itself, but as this one has already been opened and could be directly in a pilot's flight path I am taking precautions about leaving myself vulnerable or visible. Not enough precautions, perhaps, as my initial few seconds of warp look to have flung me over the cosmic signature and decloaked my Tengu, the strategic cruiser becoming visible for a handful more seconds whilst I wait for the cloak to become active again. And that could have been bad timing, as punching d-scan as I am in warp sees a Mammoth hauler and two jet-cans labelled with times.

It is no surprise to see one of the cans disappear and the hauler dropping off d-scan a short while later, as it looks like I've arrived in the middle of a mining operation. Or perhaps the end of the operation, with no mining ships out here, although it's possible that only one pilot is active and he's collecting his own ore. I need to find the tower and determine who else is around, as the Mammoth returns to collect the second jet-can of ore. Warping across to the other side of the system finds two towers and a handful of ships, including a piloted Hulk exhumer. The Mammoth warps back to the tower, showing at least two pilots available, but when the Hulk pilot swaps to a shuttle I am supposing the mining operation has finished. I am a little too late.

Undeterred by the change of ships I warp back across the system and launch probes, now that there is no one out there to see me, and I perform a blanket scan, if only because I can and it gets my probes out of the system. Returning to the tower lets me keep an eye on the two pilots and, as they are not moving, I quickly resolve the gravimetric site the Hulk was working in, needing only three scans to get its location. I warp in to reconnoitre the site, disappointed to see a lack of arkonor that reinforces the idea that mining is stopped, before going back to watch the pilots once more. I locate the second tower, finding a piloted Orca industrial command ship, no doubt giving bonuses to the Hulk, and a second carrier. Both Chimeras, one at each tower, are unpiloted.

Two new contacts appear, one in a pod, the other an Ares interceptor. I also see a combat scanning probe on d-scan, making me worry that I haven't quite got my own far enough out of the system before a Helios covert operations boat, no doubt the actual source of the probe, warps in to a tower. I wait and watch. The pod pilot boards a Legion strategic cruiser and warps in what looks like the direction of the E175 wormhole to our home system. I follow to see what he does, which then involves a fair bit of bouncing off different planets and back to the wormhole, sometimes dropping off d-scan and sometimes staying in range. Fin has left her occupied but inactive C2 system behind to get in position on the other side of the wormhole with an appropriate ship to welcome the Legion, but he doesn't jump, and neither does he sit still long enough for us to jump him.

I realise a little too late that the Legion is probably making some safe spots in the system, using the arbitrary position of the wormhole, which happens to be high above the ecliptic plane, as a decent and unrepeatable starting point. I also realise, also too late, that if either Fin jumped in or I decloaked as the Legion was spotted dropping out of warp at the wormhole we could have caught him before he could align and warp out again. Instead I just watch him come and go, waiting for the right moment that never comes. And then a Maller arrives, the cruiser looking a little too much like bait for us to assault readily, although quite who has spotted either of us is uncertain. Either way, we leave it be until it warps out again a minute later.

The Maller is followed by a Dominix, Fin's admitting she has an irrational fear of the battleship again preventing an immediate attack. I demur to her fear, particularly as there are some awkward ships flying around. We may be able to pop the Legion, or the Maller, or even the Dominix, but if they all appeared together we would be in trouble. And if the interceptor arrived we could be toast, the tiny but agile ship probably able to avoid our missiles well enough to hold us in place until much bigger ships could chew through our defences. None of this is helped by most observations being inferred or speculation, as the wormhole is out of d-scan range of the tower and the rest of the ships, and I am getting most of my information from purely the number of ships my combat scanning probes continue to report.

We watch, from different sides, as the Dominix jumps through the wormhole and returns. The ship ignores the session change timer and polarisation effects, decloaking almost immediately and sitting on the wormhole, visible and vulnerable. That can't be a good sign. And jumping in to and then out of the system is only really indicative of collapsing a wormhole, which if the Dominix is to do it itself will take a while. Even so, polarisation effects could be used to our benefit, such that if we ambush it after its next pair of jumps we could escape home if necessary without the battleship able to follow. We decide that we'll give it a shot, using that tactic.

The Dominix jumps to our C4 and returns to the C5, this time with Fin following. But we have to abort the attack, just as we show our hand, as my monitoring of the C5 shows a Proteus strategic cruiser and Armageddon battleship coming to join the Dominix on the wormhole. We are out-numbered and out-gunned, and before long out-manoeuvred, as the Ares turns up too. This has turned in to a bit of a sticky wicket. Both Fin and I are in the C5, surrounded by dangerous ships, as they continue to collapse the connection to our home. However, we get a lucky break, as the Ares pilot is bored easily and decides to wander from the wormhole. It isn't far for an interceptor to travel, it could cover the distance in a few seconds, but that few seconds should be enough to get both of us home safely.

I tell Fin I'm making a move, that the Ares has carelessly wandered off, but she has seen it too and is already moving. I was closer to the wormhole and jump home first, the Ares caught completely unawares, and Fin follows behind. We both get home, move from the wormhole, and cloak with only the Armageddon joining us, its slow-locking systems barely a threat, if it actually cared about trying to catch us. The Ares follows soon after, but much too late to cause any consternation. To pass the time as the wormhole is steadily reduced of more mass, I warp to our static wormhole to look in the as-yet unexplored class 3 system beyond.

The most interesting aspect of the C3 is that this is my fifth visit to the system, perhaps making it my most visited w-space system out of any I've called home. Otherwise, it is occupied but empty of ships, and although the number of giant secure containers on d-scan makes me suspect there is a bubble trap waiting outside the tower all I find is a rather messy system of personal inventory. The bubbles on d-scan must be scattered around the system, on current or dead wormholes. There's nothing to see here. I head home to get some rest, where the occupants of the C5 have finished collapsing the wormhole. They used an Orca for the final blow, which revealed a cloaked Tengu returning to their home moments before the final jump. We never even knew it was there.

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