Accidentally finding the fleet

19th January 2012 – 5.05 pm

Whee, skill queue updated! One of these days I may even get to use a new skill, maybe some of these new-fangled guns I keep hearing about. They're like missiles, but use capacitor energy, have difficulty tracking fast-moving objects, and have confusing ammunition requirements. I can't wait! For now, I'll settle with exploring tonight's w-space constellation, which starts, as always, in scanning the home system. 'Okay', says Fin, 'tonight I want an SMA with Tech III or at least some Tech II ships in it'. Roger that, boss! Shall I take our tower off-line now, or would a bit later be more convenient for you? 'No, no; someone else's SMA.' Oops. Where's the 'on' button?

Misunderstandings aside, there are new signatures at home to find. One is merely new rocks to be activated and forgotten about, the other two are our static wormhole and a K162 connection coming in from class 4 w-space. It takes a while to find this out, if only because the two wormholes are on opposite sides of the system. I never knew it took so long to warp across our home system, but now I do. It takes quite a while. Science accomplished, I jump in to C4a to look for whatever pilots thought it would be a good idea to connect to our home. And whoever they may be they are not here now, the system small enough for there to be nowhere to hide from the wormhole.

There is also nowhere to hide from the tower, which sadly has an active force field, so I launch probes from the wormhole and perform a blanket scan. My scanning probes confirm that I appear to be alone in this system, as well as showing me there are twenty signatures scattered around, along with eight anomalies. Sod that for a lark, I have a class 3 system to explore for targets in the other direction. I'll only scan for possible K162s here if I find nothing of interest elsewhere. I recall my probes, return home, and warp across and jump through our static wormhole to C3a.

I'm not having much better luck here. There's no one obvious in the system, unless anchored warp bubbles have become sentient, or, I suppose, my directional scanner doesn't cover the whole of the C3. It turns out to be the d-scan one. Then again, notes from my previous visit to this C3, eight months ago, tell me the system was unoccupied then, and because it has a static exit to null-sec k-space its status is unlikely to have changed. The forty-five signatures would suggest no one's moved in, as does the lack of any structures in the system. Those twenty signatures back in the C4 are looking more attractive now.

I start sifting through the signatures, again the larger number not being a great disadvantage as they cluster together in such a way that I can ignore batches of rocks and gas. I'm not too happy to see a new anomaly spawn in the midst of my scanning, those dirty Sleepers, and I hope the indigenous w-spacers can keep it in their pants long enough for me to at least find the static wormhole. I'm getting the feeling that I won't find any K162s here. Well, except for this K162 from class 5 w-space. And this K162 from null-sec. I really should keep my big trap shut sometimes. I finally resolve the static connection, just as Fin finishes killing the extra wormhole in our home system, and consider my scanning complete here. Time to move on.

My first destination is the null-sec system beyond the C3's static connection, for a variety of complex reasons that are difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with w-space, and not simply because my ship decloaks on the wormhole accidentally. Five pilots are in the system with me in the Perigen Falls region, who I ignore entirely to look for more wormholes, and failing, only resolving a 'hierarchy', whatever that is. I locate the ships of the local pilots, the Hulk exhumer, Retriever mining barge, Charon freighter, and Ibis frigate all nervously huddled together in a defenceless tower, startled back from the native habitat of an asteroid field by the appearance of an unknown pilot in the system. The poor little dears won't come out of there now.

I return to w-space and head to the K162 to class 5 w-space, Fin reconnoitring the other null-sec system. I find myself in a relatively small system, but with the wormhole superbly placed for sneaking up on pilots. There is theoretically nowhere to hide in the C5, all planets being with d-scan range of each other, but the wormhole has appeared 4 AU outside the edge of the system, putting two planets out of d-scan range. If only there were more ships than an unpiloted Chimera carrier safely inside a tower it would be an excellent vantage point. With no one to hunt, I launch probes to take a quick look for extra wormholes. Of the eight signatures present only two look likely to be wormholes. One is a gravimetric site, the other indeed being a wormhole, but an outbound connection to low-sec, not a K162. That's okay, all wormholes are nifty.

The low-sec system is in the Tash-Murkon region, which could be convenient, except the system is a dead end and as far from high-sec as we could be here. Scanning has a handful of extra signatures to resolve, one of which, being a good 6·5 AU above the ecliptic plane, has got to be a wormhole. And it is, an outbound connection to more class 5 w-space. That could be interesting, and I jump in as Fin takes a look around low and, being smart and level-headed, decides to buy some fuel for our tower instead of gallivanting around on foolhardy expeditions. All I do is let my glorious leader down again, finding three off-line towers in C5b but without a single hangar containing expensive ships between them. That's quite a difference from my last visit here too, as my notes from eighteen months ago merely state '~250 ships' across four towers. Yes, I probably counted them.

Scanning probes find two anomalies and seventeen signatures, and I set them off on a wormhole check. In reality, it's me performing the check, so I feel fine about taking all the credit for resolving an outbound connection to more null-sec, a K162 from even more null-sec and, when I wonder how I missed it, the static connection to another class 5 w-space system. Scanning takes its time, particularly with a hundred or so signatures to discard, and the hour is drawing late, but I think I can afford a peak in to C5c. Jumping in to the system sees some scanning probes on d-scan, which increase in number then disappear, making me loiter on the wormhole in the hopes of seeing a scout. I give up on that pretty quickly, though, as I won't catch a covert operations frigate, and my notes tell me there could be towers here. I'll look for them instead.

Warping to the position of towers discovered two months ago sees them still in the same places, and a lot of ships. Big ships, too. And Sleeper wrecks appear on d-scan somewhere, sparking the need for passive scan of the system. Only two anomalies appear when my scan finishes, the wrecks coinciding with neither of them, and still more big and, frankly, worrying ships warp back in to the tower from somewhere. The wrecks are probably in a radar or magnetometric site, the locals no doubt pushing capital ships in to provoke escalations from the Sleepers. I'd have to scan to find the site, which surely at least one of the many pilots here would spot, and I'd be amazed if this kind of operation didn't guard its salvager properly. I doubt I can do anything here, I'll be dead if I tried anything. I should head back. That is, if it's safe to jump through the wormhole still.

Returning to the wormhole finds it clear of ships, which is a good sign. Jumping back to C5b, however, has a Tengu strategic cruiser appear, some kilometres away from me. Thankfully, I have appeared around two kilometres away from the wormhole and can cloak almost as soon as I move, although I jink shortly after cloaking just to make my location that bit more difficult to stumble in to. Oh, hello! It's not just the Tengu out here, he's got friends too. Big friends, battleship friends. Seven or eight of them. I am a little startled but I quickly recognise what's happening. The fleet hasn't coming looking specifically for me, they are simply collapsing an unwanted wormhole in to their system. That's a little inconsiderate, I don't know who else would potentially isolate harmless explorers.

It looks like my timing was perfect. Had I been any earlier warping back to the wormhole I could have bumped in to the fleet as it was forming for the outwards jump. Any later, and I would have bumped in to them returning. As it turns out, I jump out as the fleet are holding their session change cloaks. I'm surprised they didn't decloak and make it difficult for me to flee between their big hulls, but I suppose my timing meant they didn't know what was following them. Even so, it was my one ship against a fleet from a C5 that looks like it routinely handles Sleeper escalations in radar or magnetometric sites. Poor show, chaps. And to ram my good timing home, a carrier makes a return-trip through the wormhole from C5c, collapsing the wormhole, a minute after I leave the system.

That was close. Being stuck in C5c wouldn't have been the end of the world, although I doubt I would have been particularly safe trying to scan my way out of there ahead of any scout they wanted to keep ahead of me, at least not tonight, but I wasn't far away from warping in to a fleet of battleships and a carrier only to find my wormhole escape route gone. As it is, I get a little spike of excitement to end my exploration for the night. It's a good reminder that scanning w-space isn't always a simple matter of shuffling probes around. But now I should get some rest. I make a couple of brief diversions, both from C5b, visiting null-sec systems in the Kalevala Expanse and Curse, for red dots of exploration on my star map, before returning home through thankfully unchanged systems. We have fuel, I've had an adventure, it's time for bed.

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