Stacking up the stealth bombers

14th April 2012 – 3.04 pm

Maybe today I'll go out exploring. Yesterday's static wormhole was already in its death throes the first time I warped to it, stopping me in my tracks. Although it collapsed whilst Fin and I were Sleepering, ostensibly creating a new wormhole in its place waiting to be found today, the health of the wormhole all rather depends on what other activity may have passed through our home system. It all looks quiet. New rocks, new gas, new wormhole are all my probes resolve, and with only one wormhole it looks like no one has passed through today. But—ha ha, so funny!—this bastard's at the end of its life too. None of our anomalies are missing again, though. Do we have a nomad in our system who's opening our static connection fourteen hours early just to irritate me?

Schwoop. The wormhole collapses ten minutes after I find it in its wobbly state. I've been catching up on some reading in the meantime and the distinctive sound of a wormhole's death pulls me back to my controls. That was actually pretty quick, as the EOL stage lasts four hours, give or take. Maybe tonight will be good after all. I relaunch my scanning probes, find the replacement static wormhole, and warp to the healthy connection to jump through to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. On the other side of the wormhole my directional scanner is nice and clear, letting me launch scanning probes. A blanket scan of the system is far from clear, though, with plenty of ships lighting up. They appear to be concentrated in two packs, which either means there are multiple towers here or a fleet is out causing havoc. I warp around to find out which.

A Rapier recon ship, Orca industrial command ship, Heron frigate, Ferox battlecruiser, and two Drake battlecruisers are near one planet holding a tower, and a Tengu strategic cruiser, Raven battleship, and second Orca are near a second planet holding two towers. The Tengu, Raven, and Orca are all piloted in the second tower once I find it, but all the other ships are empty at the first. The towers are owned by different corporations too, which is interesting. To make spotting new contacts easier I ignore all the ships on my combat probes and scan again. Right away I pick up either a new contact or a swapped ship, and warp back to the second tower to see only two ships and pilots at the tower, although a third still showing on my probes. And gone.

The ship probably left the system, so I should think about scanning for wormholes. I resolve a fairly dull K162 from high-sec empire space amongst the three signatures out of d-scan range of the pilots, and I leave the other two signatures unresolved for now so that I can be more confident I've not yet been spotted. I jump home, steal borrow Fin's Manticore stealth bomber, and head back to C3a to lurk by the K162 from high-sec. The ship that was missing from the tower was the Tengu, but it must have been swapped for a different ship for the same pilot to be picked up by my probes after ignoring the Tengu, so maybe he's taken a hauler out to high-sec. I am hoping that the devastating firepower and quick-locking times of the Manticore, combined with sluggish reactions from the returning ship, will let me catch an unwary pilot returning from market. Otherwise, I have no idea what I'm doing lurking by a connection to high-sec.

I may have been rumbled already, regardless of the futility of my current plan. Some scanning probes are whizzing around the system, although I'm not sure why they are scanning the K162 I'm sitting on if the locals already know about it. The probes disappear and, after a while, a Buzzard covert operations boat blips on d-scan. The only other wormhole I know about within d-scan range of here is our own K162, so maybe the Buzzard went there. I take my Manticore across to take a look, loitering on our K162, and, sure enough, a couple of minutes later the Buzzard jumps back. I don't try to engage but simply watch where he goes, a little disappointed to see him warp towards one of the towers here. I was quite hoping he'd investigate the K162, jumping out and then back in quickly enough to be polarised, which would give me a better chance of catching him.

I'm not really achieving much. Rather than wait for someone to essentially self-destruct in front of me I think I'd better get back in my Tengu and scan the remaining two signatures here. I return to the C3 to find a Basilisk logistics ship now at a tower and even more scanning probes in the system. The corporations apparently live here harmoniously but without sharing information. How peculiar. Anyway, I launch my own probes and resolve two more wormholes, one a boring static exit to high-sec, the other an outbound connection to class 4 w-space. A local Tengu used the static wormhole as I was loitering outside the tower, and I think I'll head the other way. I jump through to C4a.

D-scan is clear in this rather bare system. Ten planets, only three with moons, and only five moons in total, all within d-scan range of the wormhole. My notes have me here ten months ago too, when I found a static connection to class 5 w-space. I don't fancy scanning through a convoluted chain of w-space tonight, not with time now running low, so simply turn around and jump back to C3a without even launching probes. Now there are two Tengus and the Orca at the active tower, but still nothing happening. At least, nothing that I can see. There are ship changes and the occasional jump to high-sec, but it all looks a bit humdrum. I may as check where the K162 leads.

Exiting w-space puts me in The Forge, which I perhaps could have guessed from the dreary grey nebula visible through the wormhole. Being in The Forge makes me naturally curious to see how far I am from Jita, and it turns out the market hub is a mere eight hops away. Dodixie, on the other hand, where a Manticore waits for me, is seventeen hops distant. That's typical. If I had waited a day I could have got the replacement ship home through a safer connection and probably cheaper, instead of leaving it unassembled and lonely. Never mind, I'll pick it up one day. Hey, maybe that day is today after all, as there is another connection to high-sec in this C3. I warp across the system to the static wormhole and jump through to the grey dreariness of The Forge again, only now I'm three jumps from Jita.

Sod it. I won't collect my replacement Manticore, but I will take advantage of being this close to Jita to get a new one. I take my Tengu home, strip to my pod, and head out to high-sec. Oh, bloody typical. The locals do next to nothing all evening, but when I warp my pod to their static wormhole they've all of a sudden got a Hulk exhumer and Orca sitting there to watch me go. Never mind. Onwards, ever onwards.

I jump out to high-sec, not really having another option, make the short trip to Jita, and buy and fit another replacement stealth bomber. This time I also manage to assemble it and pilot it home. However, I eschew the connection I exit w-space through and instead head to the other high-sec connection, so that I don't run right back in to whoever may be waiting for me, or even just watching. If the C3ers are getting active I would rather use the Ewok tactic of surprising them by the back entrance than knocking on the front door.

I am feeling the benefits of thorough scanning. I happen to pass through the system I exited in to and see several pilots from the C3 in the local communications channel, but I pass right through without visiting the wormhole. I continue a few more hops and warp across a less-populated system to a different wormhole, which sends me back to C3a just as effectively as the other connection. My Manticore sneaks in to the system with no one obviously seeing me, and as I am far out of d-scan range of the static wormhole and tower I happily feel I've fooled the locals who may be watching for my return.

I warp across to see what's happening, and ships are coming and going to the static connection, being swapped around in the tower's hangar, but generally still not really doing anything. I watch the movements for a little longer, really hoping one of them will be actually productive instead of looking busy for the boss, but only end up wondering why I'm still here. I leave this system behind and head home for sleep, which seems like a better use of my time. At least I have a Manticore again.

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