Picking on a piddly Probe

16th May 2012 – 5.32 pm

Let me start again. I've already scanned our static wormhole, jumped to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system, and spotted scanning probes whizzing around the system. A Cheetah covert operations boat blipping on my directional scanner caused me to jump home and plant an interceptor on the wormhole, which generally turns out to be a waste of time, and this is no exception. At least I give up waiting and return to my scanning Tengu before our wormhole enters its end-of-life stage. It may not have been a complete waste, though, if the Cheetah has since guided a fleet in to the C3 to engage Sleepers, giving me a shot at a Noctis on my return. Of course, that's the best-case scenario. Worst-case is that I was spotted and he's brought a fleet in to ambush me.

Neither circumstance turns out to be the case. D-scan in C3a remains clear, which leaves me free to locate a tower that's been brought on-line since my last visit six months ago, and confirm that the tower I knew about is now gone. There is no sign of the Cheetah, scanning probes, or any other ships, so I launch my own probes to take a look around. A nice balance of eleven anomalies and ten signatures warms up my exploration bones for the night, although one of the two wormholes I resolve dissipates to be empty space by the time I reach it. The other wormhole is the static exit to high-sec empire space. Or maybe it's the same wormhole, just a different generation, and that the Cheetah was local, going off-line when finding his static connection to be EOL. He certainly didn't come in through a K162.

Whatever the source of the absent scout, I have little to do here but visit high-sec. I exit w-space to appear in Fora, where I expect there to be many trolls and flames, but instead see only five rather quiet capsuleers in the system with me. Three hops to Amarr is pretty convenient, but I stocked up with fuel recently and so I'll simply scan. Scan and rat. Rat and scan. I pop some Sansha rats in an anomaly whilst I resolve a weak wormhole, which promises to be nifty, but breaks that promise when it turns out to be a connection to null-sec, and EOL too. Not even the True Sansha frigate in the anomaly makes up for this disappointment, although that may be because it was only carrying some faction ammunition in its hold.

It looks like my best option is to take the time to collapse our static wormhole. Then again, I am in high-sec and stargates are hardly dangerous here, so I press onwards and make one hop to the next system across and scan again. This time I get lucky, resolving the sole signature to be an outbound connection to class 2 w-space. This gives me another system to explore, and one that will contain a wormhole to even more w-space, making it a good find. Jumping in sees nothing on d-scan, and a blanket scan confirms a lack of ships. Still, my notes indicate I'm looking for a wormhole to class 1 w-space, as well as one to null-sec, so I bookmark the two anomalies and start sifting through the ten signatures. This is when the lack of ships in the system changes slightly.

A Taranis interceptor is picked up by my combat probes, which d-scan confirms, before disappearing. Unsurprisingly, I resolve a wormhole near where the interceptor was, which turns out to be a K162 from class 1 w-space. That's interesting, but with a Taranis potentially on the other side is probably a bit too dangerous for the moment. I keep scanning, resolving an unexpected outbound connection to class 5 w-space, the expected wormhole to null-sec, and whittle down the rocks and gas to get to the last signature, which will be the, uh, ladar site? That was meant to be the second static connection to class 1 w-space. I must have got my notes wrong the last time I was here. Okay, I'm heading to the C5. It's my turn to leave an interceptor waiting for nothing on a wormhole.

Now this is a curious system. Only the star and first planet are within d-scan range from the wormhole, which doesn't strike me as odd until I open the system map. The second planet doubles as the farthest planet, as well as the only one that holds any moons. At least I know where I'll find any towers here, although I doubt I'll catch any industrialists collecting planet goo, as there can't be much to harvest. It doesn't look like the locals are that enamoured with their system to be terribly active whatever they do, with twenty-four anomalies and ten signatures concentrated around the two planets. Scanning is simple, though, made simpler by finding a connection to more class 5 w-space straight away. That's good enough for me, and I recall my probes and press onwards.

This second C5 has two towers visible on d-scan from the wormhole but no ships, and as it's starting to get late this lack of obvious activity is enough to turn me around. I head back through C5a to C2a, and out through the connection to null-sec to a dead-end system in the Cloud Ring region, where a couple of other pilots passively convince me not to look for rats. I return to C2a and wonder if perhaps I've been gone long enough for the interceptor pilot to have got bored and wandered off. Let's find out.

If the Taranis had waited for me he's nowhere to be seen now, not even on d-scan. What I do see is a tower, Vexor cruiser, Thanatos carrier—in a class 1 system!—Drake battlecruiser, and Merlin frigate. D-scan shows me that the Merlin is near the tower but not in it, and before I manage to locate which moon the tower's anchored to a Noctis salvager is brought out. That's pretty sweet, but I'm not sure what a little Merlin could do here that would then need a Noctis. Maybe a ladar site has been cleared of Sleepers. That could give me a soft target, but to find it would need me to scan for the site. I locate the tower, see that all ships but the carrier are piloted, then warp away to launch probes.

A blanket scan of the system shows me the five ships I know about, as well as an impressive nineteen anomalies—making me wonder what the carrier is used for here—and nine signatures. I don't do anything else with my probes for now, and simply warp back to the tower to watch eagerly for movement. And I see some, but only the lazy orbits two of the ships make around the tower, staying within the shields, whilst the other two don't even care to pretend to be active. I don't know what was just happening but it looks to have finished, which seems to be confirmed when one of the pilots goes off-line. Then again, he's replaced suspiciously quickly by a new contact in a Probe frigate. Maybe something will happen after all.

The Probe appears at the tower and bounces out immediately, looking like he's headed to the wormhole to C2a. I follow behind, a little slowly after having to orientate myself with the wormhole, to see the Probe jump through to the other w-space system. I move towards the wormhole, slowed by my cloak, until the Probe is well and truly out of this C1, then decloak and burn to the wormhole, to jump through myself. The delay in my following has worked as I had hoped. The Probe is a little distance from the wormhole, tangled in a mess of scanning probes, which will keep him from cloaking as I attack from behind.

I decloak, lock on to the Probe, and let loose every offensive system I have fitted. The frigate can't warp, is slowed to a crawl, and is being pounded by my missiles. Explosives be damned, I think the kinetic force of the missiles is enough to jolt the Minmatar ship to bits. As the Probe disintegrates, I lunge for the pod, snagging it too. A few more missiles later and I have another corpse for my collection. I scoop, loot, and shoot, wary of other ships coming through the wormhole behind me but knowing the sound of the flare would give me some warning. But no ships come, and it's probably because I've just croaked another disposable clone.

I popped a basic frigate, fitted so minimally that it doesn't even have a cloak—so surrounded by probes or not, it didn't have the option to vanish when I appeared behind it—and another empty-headed clone. ISK loss to the corporation is well under a million, which probably won't even register. It probably cost me more in missiles. Never mind, my blood lust is sated, and you never can tell what you're up against until you see the results. This is still my victory. I warp away leaving the untouchable probes scattered around the wormhole, heading back through high-sec and our neighbouring C3 to get myself safely home for the night.

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