Don't tease me

4th August 2012 – 3.51 pm

It's just me and the static wormhole, and I'm soon enough waving goodbye to that too. I move away and cloak from the K162 in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system with four towers but no ships visible on my directional scanner. One planet out of range holds a little hope that there are pilots somewhere, but I am not at all surprised when warping across the system finds nothing new. Launching probes and performing a blanket scan gives me nine anomalies to bookmark and nine signatures to resolve, and starting to locate the towers shows them to be configured with silos. If the system is owned for the silos to run reactions I don't suppose there's much chance of seeing any kind of local activity.

I've seen the silos, and yet I still spend a significant amount of time locating the four towers, each of them around a different planet. I'm not sure why. But once done I concentrate on scanning the signatures. Scanning, but not resolving. I used to be inclined to resolve each signature and bookmark the resulting site, hoping that a capsuleer would wander in to one without first checking the system for wormholes, but I think those days are mostly gone. Although gas and rocks are still harvested, the odds of my resolving a site now for it to be used later are negligible. Nowadays I simply resolve a signature until my probes can tell me the type of site, at 25% strength and above. If it's not a wormhole, I'll ignore it.

A magnetometric site and some rocks are ignored to start with, and two wormholes are resolved. I have an inkling that the signature of the second wormhole, DIE, is trying to tell me something, but I can't quite put my finger on it. It's probably paranoia, whatever the message. Gas, more rocks, even more rocks, and a third wormhole round off the signatures, giving me a static exit to high-sec empire space, a K162 from class 4 w-space, and a K162 from null-sec k-space. I jump through to high-sec and bookmark the exit, just to be safe, putting me in The Citadel and under ten hops either way to Jita and Amarr, which may spur me to do some shopping later. But, for now, I return to C3a and warp across to explore in to C4a.

D-scan is clear from the wormhole, and my notes from five months ago put a tower on a distant planet. Checking the tower finds it still there, but not in any functional configuration, leaving the system unoccupied and inactive. That should give me another K162 to find, so I launch probes to take a look. A blanket scan has nine anomalies and nine signatures, and a ship! I'm too slow in switching to d-scan to see what ship it is, which probably means it can cloak, and as my probes are hidden outside of d-scan range I hold off scanning for the moment. Repeated scans don't see the ship reappear, and d-scan doesn't catch it either, so rather than waste time looking for something that may not be there I call my probes in to start looking for the wormhole.

There it is. The K162 from class 5 w-space is probably what I'm looking for, so I recall my probes and ignore the other, weaker signatures. Jumping in to C5a doesn't give me positive signs of activity, though, with two towers and no ships visible on d-scan, but as I am considering looking for another K162 an Orca industrial command ship appears at one of the towers. Its appearance means the ship is piloted, and that makes it worth monitoring for at least a little while. I locate the tower, note that the system is too small to launch probes covertly, and so have little to do but loiter cloaked, watching the Orca for the moment.

Watching ships do nothing is pretty boring. Watching fat, expensive ships that are unlikely to leave the tower without scouting or escorts is boring and instils a sense of futility. Ignoring the fact that I could be spotted, I warp out, launch probes, and blanket the system. Well, as the system holds four anomalies and just the one signature, unless I overlooked a really obvious K162 in C4a I've found the source of activity all right. I either watch the Orca do nothing or head back. Or watch the Orca crawl in to life. My pulse increases with the velocity of the massive ship, as it appears to align out of the tower and towards another planet. Could the Orca really be heading out to collect planet goo from a customs office, giving me a fat target?

Hardly believing my luck, I align towards the customs office the Orca is pointing towards, and when the Orca does indeed enter warp I am following behind it. I reach the customs office before the whale, which I'm not too surprised about, but when a couple of seconds draws out to a dozen I start to think that maybe the Orca wasn't heading here after all. And spinning d-scan around to interrogate the nearby moon reminds me that there were two towers in the system. Right, I remember that now. The Orca warped from the safety of one tower to the safety of a second, and I spend a few minutes watching the ship make the same trip a couple more times.

But when I think the Orca is content with moving fuel and other supplies between the towers I get that tingle of excitement a second time. The Orca is aligning out of the tower again, but this time towards the wormhole to C4a! Maybe he has taken stock of the supplies and needs to get fuel. Maybe he was the scout I saw earlier, who mapped the constellation and saw it quiet, and is relying on it staying that way. I could have an Orca to slowly chew through when it warps to the wormhole, and even if it takes half-an-hour to pop by myself I'm willing to invest that time. I just have to align towards the wormhole and wait for the Orca to enter warp. Just wait a little as its speed reaches the critical point, and I can follow behind.

Oop, a little bump off the tower, but the Orca realigns and is gaining speed again. And still he is aligned towards the wormhole but doesn't warp. I get the feeling he's not actually going to the wormhole, and even though the stupid ship crawls to the edge of the shield and beyond, taking quite a while to do that, becoming vulnerable outside of the force field, there is little I can do. The tower defences would rip my ship to pieces before I could pop the Orca, and the Orca itself, even slowed by a web module, could return to be inside the force field before my guns could do much harm to it. Quite what the pilot was trying to achieve I don't know, but once entirely out of the force field he turns the Orca towards the second tower and warps there once more. What a damned tease.

Even if a Loki strategic cruiser hadn't turned up at the tower before the Orca warped, because the whale went to the second tower I feel pretty sure that I'm wasting my time watching it. If it leaves the system now it will be escorted, and I won't have a viable target anyway. I'm going back the way I came. A poke through the K162 in C3a to null-sec puts me in a system in the Venal region, and I'm not alone. That stops me ratting, and although I could scan I'm actually more interested in catching up with a sister I forgot I had. But when she mentions the ISK I owe her I realise that I have something important to do back at our tower, and rather than hang around to scan I return to w-space. The night draws on anyway, and watching the Orca has rather taken the wind out of my sails.

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