Isolate and return

5th September 2012 – 5.32 pm

Back, and hopefully refreshed, I arrive with Aii having finished scanning our neighbouring system. The class 3 w-space system has an exit wormhole to low-sec empire space that's at the end of its life, and a couple of ladar sites. Will Aii gas it up? No, because the gas isn't good gas, which seems to be a tautology to me, but okay. We can collapse our static connection instead and hope to find a better constellation. Out goes Aii in the Orca industrial command ship, and back in he comes. We repeat and I add a Widow black ops ship to mix it up, until I jump home and the wormhole collapses behind me. Oops.

Mine was meant to be the penultimate jump. Aii is stuck in C3a in the Orca without a wormhole to use to get home. At least the EOL exit remains long enough for him to jump through, because Aii wasn't keen on scanning in the Orca, and he even only needs to make one hop to get to high-sec. I don't think that quite makes up for isolating him in scummy Gallente space, so I'd better get scanning to return him safely home. Resolving the replacement static wormhole is straightforward enough, but my directional scanner shows that bringing an Orca back through C3a may not be as simple.

A tower on d-scan is accompanied by a slew of ships, industrial and combat, and although there are no wrecks, canisters, or probes visible I don't fancy the odds that all the ships would be scattered empty inside a tower's force field. Warping to the tower noted from six months ago finds it in the same place, and that the Thrasher destroyer, Cheetah and Buzzard covert operations boats, and Dramiel frigate are piloted. That's not a bad mix, even if the fast Dramiel is a potential threat, but the number of pilots on-line is more of a concern. If they are all active then scouts can identify targets and ships can be swapped. We'll need to take care.

I warp out, launch probes, and perform a blanket scan of the system, noting the core scanning probes on d-scan on the edge of the system. At least one of the pilots is active, which becomes more than one when returning to the tower sees the Orca missing. I didn't even think it was piloted when I arrived. The locals collapsing a wormhole would make them a threat, and hauling goods with an Orca when other pilots are active should involve scouts, also making it a threat. On top of my paranoia, the scanning Cheetah warps out of the tower having found our wormhole, even if he curiously appears uncloaked 100 km from the K162.

Whatever's happening it still seems benign for now, and I need to get Aii home. I scan the five signatures and resolve a static exit to low-sec, which takes me to the Khanid region and thirty-five jumps from Aii. That's not good, particularly with there being plenty of low-sec systems in the way. There is also the pilot of Buzzard from C3a in the low-sec system, perhaps the source of the scanning probes, and he could have seen me appear on the wormhole. I wait to see what he does, which is scan for a while and leave the system not through the wormhole, after which I consider it relatively safe to head back to C3a and ponder our options.

The locals have found our wormhole but don't appear to be aggressive towards it. And there is some movement amongst the local pilots, but it's mostly towards the low-sec exit. That's actually okay, as I don't think either of us wants the Orca to make the current trip, so we call on the puppet and, with my watching the C3 tower, let him start collapsing our wormhole a second time this evening. We proceed as before, but I get gun-shy when it comes to my pushing the Widow through and don't quite stress the wormhole as much as I can. The puppet and I get home safely, but without collapsing the wormhole.

A critically destabilised wormhole is one of the problems of w-space that has been solved by smarter people than me. I ditch the Widow, thank the puppet for his help, and board a wormhole-collapsing heavy interdictor. The HIC's warp bubbles decrease the ship's mass to under a thousand tonnes for the outward jump, and the over-sized reheat and armour plates boost it to over seventy thousand tonnes for the return. The wormhole can take no more and implodes as I reappear in our home system. Now to scan for yet another exit.

The third neighbouring C3 of the evening has no notes in my files, which is uncommon but still happens. D-scan is clear, but a big system and only one anomaly returned on a passive scan suggests occupation, which I find when exploring. A Tengu strategic cruiser and Cheetah sit piloted in a tower, which I ignore to scan the few signatures for gas, gas, and another static exit to low-sec. This exit leads to Heimatar, only nine hops from Aii and much a better result than the last. And although making the route safer almost doubles the system transits it also more than halves the number of low-sec systems en route. That'll do, pig.

Aii makes his way home, and I watch the Tengu and Cheetah in C3a, willing them to collect gas or shoot Sleepers. Naturally, they do bugger all, so it is a relief to be called to scout low-sec for Aii's returning Orca. The exit system is empty but for one persisting pilot, who is probably docked, and although one system across has a dozen pilots somewhere none of them are on the stargate that Aii wishes to use. I call the gate clear, and Aii jumps in and warps across the system unmolested. A second gate activation and warp gets him to the wormhole, after which he is pretty much home. W-space can feel much safer than low-sec.

We're back at square one. Another peak in C3a sees the Tengu disappear, the pilot going off-line, leaving a Cheetah by itself in the tower and far out of d-scan range of some good gas in the system. That's all the encouragement Aii needs to grab some harvesters and start stealing resources, whereas I need to hit the sack. The evening's adventure seemed like a lot of effort just to get Aii a nice gas cloud to snuggle up to, but it was worth it.

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