Missing gassers, getting fuel

12th December 2012 – 5.30 pm

I return on-line some time after my sammich, but in the same w-space day. Nothing is happening in the home system, not even faux-blue pilots stealing our iskies, but I have the start of a constellation to roam, so jump to our neighbouring class 3 system. It's still unoccupied, still inactive, even after a couple of hours. The same twenty-two anomalies are present, and although twenty-three signatures is one less than earlier the K346 and N968 wormholes are still around, and I find I don't care about some Sleeper site decaying. The important point is that nothing is new. I jump to C3b.

The tower and Zephyr exploration ship remain unchanged from before, and the wobbly wormhole coming from class 4 w-space may be closer to the end of its life but it still has about an hour before dying. I suppose that's enough time to see if anyone is being careless. I poke my prow through the K162, see four ships on my directional scanner, and note that only the Vulture command ship is different from earlier and likely to be piloted. Even so, there are no other ships in the system that it could be boosting, and no activity gives me no reason to be here. I return to C3b.

The K162 from class 6 w-space remains in the system, stable and healthy. I know that the system beyond is unoccupied, and a scout was scanning there when I first looked, so there is probably another K162 to find that potentially holds activity. That's got to be worth a look. The same anomalies and signatures are revealed by my probes, so whatever wormhole brought the scout will still be here, and it is probably that obvious-looking wormhole lurking by the outer planet. The only other obvious signatures resolve to be rocks and gas, so rather than waste time on weak signatures I jump backwards through w-space to look for action. And, boy, have I found it.

That's a lot of ships on d-scan without a tower. Three Brutix battlecruisers, four Hurricane battlecruisers, two Maller cruisers, and a Ferox, Myrmidon and Prophecy battlecruiser each are all the type of ship that can be optimally fitted for harvesting gas. The jet-cans numbered with what looks like a recent time adds to the feeling that I've found gassers, as does the lack of wrecks, even if the combat and ECM drones look out of place. But just as I find gassers I lose them again. I suppose it's no surprise that a well-coordinated operation would be alert, or even have a cloaked scout watching the wormhole, but it is still with a sense of sadness that I watch pairs of ships disappear from d-scan, until none are left.

I take the exodus as an opportunity to launch combat scanning probes, throwing them out of the system and performing a blanket scan, to at least take a look around. Ten anomalies, twenty-eight signatures, no occupation. The curious collection of drones also seems to be debris and unrelated to the gassing operation I interrupted. As I consider this, an Iteron hauler appears on d-scan. I suppose it has come to collect the gas harvested and temporarily stored in the jet-cans, and the Proteus strategic cruiser that also appears must be its escort.

I've lost my shot at the gassing operation, and the Proteus is a threat, but I can still see what I can do with my probes. Without caring that they'll be seen I locate the Iteron, taking a few scans to find the ladar site it visited, only resolving it once the hauler has been and gone. And I get confirmation that a scout was sitting on the wormhole when I entered, as I am mentioned by name in the local channel. It's the only way they would know me by name. Well, maybe not the only way.

I could scan for the fleet's K162, but I imagine they won't be caught by surprise by me, making there little point in doing so. Instead, I head back the way I came, past their perhaps-remaining scout to C6a, and on to C3b, where I exit through the static connection to low-sec empire space. Being alone in the system in Molden Heath encourages me to rat whilst I scan, but the lack of any signatures except for the exit wormhole stop both activities within one scan. I continue with my optimism, travelling through C3b to C3a and out this system's static exit to null-sec space, where again I find myself alone and able to rat and scan. But the rock fields in the Perrigen Falls system are populated with dumb drones, the anomalies are full of drones, and there still aren't any more signatures to find.

Maybe I can find better opportunity by collapsing our static wormhole. Sure, why not? I may as well make a habit out of it. Orca, Widow, Orca, Orca, but the connection does the wormhole-equivalent of hull tanking, clinging on to life as tenaciously as possible. I am ready to give up, but polarisation lasts a mere five minutes, and a heavy interdictor should see the end of the wormhole. It would be churlish to give up now. So, after a few minutes, I take our mis-named Devoter, Stutter, to the static connection, bubble-up one way, activate the over-sized reheat the other, and kill the wormhole. Done.

A quick scan has the replacement static wormhole resolved, and a quick scout has me sifting through the twenty anomalies and seventeen signatures of an occupied but inactive class 3 system. A static exit to high-sec awaits, judging by the strength of the signature, and a sneaky K162 hides from me until I've all but given up finding one. Popping out to high-sec shows that killing the old connection may have been worth it after all, if not for finding targets then for getting supplies. I appear in The Forge, four hops from Jita. All that matters now is where the second wormhole in C3a leads. Jumping back and warping across, I land next to a K162 from low-sec, which is unthreatening enough even without it also being EOL. I think it's safe to take an Orca to market.

I remember to move the mining link module from the Orca's hold to our hangar before leaving for Jita, so that my calculations on how much fuel I can carry don't go askew, and grab what little loot we've accumulated since Fin took the last load. The one intervening w-space system holds no surprises, and four hops doesn't take long to cross, even in an industrial command ship, so I am soon selling reprocessed flotsam and packing lego bricks everywhere that they'll fit.

Undocking, and whilst waiting for the Orca to make its slow, slow turn towards the stargate, I ponder the number of pilots and ships just in this one place, and all the stories they must have. I can't help but wonder if I should get more involved occasionally. The feeling passes as I leave Jita, cross high-sec, and return to the quiet of w-space, where I restock the tower and put the rest of the fuel in storage. We should be good out here for a while longer.

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