Zipping past a Zephyr

23rd March 2013 – 3.25 pm

I'm feeling kinda tired. I hope I don't cause any mistakes. But any mistakes I make will only affect my own pod, as it's just me in w-space at the moment. Well, not just me, as there's a proliferation of Sleepers in the home system, with another new site today, but I don't suppose the drones will roam through wormholes looking for pilots to ambush. But I appear to have misspoken. It is a new signature my probes have detected, but a second wormhole and not a new site. The K162 from class 2 w-space looks like a good place to start the evening's exploration.

Jumping to C2a has my directional scanner reporting clear, with two planets sitting out of range. In one direction is a tower, with a Helios covert operations boat and shuttle, neither piloted, and many silos. The other direction has a second tower with extra silo capacity, but no more ships. Launching probes and performing a blanket scan reveals as good as nothing in the system, with three anomalies and two signatures. The locals like their silos to be stocked, it seems, as the two signatures will be the two static wormholes, one of which I entered through.

I resolve the second wormhole in C2a, naturally an exit to high-sec to accompany the connection to class 4 w-space, and jump through to get a safety net for the night. I appear in a system in The Citadel, four hops to Jita, and although I am tempted to make a fuel run I am more interested in what lies beyond our static connection, so return to w-space to find out. Very little, as it turns out, with C3a being unoccupied and empty, and my notes indicating there being an exit to null-sec to resolve. At least the one anomaly and thirteen signatures, and the weak nature of the K346, will make me search for the wormhole this time, although I don't count that as much of a blessing.

A chunky wormhole may spare me the fuel run yet. Then again, chunkier than a K346 it may be, it still isn't as fat as I expect a K162 to be. A second wormhole also feels too big, but the third seems as I expect the null-sec connection to appear. Either way, I get three wormholes instead of the one, which hopefully gives me options. The first turns out to be the outbound connection I suspected, a T405 wormhole to class 4 w-space. The second is a K162 from class 5 w-space, and the last is indeed the null-sec exit. As a surer sign of activity, I jump through the K162 first.

A tower appears on d-scan from the other side of the wormhole, along with a Charon freighter, Zephyr, and two sets of scanning probes. It's a curious result, as the Charon won't be scanning, and I would be surprised to see the Zephyr actually being used for its designed purpose. But I suppose cloaked scouts are the best kind of scouts and I could simply be seeing competence in action. Checking my notes for the tower location, and opening the system map to see it being at the farthest planet and a mere 8 AU distant, I am reluctant to want to scan for K162s in a system too small to hide in. But warping to the tower gives me other ideas.

The Charon is actually piloted, but that's not what catches my attention at the tower. What does is that the Zephyr is not here. A sweep of d-scan suggests the exploration ship is around one of the planets, which makes it feel quite like bait, particularly with two sets of scanning probes active, but I can at least take a look. Warping to the planet sees nothing, though, and the Zephyr doesn't appear to be at one of the moons. A different adjustment to d-scan gives the game away, however, as it shows the ship to be under a thousand kilometres from my position. I would say the pilot came here and sent his ship skimming off in one direction, in a bid to stay safe without a cloak.

Resolving the Zephyr's position

Knowing how close the Zephyr is, and how quick and easy it will be to resolve his position, I make up my mind to find him, particularly as I see the combat scanning probes have disappeared from d-scan. Remaining almost invisible from searching eyes, I launch probes where I am, aligning my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser in the approximate direction of the Zephyr as I do, and cluster them all around my own ship in a tight arrangement at their lowest range. One scan resolves the Zephyr, and my alignment warps me to his position in seconds. Sure enough, the Zephyr is coasting gently along the solar wind in no fixed direction. But he still moves quicker than my Loki under cloak, and already he is further away than my warp scrambler can reach.

Ambushing the prototype exploration ship

I don't really consider range to be an issue, though, not as much as time. I drop my cloak, activate my micro warp drive, and burn towards the Zephyr, closing the range within seconds and gaining a positive target lock. I disrupt the ship's warp engines and start driving autocannon fire in to its tiny frame. My closing distance, and then speed, prevent any significant damage to start with, but soon my guns rip chunks out of the Zephyr. And then stop. My lock drops, and I cannot target the ship any more. Unsure as to the problem, I perform a systems check, only to see that I have somehow sped right up to the Zephyr and beyond, to the point where I am again out of range. I watch as the exploration ship warps away, still mostly intact.

Buzzard appears as I rush headlong towards the Zephyr

That was careless, but more so because the owner of the first set of combat scanning probes has appeared. It seems a local pilot in a Buzzard cov-ops was looking for the Zephyr too, and his scanning probes disappeared because he also found him. The Buzzard decloaks as I swing past the Zephyr, and now that one has gone I target the other, hoping to bag at least one kill for my efforts. But, again, the ship is too far for my short-range scrambler to affect, and the cov-ops warps away from harm easily. I reload my guns, cloak, and kick myself.

This class 5 w-space system holds a black hole phenomenon, which greatly increases ship speed at the cost of decreased agility. My micro warp drive indeed sped me to my target, but I should have been more aware of how sluggish my ship would react to turning or stopping. Overshooting the target by such a distance was sloppy, and potentially cost me two kills. A good volley on the Zephyr could have popped it, and given me the Buzzard for seconds. Instead, I'm warping back to the wormhole from C3a with nothing but a little shame. Failing to account for my environment will always be to my disadvantage.

There's little point loitering in C5a with two pilots that know I'm there. Besides, I have a class 4 system beyond the T405 to explore. It's a bit bland, though. C4a is unoccupied, although the wormhole flares behind me as I complete a passive scan, revealing nineteen anomalies, and I see a Cheetah cov-ops appear and warp to empty space. That's good, as it gives me an idea of where to find another wormhole in the sprawl of twenty-eight signatures. There is still a fair volume of space to cover along the path of the Cheetah, though, and it's my third attempt that uncovers a K162 from a second class 5 w-space system. Scanning can be quite a chore, huh?

Cheetah jumps behind me in to the system and warps away

Already tired, and disappointed at mistakes made, I ignore looking for the static connection in C4a for the chance of locating a target in C5b. Sadly, all I see is another empty system, hinting at another K162 to be found, and combat scanning probes visible on d-scan. The combat probes will spot me if I decloak to launch probes, so it seems like a good time to call it a night. I head back through C4a and in to C3a, where I spot core scanning probes in the system. I don't know whose they are, and I'm no longer in a mood to lie in wait for a scout, so disregard them and jump home to get some rest.

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