Seeing the signs

11th April 2013 – 5.15 pm

I'm giving it another go at getting up early to catch an unsuspecting gooer. All looks clear at home, but that is a reaction to my directional scanner and hardly representative of what may be out there. Indeed, launching probes and scanning, a necessary action to resolve our static connection anyway, sees a second signature, one that resolves to be a K162 from class 2 w-space. Maybe someone is awake and active at this hour already. I jump through the K162 to find out.

Appearing over seven kilometres from the wormhole in C2a gives me a fair indication that no one has actually come this way since today's Great Galactic Reset, which, admittedly, was not long ago. I poke around, though, uncovering a tower with an Orca industrial command ship, Archon carrier, and Moros dreadnought all unsurprisingly unpiloted inside its force field. They are the sort of ships that tend to look inactive by dint of their appearing on d-scan, so I wouldn't have expected much of them anyway.

Scanning resolves the expected static exit to high-sec, expected partly because of the connection to our home class 4 w-space system, and if not that then because of a previous visit not too long ago. There's no Sabre interdictor sitting on the wormhole this time, though, and I don't jump through to note the exit system, as the wormhole is at the end of its life and mostly useless. Instead, I turn around, head home, and out again through our static connection to class 3 w-space.

Bah, this time I'm spat over eight kilometres from the wormhole in to the system. No one's an early riser this weekend. On top of that, my notes from ten months ago put C3a as unoccupied and with an exit to null-sec, making it less attractive by the minute. At least scanning won't be a chore. For a system that stays unoccupied there aren't many signatures, relatively speaking, with sixteen of them to go with the six anomalies.

As there's no tower to lurk outside, watching for movements, I sit next to our K162 as I sift through the signatures. And doing so pays off, kinda. A Cheetah appears, apparently from nowhere, or he's found a way to jump through wormholes without making a sound. And because I can't anticipate his appearance, I can only watch as I switch from the system map to my view of space to see the covert operations boat launch a deep space scanning probe and start burning away from me pretty quickly. What can keep up with a Cheetah?

Cheetah appears nearby and launches probes

After a short while, I'm going to guess around ten seconds, the Cheetah poops more scanning probes, cores this time, whilst continuing its rapid vector away from the wormhole. I consider bringing my combat probes on top of the wormhole to scan for the Cheetah's position, but think better of it. Even once the cov-ops gets 150 km from me, far enough for warp, it will take me long enough to cover that distance in warp for the Cheetah to have moved out of range of my warp scrambler. Besides, the cov-ops cloaks once her core probes are all in space, making her essentially impossible to find.

Cheetah burns far from the wormhole when launching probes

For now, I'll ignore the Cheetah. It doesn't look like she's noticed me anyway, as my probes were out of d-scan range when the pilot entered the system. I keep scanning, resolving two wormholes. One is obviously the exit to null-sec, the other felt weaker than a K162 when resolving it, but that has to be attributed to shoddy scanning methods when I drop out of warp next to a K162 from low-sec empire space. Not too interested in low-sec, I poke my prow out to null-sec, to a system in The Kalevala Expanse, where, being alone, I warp to a rock field to rat and scan.

Damn, I hate drones. Yeah, maybe they offer security status gains now, but they still have some really crappy sites. Ten extra signatures in the system look really promising to start with, until drilling down with my probes uncovers signature after signature of 'unknown' type, enticing enough to want them to be wormholes, and weak enough to force me to waste several scans to discover Radiance, Hierarchy, Independence. I hate drones more than I hate low-sec. If the Cheetah pilot from C3a hadn't appeared in the local channel, disappearing a minute later, obviously back to C3a, this excursion to null-sec would have been a waste of time.

I follow behind the Cheetah, a few minutes later, still needing to exhaust the horrible drone signatures, to see an apparently empty system. Home looks clear too, but as the Cheetah appeared on our K162 I think there's more than meets the eye. I launch probes and, sure enough, there's a new signature, resolving to be another K162 connecting in to us, this one from class 5 w-space. But is it the Cheetah's home? Jumping in and exploring says no. There's a tower to be found, but there are no ships and the corporation does not match that of the Cheetah pilot. I suspect another K162 waits for me. Those Sleeper wrecks are curious too.

Scanning is straightforward, with a magnetometric site, two ladar sites, and the expected wormhole, but the results aren't complete. The Sleeper wrecks are in empty space, and there aren't enough to be from a combat site. Maybe the wrecks were looted and not salvaged, the gas sucked up, and the site forgotten. Whatever happened, I can't do anything about it now, so I warp to the K162 and jump to the next system, which is the inevitable backwards chain of class 5 w-space. Then again, with a bit of exploration, it looks like the chain probably stops here.

D-scan is clear from the wormhole, with two planets out of range, both in opposite directions. One planet has a tower with five Orcas, four Venture mining frigates, and an Obelisk, with two of the Orcas and all the Ventures piloted. The planet on the other side of the system also has a tower, this one with the Cheetah I've already seen inside its force field, plus a piloted Proteus strategic cruiser, and empty Thanatos and Chimera carries, and Moros dreadnought. I don't suppose there is a K162 heading further backwards, or if there is I'm not currently interested in it. I launch probes anyway, out of range of the towers, in case I need them, and warp to lurk outside the tower with the Ventures.

As I get to the tower a second Cheetah appears, having warped from the system's static wormhole to C5a, soon followed by a Probe frigate coming from the same direction. Although there are no obvious signs, I think it's fair to assume I've been identified and assumed to be active somewhere in the w-space constellation. That there are three active scouts from C5b and the Ventures are sitting inertly inside a force field instead of sucking gas somewhere are clues. Some ship changes occur at the tower, but nothing serious until a Thanatos appears.

The new carrier is moving too, which I initially take to be residual movement from being launched, right up until it disappears. It didn't look like the massive ship warped, but I'd better check to see if it has gone to the static wormhole. I'd feel a bit silly if I saw a carrier being prepared and did nothing as it crashed my way home. And, sure enough, warping to the wormhole sees the Thanatos sitting on top of it. Although the carrier remains in C5b for now, the only reason a carrier would be sent to a wormhole by itself would be to kill it—carrier or wormhole, either way—and prudence is telling me to get the hell out of here.

Thanatos looks about to collapse the wormhole I need to get home

I recall my probes and approach the wormhole, not caring that the Thanatos sees me decloak and jump in front of it. C5a looks clear from the K162, but only for a few seconds. A Cheetah warps in and jumps through the wormhole, which destabilises to half mass. I doubt a cov-ops boat would do that by itself, so I'm not surprised to see the Thanatos appear, having crossed paths with the Cheetah, before jumping straight back to C5b, dragging the rest of the wormhole with it. I float in empty space.

Cheetah returns home before the wormhole is collapsed

Sure enough, the Thanatos carrier kills the wormhole

Well, that was close, again. Another thirty seconds of deliberation and I'd have been isolated from our home system. I suppose I'm lucky that the Thanatos was sent from the tower with the Ventures, rather than the carrier used at the second tower. Not only would I have not seen the carrier sent to the wormhole, but the wormhole was out of d-scan range of both towers. I would have been oblivious to my fate for as long as it took to get bored watching ships do nothing. Anyway, I'm safe. And in a dead constellation again. That's lunch.

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