Patience pays in planet goo

16th April 2013 – 5.14 pm

Procrastination and caution has cost me a crack at a Venture. But I have more wormholes waiting, w-space systems yet to be explored. The two I've found in this class 2 system, itself connecting to our home system, include the obvious exit to high-sec empire space. I warp to the cosmic signature and land on the wormhole's locus, decloaking my ship and tipping my hand. I exit as if I meant it, and end up in a system in Derelik.

'Any tritanium?', asks my glorious leader, already aware that the system I am in forms a two-system island of high-sec surrounded by low-sec space. I open the market interface and check. Yep, millions, in the adjacent high-sec system. 'Price?' It looks good to me, and Fin agrees. It seems that this tiny pocket of space is a safe haven for a mining operation, and we are at liberty to take advantage of it. 'Loading up the Orca.'

As Fin exports her mined ores in to the industrial command ship, to bring them to be refined in high-sec and to buy the tritanium we need, I return to C2a and warp across to the second wormhole I found. It's a K162 from more class 2 w-space. That'll do, even if jumping through the wormhole shows two towers with no ships on my directional scanner. There could be more to find. I warp out of range of the towers, launch combat scanning probes, and perform a blanket scan of the system.

Eight anomalies and sixteen signatures light up my probes. Are there any K162s amongst them? Yep, there's one, the first signature in fact. This scanning malarky is easy. I drop out of warp next to a K162 from class 4 w-space as my probes resolve a second wormhole, an outbound connection to class 1 w-space. That's pretty neat, and a third wormhole gives more options, it being an outbound connection to even more class 2 w-space.

I'm spoilt for choice. Squishy targets first in C1a, I would say. And a Badger on d-scan in range of the K162 looks good, even if the hauler is probably in the tower also visible. Core probes on d-scan, no doubt working their way over my wormhole entrance, probably scupper my chances of surprising anyone too. Never the less, the Badger is piloted inside the tower's force field, and I watch and wait for a couple of minutes to see if he does anything.

The Badger does as much as me during the time I float inertly outside the tower. The probes have gone too, and there's no sign of the scout. I have to wait until I explore more thoroughly and find more towers on the edge of the system to see him. One tower holds the scout, in a Buzzard covert operations boat, and a piloted Drake battlecruiser. Another has two piloted transport ships, both moving as little as the Badger. Two more towers are empty of ships. All four have as much movement. I warp back to the wormhole, return to C2b, and hope that the K162 doesn't merely suggest activity.

D-scan is clear from the wormhole, and exploring C4c reveals an unoccupied system. My probes sweep across twelve anomalies and fourteen signatures looking for the inevitable K162 and come back without a whiff. Oh, except for that final signature, overlooked for a moment, which becomes a K162 from class 5 w-space. The class of w-space escalates, but the level of activity doesn't. Clear space from the other side of the wormhole, but a tower holding a Heron and two Viators waits further afield. The frigate is piloted, as is one of the transports, but I can only withstand so much watching of inert ships.

I return through C4c to C2b, and continue to C2c. Again d-scan shows me nothing from the wormhole, and again a tower sits far out of range. This one has twelve ships inside its force field, combat and industrial, but only two are piloted, a Tengu strategic cruiser and Mammoth hauler. And as I navigate the warp bubbles, to get close enough to view them properly, a second Mammoth does the same. The hauler warps to a curious point far out of the tower, pauses, and continues inside the force field. That's not usual behaviour, and indicates that the warp bubbles are very badly placed indeed.

Badly bubbled tower

Poorly positioned bubbles or not, the new Mammoth is a new contact, and has shown movement outside of a tower. That is worthy of my attention, right up to the point where the pilot goes off-line. A couple more new contacts appear and disappear, including a couple of cov-ops ships. One warps directly out of the tower to some unknown point in space, another uses the same odd manoeuvre as the Mammoth, nudging itself outside of the force field before quietly cloaking. Finally, the first pair, the Tengu and Mammoth, go off-line together, leaving just me and the tower.

Ah, they're back, to idle a little longer inside the tower, no doubt. I am so assured in this evaluation that I nearly miss the Mammoth's quite normal departure. I do miss its destination, if only because, from this distance from the inner system, two or three planets near the star line up almost perfectly. But I pick one of the planets, aim for its customs office, and throw my Loki strategic cruiser in to warp, hopefully right behind the hauler.

Picking the right POCO to ambush the Mammoth

I chose wisely. But I was still too slow in reacting to the hauler's exit. I drop out of warp near the customs office to see the Mammoth already turning to his next port of call. I pause, and watch as the hauler heads to a much clearer destination this time, and silently stalk him once more. Now I know I'll be arriving in good time, and decloak as I drop out of warp. I activate my offensive systems, gain a positive lock, and start shooting. The industrial ship puts up no resistance.

Mammoth explodes outside a customs office

Wreck of the Mammoth and corpse of its pilot

The Mammoth is shredded in short order, and the explosion jettisons the pilot's pod in to space. I make a grab for it and stop it in its tracks, and, well, stare at it for a bit. I create a new corpse when I realise that although my warp scrambler is active my guns have not responded, and correct this oversight. I scoop, fiddle with loot, and shoot, before leaving empty space behind my ship, warping to the wormhole I entered the system through. It's a soft kill, of an inexpensive ship, and I carry a corpse lacking any implants. But it was a successful hunt, where plenty of scanning and patience paid off. It'll do.

W-space constellation schematic

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