Making use of actual skill in scanning

1st November 2013 – 5.19 pm

There's nothing unknown at home. The static wormhole used to be 'unknown', but now it's definitely a wormhole. Besides, I know it's there, so I suppose it's a known unknown. Except it's not unknown; I've just been over this. Well, it leads to space that's classified as 'unknown', so there's that, but that doesn't make the wormhole unknown, or even a known unknown. But I still have to scan to find it. That would make the wormhole a known known whose position is unknown that leads to the unknown.

A bit of scanning has the wormhole as known as it can be, and jumping through to the unknown space of a class 3 w-space system has more uncovering to do, as if I need that right now. My directional scanner is clear, so I update my head to get the same result, and launch probes, perform a blanket scan, and warp away to explore. Not much changes. The system holds eighteen anomalies, twelve signatures, and no ships and no occupation. Maybe there's a static exit to null-sec to look forwards to. What do my notes say? It's my fifth visit to the system, the last being ten weeks ago, since when the occupiers have moved on, and the static wormhole exits to low-sec. Okay, thanks, notes.

I'd best scan for the exit if I want to do anything, and hopefully stumble over another wormhole or two in the process. And, yes, there are others. I also resolve a K162 from class 6 w-space, a T405 outbound connection to class 4 w-space, and a K162 from low-sec. That's not a bad result. Before hitting the other w-space systems I bookmark the empire side of the exits, starting with the static wormhole, which takes me to low-sec Derelik. And an empty system in Derelik, which encourages me to look for a training rat to pop for mega-ISK.

From belt to belt to belt, by the tenth rock field I get the feeling that perhaps looking for rats is not getting me anywhere after all, so I ignore what should be an subsidiary task and return to w-space to check the other exit. This one comes from Metropolis, where an orange is visible in the local communications channel. That's kinda meaningless when the only currently scouted system in the w-space constellation is unoccupied, and interrogating the pilot's information shows that our alliance has a general gripe with her alliance. I shall make her the subject of today's two minutes of hate, but otherwise ignore the pilot, and this low-sec system.

Back to C3a and further backwards through the K162 to C6a. Deadly w-space maybe, but with far better potential for finding activity than the T405. Oh look at that black hole in C6a, propelling my Loki to insane speeds for a strategic cruiser, just don't ask me to turn. Argh, I'm careering towards a planet! Reverse thrust, hard-a-starboard! Phew, that was close. A few more AU and I may have needed to eject. But enough frivolity. The system looks clear, at least from the point of view of occupation and activity, given that I can already see forty-nine anomalies. A blanket scan revealing two ships says otherwise, though.

Warping across to where the two ships are sees a naked tower, a Zephyr exploration boat, and a Venture mining frigate. No wonder the combat anomalies aren't being depleted. The ships aren't even piloted. Still, there are only nine signatures, so it's worth a look for K162s. It would be more worth it were I to find any, but at least a negative result means I know no one's creeping up behind me. On to C4a. D-scan is clear again, the system is unoccupied, and nothing tickles my interest, so I'm drily scanning. Very drily. Just the static wormhole continues the constellation, but it leads to class 2 w-space, which is perhaps the best option right now.

Jumping to C2a doesn't improve my situation beyond giving me two wormholes to resolve as a minimum, given the two towers and lack of ships visible in the system. Considering all eight anomalies are all ore sites, making the system rather tidy, it's no surprise that there are only three signatures: the two static wormholes and the K162 I entered through. Hoping to pass through the system smoothly is disrupted when the wormhole to class 5 w-space is found to be at the end of its natural lifetime. That would make the other wormhole an exit to null-sec, but how healthy is it? Looks okay to me, even if I can't identify where it leads.

Popping an Angel Throne rat in null-sec

I mostly don't know where the exit leads because it is a new image to add to my collection, not having visited the Cache region since starting my project. That's good, at least, and is some personal progress for the evening. And not only am I alone in the system but I can find a rat in a rock field, letting me gain some pocket ISK and a bit of security status. Now what? I don't quite fancy scanning through more empty w-space systems, but I never know if a system will be occupied or not until I find it, so I may as well head to low-sec through C3a and scan for further wormholes.

But wait; a new signature is in C3a when I return. Damn the dumbscovery scanner for showing me this. Why can't it just be quiet and let people hunt me in peace? Why must it announce the entrance of capsuleers like they are attending a fancy ball, instead of letting us be the sneaky assassins we once were in w-space? And although the dumbscovery scanner is showing me what is almost inevitably a new wormhole, and therefore a sign of activity, I would much rather everyone have the benefits of stealth when opening a wormhole, just as I want it. Keep w-space dangerous, get rid of the discovery scanner!

I would be stupidly stubborn not to resolve the new signature, and I'm not stupid. Of course, it's a new wormhole, a K162 from class 4 w-space, and now I see probes on d-scan. I'll loiter on the K162 for now, see what happens, even if the scout is taking forever resolving a few simple signatures. And, holy crap, another signature pops whilst I wait. This one at least turns out to be a second T405, but outbound connections are bloody useless with the discovery scanner, so I ignore that. Back to the K162, see that the probes have all gone, and jump through to C4b to see where the scout came from.

A tower and lack of ships waits for me in C4b, which is boring. I scan the thirteen anomalies and five signatures to see if the scout came from further back, and with a C4 K162 resolved perhaps he did. And although d-scan is clear from the wormhole in C4d a blanket scan reveals two ships along with the one anomaly and four signatures. Warping across the system finds the Dominix battleship and Venture mining frigate inside a tower's force field, and both piloted. Pilots! Will there also be activity?

There is almost activity. Just as there looks like none, and I am about to call it a night, the Venture is swapped for a Typhoon battleship. That's not quite the step I was looking for, but it's something. It's enough to keep me watching to see the ships swapped back again, at which point the Venture warps away. But where? Not to the wormhole, but nearby. The frigate lingers on d-scan too, so he's clearly doing something, and that something is likely sucking gas. It's good that I have probes launched and hidden, and that I am good at hunting. Well, used to be. There's not been much call for advanced scanning skills since Odyssey. It's a little ironic.

Let's see how much I've forgotten, and how much the 'simplified' interface frustrates me. Not much, and a little. Thankfully, the Venture being about 3·5 AU distant makes for relatively easy positioning of my probe cluster, although it's more fiddly than it used to be. I think I've got a good bearing on the ship though, and, after one more check with a tight, gated d-scan beam, I call my probes in to scan. One scan, a perfect hit, on both the ship and the site. I recall my probes and throw my pre-aligned ship in to warp within a couple of seconds. Let's see how alert the Venture pilot has been.

Perfect one-hit scan on the Venture and gas site

I drop out of warp in to a gas cloud with the Venture still there, and close enough for me to engage immediately. Excellent. I get my systems hot and lock on to the Venture, warp scrambler and guns engaging automatically on a positive lock. My first volley of autocannon fire misses for some reason, the second doesn't fire. The Venture warps clear, too late to have seen my probes but just quickly enough to save his bacon. That's a real shame. My Loki has obliterated Ventures with a single volley before, so that the first missed is more of a disappointment than the ship having a warp core stabiliser fit.

Getting the drop on a gassing Venture

But still the Venture gets away

The result wasn't there but the hunt was good. Better than good, really. The discovery scanner and moving rock fields to be anomalies has all but suppressed actual w-space hunting, which was difficult but by far the most fulfilling aspect of life in unknown space. It was great to have that feeling back again, to feel skilled and stealthy. Maybe I only got in to this system because the discovery scanner showed me the way, but how many other wormholes I must have opened only to have the same scanner alert pilots of imminent danger. Maybe one day w-space will be dangerous again. Until that day, then, because tonight's fun is over, and I'm going home.

W-space constellation schematic

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