2011-08-08

Life in a Wormhole: the Tapeworm #eveonline

The interesting and wonderful thing about wormholes is that situation changes constantly. The day after Gor and I blew up a Cyclone in our system, the connections to our neighboring systems are terribly boring, the home system itself is completely cleared of any interesting sleeper sites, and I spend the evening slogging through Bre's climb into the good graces of the Angel Cartel and her own corporation.

Today, however, there are a half-dozen sleeper sites immediately visible on scan, additional anomalies promising some more fun for anyone who can resolve the signatures, and fresh new connections to New Eden and wormhole space.

And many connections, at that. Rather than the requisite two wormholes, we have four: two outbound and two inbound. After resolving those four, I'm willing to bet I've located all the fire exits but I press on to at least identify if not resolve the other signatures in the system, so I know what's here.

My persistence is rewarded with several asteroid fields and a much rare Sleeper site, its presence revealed by the strange radar signal leading from the Unsecured Perimeter Comms Relay.

And then I find another one. Weird. I decide to leave those until others can join me in the fun and, checking directional scan as I return to the tower, realize I'm not alone. A Drake-class battlecruiser waves at me in my scanning overview (sort of: the ship's name is a wave emoticon), and I think such a friendly greeting deserves a response in kind -- perhaps with a half-dozen autocannons.

The problem is locating him. Although I see a combat capable ship, I don't see any sleeper wrecks, which means he's engaged in some subtle or possibly more nefarious activity. I hop into a scanning frigate and jump to the very edge of the system, out of immediate direct scanning range, so I can launch probes and take a look at things in a bit more detail.

What I see surprises me, because the probes pick up not one ship, but two. Either the second ship just arrived from one of the many many wormholes currently open in the system, or was sitting cloaked while I was visible on their directional scan.

Still, odds are fairly good I can at least identify the type of ship with my scanning probes before he spots them and cloaks again, and I do exactly that.

I'm surprised to see not a second pointy battlecruiser, but a hulk-class mining ship. I don't know if he's working with the Drake (seems likely), but if so, I don't really need the combat probes to locate them: Hulks are really only good for one thing, and I happen to know exactly where every mineable asteroid in the system is at; all I need to do is warp back into range of my directional scanner and figure out which asteroid belt they're in, then send over the welcome wagon.

I'm forced into a delay, however, when I switch ships back at the tower. My ship of choice has a hefty shield array, but it's only at half-strength when it comes out of the storage hangar. The ship's designed for short and violent disaggreements with other players, rather than somewhat lengthier sleeper engagements, so while the shields are mighty, they are also mighty slow to recharge, and I'm forced to sit at the tower for several minutes, planning (and second guessing) my attack.

As I do, I can see that the Drake and Hulk are both on d-scan -- obviously controlled by the same player, as they have identical emoticon names. I also see a couple wrecks as well -- smaller sleeper ships that showed up in the asteroid belt and failed to drive the interlopers off. Let's hope I have more luck.

It is not to be.

My shields fully charged, I enter warp and drop into the asteroid belt ready to flip on an afterburner and pursue, but the ships are gone. Clearly, I stayed on their scanner overview for too long, and they decided to leave just in time.

So fast was their departure, in fact, that they left the unlooted sleeper wrecks behind. I see no need to leave the spoils of battle (even if the battle wasn't my own), and I quickly loot the wrecks and do a bit of research.

Each wreck in EVE is stamped with the Corporate ID of the person who destroyed the ship, and leaving those wrecks behind lets me backtrack to figure out who was eating our porridge. From that stamp, I can search for the corporation, and from there possibly determine who among that corp's membership might have a penchant for wildcat wormhole mining.

The good news: My sleuthing is made considerably easier by the fact that the corporation in question only has one member.

The bad news: That sole member is none other than the cyclone pilot we fought two days previous. That's more than a small problem, because since then our connection to known space has changed twice. Said connection is random: it could come out in any of thousands of systems in New Eden; it's all but impossible for someone to find an entrance to the same wormhole just by randomly scanning from Empire space. The only possible explanation is that this pilot, after getting his ship blown up, exited the wormhole, grabbed not only another ship but an alt character with another ship, returned to the system before the connection failed, and has since been living here -- hiding out in the corners of the system and leeching off our resources when no one's around.

In short, we have a parasite living in our communal body.

Police artist\'s rendering of our visitor, based on my description.
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