Editor’s Note: Featuring Ray Cosmic again this week not only with another work of art, but a short story to go with it. Special thanks to Scort for editing this week!
I had played EVE online before, but this time around, I wanted to focus on exploration. To do this, I sought to learn from the best people practising it today, so I joined Signal Cartel. Then, having recently acquired a new Heron from my exploration career agent, I took to the skies.
After running a few high sec sites to get back into the swing of things, I jumped into the first wormhole I managed to scan down. Luckily, the lower class wormhole was quiet, and held two data sites. Allison, the AI co-pilot, kept reminding me to check my directional scanner. Thanks to her, I got into the habit of alternating between clicking on a node and mashing the dscan shortcut. It was exciting to be so vulnerable in the unknown. The tension made me fail the hacking minigame several times. Even though I detonated more than one can, I managed to get roughly twenty four million ISK worth of loot from the two sites. Feeling rich in accomplishment, as much as in wealth, I flew back through the wormhole from which I came. Once in the relative safety of high security space, I stored my treasure in the closest station.
The next day, I undocked again in my trusty Heron, confident in my ability to gain riches from the depths of wormhole space. I set off through high security space looking for connections to the distant Anoikis galaxy. The first few systems found were empty of exploration sites I could easily run. Either my beginner’s luck had already run out, or I was playing at a busier time. Hoping the afternoon would be more fruitful, I docked and went about my day.
After the next downtime, I undocked from the station and sent my probes out. The first signature scanned down revealed a wormhole leading to unknown space. Upon jumping through, there it was. Jxxxxxx. A shattered system. Class 2, said Allison. There were almost twenty signatures showing up on my probe scanner. I first set up several safespots, triangulating between the remnants of shattered planets. I then safely logged off to do a little reading on shattered wormholes before calling it a day.
Due to the impossibility of setting up structures in such a place, I felt I would be safe. There would be no locals to disturb me, and the large number of cosmic signatures would surely amount to billions of ISK from the data and relic sites. It felt like I had stumbled upon some deep space Eldorado.
The next evening, I set off to scan down every single signature in Jxxxxxx. The plan was to live in this wormhole for as long as there would be sites to run. I also bookmarked all the sites so I could observe any daily changes in the system.
I didn’t yet fully appreciate how poor my scanning skills were. It took over an hour to identify every single mysterious signal, although I did find myself in an enjoyable, meditative state during this work.
Once the scan list was all green, I noticed that there was only one good site to explore amongst a multitude of gas reservoirs. Though I had expected more of them, I was overjoyed to finally find a relic site. I had read that they could yield the most valuable loot.
This time I concentrated on the hacking. I carefully plotted my advance on the network of nodes. My poor skills and tech one modules left only a thin margin for error. My focus was paying off. I managed to open cans on the first or second try. On the sage advice of my co-pilot, Allison, I did not stop checking my directional scanner. It had been clear the entire time apart from my own probes. As I opened the last container, an astero suddenly showed up on the overview. It had been invisible right up until the opportune moment, and was now only a few thousand meters from me. Panicked, I tried to warp to one of my safespots. My onboard computer informed me that my ship was prevented from entering warp by external factors. I then tried to move away as fast as possible to get out of the range of those external factors. What stopped me from entering warp also prevented my microwarpdrive functioning. I was now a sitting duck, and a very slow one, at that.
The damage alarms of my ship started ringing. A flight of drones was tearing my shields and armor to shreds. This all happened quite fast. Before I knew it, I was in my pod, the remnants of my first Heron floating in space next to me. The destruction of my ship meant that my escape pod was free to warp away. I did so, aiming for one of the recently bookmarked wormholes. I warped back and forth between them until I found one that led to high sec. Once out of there, I caught my breath at the nearest station.
I started to rethink the modules I had fitted on my exploration ship. Would warp core stabilizers have helped me escape the Astero’s tackle? My logs only showed that I had been scrambled.
I went to look for my killmail on zKill. From there, I went to see if I could find a ship loss from the pilot that downed me. Maybe looking at one of their wrecks would teach me how to escape next time. Indeed, their only two losses were of Asteros with similar fits. Both times, fitted with dual warp scramblers. So, even with a higher warp core strength, I would not have escaped. I also discovered something else while looking at the kill reports of my foe. This Astero pilot was indeed hunting explorers. With over seven hundred confirmed kills, the vast majority had taken place in Jxxxxxx. My ship logs also revealed that during the combat, I had been energy neutralised. On an Astero, it would mean that no probe launcher was fitted. It was made only to kill, waiting patiently cloaked in the shadows. My theory is that his alt probably scans the wormhole down and runs all the sites, leaving only one as a perfect trap for an unsuspecting explorer.
I went from being a little frustrated by the loss, to be completely fascinated by this capsuleer. They had found their niche, and lived in wormhole space like a spider.
I love EVE Online !