“Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.”
- Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World
“Sorry, sweetie, but something has come up.“ The mohawked Civire smiled apologetically, the emotion belying the strictness of his uniform. “This mission might take a week or so, and of course I’ll have to observe op-sec. You know how it is.”
I nodded to myself. Flying for different corporations invariably came with the difficulty that our schedules often conflicted. This time, I was on the receiving end.
“I’ll see you again once I get back,” continued the pre-recorded message on my holo display, “until then - Good Hunting!” He looked as if he wanted to add something more, but then he smiled again and the recording ended.
Well. That certainly put a damper on that evening’s entertainment plans - I would have to go to Plan B. But what ship to take? I still had a few ships left in my hangar, but after my recent experiences I didn’t feel like going out in a frigate again. Too often I was simply outnumbered and outgunned, assuming that I found a target.
I lazily scanned my inventory list when my eye caught on an entry: tucked away in a corner of my hangar was the Purifier I had used years ago to explore Anoikis. The fit was still viable, and the recent reports about the Unidentified Wormholes had made me curious. I made up my mind: instead of hunting, I’d do some old-fashioned exploration for a change.
I entered the commands to have the crews get the Purifier flight ready, and then grabbed my jacket to make my way to the hangar myself, a spring in my step.
Two days later I remembered why I had left Anoikis in the first place, and the spring certainly had left my step. The first day I had embarked on a hundred-plus jump journey, but despite visiting dozens of systems with a Jove Observatory, no Drifter wormhole was to be found. There had been a bit of excitement when I passed through the Bleak Lands, with a neutral Armageddon going suspect on a gate with hostile onlookers on the grid - but of course same onlookers also prevented me from contributing more than just a symbolic shot at that Armageddon.
The second day I started following the various wormholes I scanned out, hoping that maybe I could find some careless site runners or miners. But what I found was empty systems - many remnants of once busy settlements, now reduced to powerless POSes with only their defenses left behind. The few active settlements I found, well, they were on a different schedule that I was, and none of their pilots was awake. I had been able to intercept a lonely hauler - about the only ship I had seen in space - but his warp core was stabilized, neutralizing my point, and he warped off before my second salvo even landed.
All in all, a rather frustrating experience, and now I was scanning through various signatures of this Anoikis system, trying to find a way back into normal space, back home. All the other signatures in this system had been Sleeper sites, so hopefully this last one… Yes! A wormhole!
I recalled my probes and my Purifier sped through the void towards the exit, which lead to… null-sec! I smiled in my pod, and actived the jump drive. Goodbye, Anoikis; hello, normal space!
Emerging from the wormhole, I oriented myself. I was deep in the Great Wildlands, and it would be a long trip home - but there was also an Unidentified Wormhole in the system. Hmm - I was tired, but on the other hand, this was why I was here. Might as well check it out.
When I arrived at the wormhole, it was just in time to see three Drifters vanish through it. Knowing their reputation, I gave them a few minutes and then followed through the wormhole myself. The other side… was not that much different from the other w-space systems. Except, there was a beacon - ‘Vidette’.
At the beacon I found a few Sleeper structures, and an Acceleration Gate. Naturally I took it, and was deposited in a deadspace area patrolled by Sleepers. Thank gods I had reactivated my cloak during the warp! A spatial rift was pulsating nearby, but I was more interested in the Acceleration gates leading further. Maybe, if I crept up on one and and dropped cloak only in the last moment…
It took several agonizing minutes, but my plan worked. The Sleeper patrol immediately targeted me, but was unable to prevent me from warping deeper into the pocket.
It happened faster than my ship’s systems could register it. One moment, the Acceleration gate was looming large ahead of me, in the next, I was in my pod, my Purifier having been reduced to a wreck by a single shot from the Drifter battleship.
With a mental salute, I turned my pod around and headed for the exit back to normal space.
Well played, Artemis Tyrannos, well played.