After roaming high-sec and visiting a series of lifeless wormhole systems I end up jumping into J161846, a C1 wormhole with high-sec static. Scanner reveals two healthy towers and the usual POCOs. In addition there are some industrial ships on scan and I end up finding them at the safety of POS shields. It's a rather large system with 8 planets and 127.4 AU diameter so I jump to a remote planet and drop my probes. While in warp back to the inner planets my scan picks up a fleet of five ships!
Now this is super odd. They seem to be located approximately 20AU from the nearest planet, practically undetectable with on-board scanner unless your ship is mid-warp to the furthest planet. Obviously this fleet is not located in any signature this far out in the open so the curiosity gets the better of me and I use a combination of my d-scan and covert use of probes to approximate the position before sending my probes in hot with a pinpoint formation. Luckily I get a warp-in on the first scan and quickly hide the probes out of range. They shouldn't have been visible for more than 10 seconds so it's likely that my presence is still undetected.
I warp to the fleet and a bizarre sight appears before me. Here we have a brave pilot sitting uncloaked in his Buzzard in what appears to be a mobile home of sorts. In addition to the Buzzard his fleet consists of convenient vessels (a Drake, a Venture, a Mammoth and a Corax - everything you could possibly want in a wormhole). Needless to say the rest of the ships were unmanned and simply floating in space. Along his ships are some secure containers and a mobile depot. One of the containers openly displays a friendly message stating that if anyone wants him to leave, they should just message him.
|Mobile base (click to enlarge)|
At this point I am super confused. I mean obviously this is an elaborate trap to catch newbies like me flying shiny T3 ships. Ha! I'm definitely not falling for it. So I make myself comfortable and observe the situation for a few minutes while admiring the perfection of this trap. The ships are well hidden out of any stationary d-scan, yet still detectable to a thorough and motivated explorer. Vessels are a perfect combination of wormhole tools. Then there is the message to just ask the strange nomad to leave if we don't want him there. The architects of this trap even left an uncloaked Buzzard as a final temptation.
So after a while the mysterious nomad jumps into a Drake and warps off. Very interesting. I covertly follow his direction and within minutes narrow him down to an anomaly. I warp on the grid and see him slowly attacking the vicious sleepers in his Drake. Now I am beginning to get a bit puzzled. Is this really a trap? I mean who would go to such lengths to simulate a vulnerable wormhole explorer? I watch the nomad while he slowly clears the site, even launching some tier 1 drones in the process - half of them don't survive the engagement with the sleepers.
|Clearing the site (click to enlarge)|
It would appear that I have misjudged the situation. I guess this is in fact a legit wormhole nomad. I mean for someone who doesn't have the ability to live safely within the POS shields his setup was actually pretty neat and his base as hidden as possible. That being said it was only a matter of time before somebody found him. It's quite dangerous to leave ships like that out in the open.
After he clears the site he jumps back to his base and I follow him. At this point I'm pretty confident he will grab his salvager and collect the goodies at which point I will follow him back to the wrecks and attack his unsuspecting and harmless ship and follow his pod back home only to surprise him there one more time as well as dispose the rest of his fleet. My plans quickly fade as the nomad simply logs off with his Drake.
One does not simply leave the sleeper wrecks behind! I suspect he is taking a break. Perhaps as a safety precaution in case someone was observing his Drake or maybe he wanted a genuine time off. I make myself another cup of tea and patiently wait for him to come back while reading a book. An hour later the nomad logs back on, jumps to a different anomaly in his Drake and starts slowly munching away on the sleepers. I guess he will just salvage both sites after he is done.
That is indeed the case. After he clears the new site we jump back to his base where he switches to a salvager and warps back to the wrecks. I kind of felt like I'm the nomad's shadow, stalking him everywhere. I was going to wait until he finishes salvaging but I began to feel like a cat playing with a mouse and I just closed in on him and finally reveal my presence and put him out of his misery. His pod escapes and I follow him to his base. I suspect it was pretty horrifying for him to see the Loki warping to his 'safe spot' seconds after his pod. He boards the Buzzard and makes an escape while I dispose of his dormant fleet and put the mobile depot to reinforce. At least he will be able to scan his way out with his Buzzard. Still as I move in to loot the wrecks I start to feel guilty. I mean, what am I doing? I totally ruined this person's day (week?) and I really admired his daring wormhole setup and exploits. I warp away mid-looting and hope that he will be able to salvage at least something.
It's different if you kill something like a Noctis belonging to a wormhole corporation, they can simply replace the ship like nothing happened. But in my case I completely destroyed this one man wormhole operation. In the end I wrote him a mail with an apology and I've sent him 50M ISK. I don't want to make any assumptions but I still suspect that 50M means a lot more to him than it does to me. I hope that he can recover from this disaster and may his bases stay hidden in the future. I wish you all the best, mysterious nomad!