Monday, February 1, 2010

The Posse, Part I

Over the past few days Rol Prime has efficiently overseen APHID's mobile refinery operations, transmuting massive piles of arkonor, bistot, and crokite ore into tritanium, pyerite, nocxium, zydrine, and megacyte. These refined minerals are 1/1,600th the volume of the ores they come from, which is a brilliant thing from the logistics perspective.

The APHID crews were able to load all of these minerals into the cargohold of a single Viator-class transport ship that was fitted for both speed and stealth. High-slots: One T2 covert-ops cloaking device. Mid-slots: One T2 1MN Microwarp Drive. Low-slots: an overdrive injector, nanofiber internal structure, and an inertia stabilizer (all T2). Rigs: Two T1 Polycarbon Engine Housing mounts. This sexy beast could warp like a frigate, which meant that the ship well-nigh untouchable in low-security Empire space—a good thing, as my accountant and APHID CEO, Amber Macx, tabulated this load of minerals to be worth a couple hundred million isk based on current Jita buy order prices.

As I mentioned last time, there are a few poor, deluded souls who turn their noses up at the minimum 25% waste a mobile refinery costs you. Granted, 25% waste is a big number, but consider the alternative: the volume of ore that had until recently been in APHID's hangars (about 750,000 m3) translates into about thirty trips in a flimsy, vulnerable Iteron Mark V fully fitted with T2 expanded cargohold modules. Not only is that tedious and time-consuming; it also increases your risk profile: Repeating a single cargo-run route thirty times gives a curious pirate or combat pilot plenty of time to set up an ambush.

This was a lesson someone was about to learn the hard way.

It all went down like this: While ensconced in my Anathema, scanning down the newest location of this system's wormhole to low-sec Empire space, I noticed a blip resembling something like the radar cross-section of a Buzzard flit across the scanner interface. It showed only for a fraction of a second, and subsequent scan cycles failed to detect it again. In most other contexts, whether in Empire or nullsec, you can shake off these things as radar ghosts or the product of a paranoid mind. But not in Wspace. Here, there's only one possible response: assume you're being watched by a force of unknown size and with hostile intent.

Not that I was going to let this wholly prudent paranoia put a stop to APHID's operations in J124564. No, I just had to play it coolly and carefully, as always. Warping to the wormhole and scouting it visually while cloaked revealed no further sign of the UFO, so I plunged into the wormhole, ending up in the Nani system, Lonetrek region of Caldari space—only a few jumps from Jita.

Nothing showed up on scan, and only a few souls showed up in Nani's local communications channels—certainly nothing to be concerned about—so I gave the signal to Amber Macx to warp to the wormhole, pass through it, and begin her trip to the market in Jita. Amber's trip, as one would expect from a cloaking transport, went through without a hitch—nothing interesting to report from her trip.

But something did happen to me while I sat in my cov-ops in Nani, scouting the wormhole back to the Wspace system. Aura informed me of an incoming comms request. Someone was trying to convo me.

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