So here’s a thing about wormholes: they are persnickety fucking things.
As a general of thumb, a wormhole can take a certain amount of mass before collapsing. Let’s say that mass is 2 million kilograms or something like that. Let’s also say that an Orca, running a mass-increasing Microwarpdrive, has a mass of about 300,000, so that by going out and coming back through the wormhole, you’ve ‘stressed’ that hole by 600,000. Let’s further say that a battleship running a microwarpdrive has a mass roughly half that of the orca.
Basically, in that scenario, three round-trips in an Orca with “engines hot”, plus a round-trip by a single battleship, also engines hot, should kill the hole every single time, and if you do it all in the right order, everyone will be sitting on the correct side of the wormhole when that happens, every single time. The same thing can be managed with 7 total round trips in a battleship or group of battleships, or any combination thereof.
But it doesn’t always work that way. That 2,000,000 limit (and I think I’m probably dropping three zeros off that, but whatever) varies by quite a lot. Sometimes you get a hole that is REALLY light, and you jump out for that final collapse only to find the hole closing behind you, stranding you on the wrong side.
And sometimes the hole is heavy, and although you do everything right, you’re left staring a hole that’s critically unstable, but not dead, with no way to know how much more it can take.
Also? Those strategic cruisers heading our way are small — the chance that hole will collapse from only one of them going through is very small… and frankly, that’s not the way our luck has been going.
“Do we have another Onyx?”
“Yeah,” Em says. “Ichi has one, but it’s not configured for doing the hole-closing trick.”
“I’ve…” Pax interrupts. He’s been quiet for much of the offensive, though he is probably our most experienced pilot — a deft hand in PvP, with a library of positively diabolical ship fittings, and always willing to give advice and training to our newer pilots. “I’ve got something I can try. Hang on.”
Pax warps away from the wormhole in his Stilleto interceptor (which he’d been trying to use to snag the Loki before it cloaked up and warped away). “I’ve got a Rapier I can refit to do something like your Onyx trick.”
“Refit?” I glance back at the hole. “Do we have time?”
“Sure, I just take off the appropriately sized microwarpdrive…” I can hear him doing so as he speaks. “Put on a battleship-sized propulsion module… make sure I have the really heavy armor plate on… Okay, in warp back to the hole.”
“You won’t be as small as the Onyx, going out,” Em warns him. “The disruption bubbles make it lighter than a shuttle; the hole might die on your trip out.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Pax’s voice is calm. “If the hole dies on me, I can cloak and warp off — that’s why I’m using a force recon.”
“I suppose it’s better you’re out there and they aren’t in here.”
“Exactly.” Pax lands on the hole and jumps.
The hole doesn’t collapse. Now, of course, the concern is that Pax won’t be able to increase his mass far enough to kill the hole in a single jump back.
“Waiting on the session change timer — I can see the pilots in local.” He pauses. “And on d-scan. Turning on the prop mod. Two of the pilots are — they’re here — RIGHT here. Just landed. Eight thousand meters. Engines are hot. Jumping through.”
The hole flares with Pax’s jump.
“NICE job,” Em says.
Five pilots have been pushed out of our system.
“Probes are out,” Tweed calls. “Scanning for new hole.”
“We’ve got to be close to their quitting time,” I say. “Don’t we?”
“Maybe.” Em’m voice is quiet, then he chuckles. “If nothing else, they have to be getting tired of all the gate jumping they’re having to do. Between the five rolled holes, this has to have been fifty or sixty jumps for some of them.”
“This tour of New Eden brought you courtesy of our pilots, the letter W, and viewers like you. Thank you.”
“My kid watches a lot of Sesame Street.”
“I’ve got the new hole,” Tweed says. “In warp.”
“Copy that. Have we we seen enemy probes?”
“Yeah,” Shan replies. “They just came out.”
“He’s getting slower.”
“He’s getting tired, probably.”
“Okay,” says Em. “Lets stress this hole, but we’re getting close to closing time for these guys, so let’s not kill it yet. Let’s see if he even tries to get them in. I’m betting they won’t want to do another run this late at night. Hell, getting the last hole slammed shut in their face probably sucked for them, too.”
“Probably, considering how much it would have sucked for us if it had gone the other way.”
We proceed with the hole-stressing jumps, and Em’s guess looks like a good one — the enemy probes converge on the hole and vanish, but no ship follows them. It looks as though he’s simply scouted the hole, taken the measure of our preparations, and decided to wait.
“Hole is crit.”
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll cloak up on this hole with a force recon ship fit out like Pax’s brilliant Rapier. If this loki tries to jump out, I’ll follow him and kill the hole. The C2 is critical as well, right?”
“Great. We just need eyes on that hole as well, in case he sneaks out that way and tries to scan a way in.”
“It’s going to take him awhile if he does,” Tweed comments. “I poked my head in there earlier — there’s something like 50 signatures to sort through to find the exit.”
“Perfect.” I sit for a second, stifling a yawn. “Okay, I’m good for awhile. Who’s going to get some sleep?”
“It’s the middle of the day for me,” comments Pax.
“I’ve got a least a few more hours in me,” murmurs Shan, our lookout for the entire evening.
“Alright, well, I’m on the low-sec exit number…” I squint at my notes. “Number six. Jesus, nice job, guys.”
“I’m here too,” says Em.
“Cool.” I check the clock. “Everyone else, get some sleep. Both the holes are useless for these guys for now, and the c2 doesn’t die of old age for 15 more hours.”
“Nothing else we can do?”
I glance at the corner of the screen, were my watchlist has just informed me that the enemy tengu pilot has logged off. “They’re logging out for the night, which means no more attempts to get in. We need those guys trying to get in if we’re going to get this last guy out.”
The comms go largely silent, like the space around us, and we settle in for the worst part of any conflict; the waiting.