Two more wormholes are resolved. The static exit from this class 4 w-space system leads to class 1 w-space, which can't please whatever occupants are in the class 5 w-space system on the other side of the K162. Maybe I should tell them that there's now a route through C3a, our neighbouring system connecting to this C4, out to low-sec. But instead I go to C1a first, hoping to find targets that are a bit squishier than most of what I am likely to encounter in a C5.
No luck, though. C1a has a tower with no ships visible on my directional scanner from the wormhole, and the one planet out of range doesn't offer anything new. I locate the tower, make a note of the owning corporation, and return to C4a to head backwards to C5a. And in the class 5 system are ships. A tower too, and as the Velator frigate and Helios and Anathema covert operations boats are all rather small and puny I expect them all to be inside its force field. And they are.
The Helios is piloted, which is a slight concern given that there's nowhere to hide from her in this small system, but as she's probably thinking less about updating d-scan and more why their early termination to k-space had to pass through a mass-limited C1 wormhole today. I launch probes to scan, not worrying about been spotted, which is lucky, given that seventeen signatures won't be particularly quick to sift through. Scanning is made slower by resolving the wormhole just when I think I'm out of luck. But there it is, on the edge of the system, the K162 I'm looking for. It takes me back to class 4 w-space.
D-scan is clear from the wormhole in C4b, and a passive scan of the system revealing a measly five anomalies suggests occupation. Exploring finds no towers, but launching probes and performing a blanket scan has a ship show up. And gone. Perhaps it was just passing through. It takes a while to catch up with the ship, as it is the last prospective signature of the thirteen in the system that resolves to be the inevitable K162, this one from class 2 w-space.
A C2 K162, though? If this is one of the C2's static wormholes, then the other will connect to high-sec empire space, and whatever ship came through will have been a scout of some kind. I doubt a hauler would pass through so much w-space to get to an exit, as surely even if they were unlucky enough to connect to a high-sec system in Aridia they would simply collapse the wormhole and hope to get luckier. So I jump to C2a not expecting to bump in to an industrialist, but still hoping to see some activity.
Two towers are on d-scan, along with an Orca industrial command ship, Loki strategic cruiser, Proteus strategic cruiser, Magnate frigate, and Imicus frigate. Before I even look for the towers and check for pilots, I alert glorious leader Fin and get her to prepare one of our Legion strategic cruisers, just in case we get lucky. As I do, the Loki is swapped for a Hound, and the stealth bomber disappears. Hoping it comes my way I stay at the wormhole, close enough to jump, and, sure enough, a ship decloaks and goes to C4b. Except it's an Imicus, and not the Hound. That doesn't matter, it's still a target.
I follow behind the frigate, hoping to get lucky, and almost do. The Imicus decloaks in C4b and I'm ready for it. My targeting systems get a positive lock but only for a second, as the Imicus jumps right back to C2a. A polarised ship is a vulnerable ship, which suits me fine right now—or so I think. Fully intending to give chase I try to return to C2a to catch the Imicus properly, but it turns out I have polarised my own ship. I wasn't as long in C2a before the Imicus appeared as I thought.
There's little point in jumping back to C2a as soon as my polarisation effects wear off. I think forty seconds is long enough for the Imicus to get clear. Instead, I wait for Fin to catch up to me, so that if the C2 occupants are ready to escalate the engagement then so are we. In I go, to a clear wormhole, and a couple of changes to the ships visible on d-scan. That's a little disappointing, but perhaps I am being watched now and some ships will come out to play. An obvious crawl away from the wormhole provokes no reaction, so I think I'll have to be happy with returning to standard operating procedures. I cloak and warp to the tower to monitor the pilots.
A Crane is new. The transport ship even moves and warps, but surely not to a customs office, not with a known hostile pilot floating around. No, apparently not. It looked like it, but there's no sign of the Crane when I get to the customs office in the direction it warped, not even at the previously unknown third tower that floats empty out here on the edge of the system. Back to watching the piloted ships, and, having jumped in to be in a better position, Fin reports two new items on d-scan. One is a Drake battlecruiser with a different naming convention to the local ships, the other a Sleeper wreck.
One anomaly is in the system, which my on-board scanner shows me, and the Drake is there. I warp in as it warps out, and more ship-swapping happens at the tower. It's hard to tell quite what's happening at the moment. The Drake returns to the anomaly and warps out again, weirdly, but as he disappears in the direction the Crane went I suspect the high-sec connection lies that way and that the pilot is a tourist. That's also probably why he is apparently oblivious to the overt threat the local ships could feasibly pose. If they ever did anything, that is.
Here comes the Drake again, and he finally creates a new Sleeper wreck, one close enough to the ship for me to get close to him. I warp in, but cautiously. And too cautiously, as it turns out, as I am further from the battlecruiser than I wanted to be, but I'm still not sure if we should engage or not. Luckily, as I approach the Drake, the locals have made up their minds. In they warp, a Drake of their own dropping on top of the tourist, and a Purifier adding its torpedoes until shooed by the Sleepers.
The stealth bomber warps out and a second local Drake and a Loki warp in. Missiles fire, guns chatter, and the tourist Drake explodes. His pod flees, presumably back to high-sec, leaving just the locals in the anomaly with a few Sleepers. Oh, and me and Fin. I've been watching but somewhat reluctant to join in so far, but what now? The Loki is a tempting target, made more so by one of the two Drakes warping back to the tower, and rather less so when the strategic cruiser follows. But one Drake stays behind to loot the wreck they made. What the hell. I'm going in.
I drop my cloak and engage the unsuspecting Drake pilot, Fin following my lead without needing to be invited. I get in to an orbit and start shooting the snared battlecruiser as Fin's Legion gets close and plies on the pain with her energy neutralisers. Let's hope this one's running some active defences. My autocannon damage is good, though, taking small chunks out of the Drake's shields, and the incoming damage is unthreatening. All I'm really worried about is how many of the Drake's friends will return.
One Drake comes back to the anomaly, forty kilometres away, but doesn't even stay long enough to take a couple of pot-shots at that safe distance. I don't think our target's colleagues—I can't really call them friends now—are coming to his aid. I can kinda see why, if they think that first Drake was bait and we're the real ambush. The joke's on them if that's the case, as it's just me and Fin tonight. Even so, I keep a watchful eye on d-scan and see a Scorpion battleship readied, but its ECM modules won't do any good now. We've depleted the Drake's shields and obliterated the armour. Its hull disintegrates and the battlecruiser explodes.
The second pod of the evening successfully warps out of the anomaly, leaving us to loot, shoot, and scoot. And as we warp away from the anomaly I realise that the pilot of the Drake was the same as in the Imicus earlier. It took a while, but I finally got him, I suppose. It's a good kill, too. Patient, careful, but still a little bold. We probably could have been overpowered, and perhaps would have been had their Loki been on the line, but I didn't shy away from that possibility. This time, it paid off. And even though I'm not expecting repercussions it's time to go home. It's late. I fly point-to-point, unusually for me, to save a bit of time, as I need to reload, repair heat damage, and dump loot at our tower. Once done, I hide in the home system and go off-line for the night. Job's a good 'un.