I have a few idle minutes, so I wake myself up at the w-space tower to see how everyone is doing. It turns out to be a most opportune moment. Our scanning man is a couple of systems away monitoring two Abaddon battleships and a Hurricane battlecruiser clearing Sleeper sites, judging by the wrecks showing up on the directional scanner. The question about what to do is put forwards. Scan man finds the anomaly where they are and warps in to take a closer look.
The Sleeper killers don't appear to have any remote repair capabilities running, nor are they going to be flying with buffer tanks against Sleepers, so they must have on-board repair systems. As a Brutix battlecruiser joins the fray with them, the Hurricane is seen to clear the wrecks as they go, looting and salvaging. Regardless of our ultimate plan, we form a nasty, pointy fleet just in case we decide to attack. I get in my Onyx heavy interdictor, joining with a Lachesis combat recon ship, Zealot heavy assault ship, and Hound stealth bomber.
The Hound jumps to the system two across, returning to keep track of the targets. The rest of the fleet jumps in to our neighbouring system and warps to the connecting wormhole, holding on the other side from the targets. We don't jump through because there is a Helios covert operations boat also in the system, whose affiliation is unknown. Although we will be far out of range of the targets' directional scanners, we don't want our presence to be detected early.
There is some uncertainty about whether the ships will fight if we engage them. Personally, I remember all the times when we have been threatened by a fleet of Tech II ships when running Sleeper sites, and we have invariably run, if only because we are not prepared or have ships fitted for PvP. And as our targets are salvaging as they fight, their configurations must be compromised from pure combat. I think we'll be fine, as long as we don't panic.
Our targets finish the anomaly and move to a new site, so we hold on the other side of the wormhole. Our Hound follows and moves in to a good position. The pilot is our scanning man and he is pretty smart. He positions his stealth bomber to be about 30 km from the primary target, the Hurricane, on a line with but on the opposite side from the wormhole. He does this so that when we jump we can warp to him at various ranges and either drop on top of the targets, land on the Hound, or be at the optimal range of our weapons. And whilst we are in warp, the Hound will launch his bomb, giving an alpha strike that won't harm our fleet.
The anomaly is cleared, the command given to jump and warp! The fleet pops through the wormhole and warps at optimal range to the Hound, which for me is 30 km so that I can activate my warp bubble on top of the primary target. This is the moment of uncertainty. We have 70 AU to cover through warp, and the Helios may spot us at any time, the targets in the last 14 AU. And I just realise that in my haste I forgot to bookmark this side of the wormhole. Oh well, that can wait for now. The Hurricane is moving, still salvaging, but the Hound decloaks and launches its bomb. The targets must be surprised but perhaps not too worried about a single stealth bomber in their midst. But that's before the rest of us drop out of warp.
My warp bubble is activated, trapping the Hurricane and the nearby Brutix, although the Hurricane is quickly moving out of range. I move to follow him and activate my scripted warp disruption field generator, with its greater range than my bubble, just to hold him for long enough for the fleet to pop him. I see his ship disintegrating and capsule warp off, and turn my Onyx around to ensure the Brutix stays well within my bubble. The two Abaddons are long gone by now, neither initially caught in my bubble and happy to flee. The Brutix is not as lucky and has no chance of escape now, and being ensconced within my HIC's bubble his pod suffers the same fate as his ship.
A careful watch is kept on the directional scanner in case reinforcements arrive, but it seems unlikely from these targets caught unawares. The loot from the ships is gathered, hitting a minor jackpot with the Hurricane dropping a small bounty of Sleeper loot and salvage. Noting from the kill records that the Hurricane must have been quite an old ship, having had large rigs fitted, makes it a shame to have popped it in some ways, but it also works as a trophy. A few of us linger in the pocket for a bit longer than is ideal, as a fleet member warps back to the wormhole to give the more excitable of us who didn't bookmark the way home a point of reference out of the system, and the previously detected Helios warps in to the cleared anomaly at range before running away quickly.
The fleet warps out, the Hound remaining to monitor any activity for a while. The Helios is spotted again but too far away for the Hound to engage, otherwise the site staying quiet. We all get home safely with one pod and two ship kills fresh in our logs. One scampish colleague notes that the targets 'lost the escalation spawn', referring to the additional wave of Wormhole Engineers the anomaly boasted. We're certainly adapting to life out in w-space, and it feels better to engage combat ships than miners, even if it is entirely on our own terms.