The reckless miners are tooling up. A Rattlesnake battleship and Drake battlecruiser are piloted at the tower in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, along with two other pilots in a Covetor mining barge and Anathema covert operations boat. But none of them are active. I suppose they could have been dissuaded from more exploration, as Fin tells me that she nearly caught a scout of theirs in our home system, which would have added to Hulk exhumer I popped earlier. Whilst I think about how to goad the capsuleers in to coming out to play, I take my Buzzard cov-ops boat in to the system to scan it fully, not just looking for the bustling gravimetric site this time.
It doesn't look like I need to goad the pilots after all. The Anathema is crawling out of the tower's shields, perhaps to launch scanning probes of its own. Fin sees this first, lurking at the tower in her Manticore stealth bomber, whilst I am merely loitering nearby whilst scanning to monitor changes, but I still encourage her to shoot the scanning boat. It's not worth wasting a bomb, but a few torpedoes should do some damage and perhaps panic the pilot. And Fin does, decloaking and taking her shot.
The Anathema warps away safely enough—and Fin recloaks without the tower shooting her—but it's good to try to educate these pilots, they can't be careless forever. It isn't difficult or time-consuming to create a couple of nearby safe spots for the purposes of launching probes. Even a fast frigate can speed a few hundred kilometres from the tower and bookmark a point which can be warped to and from merely to launch probes. Warping on-grid takes about as much time as slow-boating out of the shields, and gets you to a much larger sphere where the odds of anyone being close enough to engage for the few seconds you're there to be tiny. Better still, warping off-grid takes maybe a second longer and makes you just about impossible to ambush. And always either return to your tower to scan, or cloak.
I scan the system, even less convinced that the locals will come out to play now that we've reminded them we're still around. But at least I don't need to feel covert about my scanning, as we're hardly hiding. I find only four signatures in total, two of which are the gravimetric site of the earlier ambush and the wormhole home. The remaining two signatures are both wormholes too, making this system quite threadbare. An outbound connection to another class 3 system holds promise, and the last signature is the static exit, leading out to low-sec empire space. Having warped to the exit, as I bookmark the wormhole a shuttle from the tower warps in and jumps out to low-sec. Even after our continued attempts to shoot them, they still seem quite blasé about any threat. It is tempting to try to catch the locals on this wormhole, but we have another class 3 system to explore.
Fin and I leave the hapless w-space inhabitants behind to explore the other connection. Jumping through in my Buzzard covert operations boat, and Fin in her Manticore stealth bomber, finds a relatively tiny system. Being less than 8 AU in radius leaves almost no possibility of a place to hide in the system from the directional scanner, and none in particular given the position of the planets. The presence of occupants is therefore easily discerned, as is the lack of activity. I launch probes, locate the tower, and lurk whilst scanning.
I soon find a wormhole, scanning being quite simple in such a small system, and resolving another N968 outbound connection to a class 3 system is nifty. At least, it would be if the wormhole weren't tiny and wibbly, both mass-disrupted and aged to the point of near-collapse. Otherwise, there is a single anomaly and four remaining signatures to scan here, resolving to two ladar sites, a magnetometric site, and the system's static wormhole. The exit from this C3 doesn't beat the odds and leads out to low-sec empire space.
Fin spots an Ares on d-scan. I confirm this, managing to hit d-scan before it leaves or cloaks, and I set about trying to scan its location. I have combat probes launched and should be able to find the Ares without too much trouble, as long as it stays in one location. Seeing that it doesn't seem bothered by the presence of combat probes I don't try to finesse its position using d-scan first, particularly in such a small system as this. I quickly get a rough position and continue refining the result, asking Fin to warp to me so that I can fling us both towards the... oh, it's an interceptor, which would be why it isn't cloaking.
An interceptor seems a bit more trouble than perhaps a stealth bomber and cov-ops boat can handle, particularly knowing its capabilities from flying one myself. I was expecting a simple frigate, which shows that my ship identification capability, despite much improved, still needs work. But Fin is happy to engage the Ares. And the interceptor looks to be on the exit wormhole to low-sec, perhaps visiting or a local returning home and loitering for wandering scouts. With a solid hit on its position I send both our ships in warp to its location, pausing my engines briefly and re-engaging them a moment later so that our two ships don't bump and decloak each other in warp.
I was planning to add my Buzzard to the engagement against the Ares, until I find out it is an interceptor. I am fairly sure my single rocket launcher and flimsy frigate-sized hull will be useless as support, and I choose to stay cloaked for now. It's probably best that I do, as Fin's Manticore gets pounded pretty quickly. 'I just melted', she tells me, sadly from yet another new clone in high-sec space dock, her pod not quick enough to escape from the interceptor. I feel pretty guilty about a second podding so soon after the first, not being much of a protector. At least I know for sure not to engage a competently flown interceptor. I suppose the trick is knowing which ones are competently flown before engaging them.
This second class 3 system is fully scanned now, and I'm not going to exit through to low-sec past the interceptor. Instead I head homewards, swap to my own Manticore, and loiter at the tower in our neighbouring C3 as I wait for the new Fin to come to w-space. She brings another new Manticore with her, sadly no longer loosely name-paired with my own, but such is the difficulty of coming up with decent names at short notice. The C3 stays sleepy, with only an Occator returning from low-sec with an intensive refining array, which the pilot anchors before going to sleep. That's a good idea. Fin and I jump home and hit the sack ourselves.