I have no idea what's going on. The ships I was stalking have left the system, I know that much. I assume the Drake battlecruiser and Typhoon battleship saw my Manticore stealth bomber enter the class 3 w-space system, but maybe they didn't. And maybe it didn't even matter. A Malediction interceptor is now visible on my directional scanner and, as far as I can tell, he is warping around the system. It looks like he is bouncing from one anomaly to the next and, when he enters the active anomaly, wrecks still freshly unlooted, I can see that he is from the corporation local to this system, which the other two ships were not. Maybe it was the detection of the interceptor that caused them to flee.
A Cheetah covert operations boat is seen briefly on d-scan, dropping a single combat scanner probe which, after what must be the time it takes to reload the launcher, is joined by some core scanner probes. Thinking that the scanner will find the K162 wormhole leading back to our home system—which is the only connection I have bookmarked here currently—I warp back to lurk in my Manticore. Perhaps the Cheetah will find the wormhole and jump through, giving me a slim chance of engaging it. Or maybe the Malediction will be sent to investigate instead, easily better equipped to despatch my ship than I am his, and the thought of that makes me back off from the wormhole a little, taking a more observational role for now.
The probes get closer to the K162. When all five core scanning probes get within 1 AU and disappear abruptly I get ready for a ship's appearance. It's not really surprising that I don't see a cloaked ship appear, but what I don't expect is for a Tengu strategic cruiser to crop up on my d-scan return, a local one judging by the ship name. Checking the few anomalies I scanned passively earlier, the Tengu is in one of them. But he's not in just any of the anomalies, he's in the one where the Drake and Typhoon were shooting Sleepers. I warp back in to the anomaly myself to see what the Tengu is up to, and he's shooting the Sleepers now, but still not salvaging the wrecks.
So far it looks to me like some outsiders came in to the C3 to shoot Sleepers under the noses of the occupants, were then chased off indirectly, and now the occupants are continuing what the outsiders started. If that is the case, this continuation can only end in conflict. Of course, I am hoping to catch the salvager myself, adding to the threat, and I don't care which corporation he belongs to. The interceptor warping around is a concern, though, but I'll worry about that when I need to. I warp out of the anomaly, so that it can despawn if given the chance, keeping a tight d-scan beam focussed towards it so I can monitor progress, letting me see a Drake warp in to help the Tengu.
The final battleship explodes and becomes a wreck, but I suspect there is another wave of Sleepers to appear before the anomaly is cleared. And, sure enough, a new small wreck appears shortly. I'll leave them to it, and hang some washing to make use of this otherwise dead time. I get back a short while later with combat still occurring and plenty more wrecks visible. The Drake eventually warps out, signalling the end of the fight and an Anathema warps in. That's odd, I'm not sure why a covert operations boat would enter the cleared anomaly. But, at last, a suitable target appears, a Noctis salvager following behind the Anathema. That cov-ops is concerning me a little, though, but I suppose I am more a danger to it than it is to me.
What is more concerning than the Anathema is that the Tengu remains in the anomaly. I warp in to the wrecks, keeping them just out of optimum bombing range for now, and see all three ships in the site. The Noctis is moving around and salvaging, the Anathema is poking the wrecks a little itself, and the Tengu is looking menacing from a distance. He may be too far away to disrupt my warp engines, but that's not what I'm worried about. Fitted with heavy missiles, the Tengu will easily be able to engage me anywhere in the site, giving me no more than a couple of shots at the Noctis, and recent experience with two bombers makes me think I'll need a little more time to pop the salvager. For now I simply shadow the Noctis as best I can, ready to take an opportunistic shot if nothing else.
The Tengu warps out. What a beautiful sight. Only the Anathema is left 'protecting' the Noctis, which is an odd decision considering the circumstances, and I am quite happy to engage now. In fact, this is the best time, as the Tengu will be slow in turning around and coming back. I line up the Noctis, getting a little closer so that I can be sure of getting my point on the ship shortly after decloaking, and take a cleansing breath. I decloak, launch, and lock. And, luck apparently on my side today, the Anathema warps out the second I decloak, powerless to cut his engines.
I activate the target painter and warp disruptor, and fire my first volley of torpedoes just as the bomb detonates, shredding the shields of the Noctis. I burn towards the ship, so that my point holds, and watch the target's armour deplete as torpedoes hit home. My systems are cycling, the Noctis is captured, and my attention is now on d-scan. There must be a ship or two heading my way, ready to save the Noctis and destroy me in revenge. Sure enough, a Drake appears on d-scan as the Noctis starts taking structure damage. I keep firing but align my Manticore out of the site and towards the wormhole home, not wanting to get caught in a counter-strike.
Two battlecruisers warp in to the anomaly, the Drake accompanied by a Hurricane. The Noctis still survives, but the ship is being held together by positive thought alone. The battlecruisers are slowing down and are moments away from dropping out of warp, at which point they can target me and will easily pop my fragile Manticore. But I hold for one more second, letting my siege launchers cycle one last time, making sure I fire one final volley of torpedoes before warping clear and saving my own ship. And that final volley is just enough, my Manticore warping away from the combat ships as I watch the Noctis explode, jettisoning the pilot's pod. I don't think I've ever been quite so glad at having trained a skill, cov-ops V only recently completed and boosting both my bomb and torpedo damage.