Scary ships greet me when I jump in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. Thankfully not directly, but my directional scanner shows a Broadsword heavy interdictor, Muninn heavy assault ship, Kitsune electronic attack ship, and some other equally threatening ships. I am not sure what the others were only because I refresh d-scan to find them all gone. No doubt the ships were in warp and passed across the part of the system where our K162 appeared, which luckily means I am yet to be noticed, but I ought to find out where they are now. Taking a look around the C3 finds a tower but no ships, and it is unlikely that so many pilots got here, stowed their ships, and logged off in such quick order. I imagine I'll find at least one more wormhole in this system beyond the static connection, and I launch probes to find out.
Out of the six anomalies and ten signatures I resolve a K162 from class 5 w-space, and I think I know now where the big ships came from. Or perhaps they are from the class 4 system beyond the second K162 I resolve. For their coherency and attack power I doubt the fleet came through the K162 from class 2 w-space which I also find. And it's unlikely they came from low-sec empire space, which is where the fourth wormhole, and the system's static connection, leads to. I've already discounted class 2 w-space as a probable home for the fleet, so I don't know why I resolve another such K162, even if this fifth wormhole is at the end of its life. There's certainly plenty to—oh, here's a sixth wormhole, another K162 from class 2 w-space.
The remaining signatures in the C3 look too weak to be wormholes, and I'm not going to bother resolving radar or magnetometric sites just for the practice. I get the destination system through the static exit, a low-sec system in Caldari space, before picking one of the C2 systems at random to explore. Jumping in to see on d-scan some ships, a tower, and a couple of Sleeper wrecks makes me think I've made a good choice. I bookmark the wormhole and warp around to see if I can launch probes covertly, accidentally finding a tower instead, with nine unpiloted ships, a mixture of combat and industrial, inside its shields. Crossing to the other side of the system sees only an off-line tower and the Sleeper wrecks. I'm clear to launch probes.
Judging by there only being two wrecks, and no signs of a capsuleer ship, I imagine I am looking for a ladar or gravimetric site. And indeed I resolve a ladar site, warping in to see the two Sleeper wrecks looted but no other signs of activity. It is possible the fleet seen earlier caught and popped a miner here, probably podded him too with a Broadsword in tow, which would explain the current lack of activity in the whole system. I make a note of the ladar site as being active anyway, in case my hunch is wrong and ships return here later, and scan and resolve the system's second static wormhole too, another exit to low-sec. I jump out to bookmark the empire side of the connection before returning through the C2 to the C3, and on to a second class 2 w-space system.
My second choice of C2 looks as promising as the first, at least in that there is obvious occupancy with a tower on d-scan, so here's hoping they haven't yet been disturbed in to inactivity. I manage to find three towers in total by warping around, some piloted ships at one of the towers, and some drones in empty space. At least, I presume it's empty, as all ships in the system are accounted for at the tower. To help me out, one of the pilots swaps from his scanning frigate to a Dominix battleship and warps out of the tower, where it looks like he reunites with the drones. I get closer to his position and start a passive scan, revealing the battleship to be in an anomaly. That's looking good. I dash home, swap the scanning boat for my Manticore stealth bomber, and head back to the C2.
I warp in to the anomaly to see the Dominix and his drones engaging Sleepers, and am pleased to see he is not salvaging as he fights. I bookmark a suitable wreck and warp out, monitoring the nearest tower directly and the anomaly via d-scan, waiting for the salvager to arrive. Actually, as the Dominix came from a different tower I could stay in the anomaly with him and warp out as he does, watching his actions directly, as it's likely he will swap ships and salvage the wrecks himself. I warp back to the anomaly with this change of plans only to see a Tengu strategic cruiser now in the anomaly, and he's not there to shoot Sleepers. It looks like I won't be getting my salvager target, but if I warp out and back in again to get in to bombing range I can get a sneaky assist on the kill and sate my bloodlust.
Maybe I won't try bombing the Dominix under Tengu attack. I have no moral qualms with doing so, either for attacking the battleship or trying to steal the kill from the Tengu, but the arrival of the Tengu's friends puts me off a little. A Proteus strategic cruiser, Heretic interdictor, Republic Fleet Firetail frigate, Crow interceptor, Cynabal cruiser, two Falcon recon ships, and a Muninn all warp in almost as one, with a Zealot heavy assault ship arriving fashionably late. The Dominix doesn't last long, the Heretic launching an interdiction sphere to capture the pilot's pod in a bubble for the complete kill.
I think it is safe to assume that assaulters of the Dominix are part of the big fleet I saw at the start of the evening. I also think I am fairly safe in assuming that the fleet has covert scouts operating, as there is no other way the fleet could have got to the active anomaly so quickly otherwise, and I doubt this fleet is arbitrarily jumping between systems and in and out of sites on a whim or hunches. And with this much firepower and coordination it is probably best if I simply head home and hide, at least for now. That relies on another assumption, though: that the route home is clear.
I won't simply assume I can get home without being hassled, particularly as the fleet is clearly still around. Some ships have returned to the anomaly to loot and salvage the wrecks, having finished off the Sleepers after swatting the Dominix. I warp back at range to the wormhole out of the C2 to see some of the fleet loitering there. But the ships are slowly exiting the system now, although the Broadsword jumping out only makes me worry that he's now sitting on the other side of the wormhole. Even so, ships warp here and jump, jump, jump, until the C2 looks clear again.
I wait a few minutes. The C2 may look clear but that is no indication that the ships have actually moved away from the other side of the wormhole. From my first indirect sight of them it seems probable that they will warp away until a new target is spotted, but I don't want to follow too soon, just in case. There remains no activity on or through the wormhole for a while, and I think it's time I try to make my way home. I approach the wormhole, jump through, and hold my breath.
Typical, I get back in to the C3 to see the bloody Crow waiting for me. Well, maybe not waiting for me, personally, but I doubt he's just taking in the view. Of all the ships that may cause me a problem clearing the wormhole in my stealth bomber it's going to be an interceptor. Still, there's not much I can do about it but try my best, and I gather my thoughts. There is no point simply jumping back and hoping he doesn't follow, as that gets me no closer to home, as well as being spotted anyway and maybe attracting the fleet back, or at least the Broadsword to prevent my warping away. That would be bad. I am far enough from the wormhole to cloak immediately, which is good, and there is a planet in a vector away from the wormhole, which I can warp to without breaking my cloak.
I wait for the session change timer to end and make a break for my chosen planet, knowing that if the Crow catches me I can at least jump back to the C2 for a second and probably final attempt. I align and activate my reheat, cloak, and warp. To my surprise, and relief, the Crow doesn't even move from his spot. Maybe he really is admiring the view. But I am still not home, and d-scan shows me a Zealot, Taranis interceptor, Hurricane battlecruiser, Heretic, Drake battlecruiser, and Broadsword all here in the system. Sweeping d-scan around confirms my suspicion that the ships are covering the exits. Each wormhole I have bookmarked has a ship coincident with it on d-scan, which can't be a coincidence. The fleet is locking down the C3.
There is one wormhole without a ship sitting on it, and that's the K162 leading home. This probably isn't a clever ploy by the hostile fleet, seemingly only giving me one choice to go but planting their nastiest combination of ships on the other side to trap me, but a result of my having opened our wormhole after the fleet scanned this system. And the fleet's scouts already having found the five wormholes in this system—the sixth I found being their own, whichever it is—it is actually a reasonable assumption this time that I came from one of the already extant wormholes and not through a new connection.
So it seems my way home is safe, and still unknown. But I take my time checking, warping around the system, bouncing off celestial objects and making sure at each stop which wormholes have ships on them and that the one home doesn't. All this while I am having a conversation with a drunk and sleep-deprived capsuleer who's perhaps not entirely convinced I am trying to evade interceptors in my stealth bomber, but it is a pleasant distraction that relieves the current tension somewhat. And once I am sure that the wormhole home really has not been discovered yet I finally warp there, dropping short and crawling the last few kilometres to decloak manually and reduce my time seen on d-scan.
Just before I jump home I notice that a pilot has said 'ciao' in the local channel in the C3, although I'm not sure if it is the fleet bidding anyone there farewell, or the Crow pilot personally seeing me on my way. It would be nice to know if the Crow pilot let me pass, but I am not about to go looking for an interceptor to match a name to a ship, and am happy to get home safely. There was a lot of potential for hunting today, with plenty of systems to explore, and even a target picked out and stalked. But the hunting grounds belonged to bigger fish, and I am glad simply to have stayed out of their way.