The home system is still empty on my return, and it's perhaps a little optimistic to hope that the neighbours are out harvesting gas in the lone site in their class 3 w-space system. I am keen to find out, though, so I board my Manticore stealth bomber and take a look. Jumping in to the C3 sees no change, according to my directional scanner, with just the Imicus frigate and Viator transport ship sharing space with the two towers. I start to push my Manticore towards the ladar site, to activate it out of spite, when a hopeful last check of d-scan shows me a pod in the system. It looks like another pilot has woken up.
It doesn't take long to find the new pilot, his pod having warped to one of the towers in the system. It does, however, take a while for him to do anything that doesn't involve sitting stationary in a pod. Curiously enough, the pilot boards a Hulk exhumer and starts moving, to the point of entering warp and flashing away from the tower. It seems like an odd choice of ship, considering the lack of gravimetric sites in this C3, and my only guess is that he's heading out to empire space, having warped in the rough direction of the static wormhole.
I follow behind the Hulk, at least I think I do, aiming to drop short of the wormhole by ten kilometres, because if he hasn't come this way my cloak will be deactivated by landing on the wormhole and signal my presence. But the Hulk has indeed warped to the wormhole, my Manticore landing to see him jump out to empire space. On this occasion I am quite glad that this C3 is typical in having its static exit lead to low-sec, as it lets me follow and engage the slow-aligning exhumer, almost guaranteeing me the kill. I drop my cloak, burn towards the wormhole, and jump.
Out in low-sec the Hulk is trying its hardest to align to what is probably a stargate. I really don't care, as I shed my session change cloak, lock the Hulk, and disrupt its warp engines, preventing it from going anywhere. My torpedoes start slamming in to the unarmed mining ship, my security status taking another dive for this act of piracy, leaving the pilot little option but to explode in low-sec or w-space. He chooses w-space, perhaps hoping I won't notice that he disappears through the wormhole, but I follow and re-engage back in my natural habitat. The Hulk explodes soon enough and, despite my best effort to bump the ship out of alignment prior to the final volley of torpedoes, the pod evades my grasp and warps back to the tower.
I have no corpse to scoop, but I can loot and shoot the wreck. Or I could, if it weren't stuffed full of mining goodies. Plenty of Tech II mining crystals, strip miners, and mining laser upgrades were all in the Hulk, which is a little odd. It is also far too much for me to carry, so I grab what I can and loiter, re-activating my cloak. It's possible the pilot will risk trying to recover some of this loot, and he returns to the wreck a couple of times in his pod. I have no doubt that he's merely testing the waters, seeing if I am still around, and I don't rise to the bait. His pod can jump through the wormhole to escape a positive target lock, and is easily agile enough to evade my stealth bomber in a race between his warping and my locking. I simply let him think that I have gone away, in the hopes that he'll bring a bigger ship out to salvage.
A Harpy assault ship has me backing away from the wreck a little, then warping to the tower to see its intentions in a more timely manner. What I find is the ship ejected from a hangar and the Hulk pilot now in the Viator. My hopes that the transport ship will venture out to loot the wreck are dashed when the pilot logs off instead, but at least it gives me a chance to collect it all for myself. And maybe a little more can be retrieved, as I have just noticed that not only are some of the defences around this tower off-line but they are also unanchored, which means that anyone can pluck them from their positions in to a ship's hold. That seems a little careless.
I jump home, swap in to a Crane transport ship, and head back to the C3. I warp to the wormhole, loot the wreck of the Hulk to leave nothing behind, and head home to drop off the loot. Now to return to steal the defences, a rather more nefarious deed. But the Viator is back on d-scan when I check after jumping in to the system, heralding the return of the pilot. Although the Hulk's wreck has been looted, giving him no reason to loiter at the wormhole, I swap the Crane back for the Manticore to shadow the pilot. He may still believe I've disappeared, or lost interest at least, and make himself vulnerable as a result.
I get back to the tower in the C3 to see the pilot off-line one of the two hangars, and finally the light dawns on me: he is taking down the tower. This is why there are unanchored defences, why he was taking the Hulk full of mining equipment out to empire space, and probably why the Harpy was taken out of the hangar. And it also means that he may be coming out to get the defences himself, giving me another opportunity to shoot him. In fact, he's not after the defences just yet but the warp bubbles placed haphazardly around the tower. He uses an interceptor to zoom between each bubble, presumably to take them off-line, before settling back inside the shields.
I'm not about to pit my stealth bomber against an interceptor so I just watch this bit, but when I see him warp to an unknown spot off-grid in the Viator I think I know what's coming next. The transport ship warps back on-grid, appearing right next to one of the four off-line bubbles. He scoops the bubble in to the ship, then warps off again. He's bound to come back for the other two. I bookmark the locations of the other bubbles and approach the one nearest to me. If I can get close enough to it in time I can catch the Viator as he appears, and if not I can warp out and in to a third bubble in preparation.
The next choice of bubble to collect for the Viator is the one I am pointing at. He decloaks when close to the bubble and I do too, surging forwards, launching a bomb, and locking and pointing the target. Unfortunately, despite having time to get close enough to disrupt the warp engines of the Viator I didn't manage to get in the horizontal plane of the bubble, and neither did I allow enough time for my Manticore to align to the target, so my bomb floats ineffectually away from both my ship and the Viator. But I still have a positive lock and am stopping the target from entering warp, and I start throwing more torpedoes.
Transport ships aren't that flimsy and are quite fast. The Viator makes his way towards the safety of the tower's force field and makes it before I have even broken the ship's shields. The tower defences have woken up by this point and are starting to threaten me, but I prepared for this, aligning out when the result of the engagement was clear, and warp away from the tower immediately. I have no idea if a successful hit with the bomb would have weakened the Viator enough to pop him before he entered the force field, but it was still a bit careless to launch so quickly.
The one positive result is that the pilot has been forced in to inactivity, logging out again. Now I can get back to passive-aggressive piracy. I jump home, swap back in to the Crane, and come to collect the defences that will soon rightfully be mine. Oh, and whilst I'm here I may as well get the other two warp bubbles that have kindly been unanchored for me. But I can't carry everything at once in my Crane. In fact, only one defence will fit in its hold at a time, and using giant secure containers won't help. I will need to drop off each defence as I pick it up.
I don't want to wait for polarisation effects to dissipate between each sneaky steal, so I will drop each defence in a central location where I can collect them all with a bigger ship when I'm finished. But I also don't want to drop the defences at an obvious location. Luckily I have a wormhole to help me here, and I make a rough safe-spot between the tower and the K162 home where I can store the defences without them being found quickly. Now I just need to get them, which is easy enough after the practice I've had. Warp close by, approach, then decloak, scoop, and burn away and re-activate the cloak. It's pretty easy to achieve in the agile and fast Crane.
I snatch six defences and both warp bubbles in total, all that is unanchored around the tower. I take home what I can in the Crane, which is just the one defence and a bubble, and bring back in its bigger sister for the rest. The Bustard transport ship has a much bigger hold than the Crane, but it is unsurprisingly less manoeuvrable and also cannot warp cloaked. It is ideal for warping from the wormhole to the safe-spot and back again, easily fitting the rest of the defences in its hold with just the one trip. I get home with a Hulk kill, lots of expensive loot, and some stolen defences. It's been quite a night.