There is w-space activity today, but it may already be too late for me. 'I spooked their salvager', Mick tells me of a corporation in a class 4 system connecting to our neighbouring C3. Mick's now sitting in a cloaked heavy interdictor on the K162 in the C3 waiting for a juicy ship to pass through. I board my stealth bomber to provide some more agile yet still cloaky support. Our neighbouring system is occupied but empty of local pilots, and I jump in to the C4 to check what our potential targets are up to. There are two towers, with a piloted Anathema covert operations boat and unpiloted Bestower hauler at one, and an Orca industrial command ship and Badger hauler both unpiloted at the second.
As I am checking the second tower Mick reports that the Anathema jumped to the C3, putting me in the wrong place at the wrong time to couple with our HIC for an effective trap. That didn't deter my colleague, though, who activated his warp bubble anyway. The Anathema merely cloaked to avoid a target lock and, presumably, crawled out of the bubble to safety. And now we really must be out of luck, as the targets will be aware of the HIC sitting on their K162 and either hole up or come out with some decent force. 'Check planet six', Mick says, 'there was a Moa harvesting gas near there'. It's a long shot but I warp out there and, huh, the cruiser is visible on my directional scanner along with a jet-can. Don't these people talk to each other?
I don't have a bookmark to the ladar site the Moa is in, but Mick does. I warp back to the wormhole, Mick jumps in, and he flings me towards the gas clouds. I drop far short of the clouds and the Moa, which is good, letting me bookmark the jet-can to bounce back in on top of the target. Unfortunately, by the time I return the Moa is gone, but at least he left the site before my Manticore was decloaked by the gas. I retreat hurriedly and re-activate my cloak, but perhaps I am better served monitoring the tower for ship changes and movements. I warp back to the inner system, sadly noting on d-scan that I am passing a Badger heading the other way, and by the time I have turned around and am back in the ladar site the Badger and the jet-can full of gas are gone. It seems my timing is off this evening.
I still don't think these pilots talk to each other, or take threats seriously. The Moa was harvesting gas for several minutes after his colleague was threatened by the HIC, and even though he left the site before I could get in range to engage him a fleeing pilot doesn't return to collect his haul. Whatever their peculiar motivations and practices, we're back to watching and waiting. Mick jumps back out to sit on the K162 and I monitor the two towers in the system for activity. The gas harvester goes for food, Mick returns home, and the Anathema returns. It's only when a Cormorant destroyer appears, flits between the towers, then boards a Manticore and warps to the wormhole that it looks like anything more will happen.
I follow the Manticore to the wormhole but see no sign of it jumping to the C3. There is a possibility that he's waiting for one of us, or just any capsuleer wandering in to his system, and we try to bait him. Mick returns in his Arazu recon ship and acts like a newbie on both sides of the wormhole, but there is no sign of the Manticore. Now that he's here, Mick checks the local tower and sees a new pilot appear, board a Drake, and warp off in my direction. The battlecruiser doesn't appear at the wormhole, and a little d-scan fiddling puts him about 3 AU distant in what looks like empty space. As another new pilot arrives in the C4 and we start to get outnumbered glorious leader Fin arrives, evening the odds again. We update her on the situation and she prepares for an assault on the Drake.
The Drake is gone, at least on d-scan from the wormhole. Mick has warped away from the tower to launch combat probes, hoping to scan the Drake's position, so I warp across to take a look. The Drake pilot is now in a Retriever, the other new pilot has swapped to a Covetor, and both mining barges warp out of the tower. This is looking rather splendidly like the start of a massacre. Fin chooses an Onyx heavy interdictor for this battle, coming as fast as her warp engines will push her towards the wormhole to the C4, as Mick starts narrowing down the location of the gravimetric site. A can has been jettisoned and ten mining drones are on d-scan, establishing the miners as currently settled. We're ready.
Fin jumps in, Mick hits scan, and we're in warp. Our three ships drop on top of the two miners and Fin activates the Onyx's warp bubble, stopping both from escaping and, just as importantly, trapping their inevitably ejected pods. The only uncertainty at the moment is which pilot will be corpsified first, as we didn't really discuss it, but it's much of a muchness against unarmed barges. One pops, the pod is destroyed, the other pops, the second pod is destroyed. Job's a good 'un. Fin's bubble is dropped, and we scoop, loot, and shoot, leaving only the jet-can full of ore in the site. And it is indeed full of ore, twenty thousand cubic metres of crokite already mined by the two ships. I think we can have that.
To collect the ore Fin heads home to swap the Onyx for a Bustard transport ship, but as she jumps out the Manticore resurfaces. He doesn't engage or follow and quickly cloaks again, so I move to keep close watch on the wormhole and Mick the two towers. The Bustard can probably take a bomb blast and has enough warp strength to escape a single disruption effect, so we formulate a plan. Fin will jump in and dither a little whilst warping to collect the spoils of miner murder, hoping the hostile Manticore will present itself as a target to me. If he does, we should get another kill, and if he doesn't we get the ore without any fuss.
As it turns out, we get the ore without any fuss, which is a little disappointing. But once Fin has left the Manticore once more resurfaces at the wormhole before cloaking again. He's too far for me to engage directly but, would you look at that, it seems like the pilot has warped from his tower to a hundred kilometres from the wormhole without moving away from the flight vector. I think I can take advantage of that inexperience to reveal him again. I bounce off one of the moons to drop out of warp a hundred kilometres short of the wormhole and, lo, I bump in to a pilot I haven't seen for a minute at least. I welcome him with my warp disruptor, target painter, and torpedoes.
The Manticore is popped without a shot fired back, which perhaps explains why his pod is so easy to catch and destroy, giving us our third corpse to scoop tonight. What it doesn't explain is why he was sitting absently at a standard and obvious position, particularly after two other pilots were brutally slaughtered in his system. But why were those pilots even mining in the first place? I can only assume that the Moa really didn't see the Manticore or Phobos on d-scan as he blithely hauled gas. Or that the Anathema didn't care to tell anyone about the Phobos whose bubble gauntlet he had to run through to exit the system. And all that after having their salvager chased earlier. What we've got here is a failure to communicate.
Wondering how deep the ignorance lies we see if we can bait the Absolution command ship now at one of the towers. It may simply be launched as a deterrent, though, a ship to scare us off. We leave, but only because there is nothing more to shoot here. I actually consider planting a scout in this system to give us a route back to take further advantage of these easy pickings, but decide to throw back these little fish. If the capricious nature of wormholes throws us together again that would be great, but until then we leave the system behind us to drop off the corpses, loot, and ore at our tower and hit the sack for some restful sleep.