The home system looks empty from where I am. I wonder what it's like from the other side, and once I launch scanning probes I warp across the system to find out. Pretty much the same, which I suppose is good. My probes let me know that a couple of sites have disappeared recently, which I suppose is also good, as it makes scanning simpler and the anomalies full of Sleeper loot remain. Scanning certainly is quick with nothing much to find, letting me resolve our static wormhole and jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system without much fannying around.
My directional scanner shows me nothing interesting in the C3, which is getting to be an unusual return these days. It looks like I am merely out of range of a couple of towers, if my notes from six weeks ago are still relevant today. Warping around finds one tower gone and the other where it was before, but no one's home. I sift through the twelve signatures here to find gas, gas, a K162 from low-sec empire space, more gas, even more gas, a magnetometric site to break the gassy tedium, the static exit to low-sec, some more gas, and, hullo, an outbound connection to class 3 w-space, which is good for more exploration. I complete scanning this C3 with a radar site and, would you look at that, another wormhole, this one an outbound connection to class 4 w-space.
I have options. I'll press on to the second class 3 system, being lower-risk and more likely to terminate to empire space—barring the apparently increased likelihood of finding additional wormholes in C3s. I see two Manticores on d-scan in C3b, plus a tower. Stealth bombers don't generally get left floating freely in force fields when not in use, but it also seems a little careless to sit cloaky ships in full view of any passing pilots rather than park them somewhere nearby when idle. Even so, I locate the tower as being in the same place as ten months ago and find both Manticores there and piloted. I have launched probes already and a blanket scan shows me no anomalies and twelve signatures. I doubt I'll be able to ambush anyone here without scanning but as I have another system to check I shall head that way first, instead of potentially revealing my presence indirectly to these two pilots.
Entering the class 4 system has a clear d-scan result, with only one planet and one mooon out of range. I launch probes and perform a blanket scan as I warp across to reconnoitre the outer planet. All I find is an unoccupied and empty system, one with a mere four anomalies but twenty signatures. That makes sense, as passing fleets will gladly rip Sleepers apart for loot but not care too much about spending time harvesting the rocks or gas available. I start resolving the signatures, looking only for wormholes, and am happy to stop scanning when I see appear an X877 connection to more class 4 w-space.
Pushing forwards puts me on another K162 with no signs of activity within range of d-scan, only an off-line tower. My scanning probes pick up a single ship somewhere, along with two anomalies and eight signatures, and as the former is nowhere near the latter I assume it to be nestled inside a force field, which indeed is where the Thanatos carrier sits unpiloted. I scan again, again happy to consider the first outbound wormhole I find to be the system's static and sole connection, jumping forwards again in to the third class 3 system of the evening. At least I see core scanning probes in C3c, a good sign of activity, even more so when a Cheetah covert operations boat appears briefly on d-scan.
I locate the tower in this class 3 w-space system after launching probes. I'm pretty much ignoring the cov-ops flitting around until he crops up again, this time on my scanning probes. I take a cue from his general position as where to scan for a wormhole, indeed resolving one where the Cheetah has no disappeared, but the stink from null-sec k-space is unmistakable, bringing me to the end of the constellation. But only a temporary end. After a diversion to what is disappointingly a K162 from more null-sec a third wormhole sits under my probes, this one another N968 outbound connection to class 3 w-space. I can continue forwards.
A Mammoth hauler and Imicus frigate are both appealing if rather soft targets, which I find quickly thanks my previous visit a mere three months ago. Sadly, although the tower is in the same place as before neither ship is piloted. A blanket scan of the system shows that only those two ships are visibly present, and the six signatures hold the static exit to low-sec but no other wormholes. Now I've reached the end of the constellation, one that I feel is interesting enough to sketch, my first in a while. But it's not terminated properly, C3b not having been scanned for its exit. I'm heading back that way to check for activity, so even if the two Manticores are still there I'll launch probes and quickly complete my map.
C3c has no change, even after all of several minutes I spent away from it. C4b is quiet, C4a remains unoccupied and empty, and there's nothing happening in C3a. Jumping in to C3b has a Scorpion battleship now accompanying the stealth bombers, along with core scanning probes out and about. Maybe they belong to the Cheetah I saw earlier. I warp away, launch my own probes, and head to the tower to watch the ships as I scan, at which point I realise that the Scorpion is not here. I see no wrecks on d-scan, which doesn't surprise me, and assume that the battleship is sitting on a wormhole. I narrow down its position to a rather coarse 1 AU and thirty degrees on d-scan—battleship hulls are pretty big on combat probes—and resolve its position within two successive scans with my probes. What I don't find is a signature in the same place. The Scorpion is in empty space.
I warp to the Scorpion's location, dropping short and having thrown my probes back out of the system, and consider just how stupid it would be to attack it. Probably pretty stupid. He's not affiliated with the local corporation of the Manticores in the tower, so could be bait. But the scanning probes in the system are cores and not combats, so he can't be waiting for the current scout to ambush him, not being coincident with a wormhole or site that can be found using core probes. He's also not moving and not in a particularly easy position to scan, which is not bait-like activity. Never the less, a Scorpion can have a hefty tank and has ECM to negate an attacker's target lock, and he may still have friends waiting nearby. But what the hell, I'll give it a go.
I move my Tengu to orbit the Scorpion, just to get my strategic cruiser moving if nothing else, then decloak and lock on to the battleship. I start raining missiles in to its shields, updating d-scan to see just how reckless I've been, but nothing obvious is coming to help. Maybe the Scorpion doesn't need help, the pilot awake and reciprocating my target lock, getting a successful ECM jam on my systems shortly afterwards. That settles it, as I'm not going to try to whittle down the Scorpion's shields in-between waiting for successful jamming cycles to end, instead aligning my ship towards the K162 to C3a and warping out. At least my warp drives weren't being disrupted.
Perhaps the Scorpion is being used as a scanning boat. I've seen stranger choices, but even with ECM he is being a bit blasé about surviving. He may be able to shrug off a single scouting boat, but a small fleet will spot him just as easily as I did and rip his battleship apart with little effort. There is still no sign of help coming his way as I jump out of the system, which I would at least expect to see if he were actually bait. And if he were bait he'd be fitted with a warp disruptor as a minimum, even at the cost of an ECM module. Whatever he's doing out there, I gave him a poke and ran away. And I still don't know where this C3 leads. Never mind, it's been an evening of exploration ending with a minor engagement.