Nom nom nom, I wonder if anyone's appeared in our neighbouring class 3 system yet. I can't say for sure, but I know that glorious leader Fin is in our w-space home. She reports that the two ageing wormholes I resolved earlier have died, which should prevent angry strategic cruisers chasing me from at least one direction, and that our neighbouring system is boring. All she's seen is an Anathema covert operations boat, probably a tourist from low-sec, scanning in-between the several times he's had to launch probes.
Because of the dreary nature of the current constellation Fin's in the midst of collapsing our static wormhole and asks me to join her. I swap in to my Widow black ops ship and, along with Fin's Orca industrial command ship, we warp to the wormhole to give it the final push of death. But mid-warp I remember that I also resolved and bookmarked a magnetometric site in the C3, and ask if Fin would like to clear that for iskies first. She agrees, so we turn our ships around without jumping, leaving our static wormhole unstable but with enough mass limit left for our Sleeper Tengus and salvaging boats to pass through without trouble.
The magnetometric sites of class 3 w-space are becoming more familiar, even if I cause the second wave of Sleepers to appear early. I remain cautious with target selection, preferring to add the least threatening ship to a subsequent wave than be caught out assuming the Sleepers should be shot in anything like a logical sequence, and combat progresses smoothly. A Helios cov-ops appears on our directional scanners, at which point I confirm with Fin that she definitely saw an Anathema earlier, and then I direct a narrow d-scan beam towards the tower in the system. The Helios is there, perhaps a newly awake pilot.
We keep watch of d-scan as we continue shooting Sleepers. It's not an ideal situation to clear sites whilst potentially hostile pilots are in the same system, but at least we have a vague idea that there is only one of him and can tell from d-scan what ship, if any, he'll bring out to engage us. Sure enough, one of the three stealth bombers previously unpiloted at the tower disappears, no doubt piloted by the new arrival and moved out of the tower to cloak. Our simple Sleeper combat has got complicated.
A single stealth bomber shouldn't cause any problems for our Tengus but bringing in a Noctis and analysing boat will present tempting targets. Of course, any attack will depend on whether the locals know of this magnetometric site and have it bookmarked, as well as any potential knowledge of our wormhole. We can't simply leave a Tengu in the site and trust it will act as a deterrent, as a bomber could engage our Noctis on the wormhole, leaving the supposed escort powerless to retaliate or rout the attack. The wormhole could even be the weak link, as we don't even know if the locals keep current bookmarks of all their sites.
The pilot knows exactly where we are, if not precisely. The Nemesis decloaks over fifty kilometres away from our position and, for some reason, launches a bomb our way. It doesn't get close, of course, having a maximum forty-five kilometre reach, but the range of the attack keeps the Nemesis far enough distant to let him warp away cleanly. Of course, as our Sleeper ships don't have warp disruptors fitted he could have goosed our Tengus and still got away cleanly, had he been quick enough. It is a curious attack and, I feel, somewhat pointless. All it has done is show that he can get his stealth bomber in to this site, which just gives us more information to work with.
We finish clearing the Sleepers from the magnetometric site and head home to get a salvager and escort. We've been discussing the plan since the Nemesis first disappeared from d-scan, so we know what we're doing. Fin refits a Noctis to withstand a little more expected damage and I eschew stealth for outright threat, swapping in to my Maledication interceptor. I've seen an interceptor withstand a bomb blast, and how easily one can melt a stealth bomber, so it seems like the best choice of ship for the current situation. In our new configuration we return to our static wormhole and jump in to the C3.
Content to see that we aren't going to be attacked on the K162 in the C3 I warp my Malediction in to the magnetometric site and start looping around a wreck. No bombers appear and d-scan looks much the same as before, and I call Fin in to start looting and salvaging. Wrecks are tractored in to the Noctis, I move my Malediction to peform lazy loops around Fin instead of a wreck, and I update d-scan as a good protector should, understanding that Fin is otherwise engaged. A Magnate frigate appears on d-scan, along with a new Purifier stealth bomber. An Anathema is swapped for a Punisher frigate, and the Purifier and a Nemesis disappear. Plenty seems to be happening, just nothing that is directly affecting us. There is also clear indication that we're dealing with more than one pilot now.
Two Purifiers decloak in the site at the same time! I start to move towards them but don't activate my micro warp drive for maximum speed, knowing that the propulsion module will increase my signature radius and any damage inflicted, waiting for any bomb to be launched and affect me first, but none comes. I start burning hard towards the two ships but they cloak again before I get close enough to target them with my limited range. I don't realise it at the time but I suspect their appearance to be a piloting error, the two ships stumbling blindly in to each other and interfering with each other's cloaking device; a false start, if you will. I return to orbit Fin in her Noctis, still valiantly salvaging under threat, when the Nemesis from earlier appears. This time, it launches a bomb that will hit the both of us.
My shields are shredded by the bomb, although I have scraps left that spare my armour any damage. Fin's Noctis has taken a big hit too but survives. Now it's my turn. I burn hard towards the Nemesis and disrupt its warp engines, pummelling it with rockets and what seems to be more of an LED than a laser, as it throws volleys of torpedoes towards Fin. The Noctis takes two, three, maybe four volleys from the Nemesis before my rockets rip through the last of the stealth bomber's hull, ejecting its pod in to space. And the pod has little chance of escape against my fast-locking ship, giving me a new corpse to add to my collection. So far so good. One attack repelled and the Noctis still salvages.
Less than a minute after I scoop, loot, and shoot the corpse and wreck of the Nemesis, the two Purifiers reappear, one almost on top of me and the other on the far side of Fin. I tell her to get out, knowing that a second bomb would destroy her ship, whilst I easily deal with my second bomber of the night. I don't quite know the motivation of the Purifier decloaking so close to me, as it is quite a sacrifice to make to keep the second safe, but perhaps its fitting of a warp core stabiliser helps explain that it thought it could get away from me. Not when I'm packing three points of warp disruption, sir. The Purifier and its pilot suffers the same fate as the Nemesis.
Fin got out of the site safely before the bomb detonated, just the one launched from the Purifier on the other side of Fin from me. That pilot clears the site too, my attention focussed at the time on his colleague, now a corpsicle. Fin returns home, swaps the Noctis for a second, to save time on repairs, and returns to complete salvaging, which now includes a Purifier wreck. I can't loot all of the lovely and expensive modules that were saved in the explosion and it seems a shame to destroy them when we have a voluminous Noctis readily available. Fin sweeps up all the Sleeper wrecks first before salvaging the Purifier wreck. Now we just need to analyse the Sleeper artefacts.
Analysing the artefacts poses a new risk, as our dedicated ships won't withstand a bomb explosion, and it would be remiss of us to leave the potential bulk of the profit behind, particularly as we've already reduced the number of available hostile pilots by two. Rather than rely on a simple cruiser Fin refits one of our Drake battlecruisers, bringing that more resilient ship to the magnetometric site in the C3. I suggest swapping ships too, for a different counter-attack strategy, but we decide that I am acting as a pretty good deterrent so far.
Fin warps in and starts analysing the artefacts, moving between the containers pretty quickly. Judging by d-scan the locals have given up on throwing stealth bombers at us, which isn't surprising given the Drake they now face and what my Malediction has done to them so far. I learnt the hard way the result of interceptor versus stealth bomber, although admittedly not as hard as Fin, and I am using that information to our benefit. Now battleships are appearing at the local tower, an Armageddon at first and then a couple of Dominices. It could be a threat, but it could be bluster, perhaps one of the remaining pilots ejecting ships from a hangar to give the impression of activity and threat where there is none. We can't completely ignore it, either way.
Fin has analysed half the artefacts when the Armageddon and a Dominix appear 250 km from our position in the site. 'Go!' I shout to Fin, wanting to preserve our lives more than make ISK, and align my interceptor out of the site as a precaution. I hold, waiting for Fin to enter warp, but the Drake is bumping off the Sleeper structure and unable to align back to our wormhole. The two battleships warp in from their distant position to be right on top of Fin's Drake, causing me to burn hard for a few seconds to increase my separation, not wanting to lose my own ship for no reason. But the Drake's engines are disrupted and Fin is not going anywhere.
I warp to the wormhole home, jump, and get back to our tower as quickly as possible. But I only manage to swap to a Falcon recon ship and configure its ECM modules to counter the battleships by the time Fin says she has ejected from the Drake to get clear. The battlecruisers shields were gone and its capacitor sucked dry. There seemed little point in staying with the exploding ship. Fin's pod gets home safely, which is the important point. I muse that maybe the artefacts they can recover will pay for replacement ships and clones for those we popped and podded today, but Fin tells me that most of the artefacts were wrecked and unlikely even to pay for the cost of the clones.
And in ISK terms we did pretty well. I note with some chagrin that we recovered no loot from the Sleeper battleships, which gives the most profit, but probably not because the neighbours stole it and more because the wrecks were destroyed during the first bombing run against our Noctis. Despite that, we have nearly forty million ISK in Sleeper loot and salvage, and at least ten million more in modules recovered from the popped stealth bombers. I suppose I could have swapped from interceptor to ECM boat to better escort the analysing Drake, saving us the cost of replacing the battlecruiser, but that's always a decision made more easily in hindsight, and a fitted Drake is actually cheaper than a Noctis.
Moreover, we had an exciting and eventful evening. What started out as simple Sleeper combat turned out to be a night of combat and counter-combat with other capsuleers, protecting ourselves whilst we plundered what wasn't ours. We did well to remain aware of the threats and identify potential attack vectors. Although we couldn't prevent the attacks we countered them more than adequately, hitting our ambushers harder than they hit us, with only a single misstep in not changing our strategy occurring at the end of the evening. It doesn't sour the experience, though, and we both come away invigorated and happy to be pilots in w-space.