It's all quiet in the home system, I've little choice but to scan. Well, I suppose I could shoot rocks or gas or... so, I've little choice but to scan. But even scanning can't have me avoid running in to gas, with two new ladar sites cropping up, making our system look quite busy with signatures at the moment. And even though running in to gas doesn't really hurt, the Sleeper cruisers waiting to shoot me in one of the sites could leave a scorch mark or two. A quick excursion in a battlecruiser pops the cruisers and nets me some ammunition iskies, leaving me free to explore our w-space constellation.
The neighbouring class 3 system looks interesting, with nine ships visible on my directional scanner. There are no wrecks, though, and as a passive scan of the system reveals a whopping twenty-six anomalies I don't think the locals are particularly active. Having only been in this C3 two months ago lets me confirm the tower is in the same place as before, where I see all of the ships floating pilot-free. That removes all their power of intimidation. I warp out to launch probes and scan, picking up twenty-one signatures to go with all the anomalies. The locals don't shoot Sleepers, and they don't mine rocks or harvest gas. They are some lazy bastards.
Sifting through the signatures finds the usual gas, rocks, and radar sites, with nothing of interest beyond the static exit to low-sec empire space. Jumping to low-sec puts me in the Bleak Lands, which doesn't feel like much of a change from the C3 but at least there are other capsuleers in the system. Quite a few, in fact, including a Broadsword heavy interdictor, Loki strategic cruiser, Stiletto interceptor, and Hurricane battlecruiser all on d-scan. I prudently make a safe spot before launching probes to scan. There's only one other signature in the system and, luckily for me, it's another wormhole, a K162 from more class 3 w-space. Glorious leader Fin's turned up and is preparing to follow behind me when I see a Tengu strategic cruiser decloak in low-sec and jump to C3b, before I get close enough to do the same.
I wasn't quite expecting that. I falter for a moment, then let Fin know what happened, and follow the Tengu. I may not be able to pop it myself but if Fin's hot on my heels then all I need to do is hold the Tengu in place. Sadly, all I can do on entering C3b is watch the Tengu warp away from the wormhole. I was too slow. I update d-scan to see no sign of the Tengu, probably meaning he isn't local, particularly as a tower is in range. I would like to think the Tengu was scouting the exit for a logistics run, but my bad timing in being too slow to catch him but just quick enough for my entrance to be noted probably means no haulers will be coming this way. I may as well scan for wormholes.
Two K162s stand out nicely from the background noise of sixteen anomalies and seven signatures, one from class 2 w-space and one from class 5 w-space. As I drop out of warp on the C5 K162 I see the Tengu again, as it once more decloaks and jumps on my arrival. It seems plausible that he was watching my scanning probes converge on the wormhole and then disappear, as if recalled, almost as if he's baiting me in to following him. I have Fin in C3b with me now, in a Legion strategic cruiser, so we could take down the Tengu easily enough, but maybe not a waiting fleet. And even though I am tempted to take a look in the C5 this is enough to get Fin nervous for me, and she's normally the one who is pushing for engagements.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I jump to the C5. What I see is nothing, but only for a second or two, then the Tengu reappears and jumps back to the C3. It's almost as if it was waiting for me to follow so that it could evade me. I alert Fin and tell her to engage, as I hold in the C5 in case it jumps back. The Tengu escapes the Legion's recalibrating sensors and warps clear, Fin trying to follow, and I jump back to the C3 just as a second Tengu drops out of warp on to the wormhole. I'm having issues with my sense of timing again tonight. I hold in the C3 on the wormhole but the Tengu doesn't jump, so I follow Fin to the C2 K162, where she thinks the first Tengu went.
Fin jumps to the C2 to have a poke around. Not wanting to be thwarted by decloaking delays again, I decloak my Tengu now so that I am ready for any running Tengu. We don't see one, although there are ships in the C2. Fin warps around and finds them, only for them to be blue-ish to us and probably not valid targets. Meanwhile, a Tengu blips on and off d-scan in the C3, indicative of a ship making wormhole jumps. But before too long I am called by name in the local communication channel. This means two things. First, the pilot must be near the wormhole, as ship names do not betray capsuleer names. Second, I've been recognised!
It turns out my readers are an intelligent bunch, not willing to decloak when given only a vague impression that I may not shoot their flattering self. It turns out we are looking in the wrong direction, which I suppose should be obvious given I first saw the Tengu in the low-sec system. This Tengu has been scouting for other ships, one of which was carrying a few billion ISK in loot. That would have been quite a prize. It seems the way our ships crossed was purely coincidental and not by design. Now he's finished his logistics and just fancies a chat, and who am I not to oblige? Fin returns from the C2 and we stalk C3b a little longer, in case more ships are passing through and I'm being bluffed, but I don't think I am. More ships are coming, though, as it seems our friend has attracted more attention.
The pointy ships in low-sec must have seen the Tengu scout moving ships back and forth, as they have since found the wormhole leading in to this C3 and are taking a look around. As I sit on the U210, thinking about heading home, the wormhole flares and a Manticore appears. That should be small fry for my Tengu but I am also not prepared, and my decloaking would give the stealth bomber more than adequate time to cloak or jump back to low-sec. And it's good I do nothing, as a Hurricane battlecruiser appears shortly after the Manticore cloaks, jumping back to low-sec once its session change cloak dissolves. Another wormhole flare brings a rather scary Arazu recon ship in to the C3, making it clear that the low-sec pirates have found the wormhole and are looking for a juicy ship to pop.
As we can't leave the way we came just yet, and as my new friend tells me there are more wormholes to discover in this C3, I warp out, launch probes, and return to scanning. And he's not wrong, as six of the seven signatures here are wormholes, my scanning resolving outbound connections to class 1, class 2, and class 4 w-space, along with the two K162s already resolved, with the final signature being a ladar site. I think we have time to poke our noses in to the systems to look for an opportunistic kill. The C1 is occupied but inactive, a single tower holding no ships. The C2 is much the same as the C1, but with an unpiloted Orca floating inside the tower's shields.
The C4 shows some initial promise, with scanning probes converging on the K162 I'm sitting on, but they soon diverge and disappear without any ship making itself known. Fin waits patiently in the C3 as I scout each system, hoping as I do for someone to shoot, but we come away empty-handed. At least we've passed enough time for the pirates to get bored and move on, letting us bridge across the low-sec system back to C3a, where there remains no activity, and jump home. It's been a good evening. A boring-looking C3 opened out across low-sec to become an exciting hunt-or-hunted operation.