Home's really empty now. There are only two anomalies and two radar sites, along with the static wormhole. It's good to be able to check for incoming connections quickly, and satisfied that there are none today I jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. A clear return from my directional scanner coupled with a small system makes this C3 unoccupied and inactive. A previous visit lets me know I'm looking for a static exit to null-sec k-space, which could be the opportunity I've been waiting for to increase my security status. It could take a while to realise the opportunity, though, as there are over thirty signatures scattered around the system. K346 wormholes also have relatively weak signatures, making them time-consuming to find, particularly amongst radar and magnetometric sites.
Then again, at least I know what type of static wormhole I'm looking for and its signature type. My spider sense tingles and I pluck the wormhole out of the noise on a first attempt. Excellent, I think I can stop there too. I jump through the connection to a system in the Providence region, but one that has other pilots present, which makes ratting in anomalies rather inadvisable. I suppose I'll have to wait for the next opportunity before I can take advantage of the good quality rats to be found in null-sec space. I return to w-space and, as glorious leader Fin is now here, consider collapsing our static wormhole to start exploration from scratch, but there are scanning probes in the C3. Maybe there is another wormhole to find. I launch my own probes to find out.
I'm not as lucky at finding the wormhole this time as I was with the K346, to the point where I don't think there is one to find. And even though the last signature in the system is revealed to be of 'unknown' type it is far too weak to be a K162, and warping to it shows the wormhole to be an N968, an outbound connection to more class 3 w-space. That's odd, as wormholes need to be opened from the originating side, so this N968 couldn't have brought a new pilot in to the system. That is, unless a fleet came through this C3 earlier, opened the connection, then collapsed their own static wormhole, which is elaborate but possible, and could explain why there are only nine anomalies in a system with so many other signatures.
The other probes in the system disappear but I see no ship, making me none the wiser about where the pilot came from. I ignore him and jump to C3b to continue exploring. The second C3 holds little of interest, a tower with no ships on the outer planet and one anomaly to accompany four signatures. I resolve rocks, gas, and the static wormhole, this one leading to low-sec empire space, a system in the Domain region. A couple of piratical-looking capsuleers are warping between stargates in the low-sec system but soon leave, at which point I scan and find no more wormholes but a couple of sites to plunder. I could still gain some security status here, and Fin is happy to help by bringing out a ship fitted with a codebreaker module for us to make a handful of iskies too. But as she warps across C3a to join me Fin spots a Drake battlecruiser in the system.
Not fitted with a cloak, Fin jumps out of C3a to keep herself as concealed as possible, although ending up rather conspicuous should the inhabitants of C3b wake up. I ignore low-sec and head back to see if we can get the jump on the Drake, a far more rewarding target than a few rats. Considering that C3a is unoccupied the Drake pilot can't be local, and it looks like he's come in from null-sec. It's likely he's the source of the earlier probes too, because he's not in one of the anomalies yet Sleeper wrecks are on d-scan. I wish I'd taken time to bookmark some of the magnetometric sites now. I can still find him, but I'll need to use combat scanning probes. Ironically enough, the only place in this small system where I can launch probes out of range of the Drake is at the wormhole to null-sec, his entrance to this system potentially being his downfall. Even so, launching probes is merely the first step.
I warp closer to where the Drake seems to be and start narrowing down his position using d-scan. I note with interest that the number of Sleeper wrecks doesn't seem to be increasing, making me wonder if he's being peculiar and has come to w-space to harvest gas in his battlecruiser, but when a small wreck is replaced by a medium wreck I realise that he is salvaging as he shoots, a self-contained profit-making machine. At least that could keep him occupied enough to not notice my probes on d-scan once I'm ready to scan for him. And I am ready. I've got good bearing and range information, and have positioned my probes in a standard pattern around where I think he is. I warp back to the N968, where Fin waits on the other side, and tell her to jump in and hold the session change cloak.
I call my probes in, they scan the volume of space I've assigned to each of them, and I wait for the results. And I start to tense up. It's not just that I am hoping for an accurate first result, but I know that I have to react quickly to whatever result I get. If I get a solid hit I want to recall my probes immediately, so that they spend as little time in space as possible. If I don't get a solid hit I'll need to make an adjustment and scan again. I don't want to recall my probes if I haven't found my target, as doing so will mean having to relaunch and, more importantly, reposition them all over again. Both likelihoods require a different reaction, both requiring a quick and accurate assessment of the scan results and an action performed on the probes. Interpreting the scan results is almost as important as the result itself.
The result is good. The magnetometric site itself is a little fuzzy still, which is only to be expected for such a weak signature, but the Drake is lit up by my probes, giving me a solid hit. I recall the probes, bookmark the Drake's scanned position for reference, and warp our two ships in to the site. I decloak my Tengu strategic cruiser as we are in warp, not wanting the recalibration delay to cause problems once I am there, particularly considering that only my ship has a warp disruptor module fitted. Fin's borrowed Loki strategic cruiser may have had its warp disruptor removed when I asked for the codebreaker to be fitted. I hope that request doesn't come back to bite me. And as the Loki isn't cloaky Fin will be visible on d-scan to the Drake, so my being cloaked won't give us an edge.
We drop out of warp to see the Drake still shooting Sleepers and salvaging wrecks, and not far from his scanned position. Even better, there is only a single Sleeper cruiser currently in the site that could cause us problems. We pounce on the battlecruiser, my Tengu disrupting his warp engines, and both of us start shooting. The hunt is effectively over and we have been successful. Now we are fighting, and we have a different challenge to overcome. The Drake is renowned for its passive shield tank, and it's possible we won't have the combined firepower to overcome it. Seeing that the Sleepers have so far barely scratched the Drake, the battlecruiser having 95% shields or so when we engage, is not encouraging.
Our own firepower is rather more devastating than a few Sleepers, though, and the Drake's shields drop steadily, if not quickly. I keep updating d-scan to see if the Drake is calling for and getting any help from null-sec, but no other ships appear in the system. It remains just the three of us. But we reach the point where we have to decide how we become two ships. If we can overcome the optimal recharge rate of the shields then we can destroy the Drake, leaving me and Fin with a kill. If we can't, we'll have to let the Drake go free. Both of us overheat our weapons systems to increase the rate of fire, piling on the damage as the shields waver around the 30% mark, watching as the heat degrades our systems and the Drake's shields barely change. But there they go, dropping below 30% and continuing to fall. We have broken the battlecruiser.
Once the shields are down there is little left to protect the Drake, and its armour and hull are disintegrated in a few volleys. The pilot realises this is the case too and ejects before the battlecruiser explodes, but just barely. I try to snare the fleeing pod but he is quick enough to warp clear and make it back to null-sec safely. That's okay, hunting and destroying his ship is a decent achievement for us and we're both really pleased with the result. We loot the Drake, noting the full complement of Tech II shield extenders and rechargers, getting a bit of Sleeper loot too for our efforts, before shooting the wreck and warping clear ourselves.
That was a good fight. It could have gone differently had the Drake shot my Tengu instead of concentrating on Fin's Loki, but he couldn't have known our fits. I was passively tanked and covertly configured, more likely to be broken than the Loki and fitted with the sole warp disruptor between our two ships. But he saw the Loki as a more viable target, and if I had been in an actively tanked combat Tengu he probably would have been right. The Drake could also have popped the remaining Sleeper cruiser to bring in a new wave of ships, assuming there was another wave to come, which would then just as likely target us as him and perhaps force us to disengage. But maybe he didn't realise this, not being a w-space denizen.
Fin returns home as I warp to the wormhole to null-sec. I sit cloaked watching the connection for activity, but none comes. It looks like the Drake was working alone and simply wanted to take advantage of w-space for to generate some ISK. Satisfied that no one else will make an appearance I head home and join Fin at the tower, where we both repair the heat damage on our modules, ready for the next fight. That will be another day, though.