I was thinking about having a night off from space and, as I find myself here anyway, my heart may not be in it as a result. But if there's one lesson I've learnt during my mercurial moods it's that I'm keen on exploration. There's no direct scanning that needs to be done currently, as Fin's ahead of me in our neighbouring system and bookmarks are already available, but a new system to visit is like a gift. My glorious leader reports a Vagabond cruiser and pod sitting at one of the three towers in the class 3 w-space system, and as I go to join her she tells me of a Ferox battlecruiser and battleship heading out to low-sec empire space through the C3's static wormhole.
My arrival means we can monitor one of the other two towers, as the Vagabond and pod don't seem active and we need to determine what activity it is we're seeing. As a pod returns from low-sec and a Rapier recon ship heads out it looks like ships are being exported, but where from? The local towers seem to remain empty as ships and pods fly backwards and forwards, launching scanning probes finds nothing in the C3 that Fin hasn't already scanned, and there are no other wormholes. Unless the ships are disappearing in to the vacuum, there is only one other route available to them. I jump back through our K162 and scan the home system.
One new signature is a ladar gas harvesting site, which I activate as I resolve a second signature, a K162 from class 5 w-space. Poking my nose through to take a look in the C5 has two Tengu strategic cruisers, two Orca industrial command ships, a Noctis salvager, and a partial tower visible on d-scan. I locate the skeletal tower to see the Tengus and Noctis piloted, the Orcas not, all ships sitting in the completely undefended force field in front of a ship maintenance array and nothing more. This looks like the source of the ships being exported.
Finding the source of the activity gives us advantages. We can engage on the wormhole connecting the C5 to our home, or our home to the C3, or even the C3 to low-sec, giving us plenty of opportunities to chase, should we need them. We can also monitor the tower directly and see what ships are being exported before having to make a quick estimation as a ship decloaks on a wormhole. At the moment, it looks like we'll be meeting a Tengu or two, or a Noctis. As I relay this information to Fin and watch for movements a new contact warps in to the bare tower in a Helios covert operations boat. He didn't come from the direction of the wormhole so it's unlikely he's been scouting the route. We probably remain undetected.
The first Tengu warps out of the tower towards the wormhole. I alert Fin but she's still in the C3 and most likely in the wrong ship. Even so, my glorious leader tries to give chase, but loses the Tengu as it jumps to low-sec. That's okay, we have a second Tengu to wait for and it would probably be better to tackle it by itself anyway. Fin returns home, swaps her covert Tengu for a covert ship-killing Legion strategic cruiser, and plants herself on the K162 in our home system. Now we wait. The second Tengu moves but doesn't warp. It crawls out of the tower's force field, giving me a tempting target considering the lack of defences on the tower, but it doesn't get anywhere near the kind of range from the tower it would need to be for us to be able to pop it before it could get back. We need a clearer shot.
It looks like we may not get that clear shot at a solo Tengu, as a pod returns to the tower after dropping off the first one. The pilot boards an Apocalypse battleship, but is only settling in to the ship as the second Tengu finally warps. I tell Fin to get ready, as this is our target, and she decloaks as I warp behind the Tengu towards the wormhole. I drop short of the wormhole, so that I don't decloak and potentially spook our target early, and I want to hold in this system to start with anyway. If Fin catches the Tengu it may want to jump back to try to catch Fin off-guard, and if he does I'll be here waiting. If he instead returns fire I can hop in to the home system to help Fin. It looks like she may need some help too, because as I approach the wormhole cloaked the Apocalypse drops out of warp and follows behind the Tengu.
With the Apocalypse and Tengu gone from the system I decloak my Tengu and prepare my systems, so that I'm ready for whatever comes my way. I am waiting for Fin's call that the Tengu is caught and fighting back, ready to jump through the wormhole, when the unexpected happens. The Noctis that was at the tower drops out of warp on to the wormhole too. I'm getting a bit of a reputation, as it seems the salvagers can't help but throw themselves at me, and this really isn't helping. We'd both eyed-up the pilot as a target for having an obnoxious name but would have let her go in favour of engaging a combat ship, but it seems that all three ships entered warp before their vanguard could relay information about the Legion waiting on the other side of their static wormhole.
Fin's got the Tengu and says it's clear for me to jump, but I can't resist popping the Noctis first. I lock on, disrupt its warp engines, and start shooting. I'm not surprised that the salvager doesn't fancy jumping through the wormhole to the firefight on the other side, but she's not going back to the tower here if I can help it. I accelerate to ramming speed and give the Noctis a nudge, in case she has warp core stabilisers fitted, and one nudge is all it takes to keep the salvager around long enough for it to burst in a satisfying explosion. I aim for the pod but it warps clear, so with my personal vendetta against salvagers cleared I jump home to help Fin.
The Tengu is certainly pinned down, and it and the Apocalypse are shooting back. My arrival surprisingly calms the situation down a little, as the battleship turns tail and heads back to the C5, leaving us the strategic cruiser to pick apart, which was what we wanted in the first place. But the Tengu returns to the C5 too, so we both follow. The Tengu still has nowhere to go on the other side of the wormhole, and as he's now polarised he has even fewer options available. The Apocalypse has warped away and I'm aware that he could return in a different ship, as could the Noctis pilot, and potentially the Helios pilot too. I suppose it all rather depends on what ships they've already exported and what's left in their hangar.
I'm updating d-scan regularly, watching and expecting a new ship to be brought to bear. And here he comes, a Rook recon ship now visible, no doubt planning to use its ECM to break our target locks on the Tengu to let him warp clear. The Rook warps in just as the Tengu's polarisation effects end, as he finds he can jump through the wormhole again, shields looking perilously low. Fin follows but I'm stuck, having joined the fray late and left a minute to kill with the Rook before I can jump again. Fin chases the Tengu but it slips away from her, and all the Rook does to me is jam my systems. I take a moment to loot the Noctis wreck on the wormhole, shooting it once the Rook gets bored of jamming me and doing nothing else and warps away.
Pocket clear, I cloak and return to watch the tower for further movements. The Tengu taunts Fin before as it leaves for low-sec, saying 'I'm passive, rats are scarier than you', pointing out that our energy neutralisers weren't as effective as we'd hoped. But if rats routinely knock his Tengu's shields down to 30% and has his colleague rush to get a Rook to save him, I recommend he switches to an active tank. Still, it was a good fight and close at the end. But that's probably our one chance, as when the pod returns the pilots board a Vigilant cruiser and Arazu recon ship. That's my sign to leave the system before I can't, and I head home.