All looks clear at home, but only for a minute. I cloak, check my skill queue, and take a second look at my directional scanner to see a Tengu strategic cruiser and Drake battlecruiser are nearby. Tweaking d-scan's settings also finds Sleeper wrecks, showing definite signs that these two ships aren't just passing through. But a Drake and Tengu pair seem rather underpowered for class 4 w-space anomalies, so I suppose it's no surprise when another update of d-scan reveals what must be the rest of the fleet. Three Tengus, two Drakes, an Oracle battlecruiser, and Hurricane battlecruiser are now all visible, but only on d-scan. Opening my system map and scrutinising the anomalies here doesn't spot the ships in any of them. How curious, particularly as there isn't a Noctis salvager sweeping up behind them.
I warp closer to the centre of the system to see what else may be happening, and maybe find an answer. A single combat scanning probe is visible on d-scan, probably belonging to the fleet and most likely having detected my coming on-line in the home system before I could activate my Tengu's cloaking device. I would imagine the fleet returned to their K162 with the appearance of an unknown ship in the system, but now I'm cloaked and, presumably, their scout is reporting no new wormholes, which seems to placate the capsuleers. I have yet to regret my decision never to sleep in our tower. The fleet warps back to wherever they were, which being an active anomaly is now easy enough to find using the system map and d-scan. I think I'll shadow them and wait for their salvager to appear.
Stalking people in the home system is much easier than elsewhere. I have a good range of safe spots, at either end of the system and in the middle, as well as above and below the ecliptic plane. Keeping bookmarks for old wormholes that were found either high above or low below the ecliptic plane is really quite handy, as these are points that can't be made any other way and also allow warping in to sites from directions that are far less likely to end in collisions with ships or structures. I use a particularly eccentric safe spot to enter the first anomaly I see the fleet in, which now includes a Scimitar logistics ship. I make a suitable warp-in point for myself, far enough away so I can warp in and out of the site at will whilst still being on the same grid. I find it to be an excellent ambushing point.
I may have the advantage of being at home, but I have to assume the fleet knows I'm here. I'll need to be cautious should the opportunity arise to ambush a salvager, particularly as the fleet has an advantage over me. They know where their wormhole is and I don't, beyond a rough idea of where I can sit in d-scan range of it. This means they can bring ships in and out without me seeing them, except indirectly on d-scan. And d-scan doesn't update automatically, so it will take more updating than I care to do in the course of an evening for me to ensure no cloaky escort comes with their Noctis. That is if a Noctis eventually comes.
The first site is cleared and the fleet moves on. Most of the fleet, anyway. The Hurricane and Oracle stay behind as the rest of the fleet warps away, making me think they will be guarding the salvager. But I see no Noctis on d-scan, and no ship warps in to the cleared site. After a few minutes the two battlecruisers warp out to rejoin the fleet but still no Noctis comes. I may as well rejoin the fleet too. I move in to the second site, bouncing off an appropriate safe spot again, and make a second warp-in point for myself. This time when the site is clear the fleet warps out as one, which makes me realise that the two battlecruisers who stayed before were probably only taking a short break.
Following the fleet is easy. They are staying in ordinary anomalies, which are found using a passive sensor scan, and I see which direction they warp out of the current site to the next. I watch them clear a third anomaly, at which point one of the Drakes warps out early and disappears from d-scan, although I also briefly spot a Heron frigate, which is probably the source of the all-seeing combat scanning probe in the system. The Drake's exit could be him going to get a Noctis to start salvaging, or he could be tired or hungry. I keep updating d-scan to look for what ship replaces him but get bored of that pretty quickly. Instead I continue monitoring the fleet, following them to a fourth anomaly, when a Noctis appears on d-scan. Game on! And off! The Noctis disappears as soon as it appears. I see no salvaging yet.
I keep updating d-scan to look for the Noctis starting to salvage but see nothing, not even any escort ships surreptitiously entering the system and cloaking. The fleet are in the fifth anomaly when the Noctis reappears and persists on d-scan. It's trivial to locate him in the first anomaly I have bookmarked, and I warp to my monitoring point there. I note with interest that the fleet has the final wave of Sleepers to deal with in their current anomaly, which, despite their speed, should remain an immediate distraction for me to take a clean shot at the Noctis. I just have to hope there isn't a cloaky escort sneaked in to the system to thwart my nefarious plans.
I warp to the Noctis, decloak a few seconds before my engines cut out, and get my systems hot. I get a positive target lock and activate all offensive modules, disrupting the salvager's warp engines, slowing him down, and throwing volleys of missiles his way. The Noctis appears to be faster at salvaging than looting, with a handful of jet-cans littered around his ship full of Sleeper loot. I have little else to do at the moment—shooting the Noctis will take care of itself, and the fleet is in d-scan range already so my early warning consists solely of their ships appearing on-grid—so I take the opportunity to make some iskies whilst I hope I can break the Noctis quickly enough. I open a few cans and transfer the goods to my hold, getting only frigate loot but loot all the same.
It's not long before the Noctis explodes. I may not have had much influence beyond ensuring I keep shooting, but I kept an eye on the shields, then armour, then hull of the salvager as I was looting the cans. Everything was depleting nice and steadily. All I really wasn't sure about was whether I'd catch the pod or not. And I don't. He warps clear almost the instant the Noctis disintegrates. But that's okay, as it turns out, because it takes only a couple more seconds for the fleet to start warping in to the cleared site, now missing a Noctis. I am already cloaked—actually, mid-cloaking—and aligned to my monitoring point, which I return to safely to watch the response.
The fleet mills around in the site for a minute or so and apparently decides there is nothing for it to do there, and warps out again. They aren't giving up on our system, though, as they have warped back to the anomaly they were in. Two items need to be noted here. One, I am highly unlikely to take a shot at any second Noctis that comes in, as it will be guarded one way or another, and I really hope I've learnt my lesson about taking on prepared capsuleers. And two, the fools left the wreck of the Noctis unlooted. I'm having that.
The fleet has definitely gone, so I warp close to the wreck, approach it, and take a look inside. Mmm, sweet sweet bounty. It's not much loot, as the high-value salvage was destroyed, but I count about 66 Miskies of Sleeper loot now in my hold as I pop the wreck and return to my vantage point. Leaving the Noctis wreck unlooted was a sloppy move by the fleet.
With nothing else happening here I warp back to watch the fleet in the fifth site. They clear the site and one Tengu warps out, quite predictably going to get an escort for their next salvager. Then again, I say 'quite predictably', but it should have been predictable as soon as my ship appeared on their probes. On the one hand, I only glitched on the probe, I didn't appear at the local tower, and the scout probably sat on the wormhole reported no ships passing him and a lack of new wormholes in the system. On the other hand, a fleet of nine capsuleers could probably have spared one ship to act as an escort, even if it was just disposable tackle to hold an ambusher in place for the fleet to arrive. And, going back to the first hand again, when do probes ever glitch?
For the sake of engaging Sleepers slightly more efficiently, the fleet has lost a 60 Miskie Noctis, about 200 Miskies in salvage, and 66 Miskies in loot. That's probably worth one pilot not shooting Sleepers and potentially being bored protecting a Noctis. Sure, he'll whine about there being no one to protect the Noctis from, but that's the effect of deterrence. And although I'm not going to take a shot at this second Noctis that's appeared it looks like their loss is costing the fleet even more ISK. I spot an Enyo assault ship appear on d-scan at the same time as the Noctis. The specialist frigate is a curious escort by itself but it's not just the Enyo protecting the new Noctis, as the whole fleet is sitting guard now. Yes, instead of shooting Sleepers and creating more profit to reap, they are sitting idle and boring everyone instead of the one escort they could have afforded from the start.
I almost make a mistake here. With the fleet aware of me and effectively if really inefficiently guarding their salvager I think about scanning, either to find their K162 or our static wormhole. But that won't accomplish much. Instead, I can cost the fleet even more ISK for their foolishness. I realise that the site they are salvaging is out of d-scan range of one of the other cleared anomalies. I can steal some loot, if I'm careful. I warp across the system, confirm I'm out of d-scan range of any of the ships, and start picking my targets clean. I aim only for the high-value wrecks, the Sleeper battleships, and make use of my monitoring point and micro warp drive to move quickly between the wrecks. I manage to empty all six battleship wrecks of their loot a few seconds before the fleet warps in to start salvaging, at which point I'm am cloaked and a healthy distance away from them.
The fleet doesn't seem particularly stirred by my piracy. Maybe they don't realise that each battleship contains 7·5 Miskies of Sleeper loot, netting me 45 Miskies from just those six wrecks. 45 Miskies that they are not going to get. Maybe they are venting about it to each other, but they aren't doing anything about it. What can they do, you may be asking. They can send ships to the other cleared sites is a pretty good answer, because that's where I'm going. The fleet looks to be salvaging in a predictable manner, in the order they cleared the sites, and I always say that being predictable is bad for you in w-space. I pick the last cleared site and work backwards, giving me the most amount of safe time to pluck more battleship wrecks clean.
I clear the final site of battleship loot and manage to grab the contents of two battleship wrecks in the fourth site before the fleet finally catches up with me. That's okay, I am cloaked and pointed towards my monitoring spot, ready to bounce out and in to the next pair of wrecks, so I simply warp out and watch as they salvage. So that's fourteen wrecks in total that I loot without direct threat, making me 105 Miskies richer. And that makes the fleet poorer by about 430 Miskies in total, not counting time wasted, all for disregarding my ship appearing on their scout's probe. I have to wonder why they go to the effort of having a combat scanning probe monitor the system if they're only going to ignore it. Then again, I don't really care. I made out like a bandit! On top of that, I've not had a single systems crash. Now we just need to get Fin's connection stable again and we'll be copacetic.