A new static wormhole leads to another boring-looking system. I renewed our static wormhole to isolate ourselves from an occupied but empty class 3 w-space system, where the only indication of activity happened when I was pushing the Orca through the wormhole to collapse it. Now I'm looking at my directional scanner and seeing a tower and Chimera in this C3, and I'd be amazed if the carrier turned out to be piloted. At least d-scan doesn't span this entire system from any point like it did the last, giving me more to explore. I warp away from the wormhole and proximity to the tower so that I can launch scanning probes.
My attempt to get out of d-scan range of one tower, crossing 60 AU to do so, only bumps me in to another. There are no ships on d-scan to go with this tower, although I note the presence of a couple of core scanning probes, so something could be happening here. Core probes won't detect my ship either, so I feel safe launching probes, as long as I try again to get out of d-scan range of the towers here. I warp towards the centre of the system, where I don't see any more towers but a fleet of ships instead. Two Megathron battleships, three Typhoon battleships, a Loki strategic cruiser, Oeniros logistics ship, Guardian logistics ship, and Noctis salvager are all out and about, and there are Sleeper wrecks somewhere. That's actually quite exciting.
As soon as I drop out of warp I punch my on-board scanner to get a passive reading on all the anomalies in the system, but I am thinking about the core scanning probes I've seen. The size of the fleet, the number of wrecks on d-scan, and the Noctis already being present all suggest that they haven't just arrived, and so I must have opened our static wormhole in to this system after they started shooting Sleepers. That will mean the K162 will appear as a new signature, and perhaps rather obviously. I suppose that will depend on how many other signatures there are in the system and how far the scout has progressed in scanning. But in the worst case, the scout has already scanned and ignored all signatures, so that the new K162 shines like a warning beacon.
Ambushing the Noctis here may be a dangerous proposition, depending on what the fleet is now expecting, and there's no way I can tell without giving it a go. First, I need to find the fleet to find the Noctis, as none of the eight anomalies my scan revealed holds the Noctis currently. One of them has the fleet, though. I warp in to take a look and see the ships efficiently despatching the Sleepers. So efficient that they can afford to spare a pilot to guard the Noctis? I'll soon find out, as the last Sleeper in this site explodes and the Noctis warps in. Most of the fleet has already left for the next anomaly, leaving two battleships and the Oneiros.
The three ships stay in the site probably as a guide for the Noctis and not to watch over the ship as it salvages. Indeed, with the arrival of the Noctis the three combat and support ships warp out one-by-one. I wasn't so much expecting this as hoping for it, but either way I am already aligned at speed and waiting to see the ships leave. Before that last ship even clears the site I am in warp to the Noctis. I decloak moments before dropping out of warp and get my systems hot, more nervous about this ambush than I have been for a long while. I have no idea whether my presence is known or inferred, what cloaked guard there may be here with the Noctis, or what the response time of the fleet will be. I've pretty much only just got here myself and haven't even had the opportunity to shadow the fleet to see how they operate. I'll soon find out.
I lock on to the Noctis and disrupt its warp engines, activating my missile launchers as I do. The salvager forgets his job in hand and tries to flee, but I have a solid grip on his ship. I keep updating d-scan, having reduced its range, as I'm only interested in seeing if the fleet gets closer, but no ships look to be warping in to help their colleague. The shields of the Noctis are evaporated, its armour shredded, and hull ripped apart. The pilot's pod is ejected in to space in the explosion, but he's expecting it and flees from my continued attentions. And I flee too. I ignore the wreck of the Noctis, too concerned about the fleet to risk getting tangled in cloak-interfering wrecks, and return to a safe point where I can watch the aftermath.
Nothing happens. Maybe because I cloak my Tengu strategic cruiser so soon after the Noctis explodes, giving them no one to chase, or maybe because they really weren't expecting me and don't know what else to expect. D-scan shows me drones being recalled, but still the fleet doesn't show. Instead, they leave the system, or at least the volume of space covered by d-scan. Now looks like a good time to loot the Noctis. I warp in, approach the wreck, and hit the jackpot! This wasn't the first site the Noctis has salvaged, and I transfer around a hundred million ISK in loot from the wreck to my hold, and about another hundred million ISK in salvage that, for once, survives the explosion. Judging by the space dust, another two hundred million ISK was destroyed, which makes this quite an expensive Noctis kill. Excellent.
I should probably explore a bit. I feel quite safe launching probes from my vantage point in this cleared anomaly, and performing a blanket scan shows that our K162 probably wasn't spotted by the scout whose probes I saw. There may only be sixteen signatures here, but if the scout was only mid-way through his scanning, and because of the separation between the planets, the new signature could easily have been missed or overlooked. Even so, I couldn't know for sure and the ambush really got my heart pumping! I start resolving signatures, looking for the wormhole the fleet used, as there is only the Chimera now in the system, and think I've found it when a Dominix battleship appears on my probes along with the wormhole.
Warping to the connection sees a K162 from deadly class 6 w-space. It tickles me to think that I popped a Noctis from such a high-class w-space system, but when the Dominix reappears, no doubt collapsing the wormhole, the name and corporation don't match with that of the fleet I just frustrated. That would make this wormhole another point of threat for the fleet here, particularly with at least one active pilot on the other side. More scanning reveals more wormholes. A K162 from high-sec empire space that has been destabilised to half-mass is probably how the fleet got in to this C3, particularly as the other two wormholes I find are a healthy static exit to high-sec and a K162 from class 4 w-space reaching the end of its life.
I pop out through the static exit to a system in the Placid region, far from any hub and not useful for much. I return to C3a and check beyond the K162 to high-sec to appear in the Domain region, and only two hops from Amarr and nine from Jita. That's pretty convenient. It means Fin's coming home too, which is good news indeed. Returning to C3a has the K162 from class 6 w-space collapsed and gone, and I'm not going to bother looking behind the EOL K162 to the C4.
As I don't think the fleet will be back, I'll continue to profit from their efforts. I head home and ditch my Tengu for a salvaging destroyer, returning to C3a to sweep up the wrecks left in the cleared anomaly. All is quiet as I snatch the loot from the wrecks and salvage the twisted metal hulls, and I take home another thirty-three million ISK in loot and salvage. I store the extra profit with the other two hundred million I scored from popping the Noctis, and kick back to relax after a successful evening of w-space piracy.