They might be on to me. I've not ambushed a planet goo-collecting hauler in quite a while, which makes me think I've got to shake my routine up a bit in order to surprise them again. So I am in space earlier than usual in the hopes of catching a pilot or two out and about. There's no one obviously in the home system, but a stray signature resolves to be a K162 from class 2 w-space, which is a good start to my afternoon. I also resolve our static connection but don't visit it, simply bookmarking the cosmic signature for now, electing first to see what's happening in the C2.
A combat probe is visible on my directional scanner on the other side of the wormhole. I move and cloak, hoping that I manage to do so in the window when the probe is not actively scanning, only to then burn over the invisible and therefore unavoidable cosmic signature. The otherwise uninteractable singularity decloaks me, making me visible once more to the combat probe, and I have to quickly reactivate my cloak and, once more, hope my timing is lucky. If it is, it's luckier than my manoeuvring. Now I can explore and see who's seen me. Warping across the system finds a full five towers, along with a Tengu strategic cruiser, Omen cruiser, Helios and Cheetah covert operations boats, and a Bestower hauler.
Well, I say I find the towers and ships. What actually happens is that I see the five towers on d-scan, but by the time I've located each of them around their specific moon the Helios has disappeared, swiftly followed by the Omen and Tengu. The two remaining ships float empty inside a tower's force field. I can't find the missing ships elsewhere in the system, which I suppose is why they are missing, leaving me with nothing to stalk and a scout or two potentially stalking me. I turn tail to leave the system and run over the cosmic signature again as I return to the wormhole, making me as visible on d-scan as the Ishkur assault frigate that is now wandering around. I would care more if there was much I could do about the Ishkur, but as he keeps bouncing around planets I can't even see if he's local. I jump home.
Warping across the home system takes me to our static wormhole, and I jump to the class 3 w-space system beyond. A tower and no ships is what I expect to see on d-scan, although I really wanted to see a vulnerable hauler too, preparing to make its rounds. Still, an empty system gives me a chance to resolve all the sites here for potential ambushes later, and is appreciated when I realise there is nowhere I can get to that is out of d-scan range of the tower to launch probes covertly. With no one home it doesn't matter so much. Scanning is straightforward, with one anomaly and ten signatures to bookmark, giving me rocks, rocks, rocks—is it all rocks? If it is, I may be wasting my time resolving sites the locals never intend to visit.
There's more than rocks here, thankfully. Then again, there's nothing interesting about a K162 from high-sec empire space that's reaching the end of its life, apart from the mighty warp bubble that's encapsulating it. Some gas harvesting sites aren't great either, but they break up the monotony of the rocks, and I am left with a static exit to low-sec and one radar site. I exit w-space to be in a system in the Khanid region, where scanning reveals six signatures. That's promising. I've seen enough rocks, thank you, and the radar sites would be mildly interesting if there weren't other pilots in the system, but two wormholes is nice. An EOL K162 from deadly class 6 w-space isn't as enticing as I was expecting, though, and neither is a K162 from more class 3 w-space that is also EOL.
I poke my nose in to C6a just to see if some soft target is being silly, but there is nothing on d-scan. That's good enough for me, as I don't relish being isolated from the home system and having to scan my way home from a C6, so I return to low-sec and warp across to and jump through the wobbly K162 from C3b. Entering the C3 won't be so risky, because if the wormhole collapses I can simply scan the new one and be spat back out to a different low-sec system. And that's good, because jumping in to C3b sees a Drake battlecruiser and Apocalypse battleship on d-scan, along with two canisters labelled with ammunition types. That's odd. I would be surprised if there is a duel in progress between these two ships, but why drop ammunition in w-space? You can just shoot each other without having to provoke an aggression by stealing. More must be going on.
More is going on. The two ships drop off d-scan, and warping across the system finds them along with a Tengu strategic cruiser, as well as some Sleeper wrecks. I have found activity! All I need now is for the combat fleet not to be salvaging as it goes. A passive scan picks up six anomalies, and the fleet is in one of them, which is good. I also need to check the other side of the system for occupation before I do anything impetuous, and doing so finds a tower but no more ships. I make a note of the owner corporation and warp back to get eyes on the fleet, as it would be good to know if they are local or not too. Warping in to the anomaly at a safe distance shows that the fleet isn't local, which is good, and that there is no looting or salvaging happening, which is excellent.
That's interesting. There are more wrecks in the system than in this site, and taking a proper look at d-scan shows a Caldari battlecruiser wreck amongst them. I have a bit of time before this site is cleared, so I check the other anomalies and find the wreck. It looks like this fleet has been here a little while and tried a different anomaly to start with, but called in a second wave of Sleepers early and found them a bit tough to handle. Now they've got a new battlecruiser and are trying again, but they're not doing too well still. The ships warp out of the active anomaly whilst I am trying to make a suitable monitoring point in it. They drop off d-scan, but I pick them up again when I return to the exit to low-sec, d-scan placing them some 7 AU away, near another planet. They must be retreating to a wormhole, and I think I'll scan for that.
I launch probes near the empty tower, out of range of any of the ships, and get them out of the system. I warp back to monitor the ships, and when they've dropped off d-scan again I start looking for the wormhole. It's pretty obvious, there being only two signatures in the whole system, and knowing where to look makes resolving it pretty easy. I recall my probes and warp to what turns out to be a K162 from high-sec. O-ho, I'm dealing with tourists. What I don't yet know, though, is whether the ships returned to the anomaly or bugged out back to high-sec. That is soon determined, by warping back to my monitoring point in the anomaly, where the ships indeed are. This is working out nicely. All I need now is for a Noctis to appear.
With one Sleeper left in the site, the Drake warps out and reappears with the salvager I've been waiting for. The only problem is that the Drake, Tengu, and Apocalypse don't move on to another site, perhaps frustrated enough with w-space already and just wanting their loot, leaving the Noctis guarded. Still, it doesn't look too bad for me. The Tengu does nothing, the Apocalypse scoops an abandoned drone and then does nothing, and although the Drake looks to be shadowing the Noctis to start with the battlecruiser soon drops off to create a significant gap between the ships. The Sleeper wrecks also take the Noctis away from the Drake and Tengu, leaving only the Apocalypse close enough to cause trouble.
I would bet these ships don't have warp disruptors fitted, and if they do I can easily burn away from a battleship in my covert Tengu, which is the only ship close enough to be a threat. I don't normally ambush ships under guard, but the situation looks benign enough, the pilots are from high-sec, and they don't seem to be used to w-space. I'm going to take a shot. I don't warp directly to the Noctis but just close enough to see what it looks like in person, as my monitoring point is sufficiently distant to distort the view. When I get in range all looks peachy. The Tengu and Drake are too far to be any real threat, and the Apocalypse is welcome to take a few pot-shots at me if it wants to. I decloak, burn towards the Noctis, and get my systems hot.
I get a positive lock on the salvager and start shooting, disrupting its warp engines to prevent it escaping. As expected, the two distant ships don't even lock on to me, and the battleship aggresses and shoots back, but he only really scratches my shields. The Noctis can't withstand my assault missiles for long and explodes with a bright flash, ejecting the pilot's pod in to space. I aim for the pod but it evades me, so I loot the Noctis as I align out of the site and warp back to my monitoring point, cloaking as I do. By the time I turn around to look the Apocalypse and Drake are gone, as is the pod, leaving only the Tengu and wreck of the Noctis. Job's a good 'un!
As well as being patient and cautious, my ambush was inadvertently efficient. I have a tendency to shoot first and think about loot second, but this time the path of the Noctis and the position of the other ships meant I struck when the salvager was looting the final wreck. I looted all that survived from the explosion, which at about fourteen million ISK may not be much but it's ISK that the high-seccers won't be seeing. I also destroyed their sixty million ISK Noctis, which looks like it had been active in empire space before coming to die in w-space, and they probably lost forty million ISK of battlecruiser in an aborted earlier attempt at engaging Sleepers. It's been an expensive expedition for these pilots.
I warp across to the K162 in time to see the pod and Tengu return to high-sec, leaving empty handed. And as well as getting lucky with my exploration I am lucky in getting home. The ageing static connection to low-sec in this C3 is still there after stalking the fleet, letting me return to low-sec and then C3a and the home system without having to scan or use a stargate. I would say I've been successful this afternoon. Seeing no one from the C2 in our system, I go off-line for a deserved sammich.