'The wormhole's dead', I tell Shev. Not that it really matters, I suppose, as scanning a system a minute after I collapsed a connection to a dead constellation is the same as scanning the system fresh. I don't think he's had his morning Quafe with added caffeine yet either, so I swap out of our shutter heavy interdictor and get back in to my covert Loki strategic cruiser and scan for the new wormhole myself. I killed the connection in the hopes of finding actual pilot ships, and jumping in to our new neighbouring class 3 w-space system makes me think I've found some. A Drake battlecruiser and Buzzard covert operations boat are on my directional scanner, and there isn't a tower in sight.
Unfortunately, there are no wrecks to accompany the Drake, and if the Buzzard is scanning and good at what he does the new K162 will be noticed and get the pilots alerted. But it's best to assume I remain covert until given good reason not to, so I move away from the wormhole and cloak, activating my passive system scanner as I do. Fourteen anomalies light up the system map ten seconds later, the Drake in none of them, but now d-scan is also showing me more battlecruisers. Two Drakes, a Myrmidon, Hurricane and Harbinger are all in the system, along with the Buzzard and a Noctis salvager. I still see no wrecks, though, and can't place the ships in a site. It seems likely that the ships have transited through their own connection in to this system, which would mean they are about to start engaging Sleepers. That's good for me, and bad for their Noctis.
I keep updating d-scan, narrowed down to roughly where the ships are in space, so that I can see when they move. It's possible they are waiting for their scout to complete a scan of the system, so I tell Shev and a newly arrived Fin to hold at home and hide, so that our system will appear empty if the scout takes a look. And now the fleet moves, with all but the Noctis warping to an anomaly. I think the salvager has cloaked, which is good to know but unimportant for my plans. I find the fleet easily enough and shadow it in the anomaly, getting myself in to a good position. I know it seems selfish to keep a Noctis kill to myself, but I fear jumping other ships in to the system will be spotted, particularly with the anomaly in range of our K162, and end up with no one getting a kill.
The fleet clears the anomaly easily enough, but not without warping some of the eight battlecruisers in and out of the site. I don't think they are randomly taking breathers either, and it looks very much like the ships are needing to give their tanks a break from Sleeper attention. It is tempting us to engage the weaker ships directly, instead of the undefended Noctis, but it remains eight of them to three of us and we can't be certain that the ships will scatter when engaged to make it unfair in our favour. I'm still aiming for the Noctis. No Sleepers remain and the fleet warps to a second anomaly, one more easily found than the first given that I watch the exit vector of the ships, but I remain and wait for the salvager. And I continue to wait for the salvager as the fleet rips more Sleepers to shreds.
Shev and Fin are ready to either pounce on a scout entering the home system or to join me in catching the Noctis's pod, but I don't think either are showing themselves yet. I move on from the cleared anomaly back to shadowing the fleet, making a monitoring point in the second anomaly. I can watch for the Noctis using d-scan and move to where the salvager is within seconds. Some of the battlecruisers are having the same troubles with their tanks as in the first site, so I call up information on the pilots. Some are veterans, at least several years as capsuleers, but others are new pilots, with maybe only a couple of month's experience of being in space. It looks to be a half-half split, although I've lagged behind the fleet enough that they warp out before I can interrogate two of the ships. Either way, there are some potentially very weak ships being flown.
The fleet moves to a third anomaly, and still the salvager doesn't show itself. We change our operation and aim to take down what ships we can of the fleet, whilst also stalking the salvager. And luck is on our side, as the fleet has moved to an anomaly out of d-scan range of the K162, letting Fin jump in with our cloaky Legion strategic cruiser, getting ready to pounce on the fleet as I return to watch for the Noctis. Shev has found himself a sturdy but cheap battlecruiser in our hangar, a ship we're not going to miss if we lose it, and will join Fin in her assault. When the Noctis appears we will strike simultaneously, inflicting as much damage and disruption as possible.
It really doesn't look like the salvager is coming out to play by himself, and attacking targets that can shoot back is rather more stimulating. I tell Fin I'm coming back to the third site, and we prepare to launch our assault at the fleet. I've already identified which ships look weak, and when I return to join Fin's cloaked Legion she asks me to 'pick a point and warp us in'. Okay, the Harbinger is our primary target. I warp us to within twenty kilometres, and we decloak our strategic cruisers in the middle of the fighting fleet, focussing our fire on the one battlecruiser as we call Shev to jump in to the system.
I get a positive lock on the Harbinger and disrupt his warp drive, burning to get close so that he doesn't escape. My autocannons rip through his shields a bit too easily, and rake the battlecruisers armour almost like it's not there. And soon after we start our assault the rest of the fleet have scattered like petals in the wind, leaving just us and the hapless Harbinger. So weak are the battlecruiser's defences that it explodes as Shev's ship warps in to the site, and makes me think that Fin and I should have chosen separate targets. We could probably have captured and popped two of the weak ships. Shev takes advantage of his late appearance to loot the wreck of the Harbinger, as Fin asks if I can get free. Yeah, no problem, the remaining Sleeper battleship has me webbed but isn't stopping me warping.
I get out of the site and start looking for where the fleet went. They have stayed in the C3 but aren't in the cleared sites or where I saw them originally. I think they've planted themselves on a wormhole where they think we've come from, but I can't know for sure without scanning. And as they know we're here it's probably safe to scan. I even get a quicker result as I have a bunch of ships for my probes to lock on to, and warp to see the fleet sitting on a K162 from high-sec empire space. So do they think we came from that direction? Either way, it makes little sense to sit on that wormhole waiting for us.
I move my probes to where I saw the fleet when I entered the system but find no wormhole, nor any particular site. If I had to guess, I'd say that they were using an already cleared and salvaged site as an impromptu safe spot. But as they are sat on a wormhole from high-sec, and there isn't another system to find, it looks like the fight is over. It was good fun and exciting, despite how easily we overcame the single battlecruiser, as you can never really know how a fleet will react. And I have to give credit to my colleagues, and Mick in particular, for spurring me on to engaging the fleet itself instead of yet another Noctis. Watching the ships' behaviour and getting information on the pilots was crucial for understanding the engagement and target selection.
But the fun's not over yet. The fleet may have an easy exit on the high-sec wormhole, but Fin realises it gives us an easy exit too. She takes Shev home, gets him in a Phobos HIC and her in a Golem marauder, and returns to the C3 to drop on the battlecruisers on the connection. 'They should jump out, right? How often do we get to throw billions of ISK at targets?' This is why she's our glorious leader. I've wasted a bit of time scanning and haven't given this much thought, which is why I am still in my Loki and not a torpedo-throwing Widow black ops ship, but I warp behind my colleagues as they land on the wormhole, bubble it to prevent the ships warping out, and start shooting.
It looks like mayhem, but one-sided mayhem. The battlecruiser fleet doesn't exit immediately and fires back, but the power of the Golem is overwhelming and one-by-one the ships of the fleet exit to high-sec to escape death. They all get out cleanly too, although the Myrmidon had a little more confidence in his tank than was warranted. If I hadn't been tardy in following we may have got another kill, although it may also have prompted the fleet in to leaving sooner. It's hard to tell. But they've gone, so I go home and swap to a destroyer to salvage the sites the old-school way. After all, there's no point in letting the wrecks in the cleared anomalies go to waste.
As I return to C3a to start salvaging the fleet's Noctis drops out of warp at the wormhole and jumps to high-sec, sadly after Shev has deflated his warp bubble. That's a shame, but doesn't dampen our spirits. I salvage the first two sites and wonder if the third is clear. No, not yet, but Fin's in our Sleeper-smashing Golem and takes it in to the anomaly to see first-hand what the marauder can do to battleships. She's is suitably impressed. It is quite a ship. And with the final Sleeper destroyed I take my destroyer in to sweep up, bringing home more loot and salvage.
We also realise that the corporation we engaged is a training corporation, which explains the mix of old and new pilots. 'We gave them a valuable training experience', says Fin, wondering if we should send them a bill for our efforts. We probably should, just for kicks, but with 120 Miskies gained from their efforts already ('the easiest three anomalies I've done', says Fin), the Harbinger kill, and a brawl on a wormhole, the evening hasn't left us wanting.