A glitch has me off-line for a few days, and now I'm back and wondering how much has changed. Maybe some buttons have been moved, or wormholes have stopped existing, and perhaps I can blame any of this for whatever shortcomings I'll have this evening. One change I notice when scanning is that some gas has been replaced by rocks. I suspect that's more the usual churn of sites than a galaxy-wide upheaval, but we'll see. Otherwise, I start alone as usual and with just the static wormhole as an exit. I resolve the connection and jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system.
This looks like a nice find already, with two Retriever mining barges appearing on my directional scanner potentially giving me some industrialists to chew on as a refresher. There is also an Orca industrial command ship, Ferox battlecruiser, Noctis salvager, and tower visible, and an update of d-scan has the Retrievers missing. I will assume that they've headed to a gravimetric site and that the hunt is on! A quick check of my notes puts me in this system six weeks ago, and the tower and a static exit to high-sec are listed. Well, a tower, not the tower, because it isn't where I expect it to be.
As I locate the tower the number of Retrievers on d-scan spikes to four, but by the time I'm floating outside the force field looking at a piloted Orca there are no mining barges to be seen. There is a Cheetah covert operations boat and some core probes now launched, and the Ferox is still somewhere, so there is activity, it's just that I may have been spotted moving away from the wormhole. Either way, I warp out to launch probes, and as the Cheetah's using core probes I won't be noticed by them. I get my combat probes in to space and out of the system, and return to the tower to loiter. But I'm already too late.
My combat probes see all, and all they see are the Orca and Cheetah, along with seven anomalies and thirteen signatures. The Cheetah goes, perhaps cloaked, and just as I tell myself to be patient the Orca goes off-line. I'm either too late, or was spotted. The quick breakdown of the mining operation could suggest a natural end, but the Cheetah's appearance with probes so soon after could mean I was spotted. Either way, there are no obvious ships in the system, so I scan. I resolve three rock sites, two gas sites, the static exit to high-sec empire space, and a K162 from class 4 w-space, before a ship system crash deletes two radar sites and one more rock field from my scanning results.
The K162 is an interesting result, as its presence would generally prevent a mining operation, but I suppose it could also make the locals more alert to an external presence. It's even possible the miners were from C4a, but that wouldn't explain why a piloted Orca was in the local tower. Whatever, I recover from my crash and reconnect to my scanning probes, at which point a new ship is detected, a Mackinaw exhumer. That's odd, what with all the other miners disappearing, but maybe he's a straggler, or more persistent. Or bait, obviously.
I find the Mackinaw in a gravimetric site I've resolved, which lets me monitor him without needing to scan further. He's alone, after seeing at least six active ships before, and has combat drones launched, which at a push could be used on Sleeper drones in a C3 gravimetric site, but probably not successfully. It all looks too good to be true. But d-scan remains clear, as do my combat probes on repeated blanket scans, and, as a wiser person than me once said, bait not taken is unfulfilled, so, what the hell, I'll take a shot.
I warp in towards the Mackinaw, decloak, and get a positive lock on my target. I disrupt his warp engines, burn towards him to give the ship a bump, and start shooting. The Mackinaw returns my target lock and sets his drones on me, which is hard to determine as baitish behaviour or not, because it would be the least the exhumer could do were he prevented from warping clear. And his shields are taking solid hits, so it's all going well to start with. But, yes, it is too good to be true. The Mackinaw is probably feeling pretty fulfilled right now. The Loki strategic cruiser decloaking nearby convinces me of that, particularly when he's followed by a Falcon recon ship and Osprey cruiser.
The Loki treats me like a common miner, as he points, webs, and shoots my own covert Loki. I would be insulted if I didn't think I was completely boned. Hold on, though. Pointed and webbed, but not scrammed? MWD activate! It works. My micro warp drive flares in to action and I align towards the warp-in point I made in the gravimetric site, which handily points me orthogonally to the ambushing ships. The web is slowing me down significantly but, lucky days, my Loki opponent has only fit an afterburner and still can't keep up. I am gradually pulling away from my assailant, as the Falcon gets a successful ECM jam on my systems and a Dominix battleship warps in to join the fight.
There doesn't seem to be much the ambushers can do but continue attacking, which includes throwing a Drake battlecruiser at me, as I pull slowly away from the Loki. I am a little concerned that I still have a fair gap to create before I can warp clear, until I realise that I only really have to get about twelve kilometres away from the Loki. Nine, ten, eleven kilometres, and the web module is outranged and drops, not only giving me a new burst of speed from an uncrippled MWD but the Loki must realise it's all over and drops his point too. I warp clear and cloak, getting away from the ambushers with an intact strategic cruiser. That's got to be worth a 'gf' in the local channel, which is reciprocated.
The ships warp out and I follow behind, reconnoitring at range the C4 K162 I see them return to. The connection is now stressed to half-mass, no doubt from the earlier mining operation and now having pushed a bunch of combat ships through, and after a pause the ships jump to the C4. The Loki has a change of mind on the wormhole, though, and diverts towards what looks like the exit to high-sec. I don't mind, as I'm not going anywhere. I sit safely cloaked and away from the wormhole, watching the ships come and go as I scribble notes from the encounter, regale colleagues with my daring escape, and welcome my glorious leader on-line.
I don't feel like getting caught again and so am happy sitting by the K162 and answering mail. Fin explores around C3a and has a poke to high-sec, where she sees the Loki return a minute before I see him jump to C4a. 'He probably went to refit with an MWD' she says, and I think Fin's probably right! Either way, I've had my welcome back to w-space, and all the writing I've done whilst cloaked has soaked up the rest of the evening. But before I leave, I must get a closer look at the shattered planet I saw earlier when looking for the tower. I was distracted by the miners, then being shot at, but I understand such planets are rare, more so in w-space, so I make sure take in the view before heading home.