I'm back. Fin's here too, and is scouting around the already scanned w-space constellation. So is anything out there? 'Yes.' Oh, good. 'And no.' There is a K162 from class 5 w-space newly connecting to our home system and ships have been passing between there and an empire space connection through our static wormhole. 'I'm impotent. I tried to catch a Viator, Crane, Buzzard, and Anathema.' Oh yes? Some of the most agile and difficult ships to intercept solo, which can both burn through bubbles and warp cloaked? I don't think anyone should be upset at not catching any of those potential targets, frankly. Now Fin's checking a high-sec system before heading back home.
I'm going the other way. I scanned the constellation earlier and am keen to see what's changed, as well as hopefully expanding our connections. Jumping to C3a has the same Chimera carrier, Golem marauder, and Thorax cruiser sitting piloted in a tower, still doing nothing. Continuing to C3b also has the same ships on my directional scanner as earlier, except for the two that were piloted, and a second tower out of d-scan range remains as empty as I left it. But this is as far as I scanned previously, trying to catch a planet gooing hauler before breaking for a sammich, and the inactive system gives me motivation to look for more wormholes.
Three anomalies and five signatures isn't much, and it doesn't result in much. Rocks, a static exit to low-sec, a K162 from low-sec that is at the end of its life, and more rocks isn't a great result, but the healthy static connection at least gives me another system to explore. I exit to a faction warfare system in the Bleak Lands region, which holds two additional signatures, both wormholes. The K162 from class 2 w-space would normally be my first choice to jump through, but as the K162 from class 3 w-space could be a dead end I fancy checking that first, and I jump to C3c.
An Archon carrier, Thanatos carrier, Dominix battleship, and Iteron hauler all sit unpiloted in a tower that has moved since my last visit a year ago. A passive scan reveals a mere two anomalies, which could indicate there may only be a few signatures to check, but I definitely have a C2 to explore back through low-sec, so I turn around instead of scanning. C2a turns out to have less to see than C3c, with a clear d-scan from the wormhole expanding to be clear across the unoccupied system. But, being a class 2 system, I know I'll find a wormhole connecting to more w-space, so I launch probes and scan.
An Anathema cov-ops blips on d-scan, and as it is just a blip I ignore the ship that is perhaps just travelling home to sift through the fifteen signatures. I resolve some gas, some rocks, and an outbound connection to more class 2 w-space, and as there are no obvious K162 wormholes it's best not to keep scanning. I jump to C2b to explore deeper in to the constellation. A tower and no ships grace d-scan from the wormhole, and although my notes for this system have me last here two years ago they are useful in pointing out that the static connections are to high-sec and class 1 w-space. That's worth looking for, and scanning thirteen signatures is greatly simplified in this curious system with a single planet orbiting a star 25 AU distant.
Three wormholes are picked out of the noise of rocks and gas, getting me a K162 from high-sec along with the two static wormholes. I am, naturally, heading to C1a, where d-scan looks positive. A Tengu strategic cruiser and Drake battlecruiser are joined by a Noctis salvager, and although there is also a Buzzard cov-ops, Onyx heavy interdictor, and tower, I want to be positive about what could be happening. A lack of wrecks says otherwise, though. But locating the tower sees the Drake and Tengu piloted, and a passive scan reveals eight anomalies that the capsuleers could clear. It's just a shame that the two ships seem intent on seeing who can move the least.
I wake up when an Anathema warps in to the tower, and it may have been the one I saw briefly in C2a, I wasn't really paying enough attention. Either way, he simply joins the stillness competition the other two have got going, and I continue watching ships do nothing. After a while the Tengu goes off-line, soon followed by the Drake, except they don't. I was distracting myself on a second screen and didn't see the Tengu warp, but the Drake lingers on d-scan long enough for me to think to check the far planet, out of d-scan range, to see the pair of ships accumulating Sleeper wrecks. That's interesting. What's less interesting is that only four frigate wrecks appear, and start dwindling. The Drake is salvaging, at a guess, and the pair are not in an anomaly but a mining site.
I suppose clearing a mining site of Sleepers could be interesting, as long as combat ships are swapped for mining barges, but an ambush would mean actively scanning for the site. Luckily, the Drake and Tengu return to the tower, giving me a window of opportunity to launch probes covertly. I even have time to resolve what turns out to be a gravimetric site before any ships return. But this isn't a remark on my admittedly awesome scanning skills as much as a reflection that the Drake and Tengu pilots just return to skulk at the tower, not caring to come back out to chew rocks and act as target practice.
Hullo, they're off again, but not to the gravimetric site. They remain in d-scan range of the tower, and again only a few Sleeper frigate wrecks appear, so it looks like they are indulging in more skeet shooting. Class 1 w-space gravimetric site Sleepers can't be much of a challenge for a Drake or Tengu individually, after all. I wait for the ships' return to the tower but they stay out for an awfully long time, even after the few wrecks have been swept up. If they've foolishly got distracted whilst in the site it may be worth scanning for it, so I warp out and launch probes a second time to look for them.
I don't care to waste effort being surgical with my scanning when I probably won't take a shot at the targets, so it takes three rough scans to resolve the site. And it's a radar site. I wasn't expecting that. I warp in to take a look at what's happening, and the Tengu is keeping a final Sleeper frigate at bay whilst the Drake is hacking databases. No wonder they didn't come back, and I would say they are paying attention. As I'm already here, I interrogate the ships to find out what I can about the pilots. The Drake is piloted by a capsuleer two years in to his career, and the Tengu pilot is two years his veteran. Both ships can be competently fitted and flown with these pilots, so despite being in a C1 there may not be an easy target for me.
The evening is already getting late and I won't get a better shot tonight. It is now or nothing. The Drake must be easier to crack than the Tengu, and although I am not convinced I have the firepower to break a decent passive-fit Drake that is my target. There's no point relying on Sleeper fire to aid me, as the damned drones could target me instead, and the Tengu will be around to help too. But if the pair follow their previous pattern, the Tengu will warp out to leave the Drake to salvage, so that's when I should strike. And I should strike quickly, to catch the pilots off-guard and give minimal reaction time, so I bounce out of the site and warp to be within warp-disruption range of the Drake as they finish clearing the remaining Sleepers.
I watch the site being cleared and see that the Drake is not just a tanked loot-collector, as it is firing a full complement of missiles at the Sleepers, so this won't be simple. But it should be safe. It's unlikely the battlecruiser has a point fitted, and as long as I keep an eye on d-scan I will have enough warning to bug out if reinforcements come or circumstances otherwise turn against me. This feels more like a test of my ship's capabilities than a proper engagement. It's weird, but I get more psyched up attacked haulers collecting planet goo.
The site is cleared, the Tengu warps, and I decloak. I burn towards the Drake to soak up my recalibration delay, locking and pointing the battlecruiser before it has a chance to react. I cut my micro warp drive when close, keeping our relative velocities low, as I need to make sure my autocannons hit as hard as possible. I can't rely on glancing blows against the Drake's impressive shields, particularly as not a sliver of red appears on them to indicate damage from the Sleepers. And I get close and moving almost in synch with the Drake, letting my guns hit for some decent damage, and the full white bar gets gradually more threatening, as the shields drop steadily.
The Drake isn't taking this abuse without fighting back. My target lock is returned and the battlecruiser's launchers spit missiles at me, and after a while the pilot realises I'm not a Sleeper and that his drones will be effective too. Five angry Hobgoblin IIs are launched and sent my way. Luckily, I remembered coming in to the fight that I modified my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser with an auxiliary shield booster, and although my own shields take a pounding I am able to repair them and keep myself afloat. The Drake isn't so lucky.
I overheat my guns to push past the peak recharge point of the shields, although it doesn't look particularly necessary, and drop the Drake in to relying on its weak armour. My booster charges are running out, but thankfully it's still just me versus the Drake. The Tengu hasn't returned, and he remains visible on d-scan and so not boarding a different ship to come and help. A little more overheating, just because I can, pushes through the hull of the Drake and the battlecruiser disintegrates with a most satisfying explosion. I catch the disorientated pod and fire one more volley from my guns, before scooping a fresh corpse, and looting and shooting the wreck.
I don't have room to carry all the loot, as there are plenty of Tech II missiles surviving, but I grab the rest of the modules and Sleeper loot. And it's all Tech II from the Drake. It may not be the best-fitted Drake I've ever seen, but it certainly is a competent fit. I am actually surprised that my covert Loki was able to punch through its shields with no help. It seems I'm piloting a pretty capable ship after all. But, even though help didn't come for the Drake, now is not the time to reflect on my victory. I cloak, warp out, and leave the system. The evening was late before I found the radar site, it's definitely time to head home now.