I'm in high-sec empire space with no way home. I don't even bother warping to where the wormhole was when I exited, as it was reaching the end of its life when I left and that was a few hours ago. I know I'm stranded, I just need to make the best of my situation whilst I wait for a colleague to turn up and find me a route home. Finding a distraction is not exactly difficult either, as I've been in this situation before, and it's simply a matter of doing what I normally do but from a different starting point. I'm scanning for wormholes, just from the outside in.
Scanning the high-sec system I'm stranded in has just rocks as the only signature, encouraging me to move on immediately. Luckily, empire space has stargates to help with moving ships from system to system, which are ridiculously easy to use, and within a minute I'm in the next system across—which, in some kind of madness, will always be the next system across—and scanning again. Three signatures resolve to be three wormholes, two of them K162s from class 2 w-space that are both EOL, and one a K162 from class 1 w-space. I'll check the C1 first.
A tower, Prorator transport ship, and Buzzard covert operations boat all appear on my directional scanner from the wormhole in C1a, which is slim pickings but I will still check for possible pilots. I locate the tower to locate the ships, where I see the Buzzard is piloted, and exploring the rest of the system has nothing else to find. I don't think I'll bother scanning, not with two more wormholes to explore through from high-sec. And although I often leave EOL connections alone for fear of them collapsing, I can't get any more stranded than I am already, so these K162s give me no such concerns.
C2a looks promising to start with, as a Tengu strategic cruiser and Mammoth hauler appear on d-scan with two towers, and I find the Tengu piloted at one tower and the Mammoth empty at the other. My notes from two years ago indicate that the second static connection will lead to class 3 w-space, which itself will go straight back to k-space, so before scanning here I'll go back to check the second C2 first. Or I would, if the wormhole hadn't withered from old age before I am able to reach it. I'll be scanning C2a, it seems.
Resolving four signatures won't take long, particularly as one is the connection to high-sec that I already know about. Rocks, gas, and the static connection all get bookmarked, and I jump through the wormhole to class 3 w-space. I suppose I'll call the system C3b, as C3a should still be around somewhere, but who cares about that when I've found trouble. Eight combat ships are on d-scan, with a pair of strategic cruisers, a couple of battlecruisers, and three battleships, along with a cov-ops, a tower, and, importantly, a whole load of Sleeper wrecks.
I impulsively switch to my scanner and passively resolve all of the anomalies in the system, all three of them. A quick check of my notes, ostensibly so that I can locate the tower and ascertain the number of active pilots, shows that I was here only two weeks ago, when I popped a planet-gooing Iteron hauler with a stealth bomber, and I see that the tower I have listed is out of d-scan range. Sweeping d-scan around sees the two Apocalypse battleships in an anomaly with some wrecks, and the rest of the ships coincident with the new tower. If the battleships are the only piloted ships this could actually be a pretty simple ambush. But, no, warping to the tower shows that all the ships are piloted, and possibly alert and ready to provide support.
I warp out to monitor the battleships engaging Sleepers, setting myself up to ambush a salvager should one arrive, when my concerns are ratcheted up a notch. An Iteron appears on d-scan, in empty space, and returning to the tower sees it arrive after a while and the pilot switch to a Drake battlecruiser. I go back to monitoring the Apocalypses, who have been joined by a Tengu strategic cruiser, if only to send me a message that their salvager will be adequately protected from opportunists like me. Maybe this is paranoia, but I only just lost a Loki strategic cruiser this morning, so my paranoia can only serve me.
The battleships and Tengu leave the anomaly, which clearly isn't the only one cleared judging by the number of wrecks in the system, and a Noctis salvager appears on d-scan. I check the other anomalies I found, seeing one of them also full of wrecks and already despawned, marking it is a probable earlier destination for the salvager than the one the ships just left. I also spy core scanning probes in the system, so the locals will probably know about my entrance to the system and be wary about sending the Noctis out alone. Still I lie in wait, wondering whether I'll die twice in a day. Not only would it be embarrassing, but because of the EOL connection I used to get here I may not actually have a way to get my pod out to empire space.
Whatever my chances of survival, the Noctis takes a while to reach my earliest chance of ambushing him. This may work to my advantage, in that the longer he salvages the less he'll think he's being stalked. I don't know if that's how it works, but positive thinking is good for me at the moment, particularly as the other ships on d-scan keep disappearing. None are swapped for obviously cloaky counter-ambushing ships, but as some were strategic cruisers they could already have been the covert variants and shadowing the salvager. I suppose I'll find out soon enough, as the Noctis warps in to the site where I'm loitering, seemingly alone. Do I trust him? Do I care? What is ISK anyway?
The Noctis must have two or three sites' worth of loot scooped in to his hold already, so I wait for him to pull more wrecks to his ship to maximise the chance of some surviving, before warping in to spring the surprise. I decloak, gain a positive lock, and start shooting. The Noctis's warp drives disrupted, I burn towards the target to give it a bump out of alignment, which also serves to get me close enough to salvage the wreck. That is, if I make a wreck. Even with the magnetar phenomenon in the system I seem to be making hard work of the industrial ship, and I don't really have the luxury of time.
But the salvager is going down. He makes a fateful turn before hitting the iceberg, and I have manoeuvred in such a way that I can align out now and probably still be close enough to loot the wreck when the ship explodes. But seeing an Apocalypse warp in almost on top of me almost at the same moment as the Noctis disintegrates in a bright flash discourages me from fiddling with transferring flotsam in to my hold. I choose instead to deny the targets anything, and lock on to the wreck and pop it, before warping clear and cloaking. At least, that was the plan.
I get clear of the Apocalypse and am safe, but I shot a Sleeper wreck instead of that of the salvager. That's unfortunate, as is not being able to loot it myself, but I can still hang a non-ironic 'Mission Accomplished' banner for the kill. Losing Minor Threat earlier was unfortunate, but You'll Thank Me Later has been bloodied during its maiden voyage in w-space, and in threatening conditions too. I still have to get home, though.