It's just me in an empty system. Even our twin gas clouds have buggered off to give fluffy hugs in another system. I should have appreciated the company of those useless bastards more when they were here. But what's this? A new signature in the home system? What will it be? A chance to meet new people, it seems, as it's a wormhole. A K162 from class 4 w-space, specifically, which will make anyone there my kind of people.
Sadly, C4a looks empty, with only three warp bubbles and two large containers visible on my directional scanner. It feels empty too, as my ship is unceremoniously spat over six kilometres from the wormhole. And my instincts are good, as a previous visit from two months ago lists a lack of occupation, and opening the system map shows the C4 to be tiny. There's nowhere to hide in here. Launching probes to look for further K162s almost poses an uncommon problem too, as I have trouble keeping the probes far enough apart initially. The system's clean, though, with only five anomalies and ten signatures.
One signature far out of the system is an obvious wormhole, resolving to be a K162 from class 5 w-space, and that's it, as a brief poke around the other chubby signatures finds no more. Jumping in to C5a is as dreary as my entrance to C4a was, with my Loki strategic cruiser thrown over six kilometres from the wormhole and with a clear d-scan result. I don't think any capsuleer has travelled the route to our home system for hours. But I'm not giving up yet, even if I also notice that my ship is almost sat on the wormhole's deadspace signature. I've been proved wrong about that intuition before. Not this time, though.
A blanket scan of the system reveals nine anomalies, twelves signatures, and zero occupation. Further wormhole discovery uncovers a K162, naturally from more class 5 w-space, and I find myself going backwards through a C5 chain for once. But jumping to C5b has occupation! Ships! My ship less than five kilometres from the wormhole! I can make it sound exciting, but I doubt I can do much to the Phoenix dreadnought, or catch the Buzzard covert operations boat. That is, if there are even pilots.
I warp out to launch probes before looking for the towers, only to bump in to four more towers with added Orca industrial command ship and Incursus frigate. It's nothing particularly inspiring, but I still continue with my scouting. I find somewhere to launch probes, then locate each of the towers, finding the Phoenix empty and the Buzzard not, and the Orca empty and the Incursus not, and revealing three anomalies and six signatures. I may as well scan, I suppose, as there isn't much to resolve, only for an extra ship to appear on a consequent blanket scan. That's interesting.
The what and where of the new ship turns out to be a Thanatos carrier in the tower with the Incursus. That's not particularly squishy, and as it seems like pilots are waking up I think I'll delay scanning for now. It may be best to leave the capsuleers thinking they are alone in the constellation for now, let them get settled, and return later to see if I can spring a surprise on them. I still have our neighbouring class 3 system to explore too, and beyond if needs be. I turn my Loki around and head homewards. I pause briefly in C5a at the sight of core scanning probes whizzing around, but ignore them quickly when I consider how unlikely I am to catch the ship, if I even get to see it.
C5a to C4a to home, across the home system, and in to C3a. Damn, and over seven kilometres from the wormhole, sitting on the deadspace signature. This isn't a good sign. But maybe someone will wake up now. And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt. Even so, I launch probes, blanket the system, and scan. Hello, ships. Five ships, along with four anomalies and eight signatures. And Sleeper wrecks? My intuition definitely is flawed, but I don't know how. But never mind that for the moment, it looks like I have some ships to stalk.
The ships in C3a are two Tengu strategic cruisers, a Vulture command ship, a Blackbird cruiser, and a Badger hauler. A tower appears on d-scan too, which is handily in the same place as almost eighteen months ago, making it straightforward to see that the Vulture is piloted there, the Tengus are elsewhere, and the other two ships are empty. And, assuming the command ship is providing boosts for the Tengus, they are all reds. Catching one of them will be the sweeter for it. There's no sign of a Noctis at the moment, and there are plenty of Sleeper wrecks on d-scan, so I would say I have a chance of ambushing a salvager soon. Or maybe one of the Tengus. Let me see.
The Tengus are in the basic anomalies, so even though I have probes launched I won't need them. I find the current anomaly the strategic cruisers are in and start to get an idea of what's happening. I see immediately that the two ships are not carelessly sitting still near the cosmic signature, and are actively moving, so I won't be able to drop a non-cloaky ship on top of them easily. That pretty much rules out engaging the Tengus directly, leaving me holding and waiting for a salvager to appear. Until it does, I simply follow the Tengus between anomalies, which poses no difficulties, making strategic bookmarks in each.
Three anomalies are cleared, slow and steadily, curiously leaving the fourth and last untouched, before the two pilots return to their tower. One pilot swaps Tengu for Noctis, warping the salvager enticingly out of the tower, but the second swaps Tengu for Blackbird. The cruiser's ECM will thwart most ambush attempts of a single hunter against a single target, showing that these pilots aren't taking w-space lightly. Damn them. But I know what they have, so maybe I can take that in to account.
I warp back to our K162, where I see the Noctis and Blackbird are within d-scan range, sweeping up a site that despawned before I got here. That's fine, and in this case I don't mind the Noctis collecting more loot before I take my shot. More may survive an explosion and give me more to steal, and striking later rather than sooner may cause the pilots to relax and not react quite so quickly. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I wait for the two ships to finish clearing the wrecks and warp out of d-scan range, then jump home. I dash to our tower, find and slap an ECCM module on to my Loki, handily having one available, and return to C3a to see what difference that will make. I suspect none, but it would be more foolish not to at least try.
In the time it's taken me to refit the Loki, the second site has been cleared, but only just. I warp to the third to see the Noctis appear a few seconds after me, and the Blackbird a few seconds after it, and I start to think about my ambush. The Noctis is moving, though, and not in a good way. He doesn't appear to be manoeuvring towards the wrecks. I warp in to take a closer look, and see that the pilots are being really careful. The Noctis is aligned to his tower, which will let him warp clear within seconds of a threat appearing. My recalibration delay after decloaking will give him enough time to escape. I won't be able to catch him now. At least, not in this anomaly. But maybe in the next.
The next anomaly is also the last, but I suspect I will only get one shot anyway. I need to pounce on the Noctis before it can align itself out of the site, which will be in the first few seconds of its arrival, and as I don't know which point in the anomaly it will appear at I have to cover my options. I get myself in position, at a point in space where I can warp to any of the wrecks, and get my Loki aligned and moving in the right direction. Now I just need good reactions. And if I pounce early I may be able to get a few shots in before the Blackbird appears.
Here comes the Noctis. Its path looks fairly obvious, so without delay I surge my ship in to warp in to the site. I am perhaps a little hasty, as I warp as close as possible, although I could perhaps have dropped short to try to give the salvager a bump. But it's done now. The Noctis comes to a halt before me and starts to align out, but I have decloaked and activated my sensor booster, and think I still should catch the rather bulky ship. I annoy my targeting systems by trying to get a lock before they have recalibrated, but finally they are ready and get my warp scrambler and guns hot. But it's all for nought. The Noctis warps clear, back to his tower.
As the Blackbird is here now and proving that the ECCM doesn't appear to be doing much, I don't feel quite so bitter than my sebo apparently didn't activate. The Noctis would have got away anyway, but I'm disappointed that I mucked up my decloaking routine. I'm normally pretty good with that. With no targets and ECM active on me, I warp out and reactivate my cloak, as the cruiser warps clear too. The Noctis pilot is rather pleased with himself about evading me, which he should be, considering the caution they took whilst both fighting Sleepers and salvaging, but turns out to be a rather pleasant chap once the adrenalin wears off.
We chat for a bit, which is distracting enough to let me steal the loot from the battleship wrecks, but there's not much else to do. Scanning in one direction and stalking these pilots has taken all my time, so I wish the locals well and take a little over twenty million ISK in Sleeper loot back home to leave the pilots alone. It's not a great result, but the journey is more important. Stalking the pilots and trying to adapt for a non-standard ambush made for an interesting evening. I may have been unsuccessful, but it's all good experience.