How sweet. Aii's left me a bookmark to our static wormhole, as well as sucking up most of the gas pockets in the system. One signature has popped up since his activity, though. What could it be? A second wormhole you say? Well, space, you're drunk, as warping to the resolved signature plonks me in to emptiness. Dead-on-arrival, or an echo? It doesn't really matter, because either way the wormhole's not here. Maybe Aii detected it too. I'll ask him when he returns. For now, I head to our static wormhole, which is actually there, and jump to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system.
The system number of C3a feels familiar, and maybe it should be, given that this is my sixth visit. The last was ten weeks ago when nothing happened, so I don't think the neat-sounding J-number is triggering any memories. And with a tower lacking ships is all that appears on my directional scanner, and the system holding a static exit to high-sec, probably the same nothing will happen today. Still, you have to check, so I warp out to launch probes, bumping in to a second tower on the edge of the system as I do.
Not just a second tower. There's a Skiff exhumer on d-scan now, and although I initially consider it to be floating unpiloted inside the tower's force field, locating the tower doesn't locate the Skiff. He's in space. He's a target. I warp back towards the no-ship tower to launch probes and hide them, before returning to the edge of the system to start poking space with d-scan to look for the Skiff, when Aii turns up in another of his turns of great timing.
I almost ask Aii about the signature echo in the home system, but realise I no longer care with a miner to hunt. He simply comes to join me in C3a so that we can catch the Skiff together. And the Orca, apparently. An industrial command ship is now on d-scan with the Skiff, which is great news for us, not so much for them. The Orca is a massive target for my combat scanning probes, so I won't need to be anywhere near as accurate with my placement, and we now have two ships for two targets. If only I could actually narrow down their position reliably.
I'm swinging d-scan around almost wildly, increasing its angular range almost as often as I'm decreasing it. But, finally, I get a decent bearing on the two ships, thankfully both still apparently oblivious to us. Gauging the range doesn't get much more convenient for probe positioning, as the miners are almost exactly 4 AU away. And, like I say, I don't need to be too precise when aiming for the Orca. I'm ready, is Aii? 'Ready.' Okay, scanning.
I couldn't really miss, although I gave it a good shot. But had it been just the Skiff I would have been a mite more careful, and I kinda rushed a bit because of the beautiful sight of an Orca in w-space in the wild. We are in warp as I recall my probes, bookmarking the Orca's position as the only position I can bookmark, given the results, and give the Orca to Aii. I know I have a sensor booster fitted, which may be useful in catching the Skiff, and I imagine Aii's missiles will be better against the more massive ship than my guns.
We drop out of warp with the Orca and Skiff still mining away. What a lovely sight. We ruin their relaxing evening by decloaking our pair of strategic cruisers kilometres from their hulls, Aii's Tengu tackling the Orca and my Loki locking on to the Skiff. Aii webs the whale, holding its speed down, and we both take turns giving it shoulder barges to knock it out of whatever kind of alignment it may be aiming for, as our weapons systems spew damage in both directions.
And Aii's missiles really are hurting the Orca. I thought it would take a while to bring it down, but the ship's shields are already gone. I've barely scratched the Skiff, which is a little embarrassing. I switch targets to the Orca, to get some damage on the kill report for posterity at least, and our combined fire rakes through the target's armour with ease. The pilot rues his decision to bring the Orca in to... what? The rock field, the system? W-space? I don't think to ask, but I suspect he's not from w-space. Still, he has the nous to eject early to save his pod.
I don't catch the pod before it flees, neither do we catch ourselves before the Orca explodes. Maybe we could have dragged it home with its 3% remaining hull, but we both really like explosions, and this one is a doozy. That was totally worth it. Maybe the fires were fuelled by the Iteron hauler and second Skiff the Orca was carrying in its hangar. I think the pilot heard that I like shooting industrial ships, yo.
Now for the Skiff. It's a simple matter to take down the exhumer, even if I again miss catching the early-ejecting pod, and the second explosion isn't quite as gratifying as the first. It's almost as if ship size contributes to the explosion size. But seeing the space dust of two warp core stabilisers that used to be fitted to the Skiff more than makes up for the lack of flames.
The Skiff is looted and, as is my habit, I shoot the wreck. That leaves the Orca hull floating nearby, with a whole load of bistot ore stuffed inside. A whole load for a Bustard transport ship even. I re-activate my cloak and lurk near the wreck as Aii heads home to get the transport, as we can always use more ore. Unsurprisingly, the pilots don't return to w-space, presumably day-tripping from high-sec, and Aii not only transfers the ore to the Bustard safely but uses the transport to salvage the wreck of the Orca. The site is clear, leaving no trace of the ambush. What an excellent start to the evening.