The miners have left this w-space system in their pods, and we've tidied up their wrecks for them. We drag the ore and recovered modules through the wormhole to our tower, at which point Aii returns to sucking on some home-system gas and I take my Loki strategic cruiser back to the neighbouring class 3 system. Reconnoitring the first of the two towers, having already bounced off the second earlier, confirms that the miners weren't local, but I'd already guessed that. Either they came through the opened static connection to high-sec, or a K162 from high-sec is waiting to be found. I'll scan and see.
My probes show me fifteen anomalies and four signatures. One is our K162, another the mining site where we caught the two ships, the third is the static wormhole and obvious from its signature strength, and the fourth is, well, I suppose I'll have to resolve it to find out. But what's this? A fifth signature crops up on a subsequent scan. I think I'll aim for that one first, as it looks inherently more interesting. And, sure enough, the signature resolves to be a wormhole.
I hide my probes out of the system as I warp to the wormhole, a newly opened connection coming in from low-sec, and although I don't get there in time to see any jump a Helios appears within a few seconds. The covert operations boat moves and cloaks, leaving me wondering if I got my probes clear in time or if my presence has been implied. I can't tell. Instead, on the assumption that the scout will want to launch probes away from the wormhole, I warp across to the planet he looked to be pointing towards, to see if I can catch him decloaked.
He's not out here. A blanket scan from my probes sees nothing either, which is more than my directional scanner shows me from the edge of the system. I think my best bet is to loiter on the K162 from low-sec for now. Good call, Penny. I get back to the wormhole in time to see the Helios decloak about eighty kilometres away and approach the way back to low-sec. It seems like a curious distance for the cov-ops to reveal himself, at least until I see just how fast the ship's moving.
The Helios is pegging it back to the wormhole, clearly fit with a micro warp drive. I am moving to intercept, my Loki remaining cloaked, but he'll be in range in moments. I decloak, get my sensor booster active, and try to get a positive lock. I think I catch him, but I don't really. The Helios is moving so fast that the wormhole panics and seems to let him jump from twenty kilometres away. Still, a ship that relies on a micro warp drive can be efficiently restrained by a warp scrambler, much like the one I have fitted. The tricky bit will be getting hold of him first.
I follow the Helios to low-sec and decloak as soon as I can, once more getting my sensor booster active. My target's there and fleeing already, which isn't much of a surprise. What is surprising is getting a positive lock, and on top of that being in warp scrambler range. Now the Helios is going nowhere. Polarised and crippled, it can only crawl away from my ship, moving only slightly faster than my Loki can manage under normal speeds. Even so, only slightly faster is still faster, and he is almost at the limit of scrambler range.
Luckily, my micro warp drive works just fine, thank you. A single pulse and some manoeuvring gets me comfortably close to the Helios, nicely in the optimal range of my autocannons, and I settle down to crack the cov-ops open. I am aware of being in low-sec and not w-space, but am being cautious. My safety is set to orange, which should keep my ship intact if I do anything stupid, and checking the few other pilots in local sees that the Helios has no colleagues about to come and help. But that doesn't mean he won't try to help himself.
The Helios returns my lock and aggresses me. I don't see any weapons fire, and I don't expect it to make any difference, given the gross difference in hull types, but the cov-ops is employing some electronic warfare in a bid to escape. My targeting systems are being damped, their maximum range drastically reduced. It's a nice try, but as I need to stay close for both my warp scrambler and autocannons, and the strategic cruiser has a decent locking range as standard, the tactic ultimately doesn't work.
I rip through the shields, armour, and structure of the Helios, and watch it explode. Well, pop. Actually, not even that. What's less than a pop? The cov-ops crumples in to a wreck, ejecting the pod inside. I don't try to stop the pilot, not in low-sec, and simply loot the wreck for some more booty. And, apart from reloading my guns, that's it. I don't shoot the wreck, not caring to tidy up if doing so will drop my security status, and just loiter for a couple of minutes on the wormhole to ease myself back down to normal activity levels. It's a minor kill, really, but it's still a kill.
Now back to C3a, reconnecting with the probes I willingly left behind, to save launching them again, and finally identifying that one remaining signature. It's a gas site. But I don't think the system is safe to harvest gas in, not with three ship kills in the past hour, according to my data. 'And two of them were our kills', says Aii. Oh, right. My data is rubbish. I apparently already forgot I caught the Helios in low-sec and not in C3a, as if it hadn't occurred only a few minutes ago. But that's okay, because it's been a good evening. It's time to go home and relax.