Out to low-sec, launch probes, and scan. That Drake battlecruiser in the second class 3 w-space system in our constellation is doing nothing, and as I don't want to join him in that endeavour I'm reverting to Plan B. There are two extra signatures in this low-sec system, which I noted earlier but ignored on the hopes that the Drake would make a target of himself, but now I'm back and hoping for opportunity. Resolving two wormholes looks good. One is a K162 from class 3 w-space, the other a K162 from class 1 w-space. No outbound connections.
C1a looks like a good start. It may be a dead end, and it may hold soft targets. Jumping back to w-space doesn't give a good vibe, though, not when I appear in the system over seven kilometres from the wormhole. I don't think I'm being rash in turning right around when my directional scanner shows me a tower and no ships. Maybe there's more happening in C3c. Out to low-sec, across to the other K162, and in to the class 3 system to see a Prorator on d-scan.
The transport doesn't share d-scan with a tower, so he's in empty space somewhere. It also doesn't land on the wormhole, and as it doesn't come to me I'll have to go to it. I just don't know where that is yet. I could warp around customs offices without much direction, but I don't want to rely on just luck to find the ship. My notes, on the other hand, point to a couple of towers being in the system five months ago. If they are still around it's possible the Prorator will be found in one of them, and I can potentially watch his next movements.
Warping to where the first tower was finds it to still be here, with a piloted Crane transport and Apocalypse battleship, and empty Viator, and the tower shares d-scan with a second, this one new to the system. This new tower has no ships associated with it, though. Checking the other old tower also sees it remain, but still with no other ships and no sight of the Prorator. Was he just passing through, or did he swap ships already? Launching probes and blanketing the system has this consideration easy to check, with thirteen anomalies and two signatures, and the second signature is a pocket of gas, so there's no Ewok entrance.
I head back to the first tower, the only one holding ships and pilots, and lurk with intent. The Crane is swapped for a Proteus strategic cruiser, the Apocalypse for a Purifier stealth bomber. A new contact appears in a Buzzard, the covert operations boat immediately changed for an Epithal, the planet goo hauler that works just as well as bait, with its ridiculous number of low fitting slots. I smell an ambush ahead, almost confirmed when the Purifier warps out of the tower in a direction I am not alert enough to catch.
A single stealth bomber is not much of a deterrent to trying to catch a gooing hauler, but if the Proteus is available then I may well be in trouble. The good news is that the Proteus isn't available. The bad news is that it is swapped for a Falcon, the recon ship now making the flimsy Purifier much more of a threat. If I can't target the stealth bomber to shoot back then it won't matter if I can rake through its defences quickly. But all this only matters if the Epithal is indeed being used to bait me. So it is that I get a bit nervous when the hauler warps out of the tower, apparently towards a customs office.
I follow the Epithal, because why wouldn't I? I can observe without engaging. Well, I'd like to think I can, as I can't help but wonder out loud if I should take a shot anyway. 'Yes, do it', says the devil on my shoulder, the devil today being new recruit HR, sounding suspiciously as bad an influence as Fin. So, naturally, I decloak to engage the Epithal now at the customs office. I can't help but think this will end badly.
I gain a positive lock on the hauler, disrupt its warp engines—or so I think—and start shooting. A pulse of my micro warp drive has my Loki strategic cruiser slamming in to the Epithal, sending it out of alignment, keeping it close and letting my guns slowly work their way through the active shields of the hauler. I know his shields are tough as I saw the tell-tale blue ripples on the ship when I was loitering outside the tower. But they are still only the shields of a basic industrial ship, and it still is just me versus him.
I back my Loki off and surge ahead again to give the Epithal a second nudge. His shields are gone and my guns are ripping chunks of armour off the hauler. If this is bait, it's not going well for them. But two things happen: the Epithal warps clear, and the Purifier decloaks near the customs office. I don't know what he was waiting for, maybe this wasn't bait and the stealth bomber had to warp in as a reaction, but with little other option for me his appearance only changes what I shoot at.
The Purifier is locked, we share warp scrambler effects, and I blow the crap out of him with three volleys from my autocannons, two of them mediocre hits. The Falcon appears between the first and third volley, and submerges again as the pod warps away from the wreck of the Purifier. That's a good idea, I'll disappear too, engaging my cloak and ignoring the unlooted wreck. Had the ambush been better coordinated I'd be dead, but the poor timing and inadequate ships means I get a kill—almost two, as the bait wasn't looking healthy when it warped—and still get to keep my own.
Now, a Tengu strategic cruiser would have been a better choice to keep hold of me had the Falcon worked its ECM annoyance. The one warping in would do, I'm sure, had it been here earlier. I see it first on d-scan, so jink and accelerate away as fast as I can under cloak, but it's not quite enough. The Tengu drops out of warp almost on top of me, shedding my cloak and making me quite visible again. Thankfully, I'm alert to this possibility, see my cloak deactivate, and flick it back on as soon as it will let me.
That was close. A new change of direction will help me now, which I effect, but warping out would help me more. Why am I still here? Just to get a decent image of my kill? That's a bit silly, particularly as the Tengu doesn't give up on trying to find me again and actually manages to give me a second nudge. I'm lucky again, though, as the Tengu is zooming around in looking for me, so zips right past without stopping, letting me once again reactivate my cloaking device. And now I take the hint and warp away, back to the wormhole to low-sec, and away from the pilots intent on flushing me out. It kinda worked, but thanks for the kill anyway.