Isolated from the home system. Watching Dominix battleships alternate between crashing wormholes and cloaking. Seeing the promising Noctis salvager switch to a Helios covert operations boat. Yep, I'm heading out of here, through the low-sec exit, to make my way back home via the new entrance a colleague has scanned. The only circumstance that could possibly make me loiter for longer would be if the, huh, the Helios does indeed swap back to the Noctis and warp to the wormhole connecting this class 3 w-space system to another. I guess I'm staying.
Well, I'm staying to stalk the ships, not staying in this system, not with the Noctis leaving. I follow behind the salvager, C3b being large enough that I have no idea where his two pals in the Dominices are, to the K162 back in to C3a, and watch him jump through. As his ship leaves the system I decloak, pulse my micro warp drive to surge towards the wormhole, and immediately change my mind. I won't try to catch the Noctis on the wormhole, not while his hold is empty. I'll give him a minute to get clear, then sneak in behind and wait for the Noctis to start sucking up loot that may survive the ship's destruction.
A minute passes, plenty of time for the Noctis to warp away from the other side of the wormhole, and I jump to C3a to evaluate the situation. The wormhole is clear in C3a, my directional scanner shows me nothing. Nothing? Well, the system may not be vast, and is certainly more compact than C3b, but there are a handful of anomalies out of d-scan range. Maybe the ships are in one of them. Then again, I can see fifteen anomalies in the system, and I have fifteen bookmarks that I made earlier of the anomalies. Nothing has happened yet.
So where did the Noctis go? A quick reconnoitre of the system sees nothing and no one. No battleships, no wrecks, no salvager. Did the Noctis jump to this system in a bid to flush me out, reveal that I am still here and lurking, and merely cloaked on the other side of the wormhole? It would be a good plan if that's the case, as well as a little unfortunate for me. I'll keep it in mind but not assume that to be solid information just yet.
I return to the N968, wondering if I'll see the Noctis jump home when his polarisation timer runs out, but instead hear the wormhole crackle with a transit from the other side. It's a Dominix, by himself, who warps to a far planet. That's a bit weird, but perhaps no more so than I've witnessed from the battleship so far this evening. A second wormhole crackle brings the second Dominix, who warps away in a different direction. I'm confused.
I'm also stuck in one of these two systems for now, as I notice that my exit through C3a's static wormhole to low-sec has been collapsed by these battleships since I scanned it. I have probes to find its replacement, but I won't be able to scan that without giving away my presence. Hopefully I won't need it for a little while. And now d-scan tells me the two Dominices are together at last, with added Noctis, making my evening interesting again.
The three ships drop from d-scan, which could mean they've cloaked but I suspect they've instead gone to a distant anomaly. I warp across to check and, yep, the battleships have a flight of drones launched each, d-scan placing all of them in a nearby anomaly. The Noctis will be cloaked, waiting for his moment, but so am I, and all I have to do is bide my time.
I actually admire the diligence and patience of these pilots, taking the time and effort to collapse all the wormholes connecting in to this system and theirs—except the one they needed to use—and try to flush out a potential ambusher. I can only assume that they can't believe I would still be around and alert after all of this waiting. I hope they appreciate my own patience when I blow the crap out of the Noctis.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I locate the anomaly the two battleships are in, now with a few Sleeper wrecks visible on d-scan, and warp in to make my first perch of the evening. Which, let's be honest, is the perfect time for my ship's systems to crash and force a restart. I wasn't just floating in space within d-scan range, where a vigilant pair of pilots would notice my Loki strategic cruiser losing power to its cloaking device, I was warping in to the anomaly when my ship decided to give me a wedgie. I bet my Loki finished its warp, buzzing the Dominces as it made an emergency warp back out again. Stupid ship.
All that time spent stalking, scouting, waiting patiently for the right moment is thrown out of the window—which, let's face it, is a bad place to be thrown when in space—because of a technical issue. Naturally, when I get my ship back on-line and functioning all I see is a few drones on d-scan. No battleships, no salvager. I guess I'm going home after all. Or would be, if I didn't suffer two more cases of my ship's systems freezing when trying to scan for the new wormhole, making me look like a completely unprofessional explorer to anyone updating d-scan. Which, of course, the now-cloaked pilots are.
So incompetent do I currently look that one of the pilots opens a conversation with me, asking if I ever 'get trapped in wormholes'. It's ironic, because I've managed to launch probes and hide them from d-scan with consummate ease, but the ship freezes have made me look like I'm stumbling about without a clue what to do next. But whatever, the pilot isn't mocking me, and is likely just trying to gauge what I'm up to. I answer amiably, because he seems like a nice chap, as I resolve the new wormhole quickly, and exit w-space for low-sec Placid.
The conversation continues as I make the first jump through faction warfare low-sec Placid, right in to the middle of rather more ships than I see in any given month. Thankfully, they are more interested in shooting each other than some arbitrary strategic cruiser that isn't close enough to the brawl to be in immediate danger, and I continue on my way. The third stargate replays this encounter, but on a much smaller scale, and another couple of hops puts me in to high-sec, where the journey gets noticeably smoother.
I'm close to the entrance leading to our home system when I decide to tell my new buddy that I left the C3 they were in. Why not, it's only courteous, particularly as I respect the way they operate. I let him know the signature identifier of the wormhole and exit region, partly as corroborating evidence that I've gone and partly because they'd like to collapse whatever wormhole I opened, even though I know that it's just words. I could still be there. Luckily, as I approach the entrance to a class 2 w-space system that connects to our system, I spy a Heron frigate doing the same.
The Heron jumps to w-space, I try to time my jump to be just after him but close enough in time so that maybe a second crackle doesn't propagate after he appears in the C2. I dunno if it works, but, after a little wait as he presumably orientates himself, I pounce when the Heron decloaks. I activate my sensor booster, get a positive target lock, and start shooting. It looks like the Heron is close enough to jump straight back to the security of high-sec empire space, but he doesn't. I dunno why. It doesn't really matter. Once my autocannons start tracking it only takes a quick volley or two before his Heron pops.
The pilot's pod hasn't really got anywhere to go. The session change timer, short as it is, is still long enough for me to lock on to the pod and crack it open with one more volley from my guns, leaving me to scoop the corpse, and loot and shoot the wreck of the Heron. It's not much of a kill, and the poor young capsuleer with a hundred million ISK of implants in his head probably isn't happy about it, but it will do to end the night. 'Another victory for the discover scanner.' It also gives me a kill report I can link to my orange buddy, giving them firm evidence that I'm elsewhere. And, with that, I warp across C2a to finally make it home again.