Another day in w-space. We've got one anomaly back and a new signature. No one is currently stealing from us in the anomaly and I think about clearing it for ourselves, but only once I've scanned to make sure the system is safe. It is not. The new signature is a second wormhole, so I won't go shooting Sleepers just yet, and instead see how far back the K162 from class 5 w-space will take me.
The K162 takes me as far back as C5a, at least. My directional scanner is clear from the wormhole and just one planet sits out of range. Launching probes and blanketing the system reveals six anomalies and eight signatures, no ships. Exploring finds no occupation. There is almost certainly a K162 to find, and resolving the signatures finds two, as well as gas and a data site. Both wormholes are K162s, both from null-sec, so this arm of the constellation ends rather abruptly.
I'll check the null-sec K162s, I suppose. Belay that order, cadet! HR has gone in the other direction, through our static wormhole to the neighbouring class 3 system, and has seen a Bestower hauler blip off d-scan. That sounds suspiciously like some planet gooing that could be interrupted by explosions. I should go and join my colleague instead of faffing around in null-sec with rats and signatures.
Home and in to C3a, where updating d-scan sees a tower and Astero frigate, as per HR's description. My notes tell me where the tower is likely to be, and that I stole a Manticore stealth bomber on my last visit to the system. Warping to the tower sees the Astero piloted but idling, and potentially already aware of our wormhole. Never mind that, I warp to a distant planet, launch probes, and blanket the system. Five anomalies, six signatures, and just the Astero under my combat probes.
Two signatures are potentially the U210, and as one is in the centre of the system, out of d-scan range of the tower, I resolve it as HR watches for movement from the Astero. I find the wormhole, and warp as I reset my probes in to their blanket scanning configuration, hidden out of d-scan range of the system but seeing all within it. A second ship, with a fat signature, is now in the system. It must be the Bestower, and not just because I can see it on d-scan.
It looks like I'm too slow in getting here or scanning, as the Bestower has warped from the wormhole to low-sec by the time I get there. HR reports movement at the tower, though. The Astero warps away, the Bestower warps in. The frigate comes to me, landing a healthy distance from the wormhole before cloaking, which is a weird choice. Maybe not cloaking was an oversight when leaving the tower.
Perhaps missing the Bestower was a blessing in disguise. 'He's scooping the guns', says HR, which explains why the tower looked so bare and suggests that the hauler was likely empty on its return to the system. If the locals are moving out we can probably catch them, now that we have the wormhole bookmarked. But I can't exit the system without the Astero seeing me, and if I don't leave we'll potentially get caught with polarisation issues. 'Or we can catch them at the tower.' Oh, right.
Indeed, if the Bestower is scooping guns he is out of the force field. Or, in fact, if the tower is being unanchored there isn't even a force field, as I find out on warping back to the tower. The Bestower floats in empty space near the unanchoring tower, but as I start my slow, cloaked crawl to the hauler it warps away, disappearing from d-scan. Maybe it went out to low-sec to drop off the guns. If that's the case, I can catch his return and we can scoop the tower ourselves.
I warp to the U210 to get in to position, realising that we'll probably have to wait until the tower unanchors before seeing the Bestower again. How long, HR? 'Six minutes.' So we wait. After a bit of waiting I realise I probably should have timestamped that last message. How long now, HR? 'One minute, thirty seconds.' Okay, time to get primed. 'Bestower on d-scan. Landing.' Ah, clearly he didn't go to low-sec. I'd better get back to the tower.
I aim to drop a little short of the tower, so that I don't decloak prematurely, and it's good that I do. The Bestower landed twenty kilometres away and didn't fancy slowboating his way to scoop the tower, and has warped to bounce off a moon. It's on the hauler's return that we hit it. There's no need to be coy with this, as we don't need or even want him to scoop the tower, just explode. The only question is whether the hauler has more than the Astero protecting him. Probably not, but let's see.
We decloak. The recalibration delay feels like an age this time, but it eventually ends and our targeting systems work again. Autocannons chatter, launchers fire, and I burn towards the Bestower in case it has warp core stabilisers fitted. Of course, it hasn't, not when it needs the cargo capacity for tower defences and a tower, and so the hauler is ripped apart in seconds. The pod is caught and cracked too, but as the corporation is moving out we've probably just saved the capsuleer some time in waking him up in a clone vat somewhere in empire space.
I scoop the corpse, grab the expanded cargoholds from the wreck, and clear the pocket. I'm still a little paranoid. Warping to the low-sec exit sees no movement, either out or in, which looks good for our claiming the remaining loot. The tower didn't survive, but there is a ship maintenance array and a gun to collect, and we've cost the target about a hundred and fifty million ISK. Ah, it looks like we'll get the loot cleanly. The Astero appears, warping to the wormhole and exiting the system.
That's probably the system clear of everyone that's not us. I continue watching the wormhole as HR heads home for our own Bestower, more than capable of hauling the loot and easily disposable. He comes back, loots the wreck, and goes home without trouble. No one passes through the low-sec wormhole. I suppose I'd better take this opportunity to update my notes: no occupation.