Once Em and I are back on line, she grabs her Onyx heavy interdictor and breaks several laws of physics to finish collapsing the connection between our wormhole and the one with the extremely enthusiastic defenders.
Once that’s done, I rescan and jump through our new connection to find a system that is heavily overgrown with sleepers, despite what looks like some level of habitation by other pilots. Could be the pilots are simply slovenly home owners; they appear to be asleep right now, and are lazy enough to leave an Orca command ship, Covetor mining barge, and two Badger-class industrial haulers floating free inside their shields rather than docking them properly. My six-year old cleans up her room better than this.
Far more important is the fact that not all the ships I can see on d-scan are present in the tower. Still unaccounted for are two Moa-class cruisers and a Vagabond-class heavy assault cruiser. I swing my d-scan to-and-fro, verifying that the ships aren’t in any of the sleeper anomalies, and in fact seem to be clustered somewhere in the midst of empty space. This might indicate that they’re running some kind of magnometric or radar-signature site, but it seems unlikely with the Moas present; odds are that the tough little Moa cruisers are fit for gas harvesting, and the Vagabond is on site to clean up the few sleepers that inevitably show up during such operations.
My guess seems to be a good one, as a few minutes later I see a flurry of sleeper wrecks appear, then vanish. A few seconds later the Vagabond is gone.
But he is not back the tower. Curiouser and curiouser. Seems both the Vagabond and moa pilots are, like me, from some other system.
That means they don’t have any backup.
With this thought in mind, I warp to the far end of the system, out of d-scan range of the active ships, and drop a handful of combat probes capable of locating ships as well as cosmic anomalies. I move them far outside the system for a blanket scan, then return to planetary orbit as close to the Moas as I can get without an actual location. Some more d-scan work puts them roughly 2 AU away, “below” me at about a thirty-five degree angle. I center my probes on that location, put them in motion, and scan.
Dammit. I set the probe scan radius far too small and missed the ships’ location entirely. I quickly expand their sensor radius, rescan, recenter, and scan again to get a lock on their gas cloud, if not their actual ships (which are proving suspiciously difficult to lock down). Once that’s done, I recall the probes and warp into the site at a distance, to get the lay of the land and look for a good angle for an ambush, but it’s all for naught. My clumsy scanning mistake left the probes visible for far too long, and the wary pilots did what wary pilots armed only with gas harvesters do: run. Only the second of the two ships is still on-site when I arrive, and he flashes away as I watch.
Still, the moas are gone, like the Vagabond, leaving us a system ready for harvesting — seems a shame to ignore the silver lining in favor of the gray cloud of my bumbled scanning.
Since my probes are already out, I continue normal scanning, revealing many gas clouds, plus a convenient high-sec exit near the Rens market. I put up a flare and we assemble the troops for money-making activities.
Em, Lar, Ichi, and CB jump into ships appropriate for sleeper shooting, Bre parks her Buzzard-class covops scout on the wormhole leading back to the home of the Vagabond and Moa pilots and puts out some scanner probes to keep an eye on the rest of the system, and I grab a Catalyst-class destroyer fit out for salvaging and stealth, and give the combatant pilots plenty of lead-time before jumping into the now-despawned sites to pick apart the wrecks and dig through old Sleeper sofas looking for loose change (and ridiculously valuable ‘melted nanoribbons’).
Once all the available anomalies are cleared, the combat pilots switch to gas harvesting ships to pick up where the Moa pilots left off, and I skitter off to Rens to sell the loot and distribute the wealth — 180 million ISK for 90 minutes work (not counting the profit from gas harvesting) looks like a solid return to normal operations.