"Get in your bomber," they jabber in unison.
"But I don't know --"
"There are bookmarks," they counter. "Get them. Get in the bomber. Come here."
"But I --"
"Do that later."
"Do that later too."
It turns out the pair of miscreants are in the next system over, stalking a pair of strategic cruisers (Tengu and Proteus) while they engage an anomaly full of sleepers. Now, stealth bombers (constructed largely of wet tissue paper and malice) will do little to the nimble, tough, tech3 cruisers, but they WILL do quite a number on the Cormorant-class destroyer visible on d-scan (and no doubt set up to loot and salvage the sleeper wrecks once the shooting is done). The current plan seems to be to nail down exactly which anomaly the two ships are in, wait until they leave their salvager buddy to do his work, and blow up the more fragile ship with shiny Torpedoes of Education.
It is not to be.
Once I'm in system, I quickly locate the correct anomaly and warp, cloaked, to somewhere near their location, but by the time I arrive, the ships are gone.
"Did they see you?"
"I don't see how."
"Well, something spooked them."
"I think you're right..."
The ship that spooked them is apparently not us, but an Astarte-class command ship that has appeared on d-scan. Unlike the Tengu, Proteus, and Cormorant (all members of a corporation active in known highsec space), the Astarte is definitely a member of the corporation that actually lives in this wormhole -- someone who defends their territory when they see it being poached.
Also, it looks like the pilot in question is very good at it, because less than a minute later we see that both the Cormorant and Proteus pilots have fled the system, and the Tengu pilot is begging for mercy in the local channel.
"This is our HOME," is the only response from the Astarte pilot, and the Tengu is replaced on d-scan with an escape pod.
"Damn," murmurs Em. "That guy's good."
I agree, happy to be invisible flies on the wall during the exchange.
"Do you think we could take him?" asks Bre, because that's how her mind works.
"Actually..." says Em.
Miscreants, the both of them.
The three of us jump back to our home system, still cloaked and (hopefully) undetected. Em quickly switches into a Falcon-class force recon cruiser and jumps back into the other system to keep an eye on things while the rest of us reship. Bre refits her sleeper-shooting Drake a bit, to give her a way to scramble a target's warp engines while still being a viable anomaly-clearing ship, and I jump into a less-subtle ship; a Hurricane-class battlecruiser fit purely for PvP. Our basic plan is to send Bre in to hit another anomaly in the system to attract the Astarte pilot's ire, then drop on him with the Falcon and Hurricane once he's started punching the tarbaby.
"The only problem," Em comments, "is the fact that Bre's in a Drake."
"Yeah," I agree. Drake battlecruisers are incredibly tough ships and, as such, they are often used as bait ships meant to lure attackers into committing to a fight before allies descend en masse, since they can usually survive until help comes. We are basically using the most obvious bait ship in the game... as bait. "We'll just have to see if he bites."
Understand: unlike the previous situation, this isn't about educating some tourist from high-sec about the dangers of wormhole life -- this is about trying to out-play someone who is clearly good at what they do, and possibly finding out that he has friends in there that will turn the tables on us.
Just as we're about to move, CB logs in, and I'm quick to recruit him for the cause, using my best diplomatic turns of phrase.
"Hey!" I shout. "You wanna play bait in your biggest ship, and maybe blow up?"
CB agrees readily enough...
"... Sure, whatever."
And now we are not just using a bait-drake, but a bait-drake with a Dominix battleship.
"Now it looks less like bait and more like some kind of incompetent site-running."
"... which it kind of is."
"... which it kind of is. Perfect!"
Bre and CB jump through to the other system, pick a fairly easy anomaly to warp into, and set about taking apart Sleepers as slowly and enticingly as possible. Meanwhile, Ty, Shan, and Cabbage lurk on the far side of the wormhole in pointy ships while Em watches over the two bait ships in her cloaked Falcon. We offer what advice we can.
"Try to look more helpless."
"Shut your reppers off! Take more damage!"
"Let the sleepers kill some of your drones."
Try as we might, it looks as though the local pilot decided that a Tengu kill was enough for the day and logged off -- we have no contacts on d-scan at any point during the anomaly-clearing, and twenty minutes later (they really did try to go as slowly as they could) there is nothing left to shoot.
"Well..." I say. "No ship fight, but at least we get some loot."
"You want me to go back and get a salvager?" CB asks.
"Might as well," I reply. "Maybe he'll finally try to shoot you if you're in something super-fragile."
"Great," CB mutters. "On my way."
CB warps out of the site, leaving Bre alone in her Drake to guard the inert Sleeper wrecks and watch a depressingly empty d-scan.
"Proteus on d-scan," announces Em.
"Yeah, very funny," I reply. "Are you serious?"
"He's serious," says Bre. "He's not on d-scan -- he's five feet in front of me."
Bre apparently watched as a Proteus strategic cruiser (a local, not one of the ships run off early) decloaked right next to her and started a target lock. Veteran of more than a few gate camp counter-attacks, she plays dumb with her attacker, letting the ship get the first lock and only targeting him after the Proteus has established a warp engine scramble and started shooting.
"Astarte on d-scan," announces Em. "Here he comes."
"I have the Proteus locked," adds Bre. "Proteus is scrambled."
Ty, Shan, and Cabbage jump through the wormhole and initiate warp to Bre while CB gets back into a combat ship back at our tower.
Later, I learn that the Astarte pilot landed next to Bre, targeted her, took a good look around, noticed our trio of attack ships coming in, and warped back out before he could also be locked down.
-- it worked, because by the time Ty landed, the only enemy on-grid was the Proteus.
"500 million isk ship," observes Em. "I'll take it."
We agree. Ty, Cab, Bree, and Shan tear into the Proteus, CB joining them about a minute later. The explosion is very pretty, and marks both Shan and CB's first PvP kills since starting EVE -- not a bad way to start.
To his credit, the Proteus pilot does not beg for mercy. In fact, the only message from the locals comes from the Astarte pilot.
"That," he says in the local channel. "Was a nice ambush. Well played. Biggest loss I think I've ever taken, and the the first kill I've had in almost a year. Not bad."
"Nice job on the tengu, earlier," we reply.
"Thanks," he says.
There is a few minutes of silence while most of us leave the system, then:
"Man... bait-drake. You got me with a bait Drake."
"Don't worry," we assure him, "we won't tell anyone."