I'm on my way back into the system from yesterday's corporate asset reorganization, stopping only long enough to pick up various blueprints for Ichi. I'm not entirely sure what he's up to, but judging from the contents of the canister in my hold, I'd guess a bit of invention aimed at designing blueprints for Manticore stealth bombers. I approve.
Also, I lied: the blueprints aren't the only thing I stopped for. Having gotten close to mastering most Leadership-related skills, Berke's looking for a good way to share those bonuses with the fleet when his Orca isn't appropriate to bring along. After some pondering, he's settled on flying a custom-built Tengu strategic cruiser for the purpose, running no less than six fleet boosting modules simultaneously. Again, I approve, but since Berke's focused mostly on industrial and leadership skills, his training path for a Tengu is going to be a long one, and he's got an extensive shopping list of skill books he's going to need on the way. I'm happy to pick them up for him, and deliver the lot just as CB logs in looking for something to do.
The home system is quiet, but we've got a reasonably well-stocked class two system next door, with inhabitants that don't seem particularly interested in what we're doing, or in defending their territory -- we've tried baiting them into an engagement, but all they do is log in for a few minutes to update training queues, check email, and make sure all their Planetary Command Centers are still churning. Yawn.
Still, even if they don't want to play, there's still money to be made, so Cabbage, CB, and myself hop into pointy ships and start blowing up sleepers, clearing five anomalies in short order. By this point, it's getting difficult for Cab to stay awake, as he's down-under, so I volunteer for salvaging duties and jump back to the home system to reship into the Catalyst destroyer I use for the purpose. There's a Noctis industrial salvaging ship in our hangar as well, which is generally better at such things than a retasked destroyer, but it seems like a bit of overkill for only a few sites, and more to the point it belongs to Gor and I'm not entirely sanguine about risking someone else's rhubarb without checking in with them first.
Cabbage slips back to the home system, CB reships into a Cheetah covert ops boat to keep an eye on d-scan for me while I'm melting down Sleepers, and things proceed quite --
Unfortunately, Cabbage logged off as I started clean up. This has an annoying consequence within our little fleet -- since he's not a member of our gang anymore, any of the Sleeper ships on which he got the final blow have now been flagged as belonging to someone who has not given me explicit loot permission -- it doesn't mean I CAN'T salvage and loot them, but it does mean I can't use the Catalyst's tractor beams to pull in the scattered wrecks, forcing me to fly from one to the next in order to apply my relatively short-range salvagers, and effectively doubling the time this will take. A twenty-minute clean-up just turned into an hour-long slog. As an added bonus, this isn't true for all of the wrecks, just some of them, and trying to figure out which is which is basically trial and error, as there are no visual indicators. Annoying.
Right. I roll up my sleeves and get to work, checking in with CB as I go. My lookout is doing his job, and reports any movement in the system, which includes a Badger hauler, Bestower hauler, and Heron scouting frigate appearing and then disappearing at the tower in rapid succession. It looks like someone just logged in all their alts in quick succession to take care of daily business, and I keep flying around from wreck to wreck, doing my thing. In all but one case, the battlefields are far enough from the tower that I won't show up on the local's directional scan, and even if I did, their PvP history does not suggest we need to worry about them very much. I keep at the salvage and loot process, watching the hold fill up with a surprisingly good amount of the really good stuff like melted nanoribbons.
I'm about halfway through the fourth site of our five when CB announces Combat Scanner Probes on scan. My first thought is that the Heron recon frigate didn't log out, but instead warped out of range of our sensors and launched probes.
"You want to get out?"
"In a sec," I say. "Got one more Battleship to melt down, and this site's done. Anyone flying a crappy little Heron around either isn't going to find me very fast, or will have to reship before he comes in. We'll see him."
CB's response is very persuasive, if a little bit abrupt.
"Loki on scan!"
Now, a Loki strategic cruiser is an entirely different ball of twine. First, the ship can both scan and bring plenty of DPS to an impromptu ambush. Second, the advanced nature of the craft -- in contrast to a Heron -- indicates a pilot that could easily possess the skills to locate my destroyer quickly.
Very quickly indeed, it turns out, as the Loki lands almost on top of my destroyer as I'm turning and aligning to warp out a safe spot. The cruiser's autocannons make short work of the unarmored destroyer, and I warp only my escape pod free, rather than an entire ship. Dammit.
CB and I retreat to our home system to analyze what happened, which obviously puts most of the blame firmly on my own shoulders. Pro tip: when you have a lookout posted, and he announces evidence of hostile intent, get the hell out. I needed to be reminded of that simple lesson, and the loss of the destroyer (and all those shiny nanoribbons destroyed in the explosion) will help ensure it sticks. Yes, if we had prevented the problem with Cabbage logging out we would have been done salvaging before the Loki even showed up, and if I hadn't had to fly from one wreck to the next instead of using a tractor beam, I could have stayed aligned to a celestial and ready to warp out, as I usually am. But while that's true, it's all coulda-shoulda-mighta; come right down to it, I just didn't get out when my scout told me to.
A least I didn't use the Noctis; that would have been a much more expensive and painful lesson.
A bit more research reveals yet another lesson I could stand to learn. I was relaxed and dismissive of threat because of the poor record and generally negligent attitude of the local pilots, but it wasn't a local pilot who got my ship. The combat record for my assailant -- an independent hunter roaming through Anoikis -- is, in a word, stellar: a long list of solo kills in wormhole space against the overconfident and unwary. I am, in fact, his third kill TODAY: the first two were in some other wormhole system (probably one he came through to get to the one where he found us), and occurred over two hours apart from one another. In other words, he blew up a ship and then waited, patiently, until that pilot's cohorts decided he had given up and dropped their guard... then he killed another one.
Am I angry at this guy? Hell no: I'm taking notes.
Still, his evident patience is a caution flag on any further activity, and I don't like our odds for trying to hunt down a cloak-capable strategic cruiser flown by an obviously skilled pilot -- it sounds like a good way to waste a few hours in frustration, so we chalk the whole mess up under Lessons Learned and head out for the night.