Part one: Good things come to those who wait
It all started rather straightforwardly for a Friday night. Our chain was relatively small with few connections and those we had were very quiet. Our static C3 led to a low-sec system in Kador bordering on high-sec. Not a bad location but nothing exciting. I logged on, looking for something to fill my evening and decided to jump out into the low-sec system in my Stratios to see what was what. We have recently been recruiting a few new players and our online numbers were very high, for us, throughout the evening. When I jumped out, it was after a recent EVE disconnect storm and we had a decent group of about a dozen pilots (some alts included) and one of them was bringing a ship or two back through the low-sec connection. I provided some local intel. There was 8 to 10 people in local with most seemingly docked up. I had a Cerberus on dscan who was apparently running some kind of escalation or mission pocket since he was not incident with any of the signatures I scanned down. During my scanning I found a few other wormholes, one to more low-sec and another to a C1, reminding me that even k-space can have connections for us to explore. Around this time, local jumped a little, some chatting began, and it appeared that the locals had woken up and dispatched the Cerberus unceremoniously. Our pilot had already returned home, so he and two others gathered around the low-sec system as I thought maybe we might get an encounter with these same locals. Around this time I noted an Occator and Nereus, both with similar names with "C2" in them. I thought perhaps they were wormholers like us using this connection to run to a trade hub. I landed on the C1 to see the Nereus jump in. I was hoping he would return again so I began to watch.
Around this time, local chat started again. Have I mentioned how weird it is to see local chat? One of the new contacts was someone from Wingspan and was conversing with the locals who apparently were old friends. I, of course, knew of Wingspan. Their CEO had just been elected to CSM X and their corp was even one featured in the "This is EVE" video. It is always interesting when you have encounters with EVE notable corporations. One of our members signed off for the evening leaving two of us in the low-sec system and one idling inside the C3 on the wormhole, waiting. Just then the wormhole crackled, I immediately decloaked and pounced on the Nereus that decloaked. My suspicions were right, and I was excited. Nereus are notoriously bait ships, packing a considerable punch and tank in certain configurations. This was not the case here as the only thing launched from the Nereus was the pilot's capsule as he abandoned ship and fled back through the wormhole. Needless to say, it exploded
Nothing of note here, but still a reward for my observation and patience. While this was happening, my corpmate noted the Stratios on dscan. This was not the first appearance of the ship but it was staying around now. Thinking it might be in the combat site, we checked for wrecks but saw none. With some dscanning, we found that he was in the Data site. My corpmate had warped in and had eyes on and it was our Wingspan friend from earlier, hacking a low-sec data site. We gave a few moments consideration given his obvious friendship with the locals but decided to go for it. We had a cloaky Proteus, Stratios, and a Cyclone. If his friends came, we could put up a good fight, we thought.
As is often the case with us, we made a mistake. The Proteus pilot accidentally decloaked himself on a can and engaged, his cover blown. I warped in and landed about 20km off, a good position for me, and applied point. The Stratios was already bleeding into armor but had his drones out in defense. I was so busy watching dscan I failed to notice that I had not gotten my own drones on the target and corrected. Now he was crumbling fast with no apparent reps. Our friend in the Cyclone didn't even get into the fight before the Stratios exploded. Those warp speed changes for battlecruisers will be a welcome one.
Satisfied with our work, we jumped back into the C3 to head home. One of my habits is to compare the signature list with our Tripwire data to see if any new connections have opened since my last visit to a system. I did this almost without thinking and found two new connections. I noted this and told the others I was going to scan them down. I found a K162 from C2 or C3 space and an outbound to C3 space. Outbound holes are special as they offer an opportunity to jump into a system where the residents may be surprised by your presence. It is a great way to catch people engaged in PvE activities.
Part two: A comedy of errors
Now I've had my share of interesting EVE coincidences, but this was almost too much. I was pretty sure that this was a new connection for this hole. I mean, what are the chances that someone came into our C3 static via the K162, opened the outbound to this C3, left these guys alone running sites, then one of them jumped out into low-sec, was killed (by a wormhole corp), and then left their connection wide open, without a scout, and continued to PvE? Stranger things have happened but the alternative was that I had jumped into a new hole occupied by the same corp I had just killed in low-sec. Both were near crazy situations but I would take it. This was a fight in the making.
The two ships had finished the site and the Vulture had warped in. Another very odd thing. Who uses a boosting command ship to salvage and clean up sites? But that is exactly what happened. The Drake warped off and eventually so did the Rattlesnake leaving the Vulture alone cleaning up. It was almost too much. But before we could engage anyone, I had to confirm what those other ships were. I found the tower and warped there to find the Astero, Dominix, and Manticore all unpiloted. The Drake and Rattlesnake were not here and were in a new site already.
The plan hatched. We would wait for the Drake and Rattlesnake to finish the site and engage them at their weakest. I called for my guys to jump in and hold cloak as they finished off the final battleship. It was weird that they couldn't see the bookmark I made but I figured it was just a propagation delay and didn't think much of it. The sleeper died, I warped to the Rattlesnake, applied point, and called in the cavalry. Our fleet was comprised of myself in the Stratios again, two Ishtars, and something else I can't remember, maybe the Cyclone, flown by an alliance member.
This is where things went horribly wrong
Immediately comms lit up with "We cannot warp to you. You are not in system" and the realization quickly spread that they were not in the wormhole with me. The alliance member landed on grid with me and it became apparent that while he had scanned down the wormhole himself (CCPlease let us have alliance bookmarks), my two corpmates had gone into the wrong hole because I had forgotten to bookmark the outbound C3.
So imagine, myself in a Stratios, and what I think might have been a Cyclone now on grid with a Drake and Rattlesnake. We held our own briefly while this situation sorted but the problem was we had no hope of breaking the tank on the Rattlesnake. Those are "bad mamba jamba" as my corpmate said when we first spotted them. Luckily for us they were true PvE fits and had no point whatsoever. We disengaged with our tails between our legs and I got everyone warped to me on the correct hole.
Here we laughed for a bit about our failure and then thought that if it were us who had just driven off gankers, we would likely either finish the site or most certainly clean up our loot. I reentered the hole, with proper backup now, and found the later to be the case. The Vulture was alone in the site cleaning up wrecks. Jump, I called and we warped in and landed on the Vulture.
This is where things go only marginally wrong
We had three or four ships (I have a hard time remembering all the details) and began pouring DPS on the Vulture. Command ships are not easy nuts to crack and he was not going down easy but also wasn't fighting back. He was, after all, a salvaging booster. The Drake and Rattlesnake quickly came back to his defense and the fight was on.
Now here is where, in hindsight, we made a number of errors.
1. Our Ishtar pilot was, in fact, active tanked. He realized this from his safe spot, repped, and returned to the fight. Having him on grid for the entire fight would have been a major benefit.
2. I chose to call the Rattlesnake as primary instead of either destroying the Drake or killing drones.
This, I think, was a major error on my part. The Drake, while a lesser threat, was adding a decent amount of DPS to the fight. He would likely have been easily dispatched as we had the firepower and taking him off the field would have made outlasting the Rattlesnake easier
Secondly, the drones of a Rattlesnake are formidable and he was fielding a Gecko. Looking back we had some webs and DPS at our disposal. I was a good 20km from the Rattlesnake and when the Gecko attacked me, webbing it down and killing it should have been a priority.
Lastly, I should have closed the distance and applied neuts to the Rattlesnake to try to break his tank.
As it was, when the Rattlesnake and Drake DPS hit me, I made my own personal ship management error and did not have my ancillary repair module auto repeating and the DPS overwhelmed and I lost the Stratios.
At this point we decided to be happy with what we had already accomplished and headed for the exit again. Of course, we failed to loot the wreck and did not even make it out with the over 250M ISK worth of Navy Co-Processors that dropped. Mistake number four.
But, with all that being said, the entire fight was one of our better experiences. We had pilots involved who, up until then, had only been the target of ganks and blobs. We had engaged in a very even fight despite the surprise nature of our arrival and messing up the initial attack altogether.
So even though we lost, we came out ahead in the "ISK war" and left with a definite smile on our faces for having taken the fight to an enemy, come out bloodied on both sides, and yet left with some ships intact to fight another day.
Big thanks to Wingspan for being our content for the night. We hope that you had a similar view on the outcome and enjoyed it even though we interrupted your plans.