(plus Porpoise alt Serenity Sansil
tl;dr - Fit Porpoise with Higgs anchor and have QRF ships ready to go in system!
We had a tougher time finding good anomalies to mine than at the previous event. Our search eventually produced a viable site in Dour next to the high-sec island, with the system initially quiet. After getting everybody settled with ships and crystals, we headed out. Antalax was boosting us in a Gnosis at first, then W1ntur brought in a Porpoise on his alt, and Antalax switched to a barge. I had an alt in a shuttle watch the Vivanier gate, but we didn't have eyes on the Pelille gate.
As I expected for Dour, which houses a number of groups that stage out of there, we did soon have traffic in and through the system. After an initial warp-out from the site due to a local spike and ships on long d, we resumed mining, but after that continually had neutrals in local, including a Dramiel likely to have been going after the low-sec event sites, a Procurer that we couldn't locate at any of the obvious mining spots (maybe they were running mining missions) and several appearances of a Thanatos on d that must have been running missions also.
Nevertheless, with ongoing checks of both long and short d, we didn't feel under immediate threat and continued mining. At one point, we noticed that there were now three pilots in local that all belonged to the same corp, but still with no change on d, we continued on. I was in warp back to the site in the Miasmos when I noticed a Stratios on d. To my horror, the Stratios was in fact on grid with the rest of our group and headed directly for the Porpoise! Nobody was aligned to anywhere! The mining ships weren't the target, so they all managed to warp out. I cloaked up the Miasmos and had to watch helplessly as the Stratios continued the assault on the Porpoise. We didn't have any dd ships in the system, so no chance of fighting off the attacker. With good foresight, the Porpoise did have EC-300s ready to be deployed - off they went with hope in their hearts. W1ntur soon reported being into structure on the Porpoise, and I feared for the worst. Then suddenly, the most wonderful sight in all of Eve: the Porpoise picking up speed and moving in a straight line across the grid and off into the sunset!
With their target slipped from their grasp, the Stratios pilot brought in their corpmates (or alts) in frigates to loot the abandoned mining drones on the field. I waited another few minutes after they warped off before uncloaking my hauler and heading for dock-up - the Stratios could potentially have been sitting on grid still. With downtime approaching, we decided to return to Eugales and fold the fleet.
Obviously, this situation was much, much too close for comfort. It was also pretty much a worst-case scenario: a ship warping in on us under cloak and catching us unaligned, with no threat ever presenting itself on d-scan. Nonetheless, there are lessens to be learned and modifications to the procedure to be instituted:
- Maybe a picket at the Pelille gate would have caught the Stratios jumping into the system, but it is equally likely that the pilot actually lives in Dour and had the ship ready to go at one of the structures in the system. We would need to have eyes at dozens of locations to cover all possible undockings - not feasible.
- The general recommendation to mine aligned as soon as there are neutrals in the system is hard to implement when the system continually has neutrals in it and the mining ships are not all set up with Higgs anchor rigs. In the present case, our mining rate would have been dramatically lowered, with fleet members frequently having to bounce to stay within range of the rocks and the boosts.
- Having at least the Porpoise fitted with a Higgs anchor and always be aligned on grid would make such an attack less likely to succeed. The Porpoise should still be the #1 target for anyone hunting us, so even if the other ships do not mine aligned, they would probably be able to warp off as long as they are not sitting right next to the Porpoise. (Of course, if we noticed a large number of neutrals in local that could signify a fleet with the ability to spread tackle on our ships, we would not blissfully continue to mine in the first place.)
- The presence of a bait Procurer with a burst jammer as well as EC-300 drones of their own could significantly increase the chances of the Porpoise making it out alive. Combine that with...
- QRF ships are a must! Imagine the look on the Stratios pilot's face if their ship suddenly had a scram on them and it was their turn to watch helplessly as an assortment of enemy cruisers started showing up on their d-scan.