Eventually, I spotted something. It was a strange gibberish name in the local chat channel, signifying there was someone in system with me. For a moment I spotted a Raven-class battleship on my scanner - and then nothing. There were no stations, so he was still in open space. Even better, I knew precisely who or what he was: a currency farmer. Farmers earn buckets of in-game ISK, then turn it around for real-world cash. There have long been many of these chaps in the quieter corners of the game, and they'd often log off as soon as you enter their system to avoid being killed. This one had another technique: He warped to a point in deep space and then cloaked his ship so I couldn't find it.
Currency merchants seldom engage in combat or even chat, but something was up with this one. Unusually, he spoke in the local channel. The words were English, but they made absolutely no sense - probably the result of his native language being put through an online translator. I watched the nonsense scroll up in my inbox for a while and wondered what he was trying to achieve. When I jumped into the next system, it became clear: He'd been trying to distract me.
The next system contained something I'd never seen before: thirty or more of the currency farmers in one place. They all had the same gibberish names and Raven ships - perfect for killing NPCs and grinding up cash - except for one, who kept them resupplied in an industrial hauler ship. Perhaps I was simply witnessing all the local farmers grouping up in once place to re-arm. But that made no sense; surely the cargo ship would simply tour the systems, collecting loot and dropping off ammo. No, there was something else going on.
The farmers began to disappear from the local channel, but I tracked them to a jumpgate. They weren't logging off, they were jumping to the next system. These cash cows were making a break for the safety of Empire space, and they were doing it together in the quiet of Christmas day. Unfortunately for them, they had a long way to go, and they were moving slowly.
Being a single ship against 30 meant I had no hope of holding more than one of them, and I'd be unlikely to kill even the hauler with this many of his comrades nearby. I frantically began to type up what I'd seen in our private chat channels, alerting the few allies I had online. Sleepy as they were, they flew into action. We rapidly prepared an ambush: An Interdictor-class ship would interrupt the travel of the farmer ships while a small "damage" fleet would kill as many of them as possible.