Bookmarks of the w-space constellation are convenient, bookmarks a few hours old less so. But bookmarks made a few hours ago by another capsuleer become an adventure again. It's like I have a trail of crumbs to follow, with no guarantee that it will lead anywhere or even guide me home again. And although I am happy to throw myself in to the void, prudence won't let me leave the home system without first checking for new connections. As nothing unexpected appears under my combat probes, I recall them and jump in to the explored unknown of our neighbouring class 3 w-space system.
Now, what to do? My directional scanner is clear, so I check where the bookmarks point to. The constellation is more than a simple chain from our K162—which I make sure has a bookmark—to the C3's static exit, which looks to lead to high-sec, as there is also an outbound connection to class 4 w-space and a K162 from null-sec k-space. And there's also an Imicus on d-scan now. I turn my covert Loki strategic cruiser back towards our K162 as I monitor the frigate's presence on d-scan, wondering if the scanning boat will be heading my way, but it simply drops off d-scan within a minute.
The Imicus could be doing anything. It could be local and reconnoitring newly scanned wormholes, or a tourist and, well, still reconnoitring newly scanned wormholes. Without knowing where it came from or where it went I think I am best served sitting on our K162 and seeing if it comes to me rather than chasing its exhaust. I open the system map and orientate myself with the known wormholes, so that I can give chase if I need to. Of course, the Imicus could equally have left the system and be scouting elsewhere, or even headed to high-sec empire space to... do whatever capsuleers do there. A few minutes of waiting for nothing convinces me to at least check the local tower to see if the frigate is there.
A bookmark leads me right to the tower, where I don't see the frigate but a pilot's pod. I spot that first on d-scan, and then on my overview, so the two are together. But they aren't quite as connected as I assume, as a proper look at my overview and then space itself shows. The pod isn't inside the tower's force field, but floating some kilometres outside it, curiously next to a wreck. I think I now know what happened to that Imicus. I have a good idea of what's going to happen to the poor pilot too. She's not moving, perhaps not having remembered to note the route out of w-space and relying on the scanning probes she no longer has access to. I can give her a way home. I bookmark the location of the wreck and bounce my Loki off a nearby moon, returning to be almost on top of the pod.
I line up the pod, decloak, and rip the capsuleer out of her goo and in to space to give me a new corpse for my collection and wake her up in a new clone. I cloak again, befuddling the tower's defences, before decloaking to scoop, loot, and shoot. I leave no trace behind, ghost squad style. Now there's nothing more to do. I shall investigate the wormholes. My first choice is the T405 connection to class 4 w-space, keeping me in familiar territory, and jumping in shows that I am back to exploring. The bookmark trail ends here, giving me the beginnings of a fresh constellation to scout. I know this!
I have no notes on this system, nothing on d-scan, and three planets out of range. Launching probes and scanning has a fairly average result of thirteen anomalies and seven signatures, and curiously no occupation in this C4. I sift through obvious signatures to dig down to a really weak wormhole, filling me with the dread of having found an H900 connection to a chain of class 5 w-space. But, no, it's even better! This wormhole is a U574, leading to a deadly class 6 system, making me no longer surprised that this C4 is unoccupied. No blinking now—onwards!
D-scan in C6a shows me combat scanning probes and nothing else. The probes aren't close to the wormhole, so I warp away to explore, although with one planet out of range there really isn't much to see. A tower with three carriers and one dreadnought is anchored to a distant moon, but there are no pilots. All I have to keep me company are the scanning probes. I warp back to the wormhole as the probes disappear but no ship comes to replace them. I jump back to C4a, wondering the scout has already moved on, but no ship is launching probes overtly on the other side of the wormhole either. I consider returning to C6a to scan the system, but if I do that I'll be polarised, so I wait a minute. And in that minute the wormhole flares.
My session change cloak remains handily active, so I can pounce without any recalibration delay, but I have no idea what has just jumped in to the system. I watch and wait, and finally a Proteus strategic cruiser appears. After my recent run in with a Proteus, I decide discretion is the better part of exploding, and let the other ship cloak. My session change cloak drops, so I activate my fitted cloak and manoeuvre away from my current position. I suppose there are no secrets now. The Proteus drops its cloak, launches a single probe, and cloaks again, reappearing a minute later some distance from the wormhole, where it launches a complement of scanning probes.
I doubt I can attack the Proteus and win in my covert Loki. It really isn't built for such an engagement. Being of Mattari construction, it really isn't built for being in space either. But if the Proteus is scanning it may well continue in to C3a, and I have more able ships back at our hangar. One should be able to handle a covert Proteus solo, but only as long as it remains solo, and we've been on the pointy end of a fleet's scout before. I deliberate as I head back across C4a, through C3a, and home, wondering what ship to risk and whether I am going to take that risk in the first place. I wonder if the Curse recon ship has the firepower to break a Proteus, preferring to avoid the costly Legion strategic cruiser, only to have the Legion crash as I try to compare the two ships' systems.
I return to w-space apparently already in the Legion, and as it has taken a couple of minutes to reboot the ship, and the Proteus has a fat K162 to find, I decide that if I am going to engage the scout I have to leave now. Well, I actually realise I should have left a minute ago, but now is about as close as I can get to that. I jump to C3a and punch d-scan, where I see a bunch of combat scanning probes in the system. I knew I needed to be quick, and these repeated crashes are more than getting on my nerves, as they are spoiling opportunities too. There's not much left to do but return home, where I wait on our static wormhole, hoping the Proteus will continue to come this way. And also kinda hoping he doesn't. I'm not entirely comfortable with this plan.
Wait, wait, wait. The Proteus isn't coming. Okay, that's it for now. That's it for now. No? No, that's not working, and not even faking warping out makes the wormhole flare. That really is it for now. I'm not waiting to die. On top of missing a proper engagement, I get a pang of guilt for podding that poor Imicus pilot earlier. I didn't pop the ship, so there was no real hunt, and being podded didn't really teach the pilot anything about w-space expect that capsuleers are nasty, opportunistic gits. I could instead have opened a conversation and offered to guide her back to high-sec, which has the higher likelihood of the pilot returning to w-space at a later date, more confident and more of a target. I'd rather have the uncertainty of stalking a Proteus than the banality of corpsifying a stationary pod. Guilty Penny, is this a turning point?