I'm by myself again, but not in spirit. Bookmarks have been made for our w-space constellation, and indicate the simplest of constellations today. Home leads to our neighbouring class 3 system, which leads to k-space. Let's see what else I can find, and if any new connections have opened. Home is clear, but jumping to C3a has three ships and a tower visible on my directional scanner. There's no bookmark to guide me to the local tower but my notes from ten weeks ago do, where I find the Orca industrial command ship, Curse recon ship, and Bestower hauler all floating empty inside the force field. I also learn from my notes that the static exit leads to null-sec, but the bookmark I have is not for that. In fact, I have no idea what the extra bookmarks are for, because they point nowhere from home and nowhere from this C3. I'll be scanning, then.
Twenty-one anomalies and six signatures are easy enough to sift through. I resolve rocks, gas, a chubby wormhole that won't be the exit to null-sec, a second chubby wormhole, and finally the static connection. The two K162s both come from class 2 w-space systems, which is attractive, and although I head to the static wormhole to get the exit system first the connection is reaching the end of its life, so I leave it alone and stick to w-space. Entering C2a has me appear seven kilometres from the wormhole, and so probably with my ship on the cosmic signature and in a system that hasn't seen activity for hours. There's a tower on scan, so I limit myself to locating that for reference before heading back to C3a and scouting in to C2b to look for action.
Three drones, an off-line tower, and some canisters that are probably related to the off-line tower litter d-scan. There's nowhere to hide in this small system either, so that's all there is to see, but I suspect it means there is another K162 to find. Six anomalies and six signatures resolve to give more than the one wormhole. An outbound connection to class 1 w-space is neat, the static connection to high-sec empire space has a Sabre sitting on it, and as the interdictor pilot no doubt has seen my probes I finish scanning a third wormhole and two radar sites as if he weren't there. I recall my probes as I sit and watch the Sabre, wondering what his reaction will be. I imagine he is waiting and watching for me.
The Sabre warps from the exit to high-sec towards the wormhole from C3a, giving me time to reconnoitre the third wormhole, which is a K162 from class 4 w-space. We both return to the exit wormhole, even if the Sabre probably doesn't realise this, and although I think I watch the interdictor leave the system the wormhole flare actually indicates a ship entering. A Cheetah allied to the Sabre appears before disappearing, cloaking as comes naturally to a covert operations boat. Maybe the Sabre is acting as escort to colleagues, but surely not to a cov-ops. I still think he's waiting for me to show myself, and maybe I should. I am in my Loki after all, and covert configuration or not, my strategic cruiser would probably prevail over the interdictor. I just need the Sabre to move from the high-sec connection again for engaging him to be worthwhile.
Be careful what you wish for. The Sabre warps away, towards the wormhole to C1a, giving me the opportunity to engage him. I follow behind, seeing the Sabre drop off d-scan, indicating a jump, and hoping that he'll come back soon. If the Sabre is polarised and I'm not I can engage with little overall risk. Or I could, if my stupid ship didn't lock up again. This is getting tedious. I restart my ship systems and return to cloak on the C1 wormhole, knowing that my Loki would have been quite visible in the system for the couple of minutes it took to reboot, and have apparently missed the Sabre's return from C1a. I suppose any element of surprise I had, which would rely on my being in a strategic cruiser and not a cov-ops, has been lost.
I catch up with the Sabre back on the connection to high-sec, but he doesn't stay there. The interdictor warps away again, this time towards C4a, and I follow. Again I hope he'll return and be polarised, but the only second jump is from the Cheetah following behind the Sabre in to the class 4 system. I would guess that the Cheetah has been scouting systems looking for targets for the Sabre, and that they have given up and returned to their C4 home. That means they are not jumping back to this C2 any time soon, and that there is nothing for me to find in C1a either. I take a look anyway, and although there are two frigates and a hauler, they float unpiloted at one of the two towers. The C1 looks pretty quiet.
Maybe C4a isn't the pilots' home and the Cheetah is scouting further afield for the Sabre. I poke my nose through the wormhole, hoping the Sabre isn't sat on the connection, and punch d-scan. Nope, this looks like home. The Sabre is nowhere to be seen, whereas the Cheetah sits on d-scan with a tower. Covert ships tend only to be seen when they want to be seen, and it's no surprise to find the Cheetah safely inside his home tower's force field. So what to do now. I head back to C2b and out to high-sec, but there are no obvious w-spacers in the system, so I suppose I'm going back to scan C2a.
Hullo, there's an Anathema cov-ops on d-scan, which wasn't there before. As with the Cheetah, the visible Anathema is sitting in the local tower and piloted, which gives me a new contact to monitor. Patience now, Penny. Don't engage and lose a small fish, when watching and waiting could bag something bigger. A second new contact warps in to the same tower as the Anathema, in a shuttle, so with the locals ganging up maybe there will be some activity soon. Whilst I wait, I give a full sitrep to my glorious leader who comes on-line, including the constellation and connections, locations of towers, active pilots and ships, and how I was a chicken with the Sabre. Once I've got Fin up to speed I update her with the pilot in the shuttle going off-line. Circumstances are beginning to look dreary.
I've been patient enough with this motionless Anathema. I'll take one last look around the constellation and go off-line if nothing's happening. I jump to C3a, in to C2b, through to C1a, back to C2b and out to high-sec, back again to C2b and C3a, and am about to warp across to C2a when Fin sees the K162 from C4a flare. No, it's not me, I tell her, and return to C2b to join her watching what happens. Nothing, that's what. Fin acts baity and jumps to C4a, but still nothing happens. 'Tengu, Tengu, Sabre on d-scan', she says, adding that 'I am ready to go home if that's our prey'. It's more ships than I saw, but I agree that there probably isn't much we can do if those strategic cruisers are fit for combat against other capsuleers.
It is time to go home. Somehow, the Sabre supernaturally senses this, and turns to leave the tower, warping towards the wormhole. I'm sitting on the other side, with d-scan clear, and ask if I should engage. 'Yes.' Okay then. I decloak, get my systems ready, and watch for the wormhole flare that doesn't come. I ask Fin to alert me to any movement from the other ships, as the Sabre sitting patiently on the wormhole is making me nervous. The Tengus are swapped for Drakes, and the battlecruisers are nudged in to motion. That's all the warning I need, and I cloak almost at the same time as the wormhole finally flares. Whether instinct or cowardice, that was good timing. The Sabre appears, launches an interdiction sphere—a short-lived warp bubble unique to interdictors—and burns hard away from the wormhole. I'm sure he knew I was there and hoped to bump in to me.
The bubble doesn't alarm me, but the Sabre flying in vicious orbits worries me a bit. I warp away with more good timing, seeing a Loki colleague of the Sabre warping in as I leave, and I bounce off an arbitrary point in the system and return to reconnoitre the wormhole. I wonder if the Cheetah seen earlier is still around and has been monitoring C2b all the while. It would explain the actions of the Sabre, as surely he wouldn't have done what he did to welcome his Loki buddy home. Either way, it's definitely time to go home, and we just need to get Fin out of the C4 safely. That's easily done, when the Sabre and Loki head in to the C4 and warp to the tower, giving Fin plenty of opportunity to return to this C2 and warp homewards.
I, on the other hand, stupidly wait to see the Sabre jump back in, this time with a Tengu, and warp towards the C3 wormhole. That's our route home. Rather than try to avoid the ships I decide to draw them away from the connection, warping to the wormhole to C1a and decloaking. Hopefully, they'll see me on d-scan, locate my position, and warp to intercept. They don't, damned amateurs, but as Fin predicts they soon get bored and clear our route home anyway. Fin gets back to C3a and I follow, and from there we have a clear path to the home system, where we settle down for the night. If only I'd engaged the Sabre earlier, we may not have had this hassle.