Monday, February 7, 2011

Karmic Balance, Or Something

[[ Autopilot jumping. ]]

Aura’s announcement barely registered with me - I was conferring with Eta as to what she could produce next. Nanotransistors were still a sought-after commodity, but we were getting uncomfortable: two months of a continuous price increase was just too good to be true. Granted, the price of the input materials was rising as well, but sooner or later it had to top out.

[[ Autopilot disabled. ]]

Ah, excellent - I had arrived. That was quicker than I expected!

...waitaminnit - that had been too quick. Putting Eta on hold, I shifted my attention back to my sensors

Aha! I was in Ashab, only one hop into my journey, aaand there was a Curse warp-scrambling me, and now launching Warrior IIs.

Wasn’t it a bit early for Hulkageddon? And did this pilot really think he could take out my freighter before Concord got him?

Anyway - I aligned my freighter back towards the gate and brought the engines to full power. Progress was slow however, a Crane from the same corp was enjoying himself by bumping me off course.

My shield was gone, and my ship informed me that I was taking armor damage.

...ehrm, Concord?

Did we get war-decced, and I didn’t get the memo? But then the whole corp would be able to attack me, like the Harbinger who now had a lock on me, and they didn’t.

[ Hold on, I just switched into my Drake - I’ll be there in a few minutes. ]

Eta! I had completely forgotten that she was still listening in on comms. Her Drake could easily take down the Curse, but...

“Negative, stand down. We can’t have him get kill rights on you.”

[ Awww! ]

I heard her disappointment, but I knew she would obey. Another comms message came in - but this time it was a request for a private conversation, from a member of Brick Squad alliance. What the...?

Astroid Mistress > you ok
Druur Monakh > I'm only in 50% armor, but otherwise yes.
Astroid Mistress > why arent you heading to gate?

But I was heading towards the gate! That gate over there, which was still ... behind ... me.

Druur Monakh > Stupidity, I guess, I confused the gates :(

Damn! Hastily I changed course, pointing the ship towards to right gate this time - but my mistake had cost me precious minutes.

Astroid Mistress > I will help you
Druur Monakh > I'd apprecieate that
Astroid Mistress > I will try and bump you closer

Moments later, a shudder went through my ship - Astroid’s freighter had made contact, and propelled me towards the gate. But it was still a long way to go.

Might as well use the time to figure out why I was in this situation in the first place. ‘AMSF Celestial’ - the name didn’t ring a bell with me. Maybe my Combat Log would give a clue... He has kill rights on me?!

No wonder he caught me unaware - it’s the first time anybody had kill rights on me ever! But why?

A cursory check of the outside world - yes, I was still putt-putting towards the gate, and was about to hit structure - and I went back to investigate my foe. Let’s see what the public records have on him...


[ Eh, what? ]

“The carrier shoot in Teshkat, two weeks ago. He was one of the attackers we popped, and now he has kill rights on me.”

[ Geez - some people really know how to carry a grudge! ]

Outside, the gate loomed large in the sun, and I was actually almost in jump distance.

Astroid Mistress > I think you will be fine
Astroid Mistress > I would log when you jump
Druur Monakh > It'll be close :)
Astroid Mistress > I hope you make it

300 meters ... 200 meters ... 100 meters ... and Jump!

On the other side, I began the process of ‘logging off’: shutting down all communications between my pod and the ship’s system, to trigger the Concord-mandated emergency warp-and-cloak system. A cheap trick, to be sure, but then again attacking a freighter wasn’t exactly a heroic gesture either. I was just about to give the final instruction, when the Curse appeared on grid.

Damn! He must have de-aggressed sooner than I thought! Still - what choice did I have? I gave the command, and was instantly dropped into neural darkness.

Through the amniotic fluid, I could feel the vibrations of the warp engines, as they powered up - only to be disrupted by the Curse’s warp jammer. ..and yes, those other vibrations were caused by the projectiles renewing their assault on my ship. My attacker now had fifteen minutes to chew through the freighter’s massive structure before the emergency cloak would cut in. And I wouldn’t know the result until the 15 minutes had elapsed - nothing to do but wait, and reflect on what happened.

On the one hand, it was good to see that solidarity amongst freighter pilots still existed, even from members of more combat-oriented corporations.

On the other hand... aligning towards the wrong gate? Really?! Especially after all that pride for doing the Interceptor class?!

Karma, definitely.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Advanced Education

Deep in lawless space, a star gate fired; the flicker of the warp bubbles around the gate momentarily outshone by the flash of the gate.

Then, for a few seconds, nothing.

Suddenly, a Malediction appeared, close to the edge of one of the warp bubbles. The engines fired up, glowing with a painful blue tinge, the interceptor takes up speed towards a near celestial. A puff of vapor indicates the launch of a scan probe, then the interceptor cleared the edge of the bubble and warps off.

Fleet Comms crackled with a new message.

“Recon - Druur in 9M-. Gate bubbled, grid clear, Brutix on directional, four in Local, scanning for anomalies.”

While talking, I was already working on my next task: dropping a midway safe spot to double back to. As I dropped out of warp, the probe finished its scan of the system. Directional was still clear, and under my mental instructions, the interceptor aligned back towards my mid-safe, while I was checking the scan result.

Odd, just one Angel Yard in the system, even though this system had been upgraded to Military-7 level. Well, since I was here, I might as well check it out.

The Malediction nimbly responded to the new course and leapt into warp. I hit the directional scan again, completely forgetting to restrict it to my flight direction. Not that it mattered - it was still uneventful.

“Recon - 9M- update. Only one Angel anomaly in system, which is ... ” - my ship dropped out of warp - “... inactive. No other anomaly on scan.”

An indicator signaled that local comms had become active, but I ignored it - I didn’t speak the local dialect anyway.

[ Did you try moving your probe? ], inquired the FC and instructor.

Good point! And while I was sure that I had been scanning at maximum range, I hadn’t really verified it, hm?

The probe launcher burped and another probe sped away. A quick check - yes, it was set to 32 AU - and I triggered another scan while checking on the local map that the probe would indeed cover the whole system. The scan ended... again no further hits.

“I did that - the probe covered the whole system, and still nothing. And d-scan is clear.”, I reported back, and added with a bit of embarrassment: “I have no idea where the locals are.”

[ Hmm - ok, come back. ]

For a second I considered checking the belts, but by this time the locals surely had POSed up, if they had any sense. With a mental shrug, I turned my ship back towards the gate and entered warp. Back in QPTT-F, I met up again with our little fleet: 10 or so interceptors, flown by nervous students like myself, and a DPS wing flown by Agony Unleashed.

Our task: practice the art of skirmishing by finding and holding targets for the DPS wing to kill. And while the Instructor/FC did orchestrate our movements in general, scouting out the individual systems was fully up to us.

The roam had been uneventful so far - a few close misses, but mostly empty systems. Word from our little fleet probably had preceded us, but as the real goal of the class was the art of the hunt as such, we didn’t mind that much. Besides, just doing all the scouting tasks kept us more than busy - it was a far cry from our previous experiences as fleet peons, or as dwellers in the slower paced w-space.

Onwards we pressed, leaving Scalding Pass for the open spaces of Insmother. And there, finally, we got our first engagement - almost by accident, actually. One of us had warped to the Sun as part of his scouting procedure, when suddenly a Cynabal showed up on his grid. The cruiser was quickly tackled, and the fleet poured in to lay the killing blow. As the fight was going on, a Raven landed on grid as well. He, too, found his end at the hands of the DPS wing.

[ Maybe we should just wait here, and let the targets come to us! ]

But of course staying wasn’t an option. With renewed energy we moved on, scouting system after system, until about an hour later we came across a Drake and a Raven at a gate to 2-Q4YG. Disruptors were activated and found their targets, but these two pilots stayed calm and approached the gate to jump to safety. However, the FC had anticipated the move and sent a couple of interceptors ahead. Trapped on either side, both ships made valiant attempts at escape, but in the end both succumbed to our DPS wing.

But the tide was about to turn. The Raven pilot had just warped out his pod, when suddenly new ships joined our party: a small gang comprising of a Hurricane, a Sabre and a Huginn showed up. Absolutely deadly enemies for an Interceptor.

[ Burn out! Burn out! ] came the urgent command on comms, but the fleet was already scattering away from the gate, to re-assemble in a safe spot until the immediate danger was over.

But we knew that whoever was leading this gang wouldn’t stop hunting us, and the decision was made to head back home. Besides, we had been on the go for almost four hours at that point, and everybody was starting to lose concentration, which sooner or later would lead to a fatal mistake. The enemy gang continued to chase us for a while, but couldn’t really keep up with our speed; and once they took a wrong turn in 1V-, we no longer had to worry about them and reached MDD-79 without any further opposition. The class officially ended at this point, yet we kept the fleet going for those of us who needed to traverse the Hemin-Doril pipe towards Empire.

As I navigated my trusty Malediction through the gates, shaking inside my pod from exhaustion, I couldn’t help pondering how the last hours had changed us. When we started our roam, many of us had still been skittish to jump

[ RMOC gate in Hemin clear ]

into an unknown system, or even to speak up on fleet comms. But now, jumping

[ Be advised, Utopia gate in Doril is camped ]

through gates and providing informal recon

“Jorund gate in Doril: one Hurricane at a TAC”

was something we just did.

And knowing that I now had this experience at my disposal, should I ever need it - that was a good feeling.