I awoke with a start, opening my eyes to the dim light of my lodgings. Shaking my head, I tried to remember what had woken me ... some kind of noise ...
Damn Minmatar quarters - always something creaking or hissing in them!
I rolled over, intent to return into Morpheus’ embrace, when the shrill sound again rang through the room.
What the... Comm System!
Stretching out my arm, I activated the comm panel - no outgoing visual though. The holo display shimmered and resolved into the face of Eta.
[ Finally you’re awake! Get your ass on alliance comms, and then into a ship. They need a combat scanner Next Door; like, 10 minutes ago! ]
‘Next Door’ - our nickname for the neighbouring lo-sec system; home to the towers of a number of alliances, some of them much larger than us, and also always seeing traffic from random missioners and ratters.
Hmm, combat scanning - I don’t think I ever had to do that outside of my solo WH expeditions... ah, what the heck - she who dares, and so on.
I jumped off my bunk.
“Copy that, I’m on my way.”
Discarding my clothing as I went, I ran towards my pod at the hangar balcony, preferring speed over decorum. As soon as the pod had closed around me and the neural links were hooked up, I instructed it to dock with my Covert Ops, and opened Alliance comms.
“Druur here. Do you still need a combat scanner?”
[ Hell yeah! ], came the immediate response from Tavi, our alliance leader.
The pod entered my Anathema, and the virtual consoles sprang alive before my mental eye. A quick command to the hangar systems, the probe launcher was loaded with combat probes, then I initated the undock procedure.
“I’m on my way. What am I looking for?”
[ A Kronos and a Noctis. We’re holding on this side of the gate, so as not to spook them. ]
I entered space, and with a swift command my engines went to full power, propelling me towards the star gate.
“Any particular reason why we want them?”
[ They’re neutral, and on our turf. ] Amusement tinged Tavi’s voice. [ Plus, they are flying shinies. ]
Heh, there’s a lesson: Our boss really didn’t pussyfoot around our NBSI policy, unlike our previous alliance. I approved, but had to admit that there were still some old NRDS habits I needed to get rid of.
“Fair enough.” I dropped out of warp. “Jumping into system.”
The gate fired, and spit me out in lo-sec space. A quick scan..
“Gate is clear, two in local, no targets on d-scan. Warping to safe spot.”
As I warped, I realized for the first time how big the system actually was - I would have to bounce around a bit to find our targets.
Another lesson: Make scan spots for the next time.
“This may take a while ... ”, I reported, knowing that few things were worse than waiting for Intel. “...hang on, I have the Noctis on d-scan, probably in a safe-spot. No sign of the Kronos yet.”
I was at planet VII, and some quick d-scans revealed that the Noctis was less than 20M km off the planet. Just to be sure, I repeated the scan - yep, it was still there.
Could he really be so dumb?
Back to my own safe spot, combat probes set for 0.5 AU scan radius, sent in formation towards planet VII - and I got a perfect hit on the first scan. Bookmarked, the probes sent far off the ecliptic plane, and my warp engines roared back to life.
“Got a hit on the Noctis, warping to 100.”
[ Just the Noctis? ]
I waited a moment with my reply until I had arrived at my destination.
“Yep, just the Noctis, no sign of the Kronos. Nor do I see any wrecks on d-scan.”
A moment’s silence, then: [ Ok, we take the Noctis at least. Can you get closer to give us a warp in? ]
“Sure - stand by.”
I powered up my engines and started approaching the Noctis, which just sat there, oblivious. Inwardly, I was chiding myself for not warping in closer - old WH habit, which now came back to bite me.
No, this wouldn’t do - it would take ages to close the distance. I selected a nearby celestial, and initiated warp for a quick bounce-off. Too late I noticed that the incoming gate was almost perfectly in line with the Noctis - my gang could have just warped to me at 100.
Arriving at the celestial, I swung my ship around and warped back to the Noctis un-safe spot.
Please be there please be there please be there.... aahhh, Good Noctis!
“I am 20 klicks off the Noctis, you can warp to me... belay that, it just warped away. Damn!”
[ Did you see where to? ]
“Outer system - I will have to search again.”
My d-scan at this spot covered all but the outermost planet, so that’s where I headed next. One d-scan later a smile played on my face - there they were! Obediently my probes came down, and quickly gave me a 40% hit on the Noctis, and a 100% hit on the Kronos.
“Gotcha! I have a hit on the Kronos, warping to it now, and I also see wrecks on scan - they’re probably salvaging.”
My warp bubble collapsed and expelled my back into normal space. Empty normal space.
“Damn, they’re gone.”
[ Gate fire! They’re coming out! Jump! Jump! Jump! ]
In my pod I nodded - the idea was to hide the fact that there had been a gang waiting at the gate, by jumping in before our targets emerged on the other side.
A few seconds later, the gang landed next to me.
“Sorry, I was too slow finding them.” I apologized. “Or they got spooked by my probes.”
[ Nah, don’t worry, it was a long shot - you came closer than I ever would have. ]
That cheered me up a little.
And now that I think about it - the hunt had been great fun. Even though we didn’t get the kill in the end, I did manage to scan them down! Maybe I should look into flying CovOps full time...
[ How many wrecks had been here? ] That was Johanna.
“Six, maybe eight. ” I answered, then realized the meaning of it: there were no wrecks around us, which meant...
[ They finished salvaging before we could get here. ], voiced Johanna the inevitable conclusion. [ Just not enough time. ]
[ As I said, we gave it our best shot - next time we'll do better. And there is a good chance that they’ll be back. You bookmarked the Noctis’ safe spot? ]
“Yes, yes I did.” I replied with happy satisfaction. “And boy, am I going to keep it!”