Saturday, March 16, 2013

The First

        “You must die! I alone am best!” -- Bloodhound Gang

With a final shudder my Thrasher nestled into the stationary grav field of my hangar, as the station tugs disengaged their tractor beams. My connections with the ship went dark, but I could tell from the shifting vibrations the various phases of my pod being extracted from the innards of the Minmatar destroyer, willing myself to be patient.

It felt weird to return to the station in the same ship I had undocked with.

Finally my pod opened, and I could step out and cough the amniotic fluid out of my lungs. An annoying procedure, even after all this time. But instead of heading into my quarters as usual, as soon as my vision cleared somewhat, I put on the first piece of clothing lying nearby, and headed back out to my hangar.

A maintenance glider brought me up to level with my Thrasher and I let my eyes wander over its tortured hull. This ship had been with me for years, carried me through wormhole space, basked in the radiation of faraway nebula, and kept on going. Now its hull was scorched and torn, small fires still leaking from holes where the both armor and structure had been punctured, half of the signature heat sinks mere, the cannons mere molten heaps of slag.

I commanded the glider closer until I could touch the hull, and leaned my head against the metal. Already the details of the events were beginning to slip away from me.

It had been about a week since my return to the war zone, to active space duty. At first I had a good reason for staying docked - consulting work for a defense contractor. But then weeks turned into months, and it became harder and harder to even think about undocking. Until something - I didn’t even remember the exact trigger - convinced me last week to get a grip and find out once and for all whether I could hack it in the war zone, or if I’d never be more than a meddling weekend fleet member.

It hadn’t exactly gone well. Not that I had expected to gain wins any time soon, but to perform this badly? That I learned a little bit in every fight was only of little consolation - I had noticed that I no longer had the unbridled enthusiasm of a newly minted pilot.

And today had started out in the same vein. At first it had seemed to look up when I managed to hold myself against Toterra’s Incursus for much longer than usual. Of course I had exploded in the end, but for once my survival time clocked in at two whole minutes instead of mere seconds. But my spirits, just raised, had been quickly crushed when a Thrasher first kited me, then volleyed me into oblivion.

It had been late, I was dismayed, so I had decided to just go for it and up-ship into a destroyer as well. The only fitted destroyer at hand had been my wormhole destroyer - a ship so old that it still sported Tech-1 ‘Scout’ cannons and a probe launcher.

I had hastily removed all unnecessary modules from the ship, undocked, and hurried back to the plex - but too late: Nilina Wulf had moved on. Instead, Jay Bonarta now was in the plex.

Oh well - Thrasher was Thrasher, right? Never survive, never surrender! and all that.

I engaged.

With a resounding whomp! my cannons spit out their first volley, the recoil brutally slamming back their actions to pull the next rounds from the magazines, while I settled into an optimal orbit.

He responded in kind, his return volley taking the first bite out of my shields.

Grimacing, I disabled system safeties and pushed my cannons into overload. Just like in the old days of sail, we were two fighting ships, slugging it out with broadsides. No trickery, no fancy flying, just brute force at point blank range.

Alarm klaxons shrilled as my shield was breached and armor was stripped away. I turned them off.

Fire broke out in several compartments, but my structured wasn’t harmed yet - I let them burn.

I was dishing out as well as I took, but it wasn’t fast enough. I was barely through his shield, and my guns were reaching critical temperature.

Keenly eyeing the temperature readouts, I had readied myself to re-enable the cooling systems at moments notice - but too late! The guns cycled one last time, sending off their deadly payload like a last kiss goodbye, and then seized up, their innards glowing white-hot.

It was over.

Now all I could do was to try and get to safety. Frantically I changed course towards my safe spot and routed full power into my afterburner, burning out even more energy rails with abandon. Anything to escape the fatal grasp of the warp disruption effect.

A message came in on militia comms, but I dismissed it unseen - I could read it later.

The warp drive rumbled to life, and caught! Space folded around me and I was whipped to relative safety, leaving a trail of smoke and flames behind.

Now what had been this message about…

        “In recognition of your effort to shoot down Jay Bonarta, a despised enemy of our militia,…”

No way - my implants must be acting up. I pulled up the message again. Yup, still the same words.

I had won?!

The combat log confirmed it - it must have been that very last volley my guns had sent out, which had decided the fight.

If his guns had cycled before mine… If he had fitted a shield extender… If if if.

In a daze I had piloted my ship back to Sasiekko, forgetting even the courtesy of the ‘good fight’ … my very first 1v1 win! After five years as a pilot!

A violent shiver shook me out of my reverie - I realized that I was wearing only a light robe, which wasn't quite hangar bay-grade clothing. After a last look over my battered ship, I steered the glider back towards the hangar exit.

I knew it would be a while before I would be able to score my next win, maybe even a long while, and that I still had tons to learn - but for tonight I felt like celebrating a bit.

Yes! Some Arcturian Mega-Vodka would be quite appropriate!

And Blood Orange Juice. I was getting too old for hangovers.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your first solo kill!! I still haven't had one myself, terrific write-up on it!