“Thank for flying Agony Air.
Please keep the guns in the overheat position.” -- Fleet member
I opened my eyes. And while inside my pod I couldn’t really see, because immediately my optical nerves were shouted out by the implants routing my ship’s sensor information into my brain, it did serve as a signal to the rest of the ship that I was awake again, that it was time to activate all the systems.
The warp drive rumbled into life, to propel me back to my safe spot where I had passed out this morning from exhaustion, the warp giving me time to check my bearings.
System information crawled through my virtual view - I was in Providence, by myself, deep in hostile territory. In a cruiser fit for kiting engagements with logistics support. But this being Providence, I should have a good chance getting back to Empire and into a better ship unscathed.
I laid in the course and started the trip back to so-called civilization - it was far enough that I’d have time to piece together what had happened last night. Because once I was in Empire, I’d be too busy dodging CONCORD - for some reason they had taken a disliking to me over the last days.
9 hours earlier
Agony had called, and I had answered, as did several other people of negotiable reputation. The latest bunch of Skirmisher trainees had passed the theory portion of their class, and it was time for them to prove their mettle in a live-fire scenario, to find and hold targets for our cruiser fleet to eliminate.
The invite had called for kiting cruisers, but when I rummaged through my hangars in Berta, I had found something I had completely forgotten about: a Curse hull, bought years ago, and still in its original packaging. And I knew that if I didn’t take her out now, it’d probably be another couple of years before I had another chance. Carefully peeling off the price sticker without looking, I broke the seal on the package and sent it down for assembly, while I went to find modules to fit it. Being an alumnus had its advantages.
0815 rolled around and the fleet undocked, just 15 minutes after planned departure time, much to thechagrin of the bookies of the local betting pools. Up ahead sped the Interceptors, shining darts of light across the stars, followed by the more stately hulls of the cruisers - damage dealers, logistics, and E-War. And a gold shining Curse with a rather nervous Druur piloting it.
Our first destination was VOL-MI, a familiar route which would take us through a couple of usually quiet lo-sec systems, so I took advantage of the calm before the storm and continued my mental mantras while piloting from muscle memory.
*You’re not a brawler, nor a sniper.* I repeated to myself. *You’re here to neutralize hostile capacitors. Like a Vampire Chick, who latches onto her victims to suck them dry, while a small cloud of fluttering bats tears to shreds anybody coming too close. And if somebody tries to shoot, you’re going to sprinkle some glitter dust into their eyes.*
Another gate jump, and I sighed inwardly as my Curse slowly accelerated to warp. If I was a Vampire Chick, then apparently I was a somewhat portly one - even with a Nanofiber for the right lacy look (black of course) I wasn’t exactly nimble on my feet.
The Doril gate loomed big before us, the first Skirmisher reports came in through comms - hesitantly still, unsure - and I snapped back into reality. A surge of euphoria ran through me as the life support system injected me with another dose of stimulants. That was the other thing: not only was I flying an unfamiliar ship, I had also been awake for about 20 hours at that point, and I knew that without some chemical help I wouldn’t make it. There’d be a price to pay, of course, but that’d be long after the roam would have ended. I hoped.
Naira Isimazu > "RMOC and Jalad at Tanagra, when the walls fell"
The command to jump to Doril came, and our real work began. At first, apart from an abandoned Sabre which was quickly liberated, targets were sparse. There were the odd pod or assault frigate, but it wasn’t until KLMT-W that we ran into organized opposition. The gang of logistics-supported tier-3s fought well, but had to clear the field after losing half of their strength. Yet that fight showed me the limitations of my Curse: I had a hard time getting into range of anything, the damage projection from my Heavy Assaults was poor, and I had to micro-manage my capacitor more than I had expected. Even a simple power-align left me dry in just a minute or two!
Our roam continued, but it turned into a blur as my sub-conscious started working on the problem of how to make my Curse more useful. Maybe I needed to think even more like EWar and seek to disable nearby Logistics, Laser- and Blasterboats whenever the Primary wasn’t in range. And next time I'd take a out a Curse, definitely no Heavy Assaults - they were near useless in our fights. Maybe a Sensor Booster instead - my lock times couldn’t keep up with the damage output from the rest of our gang. And of course … Recon V.
Our Skirmishers at that point had settled into their role, their recon reports coming with confidence, and they were roaming far and wide, providing us with the occasional unfortunate victim.
It began with a small skirmish in the systems of WD-VTV and 9KOE-A, including a narrow escape through a bubbled gate, but the daily subspace beacon downtime forced a temporary cessation of hostilities. When the systems came back online, both fleets scrambled to re-organize and race into position. It was neck to neck, and the fight was on!
.-A-. had brought a gang of tier-3 battlecruisers, supported by logistics, and our FC went for the logistics first - just what I had been hoping for: a chance to test my earlier musings. I lumbered, I pre-locked, I neuted, I pulsed my MWD for that extra kick into the pants, my drones buzzed about like the angry Hammerheads they were … but it wasn’t enough. And I learned first hand how scary the combined alpha of multiple Oracles can be: my Curse exploded faster than I could beg our Logistics for help.
Our fleet was routed, but while we made best speed back to Berta to reship, our spirits were high, and comms reflected it. And I remembered my own Skirmisher class, how I had been timid going out at the beginning, afraid to speak up on comms, only to return with confidence. I hadn’t fleet-skirmished since then, but it had helped me navigate the depths of w-space, provide warp-ins in lo-sec, ... or to just take a chance and fly out with an unfamiliar ship without the FC handholding you in its use.
Mr Slant > x - got inlaws around so I'm staying :D
I had no second Curse, but gleaming in my hangar was a Rail-Thorax, and people were ready to enjoy what Greygal called the “after party-party”, so we set out again. This time it was not the fair folk of Curse which we asked to dance, but the righteous citizens of Providence. G-5EN2 welcomed us, and soon we were deep in the territory of the Yulai Federation.
But I couldn’t keep up anymore. The stimulants, which had carried me through the most of the roam, were now showing their evil side. It is bad if you no longer trust your voice enough to speak up on comms for possible intel; it is worse if you start falling asleep while guarding a gate.
It was a first, and I felt embarrassed, but I had to bail - I was no longer contributing. It was also too late to leave Providence; I would had to risk roughing it where I was. A fitting end to what had been a good night, even if I hadn't been on the top of my game.
A last command to my ship, and as the engines fired up once more to propel me to my safe spot, I gave in to my exhaustion and closed my eyes.
I fell asleep before my ship even dropped out of warp.