"Always be stupid for the right reasons." -- Roc Wieler, Rule #553
The evening had shaped up to be better than expected. While the original roam with my new corp had fallen through because of activity cycles (again), I had found an pleasing alternative: lounged back in a comfortable chair, bare feet propped up on a nearby desk, blaster pistol within gripping distance of my right, a steady supply of Jufvitte’s finest wine to my left. And Eta on comms.
She was out on a combat roam with her alliance, “to regain brownie points”, as she had put it, but I had a feeling that there was more to it. This interest in shooting ships was unusual for her - did I maybe rub off on her? But as it was, it made for entertaining comms, her relaying commentary as she navigated through space, occasionally getting lost.
Right then, she had dropped out of warp in low-sec Domain to gleefully engage a Caracal with her HAM-Cyclone, along with four or so buddies from her alliance. Smart industrialist she was, she had delayed her aggression until after their target had aggressed himself - a killright on herself being the last thing she could afford. Nicely FC’ed and everything.
Of course my blissful relaxation didn’t last: a sharp chirp from my comm pad demanded my attention just as I reached for my glass.
[ All active pilots, if you’re still willing to go on a black-ops roam: pipe up. ]
Hmm…, there was at least one empty bottle rolling on the floor here, but on the other hand - I had hardly undocked for earnest in weeks, sadly never with my corp, and I was going station crazy. And didn’t I have a w-space fit Pilgrim on standby for a situation like this?
[ Druur is available], I piped up while putting on my boots, only to follow it with an apology on my sister’s comm: “Sorry Sis, I have to drop; tell me tomorrow how it ended.”
[ You’re good - I was thinking about extracting myself anyway. Happy hunting! ]
Smiling, I carefully made my way out of my quarters. I did remember doing a black-ops drop before - how hard could it be to do it again?
I chuckled as my Pilgrim carefully moved within bridging distance of the Panther Black-Ops battleship, remembering my naiveté just a couple of hours before. The basic principles I had still down, but little details like the 2500m maximum effective range of the covert jump bridge had slipped my mind. Oh well - embarrassment would help me not to forget it again.
The bridge fired and deposited me in Onne where the rest of the gang was indulgently waiting, and we warped to the gate where our scout had engaged a target. But the joke was on us: just as we landed, friends of our target jumped in, and it was only with luck that we managed extract ourselves without any losses. But now we were far from home in enemy territory - finding new targets without becoming targets ourselves might be tricky.
We didn’t get to leave Onne.
About an hour later, I spotted a lonely Myrmidon sitting at one of the gates. I snuck up to him under cloak, called in the cavalry, and FC Darius called for a bounce-trap: uncloak staggered, aggress, warp off to a bounce, and warp back in. This would get the gate-guns off our backs, and yet leave enough continued presence that he maybe forgot to jump out.
[ Ok, on my mark. 3… 2… 1… Mark. Druur, uncloak. ]
My Pilgrim shimmered into existence, and my targeting systems started breaking their way through the remaining interference. Lock was established, and my 425-mils began their deadly cadence. My shield failed, and I activated my hardeners and armor repairer to keep me alive long enough to bounce out.
Around me, my gang mates materialized, the last one appearing just when my warp drive caught. Tense seconds passed as my ship sped to its bounce point, the unspoken hope on comms that our target would still be there when we came back.
He was. i settled into an orbit at optimal distance, disabled the safety protocols on my auto cannons and engaged. Habitually I also threw a sensor-dampener on him, and activated my hardeners. Around me, the weapons of my gang mates begun their work as well.
The Myrmidon pilot was good - he kept his calm, taking full advantage of the repair-abilities of his battlecruiser: we brought him down to half armor, he repaired it fully in the next cycle. Clenching my jaws, I launched a flight of Valkyrie IIs, chancing that even after tank his armor’s explosive resistance might still be the weak point. More drones swarmed out, and we finally saw some headway: our target still repped up, but bit by bit we out-damaged him. All the while, the Myrmidon hadn’t fired a single shot yet.
Then, a Miasmos hauler jumped in. Poor guy was probably stunned - he sat there for a number of precious seconds in the middle of the firefight. But while we perfunctorily locked him, our attention was still on the Myrmidon: we had to get his ancillary repairer to run dry of charges, so that the Myrmidon would either have to engage or jump out.
The Miasmos warped out to a belt, and the FC made the split decision to chase after the hauler… and I hesitated. I didn’t come out here to pop a hauler, who’d probably already be dead by the time I caught up - I wanted this Myrmidon!
Maybe I’m not that much of the team player that I used to be.
The Myrmidon pilot was on the ball: when the rest of the gang left to chase the Miasmos, he broke his passive stance and aggressed me. Quickly he closed the distance, my warp drive fell silent, a webbing field distorted the space around me, and heavy blasters started hammering at my ship. It was less than a minute that the gang returned from their brief excursion, and with their fire power to back me up I tried to pull range, but the Myrmidon's energy neutralizer began its work and I quickly had no cap left to even run my repairer.
I should have been devastated over losing such an expensive vessel, especially since I was now living on limited funds - but I was elated when my pod sped away to safety, and that wasn’t just the stimulants speaking. A nail-biting battle, and my Pilgrim had held up better than I had hoped for - there were worse ways to lose a fight.
As I directed my pod towards the nearest trade hub, its systems on my command pumping slightly increased doses of euphorants into my bloodstream, I started browsing the market, to put together at least a stealth bomber. But I needn’t have bothered - by the time I got all parts together, the gang was winding down.
But Fate wasn’t done with me yet - a friendly corporation was just starting a public gang, people I had always wanted to fly with. But Fate’s smile was as cruel as it was sweet, as I would have to death-clone to the staging system in order to make it on time.
As I undocked my pod and with gritted teeth initiated the self-destruct, a small voice in the back of my increasingly cob-webbed mind whispered to me that the next day I’d rue this night. All the things I’d say, all the losses I’d incur, all the bad decisions I’d make. But I quickly shushed that small voice - all of this would be the next day.