Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Behind Hostile Lines

        “If you are going to kill me, then do so. Otherwise, I have considerable work to do.” -- Lennier (Babylon 5)

The warp drive of my Tristan fell silent, dropping me out of the warp tunnel back into normal space. A mere 100 km from me, the gate was gleaming in the reflection of the region’s nebula. I hovered there for a few seconds, orienting myself. There was a planet behind me, which put my warp-in point close to the trajectory between the planet and the gate.

I sighed mentally - this would be one of the more tedious gates.

With the routine of an action done dozens of times, I fired up my micro warp drive and directed my ship into a direction which would come no closer than 50km to the gate. Given the general emptiness of the region, it was an acceptable compromise between safety and time. Making tacticals wasn’t directly related to my objective, but since I was here anyway…

When I had embarked onto this little expedition, I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect. Sure, I knew that there would be lots of empty space, leaving me to do my thing, but when I ran into people, I had expected a bit more resistance.

Not that people didn’t try, and got some practice in out-flanking and out-boring potential hunters - because re-shipping out here was a pain - but so far only one pilot, going by the name of Sativa Angel, had been showing tenacity.

First I had seen her idling in an Executioner at a gate, while I was burning yet another tactical. For a moment I was tempted to engage her, giving myself a 50:50 chance, but then I reconsidered: I wasn’t here for fights. So I kept burning, while keeping an eye on her velocity. But she didn’t follow, and soon I could warp off, to enter the next system over.

But the systems were arranged in a loop, and soon we came across each other again, in a replay of our first encounter. This time she burnt towards me, but couldn’t quite match my own speed. When I explained to her that I wasn’t going to fight him, she sounded disappointed, but relented and went on to chase other prey.

Fate, however, wasn’t done with us. Many systems later, I jumped into what I knew would be one of the few busy systems - and there she was again. This time in a Heretic.

I could have crashed the gate, but I was in a promising position, about 20 km away. Turning my tail at her, I took the chance and ran. Almost immediately she launched a bubble and started chasing after me.

I hadn’t quite judged the distance correctly and ended up inside the bubble, even if barely. Leaving it took long enough that she could catch up a bit, and launch another bubble. And again.

With dismay I noticed that she was slightly faster than me, and would soon catch me. And worse, there was no warp-out point into the direction I was flying - the closest celestial was into the opposite direction. But maybe, if she was scram fit…

I started turning, trying to fly a wide turn too keep my speed up, every moment fearing that a new bubble would go up or that she’d have a long point after all. Finally my chosen celestial appeared in front of me, and I held my breath as I triggered the warp drive.

The engine caught! I had gotten away - with more luck than skill!

To her credit, Sativa took the lost chase well, and I made sure that I steered clear of her the rest of the night.

I wasn’t always that lucky - sometimes I got distracted, other times I passed out from exhaustion in an unsafe place - but knowing that this one time I outran a superior ship? Priceless.

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