Monday, July 26, 2010

First Blood: Nullsec Newbie

This is my entry to the Inspired By Images Of Eve Competition 2. More details and links to all entrants can be found at Starfleet Comms.

"Buy you another?"

I looked at the man standing next to my stool. Well dressed. Too well dressed for a backwater station like this one.

"Depends. What do you want?"

He thrust his hand towards me. "Jambya Munitionary, ISD Correspondent. I'm doing a profile on capsuleers who are new to the area. Your name floated to the top of my list, since you have only been here a few weeks."

Nonchanlantly withdrawing his hand, he took the stool next to me.

"Did you fly a lot of combat up in Empire before coming here?" he asked, as he pulled out a data recorder and activated it.

"Not really. I've awakened in a clone vat bay a few times, but I'm in training out here as a combat pilot." I took a sip of the bitter beer in front of me. "Is this an interview then?"

"Well, sort of. I'm profiling combat pilots to discuss the ships they fly and why. I've spoken to a lot of the big-ship capsuleers, but I wanted to get the angle from a frigate pilot. I looked up your records and found you've got 25 kills to 1 loss flying interceptors."

"Interceptor," I corrected him. "Thunores has been my girl since I arrived. She still has structure damage from the first fight that I haven't had repaired yet - as a reminder."

"Thunores - that's what you call your ship?"

"Yes. It comes from an ancient, long dead language. It means Thunder God. You ever sit in an interceptor?"

"Well, no. I'm not a licensed pilot, but -"

"An interceptor is pretty much all guns and engine. Even inside the pod the rumble of the guns and engines resonate in your ears like a pounding surf. That's why I call her Thunder God."

I sat back, nodding as the bartender left another bitter by my hand.

"I didn't always call her that. She started out with a nice name, Queen MAB. I thought at first she was a small, spritely ship, agile and elegant. That was before I'd actually flown her in battle..."

"It was only a few months ago that I arrived out here. I was so green they thought I got spacesick. I was certified as an interceptor pilot, but I didn't know how to fly in combat. I'd become fed up with the cost-cutting measures at The Scope for months, and the announcement that soon they would begin taxing all Capsuleers who worked with them had pushed me over the limit. I had flown missions for various agents while working with The Scope, and often I had conversations with Capsuleers who worked in the private sector - for themselves or for corporations that were not merely shallow fronts for the various empires. The transparent tax was the last straw. I was going to join one of these independent corporations, and I knew which one. I had spoken to their CEO, a fine pilot named Pierre. He and his crew were fighting in the Caldari-Gallente war, on the side of Gallente, but finding that the sheer numbers of Caldari pilots online were overwhelming his strike team. There would be changes, but they welcomed my long experience as a capsuleer to provide additional depth to the organization. I submitted my resignation from The Scope and joined Aurora Security.

Shortly after joining, I was informed that Aurora Security had been invited to join an alliance that flew in the far reaches of Outer Ring, based out of the Outer Ring Excavation stations in 4C-B7X. I had heard the stories of lawless space - where huge fleets sat on stargates destroying everything in their path. I had never destroyed another Capsuleer in combat, although I had fallen victim to pirates and others a few times in my years as a pilot. With the corporate logistics team moving my ships out to the Outer Ring station, I found myself suddenly deep in lawless space, with no experience whatsoever. Pierre was a skilled instructor, better than anyone at the Center for Advanced Studies (at least in combat). He and his fleet commanders worked tirelessly to train myself and the other new members of our alliance in the survival and combat skills needed in the deep reaches of space. Training flights were thinly veiled roams into neighboring regions, looking for neutral targets."

I paused, thinking back to that moment. Even now, weeks later, my pulse quickened as I relived the experience.

"We were formed up on the gate, my Taranis orbiting around 500m from the gate as we scouted the system. I reviewed my ships systems, verifying that the Warp and Sublight Disruption systems were online and awaiting a target. I was primary tackle, my job was to respond to targets called by the fleet commander and prevent them from warping away or getting to the stargate. My sensors flickered briefly, registering a stargate activation. My camera drones all blacked out moments later, and the visual flash from the gate activation overloaded their sensors. I was primed, my overview systems awaiting the appearance of the enemy ships. As I listened to fleet comms, local registration announced there was only one hostile in system. Moments later a ship appeared on my overview - a Raven-class Battleship.

The ship blocked out the sun as I activated my Microwarp drive and targeting systems, accelerating towards the Raven. I settled into a tight orbit around him. Even with the Microwarp drive pulling me from my requested distance, I was far too close and fast to take any serious damage from his advanced missile systems. 'Point - Web' I announced on comms, as my modules registered locks on the Raven. I activated my blasters, even though they would barely reduce the recharge of his shield systems. The fleet began unloading all damage on the Raven, eating into his shields. As I watched the battle unfold, I received an alert that my own shields were taking significant damage, and that damage was starting to break through to my armor. I asked Pierre if I should continue to hold the Raven, as it appeared we were close to destroying his ship, and my armor began to leak into structure. Pierre ordered me to warp off and repair, rather than lose my ship.

I started to activate my warp drive, but I had forgotten we were fighting in a warp interdiction bubble. These devices disrupt all warp drives within them, and automatic warp activation is useless. I was panicking now, about to lose my first real combat ship in it's first encounter, when I remembered I could align to a celestial object, activate my Microwarp drive and get out of the interdiction range quickly. As I aligned, the Raven exploded, but somehow I was still taking damage. My inefficient armor repair system was just keeping even with the damage, and I was confused, so I continued my acceleration and warped to a nearby planet. I sat idle while my ships repair systems worked on the armor plates, patching and fusing the damage that was caused (as I was informed by my fleetmates) by a flight of deadly Tech 2 Warrior drones the Raven had unleashed on me."

My hand shook slightly as I recalled the adrenaline surge from surviving my first aggressive encounter. The reporter sat, quietly, the data recording blinking intermittently.

"It was after that battle I realized that she wasn't Queen MAB. She was a roaring surge of blasters and thrust nozzles. It felt like sitting outside in the middle of a thunderstorm back home. That's when I knew she needed a new name. Thunores - god of thunder"

I finished the bitter beer, took a deep breath, and stood.

"I gotta go. We have a defense patrol in 5 minutes. Good luck with your story - and make sure you take an alliance carrier back to empire. I'd hate to have to blow up your ship..."

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