View Full Version : Story Adventures of a Terran Missile-Magnet

20-09-2010, 01:04 PM
Kha’ak Corvette encounter
Duct Tape and a Repair Laser
Community Service: Part 1
Community Service: Part 2
Community Service: Part 3
Community Service: Part 4

Kha’ak Corvette encounter:

I was starting to get fed-up with having my butt handed to me by everything except for a spacefly. One spacefly is no problem but two and I’m sucking spacesuit air doing repairs…again. So, I make the decision to cruise over to Argon Prime from Omicron Lyrae. My intention was to get a better bird than the POS Buster Sentinel I was constantly being fragged in. Why can’t non-terrans build decent ships?

After picking up my new flak eater, I’d add some upgrades then slip over to Terracorp in Home of Light and grab a jump drive. Ah, jump drives…at least the Argonians have something worth buying. “Fight while you can…jump when you can’t” has always been my motto. Having paid attention during CelNav (Celestial Navigation) class, finding my way over to Argon Prime shouldn’t pose too much of problem…so long as I don’t run into any spaceflies.

Anyway, I’m zipping through Split Space when I decide to stop at the Equipment Dock in Cho’s Defeat. I check the available products, the comm’s, and the Barter Board. I’m not surprise that there’s nothing for me. So, I drop off the dock and start heading for the jump gate when I notice my NavComm system is squawking at me. One of the sector’s factory icons is blinking red. I’m thinking I’ve got nearly no rep with the Split and saving a factory may help get that elusive Split Police License I want. Off I go to take a look at who’s trashing the factory. As I get nearer, I notice those distinctive white Kyon Emitter beams lancing out at the factory. Cool, I can probably handle a Kha’ak Fighter along with a couple of Scouts. Let’s take a closer look.

There I am fat, dumb, and happy cruising into a hostile environment when what bogey icon pops up on the HUD (Heads Up Display)…a Corvette symbol. I’m still BVR (Beyond Visual Range) and I’m curious as to what Corvette carries Kha’ak Kyon Emitters. So, I lit him up on my scope and pop an external look at this oddity. Wow, there really is a Kha’ak Corvette and it’s the stuff of nightmares. I must have missed the news cast on this new menace. It’s purple and black with multiple triangular shaped exhaust vents. A forward swept tentacle structure rotating around the central chassis like the gravity wings on an Argon Trading Post. Its beauty and the beast all wrapped up in one package of pure carnage. This will make a fine trophy in my capped ship collection when I get around to starting it.

There’s a Split saying that’s pretty apt for this situation…”Inquisitiveness destroyed my Tiger.” I’ve got my head in the scope admiring this monstrosity…the whole time I cruising at 144 m/s right towards this thing. It had already destroyed the factory and was heading further into the sector when those emitters started firing again. Thumbing the hat to get a view of its next victim, I realize my shields just got trashed. I pop my head out of the scope to take a look and that corvette has filled up the windscreen in my cockpit. I yank the joystick to the right and stab the right strafe to pull the turn tight. I see a pair of white beams sear passed my left-side but they’ve missed me...just barely. The pucker factor is maxed and it’s going to take a while to pull the seat cushion out.

At this point reality should have taken over and I should have conceded my Buster to yet again another flaming ball of wreckage. But that near-miss immersed me head first into the fur-ball and there was no way I going out that easy. Still pulling away from the Kyon beams and continuing the tight right turn, I managed to turn my Buster on a dime. I’ve 360’d and am now a beam of the Corvette. I squeeze the trigger and empty my energy reserve for the Phased Repeaters only to see a minor reduction in the Kha’ak shields. I then convert over to lose left hand turn and pull into the Corvette’s trail; left, aft, and slightly above center-line. I throttle back to match its speed and start praying for my energy reserves to build faster. Not that it really matters because I’m a sitting duck back here.

I’m still flying! Why am I still flying? Why am I not vaporized? Why, why, why have you not returned my atoms to the great void…WHY? Am I so pitiful a foe that this Kha’ak won’t waste the energy or time to destroy me? Oh, how insignificant do I feel in this vast universe?

Anyway, I’m still in this loose left hand turn and sitting at the Corvettes 8 o’clock position. It’s not firing at me…why? By the grace of the Cosmos, I’ve managed to slide in to a blind spot free of its weapon-fire. The Corvette knows that I’m here and keeps turning left but its turn radius is so wide, it can’t turn inside of me. So I’m more or less stuck in a death spiral with this beast, it can’t bring its weapons to bear and I can’t turn away without getting blasted to pieces. Stalemate…not if I have anything to say about it.

My energy reserves are back to 100%, so let’s slide the reticule back on the beast and try the Phased Repeaters again. Well that did next to nothing, just another very small dent in the Corvettes shields. Let’s check how fast does my energy rebuilds versus how fast his shields replenish. They’re pretty close but I have a small advantage. Ok that was 2 Phased Repeaters; let’s try 4 Particle Accelerator Cannon. That’s better…not much…but better. All right, we stay in this position and slowly (oh so slowly) whittling down the shields and the hull.

An hour later and starting to feel nauseous flying in a circle along with the hand cramp, I’ve got his hull down to about 15% and I know I can beat him. This will definitely boost my rep with the Split and my ego too (Oh, the stories I’m going to get to tell over this one). Ok, unload the PACs on the Corvette again and re-start the cycle. Wait, what the hell is that…big globs of golden fire bursting against the hull of my prey. And in a flash, my trophy is gone without so much as thank you from the interloper. The whole time I was dancing with the Kha’ak Corvette, the Split had dispatched a Heavy Dragon to my position and was eager to put another hash mark on his hull plating. Thanks buddy, make me do all the hard work then you steal the glory without the common decency of a reach-around.

I’m frustrated and pissed off. After all that work and I have nothing to show for it. I do wonder if the Kha’ak feel anger and/or frustration the way we do. I pretty sure it was pissed at not being able to rip me out of his space while I was whittling his butt down to nothing. I guess my Buster POS wasn’t so bad after all…I just have to learn how to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses with the Buster’s advantages. That’s why you should stay awake during the TEA (Tactical Engagement and Assessment) class.

P.S., I ran across another Kha’ak Corvette but couldn’t find that sweet spot this time. I did manage to kill it but not before it turn my shiny new Nova into hole-filled mangled mess of metal. I managed to limp my near-coffin out of the transport lanes and spent a Tazura repairing it. Not to mention the million credits it cost to repurchase the weapons, extensions, and other equipment. I think I’ll steer clear of these beasts in the future. Nice to look at but I wouldn’t want to run into one on the dark-side of an asteroid.

P.P.S., …and where the hell was that Split Heavy Dragon when I needed him. Ain’t it typical that there are no authorities around when you need them.

20-09-2010, 01:05 PM
Duct Tape and a Repair Laser:

“For successful completion of the Ship Boarding Techniques Training, registration and ownership of the exercise target ship (YM6XG-78 Vidar) has been transferred to Lieutenant …” idiot who shot the most holes in it. I’m being to think the Commander has a twisted sense of humor. It would have been nice of him to tell me I was going to keep this rust-bucket after the exercise. I surely wouldn’t have turned it into Swiss-cheese if I knew I was going to spend the next 12 hours fixing it. My Papa said that if you’re having too much fun working, you’re probably doing something wrong.

I was also issued my first squad of Marines to use for an upcoming boarding mission. When I asked the lead Engineer to give me a hand repairing the ship he said, “Sorry sir, I only know how to blow holes in stuff not how to fix’em.” When I asked the Squad’s Sergeant, he just grunted and pointed to the repair kit locker then led the squad over to the shiny new Scabbard they also gave me for the mission. I swear he was mumbling something about “noobie” under his breath.

So I’m sitting in my not-so-new Vidar doing a quick read through of the instructions that came with this new fangled repair laser gizmo and saying to my-self, “This shouldn’t be too hard.”

STEP 1: Point at the ship to be repaired.
STEP 2: Squeeze the trigger.
STEP 3: Release trigger when energy runs low or repair is complete.
NOTE 1: If energy runs low but repair is NOT complete, allow repair laser to recharge before restarting at step 1.
NOTE 2: If time is critical, repair laser can be recharged instantly by plugging it into a ship’s energy reserve using the universal adapter.
CAUTION: Due to possible explosive feedback, repair laser must be unplugged from a ship’s energy reserve before being used to repair.
DISCLAIMER: Any modifications or misuse of the repair laser will invalidate any and all warrantees and guarantees…

My Papa always told me to be leery of any manual when there are more notes, cautions, and disclaimers than actual instructions. 3 steps, 2 notes, 1 caution, and a disclaimer followed by 17 pages of legalese definitely falls into this category. I’ve always wonder how many people doing something stupid does it take to get a “CAUTION” into a technical manual. They should put a list of these individuals in the back of the manual and identify the “CAUTION” they contributed to. That way, we can give them the credit they deserve if we ever run into them.

So, I guess I better get started repairing this tin-can. Into the spacesuit and out the hatch I go with my new repair laser. Wow! Now that I have a birds-eye view of the ship, I can see the incredible amount damage I inflicted on the hull. I’m beginning to understand why the Commander kept calling me trigger happy. I’m really surprised I didn’t completely destroy it. It didn’t take me long to wreck havoc on this poor Vidar but it’s going to take a long time to fix it. Of course, my other option is to drop 8 million credits (which I don’t have) at the shipyard to fix it.

I point the repair laser at the ship then pull the trigger. Basically, I know the repair laser works by projecting a photon beam on to the object to be repaired. Then it releases a steady stream of teladium nanites that follow the beam to the target. From there, they spread out along the crystalline structure of the hull plating sifting it back into correct alignment as they go or filling in where there’s a break. It’s a slow but steady process. Well, steady so long as there’s a charge in the repair laser. And as if on cue, Betty starts singing “Energy Low” on my suit’s comm.

As I float there alongside the ship, I can see the busted seams on the hull plates slowly start to knit back together. Seeing the small amount repaired, waiting for the repair laser to recharge, and knowing how much more there is to do, makes me dread the task. I’m going be out here forever. With the limited water supply in the suit, I’m going to be hopping back inside a lot. And BoFu I ate earlier…let’s just say I now know how the Boron make BoGas. Ah, I see the laser has recharged so let’s hit it again.

Two hours and 3 trips back into the ship, the repairs are nowhere near done. During one of those trips back inside, I found the universal adapter and the port for connecting it to the ship energy reserve. I think it’s really interesting that the port is inside the ship where you have to cycle through the airlocks to get to and not outside where it would be more useful. And that got me thinking that maybe I didn’t have to go outside to use the repair laser. So I recharged it, then pointed at the deck plate and pulled the trigger. Item 1: the photon beam is very, very bright in an enclosed space; Item 2: teladium smells really, really bad; Item 3: the nanites don’t care what they bond. As for Item 3 when I was changing into my spacesuit, I figured it was a good time to change my underclothes which I just tossed on to the deck. I was meaning to pick them up after I was done the repairs. Now, I have a t-shirt, underwear, and a pair of socks permanently bonded to the deck plating. I’ll pencil a new note into the manual about NOT firing the repair laser inside the ship.

Ok, four more hours and the ship’s about half-way repaired but I’m really getting bored. I noticed that if I hold the trigger down after the repair laser is depleted, that as it recharges above 1% it will kick its load out in a fat blob of photons and nanites. It’s a pretty impressive burst and it kind of reminds me of the arc-welding I saw in some old movie vids back on earth. So if I forego STEP 3 and just hold the trigger down, I’m still getting nanites in bursts and I don’t get Betty’s “Energy Low” message over and over again. The repair laser gets a little warmer but not much and it still takes about the same amount of time. The only drawback would be my trigger finger getting tired.

After a couple more hours of repair, I’m unbelievably tired and my finger is cramping up. Switching hands doesn’t help much and just feels awkward. Bored, tired, and minor pain is not a good combination for intelligent decisions…especially in space. However, it was at this point that I came up with the absolutely most brilliant idea ever. I remembered my Papa once telling me that duct tape can fix anything. Well, I’m not foolish enough to believe that duct tape could repair the holes in my hull or the busted plates but it could fix another problem that would help with my repair process. Back inside the ship, I rummage through the repair locker until I find that wonderful silver-backed sticky marvel. Aside from the invention of the wheel, duct tape has got to be humanities greatest invention and contribution to the universe because no other race had a similar product.

Duct tape is one of the hottest commodities on the market today. The Argon use it just like the rest of the humans but the Split use it in weapon production, the Paranid use it in ship production, and the Boron just eat it…it’s a delicacy for them. The Teladi stubbornly refuse to have anything to do with it. Duct tape is one of those human products that the Teladi had no idea what to do with it. They did however pick up on the slinky and hula-hoop…but that’s another story.

Anyway, I’m back outside with the duct tape and the repair laser and I’m ready to try my brilliance out on this repair job. I rip off a long piece of duct tape and fasten the repair laser to my right hand. Then with another piece I tape the trigger down and now I have my continuous use repair laser. I wonder if I could patent this idea. The laser keeps firing until the charge is depleted and then starts coughing our burst of nanites in a dazzling display of photons. Dazzling is probably not the correct word for it, it’s more like hypnotic. At some point, I guess I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I know my Papa’s knocking on my door telling me it’s time for school. I’m yelling back to let me sleep for 5 more minutes but he keeps knocking. Frustrated, I hop out of bed and fall face first on to the floor.

During the fall, I woke up from the dream to see the floor coming up at me. Am I still dreaming!? Nope what I had mistaken for the floor was actually the hull on the side of my ship. As for my Papa knocking, that was me repeatedly banging my helmet off the hull. Somehow during my nap, I managed to twitch the forward motion thrust button in my suit and slammed into the side of the ship over and over again. And I must have woken up right after I bounced because it sure looked like the floor coming at me. I’m just lucky the suits don’t move very fast or I’d be the proverbial bug on a windshield. After carefully removing the duct tape from the trigger and my spacesuit’s glove, I decided I’d make another note in the instruction manual about NOT duct taping the trigger down.

I hopped back inside and took a short nap. I woke up pretty refreshed and started heading outside again. Unfortunately, I tripped over my newly bonded-to-the-deck-plate underwear and ripped a hole in the knee of my spacesuit. Now where did I put that damned duct tape at!?

20-09-2010, 01:11 PM
Community Service: Part 1

Being Terran and fairly new to Commonwealth space, how was I supposed to know Argon Whiskey and Space Fuel are the same thing. With 30 Marines and 20+ pilots, you’d think that someone in my little empire would have told me. As part of my plea bargin with the Argon authorities for transportation of “Illegal” wares, they sent me over to Elysium of Light to do community service with the Goners. I’m not one to bash someone else’s beliefs…but come on; the Goners seem to be the Universal whipping boys. Are you having a bad day or not feeling good about your-self, go slap around a Goner and everything will be better. Some folks had better hope the Goners never stop being pacifists or there will be hell to pay.

At least they pay well for services…even if it’s court-order services. The Argon Federation granted Elysium of Light to the Goners for something they helped with in the past and now they’re building a new Goner Temple there. I’m guessing it’s to replace the one in Cloud Base South West that mysteriously disappeared a while back. I heard a Boron Dolphin Super Freighter was in the process of docking when the temple just winked out of existence. The front half of the ship disappeared too…just gone, leaving the back half venting cargo (and whatever the Boron call atmosphere) out into now empty space. They say it’s impossible to get a Boron to curse but I understand they heard that freighter pilot 2 sectors out swear using a very colorful Terran phrase.

Anyway, I’ve been using my little trading empire to help out the Goners who seem to be having a lot of problems getting cargo to the sector. I’m thinking some unscrupulous characters in the Trade Union are just taking advantage of the Goners’ non-confrontational demeanor. So while I’m running around picking up Ore and Silicon Wafers, I stop off at a couple of the supply manager’s offices and give them a piece of my mind about their dealings with the Goners. In every case, the managers provided documents, manifests, and even witness to prove they sent quality goods, on time to the Goners. It turns out the Goners are very selective when choosing a supplier and I just offended a bunch of them. Now I’m puzzled as to why supplies are having such a difficult time getting to the Goners’ sector. Well, it’s not really my problem being community-service and all. But darn it, those Goners really grow on you.

I’d just finished dropping off a shipment of Ore when one of the Goner priests frantically runs up to me to ask if I had any combat capable ships. I’ve got a small fleet of “security” ships I maintain to keep my trade routes open and my factories protected. Not bragging too much, I mention that my small trade empire is well protected with heavy and medium class fighters, a dozen corvettes, a handful of heavy corvettes including a Hyperion (USS Coronado) that I borrowed from the Pontifex Paranidia (that raised an eyebrow on the priest), and the crown jewel of my “security” fleet, a Split Panther (USS Block Island). The priest worriedly explains that the Grand Poobah of the Goners along with the council members are being attacked by Pirates. He says they are on board a Goner corvette call Truelight Seeker in Grand Exchange. The Goners being pacifists are not capable of defending them-selves from this threat and the Teladi authorities in the area are unwilling to engage these Pirates. Unable to out-run the Pirates, the ship is sitting in the middle of the sector at a full stop using the engines to boost their shield strength. The priest says he does know how long they will last and if possible could I send some of my “security” force to rescue them.

The one thing you can say about me is, “I am definitely NOT a pacifist.” So, I hop into my Hyperion Yacht (which I might add is armed to the teeth and always close by) and tell my Marine guards that they will probably be earning their credits today. Kick the tires and light the fires, thar’s Goners to be savin’! I manually pop off the dock and throw some distance between me the facility…we’re hauling butt now. I’m all leaned forward on the controls and rushing through switches and checklists. Navigation is set…engage the jump drive.

“Jump device charging at 10%”…”20”…”30”…the one thing in this universe you can’t rush is Betty…”50”…”60”…time to nibble on some BoFu (the Marines love when I eat this, 3 decks on the ship and nowhere to hide) …”80”…”90”…”Jumping.”

In my mind, Elysium of Light ceases to exist. Jumping is hard to describe as everyone seems to perceive it differently. For me the sector suddenly become flat like a two-dimensional poster. Then the center of that poster explodes out towards me and rushes back in drawing me with it. At that point, my mind kind of blinks and pop I’m suddenly somewhere else seeing some other sector as my mind races to catch up. Grand Exchange winks into existence…a long with a blaring audio message.

“This is Syndicate business! Do not interfere!” Ok, who is the Syndicate and why are they attacking the Goners. Maybe I’ll ask them later…those that survive. Right in the middle of the sector is the Goner ship and it’s surrounded by Pirates. Surrounding the Pirates are several Teladi ships but they making no move to intervene on the Goners’ behalf. The Goners are pleading with the Pirates to stop and pleading with the Teladi to help. The Teladi are asking the Pirates to stop but evidently, they are being ignored. I guess “Syndicate business” means something to the Teladi as they have twice as many ships as the Pirates but are not really doing anything to stop them.

The Pirates have a handful of light, medium, and heavy fighters, along with 3 corvettes…these guys are packing an awful lot of firepower just to attack a Goner ship or maybe they were expecting someone else to try and stop them…someone like me. Well they may be ready to attack a defenseless Goner, but they are not ready for this “armed and fully operational” Hyperion Vanguard. I’ve installed Concussion Impulse Generators (CIGs) to the 8 forward hardpoints on my ship then finished the load-out with 6 Fragmentation Bomb Launchers (FLBs) aft with 4 energy Bolt Chainguns (EBCs) on the top and bottom. At 170ms and 1Gj of shielding, this Hyperion is force to be reckoned with and should never be taken lightly.

Now this is the kind of community-service I like. I wonder if I’ll get paid for this…doesn’t really matter as I’m going to enjoy this. Kill pirates…check, make things go boom…check, show off my yacht…check, allow the Goners a little sub-contracted payback…check! Let’s get this party started. Not particularly caring for Pirates, I don’t even issue them a warning before I open fire. Two seconds on the trigger and the forward CIGs cough out 16 bursts of flight-altering death-inducing globs of power. Some unsuspecting Pirate Harrier just disappears in a small explosion. Meanwhile the rest of the bursts keep traveling on through that space that was previously occupied by the Harrier and make two more of his buddies disappear. During that time, I’ve lined-up on a Pirate Blastclaw and ruined his day too.

That more or less stirred up a bee’s nest because the rest of the Pirates immediately start reacting. I comm’ed my Marines and told them it’s time to lock and load on the turrets cause we’ve got incoming bandits. I’ll let the Marines and Missile Defense System handle the light work while I concentrate on the 3 incoming Pirate Centaurs. The Argon Federation should be a little more discerning on whom they sell their capital ships too. One corvette doesn’t last long under withering fire of my CIGs but the other two have taken flanking positions and are nailing me with everything they’ve got.

I may have mentioned the speed and shielding of this Hyperion but did I mention the steering. Pull back the throttle, throw the joystick over, kick in the strafe-thrusters, and the rudder, and the Hyperion will out turn any another corvette in space. I’m sure pilot in the corvette on my left was really surprise to suddenly see my ship’s nose swing around and line-up on him. He was desperately trying to avoid my fire but to no avail…BOOM goes another Pirate. I can feel the other Corvette’s incoming fire shuddering throughout the ship but a quick look at the shield’s power display and I decide to take a lazy, slow, menacing turn towards the last Corvette.

At this point after seeing how fast I turned on his partner, he must have known I was trying to intimidate him because jumps on the Comm and says some unpleasant things about my heritage. Most intelligent beings would realize by this point that their effort was futile and would flee the scene…but Pirates aren’t known for their intelligence. So instead of emergency jumping out of danger, he (at least I think it was a he) decides to go toe-to-toe (or is it toe-to-claw or toe-to-webbed-digit) with me. When he exploded, I swear you could feel the IQ level for the whole sector increase. In the meantime, my Marines could be heard yelling “Get Some” and “Hooya” while singing some ditty about the “Shores of…” someplace as they finished off the last of the Pirate fighters. I’ll take a grunt on a trigger with a set of Mk1 eyeballs over a ship’s AI controlled turret any day.

The Truelight Seeker is still sitting there in the middle of Grand Exchange at a dead stop…and dead quite. I try to raise them on Comm but I get no reply…this is not good. I ping their computer with the IFF and get back a friendly signature so the ships systems haven’t been hacked. I bring my Hyperion to within 35m range and I can see space suit bits and pieces floating around the ship and there’s a gaping hole in the hull. Evidently, someone got past the shields and boarded her. As the Goners are pacifists, I don’t see them putting up a lot of (or any for that fact) resistance to a boarding party. So I tell my Marines to suit up and get ready for a spacewalk. Leaving the ship’s AI in charge, I hop into a space suit myself and follow the Marines out the airlock. Once outside the ship, I can see the Goner ship hasn’t suffered much damage and should be functional in short order.

I’m starting to regret eating that BoFu earlier…there’s just no safe way vent a suit when you’re in space. The Marines and I pop through the hole in the hull the Pirates created and start looking over the interior. As I expected, there’s not much damage; another benefit of boarding a Goner ship. Three decks up and just outside the flight deck all is quite…it’s a bit eerie. My engineer seals and pressurizes the deck and we all pop faceplates open on our suits. The Marines immediately start putting their faceplates back down. The Gunny yells over something about BoFu before a spacewalk while trying to cough at the same time. I just smile, nod, and yell back, “Payback for the Vidar! You should have helped me repair it!”

The Engineer is looking over the door and says it’s sealed and locked and wants to know if would I like him to blow it. I tell him to hold on before he plants the charges and walk over and knock on the flight deck door. It slides open and reveals the entire 12 member Goner Council is crammed into a flight deck meant to hold 3 people. They more or less spill out on to the third deck along with the fact that someone on the council also likes BoFu…a lot! The Marines are once again slapping their suit’s faceplates down and curse over the comm. One of the Goners is over at a control panel with my engineer and they’re cycling the air repeatedly for the deck. The rest of the Goners have me surrounded and they’re all trying to talk at the same time. As near as I can tell, after the Pirates boarded they stuffed everyone into the flight deck, sealed the door, and vent the third deck. Everyone except the Grand Poobah himself, Beholder Hall. When I asked if the Pirates had destroyed the Comm System, it was explained that Comm System works fine but because everyone was so crammed into the flight deck, there was no way to reach for it without being “inappropriate”…and Goners are never “inappropriate.”

While the Engineer was working on the ship, there was a lot discussion on what to do about Beholder Hall’s abduction. Some of the council wanted to beseech the Commonwealth governments to intervene, while others wanted to wait for the expected ransom demand that always accompanied a Pirate kidnapping. A small group (ok, 1 council member) suggested employing someone to track down the Grand Poobah and his kidnappers. He was roundly ignored by the rest of the council but he had piqued my interest. I might want to talk to him…privately.

As I thought, it didn’t take long for my Engineer to get the ship back up and running. With many thanks for saving their collective hides and promises of some unspecified compensation, my-self and the Marines were shuffled off the Goner ship. We had barely cleared the hull and shields before it jumped away. Back aboard the Hyperion, we cycled through the airlock and began shedding our spacesuits when the Marines all grabbed their helmets and put them back on again. Between the coughing fits, the Gunny yells over asking where in the whole universe did I find BoFu on a Goner ship. I just smiled and said I had found a brother in arms…or BoFu, on the Goner Council.

The end of Community Service: Part 1. But saga continues…

20-09-2010, 01:12 PM
Community Service: Part 2

So, I’m back in the Elysium of Light making more Ore deliveries and still working off my Community Service. You know this gig ain’t half bad; easy trade runs, pays fairly well, and I get to kill Pirates every now than then. Maybe after my current “obligation” to the Argon authorities is finished, I’ll call in some of the favors these Goners now owe me and see if I can get some lucrative trade contracts with them. Who knows, maybe I could swing an exclusive trade contract for all their goods…what do Goners sell anyway besides their philosophy. I just hope I don’t have convert to being a Goner to get that contract…I enjoy making things go BOOM way too much to give it up.

It’s been a couple of days or Tazura (it’s going to take me a while to get use to Commonwealth time) since the Goners’ Grand Poobah, Beholder Hall, was abducted. The Council has petitioned every race’s government about finding him but to no avail. The Teladi government has been tight-lipped about the whole incident especially when questioned about their lack of aide during the attack and who or what the “Syndicate” is. In the meantime, those on the Council who were hoping for a ransom demand have been disappointed also. A typical Pirate kidnapping usually involves a ransom demand within a few Stazura of the abduction. This apparently is not a typical abduction and the “Syndicate” is apparently not a typical Pirate clan. Maybe it’s an upstart faction trying to make a name for its self but forgot to read the Pirates’ rulebook on abductions…who knows.

My fellow BoFu eating friend and Council member pulled me aside shortly after we had returned from Grand Exchange and asked if I would be willing to help retrieve Beholder Hall if he could figure out where the Pirates had taken him. I told him that so long as I get to make Pirates take unscheduled spacewalks and make things go BOOM, I’d be happy to help. He asked me to carry on as usual and not to tell anyone (especially the other Council members) but I had to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. So, I docked my Hyperion Yacht (USS Coronado) in a Goner station and told the dock master that I was doing some major software upgrades that would take a while. I also invited my new Goner friend on board for a tour (I love showing my Hyperion off) and a meal. When the Marines found out that BoFu was on the menu, they jumped ship and ate on the station. I promised my Gunny to cycle the environmental controls a few time after we were done eating…maybe.

It wasn’t long after the tour that the Council member comm’d me and said that his contacts had just located one of the Pirate ships used in the abduction. If I could, would I jump over to Merchant’s Haven and tail it. Maybe it would lead me back to where they were keeping the Grand Poobah. He also gave me the Goners’ security frequency so that I could stay in contact with him. It turns out that they maintain a network of secure satellites and communication drones throughout the known universe for “diplomatic” purposes.

I hopped into my Hyperion and yell at the dock master that I’m taking her out for a shakedown voyage of the new software upgrades. Quickly marking the coordinates in NavCom system that my Goner friend sent, I manually punch off the dock and jump to Merchant’s Haven. I’m going hear about jumping out so close to the station from the dock master when I get back. There’s some caution in the manual for the jump drive about it blinding people and video dependant systems when you do it too close to a docking assembly. I’ll deal with that later because right now Merchant’s Haven just popped into existence.

When I was first starting my little trade empire, I dropped a couple of Advance Satellites in this sector for future use and today they are paying off. I swept the entire sector from the North gate to the South gate. I then ran all the ship signatures through my computer system and compare them all against known Commonwealth configurations. My Goner friend’s contacts are good to their word; in the southern half of the sector is Argon ship signature that doesn’t match any approved configurations in the Commonwealth database. As I closed to visual range, I can see that it’s a Pirate Blastclaw. I suppose if you didn’t see the intense paint job that every Pirate puts on their ship, you could mistake it for an Argon Gladiator…maybe. And I’m sure that’s what the Teladi authorities in this sector are going to say if asked. I closed to about 12km to get a firm signature lock then I drop back to about 15km and take what I hope is a non-obtrusive position left and aft. I should just appear to be another ship vying the trade lanes…I hope. This Pirate must feel pretty confident as he hasn’t deviated a single degree off a course that’s taking him straight to the Southern gate.

I’ve heard horror stories of the sector south of Merchant’s Haven. I believe it’s called Maelstrom on the universal map or Hell’s Breath by the locals. They say the nebula is so thick and red that it’s like flying through tomato soup. They say that if your ship is long enough, you can’t see the bow from the stern. They also say that it’s a Pirate haven and those Pirates have capital ships…big capital ships with big capital guns. As I’ve never seen anything bigger than a Pirate Carrack, I have a hard time believing any of those Pirate stories. The sector probably is a Pirate haven but the Pirates themselves spread the stories to keep people out. And almost as confirmation, a half-dozen Pirate fighters pop out the gate just before the Blastclaw slips through. I quickly comm’d my Marines and told them to hold fire…unless we get fired on. I maintain our course to gate right through the middle of their formation and no shots are fired. As we touch the event horizon of the gate, I ease my finger of the triggers and relax.

Wow, they weren’t kidding about the tomato soup. It’s so thick and red, I can’t see more than a kilometer or two in front of me. My scanners quickly reacquires the signature lock on the Blastclaw but just as quickly locks on to a Pirate Carrack sitting on the gate. Its first salvo of weapon fire is tearing my shields apart even as the ship’s systems are registering the threat. I quickly whip the nose around with the strafe thrusters full on and slip sideways into the gate’s event horizon before my yacht is turned into a wreck. Once through the gate, I set jump drive to put us a few sectors further out. My Gunny’s standing in flight deck doorway with a grin on his face. All he says is,”Nice moves, boss! Nice moves!” I’m not about to tell him how close we just came to being space debris.

A quick damage assessment showed all systems are good (except for a few scorch marks on the hull) and we’ll be back in action as soon as the shield replenished. Well so much for following that Blastclaw. As much as I’ll put my Hyperion up against any other corvette in the universe, I’m not about to endanger it by going up against a frigate. That’s why I own a Panther (USS Block Island)…for those moments when you care to send the very best.

The Split Panther was failed bid by the Family Rhy to win the Split’s Frigate contract. They built a handful of them expecting to win but the Family Rhonkar decided on the Tiger instead. This came as a surprise and heavy blow to the Family Rhy’s ship production industry and many believe that Family politics were involved. After I had a tour of the Panther (and the fact the Tiger had a huge waiting list), I wanted one and the Family Rhy had several immediately available with a couple of perks thrown in. Except for the hull design and a launch bay for 32 fighters, I didn’t find many differences between the Panther and the Tiger. Same speed, same shielding, same weapon hardpoints; the only disadvantage being the right and left turrets couldn’t point directly forward and add their combined firepower to the forward turrets. In my opinion, the Panther should have been the clear winner. Well much to the Family Rhonkar’s displeasure, several other Families have placed orders for the Panther. This might have something to do with a deal I made to cruise my newly purchased Panther through several Split sectors on its maiden voyage…kind of an informal sales tour. The Family Rhy is now doing a fairly brisk business and I receive additional discount on Dragons and Heavy Dragons when I purchase them from their shipyards. I also get priority if I chose to purchase another Panther.

Anyway, I sent a message to the Panther and had the pilot jump her into my current sector. Once there I transfered over with my Marines. I sent a rookie crew over to the Hyperion with orders to swing by the nearest shipyard and get my yacht cleaned up…and send the bill to the Goners. My Gunny tells them something about deodorizing the whole ship too. I’m going to have to stop by Boron space and pick up some fresh BoFu before I take her out again.

The Panther is all teeth and claws. I’ve loaded out the forward turrets with Incendiary Bomb Launchers (IBLs) and put Flak Artillery Arrays (FAAs) in all the rest (Right, Left, Top, Bottom, and Aft). I’ve also got IBLs as secondary weapons for the Right and Left turrets. She’ll go toe-to-toe with any Frigate or Corvette and will dance with ships even bigger. Shortly after finishing her first shakedown voyage, I took her into a Xenon sector. There she performed beautifully and bested Ps, PXs, Qs and even a couple Xenon Js and Ks. One on one, her maneuverability and firepower are unmatched. I haven’t tried her against anything larger than a Khaa’ak fighter but they’re hard to find these days. If there is anything I don’t like about this Panther, it would have to be awful paint color the Split use for commercial purchase orders. One of these days, I’m going to have to find someone to repaint the whole ship and maybe my whole fleet. I wonder if the Pirates would be willing…probably not.

I jumped back into Merchant’s Haven and sent a message back to my Goner friend with an update on the situation and to expect a bill for the Hyperion repairs. Shortly after arriving in-sector, my ships computer identifies another Argon ship signature with an anomalous configuration similar to the one we tried to tail earlier. Once again, I move into visual range and see the distinctive Pirate paint job. I slide in a little closer and get a signature lock then back out to 16km (I’ve got to add an extra km because the bow of the Panther is so long. Sneaking up on a fighter in a frigate is not a subtle thing; you just do it and hope the target doesn’t think you’re doing anything suspicious. As we near the gate to Maelstrom, I comm’d my forward turrets to be ready to fire on a Pirate capital ship as soon as we enter the sector. I’ve engaged manual steerage so I can begin combat maneuver when we emerge. And sure enough, that Pirate Carrack is still sitting on the gate. But he is not prepared for my Panther as my forward turret immediately starts coughing 8 IBL blasts a second. Within moments, he’s a smoking pile of debris along with his fighter escort that we’re target practice for my Flak gunners. This nebula so thick, I doubt anyone saw the explosion and it happen so fast I doubt any of the Pirates had time to send a message out.

My computer system managed to reacquire the signature lock during the engagement and once again we are trailing the Pirate. It’s a good thing this nebulas is so thick because there’s just no way inconspicuously trail someone in a Panther. In normal space, it would almost be comical to watch…kind of like trying to hide an asteroid behind a spacefly. But in this soup, I could probably fly finger-tip formation with this Pirate and he still wouldn’t notice me.

He’s taken a south-westerly course and maintaining it pretty steadily. Soon, my scanners are picking up more Pirates and I order my turrets to hold fire until fired upon. There are some pretty intense moments as Pirates within a kilometer of us. But they all seem to be ignoring us. All except for the Pirate Harrier that decide to do the bug on windshield with me. His two partners closed on us to determine what happened and I order the Flak gunners to take them out…quickly. None of the other Pirates seem to notice. After a couple of hours or a Stazura, we picked up another Pirate Carrack on the scanners. Trying to stay with the Pirate we were following had us passing within 5km of the Carrack and well within his scanner range. Fortunately, he also ignored us and kept on going. He’s probably running diagnostics on his systems trying to figure out what computer glitch would cause a Split Frigate to show up this deep in Pirate territory.

I should have known our luck wouldn’t last forever because the stories of big Pirate capital ships are true. Shortly after passing the Carrack, we got a scanner hit on a capital carrier. To make matter worst, it was heading right at us. I adjust our course to maintain our tail and move us further out from the carrier. He adjusted his course to continue intercepting us. Oh, the things I do for these darn Goners. I guess I’m going to find out how my Panther does against a capital ship that’s not supposed to exist. It’s not in the database, so I’m labeling it a Galleon after the old Terran ships.

We’re going to have to take out, or at least disable, this carrier on the first pass or we’re going to lose our signature lock on the Pirate we’re tailing. About 8km out, I adjust our course to take the Galleon down the left-side of the Panther. I also slowed to give my forward turrets extra time to mark the target. At 7km, the Galleon started spewing out fighters…not many but enough that my Flak gunner’s are going to be busy. At 6km, the computer had finally resolved the image and finished the weapons analysis. The Galleon didn’t boast any significant guns forward but going a long side was going to be a real problem. Six Photon Pulse Cannons (PPCs) per side makes this ship a broadside brute. I slowed even more…hoping to finish her off with my forward turrets before her big gun could be brought to bear. My Panther was just going to have to soak up the smaller weapons fire from the fighter until the FAAs could clear them out.

I realized this engagement is going to take a little more finesse than the Panther’s automated systems could provide. So I took manual control and at just over 5km out, I kicked in the right strafe-thrusters, a little left rudder, and held the flight control column (yoke) all the way over to the left. In a fighter, this is called a combat-roll. It allows you to arch over and around incoming fire while maintaining your nose on the target. But in a capital ship, it’s called a last-ditch-I-hope-this-works maneuver. My forward turrets immediately adjust and begin opening fire on the target. In response, the Galleon has slew his left-side turrets as far forward as they can go and begun returning fire. In a classical broadside attack the Galleon continue straight and level with no attempt to adjust to my maneuver. Its tortuous watching as each of the Pirate’s Cannon begins to add to the fray. My shields are taking a pounding and the Galleon’s secondary weapons are just making matters worse. At least my Flak gunners have cleared out the fighters and are now adding their firepower to the equation.

My shields are just about to buckle when a small but intense explosion occurs just forward of the Pirate’s engines. It’s followed shortly by a series of more massive explosions as the Galleon rips itself apart. There’s a collective “Hoorah!” throughout the ship as the crew and gunners celebrate. My Gunny, who’s been on the bridge the whole time, just shakes his head and says, “Once a fighter pilot, always a fighter pilot.” I’m assuming he’s talking about my doing a combat-roll with a capital but with the Gunny, you just never know.

A quick scan of the Galleon’s debris field reveals some really nice salvage but we don’t the time to collect it as the Pirate we’ve been trailing is nearly out of range. I boost our speed to maximum and close the distance relatively quickly. Back at 16km, I throttle back and we take up our tailing position again. In the meantime, damage assessments are coming in from the different decks and surprisingly there’s nothing to report. The shields took a pounding but will replenish soon enough. I’m very proud of my Panther and I plan on sending some vintage Rastar Oil to the Family Rhy’s shipwrights when we get back from this little foray…I’ll send the bill to the Goners of course.

We’ve traveled quite a distance from the gate leading back to Merchant’s Haven and as I’m beginning to wonder if this Pirate is lost, the scanners pickup another gate. And wouldn’t you know it, guarding the gate is another ship that shouldn’t exist…a Pirate destroyer. Another new ship to add to the database…keeping with my old Terran ship naming convention, let’s call this one a Brigantine. Where are these folks finding the resources and shipyards to build ships of this size? If I ever get a chance, I’ll have to capture a Pirate and ask him. But right now, my main concern is this destroyer who has fired up his engines and started moving towards me. Just to be safe, I’ve lock the coordinates for this gate into my NavComm system…I may have to come back later if this encounter goes badly.

I’m figuring we should be able to do the same maneuvers with this Brigantine that we did with the Galleon. So, I set up to run down his left-side also. Throttle back…check, right strafe-thrusters…check, a little left rudder…check, yoke hard left…check. My Panther begins its version of a combat-roll and just inside 7km I’m registering heavy weapons fire from the Pirates forward turrets. He’s still outside my IBLs range but we’re closing. The computer finally finished its analysis and this is going get ugly. The Brigantine has 4 PPCs forward and 8 PPCs per side. To make matters worse, it has 6 IBLs aft and FAAs bristling on the top and bottom. I have my left-side gun crew switch over to secondary weapons and add 2 more IBLs to my firepower. This is going to require me to put the Panther nose a little further out from the target and make the forward turrets offset to compensate. So far, we’ve managed to evade the incoming PPC fire but that’s not going to last long as we get closer.

My forward turrets are finally in range and immediately begin firing. When you’re facing this kind of firepower, it seem like it takes forever for you weapon’s fire to reach its intended target. I’m going to be alongside the Brigantine well before I’ve done enough damage with the forward guns. I just hope the left-side gun crews can handle it. I doubt we could last through more than one pass with the Brigantine. We’ve roll up one side of the Pirate Destroyer and now receiving fire from the other side. My side turrets are working furiously to end this battle as are my FAAs. My forward guns are silent as the target move out of their fire zone.

As we’re rolling inverted down the other side of Brigantine and getting plastered, I realize we’re not going to make it and call for an emergency jump. Just as we’re about to engage the jump drive, the Pirate’s heavy guns fall silent. Their small weapons are still pounding us but the heavies are not firing. What I hadn’t realized was as we rolled down the side of the Brigantine, we’d end up (or is it down) underneath it and out of the PPCs fire zone. In the meantime, my side turret IBLs must have found a chink in their armor because suddenly there was a huge flash of light and the destroyer was gone. If it wasn’t for the debris field and the concussion shock from the explosion that remove the last of our shields, I’d swear they had jumped out. There was complete silence throughout the ship as the crew stopped everything, no weapons fire, no commands, no comms, no nothing.

As crew suddenly realized they were not about to die in a fiery explosion, there was a collective exhale like everyone had been holding their breath waiting for the end that never came. There was no celebrating this time…we were hurt and hurt bad. We didn’t have much structural damage but shields and major systems were out all over the ship not to mention there were still escort fighters to take care of. After surviving that brush with death, we didn’t want some lucky fighter jock to hit something significant and ruin the rest of our day. Things were a little less gung-ho throughout the ship and more businesslike. I guess that happens when you finally realize that you are not invincible. I think I’ll personally deliver two cases of vintage Rastar Oil to the Family Rhy’s shipwrights.

The Pirate we were following seemed to be completely oblivious to the monumental battle that had occurred behind him. Of course this thick nebula probably hid the whole thing. Anyway, we’re back behind him and working furiously to repair systems as we go. We’ve got the shields back up to about 25% but they’re going to take awhile to build higher. Right about now a couple of spaceflies would have a real good chance of taking us out. You know how those blasted spaceflies are.

Eventually, the Pirate slips through the gate and we’re hot on his tail. Shields have made it up above 40% and systems are coming back online across the ship. I’m still flying manually because most of the automated flight systems are still down. And because the universe was not done giving us a bad day, just before we reached the gate’s event horizon, a Pirate Carrack popped thru the gate and we met head-on. Shields…gone, hull damage…significant, systems that we just got back online…offline, large chunks of a now destroyed frigate…stuck in the Panther’s bow. Well so much for following that Pirate too because we seriously need a shipyard. “Jump device charging at 10%...” at least the jump drive still works. The Goners are going to have a heart attack when they see this bill…well maybe just one BoFu-eating Council member.

The end of Community Service: Part 2. Yeah, there’s still more to come…

30-09-2010, 05:45 PM
Community Service: Part 3…

We jumped back into Merchant’s Haven and as quickly as we could, we got out of the trade lanes. I sent a message to a resupply Mistral I keep on standby at one my factor complexes in Mines of Fortune. After it jumped in and moved to our position, we started to cannibalized the Mistral’s systems for fixing the Panther. Using the resupply ship as a repair platform, we were able to get some minor patch work done on the hull. We also took on a healthy load of e-cells for our expect jump to a shipyard. When we were done stripping down the Mistral, I sent it on a manual run and gave the pilot orders to refit the ship. It was going to take it a while to manual cross all those sectors but the mistral is the fastest trade ship out there.

The Mistral and its Super Freighter sister-class are at the leading edge of trading vessels. A trading partner introduced me to them back when I was first starting in the Commonwealth. Up until that point, I had been “borrowing” Demeters from the Duke to fill out my trade fleet. Where the Mistral excels at speed without losing cargo space, the Mistral Super Freighter trades that speed for a huge increase in cargo space. Even giving up speed for the unheard of 15K units of cargo space, it’s still the fastest Super Freighter…but it is a little expensive. In the hands of a good trade pilot, both ships' Return-on-Investment (ROI) can be measure in Tazuras instead of Wazuras. Now most of my trading fleet consists of Mistrals but I’ve still got a couple of “borrowed” Demeters out there plying the trade lanes.

After finishing up as many of the temporary repairs as we could, we prepped the Panther for a long jump to Split space on the other side of the known universe. Although the Panther can dock at any shipyard in the Commonwealth, there are only 3 that are prepared to do major damage repairs for it. My preferred shipyard is in the Family Rhy’s sector, Rhonkar’s Trial. It was where I originally purchase this Panther and I have a special relationship with the folks there. The other two are in Rhonkar's Might and Z’rt’s Dominion. After making a stop-over in Rhonkar’s Might on the Panther’s maiden voyage/informal sales tour, the shipwrights of Family Rhonkar made it abundantly clear I was not welcome in that sector and I’ve avoided it ever since. Back when I was doing missions for AGI Task Force (ATF), I had a small dispute with the Family Z’rt about Terraformer parts being transported through their sectors unimpeded. When I managed to get it stopped, they took exception to the loss in revenue. I guess telling a Split government official that they “were acting like the Teladi” is a really bad insult. It’s going to be a while before I can make amends and reenter their sectors.

Part of the items delivered by my resupply Mistral was two cases of vintage Rastar Oil that I had planned on giving to the shipwrights as a show of my appreciation for building such a wonderful ship. Now, I’m hoping the Rastar Oil will serve to smooth over the tension that is bound to happen when they see the damage. With any luck, I can use that to lead into an epic story of how their ship kept us alive when the odds and the universe were stacked against us. The Split love a good war story and I’ve heard people say I tell really good ones.

We jumped into Rhonkar’s Trial and limped our way over to a capital dock at the shipyard. By the time I turned over control of the ship to a junior pilot and disembarked, a small delegation of Split shipwrights had gathered at the gangway. They looked none too pleased and more than one was agitated enough to have their claws extended…never a good sign. I perform the Split’s formal greeting ceremony and present the two cases of vintage Rastar Oil to the chief shipwright with thanks for saving our lives. Even the most agitated among them seems taken aback by my gratitude and they are all now wearing expressions of puzzlement. I promise them to share the story of how the Panther turned the victor into the vanquished. Now several are wearing grins with very their sharp teeth exposed…that’s a really good sign.

Shortly after, I’m sitting in the chief shipwright’s office going over the details of repair efforts and sharing a glass of the very expensive vintage Rastar Oil I had presented earlier. I had developed a taste for Boron BoFu early in my career in Commonwealth space. I’m not particular fond of Rastar Oil but I can drink it without the normal side-effects that Terran’s suffer at the hands of other races’ consumables. I really think that’s why the Split of the Family Rhy like me and the other Families tolerate me…with some exceptions. The chief shipwright wraps up the last of the details and presents me with the final cost for the repairs and refit they can do. Some of the more exotic items like two of the IBLs in the forward turrets that were destroyed, cannot be replaced at the shipyard. Although the chief is curious as to how I obtained these to begin with, he doesn’t push for an answer. The bill is staggering and nearly half of what I paid originally for the Panther. I’m glad the Goners will be reimbursing me for this. It puts a huge dent in my trade reserves but I sign over the credits and immediately send a message off to the Goners to recoup the funds.

Later that evening, over a dinner in my honor, I regale the shipwrights and their families with the story behind the extensive damage to the Panther. I may have embellished a few areas for the entertainment of the audience but the whole of the tale was well received. More than a few of my own crew that attended the dinner snickered during those embellishments. I think my Gunny nearly choked on his food a couple of times. At the end of the tale, a Royal member of the Family Rhy who was in attendance announced that the crew of the Panther and I are “Distinguished Associates” of the Family Rhy and the tale was to be scribed into the Family’s records. The title is a huge honor for anyone non-Split and comes with some very nice perks…in Split space. The chief shipwright also refunds a good portion of the repairs costs too. I should probably let the Goners know about that…maybe.

After a couple of Tazuras, the Panther was ready to set out again. They did such a good job repairing her that you’d be hard pressed to tell she was ever damaged. I just can’t convince them to paint it a different color. When I asked, they said sure and provided me with a color palette to choose from. Every single sample was the same color. I’m not really sure the Split have a sense of humor that doesn’t involve gutting someone but this color issue seems to be an inside joke…and I’m not getting it.

As part of the formal departing ceremony, the shipwrights presented me a large container of Boron Special-Bend BoFu and I promise the shipwrights to return with new stories of the Panther’s victories. Shortly after undocking from the shipyard and making our way to a safe jumping distance, I received a message from the Goners stating that there was no way they could reimburse the repair costs for the Panther or for my Hyperion. As the missions they were damaged on were not sanctioned by the Council. I nearly choked when I read the message. That was a lot of my trade reserve gone. As I finished reading the whole message, there was a final line saying that the agreed upon amount for a recent Ore shipment was paid-in-full and signed by my BoFo eating Council member friend. A quick check of my trade reserves showed a huge deposit of credits. It amounted to the cost of the Ore…plus the cost of ship repairs minus the refund I never got around to telling the Goners about. Secure satellites and communication drones for “Diplomatic” purposes…I don’t think so.

It’s a good thing I had locked the west gate from Maelstrom into the NavComm system because now we could jump directly to it. With everything set, I made a quick announcement to the crew on our intensions and a caution to the Turret gunners to get ready for action. ”Jump device charging at 10%...” Now where’s that container of BoFu the shipwrights gave me. As I’m rummaging around the command chair looking for it, I see the Gunny on the other side of the bridge just smiling with a big toothy grin. I’m going to have a private conversation with him later. “…Jumping”

Maelstrom pops into existence and I throw the Panther into full reverse. At 10ms, it takes a few seconds for the aft section to make contact with the gate’s event horizon but it’s a lot faster than trying to turn a capital ship to go through bow first. How you enter a gate has nothing to do with how you exit. Going in upside down and sideways, you come out straight, level, and bow first. As fast as the tomato soup nebula of Maelstrom appeared, it was replaced by normal space as a new sector popped into existence. The NavComm registers it as an “Unknown Sector” but apparently it’s not unknown to the Pirates and more than a few traders. The Panther’s scanners are picking up dozens of trading vessels in the sector and a bucket load of Pirates. Along with the ships and the gate we just came through, there are two more gates; one leading south and another leading west. As there appears to be no facilities in this sector, the Pirate we were trailing before must have used one of the other two gates.

Fortunately, there’s nothing bigger than a Pirate Kea on the scanners and they all seem to be ignoring us. I wonder why the appearance of a Split capital ship doesn’t cause more of a reaction. Familiarity or arrogance, it’s got to be one of them. Anyway, I start a scan of all the ship signatures and begin running the comparisons. I’m looking for that anomalous configuration that the two previous Pirates had and it’s not long before the computer gets a hit. Heading towards the west gate is another obvious Pirate with an Argon ship signature. I set a course to intercept him at approximately 12km and the Panther’s systems get a signature lock. Once again, I back the ship off to 16km and begin trailing him.

The Pirate slipped through the west gate and we follow shortly after. I was expecting another “Unknown Sector” from the NavComm but when the new sector popped into existence, we started receiving a sector beacon from a navigation satellite. The sector beacon was accompanied by a rather loud automated audio message.

“You are now entering Gaian Star and are subject to the Buccaneer’s Code. Any breech of that code will be dealt with quickly and severely. In other words, mess around punk and you’ll be sucking vacuum. You are now entering Gaian Star and… ”

I guess this far off the normal trade lanes; the Pirates could setup a sector all for themselves. I wonder if any of the Commonwealth Intelligence Services know about this sector. I suppose if the Goners don’t know about, the other race’s authorities probably don’t either. They took a really big chance on bringing the Grand Poobah here or they never intend him to leave…alive.

There are several facilities in this sector and we’re not picking up any other gates within scanner range. The NavComm system has reacquired the signature lock and the Pirate appears to making a bee-line for a facility on the far side of the sector. Unlike the last sector, this one has several Pirate capital ships; three Carracks, one Brigantine, and one Galleon. The destroyer and the carrier are well north of the gate and don’t seem to have any interest in us. Two of the three frigates are near the facility that our Pirate is heading toward. The last frigate has decided to take an interest and is bearing down on us.

Not wanting to lose the signature lock, we continue our course following the Pirate. When the Carrack reaches 8km, it hails us and demands to know our intension. I’m figuring this would be a good opportunity to try and bluff our way out of any confrontation. I inform the hailing vessel that although it’s none of their business, we just captured this Panther and we are heading to the station on the other side of the sector. The Carrack abruptly cuts off the hailing channel and turns away. It seems the bluff worked.

As we near the station, it’s clear that two frigates on this side of the sector are using the station for target practice. As the pirate we’re following near the docking structure, the Carracks open fire and blows the ship away. I can only assume that this new “Syndicate” has caused problems for the other factions and are now being attacked. I’ve moved the Panther away from the fight and I’m trying to figure out what to do next, when someone pops on to the Goners’ secure channel calling for help. I opened the channel and asked the person to identify their self. The response is, “Beholder Hall.” Not realizing the channel is still open, I exclaim, “The Grand Poobah!” To which Beholder Hall asks, “The who?”

Beholder Hall explains that he has escaped his cell and secured a spacesuit. He was currently working on the security system for an airlock. He asks that if he could open it, would I be nice enough to swing round and pick him up. Sure, why not? It’s not like I have anything else to do at the moment. I’m guessing when he was messing with airlock system; he over-rode all the security features. With both sides of the airlock open, he managed to get himself ejected out into space with an explosive decompression. With him flailing across the sector and the two frigates shooting up the station, this is going to need some speed and finesse. I do an emergency transport into the cockpit of a little ship I keep in the fighter bay; a maxed out Teladi Kestrel.

The Kestrel was built to break traditional boundaries. The Teladi have been known for building slow and ugly ships with lots of cargo space and lots of shields. The Kestrel may not be well shielded or have lot cargo spaces but its anything but slow. Ugly…well that’s a matter of taste and at 605ms; you might not see it long enough to form an opinion. Aside from the Argon Racers, Arrow and Starburst, the Kestrel is the fastest M5-class fighter in space. There’s rumor that the Teladi are building a more advanced version that goes even faster. Throw in a cargo life-support unit and it makes a great taxi.

And I guess that’s what I’ll be doing now, Goner Taxi Service. After launching from the Panther, I pulled a hard left turn. With my helmet pinned to the cockpit window (I forgot how responsive the Kestrel is), I slid out of the turn heading towards the station. Acquired a lock on the Beholder Hall’s spacesuit, I soon realize he’s trying to correct the tumbling with the manual controls in the suit. He’s not doing a very good job of it and only making things worse. At this point it would be easier to catch a spacefly with your bare hands than for me to catch this Goner. I hail him on the secure channel and tell him to leave the controls alone. After several attempts to maneuver along side of him, I give him instructions to adjust his roll and then his pitch…carefully. With him rotating on only one axis, I managed to pull up next to him. Throwing open the cockpit, I announce “The Grand Poobah Taxi Service! You call for a cab.” His only response as he climbs in is, “Who the devil is this Grand Poobah?”

The two Carracks had finally noticed our little escape escapade and began firing directly at us. With a little touch of the engine control, the incoming fire finds nothing but empty space. Pushing the throttle all the way up, I do a quick flyby of one Carrack’s bridge before heading out. Within moments, we’re on a docking vector with the Panther. Shortly after that, we’re setting up a jump to the Elysium of Light. For such a troublesome mission, it sure ended quickly and a lot easier than I was expecting. ”Jump device charging at 10%...”

The end of Community Service: Part 3. Will this story ever end…

13-10-2010, 08:14 PM
Community Service: Part 4…

Back in Goner territory with Beholder Hall in tow, I comm’d my BoFu-eating friend and informed him that I not only found the “Syndicate’s” Pirate base but I had also come across the Grand Poobah doing a tour of the sector in a spacesuit and was wondering if the Goner Council was wanting him back. I turned the secure communication channel over to Beholder Hall while I went over details with the pilots of my trading ships doing the supply runs for the Goner Temple project. I suppose at some point I’m actually going to finish this community service, but checking the manifests, that won’t be anytime soon. A short time later, the Grand Poobah finished his communication then came asked that I keep his rescue a secret until he could figure out what to do about the Syndicate.

I recalled my Hyperion Yacht to Elysium of Light and cut the Panther loose to patrol the Goner’s sector just in case the Syndicate decides to retaliate. As an added bonus, the Panther would be close at hand…just in case the Goner’s had another “make it go BOOM mission.” In the meantime, I continued to use my trade fleet to keep the Goner Temple construction project going and I must say that the temple was coming along quite nicely. This temple is much bigger than their previous temple that disappeared in Cloud Base South West. It should be quite the sight to see when completed.

Nearly a wozura later, my friend on the council relayed a request from the Grand Poobah himself for a “Tour” of my yacht. So after docking at one of the Goner stations, I tidied up a bit and dismissed the Marines for a little R&R (good luck finding R&R activities for Marines on a Goner station). A short time later, Beholder Hall arrived for his “Tour” on my Hyperion Vanguard Yacht. I gave the Grand Poobah the 5 credit tour of my pride and joy. Once done, we sat down to discuss the real reason Beholder Hall came aboard…what to do about the “Syndicate.”

He said that despite all their efforts to discover the reason or reasons for the “Syndicate” attacking Goner interests, they came up with nothing. They had no idea who, what, or why this pirate faction was gunning for the Goners. The only thing they did know was where their base of operations was and that was due to my efforts alone. After hemming and hawing for a while he finally asked if I would be willing to deal with the situation. He, and the Goner Council, felt that if the Syndicate’s base of operations was destroyed, the faction should break up and begin merging with other pirate clans. This should resolve the issue for the immediate future and allow the Goners time to look further into it.

I agree to take on the mission…as long as I’m properly compensated and it doesn’t cause me to have issues with the Commonwealth authorities. The Grand Poobah then presented me with a beautifully scribed Letter of Marque, signed and sealed by every member of the Goner Council. He explains that this document will allow me do whatever is necessary to secure Goner interests and is recognized by every government in the Commonwealth. Along with the physical document, an encrypted electronic signature and authorization was uploaded to my CommNav system. He also informed me that there was a Goner corvette sitting in the Pirate sector “keeping an eye” on the Syndicate.

Before Beholder Hall left the ship, he asked me again who this Grand Poobah that I keep referring to is. After finally catching my breath from laughing so hard, I pulled up an old Terran video of a cartoon depicting a stone-age family. This particular episode depicts the head member of an ancient organization who is referred to as the Grand Poobah along with an unusual hat that looks amazingly like the ceremonial headdress of the Goners. Although Beholder Hall sees the humor in the similarities, he asks that I not refer to him as the Grand Poobah. I was never one to let a good joke go, but I promised him I would try. He said to try real hard because Goners also had an unusual sense of humor that I wouldn’t be interested in learning about.

I recalled the Marines from their short R&R then undocked from the Goner station. I sent a message to my Panther to rendezvous with me near the jump so I could swap ships…I want my heavy guns for this mission. Shortly after transporting over to Panther and informing the relief crew on the Hyperion to follow me into the Pirate sector, we set up to jump. ”Jump device charging at 10%...” At least the Gunny didn’t hide my stash of BoFu this time. “…Jumping”

Gaian Star pops into existence and the sector beacon is issuing the same audio message. “You are now entering Gaian Star and… ” My Hyperion Yacht pops in right behind us and maneuvers to a position where it can provide cover fire. As the Syndicate’s base is just beyond the Panther’s scanner range, I set a course for its last know position. Moments later, I have it on the scanners and I order the forward turret crews to hold fire until I give the word. I also order the right-side turret crew to swap the Flak Arrays out for the IBLs as I’ll be approach from an angle that will allow them to fire on the base along with the forward batteries. Closing on the base with my Hyperion providing cover, the crew’s spirits are running high. At 10k out from the base and with the forward gun crews are primed to fire, we suddenly get an emergency message on the Goner’s secure channel.

“WAIT! STOP! DON’T FIRE!” The Goner’s corvette that suppose to be “keeping an eye” on the Syndicate base is hailing us. The Captain of corvette informs us that they have been trying to send a message back to the Council to not attack the base directly. But due to intermittent NavComm problems, they have been unable to contact the Goner “Diplomatic” satellite network to inform the Council that an undercover Terran agent is onboard the Syndicate’s base and would not be able to get away in the event of a direct attack. The agent is suggesting a more covert approach to destroying the base.

Having dealt with Terran Intelligence Service during my previous encounters with the ATF, I know they usually have very devious plans when it comes to blowing up large facilities. The Goner Captain relays that the agent suggests delivering a load of desperately short Spaceweed to the base as a way of getting in good with the dock master. Then return with a delivery of Squash Mines that the agent will rig to explode while giving him an opportunity to get on board my ship for his escape. Talk about ironic, the whole reason I’m got community service in the first place is because I was transporting illegal goods. Now, I have to transport illegal goods again but this time for that community service.

I transport back over to my Hyperion as the Panther would be unable to dock with the base and send it back to the Goner’s sector. After a quick jump to Teladi space to pick up Spaceweed, we’ve returned and approach the Syndicate’s base. When we request permission to dock, the dock master tells that we’re not welcome here and to leave immediately. I tell him that it’s not a problem and that we’ll just deliver the Spaceweed to the other Pirate base in this sector. Just as we start turning away, he hails us and gives us permission to dock. After docking and haggling over the price (which I took a loss on but made it look like we made a small profit), I asked if he would be interested in any other goods. He goes through an entire list of supplies they are short on but when he mentioned Squash Mines, I tell him I’ve got a friend in Teladi space where I can get the mines at a discount. We haggle on the price for a bit and I finally accept a price far below what I know I’m going to be paying for them. At least the Goner’s will reimburse my loss.

We make another jump to Teladi space to meet up with my imaginary friend and pick up a load of Squash Mines then its back to Gaian Star. This time we’re given permission to dock immediately. I pulled the dock master off to the side and make up a story about my friend charging me more than I originally agreed to. I explain that I have to re-negotiate the price with him or I’ll end up taking a loss. The Terran agent, disguised as a dock hand, is working on one of the Squash Mine containers that he’s made to look like it fell over and spilled its contents. In the short time it takes to re-haggle the price of the mines, the agent has finished and disappeared into my ship. I settle up with the dock master and tell him if I find any of the supplies he’s looking for, I’ll return with them.

With the agent on board, we punch off the dock and set up a course for the east gate. A short distance out from the base, the agent says to focus our monitors back toward the base. In the category of making things go BOOM, this was epic. A series of small explosions ripples up the docking facility toward the center of the base. Then a larger explosion at the center splits the base in half as more explosions from the two parts continues to rip those to pieces. Kill pirates…check, make things go BOOM…check, show off my yacht…time to give the Terran agent the 5 credit tour. Before the tour, I send a message back to the Goner’s:

“With my compliments to the Grand Poobah, mission accomplished.”

After jumping back to the Elysium of Light, we dropped off the Terran agent and then docked at the brand-new Goner Temple. There were celebrations commemorating the temple and dealing the Syndicate issue. The Grand Poobah himself gave a speech where he also thanked me for my assistance. After things calmed down, my BoFu-eating friend from the counsel delivered a package that included trading contracts with the Goner’s and a software upgrade for my fleets jump drives. He explains that they were experimenting with jump drive upgrades back on the previous Goner Temple in Cloud Base South West. During the research, they stumbled across the ability to do unfocused jumps. Their first lab test went horribly wrong resulting in the whole temple jumping out to somewhere in the universe. With further refinement, they managed to get better control of the jumps. Now the upgrade allows a ship to jump to random sectors in the universe then allows the ship to jump back to its point of origin.

I load the upgrade to my Hyperion and prep the ship for an “Unfocused” jump. This should be interesting and fun…exploring the unknown. Elysium of Light winks out and nothing. There is absolute dark in every direction and to make matter worst, the Triplex Scanner is offline. We’ve only got the short range NavComm scanner available and that only scans to 5km. Fortunately, I’ve got a Kestral docked with the Hyperion and it’s got a Triplex Scanner installed. I comm’d the Gunny to swap out the Kestral’s scanner with the one that currently not working and in the meantime, I just watch the monitors for anything that may be a problem. As I’m watching, I start to see spaceflys out in the distance. They’re an unusual shade of glowing purple and as time passes I can see more and more of them. At about the time the Gunny has the Triplex Scanner’s swapped out, I realize that they are not spaceflys at all…they’re Khaa’ak. When scanner finally comes up, the entire screen is covered in red Khaa’ak signatures and they’re all heading towards us. Those closest are already firing those Kyon Beam Emitters and lighting us up like a neon-sign in a pleasure palace. Across the top of the NavComm screen, a message begins to scroll:

“With the compliments of the Leader of the Goner High Council... Stop calling me the Grand Poobah!”

I’m going to have to have a serious talk with the esteemed Beholder Hall about his sense of humor. But for now, it’s time to go! ”Jump device charging at 10%...”

The end of Community Service. Hope y’all enjoyed it…