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MadMac
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.

MadMac
20-09-2010, 01:05 PM
Duct Tape and a Repair Laser: <br />
<br />
“For successful completion of the Ship Boarding Techniques Training, registration and ownership of the exercise target ship (YM6XG-78 Vidar) has been transferred to...

MadMac
20-09-2010, 01:11 PM
Community Service: Part 1 <br />
<br />
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...

MadMac
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…

MadMac
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…

MadMac
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…