Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Blockade

Okaseilen Fukashi doesn't stand up to greet me when I walked into his office, normal behavior for him. I figure he's dealt with enough capsuleers over the years that he probably thinks we're overpaid and almost more trouble than he wants to deal with.


Once I sit down he looks up and says "Cle, I've got a little trouble I need some help with." "Help? You mean you need someone killed." It makes him a uncomfortable when I point out what he's really asking. A little petty of me, but what can I say?

"The Guristas have captured stasis tower near a stargate" he says through clenched teeth. "Kill the leader and the rest of the pirates should disperse."

The Guristas do this every once in a while. I'm not sure why they keep it up. Maybe because the Caldari Navy never seems to confront them over it. It's always some pod pilot that gets sent out to clean up the mess.

I've even done it before. Pretty typically an easy mission if you're prepared. The Guristas seem to only come in waves. It seems as though the wing leader in each wave has an emergency beacon that goes off once his ship is destroyed.

Identify the leaders, take out the other pirates first and you can manage the battle pretty easily.

I must've sighed because he says, "Cle, take the mission. I won't forget it." Well, at least he didn't try to appeal to my patriotism. I had enough of that before I left the State War Academy.

"Ok, ok. I'll do this, but it's gonna cost you." I don't think he heard, he's already facing his holoterm, working on his seemingly endless beauracratic work. But I've got the mission green lit in my Neocom Journal, so that's taken care of.

Secretly I'm pleased, I was getting bored sitting in the bar. On my way to my ship I call my crew chief and tell him to get Heartbreaker ready to go. Heartbreaker is the pride of my (little) fleet. It's a used, but not used up Caldari Raven battleship that I was able to get at a discount from the Caldari Navy. I know that when the Guristas try and get a foothold in Empire Space they tend to defend it with quite a bit of force and I'll need some force of my own to get the job done.

It always amazes me how something as large and ungainly as a battleship becomes so graceful once it slides into space. "Set course to Tsuguwa gate", I tell the NavComp. A quick jump through the gate and then I warp to about seventy kilometers from the coordinates given to be by Agent Fukashi.

I set condition Zebra throughout the ship and prepare for action. I feel the defensive and weapons systems cycle through their self tests and report readiness.

Once the ship comes out of the warp tunnel I can see the stasis tower and the nine Guristas ships protecting it. I tell the ship's combat system to lock on to the tower and four of the ships. Because of the neural interfaces it feels as though I reach out and tap the holoimage of each one in turn in order to do this.

At the same time I feel a tickle at the back of my neck. It's the Guristas targeting me back. In seconds I'm locked on and I'm sending out missiles to destroy the stasis tower which is hindering my movement.

It only takes a couple of Wrath cruise missiles to destroy the tower and then I can turn to the ships. Already the Guristas' missiles are impacting my shields. Even though the Caldari Navy sold this ship it still has powerful systems that can withstand this level punishment almost indefinitely.

After destroying a couple of their ships I see reinforcements suddenly arrive. Seventeen additional ships and there's still 6 left from the initial wing. Why did they arrive so soon? Did I target the wing leader prematurely? Is this a more important incursion than I've been led to believe?

I'm given precious little time to try and figure out the answer as the other seventeen ships start firing at me. Watch the shields, ammo levels, targets, coordinate missiles, railguns and drones. There's a lot that happens in combat, the only thing that allows me to keep up with the information overload is the direct inputs into my nervous system from the ship.

My shields start dropping, feels like a mild sunburn that I know will get worse as the shield levels fall. I start targeting the larger ships as I need to decrease the damage coming in. After destroying a few of the Guristas' battlecruisers more ships warp in. More ships!

This is pretty unusual I've got around thirty ships pounding on me. For the first time I'm getting a little worried. My shields are dropping faster now. Target, fire, switch target, fire, over and over again all the while keeping an eye on my shields. And hoping, almost praying that more ships don't show up.

If there is a God as the Amarr believe or higher power or whatever he's a bastard. More ships arrive. Somewhere someone is laughing. And it's not me.

Now my shields are dropping too fast. They're about 20% now, I start to align to the nearest station. I need to get docked up and let my shields regenerate. My ship heels around, slowly, agonizingly slow as my shields are stripped away. Suddenly, the ship shudders and alarms start sounding as the Guristas' missiles are impacting my armor. Now I'm really concerned. Caldari ships are not known for having thick armor. It's a race between aligning and warping and my ship's survival.

Suddenly I feel the slipperiness of the warp tunnel envelope me and the Guristas' ships disappear from my scanners. Assessing my ship, my shields are gone and my armor is down to 50%. Fifty percent of my armor gone in just a few seconds! A few more moments and I would've lost my ship.

I sit in my pod and feel a cold chill run down my spine. This wasn't a normal Guristas incursion. Forty ships in Caldari space and I hadn't even spotted their leader yet.

I open comms to Agent Fukashi, "What the hell is going on, Okaseilen? There are more Guristas than I've ever seen in one place!" "Well, you accepted the mission", he replies and then signs off. I bet he didn't even look up from the holoterm.

I think I'm going to have to hit and run to get the Guristas taken care of. "Taken care of." Now I'm using euphemisms. To get the Guristas killed. Damn it, this is going to take longer than I wanted.

Back out into space and warp to the Guristas. Start locking targets, firing off missiles, watching my shields, keeping an eye on the drones.

After killing several more ships another wave shows up. Close to fifty ships, but this time I see the leader, a Pithatis Death Dealer. Finally, I have a way to end this. Kill him and the rest should disperse.

I change targeting and send Wrath cruise missiles rocketing towards him. At fifty kilometers away it takes a bit for the missiles to reach him. I watch the missiles track in, three, four, and five before he goes down.

I look over at my Neocom. The Journal tab is not blinking. I was just supposed to kill the leader, it was going to be over then, what the hell is going on?

Oh well. As long as I keep an eye on my shields, keep aligned to a station and warp off when necessary I can whittle them down. This isn't too bad.

"Target lock lost", the combat computer tells me. Oh shit, jammers, they have jammers. One more thing to worry about. I'll have to kill them first. Once they let up the jamming of course.

I settle into a routine of killing Guristas, almost numb to the destruction around me. Wrecks everywhere. Warping off to the station another couple of times. Finally after killing one of the last battlecruisers my Journal blinks, letting me know that Agent Fukashi thinks I've done enough. Done enough? Just briefly a murderous thought passes through my head that I've not yet done enough. But if I kill him, who will pay me?

Back through the Nourvukaiken gate and dock up in the station. I open comms with Fukashi and tell him I'm done. He gives me my money and I sign off before he can say anything. I punch the eject button and start the procedure to leave my pod. A procedure that is unpleasant at the best of times. Draining supra-oxegenated pod juice from your lungs is unpleasant.

After a quick shower I check my wallet and see that between the mission pay and bounties on the Guristas I've made about 7 million isk.

"Being a capsuleer isn't such a bad thing after all", I think as I slip into sleep.

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