The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
3 April YC 121
On Wednesday the day didn’t start too well – I got an urgent summons to come to Ijumachi’s office while I was halfway through my breakfast. Regretfully putting the dessert aside, I dressed and hurried to the agent’s place.
“I have an urgent mission for you, Mr Korff,” said Ijumachi, “but before I proceed I’d like to commend you on the way you completed your previous assignment. We haven’t seen that gang ever since you tackled their leader.”
“My pleasure, Mr Vuonolailen,” replied I. “You should have seen the face of the pirate when I told him that it was a training warp disruptor that I ‘tackled’ him with.”
Ijumachi laughed, “Yes, that was a masterstroke. I guess he couldn’t stand the humiliation of having been duped so easily. You can almost say that we tackled him with a power of thought and some light effects. But mind you, don’t try that trick outside the training missions; always fit the real Tech I stuff.”
“Talking about missions, what have you got for me today? I hope it’s gonna be a proper combat assignment this time; my rails are getting rusty,” I winked, “if you know what I mean.”
“Sorry, I have to disappoint you – this mission is not offensive. If it’s any solace,” smiled Ijumachi, “I can arrange a free oil change for your guns at the Academy workshop when you are back.”
I snorted, “Tempting. So what do you want me to do?”
“I need you to assist a ship which was attacked in this system. There is one survivor who was left for dead by pirates but he can’t fly the ship because its warp drive was disabled. I am giving you a Small Remote Shield Booster which can be used to repair the damaged vessel.”
“Are there any hostiles on the grid?”
“No, but they may appear at any time; that is why this mission is so urgent. I encourage you to mount your rusty railguns in the remaining high slots, but don’t mix your modules up,” Ijumachi raised a finger, “Remember, the booster is for the friendly ship, the rails are for pirates. Got it?”
“Don’t worry, Mr Vuonolailen, she’ll be right.”
At the ship hangar I asked the engineering crew to replace the blaster with the shield booster and woke up Aura.
“Hello, darling,” said I. “Do you remember that Angel of Mercy mission?”
Aura shuddered and acquired a greenish tint, “Unfortunately, yes. Why?”
I grinned, “We are being the angels again!”
“No,” groaned Aura. “We have already self-destructed once. Why do we need to repeat it? Did you flunk the test?”
“Who said anything about self-destruction? All we need to do is repair a ship in distress. As if we were guardian angels.”
Aura frowned, “If what I heard about Guardian Angels is true, then ship repairs is quite opposite to what they usually do.”
“Erm… Oh, you mean Angel Cartel?”
“Of course. What did you mean?”
Obviously, Aura’s knowledge did not encompass religious matters and I was not going to be the one to enlighten her.
“Nothing. Forget it. Just get us to the mission location.”
Aura made a grimace, “As you wish, milord.”
Having arrived to the destination, we found a curious coral-shaped asteroid and a drifting ship.
“I’ll be damned!” exclaimed I. “Look at that ship.”
Aura checked the overview and shrugged, “It’s Victorieux Luxury Yacht. Quite an unusual ship but nothing to get excited about.”
“You don’t understand. That’s the same type of ship that Gerhardt and I had modified so that he could smuggle out Empress… Err..”, stumbled I realising that I was not ready yet to share that story with Aura, “I mean, impressive amount of drugs.”
Aura’s eyes opened wide, “Ooh, I didn’t know Gerhardt was a drug courier. Do you think this ship contains drugs? Will they share their stash with us as a payment for the rescue?”
“Wait a moment. It can’t be. Let me check,” said I and requested the detailed information about the crippled yacht.
Sure enough, Neocom had confirmed that the ship’s pilot was Gerhardt Oppenheimer.
I established a direct channel to Victorieux and yelled, “Gerhardt! What the hell are you doing here?”
“Vlad?” replied he in astonished tone. “Why are you here? It’s not safe. Warp away!”
“I am not going anywhere without you, mate. In fact, I am on an official mission from War Academy. They’ve sent me to repair your ship.”
There was a pause while Gerhardt was digesting the news. Then he said, “Sorry, I didn’t realise you were the one sent to help me and, honestly, I expected at least a cruiser-sized rescue vessel. This system is teeming with pirates.”
“Don’t worry about the size. This birdie has quite a bite, and the local pirates are well aware of it. But let’s not waste time. The sooner I fix you the better.”
“Okay. I am ready when you are.”
I targeted the yacht, activated the remote shield booster and ran it for a few cycles.
“How’s that?” asked I. “Any better?”
“Hmm… No, not really. My capacitor is still at zero. What repper are you using?”
“A shield booster.”
“A shield booster? Bloody idiots!” moaned Gerhardt. “I told them I needed a capacitor transmitter.”
“Now that you mentioned that, I had this doubt at the back of my mind – how a shield booster could help a disabled ship to fly. But I didn’t ask because I thought they knew better. Let me contact the base and check if I can quickly swap the modules.”
After a conversation with Ijumachi, I switched back to Gerhardt, “Bad news. They don’t have available remote capacitor transmitters at the base. If you wait 15-20 minutes I can quickly jump to Jita and buy the required module.”
“I am not sure I have that much time,” said Gerhardt gloomily. “Have you checked your D-scan lately? There are combat probes in space.”
“So what do we do?”
“I have an idea. Give me ten minutes, I will be off comms. While you are waiting, orbit me at your optimal repair distance. If bogeys appear, start repairing me and shooting them, in that order. If you get primaried, warp off immediately, don’t be a hero. Understood?”
“We’ll see about that,” I replied noncommittally. “Just do your thing.”
As the minutes trickled by I was obsessively checking D-scan and overview. After some time the combat probes disappeared and I started preparing for a fight: double-checked that the ammo was loaded, confirmed that my orbiting distance was within the optimal range of the shield booster, and stared at the overview, ready to target and engage any hostiles. For all I knew, by now we could have been surrounded by cloaked stealth bombers which were slowly creeping on us.
Fully occupied with the imaginary dangers I was startled when I suddenly heard Gerhardt’s voice, “Vlad, activate your repper. Quick!”
I obeyed the command and turned on the shield booster. For a cycle or two nothing happened but then suddenly Victorieux’s shield disappeared and a fountain of sparks erupted from the midship. At the same time, the yacht’s engines lit up and it started slowly turning around.
“Warp! Warp! Warp!” shouted Gerhardt. “I’ll see you at the Academy!”
I didn’t waste a single moment and immediately started aligning to the station. Being more agile, my Merlin reached the warp speed faster than Victorieux.
“Warp drive active,” said Aura, and Ampuhaukka got enveloped in a bluish haze of warp bubble.
The last thing I saw before I sped away were sinister silhouettes of Pithi Plunderers coming out of warp near Gerhardt’s yacht.