The Stand, Part 1

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station

13 April YC 121

After saving Gerhardt’s Phantom Lady I took a break from my studies and appeared in Ijumachi’s office only ten days later.

“I am so glad to see you, Mr Korff,” greeted me the agent. “In fact, I was about to call you.”

“Anything urgent?” asked I.

“Not exactly, but I’d say I have an assignment which would fit nicely into your training schedule. By the way, it was the success of your previous mission that helped us uncover new intel on the pirates.”

“How is that?”

“A few days ago our intelligence department received datapads found on the bodies of criminals who were killed during an attempt to hijack a civilian ship…” said Ijumachi and looked at me.

“Aha, let me guess – would that ship be a luxury yacht piloted by a Mr Oppenheimer?”

Ijumachi nodded with a smile and continued, “Those datapads contained a location of a pirate base thus far unknown to us.”

“Excuse me, out of interest, how did you manage to hack the pads?” interrupted I.

The agent rolled his eyes, “You won’t believe it – they were protected by a fingerprint. Now, about the base – we’ve sent a few drones to reconnoitre the area but they were shot down by the guards before they could get close enough. It seems to be a very well protected structure and we need to carefully assess its defences before planning a fully-fledged attack.”

I shrugged, “Another reccy mission? I’ve done that before. Don’t you have other pilots who could fly it?”

“We do but they are not capsuleers.”

“One doesn’t have to be a capsuleer to scout the area.”

Ijumachi smiled sadly, “One better be, ’cause I don’t expect that pilot to return in a ship. In the best case he’ll come back in a capsule; in the worst…” the agent made a meaningful pause and then finished, “That’s when the choice of a pilot is the choice between enforced rejuvenation and unrecoverable loss.”

I drummed my fingers on the table and asked, “So you think there is no chance to survive this mission?”

“If we are talking about the capsule and the pilot in it – I simply don’t know. And that’s a reason enough not to send a baseliner there. As to the ship, it has to be destroyed; that’s by design. I want it to remain in the area, reconnoitre and provide active resistance until it is blown up. I want to see what kind of force the pirates are prepared to scramble to stop it.”

“Hmm… I take your point about the need for a capsuleer, but what’s in it for me? I have already done a suicide mission.”

Ijumachi shook his head, “That one was different – your ship was destroyed instantaneously. But do you know what it’s like to watch your shield go down, then your armour, then your hull, all the while hearing the blaring alarms? Will you be able to stay on course resisting the temptation to warp out?”

I chuckled, “You’ve got me there. To be honest, I freak out each time my shield level drops to 50%.”

The agent peered into my face, “So, do you think you are up to it?”

“I guess, I won’t know until I try. Sign me up.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Ijumachi approvingly and turned to his console.

“Er… Wait a moment. What about the mission reward? If I am to lose my ship I expect that the payment will be high enough to cover the loss.”

“Don’t worry about that,” replied Ijumachi, “as with the hellburner mission we will provide a frigate so that you don’t have to sacrifice yours. But listen, don’t get excited and splash out on expensive fitting. All our intel says that you will stand no chance. Just make sure that you have enough firepower to take down at least one ship to attract pirates’ attention and then try to stay alive as long as you can. If you warp out or somehow avoid getting destroyed, I will consider the mission failed.”

“And what if I manage to destroy all the hostiles?” asked I.

“Always an optimist, huh?” smirked Ijumachi. “You still won’t get your mission reward, but you’ll earn enough pirate kill bonuses not to worry about it.”

“And I’ll keep the frigate?”

“Ha-ha, of course you will. It will be written off my books as soon as you get it. Are you ready to start?”

I thought for a while and said, “If it’s not too urgent, can you give me a day or so to prepare?”

“Not a problem, those pirates aren’t going anywhere, but remember what I said about the fitting – don’t overthink it.”

“Sure, sure,” mumbled I, pondering whether I should use a shield extender or a shield recharger in mid-slots.

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