The Stand, Part 3

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System
Mission Location

14 April YC 121

The base, naturally, was located in a deadspace pocket so the only thing we found at the mission location was an acceleration gate.

I looked at Aura, “Ready?”

She made a deep breath and said firmly, “Yes.”


Aura smiled shyly, “That too.”

“Okay, let’s not waste time – get us through the gate.”

“Aye-aye,” replied Aura and we jumped.

As soon as we arrived, I checked the overview, and it didn’t look right. There was a deadspace beacon, one ship and nothing else – no base, no structures, no nothing. The ship also looked strange; it wasn’t a pirate, it was some kind of a mercenary frigate.

“Where is the base?” asked I rhetorically.

Aura made a grimace, “Do we really care? Our task is to kill one ship and then die in a blaze of glory. Here is a ship, it is hostile. What are you waiting for? Reinforcements?”

“You are right as usual, darling,” said I and targeted the mercenary.

Mercenary Frigate
Mercenary Frigate

The battle was pretty ordinary – orbiting the hostile at 14 km I killed it before it cold make any significant dent in my shield.

“Whoa!” exclaimed Aura when the enemy frigate exploded.

I shrugged, “Nothing special. We’ve seen more spectacular fireworks.”

“Forget the fireworks. Look at the overview, stupid!”

I did… and my heart skipped a beat. Just as I finished off the mercenary, ten hostile cruisers warped in.

“What the fuck! Who the hell are those guys?” cried I.

The cruisers did not belong to Guristas; Neocom gave them Terrorist designation and classified as Elite Federation Auxilia. They were bloody Gallente!

Elite Federation Auxilia
Elite Federation Auxilia

“Watch out! They are deploying spider drones,” said Aura tensely.

“Oh, shit! We need to get rid of them quickly.”

I targeted all three drones and concentrated fire on the closest one.

After just one or two salvos Aura said, “The target is lost.”

“What do you mean ‘the target is lost’?”

“It’s out of the targeting range.”

“Don’t be silly,” said I. “It’s just 6.2 klicks away.”

“The Terrorists are using sensor dampeners on us. Our effective targeting range is 5.8 kilometres.”

“Damn! Let’s get closer to those drones then.”

Aura sighed, “I don’t think we can. They webbed us and our maximum speed is 15.8 metres per second.”

I groaned. At such speed we could be outrun by a moderately enhanced Gallentean modder, to say nothing about the drones. A few moments later the cruisers got into their optimal firing distance and I felt the full force of their weapons. Despite all the shield hardeners and rechargers, my defences were quickly melting under the fire. At the same time, a combination of stasis webifiers and sensor dampeners made a quadriplegic of me – I couldn’t run and I couldn’t shoot. Ultimately, there was nothing I could do but watch the red semicircles growing on my HUD. For a while Aura and I sat there in stunned silence interrupted only by the simulated sounds of cannonade and blaring alarms.

When the damage went into the hull I said, “Aura, you know how you say ‘Warp drive active’ every time we get into warp? Are you also responsible for the sirens?”

Aura gave me a strange look and replied, “No, those are built into the ship’s dumbware.”

“Shame,” I remarked melancholically, “I was about to ask you to change their tone to something more pleasant. I must admit, I don’t like the factory preset.”

Aura snorted, “You want a pleasant alarm sound?”

She opened her mouth to add something else and at that moment we exploded.

Exploding Merlin
The last shot from my camera drone

When the capsule stopped spinning I looked at Aura and asked, “You were saying?”

“I am saying ‘Warp! Warp! Warp!'” shouted she.

“Good idea,” agreed I and aligned to the station. Looking back at the terrorist fleet, I muttered, “I wonder what you are guarding here…”

“Vlad!” said Aura anxiously.

“Yeah, yeah,” replied I and activated the warp drive.

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station – Ijumachi Vuonolailen’s Office

Seeing my gloomy appearance, Ijumachi smirked and said, “Good afternoon, Mr Korff. Congratulations on the successful completion of another suicide mission. May I ask how much you spent on the fitting?”

“Together with the charges, that would be about a million kredits,” I replied despondently.

“And how much did you really need?”

I averted my eyes and shrugged, “40-50 thousand, I guess.”

“Um-hum. Well, Mr Korff, I hope that this experience will teach you to put more trust into mission briefs and fit your ship accordingly,” said Ijumachi with an unpleasant patronising note in his voice.

“Actually, about the brief,” I said testily. “You told me there would be a pirate base. You know what, I didn’t see a single structure in the area. For that matter, I didn’t see a single pirate. All the hostiles were either mercenaries or Gallente Terrorists.”

Instantly the grin vanished from Ijumachi face, as if it was switched off. He leaned toward me and slowly asked, “What did you say?”

“I said that the area had a fleet of Elite Federation Auxilia classified by Neocom as Terrorists.”

“Are you sure?”

I huffed, “Check the mission logs if you don’t trust me.”

“I will,” replied Ijumachi and turned to his computer.

As he was reading the mission report his eyes grew wider and he started cursing under his breath. Eventually, he raised from his desk and approached me.

“I must thank you, Mr Korff, for bringing back this valuable information. Sorry, I have to cut our meeting short as I need to act on this intel very urgently. I don’t think I will be available in the next few days so feel free to take a leave.”

With those words Ijumachi shook my hand and hustled me out of his room.

Taken aback by such turn of events, I stood before the closed door for a few seconds, then muttered “Was nice to see you too, Mr Vuonolailen” and headed to my apartment.

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