Weapon of Choice

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

17 May YC 121

After the last mission I felt like I started losing interest in the advanced military course. Honestly, I wouldn’t say that flying a ship through radioactive clouds was a military or, for that matter, an advanced skill. It took me a few days to get my ass off the couch and drag my body to Ijumachi’s office. Annoyingly, the agent was his usual energetic self and greeted me as if he was eagerly awaiting my arrival.

“Good morning, Mr Korff. How very opportune! I have a mission just for you.”

“Good morning, Mr Vuonolailen,” I replied listlessly. “Have you found another cloud?”

The agent looked confused, “Cloud? What cloud? Oh, you mean the cloud you had to go through during the last mission?” He lowered the voice and said confidentially, “Look, I know it was a monkey job, but that was one of those screwball assignments that get included into the curriculum from time to time. Because some idiot some time somewhere didn’t have enough sense to warp out of a radioactive cloud and lost his ship, now all the pilots have to undergo a ‘hostile environment’ training.”

I waved my hand dismissively, “Forget it, Mr Vuonolailen. I don’t blame you but such missions are really dispiriting.”

“Well, I hope we can fix it. Have you ever used missiles?”

“Missiles? No. Why? Are they any better than rails and blasters?”

“Mmm… Not better, otherwise we wouldn’t be using hybrid weapons. Let’s say, they are different.”

I felt curious, “How?”

“Oh, in many ways. For one thing, the damage they inflict does not depend on the distance to the target or its angular velocity. The main factors here are the target’s speed and signature radius: slower ships with larger signatures are hit harder by missiles.”

“Interesting…” muttered I starting to think about possible applications. “Anything else?”

“Yes. While hybrid weapons are limited to thermal and kinetic damage, missiles give you a choice of damage type. Every missile, rocket or torpedo comes in four main flavours: Inferno, Nova, Mjolnir and Scourge.”

“Mmm… And do they require different launchers?”

“No, that’s the beauty of the missile systems,” said Ijumachi excitedly. “You can take a stock of each type and load the one you need depending on your enemy.”

“How do I know which one to use?”

“This comes with a bit of experience. As a rule of thumb, use Scourge and Inferno against Guristas.”

“I’ll keep that in mind next time I meet them.”

Ijumachi smiled, “Your next time is now. We have scanned down one of the Guristas patrol ships. If you are ready, I can grant you a Civilian Light Missile Launcher which can be used with Civilian Scourge Light Missiles that you received as a reward for that cloud mission. Are you game?”

“Sure thing! Ready when you are,” replied I.

Walking to the docks, I called the engineering crew.

“Good morning, Mr Saito! It’s Vlad. Can you please install the missile launcher on Ampuhaukka?”

“Good morning, Mr Korff. Sorry, can’t do it,” replied Lassi.

“What’s the problem? Busy with other orders? I’ll pay you double.”

“No, no. The problem is that Merlins don’t have mount points for missile launchers. Do you have another ship?”

I felt my ears becoming hot and crimson – not knowing the fitting parameters of one’s ship was pretty embarrassing. I tried to remember what else I had in the hangar which could use missile launchers. As far as I could remember, there were Ibis and Heron but I didn’t count them as combat ships. Well… not anymore.

“Er… I need to sort this out, Mr Saito. If you don’t mind I’ll call you later,” said I and hung up.

Apparently, I had to buy a new ship. The question was: which one? Digging out my Caldari frigate research, I realised that I needed either a Condor or a Kestrel. The latter seemed to be a formidable missile ship with 5% per skill level damage bonus to all kinds of missiles and rockets. The former, however, had a bonus for kinetic missiles only but it was 10% per Caldari Frigate skill level, and the missiles I got as a reward were Scourge! The choice was clear – I had to fly to Jita and buy a Condor. With that thought I loaded my capsule into Ampuhaukka but then realised that I would have to leave it in Jita – its cargo hold was too small to transport even a packaged Condor. I checked my ship hangar again and found a perfect solution. Some days ago my corp was celebrating 16 years of Empyrean Age and sent me an Apotheosis shuttle as a gift. I asked the dock crew to assemble that ship and load my capsule into it. Having named it Sancho I headed to Jita.

Sancho, Apotheosis-class Shuttle
Sancho, Apotheosis-class Shuttle

Half an hour later I was back in a Condor-class frigate which was equipped with a target painter, to increase the target’s signature radius, and with a Fleeting Compact Stasis Webifier, to slow the pirate down and make him feel the full force of my missiles. For good measure, I added another Tech I Stasis Webifier, an afterburner, a couple of Overdrive Injector Systems, and a Small Ghoul Compact Energy Nosferatu. And of course, I mounted the launcher loaded with Scourge missiles. When I was ready for the mission I called Aura.

“Hello, honey. Wake up, we have a new steed. Meet Hagetaka, a Condor-class frigate.”

Hagetaka, Condor-class Frigate
Hagetaka, Condor-class Frigate

Aura looked around with suspicion, “And where is Ampuhaukka?”

“In the hangar. We are not taking it to this mission.”

“What was wrong with it?”

“It couldn’t carry missile launchers,” explained I.

“And what was wrong with 125-mm rails?”

“Nothing wrong with them – they would do the job, but for the purpose of training I need to use missiles during this assignment.”

Aura made a grimace and said, “Nice to meet you, Hagetaka.”

I made a pause and asked, “Did it reply?”

“No, it’s not supposed to. It’s not an AI.”

“Why did you talk to it then?”

Aura rolled her eyes, “Because I am fucking polite!”

I felt something was wrong.

“Aura, why are you so cranky?”

Aura looked indignant, “Huh! He went on a shopping trip to Jita and didn’t have a courtesy to take me along. And now he is asking me why I am cranky!”

I did a mental facepalm realising I would hear no end of it.

“Sorry, darling,” I tried to exonerate myself. “I didn’t think that choosing a stasis webifier would interest you.”

Aura gave me a scornful look and said after a pause, “Next time let me do the thinking.”

Pithi Arrogator and The Ghost Ship
Pithi Arrogator and The Ghost Ship

The mission location contained the remains of a humongous Ghost ship, several frigate wrecks and a tiny speck of Pithi Arrogator – my target. Before engaging the pirate I tried to remember the sequence of module activation. First was the target painter which had the longest range. Second was the missile launcher at 18 km. Third was the stasis webifier at 10 km, and the last was Nosferatu at 6 km.

“Wish me luck, Aura,” muttered I through clenched teeth and activated the afterburner. My speed gradually increased to 1200 m/s.

I tried to activate the target painter but realised that I had forgotten to lock the target. Cursing myself, I ordered Hagetaka to lock the Arrogator. All I got in return was an error message saying that the enemy was out of my targeting range. I cursed again and kept swearing until I was within 36 km of the pirate – then the target lock kicked in and I immediately activated the target painter. Fifteen seconds later I fired my first missile. Seven seconds passed by and I activated the webs. Three more seconds and the nosferatu started sucking capacitor out of the pirate. At that point I entered a 4-kilometre orbit around the crippled Arrogator. After eleven more seconds I fired my second missile and the battle was over.

“What, is that it?” asked Aura incredulously. “Just two missiles?”

“Yeah, this one was crunchy,” agreed I. “On the other hand, it would take only 6 iron charges and a one-twenty-five rail to finish him off. Anyway, our job is done here. Let’s go home.”

“I have just one question,” said Aura and giggled, “Who is saying ‘Warp drive active’ this time?”

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