6 June YC 122
From 3 May YC 122 my Anoikis roams were driven not only by corporate duty and pecuniary interest but also by scientific research into profitability of various exploration doctrines which, one may say, was also driven by pecuniary interest. In practice, it meant that after exploring Class 1, 2 or 3 system Aura had to note the number of scanned and hacked data and relic sites and record the appraisal of the obtained loot or, if I was unlucky, loss of the said loot and the encompassing ship. The idea was that after 50 systems we would calculate P&L and use the resulting figure as a measure of the doctrine’s success.
Flying through J-Space I tried to find out who lived in all those loosely connected systems. It was a bit like driving through countryside and reading the names of small towns and villages. For example, I found systems occupied by Phakt INC, Pleasure Holes Cartel and Overheat but Hole Inc. I thought they would make a fine alliance.
In another C1 I scanned down a control tower named “300 MIL FOR HS EXIT – HELP!” Initially, I thought they were asking 300 million ISK to guide a stranded pilot to hi-sec. When I told my corp mates about that and joked that we had a competitor, they pointed out that the name looked more like a plea for help rather than a rescue advertisement. I immediately wanted to offer my services to them but the same corp mates argued that it would be a violation of our neutrality as the request came from a corp with an established presence in the system rather than from an individual stranded pilot. At first, I wasn’t persuaded but, having scouted the system, I found out that many tower defences were incapacitated and there was another corp present which implied that they were possibly involved in an ongoing conflict. Helping one corp in such circumstances would definitely constitute a breach of neutrality so I let the history take its natural course, unadulterated by my free will.
Region B-R00008 – Constellation B-C00062
Now that I started keeping records, I can say that only one lower-class system out of three brought me any kind of profit. The other two either showed some disconcerting signs of life or simply had nothing of value, at least for an explorer. On this background J153003 looked really promising – all the time I spent scanning signatures the D-scan window was reassuringly empty and one of the first places I found was a Ruined Serpentis Monument Site. Having warped to the site I checked the contents of the containers and got even more excited as their total value was around 30 million ISK.
“Finally, some decent loot,” grumbled Aura.
“My thoughts exactly,” agreed I. The previous six systems yielded less than 6 million ISK so you can understand our frustration.
I have approached the richest container and targeted it with Relic Analyzer. A node field appeared on the screen and I was about to start hacking when I heard Aura shriek.
My eyeballs were still moving from the Analyzer window to the Scanner display but my mind already gave Nosuri a command to cloak up and warp to the safe spot. That was my routine response to any threat which became automatic through regular practice. But when the info from D-Scan finally reached my brain, I shuddered – there was a Heretic and it was on the grid! That was new; so far I had managed to get out of harm’s way before adversaries located me. Good news was that it was 60 kilometres away from me – plenty of time to warp out. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, the space around me flashed blue and Neocom informed me that external factors were preventing activation of the warp drive.
“A bubble!” gasped Aura, wide-eyed, and at the same time the reassuring green glow around the cloaking device was replaced by a grey broken line – I was decloaked.
From that moment I was in an uncharted territory, and I panicked. Paralysed by sheer terror all I managed to do was point the ship into a random direction and try to activate the MWD. To my surprise I succeeded. And a few seconds later, when the recloaking timer expired I could even turn on the cloaking device. It, of course, deactivated the microwarpdrive but the inertia was enough to get me out of the warp disruption field. Finally, I was invisible and free to warp out! My elation lasted exactly one second after which the previous events repeated – I was uncloaked and bubbled again – making me feel like I was stuck in a horrible nightmare.
I activated the MWD again and then stared at the dashboard, counting seconds until the cloaking device was reset. As soon as the grey broken line disappeared, I ordered cloak activation… and got an error message from Neocom telling me that I could not do it because I was target-locked! At that moment one of my camera drones showed the evil-looking Heretic hull flying into the picture. I watched in horror how several missiles belched out of its belly and snaked towards my Buzzard.
“Brace for the impact!” cried Aura.
The time slowed down. Suddenly, all I could hear was the sound of my heart pumping adrenaline-filled blood through almost bursting arteries – thump… thump… thump… I held my breath and cringed, waiting for the inevitable explosion and… nothing happened. The Heretic kept launching the missiles but they did not reach me. Soon its image started moving to the edge of the display and then disappeared from the screen completely. A few moments later I left the bubble and without turning off the microwarpdrive ordered Nosuri to warp away. After five long seconds I heard Aura’s tense voice:
“Warp drive active.”
When we finally arrived to the safe spot it took me several minutes to overcome the effects of adrenaline poisoning. My body was shaking uncontrollably and I had to increase oxygen saturation in the pod goo and perform breathing exercises to calm myself down.
Having restored possession of my faculties, I looked at Aura and said, “You know, darling, if your ‘bolder’ doctrine involves such encounters then I am afraid I will need to change my clone after every one of them, whether I am podded or not. And probably restore the previous backup of my brain to avoid nightmares.”
Aura, who looked as shaken as me, swallowed the lump in her throat and squeaked, “Me too.”