Flying Into an Ambush (xpost)

Editor’s Note: Cross-posted from Gaston Charante’s blog, Cloaked in a Hole. Original publication date: September 30, 2016.

“There’s that Cheetah on d-scan again” I said as I adjusted my probes to scan the next cosmic signature in the system.

“Perhaps it’s just scouting the chain?” suggested Trevier, the crew chief of my Stratios cruiser who I’d been working with for a number of months now.

“Perhaps. Though I’m suspicious that it’s just appeared after our probes have been out near that citadel.”

“What do you propose? We’ve only found the one relic site in this system. We could leave it and jump to the next wormhole?”

“Let’s warp to 100km from the site and see if there’s any activity. If the Cheetah is sniffing around we’ll leave it.”

Staying cloaked, I land the Stratios 100km from the relic site, a Guristas monument site which I hope will break my run of bad luck and net me a nice pay day. Forty million ISK would be good, maybe more depending on the loot in the cans.

D-scan is empty, no sign of the covert ops frigate which was causing us so much concern. I warp us back to a safe spot in an empty part of space.

“Looks like it’s gone” says the chief

“I don’t like it. Why hasn’t it run any of the sites?”

“We could just do the relic site and get out, keep our eyes peeled and be gone in 15 minutes?”

“Alright. I’m going to warp to 30km and move slowly to the first can. I want to hear the minute something appears on grid.”

Again I warped to the site. I selected the nearest can and approached it slowly. The Stratios cruiser can be a formidable ship in a fight but I’d made the decision to remove guns from it, choosing to avoid conflicts altogether instead of standing my ground. The covert ops cloak fitted to the ship is now my best defence, but that means we are at our most vulnerable when we de-cloak to hack sites.

Trevier’s voice came through my pod “That’s the can within targeting range.”

I checked d-scan one final time, seeing nothing of note on the scanner and turned off the cloaking module. Nothing happened.

“OK. Looks clear let’s crack the can and get out of here” I announce to the chief.

Orbiting the can at 2500 metres I prepare the Relic Analyser module for the process of hacking the can so we can access the loot inside. All of a sudden I see a flash of grey on my grid overview.

I immediately hit the cloak and shout to the rest of the ship “We have company!”

Mentally, I cross my fingers as the camera drones show my ship disappearing from space just as another Stratios lands right on top of me.

Trevier’s voice tells me what I already know “Shit! They’re going to decloak us that close”

The cruiser shudders as I launch a flight of ECM drones and target the newly arrived ship as the first alarms sound around me informing us we’ve been targeted ourselves. I fire an ECM burst and instruct the drones to follow up with their own jamming capabilities, desperately hoping to break the lock so I can cloak again and escape. I try in vain to warp out but the ship has us pointed, so instead I align to a safe spot and wait to see if the countermeasures can get us free.

I fire off a neutraliser module to try and drain my opponent’s capacitor to minimise any damage they can deal to us. At that moment I’m alerted to a second ship appearing on grid, a Broadsword, and suddenly we’re engulfed by a warp disruption bubble.

“Watch the capacitor!” the chief says over comms “We’re dead!”

Another alarm sounds telling me I’ve burned through my own capacitor reserve trying to save the ship. There’s nothing left to stop the attack as I watch our shields and then our armour disappear with every shot from the ambush.

“Sorry chief. It’s been a pleasure having your crew fly with me”

“Just make sure the crew are looked after Gaston” comes the reply.

I send the instruction to my broker to distribute the coming insurance payout to the families of the crew. It’s not enough but it’s something. As the alarms continue to sound louder in my pod I decide if I’m to lose this ship I’m going to do it in style. I swing towards the enemy Stratios and activate the last module I have left, my Signal Cartel issue festival launcher.

Fireworks shatter the space around us in a defiant celebration of my loyal crew, as the last of my armour is destroyed and the hull begins to break apart. My capsuleer’s pod blasts free from the disintegrating wreck of my once beautiful ship and I have a few moments to sit quietly in space, contemplating the folly of going into the relic site against all my better judgements just because I wanted to do right for my crew, who are now lost with the ship.

“Farewell chief” I say quietly as the Broadsword fires on my pod and I feel my consciousness fire across the ether towards my awaking clone back in Thera.

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