An Unexpected Op

My inaugural entry (and first public fiction attempt) in the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest YC118. A short story in the “A Day in the Life” category. Enjoy!

kestrelfiring

3rd

Ok, so you’ve got the Kestrel fitted, right?

Yes, I fit the cheap-o TE-2100 loaded with Caldari Mjolnir Light, and the Medium Az fit just fine once I dropped in a Micro Aux.

Good. This fit is great for training exercises. The oversized shield extender gives plenty of room to extend the fight long enough to learn something. Even with the micro aux, the learning to ISK ratio is excellent. Let’s undock from Ikao VII-8 and get warmed up, then we can get these things blown up in LowSec. Ah, I see you initiated the fleet link already. You must have a very intelligent and decisive father who gifted you superior genes. Let’s go.

Very funny. You were compensated more than adequately for your donation of “superior” genetic material; don’t expect my thanks as a bonus. Warping to undock.

The two Kestrels warped directly from the station’s crowded undock to a point safely distant from the chaotic ball of loiterers. Even with shields padding the blows, the jostling about near a busy station is irritating at best. The fleet duo warped together to the isolated training location, and initiated the duel.

Missiles arced between the ships, detonating some 200 meters away from the ships’ hulls, as missile sensors detected their intersection with the target’s electronic signature radius.

Wow… your missiles hit a lot harder than mine. Are our ships different?

No, the ships are the same, so what else could account for the variation?

Well, pilot and piloting.

Right. I’ve had a bit longer for the learning implants to pump my head full of instincts, so I can predict just a few nanoseconds faster where you’re likely to go. Not that it’s that hard, with your navigation skills at that level I guess even great genes aren’t enough. What about piloting?

I’m not sure… we’ve both webbed one another… but your velocity is higher than mine… are you running your microwarpdrive?

Yes.

Doesn’t that bloom your signature radius?

Yes.

Bu… oh… right… we’re using light missiles against frigates, which means that sig radius is not the primary concern. Your velocity is higher, so you take less damage from missiles.

Impressive genes.

Whatever. So if we were fighting against larger ships, we’d have to weigh speed versus signature radius, but in this case the bloom is irrelevant.

Well-reasoned. If you can have that conversation in your head in the few seconds it takes to choose and lock your target, then you’ll do just fine. The aptitude you’ve received as a gift, and the skills pumped into your head are good, but it’s how you apply them that will determine how you do in a real fight.

So you’re saying that if I am successful you’ll take credit for the aptitude, but if I fail you’re free from blame, because I failed to apply them well.

You’re a sharp one. All griefing aside, we won’t be in honorable combat once we hit LowSec. You look softer than you are, and all you really need to do is make convincing bait.

Bait?

…I mean make a convincing lure.

You’re saying I should be alluring?

Yes. Should be no problem, since…

Right, right… great genes.

So, anyway, I’ll be right behind you. Even when they realize what’s going on, our opponent will have to make a choice between killing one of us first, or trying to flee. We’re moving fast, and the warp disruptors should ensure they don’t get far. I expect this to conclude with either two deaths or three, but not less than one of you, I, or our opponent are going to get a fresh clone today. Let’s hit LowSec.

The gates flashed as the Kestrels leapt from one star system into the next, then to the next and the following.

Well, that was a bit of a bust. Nothing but Svipuls in Tama.

Yes, and we’re looking for the chance for me to practice and learn something from fights, not just take a free ride home on the pod express.

Since Sujarento is empty, why don’t we hang out for a few minutes and see who drops by? We can practice our D-Scan skills while we wait. You’ll want to use it defensively in case our intended prey has friends. Once we make the tackle, there’s no need to panic when they show up in local, but do start activating your scan. If you see multiple ships at 14 AU and then at 10 and 5, and a kill isn’t imminent, don’t hesitate, just bug out if you can. But what I want to focus on for the most part is hunting your prey with D-Scan. That’s absolutely critical in the wormhole space where we’ll be soon.

Sounds good, how do you suggest we do that?

Sujarento has a plethora of celestials. I’m going to warp to one of the celestials at I through V. See how fast you can tell which one it is.

Hah, I see you warped to a midpoint first so I can’t just follow your trajectory.

Yes, I did, but I’m proud that you thought to cheat that way!

Ok, I’ve got you at V-2.

Nice work, I guess those learning implants worked pretty well. I’m going to pick another spot and just sit here like an idiot, or a dozing ratter… but I repeat myself. See if you can drop in on top of me the hard way. First, use your D-Scan to figure out where I am. Remember to adjust your range along with the angle, and you should be able to narrow down my location pretty well. Then, take another angle, and triangulate with yet another direction, preferably on another axis as compared to the first two. Once you’ve got my position pretty well pinned down, check your map, and see if you can tell which celestials I parked between. This time, I’m not going to make an offset safe spot, and will be somewhere mid-warp between two celestials.

Ok… Scanning…

Great, once you think you know where I am, go ahead and mimic my trajectory. Use D-Scan with a small radius while you’re moving, and drop a marker when you’re close. Let’s see if you can drop in close enough to make a tackle.

HA! Gotcha! Locking, anndd…ah… dork, what’s with running away, is the gene donor afraid of a little Kestrel?

Heh. Just didn’t want to make it too easy. See if you can find me again, and I’ll stick around for a fight.

Hey, that’s weird.

What’s weird?

You must be at the other belt, but there’s a weird rat in this one.

Yeah, so? There’s a rat in pretty much every belt, right? Even you should know that.

Yeah, but this one is weird.

Weird must be the word of the day. How so?

Well, the ship is wei… unusual… camera drones show it’s loaded with missiles. He’s sitting out past 50km. Do you think we should blow him up?

Might as well, I sup–

Whoa! He just made the call for me. He’s got me warp disrupted, hitting me with missiles, and closing fast.

On my way!

Hurry! I’m going down fast!

From a frigate? What’s the name associated with the ship sig? This is a baseliner pirate, right? Not a capsuleer? I’m on my way either way. ETA 3 seconds.

Yes, a frigate. Mordu’s Special Warfare Unit Operative.

Computer says this is a Garmur-class frigate, and a commander in the elite Special Warfare Unit of Mordu’s Legion. Apparently he’s extremely dangerous.

Yeah, I noticed that… Glad you made it here.

He’s targeting me now. Man… you’re into structure, and he’s barely touched.

I know, right?

Ouch, yeah, that hurts, and that range!

Ok, I’m back up. Burning in to see if I can get him to hit me again. Pull away and hold fire.

Thanks, my little boat’s starting to get a bit warm. I hope I’m just feeling heat through the ship sensors, and warmth is not the goo in my pod.

Heh… Yeah. Nice… he’s chasing me.

I’ll start hitting him again once I’m out of his warp scrambler range. I think we can ping-pong him if we stay outside 36k.

Ping-pong?

Oh… sheesh… kids. It’s an ancient game, you hit a lightweight ball with a paddle so it flies back and forth between the two play… never mind. Reload those lights and keep shooting.

He’s going down! Structure!

Aaaannd… kaboom! Nice work!

I can’t believe we’re excited about taking out a belt rat.

Not just a belt rat, offspring. This guy’s a Mordu’s Legion commander. Check out the bounty!

And there’s loot too!

Normally I’d scoop it before you can get here, but this is a training flight, so go ahead. Probably just metal scraps anyway.

I don’t know, that frigate was pretty nice. Maybe he dropped some upgraded missiles. They hit hard enough that he had to be using more than regular lights. Huh. Metal scrap.

Yeah, figured.

And a blueprint.

A blueprint?

Yeah… he must have been transporting a blueprint for the ship he was flying.

Awesome! So not only did we take out a commander, but we put a serious dent in their ability to re-equip their forces. Nice. Oh… very nice… 50M or more ISK for that one, and the stats on that ship… dead sexy.

Hah. That’s more ISK than I’ve ever seen. The hard part is going to be deciding if I should get it built to fly around, or just make some bank.

No, the hard part is going to be getting it back to safety through Tama. Your shields are regenerated, but your armor and half your structure are shot. Go ahead and jettison the BP for me, then you can scout ahead while I lag behind with the blueprint and my fresh tank.

Sounds good, here ya go. Hey! Where are you going!

To Jita. I thought I taught you better than to trust someone with 50M ISK.

aaarrrggghhhhh!

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