“Caldari Shuttle DNS-321; shut down your drives and prepare to be boarded.” the State Protectorate Naval Officer repeated with hostility.
“This will be your last warning, Minmatar. We know who you are. Cease and desist immediately, or be destroyed.”
I had appropriated a Caldari shuttle for my journey to Jita. I had an underworld contact there, and figured if I played my cards right, I could slip insystem, spend a couple of days hacking computer systems with my colleague, then make a silent egress undetected. I had even falsified the shuttle’s transponder code, but to no avail.
I banked the shuttle hard, aligning to Jita IV – Moon IV – Caldari Nav Assembly Plant, the main market station of the galaxy.
The Caldari Faction Cruisers initiated a warp scramble, but they were too late. My Caldari shuttle was quick to align, and effortlessly made the jump to warp speed.
I knew they would be waiting for me at the other end of my warp tunnel, and already had made my decision on how to deal with the situation.
Aura reluctantly followed my mental commands, disabling the pod ejection safety protocols. Chances are I would end up becoming space dust, splattered across hundreds of light years, but if I angled it right, if my relative velocity was just so, and I managed to time my maneuvering thrusters with perfect timing…
I exited warp one hundred kilometers from the station. The Caldari State Protectorate was waiting. I quickly entered warp again, aligned to my safespot, and sped away again.
At 8 AU, I gave the mental command. Eject …
I felt the acceleration away from the ship, then my body repeatedly wracked with pain and vertigo as I was slammed around inside my pod by the sheer force of physics. I puked numerous times, almost a steady stream, gagging on the nutrient tube in my throat.
My vision blurred, I thought I was going to blackout. It was nigh impossible to even read my HUD, but I did.
Short bursts from my maneuvering thrusters successfully stopped my pod from spinning out of control, making it easier to get my bearings. A few more moments and I had managed to reduce my speed to real space.
I allowed myself a moment to shake off the effects of what I had just done. My ears rang; my brain felt rattled. I ached throughout every muscle and joint of my body, but I was alive, and if fortune favoured me once more that day, the State Protectorate would be closing in on an empty shuttle.
Pulling up my system diagnostics I quickly saw that my pod was intact enough to warp to the Assembly Plant. I gave the command, and was thankful when I was finally docked and out of my pod.
Docking control wouldn’t fire on a capsuleer’s pod, regardless of race or faction; a nice Concord caveat I had taken advantage of.
I let the hot decontamination shower clean the pod goo from my body. I was left naked and exposed. Ordinarily, it was a feeling I detested, being detached from my ships.
To command such magnificent, majestic ships able to destroy entire squads of lesser pilots was one of the greatest thrills a capsuleer could experience. It made one feel … big.
But right now, I needed to be small. I needed to be microscopic and disappear into the Jita ecosystem.
I heard some movement to my left, and quickly ducked behind some nearby supply crates, still dripping wet and nude.
“The carpet matches the drapes.” a slightly high pitched male voice said.
I relaxed. My contact had arrived.
I stood up from behind the crates, and threw a friendly wave towards my colleague, who in return smiled, and threw some utilitarian clothing at my feet.
I had arrived in Jita.
TWO DAYS LATER
I had learned all I felt I needed to for the upcoming operation. I could successfully hack level 4 computer systems with relative ease. We were both surprised how quickly I took to it.
I downplayed the whole neural imprinting aspect of the training, and simply lavished compliments to my colleague’s obvious teaching prowess.
So with that out of the way, I headed back to a public hangar I had rented under an alias, and took a long look at my newest ship, a Loki class tech 3 strategic cruiser I had christened Ridhe.
She was a beautiful ship in every way. Modular, deadly, a reflection of myself, and not in an arrogant way. She was as personal to a pilot as a ship could get, and I knew she wouldn’t let me down.
The problem was I couldn’t limit myself to one fit, but had narrowed it down to two. I had the secondary fit loaded into the cargo hold, and prepped the ship for launch.
I checked my route to the nearest friendly system. Only one lowsec system along the path I had chosen, Rancer. No problem.
I should’ve hired a freighter pilot to carry my new prized ship back home. I should’ve circumvented any lowsec systems along my route. I should’ve calmed down, thought about the 2.4 billion isk I had just sunk into this ship and fittings, and not been so excitable.
Maybe then things would’ve turned out differently, but then again, maybe not.
I shot out of the Assembly Plant at full speed, and quickly aligned and warped, ignoring the protests of the State Protectorate, who were particularly keen on my capture or demise.
I made topspeed through every Caldari system I had to traverse, not so much as blinking until I was in safe space once again.
It was almost anti-climatic, I know, but not every event in my life was full of drama.
Next system, Rancer. Almost home.
I rematerialized in Rancer, Aura warning me of a pirate Broadsword off the bow of my ship. Immediately, I was under attack, but didn’t panic.
I wasn’t in the mood for a fight; I just wanted to get this ship safely home. Slowly, I turned towards the gate, overheating my afterburner, knowing I should be able to make the 15km easily in this armour tanked monster.
My warp drive was scrammed, but I wasn’t webbed. That was good.
A Rokh warped in, and opened fire. I frowned as my shields disappeared, but then smiled as my armour tank held.
A Megathron warped in, and I knew I was in trouble.
8km to the gate was when I made the single most expensive mistake of my career to date, though there were many more in the future.
I returned fire.
30 seconds later, I reached the gate, and was denied access to its capabilities due to my recent hostile activities. Immediately, I cursed myself for being so foolish, and cycled down my weapons systems, but it was too late.
In a vain attempt to buy precious seconds, I orbited the jump gate, overheating my repair systems, pouring capacitor batteries into them like crazy.
1 minute, 30 seconds later, I still couldn’t access the gate. From what I remembered of Concord protocol, cooldown times for aggression were calculated to 60 seconds. The gate should’ve been responding by then, unless it had been compromised in some way I was unaware of.
2 minutes, 12 seconds into the fight, the Ridhe had nothing more to give. The last bit of my armour buckled, and my hull disintegrated from around me.
In a blinding flash, my Loki was no more; her maiden voyage lasting all of 20 minutes.
A second blinding flash surprised me, and I woke up in Dal, disoriented, but knowing what had happened.
I cursed again for flying with a +5 implant set. When would I learn?
After routine medical and psychological examination protocol, and putting on a fresh set of clothing, I headed to my personal hangar, prepped a Rifter, and headed back to Aldrat.
At least I was ready for my mission.
4 x 220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
1 x Invulnerability Field II
1 x Amarr Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
1 x 800mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
2 x Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
1 x Medium Ancillary Current Router I
1 x J5B Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
2 x 1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
1 x Republic Fleet Gyrostabilizer
1 x Hacking Skillbook (dammit!)
2 x 220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
1 x Invulnerability Field II
1 x 10mn Afterburner II
1 x Amarr Navy Small Capacitor Booster
1 x Amarr Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
1 x Damage Control II
1 x 1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
2 x Vespa EC-600 drones
6 x Hornet EC-300 drones
1,622 Republic Fleet EMP M rounds
1 x X5 Prototype I Engine Envervator
1 x Codebreaker I