Get and stay out of your comfort zone.
It felt good to be back in the Renegade. My repair teams had done an excellent job restoring her to pristine condition. She glimmered; she reflected and absorbed the surrounding light. I could’ve sworn when I launched her from the docking bay in Dal she gave a little extra thrust, her appreciative gesture of freedom enjoyed.
I had one of the new recruits to Roc’s Renegades flying with me in his Rifter, nervous and twitchy. He hadn’t experienced any flight time in the war yet; today that would change. We had scoured a few contested systems already, our onboard engineers quickly capturing bunkers; there had been no direct ship engagements as of yet. It was comfortable for me, falling back into routine; I’d scout ahead, give the rookie the all clear, then he’d join me insystem and we’d start scanning down the area. He didn’t complain of boredom, he didn’t speak of fear; he simply followed orders and did his job.
We had been at it a few hours, and I had been keeping an ear out on the militia comms, doing my best to keep us away from the hotter areas. As always, the Amarr were out in organized force, systematically crushing our resistance. We had managed to retake a system since my return from Evati, but it was at great cost. Still, it was a nice way of letting those bastards know Colonel Roc Wieler had returned.
I had decided we would go to Lantorn, Amarr contested space. The rookie seemed to be handling himself well thus far, so I figured a small jaunt into enemy space might be the next logical step in his training.
I slowed at the Amamake gate in Dal, my senses fully alert. Amamake was a hornet’s nest of hostility, continual back and forth throughout every day of the war. It was also the quickest route to our destination. I weighed the options and decided it would be good to show the rookie how hard it is to actually catch someone whom is even the least bit aware.
I pushed through the gate.
Dozens of wartargets were tracked in local scan; none on visual. I signalled the rookie to join me in Amamake and began warming up the warp drive for the next leg of our trip.
An enemy Crusader and Punisher decelerated out of warp. Simultaneously, the jumpgate lit up, letting me know it was too late to warn the rookie to stay in Dal. The Crusader and Punisher accelerated towards us. The rookie didn’t move.
I pushed the Firetail forward to intercept the two enemy ships, locking them from range, taking half the shields from the Punisher on my first volley. I scrambled the Crusader and both turned their attention to me. Good. I could easily take these ships down. The two ships began to accelerate away from me, and without a webbifier to slow them down, there wasn’t much I could do about it. They warped away. Not a victory of blood, but I kept my wingmate alive.
“xxx Amamake, dozens of wt, engaged Crusader and Punisher. Assistance required.” I sent the message into our intel channel, quickly receiving a trusted response.
“That you Colonel? Goddamn it’s good to hear your voice.” Voshud Major Ira stated. He went as ‘Lord’ Ira, and did possess minor nobility ,though between his tongue and his temperment, you wouldn’t know it.
“I’m two jumps out and on the way, Colonel!” Ira was a good soldier. No questions, no hesitation. He went where needed, and moreso, he made a difference once he got there. I was pleased to see was a Major now. It looked good on him.
“Roger that.” I replied.
Turning my attention back to the gate, I saw the rookie beginning to move. The Crusader and Punisher warped back in on top of me, taking away my range advantage. I quickly hit my shield booster, nullifying any initial damage they had done. I put distance between myself and the two ships, and continued assaulting them, bringing the Punisher into structure. I commed the rookiee to get out of here, and he quickly complied, entering warp.
During the engagement I hadn’t noticed I had strayed far from the Dal gate. I hadn’t noticed the two nimble enemy ships pulling me away, deeper into space. My focus had been on my rookie. It was a costly mistake I would never repeat.
A Sabre warped directly in front of me, locking me near instantaneously. It tore me a new one.
I awoke seconds later back in Dal, smashing my fists against the clone tube containing me. I quickly exited the tube, running to the nearest military comm unit, ignoring the stiff response from my new body. I hurredly entered in my security code phrase, and listened to the chatter.
“You get that, Colonel?” I heard Ira’s voice say.
“Negative, please repeat. I was podded, Major.” I replied, my new voice sounding gritty from lack of use.
“Ah hell no.” Ira replied. “Sorry about that, Colonel. Got here as fast as I could. We’ve routed the Amarr near the gate in Amamake. Which wreck is yours? Got a few Republic transponders here.”
“Renegade, Firetail class. She salvageable?” I quickly asked. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, though only a few seconds had passed. A medical drone had brought me a robe, and was poking at me in various places, performing standard ‘new clone’ testing procedures. I wrapped the robe around me, trying to brush the drone away to no avail, the entire time my focus riveted on the comm unit. The Renegade had been such a good ship. I truly hoped she was within repair. Sure, I could get another Firetail, could even name it the same, but there had been something very special about this ship, something more than steel and paint.
“Negative, Colonel.” Ira’s voice sounded despondent. He was a man that understood the bond between man and ship. “Looks like they didn’t get the chance to loot her though, I’ll get what I can for you, ok?”
“Much appreciated, Ira. I’m in Dal.” With that, I turned the comm unit off. I made my way to my room to put on a set of fresh clothes, then radioed my hangar bay chief to inform him I was enroute and would need a ship prepped. He had asked me which ship I wanted made ready. To me, the answer was clear. Tribal Vengeance, my Republic Fleet Stabber. Amamake was still afire, as was my soul.
I checked in with Freeform Industries and found that the rookie had made it back to Dal safely. I was glad at least one more death was averted. I looked on my datapad at the list of names of the marines and engineers I had just lost on the Renegade. I would have to inform their families.
Within minutes, I was heading back to Amamake, for a small taste of revenge. The Tribal Vengeance surged forward, her weapons bristling. Even the scream of her engines was one of anger. I entered Amamake.
The Dal gate in Amamake was camped. Aura confirmed the Crusader, Punisher and Sabre were the same IDs of the ships that had wrecked and podded me. Additionally, two Retributions, an Arbitrator, an Omen and a Prophecy were all showing up on immediate scan. I began to align my ship back to the Dal gate, knowing I was clearly outnumbered, when Aura picked up my secured comm frequency. It was my emergency crew channel. My skin shivered.
“Repeat. Mayday. We’ve gone down in Amamake, running out of air. We have wounded, require assistance.” I knew the voice of my men when I heard it.
I was sure they wouldn’t broadcast on all channels in a hot zone, and it was only my outrage at the loss of those men that had brought me back to Amamake so quickly. Aura triangulated the source of the comm; it was from what was left of the Renegade. How had Ira missed surviving lifeforms? Did he even bother to scan for them? My own sudden indignation would have to be dealt with later. Right now, I had to figure out a way to save my crew.
I angled the nose of the Stabber towards my wreck, drawing the full attention of the Amarr gatecampers. I warmed up the Afterburner, preparing to fully overheat it. I had Aura open the local comms channel, the public broadcast channel for Amamake system.
“Fuck.” I said, engaging Tribal Vengeance to full velocity. “You.” It might not have seemed like much of a threat, but it was spoken with every fiber of my being.
I was back in the frontlines; and this dog was hungry for fresh meat.
My Stabber pushed forward as hard as it could, it’s artillery cannons spitting out hot death to those that were able to pursue and engage. The enemy battlecruiser salvoed me from afar, its weapons damaging my smaller ship considerably. Thankfully, not all of the enemy were in range yet.
“This is Colonel Roc Wieler. I’m coming for you, men. System is hot. I am engaged. Prepare for emergency evac on my mark.” I received a double click of static, and knew they had heard me. Tribal Vengeance roared as she continued to streak through space, her engines close to their threshold.
I managed to put a bit of distance between me and the ships that mattered. The smaller ships flitting about me kept dancing in and out of my range, well past their own. They were no immediate threat. I opened my comm again as I slowed the ship at my wreck.
“Blow the hatch in three… two… one… NOW!” I saw an airlock hatch blow from the Renegade’s wreckage, and watched as my crew was immediately jettisoned into space. I deflty moved Tribal Vengeance to them, my own rescue teams standing by. Within moments, I got the all clear from below deck, and aligned my ship to the nearest moon. We achieved warp, and were away.
That evening, I treated my crew to some dinner and drinks at the Black Hole Pub. Not a one had perished, and we were all in the mood to celebrate that fact.
I raised my glass in a somber toast. “To the Renegade and her crew!” I saluted. The return chorus was deafening. “To the Renegade!” they all cheered.
To the Renegade, I thought to myself.