Today I reached Elite rating.
(Actually, by now it is 2 days ago.)
I'm really happy that it happened during an epic battle.
Since I very much enjoy reading fiction stories and tales from the space lanes posted by others, this seemed a good occasion to write one myself.
Although it is posted in the Fiction forum, this is a true story .. for the most part.
(Post edited to fix a few typo's.)
Hope you enjoy it.
After traversing the eight galaxies up and down, it is nice to be back on Chart 1 and I mostly hang out in the old west where all the systems have familiar names. I consider Xexedi my home. Not that I own any space there, or even spend a lot of time there, but I will always drop by when I'm in range. It's also my preferred system for repairs.
At heart, I am a hunter. I keep the lanes clean, support the Vipers in combat, respond to distress calls, scoop escape capsules, etc.. GalCop is happy to have me around, the bounties and the odd cargo container are enough to maintain the Cobra and ..uhmm.. not skimp on the vicious brew, so everybody happy. Except for pirates and fugitives and possibly my kidneys. I've been doing this for a long time now, and through this way of life, my combat rating steadily climbs and about a week ago, I broke 6000 kills. The Elite Club awaits me.
Lately I find myself more and more flying escort missions for RRS and ITHA and combat missions for the navy, and doing this, I had drifted to the north of the Chart. I don't know why I agreed to escort this trader to Raale. Surely not just to be seen flying next to his fancy Boa Cruiser. His name was Onanlo, a Black Bony Lobster from Teorge. Rich. Why are Lobsters always rich. Not that I have anything against Lobsters, but I do suspect they speak Insect. He offered me more than 100 Cr per hostile kill and it was only a few hours jump .. on his fuel. But still .. Raale? Infested with Rodents. Calling a Raaleian a dirty rat is not an insult, it's just what they are. Oh .. and they eat poets there, for crying out loud.
Anyway, I agreed, so we went there. We encountered some small packs of pirates along the way but they were no match for us. I shot at some offenders who were probably going to leave us alone otherwise. Onanlo could easily afford to pay me for a few more kills.. There's some cargo and other scoopables floating about, but Onanlo says we should move on. A trader convoy is fighting off some pirates, but we can't help them now. Onanlo says time is money. When we get to the S-zone, we have 15 kills between us, 11 of which were mine.
I'm sitting at the bar, sipping on a vicious brew. Onanlo comes in, pays me, and leaves. Weird. Even after the most boring run, I expect to have a drink and a chat together, but especially after fighting off multiple packs of pirates together. But hey .. I just made a bit over 2000 Cr, which is .. you know .. nice. And I wanted to get out of this system anyway so why not right now. Next time there is an offer for an escort mission to Raale, I will decline. I leave the station and jump to Usatqura.
When I re-enter into normal space-time at Usatqura, my scanner lights up purple. There are lots of navy vessels around the witch jump beacon. Many large frigates, swarms of interceptors and Asps, as well as many larger and smaller packs of what I would normally consider hunters or even pirates, but they too show up as purple sticks on my scanner. You just know something big is going down when the navy lower their recruiting standards like this. Whatever it is, I should be part of this, so I change my compass from the main station to the Sector Command navy base.
A pack of purple hunters start firing at two fugitives that pop up at the edge of the scanner. I target one of them and start firing at them too. They both blow up, I get no bounty. Fine. I centre my compass, engage the injectors, and then the torus drive. There is a bit of traffic along the way, but all in the opposite direction, towards the witch point beacon, presumably to join up with the army that's gathering there already.
Pretty soon I dock at the navy base. I've been here plenty of times before but still they make me go through the entire security protocol every time. The atmosphere is tense. I ask my P.R. officer about what's going on at the witch point but he tells me I should just sign up for duty if I want to find out. I was going to do that anyway, but this response makes me rethink for a moment.
The moment passes and I head over to the duty office to sign up. For the first time in a while, someone seems happy to see me. "Welcome Commander, good to see you. You have come at the right time." It turns out that a large fleet of Thargoids is moving in at Xeoner and the Galactic Navy have already suffered considerable losses. I am told to head on over to Xeoner and join up with the squadron. While my Cobra is being refuelled, I check the latest fleet news. It is gloomy. The dock officer informs me calmly that my ship is ready. I thank him, to which he responds with a single word: "Sir." I guess it's a navy thing. After launching from the fast spinning station, I have to find my orientation for a moment, then make a first jump to Riinus. At Esveor, I skim the sun to fill up for the long jump to Xeoner.
When I re-enter into normal space-time at Xeoner, my scanner .. remains surprisingly empty. Besides the beacon, there are two purple sticks moving away from me, both Asps. I wonder if it's too late. Have the Thargoids wiped out the navy squadrons and moved on? I'm tracking the two Asps and then I see it. Still well outside scanner range, but impossible to miss: a cloud of battle cruisers, invaders, frigates, smaller ships buzzing around, lasers firing constantly, everywhere, in every direction, ships exploding every moment, truly a cloud of death. I reach for the fuel injectors, but reconsider. After the long jump from Esveor, I hardly have any fuel left, so I decide to .. uhmm .. oh no .. only now it hits me: no fuel. So no witch space jumps, and no injectors. For the foreseeable future, I'm stuck in a system with dozens of Thargoids, and thus the potential for hundreds of fighter drones, while restricted to cruising speed. Bring it on.
The Asps are flying towards the laser cloud and I follow them. As we get closer, and more detail unfolds, I gasp at the amount of ships involved. Still not in scanner range. Then one red/green stick. Then 10, then 20. My stomach tightens and I swallow. I slow down, target a Thargoid Invader ship and start firing at it. It doesn't pay me any attention, as I am just one of many firing at it. When my lasers start overheating, I stop, turn, and 'empty' my aft lasers onto the invader. It starts to throw plasma sparks. By now it has definitely noticed me and for each sweep of its lasers, one strike is for me. Turn around again. Front lasers have cooled enough for a good salvo. Green sparks fly off from where my lasers hit the alien hull. Hit after hit. Spark, spark. The Thargoid explodes. For the first time in minutes, I breathe out. Ok, you alien scum, one down, dozens more to go.
It takes me a few tries to target something that's not a robot fighter, wasting some laser heat on killing drones, but then I lock on a large Thargoid Battle Cruiser. Front lasers are still hot. A few shots, then they give up. Weapons System Overheated. Turn around. Aft lasers. The battle cruiser starts launching drones. By now, a large part of my scanner is filled with sticks. An alarmingly large fraction of them are red/green. More and more aliens seem to notice me now, more and more lasers hit my ship, my shields start dropping. I hit my injectors, but within seconds, the last bit of witch drive fuel is depleted and I drop back to cruising speed. Zig-zagging and corkscrewing towards the empty part of the scanner, I manage to get enough distance where the Thargoids take their focus off of me and only a pack of robot fighters keep up with me. As soon as I'm alone with them I start killing them one by one. They're nimble but not smart. When I'm down to just three of them left, they stop and turn white on my scanner. Cool. Someone must have just blown up that battle cruiser. I accidentally scoop one of them and destroy the other two.
I turn and look towards the planet. The large cloud of death has broken up and drifted apart. I torus towards the station but get mass locked in seconds. *Ding* Condition Red. "Nothing personal, Commander. We just want your cargo." Two pirates. Seriously? Are they that oblivious? I kill them both before either of them gets a single hit on me, wait for the lasers to cool down and move on. Mass Lock. A dozen red/green sticks and two yellow ones. Not purple. Just by eyeballing it, it's just one Thargoid war ship that launched a pack of drones. And two hunters buzzing around. I target the war ship and start firing at it. "Hey! Stop trying to steal my bounty." The robot fighters take their focus off of the hunters and on to me. The Thargoid keeps firing at the three of us and we at it. Turns out that one of the hunters, the Fer-de-Lance, has aft lasers too. My front shields are half way down when the alien war ship explodes. The bounty goes to me. 100 Cr. Sorry, guys. The robot fighters turn into Alien Items and I leave them for the hunters to either destroy or scoop.
On towards the main station again. I have to end up there anyway. It's still far away and there are still laser flashes everywhere. Still mass locked by the two hunters, so time enough for the lasers to cool and the shields to regenerate. My scanner goes empty and I hit the torus drive. This time I don't even get to hit top speed before .. *Ding* .. a bunch of flashing sticks at the edge of the scanner. All large ships. I target a battle cruiser and fire away. They all immediately focus all their fire power onto me and my front shields disappear rapidly. As I turn around, a couple more laser strikes hit my hull directly. Docking Computers Damaged. One complete energy bank drains instantly. Alien Items Destroyed. Ha! You just killed on of your own! My rear turned towards them now, I start firing at the battle cruiser until my aft laser red-lines, and the battle cruiser starts sparking. But by now, my aft shields are also getting low. The Thargoids have all started launching drones. This is not how it's supposed to end, so I try to zig-zag and corkscrew away from them. I land another couple of aft laser hits on the battle cruiser but not enough to kill it, and I can't afford to turn around or even slow down. Slowly the distance between my Cobra and the alien battle ships increases. Some of the Thargoids lose interest in me. Did they run into those two hunters from before? If so, this time I will not steal their bounty. The battle cruiser keeps firing at me. The robot fighters keep up with me. There's a lot of them, and every so often, one of them lands a hit on me. Or is that the war ship, which is also still in range? Either way, my aft shields are going in the wrong direction, so this is not a long-term strategy.
I stop wiggling about, aim my aft lasers carefully at the battle cruiser. This gives the robot fighters the chance to land more hits on me. My lasers strike hit after hit on the battle cruiser, my laser temperature goes yellow, then red. The Thargoid keeps firing at me. Wormhole Scanner Damaged. Weapons System Overheated. Shield Boosters Damaged. The seconds creep by. I can not turn away now. ECM System Damaged. One more strike. The battle cruiser explodes. Another customer for Alien Hell. External Heat Shielding Damaged. What?! The robot fighters remain active. So they won't turn white until those two hunters kill those other Thargoids. Scanner Targeting Enhancement Damaged. Now it's just me against over a dozen robot fighters. I can't outrun them, so I must kill them or they kill me. Besides, I have no aft shields left. A sudden moment of realisation how much I have come to depend on fancy equipment like targeting enhancement with sensitive reticle. So I zoom-in my scanner all the way, and start targeting and shooting the fighter drones one by one, chasing one while dodging others, and by the time my front shields are halfway down, my aft shields are almost halfway up, and there is only a handful of drones left. Not enough anymore to drain my shields more than they regenerate, even without the shield boosters. Time is on my side. I keep killing off the remaining robot fighters, but take my time and only fire sure hits, and when I destroy the last one, my shields and energy are full and my laser is not even very hot.
Condition Green. I stop and look around. The sky looks normal, kind of. Still some laser flashes, but nothing like the fireworks from before. My scanner is empty except for one white stick that's slowly drifting away from me. I try to target it but can't. Probably a metal fragment. I am now farther away from the planet than before and well away from the lane. The white stick falls off the scanner, which is now empty. I go through my status screens: "Rating: *** ELITE *** (6415)" I smile. "Currently in Xeoner (56 kills, 3729 Cr.)" That does not cover my repair bills, and besides, I have to get to a nearby Tech Level 12 system for those repairs, and besides, before I can even think about repairs or bills, I have to make it to the main station.
No more aliens along the way, just some small groups of navy fighters. Whenever I get mass locked, I just steer away from them until I'm clear, then torus around them, and so the station slowly gets closer, until it's close enough to see that there's some serious combat going on right at the station. Or very close to it. Mass Lock. Between a few rocks sits a Gecko. Not aggressive, but fugitive, and since I have no fuel, I decide to kill it just for mass locking me. It takes me a little longer than I thought, without the targeting gizmos and all, and in the end it would probably have been faster to just turn away. But then, I am an Elite combat pilot now, and he is .. was a fugitive. From here, it's smooth sailing most of the way until, close to the S-zone, I run into a bunch of Vipers and Asps fighting off a single Thargoid Invader. From the looks of it, they don't need my help. The Thargoid is taking hit after hit from the fast and nimble navy fighters. It has deployed drones but those are mostly ignored. It is far away from me but I start firing at it. I must have hit it a few times because it starts firing back at me and turning towards me. My front shields start dropping, but the Thargoid now has five ships firing their military lasers at it and soon it explodes. I get the bounty, although I'm not so sure it was me who fired the kill shot. Can they even do that?
I fly towards the station, and so do the Asps and the Vipers, so I'm mass locked all the way. When I get there, It's very busy around the station and there is a long docking queue. Whenever heavily damaged navy ships arrive, the queue gets interrupted and restarted. I don't mind. A couple of other ships offer me a ride through their wormhole but I decide to just wait it out. Eventually I get clearance.
When I disembark from my ship, my legs are trembling. The smells of melted hull plates and broken energy units, and the sounds of repairs fill the docking area. Some ships appear to be in much worse shape than mine. The docking crew look at my ship and then at each other. They are surprised that I'm not having any repairs done, but I will do those later at a high tech world. Only the best for my Cobra. Now I need a good vicious brew. The docking crew have a short argument over which is the best bar, then give me directions.
I wander around the station plaza alone. Nobody looks at me differently. Or at all, for that matter. Nobody knows I'm Elite. I find the bar, it looks nice, my kind of bar, dark and quiet but not somber. I sit down and think about how close to death I came today .. and how many others were not so lucky. The bartender, a large Lizard, walks up to me and nods. "Congratulations Commander. Drinks are on the house for you. Vicious brew, right?" I smile.
Last edited by hoqllnq on Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.