Right now I'm sitting at one of the station bars at the Ramaza Coriolis station in Galaxy 2, having just tossed back a fifth triple-shot of distilled hyper-whisky... because Giles knows I've earned it after this last run!
It all started when I called into Ramaza around a week ago to refuel on a contract run and to make a few credits flogging several dozen tons of computers and the like, when some chap asks me as to whether I could possibly pick up a package for him from the Zaria system? No worries, I assure him, as I had a cargo to deliver there anyway as well as a passenger to Xeisare a short jump further, so I can drop it in to Ramaza on the way back through. Thinking nothing of this, I accepted the job, refuelled Atomic Annie
and was soon on my way.
Picked up the package on Zaria with no problems after delivering my contract, still not suspecting anything out of the ordinary. Okay, yes I was
told that someone might be gunning for me because of the package contents, but seriously - when you've traversed Galaxy 2 from the wretched hive of scum and villainy of Cerisoma up to this sector, you get shot at frequently enough by run-of-the-mill pirates to take much heed of such warnings. I nodded sagely, storing the package in a safe place, then after a brief R&R sojourn in various station <ahem>
facilities and picking up a contract to deliver several tons of platinum to Ladibi it was time to launch. Cleared station aegis, jumped to Xeisare to drop my passenger off, refuelled and jumped to Ramaza, whereupon I did indeed have to fight my way to the station – racking up another ten kills in the process. Still, nothing terribly out of the ordinary for an Anaconda pilot flying solo...
Now things got interesting. Turns out my erstwhile contact was a member of the Ramaza Liberation Front, and in short order I had a invitation to join their cause in a raid to prevent the Zarian government from shipping weapons to the Ramazan dictatorship. Well on the one hand, I'm just a trader and there's good business to be done on any system regardless of the local politics... but I did see Zarian system ships shooting up clean-rated Orbital Shuttles for no apparent reason, and who can resist the call to liberty, fraternity and equality? No to mention the rather hefty gold-plated cash compensation that my contact was offering. So like a fool I said yes, you can count on me.
Of course, when I got back to the Annie
it hit me what I'd just done. I had just volunteered to go into fleet combat, not in a nice speedy and manoeuvrable battlewagon like my previous ship the Roj Blake
(a Boa 2 Cruiser), but in an Anaconda
– the fat pointy mobile asteroid, the “piñata of the spaceways”. And backing out wasn't an option: at a rough guess at the temperaments of “liberation movement” types, I'd probably find myself with a substantial price on my head at any Seedy Space Bar in the quadrant if I'd tried to welsh on the deal. So I'm committed (or should be, in more ways than one)!
and other such sentiments.
Still, at least I did have some time up my sleeve before the scheduled rendezvous at Zaria, so I headed out to Ladibi with my platinum contract by way of Legeara, Ersoonve and Soreisbe. The Legeara leg was an epic battle in itself, resulting in the expenditure of almost all of my hard-head missiles for thirteen confirmed kills, but the run into Ladibi (a Tech 1 Anarchy system) was anticlimactic in comparison. Sold my platinum for an eye-wateringly profitable sum, along with several dozen tons of computers, luxuries and machinery with a similar fat profit, bought up the usual loads of booze, food and furs to sell back to a nice Industrial world – all the while wondering how in the name of the Old Worlds was I going to pull off taking Annie
into combat and surviving to tell the tale?
On the run back to Soreisbe the beginnings of a plan were forming, and upon docking I tooled up for war: loading six of my seven missile pylons with hardheads and the seventh with my old friend the Quirium Cascade Mine for a last-ditch defence. Despite my weapon load I knew it wasn't going to be a simple matter of jumping in and blasting the hell out of the enemy as it might have been in the Roj
, but by now I had worked out how to turn Annie
s weakness as a battle platform into an advantage. I had read a story about a wet-navy captain from Old Earth times who had successfully operated as a commerce raider in an old “sailing ship” in the age of steam-power precisely because no-one would suspect such an antique vessel as a threat... and I figured that a similar trick might just possibly work for Atomic Annie
. After all, since when was a piñata dangerous?
Then it was onwards to Ersoove and my final refuelling point at Legera. Time to check my insurance status, make my final plans and have one last tour planetside. Then all too soon it was time to launch. Course set to Zaria, ident system activated... and jump!
“Witchspace jump to Zaria in 10... 9... 8... 7...”
I braced myself, nervously awaiting the moment of entering hostile space...
3... 2... 1...”
jumped – smooth as silk, bless her – and after several seconds we re-entered normal space at Zaria, smack-bang into the biggest armada and furball fight I'd ever seen! My Ramazan Liberation Front comrades were already in the thick of combat, but I had no time to worry about them – my main concern was finding the primary target carrying the weapons shipment. Within a few moments I had found her: an Ionics Funnelweb, larger than life and – if her sister Ionics ships were anything to go by – at least twice as deadly.
Time to put “Operation Seeadler
” into action.
I locked my targeting system onto the Funnelweb, loaded the firing solution into five of my hardhead missiles, and increased thrust towards my target. I could hear the alarms of “Countermeasures! Countermeasures!”
going off all around me, but so far I was personally unmolested. I crossed my fingers, hoping it would stay that way for a while longer, occasionally giving a few bursts on the witchspace injectors as I steadily closed in. Just a few klicks closer...
The Funnelweb commander must have suddenly woken up to why an Anaconda was heading into
the battle instead of getting the heck out of Dodge, because as I got to within ten klicks range he started to bring his ship about. I immediately opened fire with my forward lasers, pounding the Funnelweb with every erg I could muster until the laser temperature cut-out tripped. Then I launched a salvo of three hard-heads, pitching up to avoid locking onto my own ordinance before re-establishing targeting on the Funnelweb. Within seconds the Funnelweb's escorts started targeting me, their lasers slamming into my shields as I jinked desperately from side to side, turning to re-establish a lock on the Funnelweb and firing my lasers again. Then the laser temperature cut-out tripped again, and I frantically jabbed the missile firing control for my remaining locked missiles before slamming the witchspace injectors to full thrust, watching the full weaponry of the Funnelweb finally coming to bear on Annie
and erupting with a hail of destruction. That was it – I was out, time to leave before my shields were ripped to shreds!
Suddenly the all-too-familiar sight of an expanding Quirium Cascade appeared in my rearward scanner, and without thinking I held the injectors on full for all I was worth, slipping automatically into “Run like hell!” mode. “Damn, I must have hit something nasty with my missiles!” I thought, before I glanced at the weapons status display... and my heart caught in my throat. For as I said, I had entered the fray armed with six hard-heads and one Q-bomb, but... all that was left was one solitary ECM hardened missile.
The Quirium Cascade ripping through the ships behind me wasn't due to a lucky hit – it was the Q-bomb I had unintentionally dropped in my somewhat frantic last assault on the Funnelweb.
For several heart-stopping moments I wondered whether I had accidentally taken out my Ramazan Liberation Front comrades along with the target – or even if I had
got the target – but it wasn't long before I got confirmation from the Ramazan raid commander that the Funnelweb had been destroyed and that the Ramazans would mop up the rest. “You don't have to tell me twice!” I grimaced to myself, and after checking my fuel state immediately jumped to Legeara. I expect Zaria will NOT be happy to see me again for a while, especially as I think I blew the witchpoint beacon along with the Ionics fleet...
A refuelling at a Legearan fuel satellite, then it was a last jump to Ramaza to collect my bounty. After what I'd been through, disposing of an Ionics Whitetail pirate and her Python mothership on the way into the station was almost too
easy, and after salvaging some alloys from the Python I eased into Ramaza station on autopilot, my nerves still to jumpy to handle any manual docking. Got my payment and immediately hit the first bar on the station promenade.
Just call me “Nuke 'Em” Ranthe