It started as an ordinary patrol.
Mistake was pretty new to the game, still learning his way around. I was all to glad to bankroll his starter ship – after all, I’m usually pretty broke, but even I could afford to outfit his starter ship with some decent gear. Which I did. I even went so far as to equip a repair beam that I’ve had forever (back when they were just introduced to the game, I got one for an RP event and somehow never had to give it back). So I throw my repair beam in one of my gun slots and launch with Mistake in tow. The plan is simple: he’ll sit there and duke it out with the enemy Flux whilst I repair his armor damage as needed.
Of course, the more observant of you might’ve noticed that I said I put the repair beam in one of my gun slots.
What was in the other slots? Why, massive guns, of course. After all, they are gun slots.
Now as you might expect, this caused Mistake a bit of alarm. Everything was going fine; he was sitting and picking off any Flux foolish enough to close with him, and I was waiting for him to take enough damage to wear down his shields and begin hitting his armor. Since we were getting used to working together, I had suggested we work right outside the station, so that we’d be near to a safe dock if the need arose. Error number 2, in case you’re counting.
Now, as to the alarm Mistake felt – well, it came about when he actually got damage. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Okay, you’re getting low on shields. Ooops! There they go. Armor’s getting hit – lemme kick in the repair beam now. Don’t worry about the noise – it’s loud.”
Mistake: “Heh, this is great! I can’t wait till SWEET MOTHER OF GORD, WHAT’S HITTING ME!”
Being the ever alert pilot I am, I of course instantly spun around, looking for the threat. Then I noticed the small crosshairs and sword on my display screen, indicating there was a bounty on my ample posterior.
For those of you not in the know, a bounty comes about when you attack a ship that is not flagged as Honor Guard. (Honor Guard is PK, fyi.) When you fly Honor Guard, you’re free to engage other Honor Guard-flagged ships. However, if you engage someone that is not so flagged, you gain a little bounty.
Which I had just done. Yes, in my rush to show off my repair skills to Mistake, I failed to notice the fact that I hadn’t turned off the other guns. So while the repair beam fired, so did my cannons… Whoopsie…
Now, normally this isn’t a major concern (provided the other pilot lives, of course). Merely hitting someone only gains you a temporary bounty. That is, a bounty that is cleared the next time you dock. Had I actually blasted Mistake into bits, I would’ve gained a permanent bounty, which wouldn’t be resolved until someone had collected on that bounty. And I don’t mean delivering me in a chunk of carbonite to a slug; I mean blowing-me-out-of-the-sky collected.
Now, being the ever-alert pilot, I decided that I wouldn’t really worry about this bounty. I didn’t see anyone else in the sector on my radar, and I figured I was close enough to the station that if I saw someone bearing down on me, I could scurry into the dock with my tail tucked between my legs in plenty of time.
What I didn’t figure on was the fact that stations tend to look down upon bountied pilots being near them, and will launch attack drones after such pilots.
So I’m sitting there watching Mistake slug it out with the little jellyfish, and I’ve got about five seconds of thinking, “Holy cow -some of those jellyfish are hitting me really hard!” before my ship promptly explodes in a nice flash of light and shrapnel. How about them drones?
Now I have to spend the next 30 minutes shuttling from station to station, attempting to locate equipment good enough to take into battle. I’ll tell you one thing that this game needs: more truckers! Yeah Phil, I’m talking to you! There’s never enough supplies anymore. Finding a decent power plant can take a REALLY long time. But I finally manage to scrape together a decent load-out for my fighter, and now Mistake and I decide we’ll try and complete his mission.
Missions in Jumpgate came in a variety of flavors: shipping goods, patrolling, combat, scouting – nothing real unusual there. What is unusual is the amount of hatred Octavians have for their new pilots. Why else would they give lowly Mistake a mission that would take him into heavily infested flux space?
I’m not bad at fluxing, but I was rather intimidated at the prospect of jumping into flux-heavy space. But Mistake had some good pilot ratings, and I’d hate to see them get loused up due to his unfortunate mentoring by a coward. So I sucked it up and drove on. All the way to flux country…
We worked pretty well together on the way out there. Mistake had a number of sectors to patrol, and the first two of these went off without a hitch. Some smaller flux showed up, but between the two of us we made short work of them. Then we sat facing the portal to Dark Crossroads, our last destination.
We said a few prayers and jumped in. Immediately my radar lit up with all sorts of horrible pink dots. I could practically hear the flux yelling “Kwip season!” and loading their guns as they came a-runnin’. I screamed a number of things – prayers, cries for my mother, and general purpose curses, but somewhere in that mix I must’ve gotten a warning out to Mistake, because he quickly jumped out with me hot on his tail. Of course immediately on the other side we were attacked by flux, but they were little ones, so we were able to handle them.
This scene would repeat pretty steadily for the next ten minutes. We’d jump into Dark Crossroads, spot a bunch of super bad-ass flux heading right for us, and immediately jump out, crying and shaking. Yes, I know, if the flux were smart they would’ve just sat and waited for us on the other side of the gate and blasted us as soon as we jumped. However, you’re talking about creatures that are bright pink in a sea of black space. If these guys were smart, they’d have painted themselves black a LONG time ago. And c’mon – when’s the last time you were outsmarted by calamari?
Finally, I jump in and spot our chance: a lone Manta Ray. I hate these guys because they move so friggin’ fast and turn on a dime – the whole while blasting you with nasty lasers. But I’m thinking that working with Mistake, the two of us can paste this guy. So I call Mistake in, fire off a couple of seeker missiles to buy me some maneuvering room, and launch myself at him.
After our first pass, I’ve definitely put some hurt on him, but he’s returned the favor. I was hoping to do much more damage to him, because your first pass is usually the best time to do the most damage. Mistake is still working up to cruising speed to close on us, and Mr. Manta and I begin circling each other. My job is to try and keep up with his turns and not let him get behind me. Allowing the Manta behind me is a death sentence – he’s much faster than I, and I’d have a lot of trouble shaking him once he gets there. So I keep my nose right in his face, firing away with everything I’ve got. The whole time I’m praying that all of this swooping and swerving won’t bring Mistake across my line of fire, because as hard as I’m slamming my trigger, I’d doubt I’d be able to pull short in time to keep from getting yet another bounty.
I’d like to think my missiles have a pretty good guidance system. I’d also like to think that writing for a website is someday going to make me very wealthy. And both of these thoughts hold equal amounts of validity, I’m afraid. My missiles don’t really serve any purpose other than to give me something else to crash into. Well, that and something else to accidentally shoot Mistake with. But Fate smiles upon idiots this day, as I manage to slip a missile past the Manta’s dodges and it does a decent job of kicking the crap out of his shields. At almost the same time, Mistake comes streaking in from above him – the absolute best line to nail Mantas due to their weird shape – and lands a vicious volley that destroys what’s left of his shields and taking his armor down enough that my lasers finish the job. The Manta explodes in a lovely crimson ball of flame, and as I’m bouncing up and down in my seat pumping my fist like an enthusiastic school child, Mistake is screaming bloody murder over the com.
Oh look, another one of the damnable things is closing on us. Fast. And me without a single missile to send it to slow it down.
Fortunately for me – my shields were practically gone at this point and would need some time to recharge – this guy seems much more interested in getting close and personal with Mistake. Neither one of our ships can outrun this bad boy, but with a head start Mistake can “tow” it behind him in a straight line long enough for me to line up a shot. We had no other choice – the dog-fighting had moved us far enough away from the Jumpgate that it would’ve been suicide to just make a break for it.
I scream “Line line line!” over the com and Mistake obliges, turning tail and punching his little shuttles’ engine up to the red, trying to pull ahead of the pink death screaming in on him. My ship’s slow to get started at the best of times, even with the afterburners punched, but I swing around and kick the hamster’s powering my engines for all they’re worth. I’m barely halfway to my max thrust when the Manta shrieks by beneath me, quickly pulling ahead. I can practically see the drool dripping from it’s mouth at the sight of the little Oct shuttle as it closes on Mistake. Without time for a prayer (and not knowing who the patron saint of killing seafood is anyway), I begin my dive at the Manta.
At this point, Kwipette walks into the room and asks if I’m going to help pack.
I love my wife. I want you all to know that. This woman puts up with so much of my crap – even during my best moments – that would drive Mother Teresa into a homicidal rage. Also, she’s fully capable of kicking my ass, and has let me know on more than one occasion that the only thing preventing her from killing me in my sleep is the fact that I haven’t made out my will yet. And now she has spent the past two weeks completely packing our apartment in preparation for our upcoming move. Time that I’ve spent trying to level as rapidly as possible to better kill flux, of course. And now, she needs help. What could I do?
Pretend not to speak English, of course!
“Yo no hablo!”
She wasn’t amused. However, if there is one thing that sets Kwipette far and above every other woman that’s ever been a part of my life, it’s that she is also a gamer. Yes, it’s true. The other night, in fact, while reading my copy of Computer Gaming World, she saw an ad for a game she thought sounded cool, downloaded & installed the demo and was playing before I could say “FPS or RTS?” Yeah, she’s that cool. (Woah. I’m a little turned on now.)
Anyway, the point of that blathering segment was to demonstrate to you that she understands gaming. So after explaining that if I didn’t help her pack at some point I would find new and exciting objects being forced into my eye sockets as I slept, she then looked over my shoulder and said “What’s that big pink thing you’re about to crash into?” Which caused me to turn back to my screen with enough force to briefly shake the Earth out of orbit (yes, that’s really what brought us closer to Mars, in case you’re wondering).
I spun back in time to see that while my attention was diverted I had gotten as close as my dive was going to bring me to the manta before it began to pull away, even with my afterburners chugging. Yanking on the trigger for all I was worth, I tore a wonderful arc across the Manta’s back as my heavy lasers tore into it’s shields, almost dropping them completely in one pass. As he banked away from my fire, I burned on past him – I knew I couldn’t match him turning away. I hoped to get turned around and fire a few shots in his face to keep him from shooting at me right away.
Unfortunately, my luck was worn a bit too thin at this point. His return fire hammered my shields. I was hitting him too, but barely, and not steadily enough to keep him from pulverizing me in short order. At this time Mistake came screaming back into the fray, catching the Manta in a tight burst that weakened it enough for me to once again drive home the killing blow.
This victory came at a heavy cost. My shields were almost gone and Mistake’s armor was below 50%. And then the BIG flux showed up. Two of them, bearing down on us fast. Mistake was already pointed towards the gate and at full throttle. I saw the vapors from his damaged vessel trailing after him, leaving a line of dots in space that the nearest Eel was making like Pac-Man and gobbling up as it bore down on him. Neither of us would be able to handle just one of those things, not even together, and there was no way that Mistake could outrun it. Even as I kicked in my tired afterburners and began lining up my shot, I knew I was doomed. My only hope was to pull it off of Mistake long enough for him to make the gate.
Screaming my battle cry (“WHY IN THE HELL AM I DOING THIS!?!?!?!”), I dove after the Eel, lasers licking along it’s massive flank and barely tickling it’s shields. It was between me and the gate, and as it turned back to face me, I saw Mistake’s flash as he made the gate. Expecting to feel the bucking of my ejection pod any second, I braced and dove forward….
…only to pass completely over the Eel as it attempted to turn to track me! It spun around again to give chase, but it had badly mis-judged my (admittedly slow) velocity. It’s plasma bolts shook my battered fighter as they rocketed past and I slipped into the bright embrace of the Jumpgate. Jumpspace had never looked so beautiful.
I came through to Mistake screaming. Sure enough, a wonderful pink glow lit up my radar as soon as I returned to regular space. But these were little flux. After what we had been through, I was ready to eject and just kick these guys to death.
My bravado was fairly short-lived; I was low on fuel, Mistake was low on armor, and neither of us had any missiles left. Even low-level flux can be dangerous when there’s a lot of them. I knocked out several of them as we made our way to the gate, then Mistake towed the rest and I picked them off one at a time. Bigger flux might give us some trouble, but give me a flux I can catch up to that’s being towed by a good pilot, and I’ll climb up their tailpipe and detonate a hand grenade. We mopped up the leftovers. After the fight we had been through, we were terrified to risk going back to Dark Crossroads again. But after such a fight we also couldn’t just give up, either. We jumped in, hands poised over our jump buttons, ready to beat a hasty retreat.
Mistake decided not to wait around for any flux that might be lurking outside our scanning distance and streaked off to hit the beacon he needed for his patrol mission. A tricky maneuver even when you’re not nervous about getting blasted, Mistake nonetheless slipped through the beacon as pretty as you please and was streaking back towards me before I realized he had made it to the beacon.
We jumped back out to another Flux reception party, but it was obvious these guy’s hearts weren’t in it. Er…if they have hearts. Whatever they have, it wasn’t enough. We cleaned them up, plus a couple extra that had locked onto to a freighter passing through, and then limped our broken selves back to Octavius Core where Mistake relayed his patrol info to the mission computer and collected a
fat TINY! little reward. I can’t believe we risked our butts for that little…ay yi yi…
Afterwards, flying out to Great Pillars station, we reflected upon this night. It was a night of heroes! A night of action! A night of derring-do! A night of unparalleled bravery! A night of…
“Kwip! Look out for that asteroid!”