Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapter 10 Chapter 11
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Nhi'Khuna's head and torso appeared on a holopad and she cocked an eyebrow upon seeing me fumble with a housecoat that was more sheer than I was used to.
"Am I interrupting something?" she asked.
"No, I was just trying to figure out how to turn on the goddamn shower." I managed to say between clumsy attempts to fasten the garment without flashing my caller. "Why can't the Gallente make things with buttons and knobs like normal people?"
She let out an honest guffaw and laughed hard. "My god, you are quite the provincial, aren't you?"
I felt my cheeks redden even further. "Its my first time out of Caldari space," I offered lamely.
Nhi'Khuna wiped the tears from her eyes and said, "Well, how about you forget about the shower? We're going to do a short roam and this would be a good chance to meet the rest of the crew."
"Alright, give me ten."
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"OK Minessis, Seven Six, you guys will be forward scouts, check the belts, look for something good. Kirith, you're new so we'll have you be rear scout, make sure nothing bad comes up behind us. If we find something we'll call you in. Jakk, Kla'strit, Lucius, Mae; you're with me. Broadcasting destination now."
The scouts, Seven Six in a Taranis interceptor and Kla'strit in a Wolf assault frig, sped off the station undock zone and warped to the Ostingele gate. After the all clear came back from them, the heavy ships disembarked from the station and aligned as a group to the gate; Nhi'Khuna as Fleet Commander in her Prophecy battlecruiser, Lucius in a Blackbird cruiser as our ECM support, Jakk Blakk our CEO in a Caracal cruiser, and finally Mae West in her big Brutix battlecruiser. That last one made the ex-State Navy pilot in me have the shivers as it was one of the most feared of the Gallente ships we had to think about facing.
I aligned and warped with the main fleet to the gate, but held back as they jumped through. As they aligned the scouts would jump into the next system and look for threats or targets; and once they were in warp I would jump through to keep an eye on the system after they left in case a hostile fleet moved in behind us as part of their own roam or a trap.
We continued that pattern for a few jumps, our scouts checking the asteroid belts and anomalies for any sign of capsuleers or important Serpentis pirate ships, everything else we left alone. Sometimes we would come across a desperate Serpentis fleet on a gate while waiting for the scouts to report and they would foolishly engage hoping for easy pickings or mistaking us for civilian ships; we dispatched them without a second glance.
Placid region is one of the wild regions of Gallente space, far from the hubs of Essence or Sinq Laison regions. Some of its space has CONCORD fast response facilities, but most of it has only the basic security forces around planets and stations and the Serpentis pirates run rampant everywhere else. Into this mix the capsuleers are thrown as a wild card, sometimes keeping the pirates in check and other times simply attacking each other. That was where we came in.
I admit I had some doubts about the veracity of IPRC's claims of clandestine Federation approval for their activities in Placid, but I was willing to give it a chance since I had lost faith in everything organized in the State.
The fleet was in Vey, scouts in Frarie, me one back still in Intaki, when the message went over the comms from Seven Six. "Hey guys, I got a hit near the bottom belt, Vexor."
"Go get him," Nhi'Khuna ordered.
"Kirith, jump into Vey and warp to us. Kla'strit, warp to the top belt in case he goes there before Seven lands."
"Roger," Kla'strit and I replied in unison. My heart beat picked up. Sure, I had done some fighting as part of the Navy, but those instincts had gotten a little rusty and this was no pirate ship in need of repairs and an overhaul, this was a full fledged pod pilot in a top of the line cruiser.
Seven Six began giving us a narrative. "Coming out of warp... come on, come on... I see him! ... I'm ten klicks off, he's moving! I think he's aligning! ... Locked! ... DAMN, he warped out! I think he headed towards... yeah, he's coming to you Kla!"
By this time I had landed at the gate with the main fleet and waited for the next order. Silence on comms for a second, then Kla'strit in his distinctive Minmatar voice said, "Vexor on scan." A few more tense seconds. "Here he is," Kla'strit said very calmly in stark contrast to the other scout. "Locking... and point."
"Jump jump jump!" Nhi'Khuna ordered the fleet. "Let's go get him."