My trip out to the Pleiades cluster had been a relaxing - if sometimes boring - trip. I explored, I basked in the glow of huge yellow stars to refuel and when I arrived in th region of Maia I hit some of the tourist hotspots.
After a few days down-time I resolved to make my way back. I was now carrying the meta-alloy I needed for Felicity Farseer back in Deciat, in the hopes of improving my jump distance. Hopefully I'd be able to complete a trip like this much quicker, once Farseers cronies had worked their magic. Just to make this journey that bit more worthwhile I'd actually bought two units of meta-alloy. Selling the spare one might pay for some interesting upgrades.
Leaving space around Maia was a little, due to the sheer number of other pilots around, but I kept to myself and was soon on my way. I relaxed in my seat, found something to read between jumps and stuck to my route.
As I left the more populated areas, my comms board lit up; a threat from a ship that I hadn't even spotted on my radar. Before I could respond I was shocked into action the unknown pilot attempted to interdict me. I was unprepared and throttled down, in the hopes that I could get away quickly.
A message came through as soon as I dropped out of Supercruise: "I see what you're carrying, rookie".
Sure enough, he was scanning me. The ship was bristling with weapons, already deployed.
"I'm not greedy", came another message, "Drop half of what you're carrying and you get to go on your way".
It's a situation I've seen a dozen times. I'm often carrying nothing worth fighting over, but today was different. I had a split second to decide what action to take.
I jettisoned a single meta-alloy.
"Good decision", said the response from my captor.
Neither of us moved. He didn't fire, but he hadn't yet taken on the meta-alloy either. Maybe it would be too hot, too much trouble. And then he slowly maneuvered toward it.
I'd rolled over and given in, he'd gone quiet, so I fired up my engines and went to get out of there.
"We're not done yet!"
I saw the message come through as I turned about, boosting away and hoping for the best. Lasers lit up my shields, quickly burning through them and ripping into my hull. It wasn't looking good.
The stars around me rippled and distorted as my FSD reached 100%, dragging me out of there to safety.
Looking around my sizzling, rapidly cooling ship I took stock. I'd lost one of my units of meta-alloy and couldn't afford to lose the other. My hull was damaged, my shields weren't even worth switching on in a serious situation, and my skills at out-flying a determined combat-experienced opponent were questionable at best.
Minutes later I was on my way to the nearest populated system to refit my ship, The Story's Open. I arranged for half the guts of the thing to be ripped out and replaced with shield boosters and hull reiforcement, then drank alone as she was repaired. As an afterthought, I added a chaff launcher just in case. The whole loadout was impractical in the long-run, but I had to get back to Deciat. I had to get this blasted meta-alloy to Felicty Farseer.
The following morning my repairs were complete. Stepping aboard the Cobra Mk. IV I thought I could still smell the tang of laser burns, but pushed the thought out of my head. Route back in place, I made my way out to Deciat again.
Each jump took me closer to my destination, but the tension increased. My eyes burned from staring at my radar and I got into the habit of pre-selecting an alternate system to jump to in case things got dicey. Crossing shipping lanes made my heart pound and I stopped scanning systems entirely. I didn't even stop to refuel, just raced around stars when needed. I had my share of close encounters and emergency stops around dwarf stars, each one damaging my ship and my disposition.
My sleeping pattern and body clock were ruined. I was sleeping only rarely, when absolutely necassary, and often woken abruptly with the same nightmare of destruction at the hands of a pirate. As the jumps ticked down I would compulsively check news around the Deciat system, monitoring ship activity and numbers of violent encounters in the area.
Approaching the final dozen or so jumps was the most difficult. I started to see more pilots on my radar. Occasional one would reach out with a friendly-sounding salutation or distress call. I gritted my teeth and flew on; I wouldn't fall for their tricks.
I was interdicted a few more times, close to my destination. Twice I evaded them and flew on, but the last time I was successfully captured. I was 18 light years from Deciat and absolutely incensed.
In a rage I flipped my ship and boosted at my would-be assailant, launching chaff all around me. He jinked up and out of harms way as I - still screaming - charged my drive and made my escape.
This morning at 8:40am local time I touched down at Farseer Inc., shaking with the rush of adrenaline and lack of sleep. Station staff took away the meta-alloy and I received access codes to begin dealing with Farseer's engineering crew.
But first, I slept.