The lights emanating from Hobaugh Orbital glistened in the cracks of Zephyr's canopy as I gently guided her back towards the station. The small cracks and abrasions in her hull creaked and moaned with every minor correction I made. As the landing gear touched ground, Zephyr released a long sigh of relief as her systems cooled and turned down. I couldn't help but join her, feeling the same wave of relief wash over me. We were safe.
Our mission wasn't over yet, but it had taken a chaotic turn and we needed to regroup, rest, and repair.
I was sent on a diplomatic mission to LHS 1957 by the Order, to improve our standing with Sirius Corp, a well known and powerful faction, and to try and establish contact with the engineer rumoured to be working for them. I was joined on this mission by CMDR Ronnie McDee, an initiate in the Order and a friend I had grown up with in the Diaguandri system. We assisted with a few scan missions, as these were best suited to our skillset, but it wasn't long before they needed us to assist in some more dangerous work. We were the only ones in the area that had well equipped combat vessels, and their situation was growing desperate. They offered a very handsome reward to tackle a small band of pirates in a local system, Wolf 1458. They were rumoured to be about 25 pilots strong.
CMDR Ronnie was piloting a brand new Python-class vessel, named
redacted, which had been recently outfitted with some serious hull and shield reinforcement as well as heavy ordinance. I was piloting Zephyr, my Vulture class vessel and my pride and joy. The Order had previously rewarded my devotion with an incredible gift of credits, which I used to perfect Zephyr, and I had spent the previous week visiting various engineers to bring her up to par with some of the bigger and more lethal enemies we had been facing as of late. We were confident in the abilities of our ships, but we also knew we'd face certain death if we took on the pirates at full strength. We instead came up with a plan.
We heard that these pirates were notorious for preying on miners. The pirates had no idea who we were yet, and this presented an opportunity. We made our way to a local planetary ring and started to patrol the higher traffic areas. Within minutes we encountered an Imperial Eagle harassing a miner, and a quick scan confirmed his identity. Our weapons made quick work of him. Soon three more unsuspecting pirates of the same gang had flown in, followed by the local system authority. It wasn't long before we were engaged, and the system authority wing quickly identified the pirates as the true threat and helped us eliminate them. Our hulls remained unscathed and our confidence was growing.
Eventually, word got out amongst our targets, and the pirates ceased their operations and began to congregate for a retaliatory attack. We knew we still had at least 21 pirates to face, simply too much for us to handle head on. We had expected to kill a few more before it came to any larger confrontation, but our enemies had quickly figured us out. We had to adjust our plan of action, and time was running out. We decided to call for help, and requested assistance from CMDR Mushroom Traveler, another initiate with the Order, who was piloting a massive Anaconda-class vessel and was only a couple systems away. His ship wasn't specifically outfitted for combat, but it was still an Anaconda and the pilot inside it was capable. We needed whatever help we could get. After a few minutes we were grouped, and we set back out into supercruise to find our targets. They weren't meeting very far from us, and we managed to lock on to their signal. We weren't sure what was waiting for us at this destination, but we knew it'd be our targets, and they wouldn't be alone. We quickly came up with a battle plan: CMDR Ronnie and CMDR Mushroom would engage with their superior hull strength and pull focus from all the smaller ships, and I would try to immediately close the distance between me and their largest ship. Zephyr was built to be a giant killer. She is light, fast, decently shielded, and carries two large heavily engineered fixed frag cannons. Though I acknowledged the danger we were throwing ourselves into, I couldn't help but feel a hint of excitement and righteousness as I tightened my grip on the controls and prepared to exit supercruise. In that last moment, as my frame shift powered down, I felt a moment of divine clarity. The Void was watching over me. I wrapped my finger around my trigger and readied myself.
I should mention at this point that we never had any official combat training; up until now we fought small wings and isolated raiders. We had a decent plan, of course. But it required a certain degree of coordination, coordination that we simply lacked.
I was the first to exit supercruise. I was still deploying my hard points when the first shots started coming in. Within seconds my shields were starting to fail. I set max power to engines and barreled after an isolated Eagle. Not an ideal target for me, but I managed to get close enough to unload a clip of fragment cannon fire. I briefly reflected on the raw destructive power I've managed to put on my ship as I flew through the Eagles wreckage. A quick look at my radar diminshed my optimism: I had 4 more enemies after me, with 4 more in the distance. Explosions rattled my hull, lasers and munitions deflecting off what little shields my generators still had left. I was running out of time, and the situation was growing desperate. Our comms were in disarray and my allies were nowhere to be seen.
"The Void watches over us"
3 more blips appeared directly ahead. I had nowhere else to go.
Verity chimed in. "Shields offline. Hull damage sustained." I could barely hear her through the sounds of gunfire ricocheting off my hull and the roar of my boosting thrusters. As my sensors finally picked up the signals ahead I felt a wave of relief. Green. System Authority vessels with a Python among them. I immediatly hailed their help and continued my trajectory. They engaged with my pursuers. I broke off and assessed my situation as my shields began to come back online. 90% hull strength. I couldn't help but gleam with a bit of pride in Zephyr. The hull reinforcement modifications and armour kit paid off.
I tried to reestablish comms. The system authority bought me time but they were clearly outmatched and outgunned, so that time was very limited. It turned out CMDR Mushroom had exited supercruise moments before CMDR Ronnie and I. He took the full force of the initial attack, and it simply proved to be too much. He immediately disengaged and escaped to supercruise to recover his shields. CMDR Ronnie managed to exit supercruise right behind me initially and was a few thousand km away, but based on the sounds of gunfire coming in through his comms and the fact that I only saw 4 of the 8 pirates engaged near me, I figured he had his own problems to deal with. I prayed the Void would watch over him and as my shields started to top off I headed back into the fray.
The next engagement began much easier and allowed me to utilize Zephyr the way I designed her to. With the pirates' fire mostly focused on the authority vessels, I was able to get in close and fire from proper angles, making fairly quick work of the engaging Kraits' defenses. The fighting went on for a few minutes, and one by one ships began to fall. The system authority fought well but ultimately fell, leaving me up against 2 pirates, a moderately damaged Cobra MkIII and a Viper. The Cobra fell after a couple of jousts, but whatever shields I had left were gone by the time I turned to face the Viper. The pirate piloting the Viper was Master rank, and while his ship was smaller and less armed than mine, it wasn't a simple combat vessel. His shields had barely been grazed, let alone his hull. He was faster than I and I had to fight on his terms, which proved troublesome as I saw the serious damage his munitions were inflicting on my hull. Once again I felt the pressure mounting, and my radio requests for assistance were met with silence. I started to feel a hint of fear. CMDR Mushroom was in no shape to reengage without repairs, and I was starting to think CMDR Ronnie was overwhelmed and met his fate. I had no chance of escape. I had to fight. I had no choice but to joust against an enemy like this, which left me at a huge disadvantage. I managed to disable his shields, but my hull was visibly mangled and reporting in at 41%. My canopy was starting to fail as visible cracks permeated my vision. I was also nearing mental exhaustion, having gone far and beyond anything I've done before.
My shields were totally gone and I couldn't divert power away from my engines or I'd lose any chance of keeping up with my opponent. I had maybe one or two chances to finish him, and the odds were stacked against me. I boost into a turn and face him.
I hear the unmistakable sound of a ship exiting supercruise and a Python enters my peripheral. The hardpoints deploy and unleash fire and fury upon the Viper, which stood no chance. As it began to explode I turned to my saviour, none other than CMDR Ronnie. I sunk back into my pilots chair and let all the tension leave my body. It was over. 9 pirate ships and 3 system authority vessels floated in ruins. We immediately made our way back to Hobaugh for repairs, in case there were more pirates inbound.
On the way back we evaluated what happened. When Ronnie and I dropped into the fighting, he dropped in a few hundred meters behind me. While I was disengaging, he stayed behind and took on the 4 pirates near him. In all the intensity we simply ended up out of sensor range. He saw my shields go down, assessed the danger I was in, and assumed I had escaped. Because our comms were in chaos we failed to communicate our locations, and after his work was done he broke off and went back into supercruise. Fortunately he checked for my beacon signal and saw I was still in the planetary ring, so he turned back despite having some fair damage to his hull. My respect for CMDR Ronnie and his vessel grew tenfold and I knew I had found an incredible wingmate.
There are still 9 pirates left. We can only hope they aren't waiting for us. As soon as the repairs on our ships our finished, we can head back out and finish the job. I've sent a formal request to the Order for assistance, but with all the recent events in home space, and with war in Fortuna looming on the horizon, we are expecting to finish this mission alone. I am not worried nor am I afraid. The Void watches over us, after all, and we learned much from this encounter.
It's the pirates who should be afraid.
CMDR Bingo Bango, signing off.