"Warning: Shield Capacity to 38 percent," chimed the emotionless voice of the AI.
Unfortunately, you can only hear the same warning messages so many times before you can't stand it. Another wave of Sleeper missiles slammed into my shields, blinding me for a second as the energy splashed off of them.
"Warning: Shield Capacity at 36 percent."
"I KNOW! SHUT UP SHUT UP ALREADY! GOD! SO STRESS..."
"Warning: Shield Capacity to 38 percent," repeated the hot, but extremely annoying babe.
"I can't deal ..."
"Warning: Shield Capacity BSSZZZT!!!" announced the computerized voice.
A smoking hole now occupied the space where the AI's alarm sounds, in the case of low shields, low armor, and hull damage, were stored. It was a very small disk. Was. Now it was a satisfyingly shattered piece of machinery.
"Bitch," I spat. "I'm going to have to change your programming so that you actually have some personality. Maybe I'll make you sound Caldari too while I'm at it. Or Klingon. Whatever. And some new warning messages."
The day had not been going well for me. I had been solo'ing the same Sleeper base for almost two hours now. Granted, it was the hardest class two Radar site known, an Unsecured Transponder Farm, but still, two hours. And since I had to operate autocannons because my artillery skills blew, and because I didn't have Advanced Weapons Upgrades V, and because there probably wasn't power enough anyways to fit even the tech two six fifties, I wasted ALOT of bullets. So far, I'd used six thousand bullets, split evenly between Fusion, Phased Plasma, and EMP. The upside was that my ship, Repulse, even in my home class two Wolf-Rayet (which happened to be worst possible system to run my ship setup) had a peak shield recharge of two hundred forty-eight per second.
Of course, that doesn't stop eight cruiser sized sleepers and four frigate sized sleepers from making that look pitiful. I'd already had to warp in and out several times, a few with armor damage, which of course needed repairing. I felt I could maintain my peak recharge rate though at this point, with only four cruisers left. I just wasn't sure I'd have enough bullets to make it through comfortably. It was more of a hope and pray situation that someone didn't come in to gank me, because I would go down faster than a Matari whore's thong when said whore was drugged out of her mind at a Gallente orgy.
I'd seen it happen and knew exactly how fast that was. Some neural processes are slower than that.
***************************Thirty minutes later, my shields finally had the chance to recharge. To full, mind you, none of that peak recharge stuff. All the Sleepers had finally been destroyed and I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The transit back to base was short, but relaxing, and not filled with red bars oscillating between almost dead and kinda dead. My guns weren't constantly sending tiny shock waves through the ship either, a welcome relief. I think if it had gone much longer my back would have been jazzercized to mulch.
Upon arriving at the base, I stored my Hurricane in the Ship Maintenance Array, and boarded the Salvage destroyer I'd fit so long along. Nothing special about it. It was a Thrasher. Two rigged bits of Salvage tackle, three salvagers, three tractor beams, an MWD, a codebreaker, and an analyzer, and some CPU upgrades to accompany my core probe launcher. A decent general purpose looting ship, minus of course all the firepower that has to proceed looting of any sort.
I made my way back to the wreckage.
***************************After thirty minutes, and salvaging something like twenty-five wrecked Sleepers, my biggest loot in terms of salvage were the two Melted Nanoribbons that had come off of the one battleship to appear during that whole ordeal. "Two friggin' nanoribbons...ugh! That barely covers the bullets I had to use to kill all this crap!" A few new dents made their way into the walls of the Thrasher's interior, none of any consequence.
Sullenly, I warped back to base, and upon arrival, stashed the salvage and loot, boarded my trusty Hound, "Kernel Panic!", and went to camp the Hi-sec entrance to the system. I was hoping some idiot would come prowling around for a good time, and I'd pull it out his ass the hard way. I muttered angrily under my breath. Setting the ship to auto-orbit the anomaly at twenty-eight km, I stalked out of the command module to my library of books and picked up the Harry Dresden novel I had been reading the night before.
I had quickly grown bored of camping the Hi-Sec wormhole.
In search of greener pastures, I got up the gumption to go explore the W-space network as it was at that moment. After talking shortly with two corpmates, I warped off in the direction of the class four wormhole my system always generated. I jumped through immediately upon arrival. The transit wasn't pleasant as space-time folded like so much origami around me, inside me, spitting me back out into normal space after roughly five seconds.
I shivered. It never got any easier. It did unfortunately get worse depending on the type of wormhole one entered. The more mass was allowed to pass through a wormhole, the bigger the distortion, and the bigger the physical effects.
Pulling myself together, I quickly set my ship to orbit the exit at thirty km, cloaking as immediately was possible.
"Nothing on D-scan...that's good," I muttered to myself. With nothing in the immediate vicinity, I made a quick tour of the outer planets to verify the zero occupancy of the system. After a few minutes, I had confirmed it. Not a trace of life. An empty wasteland.
With no apparent threat, I de-cloaked and launched my sister's core scanner probes, four out of six of them. I re-cloaked as soon as was feasible, setting about discovering the treasures left in that abandoned system.
**************************I warped to one of the wormhole signatures I had found with my probes. It appeared to lead into Class one or Class two wormhole space, but my money was on Class two. I've never found any Class one w-spaces connected directly to a Class four.
Before heading in, I decided to check out the other one. I initiated warp and closed my eyes for the twenty second journey, listening to the relaxing hum of compressed space-time moving about me in my own little tunnel through the universe.
The ship decelerated reluctantly, edging back into normal space-time as I approached the other exit-connection.
"WHOA!! A Class five!" I exclaimed over the corporate comms. "Hey Moph, I'm gonna go check it out."
I prepared myself for a rather nasty set of side effects, pushed through the space-time membrane that was the entrance to the next w-space, and did my best to bear with it.
**************************As I exited back into normal space, my stomach wrenched violently. Grotesquely so.
Thankfully, I had programmed a simple AI of myself to make commands for me when I was otherwise incapacitated. My AI clone immediately set to orbit the exit at thirty km, cloaking as soon as possible. It wasn't as fast as I could have done it, but considering that I was still hunched over the floor in an almost unnatural position retching my insides inside-out, it was extremely well done.
After half a minute, I finally managed to catch my breath and stop the heaving. Wiping my tears and my mouth, I took slow deep breaths while the ship glided through the new system unseen, hopefully undetected. I paced unsteadily, getting the blood flowing through my body again in a normal fashion, recovering.
"No signatures on directional scan," declared the clone. It was kept up to date with my procedures, my voice, my verbal inflections. I sometimes couldn't tell if I was speaking or it was.
The ship set about using directional scan on the outlying planetary bodies that were beyond directional scan range. I let it, using the time to get myself put back together.
**************************I had discovered few places of interest in that Class five. A bountiful reservoir, a barren reservoir, two gravimetric disturbances that I had ignored, and yet another wormhole connection. I was hardly surprised by this last; most systems in W-Space opened into another system of some type. I had not yet heard of one that only ever got opened into. And I'd be damned if I was going to sit in a mining barge, never you mind how long it had taken me to break down and train Mining Barge V, in the middle of Class five W-Space sucking down rock, Arkonor, Mercoxit, whatever. Mining is my last resort, and most of the time I favor simply "Logging Out" as opposed to "mining". Sleep was important too. So were a lot of things that, while they didn't pay nearly as handsomely as sucking rocks, sure were a lot more fun or more satisfying, usually both.
"Well Moph, I got us a decent ladar site," I sent over the comms.
"Can we handle the Sleepers?" Moph sent back.
"I don't know. These are the tough ones. I have no idea though if they'll behave like their lesser counterparts and not warp disrupt us...Yeah, we could...I think I'll go check out this Class six attached to this Class five though."
"Alright, I'm still out in Hi-Sec anyways, getting implants," replied Moph.
With that I warped to the Class six entrance and mentally prepared for the journey, one that was sure to be excruciating.
**************************It took a full minute before I was able to do anything other than retch uncontrollably. The AI persona had taken over, of course, doing the same tried and true routine.
"No signatures on directional scan. Checking outer planets." I was just barely recovering when my ship warped in on a sight I'd not seen before. A group of capsuleers were dismantling their tower. The tower was a Serpentis Tower at that! The group was patrolling half vigorously around a set of ships at the interior, gathered around the tower packing itself into a nice little box. According to sensors, it would take another thirty minutes for the tower to finish. I hit d-scan reflexively and noticed something strange.
"Well, that answers that."
I sat there, watching them, blood racing, thrumming with anticipation as I contemplated how the kill would go down. I ran various scenarios in my head to kill the remaining industrial, a Badger Mark II. It was going to be dicey the way things were at the current moment though. A Phoenix, a Caldari dreadnought, was cloaking and uncloaking every now and then. A Loki and a Tengu patrolled the scene. An Orca was there as well, but some had been known to fit to kill attacking ships. The Badger had to be the target.
'But what about all those wrecks?' I wondered.
Doing some quick reasoning, I came to the conclusion that I should check out the other moons around that planet, planet X. I was currently at moon I and recorded the position in the ship computer before launching at moon II.
I arrived to find a very similar scenario. Another tower was being taken down.
I traveled to moon III, and finding nothing, warped to moon 4, the final moon around planet X. It was there that I found what appeared to be a graveyard for shuttles.
I contemplated the situation further, checking moons I and II several times over the next thirty minutes.
**************************The countdown timer was at five minutes for the tower being repackaged at moon one.
The blood boiled under my skin. 'This is it,' I thought excitedly. 'The Badger hasn't blown himself up yet, so he's planning on picking up the tower when it finishes.'
"That badger is MINE," the AI and I snarled. It was good to have someone in on it with me, even if it was only a ghost of myself.
Waiting impatiently, my hands shaking, I checked several times that I was lined up on the target. I cloaked, reciting the commands I would give and when.
**************************As the timer hit one minute, I was practically gnashing my teeth.
The Orca apparently was fitted with a cloaking device, just like the dreadnought, and flickered on and off scan repeatedly. As if the situation wasn't stressful enough, I practically jumped every time the overview flickered.
The Loki still hadn't shown up. I hadn't seen if it warped or cloaked, but it hadn't been flicking in and out on me, so I assumed it was at the other tower. The Orca was currently uncloaked. I was still cloaked, thirty eight km off the badger.
The Dreadnought was still nowhere to be seen, even though I knew it was there.
Immediately I set to approach the badger. I de-cloaked, hit the MWD, then launched the bomb, planning to deactivate the MWD just before the bomb went off. Hopefully that would allow me to get close and warp disrupt the badger if it had been prepped for an ambush.
At five seconds the badger exploded in an expanding ball of shrapnel. 'I did it! That Badger's dead!' I immediately veered off and reactivated the cloak, the Orca the only other ship on scan. My ship had not auto targeted, so it seemed that I hadn't even been noticed until I was gone. "You fools were watching that tower just like I was!" I crowed, laughing maniacally. Just to add to the flavor, I raised my arms over my head.
I made my way over to the other tower after watching the Orca scoop the tower, the Loki and Tengu now quite agitated.
**************************It was rather unfortunate, but to be expected, that there were no other kills to be made without most likely losing my life. I watched with glee as the Tengu, Loki, and Orca were extra careful in recovering their other tower, a simple Minmatar Large Control Tower. Definitely not worth dying over.
With that I traversed back into the Class four adjacent to my own Class two, and finally went into the other Class two it was currently connected to. I saw a tower on D-scan, and immediately set about locating it. In the end, I was sitting, cloaked, seventy km away from an Amarr Large Control tower, with all the Sleeper Strongholds scanned down and easily accessible. I reclined haughtily with a satisfied smile on my face.
'This could take a while.'
Computer: terminate recording.