All this data is potentially out of date, and should be taken with a truckload of salt
Drafted 4 - Different training
At the sound of the Sergeant shouting through his megaphone you open your eyes. The idea you had yesterday on the armour improvements is still there, and come to think of it, there are another few ideas you want to try. Before those ideas take hold you find the Sergeant standing at the foot of the bed, already raising his megaphone. You quickly throw up your hands in a sign of surrender and jump out of bed. With a wicked grin on his face the Sergeant walks on, looking for another victim. You get yourself refreshed and clothed. After breakfast, instead of flying your Atron, you are taken by the Sergeant through a rigorous exercise regime. You wonder if that is a good idea, because if this amount of stress on the body is not a problem medical wise then why can’t you fly the spaceship. Some of your comrades are already lying on the floor, quite sick, a couple of them have even thrown up. Even before you can utter the question, Ferrier calls out for a medic. You look at him as he is kneeling next to the body of Baptiste. Baptiste is shaking visibly, twitching left to right, eyes rolling in their sockets and the metal endings of his cranial implants ticking rhythmically on the steel floor. The Sergeants steps in quickly, holding down Baptiste while making a call for medical assistance. Soon after the medics arrive and administering a large dose of sedative, Baptiste is carried away on a stretcher towards the medical bay. Just as everyone catches their breaths and murmurs of questions start to rise, the Sergeant speaks out.
“This is the reason why we don’t let you grunts fly after this procedure. Think of what would happen if he had been flying a ship carrying ammo. Some of you, though we had the initial scans, are just not cut out for this job.” A shudder moves down your spine. Looking at you the Sergeant sees the question in your eyes.
“No he will not be killed just yet. Why would we administer sedatives and bring him to the medical bay? At this moment we have too much invested just to let him die, so we won't. Now back to our exercises, as you all look cooled down enough, we will run another 5 miles, then it’s lunch and time for Lieutenant Pascal’s search patterns.”
A collective groan from the Green Echelon apparently amuses him to the core as he starts into a jog, leading the way for the rest of you. Initially, as you find your second breath, you are quite able to follow the Sergeants’ relentless pace. But as the miles seem to drag on, you feel your muscles ache. Lactose acid build up in your legs seem to scream for an immediate stop of all exercise or even movement of any sort. Your breath comes in ragged heaves and your tread has changed from a confident stride into a mere stumble. Finally the Sergeant slows down his jogging into a brisk walking pace. Five minutes later the Echelon reaches the mess hall, most of them only order a Quafe vitamin R, as they can’t handle any solid food at this moment. Neither can you, and you down the can of Quafe in mere seconds. Sprawled on the benches you see the nurse you met yesterday walking up to the Sergeant as he is piling on food on his plate. Feeling a bit queasy just looking at the food on the plate of the Sergeant, you figure he’s getting an update on Baptiste. Groaning as you get up from the bench you head over to the two of them followed by Ferrier and Simmons who have obviously figured out the same thing as you. Just as you walk up the nurse leaves. You ask the Sergeant how Baptiste is doing.
He looks at the three of you before replying “Should’ve figured you be the ones to ask this, the others are thinking too much of themselves, and that is what is going to be another thing that kills them in the end. Either you work as a team, or you die alone. Anyways Baptiste will be fine in a day or two. He had some kind of seizure and the doc opened him up to adjust the connections to counter those seizures. Apparently that’s a small thing nowadays. By the way, you better get some food if you want to have any energy left for your training this evening.”
Looking at your faces as you try to digest the news of Baptiste and the oncoming fear of tonight’s training, he breaks out in a laughter.
“Don’t worry, it’s not going to be as bad as this morning’s run, just loosening up your muscles a bit before you hit the sack. Otherwise you will not be able to fly tomorrow because of the pain. You look at Ferrier and Simmons as you make your way to the start of the buffet to get some food, though your intestines strongly disagree. They look almost as bad as you feel, but also put some food on their trays. Taking the advice of the Sergeant is still a good idea, but you think he lied when he mentioned the training in the evening, it probably won’t be a light training to loosen up your muscles. It will probably be worse than the training you just finished and you will be crying of pain tomorrow. Nothing you can do about it though, as you find another seat at the table and start forcing food down your throat. Ferrier in the meantime apprises your Echelon comrades of tonight’s training and the news on Baptiste’s situation. The news on Baptiste is taken in almost indifferently, but the news on the training of this evening really seems to hurt. You can’t help but smile in commiseration and continue with your lunch. The next four hours will be filled with the nasal drone of that lieutenant which name you keep forgetting. As you try to remember the name you take countermeasures in the form of the caffeinated Quafe. Drinking the first can you take another one for during the lecture. Still not remembering his name, but vividly remembering the nasal drone you quickly grab two more cans. Hoping this will see you through the lecture and the exam, or at least attempt to escape it by going to the toilet a couple of times to relieve yourself from the bladder filling quality of the Quafe.
Four hours later you emerge from the classroom, bleary eyed, mentally exhausted and full out of Quafe. In a daze you and your equally exhausted comrades you head out for the mess hall to get your dinner and prepare for the light training the Sergeant has in mind for you. Entering the mess hall you can already see the Sergeant grinning in anticipation. Looking at the food, a heavy load of all kinds of meat and other filling substances, you, Ferrier and Simmons decide to keep it light and head out to the salad bar, tucked away in the corner of the buffet. A slight drop in the grin of the Sergeant is an indication you made the right choice. The Sergeant’s grin may have dropped a bit looking at your choice, but is growing bigger and bigger, as he looks at how the others are piling up large slabs of meat, bread and sauces. You fear that the top of his head will fall off if his grin gets any wider. Wondering if you should repeat the warning Ferrier gave your comrades earlier, the three of you head out and get yourself a seat. They were warned but they chose not to listen, so they will find out in an hour or so what the consequences will be. Quietly you finish your meal and start stretching your sore muscles a bit. From the corner of your eyes you see Simmons and Ferrier doing the same as they prepare for the ‘light’ training exercise. As the last of your comrades shoves his plate forward with a content grin of satisfaction, the Sergeant springs into action.
“Ok you had your meal, now it’s time to loosen up the sore muscles you got this morning. We will make just a single lap around the station with a few push and sit ups to get your upper body some action as well, now follow me!” In a brisk walking pace you all head out after the Sergeant towards the outer hallway of the station. Remembering the size of the station you quickly figure out that if you have to run the circumference of the station you will be running for hours, perhaps even days. To your relief you see the Sergeant halt at one of the inner hallways, which cuts short the number of miles you have to run. Still this will take a couple of hours, not counting the time the push and sit ups will take the Sergeant has planned for you. “Ok shut up and let’s start running” the Sergeant shouts as he enters into a jog. You start following, but as you run you have a strange feeling everything is just not quite alright. Every time you cross another main corridor you get a tingly sensation in the nape of your neck. At the next crossing you see a glimpse of a flashing warning sign on the wall of the side corridor. As the Sergeant seems to accelerate more and more and you struggle to keep up, until he finally stops at the next crossing. Most of your comrades hit the floor exhausted by a two mile run and too much rich food. None of them is throwing up yet, but you suspect that this will change in a couple of miles. The Sergeant hurries you into a number of sit ups, push ups and balance exercises. During the exercise you get a good look at the flashing warning sign and the text below it. “Warning, altered gravity in crossing this hallway. Gravity at 1.5” it read. Ah, so that’s it, you think by yourself as you nudge Simmons and Ferrier to point out the sign, nearly destroying their balance, which would have resulted in doing ten more push ups. Fortunately they recover fast enough, looking at you a bit annoyed, then they finally see the warning sign as well. Their frowns deepen, but soon they realise, just like you, that there is nothing you nor they can do about it. You just have to endure it. Again the Sergeant heads out in front of you in a brisk jog, seemingly unaffected by either the exercises, the jog or the altered gravity. Though your comrades tried, the exercises are taking their toll. Not one of them has kept that fantastic dinner inside. The contents of their stomachs line the hallway in unidentifiable heaps. Cleaning bots already trying to get the place spotless again. Five corridors back the first one couldn’t get up after the tenth set of push ups. Fortunately the gravity didn’t get higher than two times normal, but at the end of the run only five of you are left. You, Simmons, Ferrier, Gaultier and Jones, and of course the Sergeant, who at least has broken into a sweat. The comparison however fades to nothing as the five of you are drenched in it.
“Well, that’s a bit surprising” the Sergeant says as he quickly controls his breathing. “I thought I lost you all half a mile ago, but here you are, looking a bit worse for wear. Apparently your condition is abominable to say the least. So we better start doing this more often to get you all into shape.” Gasping for breath you look at him frantically trying to control your own breathing, “Can we at least do this in normal gravity?” you ask between two rasping intakes of air.
“Heck no, but of you to notice at least that gravity was going up. Anyways, you can head out for your bunks and get a good night’s sleep. In the meanwhile I will inform your comrades on this bit of good news.” With a wicked grin he leaves the five of you and starts walking down the corridor to your comrades, starting to whistle as he goes along. You look at your comrades as they line the corridor, in sweat soaked shirts, not being able to utter a meaningful word the five of you stumble grumble and pant the way back to the Green Echelon quarters. Reaching your bed, you don’t even take of your clothes or bother to wriggle your way under the sheets. Exhausted you close your eyes and fade to sleep in mere seconds. You don’t even wake up to the sound of the others as they enter the quarters, moaning like if they were shot in the knees.
Somebody is shaking you at the shoulders. You try to wave him away in order to get some more sleep, but a stab of pain in your shoulder makes that a futile attempt. You mumble something like ‘mwaoah sleep’ and the shaking stops. Suddenly your whole body moves as your mattress is tipped over and you hit the floor hard. Lying on your back, half covered by the mattress you find the Sergeant standing at your feet. He seems to have integrated another amplifier on the damn megaphone because the sound he’s able to make nearly pierces your eardrums. Fortunately, as you struggle to your feet, he has more victims to wake as your comrades are also in a comatose like sleep after yesterday’s training, just like you were.
The Sergeant makes quick work of his morning ritual, but now almost everyone is lying on the floor, instead of just clasping their ears as usual. You take a look at the carnage in the Green Echelon quarters, and decide to leave it and stumble towards the showers and try to loosen up your muscles. As you enter the shower you hear the Sergeant shout something about flight training in an hour and breakfast before that. You don’t even want to think about training let alone breakfast just yet. In the shower, working the tabs to create an alternating hot and cold jet of water you massage your muscles, feeling them relax. Working them to get the worst of the pain to go away, you also notice that your appetite has returned as well. After a quick side to side flick of your head you hear and feel vertebrae in your neck popping back into place, you decide it’s time for breakfast. Towelling off vigorously to get even more blood flowing you enter the quarters again. The mayhem you left behind is replaced by a chorus of groans and moans of your comrades as the effects of the training on their bodies finally reach the pain receivers in their head. You see the Sergeant standing in the doorway, looking like he enjoys the wailing as a chorus to an opera of his own devising.
You shrug and move to your bunk, replacing the mattress and blankets. After dressing into your flight overalls, you head out to the mess hall. Piling up food, bread, leftover meat of yesterday’s dinner and two mugs of coffee, you sit down and start to dig in. One by one you see your comrades shuffle and stumble in. By the time you finish your second mug, everyone is there, most still moaning and groaning, but more mobile than when they woke up thirty minutes earlier. You look at the clock, still some 20 minutes to go before the two minute walk to the hangar. You decide to have another coffee to kill the time. As you fill your mug with the black gold you decide to head out to the hangar ahead of time, to take a look at the ships. They still look awesome, grand sleek designs, looking as if they are still at light speed, whilst hovering in the hangar. As you still admire the ships, you are joined by Simmons and Ferrier, enjoying their coffee as well, and by the looks of it, also admiring the ships in the hangar.
“I wonder if we’ll keep flying these things in the future” Ferrier says, breaking the silence.
“What do you mean?” Simmons asks. You turn to the both of them curious what the reason is as well, because you really like the Atron.
“Well” Ferrier starts, “it doesn’t really have the electronic capabilities nor the probe and scanning extra’s other ships have. I mean, look at the Imicus, or even better the Helios, now that’s a fine looking ship.”
You quickly walk over to the nearest terminal to access the information on the Imicus. Looking at the description and skill requirements you take a good look at Ferrier. “But that’s a probe ship, for scanning and stuff. With drones even” you say.
“Indeed it is, it is what I am training for. The Sergeant suggested it and we created the skillplan together in order to fly one of these and use the probes to find the targets. He said that having a lot of fighters is always good, but there have to be targets to attack in the first place, else the fighters are useless.” Ferrier finishes, imitating the raspy sound of the Sergeant’s voice. Laughing at the imitation you return to the terminal to look up the specifications on the Helios, as well as some more information on scanning and probing. Simmons is looking over your shoulder as you point out various interesting things on both the Helios as well as the scanning. Finally you take a last sip of your coffee, finding the mug completely empty, it’s time to get back into the Atron first.
“But I’m still not finished with this scanning stuff, I still want to know more”, you say to Ferrier, while Simmons is nodding in agreement.
“Ok we’ll talk more during dinner tonight” he replies.
“Ok then, see you at dinner” as you reach the station of your ‘own’ Atron. After the usual procedure your pod is hoisted into the Atron. A warm welcome awaits you from Aura, for the first time on a non-ear-piercing level. Remembering the ideas you had on the armour improvements, you quickly run them by Aura, before implementing them. Still in the hangar you and Simmons get a new training exercise, looking over the specifics you raise Simmons on the comm-line.
“You reading this?” you ask.
“Not yet, thought up some improvements on armour compensation” he replies.
“Heh heh” you grin, “did the same over here. But this exercise is for the two of us. A number of ships at the exercise grid, six of them in total, that should be easy enough. You and I can take on six drone ships alone, so this exercise is going to be over in just a few minutes.”
“Don’t get to cocky” Simmons replies, “the Sergeant thought up these exercises, so they won’t be easy. Besides, we both are apparently needed for this, so you can bet you’d be killed soon enough if you have to do this exercise alone. Let’s just stick with the same strategy as with those Serpentis pirates.”
“You may have a point, the Sergeant will never let us do simple exercises. I’m going to take a few seconds to make sure that everything on the ship is in order, including the guns and the drone. Last time my ship was repaired, but they forgot to repair or change the drone. I’ll meet you outside in a minute or two.”
With that you focus on the ship, cargo hold, weapons and the other modules they fitted. You even request an extra repair quote to make sure you’re ready. Simmons is right, this won’t be easy. The Sergeant would never allow it, not in a million years. So, what’s going to happen? You get the repair quote, noticing nothing that needs to be repaired at all. So they fixed the drone as well, but still, you learned that you better be sure than sorry. You exit the hangar to find Simmons already waiting.
“Ok let’s go” you say to him over the open comm-line. You both point your ship into the direction of the training grid and start initiating the warp cycle. After a short warp you and Simmons enter the training area. Seeing the bulk of the drone ship hangar you are quite ready for things to come, but still apprehensive nonetheless. You start circling the area in a close formation flight with Simmons. A short warning from Aura indicates that the drone ships have arrived.
“Ok they’re here. What do you make of them Simmons?” “It looks like a squad of two frigate class ships and one cruiser class.” Simmons replies.
“Which one do we attack first?” You think quickly, the cruiser, by the looks of it a Celestis. It will do massive damage, but the small frigates pack a punch as well, and waiting for the Celestis to drop will give them ample time to start their electronic warfare on you. Dampening, perhaps even breaking the lock you have on them.
You make a choice and let Simmons know “let’s dispense of the smaller ones first and then go for the cruiser.” As you train your weapons on the closest frigate, you start up your damage control and release your single Hobgoblin. Plotting a course to get the best angle on your target whilst minimizing the damage that will come from your opponents, you see that Simmons has taken the same precautions. With a burst of fire from both your weapons, as well as those from Simmons, you see the first target taking massive damage. You can’t help but smile as you see the results of this form of attack. As both drones take out the first frigate you suddenly feel the impact of the fire that Celestis is laying down on you. Shields evaporate almost instantly and you try to dodge the incoming rounds of ammunition. Simmons, not yet attacked, is already firing on the second frigate and you quickly follow suit. This one is taking longer to take down, reasons being on that your dodging and weaving is killing the tracking of your 75 mm guns as well as ruining the optimal transversal speeds. On the other hand your drone has taken it on himself to single handed killing the Celestis, slightly denting his shields. You decide to keep it there as the second frigate is already entering structure as it is. Looking at the status of your own armour, despite the hardening and changes you made earlier, it is dropping quickly under the hammering fire of the cruiser. You start the first armour repair cycle, and feel a bit relieved as the nanites start to put back a chunk of armour. Unfortunately the cruiser is still firing at you and what you gained is quickly lost again. Taking a quick look at the status of your capacitor you decide to keep it running for the moment. Your drone in the meantime has been joined by the drone of Simmons and both of them are enough to overcome the recharge rate of the shields of the Celestis, bringing them down significantly.
As you and Simmons put a last couple of shots in the remaining frigate and watch it explode into tiny pieces, the both of you turn your attention and your guns on the cruiser. Circling it at the optimum range for your antimatter loaded guns, assisted by the drones, you chip away at its armour. You see the effects of a repairer go off on the Celestis, but to no avail. It goes down in a few minutes, hairy as those may be, and blows up most spectacularly. A big reddish cloud follows the initial flash of light, and you return to the HUD to look at the status of your armour, your drone and lastly Simmons.
“So you didn’t even get hit by that Celestis, now did you”, you ask Simmons.
Grinning from ear to ear he replies “No, it was too interested in you to even notice me. Only the frigates took some pot-shots at me, but the explosion of the cruiser was nice enough.”
You can’t help but grin a bit as well. You didn’t hit structure, your armour is repairing and you still got enough capacitor left. “Incoming transmission” you hear your and Simmons’ Aura say.
“Put it through” both of you reply in unison. Immediately you see the Sergeants face right in front of you.
“Well done, good strategy and good application of tactics.”
“Is that what I was doing? There I was thinking I was getting my armour shot off” you reply sarcastically.
“Watch your tone there grunt, or it’ll be a couple of extra laps tonight” the Sergeant replies. “Besides you survived, which can’t be said of a couple of your teammates, which are being dragged back to the station in their pods. Now we’ll not kill them yet, but they will not join in any military type of exercises. We got other uses for them which you can ask them about later. For now, as soon as you finish your repairs, you will face more and more difficult opponents. At the edge of the training area you will find a secure container with more ammo if you need it, and there are also a number of drones floating around if you manage to let yours get blown up. Aura will make sure you’re ready for the next wave of drone ships” and with that the Sergeant closes the communication channel.
“So we don’t get a day off, just the prospect of more drone ships that try to kill you and me” you say to Simmons. He just shrugs, checks his own system, recalls his drone and looks back at you. “Reloaded my guns and recalled my drone, have you repaired your armour?”
“Almost there, but I hope Aura leaves me some time to replenish my capacitor a bit.”
“I’m programmed to summon the next wave as soon as all input values are at least at 80%” Aura replies.
“Well that gives me some time to reload my antimatter rounds, now doesn’t it.”
“So it seems” Aura replies, not noticing the sarcasm you tried to put into that comment.
The next few attacks pretty much go the same as the previous, sometimes making Simmons the primary target, but mostly they find your ship the most interesting to try to kill. Six hours later you return to the cargo container to find it’s locked.
“What gives?” you ask Aura.
“Training is over, return to the station for debriefing and theory sessions.”
Sighing with relief, you and Simmons head back to the station. An hour later you are sighing again. Now not of relief, but of the tedious conversation of your debriefing. Seemingly endless reruns of the dogfights and the actions of you and Simmons during them. Why did you choose those frigates as primary, why did you keep your ship at that specific range? Answering ‘because I felt like it’ got you a reprimand and they made you go through it all again, trying to make you rationalise the almost gut instinct decisions you made during the training. You understand the reasoning behind this exercise, but it is tedious nonetheless. Finally the debriefing is over, both you and Simmons walk out, only to realise that a theory session is waiting for you.
“Do you know what it’s about?” Simmons asks.
“Haven’t got a clue” you reply “but we better prepare for a boring one like that one on search patterns.”
Heading for the classroom, you make a quick detour through the mess hall to collect some Quafe cans. While you and Simmons are stocking the good stuff you see the Sergeant arguing with another sergeant, one of the white echelon, guessing by the white sleeve on his arm. You nudge Simmons and nod your head in their direction.
“What do you think is going on there?”
“Don’t know, don’t care” Simmons replies “but I’ll bet ours will win if it comes to a fight” he adds with a grin.
Shrugging your shoulders you head out of the mess hall on your way to the classroom. With a sigh you drop yourself into one of the waiting chairs. Taking a sip from your Quafe can you look around. The faces of your ‘colleagues’ have become a familiar sight. Craning your neck to see who’s behind you, you quickly spin your head back as you feel that someone has entered the room. This one you don’t know as of yet. A good looking woman entered the room, the classroom falls into a leering silence. Before anyone can make a remark however, the Sergeant storms in. Fuming with anger, he takes the desk near the exit and turns it ninety degrees, so he faces both the woman as well as the rest of the echelon. You guess that the altercation with the other sergeant didn’t go well, perhaps he did lose. You grin at that thought coming up, only to see the scowl of the Sergeant deepen as he keeps his eyes on you. With an apologetic shrug you focus your attention on the woman as she clears her throat and starts to introduce herself.
“I am captain Jeannette Morero. You will address me as captain, understand?” With a grunt of different pitches the echelon acknowledges that. “I’ve been assured by your Sergeant that any stupid remark will earn you” she pauses and turns to the Sergeant, “an extra mile on tonight’s run wasn’t it?”
“Better make that two captain” the Sergeant replies.
“Very well” and she turns back to the class “you understand that as well?“
Another grunt comes from the echelon, this time with the certainty of pain in the evening of another run. The rest of the training goes by in a blur, something about biology, a topic that really isn’t interesting to you. As it happens, neither to the rest of your comrades as each and every single control question the captain asks is answered incorrectly. Because of a few ‘smart remarks’ consisting of ‘blue, ‘because of the trousers-o-time’, ‘because it tastes good’, ‘your momma’ your echelon earned another 8 miles to the evenings run. Fortunately the training is over and dinner time has arrived.
Along with Ferrier and Simmons you head out to the mess hall, remembering the questions you still had to ask Ferrier about that scanning stuff. As you sit down you are joined by Baptiste. Between bites you grill Ferrier about the scanning and how the probes work. Ferrier tries to explain, using the table, cutlery and condiments as makeshift space, probes and anomalies. When he starts to go on about ladar and radar signatures you quickly lose him. As Ferrier notices your eyes glazing over, he changes the topic casually to Baptiste and what he has been up to. Baptiste starts telling about the hospital and the care he’s been given.
“They practically reassigned me” he states. “I’m to start on mining skills as soon as possible, then I need to learn all the combat skills as well, but on a slower pace than you guys.” The three of you look at him.
“Well that must suck” Simmons comments, subtle as ever.
“At first I thought so too, but there are some benefits” Baptiste replies. “I don’t get shot at by capsuleers or pirates, and even if I do get shot at, we are protected by a number of combat pilots such as you. Or, better than you hopefully. Even better, if Ferrier is any good at scanning, he can scan down those hidden asteroid belts and we’ll be completely safe mining those. Other sites to mine will be the sites you clear of any bad guys before I even enter the field.”
“That’s true, those are some good benefits, but won’t you miss all the combat flying? You seemed to love it before your…lack of sanity” you add with a wicked grin.
“Lack of sanity” Baptiste replies with a smile. “I guess it gets boring, why do you think all those mining songs are about? Perhaps I will even write some of my own. Oh rock of Veldspar, rock my world” he starts in a cracked baritone voice.
Clasping your hands to your ears you shout out “don’t give up your day job just yet!” The entire echelon agrees with you. Baptiste laughs with you and adds “still I won’t be a sitting duck. In a couple of days my drone training finishes and I’ll have 5 little helpers protecting me. Better still, tech 2 drones even, if I get into my Exhumer class miner. I may be doing boring work, but I will make a mint because of the bonus I get on the raw ore I bring in. And when my refining skills get better I even make more on the refined materials. Besides where do you think those beautiful Atrons come from, a black hole?” The members of the Green Echelon agree, though some try to debate the nature of beauty “cause the Atron is ugly as hell” one adds. Before the argument gets further, the Sergeant shows up. In a slightly better mood he announces the evenings training and suggests you take out your running gear because of the smart remarks earlier. All of you head out to your quarters to change, this time you are going to try out your new gear you got from the quartermaster. A body suit with active cooling and a face mask, increasing your oxygen intake. This should keep you from ‘sweating like a Caldari cube pig’ according to the corporal who issued it to you for a small fee of course. Simmons and Ferrier also got one for themselves, but didn’t go for the mask. The run would still be gruelling but a bit less uncomfortable, at least that is what you hope for. The Sergeant might object to it so you position yourself into the back of the group. After the first four miles everyone is keeping up just fine. Checking the main corridors as you pass them you notice that the Sergeant isn’t using the augmented gravity. Another four miles and everything is a-ok, the entire echelon is still going strong, even after all the running, the push-ups, sit-ups and other similar exercises the Sergeant throws at you. The Sergeant is getting more chagrin by the minute. Not seeing the grunts sweat clearly sits wrong with him. At mile twelve, six miles to go still, he halts at the entrance of the main corridor.
“As you are all cheating with your fancy clothes you won’t mind if I do the same” he says as he is walking towards the gravity console. “We are still going to run six miles, but this time at twice the gravity. Let’s find out how good your gear really is”.
A grunt from the Echelon brings a bit of humour back into his eyes. The next mile everyone is keeping up, but beads of sweat start to appear. The second and third mile starts to leave everyone in sweat, followed by the fourth and fifth mile. When you reach the corridor that marks the end of the fifth mile, you collapse to the ground. Pain in your knees, ankles, hips, back and every other joint you have in your body is creaking with pain. You don’t breathe as heavy as your buddies, but you feel as exhausted as they look. The Sergeant is getting in a better mood as the miles pass and cries of pain reach his ears. He’s drenched in sweat, just like you, breathing heavy as well, but clearly enjoying this head to head with the gear of the Echelon. You know he is going to be the one left standing at the end of the sixth and hopefully the last mile. Starting to feel in control of your muscles again, you struggle to get up, only to find out that they’ve been replaced by bags of gelatine, twitching uncontrollably. Every move is a fight to keep your balance, so you reach out to touch the wall, as if to aid your failing muscles. Glancing at the gage you find out that the gravity is on level 3.5. Looking a bit frustrated at the Sergeant you see him grinning at you, shrugging his shoulders he starts looking for where the stragglers are. Apparently half of your comrades have disappeared along the way. Seeing as you didn’t notice that before, you conclude that you are more tired than you have ever been. The Sergeant is bored with waiting for the ones stumbling, even crawling to where the remainder of the echelon is waiting. He shouts to get moving and that anyone not completing the next mile is going to see him early in the morning to try again. Although your body is screaming with pain you try to follow him nonetheless. Every step jolts your bones, but you manage to get into a lumbering jog, counting every step you make towards the last, when rest will be your reward. After about 300 steps you lose count as you have to swerve around a fallen comrade. The Sergeant is already out of sight, running around as if nothing can faze him the slightest. Ferrier and Simmons, both gasping for breath, fall into a more normal walk, and you decide to joint them. There’s going to be a lot of work for the nanites tomorrow, but you wonder if they can bring you back to life, as you feel more dead than alive. Finally you reach the end of the mile, looking at the Sergeant, standing there with a disappointing look on his face in seeing you have made it after all. Quickly replaced by a wicked smile as you fall flat on your face at his feet.
You wake at the shouts of the Sergeant. Apparently you made it to your quarters, but you have no recollection of that. Trying to move you feel jabs of pain in your muscles and joints. Everything hurts. You raise your head to see your comrades in the same predicament. The Sergeant steps up to the bed and flicks your feet with his hand to get your attention.
“You don’t have to run, neither do Ferrier and Simmons. Get a shower, some breakfast and get into your pod. The nanites in there will fix you up, besides there are a number of training exercises I want you to go through. With a croaked voice you reply a ‘yes Sergeant’.
As most of the Echelon is leaving the quarters, the remainder shuffle their way towards the showers. Under the pulsating flow of the shower you get some life back into your body only to realize that life is pain, a lot of pain. Even worse, after exiting the shower, you try to pick up a towel and bend forwards, that’s not the hard part. Getting upright is the challenge, and you cannot help to groan with exertion getting up, hearing your joints creak from the stress. Hoping that your pod will bring you relieve, you make quick work of your breakfast and head out to the hangar. With a sigh of content you slip into your pod, feeling the pod-goo warming to your body. You can almost feel the nanites doing their work, infusing your body, repairing the damage to your muscles and bones. Testing this by lifting up your legs, even though suspended in the pod-goo, proves you wrong. It still hurts, but thoughts of that are quickly replaced by the shimmering image of Aura.
“That’s the first time I see your face” you say “and by the way good morning to you”.
“Good morning as well, and yes, this is the first time I have appeared as an image. One of the engineers wanted to see if this would have benefits for the capsuleer. You will be asked to fill in an evaluation form later on”.
“Well alright, as long as you don’t interfere with my vision of the training area, and especially not during any dogfights”.
“I will save your parameters in the settings file.” Aura replies. “This mornings’ mission will involve you ensign Ferrier, Simmons and Baptiste. You will go to the system Navarre and scan down the hidden asteroid belt. After finding that you and Simmons will move in and secure the site and keep it secure. Baptiste will be part of the mining operation. Furthermore you have a skill change planned for today as your current skill is almost at level 5”.
“Wow, that almost looks like a real mission, and here I was thinking that we were going to do those boring training exercises again” you reply. “Never mind, so once we found the hidden belt we just sit at a nearby asteroid, while Baptiste does his mining thing?”
“Of course not” Aura replies almost sarcastically, “you can run around the different belts and search for pirates and shoot them. Your first priority is , however, to protect the mining operation. Then there are a number of books you still haven’t finished. One more thing, there are a number of battle cruisers, battleships on a two minute standby, in case you encounter a capsuleer pirate or a pirate armada that’s a size too big for you to take on. Oh, as well as for the chance you might try to run, though that shouldn’t be much of a problem, because of my programming I will stop you if you try”. Was Aura’s face a bit blank before, now it looks a bit smug. With another sigh you start your pre-flight checks, checking armament, modules, cargo. With just a thought you also set up a conference communication with the others.
“You should get an invite from a guy called Harris” Baptiste quickly says. “Accept it and you will get some bonuses on shields and armour resistance, he’s quite good at organising stuff.”
Just when he says this, you get a fleet invite. You accept it and start to check out who is who of the other fleet members. You, Simmons and Ferrier are quickly put together in a squad of your own. You realize that synchronizing with the other members does indeed give you a bonus in shield and armour hitpoints and resistances. This you should remember when you and Simmons get those training missions again. Perhaps you should consider changing your skillplan to improve the percentages, something to talk over with the Sergeant later. Thinking of skills you decide to start the sequence to add another skill right after your current skill is completely learned. Guns, resistance, ship skills, a tough decision, asking Aura what was planned, you decide on another resistance skill. You have to learn them all, so it doesn’t really matter to be honest. Just as you add the skill to the queue you hear Ferrier calling out to you that you and Simmons need to go with him to the next system. Clear from the station you a large number of ships floating in the perimeter of the station. A Rorqual, some Orca’s a good number of Retrievers, Covetors and Hulks and a dozen of Iteron ships in all sizes. In the background you see your ‘back-up’ flying lazy circuits around the fleet. Five cruisers and two battleships, and three ships that look like Atrons but are their tech 2 variants. A few Ares and several Taranis are ready to hunt you down if you try to escape.
“Well we better get started” Ferrier says breaking the silence. “We’re heading out to the stargate, don’t touch your controls and let me do the warp procedures.” Seconds later you have entered warp, quickly closing the distance to a nearby gate to the next system, the one where you encountered the Serpentis pirates, what looks like months ago. After jumping Ferrier repeats the warping procedures to warp to the next system in route, leaving you with time to spare, you look over the stats of your ship, only to find that the bonuses of the fleet have disappeared. Apparently being light years apart makes you lose them, though the communication system still works, which makes sense in a way. They use a different system as you remember the session on stellar communication. Jumping through a gate you arrive at your designated system, Aura announces it to make you absolutely sure. Moments later a flash makes you panning your camera towards it, finding one of the tech 2 frigates has followed you. Neither Simmons or Ferrier seem to notice, besides Ferrier is already busy with setting up his scanning probes. You see them getting out of the launching pod like a pack of puppy bloodhounds, eager to find prey. A few jittering movements and they’re off, warping to their designated positions in the system. You sit and watch Ferrier do his scanning via a feed into his system. In the meanwhile you do your own scanning, trying to determine if there are any pirates in the vicinity. Apart from the occasional capsuleer and of course your frigate companion the entire system is devoid of life. A number of planets and their moons, along with the ten or so asteroid belts are the only things there are. The capsuleers are more or less harmless as well, but you keep your eye on them. They may have indicated that they’re not involved in the war with the Caldari, on either side, but that doesn’t mean they’re not providing intel to them. That’s at least what the lieutenant said on his ‘History of Gallente-Caldari wars’. The ones that fly hulks are probably just miners, and the ones in the cruisers are on missions or simply ‘ratting’, the capsuleer way of going after pirates for their bounty, the loot and the salvage. A chirping sound refocuses your attention on the probes from Ferrier, they have found something. “Nothing definitive, but we’re almost there” Ferrier announces, warping you to a new location redeploying the drones in a tighter more specific search area. A few minutes later, another chirping sound, this time there is a hit on the hidden asteroid belt, well, formerly hidden asteroid belt.
“Let’s check it out, you and Simmons provide some cover” Ferrier says, sounding happy about finding the belt so fast.
“Alright, lead the way” you reply, readying your ship for a battle. “Hardeners on, damage control on, weapons loaded and ready” you call of your checks, echoed by Simmons who is doing the same. As you exit warp you are startled by what you see before you. You haven’t done any courses on asteroids or on mining, but the entire view is dotted by every kind of asteroid. You grumble as you quickly reset your HUD overview settings, in order to determine if there are any pirates in around. But as you adjust your radar, you find that this chunk of space is only filled with asteroids.
“Report that to the fleet commander” you hear Simmons say to you. “In the meanwhile Ferrier and I will scan for ships using cloaks”.
“Roger” you reply as you relay your findings to the fleet commander.
“Good” Harris replies, “we will be with you in a couple of minutes. Keep up your guard and keep checking if there are any hostiles around.”
With a “Will do sir” you end the communication.
Ferrier and Simmons have travelled a few clicks away from you into the heart of the asteroid belt. You decide that in the meanwhile you can learn a bit about those rocks. What are they made off, what can be refined from it, what skills you would need to have to be able to make a few ISK from them. You even go so far as looking up the mineral prices in the region. Seeing large buy orders from the Federal Defense Union, needed to make more ships and drones we can then blow up again in our training sessions. A number of flashes make you decide to put away your calculator and focus again on the job at hand. First to arrive is your escort, the battleships, cruisers and the tech 2 frigates. Just to make sure we don’t muck about in our assessment of this situation here. ‘No guys there aren’t any hostiles in the area’ you think to yourself. A few moments later the escorts are joined by the mining force, a large number of ships, even more than when you say them at the station perimeter. You get a message from Harris the fleet commander.
“Well done in scanning this place down so fast Ferrier, you can start scanning for other signatures. We have been told there is a wormhole nearby as well, see if you can pin it down. If you find it however, do not enter it. Even our current escort would most likely not be able to handle what’s in there. We’ll send a specialist team in there to deal with the Sleeper ships. Your two amice will escort you during your search. I expect that I don’t have to tell you not to leave this system unless I give you permission.” With that he ends his transmission. In your fleet overview you see him issuing orders to the other members of the fleet, the wing commanders. They are subsequently giving their orders to the squads that are their responsibility. Mesmerized by the changes the Rorqual is going through, going from flight mode to the industrial setup, you also see the miners heading out all over the area, accompanied by the Orca’s. Each one of them is leading a wing of miners, including Baptiste. Even though there are so many of them, they are dwarfed by the sheer size of the asteroid field. They won’t be finished any time soon, you think to yourself.
“Hey, we’re going, wanna tag along?” Simmons suddenly says.
“Ok, just warp me when you want, I’ll be there”
“Yeah yeah, we’re going as soon as I can put my probes in a good search pattern” Ferrier adds. With that he launches them, five of them this time, each shuddering as if they’re eager to find whatever their master is looking for. Then they’re off, to their designated position in the vastness of space once again. As Ferrier starts his scan cycle you tune in again to see the results. There are multiple echoes of anomalies after the first cycle ends.
“This is going to be a long search I guess” Ferrier adds to your own thoughts. “These many echoes shouldn’t be there, at least that’s what they taught me at least.”
You’re not sure if Ferrier wants your opinion, because it sounds more like he is talking to himself, but still. “Let’s hunt them down one by one. If they are echoes, we will find out soon enough.”
“Mmm, what? Yeah that’s probably a good idea, let’s warp to the nearest one and reset the probes” Ferrier replies. As soon as he said that you are aligning to the first echo, into warp surrounded by Simmons and Ferrier.
After four hours of flying up and down the solar system, you are finished with all but the last echo. Redeploying his drones, setting the scan resolution to a more accurate setting, the scan cycle is started again.
“I still can’t believe we had that many echoes in the first place” Ferrier says almost apologetically. “I will discuss this with the captain who gave the course on scanning when we get back to the station.”
“Never mind” Simmons replies, “better to fly around and finding nothing then doing those exercises. Besides, I got a good deal of reading done, following you all over the place.”
“Yeah” you add, “I almost finished the book ‘Shadow and light’ on the strategies used by both Amarr and Minmatar in their previous war. You want to hear what it’s about?”
“No please don’t, we still have a will to live” Ferrier replies, joined by Simmons in likewise banter.
“Phah, you just don’t appreciate good literature” you reply in a condescending tone, then breaking out in laughter. “Let’s just find this anomaly and be done with it.”
Ferrier waits for the cycle to finish. “Ah there it is. Now to close the gaps in the net. Let’s see…” he starts mumbling to himself again you notice. You close the book you had been reading. Even though you made it look like a boring thing, it is quite interesting. Different strategies and tactics, in large and small clashes, between the Amarr and Minmatar, including the results of those clashes. Who won, who lost, every chapter also gives you a few alternatives and what they resulted in if they had been applied. With a soft chirp the scanner let you know it is finished, still not quite there, but the signal is getting stronger. Ferrier is already redeploying his probes and altering the scan resolution again. He has been silent, concentrating on what he is doing. To you that’s better than to hear him mumbling to himself. After a few minutes of silence, the chirp is heard again, this time loudly against the silence of anticipation.
“Yes got it” Ferrier almost screams with joy. “You guys ready?” he asks, but doesn’t wait for an answer as your ship is already heading toward the location of the anomaly. In warp you check your systems, readying hardeners and damage control, almost as an afterthought, barely registering on a conscious level. Anyways, you are ready, in the meanwhile you report to Harris what you are doing and wait to exit warp again. After what seems hours you finally drop out of warp. Immediately checking your HUD you see no enemies, just a bit of warped space where you see the light of distant stars bent by the entrance of the wormhole. Nothing is moving around it and you are a bit lost for words.
“This is the anomaly we have been chasing all day?” you ask Ferrier.
“Yes, isn’t it wonderful?”
“Not really, to be honest it’s a bit boring. Just a patch of warped space, nothing more.”
“But it’s a wormhole man” Ferrier exclaims. “This is a portal to a new world, with Sleeper AI technology, technology of a people long extinct but still operational after hundreds of years.”
“Well, it didn’t help them much now cause they’re gone. But, what do we do now?” Simmons breaks in.
“Well I have to make a report and let fleet command know about it. Then they can send an extraction team to haul out all the valuable stuff. Wait a sec while I contact him.” Ferrier gets the fleet commander on a communication line and reports his findings. After relaying all the relevant information on the wormhole, apparently there is more than just the location, it is a waiting game once again. Thirty minutes later a large number of battleships, tech 3 cruisers, two full squads of electronic warfare frigates and even a few capital ships join you at the entrance of the wormhole. The wing commander breaks the silence you enjoyed whilst reading your book again.
“Well done Ferrier, you found us a good entrance to use. You wane see what’s on the other side?”
“Yes please” Ferrier immediately responds.
“Very well, but hang back, if there are any Sleeper ships there, they would chew through you and your ship in an afterthought. They’re tough little buggers, hence the heavy wing we brought here.” With that he orders the entire wing, including your squad, to enter the wormhole. A bit apprehensive you approach the wormhole, not sure what to do with it, but it seems to work the same as a normal stargate. You get a strange feeling as you enter it, but that’s it, nothing special. You get your bearings as you exit into wormhole space. There are a number of new items on your HUD you can’t make heads or tails of. The wing commander gives another order.
“Bookmark this location in case we encounter problems.”
Problems? What kind of problems would these guys possibly get with the ships they’re flying? You bookmark your current position, so you can warp to it quickly again. In the meanwhile the wing commander is giving out more orders. A number of capsuleers is added to your squad, Ferrier is replaced with some guy in a Vexor, a cruiser class ship. Looking through the details you see it’s the Sergeant, grinning back at you from his profile page. Oh no, what is he doing here?
“Good afternoon squad, did you miss me?” the Sergeant shouts on the squad comm line.
“Not really sir, we almost forgot your beautiful smile” you reply. The Sergeant takes that one in stride and starts explaining things to the squad. Looking through the member list you notice that most of the Green Echelon is part of the squad. Wondering what happened to the others, you raise the question.
“Well” the Sergeant obliges your question “some of them are feeling not quite well after this mornings’ extra run. Some of them have been assigned as miners and mining protection and the rest of them are doing normal exercise training. The stuff that you have already mastered.”
Another hour passes as the Sergeant gives you a theory lesson on wormholes, Sleeper AI technology and the consequences of being here. In the meanwhile you look at the messages sent by the wing commander. Things look like they’re having a bit of trouble with the Sleeper ships. A flash of light announces the arrival of a ship, but expecting something large, you are surprised to only see a pod. Failing to remember what this guy was flying earlier, you see him going through the wormhole.
“That guy has lost his ship, if I’m not mistaken, it was a battleship” the Sergeant answers the question going through your mind.
“Shouldn’t we help them Sergeant?” Simmons intercedes. “I know we’re not nearly as good as they are, but at least we can help, can’t we?”
“No, you would only fly in the way” the Sergeant replies, adding “besides they have tackled these situations hundreds of times. We will fly in at a later stage, for more educational purposes. Salvaging and looting will be our primary task.”
“But sir” you reply “we haven’t got those, Ferrier only has his probe launchers not even weapons”.
“I know grunt, that’s why I have packed my cargo hold to the brim with salvagers, and before you even ask the obvious, we will use the Carrier as a hangar to equip them. That is, as soon as I get the all clear from the wing commander.
After an hour of waiting there was a signal from the Wing Commander that everything is under control. No more enemy vessels at the main site, probably there are some at the other sites, but your squad can move in to the Yan Jung site.
“Yan Jung, you’re sure, it’s not a Sleeper site?” The Sergeant asks the wing commander.
“Yes Sergeant, it seems that Ferrier has found something quite different, though the technology is comparable to that of the Sleepers, this is a Yan Jung site.”
“Mmm never saw one of those before, is it still safe to come in?”
“Yes Sergeant, it is quite safe, we have cleared the central structure of all enemy ships.”
“Ok grunts” the Sergeant says on the squad communication channel “let’s get to that carrier. Don’t touch your warp systems, I’ll warp you to it” the Sergeant says.
You feel your ship align to the main site and warp towards it. Looking around in the warp tunnel, you see the entire squad around you, with the Sergeant in the lead. As you exit warp you are overwhelmed by the sight. There is a huge structure at the center, surrounded by smaller ones, but beautifully carved you think to yourself. Not the flowing designs of the Gallente, but even more intricate. Littered around it are the wrecks of the Yan Jung AI vessels and one tech two frigate of your wing. The Sergeant orders you to the carrier to change your weapons for salvagers. Apparently the leaders of the Federal Defense Union already knew that salvaging would be a useful occupation for the Green Echelon because everyone of you has at least level 4 in that skill, some even got the skill fully trained. That means that you all can salvage these wrecks, without running into major problems, like blowing yourself up as a result of not knowing what you’re doing. You fly towards the carrier, as you approach it, you see it is really huge, it dwarves your small frigate by a factor of thousand. At least, it feels like that.
“As soon as I reach it, you will take the salvagers from the cargo container I’ve put there” the Sergeant says. “Then you will swap them with your guns, your guns and ammo will be placed into the container again. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes sir!” you and the others reply.
A few minutes later you have swapped your weapons, not unlike swapping them at the station, but it is a bit different doing it in the middle of space. Before you can move away from the carrier the Sergeant starts his communication again.
“Ok, now you see all those wrecks floating around? Well they need to be salvaged, so get to it.”
You power up your engines, make a slow arc and, instead of flying to the nearest wreck, you decide to go to the other side of the battlefield and start salvaging there. You see your comrades all rushing towards the nearest wreck, giving the Sergeant cause to start yelling again. As you reach your topspeed you see a flash somewhere to the right of you. Thinking it is one of the returning frigate pilots, like the one who was shut down earlier, you pan your camera towards it. Fear grips you, it isn’t a pilot of your wing, it’s a Yan Jung frigate. Before you can even start shouting it’s there, you see it turning and entering warp again. Not sure about this you decide to raise the issue with the Sergeant. He hasn’t got the time for you as he is too busy shouting at the other pilots of the Echelon. You’re not sure, but you decide to go a bit higher in rank and raise the Wing Commander on the communication line. You relay your findings, combined with the data from your computer Aura has scrunched up. The Wing Commander is annoyed at first, but then he gets more and more interested.
“This is interesting, I have never seen them do that before. It’s like they send a scout to find out what’s going on in their wormhole.” You realize he is almost referring to the Yan Jung AI as being alive. Before you can continue this conversation he starts ordering his other squads back to his position. Seconds later the first pilots of the other squads return. Then ordering your squad to take up position near the carrier and be ready to warp out.
“Shouldn’t we get our guns instead of trying to salvage those things alive?” you ask the Sergeant.
“That may be a good idea, I don’t know what’s going on, usually after you defeat them in the main site there is no more problems aside of the few stragglers.”
“Didn’t you notice that lone Yan Jung frigate that was here before?”
“No, didn’t see that. I was too busy explaining to your friends here that rushing the same wreck isn’t a good idea” the Sergeant replies, “what was going on then?”
You give him the same message as you gave the Wing Commander, including the data Aura collected.
“Well that’s a first” he replies with the same bewildered expression as the Wing Commander had. “Well we better change your salvagers for weapons, but don’t expect to make a dent in the armour of the Yan Jung AI. They are tough little buggers and if they shoot you, one volley of their guns would leave you in your pod. Oh that reminds me, I should change the settings that you blow up with the ships in the coming fights, just until we’re back at the station. No shortcuts for you, you will live if you are shot down.”
You aren’t sure if you should count yourself lucky or feel a bit depressed. Approaching the carrier again you swap your salvagers for the weapons you left there. Reloading your ammo, checking every system you have, even powering up your damage control unit, you start circling the carrier. On a separate line you inform Ferrier and Simmons. Ferrier, knowing a bit more about Yan Jung AI and wormholes has to agree with both the Sergeant and the Wing Commander that this is indeed odd.
“They’ve never done that before, it looks like they’re adapting not only which target they choose, but also how to engage on a larger scale, using the different sites as staging points. This is quite interesting.”
“I don’t think it’s interesting, I think it’s quite scary” you reply. “I don’t think we can take on these guys as easily as we took on those training ships yesterday. Even if we work together.”
“True, so we better let the other guys do the fighting” Simmons replies.
“We will have to see, because if they come after us, I’m not planning on getting shot down.”
Within five minutes the entire wing is back to battle strength. Everyone has learned what happened and is unsure about what will happen in the next minutes. When the first tension is released as there are no monstrous Yan Jung AI ships entering the site, normal conversation resumes. A few banter comments on the wing communication line relieves a bit more stress. A flash of light catches your eye, but you see it is the pilot that was shot down earlier, returning in a new shiny tech two frigate. His squad apprise him of the situation and quickly he joins the group of tackler frigates, ready to go at the Yan Jung AI again in a new role.
The waiting eats at you, you check you logs and the footage of the Yan Jung frigate you saw before. You can see how it seems to scan the environment and heads back to where it came from. You are not losing your mind after all, it did happen and you have proof. Just when you go over your ‘evidence’ for the fifth time, you see what you have been dreading. A large number of flashes indicates that the Yan Jung fleet has arrived, a lot more vessels then you had expected. About as much as there are pilots on your side, this is going to be a tough fight. Before you can even react further the Sergeant is already issuing orders.
“Listen up grunts, there are more than expected so we need to do our share in killing those Yan Jung ships. Keep close, and keep the chatter to a minimum. I expect you will be targeted, if that happens you relay that information immediately. We will attack the one that targets you as one. Keep your drones aboard until they need to start fighting, they will take them out one by one from a distance before they even get into range and start to attack their ships. Volleys will be the main thing to take down their shields and armour, if we act in unison then we stand a chance. Let the bigger ships take care of their bigger ships, we focus only on frigates and cruisers. If you get an attack order from me, you will follow it to the letter and as fast as you can.”
With a number of ‘yes sir’ from the squad there are a few moments till the first of your squad yells he’s been targeted. The information is immediately relayed to your Aura as she targets the frigate, at least that’s what it looks like. Within a 10 seconds the frigate is on top of your comrade. Releasing your drone, firing your guns and ordering the drone to attack the target you see that everyone is doing the same. There is a problem however, there are more frigates on their way and even a cruiser. Under the relentless fire of your squad, with all their weapons and drones hammering down on the frigate it slowly gets to structure and, with a flash similar to the one of a training drone, it explodes leaving a wreck. If you’re lucky you can salvage that later. Not sooner as you thought another shout comes over the communication line.
“It is targeting me again, why is it after….” And with an explosion his ship blows up. From within the debris you see a pod with the pilot in it, luckily the Sergeant altered the settings, else he would have been spacedust.
“Now it’s targeting me” the Sergeant says. “But he is not alone. Target the cruiser first.” From the tackler squad two tech 2 frigates have veered off on an intercept course, quickly tackling the cruiser. It isn’t able to fire a single shot at the Sergeant’s ship, it cannot get a lock anymore. Furthermore its speed has been severely reduced so it takes the full force of every weapon of the squad. It doesn’t succumb to the firing as easily as the frigate though. Thinking of frigates, you see the frigates changing their targets from the Sergeant’s ship to the tackler frigates. You report it to the Sergeant, who quickly orders every pilot of your squad to take out the frigates first. If the tacklers are gone everyone in the squad will be a sitting duck. You had the frigates already targeted and quickly stop the firing on the cruiser and start firing on a frigate. A few seconds later you find out that your drone is still attacking the cruiser so you give it explicit instructions to attack the frigates as well. The Yan Jung frigates have adjusted their hardening a bit, probably because of the way you attacked the previous frigate, but it doesn’t help much.
Merely minutes later, without losing any of the tackler frigates, your squad finishes the last frigate in the area and focuses on the cruiser, still lumbering around, not able to attack or flee. Under the barrage of all your weapons it takes a good seven minutes to take care of this Yan Jung ship as well. Seemingly short, it feels like a lifetime. After dispatching of the cruiser you return your focus on the battlefield. There are only a small number of ships left. For the Yan Jung side it’s a battleship and two more cruisers, on your side the carrier and several battleships and tech 3 cruiser. Almost all of the tackler frigates have been destroyed and the last one is limping around with its structure ejecting smoke and burning plasma.
“Okay squad, you are doing alright” the Sergeant shouts on the communication line. “Now we need to take care of the last few ships, follow the tacklers and attack the ship they select.”
With a clear set of instructions like that, you start to follow the tackler frigates. Not being able to keep up with their astonishing speed, you feel like it takes forever to catch up. On the plus side, there isn’t any doubt about the ship they’re attacking. A Yan Jung cruiser almost comes to a full stop, and you see the effects of the tackler crawling over its hull. As a group, a few members shorter as one of the other cruisers takes out a second squadron member with a lucky shot, you attack the tackled cruiser. Going through the same motions as you did when your squad attacked your first Yan Jung cruiser, you keep a wary eye on the remaining cruiser and battleship. They are fortunately in combat with your Wing Commander’s carrier and the other battleships, whilst the tech 3 cruisers give tackler support as well as firing their weapons at the remaining ships.
Finally it is over, two members of your squadron have been destroyed and flew their pods out of the wormhole. Your side has won this battle but at a very high price, you wonder if the Yan Jung secrets would be worth this, but you don’t get rest. You are ordered by the Sergeant to pick up your salvagers from the carrier and start salvaging and looting the wrecks. Adrenaline still surges through your system and you feel relieved that it is over, but there is still doubt going through your head. ‘Is this really it, aren’t there more Yan Jung ships out there?’. You reach the carrier and start swapping the weaponry for salvagers, select the wrecks closest to your position and start salvaging. There is a lot of loot and you have to make multiple trips to the carrier to empty your cargo hold, but you are relieved that there aren’t any more Yan Jung ships around. This is confirmed by the Wing Commander, who let’s informs everyone on what’s going on.
“Well done people, we had it tough this time around, it seemed they have adapted their fighting strategy, knowing what we will do and how we react. If that guy from the Green Echelon didn’t spot the scout frigate we would have been crushed. Still, now it’s time to reap our bounty of this little endeavour. By the way, there are no more Yan Jung ships around, just in case you were worrying. It seems they coordinated their attack pulling in every resource they had in this wormhole.”
A sigh of relieve escapes your throat as you make another drop off of loot and salvage. Now you select the wrecks a bit farther away from the carrier, hoping it will be save again. Hours after the message from the Wing Commander you have finished the cleaning of the wormhole space of all the wrecks, both from the Yan Jung fleet as of your own fleet. Then there are new arrivals, quickly checking to see that they aren’t from the Yan Jung, you see they’re friendlies. Echelon frigates, quite a number of them. You look up their characteristics and find that they are the codebreaking specials. Not suited for anything else really, only one mid slot, but as a hacking tool they are the best. Not waiting for anyone they immediately fly to the large Yan Jung structure in the middle, and passing it. Now why don’t they focus on the main structure, there should be enough there to decrypt, you think by yourself. More flashes, checking your HUD you see more frigates enter the Yan Jung location. These are more ordinary frigates, but rigged for a specific job. Information from the ships trickles in via Aura, these are the specialized archaeologist ships of the Federate Defense Union. Equipped for that single task they hurry towards the large Yan Jung structure. Later you will find out what they are doing, but for now, you only can see their analyzers and salvagers working at maximum efficiency.
“Ok boys, enough done today, let’s head back to the station for some chow.” The Sergeant says over the squad comm line.
“Right Sir” every single pilot of the Green Echelon says.
“Booty will be divided amongst you all, as well as a part of the salvage. To be honest, you will not see a single piece of salvage, but it will be bought by the Federal Defense Union at a good price. It will help you pay of your debt even more. Everyone ready?”
With a surge you feel your ship speeding up to warp speed, aligning itself with the coordinates to the entry of this part of wormhole space and moments later you are on your way. A few jumps later and you have returned to the site of the large formerly hidden asteroid belt, seeing the ships still at work getting all the minerals out of the asteroids. Even though you have spent a large number of hours in WH-space, it still looks like they haven’t dented the field at all. You quickly raise Baptiste on a private communication channel.
“Haven’t you done anything since we were gone?” you ask him.
“Have you been gone then?” Baptiste replies jokingly. “I have heard about your wormhole adventure. Everything alright?”
“Sure, it wasn’t that hard at all, we were only getting shot at by those Yan Jung AI ships, but nothing special I would say.”
“Quit boasting, I heard you nearly got killed and that the Yan Jung changed their tactics on you.”
“I can’t say, I haven’t encountered them before, so I can hardly make claims on how they should or shouldn’t behave” you reply. “But the structures they created are beautiful, you should see the pictures Aura took for me. By the way, when are you finished here, or are you staying here all week to finish up the last asteroid?”
“No, there should be a next shift coming in, in a few hours. Then we can get back for a bit of rest and some dinner. What about you?”
“Apparently the Sergeant wanted to check things out as we are heading back to the station. So that’s why we dropped in.” In the background you hear the Sergeant ordering your squad to get ready and prepare for warp. “Ok, we’re going, see you later tonight.”
“Ok.” Baptiste replies and closes the comm line.
One stargate later and you are in warp towards the station. Considering all that has happened today, you feel quite relieved to see the big structure of your new home getting closer. A quick shower to get rid of the pod goo, then some food and finally some rest. At least as long as the Sergeant hasn’t got any of his personal workouts waiting for you. You hope you don’t have to run any more today. As soon as you have left your pod, taken that promises shower you are however whisked away by another sergeant. Ferrier and Simmons are accompanying you as well as the Sergeant. Curious you enter a large meeting room with a glass wall replaying every bit of footage you made during this day. Footage of Ferrier’s scanning is added to another glass wall. Overlaid on a tactical map are the excerpts of both the Sergeants’ Vexor and the Wing Commander’s carrier on the initial battle and the second battle. The specific moment of the single frigate returning for a quick look is also replayed over and over. A captain takes the lead in explaining that this behaviour hasn’t been seen before.
“We have to conclude that either there is something special with this specific site, or we have to conclude that the Yan Jung AI are communicating amongst themselves and relaying information on how to counter our attacks.”
“But surely they can’t communicate, the sites are totally separated” a colonel interrupts.
“Then how would you explain this situation then Colonel Merrier? How do you explain the sudden change in behaviour?” the captain retorts.
“Good point, I haven’t got a clue. Are we picking up any signals that might indicate that there is any communication between the different Yan Jung sites?”
“If I may cut in captain, colonel” a large man says “there are numerous signals emitting from different structures within a Yan Jung site and possible even between the sites. We just don’t know what they are and what they communicate. It might also have to do with the fact that although we salvage or rather pillage the Yan Jung sites, there always seem to be more sites then we can take care of. Where are those sites coming from, how many more are there, are there other major sites which contain more information on these questions? At the moment we are setting up a specific section, on behalf of the Gallente Empire of course, to further research the signals and the meaning they may have.”
“That’s all good and well, but what do we do in the meantime? Should we continue with our exploration activities, or do we wait until you find out something relevant?”
“I think continued exploration is possible, but with added ships to counter the possible retaliation of the Yan Jung ships” the large man says.
You are wondering what you are doing here. There is nothing to add to this conversation and even more, you are not in a position to decide on policies concerning the Yan Jung sites. You look at Ferrier and Simmons, both are as interested in this subject as you are, but both don’t know how to add to it as well. The Sergeant warns you with his eyes to keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything stupid. You lean back, there is nothing left to do but wait until you are excused and can leave. Looking at the monitor you see the first and the second battle play out on the screen. It looks like a bad movie, ships whizzing around, shooting at other ships. A better look allows you to determine the tactics the Wing Commander was using. Then you see the final ship of the Yan Jung blow up in a fiery explosion, and that’s it. End of the show, exit stage right. Just before you return to the discussion of both the captain and the colonel with the large man, you see a flash of light. It comes from one of the outlying structures, just of the main structure in the middle. You scrunch up your face as you look at it, grabbing the nearest control pad to replay the footage and focus in on that structure. You ask Aura to get the footage of other ships that have this structure recorded during the first and second battle and in the time afterwards. There it is again, a flash of light. At the end of the first battle, during your initial salvaging, there is a flash of light coming from the structure. Just before the Yan Jung frigate came to find out what was going on. After the second battle, there were a number of flashes coming from that structure, each taking a fraction of a second. From a distance it looks like a number of pictures are taken with one of those old fashioned cameras, the ones without the light enhancement hardware on them. Just when you want to raise the subject and the flashes coming of the structure, you find that the entire room has gone quiet. You look up to find that everyone is staring at you.
“Sorry about that, but I got bored and decided to look at the footage again. Did you see there was a flash of light coming of this structure here?” You say sheepishly.
“We didn’t see that no.” The large man replies. “But come to think of it, this could be our communication array that allowed the Yan Jung to communicate within the wormhole and even outside of it.”
“Well done ensign” the colonel says “you may have cracked the communication line they are using. Alright Chiraq you know what to do, give us answers and I should think you can start with this communication structure first. Agreed?”
“Agreed colonel” the large man replies “but if I can make one more request.”
“Go ahead Chiraq.”
“I would like to have these three on my team. They have a keen eye and some skills we inevitably need within the team anyway. ”
“Sure, I don’t see if that should pose a problem, captain?”
“No problem sir, but I think the Sergeant has something to say about this first.”
“Sirs, this is not an opportune moment to do this. If I may speak frankly, these grunts are still in training, and they need to pay off their debt to society. These are not volunteers if you get my drift” the Sergeant says. “They are criminals at heart.”
“I see” the colonel replies, a frown on his face indicates that your status and past are legitimate worries and need to be addressed. “Well, if Chiraq agrees, they can be his’ after their training is finished, and you can be their commander when they are transferred to Chiraq’s team.”
“But I am a training sergeant” the Sergeant sputters “I don’t know nothing about any Yan Jung stuff.”
“Too late sergeant, or should I say Staff Sergeant?” the captain replies. “You are promoted and part of this team, I will fill out the necessary orders to make it happen.”
“Yes sir” the Sergeant replies, not sure if this is a good thing or a really bad thing that just happened. The four of you make your way back to the mess hall to grab a late dinner. As you fill your plate and sit down, you start to talk about what just happened.
“Did we just get promoted?” you ask.
“No grunt, but I did, and I’m not sure I should be happy about it” the Sergeant replies. “Staff Sergeant, and this Yan Jung business, a new section to find out what’s going on. This is could turn out good or really, really bad.”
“Well I think it’s fantastic. Working with the Yan Jung sites, and trying to find out their architecture and secrets, that’s just fantastic” Ferrier says enthusiastically.
“All good and well, but when do we transfer to this new section?” Simmons asks.
“You want to know when you have finished training?” Sergeant replies.
“Yes, sir. When do we finish our training?”
“Well let’s see, you have learned all of the basic stuff, you can fly a ship and most of you can keep yourselves alive in a combat situation.
There is nothing new to learn, just a few theories and more practice. That you can learn on the go if need be. I guess it takes you guys a week or so to be fully ready to be transferred to this new section.”
“Mind if I join?” Chiraq asks. With a nod of acceptance from the Sergeant he takes a seat next to you. “Thanks and ‘bon appetit’. I understand you have implants to help you with learning specific stuff on any skill you need, is that right?”
“Yes sir” Ferrier replies.
“So if I can gather any information on the Yan Jung and put that in a skill file, you can learn it whilst finishing your training?”
“I don’t know sir” Ferrier replies again. “I think that the doc should be able to make that call.”
“What do you want us to learn Chiraq” the Sergeant replies gruffly.
“Well, I want you to learn everything there is to know about the Yan Jung, and the other ancient races. With that information you can quickly deliver relevant information, hopefully.”
“That is of course, if your information is correct. If your information is incorrect, you will force our neural pathways in the same direction you have already explored.”
“That is an interesting thought Sergeant. One I must think about, just uploading a file like on a computer will probably not be a good idea. I need to assemble the relevant and accurate information we have to make that happen and also consult with the medical staff if it is even possible to upload any of it to your minds. Another thing Sergeant, when will the four of you be joining us?”
“I guess in a week or so” the Sergeant replies reluctantly.
“Good, that gives me a bit of time to come up with the information. I do hope you will enjoy the stay with our section Sergeant, as do your ensigns.” With that Chiraq gets up and walks away.