Emerging onto the corporate shipping hangar from the Sector H shuttle, Keacte arrived just past the heavily guarded battleship terminus – or the ‘big boys’ as he preferred to call them – Rokhs, Scorps, Domis, Phoons, Baddons, Hyps, Machs – they were all there – it was a full time job just maintaining them. The full expanse of the Sector H hangar became fully apparent as he descended onto the platform. It rose up and out as far as the eye could see. A dustfilled, smokey atmosphere with flashing beacons – yellow and orange lights shimmered and twinkled in the distance like last stars in the night sky of Sobaseki.
As Keacte descended the scissor lift to reach the battlecruiser pontoon, he was greeted by the Chief Engineer of the battlecruiser fleet. He was a withered old man and could have been 20 years younger than he looked – it was hard to tell. He was a nice old man of Amarrian descent, and was always pleasant to the Agony Pilots – over the years Agony Pilots had gained much respect in combat. The old Amarrian engineer was probably on his last legs to be honest – and had probably been much like anyone stood on that pontoon with him in the past – but the ravages of time and space was now taking its toll. Agony Unleashed paid him handsomely for his work – but his demeanour had nothing to with his pay, as he loved what he did.
It felt warm within the bowels of the shipping hangar today. The air quality was bad, and there was obviously an issue with the ambient air circulation. As Keacte levelled out onto the concourse, he could see sparks flying, and the occasional shard of brilliant white light and the pungent smell of nanite pastes being welded to the fleet – the taste of nanite paste in the air burnt the back of Keactes throat. It was good to be back.
To the left Keacte could see a mixture of the sleek Gallente Talos or ‘glass cannons’ as some pilots preferred to call them – a ship Keacte was yet to fly [or even afford]; beyond the pontoon lower than the skyport, the Amarr Oracles were lined in perfect synchronicity still looking as majestic as the day they were first rolled out from Jita V; this was the new breed – sadly though, this was not Keactes stop-off point today.
By now, 10 or 15 minutes or so had elapsed since Keacte had been miraculously been reborn, and poured out of the clone bay and he was finally gaining some semblance of order in his mind. As he turned the corner adjacent to the maintenance and servicing labs, he had finally caught up with a few familiar faces.
To the far left of the control panel was Dibbles – a bright young pilot, with much piloting experience beyond his years. Dibbles looked surprised to see Keacte – he had no doubt overheard the commotion earlier from the officers lounge – [it wasn’t as if Keacte had died… oh wait… he had]. “S’up blud, how’s your head!?” he hollered towards Keacte – Keacte gave his usual tip of the head nod as if to say that he had recovered from his recent ‘outing’. Dibbles was a good guy and Keacte had patrolled with him many times during the Upper Syndicate, Pure Blind and Curse Campaigns and they had got to know each other well.
Two Battlecruisers along the pontoon saw Victor and JPD talking animatedly. As Keacte approached, he heard the last snippet of their conversation – “so I probed him down, and warped to his last known location – waited a minute with my sebo and scram pre-heated, and then the hawk landed – BANG! – stupid bastard..! – BIG MISTAKE!” hollered JPD. They both laughed – it was good to see them. It was a fairly standard conversation for these two; although the location of the fight wasn’t 100% clear, it was most likely around the Reblier gate in 6CZ. As Keacte came closer, JPD took one final draw on his cigarette, and flicked the butt to the ground. The burning embers slowly flicked through the air turning from vivid red and into ash as it drifted down to the gantry floor. JPD exhaled 2, or 3 tight rings of smoke as all three pilots looked down through metal grilled gantry floor as the first Agony Pilots began to undock and warp to the POS. The battle was on. A sharp slap on the back from JPD, and Keacte turned quickly on his heels to his Battlecruiser.
Walking down the sky pontoon to the last Battlecruiser on the right, Keacte arrived at ‘ol’ faithful’. She was a worn-out rusted Minmatar Hurricane approximately 15 months old. Keacte had always wondered how Minmatar ships could possibly fly. People sometimes look down on Minmatar ships, as glorified tin-cans – they’ve been called everything under the sun – a lot of this centres around the fact they look like rubbish – literally.
This ‘cane had seen better days. Much better days. As he descended the spiral stairs, Keacte admired the ‘repair’ patchwork quilt of metalwork to the hull since the MHC clusterfuck a few weeks prior. In Agony, or any Corporation, a clusterfuck generally means “outnumbered and outgunned from the start” – and this was definitely the case – poor intel, and no eyes – Agony shipped up to Battlecruisers; they shipped up to more Battlecruisers, but unbeknownst to the Agony FC kept 50% of their gang in the wormhole to Pure Blind until the engagement started. Cluster. Fuck. Bah. Live and learn; well some did. A lot of isk was lost that day – end of story.
A lump had appeared in his throat – it dawned on Keacte that he hadn’t flown ‘cane since the MHC clusterfuck. He still didn’t understand how he had got out alive – but in the aftermath his only conclusion was that as the Agony fleet of 20 pilots went up in flames after the second 20 man fleet emerged from the wormhole and landed on the UMQ gate at perfect range, the only plausible reason was that the malediction pilot that had him tackled must have burnt out his point allowing Keacte to warp out to the relative safety and security of Harroule and dock up with the remainder of his squadron – all 4 of them. That was a particularly bad day.
Keacte swallowed the lump in his throat out, and took a deep breath. “Here we go again” he sighed. As he descended the pilots ramp the Amarrian service and maintenance engineer appeared from ol’ faithful, down the jetty covered head to foot in grease, rust, oil and nanite paste. “Good luck mate” he said. Something immediately jarred with Keacte. It wasn’t the fact he was wishing Keacte good luck – no, on the contrary, Keacte always appreciated common courtesy from the Amarrians, a trait not always received from them [they can’t help that though] – it was how he said it – sarcastically. Keacte caught his eye momentarily as that thought turned to concern – the Amarrian nodded toward the hull, as if to say “you’ll need it”. Good luck? Good..Luck?! Those are the two words you never want to hear as you enter your ship, unless of course you are flying a bait Drake [Drakes are always bait after all]. The hull itself looked like a patchwork quilt of corroded metal sheet, wire, and scraps. As the Amarrian engineer scurried hurriedly off the pilots ramp Keacte muttered to himself, “Jeez”, “these PVH engineers need a payrise”.
As Keacte advanced up the pilots ramp, he ducked through the blast door and turned to see more Agony pilots emerging from the Sector H shuttle running frantically along the skyport, adjusting their Military fatigues as they swiftly proceeded – members of Echo Squadron had been rallied – Caldaks familiar voice could be heard booming across the pontoon, “C’mon ladies…get a move on!” – he could see Yamir & Aluchem running to their pilots ramps. Keacte sighed, and quickly took a sharp breath of ‘real air’, and turned inward, flipped the blast door latch backward, and pulled the bright red door release mechanism fully, and plunged it back down with a frim twist and click. A jet of air shot out of the fuselage vents, and the air pulled against his eardrums, causing them to pop slightly. Keacte swallowed. Keacte could hear the low tone of himself breathing as the pre-ignition emergency lights gently flickered on. There’s always an eerie silence when you board your ship and the blast door shuts behind you. It’s strange. As the air is sucked out and the cabin pressurised, excitement always descended slightly – just imagine the excitement and trepidation of the first people to orbit the earth and land on the moon – this was his life every day.
As Keacte advanced along the narrow corridor flanked by the numerous dials, bulbs and switches, he rotated and pulled the cockpit cabin door open and made the way to his implants, flicking a number of the switches as he passed in his pre-ignition check. Keacte plugged the Neural Boost, and Ocular Filter implant – he had done this many times – as he did so a moment of euphoria drifted over him and quickly subsided as normality resumed. He yelped slightly as a wave of coolness drifter over him, clicked his neck and readjusted his shoulders; his vision was hyper-sensitive now, and his eyes felt twitchy continually blinking as his brain attempted to react to the information flowing into his eyes – this was normal for these implants, and tame in comparison to others.
Keacte turned to the console to see the narrow 270 degree viewing window to the skyport and the outer world, and squeezed past the left console, and took his seat. He reached forward and took the ignition chip and placed it in the console – the magnetic field retainer grabbed it and held it static. He took a deep breath, and flicked back the starter switch and plunged the ignition handle.
Keacte let out a guttural scream as the Battlecruiser slowly started up. The engines whirred with increasing speed eventually reaching full operating speed. He fumbled around to the upper right part of the console, grabbed his headset, and flipped the communication switch up and down a few times. Nothing. Again. “Oh for fuck sake..! Work godammit! Stupid piece of shi….” – he hit the fascia of the console again – once, twice and then a third time. As the comm became active the static ripped through his ears. His communication to the outside world, and more importantly the rest of the fleet was up and running albeit scratchy but he could hear the familiar voice of Glepp drifting through – “…undock Alpha Squadron, and warp to the POS, regroup, anchor on Glepp – I want eyes in all adjacent systems – give me recon… I need recon – NOW! We need to get there full fleet composition, and get it right this time”.
Keacte grabbed the throttle handle and manoeuvred out of the docking bay falling in just behind Vic or JPD, he wasn’t quite sure as the visibility was poor. Keacte was scanning the panel indicators frantically on the console, checking everything was as expected; ammo and guns were loaded, pastes available, and drones were all ready for deployment. “Shit” he thought. “Boosters”.
Keacte looked diagonally up to the right of the console and grabbed and pulled the hypodermic needle down from above. He rolled up his sleeve slightly, and flicked the vein of his left arm a few times and plunged the needle deep into the vein. He slowly delivered the booster to his system. He felt that familiar pain as he felt his chest start pumping from the inside – everything seem 10 times more vivid now and slowed down and hypersensitive – he could feel a rational sensibility come flooding over him. He moved his hand in front of his eyes and clenched a fist and spread his fingers – everything seemed super slow, and he could hear every sinew of his body moving – perfect. He looked down to the right of the centre console mid-leg level and hovered his finger over the manual pilot flight lever and took the control firmly into his hands. The ‘cane lurched down slightly as he took hold of the ship, and slowly but surely he levelled the ship out. His heart was racing. On comms a familiar voice came through again “Recon – Loon in PVH off the 6CZ gate – 20 man battlecruiser gang with 4logi support landing at tac above gate, they have a sabre bubble up on the gate – do you need a warp in? – they know we are coming for them – they are heading to 6CZ – permission to deploy probes , over”. It was Carenthor Loon. Keacte hadn’t seen him in a while but he felt reassured that he was here.
As Keacte approached the boundary of the station forcefield the sun shone brightly into his eyes – he cleared the station entrance, and aligned to the POS and throttled down engaging the warp drive.
A couple of seconds elapsed and nothing – had that Amarrian hippy ruined Keactes chances to take part in this? He began sweating, as the ‘cane slowly gained speed, and levelled out.
All of a sudden – as if out of nowhere – Keacte was thrown deep into the very back of his seat, as the familiar sultry voice clicked in “Warp drive active” – BAM!
It still got him every time. A ship that size, going at that speed, stitched together by what looked like an aging Amarrian hippy.