A new day! Albeit another day where my playtime is limited. Kate’s out of town, and while she’s taking The Littlest Copilot with her on her trip, I’ve still got a pretty heavy work schedule and Eldest Daughter to care for. (Something something, needs food, something something, homework, something something, laundry, something something, get to school on time, something…) The upshot is that while I’m technically living the glorious dream of temporary bachelorhood (all the slacker free time, none of the soul-crushing, life-long loneliness), the reality is that I need to use most of my playtime bandwidth for things like feeding the dogs and making sure my daughter has reasonably clean uniforms to wear.
Today, in fact, I have only a few minutes to be online, but they conveniently coincide with Em, Berk, Bre, and Tira. I consider doing a bit of sleeper shooting, but a note in our home system’s comms channel about a suspicious in-bound wormhole sends me out for a shufti instead.
I quickly scan down the wormhole and home in on the class four wormhole, sweeping my d-scan around to locate a couple of towers, which gives me the intel I need to determine that, once again, we’re next door to some pretty dangerous people.
“You going to collapse that hole?” Em asks. A few seconds pass during which all of our pilots start switching to appropriate ships. “Nevermind. I can see you are. I’ll get the Falcon.”
Our setup this time is considerably more paranoid, due to recent events. Tira gets into her Helios-class covert ops frigate and posts herself in a fifteen kilometer orbit around the ‘enemy’ side of the wormhole, scouring d-scan for the signs of any activity, which right now means only a single piloted Mammoth-class hauler. Meanwhile, both Bre and Ty have gotten into Blackbird-class cruisers brimming with Electronic Countermeasures, backed up by both Em in her Falcon and Si in her Curse. Only with the entire defensive infrastructure in place does Berke warp in and jump.
The first jump turns out poorly, as the stubborn wormhole spits the Deliberate out nearly eight kilometers from the other side of the hole, forcing the lumbering ship to crawl three klicks before it can jump back. Not normally a problem, except for the fact that we’re within d-scan range of one of the enemy towers, and this move leaves Berke’s orca visible for almost 45 seconds — more than enough to spot, if the current pilot is remotely awake. Maybe we’ll get lucky.
Turns out we won’t. Berke jumps back to the home system and then cloaks up manually to wait out the polarization effect, and as the Orca’s secondary coils (whatever those are) recover, Tira spots movement at the tower: a Buzzard-class covert ops frigate appears, warps out of the tower, and dumps a half-dozen scanning probes into space. They aren’t looking for the Orca (which would be hard, since it isn’t there) but for the wormhole through which our Orca has invaded their system.
Right. This is going to get a little close.
The probes are still out during Berke’s next jump, and he has time to watch them close in on the wormhole’s location while he waits out the session change timer. Once again, he jumps home, destabilizing the hole (though not critically) and (again) cloaks up to wait out the polarization. Ty warps back to the tower to swap his Blackbird for a Typhoon-class battleship to help with the final wormhole-destroying push.
Tira, meanwhile, sees the probes vanish once again, and the Buzzard reappears at the tower, only to be swapped out for a Manticore-class stealth bomber. Interestingly, though, the Manticore doesn’t immediately warp away from the tower and cloak — it’s just sitting there. Odd. Maybe the pilot isn’t happy with the configuration of the ship? Maybe it doesn’t get used much, and they’re frantically swapping modules around at the Ship Maintenance Array? Maybe.
“How’s it looking over there?” Em asks.
Tira ops for optimism, as is her way. “They’ve spotted us,” she says, “but they’re not getting organized fast enough to do anything.”
“You sure?” Em asks.
“Mostly,” Tira quickly corrects herself. “Most definitely.” There’s a short pause. “You know… just… be ready, in case.”
Berke isn’t waiting. Dangerous neighbors are bad, but dangerous neighbors that we’ve alerted and riled up are worse, so it’s time to kill the hole. He jumps, followed by Ty’s ‘phoon, and Tira starts moving back to the hole to get out as well.
Neither Ty or Berke see the Manticore on d-scan. It’s left the tower and cloaked. There’s very little doubt where it’s headed.
We have only the Orca’s session change timer to wait on.
Ty’s timer expires, and he jumps. The hole critically destabilizes.
Tira hits the ‘hole at full speed, decloaking as she approaches, which is enough to encourage the Manticore to decloak as well. She doesn’t see what happens next, because the wormhole whisks her away, leaving only Berke in enemy territory.
So. A Manticore twenty kilometers away, in perfect bombing range, a critically destabilized wormhole just behind.
The Deliberate decloaks, activates its afterburners, and pivots toward the hole.
The Manticore releases a bomb directly at the hole and starts to lock the Orca in the vain hope of following the blindly-launched bomb with guided torpedoes.
The lock never happens and the bomb, so far as any of us know, never lands. Berke tips the Orca through the wormhole, destroying the anomaly with the mass of his shiny new ship, and vanishes from the system, leaving only empty space where a juicy bombing target used to be.
Back in the home system, the anomaly collapses in on itself as the Orca fades into view.
“Easy peasy,” Berke comments. “Heading back to the tower.”
If he and Tira exchange any knowing glances, well… who can tell from inside a spaceship?