I hang, suspended in null-g, watching the jump gate.
Around it, a small clutch of ships wait in ambush. A red square next to each of them on my HUD marks them as CVA pilots.
Bad guys. Hostile. Not among my special friends.
A glance at the local monitor shows twenty more ships in system - all CVA pilots with one exception; me.
One of the ships on the gate pops a few scanning probes into space, and that makes me smile. They know I'm in system somewhere and they're hunting me. They get a lot of blockade runners through here - this jump gate's a choke point between empire and the southern corner of Providence nullsec. They're accustomed to ships hiding in system, waiting for a chance to slip by the CVA blockade.
But I'm not trying to get away. Not trying to run their blockade. I'm hunting them.
I glance down at my weapon tell-tales. Two bombs are armed and waiting in the launcher. The three torpedo bays show hot as well. Weapons free.
I'm in a killing mood. Don't know quite why. I put in the paperwork to pull HellForge, my very tiny corporation, out of the Lucky Starbase Syndicate at the end of the month. The last four days were spent settling affairs in station and arranging shipment of needful things. Yoshi, my cat, left via Jump Freighter yesterday. The freighter captain was reluctant about Yoshi (cats are rare out in the deep and have a not undeserved reputation for trouble) but a generous addition to his fee eased his mind.
All debts cleared, I readied my remaining ship, Fiddler’s Rules, for launch. There was the familiar lurch as station pushed Rules out into the outbound traffic lane. Then the weight of acceleration as the drives kicked in. I watched station diminish behind me and set course for another region where some old friends will meet me. The future’s waiting.
But I’ve got one last goodbye to make.
The jump gate flares as a ship comes in from the other side. I watch as a Chaos Theory stealth bomber drops cloak, becoming visible for a moment as it breaks from the gate, and then goes dark again. A CVA interceptor makes a desperate dash along the bomber's last vector, hoping to get close enough to break its cloak and web it before the bomber gets away. No such luck.
Rules is a stealth bomber as well. She’s a fragile ship, but her ability to run cloaked from other ship’s sensors, coupled with a capacity for dealing damage well out of her weight class, make her dangerous. If I were running with a gang of five more of her kind, this little gate camp might already be scrap metal. Of course, if five more friends of mine showed in local space, these CVA lads would be a lot more cautious.
They are not cautious. They are sitting stationary in a tight group about twenty clicks off gate. Even their interceptor, who’s main defense is speed, has rejoined his fellows and sits, motionless, in their company. They feel safe. They feel confident.
They should know better.
Fiddler’s Rules heels over in space and aligns toward the stationary gang of CVA ships. A last check over the board shows all systems green. I light the fires and begin my attack run.
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