Thursday, April 1

Vey System, Central Placid, 1.4.112 - Longshot

A faint, barely noticeable tingle ran along her extremities as she carefully scoured feedback from her ship's sensors. Faint signals from combat drones and wrecked vessels in space, stronger, more detailed pings from starbase emplacements... all of that she ignored as she scanned through the list on the display floating in the orange-colored liquid in front of her face. Then something caught her eye.

A battleship. Hyperion-class. A Gallente-designed vessel that was, in almost every way, the perfect catch.

She silently instructed the crew handling the scanner to start narrowing down the general direction the Hyperion was in, bringing up a display of the list of locally active transponders. One name stood out in particular -- it matched the name associated with the Hyperion, according to the scanner. She focused her gaze on the name, and a DED record appeared, floating in front of everything else.

The pilot's capsuleer license had been issued in early November. He'd spent a month with one capsuleer outfit, three working with the Scope, and had been working for his current employer for just shy of four weeks. The scanner's display flashed slightly, and she glanced at it, the DED record fading away. Several heavy combat drones had been detected with the battleship; four second-generation Ogres.

Morwen twitched a finger, and the visuals from the camera drones shifted to a three-dimensional map of the solar system. Icons dotted the space in front of her, indicating planets and other various celestial objects. Several icons glowed brighter than the rest; each illuminating a spherical region of the map. She willed them to move, carefully adjusting their position, then patiently waiting as they flashed and went back to their original state, revealing a number of new icons.

She repeated the process several times, focusing on one set of icons as they slowly shifted in color from red to yellow to green. Morwen grinned faintly to herself and willed the camera drones' feed to come back, sending along the message for the crew to get ready for combat. A nudge, and the ship was in warp.

It was a long hop across the system; and along the way, Morwen sifted through a number of possible engagement scenarios. She winced slightly, remembering the trouble that those particular drones had given her last time she'd run into them. The memory was less than pleasant, and quite painful. Gritting her teeth slightly, she settled on the simplest engagement plan.

Morwen felt a barely noticeable jolt as the ship exited warp in the middle of a Hyasyoda Corporation mining site, about twenty kilometers from the Hyperion. The slow, lumbering hulk of a battleship was moving towards a small cluster of docking platforms, and with a gentle push, Morwen allowed her ship to follow.

The proximity meter ticked down as her ship moved closer and closer. Morwen's eyes flicked almost lazily across the various feeds of information running past her, and focused on the looming target in front of her. Then the proximity meter beeped once more. She was within range.

The faint tingling sensation disappeared as she deactivated the cloaking device and her legs tensed as she sent the order to engage the afterburners; the red-and-gold form of a Pilgrim hull wavered into the view of the camera drones, the silver letters glimmering along the bow, giving its name: Nazara. A few seconds passed, and as the smaller cruiser lurched forward, the slothlike Hyperion slowly began to turn in an attempt to escape.

It was, however, seconds too late; as Morwen's mind and body gave the orders, her crew obeyed, and the Hyperion's already-slow movements ground to a near-halt as its navigation computer shut down and its engines sparked and sputtered. A hollow, empty feeling grew within Morwen's stomach as streams of energy arced out from the emitters on the Pilgrim's hull to the battleship. It was uncomfortable, yes, but not unbearable.

Scant seconds after the Pilgrim's drone bay doors opened and a flight of Hammerhead drones sped towards the Hyperion, Morwen felt a sharp stabbing sensation in her side; a glance towards the battleship showed that the pilot had instructed his crew to start shooting back. A moment later, there were the four Ogres, pouring out of the ship's drone bay and heading back towards the small red-and-gold cruiser.

Morwen instructed the Hammerheads under her control to regroup and engage the Ogres as they ripped through the Pilgrim's shields and began slagging away at its armor plating, the charged antimatter packets leaving a dark scorch mark across the lettering across the cruiser's bow as nanites flowed from the automated systems to repair the damage.

Though it only took a minute and a half, it felt like much more as the Hammerheads bore down on the heavier Ogres and tore through them like a swarm of carnivorous insects. Once the heavy attack drones were gone, the smaller Hammerheads went back to work -- the Hyperion's capacitor at this point was beginning to run dry, its own local repair systems were no longer active, and the railguns were no longer firing. For all intents and purposes, it was dead in the water.

Morwen smirked a bit as she opened a communications channel with the pilot, instructing her crew to maintain a close orbit around the crippled vessel.

I'm screwed, aren't I?
Not necessarily, Pilot. 
What do you want?
I will allow you and your crew to leave for a fee amounting to a hundred and thirty million ISK.
Hrm... can't I finish off this contract job first?
I can't quite trust you to do that, now can I?
I only have to remove those two Hyasyoda ships over there. That's all. I won't shoot you; I've got the money.

If I see my wallet indicator flash with a hundred and thirty million ISK, I'll allow you to finish it with your ship and crew intact. Otherwise, my drones will just keep chewing, and well, they're hungry...
... Fine.
I'll disengage when I see transfer has been completed.
Er... I  actually don't quite have that much; I only have one-twenty. Want to give me a break?
That will suffice.
Pleasure doing business with you, pilot. Fly safely, now.
Er... Thanks...

Morwen's smirk widened into a grin as she closed the communications channel and recalled the Hammerheads to their berths in the Nazara. A gentle nudge, and the cruiser veered off, turning away from the crippled, but recovering, Hyperion. The familiar tingle from earlier returned as Morwen reactivated the cloaking device and issued the order to engage the warp drive, the Pilgrim vanishing from sight just as silently as it had appeared.

She closed her eyes and relaxed a little, smile lingering on her face. It had been a long shot, but it'd paid off in the end. The crew would certainly be getting a well-deserved rest that night, once they'd returned to Goinard.

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