Aboard the Percheron, Faurent, Sinq Laison
Rhavas had been happy to get moving again. The Security team had needed to hire to replace several people at Jita, and he wasn’t sure he trusted most of the new hires. The senior Security Officer’s discovery of the Angel Cartel bomb had been the last straw – it was disturbing that their influence was that strong here, so far from Angel space. The engineering staff had fit the new cloaking device to the ship and Rhavas had given the order to launch shortly thereafter.
He had intended to take the shortcut back if at all possible. They had moved through Perimiter and Iyen-Oursta slowly and tentatively, testing the mechanics of the cloak. A Mammoth-class Industrial like the Percheron handled and accelerated poorly at the best of times, but under cloak her speed was outright laughable as the cloak sucked all the power out of the engines. Still, with practice, Rhavas could get the cloak, microwarp drive and warp drive to hit in stepped timing that allowed him to remain unseen during the time his ship was most vulnerable – between clearing a gate and aligning to warp to the next one.
By the time they had reached Faurent, Rhavas felt like he had a decent grasp of the device’s capabilities, but had not remotely had time to build confidence in them. So, rather than take the risk and jump straight to low-security space, he had parked the ship at Roden Shipyards, the last rest stop in high-security space, and left it to take on additional goods and provisions while he scouted forward into the low-sec corridor in his pod.
Things looked promising as he bounced through Ambeke and Crielere. He wished he had the time to explore Crielere – the events that happened there had long made him want to spend time exploring that system. Now, unfortunately, was not that time. He jumped through to Rancer, excited to think that if he had brought the Percheron, they would now be a mere three jumps from home.
It was not to be. The Rancer side of the gate was overrun – his targeting scanner flashed nearly 20 pirate signatures, and Rhavas warped his fragile pod out into the Rancer system to escape immediate destruction – an event that would have left him happily in Hek, but ship, crew, cloak and cargo on the wrong side of the Crielere corridor. Counting on the pod’s agility and small size, and knowing that bubbles would not be launchable here, he warped back to the gate under the noses of the pirates, and jumped back to Crielere.
Disappointed, he warped his way back to the ship and gathered the senior officers. “Even with the cloak, it is doubtful we will make it through,” he said. “The pirates are numerous enough, and in fast enough ships, that even if we get away from them at the gate, they will catch us before we leave the system. And a few hours of practice does not qualify me as an expert in cloaking, especially with a ship as large and slow as the Percheron.”
He paused and looked at the faces, dejection showing in them as they took in the bad news even before he put words to it. “We will be taking on some final additional provisions here, and then we will be returning the long way – back the way we came. We will go more slowly than we did on the outbound trip, and hopefully that will be less detrimental to the crew. I know you’ve already lost more than we planned.” The officers from Medical and Security, despite being the best-staffed groups this trip, looked haggard and tired.
Several hours later, they jumped back to Perimiter, and Rhavas set the course for the long journey home. The autopilot was much more gentle at the helm, and Rhavas allowed it to drive most of the trip back through Forge, Citadel, and Sinq Laison. Happily, the return trip was more subdued. The crew fared better this time – at least he hadn’t had to put anyone out the airlock. That incident on the outbound leg had been unfortunate but necessary – space was at a premium, even in a ship as large as the Percheron, and Rhavas begrudged every square meter of space on the ship – a brig was a waste of precious cargo capacity.
As the ship jumped from the Gallente system of Colelie back to the Minmatar system of Bei, he took control of the helm back. Rhavas’ voice rang out over the ship’s communication system. “We have just made the jump back into Matari space. Welcome to Bei.” Vibration sensors in the hull in various parts of the ship passed feedback to the capsuleer’s nervous system, informing him that some level of celebration had kicked in on his announcement. Rhavas brought up several of the video and audio feeds in those areas – crew applauding in the mess hall, weary doctors comforting figures strapped in their beds in the infirmary, deckhands pounding whatever they could find against the hull in an attempt to make a celebratory noise. Rhavas himself felt no real joy, just an overwhelming tiredness as the thought washed over him that this trip was nearly over.
Now under direct control, the Percheron leapt the final distances across Bei and Uttindar. As the big ship cleared the gate into Hek, the comm link opened, and the voice of his Personnel Manager said, “The crew is refreshed and ready for you, sir.”
OOC: Return is the third and final entry in a three-part story about Rhavas’ first trip to Jita.