This is an entry for Mord Fiddle’s “Lives in Lowsec” contest (EDIT: This story won first prize in the contest!). As he puts it: “Lowsec is the dark heart of the beast. A place seeming with the dregs of humanity. Pirates. Thieves. Grifters. Jaywalkers. They all find their way to lowsec sooner or later. Lowsec makes Mos Eisley look like effing Mayberry. In lowsec, if it’s not nailed down, they’ll steal it. If it is nailed down, they’ll tear up the floorboards and steal it anyway.” Mord is looking for “human drama”, but also caveats that “Pure fiction is not allowed. The events described must have actually occurred in lowsec.”
Sometimes, what Lowsec is about is simply the rivalries. The banter. The ebbs and flows. How failure feeds victory, and then victory fades again.
This is a (mostly) true story, about The Corporation of Noble Sentiments, and our latest interaction with one of our many long-term sparring partners, General Tso’s Alliance (EDIT: Burseg saw the story and responded here).
October 30, YC 113, 05:00 – Corporation of Noble Sentiments – Cat, en route to Villore.
“So can you do it, Gehrt?”
“Sir, I’m not sure I understand.”
“I don’t need you to understand. I just need to know if you can do it.”
“Well, uh … yes sir, I can do it.”
“Get ready. I’m one jump out and I need you to refit Wraith as fast as you can when I land.”
Rhavas closed the commlink.
Two Days Earlier, October 28, YC 113 – General Tso’s Alliance – Seyllin.
Seyllin was an odd system. A tide pool of sorts, caught between the ebb and flow of pirates, industrialists, haulers and imperial navies. Along with its neighboring system of Ane, it was a pocket of unprotected space in the midst of CONCORD’s oversight. When the Seyllin Incident obliterated Seyllin I, turning it to a shattered planet, CONCORD had pulled its support from the system.
The tide was about to roll out.
Burseg Sardaukar, CEO of General Tso’s Alliance, leaned back in his chair, one boot propped up on the edge of the table. Everyone except for Kaphine was here, but he couldn’t wait any longer. There was no time.
“OK guys, the good news is that the wars are over. The bad news is that we have all of 30 minutes before the next one starts. We managed to pull the killrights trick on a bunch of them last month, so they’re probably itching to take a shot at us in the open.”
“The leadership will dictate fleet doctrine if we need it. Fly in the usual T1 crap unless you’re told differently – their fight statistics are decent and I don’t want us to lose expensive stuff.” He paused and looked pointedly down the table at a hooded Amarrian. “And don’t do stupid shit like flying around in a hauler. I know it’s been a while but your mining can wait, Rectanus.” The Amarrian knew better than to reply.
“All right, then,” Burseg continued, “Have an Ishkur, a Vexor and something shiny ready. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long.”
One Day Earlier, October 29, YC 113 – General Tso – Villore.
Kaphine watched his overview intently. It had been a very active day already. The new war targets had not hesitated to bring the fight, and Burseg was relentless in wanting to pound them into dust at every opportunity.
It seemed like the fight might be slowly ground out of them. The enemy Noble Sentiments Drake had tried to lure them into a trap, but had gotten himself popped instead.
Kaphine, Iron Straw and One Way (who the rest of the guys mercilessly called “Mary“) waited and watched the enemy’s home station, knowing that the Tso fleet was on the way back with the heavy armament.
Burseg’s voice came across fleet comms. “OK, we’re on gate. Tease ’em out, Mary. Kaphine, look interesting, I want them chasing you and not looking at the Local transponder count.”
“Undocking,” came One Way’s voice.
Just behind One Way’s Vexor came a small fleet of enemy ships. The lock alerts rang out. “Point,” called Iron Straw.
“Engaged,” Kaphine echoed, “and going down fast, but they’re following off station.”
“2 AU and closing,” came Burseg’s voice.
Kaphine would have paid to see the Drake pilot’s face as two Bhaalgorns, a Vindicator, two Dominix, a Scorpion and a Rook dropped out of warp at close range.
October 29 – Noble Sentiments – Metserel on the Seyllin Gate
Rhavas had of course been to Seyllin many times for research purposes. But tonight he was here to fight.
Still, he was not sure what to think as he orbited the gate in his Stiletto interceptor.
He had just gotten up for his shift, and the call was for a nano fleet. The call was almost never for a pure nano fleet. While the FC was an experienced pilot – and a renowned interceptor pilot – he had only been in the corporation for a few days and was now leading a rather expensive fleet of Tech-2 ships into the enemy’s home system. To boot, the fleet had no practice in nano tactics.
“OK,” came the call, “I want the interceptors to jump first and land tackle on anything you can grab. Everyone else align immediately to the sun and shoot targets as I call them. Interceptors – go.”
Rhavas felt the brief , disembodied sensation of the jump, and reoriented quickly as he was expelled into the long-familiar sights of Seyllin.
A cloud of 30 drones surrounded his interceptor. “Ah shit,” he heard over comms. His fellow interceptor pilot, Quadia, had summed things up nicely.
It would be trivial to escape … but that was not his job.
He picked one of the Vexors, an overview signature tagged Kaphine, and burned at him, speeding toward an orbit. “Point!”
Within seconds, the swarm of drones devoured his ship. He hurried back toward Villore to get a new ship as the battle raged in Seyllin.
October 29 – General Tso’s – Seyllin
It had been 24 hours of scorched earth. General Tso’s alliance had lost 24 ships already, while destroying only 14 of the enemy. And the new day was just getting started.
But Kaphine smiled. Tso’s had lost extremely cheap ships while destroying extremely valuable ones. The “real score” was well in their favor.
The last battle of the day had been a savage one, with Tso’s small, low-tech ships fighting the Noble Sentiments speed-fit cruisers. But the field had been cleared, and all was quiet, though a few transponder signals remained in Seyllin.
“Sir,” came a call on his commlink. It was his Chief of Staff.
“What is it?”
“Um, sir? I’m not sure how to tell you this but … you only have one combat ship left. Sir. The Vexor that the CEO ordered to be on standby for tomorrow’s counterattack.”
“So what exactly do you want me to do about it?”
“Sir, I have the mining crew and shipping crew on standby in Clorteler, sir. They’re awaiting your orders. It’s high-security space, sir,” she said, as if he needed reminding.
Surely it was quiet enough to sneak out.
October 29 – Noble Sentiments – Seyllin
“You’re not going to believe this,” came Zerolis’ voice in Rhavas’ audio channel. “An Iteron Mark III just jumped through into Ane.”
Almost everyone had gone back to Villore, the target must have though somehow that this would be a good time to move his non-combat ships out of the war zone.
As his Stabber landed on the Ane gate, he and Zerolis jumped through.
Unfortunately, they were too late. The Iteron was already gone.
“I’ll check the POS,” said Zerolis. In his stealth bomber, he would be safe from the station’s weaponry.
Rhavas looked at the map a bit more closely. The dead-end system in the back of this gate network, Clorteler, was a CONCORD-protected system. “If I were hauling, where would I want to have my industrials?” he thought.
Rhavas’ Stabber and Kaphine’s hauler landed on the Clorteler gate and jumped through almost simultaneously. Rhavas cracked his first smile of the day as the hauler exploded just on the other side of the gate.
October 30, YC 113 – General Tso’s – Clorteler
The Vexor fleet had not gone well. In fact, it had been a slaughter. When Burseg had suggested this war would bring hell to all their usual haunts, no one had expected it to be quite so true. The Tsos were ahead in the value of ships they had destroyed, but Noble Sentiments had destroyed so much that the fleet was almost out of ships across the board except for the very expensive equipment, which Burseg did not want out except under very controlled circumstances.
But tonight was quiet – the fleet was docked in Seyllin, watching the only way in, and Kaphine was alone with familiar neutrals in Clorteler. Time to put some food on the table.
“Prepare to undock,” he announced to the crew of the Retriever.
October 30, 04:30 – Noble Sentiments – Clorteler
After the chaos of the previous night, it was strange to fly through Seyllin and Ane unmolested. As the only one flying around at the moment, however, Rhavas was taking no chances, comfortably ensconced behind the cloak of Wraith, his trusty Covert Ops frigate. There were a large number of transponder signals live in Seyllin, but no one was in space.
Rhavas decided to explore the back pocket, looking for targets of opportunity in case someone else jacked in to their pod. He jumped into Clorteler, and launched probes. Kaphine, the Iteron pilot, was here again.
He picked up a Retriever on the probes, and tracked him down to a belt. The mining ship warped off toward the station as he watched. Cans littered the field. But he must have been picked up on the directional scanner when he had launched. An alert for incoming comms flashed in his mind. Bemused, Rhavas answered the request as he bookmarked the belt for later use.
Kaphine > Nice cheetah… why are you all the way out here? Our fleet is in Seyllin…
Rhavas > I sightsee for a living. And I’ve spent a lot of time in Seyllin. Been there, done that.
Rhavas > Wrote the book.
Kaphine > well the view is even worse here….and the excitement is lil to none
Kaphine > I like your haircut.
Rhavas > Bald is beautiful man.
Kaphine > Well my retriever doesnt shoot back.
Rhavas > That’s my favorite part about it.
Kaphine > I need to make isk … and you are very much in the way of me undocking.
Rhavas > Aww, I’m just a li’l Cheetah.
Kaphine > And I’m just in a Retriever.
Rhavas > Cheetahs don’t have guns.
Kaphine > Neither do Retrievers.
And that’s when it hit him.
Rhavas > OK, I’ll leave you to your mining. Rest of the corp went to bed.
He closed the channel, pulled probes, warped to the Ane gate, and jumped out.
Right into a group of massed Vexors. Again. Kaphine had called the cavalry.
But this time, his job was to escape. He had escaped much uglier, and in tougher circumstances. The Covert Ops frigate cloaked and rapidly warped out at an angle the enemy fleet could not have anticipated.
He opened comms to the Local common channel.
Rhavas > Aww, you really do like me.
Burseg’s laughter carried over the comm channel as Rhavas headed out and away.
There was work to be done. Rhavas opened a channel to Hephast Gehrt, his Chief Engineer back at Villore station. This would need to be done quickly.
October 30, 05:30 – Noble Sentiments – Villore
“All set, sir. I have to say I find it a bit disturbing to have weapons fit on your Covert Ops ship though. Just doesn’t seem right given Wraith‘s history. She’s an explorer, not a warship.”
“I like it. Nice work as usual.”
Rhavas hurried to his pod.
October 30, 05:40 – Noble Sentiments – Clorteler
This time, Seyllin had been all but empty. No one would be there to come to Kaphine’s aid now – at least not soon enough. If they even took a Cheetah attack seriously.
Rhavas threw the tiny ship into warp as soon as he could after jumping into system, frantically willing it to the asteroid belt. And there it was, an Iteron Mark IV. He decloaked, locked and engaged his warp scrambler.
The industrial ship was in for a long, slow and pathetic death.
His own alliance comm channel opened then – Pascaali. “Need any help?”
“Sure,” Rhavas sent. “He may be down by the time you get here, but come join the fun.”
Pascaali landed just as Kaphine’s Iteron exploded.
Kaphine > Come on!
Rhavas > Hey, I figured out how to fit a gun and a point on this thing finally.
The one remaining fleet battle of that war was handily won by Noble Sentiments, returned to more conventional tactics and on offense rather than defense.
Kaphine would lose two Retrievers before the war ended.
Another turn of the tide.
With apologies to Burseg Sardaukar and Kaphine, whose characters I took some liberty with as far as guessing what they might have said on their own comms. I have quoted them to the extent possible via logs and the interactions we had with them. We had a great time with the war with General Tso’s – they were fun, smart wartargets that we still tangle with now and then. We lost the ISK war, but won the attrition war.