Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reactionary Measures

This can be troublesome. Intelligence reports that a hostile fleet is slowly but surely making their way towards my associates, and the strategists predict that the local market hub might change ownership in the future. While the insecurity can be used as an excuse to raise prices and thus gain significant short-term profit, the loss of docking rights would put a stop to any sustained business venture.

One clone jump later I'm at the market hub in question: sorting out my assets, canceling market orders and so on. The station is buzzing like a proverbial hornet's nest.

"Miss Ashley, report to the bridge of the Eyeless within the hour."
"*yawn* Can it wait? It's night out here, and the rocks are not going anywhere."
"I'm afraid it cannot. We're not going to look for rocks.The window of opportunity is closing."
"What opportunity?"
"The opportunity to leave this part of space for the foreseeable future. Read these reports and formulate a flight plan. You'll be my eyes and ears."
"Got it. *yawn*"


"Undocking now.."
"How's the station surroundings?"
"Hot! Being locked, taking fire. Redocked."
"Intel's reporting a hostile fleet spotted a few jumps away."
"Our flight plan takes us in the opposite direction. If these partisans join the main fleet, that will be our cue."
"Agreed, that seems like the least risky option now."
"Their area of operations seems to be reasonably concentrated. Once we get past the boundary gates the rest of the voyage should be fairly safe. According to the diplomats, the other end of the pipeline should be safe due to the non-aggression pact they signed earlier. The enemy is already involved with multiple campaigns, and thus I doubt that they'll spread the conflict further than necessary, at least overtly. Likely hostiles would thus be similar to the ones outside, picking off strays. However, there is the risk that the enemy is prepared to implement their overall strategy consistently and have posted interdictors along probable escape vectors. The Swimming Rat is not an ideal ship by any means for sneaking past those. Why didn't you use the Silent Whisper?"
"It's being refitted back in Republic space in accordance to the new specifications from Core Complexion. In addition, the cargo space would have been inadequate for this particular task."
"We'll have to work with what we have, then. I'll notify you when we can move."

I use the idle time to calculate the lost revenue from this venture, and familiarize myself with the situation in the north. The movements of some of the locals there have no obvious justification, and the victories my associates have gained are encouraging, but fostering false confidence might be the overall tactic at this point. In any case, the area's risk/reward ratio is currently highly volatile and thus an unreliable investment opportunity. Especially with all of this unsold stock. However.. the new model from Outer Ring Excavations looks promising.."

"Boss, they're gone. Time to move."
"Got it. Undocking."
"The gate is clear on both sides. Safe to jump."

Like Miss Ashley predicted, the voyage is mostly uneventful. She's traveling a few jumps ahead of me and reports no hostiles gate after gate, until...

"Neutral spotted. A Broadsword-class heavy interdictor, on the same vector as we are. He is not engaging, though. You better pick up the pace."
"There's only two jumps to go."
"Precisely. The next system is a choke point. If he's expecting company, we would need to improvise."
"Couldn't we just wait?"
"That could take days, and they would eventually find you."
"Point taken."
"I'm orbiting the gate. It's secure for now, but the Broadsword can't be far."
"I'm jumping now. Aren't you coming?"
"The Republic Fleet will provide protection for you, I'll stay for a while,"

On the next day, I read the after-action report. About 30 minutes after I entered Republic space, the gate was successfully blockaded by the neutral pilot's associates, with the overall force strength fluctuating between dozen ships to around 70. And while miss Ashley did report the gate's status to my associates, not everyone reads the intel reports as carefully as they should. There's a loss logged on the corporate network. Oh well. I close the report. My cargo is safe, and the Swimming Rat is undergoing a proper refit. I return to the task at hand, and finish the contract. The the heavy machinery rattles my office as my newest purchase arrives to my hangar. I open the blast shields and watch as the behemoth is unpacked and the assembly process begins. There is something mesmerizing in the movements of well-maintained machines..


NeoCom's chime tells me that there's dozens of new messages and starts summarizing them. Three war declarations, and associated chatter from my associates, who are busy extracting any and all intelligence about our new foes. The diplomats are reporting that one of the warring parties is our former ally, and there's rumors of them engaged in negotiations with our enemies. Apparently this war declaration is both an attempt to hinder our relocation efforts, as well as a gesture of goodwill designed to be used as a bargaining chip during the negotiations. Politics was never my strong suit, and not giving it due attention has proven to be a costly oversight. The factories are still running, but this has cut off the revenue from my main line of business, and my diversification efforts are not enough to plug a hole this big right now. And due to the war declaration, the risk/reward ratio of my newest purchase has also been compromised. I exit my office and head towards the hangar. The pod cradle should be assembled already, and the pod will be completely silent until they finish plugging in the sensors. It'll be a perfect place to think. The proverbial eye of the storm in the middle of a ship being assembled.