Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way

The heavy door to my quarters fell shut behind me, and I slumped onto the floor next to it, leaning back against a wall. Already the first pangs of regret for my earlier outburst were beginning to seep in, but a swig of this extraordinarily exquisite brandy managed to keep them at bay.

…rrright, I’ll probably had to compensate ONS for this bottle of brandy, plus any damage I might have caused to their lounge. I might also have to apologize to that Detei which I had almost hit with my helmet.

And this year had begun so well! After Kitten had set my head straight, I had called in to take my yearly Navy Reserve service early, to return back to space fresh and re-invigorated. And for a while it had worked: with renewed energy I had begun shuttling out the ships which I had left behind in Sasiekko when I left Factional Warfare over a year ago.

Of course, I could have just contracted the ships to one of the major shipping corporations, but where is the fun in that? No, my plan had been to fly them one by one from Sasiekko to our new home, all the 20-or-so jumps through lo-sec, seeking fights along the way. And fights I got! One my very first journey, I had to play cat-and-mouse with a roving gate camp in Molden Heath; on subsequent trips I lost a fight with a Comet; underestimated an Exequror; and raised the ire of a Grandpa who yelled ‘Get Off My Lawn’, fired his shotgun, and then his family piled on as well.

And most recently the brawl in the large Amarr compound: I had warped my glass-cannon Harbinger onto a duel between a Malediction and an Atron, and happily started shooting both of them. The Malediction started shooting back, word spread fast, and the brawl turned into an exciting 9-way fight, with my Harbinger in the middle, dishing out as well as it took. In hindsight, I should have kept my ECM drones on the Malediction, while concentrating my fire on the Jaguar which had snuck up onto me - but overall, I had fared better than I initially expected.

But - and I took another drink from the bottle - when I later looked at my official combat record, I saw many kills I didn’t remember being involved in. It had taken me a few minutes to remember that those had been done on our open roams, like that big Drake fight. Roams in which I had been increasingly disinterested in bringing the requested ship types, or in paying attention; disinterested even up to the point that I’d disengage my weapons early to make sure that I would not get that final blow.

It had then come to a head on our Assault Frigate roam just that night. Commanded by John Hexis, who had shown himself to be as good at FCing as he was at scouting, he had led our merry band through a number of fights already, when eventually we came across a lone Brave Tristan at a gate. Sensibly, John ordered the fleet to move on, but I chaved: This could have been an interesting solo fight - a fight I could even have won - but on the other hand going against the FCs orders could bring the whole fleet in jeopardy, and would at minimum undermine John’s authority.

Something had snapped in me at that moment, and I unceremoniously dropped from the fleet right there and then: I would have become a liability to them if I had continued. I must have sat there at the gate for a good half hour, brooding, not moving, before finally a random pilot had guts and engaged me. Had I been paying attention, I maybe could have won - but even so, getting him into low structure even after he had a half minute head start was still something.

I didn’t remember how I got back to base; my next conscious recollection was throwing my combat helmet across the ONS lounge, and walking out with their brandy.

…of which there was still about half left. Good!

I closed my eyes, leaned back against the solid comfort of the wall. I loved this alliance and its people - it was finally a place I was able to call home again. It was good to again have stuff which I could help to defend, good to have people rallying at the spur of the moment, good to have people I liked being around with. People I didn’t want to let down. But as tonight had shown, I could no longer do roams as regular activity, even though they were a large part of our alliance’ mission. Yet at the same time I was too painfully aware that I still sucked at flying solo, and probably always would be. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I took another drink.

Well, crap.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Season of Love and Happiness

The station was quiet at this early time of day, so nobody was around to notice the unsteadiness in my steps as I returned to my own quarters, the memory of last night slowly fading. This Gallentean had been quite a good kisser, and knew how to use his hands, so it had been an enjoyable evening. Well, up to the point where his girlfriend suddenly changed her mind. The following minutes of yelling and bulkhead-slamming had been less pleasant, but it did save me from having to break it to them that making out had been all that I had been interested in anyway. That way, while their yelling turned into something less adversarial, I got to plunder their beverage stash and catch a few hours of sleep on their couch.

Holidays, huzzah!

Admittedly, I was still confused about the details of the various holidays people were celebrating at this time of year - at some point I think I saw two people shouting at each other while holding a metal pole - but it was fun to just go with the flow and enjoy myself.

Ah, my quarters! Finally! My access code was accepted, I stepped through the doorway, and the hatch fell shut behind me. Immediately, dim light coming from my main room told me that I wasn’t alone. Carefully, quietly, but not overly concerned I approached the room’s entrance and peeked inside. Yep - it was only Kitten, having fallen asleep in one of my more comfortable chairs.

Usually, she was off in her own circles, but we had an understanding that she was always welcome should she need a place to crash. I wondered what brought her here this time, but given the time of day and my state of mind, that was a question which could wait. I stopped briefly by her side, to gently stroke her cheek, then found the way to my own bedroom.

------------------

The smell of coffee finally woke me up. And not that weak excuse for coffee served with your average breakfast - this was hand-brewed strong coffee, Minmatar style. But as much my taste buds protested, I headed for a shower first - the hot water doing wonders for my well-feeling. Small wonders. Emphasis on ‘small’. When I finally entered my main room, I was greeted with the coffee I had smelled before, pastries, and a way too smug Minmatar punk.

“Look who’s back in the land of the Undead!”, greeted me Kitten.

I ignored her demonstratively, poured myself a cup and grabbed a pastry. It wasn’t until I was halfway into my second cup that I graced her with an answer.

“Ha!”

She giggled. “C’mon, don’t be coy. Given how late you came home last night, he must have been cute!”

“He was ok.”, I allowed. “But not that cute. And even if - there were complications.”

“Mhmhm,”, she nodded, “I should have guessed - after all, you did come home at all. So he won’t make your guest list for your ‘Festival of Burning’, or whatever it’s called? Which I think is still coming up?”

“’The Kindling of the Light’”, I corrected her, “and no, he won’t. But what about you - who is on your guest list for your New Year’s shindig?”

“You tell me.” Her demeanor faltered, and suddenly she appeared vulnerable. “Did you deliver the gift?”

“Yes, I did.”, I nodded carefully. “Though in hindsight I must say…”

“…I know, I know, it was a stupid idea.” She sighed, and slumped into her seat.

“Especially coming from you.” I pressed on. “I thought we were over this kind of stuff since ‘Princess’.”

She shot me a look as if she was going to say something, but then reconsidered. Instead, she replied “I thought so, too. But… One night of double entendres, months of nothing - but then suddenly Bam! I can’t get her out of my thoughts.” She shook her head. “Maybe it’s just my mostly-male Lance getting to me, because for all I know, she probably doesn’t even remember me - but what if it’s more?”

I emptied my cup. “Well, you cast your dice, and now you have to wait. Either she’ll figure it out, and you will have a whole new set of questions to answer for yourself, or somebody else is going to get lucky, in which case you won’t lose much.” I looked at her askance. “Though I suggest you find something to occupy yourself with in the meantime.”

“Way ahead of you.”, she managed a smile. “One of your Alliance mates has a problem with miners encroaching on his territory. But since it’s hi-sec, his hands are tied - so I thought I fly down there and buzz those miners. Which is why I’m here - to pick up my old Cheetah.”

I laughed. “Buzzing miners” was what we had called sitting in a belt and shamelessly cargo- and ship-scanning miners, hoping that the mere act would scare them away. It rarely worked, but when it did, it absolved you from the messy business of actually attacking said miners. Plus, if you negotiated smartly beforehand, you got to keep the ammunition expense budget.

“Speaking of which - I need to be going.”, she added. “But that also reminds me, my Cheetah has a bunch of heat-damaged blasters in its hold - are those yours?”

“If they also have dust worth almost two years on them,” I replied, “maybe?”

She chuckled and stood up, grabbing a pastry while doing so. “I’ll have them transferred to your hangars.” She gestured. “Thanks for letting me stay here tonight.”

“Anytime!”

At the door, she stopped and turned her head back to me.

“Listen… before I leave… when you mentioned ‘Princess’…”

“Yes?”

She hesitated, then convinced herself to speak freely. “You were right - but at the same time… you’re one to talk.”

“What do you mean?”, I asked, perplexed.

“Remember what you did before that Op?”

I nodded, slowly.

A pained expression flitted over her face.

“You’re doing it again.”