15 November 2015

Pod and Planet YC117 - Blood Frenzy

October 21 YC 117

I technically don't need to sleep. Capsuleers who spend weeks and months living in inhospitable solar systems behind unpredictable wormhole connections have invented an analogue to sleep. By turning off all ship sensors you plunge the brain into a state where it is forced to create imagery to fill the resulting void. It's not sleep but it feels like dreams and you only dream when you're asleep, right? Today I awoke as my Loki-class Strategic Cruiser gently filtered in external signals. As usual I was drifting somewhere deep in space. Comms crackled to life and my corp mate, a gruff Matari by the name of Bukur, noted my appearance in the standing fleet. "About time you showed up. Check your sensors. Do you see anything odd?"

It didn't take long to spot an unfamiliar 'Blood Raider Gauntlet' beacon being reported by my ship's sensors. This was disturbing. How had the Blood Raiders gotten into our system? None of our scouts had reported any activity whilst I slept, yet here we could see an encampment of the feared Blood Raider cult. Not only that, it was being broadcast for all comers to see, unlike anything else we normally found in wormhole space. "Come on then, move your arse and let's clear them out", I was jostled into action by Bukur.

Until I choose otherwise, while I am with my ship I am essentially immortal. This knowledge did little to calm me as we warped to the unfamiliar beacon. Whilst dying wasn't a problem, replacing the ship I was in and getting back home could be. Wormhole connections can be a fickle mistress and we currently had no known connections to Empire-controlled space. Landing at the beacon things grew stranger yet. The opposing force was a trivial fleet of frigates but they were guarding an acceleration gate. The Blood Raiders invasion party had not only managed to secretly infiltrate our home system but had also taken the required supplies to insert themselves into a deadspace pocket. Something I had never seen before in a wormhole system.

Clearing the gate guards and their reinforcements was no trouble for Bukur and my cruisers. We had to press on deeper into the unknown. I invited Bukur to be first in. He declined, "Why don't you risk your own bloody ship for a change?", a challenge I couldn't refuse even though I wanted to. In the deadspace pocket the challenge was marginally greater but once again the forces of the Blood Raiders were no match for a pair of capsuleers in Strategic Cruisers and they died rapidly. Of all the ships we destroyed only one of them had any salvageable cargo. The cargo was something neither of us had seen before. My ship identified it as a booster of type 'Blood Raiders Cerebral Accelerator' but was unable to give any further information about its effects. Maybe we hadn't yet passed the final hurdle into the unknown. Maybe we were looking at it now. Bukur volunteered to be first to try the booster. As he said, exploring the unknown was what we were originally out here for and it was a long time since we'd encountered the unknown.

"How does it feel", I was eager to know what the mysterious booster's effects were. The Blood Raiders were a slightly ghoulish cult and something purporting to accelerate your brain could mean just about anything, good or bad. The answer didn't help, "Well it's hard to explain, everything just feels more somehow".  While we were waiting for something more tangible than "feeling more" our ships alerted us to another Blood Raider beacon. I nudged my ship in the correct direction, "I guess we should deal with that as well. Maybe they'll have one of these accelerators for me to try", and with that I entered warp.

We destroyed this second outpost with the same efficiency as the first and, once again, the only thing we could salvage from any of the wrecks was the mysterious booster. Why were they here with a single booster? Was there something special about wormhole space the Blood Raiders needed to do something with this booster? Our pondering was interrupted by Bukur who realised his background skill training had ended some hours earlier than expected. On a hunch I quickly popped my own booster and immediately confirmed our suspicions by noting my training towards the final level of fleet commander was scheduled to complete almost two weeks early. The boosters somehow increased our capacity for learning.

October 23 YC 117

In the middle of today's operations a terrible thing happened. It was like the universe collapsed in on me. The utopian enlightenment I had enjoyed for more than a day now ended with a brain shattering crash.
"You might have warned me how bad this would be!"
"No idea what you're on about" was Bukur's response to my accusation, "my booster is still working."
This discovery led to some speculation as to why I was experiencing lower longevity in the effects of the Blood Raider booster. Could there be differences in purity or dose size? Was there some inherent biological difference between myself as a Gallente and Bukur as a Matari? Was there anything I could do to increase how long a single dose lasted? I resolved to dedicate some time to that later. The secrets of this wonder drug were ripe for discovery

My comedown was still in full effect and now, seeing how I had been affected, Bukur was incredibly keen to start building up a stock of boosters. We enlisted the help of more members of our corporation, explaining the wonderful benefits but leaving out the crushing feeling when the booster effects wore off. To be honest, once people heard their background training time would shorten they pretty much stopped listening anyway. With our fleet much enlarged we spread out exploring our constellation for more beacons. We deliberately collapsed one of our wormhole connections knowing this would likely result in a new connection to be formed elsewhere. As expected it did and we all raced each other to be the first into the new destination.

"Holy shit, get in here now", I was the first to jump in and couldn't believe my eyes. Not one, not two, but eight beacons were detected by my ship's sensors. The Blood Raiders had a good hold on this system and were likely far along with their plans, whatever those plans may be. Expecting his booster to run out any time soon Bukur sped past me and straight towards the nearest beacon. We had run no intel on the system. We didn't know if anyone lived there. Still the rest of us followed suit. This was very bad procedure for us. Anyone could be hiding in this unexplored system. If they were this could easily result in the death of all our ships.

Poor Blood Raiders could never had known what hit them as we rained death on their installations. It was a massacre. With our fleet swooping from beacon to beacon the Blood Raiders didn't stand a chance. By the end we had enough boosters for the entire fleet plus a couple spare. Everyone was basking in a warm glow having consumed theirs. They didn't know what awaited them once the booster was spent but I did. "Come on guys, let's see if we can find any more of these. Show them to keep away from our space", I tried to encourage people but they didn't understand my urgency. They simply crept away to their own private corners of space to enjoy the feeling. I was more driven. I couldn't get my mind away from the temporary nature of the booster. I needed to store more boosters. I almost regretted having brought the others into the system with all these sites. I should have kept them for myself. Just as I was about to return home with everyone else another beacon lit up on my sensors. I opened comms to let everyone know but then stopped myself. This site was mine. This would be my spare.

October 27 YC 117

It has been a few days since my last entry. There has been a steady decline in the appearance of our Blood Raider friends. At first we were able to keep our fleet well supplied with these drugs. Then the beacons started presenting themselves less and less frequently. At first this pressed us out exploring more and more. Then we started taking risks with our ships. We ignored all security protocols. On discovering a new beacon it was a race to see who could get there first. If there were multiple targets we spread out providing little or no protection to each other. It's a miracle we didn't lose anyone during these reckless exploits. Most importantly, however, we were able to keep ourselves dosed up on this Blood Raider mana. As we did each fleet member crawled off to their own private corner of the solar system to be alone with the drug. Socialising ceased to matter. I even started instructing my ship to wake me earlier and earlier in the hope I could fly alone and beat the others to virgin sites. I wanted to build a private stash. I was having to roam longer and further, taking all the risks of solo flight through potential hostile systems. Eventually it was evident that no new sites were being discovered and I retreated with my stockpile of boosters.

Waking up today an initial wave of panic washed over me. I spotted wrecks on my scanners and immediately assumed I had missed a now rare occurrence of Blood Raider detection. Panic was replaced by disbelief when I realised these were not Blood Raider wrecks I was seeing on my ship systems. These wrecks were of other capsuleer ships and there were a lot of them. Comms were quiet. Only Bukur was showing any presence in the corporation comms channels but he wasn't responding to my hails. In spite of the warm blanket of Blood Raider delight I had to investigate what had happened. With probes on my ship I was able to locate one group of wrecks. From markings I recognised them all as destroyed ships belonging to members of my corporation. In some cases individuals had lost more than one ship. Clearly whatever had occurred during my absence had been catastrophic for the others. As I sat at the edge of the battlefield I had a sudden realisation. If these were the ships belonging to people who had been attacking the Blood Raiders with me then there was a good chance of some surviving drugs in their cargo.

I was in the middle of the field of wreckage. Despite all the usual ammo, repair paste and other expected cargo, for all the ships I had searched there was not a single unit of booster. Either I was incredibly unlucky or someone had gotten to the wrecks before me. Normally, though, these wrecks would have been picked clean. With that thought fresh in my head sensors made me aware of another ship in close proximity to me. I identified it as belonging to Bukur and tried to hail him on the normal comms channels. "Give me your Boosters," he announced his hostility both verbally and by remotely disabling the warp drive of my Loki.
"Bukur, I don't have any left," I answered truthfully, "how about we go exploring for more?"
"There aren't any more. I was forced to take what drugs I could from the others but there's nothing left of those either. I need your stash."

Autocannon rounds started eating rapidly into my shields before I was able to pull range and reduce the incoming damage to more manageable levels. "Bukur, what are you doing?" I couldn't believe what was happening. Had our close knit group been eroded so far in such a short period of time? Had Bukur really destroyed all those ships searching for Blood Raider boosters? More imporantly, did he find any? The last question spurred me to action. I brought my Loki around to engage.

November 4 YC 117

It has been a week since I fought Bukur. It was a very close battle and more by luck than skill I barely survived. I blew up Bukur's pod as well to ensure he couldn't interrupt me while I searched his wreck. In it I found only two of the boosters such a heavy price had been paid for. I retreated with them to my secret corner of space. I was sorely aware this wasn't entirely necessary as nobody was left in the system with me. My badly damaged ship was on fire for longer than seemed possible before finally snuffing itself out. So long as I had my drugs I didn't care.

My entire ship crew of over five hundred had died rendering even the most basic of tasks vastly more difficult than normal. This wasn't a problem until the remaining boosters were exhausted. The cataclysmic crushing experienced at the end of the final drug was made all the worse knowing there would be no more. I cocooned myself in my ship for as long as possible before reaching the realisation that I had to find my way back to civilisation. Ordinarily this would be a trivial task but the damage to my ship and lack of crew greatly handicapped me. It took more than a half a day of scanning before I was even able to leave the system I had known for so long as home.

A further day of scanning saw me find my way to a wormhole which my ship sensors indicated led to inhabited space. I sat there for some time wondering what lay beyond. Had the whole of New Eden seen the same event which occurred in the microcosm of my corporation? Would the whole of my universe have been laid to waste? With my ship able to cater for my every biological need would I be destined to wander the empty space lanes alone for all time? The rush as the wormhole fully enveloped my ship did little to calm these thoughts.

I emerged somewhere deep in Amarr space many jumps from the old, familiar regions of space near Dodixie I had once called home. My fears built as I realised the system I had emerged in was empty. There were no other capsuleers there at all. I set route for Dodixie. Somewhere along the twenty plus jumps I must encounter another capsuleer. The real concern was whether they would be hostile as Bukur had been. I was relieved to find the jump gate to the next system was still active. That was a good sign that some civilisation had survived at least. Jumping though I was greeted with a lot of chatter on the local solar system comms channel. What's more, it was normal chatter. No threats; no hostilities; not even any wrecks on my scanners which could indicate capsuleer combat. Within two jumps towards Dodixie my fears of a total breakdown of society had been completely eradicated.

It appears the enhanced effects of the Blood Raider booster were limited to my wormhole and my corp. Nothing will likely explain the occurrences of the past week. Attempts to contact other members of my corporation have been entirely unsuccessful. Several have even left since I found my way to Dodixie. All those years of trust destroyed. What did we do?

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