This is an AAR of sorts - there’ll be no screenshots as it was… tense.
All that I’m writing about actually happened.
When my contact at the Coriolis station- orbiting safely around a completely forgettable, featureless planet a couple jumps away from the rock ball I almost died on- asked me if I wanted to work for him again in the next future, I was very very close to shoot his face off.
A brief montage of what I went through flipped fast in my mind.
My face remained imperscrutable, or so I hoped, and I just shrugged trying to look cooler than I really felt.
Having collected the dosh I calmly walked to my ship, flew out of the station and - while the frameshift was about to kick my sorry butt a dozen light years away, I solemnly swore to never jump to that system again.
What did happen though?
Mentally we have to rewind time to almost six hours earlier.
The well dressed federation point of contact presented me with a mission that was a good copy of something I already did before.
Reach a planet, land near to a formerly raided settlement, turn the power on - so to speak - and just walk back here to collect a hefty paycheck.
Easy, right? Right.
I sensed some “biowaste” so I tried my best poker face BS and asked for a better reward.
The fact that my contact accepted gleefully should have been a huge, red, space flag.
All too happy to have gotten the perceived upper hand I whistled all the way to my ship, happy as a duck in a pond…
In hindsight the guy was probably just as happy that a moron like me dropped literally in his lap…
After topping up my ship’s main tank, getting its main hull double checked for stress signs, and preparing all the stuff of my Maverick suit, I felt ready as I could be.
After a billion or so light-hours traversed in a lifetime, the trip could be classified as “woefully uneventful”.
I have to name a ship like that… maybe will bring better luck next time - but I digress.
Anyways- as it always happens to me the settlements happened to be deep in the dark side of the moon-sized planet.
While descending at a standard pace, I flick on the Night Vision leaving the ship main headlights off, I had no real Intel about possible OpFor but no reason to give anyone any forewarning.
I landed at a good 20 kilometers from the settlement, using the providential southern mountain range as a visual cover for my landing. After all, lights or no lights, it’s still a piece of metal big as an asteroid with several hydrogen sub-light engines, and not being seen is the best part of a safe approach.
Once on the ground I kill all secondary systems and hit the ground in my SRV: a six wheeled, all-terrain lightly armed/armoured fast recon vehicle.
Luckily I always keep it painted midnight black- as to give me any bit of an advantage over any possible spotter…
Again, no headlights, NightVision firmly on … slowly making a careful approach to my destination.
The last kilometer took me almost as much as the previous nineteen - I simply had to make sure to spot any possible hostile (or non-friendly) activity around the settlement.
All I see is darkness, shadows and abandoned buildings.
Good - I stupidly think.
Night vision can give you an idea of the place, but lights are better for spotting.
Keeping the lights to a minimum, no high beams, I approach the settlements gates spelling in capital letters “KLEIN AGRI CENTER”.
Nice, it should be a straightforward affair- and in fact I spot quickly three main buildings each with a clear sign.
There’s the biggest labeled “AGR”, a smaller one labeled “HAB” and another big one “PWR”.
That’s my boy!
record scratch *
Narrator voice: and that’s exactly the moment everything started going south, pretty fast.
I spend five good minutes, increasingly nervous looking for an entrance to the Power Center and its core, the Reactor Console.
There. Is. None.
In the end I was racing around the buildings, high beams on and cursing loudly!
There simply was no door.
Uhm, let me rephrase it, of the three separate buildings, two have clearly marked doors.
Not the Power Center!
That is impossible I tell myself trying to calm down.
Think, you thick idiot… look again.
I decide that the SRV is unwieldy and shut it down completely and get off on foot (and jetpack).
What I notice at this point is that there’s an elevated level that does connect the three buildings, not so obvious from the vehicle.
All my running around must have triggered something because it was exactly as I was tracing with a finger in the cold atmosphere the outline of one possible way to access the Power Center that I hear the unmistakable sound of a heavy ship dropping from high orbital altitude.
An icy cold claw grasps my guts as I spot no less than twelve diversely armed mercenaries dropping from the hovering ship.
I have weapons, a personal shield, couple grenades even, but… against twelve mercenaries?
My suit’s torch is off so nobody could possibly have seen me so I can take my time looking at the intruders (that’s rich coming from me but…) to try and outwit my way out of this and not lose all my street cred, ship, and SRV all in one swift blow.
Oh and my life too, insurance can be a b*tch.
So, my main advantage is that the new arrived have no idea where I am, and their ship has left.
It’s not much but I can work with that.
I observe them from the roof of the Power Center as they fan out quite carelessly: personal shields off, torches brightly illuminating the night in sharp segments, bobbing around with their heads.
This makes me feel only slightly better - they are so careless only because of their number, I can understand them.
Alone as I am.
Trying to think of a strategy that can help me here - I am not leaving without turning this big sucker on - I climb down from the back of this building.
As I reach the ground, the solution to my immediate problems starts to outline in front of me.
My SRV might not be the definition of tank or even APC but it does have a dual plasma repeater.
Its characteristic, the incredibly hot plasma discharge, is equally effective against personal shields and ballistic armor alike. Those things can bring down even a ship.
A small one. A small careless ship.
Nevermind, the real beauty are its shields, personal weapons are no match for those.
Well, unless they have rocket launcher… ah heck, whatever.
This vehicle is still my best option.
As I climb in I realize another advantage the SRV will give me.
Its powerful scanner should be enough to do give me a more accurate reading of the total headcount of my assailant AND scan their suits and give me a possible reading of their outfit.
Once all the systems are on I realize that I miscounted them, there’s fifteen of them.
And yet, I finally feel good enough to smile.
My scanner shows they have spread out enough to be unable to provide mutual support. Good.
What follows are about ten minutes of fast firing action.
Not knowing if there’s one or more heavy battle weapons in the hands of these people I prefer to play it fast and loose; running around while firing manually the turret with my off hand.
Not pretty, not professional and thanks gods there’s no one else but bad guys because I am going for suppressive fire all over the place.
I’m lucky, or good, or a bit of both as I manage to take them down one after the other.
I want to believe that given my high mobility and concentrated fire on the most separated elements I managed to keep the pressure high and prevent them from using their number efficiently.
With only two left, I sigh. I made it. What could go wrong?
Well, relaxing for example. Also not considering that if these two guys survived so long maybe there’s a reason.
Because that’s exactly what I do.
I relax and get sloppy. Those guys don’t.
I circle away lazily and I try to take on them from the side.
Except that I sped up and lost control in the low gravity and get stuck between two unlit light posts.
Frantically I try to boost vertically to free myself.
They are closing though and at around 180 meters one of the two open fire with a shouldered weapon system.
For a split second the time itself seem to hang still in the air-
Until the smoke trail sails past high above me.
I like to think that excitement and lack of experience in low gravity had the gunner to overestimate the angle to hit my exposed canopy…
Just as I recover from the shock the SRV gets unstuck and I am able to dash behind the safety of the habitation structure.
These guys survived the previous onslaught because they have heavy armor, and are definitely more skilled than me.
Luckily there’s only two of them and one is busy reloading his launcher.
Keeping up the speed and tempo I literally run over the other one.
It doesn’t feel good but they assaulted me first. Technically speaking.
Listen, it’s complicated and as of now I really need to nail the other one.
I’ll face my inner demons during the next lunch, I promise.
If I make it out of here alive.
The last one is quickly dispatched by the weapons of my SRV.
A quick look at the scanner confirms me that I’m alone again.
A moment as good as any to make a bit of inventory and see what I missed.
SRV shields are still up, the hull is down to 75% or so - the impacts and some of the weapons went through the electromagnetic padding of the shield… but it’s ok.
What’s slightly scary is that I didn’t realize the repeaters are almost depleted.
Wow, ok- we’re talking of nearly 2000 rounds. I see.
Suppressive fire, uh.
At this point sadly I had completely forgotten of the layout of the base and of the three interconnected structures. In light of the tense shootout I think I can be excused.
What follows is two hours, literally, of crawling through the external walls looking for a way in.
It was not pretty.
There are three limitations when it comes to explore a settlement you have no familiarity with
The possibly hostile environment, the quite hostile environment, and the very hostile environment.
In short, whenever you’re on foot you are constantly racing against the clock to avoid freezing, boiling, or simply chocking in your own CO2.
What’s keeping you alive are the batteries of your suit.
While all of this sounds dramatic, and at moments it can be, in reality all is quite safe - if you know what you’re doing.
Climbing into your SRV, for instance, recharges your suit’s battery from the vehicle’s own electric generator.
Entering a powered building reduces your battery consumption as your air scrubbers aren’t needed anymore, since you breathe the habitat’s atmosphere.
If there’s no enemies around, you can save energy by turning off your shields.
Or the torch.
Or not abusing of your jetpack.
Sadly those things are not really useful to me as in my mad search for the Power Control entrance I absolutely need to NOT be in the SRV, I DO need lights on and I HAVE TO do a great deal of jumping and running around.
I am actively cutting short my batteries, out of necessity.
The Maverick suit, the one I am wearing during this mission, has some advantages over the standard issue flight skinsuit; in the form of storage for extra batteries and a plasma cutter tool.
So my greatest fear at this moment, isn’t really my power needs but it’s that whoever sent the mercenaries I just took care of will send more since probably they stopped responding after probably reporting a crazy lone wolf that was shooting all he had from it’s moon-jeep…
This proves to be nothing to worry about - in hindsight .
As stated previously, it takes me nearly two hours to finally piece together the puzzle’s element of this settlement.
Two hours is a long time and I’d be lying if I was to say it was all fun and giggle. It wasn’t.
There was a great deal of sweating, swearing, realizing it’s really late and I should be in bed- that sort of things. Add to the mix my volatile Italianist temper…
When I was ready to finally give up, I stumbled upon the first step into the completion of the mission.
The Landing pad’s storage access-console.
Like a strong wind clearing the sky from dark clouds that simple piece of hardware cleansed two hours of frustration from my head.
I was back in the game and now I had a way out.
Consoles are possibly the most important part of a settlement.
If you can access all its functions it becomes literally a search engine with very defined areas and sections, people, lockers locations and codes to open them - the works.
As some of you might remember there’s currently no power in this settlement so … how am I supposed to operate it?
Luckily all specialized suits have standard issue a Power Charger and a Personal Scanner.
The power charger has the double function of collecting power from a station to recharging the suit battery OR charge a device, like a Console, through its external socket.
Needless to say it comes out of your suit’s battery.
The Personal Scanner? I’ll talk about that later…
With the SRV at hand, it’s not a problem- I charge it, on it goes, and I can finally pick the Power Control Console from the thing’s memory banks as a waypoint for my suit’s HMD.
With this extremely useful marker available I can finally navigate the complex (quite correctly named in this case!) with a better idea of what to look for.
“Navigating” doesn’t convey the situation - the main problem here is that since there’s no power in the settlement every door must be manually charged by my suit, sometimes I have to aggressively cut open the metal box protecting the socket - expending even more battery.
Luckily the settlement was inhabited before the bad guys drove the scientific team away so I find interesting, and sometimes pricey, stuff like spare batteries, chemicals, reagents, and even a sample of a new, still-in-development proto-plant of some sort. That alone is enough to cover all my damage and expenses!
After carefully making my way through eerily empty, dark, and noiseless habitats and hydroponic greenhouses I reach the Power Center.
After all that went on so far I feel that the “turning on the Power” part is definitely anticlimactic. sitting there looking all the systems coming alive.
“All systems…” my inner voice say.
“Every one…” it hints nervously.
And then it hits me.
“Yes, you dumb hot-dog - that means security systems too” my inner voice screams as I hear alarms blaring and the fire of high-energy heavy weaponry.
I just did it again, didn’t I?
I relaxed. I let my guard down.
Just as I approach the last door before hitting the thin atmosphere outside a loud explosion and the chime of an incoming message fill my helmet.
I just barely manage to turn on my personal shields that I turn the corner to face a big Perimeter Defence Drone, whose control station just came up - courtesy of the now running Reactor…
What happened? Simple, to pass through the various rooms of the Research facility I forced open an awful lot of restricted areas without any clearance.
Had I ran out as soon as the boot-up sequence of the reactor core started I might have managed to just barely avoid any complications but - eh - do I really look like the guy that learns from his mistakes?
My options are limited, my fast way out is slowly burning on the side of the building - whatever has not been shot upwards at nearly escape speed that is - and my ship is at the other side of the settlement.
Between me and her, in front of my face, the heavy drone. Great. groan
In a manner of speech I’m still lucky as the drone isn’t looking my way - so I whip up my heavy rifle and I blast the three shots I have dead center-mass.
When I say heavy rifle, I mean it. It’s a meter long thing, with an electronic sort-of-rail that magnetically drive a chunk of metal filled with explosive, really fast, really far, really angry.
To my surprise the drone explodes and crashes just beside the wreck of my SRV- but while I reload I dash into cover and try to assess the situation as best as I can.
Shields - untouched, ammo - plentiful, batteries - two fully loaded plus the 50% in my suit right now, contacts -YES!
Another drone is in fact roaming around. Hey maybe I am learning from my mistakes! If I hadn’t dove for cover it would have spotted me.
Wow, what do you know…
Anyway, I shake myself out of my complacency, get your bearing straight and don’t get lost around the buildings, please! The ship is THAT way!
Bearing 034, 1 km, no incline or hill but plenty stuff to break the line-pf-sight of that flying hunter-killer…
Trying to avoid testing my gorram luck any further I decide that discretion is the better part of valour.
After all the weapons of that flying terror are similar to the one of my SRV and I saw all too well how it chewed through the personal shields of those mercenaries, scattered broken on the sandy ground all around the settlement.
Somehow I manage to cover the distance that separates me from my ship.
I end up leaving just as two Local Enforcer, riding a Viper Mk.III each, jump in to check on the reason the settlement defences are all acting up…
The frameshift drive kicks me through the interplanetary void and I can now finally relax.
In red is the first cautious SRV approach and in CYAN the Power Center of the settlement
This is a closer view of the three main Habitats.
In Cyan the door I had to use, in Red my destination, and in Purple my approximate path.
Well, I landed to try and see if I could show the place from inside…
Notice that the HUD on top shows a VERY low temperature… 76°K or like Minus 200°C or… Minus 320°F
But I had to leave REALLY fast because people weren’t happy to see me again.
They were so pi$$ed they started shooting at the ship- I could have leveled half the place and they didn’t care!
C’mon! Dudes! Whoa, that’s hate…