“Latest reports indicate that Sansha incursions have taken place in Amarr and Gallente space. Capsuleer forces have mobilized to counter the Nation attack fleets, but indications are that even they may find this a long, tough fight. The Federation Senate today released a statement, saying–“
With a mental command, Erbo dismissed the subspace newscast. Hell of a mess these days, he thought. Those murderous bastards will stop at nothing, will they? Let’s hope Jarz doesn’t come under attack any time soon. It was a long way from where he sat in Pimsu…and right now, Amaranth was hot on the trail of a rogue signal. He refocused the scan probes and told them to try again. The visuals before his eyes showed the four probes warping to their new positions, then reaching out, homing in, correlating their signals. What is this? Wormhole, maybe? Or…
Bingo! A hard lock on a target, identifying itself as SANSHA HIDEOUT. A thin smile crossed Erbo’s lips. Time for a little payback.
He quickly recalled the probes and sent Amaranth, which was, after all, not a fighting ship, speeding for the jumpgate back to Jarzalad. Once he’d jumped back into the system, he streaked for the Ralpha Dogs’ base, sending a message ahead to have Syria Planum ready for departure.
Upon arrival at the site, though, he discovered it was an acceleration gate that wouldn’t pass anything larger than a destroyer. Cursing, he returned to Jarzalad, trying to remember: Do I actually have any destroyers that have been reactivated after the corporation-wide stand-down? What kind of shape are they in? He checked his hangar inventory, settling on Mannerheim for the assault. Its configuration required some rework, though, replacing an afterburner with a more efficient one, rearranging the gun turrets, and so forth. He gave orders, and ordnance and materiel quickly converged on the Catalyst-class vessel from the Ralpha Dogs’ corporate stocks. Turrets were reconfigured; ammunition arrived from bunkers to load the guns and resupply the reserve in the ship’s cargo hold. With a quick message to the insurance office to properly cover the destroyer, Erbo got the wing-shaped ship into the black.
Mannerheim easily passed the first gate, catching several Sansha frigates by surprise with her long-range railgun batteries and her single drone. A second acceleration gate from that point led to a refinery and a pair of bunkers, with but a few guardians. Soon, though, as Erbo was busily engaged in shooting them, a True Sansha, obviously the boss of the group, warped in. A harsh voice sounded over the local communications net: “The refinery must not be destroyed!”
Erbo kicked Mannerheim around in a tight loop circling the boss, opening fire with the short-range blaster battery. The armor-damage warnings began sounding, and he engaged repair systems. Soon, though, the assault was too much for the True Sansha, which exploded quite nicely. The remaining ships didn’t last much longer. Neither did the refinery and the two bunkers, which died in a blaze of glory under the impact of the iridium slugs from the railguns. After all the fuss the True Sansha had made, blasting the refinery to smithereens had seemed like a fine idea.
As Erbo turned to the tedious work of looting and salvaging the wrecks, a reading from the communications suite caught his eye. Somehow, the True Sansha had managed to get off a distress call before it was destroyed. The computer extrapolated the likely target of the signal: Andabiar system, one Erbo knew from flying the route between the Ralpha Dogs’ headquarters and their major manufacturing base. But freighters and haulers would not be needed for this task.
“We’ll not let you get away,” muttered Erbo under his breath.
. . .
Syria Planum warped to the likely location of the recipients of the Sansha distress call, to find a newly-constructed acceleration gate surrounded by nine Sansha guardians. To meet the threat, Erbo released a flight of drones heavier than the one Mannerheim had used, and engaged with four railgun cannons of larger bore. The combined forces quickly made short work of the enemy ships, and Erbo soon discovered that this acceleration gate would carry a battlecruiser’s heavier mass.
Sliding through the gate, he emerged far behind a trio of Sansha vessels, that picked up speed and went to warp before he could get within gun or drone range. But the computer had pegged their trajectory: right back to Pimsu where he’d started, perhaps to the location of the refinery that now only existed as rapidly-expanding gas clouds. Erbo gave chase.
At Pimsu, another acceleration gate guarded by Sanshas awaited. Again, the frigate-size vessels were no match for the guns and drones Syria Planum could bring to bear. And again, after passing through the acceleration gate, Erbo emerged too late to fire on the three traveling Sanshas…though, this time, he’d been able to identify one of them: Gamat Hakoot, a notorious wanted criminal relatively high in the Sansha hierarchy. And his computer had pegged Hostakoh system as their most likely destination. “A stern chase is a long chase,” mused Erbo as he set the course.
Upon arriving in Hostakoh, it was more of the same…except, this time, the guardians included four Centii Loyal Butchers. Though the other five defenders, including their True Sansha commander, fell quickly, the Butchers proved troublesome, as Erbo’s standard tactics weren’t breaking their tanks. They were no longer capable of breaking his, but…A classic Minmatar standoff, thought Erbo. Time to change the game. He concentrated his drones and cannons on one Butcher at a time, adjusting his orbital plane to maximize the effectiveness of the railguns. This tactic proved successful, as, one by stubborn one, the Butchers exploded. Quickly, Syria Planum followed the acceleration gate. Again, Hakoot slipped the leash…but this time, his escorts didn’t, bursting in showers of sparks.
Grimly, Erbo set course once more, this time for Elmed, in pursuit of Hakoot. By now, he was halfway convinced that there was an incursion being planned somewhere nearby, and that this was his one chance to stop it in its tracks before it started. And the Sanshas must be stopped.
More Sansha vessels awaited him at the rendezvous spot, though thankfully no Loyalists as at Hostakoh. As he wiped out first one group, then another, he spotted Hakoot’s ship, seemingly tired of running and spoiling for a fight. Erbo directed the Valkyrie II drones towards the Sansha overseer, and opened fire with all guns. Between the two, it was a matter of mere minutes before Hakoot’s ship detonated in one final explosion.
Erbo sighed with relief as he recalled the drones and secured all weapons. The Sanshas were cunning enemies, but they would not get the upper hand here today. And perhaps, New Eden was just a teeny fraction safer.