Whee! I'm finally caught up and I've passed 1000 kills. It'll be interesting to see how my numbers compare against the real Blair's.
I find Rollins and a few hangers-on lounging around a news report and complaining about the war effort and how it seems we aren't winning. A big change from his attitude as we left the Locanda system. He makes some good points about current situation but I can't have someone lowering the crew's morale like that and I'm forced to chew him out and threaten him with Waste Recycling duty. Hopefully, he'll keep his mouth shut now. Still angry from that encounter I retreat to the barracks, where a picture of Angel reminds me of happier times. I wish I had some word on her status. I decide to seek refuge in the Gunnery station for a little bit but Captain Eisen captures my eye on the bridge. He wants to congratulate me for my performance so far and is especially happy that I haven't let the Victory cramp my style. I thank him for his kind words.
Today's mission is simple. The Kilrathi want control of the sector base and jump point and we don't want them to have either. I assign some pilots to defend the jump point before taking Cobra out in Hellcats to defend the base itself. The Kilrathi presence at the base seems to mostly consist of Darkets and Dralthi, which don't stand a chance against Cobra and I in our Hellcats. The Kilrathi plan is revealed, however, when 4 Paktahns appear on the other side of the base. Afterburning furiously, I discover that one of the Paktahns is flown by the Kilrathi ace, Bloodmist. Using my missiles to stop his wingmen from their runs I slash down at Bloodmist from head-on and down his shields and most of his front armour in one long burst. A quick loop and the second burst finishes the Kilrathi ace off. Unfortunately this leaves me exposed to the tailguns of the remaining three Paktahns. With Cobras help, I manage to finish them off, but there are a few cracks in my windshield is I land the fighter.
Rachel meets me on the flight deck and asks to chat off the record. She's noticed the look on my eyes as I think about Rachel and recognises it as the same look a guy she once dated had after he saw his wingman get fried. Apparently, he just took off in a Thunderbolt and hit a jump point as the Kilrathi where coming through. I decide that I need to get it off my chest and confide in Rachel about my fears for Angel and how I haven't heard anything. She manages to lighten my mood a little with a light joke. I'm trying not to look at the picture in the Barracks again when I run into Maniac, browsing through some Playboys. He's jealous that Rachel's opening up to me and I get the feeling he's made a play and been shot down in true Maniac style. Getting a good dig into Maniac definitely brightens my mood up.
Now that we've cleared the area around the base, we can start to bring Convoys in. No doubt the Kilrathi will try to stop us and Hobbes and I will be there in our Arrows to make sure the transports get through. The first convoy is under heavy attack from Dralthi as we arrive and Hobbes and I dive into the fray to sort things out. One of the transports has some scratches on it's armour when we're done but it can still make good speed back to the Victory. The next nav is suprisingly quiet, though. I head towards the lead transport to link autopilot but when I reach a thousand kilcks out, explosions start to ripple down its surface. Flipping my fighter over and engaging the afterburner I make it out of the blast zone to find several Strakha trying to take us out, an obvious Kilrathi trap now that I have time to reflect. I stick to my guns for the engagement, but Hobbes has a lot of success using his missile against the stealth fighters. Usually they just cloak to break the lock but Hobbes isn't giving them time. Once the last fighter is gone, I set off the last booby trapped transport to make sure the Kilrathi can't try that trick again. Rollins is suitably impressed at our performance and relays an invite for some decent food down on the base.
I run into Flint on the Gunnery deck and we share our views on flying and why we fight the war. For her, it's all about the flying and nothing holding her back. I play along for now, though I'm expecting what she says next, a request for reinstatement on the flight roster. I think she's learned her lesson and it is my flight group, so it's my decision. I let her back on and then ask why it took her so long to ask. She cheers up a great deal after she gets let back onto the roster, I just hope she doesn't pull the same stunt again.
Now that the basic supplies have made it through, it's time to get Blackmane enough weaponry to handle itself. Vagabond and I will escort some weapons transports from the Victory to Blackmane. Usually, I'd take an Arrow on this mission, but I have the feeling we'll have some big guns thrown at this convoy to stop it from getting through so I choose the Thunderbolt instead. This choice is validated very quickly when we encounter a new enemy fight that Intel has been warning us about. The Sorthak has heavier shields and armour than most cat fighters but the really dangerous part is the large number of meson turrets dotting the fighter. It certainly throws up an impressive volume of fire if you let it, but some careful maneuvering seems to keep you out of the main arcs and lets the Thunderbolt's heavy guns do their work. The next attempt comes in the form of Strakhas, but it's a fairly lousy effort. The Strakhas have to decloak to attack and their guns just aren't strong enough to seriously threaten the transports. The same can't be said of the Vaktoths that come after them at the final nav point. I let one slip past and get a few bursts in against the transport and, though, the captain reported everything was fine, his ship had some large red marks in my targeting window. Fortunately, that's the last of the cat presence on the convoy route and the convoy delivers its goods safely. Now, with our backs covered by the base, we're free to finally make an attack against the Kilrathi in the Ariel system.
Reactions to the Victory being on the offensive are mixed. Rachel is very busy now and doesn't have time to chat, but Cobra is definitely enjoying our current operation. There's even a smile on her face, something I haven't seen before. It gets a bit bigger when I tell her we're going to kick some ass. Vagabond is concerned about the intelligence we're getting. He doesn't want to be targetting civilian installations and neither do I. I try to get him to trust what we're told by reminding him that we're the good guys but he doesn't seem convinces. Finally, Rollins seems, shall we say, cautiously enthusiastic. He's happy to be on the offensive again, but says not to make any plans for a victory party just yet. We'll see.
Our mission today is simple, roast any cats that think about escaping to the jump point and alerting the Kilrathi high command to our presence. I decide to let Cobra have some fun and chose her as my wingman, though I override Rachel's suggestion of a Longbow for the slightly faster Thunderbolt in case I have to chase anything down. There's a light Kilrathi presence in the first two Nav Points mostly Strakhas with a Corvette and some transports thrown in, but at the final nav point we hit the Jackpot. A kilrathi carrier! It's definitely suprised at our presence and only has a minimal CAP up. We blast through the Darkets with ease but Cobra ignores the Dralthi launched to attack the carrier itself with predictable results. I order her shot-up fighter home and scrape the two Dralthi off her tail. Some more Darkets followed by a single Vaktoth mark the rest of the fighters the carrier had ready. I launch my single torpedo into it's rear before diving into the flight deck and shooting up anything that looks like it might take off. I transfer all power to my guns and just keep pounding the inside of the carrier until it's reactor goes up. Rollins is happy at the dead cats but only Rachel greets me when I land, I kind of hoped for more for my 1000th kill.
I find Vaquero in the barracks playing a rather sad sounding tune. Taking a guess at the reason, I ask him if this is his first time behind enemy lines, he replied that he always fights a little harder on his own turf. I remind him that enemy lines are just lines on the map, lines that we'll redraw and as I walk away his guitar sounds much happier. Hobbes is also happy now that we're taking the offensive. He tells me how the Kilrathi are trained to use their claws almost from birth and that flying never quites satisfies their spirit. He worries that this seems primitive to me, but I know Hobbes is better than. I remind him of that and tell him to stop second-guessing himself.
It's time to do some convoy raiding of our own. Using the nebula as a shield, the Victory is going to take out the convoys the Kilrathi have been sending through the area. I select Flint as my wingman and we head out in Thunderbolts. The convoys must have received word of the carriers demise as they all have a capship escort of some sort. The first and last had destroyers while the middile one only rated a Corvette. There were also quite a few Vaktoths floating around the system. None of them presented a major problem until the last convoy when Flint ignored her own advice in victory streak and took off after the convoy with two Vaktoths on her back. I managed to scrape them off but her ship was pretty dinged up afterwards. Seeing another flight of fighters launching, I order her home and engage the fighters to give her cover. After the CAP is done with I torpedo the destroy and take out the transport with my guns. Upon my return, Rollins is considering renaming the ship to the Ambush but I think Victory is just as appropriate. I also finally get my 1000th kill party on the flight deck, only 26 kills too late.
I might Flint on the Observation Deck for a drink and the mood is definitely high. Things are finally looking up for the good guys and Flint relays a story her dad told her about a war way back in Earth's past, the Trojan war. It's another conflict that lasted generations and she concludes that the important message is that it did end.
It's time for us to leave the Ariel system, after the damage we've done so far the Kilrathi will no doubt tweak to our presence shortly. Hobbes and I will escort the Victory to the jump point in our Thunderbolts. The first kilrathi wave of Darkets and Paktahns are easily dealt with, but there's a problem at Nav 1. Not only is a Kilrathi carrier blocking our path, but our sensors can't detect the jump point anymore. Navigation has found a likely alternative but it's going to be a long fight to get to it. Hobbes goes after the carrier while I pounce on it's CAP. This combination works much better than when Cobra tried it as I'm ready for the CAP as they take off instead of trying to scrape them off my wingman's back. Eventually the carrier goes down to Hobbes' guns and I put a final missile into it's last fighter and we head to Nav 2. Nav 2 has a few fighters and a corvette doing a run straight at the Victory. I order hobbes after the Strakha while I get into torpedo range of the Corvette and let one fly. Just before it impacts, though, the Corvette manages to get a Skipper missile off at the Victory. Harrassed by Strakha, I chase after it and manage to destroy it a safe distance from my home. With that down the Strakha don't last long against my full fury. Rollins is shaken by what happened as I come into land but he has to remember that some excellent flying got us out of the situation. I land just before the Victory's battlegroup escapes to the Caliban system.