I'm ahead of the curve this time, and had enough time to also do my journal much sooner than usual.
I notice some pilots playing a card game at one of the tables when I step into the Rec room. I also see Dallas looking out into the depths of space. I ask Dallas if he’s ok, and he says that he would be better if he had a one-way ticket home. He says that we’re in a fine mess, and I try to tell him to get used to having to fight. He interrupts me, and says that the Kilrathi were tied up on the Feudal Planets with problems of their own. The Border Worlds have been completely quiet with the Black Lance out of commission. Peace has been reigning for quite some time, and he did not expect having to fight. He ends his rant by saying he is hosed, but I tell him that all of us have joined Confed to do a job that has no guarantees. Dallas wonders if that’s supposed to make him feel better, and I tell him no. I explain that whatever we are up against here will have to be stopped. We’re the only group out this far, so all we have is rely on each other. Until we get word back to Confed about the enemies we are facing, this will mean that we’ll have to give each other 100% commitment. Dallas takes a few moments to ponder what I’ve said, and walks away. I’m hoping that I got thru to him. I turn and notice Stiletto sitting at the bar. She offers me a toast to my talk to Dallas. I enter the briefing room, and the CAG says that she left the tactical division with a new strategy. The enemy has cut us off from our primary supply routes in the H’rekkah system. We were able to contact a convoy destined for a Confed colony, and have rerouted it towards the Midway. Our sensors are showing a small strike force closing to striking range of the convoy. Enemy capital ships are closing in on the convoy’s position, and we’ll use a series of nav points to circumvent the fleet to reach the convoy. Once we reach the convoy’s position at nav point 4, we’re to take down any attackers of the convoy and escort them back to the Midway. After getting dismissed from the briefing, Dallas comes to say that he’ll be there for me 100%. I tell him that I’d be happy to give 150%, and that I’m looking forward to us kicking some aliens around.
I take off in a Tigershark with Maestro and Dallas on my wing. At the first nav point, we run into a light force of three Morays. The Midway comes on the communication line to patch us into the communication channel of the convoy since they’re now under attack. I hear communications about the convoy defense having to deal with too many fighters, and they are wondering if there will be help from the Midway. We’re on our way guys; just hold on until we get there. The Midway tells me that any hope for us salvaging the situation is gone since their analysis confirms that we won’t reach the convoy in time to offer much assistance. I’ve taken out two of the Morays by this time, and the third one is also quickly gunned down. A few more nav points along, we run into another small group of Morays. I hear the TCS Barkley send out a mayday requesting immediate assistance. I then hear a Confed pilot having to eject, but the convoy does not have an SAR ship available to pick him up. The TCS Barkley then says that their fighter cover is completely gone and that they’re taking heavy damage. The ejected Confed pilot asks for help, and there is an alien ship that is picking up the ejected pilots. A few moments after this news, I make a mess of a Moray. A second Moray goes down without too many troubles, although a Dragonfly missile shot from Dallas goes wide. Together, Dallas and I get the last Moray and another Dragonfly hits the enemy fighter. We reach the fourth nav point where the convoy is. The enemy quickly destroys both the TCS Barkley and the TCS Porter. I go after one of the big fighters that are now identified as Mantas. The guns of my Tigershark punch thru the thicker shields and armor of the Manta, and that ship is destroyed. I approach another Manta directly, but shift my attack angle after seeing it shooting a nasty looking wide green blast. I’m able to eliminate a second Manta with a missile and guns, but take a missile hit from the rear. I target the Manta that was attacking me from the rear. He follows his fellow into the vacuum of space. I then see a bomber cluster, and I slow down enough so that I don’t fly past it in pursuit. The cluster breaks into three individual smaller fighters, and I use a missile against one. Fortunately, it looks like just one missile hit will blow these fighters up since they’re quite maneuverable and difficult to hit with guns. With the exception of one of the fighters, they all have to be eliminated with missiles. Maestro expresses my wishes that we had gotten here sooner to help the convoy. A small refueling and rearming ship called the Redeemer says that there would have been nothing we could do to save the transports. The alien bugs were just toying with them until we arrived. The Redeemer offers to refuel and rearm us, and I match its speed to do so. It takes three more nav points before we encounter another small group of Morays. We then get a communication from the Midway that it’s under attack, and we are to return ASAP. I quickly eliminate two of the Morays, but the third launches a missile that hits my port side. I finish off that last fighter, and we’re on our way to the Midway when they ask what’s keeping us from assisting. We arrive to the Midway’s position, and the CAG tells us that the launch control is off line. We’ll have to help any defense with the Black Widow squadron, and the Midway says they are taking hits from all sides. I see one of those big clusters like before at the convoy point and target it. I’m able to break the cluster apart, but my fighter took a few hits from a Manta while doing so. My ship’s core has 40% damage, and my shields took some damage too. The damage control system repairs the shield damage, and I get rid of that Manta. I get after another of the clusters, and a few fighters are destroyed by our defense before I get in range. I break that cluster apart and blow up two of the smaller cluster portions with missile shots. I sight a third cluster, and engage the afterburners to quickly close the distance. I break that cluster also, and again use missiles to blow up those smaller portions. The area is clear, and I can now land. The Midway says that next time they may have to keep me closer to them, and express their sympathies about the tough loss of the transports. I land on the Midway, and Rachel says that it looks like her crew will have its hands full with repairing the badly battered fighter I came back in.
I see Finley at the bar, and it looks like she’s trying to pass out from the booze as quickly as possible. I ask if she’s had a hard day, and she says everything is fine. I do admit that I’ve never see a person drink the way she is right now and live. She asks if I’d like to see her down another shot, and I stop her and ask what is wrong. She says that everything is going wrong in the science division. They don’t have a clue on what we’re facing. All they have are some unknown contacts, a bunch of dead Kilrathi, and a cryptic story about the end of the world. I ask her what she means by that, and she explains that she means the Kn’thrak of the Kilrathi. I tell her that I heard from Zero about what it means, but she clarifies that I did not get the full picture. There is an ancient Kilrathi prophecy about the end of the world where the Kn’thrak figures prominently. I ask her if that only meant the destruction of Kilrah, and she says that was only the beginning. Their prophecy does not mean Armageddon like on Earth, but the end to everything. I ask if she told the Captain about this, and she says he wants answers and not ghost stories. We’ve also been attempting to send a distress signal to the nearest Confed starbase, but our link has been cut. I say that this must mean that relay station in the H’hrass system is out of commission. I ask her why she’s down here again in pilot country, and she says that testosterone and adrenaline appeal more to her than brass. I say that a very smart person once told me that was a dangerous combination. I hear an announcement over the intercom for all pilots to head to the briefing room, and I tell her that I have to go. She tries to tell me something as I’m leaving, but I can’t hear it. The CAG says that this mission will be important to us in this system. I receive confirmation about my comment about the communications relay station in the H’hrass system no longer transmitting. We must reach the system to repair the station and send a distress call to Confed. An enemy cruiser group followed us thru the H’rekkah jump point and will intercept us before we can reach the H’hrass jump point. Because of the assault on the Confed convoy, the cruiser has fallen behind its destroyer escorts. We’re to go after the fighter screen of the destroyers, as well as eliminating the shield and turret defenses on the destroyers.
Dallas hopes that our Shrike bombers can handle the destroyers since they look very big. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I target a Manta since it’s the biggest threat to fighters and bombers. I nail the Manta, and Dallas says that the turrets on the destroyers are trashing his ship. I pursue another Manta, and make a minor bump to a friendly Confed fighter. Dallas ejects from his fighter, so it sounds like the destroyer got the best of him. While still working on whittling down the Manta, and Confed pilot is killed in action. I finish off the Manta, and notice that the only ships within easy range are Squids. I notice a torpedo from one of our bombers hit the engines on one of the destroyers. It’s not going anywhere, and I have the Squid in my gun sights. It becomes sushi, and I go after another Squid. That ship launches a missile, but all it does is take down my shields. I blast the Squid into tiny tidbits, and notice that when they spread their wings to attack it makes a huge target profile. This is a perfect opportunity to use some Dragonflies. I’m blasting at a third Squid, and the bombers have disabled the engines on the other destroyer. I’m going after yet another Squid, and miss my target with a Dragonfly. Stiletto then says that she also has to eject, and I’m thinking that these destroyers must have a lot of turret firepower. A torpedo hits the bridge of a destroyer, and that capital ship is scratched. I dispatch another Squid, and the bombers smack down the other destroyer. I come at a direct pass on a Squid, and it takes down my shields and forward armor with a missile hit. I get on its tail and start shredding it with guns. I also get a hit in with a Dragonfly, and that Squid is soon shredded. There is still one Squid left, and it presents a perfect profile to use a Dragonfly. My guns finish that fighter off, and this zone is clear. I head back to the Midway, and they tell us that we still have the cruiser to deal with for our next mission but we do have an upper hand since we have just one enemy capital ship to deal with instead of three. Rachel congratulates me on making some right moves, and says that it looks like I have the right stuff.
I see Zero sitting alone at a table with a drink. He’s silently thinking things over, and I sit down to give him some company. Zero asks why he can’t commune quietly with his drink. I apologize, and say I did not see a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. Zero asks me what it was like being the son of the Iceman. He thinks I must have had a free ride thru the Academy due to having a famous father. I tell him that I never got a free ride, and Zero’s not convinced since my father was a great war hero. I explain that while he was a hero by being one of the most decorated Confed pilots, he died while I was an infant. My mother got his last medal while I was still in diapers. I explain that having a hero for a father was no help, and that I’ve spent my career trying to live up to the reputation of a person I never knew. Every time I fly, I feel that I’m competing against my father. Zero tells me about his father, who was a cultural anthropologist. Confed intel put him to work during the war against the Kilrathi. Zero’s father spent years studying the Kilrathi’s history and technology to get an edge against the cats. Due to this classified work, he could never tell his son about it. Zero says that at one point he wanted to be just like his father. I say that maybe he is like his father, and we make a toast to each other. I ask him what he thinks we’re up against, and Zero says that his father was the expert in regards to the meaning of Kn’thrak. He says that he heard the word only once or twice in relation to one of Earth’s biblical texts and a race called the Nephilim. He thought those stories were fairy tales, but he remembers being so scared that he had to leave the light on for days in order to sleep. Zero says that it does not matter, and I point out that we are alike in our efforts to outrun the shadows of our fathers. I head into the briefing room to find out our plan of attack against the cruiser. Hawk’s Charlie Wing will act as a fighter screen along with our wing. We’re to escort Maniac’s Bravo wing of bombers as they work to destroy the cruiser. After destroying the cruiser, we’ll head back for any defense of the Midway if needed. This force may have been responsible for the destruction of the Kilrathi fleet, so success is very important. After leaving the briefing, I tell Dallas that I’m ready to give him 150%, and he says that he’ll offer 200%.
We launch in Wasps, and the Midway tells me that I have no time to lose. It’s imperative for me to take out the fighters so that Bravo wing can deal with the cruiser. I hit the booster pack right away, and look for priority targets. I find one with a Skate cluster, and the Midway says that I need to make sure that Skate cluster is dealt with. I break the cluster apart, and finish a smaller Skate section with a missile. Another section is taken care of by the guns of the Wasp. The only other close enemy fighter is that last section of the Skate cluster. I get it with a missile, and then Dallas is killed in action! I target one of the Mantas, and another Confed pilot dies. This mission is going south quickly, so I better help to turn it around somehow. I blow the Manta apart with a Swarmer missile launch, and target a second Manta. It also is scrubbed by the Swarmers, and our group destroys two Remora pods. A third Manta gets medium damage from my Swarmer launch, and I finish it off with guns. I see an enemy corvette seriously damage, and Zero polishes it off with a Swarmer. I see a Squid fighter, and go after it in pursuit. I get the Squid wiped out with just the guns of the Wasp. Zero and I combine to kill another of the Squids, and only the cruiser is left. Time to help out by taking out turrets. I wipe out six of the turrets and a missile launcher on this Hydra cruiser. With no defense left, it should be easy picking for the bombers to blast the bridge. The bombers successfully break the bridge, and the Hydra deploys a Skate cluster. One cluster against several fighters is not even odds. I bust the cluster apart, and take out two of the smaller Skate sections with missiles. Maestro does overkill with a Swarmer launch against the final one, and it’s time to head back to the Midway. The Midway congratulates us on a good job, and that it looked like the Captain would pull the plug due to our losses. Fortunately, I was able to help turn things around but I still wish it did not mean the loss of two pilots today. I check my performance score after landing, and pound the computer table in frustration. Maestro and Stiletto try to tell me that there was nothing I could do to save Dallas. I step away from them both still steaming, and Stiletto swears over this loss.
I attend the funeral services for Dallas and the other two dead Confed pilots. The chaplain gives a good eulogy, and I hope I can keep true to their deaths not being in vain. I’m sitting with Zero at a table in the Rec room, and say that we’ve lost good pilots today. Zero welcomes me to the wonderful world of armed aggression. Maniac comes in the room spouting all sorts of bravado about his acts against our new enemy. Hawk tells him to give it a rest, and Maniac says that he’d like to but it would mean that somebody would surpass him on the killboard. I’d hate to break the news to you Todd, but I’m now #1 on the killboard. I ask Maniac for some respect for the dead, and he’s amazed that I have the guts to talk to him after our first encounter. He says that he has no sympathy for people that can’t hack the combat action and get themselves killed, and I jump out of my chair to shake some sense of compassion into him. I’m hauled off to the brig, and Commodore Blair comes in after a while. I’m tossing a rubber ball in frustration at a picture of Maniac on the wall. Blair tells me that he heard about my struggle with Maniac, and that Maniac is good at hiding his emotions behind a lot of hot air. The Commodore tells me that Maniac’s heart is in the right place, and that I can’t let his attitude get on my nerves. I ask Blair if he’s here to arrest me, and he says that he had a word with the CAG. She’ll let my actions slide due to severe stress and anxiety, but Blair warns me to not try that stunt again. Blair grabs the rubber ball I’ve been tossing and catching during this speech, and says not to thank him all at once. I apologize and say that I expected things to be different. The Commodore tells me that when he was still flying along with others taking risks, it did not seem to matter much. Blair tells me that things for him became clear when he realized that we fly with death every day. We fight, struggle, and lose friends along the way. Blair tells me that he lost somebody he really cared about a long time ago. Blair then says that what I do is very important to this ship and its people. The Commodore urges me to not let anyone stand in the way of what I need to do. I say that he sounds envious, and Blair admits that perhaps he is.
One thing that is interesting about this series is that specific damage to the Midway affects your mission path.
You can also get yourself into some tough missions if you stumble on the earlier ones. Looking back this is one of the nicest features of WCP. Besides the graphics update and the ability of the Vision engine to handle a then ridiculous amount of fighters (although the argument can certainly be made it remains a ridiculous amount of enemies to face in one engagement, the Standoff guys have managed to increase that threshold to an insane amount).
Capship components may have produced one of the silliest things in WC (capships that don't fully explode and float away in great wreckage like they did in WC3 and WC4), it also opened interesting paths of mission branching based on how well you defended your carrier. We all like to win, but how many times has a torpedo or missile slipped through and damaged the Claw, the Concordia, the Victory, or the Intrepid? Making that damage affect gameflow is a great addition and produces a new sequence of events like we see here.
I stuck with an optimal mission path, although if you play without restarting missions, or specific mission paths you can get a pretty hefty kill count. And since you mentioned the graphics update, check out the detail this time. You just might need a hefty filter for shot #4.
Like DaveO, I managed to get on the optimal mission path, even though there was some engine damage on the Midway when I landed. I've also failed both bonus objectives this system I concentrate too much on the turrets, which are destroyed with the capship, anyway.
I find Dallas in the pilot's lounge staring out into space. He's still pretty freaked out about encountering combat. With the Kilrathi and the Black Lance safely out of the picture he was expecting a nice easy cruise, not a fight for his life. It's strange to be making a speech to a more experienced pilot but I have to get him focussed on not only his next mission but also the survival of his comrades. If he wants to chicken out, that's his business, but I don't want to end up with a bug on my tail as he runs with his between his legs. The speech I make sounds a little corny but after Dallas leaves Stilleto catches my eye and raises a silent toast, so it can't have been that bad.
Today's mission is a vital one. The Midway has been cut off from her supply ships by the fleet in H'Rekkah. We managed to find a convoy heading for the Taliban colony that will be able to provide some supplies, but there's an enemy fleet between us and them. My wing is to fly ahead and protect the convoy. We're rushing as fast as we can, but the enemy has attacked the convoy first. We're punching through some enemy fighters when we receive a distress call from a freighter. The battle isn't going well and the next word we receive is very scary. One of the enemy ships is picking up our ejected pilots. My flight finally arrives at the convoy but it's too late, one freighter detonates as soon as we arrival and the other one follows shortly after. Maestro, Dallas and I descend on them and gain a swift vengeance, despite the presence of a new ship type. The one travels slowly and his a rear turret, but breaks apart under heavy attack into three smaller and swifter fighters. These can be a real pain to chase down and it seems the best tactic is to goad them into a frontal assault and use guns and rockets to take them out that way.
Once the area is clear, the sole surviving vessel and refueler called the Redeemer reports that the bugs were just waiting for us to show up and were toying with the convoy beforehand. Obviously, they're trying to intimidate us. We top off our fuel and missiles before heading back to the Midway. Halfway there, though, we get word of an alien attack on the Midway as we're fighting off a small patrol that stumbled upon us. We dispatch the fighters quickly and return to find the Midway surrounded by enemy fighters. Acting on a hunch, I target the large, slow moving cluster vessels as the slow speed could be because of a torpedo on board. I take out the first one fairly easily, but my rear armour is badly dinged up as I turn to engage the second and third. I'm almost within missile range of the second when it suddenly splits up to reveal a torpedo inbound on the midway. I try to intercept but am forced to watch helplessly as the torpedo detonates on a port launch tube. The fighter behind me as causing some damage as I close to the third bomber and use an IR followed by rockets and guns to force it to split up prematurely.
With the bombers taken care of, I can safely engage the fighter harassing me and those little ships released by the bombers. I take no further damage prior to the engagement finishing and the aliens being finished off. As I land, I survey the Midway with my targetting computer. Light damage to both engines, hopefully not bad enough to put her out of action. Rachel is grumpy about the state of my fighter after I land but I reckon a fighters a lot easier to repair than a carrier hulled by a torpedo.
I find Commander Finley at the Pilot's bar, putting away a large quantity of drink. She must have just started or have the constitution of an ox because she's still making sense when she talks. She reveals that the Science division doesn't have any hard facts at the moment, just some weak clues and a Kilrathi prophecy about the end of the world. The Kilrathi sure take their armageddon seriously, though, it means more than just the end of Kilrah, already accomplished by Blair, but the end of all things. We've also been trying to get in touch with Confed, but our comm link has been cut. Thinking back to my stellar cartography classes, I realise that means that H'Hrass relay station has been taken out of commision. She congratulates me on a good guess and, feeling a little chuffed, I ask what a member of the brass is doing down in pilot country. She replies that she's always found testosterone and adrenaline appealing, in stark contrast to her statements earlier. I'm just calling her on it when Anderson comes on the loudspeaker and summons me to the briefing room.
Our mission today leads me to believe that command are thinking the same way that I was. We have to head to the H'Hrass comm relay and get it fixed up so that we can warn Confed. Unfortunately, there's an enemy task force up ahead that is going to try to stop us doing that. I'm to take out some Tigersharks and escort 4 Shrikes as they attack some destroyers that have gotten ahead of the cruiser they were escorting. The ICIS briefing gave me some indication of the enemy ships but actually arriving at the Nav point with the Destroyers is a whole other thing. Dallas echoes my thoughts as he wonders if the Strikes will be able to handle them. I decide not to dwell on it and release my wing to attack. There's another new type of enemy fighter hanging around the enemy ships. The computer identifies it as a Squid. It seems to have two modes of operation. In it's normal mode it's quite slow but when it closes it's wings it gets a lot of speed up at the cost of losing the ability to fire. It's obviously an interceptor.
I set to work clearing out the fighters, taking care to avoid the large corvette-style ship, until the bombers start complaining about the turret fire that they're receiving. Following that, I turn and engage the Destroyers, using my rocket pods to clear out some of the gun and missile turrets on the Destroyers as the Shrikes take them out. My assistance must have been valuable as the Shrikes take out the first Destroyer shortly after with near simultaneous hits to the bridge and engines. I start cleaning up the second destroyer and the Shrikes repeat their past performance. With the destroyers out of the way, I start using my remaining missiles against the Corvette hanging around. It's too tough for the Tigershark's guns to handle easily but some well timed missiles and fire support from the Shrikes finally take it down. We return to the Midway triumphant but Anderson reminds us that there's still a cruiser out there to deal with.
I find Zero in quiet contemplation of his drink. I don't think he's going to be able to fly well if he broods for too long so I go to break him out of it. He asks me what it was like having the Iceman as a father. I give him the honest truth, he died when I was very young and I never got to know the man. I just have his shadow haunting everything I do in the cockpit. Zero thinks that I'm better off that way. His father was alive, but didn't have time to spend with Zero, instead spending it studying the Kilrathi to help out our war effort. When he did have time, there wasn't much he could talk about. I ask him about the Kn'Thrak that everyone's been talking about. He replies that his memories are a little vague and include a Terran biblical text for some reason. He also remembers being so scared he had to sleep with the lights on. At least his memories give us a good name for the enemy, the Nephilem. I leave the conversation feeling that we've grown a little closer.
Even with it's destroyer escort destroyed the enemy cruiser is still bearing down on us at top speed. Hawk will be flying fighter cover while my wing escorts the Shrikes in an attack to take the cruiser out. The briefing ends with the somber not that we may be up against a force that took out an entire Kilrathi fleet. It doesn't seem to have affected Dallas too much, he's happier than I've ever seen him as we promise to back each other up. Given the proximity of the enemy to the Midway, I'm piloting a Wasp in this mission. Seeing more of those cruiser vessels, I'm glad to have it's heavier guns and missiles. I start off the attack by breaking up a bomber cluster before they can get too close to the midway and move on to attacking enemy fighters until the bombers start reporting trouble with turret fire.
I then break off the engagement and clear out the shield emitters protecting the cruiser's vital components and get to work on it's turrets, using the Cruisers own hull as a shield against it's guns. First to go are the missile turrets, obviously, followed by a ring of turrets near the engine. I'm halway through the turrets on the arms when I hear Dallas scream over the radio. Damn, I should have kept a closer eye on him. Filled with rage, I quickly finish off the rest of the turrets and the remaining enemy fighters, leaving me to sit and stew as the bombers finish off the de-fanged cruiser. The last bombers launched by the cruiser receive a very hostile reaction when they appear, both of the clusters and one of the little component ships receiving the full power of a swarmer missile, demolishing them. Anderson congratulates us on a job well done before I head in to land.
I'm still pissed off as I review my mission score and Stilletto and Maestro's attempt to cheer me up fail miserably. Dallas' funeral is merged with the funeral of two other pilots who have lost their lives, Fish & Dog. Lacking bodies, we can only send a plaque into the stars to mark their passing.
There are a lot of sombre pilots on in the lounge, remembering lost friends. Maniac is his usual insensitive self, however, walking in gloating about his kills during the battle. Hawk tries to quieten him down but he makes an off-hand remark about people catching up to him on the kill board. Since I'm only one kill behind him I decide to try my hand hoping that I'd earned some respect, but it becomes clear quite quickly that it doesn't mean a thing to Maniac. In fact the idea that a plebe is nearly beating him on the kill board makes him even worse. My only recourse to shut him up is to put a fist in his face.
The fight is ended quickly and I'm sitting in my bunk bouncing a ball of Maniac's face waiting for my punishment when Blair walks in. Rather than delivering my punishment, he's put the good word in with the CAG. He's obviously used to Maniac causing that sort of reaction by his line about Maniac's heart being in the right place. That's not the only thing that's been bothering me and I tell him how I thought everything out here would be different. He replies that he felt the same way when he first started out until he realised that we fly with death over day. Everybody faces the chance that they'll lose friends when we're out taking risks this way. He realised this when he lost someone very important to him. He finishes by reminding me just how important what we're doing out their is to everbody, sounding almost envious. He doesn't deny any envy when I point it out to him.