Roc had intercepted some interesting commuications in the sub-space channel around Friggi. There has been an increase in archaelogical digs and there are persistant rumours that the Talocan are not some obscure ancestor race of the Caldari but a completely new race. Certainly there is circumstantial proof that they are not quite human.
Anyway, rogue drones had taken over some of the newly discovered relic sites and after a corp meeting we decided that UAERO should go in, Indiana-Jones-style and see what we can get. Certainly, there are rumours of hidden books on long-lost techniques of spatial manipulations that could benefit all of New Eden.
The UAERO fleet had a rendevous at Otitoh and the fleet was assembled, It included:
USS Firestarter - Vigilant Class, Captain Votrian Alpha
USS The Gathering Storm - Drake Class, Captain Elias Mooseblaster
A Myrmidon-class Battlecruiser, Captain Mordred
A Drake class battlecruiser, Captain TFAce
A Drake class battlecruiser, Captain Roc
A Drake class battlecruiser, Captain Maximillian Bozark
A Drake class battlecruiser, Captain Lionsan
A Drake class battlecruiser, Captain Edenfire
Some serious firepower was being assembled and once all was set, the order was given to jump into the system. Roc went ahead and acted as an anchor point and all the ship popped out of warp, plasma trailing off the hard lines of the ships of war.
The fleet then activated the ancient acceleration gates and all the ships were pulled through into a hitherto unexplored region of space; at least it had not been visited by any humans for at least a millenium.
Roc was first in and gave an update to the fleet - there were ancient structures visible, possibly with hidden treasures. Who knows?
Targets were called out as the UAERO fleet moved into optimal firing position. The rogue drones were a different strain from the 'normal' ones. As if intelligent killing machines is a 'normal' state of being.
The firepower of the UAERO deployed was more than enough to keep the drone menace at bay and Votrian, Roc and TFAce proceeded to deploy their army of code breakers, hackers and archaelogical specialists.
Votrian hit the jackpot when one of his crews cracked open a hidden vault and managed to pull out an ancient Talocan book, yes - made from paper. The operation was a delicate one but Votrian made sure he had his best personnel on it. Meanwhile the other archaeology digs yielded some valuable items, looks like the drones were also digging for these items, thus making things so much easier for the UAERO team.
Captain Edenfire had to take his crew and ship out of the line for another urgent matter and bowed - the gap in the line disappeared as the ships closed up formation. The operation last for 90 minutes when both Captains Votrian and Roc each discovered two pass keys. There was an ancient gate that had resisted all attempts at activation, it required a very special key and now, two of the UAERO Captains had them. A decision was quickly made to explore the destination of the new gate and the UAERO fleet quickly made plans to withdraw. Crews were ordered back in and equipment stowed.
Captain Bozark meanwhile was moving around in his bulky Iteron V industrial, grabbing all the remains of wrecks - the amount of destruction meant that there was plenty for him and his crew to salvage from.
It was also discovered that these drones could hit very hard and were themselves hard to hit. No doubt, what was lying beyond the second acceleration gate would be very tough indeed.
With some trepidation - Roc activated the key and was rewarded with the activation of the gate - ancient generators at the base of the gate hummed back to life and started to slingshot ships within range. Not too sure whether the key was for a ship or for a limited time - all ships of UAERO jumped.
Space stretched out to infinity as the warships entered into warp space. Scanners and computers straining at maximum to see what was ahead. When the ships popped back into normal space, there was a collective gasp. The space the UAERO ships had landed was full of stars with a dreamy, milky quality to the surroundings. The fleet was in between two ancient structures: a flat disk like object and a wreck of some sort. These were about 100KM apart with the UAERO fleet in between. Drones of a like, not yet seen buzzed in and around each of the massive structures.
Roc quickly scanned around and declared that the structures were some sort of neural storage device. Bellephron, Captain Votrian's lead archaeologist was very excited and pin-pointed one structure that we should investigate. Captain Mordred volunteered his crew and ship and pushed the might Myrmidon into the fray - his drones screaming out to engage the rogue versions.
Combat was started with Captains TFace, Lionsa, Roc, Elias and Bozark yelling out firing resolutions to their gun crews. Captain Mordred was already well inside the firing range of the drones and ahead of the main UAERO fleet. Votrian moved his vigilant closer and a number of drones targetted him; their sensors tried to overwhelm the vigilant's sensors just as they opened fire. Votrian got within 4km of his target when the fleet overview revealed that The Gathering Storm was in trouble. Its shields were being stripped off alarmingly fast, flaring off in bright flashes. Captain Elias M attempted a withdraw but he got the attention of a matriarch drones - this was a new, unknown version. Soon the Drake-class battlecruiser was into armour and then, it was all over. The Gathering Storm disappeared in a bright flash, the shockwave throwing the other ships out of position and the debris shooting out in a deadly expanding arc.
Votrian looked on in horror at the expanding plasma cloud that was, until a second ago, was the famed Gathering Storm and hoped that her Captain and her crew managed to escape. However, the vigilant was being hit very hard a well - the drones powerful weapons destroying the shield generators and eating the black and grey armour of the cruiser. Captain Votrian ordered his damage control units into position but it was increasingly hopeless. The onslaught was too much. Captain Votrian ordered a crash warp - and managed to push his engines into a warp cycle just as the last of his armour plates was blown off into space. He also gave the order to withdraw.
Once back into normal space, the Captains got together. Elias managed to get out but he lost the majority of his crew, including some of his senior engineers. What was worse was that some of the crew (mainly the missile control room crew) and their launchers were still intact.
It was decided to go back in and try and rescue them. The locations were pin-pointed and the remaining fleet flew back in - Roc and Mordred throughout this time had stayed in the drone infested area.
Votrian warped back into the wreckage and hurriedly extended the docking ramps to the crew. However, more survived than could fit into the cruiser! All the drones were now targetting the cruiser and Votrian had seconds to act. Against the fierce protestations of some of the rescued - Votrian undocked from the wreck - slamming shut the airlocks and cutting off the cries from the Gathering Storm's survivors.
A second crash warp almost blew the engines up as the Vigilant managed to streak out just as th drones locked on.
Once the ship was docked and the survivors let off - the cruiser had to go back again. Votrian knew his crew well but he knew that they wanted to be anywhere but here. They did their duty and braced themselves as the ship leapt back into warp and nervous moments passed. Landing a little bit further than before, the afterburners were slammed on and the cruiser sped towards the wreckage once more. This time the drones were faster and one scrambling drone locked on - luckily, Votrian's chief engineer, Scotty had insisited on installing some warp core stabilisers and this saved the ship from a horrible death.
Once more, the vigilant docked and the remaining survivors and their equipment tumbled into the vigilants cargohold. The third crash warp blew up two auxillary power cores but the cruiser was out with the survivors.
It was decided that the mission was a success but the second part required more planning. A navigation buoy was launched so that the UAERO fleet could come back, this time it was decided that long range ships would be required. Engaging the drones up close was decided as being completely suicidal.
Captain Elias M held a memorial for the fallen, which included some of his famed mutant-engineering weasels.
The Corporation has vowed revenge and will be back. Very, very soon.