Live Free and Fly: Century 2013
Pilots started filtering into Fort Tyler in the late morning in preparation for a noontime launch. This was Skunk's first year planning a long-range mission, and he decided to pilot Star Hustler since he would also be navigating, with Vomit as his bombardier and co-navigator. Wombat was subsequently tricked into riding Cloudbuster. Debate ensued over whether we should bring the Disco Death Star, with arguments considered over wormhole clearance, added weight, and wow-factor for the foreign populace, and we ultimately decided to keep it on. Dr. Claw scrambled to put the finishing touches on AMP Shockwave's century provisions, in preparation for the mission it was born to fly.
It was the perfect early fall day for a chopper century, and we couldn't have asked for any better weather. Ten pilots on nine ships lined up on the launchpad to be counted and briefed on the arduous mission ahead. Dogi, in his first century attempt and despite knowing full well the challenges ahead, still wore his trademark flip flops. Zygoat and Stogie's bathrobe-clad friend bade us farewell as we launched, and Epoxy joined us on Yer Mom for the first leg of the journey to Ayer.
The first several light years flew by as we traveled up the Minuteman wormhole, until near disaster struck shortly after light year 8 in the Lexington System when a low-hanging electrical wire immediately after an access gate forced an emergency halting maneuver of Cloudbuster to avoid decapitation of the Disco Death Star (or worse). Unfortunately Wombat was off balance on the wrong side for a speedy dismount and went down with the ship, earning the mission's first Medal of Injury for a gruesome leg gash and bloody knuckle, which were quickly attented to by medic Leotard. Other than some damage to the Disco Death Star from the impact with the ground, Cloudbuster came out miraculously unscathed. We took a short break while BaneThunderwolf stitched humpty dumpty back together again, and we were on our way.
After we reached the end of the Minuteman, we continued on to the Concord System, where Waltor lay in wait to rendezvous with the fleet. Epoxy peeled off to take an alternate route to Ayer as we took a more circuitous route through scenic farmlands. Shortly before the great Concord black hole, BaneThunderwolf spontaneously shrieked like a banshee, abandoned ship, and dove into the grass writhing in pain. Subsequent medical analysis revealed he had been bitten on the eyeball by an Earth insect of the Apis genus, resulting in a red and swollen eyelid, for which he was awarded the mission's second Medal of Injury. As we were preparing to relaunch, Waltor noticed Singularity's hub was making weird noises, so he decided to bail.
The next several systems were rather uneventful and flew by quickly. In the Littleton Sytem, we stopped to refuel, where many perplexed civilians gathered to ask questions about our unusual ships and the the nature of our mission. One kind lady was so impressed she gave us 8 Earth credits to put toward our endeavors.
In the Ayer System we reached the second of the two wormholes of the mission — the Nashua River Rail Trail, which had previously been explored during the Cloudbuster Century of 2011. We stopped briefly to adjust the Disco Death Star's mast height, while Skunk live blogged our progress using his fancy protocol droid. The scenery along this wormhole was gorgeous, with lots of trees, ponds, clearings, and marshes. We encountered two low-clearance overpasses, the second of which was so low Cloudbuster had to be spacewalked through tilted at a 45° angle. At the end of this leg of the wormhole we emerged in the Pepperell System, where we stopped for an extended refueling break.
For dinner we gorged on various Asian-style fare, where several pilots indulged in orders of Crab Raccoon, and others ogled the ornate crystal chandelier above our table. Skunk examined the map and tried to distract us from the fact that we weren't even halfway done yet, and that the worst of the g-wells were yet to come... Dr. Claw spent much of the stop checking on his new baby in the parking lot, and played diplomat to inquisitive civilian passersby. Skunk's dinner was delayed when the chefs forgot to make it and went on break, and it finally came out after Vomit asked. All available fuel was scarfed, and we were back on the trail.
We picked up again on the Nashua River wormhole through the Dunstable System, but darkness had set in while we were refueling. Despite repositioning Cloudbuster's laser array for optimal aerial illumination, Wombat was still unable to clearly see low-hanging branches, so Stogie and BaneThunderwolf formed a Cloudbuster escort, manually scanning the horizon with their lasers and lighting up obstacles ahead of time so Wombat could dodge them. It was an amazing feat of teamwork, for which Stogie and Bane were awarded Medals of Valor. Shortly before the end of the wormhole, we breached the New Hampshire galactic border with little to no fanfare.
Once in the outer reaches of the Nashua System, Skunk rerouted us on a shortcut, which took us through yet another wormhole through deep space. This time there were fewer branches overhead, but the trail was covered in giant rocks and roots, with treacherous dropoffs into the Nashua River on either side! Again pilots came to the aid of Cloudbuster, scanning and illuminating hazards for safe passage. For their heroics, Dr. Claw and Excess were also awarded Medals of Valor.
In downtown Nashua, the foreign population was curious and excited to see us, and totally amazed when told of our origin and mission. Some kind civilians helped us with directions after we took a wrong turn with no GPS signal, while several pilots took the opportunity to refuel on pizza molecules. Back on track, we forged onward, snaking our way back toward the Massachusetts galactic border.
The first several light years through the Tyngsborough, Chelmsford, and Lowell Systems were smooth sailing. We received a lot of hoots and hollers as we passed multiple parties and backyard bonfires. Just after 23:00 we stopped at a gas station for our last substantial refueling of the night. Pilots stocked up on water molecules and unsavory snacks, and put on additional layers as the temperature began to drop significantly. Leotard donned her furry spirit hood, and Bucky revealed his trademark cerulean blue glowing fingertips.
As we neared the far reaches of the Lowell System, we encountered the two most brutal negi g-wells of the entire mission, which required pilots to push themselves to their limits. The added challenge of Cloudbuster's immense weight took a particular toll on Wombat both physically and mentally, but he managed to power through both summits, and was awarded the Medal of Strength. At the peaks he required a few minutes to dismount, guzzle water, stretch out cramps and fatigued muscles, and avoid passing out.
Shortly after midnight, the densest, most velvety blanket of fog rolled in, covering pilots and their ships in a thick layer of condensation. Visibility was cut tenfold, and pilots requiring ocular devices to see were left virtually blind. During this time the optical disruption plating adorning the hulls of most of the ships on the mission came in very handy, each ship sporting a different radiant color. Unfortunately it was around this time that Cloudbuster's warp core began to run low on zoobs, and it lost lighting and rotation of the Disco Death Star. The fog never lifted, and ultimately lingered for the rest of the mission.
During a brief dip into the Andover System, we took a wrong turn that sent us up yet another extremely negi g-well. Wombat, still severely fatigued from the previous climbs and nearly blind from the fog, was forced to give up the fight on this one for fear of collapsing from exhaustion, and spacewalked the rest of the way to the top. Skunk and others spacewalked with him in solidarity. After a short stint of doubling back on some roads we had already covered, we realized our mistake and corrected course.
Through the Tewksbury System the topography leveled off more or less and the g-wells were thankfully less intense. At one particularly remote locale, Leotard requested a fuel dump stop at the next feasible opportunity, and as if by divine providence, we came upon a gas station less than a block away, which had unlocked fuel dump vessels despite being closed.
In the Wilmington System, after 14+ hours, Cloudbuster's warp core finally gave out, and it was time to finally put the full power of AMP Shockwave's sonic disruption capabilities to the test. Dr. Claw fired up a mix of classic '80s tunes, and she performed beautifully, rumbling our innards with crisp, clear, resonating bass!
At this point, we had our eyes locked on the prize. The last several systems of Reading, Woburn, Winchester, and Medford flew by in a blur as pilots kept their heads down and their boosters firing on all cylinders. The home system never looked so sweet, as the familiar territory of Powderhouse black hole and Davis Constellation lifted our morale further. We arrived back on the landing pad 15 hours and 54 minutes after launch, just before 4 a.m., our bodies beaten but our spirits high. Skunk quickly performed an understated closing ceremony and dismissed weary pilots to go collapse inside Fort Tyler, where Metoikos was waiting to greet us with fine tequila and sugary treats. Victory was ours!