The “Bowl Of Petunias” Race


First of all I’d like to apologise. Apologise for not attending to this blogsite since the RushFleet was finally completed. Even though it was a labour of love and I had a tremendous amount of fun building it, toward the end it felt liike I was playing for the blog and not playing for me. So over the past month or so I’ve rectified that, and started to just have fun playing this amazing game we all love to bits, rather than using it to work to toward an end. The creative holiday, however, ends now. Beginning with this Buckyball report there will soon be more added to the “My PC Ships” section of the menu and I am also currently working hard on part II of The Fuel Rat Diaries. Also, hopefully in September the Fleet will be copied from my PlayStation account to a new PC account and I will be revisiting every ship in the Odyssey expansion, trying to look at each one in a whole new light.

But on to the current Buckyball race!

Race number five Buckyball fans, number five! Still three to go too! And this one is a real humdinger of a course! I don’t think I’ve ever been as stressed, or as desperate to just get any kind of time registered for a Buckyball run. It’s got everything. It’s long and physically demanding, There are stunning places to visit. There are tunnels to fly through. And its set in some of the most dangerous hyperspace lanes in the galaxy. It’s the Seven Sisters Speedway Remix! But Buckyball races are all inherently dangerous – I hear you cry (well, one or two of you maybe). Yes, but this race sends you though the Pleiades. And we all know what Dastardly, Deadly Daffodils infest that area of space don’t we? And we all know how perilous it can be, and how regularly innocent spacefarers get violently yanked out of hyperspace to be inspected by the Curious Chrysanthemums of Chaos – the Thargoids! So not only do I have to put up with hopelessly inadequate flying to hamper my time, I have to deal with hyperdictions as well!

It’s also quite a long one. Starting at Ohm Horizons in the HIP 29312 system – the closest system in the Bubble to the Pleiades with a large station – it takes thirteen jumps to reach Asterope, one of the nearest of the Seven Sisters (the seven biggest, brightest blue-white stars that make up the Pleiades). You then have to visit each of the sisters in any order, landing at stations at some and flying through at least one tunnel at the Squirrels Nest Bar at Pleione. It’s then another 13 jumps back to HIP 29312. That’s a total of 33 jumps. That’s a huge chunk of your time right there! Thank goodness fuel scooping is permitted.

Maia is one of the most beautiful places in the galaxy.

I thought it wise to spend a few days scouting out the Pleiades, making sure I had scanned all the bodies in the systems I was to fly though, and to practice with a few dry runs. What struck me first was just how stunning a place the Pleiades sector is. Every system you arrive at just has some of the most jaw dropping vistas in the galaxy! This race was going to be a pleasure to fly, I thought. It all seemed reasonably straight forward. Although, as is usual with Buckyball, even though each step is reasonably simple, stringing each one together, and doing it all without hitting anything, at speed, under pressure, is another matter altogether. Add to that the threat of a hyperdiction or two and it ramps the difficulty up considerably. Even so, with each dry run I was only hyperdicted once. Three dry runs, one hyperdiction during each run. That’s fine, I thought to myself, I might be lucky and not get hyperdicted by those Pesky Penstemons at all.

This time around there are optional shenanigans too, which will all help to lower your time. These all involve stunts of daring and skill that only the very best BuckyBall pilots attempt. Skilled “spaceobatics” around stations, flying backwards through the slot, playing chicken with the ‘Goids themselves and almost melting your ship. But I just wanted to concentrate on getting a time in.

On my first official attempt (I won’t bother counting my actual first attempt where, launching from within Ohm Horizons, I hit the throttle instead of lift, along with the boost, and rammed the bulkhead in front of the landing pad, causing my poor Wormwood’s Bane to spin over and over and then get totally stuck between two buildings before receiving a reckless flying fine and exploding) I managed to get hyperdicted before I even reached the first of the Sisters and somehow flew directly into the Offending Osteospermum just as it deployed its shutdown field. It howled with wild rage as it encircled my stricken, helpless vessel and proceeded to open fire with reckless abandon. Wormwood’s Bane was destroyed in seconds.

Sitting duck!

On the following attempt, I had the misfortune of being wrenched from the comparative serenity of hyperspace even earlier, and had the indignity of sitting, helpless as one of those Rascally Rhododendrons scanned my vessel whilst two more hung in space before me, menacingly watching my vessel’s violation as if they were students, learning how it was done. I was then hyperdicted one further time between the systems of Maia and Pleione. The wrench as the hyperspace conduit begins to break down almost throws you out of your seat, and then, as you are unceremoniously dumped back into real space it takes a second or two to get the ship back under control before the roar of an Acrimonious Agapanthus chills you to your bones. The shutdown field is deployed and you remain totally at their mercy. And then, unless you’re really unlucky, you are released. The distant wail, the echoing thud of a rift torn in space time and the distorted aftermath of their departure is all you are left with, You just shake yourself down, orientate your ship to your target system and re=engage your Frame Shift Drive.

They just….watch.

This particular encounter shook me quite badly. Because when I reached the Squirrel’s Nest Bar in Pleione I had trouble finding a tunnel and when I did, I hurtled down toward it at full throttle. Forgetting to compensate for the Cobra’s D rated thrusters I drifted straight past the metal orifice only to crash pathetically into the superstructure and get stuck. And again, within seconds, I began the Remlock Ride of Regret in my escape pod back to Obsidian Orbital in Maia.

Yet another new ship. Yet another long, remorseful flight back to the start.

Third attempt. And by now I didn’t care how fast I was, I just wanted to be able get back to the finish and enter a time. I calmed myself down as I flew into the Pleiades Sector and prepared myself for the inevitable jolt. And it came just as I was jumping to Asterope, the first Sister. I just sat there, praying that the Vicious Vibernum would finish soon and then carried on my way as soon as I could. Then again, two jumps later, the same three as before. The two students and the teacher. My spirit withered as they gloated over my helpless vulnerability. Then they let me go. And I was on my way once more.

The Squirrel’s Nest Bar is set in the most stunning location.

The Squirrel’s Nest Bar can be quite a welcome distraction from all the oppression of the relentless hyperdictions. Bars are infamous for having the odd punch up and the Squirrel’s Nest is no exception. A dank hive of a place for hardened Anti Xeno pilots, it can suddenly spring to life when a raid comes in and the resident ships emerge to defend their favourite boozer. Only not with fists, but with muti-cannons and energy weapons. And just the action of flying though the tunnels can help take the mind of the ever present Thargoid threat – just make sure you don’t fly into one of the combatants on your way out, like I did. Although not on this attempt. Thankfully, I made it through this time, unlike one of my dry runs a couple of weeks before. It didn’t destroy my ship, but the resulting vexation of the rammed vessel’s faction did. Again – ship eviscerated within seconds.

Squirrel’s Nest tunnel.

I jumped from Pleione to Merope, needing to dock with and immediately relaunch from the megaship the Glorious Prospect as part of the race. Witch Space was flowing past smoothly, there were only two more stops before heading home. I let myself feel a little bit of relief when that familiar jolt wrenched the controls from my grasp. Oh come on I thought to myself, it can’t be. The Wormwood’s Bane squirted out from hyperspace and tumbled several times before I managed to pull her up to face the Pernicious Petunia. It roared toward my ship and glared at me, seemingly disbelievingly. I recognized it somehow. I can’t be sure but I could have sworn I’d been pulled by this ‘goid before, several times in fact. It grumbled with what I can only translate as an “Oh no! Not again!” while it scanned me, disinterestedly. Then my systems fired up and I was gone, not bothering to see where it went.

This one seems…familiar?

That was the final interdiction. I visited the final two systems and headed back, albeit a little more carefully than I needed to. I just needed everything to go smoothly from now on. I really didn’t want to have to do all this again. Get back I did, although my time was appalling.

Sigh! Last again. But only five registered times after three days of racing. Thoughts and prayers to the Great Braben for Cmdr Alec Turner for putting in a blinding time but, well, you’ll see. Like he says Buckyball can be cruel sometimes. Do you dare to take on the Seven Sisters Speedway? Do you wish to marvel at the beauty? Do you dare to brave the dangers? The violation? The almost physical sensation of withering contempt? I am physically and emotionally exhausted after that last run. Not sure I’ll attempt another. And anyway – I really have to go. I have a long, long way to go and a short time to get there, report to follow once I get back (watch this space – it will be special).

If you feel you have what it takes to even register a time in this incredible race you can see the details here. You have until 23:59 on Monday June 27 and, you never know – you may never see a damn Thargoid for the whole run. The BRC will probably run this race again next season. Will I enter after all the exhaustion and mental trauma this time around?

Of course I will!

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