Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Wee Free Ships

        “So whuts the plan, Rob?”, asked one of them.     
        “OK lads, this is what we’ll do. As soon as we see somethin’, we’ll attack it. Right?”
         -- Nac Mac Feegle planning session (Terry Pratchett)

So, why again was I waking up in Berta?

I was just about to mentally run down the possible explanations in a process of elimination, when a polite chime from my data pad interrupted. It was an appointment reminder.

    Agony Public Hangover Roam
    Berta IV-19 - Ammatar Consulate Bureau

    Note: Rookie ships

Technology to the rescue again! And I still had an hour left until departure. So, let's see...

- Up-to-date clone? Check.
- Empty head? ...touch...touch... Check.
- Hung over? Check. ...unfortunately.
- Rookie ships fitted? ... ehrm, I better get cracking at that.

Forcing my body into the vertical required some effort, but eventually it was accomplished. A splash of some cold water over my head, and I was able to leave the quarters towards the general direction of the hangar bays.

Slowly, the fleet came together. The 40-something participants ranged from grizzled PvP veterans with FC experience, who could no longer remember what ammunition the civilian weapons needed, to rookies whose pilot licenses were still oozing digital ink, and most in various stages of hungoverness. Due to this, and the ludicrously suicidal goal of the roam as such, the general atmosphere was much less serious than compared to your typical class roam. Jokes and banter lit up the comms, and while half of the fleet was still in station to put the final fittings on the ships, the other half was already out in space, practicing that essential tactical fleet maneuver known as the “Conga Line”.

But with only a few minutes delay, the gaggle of mostly rookie ships took off and headed towards Curse, anticipating a fiery death within the next couple of minutes. And death didn’t need to be asked twice: a Hound uncloaked at the RMOC gate in Hemin and welcomed us with a nicely launched shrapnel bomb, wiping out half the fleet. After a hasty reship and/or repair, our fleet returned to that gate, eager to lock weapons onto the hostile gang reported on the other side. A Huginn jumped through to us, and we piled onto it.

Imagine our excitement when the Huginn did not immediately jump back into the safe embrace of its friends, but stayed, even when its shield lost integrity and its armor flew off the ships in big chunks. Giggling in my pod, I noticed that my festival launcher had run out of fireworks, and I sent a command to the crew to reload it with the remaining snowballs from the magazine.

System crash!

Suddenly all my connections to the ship went dark, even comms. I could feel the vibration of the engines as they propelled the ship into emergency warp, but it would take several minutes for my fluidics and electronics to reboot. By the time I’d have control again, the battle would be over.

And I was right. When comms came back online, I could hear excited chatter that our gang had killed the Huginn. Oh, and they were mostly all back in Berta, reshipping.

My ship dropped out of warp right into the bubble the hostile gang had erected, and while I made an attempt to escape, my heart wasn’t in it. One fiery flash of overwhelming firepower, and I found myself falling out of a clone bay in Amarr station.


Crap! I had forgotten to update my home station!

I grabbed a new rookie ship, undocked, and raced towards Berta station, with little hope that I’d be able to arrive there before the fleet would depart again. Indeed was a race I didn’t win - the fleet undocked and steered towards Providence when I was still a number of hops out from Berta. All I could do was listen in enviously on comms when they attacked and killed a Sev3rance Harbinger in 4B-NQN.

However, the ensuing cat-and-mouse game with the rest of the hostiles finally allowed me to catch up - just in time to join in on an attack on a Loki, which desperately tried to crash back to the back. Its shield vanished almost instantly, and its armor started dropping precariously... 75%... 60%... 50%... 40%... and gate fire!

The Loki had de-agressed just in time to beat a hasty retreat. The skirmishers on the other side got tackle on him, but we were caught on this side of the gate for another minute. After a bit confusion as to whether the Loki would come back to us or not, the arrival of a Logistics-supported gang decided matters for us: we jumped into YWS0-Z as well.

On the other side, we discovered that there was a second half to that Logistics-supported gang, welcoming us with open fire. We lost the field - but not without taking a hostile Rapier with us.

Tally so far: one hour flight time, less than 100M lost in material for about 500M dealt in damage. Not bad for a bunch of wee ships.

The fleet regrouped in Berta, with a good number of pilots up-shipping into frigates and destroyers, and the destination was once again Curse - with the idea of taking the back entrance into Providence via Catch.

We didn’t quite make it.

An Outbreak gang presented us with the irresistible target in form of a brick-tanked Navy Dominix, and of course we were just too happy to take the bait. The rest of their gang jumped in, while half of our gang had accidentally warped to a safe, and slaughter ensued. In short progression, our fleet (now back to its full strength) took down two Vagabonds. FC Greygal died, but House2twist seamlessly took over command.

A short breather was had when the Navy Dominix jumped to the other side, but soon hostile reinforcements arrived. The fight was on again, and I was reminded of an important fact of life which I really should have remembered:

Rookie ships don’t react well to smart bombs. Neither do pods.

Again, I was relegated to following the fight over comms only, while I readied a Hydra-style Tormentor frigate back in Berta. Our fleet wreaked havoc, taking down in rapid succession a Dramiel, a cruiser, two battle cruisers, and two battle ships (sadly the Navy Dominix was not among them).

A general re-shipping followed, Outbreak wisely opting to bring out capitals and faction battleships to counter the threat which our unruly frigate fleet posed. Grudgingly, we took our ammunition and went on to play in Catch.

But opposition was growing sparse now - maybe our fame was preceding us?

After a small tussle at the HED-GP/SV5-8N gate - and a truly horrendous rendition of a birthday carol on comms - we eventually found ourselves in KBP7-G. Facing a group of Sev3rance pilots thirsting for revenge for the beating they had received earlier.

And revenge they got: we managed to kill another two of their battle cruisers, but in the end they held the field, and deservedly so.

At that point we had been out in space for a good five hours, racked up 2.4B in kills over 0.2B in losses, and our attention levels were dropping. Hence, the decision to end the roam with this fight was an easy one.

As we made our more or less direct ways home, chatter continued on comms, meandering between subjects. I was decidedly losing concentration at that point, and let most of the conversation flow by, but two topics peaked my interest.

One was that even though our fleet was decidedly unserious and kitchen-sink in nature, it had been run quite professionally. The skirmishers had done an excellent job, as usual, target callers stood forward when the main FC was neutralized, and for the most part people had been adhering to battle comms whenever needed without need extra instructions.

The other was the observation that this roam had found more fights than several of the previous class and alumni roams. Maybe it was because on this day more pilots than usual had been out in space with no other goal than to have some fights, thus giving us a larger target selection. Or the reason could have been that because of the unserious nature of this roam, we had been more willing to push the envelope, taken on more risk, and had gotten just lucky that we didn’t completely welp the fleet in the process.

Food for thought.

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