Sunday, May 19, 2013

Night of the Flying Fur

        “1. Milk.
         2. Nap.
         3. Destruction!” -- Cosmo Kittens activity cycle

Well… it seemed that this roam wasn’t going to happen after all. I was in the right system, I had joined the right comms channel - but nothing. Not that I had expected the roam to start exactly on the appointed time, but for sure there should be some organizing going on by now?

I checked local again - nope, still the same few regulars.

I would be lying if I claimed that I wasn’t disappointed. I still wasn’t comfortable with random strangers - pirate strangers, even! - and it had taken some resolve to show up here. Plus, to be fully honest, after past week I had been looking forward to some ruthless fleet-on-victim action.

I sighed in my pod, and initiated a transfer back into my Executioner, to head back to my staging station. Maybe I could do something useful for the war effort instead, so as to not completely waste this evening.

Without thinking, I let my disappointment spill over into another comms channel.

        Druur Monakh> I should have signed up for your Kitten fleet.

“Kitten fleet” was Sugar Kyle’s event of an all-Jaguar roam in Molden Heath - to happen this evening as well. “Rawrcat Doctrine” I think she had called it. The station’s tractors released my ship, my engines ignited, and I veered away towards the next gate.

I was just navigating Amamake, when a channel message came in.

        Sugar Kyle> You still can.

I could?

        Druur Monakh> Really? Sweet!

And even better: this, too, would be a pirate-run roam!

A few more question about place and time, and I changed my course towards Amarr, to equip myself with a Jaguar. I knew that Sugar was giving out free ones, as enticement, but not only I felt bad taking a free T2 ship when I could easily afford my own; the act of creating a fit for a ship was my way of internalizing how I should be flying it. Especially if it was the first time.

The detour via Amarr added an easy 13 hops to my original nine-jump journey, but as I discovered, the Jaguar was fast and nimble, making the journey to the Molden Heath a snap. Even the traversal of Heimatar, governed by the Republic, posed no problem. The faction navy sent threatening messages, but I always warped off before they could make an appearance.

Just once I was tempted to linger: I had just arrived at a gate, when I saw a hauler piloted by a Minmatar Militia pilot crawling towards the same gate. He was obviously on auto-pilot, and I wondered if I’d have the time to take him down before the faction navy interfered. In the end, better judgement prevailed, and I pressed on.

Note to self: Take a Velator into Minmatar space and test the reaction times.

Yes, yes, I knew that all this was documented somewhere, but I had found that I learned best by practical experience.

Molden Heath itself was … interesting. I had visited before, but not for long. I did remember its big circular structure, which made for some straightforward roaming.

The meeting point was in Bosena, but since there was a welcoming committee at the station, I used the spare time I had to move my medical clone to a station in a neighboring system, and bounced around making safe spots and undocks.

Slowly, the other members of the roam arrived, and finally the fleet invites were issued. And suddenly, the welcoming committee turned into soothingly purple allies. Voice comms activated, and I got to learn the voices of the people I’d be tagging along with.

It wasn’t all Jaguars - there was an e-war Maulus, three logistics Scythes, two warfare link ships, and a cloaky scout. And I reminded myself that unlike the null-sec fleets I had almost exclusive experience with, gate guns were not to be sneezed at once they took an interest in you, and that I’d be glad to have logistics with us.

Comms were busy with last-minute preparations, but then suddenly everything was taken care of. Diziet took command as FC, and a litter of Jaguars undocked.

And I learned first hand what it meant to have a ground war waging on the temperate planets: there were lots of pilots in space trying to support their ground troops with aimed orbital strikes. And from what I gathered, what they lacked in experience, they made up for in numbers, and it seemed that the MH inhabitants were still in the process of adjusting their doctrines to deal with the new situation.

And apparently successfully so: Our scout found a little task force, which the Rawrcats tore to shreds..

I loved frigate mobs!

By then, I had come accustomed to the way the fleet was run - it wasn’t actually that much different from the Agony roams I had participated in before. Despite my trepidations, I had to admit: these guys were pros. Granted, there was more idle chatter, sometimes it felt like there were multiple FCs deciding the course of action, and some specific commands were different - but when the action was imminent, everybody went to battle comms. Down to ammunition recommendations for those of us who usually didn’t use auto cannons (give me lasers any one day!).

Rationally I had known that my trepidations were more rooted in propaganda than reality, but it was still good to see them disproven in reality: you just can’t run a successful small gang without some level of professionalism. Ok, maybe I had just lucked out with the people on this roam, but still.

Just the FC was sometimes hard to understand - but upping the voice comms volume mostly resolved that particular issue.

Upward and onward we pressed, and we ran into a little Noir./Hashashin Cartel gang, including logistics of their own. Our FC managed to capture them at a gate, and with the Rawrcats split between both sides of the gate, fur went flying! Theirs, that is.

It was about that time that I realized that I was one of the few folks fitting a long point - wary of the short range of auto cannons, I had went with a normal disruptor to keep my prey from escaping, even if it meant that I couldn’t fit much e-war other than a web. I didn’t call attention to it in this fleet - too much I was still working on getting comfortable - but it was something to keep in mind for the next one.

But that was just a fleeting thought in the back of my mind - more urgent matters were pressing, and though being only five jumps out, the fleet was ordered to return to Bosena.

No, we hadn’t whelped. No, there wasn’t a larger group chasing us off. The reason was much simpler than that.

We simply were running out of ammunition.

I don’t think I ever got used to how auto cannons chew through rounds like a rabbit through a haystack, and I had gotten really nervous when I had only one reload left in my hold. Granted, I still had plenty for my lone rocket launcher, but it would have made for some pitiful combat performance. So it was with a silent sigh of relief when I could enter the course back to Bosena.

The respite was short: pilots took care of certain biological necessities, while the hangar crews hauled ass to load the cartridges into our cargo holds. They knew better than to slight a group of hyped-up blood-thirsty combat pilots. Plus, they got paid above-average salaries.

The FC came back online, a headcount was taken, and the undock command was issued: The Rawrcats were on the prowl again.


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