Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fisticuffs - The Second Day (Evening)

        “What would we do in response to that?”
        “Oh, under the NATO treaty, we’d be obligated to respond by attacking soviet missiles inside the Soviet Union.”
        “And then what would they do?”
        “Well, by then we hope that cooler heads would prevail, and we’ll all sit down and talk.”
         -- Alleged conversation during the Cuban Missile Crisis

Cup in hand, I trudged into our Alliance lounge. The operation early this morning was still in my bones, allowing me only four hours of sleep, and judging from the looks, Greygal had gotten even less. Nonetheless she soldiered on through a quick briefing for us Affirmative members while we still had the time.

I missed most of said briefing, because first of all, I had been there this morning, and second, my coffee cup was empty and I definitely needed a refill.

“Ok,” she said, “before we head out on our roam, a quick update on last days’ activities.”
She looked around the room, before continuing.

“I have talked to our diplomatic contacts in Providence, and from what I have learned, that hit against our offices was not an officially sanctioned operation. In essence they said ‘it’s low-sec - do with those guys what you want’.” She smiled. “And since they hadn’t been very lucky last night, this might be the end of it.”

She took a draft from her cup, and then switched gears. “Right. We have a roam to run - let’s get to it.”


Maybe it was just me, but to me this roam appeared to be quieter than our usual ones. One could lay it on the fact that many of our core Affirmative members were still worn from the op early in the morning - fleet invites happened more sluggishly than usual, questions were answered a tiny bit slower than usual - but at least our Skirmishers were awake and on the ball!

The payback however was meagre. A few tussles here and there, one of which offered us a chance to demonstrate our rookies the art of cross-jumping a gate with hostiles on the other side.

Myself, I didn’t care. Maybe it was a feeling of fey, maybe something else, but it caused me to pay more attention to our comm channels than anything else. And that is how I first noticed John’s messages.

John had been late to arrive, when we were already well deep into null-sec, but natural that he was, he lost no time catching up with us.

And provided recon on the way.

[ As I’m passing through here, do you want a recon our POCOs? ]

Greygal was busy herding our fleet around, so I answered. “Our POCOs are ok, but thanks. I took a look earlier.”

John was not convinced.

[ Well… Volition Cult just hit them, and CVA. ] He paused. [ Yeaaaah, holy shit, 110 hostiles hitting our POCO. ]

My thoughts tumbled - with the majority of our fleet still being in Curse , there was no way we could respond to this attack immediately. Nor did it seem productive to distract GG right away - better to wait until she had a chance to catch up on out-of-fleet events.

John must have thought along similar ways, as he’d already moved on.

But still, I couldn’t stop wondering: What was going on? A simple diplomatic misunderstanding? Somebody going rogue? Or us simply being used as pawns in a power struggle beyond our influence?

Fisticuffs - The Second Day (Morning)

        “Never Not Overplan for POCO Defence.”
        “Never!” -- Zak III, Greygal

[ Uhm, Greygal? They are in this system. ]

I wouldn't say that that report went almost unrecognized - we were trained better than that! - but it was definitely unexpected.

Usually structure defense events come in two flavors: One, you show up in respectable numbers and get trounced by an opponent with even more respectable number. The other, you show up in respectable numbers, and your opponent doesn’t even bother.

This morning, our lot had been the latter: while we had two or three of the Dark Knights in system when we rolled up in our POCO defense fleet of sixty cruisers and logistics, they didn’t cause any trouble. One had tried to peak his head out of the station, but unfortunately for him, he had done it just when Onslaughtor performed a live-fire test of his weapons systems.

Otherwise, we had been undisturbed - some of our damage dealers even patrolled the local Sansha and Mordus Legion strongholds in between POCO repairs, just to get some entertainment out of this evening.

And now this. Just when we were all about to get out on a roam into the local neighborhoods in our impromptu fleet.

[ Who is where, exactly? ] Greygal, taking command of comms.

Coll took a breath. [ The folks who attacked our POCOs - they are here in Bekirdod, next to Berta - and they are suspect. ] And after a few seconds, an afterthought. [ I took a wrong turn. ]

I could almost see the collective thought form: *So there is where they went!*

Oblivious, our hero logistics continued.

[ There is a cyno here now - and I think they are warping off. … Yess, they are warping… to the Gamis gate. ]

Gamis - that was only two hops from here… Greygal made a snap decision.

[ Everybody - make best speed to the Bekirdod gate in Gamis! Best speed to to Bekirdod gate in Gamis! Set up around the gate and hold. Only shoot when they’re suspect! ]

As my fleet members started warping off, I was left in a pickle - this could end up in a hi-sec fight, which I was unable to participate in (I knew - I had tried!). But maybe … maybe I could swing around and maybe make sure that none of them escapes through the back way? Yes!

It would give me something to do while the rest of our fleet waited to welcome the Dark Knights to hi-sec. And back to hi-sec they came.

One at a time.

And all I could do was listen.

[ One Vexor at the Gamis gate in Bekirdot, coming through to you. Another guy… ]

[Ok, we are landing… We need tackle - preheat your tackle … One scythe is friendly - or maybe not. Ok, tackle on Scythe ]

[ Point Scythe ]

[ Kill it! ]

[ I have several Vexor Navies, several Vexor Navies, a Scythe, coming to you guys. ]

[ Keep shooting! Pick ’em off. If they’re silly enough to come through like this… ]

I tuned out - this would not be my fight. The only contribution I would able to make would be that, yes, Bekirdod was back to neutral.

Ok, there were a number of neutrals in the system - and five carriers. A picture started to emerge.

And I recognized the locals - folks from the 107th. Good folks, just don’t get on the wrong side of their weaponry. So when they started acting skittish, I didn’t mind to defuse the situation.

Archeras Umangiar > Nothing to see here, move along
Druur Monakh > Yep - the folks I was looking for are gone.
Archeras Umangiar > The Vexors?
Druur Monakh > Yup, they gave us trouble yesterday. Much fun.
Druur Monakh > Good hunting!

And with that, I left the system. The last of the Dark Knights had already lost their suspect flagging anyway, so seeing that there was nothing else left to do in hi-sec, the fleet regrouped and set out on its new purpose: roam the nearby null sec!

But fate wasn’t quite done with me.

While we were hurtling towards a fateful confrontation with Pandemic Legion, a comms request suddenly demanded my attention.

Hmm - Archeras - the 107th guy whom I have talked to earlier. I acknowledged the request.


[ What did you mean by ‘gave you trouble’? ]

I hesitated - how much to tell him without giving away op-sec or strat-sec?

“The DEKN folks RI’d two of our POCOs, as 'punishment for breaking NRDS rules in Providence’. But they didn’t show up to fight us today about the RI, instead they went to fight you guys.”

I sensed laughter. [ ’Fight’… they ran like chickens! ]

“..and died on the other side of the gate.”

[ Really? You got them? ]

I had only seconds left before we would drop into our engagement with PL, so I sent him the preliminary battle report, and then concentrated at the fight at hand.

Not that it would had made any difference: within seconds, my cruiser became primary for our hostiles, and I had my hands full just saving my pod.

But as my pod sped to temporary safety, Archeras finally spoke up again.

[ I love you folks! ]

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fisticuffs - The First Day

        “Why are they attacking it?”
        “Because it’s there, and it’s not theirs.”

It was supposed to be a slow evening - several of our corp members were out for some holiday or another, the others were lounging around. Some physically here in our corp lounge, the others virtually via comms. I was busy in a private comm with an old friend of mine which I hadn’t seen in a while, but whom I still had a soft spot for. ‘Busy’ in as such that I was also trying to answer questions from our rookie pilots in between chat pauses.

Questions like: “What is a POCO, and why is it being attacked?”

“A POCO is a ‘pilot-owned customs office’ - we use them to conduct planetary manufacturing and…” - the full question finally registered with me - “What do you mean with ‘attacked’?”

“Here, I got this in my mail.” Monique showed me her comm pad.

I looked at it - indeed: a structure notification from CONCORD: one of our POCOs was at 76% shield.

“I didn’t know that we had POCOs there.”, commented Monique.

“Neither did I - though I probably should have remembered.” I replied absentmindedly. The name of the attacking alliance didn’t ring a name - Dark Knights of Eden? - and right now we didn’t really have many of our fire breathers in vicinity.

“I’ll take a look.” Kitten dropped her book onto the floor and got up. “You’ll have eyes in five minutes.”


With a sigh, I apologized to my friend, and after the goodbyes I checked my hangar. Hmm, I had my Anomaly Stabber ready, but would it be able to handle a structure-bashing fleet? I’d have to improvise, possibly. Quietly I got up and went to board my ship.

A few minutes passed, and another notification came in: the shields were now at 56%.

[ 30 minutes to do 25% damage. They are hitting it with only a few ships - 1300 dps worth. ] commented a voice on Corp comms - somebody I didn’t immediately recognize.

[ Indeed. ] spoke up Kitten. [ Three Vexor Navies, and a Thorax - and they are using… scout and sentry drones. ]

I frowned - my Stabber couldn't handle that. I threw out a few ideas on comms - destroyers, flybys, etc - but I wasn’t optimistic. Even if we could muster the people and ships, we wouldn’t have had the training. I had a Tornado nearby, but without support, it would be dead within seconds as well. Besides, it was in Sasiekko, several hops through hi-sec from here. But maybe… I wavered, and turned my Stabber back to the station, to switch it to somewhat faster. Having my Tornado nearby would be a good thing anyway, and right now there wasn’t much else to do.

It was a depressing journey - Coll took a trip through the system and reported eight hostiles total, and every thirty minutes we got a new notification from CONCORD: the shields dropped to 42%, then 45%.

“Da frack?!”

[ Ok, there are now 14 of them in the system, and they have stepped up their game. ], reported Kitten. [ We are looking at more cruisers with Logi support, and two torpedo bombers as well. ]

I had just docked up back in my home station in my Tornado when the final notification came in: the POCO was now in re-inforced mode.

[ I feel abused by how long that took. ] piped up the unknown voice again. [ Can you please ask them to stop embarrassing themselves? ]

[ Maybe. ] answered Kitten. [ They are… yep, warping to our other POCO. Stand by.

[ Same setup - cruisers in one group, logi in the other - and the two bombers huddling together. ]

I perked up. “The two bombers - can you give me a fly-by warp-in and warp-out? Just to do some token damage?”

[ Hmm… ] she sounded doubtful. [ I’ll try - but with their increased damage projection, I may not be able to finish it in time. ]

“Good enough.”

Minutes passed in silence, while I boarded my Stabber again and found my way to the system next to our POCOs.

[ Ok, I have the warp-out, and … oh, interesting. Their leader convoed me - let’s see what he has to say. ]

I knew better than to ask unnecessary questions now. She’d continue to work on the warp-ins while trying to string their fleet leader along.

[ Oh-kay,… apparently this is a punishment expedition, because of us shooting neutrals in Providence. ]

If it hadn’t been for the amniotic fluid in my pod, I would have groaned.

“Geez, we were red before we even moved here - so technically we followed NRDS to the letter!”

[ …and apparently we shot fleet members? ]


I could imagine her mental shrug: [ That’s what he says - it was apparently investigated by the Magistrate for Proviblock. ] She chuckled. [ And I quote: ‘whoever that is’ ].

[ Hey! ] the unknown voice interjected. [ Ask them if they would like some help. It’s taking too long. ]

“And we hate getting spammed by Structure Notifications.” I added.

Kitten was quiet for a few minutes, then spoke up again. [ No reaction, except for the suggestion to turn off the notifications. I told him no, we might miss something important if we did that. ] She paused, then cursed. [ Crap! I was too slow! They were done just when I got to the warp-in position. ]

“You’re getting old, Kitten!”

[ So are you. ] she replied playfully, hiding her own disappointment. [ It has been a while. ]

“No worries, same here. Come back if they’re leaving.”

[ Roger that. ]

[ So, now, what is this about our POCOs? ] A new voice - Greygal! She must have joined just in time to hear the tail end.

And so we filled her in, including a full recording of the chat Kitten had had with our opponents.

[ Ok. ] She finally said. [ I rather not have a war right now since we have so many rookies, but hey, no better way to learn how to deal with a war. I am thinking: defense fleet. ]

“And play it by ear, be more flexible than they are.” I couldn’t resist adding, smartass I could be.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

After Action Reports

“Good gods.”

I stumbled over to the wet bar in my quarters and drew myself a large glass of water, before collapsing on a nearby comfy couch. Already today’s roams were starting to blur together, aiming to join the muddled memories of the other roams this month.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a vague movement, heard a barely audible meow coming from the next room, but I was too tired to rise to the bait, tempting as it was. When the first weeks after The Conference had been rather slow, the previous weeks had dramatically picked up in pace.

It probably started with Redemption Road’s anniversary roam, where the doctrine was “anything armor goes”. And unsurprisingly we had ended up with an amazing kitchen-sink fleet of ships, including two carriers. Two? Three? It was already getting fuzzy. But I’d never forget the recon report “I have a Wyvern 12km off the gate. I think he’s going to crash the gate.” Unfortunately for us, there were more capitals on the other side of the gate. Not that it mattered - we had long lost our own capitals at that point.

A “Newbro roam”, as our intrepid leader called it, aimed at freshly licensed capsuleers. We even had two actual newbros with us on that roam, and not only did they hold up quite well, their enthusiasm was infectious.

A regular Redemption Road roam, which ended into the most epic extraction in my memory: we spent almost more time escorting the few remaining members of our fleet (all logistics, if my memory lie to me again) out of null-sec into the warm embrace of hi-sec, than on the roam itself.

A sight-seeing tour, which ended up me being jumped by a Rupture when I wasn’t paying attention. Ironically, the Rupture had been piloted by the same pilot who had pod-killed me just a few days before.

Another roam which had ended in a welp, and when on our way back home we attacked a local pirate with a fleet consisting mostly of pods and rookie ships, we got accused of “blobbing”.

Today’s Agony public roam. After all these years, it was good to see them trying to be that Agony again with whom I first dipped my toes into combat flying. Fleet was a bit rough around the edges at the beginning, partly due to the much higher than expected attendance, but eventually the FC handled the fleet with calm confidence. And after that roam…

I took another swallow of my water.

We had taken a short break to replenish our nutrients, when our intrepid leader came up with another idea: “Let’s go to the nearby rookie training system, and see if we can some of them to join us for some real flying.” Due to my current disagreements with CONCORD, I couldn’t be with the recruitment, but I followed their conversation over comms. And my heart sank when I heard no reply to their offers.

But then one of the rookies took a chance, and signed up. And another one.

And that’s all we needed - a fleet was quickly formed, and our intrepid leader took the rookies into a whirlwind tour of low- and null-sec, eventually ending up in RF-GGF and facing a gang from the Center of Advanced Studies. They had downshipped in sight of the purpose of this particular roam, but were not willing to hold any punches - not that we wanted them to. A short, but bloody fight erupted, and our rookies got to taste their first blood.

CAS graciously offered free passage for our survivors, but unfortunately there was also a FIGL cruiser gang roaming the area, and quickly the roam turned into another of our epic extractions.

The fleet split, John Hexis field-promoted from skirmisher to FC, in order to get one of our rookies out safely; myself heading towards John to scout, losing another Talwar to a gate camp; Greygal shepherding her half of the fleet out on a different route; orders on comms criss-crossing.

But we made it out, with the rookies all excited - less than a week on their licenses, and they had already experienced actual null-sec!

And even though we disbanded the fleet after docking, one of the rookies accepted the invitation to join us as we headed for the nearest watering hole on Stacmon V station, and hung out for hours with us.

I emptied my glass, my eyes falling shut.

Op success, as they say.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


“Fsck it!”

With a resolute motion, I threw back the blanket, and leveled myself off my bed. Sleep simply didn’t come, and from experience I knew that I needed to burn off whatever was keeping my mind occupied.

However, while slipping into my clothes, I had to wonder what exactly to do. The last days I had been mostly been occupied with catching up on my ISK-generating operations, and playing with kittens. But now I was caught up, and the kittens were asleep, so … what now?

…hmm, undock, maybe?

I did have this Stabber humming in my hanger - a rather vanilla fit, except for one modification to make it more suitable for the sparsely populated low-sec system I tended to operate in. Not the sturdiest or most capable of the Minmatar cruisers, but agile and amazingly-looking. Though… after months of flying Frigates, Cruisers were still a strange beast for me.

And as of where to go… a look at the map showed me only little activity in the nearby systems. But there was some - enough to warrant a look. At worst, I’d fly a 40-system roundtrip, and I’d be able to sleep afterwards.

I straightened up: it wasn’t the best of plans, but at least it was a plan.


The drone of my ship’s warp engines increased, a warp tunnel formed, and my Stabber was hurled through the void of sub-space to the next gate. As expected, my tour of the usual low-sec systems had brought up nothing. In one system, one POCO would be coming out of re-inforced 16 hours later - I had no personal beef with either involved party, but an opportunity to interfere as dishonorable 3rd-party is not to be sneezed upon. But otherwise the space was empty.

… as was Sendaya, my destination for the evening. Several people in system, but - as a quick dock confirmed - all docked up.

Damn! That meant that I either would have to go back home now, or I did what I usually avoided to do: go into null-sec.

Null-sec is scary: bubbles, gangs, bombers - and even if you survived, there’d be no security status changes to record your efforts.

I hesitated … and then instructed my ship to head towards the Doril gate. Something my subconscious kept saying about beggars and choosers.

Doril was… empty.

I let out a breath of amniotic fluid I didn’t realize I had held. Jumping in null-sec is usually one of the critical parts of a journey, and all the times before it had happened to me, it was not before a flighty scout had given the all-clear. Yet here I was all by myself in a cruiser: no scout, no intel - just the seat of my panties. Well, might as well press my luck and head towards Catch.

…I didn’t quite make it.

Jumping into Utopia, the scanner presented me with a Sabre at the gate, and an Ares at a tactical which may or may not have been associated.

Sabre… that’s a HIC, right? Or just a ‘dictor? … doesn’t matter - if it can put up bubbles, it’s bad news.

        Druur Monakh> That’s not looking good.

A sane pilot probably would have tried to crash the gate, or done something amazingly smart, but I was sleep deprived. So I just punched it.

Breaking gate cloak, I kicked my ship to establish an optimal orbit around that Sabre, and began the targeting sequence for my weapons. When I’d go down, I’d go down fighting!

The Sabre targeted me back, predictably bubbled the area, and started shooting me with his auto cannons.

Three Stealth Bombers decloaked. And that made the difference.

They made me re-assess the situation, break the tunnel-vision I had fallen into, and made me realize that
I could try to make a run for it. I had long-range weaponry to keep the Sabre occupied - and those bombs, with those I’d just have to take my chances.

I turned, and I ran, for the nearest bubble border. I was tempted to pulse my MWD, but a bomb appeared on my overview, and drilled instinct took over and made me forget about my MWD. Target painters were playing over my hull, the bomb exploded, and took out half of my shields.

But I was clear of the bubble now, and I had a tactical bookmark near my current alignment. I punched the warp drive.

The second bomb exploded harmlessly some 300km behind my back.

I had actually escaped.

The daily downtime of the fluid router beacons was near, so while I headed to a safe spot, my opponents left the system. And it wasn’t until I examined the gun footage during the communications blackout, that I realized that I had killed that Sniggerdly Sabre.

I slept well that night.