'Frigate operation and roam. 21:00 EVE Standard Time. RoninData'
That was the message on the channel as I linked in. I glanced at the chronometer and I had 15 minutes. Checking my hangars, I had five rifter-class frigates, two wolf-class and two-jaguar class all loaded, fuelled and ready to roll. The fleet was being set up and pilots all linking in, most appeared to be wolf and jaguar and ishkur pilots.
No T-1 hulls I thought to myself and therefore opted to balance out the T2 goodness by readying the venerable T1 rifter hull. There was general excitement and anticipation from the pilots assembled. Sarge was outside, roaring about in his stiletto-class interceptor and decided to tackle a crow-class interceptor who took a shine to him. There were about seven other fleet members outside but who could not engage due to possible gate gun fire.
"Go get him Sarge!" Cheered the assembled crew.
The two interceptors duelled each other at high speeds, zipping in and out of each other's orbits. There were puffs of flame and leaking atmosphere from both ships - the rockets and missiles from the crow eating into Sarge's thin frame while he replied with concentrated auto canon fire; peppering the Caldari ship's own hull.
"Shit, this is going to be cloooooosssssseee!" Said Sarge, and we all willed him for an extra volley or a lucky shot. There was a flash of light and Sarge's stiletto burst into pieces with his capsule whipping out.
"Good fight!" Congratulated Sarge to BlackShadow007, a well deserved reward for an enjoyable fight.
"Great. We're about to roll and I was hoping you would our scout Sarge." Observed RoninData.
This was greeted by guffaws and laughs. The time for the operation kick off was in five minutes and as customary, we were not quite ready. We still had pilots linking in and San was five minutes away moving some stuff and a few were AFK. With a sigh, RoninData postponed the op by 15 minutes. Those pilots that were ready, grumbled somewhat but amidst good natured joshing of Sarge on his loss; time passed quickly and soon a very impressive frigate gang was in place.
Floating outside like a swarm of angry wasps. Now the frigate class includes the traditional T1 frame, the assault frigate class, covert ops, electronic attack ships and the interceptor class. We were missing covert ops but we reckoned that this was superfluous to what we wanted. Now, low-sec pirating usually involves a fair amount of gate and station fighting and the assault frigate class, of which this fleet was largely comprised of, does not last very long against the automated sentry guns. So tackling prey at gates and stations was not a possibility.
One could only hope that potential prey could initiate hostilities - but this still did not allow everyone else to jump in. Only the aggrieved. The only choice available was to engage at planets, belts and complexes - and other criminals of course of which there were plenty to be seen on any given night in Metropolis. So tough choices but something that we had to live with.
"Fleet: be ready to roll in five minutes." The fleet was joined by two familiar faces: Mynxee and Shae Tiann - the latter who came in bang on time, and was ready within 10 seconds. Pretty slick these female pirates. Soon, the fleet was ready - 30 minutes past the scheduled time; a definite improvement but what hell - we're pirates!
A hell of a lot of DPS. Very vulnerable to smart-bomb packing ships. Still stung from our loss in EOA-ZC to the smartbombing Rokh, we vowed to be more careful. RoninData gave the order:
"Fleet this is Fleet Command: Destination has been set. Scouts move out ahead. One jump. All fleet; jump."
With multiple flashes the frigates leapt into warp space and it is so thrilling in seeing your fleet, barrelling alongside you in the warp tunnel. We were deposited in a group at the first gate, scaring the hell out of a number of industrial pilots. Sarge was ahead and fed back intelligence from what he can see. He found various ships, some at POS others hidden in deep spare. Jiremjahu assisted Sarge as well, moving into side systems but most of the ships were inside deep positions. More than once, we thought the presence of a covert-ops with a scan probe would have been a boon. Three times we had ships land at the same gate; we locked them, daring them to fire first but all of them held their nerve and jumped. The gate guns, silent, watchful and brooding kept their silence.
We roamed almost all the way down to Dal before the order was given to retrace our steps. With Kulmid joining the scouts, he entered Ardar first. Maintaining his gate cloak; Kulmid performed a customary scan.
"Fleet, this is Kulmid. We have members of the 'Drunk GanG' in local. He linked the pilot names and we digested the information. These chaps had taken us down, destroying Spectre only this morning. There were a total of five potential hostile pilots in Ardar local. "I see a megathron and 'geddon on scan."
"They'll be in battle ships and probably one or two falcons, if the gang is the same as before." Replied RoninData. "This fleet of ours should kill them."
"Really?" Muttered someone - clearly not believing the power of the frigate swarm. "Small frigates against a battle ship? Two battleships?"
"Yes indeed. We're too small for them to track." Said RoninData. "We have some ecm, tracking disruptors and webs."
"But what about smart bombs? You forgot about that Rokh in EOA-ZC?" Replied the concerned pirate.
"We just have to be careful now don't we?" I replied, silently hoping that no-one was packing any smart bombs. Kulmid then cut in.
"I think they're around planet III. Am going there to have a lookee."
With that, Kulmid jumped into orbit around planet III while the rest of the fleet was clustered around the entry gate - the atmosphere heavy with anticipation. The seconds ticked by as Kulmid counted down the time until the warp tunnel collapsed and deposited him at his destination.
"Warp tunnel collapsing in 5, 4, 3, 2,-" There was a hiss of static as Kulmid dropped back into real space.
"Contact. Contact. Contact. Megathron, pointing."
That was our signal to move. Like one swarm with a collective mind; all 16 frigates activated the gate and surged in like a tide into Ardar. As one, we all aligned to Kulmid.
"Contact! Contact! Geddon and second mega! Shit!" A burst of static cut in. " - down, going down. No cap. No cap. Fucking drones -" The rest was lost in garbled static.
We warped to Kulmid - who was now in deep trouble. "- mid down, Kulmid down. Watch out for them drones!"
As the fleet arrived, we saw Kulmid whipping out of the orbit. Now it was game time and it was thanks to Kulmid. Time to get some payback. My overview shimmered with new information being fed to me by my sensors as it picked up the signatures of the three vessels in front of me.
"Fleet. Primary: Nasiliy in his megathron. Secondary: Sikh. Tiertiary: Yarrino."
"Nasiliy pointed." Said Jorge, quietly efficient.
"Tracking disruptors on."
"Here comes the drones." Warned Loth.
"Shooting them!" Fired back Priest.
"They're fucking my drones!" Wailed Shae. My overview burst into life as it filled with drones from both sides swamped my GUI. I quickly re-sorted my overview but it was getting frantic with friendly fire.
"Drones on me! Drones on me! Help me!" Yelled someone.
"Who is that?"
"WHO IS ME?"
And so on. There was a burst of light and the armaggedon rammed it's sub-light engines into full burn and started to power away.
"Point and web the 'geddon! He's getting away." Yelled RoninData, now concerned that there was too many points on one target.
"I want Maltrox, Priest and Shae, points on Yarrino. Frog and Euan on Nasiliy. Jirem and Sarge on Sikh."
"Contact. Contact. Contact. This is Flash. Falcon de-cloaking, 150km. Pilot is 'Helllife' in Falcon." I said, as my overview winked on with a new target. A Falcon. Feared due to it's ability to render any ship useless through the much maligned electronic warfare modules.
"This is Sarge, and I am close to falcon. Burning towards him. Locking." I knew that Sarge was over-heating his afterburner in his effort to close the gap to the danger. I warped out to a planet as it would be quicker for me to warp to Sarge or someone closer then burning the 150kms.
"Jorge here: assisting Sarge. Burning towards the falcon."
"Jirem on my way to Falcon."
"Proph en route. Warping out and back in."
"You guys are team two!" Said Ronin, thereby allowing us to better communicate through the cacophony.
"Sarge here: I have lock and point. Warp to Sarge. Falcon pointed." Then there was curse and the sound of thumping." Jammed!"
I warped to Sarge, landing only 4km from the falcon, I snapped on my warp scrambler and fired as soon as my lock resolved. I had hot primed my auto canons and webber to fire as soon as the lock finished it's fix on the falcon. My auto canons spat out EMP shells at a furious rate.
The falcon pilot had too many targets to deal with; this is what we were planning on.
"Nasiliy is going down but I lost my point. Maintain point on the mega!"
Meanwhile back at the falcon, I saw that the falcon was cycling through all targets and soon I was hit by a wave of electronic noise, shutting down my computer. Jorge was on top of the falcon as was Jirem and Proph. They too, were jammed but managed to re-acquire locks and maintain the punishment on the falcon. My tough minnie electronic apparatus recovered, relocked and I too continued to fire.
"Contact. Contact. Contact. Second falcon. Second falcon!" OK, this was getting a bit complicated however, two frigates peeled off from the battle ships and chased after the second falcon. The FC designated this flight as team three.
There was a frantic shouting on the comms server. Voice discipline, while not always the best, began to break down.
"Voice discipline! Goddamn it." I said, but I was adding to the problem as much as trying to fix it. RoninData realised what was happening, cut through the chatter.
"Fleet; listen up - confirm points on targets."
"Shae, points on Nas."
"Jorge, points on Helllife."
"Loth, points on Yarrino."
"San, second falcon jammed."
"Priest, points on Sikh."
"Flashfresh, points on Helllife," and so it continued - each pirate confirming their target and through luck; there was no need to re-task any of the pirates with new targets. All hostile ships were locked down. The second falcon, suddenly realising the hopelessness, bugged out, temporarily leaving his compatriots to their fate.
"I think we can do this. Any ship with damage?"
"Loth here: no damage."
"Flashfresh here: no damage." My rifter danced around the larger Caldari-made cruiser, its ECM modules blinking as it cycled and jammed our fleet. However, the punishment it had taken from us was evident in the numerous gashes and holes in it's hull. Many holes were leaking fluids and pumping precious atmosphere out. Its handling appeared to be increasingly erratic and some modules appeared to be off-lining. Our frigates buzzed around him, spitting our fury at him.
"Keep on Helllife in his falcon!" I said, the statement being so obvious that no-one answered but the rate of fire increased with more frigate-mounted missiles, shells and lasers lancing out towards the cruiser.
Not much to fear now eh? I thought to myself with some satisfaction.
My tactical computer shrieked as it detected a jam attempt from the stricken falcon. It was trying to align and get out and was using its remaining ECM ability to punch it's way out.
"Keep points on the Falcon! Points!" I roared.
"Lost lock!" Informed Jorge. "Re-tasking."
"Me too!" The frustration in Sarge's voice was clear. Frigate hulls are too small to fit enough ECCM to counter a dedicated EW boat such as a falcon or rook. All we could hope for was to swamp the falcon pilot with too many targets - more than it can jam and hold it down long enough with the remaining ships to kill it.
Helllife, initially concentrated on jamming the frigates attacking the three battleships but it was a costly mistake; this allowed himself to be trapped by the first anti-falcon team who managed to pile into him. Only now was he using his ECM and micro warp drive to extract himself.
"Flash still has lock." I said amazed that my warp scrambler was humming away and my guns running themselves dry. It would only be a matter of time before I was jammed again.
"Helllife has been jammed." Spoke San. He was our sole EW pilot in the Kitsune, still in the thick of the fight with the second returning, falcon and he came to us in the nick of time. I could imagine the frustration of Helllife, now realising that he too was jammed for a cycle; his targeting computers all going crazy on him as it tried to make sense of the electronic equivalent of a tidal wave crashing into it.
Team two swarmed in for the kill; and we took down the falcon. Once its shield systems were blown - our munitions then pummeled the ship into useless scrap. The pilot's pod managed to instantly whip out of the system.
"Falcon one is down." I said triumphantly as I re-aligned my ship back towards the main fight.
"Second Falcon is running!" Said someone from the team three. Sure enough, the second falcon, seeing the fate of his brother decided that he would have to leave his fleet mates to their fate and managed to get out a second time.
Only the three battle ships remained, looking huge and angry but now, so vulnerable.
"Primary is Nasiliy." Repeated RoninData as team two and three's frigates returning from their anti-ECM role were quickly re-tasked. The extra damage chewed through the first megathron, it's thick armour plating being slowly stripped off in flaming sheets. We had no interest in ransoms at the moment; we wanted to kill it and live off the loot that would drop.
With the megathron webbed, scrambled, partially jammed and completely unable to track the fleet-footed frigates and no drones to call it's own. This feared beast, and indeed the other two battle ships: a second megathron and an armageddon, would be dead very soon.
"Nasiliy is going down. He's going down!" Hooted Loth. We all wanted to see if we could provide the killing blow, the coup de grace. It was Euan8, in his close-range blaster ishkur who did it. His anti-matter hybrid rounds punching deep into the guts of Nasiliy's megathron and triggering a massive explosion. Buffeting us like chaff in the wind.
"Primary is down. New primary is Sikh."
Sikh, held down tight by another flight of frigates, suffered the same, ignomious death. It's guns simply too big and slow to track our frigates as we danced around him and slowly stung him to death. Final target was Yarrino in the golden-hued Armageddon. It's mighty large lasers, hurled laser beams the size of palace columns, uselessly into space. Already, life pods were being spat out of the battle ship as his crew sensibly started to abandon ship.
"Ransom?" Asked someone.
It's usually customary for the last pilot in a hostile gang to be ransomed. A ransom midway through a fight is sure-fire way to a quick death so the last hostile pilot to remain, may expect some leniency if he doesn't escape.
"No. Show no mercy." Replied RoninData, mindful of exacting revenge for Spectre3353's loss earlier.
The hull of the armageddon cracked and then the ship broke apart, the inside of the ship blossoming like a new-born sun. The reactor had gone critical and the ship was consumed in a mighty explosion. Yarrino, expecting this, had already primed his pod to instantly warp out and we failed to catch him. No matter.
Once the flash of the armageddon's fiery demise had disappeared from our retinas - we started to cheer. Very loudly.
We held the field and gave a heart-felt 'GF' to the departing battle ship pilots. To the victor came the spoils and loot. One of them grumbled about us blobbing them, and yes, in terms of numbers our frigates out-numbered their battle ship & recon ships by 3 - 1 but even so; if they had coordinated more closely - concentrating their drones on just one of our frigates at a time for example - they would have slowly munched through us. If a ship fit cannot counter frigate-class vessels effectively; then you're always going to be in trouble. Smart-bombs, energy neutralisers, warrior II drones and tactics are some examples of anti-frigate warfare. Still it is easier to be a master tactician after a fight.
One can only assume that their communications was as frantic and chaotic as ours was.