"Sir, here's the Order of Battle for tonight's operation. The Fleet designation is 290610. " Said the pirate officer, a young Gallente. I took the sheet and start to scan down the list, I nod as I am happy.
"Eighteen ships, mostly battle cruiser class. Excellent. I see we have a number of unaffiliated Captains with us." My finger circle the names of a few pilots on the list.
"Three are potential recruits and one is a friend of an existing ship Captain." The officer took a glance at his clip-board. I think it makes him look extremely officious.
"A friend of Captain Blackler."
I dismiss the officer with a curt nod. He snaps his heels together and salutes and strides out of the my ready-room.
I reached over and grab a bottle. I pour myself a drink and jab at a few buttons on my tactical console. The order of battle (orbat) is projected onto the large tactical screen behind me. I want to make some adjustments to communication protocols and default orders for the fleet and fiddle about with some coloured icons on the screen before I am satisfied. The list of ships tell me that, for tonight, it would be more than enough to do the trick. I execute the necessary commands that would trigger alarms along the entire length of the space station. Ship crew and Ship Captains would now be alerted to make ready their boats for violence and loot.
Finishing my drink, I put the glass down.
It is time to move.
The fleet Orbat is left on the screen to slowly fade away as I make my way towards the capsule docking lounge.
Order of Battle (29-06-10)
Area of operation: classified
Falcon-class force recon; ship designation: TH901-887
Lachesis-class force recon; ship designation: LB003-552
Huginn-class force recon; ship designation: JM776-643
Hurricane-class battle cruiser, mark III-Fury variant; ship designation: FF665-261
Hurricane-class battle cruiser, mark III-Valiant variant; ship designation: ST293-331
Drake-class battle cruiser, HAM-II variant, ship designation: PA887-002
Drake-class battle cruiser...The fleet of eighteen or so ships start to rumble out of space dock amid a blare of klaxon and whirling sirens. The un-docking queue is promptly cleared of commercial traffic as the pirate ships of The Bastards, all matt black with the winged skull and crossed swords motif, muscle their way out. As soon as each ship makes minimum clearance; it jumps to a random spot in the system before forming up around my Hurricane-class battle cruiser, Arbalast VI, also in a safe spot.
Deep inside my ship, entombed in my pod, I sift through the telemetry from the multiple scouts we have, all feeding data to the fleet. I am hooked up intravenously to my ship, drinking in the information flowing through sub-space radio frequencies. I know that deep inside each of their own ships, the capsuleer Captains of The Bastards are now communicating with their own ships, their own crew and the other Captains - simultaneously and at the speed of light. After all this time, I still cannot describe to a non-capsuleer how the the command and control of a ship is accessed. Around me, the pod gives me the illusion that I can see multiple maps and displays hanging in the space in front of me. It is an illusion as this information is piped directly into my cranial cortex. It is just the only way my mind can convey the information to me without driving me insane. Each ship flashes their readiness to the me and on the tactical map, the ships blinks green once.
It was time to 'speak' to the fleet.
"Attention Fleet. This is FC - destination has been broadcast. Scouts indicate a large fleet of comparable vessels around the Ofrold / Klogori system. They're camping the outbound gate in Klogori. We're going to go and say hello to them. Enemy fleet at the gate has been designated as Alpha-one."
A lusty cheer both from the crew and the Captains rises up. I hear them clearly as my own hearing is now augmented ship- and fleet-wide.
"All ships. Roll towards destination minus one. Engage."
With that, all the vessels smoothly align and fire up their engines. The order means that each ship is to 'roll' forward with minimal communications and hold one jump away from the destination. As the fleet moves towards the waiting camp, one of our scouts, who has the task of keeping an eye on the camp, establishes an encrypted channel with me.
"Scout-two to FC. Alpha-one is moving towards the Hado gate in Klogori and jumping through. Scout-two is following."
Is the camp moving away? I wonder.
"FC to Scout-two. Attempt to re-establish contact." I wait as I know that the scout, inside his tiny craft, is shadowing the enemy ships and hope that he doesn't lose his cloak and blow his cover.
"Scout-two to FC. Contact re-established. They are now in Hadozeko and re-approaching the Klogori gate."
Wonder what is going on? Not too odd, though I have to be careful.
"FC to scout-two. Maintain watch. Fleet is three jumps away from destination minus one."
The fleet jump in unison and arrive at the destination on the Klogori gate in Orfrold. No mishaps. I order a hold position. We look poised like bullets in a gun barrel, ready to fire and our ships wait for the enemy fleet to return.
"FC to scout-two. Fleet now in position. Re-confirm composition of alpha-one."
There is a pause and then the voice of the scout comes crackling through.
"FC, I have the following ship classes:Typhoon, Armageddon, Scorpion,Tempest, Drake, Hurricane, Vexor, Rook, Drake, Stabber, Ferox, Tempest and Blackbird. They are all none-flashy and appear to be camping for flagged criminal ships only. I just saw them ignore a number of worthwhile targets who were all non-criminals, including a strategic cruiser. The scorpion and rook are about 50KM from the gate."
OK, time to rock and roll. I think to myself. The enemy fleet is one less than us in number but is heavier in tonnage and fire power than our fleet. They have four battle ship class ships, one of which is the dreaded Scorpion. They also have an additional two ECM boats too. We have no battle ships, only battle cruisers and one ECM. We have the advantage in speed and manoeuvrability.
"FC, looks like they like to have sentry guns on their side. Not much of a camp but could cause us problems, if we go into them." Say one of my Captains. It sounds like JManZA and he appears very eager to jump in nonetheless.
"We will be sharing sentry guns so we are fine." Replies another, eager to jump in as well. One thing about pirates: once they smell potential loot and money, it is almost impossible to stop them.
I don't want to have sentry guns on this fleet as well as a scorpion, rook and blackbird ECM boat on our collective asses.
As I ponder, there is a blare of proximity alarms as two frigate sized ships appear alongside us. I am unsure if they were cloaked along side us or had just come through the star gate. I quickly get a scan on them. The results come flashing back revealing them to be the same corporation as the alpha-one targets.
In a flash, they jump through into Klogori.
"Crap." I am not pleased about this. "All ships, we have just been rumbled - they now know who we are and our ships types. We need to move now. All ships align to planet four."
My battle cruiser start to shift around.
"FC, let's just bait them with our drakes around planet one. I am sure they have a scout close by this gate, all cloaked up and dropping probes. I can see at least five of the little buggers." Suggests Silvetrys. Have to admit, it is a sound idea by my able secondary fleet commander. I like it.
I quickly pick an icon from one of the maps and drag the tactical map and in a sweep, grab the three icons representing the drakes and give all three new orders. God I love my tactical battle viewer! The three drakes acknowledge the change in their orders and flash their acknowledgement back. They then disappear from view as they warp off to orbit planet one. I am confident that anyone scanning for ships around the gate will see the drakes only.
"FC to fleet - warp to planet four then align to planet one on arrival."
Setting a trap like this was fraught with difficulty as the two enemy scouts surely had gotten a right eyeful of this fleet. However, Silvetrys idea is a good one and I am confident that it will work.
"FC, this is scout-two. Plus one scimitar to alpha-one. I have also spotted a secondary fleet of three ships around planet three in Klogori. Designating second fleet as beta-one. Unknown if beta-one and alpha-one are working together."
So a logistical ship had joined the main enemy fleet with a potential backup of another three ships! The odds are against my fleet and now stack up even more.
The drakes signal back that they are in position. The main fleet is now in a safe spot and aligning to planet one. My directional scanner reveal scan probes are everywhere. So someone is actively scanning for us. Hope they find the drakes first.
"FC, this is scout-two. The scorpion and rook both warped away and then came back to the gate. I think they're about to move." There was a pause. "They're jumping to you. They're jumping."
"Scout-three to fleet. Incoming gate fire. Incoming gate fire."
Sure enough, another one of our scouts, positioned on our side after we had vacated the gate confirmed the presence of the enemy fleet as they slowly de-cloaked.
My heart was hammering away as I wait so see whether alpha-one would be warping to the drakes or elsewhere.
"The enemy fleet are aligning to planet one!"
"Silv you beauty, your plan appears to be working." I said. "Persephone, keep your eyes peeled - you have hostile ships inbound."
"Roger that FC. Bring them on."
I hated this bit: the waiting. In my mind's eye, I can see the ships all in warp, the plasma playing over their hulls. I can imagine the excitement in the crews as they approach our drakes. Their weapons ready.
"Contact! Contact! Contact!" Yelled Persephone and a clear signal for us to go.
"FC to fleet, warp to planet one. Red alert, battle stations and all that jazz."
My ship leap into the warp alongside the fleet, a deadly synchronised move. From the camera drones and external cameras dotted alongside the hull of my ship, I can see the awesome beauty of warp space. Purple gossamer threads fold around our ships as we plough through towards planet one. In the corner of my eye, the countdown ticks down until the warp tunnel collapse at our destination. Persephone had started calling out targets so that the three drakes could kick off the party with gusto.
In a flash, I am back into normal space. My telemetry starts to update. The space in front of me fills up with the bulk of enemy ships. Laser beams lance out, drones scream and missiles lurch drunkenly in all directions. I check my tactical overview as quickly as I can and see the scorpion-class battle ship. It is forty kilometres way. I want it. I fire up the micro warp drive and start to close the distance. I scan the other ships to see that we are all here.
"FC to fleet. Primary is Minorchik, in the scorpion. Primary is Minorchik, in the scorpion. Primary is Minorchik, in the scorpion." I like to repeat (three-peat?) a command, especially when the things hit the fan. "Secondary is Shkip Matroskin in the rook. Secondary is Shkip Matroskin in the rook. Secondary is Shkip Matroskin in the rook."
"I am jammed! Going to ramming speed." Wasn't too sure who's voice it was, sounded like Silvetrys. Probably was Silvetrys as he would be crazy enough in using his entire ship as a ramming weapon.
"Vig is jammed and neuted."
A hail of shells hammer into my shields. My shields hold. Keep calling targets, Flash ol' buddy!
"Tiertiary is Shi Kara in the 'geddon. Tiertiary is Shi Kara in the 'geddon. Tiertiary is Shi Kara in the 'geddon."
"Jmarr is jammed. Moving away."
Crap have to knock out the ECM.
To my right and slightly below, one of our drakes is on fire and spinning away. It's guidance systems most likely smashed. It still fire out missiles salvoes in defiance. It has to be Persephone's boat. Close by and lower still, a second drake, already dark, badly holed with the occasional bloom of escaping flame. Not good.
0-2 to the campers.
"Lord B going down." Crap, I forget we have a lachesis and I need his points.
0-3 to the campers.
No matter. I finally close the distance to the scorpion and now was the time to show my displeasure.
"Gun crew - red line the guns, take the safeties off. Primary is scorpion. Free fire! Free fire!" Am sure it is my imagination but I swear, I can feel the battle cruiser lurch as the bank of mighty 425mm auto canons spin up and thump out projectiles. With satisfying splashes, the scorpions shields disappear quickly. Another few seconds and the shells are smashing into the armour, gouging out huge terrible wounds in the Caldari battle ship. Some of our ships had gotten close too and they too open up. The scorpion, armour plated, blew up into a nice ball of scrap.
1-3, we get one back!
"Primary is the rook. Primary is the rook. Primar -"
"Enemy rook is down."
That was quick.
2-3, come on Bastards!
"New primary is the geddon, primary is Shi Kara in the 'geddon. Primary is Shi Kara. Secondary is Gadsky II in hurricane, secondary is Gadsky II in hurricane, tiertiary is Klutch Johnson in the ferox, Klutch Johnson in the ferox."
My ship continues to shake as the 425mm auto canons threaten to rip itself off it's housing as I continue to pour fire on the gleaming golden hull of the Armageddon. A flash and the Armageddon detonates in a most spectacular fashion.
3-3, a draw so far!
"Primary is down. Secondary is gone. Moving to tertiary." The ferox takes a bit too long and I switch targets.
"New primary is Fyr in the phoon, primary is fyr in the phoon, primary is fyr in the phoon. Secondary is Threeofseven in tempest, tertiary is Wollk in drake."
The distinctive shape of a typhoon class battle ship squats in space, surrounded by drones. I lock it up and fire a nice salvo of barrage ammunition. I grin as a stream of hyper-velocity rounds race towards the Typhoon. My other surviving ships follow suit. Missiles, lasers and shells shower past me.
"Vig is down."
3-4, the enemy take the lead.
"Silv is down."
3-5, they're stretching ahead.
The enemy Typhoon explodes, debris shower the adjacent ships with scrap, shrapnel and bits of Minmatar starship engineering.
4-5 but The Bastards could draw level!
"Hermit down." Shit, there goes our own ECM.
4-6, the enemy maintain their two ship lead!
"Primary is ThreeofSeven in the tempest, primary is threeofseven, primary is threeofseven. Secondary is Wollk in the drake, secondary is Wollk in the drake, tiertary is Klutch in the ferox."
I spot a massive salvo of missiles spewing from the drake. I hit the micro warp drive and dive down and away. I am too slow and a good fifty per cent of the missiles slam into my ship. Ouch.
"Tempest is down! Tempest is down!" I can't tell who said that due to the sub-space distortion from the weapon discharges. At least I had one more compatriot!
5-6, that's more like it.
"Jmarr is down." Not good, we are running out of fire power.
5-7 to the campers! Come on Bastards!
Wollk in the drake, his after burners glows brightly as he tries to get some range but my stasis webifier reaches out and slow him right down. He isn't going to get anywhere and has my full attention.
"Primary is Wollk in the drake. Wollk in the drake is primary. Secondary is Klutch. Tiertiary is the scimitar." I push my hurricane closer to give my 425mm the best chance of hitting the drake at close range.
Wollk's Drake, as mighty as it is, explodes under the onslaught. I see the ferox, scimitar, vexor and a stabber remaining. They look like they're ready to bug out.
6-7, but can we get a numerical draw?
What ships do I have right now? A quick scan on my watch list and I see that I still have a hurricane, two myrmidons, a drake and cyclone. More than enough.
"Primary is Klutch in the ferox. Klutch in the ferox." What is left of the fleet smoothly switch across to the new target. There's a boom as the caldari battle cruiser blossoms out in a gorgeous flower of flame and light several seconds later. God I love those explosions!
7-7 a draw!
The remaining ships, decide that a heroic death isn't a sensible option and start to withdraw quickly.
We had held the field and can now loot the wrecks - hopefully it would yield enough to cover our ships losses.
"Great job fleet. Now loot up, pick up survivors and salvage everything. We leave nothing."
I salute the enemy crews who we leave alone - they fought well and valiantly but we hold the field and to the victors goes the spoils.
The butchers bill is high...
The Campers Lost:
Blackbird got away
Vexor got away
Stabber got away
Scimitar got away
Hurricane got away
Drake got away
The Bastards lost: