I’m often ushered into FCing gangs that I take part of, whether they’re composed of friends I’ve flown with for years, or individuals I just met, while being the only outsider in their group. I guess it’s my knack for knowing what to do, or at least what best to do in order to preserve a gang while inflicting maximum damage to an opposing fleet. Or it’s merely the fact I have more drive than most pilots in EVE to PvP, and hence I’m forced into the most unpopular and demanding position in the fleet. So it goes.
Returning to Molden Heath to catch up on some much needed security status redemption, I found that my favorite pirate of the area, Ariartus was on the prowl with a few friends. Her gang had roamed the lowsec of the region for the past hour, and finding nothing, she too was looking forward to a little action in Great Wildlands. Not one to pass up good fun with a friend, I joined their gang, taking up the FC/scout roles in a Huginn for our gang of three Ruptures. All three pilots expressed the utmost desire to lose their cruisers in glorious combat, and I had every intention to shepherd them to an explosive end.
Fortunately for us, the time couldn’t be riper for a roam through GW: COW had just vacated the area, and in the vacuum Republic Alliance had set up shop in their old haunt M-MD38. RE-AL has nothing on the Foundati0n of old, and their diminished numbers haven’t a chance in policing their slice of nullsec from small marauding gangs such as our own. The gang moved past B-VIP9, scouting the pipe to NIH-02 with efficiency. Asking my flock if they desired immediate or eventual blobby death, and with an overwhelming response for the former, I jumped into M-MD38 to give the RE-AL population a look-see.
Ignoring the thirty pilots in local and wall of -10 standing most of them represented, a quick 360 scan revealed an Abaddon, ratting at the only belt in range. Giving the order to jump, I activated warp to the belt, and was rewarded with a moment of calm with which to admire my Matari recon. The Huginn is really a gorgeous ship: the green trails totally make it a killer. It doesn’t get nearly enough attention for its abilities, though that only translates to a cheaper hull, to which I can’t complain.
The warp tunnel collapsed; my reverie ended with a brutish looking golden hulk taking up my view. The Amarr battleship had just finished blasting apart an Angel Cartel ship, and was quite oblivious to the pain his vessel was about to endure. Twenty kilometers between his ship and my own were well within tackle range of my T2 disruptor and bonused webs; it was a simple matter of immobilizing his ship for the rest of my gang to take down.
Flights of Caldari Navy HAMs streamed from the Huginn, their sleek contours following trails of projectile ordinance to add a concussive climax to the relatively minor projectile impacts. Seconds passed slowly in the opening moments of the attack: time seems to dilate when you know you’re doing something utterly foolhardy, and have the off chance of getting away with it. Of course, realizing its mistake, time travels extra fast to catch up once things start to heat up. In my case, when a trio of Matari gunboats drop from warp to lend their arsenal to the battle.
The pirate Ruptures converged on the Abaddon to weave tight orbits, using their superior tracking to confound the efforts of the larger ship to fend them off. Fortunately, the ratter neglected any sort of tackle equipment to slow our assault to a speed his pulse lasers could track. Once the (disposable) Ruptures had demonstrated this, I eased into a similarly close orbit, drifting into optimal range of my autocannons.
So far so good, however good isn’t enough when ganking targets in an alliance’s home system. I ordered all ships to begin overheating their weapons to hasten the battleship’s destruction. The incessant chatter of projectile fire rose to a furious crescendo, crews on each Matari hull noticing an increase in the rhythmic vibration in the hull, just as a minor earthquake escalates to a moderate one.
Despite our efforts, support came trickling in to aid the beleaguered Abaddon. First arrival was a Rapier, decloaking 40km from our position. He must have sensed our menace by the way four drone flights immediately streamed toward his vessel, and promptly initiated warp away from the belt. Next was a Drake, landing at 30km. Unfortunately the mesmerizing sight of the Abaddon entering hull distracted us from pointing the battlecruiser, and it warped off as well. No more intrusions presented themselves in final seconds it took for us to evaporate the Abaddon’s hull.
Goal accomplished, evasive maneuvers were called, and the next twenty minutes were spent avoiding M-MD38 while exploring adjacent systems for more ratters. Lacking any appreciable targets, and with the Khabi gate in 7Q-8Z2 camped, we decided to brave RE-AL once more, pushing back through to M-MD38 on our way to BRT-OP. Stinging from the earlier ratter loss, RE-AL decided to give chase, following us through NIH-02, into N-DQ0D, culminating with an engagement in P1T-LP.
P1T was ideal for our skirmish gang. Mashing scanner as we went, we knew we had only battlecruisers and smaller chasing us, which meant we had a good chance of killing a few ships before larger vessels arrived from M-M. With the chase gang hot on our tracks, we jumped into P1T, deploying drones and waited for RE-AL to make their move.
Jumping into P1T, the RE-AL gang was welcomed with all the fury four Matari cruisers could provide. A Brutix, Prophecy, Eris and Rapier were first to decloak, and I called the Rapier primary, fearing its ability to dictate range over the rest of the ships on the field. The Eris deployed its bubble, opposing drone flights swooping toward targets as pilots jockeyed to lay their firepower on designated targets. It seemed the RE-AL gang had similar worries regarding my EWAR arsenal; my shields were quickly under assault by multiple drones, and taking hits from the Rapier’s artillery fire.
Their fears were realized as my webifiers both halted the retreat of the Rapier and charge of the Brutix, allowing ally Ruptures to swoop in on the enemy recon. The RE-AL gang had an ace to call upon however, and as the Ruptures arrived in range, a Falcon decloaked, disrupting locks of our gang. Cursing, I called the Falcon primary, overheating my MWD attempting to maneuver into range of the Falcon and away from the closing RE-AL gunships. I had to endure several cycles of ECM before my impressive signal strength finally won through, allowing me to regain lock. Ten seconds were all I needed to remove the plated force recon from the field.
With their ECM piece eliminated, the flow of action quickly turned to the pirate’s favor. The flimsy Eris had decided to follow adjacent to my Huginn to deal maximum damage, however without a Falcon to preserve it, drones quickly consumed it. The Rapier dropped quickly as well, lacking tank for greater tackling ability. With their support destroyed, we moved to focus on the battlecruisers holding the field.
We soon found that the Brutix sported a shield tank, which allowed our cruisers to move within web range to deal sickening damage, while evading blaster return fire. Unfortunately Ariartus wasn’t so careful in her approach, and lost her already damaged Rupture to the Brutix. The BC didn’t last much longer after that, leaving a Prophecy to battle our three remaining cruisers: a lone, brave and stupidly durable Prophecy which harbored the seed of our destruction.
Observing the Prophecy, I decided that it was using a pulse laser load out, and from that assumption ordered my gang to engage from 10km. From that range our cruisers would be able to deal good damage while the Prophecy would be forced to use Scorch M, which is inefficent against Matari plate and shielding. In reality the Prophecy was sporting medium autocannons, and was hitting the vulnerable EXP/KIN resistance holes of our cruisers.
A minute had passed when one of the Ruptures declared he was hitting structure, and unable to flee in time lost his ship. I cautioned the remaining Rupture to hold outside of web range, which should allow him to escape with ease. Time crept by as the Prophecy’s tank slowly diminished, however our progress on his plate was much too slow. The stargate adjacent to us flared to life, depositing RE-AL reinforcements into the system. Fearing the worst, I activated my MWD, burning away from the gate and telling my comrade to mimic the maneuver.
Unfortunately for the pirate Rupture, escape would not be possible. The Prophecy managed to slip a webifier onto his fleeing ship, and paired with a newly arrived Wolf, the Rupture was lost in a sapphire blaze. Several more RE-AL vessels jumped into system, their target now the sole remaining pirate cruiser on grid, my Huginn.
Chagrined at the loss of my command, I decided to destroy as many wrecks as possible and make my escape. Diving back toward the gate, I destroyed both recon wrecks, as well as the cruiser wrecks of my comrades. Green engine trails traced my path around the gate, skimming beyond weapons range of the RE-AL group until finally I departed to the stargate leading toward BRT-OP.
That route home wasn’t my true destination, however. Landing at a celestial adjacent to the outbound gate, I watched the RE-AL HIC as well as tackle support arrive at the gate, likely expecting me to arrive there at any moment. My Huginn however was already en route to the NIH gate, which I promptly jumped through. My misdirection afforded me a clear path back to B-VIP9, and finally into the comfortable embrace of Molden Heath lowsec.
The pirate gang was ecstatic with victory: they had planned on traveling into GW with hopes of a gank or two before being blobbed horribly. My smart FCing allowed us to destroy a great deal more than they expected, snubbing RE-AL alliance with painful losses while at it. Cheering up, I joined their celebration and bade each in turn good night as the Europeans logged off, having stayed up well into the morning.
Despite the fact they were expecting to lose their ships, the poor call to engage a ship known for its fantastic staying power egged at my conscious. So close to their home system, I should have called for the two Ruptures to destroy wrecks and retreat further into nullsec, using my webifiers to keep the Prophecy out of trouble. It just goes to show I have much to learn of skirmish warfare, even with over a year of small gang experience under my belt.