It was inevitable. I knew it was coming, some day. I just didn’t think some day would be today.
Signal Cartel Fleet School (SCFS) has been flying Sleeper Eradication fleets regularly for some time now, and all in all things have gone very smoothly. Our skills – and our confidence – have grown, which is exactly what SCFS is supposed to do. When we undocked from Zoo I don’t think any of us expected this op to end the way they did.
Things started off routinely enough. We had a C5 wolf rayet with heavy sleeper activity, ripe for eradication. Our j-space entrance was Haras, in The Bleak Lands, 18 jumps from Zoo. It was a long way to travel, but my intel indicated that the C5 was worth it. So we headed to Haras on the shortest route possible.
There was some traffic with us early on – a Stratios here, a Corvus there – but we pushed ahead. When we crossed the border into Metropolis at 20:30, things intensified. D-scan in Avenod showed combat probes, and Captain Davis from No Handlebars Alliance was spotted in a Vedmak. I jumped the fleet from Avenod to Aset and ahead into Isbrabata. This proved to be the beginning of the end.
We were chased through Isbrabata, and I made the decision to push forward into Kurniainen. I’m sure more than a handful of pilots will question whether that was the right decision, but it’s the decision I made. I jumped the fleet through the Isbrabata gate into Kurniainen.
We were met on the other side of the gate by a group of at least seventeen pirates: one Deimos, one Devoter, two Guardians, one Harpy, one Imperial Navy Slicer, one Ishkur, one Legion, one Malediction, one Pacifier, three Retributions, two Vedmaks, one Vengeance, and one Wolf. There were more in-system – I received a report of a smartbomb Proteus safed up near the sun – but I don’t know how many more, and honestly that’s probably for the better.
I don’t know which pirate fired the first shot, and I don’t remember who in the fleet suffered the first hit. I can only confirm that as soon as we jumped into Kurniainen at 20:32, we were engaged in what was for many of us, myself included, our first real PvP encounter.
You can spend days reading and studying, but it doesn’t prepare you for the real thing. I was grateful for the experience of Command0, and turned target calling over to him. Deimos was called as primary, and we started fighting back.
A few of us sustained some pretty heavy damage right away. The Logi cap chain went down, my Guardian pilots were locked, and there was nothing I could do. Quinn was the first casualty at 20:34, followed by Leda at 20:35. Command0 sustained heavy fire, and his Eos succumbed at 20:36.
I assumed the role of target calling. Drones were out, missiles were flying, and all weapons were being fired. My nosferatu and neuts were on, and Auds came on-grid in his scouting ship to try and assist with damps. None of it made a dent in the pirate gang. We continued to take heavy fire and I lost Chaim, Daniel and Sanctus – all in Harbingers – at 20:36, 20:37, and 20:38, respectively.
Two minutes later, my Damnation exploded around me and my pod was ejected. It was her second flight (she still had that ‘new ship smell’), but she Died with Glory™. I stayed on-grid in my pod and continued on.
Alerei’s 1.9bil experimental Proteus fit was the next to go down, followed by Snyypa’s Gnosis and Aleksander’s BNI. Ren-Song’s Guardian finally couldn’t take any more damage, and she exploded at 20:42, followed by Calder’s BNI.
While all this was happening, Fonsui had the wherewithal to scout some safes for the fleet. At 20:43 I gave the order to warp out and safe up. My pod was scrammed and I was down to about 25% hull, but somehow managed to get out and make it to the safe.
We re-grouped at the safe, did a quick damage assessment, and planned a route back to Zoo. I was still under a timer and my mapping was off, so Chaim stepped up as navigator. He found us a route through Sinq Laison, and I led what remained of the fleet home to Zoo.
This fleet ended in an (almost) TPK. But as I sit here in the pilot’s lounge on Level Sixteen, scratching notes on my datapad, you’d never know anything out of the ordinary had happened. The corridors are filled with friendly chatter, pilots are repairing or replacing their ships, and more than a few people are joking about how ‘shiny’ their new clones feel. It’s just a regular day in Signal Cartel.
As I sipped my Caf, I composed and sent the following message to my fleet:
Things did not go as planned today. We did not come home with Sleeper loot, many of us came home without our ships, and some of us woke up in a clone bay. Our zkillboard is bathed in blood, and we had some pretty significant losses. But it was a good day.
We can spend time second-guessing our actions, being salty or sad, or we can be proud that we fought back. This was my first real PvP experience, as it was for many of us. The fleet did not give up – we fought back for as long as we could. We did not roll over and give up, and I am proud of the fact that we engaged.
We did not win this fight, but the fleet can hold its head high, knowing that we did the best we could. There will surely be more fights, and surely more losses. But I know that we will all continue to do the best we can do, supporting each other along the way, because that is who we are. We are Signaleers.