Bubble Armada

As the Bubble came up I knew I was screwed, the communications node in my ear relayed the cut short screams of those whose fate I was soon to share. As the fifteen bombs exploded around me I felt their shrapnel pierce the hull, seeking my soft body inside its shell. But I start too late in the story, this is the conclusion not the beginning.
What was I in? Ah yes; it was my first fleet in the Apocalypse. A while ago I decided that I should train into Amarr Battleships as a stark contrast to my current Caldari only upbringing. It would allow me the choice of either the Caldari’s high tech shielding systems or Amarr’s Thick Armour Plating; Caldari Missiles or Amarr coherent light weapons when picking ships to fly. For two hundred days I studied and trained until I was happy I could fly the sleek golden hulls. I had completed enough training to be confident in my skills at flying the Battleships, but I was still working on the second tech level of guns to add to my lethal armaments. At this point in time, I owned three Amarr Fleet battleships; an Armageddon I had flown a few times in semi serious combat, a long range tachyon beam laser fitted Apocalypse, and a brand spanking new Apocalypse for an experimental build. You see I had received a new fitting suggestion for an Apocalypse which would deliver high damage at low to medium range using Mega Modulated Pulse Lasers around half an hour before a huge fleet was due to form up, and I desperately wanted to try it out. Why two separate Apocalypses? Why not simply switch the fitting on a single hull?
This is because of the differences in the two systems: Tachyon Beam Lasers (TBL) uses a massive amount of power grid in order to hit targets at long range distances. However because they are required to perform precise targeted hits at ranges over the norm, their movement gyros are fine tuned to delicate movements. The result of this is a system with massive range and little to no tracking speed making it unable to move fast enough to hit targets at closer range (where their speed means the turret must move faster to point at it). Although this is great for a sniper situation, when the enemy manages to close the distance to you and you can no longer hit them due to transversal speed and your low (around 0.013) tracking speed, you are in trouble. The answer, as the new build I had received suggested, is to use Mega Modulated Pulse Lasers (MMPL) which are designed to hit closer targets and thus have a better tracking (around 0.35) but extend the range of these weapons to at least a fraction of a TBL range while maintaining its usual tracking. This is done using Tracking Enhancers in the low power slots, Tracking Computers and Tracking Scripts in the mid power slots and rigging Energy Locus systems. With all of these your MMPLs can achieve a range of 100km while keeping the higher tracking speed. However where as in a TBL fit Apocalypse you are forced to fit at least a few Energy Grid riggings to fit them, on a MMPL Apocalypse this is a waste, as the guns fit perfectly with the standard power grid, and rigging is better used for extra armour or indeed getting extra gun range. As a result using a single Apocalypse for both fits you would be forced to destroy the rigs each time you changed fitting, wasting 60 or 90 million ISK, roughly the value of a new ship.
So there I was buying and fitting an Apocalypse 30 minutes before a fleet was due to form up 3 jumps from my current location in ZLZ, rushing to do so in time to join in the action. On reflection I should have remembered one of the many mantras of the experienced Pod Pilot: “Never rush for anything”. Although I had made the right choice in purchasing a new ship for a new fitting, I had not remembered to purchase insurance on it.
So where was I? The fleet had moved to the BND-16 Solar system to remove the heavy burden of owning a station and its home system from Solar Fleet Alliance. The station had already been knocked into armour by a previous fleet before its reactors, fuelled by a stockpile of strontium, had kicked in straining to place an impenetrable shield to stretch the stations ownership out for a good extra 24 hours. It was a simple matter of time however, the reactors could not last forever and scans of its slowly failing systems told us exactly when it would buckle under its own weight and allow us to finish its destruction; and that time was now. The journey to the station had been slow but un eventful, a titan bridge into a neighbouring system and a single real space jump into the system where the large fleet quickly destroyed the last of the stations armour plates and hull until the damage was so heavy the reactors shut down. Once this was done the standard virus was uploaded to the station and its ownership transferred to our allies. All that remained was to destroy the Territory Claim Unit (a kind of flag in space claiming ownership) and thus remove the enemies claim on the system total to make way for our own. Easy, simple, safe. This was completed with haste and we were informed that we would now have to perform the exact selfsame actions in BWF-ZZ, claiming its station and destroying the TCU. The Titan had even moved into BND-16 at a safe POS to jump us directly to a system next door to our target.
Arriving in the new target system we were warned that a Stealth Bomber fleet was around, I dismissed this warning as my well armoured Battleship should be able withstand a few bombs rattling off its plates. The fleet begun its warp to the station to once again remove it from the hands of the enemy, and upon landing the FC called out the usual “de-blob guys, MWDs on and de-blob” ordering us to activate our capacitor hungry micro warp drive and move our ships quickly apart so the enemy bombers could only target a portion of our fleet with a single run. However we could not move quickly enough. Almost immediately after the order was given new targets begun appearing on my overview. One, three, five… lots of enemy Hound and Nemesis Class Stealth bombers appeared from nowhere and released their deadly cargo. The space was thick around the fleet with bombs and Bombers warping out of their bombing run to safety. Just as we begun evasive maneuvers to get away into warp, that avenue of escape was removed. In the confusion one of the fleets Heavy interdictors decided to try and trap the fleeing enemy bombers by putting up his interdiction generator. Unfortunately he was nowhere near the enemy bombers, and was instead in the centre of our fleet. As the crackling blue bubble generated by the interdictor expanded around the fleet, its spacial distortion unbalancing our warp drives, I knew there was no escaping the bombs via warp.
The dumb unguided bombs quickly covered the 30km from launch to detonation point, directly in the centre of our trapped fleet. I was dumb struck this was not just a “bomber fleet” This was an armada, I didn’t count how many there were, but with an incompetent (or maybe even malicious) interdictor, I knew there was enough.
So here we are, at the conclusion I started with. My alliance friends cry piercing my ear, as his Megathrons reactor goes critical and he is forcibly ejected from his ship. The bombs exploding in a cacophony of light, the shrill scream of the shields failing, and the dull rumbles shaking my very core as the armour was reduced to slag. Finally the sharp short pings of shrapnel penetrating the hull of my ship. I mentally and physically tensed for ejection, trying to not cry out, and hoping to be spared the destruction of my pod. Then it stopped, despite the panicked chatter of the survivors of the fleet in my ears, I heard silence. In a stupor I reviewed my damage report. Shield power 0%, armour plating systems 0%, hull integrity 75%; multiple minor Hull breaches, Damage in rear drive bay, engine 4 venting plasma and oxygen into space, Power-core damaged but stable. Feeling naked without armour between me and space, I broadcasted an emergency repairs request and after a while a fleet logistics ship begun spraying me with nanites which begun the work of re-synthesising the armour plates, unfortunately unable to repair any of my internal or hull systems. While waiting I had set myself to the job we were here to do, loading Multifrequency crystals into my weapons focusing slot, I began my barrage of light on the station. By the time the enemy bombers had re-armed and returned, the nanite spray had fully repaired my armour and my shield systems were back to 90%. I winced as they appeared, but it was of little threat, the fleet was now spread out all around the station and the bombs were hitting a sector far away from me. Still venting flames from the rear drive pod I dedicated myself to avenging my fallen alliance mate. Switching to long range crystals (A radio wave focus crystal) I was ready the next time the bombers appeared, as were our interdictors. As the bombers appeared the dictors released their disruption bubbles around them and some of the Bombers were trapped, fragile as glass cannons for us to destroy. By the time we had finished the station we had managed to trap and destroy 7 of the Bombers and the system was ours. Docking in the newly friendly station I explained to the ‘ground crew’ my agreement of their aesthetical appreciation of fire, but expressed the need to add the proviso “not out the side of my fucking ship”. Systems repaired we continued on our roam.
We went on to destroy a large Amarr POS and disintegrate its small defence force, a pair of Megathrons and an Apocalypse, before returning from what had been a 3 hour roam to the safety of my home system, LS-JEP. Once again returning my pod to its station side nest, I started browsing the books I had loaded into my neural storage on trajectory Analysis, next time fewer bombers would escape.

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