Damn, is this really a good idea?
I've been in a grand total of one incursion mom fleet. And yet I've volunteered for the most dangerous incursion job there is: going into low-sec to take out a low-sec incursion mom. That would be dumb enough. But I'm volunteering to do it in a Basilisk, which means I've volunteered for the most dangerous job there is in the most dangerous incursion job there is. More Basilisks have died in low-sec mom fleets -- by far -- than any other ship. The FC is being very frank: a lot of logis are going to die.
But I can handle this, right? I'm a hardened, experienced PvP pilot with more than a thousand kills. I've done solo PvP work across New Eden. I've scouted for roaming fleets. I've been doomsdayed. I've PvPed in a two billion ISK carrier, and a billion ISK Tengu. I don't freak out, I don't freeze up, and I don't rattle. I've got near-max skills for this, and since it's low-sec, I drop into my PvP clone, the one with all of the PvP fleet logi implants: more shields, more armor, more speed, more cap. That clone is already in low-sec, in the station with my triage carrier. I miss my triage carrier. Wish I could bring it for this.
If I'm going to do this, I'm going to go all-in. I break out one of my spare Basilisks, and put Ripard in the driver's seat. I won't bring the second Basi into the site, but I'll bring it with the fleet, safe it up and log it out when we reach the mom system, and use it as a hot standby. If my main logi pilot gets his ship killed, Ripard will log in, abandon the second Basi at the safe spot, and get back to high-sec while my main logi pilot gets back into the fight.
The fleet forms... and forms... and forms. More than an hour passes. I'm chatting with an old alliance mate of mine from LAWN, also in fleet (in a Tempest). Like me, he's an adept PvPer. I compare waiting for a low-sec incursion fleet to form to waiting in POS warfare. He retorts that this is worse. At least with POS warfare, you have a timer and you know when the fleet has to depart by. I concede the point. There are hundreds of people in BTL PUB, but only a small fraction of them want to go into low-sec. It takes 65 people, minimum, to successfully take out a mom. At least 15 of them have to be logis. And 65 and 15 are the bare minimums. Better totals are 75 and 20, respectively. But despite bringing in hundreds of millions of ISK per month -- if not billions -- almost none of these high-sec bears want to go into low-sec, even if they have a fleet of 65 or 70 people around them.
The urge to call them names rises. I damp it down. I'm a mutant, after all. I hope we get a PvP fight on the way there, or on the way back. That, I know how to handle. It makes me almost ridiculously atypical among my few fellow logi pilots, though, so I keep my mouth shut.
Another hour passes. The fleet size can't seem to get out of the 50s. We pick up a few, we lose a few, we pick up a few, we lose a few. My old alliance mate calls in some of his current alliance-mates, PvPers all. They get into fleet and push us into the 60s. That breaks the log-jam. Our logi count is coming up short, but some of our DPS pilots reluctantly switch. The final fleet that departs our staging system is 71 people. 15 or 16 of us are logis: nine-ish Basilisks and six-ish Scimitars. We're going to try to take on the low-sec mom with the bare minimum number of Logistics ships and only just over the bare minimum total pilots.
In an incursion, there's a bar that indicates how much control the Sansha have over a constellation. The bar controls, among other things, how much your various ship resistances are nerfed. In an high-sec incursion, so many pilots have done so many sites that by the time the mom is confronted to end the incursion, this bar is always 100% blue: no impact on capsuleer ship resistances. That won't be the case this time. Our fleet scouts report that the bar in the mom system is 72% red: our ship's resistances are going to be greatly reduced.
Sansha moms kill Basilisks just fine in 100% blue systems. Why the hell am I doing this again?
The scouts also report that the four low-sec systems we'll be passing through are all very quiet. This seems to settle down a lot of the high-sec bears in the fleet. There will be no PvP. We reach the mom system without incident. I check my Basi's EHP as reported in-game: 46k EHP. I wince. With fleet boosts and this fit, I'm used to seeing a number in the 60s.
Before I've even had a chance to think that through... we're in the site. My EVE screen is 1200 pixels high. The overview takes almost all of this down the right-hand side.
It's full of red crosses. Most of them are battleships. I scroll some. It's still full. There's almost two pages of hostiles on grid with us. And the Tama bomber spawns and Lirsautton fighter-bomber spawns haven't even started yet. The Lirsautton Parachiya is the Basi-killer. They represent fighter-bombers launching from the Sansha mom. They almost always aggress on Logistics ships. A spawn of them does about 12000 shield damage to a cruiser-sized ship. It's enough to take most Basis out. There's only one Basi fit that's proven to be able to be able to survive it, and that's the fit I'm in. And the Sansha mom doesn't get only 20 of those and then empty... oh no. She'll be spawning 10 of them at intervals for as long as she's on the field, or so I learned from the high-sec mom fleet I was in.
The FC orders everyone in the fleet to keep an eye out for them, and declare them on comms if they're seen. I get my cap chain up and get to work. Requests for shields are coming in thick and fast. I have all my fellow Basis, plus my anchor, on watch list. That's ten ships. But I'm also keeping an eye on a Dramiel in fleet. I don't understand how this works, but he'll apparently be hacking a site on grid that causes all the enemy ships to warp away periodically. I don't know how he's doing this, but I approve of it heartily, so I keep him locked so he'll live to keep doing it.
At first, the site goes smoothly. The FC calls targets, they disappear, the FC calls new targets. I can ignore all of this. My focus is on the Broadcast History. Get locked onto aggressed targets, keep them alive. A couple of people, including a Basi, dip into armor or hull. That resist nerf is tearing us up. But we save them and the Sansha move on. A few of the Scimis brought armor bots and put them to work. Good show, Scimis!
The first fighter-bomber spawn appears. A Basi calls for reps... I start to lock hi-- his cap buddies report he's gone. I never got him locked. He shows up on my watch list as having nearly full shields, but that's just his pod. He warps off. He's on the opposite side of the cap chain from me so I don't have to adjust. Other Basis do, and they get it done successfully. It clears a space on my watch list, though, so I add the Dram to bring it back up to ten. Now I can find the Dram quickly to lock him when I get jammed.
Which happens aggravating frequently in a mom site, because the mom has a Remote ECM Burst module, which she fires now. Everyone, including all the logis, all lose our locks. A Basi had partial aggro from a battleship spawn. When our locks return, that Basi is gone and we're down to seven. Again, it's far in the cap chain from me and I don't have to adj--
Someone abandons all of the wrecks the fleet has created so far.
Abandoning wrecks is something that you can do in PvE sites. It allows anyone to loot or salvage them. In a mom site, though, it's a griefer move. The database inventory system has to adjust all the wrecks on grid, and this action seems to have priority over everything else. It causes a huge lag spike for the entire fleet that lasts for a good ten or twelve seconds. When things go back to normal, all the wrecks are blue.
And one of my cap chain partners is gone.
He got aggressed during the lag spike and nobody could activate rep mods to keep him alive or even see he was being hit. Six Basis left, and there's a confirmed griefer in fleet. This time I have to adjust. I find my new cap partner and get him locked and cap transfered. The FC is yelling at the unknown griefer before calming down. He resolves to abandon the wrecks himself a few at a time for the rest of the site to keep that from happening again.
I sign into EVE on the Ripard client, enter the password, but stop at the log-in screen, then minimize it again. Just in case. I'm now ready to log him in at a moment's notice.
The Dram pilot is doing his magic. Occasionally, most of the Sansha ships warp off. My fellow logis and I use this moment to catch up. The FC uses this moment to direct all DPS onto the mom. At one point, the Dram pilot panics a bit in channel, asking for reps. I give my toon name and assure the Dram that I've got him. And indeed, one repper is all it takes to keep him up, and he's still on my watch list. I've been locking him every time every time the damned Remote ECM Burst goes off--
...which it does again. When I get locks back, one of my cap partners is a pod. I stupidly send him a cycle of cap before realizing and adjusting. Another Basi dies less than a minute later. Four Basis left. A moment later, the Dram disappears. I hear word over fleet chatter that he might have been destroyed. I secretly hope he warped off. I can see Scimis doing this occasionally when they get aggressed. They have that luxury, and their thin tanks make it a requirement. My fellow Basi pilots and myself don't have this freedom with the cap chain up. The Dram returns. Either he warped off or he wasn't the only person who put a hot standby ship in system.
Enough Basis have died that I add the Scimis to my watch list to fill it back up.
The next fighter-bomber spawn picks a battleship to shoot at. While the fleet is dealing with those... second fighter-bomber spawn! There's now at least 15 of the damned thing on the field! This didn't happen on the high-sec mom! The new spawn targets one of my cap partners. He broadcasts. I swipe my finger across F1 through F4, clearing my reppers. I assign all four reppers to my cap partner, bang-wait-bang-wait-bang-wait-bang. My rep drones are already on him. I look up, yep, all four reppers on my cap part--
He disappears. Not damaged, not into armor. Just gone. This pilot had been bragging about his fit earlier.
I look at the logistics chat channel, searching for my new partner. Dead-dead-gone-dead-gone-dea-- there's only two Basis left, including me! Somewhere along the way, I miscounted! A chill goes through me. There's only one other Basi left. Seven, maybe eight logis total on field. I get him locked up. We haven't traded logi skills, so I have no idea if he's Logistics IV or V. I don't risk it and send him both my transfers. My cap display soon confirms he's doing the same. I frantically get on fleet chat and ask for a battleship with a energy transfer to be my backup partner, and a Machariel X's up. "I'm your new anchor!" I tell him. I watch him slide into range. The FC tells the other Basi to do the same, but either he's not on voice or he's too busy. Nothing appears in fleet chat. Maybe he's got a corp mate doing this for him already. I hope so.
The fighter-bomber spawn is killed. I get back to work. The rep requests are almost constant now. There's hardly any time to Ctrl-click on one before two more are in its place. The mom is down to about 40% shields, the FC says. I don't have time to think about it. There's only the constant cycle of rep, get the target up to 90% shields or so, get two or three new targets, rep those, clear locks on old targets, repeat repeat repeat. It's the hardest work I've ever done as a Logistics pilot, bar none.
The Dram pilot reports it's a little over a minute before he can do his magic and make the Sansha go away for a while.
A new bomber spawn appears... and yellow boxes appear around them.
This is no time to be polite. I get on voice comms while simultaneously hitting my rep request broadcast hot-key. "Check!", I yell, then name myself, then "Basi, bomber spawn, aggressed!" One of my tricks as a PvP pilot is to alternate the arrangement of active and passive mods in my racks to help with overheating. My mids are: hardener-LSE-hardener-LSE-hardener. The LSEs take a pounding, but it keeps the hardeners overheating longer. I hit the "overheat rack" button for the mids. "Warp off!" the FC orders.
I look at my current rep targets. Machariel, 2 reppers. 33% shields. Tengu, 2 reppers. 50% shields. I've got the safespot bookmark right in the middle of my screen in its own dialog box. I right click, hit "Align to". Out of the corner of my eye, I can see about half of the rest of the Sansha fleet taking this opportunity to red-box me as well. But if I leave... the other Basi has no visible cap partner. That takes two logis out of play. The crew-voice in my head is yelling at me: warp warp warp!
On my watch list, I see a Scimitar disappear. Either killed or warped off, probably the latter. That tears it. If I leave, five logis on grid, and a fighter-bomber spawn on the field. If I warp off, the fleet is down three logis for a minute at least. If I get killed, I've got a hot standby that I can come back in... same difference either way. I can feel my jaw muscles clench. NO, the Captain-voice in my head says. We. Stay. Here!
The first volley of torpedoes hits.
Shields, 10%, armor bleed. Back to full. 50%. Back to full. 30%. Back to full. 20%. Back to full. 5%, more armor bleed, back to full. I'm... tanking it. The combination of a perfect fit, overheated hardeners, high transversal, PvP implants... it's somehow keeping me alive.
The fury of at least two-thirds of the on-grid Sansha fleet is pounding on my Basilisk. If I were to zoom in, I'd bet the show would be spectacular. Only later does it occur to me that this would have been a good time to do so and hit the "Screen Capture" key.
For now, I don't have time. The reppers in my high slots are sorted almost randomly with my cap transfers. I know from experience I can overheat three of the reppers safely. Now's the time. My adrenaline level couldn't be any higher. I get the Mach and Tengu repped back up, then in groups of four, lock up the last sixteen people to call for reps. Haffa's line from Clear Skies 2 goes through my head... "While they shoot at me, they don't shoot at you." I can almost feel the screaming fury of the Sansha fleet outside. The combination of boosts and overheating makes the reppers spin. The Broadcast History goes eeriely silent for the first time in at least the last ten minutes.
Rep each target, get them back above 90%. I don't even bother shutting off reppers. The FC is saying stuff that I can't hear. Just unlock repped targets and let that shut the reppers off for me. Move to the next, and then next, and the next. Lock the next group of four. Soon, all sixteen are repped. I look up. The remaining fighter-bombers have yellow boxes around them. My Basi is still here. I'm still here. I hurriedly turn off the overheating. Everything is at least 50% red. I click "In Position" to let the other logis know I'm OK.
The FC calls me by name. "How you doing?" he asks. "I overheated hardeners and tanked it. I'm still here!" I reply. "Good job!" he says, then gets back to work. Similar compliments in the logi channel. A few seconds later, the Dram pilot does his magic and most of the Sansha warp off. It's just the mom and a few support cruisers.
"EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT ON TAG X," the FC says, giving the mom's tag. A moment later, it's in armor. It's not over yet... but yeah. It is. It's over. Sansha ships are shield-tankers.
A couple more minutes of pretty lights, and 90 million ISK flows into my wallet. I'd say I earned it on this one.
Final count: seven Basis out of nine killed. No other losses. No other losses.