After salvaging as much of the situation as possible following the Christmas Eve battle rescuing the InterBus passengers, it was time to go to work. Time to buy a new Maelstrom but, more importantly, time to review the tactics and fittings I had used over the last few months.
My two-pilot gang always works best when moving fast and engaging in hit-and-run tactics, but I had looked at others fittings without taking into account the tactics I wanted to use. This was especially true of Wandering Rose's command Hurricane. I call it that because she fits a gang link in one of the highs to improve the shield tanks I favor while running missions. She didn't even fit an afterburner on her ship, limiting the combined fleet speed in missions down to 197 m/sec. Rosewalker's ship was perhaps in worse shape. While those who post on BattleClinic may favor high dps setups, I favor those that allow me to escape with my ship. And despite all the errors I made against the Sansha in Nakugard, if Rosewalker's battleship had fitted a Damage Control II, the ship would have escaped. Probably trailing flames, but essentially in one piece.
The first thing I did was research fittings for the new Maelstrom. I decided on making two fittings I could swap between, one for artillery and another for autocannons. After doing some research I settled on the Eve University fitting for PvE Maelstroms. By fitting the 1200mm Heavy 'Scout' artillery I do less damage, but with around 20,000 more EHP in my tank than the old gank fit, I could hang in the battle longer. You are not doing damage if you are warping away. For the autocannon fit I had to replace the Cap Recharger II with a meta level 3 module in order to fit a full rack of 800mm Autocannon IIs. And by using a Afterburner II, I managed to get my top speed up to 303 m/sec. I also managed to add 25 seconds to my capacitor when running all modules.
The next item on the agenda was to improve the setup of the command Hurricane. Not only did it not fit a propulsion module, but it was not cap stable when running the gang link, Invulnerability Field II and Damage Control II. Sure, it could tank a lot of incoming fire, but it couldn't race out in front of Rosewalker's battleship like the non-command Hurricane could. The solution proved to be relatively simple. I replaced the shield hardener in the mid slots with a 10MN Afterburner II and removed a Shield Power Relay II in the lows with a Gyrostabilizer II. The changes were complete with the addition of a Medium Nosferatu II. After the changes the ship was cap stable while the afterburner was off but had a 12 minute life with the afterburner on. The energy vampire allows a recharge of the capacitor, espcially when orbiting Marchariels. The big benefit was that with the afterburner on, the 450 m/s top speed lets Wandering Rose speed tank the enemy, especially battleships as she pounds away with her favored 450mm autocannons.
I once heard that after a major loss the best thing to do is keep the troops busy. So I kept the survivors busy fitting the new Maelstrom and looked for missions so I could perform a live-fire shakedown cruise. The Krusual security agent Odor Bonnevekin provided a couple of anti-rogue drone missions and a hostage rescue mission. Apparently the Angel Cartel were behaving themselves, although for once I wasn't complaining about not having any Angels to shoot. The new fittings and tactics worked well and so did the replacements I hired to fill in the holes in the battleship crew. After all the hard work, I sent the crews off for liberty to maybe enjoy Christmas.
What is it about 3 o'clock in the morning that demands emergency calls? Because I received an urgent call from Odor about an impending Angel Cartel attack on Krusual tribe assets in Lanngisi around 3am. Why me? But the crews were rounded up from the station and the gang made the jump into the Lanngisi system to face an unknown number of Angel Cartel ships. On Christmas. Again.
Apparently news of a capsuleer losing a battleship gets around fast because these Angel Cartel gang leaders really thought they could take me and they wanted to hog all the glory for themselves. After warping to the bookmark provided by the Krusual agent, I faced piecemeal attacks as I took out first the tacklers, then the battlecruisers and finally the battleships in each small gang I faced. Based on signals intercepts, I knew which ship held the commander and saved him for last. The first two deadspace pocket went like that, except that in the second pocket the Angel commander tried to hit me with Thrashers when I entered. That didn't work too well for him.
Moving quickly, I burned to the acceleration gate and in the third pocket caught an Angel commander in a lone battleship with just missile batteries and sentry guns backing him up. I took care of those in passing as I moved to the next acceleration gate. The blitz continued as the Angel commander committed his ships piecemeal at the Circus gang instead of holding them together as a single strong body. In this manner Wandering Rose and Rosewalker destroyed 7 tech 2 frigates, 5 Cyclone battlecruisers, 10 Marchariel battleships and the commander's Thrasher. An analysis of the Angels signals traffic showed that the forces in this deadspace pocket were commanded by Garin Kezmonu. While a notable Angel commander, he possessed none of the seniority within the Domination to command a fleet the size encountered so far. So the gang approached the next acceleration gate and warped.
The fifth deadspace pocket held the Angel commander, Tiogo Kargaz, who was quickly identified due to his sloppy signals security. With the reason for the poor tactics explained, Wandering Rose and Rosewalker quickly finished off Tiogo's forces. At this point Odor commed that the mission was successful and to come back to the station. In 80 minutes of combat the Circus gang had destroyed a total of 97 ships.
But was the mission really over? One more acceleration gate remained. The gate was locked, hinting at something important on the other end. So while Wandering Rose went back to Nakugard and retrieved the Noctis and salvaged the wreckage from the battle, the crew of the Maelstrom examined the acceleration gate to determine how to activate it. Rosewalker finally discovered the secret and two hours after the battle began, the gang warped in to the last pocket to finish the job.
Rosewalker entered first to draw the incoming fire away from Wandering Rose's smaller Hurricane. The sight on the overview was daunting as he detected an Angel Battlestation and all the fixed defenses that typically surrounds one. Up until then Rosewalker had enjoyed the range advantage with his 1200mm guns, but now he was facing cruise missile and sentry gun batteries that greatly outranged his Maelstrom. The operation turned into a run and hit attack as he used the superior reflexes enjoyed by pod pilots and sped away from the area while pouring fire into the batteries.
The Angel commander, seeing his fixed defenses begin to crumble, sent out his fleet in pursuit and called for the death of Rosewalker. Two Angel Dramiels, 2 Daredevils, 4 Cynabels, 3 Cyclones and 5 Marchariel raced in pursuit of the fleeting capsuleer. As the Angels chased Rosewalker, the ships began to clump together by type, Wandering Rose's dropped out of warp and began engaging the frigates. The initial attack on the station resulted in the destruction of both cruise missile and one of the heavy sentry gun batteries before the pressure of the pursuit forced Rosewalker to turn his guns on the Angel fleet.
While Rosewalker poured fire into the enemy battlecruisers, Wandering Rose engaged in a desperate battle to keep the frigates away from the Maelstrom. Even with Rosewalker's drones in support, she could only destroy two of the four frigates and the remaining frigates webbed and scrammed the Maelstrom. At this point in the battle, I knew that I could escape the tackle if I could give my drones enough time to finish the job. So Wandering Rose broke away from Rosewalker and raced into the middle of the group of Cynabels to try to draw some fire away from the battleship and, more importantly, the drones. In the meantime, Rosewalker finished off the Cyclones and began firing on the Angel battleships.
Once again, the race was on. Could I break the tackle before Rosewalker ran out of capacitor. One of the Angel frigates died in a white flash and then the Marchariels reached autocannon range. The shield rep pulses on the capsuleer battleship became longer as the damage increased. At the shields hit 50% I made the sickening discovery that there were no celestial bodies in his flight path to align to. Any alignment to warp would result in flying into the optimal range of the Angel autocannons, a situation I was desperately attempting to avoid. Flight was no longer an option. The choices were now win or die.
When the shields hit 40% Wandering Rose finally killed the last Cynabel and now the Minmatar pilots began focus firing on the incoming battleships. At 30%, the last frigate died. Rosewalker fired up the afterburner and began to open the range with the Angel battleships. At the same time, he finally moved out of range of the sentry guns, thus taking even less damage.
At this point, the battle was essentially won. As the Angel battleships began dying, the Angel commander belatedly realized the danger and sent out his reserve squad of 5 battleships as reinforcements. But with the battle occurring over 175km from the battle station, they arrived too late to save their comrades. Having seen the futility of attempting to destroy the Maelstrom, the new group focused their fire on Wandering Rose's Hurricane. But with no tackle remaining, the Angel battleships were unable to seriously threaten the battlecruiser. After a short sharp fight, Wandering Rose and Rosewalker left 5 more wrecks in the pocket and moved on to reduce the battlestation and its remaining defenses to slag. With the threatened Angel attack utterly defeated, the capsuleers returned to Nakugard.