"So I accidentally ended up in charge of a fleet last night, and --"
"Stop," CB holds up a hand. "I don't have have a drink yet."
"You need a drink for this?"
"You got put in charge of a fleet 'by accident'?" He makes a face. "Yeah. I do. Where's your port?"
"Port?" I raise my eyebrows. "What makes you think I have port?"
"You might put the rum out where everyone can see and fly Ruptures til your pod goo turns orange," CB mutters, peering into a low cupboard, "but Gallente goes bone deep." He buries his arm up to the shoulder in the compartment, searching by touch.
"That is a crude stereotype, and I'm offended by the --"
CB pulls a small, dark, dusty bottle out and thunks it down on the table in front of me. "What was that? I couldn't hear you through all the being right."
I give him a sour look. "Corkscrew and shot glasses are up on the third shelf."
CB smacks his lips. "Fruity, with a spice finish."
"What does that even mean?"
He slides the empty glass across the table. "Means reload me."
"So this guy, I don't even know his name --"
"-- doesn't matter --"
"-- doesn't matter. He's screaming on milcomms that he's gotten the infrastructure in Haras down this close to vulnerable, but he's got to stop and get some rack time, and if he comes back and the system hasn't been broken down, the Hub taken out, and the whole system put back in Minmatar hands, we're all terrible and should self-destruct into the sun."
"And you listen to him because..."
I shrug. "It was something to do?" CB just looks at me, so I keep going. "Anyway, I wrap up the thing I was doing and when someone else asks what's going on, I say 'Well, I guess I'm going to go over to Haras and finish making it vulnerable for an attack on the Hub.' I don't make a big deal of it, but then some other guy opens comms and says "YES WE HAVE TO DO THIS IT IS TIME LET'S GO LET'S GET MOTIVATED LET'S FLEET UP SIGNAL ME FOR FLEET INVITATIONS I WILL ESTABLISH VOICE COMMS."
"So of course you signed up right away."
"No, I pretty much ignored him," I reply. "He was annoying." I take another drink. "But... when I got to Haras --"
"Where's Haras?" CB interrupts. "I feel like I know that one."
"We've hit plexes there before," I answer. "It's a dead-end system, kind of out of the way. Only one gate in or out, which..." I make a face. "Well, that's relevant later."
"So you get there."
"So I get there," I continue. "And there's probably a dozen of us in system, and they're all in the loud guy's fleet, and it sounds like more are on the way from all over. He's been organizing it on the public milcomms, so a lot of new guys who want to do something -- anything -- are heading over with all the key requirements for a classic kitchen sink fleet." I roll my head on shoulders. "I figure the only thing worse than being in that fleet is being the only guy in the system who isn't in the fleet, so I signal and get an invite."
"And they put you in charge?"
"Well, no." I pour another half-glass. "But it's a mess. The guy hasn't set up any squad commanders. Or wing commanders. Or, well, anything. There are guys in the group who have that level of training, and he's not using them." I shrug. "I mean, it's not his fault. I if I hadn't spent all that time in OUCH, I wouldn't know anything about how to set up the hierarchy for a fleet, but I did, so I do, and I start giving him suggestions on who needs to go where."
"And he just says 'Here I made you fleet boss so you can move people.'"
"And that's when you got put in charge."
I shake my head. "He was still Fleet Commander at that point."
CB makes a rude noise. "When the shit hits the fan, people don't listen to the new OFC; they listen to the sergeant who actually knows how to get shit done."
"Whatever." I roll my eyes, though in hindsight I can see he's right. "Anyway, I get everyone sorted out, and all the squads and wings are rolling, and we're up to about twenty, twenty-five ships, with more on the way, and someone says 'Now what?'"
"And they all turn and look at you." He smirks. "It's a burden being right all the time."
He tosses back his glass in one shot. "This is why I don't help people, as a rule. It leads to... things."
I raise an eyebrow. "Things?"
He waves his hand around. "Things. Shut up."
"Anyway." I shake my head at him. "Yeah. They say 'So what are we doing, Ty?', and I tell a couple of the guys in frigates to hit the complexes and bring the infrastructure the rest of the way down." I take a drink. "That actually works, and we start working on the Hub itself, trying to get at the guts of the thing the old fashioned way, but we have the wrong ships -- too many small fast things, and not enough big guns -- we probably can't even break through the Hub's shields, and even if we can it's going to take hours, not minutes, and some of these guys have never even been out to shoot a tower or POCO before, so they're already bitching it's taking too long and it's only been five minutes."
"You need different ships."
"Yeah, and it's ten or fifteen jumps to get anywhere were we can swap, and..." I tap the edge of my glass "... a bunch of them can't fly anything but the frigates they're in."
"Where are the vets?"
I shrug. "Except for one guy I can name, and two others who spend their free time shitting up the channel with hate and stupidity, they don't listen to milchat. Half the time I can't blame them, because it's bad; the other half, I think that it's bad because they never interact with anyone in there. Anyway, the guys that are going to answer an all-hands call for a fleet are going to mostly be new pilots." I lean my head back against the wall. "And by this point, there's the problem with the gate camp."
"The --" CB stops himself. "What happened?"
"One of the stragglers coming to join us tells us that there's about thirty ships on the other side of the gate -- our only way out, by the way -- and they're a pretty good composition for keeping us trapped in here for hours."
"That's a problem."
"That's actually half the problem."
CB rubs at his temples. "Keep going."
"Well, we had a hurricane on the out-gate, but far enough away from the gate itself that we think maybe we can drop on it and kill it before his buddies jump in and back him up, so I call for a fleet warp to the tackling frig that's right on top of him." I tap my glass again, and he refills my glass, then his own. "Just as we get into warp, the lead guy calls out multiple contacts."
"How many's 'multiple'?"
"I ask him that," I reply, "and he says 'sixty or so'."
"Sixty." CB tastes the port, then sets it down. "That is more than thirty."
"It is." I toss the drink back, and unlike CB I don't bother tasting it. "Turns out there was a cloaked up Arazu right off the gate, and the other thirty ships are a black-ops bomber fleet that just got cyno-jumped into the system, right on top of us."
CB hisses through his teeth. "You jumped into that?"
"And jumped right the hell back out," I reply. "Not everyone made it, but most of us did, and after that it was just cat and mouse for a couple hours. The one thing --" I held up a finger "-- the one thing that made it almost worth while is that they had about fifty pilots tied up with keeping us in the system or hunting after us, so we wasted wasted more of their time than ours."
CB looks at me, his face expressionless.
I look back, mirroring him.
"Did they buy that crap when you said it to th--"
"I have no idea," I smirk. "No one called me on it, though."
"So you play hide-and-seek for awhile."
"Yeah, and deal with spies."
"How do you know there were --" He cuts himself off. "Nevermind. Always spies."
"Yeah." I nod. "In this case, there were a few clues, like a couple of the enemy ships always knowing exactly where to warp to on our safe spots." I pause, savoring the next part. "And of course when war target pilots log into our voice comms."
"What --" CB catches himself. "Please be joking."
"Nope." I smile. "It was actually kind of funny. The voice comms were being run by that same guy who didn't know how to organize the fleet, and one of my squad commanders has just said something like 'You know, you REALLY need to put some kind of security on these servers, or anyone with the info could just jump on here and raise hell.' No sooner had he said it than we get fifteen simultaneous new connections to the voice comms server, all named some kind of variation of either Susan Black or Hans Jagerblitzen. Before we know what's going on, they all jump into our channel and start clucking."
CB shoots up from his chair. "You're shitting me." His voice is a mixture of laughter and disbelief. "You are shitting me right now."
"Some of them had echo effects on their voices." I'm struggling to keep my voice level, because it's funnier that way. "Some of them were autotuned, so it sounded like some kind of song, but yeah... clucking."
"That's..." he shakes his head, still chuckling has he sits. "That's actually pretty fucking funny."
I grin. "It took the guy in charge of comms about thirty seconds to get everyone blocked and lock down the channel, but after that?" I nod. "We all cracked up pretty hard."
"So'd you all die?"
"Nah." I pick up the port bottle, find it empty, and raise an eyebrow before tossing it in the bin. "We got a scout set up on the other side of the gate, and when another milita fleet roamed through and got their attention, we slipped out -- didn't even lose any of the shinier ships."
"So..." CB ticks points off on his fingers. "Didn't capture the system, got camped in, got black ops dropped, infiltrated by spies, comm security broken by chickens..." he presents his hand to me, five digits extended in all directions, then picks up his half-empty glass and raises it. "Successful fleet command?"
"Could have been worse." I pick up my empty glass and tik it against his. "Could have been boring."