The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
13 April YC 121
After the conversation with Ijumachi I spent the rest of the day studying various offensive and defensive modules that could help me in the offered mission. It was the first time I seriously thought about complete fitting of my ship because all previous missions could have been easily completed with half slots empty. I had started my research by checking all modules that could be fitted to a frigate but was quickly overwhelmed by the variety of equipment available on the market. Then I tried various online forums where experienced capsuleers shared their combat experience. To my disappointment, such thing as a perfect Merlin fit did not exist. There were multiple “brawling”, “kiting” and “sniping” doctrines whose proponents were engaged in heated discussions about their relative merits. It seemed that whatever fit one had there were always circumstances in which another fit would be preferable. The situation was complicated by the fact that I had absolutely no idea what to expect from my adversaries. Eventually, I came to a point of information overload and took a break.
A couple of beers refreshed my inflamed brain and reset my train of thought. In the absence of reliable intel I had to make assumptions about the potential strength of defences and fit my ship accordingly. I looked back at my encounters with pirates and tried to extrapolate them to “you will stand no chance” point. Here are my thoughts.
Firstly, I had not met a single pirate ship that I could not defeat one-on-one. Ijumachi was quite confident that I would be able to kill at least one pirate so I assumed that their ships would be roughly in the same class as before. If that was the case then I could keep my usual weapons and ammo – 125-mm rails with iron charges.
Secondly, I could not afford getting myself entangled in a brawl with multiple opponents. That consideration called for speed. In the previous missions an afterburner allowed me to comfortably outrun other ships so the selection of a propulsion module was obvious.
Thirdly, the choice of defence type was preordained by the class of the ship – Merlins were designed with shield protection in mind. The only thing to decide was whether the tank was going to be buffer or active. Active was great but required charges which would last only so long. As I expected a protracted battle I rejected that idea. A shield buffer was better as it would restore itself and give me a decent chance to survive individual encounters but it would take ages to recharge. Eventually I came up with a compromise solution – I used modules and rigs which increased the shield recharge rate but at the same time did not require charges to operate. As a result, my shield recharge time reduced by 65% from 593 to 209 seconds.
Finally, I installed some modules which increased shield resistance against thermal and kinetic damage – the favourite Guristas’ damage types – to 79 and 84 per cent respectively.
My final fitting looked like this:
[Merlin, The Stand] Damage Control I Mark I Compact Shield Flux Coil Mark I Compact Shield Flux Coil 1MN Afterburner I M51 Benefactor Compact Shield Recharger Kinetic Deflection Field I Thermal Dissipation Field I 125mm Railgun I 125mm Railgun I 125mm Railgun I Small Anti-Kinetic Screen Reinforcer I Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I Small Core Defense Field Purger I Iron Charge S x972
The survival tactics that I had in mind was hit-and-run: spread the enemy fleet out, engage individual stragglers, then use an afterburner to run away and recharge the shield. Repeat as needed. I hoped that this way I’d be able to take down a few bastards before I run out of ammo.
Quite pleased with myself I flew in Ampuhaukka to Jita, bought the modules and tried to fit them. To my chagrin, it turned out that I was lacking skills to activate a couple of gadgets that I bought; it would take another 6 hours to learn them. I briefly played with the idea of using a skills injector, but then decided it was not worth it, went home and called it a day.
14 April YC 121
Next morning I got up knowing a few more things about energy grid and shield upgrades which enabled me to use shield rechargers and flux coils. I called Ijumachi and told him to send me the sacrificial Merlin and start the mission clock. When the ship was delivered I went to the hangar and told the engineering crew to strip all fitting from Ampuhaukka and install it on the new frigate (nameless here for evermore, thought I). The mechanics knew better than suggest that it was a waste of time – they worked long enough with capsuleers to understand that for a pilot there could be a world of difference between two ships of the same class.
While the new Merlin was being prepared for the mission, I boarded the capsule and woke Aura.
“Hello, sunshine. Just want to tell you that I’ll probably fly this mission on my own,” said I.
Aura pouted her lips, “So you are going to have fun without me? You, men, are so selfish!”
“What men?” I asked suspiciously.
“Nevermind,” replied Aura haughtily sticking her nose up in the air.
“But look, it’s that kind of a mission from which I would be lucky to return in a capsule. I thought you didn’t want to fly with me on such assignments.”
Aura lowered her eyes and said, “That was before the hellburner. Now I know that I can’t leave you alone, whatever the odds.”
“Well, if you really want to go I won’t object. In fact, I am glad you are coming with me.”
Aura’s face lit up, “Are you? Then let’s go and kick some asses!”