The convoy ops for the final evacuation out of Fountain had been posted on the forums and broadcast multiple times daily on Jabber over the days preceding this past weekend. Anybody who had been paying even the slightest amount of attention knew they were coming. We were headed for home in the seven regions.
I mentioned having to get my stuff together last week. Well all that warning was sufficient. I managed to slip a couple of ships out and back to Deklein during the week, I moved the couple of ships I had in TEG-SD up to 4-EP12 (I put one Celestis up on contract cheap and somebody grabbed it pretty quick), and the night before the I got my main and alt accounts setup and in the two big remaining ships, a Dominix and a Megathron, ready for the move ops.
There were going to be three move ops on Saturday, at least from my time perspective. One at 4:30am my time, one at noon my time, and one at 7:00pm my time (which is actually Sunday EVE Online time, since the game runs on UTC), each passing through the same set of systems to pick people up along the way, starting in Sakht and ending in B-DBYQ, hitting each of the staging systems in between, before heading along the most direct path home.
The purpose of a move op is to for a fleet massive enough that it won’t be viewed as a target of opportunity at gate camps and such. ~200 ships makes for a tough nut to crack unless you plan for it.
I was tempted to try and get into the first move op. I wasn’t going to get up at 4:30am, but I knew from past experience that move ops tend to be slow. The idea isn’t just to get somewhere, but to get everybody in the op home safely. That means you wait for people who disconnect or who get lost or who somehow fall a system or two behind. It is a job more for a shepherd than a fleet commander. And 4-EP12 is one of the last systems on the list, so I would have a lot of time before the op got there.
I also knew that our cats would wake me up at some point around 6am because they still don’t quite get the concept of “weekends” and get worried I might miss work if I am still in bed then. And, true to form, our cat Rigby got on the bed and started meowing at me around 6am, waking me up. I immediately… okay, maybe slowly… got up, walked down the hall to my office, booted up my computer, and got into EVE Online. However, things appeared to be moving apace for the early op, as they had already passed my system and were actually only a couple jumps from home, all in about 90 minutes. Good speed for a move op and, I hoped, an indication of how things would go on the next op.
So it was back to bed for a bit more sleep.
I had warned my wife that there might be a two hour move op starting at noon our time, and she seemed to be okay with that. There was an event going on in our local downtown area she wanted to go to, but it didn’t start until 2pm and ran into the evening. Plenty of time.
Around 11:45am (18:45 UTC) I logged into EVE Online with both my accounts and started waiting for the fleet advert to appear. I had things ready to go and decided, since I would spend a good part of the op just sitting and waiting for it to get to me, that I would take notes with time stamps, just in case this turned into a trail of tears op.
Game to blog, blog to game and all that.
So from this point forward, everything will be in reference to something I noted, with a time stamp in UTC. I am also going to put in a cut here because of many words and a pile of screen shots.
Begin the move op timeline.
17:29 Ping goes out for a Harpy fleet under Ohno no borrox, a member of the TNT Alliance, for a Harpy fleet forming in YA0-XJ. It is going to fly down to Sakht in order to pick up and lead the lost sheep home. There is a warning that this op will take more than three hours. The fleet forms up and heads out. The fleet advert is removed to keep people from joining after it left.
18:44 First Jabber ping goes out for the return trip from Sakht, however the fleet not yet re-listed in fleet finder
18:46 Ohno no borrox gets inundated on voice coms (which was in the ping) about his fleet not being listed.
18:53 Fleet is now listed. I join along with a few score other people spread about the western arc of New Eden.
19:00 At the last moment the fleet is pushed together with the capital move fleet under, but we remain we remain on separate voice comms. This made sense to me at the moment as caps move at their own pace and have their own procedures. No need to get caps and sub caps confused and wondering who said “jump” and what not.
19:03 Subcaps undock from Sakht. Time looks good. I am still sitting many jumps away.
19:05 Judging from coms, the first step was to bridge, however somebody on coms literally misses seeing the titan in space in front of them, and has to ask where it is in coms.
19:06 By this point about 9 people have said “The titan right there in space above the gate” in violation of all operational security/blue intel rules. We do NOT mention caps in voice coms, especially in a subcap fleet where spies are likely lurking. And we have be pinging about these move ops every day, six times a day, for a week, so the likelihood of spies in the op is exceedingly high.
19:12 The question goes out asking who has more than an hour of jump fatigue. This plays into how long the fleet might have to wait between jumps. Surprisingly, nobody chimes up with some obscene amount on their timer.
19:14 About the 4th person says they are in Sakht and asks if they can catch up. They cannot. The fleet has bridges out, and the bridging titan jumped to the cyno after them. Anybody who could catch up at this point has to be in a ship that doesn’t need a convoy anyway.
19:26 Question on coms, “Is this the Ishtar fleet?” It is not.
About this time Viserion Pavarius from Space Monkey Alliance asked in general channel for The Imperium if anybody needed some ships carried back, as he had room in his carrier. I gave him three stealth bombers I was planning to fly home later, saving me a trip. A great time to be part of The Imperium.
19:28 Destination for the op is currently Y-2AN0.
19:35 Fleet docks up in Y-2ANO to pick up those waiting for the convoy.
19:36 KVN-36 is the new destination announced on coms.
19:42 Jump into LBGI-2. The convoy is getting close and seems to be moving apace. They only have to get to C-N4OD, one system past KVN-36, and there is a jump bridge to 4-EP12 while the caps can make that jump themselves.
19:44 Warp disruption bubbles are reported on coms on on a gate in KVN-36. Somebody is messing with us. A Sabre is reported killed. We may have lost a Harpy and a Keres.
19:48 Combat reported on coms in KVN-36 while I am still sitting in 4-EP12. Ships reported down in fleet chat: Scythe, Harpy, Harpy, Harpy, Burst, Hawk.
19:55 Ohno no borrox says he was nearly done in but was saved by logi. Black Legion Tengus and dreadnaughts reported on C-N4OD gate in KVN-36. Voice coms become hard to follow.
19:57 Jabber Ping:
WE HAVE TITANS IN TROUBLE AND HOSTILE DREADS ARE ON FIELD. GET IN FLEET RIGHT NOW – HERE. WE. GOOOOOO
A Harpy fleet is being formed under Papusa in YA0-XJ to come to aid of the convoy now besieged in KVN-36. Subcap fleet sounds like it has to leave grid because of heavy losses.
Those of us who are sitting in 4-EP12 start asking what we should do on coms, as we are only a jump bridge and a gate out from KVN-36. We are told not to come in piecemeal but to join Papusa’s fleet if possible.
20:09 I join Papusa’s fleet and switch voice coms. Titans reported down in fleet chat:
20:13 Papusa has fleet free burn to a system to catch a wormhole into Fountain.
20:17 Papusa says, “We’re spinning up everything”
20:17 Jabber ping for additional fleet. This one is a Tengu fleet, again headed out of YA0-XJ, under Kathrine Wilde. The message includes, “Fuckloads of hostile dreads tackled GETIN!” That last is clearly the incentive for those seeking rich kill mails.
More super kills are reported in fleet chat.
20:23 Papusa directs units in Fountain to burn for JGOW-Y in order to meet up with those taking the wormhole. By this point I have bought a discount Harpy off of contract, re-shipped, and am ready to go. I undock and start to burn, but immediately run into groups of Black Legion ships.
However, they seem to be completely uninterested in me. They are burning to KVN-36 because there are titans to kill and shit.
As I travel, I become very aware of how much of Fountain Black Legion has claimed. My path (below, in red) passed through a lot of their systems. (Their ticker is MEN.)
The Brave Collective is supposed to be scooping up Fountain from us, but they have been clashing with Black Legion, who looks to be back in the sovereignty holding business for the time being.
And speaking of Brave, there were conflicting reports about how we were standing with them while this went on. We had set them to blue while we moved out of Fountain, but had apparently rescinded that. During the fight however, that supposedly got changed back, so it was said that Brave went from bubbling our supers and whoring on the kill mails to repping our ships and trying to help. I did not actually see any Brave ships, so I couldn’t tell you what our standings were. (I might not have seen them because my default combat overview doesn’t show blues.)
20:28 Ping from The Mittani. Brave is repping our last surviving super carrier in KVN-36.
20:32 Arrive JGOW-Y, those there are directed to head to C-N4OD to wait on the KVN-36 gate.
20:40 on the KVN gate in C-N4 waiting for Papusa fleet to catch up when a fleet of blue supers drops on the the gate to get to the fight. I want to describe them as “angry,” though that might be just because of the mood on coms. Still, when you are sitting in a wee frigate and a fleet of supers lands right behind you, you cannot help but think that the shit may well and truly be real.
Despite being told to wait on the gate for the fleet, I jump into KVN-36 because I want to see this.
On the far side of the gate I sit and gawk as capital ships decloak, align, and warp off to whatever it is they are after. There are approximately 900 people in local and time dilation is on, getting as low as 22% at times.
Papusa and the Harpy fleet arrive in KVN-36, though we don’t really have a target yet. We align here and there until somebody reports there is a Black Legion Naglfar tackled. Somebody else in the fleet finds the Nag and puts w’s in coms so we can warp to them.
20:58 Papusa fleet kills the tackled Naglfar.
Then there is something of a “what do we do now?” period. No more targets come our way. I switch to my alt, who is still in the move op fleet, to see what fleet chat says. People who want to convoy home are told to join the Katherine Wilde fleet. I decide to take advantage of the fact that everybody still seems to be headed to KVN-36 and move my alt out in the Dominix for home. I take the old jump bridge route from B-DBYQ to YA0-XJ, waiting for each jump timer to cool down. He is back in YA0-XJ and safe, with about 24 hours of jump fatigue, by 21:40. Not a single hostile spotted on the way.
21:14 Move op plans for sub caps are officially announced to resume under Katherine Wilde.
21:22 I head back to 4-EP12 using the jump bridge in C-N40D and drop Papusa’s fleet. I join the Katherine Wilde in 4-EP12 and swap to the Megathron for move. I now have a Harpy I am leaving behind, but I figure I can sneak that out later. I have a jump clone installed in 4-EP12.
We head out with the intention of taking gates all the way back to YA0-XJ. We are held together as we pass through an incursion, then continue moving on towards home. We hold up in KU5R-W to cover the capital fleet, which is also returning home.
21:55 I look at the clock and realize I am almost an hour beyond the time estimate I gave my wife. With the Domi home in YA0, Megathron able to dock up in KU5R-W, I drop fleet and log out.
Later in the day I log back in and decide to bolt straight for home in the Megathron using the route GARPA suggested. This was probably a bad idea, flying an out of date, fleet doctrine battleship, and all the more so as the run to the nearest jump bridge was through Sister’s of EVE NPC null sec, which tends to be populated with strangers… and in null sec, nobody likes strangers. I watch the intel channels and my luck holds. I make it to the jump bridge and am soon in the heart of Deklein.
One last moment of disaster loomed. I realized that I do not have our new Deklein intel channel open, so I bring it up and watch it for a bit. There is no history and nothing new pops up, so I figure I might as well continue. As it so happens there is a gang that just hot dropped on some people one system over from where I landed. I am already in warp for the gate when somebody mentions they are in the system I am headed for. However, I landed on the gate just as they were jumping into my system, so I slipped past and made a bee line straight for YA0-XJ to dock up. Later on Viserion Pavarius contracted me my three stealth bombers, so he got back okay. Aside from one Harpy, all of my stuff is out of Fountain.
This is, of course, my own little view into a much bigger battle, what I heard/read on coms and what I saw in person. Other people have covered he wider battle at the usual locations:
The balance seems to be about 460 billion ISK in losses for The Imperium with approximately 40 billion in losses for Black Legion and friends. A trail of tears in its own way. And, of course, if you read the link in the Twitter embedded at the top of the post, there are some institutional questions as to how this played out the way it did, with a big, well announced move op coming to ruin. All of that is way above my pay grade. I wouldn’t be surprised to find somebody has made a Hilter Downfall meme video about The Mittani hearing that a convoy op getting welped in Fountain.
Meanwhile, the 02:00 move op was cancelled, so I am not sure what happens with those who were left behind. There will probably be more ops this week, though perhaps they will not be announced quite so loudly in advance. I still have a Harpy to move, so I’ll keep my eye out for a ping, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t care too much. It was a cheap Harpy.
And, of course, I have some screen shots from my move op adventures.