An Azbel in Aridia

I had not been out on a coalition fleet op for almost a month, since the camp of the Keepstar in 68FT-6 that followed Judgement day and the demise of Circle of Two.

But my activity tends to be a reflection of the coalition’s activity.  I am not much for random PvP and gate camps and the like.  I enjoy operations that have an objective, and after the downfall of CO2 there wasn’t much going on with the strategic front.

And then The-Culture started falling apart in Fountain, stepping aside to let coalition allies The Initiative land in their space, which started to stir things up in the central-west of null sec in New Eden.  This also brought The Initiative into conflict with LowSechnaya Sholupen, which ended up losing their space in Fountain as a result.

Fountain as The Initiative moves in

Oddly enough, if you compare the current sov map (from which the above clip was taken) with the one from a year ago, LowSechnaya Sholupen was in the process of losing that very same chunk of space to The-Culture.  Some things never change… or always change… or however you sum that up.

We have had an opportunistic relationship with LowSechnaya Sholupen, or LSH, over time.  During the great retreat from Saranen to Delve they picked off… “sholuped” as it was termed… some careless Imperium capital ships attempting to make the run.   But we have also spent some time allied with the and helped them fend of The-Culture before, cooperating to bust towers and citadels that were encroaching on what they saw as their turf.

However, when things settled down we reset each other, it being more fun to hunt us than to be an ally when times were quiet.  LSH sat in Aridia and picked off people coming to Delve while we were up in Hakonen, and then picked off Imperium pilots attempting to return from the north when that deployment was done.  We shot them, they shot us, nobody thought too much about it.  And then we came into conflict over sovereignty in Fountain and we started hitting their assets.

Or that is my understanding of the situation.  I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks either at EVE Vegas or playing RimWorld and derived most of that from what I heard on Saturday night.

A Saturday night ping.  A couple of hours in advance a ping went out announcing that there would be a strategic op forming up, with a guaranteed kill mail and a possible fight, at 05:00 UTC, which comes out to 10pm local time for me.    That isn’t all that late, or it used to not be that late.  I’ve become my grandfather, something or an early riser a lot of mornings, so I tend to be in bed at 10pm most nights.  Furthermore, a strat op like that can possibly run for hours and I’d been up since 5:30am local time as it was.  But I had taken a nap that afternoon and there were no plans for Sunday, so I decided to hang out and join in.

At the appointed time a ping went out for a Machariel fleet for the op.  I was already logged in and so joined fleet right away and hopped into my Mach.  I would normally fly logi for an op like this, but I bought a Machariel for a fleet a while back when they were short on DPS and now I am determined to fly it at every opportunity… and there aren’t that many… until I lose it.

Wilhelm Machariel

Our Mach doctrine has a large number of refits included so the first part of any op is getting everybody on board with the fit of the day.  Usually the FC has a link to the fit in the fleet chat MOTD.  Our FC, Dirk Stetille, was a bit behind on that.  Not that it mattered.  People will show up in a Mach fleet and immediately start asking on coms what the fit is without bothering to check the MOTD.  It is one of the annoyances of being in main fleet, people asking questions immediately without checking in the usual places.

Anyway, I got myself fit and undocked.  There I watched the capital fleet under Thomas Lear, which was going with us, undock and start heading out ahead of us.

Sitting on the Keepstar undock

As usual, the capital and sub-cap fleets were sharing voice coms, which adds its own element of confusion when one FC gives instructions that only apply to one fleet but fails to specify which fleet they mean.  Still, despite the usual amount of questions and people showing up late or being in the wrong ships or asking if they can catch up, we did get our act together and get under way in fairly short order.

We moved off to a nearby jump bridge that we would used to get us to 1-SMEB, and from there into Aridia, where we were told to hold and wait.  Of course, some people jumped anyway and the FC had a heavy interdictor put up a bubble around the jump bridge which prevents anybody from using it.  Well, anybody besides interceptors and interdiction nullfied ships that aren’t affected by bubbles.

Held in place on the jump bridge

We stayed there until the capitals got far enough ahead.  Then Dirk had the hictor pilot turn off the bubble and we jumped through and aligned for Sakht and the Aridia region where LSH lives.

We plodded along a bit with the capitals, then were warped to a perch off of an LSH tower that we proceeded to warp to and shoot.

Hitting an LSH tower

We successfully put the tower in a reinforced state.

Tower shoot finished

That immediately led to questions about the kill mail we were alleged to have been guaranteed.  At that point Dirk had to explain that we had indeed formed up more quickly than expected and were actually early for the timer we were planning to hit, so we stopped along the way to reinforce an LSH tower.

From there it was on to the main target of the night, the LSH Azbel in Yahyerer.

Arriving at the Azbel

We landed at a perch as carriers from the capital fleet jumped in with us.  We then warped into gun range of the engineering complex and opened fire.

The LSH Logo on the Azbel

The structure was being gunned by an LSH pilot, but the defenses were not much compared to what we brought.  We were fit for passive tanks and were using projectile weapons, so capacitor draining void bombs were of little use, and we spread out so that other bomb flavors were not much help.  Fighters were launched, but between our light drones and the carriers covering us, those were dispatched quickly.  The Point Defense System managed to catch a few support frigates that wandered too close to the structure in order to tag it and get on the kill mail, but other than that we just shot, reloaded, and shot again.

There was a minor bit of drama, as is usual, about people broadcasting for reps prematurely. (Or broadcasting for shield reps in an armor fleet.)  Dirk asked us not to broadcast until we were down to 60% armor.  That was more damage than anybody in a Mach was taking and so the logi discussion quieted down.

The Azbel itself was worn down until finally it exploded in the usual magnificent blaze, leaving a wreck behind.

Azbel Boom!

Then there was the question of looting the wreck.  The kill mail shows that a lot of capital ship building components dropped along with a pile of fuel blocks.  Thomas Lear brought a Rorqual to loot, but the sheer size of the loot… over 3 million m^3… meant that only a bit could be grabbed.  So we shot the wreck instead, terminating what was left of LSH’s dreadnought construction operation.

As we were heading out a Raven had the ill fortune to stumble upon us as we were heading to a gate.  He managed to jump just in time, but a few people ran him down and caught him, giving us our only non-structure kill for the night.

In the wrong place at the wrong time

You know that stumbling into 300 Goons in a system has to be a panic moment.

From there the capitals started back towards Delve while we hung about covering their departure.  At that point Dirk said that anybody under 60% could broadcast, and I think we all had some armor damage.  You could see some on almost every Mach.  Dirk said he was mildly impressed that so many of us could hold off.   We were then going to head back home ourselves, but first he had a couple more targets of opportunity for us along the way.

First was another tower to reinforce.  This went more quickly when another group of caps and supers showed up to add their firepower to the mix.  There was a moment of comedy when two Leviathan titans bumped on landing and went flying off.  It wasn’t a huge bump, but they went pretty far off from the rest of the caps.  But their firepower meant that the tower was reinforced in short order.

Second tower reinforced

The, finally, there was one last tower.  This one had been reinforced earlier in the day, but had so little stront in it that it came out that night.  So we headed to that with the capitals along as well and blew it up.

A True Sansha’s tower coming apart

With that second kill mail in hand, it was time to head home.  Fortunately Delve was only a few gates away.  We had gotten participation credit already, but Dirk gave us a second one as the three hour mark was upon us.  And that wrapped things up for the night.

We will see if there is more to do in Aridia or if LSH will come to some accommodation with us.

Meanwhile, screen shots from the op collected up in a gallery.

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