The war over the ihubs in Fountain, such that it was, is over. PandaFam took the final one this past week. Now there is just the structure in cleanup. And that too has gone well for the attackers so far. There were six Keepstars, the big targets, in the region and they have blown up three of them so far.
PandaFam chose to go after the one in Y-2ANO, which is also the closest one to Delve, being on grid with the region gate to ZXB-VC. The theory I have heard regarding the choice is that, in taking away the Y-2ANO Keepstar, they would hinder our ability to defend the other two. We could not just undock a titan and use it to bridge fleets to help with the defense of the Keepstars deeper in the region.
This past Thursday they began their assault by hitting the Keepstar in order to set the first timer. This involves knocking down the shields, after which the count down starts for the next round, the armor timer.
I missed the start of that fight, but showed up later in an interdictor to help out.
It seemed to go about the way it went back at armor timer in IGE-RI. The enemy brought subcaps and carriers. The fighters from the carriers were used to attack the Keepstar while the subcaps fought. There were a few more people involved, but things played out as before. The attackers managed to set the timer at a cost in ISK in time. The battle report shows we did much better on the ISK war, but we lost the objective, and the objective is what matters most on defense.
It also took them almost three hour to finish the job, and the shield timer is the easy one. When the fight was over and we left, we could see the clock counting down for the next fight.
The timer was set to come out on Saturday in EUTZ prime time and early USTZ time. Given that, the fight was expected to attract a lot more pilots. And the Keepstar itself was said to have tech II armor plates installed, meaning that it would take longer to get through the armor layer and set the final timer. The expectation was set that it might be one of those fights that goes on all day long.
In the mean time, both sides got ready. At our end, the night before, I was along for a fleet that moved some resupply ships to the Keepstar, so that if people lost a ship during the fight, they could dock up and reship. There was some talk about when the ping might come for the fight as the hostiles were looking to get there first to try and hold us off, so we might have to counter by showing up earlier.
Fortunately for me, I wake up by 6am no matter what. It is part of getting old. I used to wonder why my grandfather never slept in, and now I have become him.
So I was on and able to do a bit more prep work long before the first fleet pings landed.
I was actually concerned that there were zero Tracking Computer II modules listed on the market at our home Keepstar. They are part of the extra fit you need to get a Ferox or Megathron set to shoot fighters.
So I ran out in an interceptor to NPC Delve where there were 60 up for sale at around 1.7 to 2 million ISK. I bought them all up and flew them back. 19 would fit in my cargo hold, with another fit and offline in an empty mid slot. I listed most of them on the market back at home for 2 million ISK each, where they sold out very quickly. I hope they went to good use.
The first ping came over Jabber at 14:38 UTC (7:38am my time).
There were three initial fleets flying Megathrons, Feroxes, and Jackdaws. I had hauled out a replacement Megathron the night before, so that was probably the right choice as I had a reship ready. But Asher was leading the Ferox fleet, so I went with that instead.
We managed to put 1DQ1-A into 10% tidi just with people logging in, getting in fleets, and undocking. 2,000 people in motion will do that.
We undocked and and took a titan bridge to the Keepstar in ZXB-VC where the fleets gather up for the push into Y-2ANO.
From there we warped to the gate and started to push through all together.
It was there that I ended up getting disconnected. The Ferox fleet went through and I could hear Asher giving orders and could tell that the fleet was in motion, but I was stuck in the tunnel animation. There was tidi on both sides of the gate, so I could tell when things went wrong because the animation suddenly started running at full speed rather than the slow rate that indicates tidi.
I closed the client and tried logging back in. The character screen indicated that I had made it into Y-2ANO, another sign that my client wasn’t in sync with the server, but there was so much going on that it took a long to get on. I hit the jump button on the gate at 15:12 UTC, but didn’t load grid after logging back in until 15:35 UTC, by which time Asher’s fleet had made it away from the gate.
I had been watching some of the INN Twitch stream of the fight and could see that PandaFam had changed their plan from the first attack. They had decided to try and keep us out, so they put the fighters from their carriers on the gate along with some subcaps, no doubt with the intent of trying to thin us out as we tried to get through the bubbles around the gate.
I was a big of an obvious target out by myself and was primaried by a Munnin fleet that was part of the group guarding the gate. The game was moving so slowly that I saw my pod get ejected and got to watch the ship fly off for a bit before it finally exploded.
I got to watch that as I tried to motor out of the bubbles, but they popped by pod as well, sending me back to 1DQ1-A.
Back home, I hopped in a travel ceptor and headed back towards the fight. I dropped fleet, thinking that I might have to get out the Megathron and join that fleet.
Getting back in the second time was much quicker and, of course, I could just warp out of the bubbles in my Malediction. (The only thing faster was my SPR payment. I filed for when I ended up back in 1DQ1-A and saw the ISK hit my account as I jumped into Y-2ANO. The SRP team must have been ready to go.)
I docked up in the Keepstar and checked what was on alliance contract. I was worried that I might not have the right fit if I grabbed a Ferox (those Tracking Computer II modules came to mind), but there were a bunch there that were the correct Keepstar defense fit. (Which probably explains why the market was dry of them.) So I bought one of those, got into that ship, and rejoined the fleet, all of which took a lot longer at the time it took to type that out.
While I was doing all of that, the plan of the attackers started to unravel. The plan, I gather, was to use the carriers and subcaps to kill us on the gate while a TEST Raven fleet kept the Keepstar timer paused.
However, two bombing runs later, the first led by DBRB and the seconds by Sister Bliss of The Initiative, left 200 Raven wrecks in their wake, allowing the Keepstar to continue its repair cycle. (Video of TEST Ravens exploding)
Undocked on the Keepstar we could see the hostile fighters, which had been engaged elsewhere, now turning our way to try and hit the Keepstar. We took them under fire as they hove into range, but they were too few and too slow. The timer ran down below a minute and it looked like we were going to win. We all keyed up and counted down the last ten seconds as there was nothing in range than could stop the clock.
After that, the attackers were back to where they were on Thursday night. The would have to shoot the shields again to set a new timer and come back again at a later date. They did not seem inclined to do this and the next couple of hours were spent skirmishing and trying to extract.
The final battle report shows losses fairly evenly split.
Given that they had 800 more people than us on the report… more than three fleets worth of pilots… we did pretty well. But fighting on your own Keepstar is a big advantage (something we’re just learning, as our history is attacking them, not defending them), as is the fact that the timer is not affected by tidi as it runs down, but runs in real time. (Something that bit us back during the so-called Million Dollar Battle a few years back.) Imperium institutional paranoia expects CCP to change that now that it is helping Goons.
The battle report shows the whole thing lasting more than three hours, but the Keepstar had been saved in under two, so the objective was won in a shorter time than the initial attack that set the timer.
Meanwhile, as that was going on, some Legacy pilots not involved in the fight used this as an opportunity to set some ihub timers and reinforce a couple of Ansiblex jump gates. Well played, but the war so far shows they are not very good at following up on such ventures.
We’re certainly not done in Fountain. The attackers will be back. There are three Keepstars sitting out there still. If they cannot kill those in a situation where our titans and supers are not in play, then they are going to have a really rough time when they try to cross into Delve and hit Keepstars there.