I am a sucker for Jabber fleet formation messages that promise an imminent fight. In fact, much of my time in null sec space has been Jabber driven. I don’t spend much time just hanging around or sitting on gate camps, but a fleet call goes up on Jabber and I am at my desk and I am there. I am sort of the null sec minute man, in a half-assed sort of way.
Anyway, as these posts tend to go, there was an alert on Jabber calling for a fleet with a fight imminent, your typical “go! go! go!” situation.
While the form up point was in F2OY-X, the starting point for most operations so far in the Delve War (or whatever we call it now that the actual fighting in Delve has tapered off), our first jump was to a system I suspect will become more and more important over time, 49-U6U.
49-U6U was a system that was at least contested by the SoCo, though it rolled over to Goonswarm back on the 10th. It is an important system at the moment by virtue of having a station and being in Querious on the border with Catch. That makes it a natural staging point.
However, we were not going to Catch. At least not for long. We caught another titan jump bridge deep into catch, then burned along, gate to gate, into Stain, an NPC controlled section of null sec, where Gentleman’s Agreement has been putting up towers in an attempt to… I don’t know, really.
As usual, I am ignorant of the strategic objectives. It could be to establish a foothold on another route into Catch to facilitate on upcoming invasion of the region. Or it could be just a way to draw SoCo out into a fight.
If it is just the latter, it has been quite effective. SoCo no doubt does not want another CFC/HBC foothold on the border of Catch, so they come out to play. And so that was where we headed as well.
This is actually another new section of space for me.
Southwest Systems Map
On the map above, you can see Delve and Querious, marked with little yellow dots. Those represent systems I have visited in the last two weeks, the dots growing and changing color as my activity in the area goes on. You can compare that with high security space at the top of the picture. Those systems I have visited many more times during my years in the game. And Delve and Catch have no dots, because I had not been there.
We rolled into Stain only to catch another titan bridge that put us deeper into the region as a blocking force. We then began moving back towards the system in contention, DSS-EZ, acting as something of a blocking force. We were following a SoCo fleet, trying to catch it before it got to DSS-EZ I would imagine. We did catch one Rokh on a gate in X1E-OQ, but that was our only real contact with the enemy fleet until we arrived back in DSS-EZ.
Once back there, we were confronted with the SoCo fleet, which was heavy on Rokhs and had two Thanatos carriers in support, pretty much right there on the gate. It was then time to jockey for position. DBRB burned us away from the hostiles, as we came through within range of some of their long range units but outside of our own missile envelope.
Drake fleet turning to increase the range
DBRB pulled us far enough away that we could do a short warp into their midst, and then the fight was on.
The way most battles look at a distance
We seemed to be doing very well initially. We were able to knock down a couple of their recon ships, some of their Rohks, and best of all, first one then two of the carriers went down. Those are nice, high value targets.
Thanatos on the field
Our own losses seemed to be quite minimal for a stretch, but then SoCo got its act together and began popping Drakes.
You can often tell when a fight is not going your way just by the change in tone on voice coms. The logistics pilots began to growl on coms about the Drake pilots not calling for reps soon enough, the logi pilot theory being that the smart bombs that were hitting us could only be killing Drakes if the Drake pilots were absolute morons.
However, what was really happening was that the Rokhs were coordinating their attacks and killing off Drakes in a single volley. Shortly after the carriers went down, I got primaried and blown up, with almost no transition time between first hit and me sitting in a pod. There was no watching shields break and armor get stripped away. I happened to be looking at the control to check my ammo when it happened, and it was more a matter of “hey, where did my modules go?”
Life in the danger zone.
Once in a pod I was left alone, but I could see people in fleet chat typing in “-1 Drake” as they got popped. I moved out of the bubble and set my destination for our starting point, F2OY-X, which was 27 jumps away through hostile territory. My options, however, were limited. I could hang around at a safe spot and wait for the fleet to withdraw or I could try to get somewhere I could get another ship and be ready to come back if there were to be reinforcements.
I started off towards home. I didn’t think I would make it. 27 jumps through null sec pretty much guarantees you will run into a gate camp at some point. And, sure enough, I went through a gate and ended up in a bubble in X4-WL0. I broke cloak, said hello, and asked to be sent home please. I think that gave them a moment of pause, as they locked me up pretty quick, but then took a minute to actually kill me. I was still in their bubble when they did, though I had been moving out on the off chance they might think flying back in a pod was worse punishment than buying a new clone. They opted for the kill.
And so I was back in Delve where I found no Drakes available for sale on contract. Well, none in the vicinity and certainly none that were fit to Drake fleet doctrine specs. But the fleet was pulling back in any case. There was to be no reinforcement fleet.
The kill board results for the ongoing battle in DSS-EZ, which actually isn’t that screwed up this time around (only a few people showing up on both sides of the fight, shows a fairly even fight. We were slightly outnumbered overall, though it is hard to tell who was there at what time. SoCo won on total kills and on the ISK front, losing 16 billion to our 21 billion. And they knocked out the towers that Gents were setting up.
So a tactical victory for SoCo.
But on the scale of the ongoing war, the CFC/HBC wins in the long run with these sorts of exchanges. The resources available to be committed will allow us to grind down SoCo over time. SoCo needs to win big in these sorts of battles to push back the barbarians at their gate.