The first deployment behind enemy lines went well enough. We dropped into their territory, blew up infrastructure, shot the locals, and dragged back a bundle of loot in haulers we had stolen along the way. It was a training exercise in order to learn how to run such an operation as much as anything else. That we destroyed so many towers and didn’t all get blown up along the way was a bonus.
That was supposed to be the extent of our pre-Phoebe activities, a single test run before the expansion went live and our tactics became much more viable. And then an opportunity arose.
Nulli Secunda announced in their state of the alliance meeting that they would be staying in the north to continue attacking our towers until the very last minute before the expansion dropped. They would be sticking in low sec system of Tartoken, on the edge of the Lonetrek region and just two jumps out from Pure Blind, one of the CFC held regions. In this they would be a long way from home. (Map from the usual source.)
In the pre-Phoebe universe, with a huge stretch of friendly territory in the middle and no jump fatigue to worry about, that isn’t all that far. There is no doubt a jump bridge network across that expanse for the subcaps, while capital ships could no doubt use their jump drives to cross that distance quickly enough. This situation would be a pickle for Nulli Secunda after Phoebe, but returning home quickly before the expansion was a completely doable operation should they take the option.
So we were sent out to see if we could get them to change their plans and come home early. We were called up for an operation that drop us into the middle of the Feythabolis region, home to Nulli Secunda and much of their capital ship building operations. I got online for the deployment, got out my shiny new Basilisk, and we made our way south.
We setup in a system where a tower had been deployed for us in advance, made our safe spots around the system, and then set out to start shooting structures almost immediately. Last time around we spent quite a bit of time on moon mining operations. This time, deep in what seems like safer territory, the targets included a number of capital ship assembly stations. I put up a few pictures of those on Friday. Not that we did not shoot other targets. We hit the usual array of towers, including one that was sitting in space offline, probably for a lack of fuel.
Among those towers put into reinforce was the one sporting a supercapital assembly array at ZS-2LT. This POS, like all of its high value brethren we hit down there, had a full load of strontium clathrates, the compound that dictates how long a reinforce lasts. In this case, being full, it would come out of reinforce in two days, seven hours.
We figured that would get Nulli’s attention. After hitting major targets like that, we bided our time, moving down the list and hitting lesser towers, their jump bridge network, and then whatever stray SBUs they had sitting around. This was all done without any real opposition. This is what Asher Elias called “investing in future fights.” Putting things into reinforce is annoying, but the big moment is when the structure comes out and can be destroyed if not defended.
As time passed and towers came out of reinforce, we retraced our paths across the region, taking down towers. As we moved, resistance began to stiffen. It looked like Nulli Secunda was going to haul back some assets to defend their stations. At ZID-LE we were stymied as they plus some Northern Coalition pilots formed up in numbers sufficient to keep us from burning down the POS. A group of bombers worked on wiping out our sentry drones while a Tengu fleet picked off targets of opportunity. The Russians came to help us, but did not bring enough to turn the tide. We warped to our safe spots, cloaked up, and waited until the coast was clear. There was still at least one more target on the list.
We were pinged a little while later to wake up and start free burning for our staging system. We had another high value target to hit.
This was probably out point of greatest vulnerability during the deployment as we streamed in penny packets back into the center of the region. A half-assed gate camp with a drag bubble could have sat and picked off targets, severely reducing our available forces. But we managed to blunder through mostly unhindered. Fortune favors the bold I guess.
We assembled in our staging system and then moved as a group to ZS-2LT where the timer was up. We landed and began shooting. There were hostiles in system, but not enough initially to interfere with us.
Then a ship landed on grid with us and put up a cyno. We were able to take it out and deploy a cyno inhibitor on grid with us to prevent that from happening right on top of us again. However a cyno went up elsewhere in the system. Nulli Secunda was jumping in carriers to repair the POS. We had the tower into armor and were knocking it down slowly, but it was now a race to kill it before the carriers could get on grid with us and possibly turn the tide. Hero interdictor pilot Azure and Argent sacrificed himself while dropping a series of warp disruption bubbles from his Sabre that managed to slow down the carriers long enough that we got the tower into structure. The kill seemed within our grasp.
The carriers then landed on grid with us and we began a tug of war over the fate of the POS. We kept fire up on the tower and were just barely out damaging their repairs. The structure damage moved from 60% to 79% gone over the course of minutes before the Nulli Carriers finally got their act together. For a while they seemed to be concentrating on repairing the tower and were doing a poor job of hitting our ships. We only had a few Basilisks flying around in support, but we were able to keep up with damage which seemed to be spread around many ships. Then the carriers finally started coordinating on targets, painting them and having their drones work together. Ishtars started to get blown up before the Basilisks could save them.
It seemed that the tower was going to survive. Nulli Secunda had arrived with just enough forces to thwart us. Asher had us warp off to safe spots and cloak up.
Then he called us all back. We assembled on him and warped back on grid. Sentry drones were deployed and we began shooting the tower again. By this point, the carriers had repaired a substantial amount of the tower’s armor, so we were only slowing them down. We hung on as the carriers all seemed to want to target Asher, so for a while I think all reps were on him holding back the tide. Then local spiked up and Dabigredboat and 130 siege bombers warped onto the grid and began to hit the tower.
You have to enlarge the picture above to really see it, but a mass of torpedoes were suddenly streaming into the tower. DBRB and his fleet had found a fortuitous wormhole that brought them all the way from Deklein down to Feythabolis in time to turn the tide of the battle and save the day. The armor repairs were rolled back and suddenly the tower was in structure again and quickly dispatched.
Then there was some quick business to attend to, as pilots targeted the assembly arrays, the fat targets we were really there to kill. As to what was killed with them, there is some debate. The CFC says their spies indicate that an Avatar titan was under construction and was destroyed along with the arrays. Nulli Secunda says that production of that titan was aborted when Phoebe was announced. Either way though, the tower and its assembly arrays were destroyed.
That out of the way, attention turned to the hostile carriers on grid. Bubbles went up and tacklers raced in to try and hold them down to inflict some more damage. The carriers lit off smart bombs to try and clear space around them. A Nulli Secunda Chimera was under pressure but managed to warp off.
Then an Archon was picked out of the pack and became the focus. Fire poured in as it attempted to get away.
The Archon was done for. The rest escaped but they left one wreck on the field for us.
We had accomplished our mission… and then it was time to run and hide again. A Nulli Secunda subcap fleet that was supposed to support the carriers had finally arrived, late to the battle because they had to slow boat via gates as the jump bridge network in the region had been taken down.
Then it was time to get out. We were short on drones, losses had cut back our numbers, and hostiles were finally awake and active in the region. DBRB and his bombers headed back through their wormhole and the rest of us online packed whatever bags we had and followed Asher through as well, landing back in the north through a direct wormhole. I had never been though one that did not requires us to warp through W-space before. We just entered this one in Feythabolis and landed a few jumps from home. The only thing missed out on was kill mails. Being the good logi pilot, I flew out with the gear I was supposed to, which did not leave any room for combat drones. But I suppose I got on my share of kill mails last time around.
After that, the only thing left to do was guide home the stragglers… return ops ran all weekend trying to get people home who couldn’t be online for the main US and EU timezone ops… and wait for Phoebe to hit. That goes off tomorrow, and future ops will be in a universe where fast travel is no longer a thing… unless you can find the right wormhole.