Do bear in mind that this is a wormhole story and I'm a landlubber. I can barely sit at a titan without drifting off into space. All I understand of wormhole mechanics is that if I'm talking to someone with a French accent and I point to a distant place on Dotlan, gypsy magic erupts and an hour later (clinging fervently to corp bookmarks) I'm suddenly there killing someone's spaceship, five regions from where I started.
In September of this year, Transmission Lost attacked a wormhole of the corporation Maddox Brothers Entertainment, some of whom are RL friends (and in a couple cases, even alts) of Rooks and Kings. Transmission Lost demanded a ransom in exchange for letting the Maddox towers live. The amount was stated to be 8 billion. Not the largest amount of isk in Eve but as Agent Xer0 (of RnK) pointed out, it presented a suitable target for the damage that needed to be done.
Friends and farming corps will be rolled over sometimes in much the way that ratters and Plex-runners will sometimes be ganked in 0.0, for such is the ecosystem of Eve. But it was a quiet week in K-space, so why not pay the situation a visit?
Eelm formed us up in our traditional Tech3/Guardian gang and via low-sec we entered the 'Static' of the wormhole system under attack. For those who are unfamiliar, a 'static' is a wormhole connection to the system 'next door'. When it collapses, a new one will spawn to the same type of the system, hence the term. Maddox baited on the wormhole with a carrier and we took advantage of a window of opportunity in TL scouting to pounce on them as they engaged (the bait carrier of Maddox was lost, however, with TL taking it down as they died).
A straight gank - sometimes a simple ambush pays off.
The Phoenix, Bhaalgorn and Proteus killed in the ambush totalled up to a very convenient 8 billion.
NOT REALLY A RAPPORT
Whilst we repped up the Maddox POS, local chat was fairly lively. Transmission Lost appeared convinced that we'd been paid to help a Russian corp.
[ 2012.09.25 16:29:50 ] Nutmegpainter > Вы платите мне за безопасный выход
[ 2012.09.26 17:29:38 ] TaliZ88 > they dont fight
[ 2012.09.26 17:29:42 ] TaliZ88 > russians logg off
[ 2012.09.26 17:29:52 ] TaliZ88 > if they cant roll the wh
This was a little odd to a K-spacer like myself, since as a young Eve whipper-snapper, I sat on my grandfather's knee and listened to stories of Evil Thug and my first ‘front page CAOD’ experiences were in capital ship battles with RA and co. But it was either a well maintained troll, or they'd done limited research (I initially assumed the former but comments in mutual channels implied the latter).
Whether it would be a viable tactic for farming corporations to hire pvp corps to defend them is debatable anyway – eventually the paid defenders would need to leave and then the attackers could summon up their logged invasion force (wormholers have many alts) and roll over the system.
On the hand though, Transmission Lost are a pvp entity in wormhole space and it's easy to understand the frustration of what must be wave after wave of capitals logging off without timers as they hunt through the thousands of farming systems of J-space.
Chat was feisty and then a TL member stole an unboarded Maddox Revelation. That's par for the course – but the fellow made quite a song and dance about it.
[ 2012.09.26 17:37:43 ] Nutmegpainter > i wouldve loved to hear your fleet comms when i warped into your pos and took it..
[ 2012.09.26 17:38:09 ] AnomalyX > ill hand the recording to themittiani
He would have been disappointed, as we all were, since Eldareth neglected to reach into his cookie jar of bizarre metaphors to apportion fail. But if I had it, you'd have it now too.
The more amicable DJSwitch47 put an end to chat on all sides by sensibly framing the situation: “no more smacking... lets fight and see who wins”.
We promptly put Transmission Lost's staging tower into reinforced. During the night they began bringing in reinforcements: capitals, Tech3s, Falcons and indeed all the toys of wormhole warfare. But after the tower exited reinforced and we killed it, we found they'd simply hopped over to new towers they'd put up elsewhere.
Killing towers may not mean moving hostiles.
Time was on their side: each night they'd build up assets. Their allies Talocan United had arrived and we were contacted by a number of wormhole entities who showed us TL requests for support, which is fair enough in Eve, of course. They'd lit a fire on the hillside and cast the net wide. The question was how to force a conclusion before our patience wore thin?
Full moon coverage was not a possibility for the Maddox corp and so forcing an engagement was difficult – each reinforcement of the Maddox tower we were able to form up for and repair but this didn't really advance the situation. The tower itself was, of course, irrelevant at this point and failing in becoming a catalyst for a fight.
So we decided to play a little trick: we repped up the Maddox staging tower, and unanchored it, while sitting in space with a formidable force. Then we reinforced the Transmission Lost main staging tower. And then we left through the static.
After a long period of building up, some Transmission Lost and Talocan United began filtering out again.
But then their main staging tower came out of reinforced. Maddox re-anchored their tower and we killed the Transmission Lost one, driving off their mild resistance. Had we ever actually been anywhere outside system?
[ 2012.09.29 02:31:32 ] Archivian Specialatus > You fellows coming to the party? (RnK)
[ 2012.09.29 02:32:00 ] djswitch47 > very vag move
[ 2012.09.29 02:32:04 ] djswitch47 > but smart
This might have been the end of the matter but for a twist: in the grand mystery of wormholes, a connection spawned directly to Transmission Lost's home system: J215338. It gave their ships a handy exit but also led to a stand-off on the entrance: both sides sat at range with dreadnoughts in siege to try and insta-pop Tech3s who jumped back and forth, with us sitting in the Maddox wormhole and TL sitting in theirs.
Finally a TL capital jumped back and forth and collapsed the connection.
[ 2012.09.29 03:20:28 ] Hermoine Hesse > ok
[ 2012.09.29 03:20:50 ] Hermoine Hesse > so what did you do with your fleet? take it out yesterday then came back in?
[ 2012.09.29 03:21:08 ] Hermoine Hesse > or never left?
[ 2012.09.29 03:21:49 ] Hermoine Hesse > I just want to know if my scouts are idiots or saw you leave like they said
With their towers killed and their fleet evacuated would this be the end of autumnal action against TL?
I'VE GOT GUESTS
Not long afterward, Bluemorphium, from our friends Pure Madness, mentioned that while logging in to change skills on an alt he'd spotted a group of capitals entering a presently unused farming wormhole.
“Who are they?”
“I think it's Transmission Lost”.
Exit stage left and fade in.
We're wearing (in our mind's eye, sadly) black balaclavas. Eldareth is whispering. He's ready with two alts: a bomber and a light interdictor. Eelm gives him the go-ahead. The bomber decloaks and ECM bursts in the middle of their farming capitals and gives them an aggression timer. Seconds later, the dictor short-warps in and bubbles them.
Our fleet is soon on them: we have massive neuting power from three HG Talisman Bhaalgorns, two triage for repairs and ten Tech 3s. To their credit, however, Transmission Lost aren't going down without a fight. Their Lokis hold down our Bhaalgorns for their three dreadnoughts to pound on, and Mesh is pushed to below half-armour.
Since our dps is very low, each time the dreadnoughts are neuted out they are able to coast out of siege and be capped up by the carriers. But neuting the energy-bouncing carriers quickly has its own problems: while doing this they are able to send a last burst of energy to the dreadnoughts, who all enter siege again and manage to kill one of our two carriers (from UMAD).
To keep Davinci's Archon alive it means quickly switching the bulk of the neuting back and holding the dreadnoughts silenced, which in turn allows the carriers to quickly recharge each other.
The heat of battle.
Each cycle the Transmission Lost dreadnoughts come closer to perishing. Yet thanks to calm work on their part, time and time again they manage to get repairs in at the end of the cycle and attempt another 'burst' of energy to the dreadnoughts in the hope of sinking Davinci fast with a spurt of overloaded damage before running dry again. But Davinci holds and finally the stalemate is broken by the arrival of two farming dreadnoughts from Bluemorphium. Even with rails, they provide the damage to tip the balance. The TL capitals die along with two Lokis after having put up an excellent fight.
With the loot from the very well-fit capitals thoroughly compensating Blue's carrier loss, Eelm then led us back to the sun with some wormhole magic that placed us back in our k-space staging system.
But the wormhole way weaves a strange path.
KIRSA IS WATCHING
On Saturday, the aether gifted us a close connection to Transmission Lost's home system, J215338, on the wormhole to which we'd had the Mexican stand-off with the musket lines of dreadnoughts, after killing their tower in the original meeting.
In finest happenstance, Trooper had completed a rather dark entry in his internal video series. The hunt was on: more skulls for the skullthrone.
The fact that we were able to even have the entrance, however, was down to Kirsa's tenacity. As the scout placed there, she had to deal with the Bulldog of J215338, Vincent Gaines, whose Thanatos was perpetually ready to roll (i.e. collapse) entrances to the static at the most inopportune times.
On this occasion he hadn't trapped her scout out, and a connection was close, so she sent out a ping.
After titan bridging over with our friends at Pure Madness, we set up shop on their static and camped it openly with a bait group of Tech 3.
The previous engagements had gone our way, even if by no means without resistance – after all, in the previous encounter, the doomed capfleet had fought hard in an endless loop of cycle-coasting and re-capping before finally being overwhelmed. This likely gave them pause – was it another trap?
If it wasn't originally, it soon would be. Wormhole space is increasingly a game of one-upmanship and counters to counters. During windows of opportunity over the weekend we used a titan network to tuck some cards up our sleeve. With the hostiles having over 60 ship maintenance arrays in system, however, it's hard to call an ace until after the butcher's bill is in. The arms race of wormhole space ever-escalates and you just can't know what an enemy has in store for you.
Being already a Saturday evening, it was clearly too late in the weekend to force a fight by reinforcing towers. So, after Darkgost led a fleet to kill an unrelated LAWN carrier on an opportunistic 0.0 connection, we decided to get their attention by hitting them in their daily business.
This was quickly assumed to be The Hunt for Vincent, though for once his Thanatos was nowhere to be seen, much to Kirsa's disappointment.
On Sunday afternoon we faked an exit and, soon after, a TL triage carrier arrived to collapse the static wormhole connection and spawn a new one – a pilot we hadn't seen before and probably someone who picked the wrong moment to be the hand on deck. The carrier soon found a HIC decloaking as he jumped back in.
No one likes losing capitals to a force camping their home system. With a fleet returning from what we later learned was action against Insidious Design, and with them also forming up in their home system, they started crafting our doom.
For our part, we were sat on the static wormhole with some 10 Tech3, five Guardians, Davinci's triage Archon (out of triage) and a HIC bubble up. We also had another twelve Tech3s logged in system, for a total of 22 Tech 3s, though they were mostly pilots who had already been seen active in system and we knew the hostiles would account for them.
Transmission Lost assembled a perfect counter that included 5 Bhaalgorns to insta-neut triage, five Lokis to web down anything that pulled range and dreadnoughts to volley everything webbed down. This would leave our Guardians in a difficult proposition: stay on the wormhole and be neuted or pull range and have your webbed and painted hull be a scrumptious meal for tracking dreadnoughts.
Although we were not aware of it at the time, it appears that in the 'static' behind us they had also assembled two triage archons and some more Tech 3, who would likely be ready to catch Davinci's Archon if he jumped.
TARPS UPON TARPS
After an agonisingly long wait of listening to scout reports of Transmission Lost ships aligned at speed, they attacked.
As the hostiles landed, our remaining Tech 3s logged in and warped to the wormhole. Realising that we were going to commit to a fight, their forces in the static soon jumped in to join their main force, which put the wormhole into a critical condition.
The interesting situation now faced by ships here bears some comment:
TL Bhaalgorn – If I was a TL Bhaalgorn, there would be the issue of what to neut. If Davinci's triage is neuted to zero, he could still jump through the critical mass wormhole, denying them a cap kill (since their fleet from the static is now here) and, assuming it to be the fight they think it is, risking that fight to be over too soon. Better he be lulled into entering triage and then neuted and insta-capped. So some of the TL Bhaals took to counter-neuting our Legions, Guardians and hoping to drive us to 'blapping' range.
RnK Neuting Legion – I was in a neuting Legion, and faced something of a conundrum. Do I go and leave the wormhole entrance to neut hostile triage carriers, who were sat at the edge of the bubble some 20km out? But I know hostile dreadnoughts are in warp, and I'll be webbed off by their Lokis and ultimately, counter-neuted by Bhaalgorns – and not to mention the impossibility of neuting out as many as five triage carriers during the fight with only a few Legions.
TL Loki – If I was in a TL Loki, I'd be waiting for our support to leave the wormhole and web them off. But webbing them beforehand and before the dreadnoughts have landed, would likely be counter-productive since they'd be in jump range. So I too, would be watching and waiting before striking.
RnK Loki – Our Lokis opened up on hostile ECM. But whilst a Falcon may not have the most EHP, TL had an enormous amount of rep on the field with their triage carriers and Guardians.
So both sides stared at each other and waited for their respective hammers to fall. TL ended up deploying nine capitals (4 dreadnoughts, 5 triage) and we played our cards and fielded nine combat capitals too (with a tenth non-combat carrier whose purpose was to collapse the wormhole and trap them). However, our composition (2 triage, 7 dreadnoughts) sported a lot more fire-power, and we also had more dps T3s.
On paper, the total Transmission Lost force is good: 5 Bhaalgorns powered by a total of 5 triage carriers, with five Lokis webbing for dreadnoughts, 5 Guardians to lap up additional damage and then assorted ships like Legions and Falcons.
The TL support fleet had a strong emphasis on energy warfare.
Fighting a capacitor war against that would be difficult since Legions can't easily out-neut Bhaalgorns and with the energy war already theirs, having a higher ratio of triage would... well, entail a metaphor of throwing more suckable things to be (ahem, energy) sucked. So damage, luckily, was the card Frenchlight would play.
On a sidenote, it's a tricky business to log into a wormhole fight. In wormhole combat like this, without a POS, you're always logging into space. But since the position of the static is vastly different on every spawn, it's impossible to log in assets directly into the fight – or even have all your caps in vaguely the same starting point, since moving them might entail them being spotted. Thanks to excellent timing by Eelm, Kirsa and Dark, our dreadnoughts began arriving while theirs were in warp, giving us time to start on Bhaals before eliminating their dreadnoughts.
GOING DOWN FIGHTING
TL realised of course that their only chance to win the fight would be to silence our dreadnoughts with their five Bhaals – after all, if they could neut out even three or four of them, it would likely be a rout since they had easily enough rep to tank the rest.
And they certainly didn't skimp on logistic work to try and make that happen: one Bhaalgorn took over 500k damage (likely several million raw damage, given the Deadspace resist profile) under dreadnought fire.
The Bhaalgorns, on which much hinged, refused to go down without a fight.
Meanwhile, their dreadnoughts primed Darkgost's Moros, though it held at half-armour as their firepower fell.
Warping in from different POSes, and also having to unify with the caps jumping through the static, meant that by the time most of the caps were together, such as here, three Bhaalgorns were already down.
Despite a good effort from their logistics, their Bhaals did go down and their nine capitals followed soon after. We failed to collapse the wormhole in time with our spare capital, however, so nearly all of their Tech3, Guardians and assorted support were able to escape into the static. Hopefully they had (or indeed, are having) an interesting Odyssey going home from wherever they ended up, with myriad battles and adventures along the way – a wormholer's life, no less.
BRING FORTH YOUR CHAMPION
Given that our only loss was a neutral light dictor and that we had the superior capital composition and escalation, the fight is a 50bil gank rather than an epic tug of war. Nonetheless, having been asked to write an account, it's interesting for a k-spacer like myself to see the principles of targeted aggression, choice of tool and escalating counters distilled to a direct focus in wormhole space.
With the battle over, we announced we'd leave if their champion Vincent Gaines would stride forth, alone, to be ritually executed by Kirsa (and champion would be a fair label, for I'm now told it was him whose Bhaalgorn stood longest). Fearless, he strode out across his POS-moat and emerged in our bubble in his Buzzard, whereupon she struck him down.
Satisfied? We waited, and Mesh stood with one leg already in his sieging trousers. She was. We went home.
BUTCHER'S BILL / KB LINKS
Transmission Lost took a total of around 89 billion damage over three main engagements, not including towers they lost (nothing significant in corp hangars, etc.). For their part, they did around 12 billion damage between a UMAD carrier, a stolen Maddox dreadnought*, Maddox carrier* and an RnK interdictor.
http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_related&kll_id=14708105 (8.2 - *)
http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_related&kll_id=14859548 (23.8 – 6.2)
http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_related&kll_id=15240333 (3.3 - 0)
http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_related&kll_id=15244357 (53.3 - 0)
Most importantly, Vincent died.