The Revelation's structure bled out. Its hull split open, sending fire and shrapnel tumbling through the vacuum. As its debris slowly diffused into the darkness, so did the tension from the four hour brawl. The first battle of LXQ was won: Pandemic Legion had a foothold in the drone regions.
The gears of war had begun turning hours before, with fleets forming around 13:30. That's Russian prime - the worst possible timer you can get when fighting here in the drone regions. We expected to lose this fight, or maybe not be able to engage at all. In their usual tenacious spirit, many of the Drone alliances have contacted me to correct me on the fact that they do not rent. This very spirit, we assumed, would drive them into a frenzy for defense of their homes, and by midday, our wildest expectations were met. Then, exceeded.
The morning looked bleak. Nearly 250 combined battleships between the Drone defenders fleets stood ready to move into LXQ and lock down the system. 175 pilots sat in LEM, safe from the vigilant watch of the PL triage fleet that follows its battleship fleets around. Any fights in LEM happen on its residents terms, or not at all. The Drone FC called his troops to the bridge titans, and 90 Geddons, spanning Black Core, Against All Anomalies, ED, PNG, the entire spectrum, streamed towards the Avatar preparing to bridge into the battlefield and link up with the massive SOLAR Maelstrom fleet.
The bridge goes up, the Drone FC calls "jump".. and the bubbles spring to life around his fleet.
Unsuspecting, he calmly calls primaries, laughing at the suicidal dictors dying around him. Then local explodes, and chaos erupts on comms.
"Bridge bridge.. shit, we can't, we're bubbled."
"Hardeners on, anchor up!"
The battle would be here. Frantic messages were sent out to the SOLAR fleet: we have the PL fleet trapped under a jammer, get here now.
This was the ideal situation for the Droneland forces. A Pandemic Legion Rokh fleet, trapped in LEM under a jammer with reinforcements instantly available. The FC called for triage on the tower, the Geddons burned in at the Rokhs, their captains ready for the slaughter that was sure to come.
Only something was wrong. Horribly wrong.
The primaries weren't dying, but Geddon hulls were being ripped apart around the FC. The Triage carriers hit grid, and the Droneland FC had hope that things might stabilize, but Legion Rokhs continued to carve through Geddons at a shocking rate. The Droneland FC's fleet disintegrated around him before his allies in SOLAR had made it 6 of the 11 jumps they needed to go to save him. 100 Battleships went down in an orgy of destruction, while PL only lost 12 ships.
The morning hadn't gone to plan, but it wasn't over yet. Over the next 3 hours, more than 600 ships would meet their end in the battle for LXQ, the bloodiest fight of this new year.
Realizing that their allies were out of action, the SOLAR FC swung his fleet around and headed back to LXQ. He would use their sacrifice to gain the advantage of being in the system and set up, waiting to greet his unwanted guests. While he waited, his fleet hammered on an SBU, every second bringing him closer to rendering the attack inert.
"Cyno up, planet 9 area," came the report, and the FC called his fleet into warp towards the beacon.
Pandemic Legion loaded the planet 9 grid, its carriers exploding into system in the midst of the still-extant Rokh fleet. The fleet slowly started to reposition around their FCs, comms were sputtering with a dozen scout reports, and intel blasted freely. To the new member, it can sound like utter chaos. In that chaos, though, is everything you need to know about a fight, and the FCs of Pandemic Legion tend to thrive within the onslaught of information.
Before the Legion appeared the SOLAR Maelstrom fleet. Fifty kilometers away, over 150 battleships, solar sails glinting in the light of the star. The battle commenced.
"They're primarying triage!" brayed the Chimera of Mr Rive.
"That's fine, you're fine," replied Elise Randolph in his soft, soothing voice.
The time that the Maelstroms spent trying to kill the triage would cost them dearly. The phalanx of Legion Rokhs spent it rapidly boring through them with faction antimatter, FCs urged on by bloodthirsty pilots. The reprisal from the shrinking Maelstrom fleet was swift and surgical. Rokhs began vanishing in bright flashes. The carriers weren't able to save the battleships unless they were perfect every time.
"The Geddon fleet is back in welpcanes," said a Legion scout.
"NCdot on grid. They'll be on our side, ignore anything not broadcasted."
The new friendlies landing gave the Legion a needed second to regroup. In that moment, the Drone battlecruiser fleet landed at close range.
"Bombers in. Overheat everything."
The battlecruisers scattered under the fire of the Rokhs, the fleet butchered as quickly as they could be locked. The Dronelands FC began desperately trying to pull range as his members died in groups of 3 and 4. The day's losses could at least be justified by saving the system, and so the battlecruiser leader went for his end-game play, shooting his fleet into warp towards the Paala gate SBU.
Meanwhile, the SOLAR Maelstrom fleet and the Legion Rokh fleet continued to blast it out, toe-to-toe. In the space around them, T3 battlecruiser fleets flitted about like schools of fish, darting between bubbles using on-grid warps. Time was beginning to turn against the Legion, even though they were only 2 jumps from reinforcements. Their stock of Rokhs was depleted, and a major Dronelands force was on the Paala gate blocking entry.
The Rokhs in system were the last ones left. It was do or die.
"Dreads on the Paala gate," called the PL bomber FC.
"Spool up slowcats. Get those dreads tackled. Supers online." The battle had shifted onto PL's favored terrain.
The Dronelands FC had brought in 5 dreadnoughts to try and "ninja kill" the SBU. It was his trump card: a way to win the objective and thereby the fight, regardless of loss. The SOLAR Maelstrom group had the PL force pinned down at a tower, and the withering artillery fire was turning the tide. A Drone victory was in sight.
Then, scouts reported the Slowcats landing on the POS grid with the beleaguered Rokh fleet, and things went sideways fast for the stalwart defenders.
What had slowed to a trickle of losses from the Rokh fleet became a torrent with the Slowcat sentry fire contributing. Maelstroms began vanishing. Within minutes, the combined Pandemic Legion fleet had seized control of the POS grid and driven off the SOLAR Maelstrom fleet, scattering it around the system. As a whole, the Legion force leapt into warp towards the gate.
Detecting the incoming PL fleet and the likely outcome, the Dronelands FC ordered his dreads not to siege and warp out - which they did, to planet 5. It wouldn't matter. The end of the battle was near.
A short battle ensued as what was left of the Rokh and Maelstrom fleets landed on the Paala gate at the same time, but the Dronelands FC was getting worse news. "Dreads bubbled at planet 5." As he watched the combined capital might of the Legion drive the Maelstroms away, and the PL fleet rip off into warp towards planet 5, the FC would frantically kamikaze the remains of his Battlecruiser fleet - to no avail. The great green Aurora Ominae erupted from a Pandemic Legion Erebus now on grid, and a dreadnought became a wreck.
After four hours of brawling, the PL FCs called the fight, sending the supercarrier fleet to the station and capturing their bloody prize. The system was filled with debris, but the battle was won.
The gates to the Dronelands had been breached.