The last eighteen months have been hell. That doesn’t line up with the timeline of the war, I know. But it’s still true. Eighteen months ago was early February, 2020. It was just beginning to be apparent that humanity was in for a bit of a bumpy road. Still, it was distant, unclear, a haze on the horizon.
A month later, things were a little less hazy. A lot of us were paying attention to the news from the West Coast, and the beginnings of a hotspot here in New York. We even got this ping from Mittens:
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE – USA-SPECIFIC: As you may recall from the fireside, my step-sister was mentored and trained during her time at the NIH in Bethesda by one Tony Fauci, who you’ve probably seen a lot of in the news lately; one of the greatest AIDS/Ebola/etc scientists of our age. My stepsister is now at the FDA but it’s probably a good idea to listen to her on the topic of virus shit. As predicted, today she warned that the virus is probably already all over the US and that ‘when they finally start testing they will find tens of thousands of cases’.
I’m self-isolating and suggest that any of you who have the money, capacity, and freedom to do so do the same; while you might not be at personal risk of dying from this, by self-isolating we can ‘flatten the curve’ of the crisis and potentially reduce the R0 of the virus. This is critically important because it seems the R0 is higher than 2.5, based on today’s data – and that’s insanely dangerous in itself.
Don’t want to listen to me? Or my family of supergenius medical nerds who do not play video games? Listen to Scientific Fucking American, then: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/preparing-for-coronavirus-to-strike-the-u-s/Pinged by The Mittani, Mar 1, 2020
It was the start of a trying time for a lot of us. For me, it meant taking care of my septuagenarian mother, who was on immunosuppressants as part of her daily meds. Everything got locked down. Everything coming into the house got wiped down with antiseptic wipes. Everything that could, waited a day to be handled without latex gloves. Social contact became a purely remote thing.
I’m sure many of you found yourselves in a similar situation, either caring for family members, because you’re in the medical field, or just because of your own health concerns. My stress was just part of the stress we were all under.
And then THAT happened
Then, the war started. In one of his addresses, Dunk framed the war as ‘trying to give everyone content as a distraction from the stress of RL’. But this week, even he admitted that fighting a defensive war just adds more stress.
Now, granted, we had a bit of advance notice, both because enemy OpSec is terrible, and because the build-up was predicated on, well, transparent moves. “Hey, listen, we want to cancel this deal that only says we won’t invade one another… but we’re TOTALLY not planning an invasion!” I mean, really. Even absent the TEST forum leak confirming ‘we’re totally taking Catch, Querious, and Delve’, that kind of move is a pretty clear indicator.
And let’s not kid ourselves: the war didn’t exactly go in our favor, even early on. It may not have been surprising, or heartbreaking, but the floodplains, well, flooded. We all lost ships, and assets. Many of us had our normal methods of making ISK impacted. As the war progressed, it got more stressful. PAPI started trying to anchor keepstars in NPC Delve, and we kept finding ways to stop them. Certain people still twitch if I say ‘we’re gonna need another 3000 Ravens… tomorrow’.
Then came the failure of December. We were more and more withdrawn into the 1DQ pocket, sure. But on a more personal level… On December 16, 2020, my mother died. It was quick, it was unexpected (except, I think, by her), and it had absolutely nothing to do with COVID. A leaky valve from a heart attack 20 years before just finally gave out. But it hit me hard.
I mean, of course, right? She was my mom, and now she’s gone. But it was more than that. I was supposed to keep her alive. I was supposed to get her through it so she could see my sister again. And I failed. I failed my mom, and I failed my sister. The fact that I’m the one who found her didn’t help. Neither did spending my birthday making funeral arrangements. So yeah, it fucked me up, that failure.
But for me, that was the darkest point in the descent into hell. And you guys were there for me, in that moment. I don’t just mean the expressions of sympathy and commiseration that I got, though those were undeniable and deeply felt, and I love every one of you for them. I don’t even mean the nameless director who later asked ‘Arrendis, hey, haven’t heard your voice in a while, where’ve you been?’ only to be mortified when he was reminded that he knew where I’d been—and in the process, gave me that first, most-desperately-needed real laugh since the funeral.
No, I mean you—all of you, from Riever and Soth, to the individual logi pilots, and the non-logi line guys. (And I hope the regular line guys will forgive me being a little biased toward the logi.) You guys were there. You showed up. And you kept showing up. You helped give me focus beyond my problems. Be it anchoring logi or just tweaking and adjusting doctrine fits, you guys were there when I needed a purpose. You got me through.
… and Triumph
Two weeks after my mother died, so did PAPI’s offensive. On Dec 30, the first battle of M2-XFE happened, and even if PAPI didn’t realize it, that was the beginning of their end. They got a brief taste of what it would mean to actually fight our supercapital fleet. Two days later, they tried another bite, and like Asher biting into a ghost pepper, they noped right the hell out.
That’s when they decided there wouldn’t be a climactic supercapital brawl. That’s when they moved to ‘let’s burn down undefended structures while we try to figure out what the hell to do’. Speeches were made. Assurances were given that everyone was ‘all in’ for the war. That we were ‘contained’ even as we continued doing what we wanted, where we wanted. I, too, often feel ‘contained’ when I’m sitting in my own house, watching movies on my own TV.
And you kept showing up. In greater and greater numbers, even, you kept showing up. Fleet doctrines that adopted faxes early in the war to free up logi pilots for other fleets found themselves going out with half a dozen faxes and 30+ subcap logi. We filled up entire fleets fast enough and consistently enough to need to pull back-seat FCs out and have them run their own fleets. And all that, most of the time, to just sit on the gate and dare the hostile commanders to do the most basic function of an invasion: invade.
Invasion, You Say?
But of course, they didn’t. Instead, they told their fleets that we were being cowards for actually assuming a defensive posture while, you know, defending. We laughed about it, together. Relaxed on gate duty, together. We waited and we watched and we sharpened our knives, together. And their numbers slowly dwindled. The writing wasn’t on the wall, it was in giant flaming letters 30′ tall seared into the very mountainside.
And then, they announced ‘the final push’. Progod said ‘give me four weeks’. And we laughed at that, too… together. When the final push came, they tried the most incomprehensibly stupid T3C doctrine we could imagine, and made damned sure to use a completely different hull for the logi, so we could say ‘THOSE guys need to die first, lol’. A lot of the RepSwarm guys know how I feel about that move, just from something I used to tell them in the early days of the SIG: Dead Logi Give No Reps.
Needless to say, the gambit failed. Their great Tengu doctrine was annihilated before it could even refit for combat. Their assault on the gate, with a single Muninn fleet from XIX and everyone else in Feroxes, was obvious as a means to just not have to haul 252,000m3 battlecruisers out of T5Z. And even before the fighting was done, they’d announced their retreat.
NCdot was first, but TEST was already unanchoring Keepstars by then. Some of our enemies claimed victory, some acknowledged defeat. But they all spouted that same bullshit line: The war is over.
Was It Over When The Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?
My friends, do not believe a word of it. I know I don’t really have to tell you that, but it still bears repeating. The war is not over. The Japanese loss at Midway did not end the war. Nor did the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow was not the end of the war, and the Persian victory at Thermopylae and sack and burning of Athens did not end the conflict.
Wars end when everyone involved stops fighting. Everyone. Just because the aggressor has shot his load and failed, that is not the end of the war. Maybe PAPI is looking at the glassing of Tribute and thinking it’s all the same thing. It’s not. When Tribute burned, NCdot ran away. The defenders stopped fighting first, and it was not the end. The end only came when both sides stopped.
This war ends when we say it ends—or, conceivably, when we have failed in our counteroffensive, and PAPI forces reconstitute to force us into submission. It’s not impossible, after all. No not believin’, but also, no hubris. Either way, the end of the war is still far away… the next hazy future on the horizon.
For I Have Promises to Keep…
The end of PAPI’s offensive just tied things together even more. And I really didn’t expect it to happen this week, of all weeks. As I write this… today would have been my mom’s 77th birthday. That awareness, in fact, is what prompted me to write all this. I’ve already said how you guys got me through my darkest days in this. I have no doubt you’ve all played a part in getting one another through your own struggles and stresses during the last year and a half. But I need to do more than acknowledge your contributions. I need to thank you for them.
So, from the very bottom of the empty black pit where a soul should supposedly be, thank you. Thank you all. I cannot possibly thank you enough for giving me comfort, and purpose, and something to focus on. Thank you for helping one another through this, for looking out for your fellows on the line and doing everything you have done to encourage and buck up those of us who’ve been having just that little bit of extra trouble on our own. Nothing I can say here can even begin to express my gratitude to you all. Thank you for showing up, over and over and over again, when the rest of the goddamned game expected you to only look out for yourselves, and high-tail it for safety at the first opportunity.
… And Miles to go Before I Sleep
But like the war, the work is not over, either. There’s a lot to do, going forward. There’s a lot to set right, both in Delve and in ourselves. In Delve, we have a lot of timers to set up and knock down. Yes, we’re already doing that, but there’s still a whole lot to do. Add in Querious, Fountain, and Period Basis, and the work load is even bigger.
Here in the US, the numbers are getting worse again. Lockdowns are resuming and restrictions going back into place. People will be getting stressed by that again.
I don’t know how much needs to be done before we truly move onto offense. I don’t know how much longer the real-world stresses will keep on being this bad. But I do know that what needs to get done, will get done. I know that the work in game will be completed, and that when people are at our lowest points, they’ll find comfort and support within this crazy, demented little space-tribe of ours. Because that’s who you are. You are demented and insane and generous and wonderful, and no words of mine can convey how proud and grateful I am to be a part of it.
(Author’s Note: Seriously, I wrote this on August 5. In the 4 days since, you’ve done most of that work. JFC, you glorious bastards. I love you.)
We persist. We endure. Because of you. Spodbless.