Art by Empanada.
INN has published several stories about the destruction of Fort Knocks, the Keepstar in the wormhole called “Rage.” This story, regarding that event, comes from a slightly different perspective, as it will present all phases of the battle from the perspective of three of the key participants. I interviewed Capri Sun Kraft Foods, an FC from Hard Knocks Inc. (HRDKX) corporation in the Hard Knocks Citizens (HKRAB) alliance; Pandoralica, an FC in The Initiative. Alliance (INIT.); and Sister Bliss, the CEO of Vanishing Point (VANIS) corporation, and the executive director of INIT. I interviewed them separately, but here I have arranged their words to reflect the chronology of the pre-planning of the battle, the actual three days of fighting, and the aftermath of the historic event. Each quote will be placed in this chronological context. I have taken care, however, not to misconstrue the context or twist the character’s words.
Before the Deluge
Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
This story has its beginnings about a year ago, as two FCs were up late at night talking to pass the time.
Pandoralica: Riven Avaran and I were up late talking about all kinds of stuff and he is an ex-wormhole guy. The conversation drifted onto the Hard Knocks’ Keepstar and why it is impossible to kill: the typical things like “they will call in all their friends and hand them carriers and dreads” and “it would take ages to seed enough caps to even attempt it.” I told him I could do it with Ravens but I am not a wormhole guy, so I had no idea if the mass would be possible to get in quickly enough and one raven fleet won’t do, since we faced 3 reffs x2 Keepstars.
He said he might have an idea. I didn’t know him very well at the time. He was just one of the late night guys who I talked to here and there. I thought, He’s one of those dreamers that never actually do stuff and just likes talking about it.
Then, a few weeks later he told me it was happening. He didn’t only figure out how to move enough s*** in, but he [had] already started, which was a surprise to me. If you FC a lot you get weird ideas to do “epic stuff” here and there, but most of the time nothing comes of it. He then invited some of his very close friends, most notably Arisene Shi and Dominic Solarus, who soon put in ISK and effort to make this happen. That is when I realized this is actually happening for sure.
So, the first seed was planted a year ago as two FCs were passing time on comms. We see the butterfly effect at work, because one year after this conversation the first Keepstar ever planted in New Eden exploded.
Pandoralica: Those three and me are the core group for the logistical part and planning. Then they involved a few more close friends to help with some smaller stuff, most of them from BIG Shadows (BIGSH), a Swedish corp that is very tight-knit. The guy building all the ravens is called CrazzyElk and he had no idea what he was building all those ravens for actually. Opsec was [our] #1 priority. He wondered, but he is used to weird stuff.
The rest of the INIT FC team got involved after like half a year of seeding: Dark Shines, Sister Bliss and Bongalonga are the other main FCs. Those three [we added] like 4-5 months ago. Then another two guys for little things a month or two before [the event]: Hy Wanto Destroyer from Snuffed Out and Kendarr from Goons. Obviously, there [could have been a] campaign getting in the way and we needed to have a date for them to plan. [We also added] Pearcy15504, as my backup anchor, and Jin’taan, as a source of knowledge, since he has experience fighting Ravens himself.
Originally we planned on doing it with INIT only, but hearing the scale of investment and effort from the guys (and expecting all of WH space to rally behind their masters) I decided to invite friends: Asher Elias was involved too like a month before that [and] also Alice Homoloes, [both] from Goons.
We trust Asher, Alice and Kendarr a lot and opsec, that is just what Snuff does. The rest were real life friends and the strat op FCs of INIT. I told our propaganda guy to make a video two weeks before who probably was the biggest risk of a leak.
The security for the operation was tight, but a few weeks before the planned attack at least eleven people were in on the plans. Now let us hear from the Hard Knocks perspective.
Capri Sun Kraftfoods: There were a few hints [about something going on] noticed by different people that unfortunately didn’t get pieced together and in hindsight deserved more attention. First, over the last few weeks, several members had noticed “reduced” (10-50% mass remaining, indicative of capital travel) holes into Rage. At least once I was on comms to hear this mentioned and didn’t think too much of it. This got noticed by leadership and it was assumed something was afoot, but the who and when and scale of the operation was almost completely unknown to us. I’d heard vague rumours about INIT having us in their sights the last few weeks, but given the more recent political happenings in null with Horde and TEST, etc., I had assumed it was something targeted at our rental space in Cobalt Edge. Another HK member had also heard about INIT’s wormhole team planning something. As I say, it’s easy to look back in hindsight and draw a line to these obvious signs, and certain people were a bit suspicious, but the scale of it was unknown.
A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
The battle took place over three days. We’ll start with the Hard Knocks perspective, starting with events of Dec. 8, 2018.
Capri Sun Kraftfoods: I actually had some family visiting when it started. I noticed my phone blowing up pretty hard, but let it be until they were gone. When I finally got to my PC, and jumped on comms to see what was up, the mood was quite tense. Our CEO Braxus had just been heading to bed as it started and [he] managed to do some quick cleaning up of roles and corp hangars to make sure nothing catastrophic could be stolen. Ironically enough, quite a lot of HK members were logged out in another wormhole, having just completed an eviction of a larger Chinese corporation’s C4. As Hard Knocks is generally a mixed EU/US corp, we decided to wait until the EU/US time zone crossover, when our numbers would be at their best and INIT’s members would be thinking about bed after a busy day of EVE. One of our EU TZ directors spent pretty much all day getting into contact with anyone we knew in wormhole space, asking for help. The response [was] unanimous with corps of all sizes, including some of our more bitter rivals, all signing up to help. They were quickly marshalled to Lazerhawx’s C5, which started rage rolling for Rage to get people in. Our [out of system] pilots went there too. The first few hours were quite unreal, if I’m honest: an uneasy calm.
Pandoralica: So we moved in with close to 1,000 dudes. Seven hundred is the number hostiles had. [We had] 550 INIT in three Stuka fleets and then two Goon fleets in Jackdaws. For our guys it was clear that they [were] gonna be busy for awhile, since we called “the mother of CTAs (call to arms)” and we maybe call a CTA once or twice a year. But [the] Goons were not told anything and [their] people had no idea. After the initial four hours of fleet, they had to rotate the fleets out, leaving us fairly exposed.
Capri Sun Kraftfoods: Outnumbering an evictee in wormhole space is fairly standard procedure when attempting to evict a competent PVP entity. It is something we have done many times and it is a necessity due to the immense natural home field advantage. With that said, I do think the scale of what INIT brought in was quite disproportionate to the task at hand. INIT/IM together against every single wormhole ally we had was probably a similar ratio to what we have done in the past. However, the addition of almost a thousand Goonswarm Federation pilots tipped the scale entirely on its side. If INIT were simply interested in killing the Keepstar at all costs, I can’t argue with the efficacy of the strategy and fairness seems a spurious concept at best in EVE Online. However, if they anticipated, or seriously hoped for, significant resistance, then [they] were either delusional or wildly misinformed of our capabilities in ways that could have been easily gleaned by any FC worth their salt through an hour of sifting through Zkillboard. With that said, it is clear there was immense effort expended by smart folks who knew what they were doing, so I think it would be a little unfair to boil the victory down to a classic “dirty blobbers” cliche.
Pandoralica: So we had one of our Stuka fleets reship into Ravens and the other in Stukas and we had no ability to reship either of them very quickly, because it had to be done in a POS. We tried to get in Snuff in Tengus and Asher’s Reavers (a Goon SIG) with Ishtars ASAP, but neither fleet was huge. Hostile wormholers rolled into Rage and managed to flood the gates with around 200-300 subs, mostly in Cerberuses and Muninns. Our dudes inside the hole were fairly exhausted. The logistics team was busy, so reinforcements didn’t come in as quick as they could have.
Then late at night [the wormhole side] formed 200 Muninns and tried to take control, which they did, since we only had fresh reinforcement guys in a 200 man Stuka fleet and then 30 dudes who were stuck in Ravens.
Capri Sun Kraftfoods: After taking stock of the situation, it was pretty clear we were screwed on day one. Any hope of victory rested entirely on praying that our allies managed to rage roll in before, or shortly after, the armor timer. Luckily this happened. Lazerhawx rolled in early EU TZ on day two. I cooked up a plan with Pandemic Horde . . . to make our move about two hours before the armor timer in the hopes that we could maintain hole control, with their help, and bring in other allies from k-space. Horde managed an amazing form of over 300 pilots with just 20 minutes notice to their line members. We undocked a 180-man [fleet] as Horde were just getting ready to do the same and [we] managed to gain hole control long enough to get them a full mass chain that was about 15 jumps from their staging.
Pandoralica: Intel came in that Horde was forming a big [fleet] (200+) and we heard about more wormholers rushing for the connection to get in (an estimated 150). I tried to bait the Muninns off the wormhole to roll the static while Bliss had his Stukas position on the WH to hopefully catch them. The Muninns kept jumping after us and apparently Capri kept warping onto a Stork in my fleet. That is not a Raven-doctrine ship, but Stukas, but we needed MJDs.
Sister Bliss: I took the Stukas and Pandoralica formed some Ravens and we went to engage, as we couldn’t let another 250+ hostiles get into Rage. It was a bit hurried to flash form and engage, but we had no time to lose. Our Ravens warped in while the HK fleet was guarding the WH. The HK fleet then started chasing the Ravens around grid, warping in on them every time they [would] MJD. I brought in the Stukas at 200k and was getting my fleet to anchor up and prepare to engage. Pandoralica MJDd our Ravens and the HK fleet warped after them, just as we did a single MJD to close range.
Pandoralica: [Then Capri] warped to the wrong stork (in Bliss’s fleet).
Capri Sun Kraftfoods: With their initial wave just three or four jumps out, I made a big mistake that cost us quite a large number of ships (reacted badly to a probe scanner bug and warped us far too close to the INIT stukas).
Sister Bliss: We ended up 70k from the HK Muninns/Cerbs and had a split second choice to warp out or MJD again since we were in their optimal. I took the decision to MJD in front of them, pull a u-turn and bomb their anchor. As we started bombing, they re-entered warp and we paused to wait for MJD since a few of their fleet were being tackled and killed. A few stragglers from their fleet warped in so we paused a little more to kill those; before inexplicably the rest of their fleet warped into our bubble and within bomb range. We let off five waves of bombs as they started pulling range and caught about 50% of their fleet, wiping them and their pods. It was a risky manoeuvre, for sure, but we didn’t have time to waste.
Capri Sun Kraftfoods: That would have been a temporary setback, but lacking any ships to hand out to the now dead pilots and down quite a few pods we decided to stand down. That was the point at which the eviction was functionally over. We left the armor timer uncontested and slept on it to see if any bright ideas came to mind, but that was it really. Had Lazerhawks managed to roll in again we might have been able to give it another shot, but they never did.
Sister Bliss: The remainder of the HK fleet warped out. We cleared bubbles off the new WH, warped in caps and closed the hole before their reinforcements could get in. We were a little fortunate in the HK fleet warping into our bubble at almost optimal engagement range which took us by surprise. With that said, Stuka is easy to f*** up and I was more worried about accidentally maneuvering into the path of our own bomb wave by accident than chasing the tail for more kills.
Pandoralica: They killed 70 ships and 50 pods from that Muninns fleet, enabling us to roll that WH. Hostiles were reported to be five jumps out at that time, so it was kinda close. So, basically a dude who brought the wrong ship to my fleet made Capri pick the wrong warp target, which ended our most critical situation.
Tactically, we banked on them not being used to the meta we brought and I thought that turned out to be true. The next day we were able to have a constant stream of reinforcements come in and, most importantly, stay in too since the hype picked up and everyone knew what was going on. I was very nervous about the second timer actually, but hostiles already gave up at that point, which is really not what we expected.
Who’ll Stop the Rain
Good men through the ages
Tryin’ to find the sun
And I wonder, still I wonder
Who’ll stop the rain
I asked the respondents what they saw in their futures. With Fort Knocks destroyed, INIT has in some ways climbed the Everest of EVE achievements. For Hard Knocks, this loss is bound to have repercussions for many months down the line.
Capri Sun KraftFoods: Right now honestly? We have no idea [what the future holds]. A lot of our leadership is pretty burnt out and we had a few growing issues which would need to [be] dealt with going forward. Our plan for the moment is to just to give people time to get themselves sorted again, while we rethink what people want to do and what they want out of the game. At the moment we are all just having fun building our new home “Fort Blocks” on Minecraft! Any new plan is unlikely to get underway until the new year.
Pandoralica: I don’t know what is next and that is also not up to me really. Leaving the Imperium, maybe? Who knows? Wormholers will be a little bit more afraid of nullsec warmachines and won’t bank on wormhole mechanics on its own to save them anymore. In a way this campaign could connect both areas on a strategic level and maybe wormholers will get more involved in nullsec wars from now on. I don’t see a lot of nullsec alliances [going] for WH space all of a sudden.
Thanks to my three FCs who were willing to talk about the events in Rage. Special kudos to Capri Sun Kraftfoods. It’s one thing to grant an interview after an outstanding victory and another thing entirely to be willing to go on record only a few hours after a significant loss.