When a Fortizar owned by Syndicate-based alliance Slightly Sexual <S3XY> began unanchoring last week, a convoluted series of distraction schemes and counter-schemes spanning several days culminated in the structure being swiped by local alliance Cavemen. <CAVE> in highsec Solitude on Wednesday.
We interviewed a pilot from each side of the coin – S3XY’s Sandy Freir, coordinator of the unanchoring operation, and CAVE’s Foamingjetty, war chief and FC of the distraction operation that made the heist possible. First, we will cover some backstory.
“S3XY had been in Syndicate for some time before we moved to Solitude. We were only a few months old when we arrived, fresh and reckless. At the time, Syndicate was firmly controlled by INIT and a wasteland for anybody else. I think S3XY hoped we would help change that, but they had also been in decline a while and didn’t have the numbers to fight with our gangs or fleets. Later, they participated a bit in the Solitude coalition that tried to stunt our growth, but they have always been more interested in Syndicate. I think CAVE’s paper numbers put off a lot of people, but as an RL-centric group with a lot of newer players, we’re not nearly as scary as we look.”
“Cavemen snuck into the area, and we weren’t aware of it because we didn’t venture into highsec… because highsec. We started with small skirmishes and slowly escalated to full-on battles for structures, power and bragging rights. We fought regularly, raged regularly, and shared a pretty even number of victories all around. Then the relationship sorta ended and we went our separate ways- after some baiting back and forth with capitals, the relationship had become slightly sour. Like a green apple sour- one you keep eating anyway cause it’s sorta sweet.”
The target Fortizar had been standing in Solitude for many months before the heist, and changed hands several times until it eventually fell into the possession of the industrial Black Thorne Alliance and became a trading centre and base of operations for the alliance. When Black Thorne negotiated a merge with S3XY that was made official in the beginning of last week, the Fortizar began unanchoring in preparation for the members of Black Thorne Corporation to move out of Solitude.
From Sandy, on BTC’s decision to join S3XY:
“Before the merge, BTA flew with us regularly in January and part of February. The pilots we did train in PvP have since moved on to join Tri, PL, Spectre, and even Cavemen! But highsec took a toll with constant war decs from small groups, and they looked for refuge and someone to help them harden the corp. So Black Thorne leadership reached out to us to ask to join us once again in Syndicate and we approved. I loved flying with them and teaching them back in January and I look forward to doing it more!”
“We watched our neighbors Black Thorne drop their traditional alliance and unanchor their structures, observed new folks flying in S3XY fleets and initially expected this to culminate in a fight for our frontier outposts in Syndicate. We guessed correctly that BTC was joining S3XY, and declared war on S3XY in hopes that we could lure the newly sizable alliance into some highsec fleet fights surrounding BTC’s assets, without the threat of more 3rd party hotdrops.”
And so, with Cavemen’s eyes on the Fortizar, Slightly Sexual began preparations to make sure the move went as smoothly as possible:
“The merge happened quickly – we still had citadels to unanchor but we were confident it would resolve itself. But as Cavemen declared war and we began skirmishing with them daily, we knew we had a problem. We considered many options. We thought about going toe-to-toe and slugging it out, but reshipping could be a problem for us since we live a distance away, and numbers would have been an issue since Cavemen had war allies at the time and we did not. We eventually decided on having a neutral freighter warp in during the last 30 seconds and scooping the Fortizar while our fleet slugged it out with Cavemen or ran distractions – they had a nearby timer in Eggheron, and we planned to play a good ol’ game of diversion there. I put in a great amount of effort with my scout team, harassing and scoping for what alts were eyes and who was who.”
But the Cavemen were making their own preparations:
“Honestly, I thought the chances of success were very slim – even if we were right about the unanchor occurring in the general window we expected, we were at a complete information disadvantage. Without knowing the exact unanchor time, or the exact strategies S3XY would use to extract the Fortizar, we were constantly speculating about how things could be done/should be done/would be done if the shoe were on the other foot, and comparing that to what we were observing in real time. There was a lot of frantic organization of three separate working groups, and then a lot of waiting. We pinged and formed up a max numbers fleet for the best case scenario – in case S3XY decided to blockade the system in force and we could fight over it. Bumping alts and scouts were constantly moving and logging neutrals and S3XY movements for the more likely scenario – that a neutral JF would scoop the instant the structure unanchored. A suicide gank squad was ready in case a non-jump-capable freighter actually got to the structure before we did. We knew S3XY had eyes all over us and worried they would cancel the unanchor if we looked too prepared, so it was a big mess playing hide and seek.”
The operation, starting at CAVE’s formup, spanned several hours with both parties waiting in nervous anticipation for the other to make a move – S3XY, waiting for the CAVE fleet to head towards Eggheron, and CAVE, waiting for S3XY to proceed with the unanchor with a freighter undocking or a fleet heading towards the system. However, the timer in Eggheron elapsed, and the Cavemen were still docked – so they had to come up with another plan:
“We had to figure out what to do with the fleet. We’re large, newish, and open; all of these things make it nearly impossible to be sneaky. We had a timer nearby that we used as pretext for the fleet, but it expired way too early to justify the fleet remaining open. If we moved the fleet too far away, we might miss a S3XY incursion strong enough to negate our bumping/ganking force. If we moved the fleet toward the target, S3XY could pull the plug at any time. And we couldn’t tell anybody why they were there. We’re fortunate to have trusting pilots and good sports, because it had to be a bewildering experience.”
In preparation to run interference and delay on CAVE’s operation in Eggheron, Slightly Sexual set up a gate camp on the pipe to intercept the fleet. But something wasn’t right:
“We felt something was wrong when the Eggheron timer came and went, but we breathed a sigh of relief when they warped to Yveve (in the direction of Eggheron) instead of Arasare (in the direction of our Fortizar in Yvaeroure). But then we really knew something was wrong when instead of warping to Elore (towards our gate camp), they turned into Conomette. Concern grew to confusion, and confusion grew to curiosity when they warped closer and closer to our home in Syndicate. I called the order to fall back and spread out to catch stragglers. I had the jump freighter and friends in Yvaeroure get into position. This is when my suspicion of a neutral theft was looming. The Cavemen entered our home and my alarm bells went RINGY DINGY DINGY. Everyone needed to pull the hell back and get to Yvaeroure. My realization wasn’t last second, but it was a tad too late.”
As the CAVE fleet bashed a customs office 10 jumps away, S3XY’s Rhea landed at the unanchoring Fortizar to find a second neutral jump freighter on grid, accompanied by neutral Omens. The can dropped, and they found it contained only a clone bay – and realised the structure had been swiped.
After whoops and cheers, both parties exchanged mutual kudos, and had only good things to say. From Jetty:
“It was a lot of work to organize this little escapade, and credit goes out to all people who staged ships, organized alts, and collaborated in back channels while publicly pretending nothing was going on. Most of them need to remain nameless, but they know who they are. I think S3XY and CAVE both agree that adventures like this can only happen in a sandbox as open as EVE – we exchanged laughs immediately afterward. We hope S3XY’s alliance restructuring goes well so we can make pixel explosions in space soon!”
“Despite all the trash talk that happens, we do love the content and fights with Cavemen. There is always a next time! And all I can say is, S3XY is here, we are passionate pilots, and we will always give our 100%. Even against the odds we will roll the dice. Until next time Cavemen, don’t close local. ;)”
There are very few games that offer players the chance to scheme and plot with the level of creativity that EVE does, and also very few that incentivise it as much. Large-scale trickeries have more ISK at stake, but the process is often no less challenging, and definitely no less exciting for its participators, when it happens on a smaller scale. With the total number of pilots involved in plan less than 100, every pilot plays a crucial role, and it’s all the more satisfying when it’s pulled off. And sometimes, the unfolding is so good that both the victor and the unfortunate losing party are proud to tell the story.
Crowfoot is a director of the Cavemen. alliance and a writer with a special interest in the little guy and the big role they play in the grand scheme of New Eden. If you think your alpha players, small subcap fights or innovative ideas are worth talking about, then you’re probably right. Contact Crowfooted#6178 in Discord – or Corvidae Crowfoot in-game – and tell your story.