Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Eight Years On - Titanomachy Revisited

'Most wars start for fairly prosaic reasons.'

New Eden's History of Violence Vol III - Hedion University Archives

It is eight years since one of the biggest, most notorious, most destructive capital ship battles in New Eden history took place.

The Battle of B-R5RB.

A week ago I visited the site for the first time. This is my account.

* * *

Prologue - Tanoo II

When I made the decision to go to B-R5RB I was spending a few days in the Tebu Amkhiman, our Fortizar that symbolically orbits Tanoo II. To be specific, when I made the actual decision I was sat a table smoking a shisha on the terrace of a cafe that is on the main street of an exact replica of a Mishian souk that Directrix Lunarisse has installed here. 

The accuracy of the place is remarkable. Some of it should be impossible because we're inside a space station: sand and dust on the deck; the not-quite-uncomfortably-hot temperature; a light breeze wafting down the street carrying the scents of food and drink and tobacco and other stuff that you might not want to smell; the sounds of people and commerce - a background noise of chatter and barter and debate and argument; and enough overhang in the buildings' facades that you can't quite see that there is no sky if you happen to look up.

There was a holovid on the wall of the cafe playing a music channel. It was my soundtrack as I was randomly paging through my datapad at news articles and I found one that listed the largest space battles in New Eden history in terms of total cost in ISK, and I saw a reference to B-R5RB - the one everyone remembers, the original biggest-ever, the one that made headlines all over the cluster.

I drew a big inhale on the shisha and cast my mind back to when it happened in YC116. I was in my final year at Hedion University and still in the original baseline body my mother gave birth to. My class devoured the holovids and telemetry feeds and cam drone footage from the battle, and we took classes on the tactics involved, and had it drummed into our heads about the importance of paying your bills on time... 

In my time as a capsuleer I'd never got round to visiting the site that memorialises the battle, known as 'Titanomachy'. For some reason I'd forgotten where it was and always believed that B-R5RB was 'up north' and basically inaccessible as it was too deep and too risky to get to.

Then I looked it up on the stargate map on my datapad and realised I'd been an idiot all this time as it was in Immensea, just a few light years away from Tanoo, and that I had every reason to go there now as I owned one of the most powerful covert ops ships in existence - my Pacifier, TES Divinity's Edge.

God willed it.

I literally dropped everything and ran to the Edge's docking bay (I paid my bill at the cafe first. If you don't understand that reference, you will...).

Tanoo is in Derelik. To get to Immensea from Derelik, I needed to pass through the Curse region, so I got to the big Derelik/Curse border gate in the Sendaya system and held station for a while and went through some systems diagnostics, then went through them again, then a third time, just to be sure...

But then again, a ship that may or may not have classified Jove tech in it should feel at home in the ex-Jove space that's named after the disease that made them all leave there, so I dived in.

But nobody was going to catch me today, not at 13.2 AU/s and enough acceleration to achieve that speed in the blink of an eye. With full cloaking/EMCON protocols and nullifiers and these engines and all the other secret CONCORD Aerospace stuff, I was invisible.

This much power can make you complacent, even out here. 

But then I hardly had time to worry about it as soon enough I arrived at the border gate to Immensea and I could see its distinctive blue/white emission nebula in the distance.

 The B-R5RB System in Immensea - 01/16/YC124 - 21:09 hrs

I will refer you to the usual media outlets and search algorithms for more detail on exactly what went down during the twelve-hour battle that happened here (you could start with this one).

In summary, in what you might consider a typical capsuleer mistake, the whole thing started because of a bureaucratic omission. Not an argument, or a loss-of-face, not even a grudge. It happened because of an unpaid sov bill! 

That fact kept replaying in my head - the sheer unbelievability of it - as I got closer to my destination. I jumped into the dead-end, single-gate system and was pleased to see I was the only ship there. I warped to the battle site's marker beacon and just held station for a while, taking it all in through the cam drones.

I've seen Titan wrecks before. I saw 'Steve' once. Most Amarrians have seen the wreck of St. Jamyl's ship in Safizon (peace be upon her) as the wreck is a holy site and indeed a pilgrimage. I haven't seen this many Titan wrecks in the same place.

It's incredible.


The sight of any Titan at any time is intimidating, which is the point of them. But even a dead one has the same effect. More than ten of them in the same place is another thing entirely.

These massive ships all shattered, snapped in two, pulled apart.

The wrecks are so big that I speculated that there would still be pressurised compartments in there, holding irradiated corpses with frozen memories of eight years ago. I refrained from finding out because to scan them and establish for sure would be to desecrate the wrecks. In another time or place they might have been classed as war graves and just being here would be illegal, but this is nullsec. 

After the battle, the authorities and the capsuleer community of the time moved quickly to declare the site a monument, as its significance as the largest battle in New Eden's history up to that point - by far - was immediately obvious.

A token boilerplate dome was installed here which has the whiff of ersatz Amarr about it. Kind of kitschy, not really appropriate - because the wrecks themselves are the monument here.

It's not just Titans. There are Dreads, carriers, diminished in scale to bit-part players - afterthoughts.

This battle stands apart from those that eventually surpassed it years later - those other two during the Delve thing - because this one had an element of spontaneity about it. It's always seemed to me like FWS-whatever and the other one had a degree of competition about them, like an intent to set a record for destruction. 

The vulgarity of that.

This one in B-R5RB just happened organically, if you will, and the wrecks are a more morbidly authentic memorial because of it.

But that doesn't mean I admire it. This place inspires awe, sadness and contempt all at the same time; and there are other memorials to it, like the historical record of the price of Tritanium.

I'd like to say this battle is more readily remembered, but then eight years is a long time and I wonder how many new, optimistic, and, let's face it, naive young capsuleers coming out of the AIR cookie-cutter basic training thing today are aware of the existence of this place. What happens in the media feeds on the actual anniversary of this battle will tell you everything you need to know.

With these thoughts riffing through my neuro-linked and enhanced mind, I found I was becoming angry. I shook myself out of it - as much as is possible when your body is jacked into a capsule - and I concentrated on moving Edge around the site, carefully, as small chunks of wreckage occasionally pinged off my shields, and I stopped near one of the big Avatars. Some of their cores still burn. In other wavelengths of light they shine brighter than the system's red giant primary.

I discovered it's actually possible to establish a datalink with the dome. It has a brief explanation of what this place is, and it lists the names of the major participants:

With something like this I always wonder how many of them are still capsuleers or whether any of them have retired or even submitted to permadeath. And I always note how this sort of thing never bothers to list the names of the tens-of-thousands of baseline crew members that will have died in those ships. I said a prayer for them.

I was getting angry again. The thought that all of this was the end result of somebody missing a payment deadline. 


I was done here. There was nothing more to say or see or do, which is how it should be. This is not a tourist attraction.

I turned away from the site and prepared to warp out of the system. I left the wrecks to deep time. I'll probably never come this way again as nothing will change within my lifetimes as long as the bureaucrats and nullsec dwellers leave it alone, which the latter certainly will, because of the highly specific code of honour that exists in this part of space. 

From around 10,000 kilometres away, a flourescence of what appears like charged particles is visible surrounding the site. I did not take the time to analyse this phenomenon using my sensor suite, but I speculate it is either fine dust particles from the wreckage interacting with the gas giant's magnetic field, or metal and alloy fragments simply reflecting the red giant's light in the manner of a high altitude cloud. The effect is stunning - almost like a warning.

There is nothing here now but coldness, emptiness, and intense radioactivity with unfathomable half-lives. Nothing will change here for millions of years. The wrecks are massive enough that they will outlast the red giant itself and its inevitable supernova. 

One day, they will be alone with God.