The Reavers were never meant to take ED-L9T. They were harassers and skirmishers sent by The Imperium, the largest of EVE Online's player-made coalitions. While The Imperium was locked in a deadly conflict against rival alliances Darkness and The Kadeshi, the Reavers were sent behind enemy lines, to Querious, to wreak as much havoc as possible.
"Our job was to go into hostile space and break all their things—just disrupt their ability to do what they want to do," Suzy RC Mudstone told me. He's been a member of the Reavers for just under nine months; impressive when you consider Suzy has only been playing for two years. "Our group's purpose was never intended to actually hold and defend sovereignty. We were supposed to just go in there, break things, and hide when big forces came; just forcing the enemy to direct resources, energy, and effort toward us."
"We ended up actually taking and holding several systems and fighting and fighting for about seven weeks."
When the Reavers arrived in Querious, they never imagined that they'd wind up holding the keys to their enemy's back door. Over the course of those seven weeks, they managed to capture several systems including ED-L9T. They knew that, in order to get these systems back, Darkness would fight tooth and nail, but as the dust settled over ED-L9T on June 6, few could have anticipated the scope of destruction that was unleashed.
Diverting their focus from the frontline conflict with The Imperium, Darkness and their allies began a concerted effort to retake the several systems captured by Reaver-led initiatives. The battles were bloody, with the severely outnumbered Reavers doing what they could to resist the onslaught. They were deep behind enemy lines, far from the bulk of The Imperium forces, and, despite allies arriving to reinforce them, ED-L9T's defense was largely up to them.
"The last bastion was ED-L9T," Suzy said. "It was our last system in this region and we fought over it for a couple of weeks, just for this one station."
Suzy RC Mudstone had only been with the Reavers for a brief time, but the battle of ED-L9T has already cemented itself as one of his most memorable moments of his time in EVE. He started EVE Online like most, an overwhelmed newbie who, without much understanding of how to get involved in the larger social strata of EVE, shot rocks to make a living. But it wasn't long, however, until Suzy made the leap into null-sec space, joining up with Wildly Inappropriate, a corporation within Goonswarm Federation, the core alliance of The Imperium.
"I became fascinated with the political interactions and the manipulative ways of obtaining and maintaining power," Suzy told me. "You don't necessarily have to go to war as a 40 thousand-man coalition, you can do all these subversive things, like the Reavers."
"So, we had this system in ED-L9T and it just got way out of hand," Suzy said laughing.
In the early hours of June 6, the largest battle for ED-L9T began in earnest. The night before, Suzy and the rest of the Reavers, along with both sides in the battle, were doing what they could to prepare for the final push to retake the station. The Reavers, Suzy told me, had placed mobile depots in various locations away from the battle, each one filled with drones. The idea was that, while the battle was on, any Reaver could immediately warp off to replace lost combat drones without the need to dock at ED-L9T's station, saving them time and effort coordinating.
Against the might and resources of Darkness, NCDot, and other rival allies, the Reavers knew that they were fighting a losing battle, but, even so, they were determined to fight to every last man.
"We had decided that, as a group, we were going to hold this station," Suzy said. "This was our turf now. This was our claim, our flag in their backyard."
"It was like a giant middle finger saying you cannot beat us."
As the battle began in earnest, The Imperium was able to muster a sizeable fleet to back up their Reavers in Querious. Piloting specialized Assault Cruisers, Ishtars, the Reavers had Pandemic Legion, Imperium Strategic Cruiser class Tengus, BRAVE (a newbie-friendly alliance whose leader was recently the victim of an attempted usurping), and plenty of others. But compared to Darkness and their allies, who fielded a considerable force of triage as well as dreadnoughts, capital ships intended to burn the remaining defenses of the station and claim it as their own, the Reavers stood little chance. As Suzy told me, that didn't faze them in the least.
Utilizing incredible use of electronic warfare, The Imperium forces were able to significantly cripple the offensive power of the enemy fleet.
"I recall seeing dreadnought after dreadnought after dreadnought getting dumped into a meat grinder. Darkness was only beating us because they just kept feeding ships into it."
Darkness and their allies had also made a critical mistake by not shutting down access to the system through camping the incoming stargates. Reinforcements were able to arrive at the station for the overwhelmed Reaver fleet.
Before long, over a thousand pilots were in ED-L9T fighting. The station was surrounded in warp scrambling bubbles, placed by Imperium forces to prevent the assailing Darkness from retreating once they joined battle. The Imperium had over 800 pilots to Darkness and allies' 700 pilots, but they were significantly outgunned due to their lack of capital ship support. Dreadnought after dreadnought landed on grid, desperate to burn the station to the ground, but each one was obliterated by the combined might of The Imperium force.
As the station entered critical condition, The Imperium capitalized on a rather wonky sovereignty mechanic that could allow them to maintain control of the station even after it was effectively disabled. Imperium forces, knowing the battle was lost and were no longer able to reinforce against the endless crashing waves of rival forces, turned their guns on the station in an attempt to secure the killing blow. They succeeded, and the station's ownership was handed over to the SpaceMonkey's Alliance who were sided with The Imperium. The battle for the station was over, but only for a few hours.
With both alliances spent, and the station only secure for a short time, Darkness would eventually win the war of attrition. Despite the staggering casualties The Imperium inflicted, they were exhausted. Darkness, able to resupply and reinforce almost indefinitely, eventually overwhelmed all positions and claimed the system. When it was over, Darkness and their allies had lost a whopping 162 billion ISK, including 26 destroyed dreadnoughts and six carriers. By comparison, The Imperium had lost a mere 40 billion ISK and only two carriers. Though Darkness had won, they had paid a dear price.
"They just out-damaged us," Suzy said. "We had be fighting for hours, we couldn't do it again, physically."
"That type of fight is, for me, what makes EVE what it is," Suzy said. "That station mattered way more to us that anyone in EVE at that time, for no reason. We can go reaver anywhere in the game, but it became this passionate attachment to defending this beacon of something we obtained."
"It never should have gotten to that point; in nobody's wildest dreams did they see Reavers holding this station for seven weeks of fighting."