Author Topic: Wings of Dawn Lore  (Read 9433 times)

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Offline Lorric

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Argh, cliffhanger!

That's the main force Dyatlov is bringing in, right? I wonder if French will send reinforcements. He doesn't need to be swatting flies in the belts when the main enemy force is right there. Obviously they must have talked to each other to both attack at the same time.

Can't wait to see how you handle this massive engagement. I love your style, you paint vivid and visceral pictures. I'm transported onto the decks of your ships.

I wonder if Spoon will visualise French's engagement. That should be no problem for him. The big one though... that might be a challenge... :)

 
From what I understand this is all history by the time WoD ep1 starts so an in-game representation of this specific engagement seems... unlikely. Though something similar with different forces in play wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Unless Spoon decides to start FREDDing  and recording these engagements as supplementary material but he has better things to do like procrastinate or FINALLY MAKE EP2 DAMNIT.
[19:31] <MatthTheGeek> you all high up on your mointain looking down at everyone who doesn't beam everything on insane blindfolded

 

Offline Lorric

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Spoon said he might FRED and record. He made a quick video of the attack on the CRF by the Orakul.

 

Offline Spoon

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I made no promises!
If I were to do it, I'd have to put in enough effort to do Enioch's great writing, justice. Which means time and effort spend on setting up proper camera work.

but he has better things to do like procrastinate or FINALLY MAKE EP2 DAMNIT.
Yeah!
(Those are the two things where most of my time is being put into)
Urutorahappī!!

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

 

Offline Lorric

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I made no promises!
If I were to do it, I'd have to put in enough effort to do Enioch's great writing, justice. Which means time and effort spend on setting up proper camera work.

but he has better things to do like procrastinate or FINALLY MAKE EP2 DAMNIT.
Yeah!
(Those are the two things where most of my time is being put into)
I know, I said might.

But where does the most time get spent? On Ep2 or procrastination? :p

 

Offline Enioch

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"Yes"  :p
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Lorric

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Just a thought I had, I was assuming there was going to be a huge battle next, but maybe not. Perhaps emerging into hell means emerging into the debris field made up of the wreckage of one shipyard, two starbases and several fleet vessels...

 
Unacceptable. I want space catboy Russian yaoi, dammit!

 

Offline Enioch

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Chapter 5, Part 2: Scorched Earth



HMS Bellerophon, in orbit near the Sodesuka Shipyards - 17:30 Central System Time.


"Incoming tunneling!"

Simmons was bent like a vulture over the holotank, his hands gripping the railing in a white-knuckle grip as he took stock of the situation. Aretha could not help but notice the way his shoulders tightened at the urgent call from the sensor station. She did not begrudge him the response - it was his job to worry, after all.

And he had reason to be worried, she had to admit. The accursed Delest were proving to be formidable opponents indeed. That carrier of theirs...

She could not join her Champion near the holotank, she could not show her own temper, frayed and ready to snap. She had to sit in her Commander's chair, back straight, face impassive - the picture of the stoic Knight of Britannia, her upper lip stiff and her spine forged in steel. Her fleet took their cues from her - and their discipline was an extension of her own. So, she had to limit herself to the smaller displays integrated into her seat's systems. And they did not paint as pretty a picture as she would have hoped.

Three of the four Delest capitals had formed line of battle in response to her forces' arrival; and they had steadfastly refused to allow her forces through to the shipyards. Even as her own Dreadnoughts had taken the enemy ships under fire, even as Temeraire and Avalon had pummelled their shields with their spinal beams and Fletcher had drowned them in waves of fightercraft, the Delest ships had hammered the Royal Oak, the Cyclops and the Atreus with devastating torpedo broadsides and grav pulse fire, knocking out weapon emplacements, ripping through shields and armor and leaving the Atreus puttering along at half-thrust. They had paid the price, of course: one of the older Delest capitals was now a rapidly expanding cloud of plasma, the second was limping away toward the shipyards in very bad shape but that goddamn fleet carrier...

Its point-defense had reaped a bloody toll on the CRF strikecraft that had dared to close in; her shields had taken a battering but were still up; and she was now retreating in good order toward the shipyards, lobbing accurate, long-range torpedoes back at the pursuing CRF battle-line. In the few minutes (had it been just minutes?) that had passed, Aretha had come to hate that thing. She wanted to scream.

And that thrice-be-damned piece of scrap that the Delest had detached to guard the shipyards, that crippled ancient monitor still taunted the CRF ships. She sat in front of the half-completed starbases, like a
monolithic slab of iron, her weapons at minimal power, all of her antique reactor's yield channeled into the inhibitor fields that she had raised as soon as the CRF battle-line had jumped in. For several dozen kilometres in each direction, the sea of subspace now resonated angrily. If the CRF ships wished to tranlate, they would have to divert all power to their subspace drives, to punch through the etheric barrier and tunnel their way out. Doing so would mean drawing power from weapons and shields - and that, with that infernal carrier still shooting at them, would be suicide.

That thing had the gall of presuming to hold her fleet here.

And now, Aretha saw on her display, there were traces of subspace tunneling coming in, as Delest forces converged on-site, to assist their beleaguered fellows. Bright red lines, creeping toward the cluster of CRF and DD ships from several different angles. The Delest knew the frequencies of their own inhibitors; and what would be a sea of near-impassable, boiling energy for the CRF forces, they could still navigate through unhindered. They were coming for her.

This did not look good.

"Ms Downey," Simmons called from the holotank. "Any signature returns?"

"Nothing concrete, Sir," came the response. The Bellerophon shuddered softly, as a Delest torpedo impacted on the fore shields. "But these are definitely capital-grade tunnels. We have a minimum of four task forces converging in on us."

"Four it is," Simmons mused; and turned to Aretha. "Ma'am, this is both a very dangerous situation and an excellent opportunity. If we break formation and order full pursuit, we can focus fire those two ships down and, perhaps, disable them quickly enough to take down the inhibitor fields in time to disengage. But if we fail, our formation will be broken when the Delest reinforcements arrive, with all that this would entail. Our other option is to reform here, and prepare to receive them. With a tight enough formation, I believe we can smash their attack; and if French reinforces us in time, the day will be ours.

"Ma'am, I need a command decision, now. Do we attempt to disengage, or do we stand and fight?"

Exarch Aretha Pegasus locked eyes with her Champion, noting his confident stance; and then glanced around the bridge of her flagship, taking in expressions of her officers, where apprehension and eagerness clashed.

In truth, there was no choice involved here.

"Champion Simmons," she said, her voice ringing with every ounce of authority she could squeeze into it and her eyes cold, "abandon pursuit. Form tight battle-line on the flagship. Stand by to receive enemy assault."


In orbit near the Sodesuka Shipyards - 17:35 Central System Time.


Four separate Delest squadrons (the near-entirety of the Delest in-system force) dropped out of subspace near-simultaneously, Volyas leading the charge. Within the space of a few seconds, the Pegasus fleet was outnumbered near three-to-one in capital tonnage; and Aretha's forces found themselves under fire from multiple directions.

However, numbers, while not insignificant, did not fully reflect the tactical situation. The CRF forces were in formation, and had had sufficient forewarning to prepare themselves for the attack. They now stood ready, in an ordered battle-line.

The Delest forces, on the other hand, did not. Dyatlov had made sure that his entire force would be ready to respond in an emergency by assigning capable commanders and 5th-Fleet ships to lead each of his separate squadrons. This had paid off from a strategic perspective: his squadrons had responded in time and his entire force was now at his disposal against a numerically inferior enemy. However, to achieve this, Dyatlov had sacrificed any hope of tactical superiority at a fleet formation level. His single most coherent force -the ships of the 5th Fleet- had been broken up, to assure no cock-ups at a strategic level. He had no ordered battle-line to match the CRF forces: just four separate clusters of capital ships, with different capabilities and with no particular experience in working together, ponderously manoeuvering into firing positions and closing the range to the waiting CRF wall.

The first, long-range torpedo salvo of the Delest forces reached the CRF fleet in a staggered, ragged mess. The already-wounded Cyclops took a hit that gutted its starboard railgun emplacements, but the rest of the CRF battle-line emerged outscathed - and really, really angry. Active sensors pinged the Delest formations; targets were designated; and the CRF returned fire in a massed, co-ordinated salvo of railgun slugs and coherent light, which ripped through the shields of the Volya-class Gangut and Olga and the Vernost-class Arkhangelsk in seconds.

Arkhangelsk took the enemy fire first on her buckling shields and then on her old, heavy armor. Some got through both; and her starboard missile silos went up in smoke. Thankfully, her magazines remained intact; and she staggered back into cover behind the shields of her task force flagship, the 5th-Fleet carrier Oku. Olga was crippled, as a CRF beam stabbed through her port nacelle, and fell behind, out of formation, her off-centre thrust taking her on a wide, uncontrolled spiral. And Gangut literally ceased to exist - her reactor explosion hurling shrapnel and debris against the shields of her nearby sisters.


HIDMS Michiko, in orbit near the Sodesuka Shipyards - 17:45 Central System Time.


"Holy stars!"

Dyatlov had known that his plan would place his ships in danger; and he had thought he was prepared to accept any losses that might incur. The loss of the Gangut was not a surprise and certainly not due to any mishandling
on behalf of her crew - the situation was, actually, still better than his worst-case scenario. But the explosive brutality of the loss; the fact that twelve million tons of fleet carrier and crew had been blown out of existence in an instant shook him to the core. He couldn't hold back his hissed exclamation. Next to him, Arurior Sebrenova gaped at the central holodisplay for a few heartbeats, eyes wide. Then she took a deep breath; and Dyatlov saw her draw herself up again.

"All right, people, that's enough gawking!" she cried, and her glare swept around the bridge. "Comms, Nav, get me a battle-line going, for the Emperor's sake! Masako, Anastasia and Poltava form up on us; Task Forces Gamma and Delta form up on Oku. Grazhdanins screen and prepare to receive enemy strike."

Frantic "Ayes" called back to her from the various bridge stations, as Michiko shuddered, shrugging off the blow of a CRF spinal beam. The flagship reached out to her côterie of Volyas and Vernosts, slowly herding them together under fire. Slowly, torturously slowly, the Delest forces formed up, in two separate battle-lines, flanking the Pegasus fleet. It was a gruelling manoeuver, which exacted its own bloody toll on the Delest: the monitors Rotislav and Sagami, responding sluggishly to their helms, found themselves drawing much more attention than their old shields could take. They barely staggered away, in auxiliary power, streaming burning debris, atmosphere and charred bodies from where the CRF lances had carved huge gashes into their armor.

But finally, finally the Delest ships were in formation and their return fire grew in intensity - and effectiveness. Grav pulses, superheavy torpedos and hyperaccellerated particles clawed and chipped and ripped at the Pegasus shields. And CRF sensor readouts blossomed with returns, as the Delest fleet carriers finally did what they were designed to do: shift their launch rails from ordance to strikecraft functionality and disgorge wave, upon wave, upon wave upon wave of strikecraft. Fighters, bombers and heavy Sodesuka gunships swarmed around their motherships in an ominous cloud.


HMS Nelson, near Asteroid Refinery R-16 - 17:40 Central System Time.


"Sir, the station has been evacuated," Royal Marine Lieutenant Faulton reported, her voice clipped. "We have secured all control centres and have not encountered a single Delest; my Marines are now conducting a thorough search of the refinery. We have discovered several scuttling charges, on timers; my BD teams are disarming them as we speak, but I would strongly advise that we refrain from disembarking any further troops until we're certain we've found and dealt with all of them. Some of them were quite high-yield devices."

"Understood, Lieutenant," French said, "As you were. We will remain on-station to provide support."

The Arc Champion minimised his comms holoscreen and frowned, in thought. So then, the Delest were not planning to defend their asteroid industry - their intention was, instead, to scorch the belts clear, leaving nothing for the CRF to annex. This was simply unacceptable.

"Sir," his Comms officer reported, jolting him out of his increasingly brooding mood, "we have an incoming message from the Warspite and Anson. Their Marine detachments have engaged Delest ground forces in Belt Delta."

"Put it through," French ordered, bringing up his personal screen yet again.

"Sir," the calm monotone of Commodore Kendall said, as her face filled the holographic window, "be advised that I have dispatched two Marine platoons to each of the mining platforms M-03 and M-05, after driving off Delest evacuation ships. There were still Delest troops on board the stations in question that are now offering severe resistance. My Marines are currently under heavy fire, but they should have the platforms' Engineering and Control Stations secured within the hour."

Oh no.

French gripped the armrests of his Admiral's chair, until his knuckles turned white. "Pull out your forces, right now, Commodore. The Delest are planting scuttling charges on their asteroid bases. If you push them-"

Several astronomic units away, Nakayama Industries Ore Extractor M-03 disappeared in a blinding flash of apocalyptic light. Commodore Kendal looked up, her expression alarmed; but before she had time to say anything, the shockwave and building-sized debris reached the Warspite, hammering into the two-kilometre ship and flipping her end-over-end like a tin can.

The communication link with Nelson went dead, in a burst of static.

"Good God," French muttered, his face ashen. "Comms, get them back. And if you can't reach them, try any ship of their taskforce."

"A-Aye, Sir," the Comms officer stammered, shaken as well. "I'll- Sir, I got a hail from the Firebolt!"

A Destroyer of Warspite's task force, that. It would have to do. "Put them through, now."

The young Lieutenant in command of the Destroyer was a picture of horrified dismay - and the bridge of his ship, behind him, was a mess of smoke and frizzed electronics, damcon teams and medics hurrying around. "Sir? - oh thank God, it's still working. Sir, we've lost the Anson and three Destroyers. The station just blew. Some sort of warhead or scuttling charge - I don't know what it was, but it was big. The debris smashed the Anson into an asteroid like a hammer. She's gone, Sir. The Warspite is hit and she's lost FTL Comms, but she's alive."

French leaned back into his chair, his right hand trembling slightly and his face a mask. "Well done, Lieutenant. I'm overjoyed to see you safe. Please forward my compliments to Commodore Kendall and inform her that my orders are for you to provide any assistance you can to Warspite and for both ships to pull back to the Starlance if and when you can. Understood?"

"Aye, Sir."

"Excellent. French out."

The connection went dead and French leaned back in his chair. This had become a very dangerous game now. Allowing the mining facilities to be destroyed was inconceivable. Only through the preservation of the system infrastructure could this war be in any way profitable to New Britannia. But risking his ships...

"Full broadcast, to all task forces," he finally ordered. "Capital ships are to pull a safe distance away from enemy asteroid installations. Boarding operations are to be conducted by Destroyers alone. Should the station be abandonned, Marine platoons are to prioritise locating and disabling the scuttling charges that will, inevitably, have been placed in concealed locations. If the stations are still defended, and if the Marines encounter any resistance, they are to pull out; following that, the control and engineering stations of the installations are to be destroyed by energy bombardment from maximum range. Also, open a channel to Penelope - my compliments to Knight Sawyer and he's to jump to the Warspite's location and offer any assistance he can."

"Aye, Sir"

"Good. Helm, reverse thrust - pull us out to two thousand yards from the station."

As the Dreadnought slowly coasted away from the Delest facility on reaction thrusters, French couldn't help but question his own decision. There was great risk here - and there were so many things that could go wrong now. Dyatlov had played his card, and it was a stunningly good one, if completely and utterly insane from a strategic and political standpoint. If Dyatlov had any backers among the Delest higher-ups, this stunt must have enraged them. Millions of Delest Hez, down the drain in an instant.

Oh, how they would howl for his head. But that didn't help French out now. Damn the man and damn those vat-grown suicidal lunatics! French would have to keep a close eye to each of his individual forces to prevent anything-

"Sir?" the Comms Officer's voice once again tore him from his musings. "Sir, incoming message from Exarch Aretha. She's engaged...well, she's been engaged by the entire enemy fleet, Sir. She's...asking for support."


« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 07:33:53 am by Enioch »
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Enioch

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Early update for this week, to compensate you for next week.

I am defending my thesis on Monday, so I need to do some preparing. I will probably not be able to post a new chapter next week. Apologies.
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline crizza

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All of my yes for this :D
Edit: And good luck Enioch. :yes:
Check out my blog:

http://geo.schulzbert.de/

 

Offline Lorric

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Cliffhanger again and a two week wait likely. Keeping us dangling on the hook. :D

I'm quite surprised the confrontation has come so soon. Dyatlov is putting it all on the line. Including his neck it seems blowing those mining bases even if he wins. But it had to be done. Will French intervene? Surely he must, with everything he has. Then maybe he can catch Dyatlov in a pincer and crush him. If they defeat him here the system is theirs until and unless the DD send in reinforcements to contest that. Maybe Dyatlov has a way of keeping French out of the fight, I don't know. But he didn't seem like he was ready for French's attack and was surprised by it, so I don't think so.

Good luck with the thesis. :)

 

Offline crizza

  • 210
So, this Inhibitor-ship...
Does it only prevents enemy ships from jumping out or does it forces enemy ships out of... uh... subspace/whatever earlier?

Dyatlov is clever, if he can damage Britannias fleet enough, maybe he'll get the reinforcements he needs.
Check out my blog:

http://geo.schulzbert.de/

 

Offline Enioch

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Spoon should probably confirm this, but, from what I understand, inhibitor tech works by making subspace (and etheric barriers between dimensions) resonate at some very specific frequencies around the inhibiting ship. This, essentially, makes the 'sea' of subspace energy 'denser', like a thick soup.

This, effectively, makes it near-impossible to punch from realspace into subspace within the inhibitor range, unless you know the inhibitor frequencies and can tune your jump drive to them. A capital ship can brute-force its way, if it is willing to shift all available power to its jump drive, but that would probably result in it being crippled while going through her warm-up cycle (as it would have little to no power for shields and weapons).

Any ships already in subspace can tunnel 'around' the inhibitor field and they can drop from subspace to realspace at will (higher energy state to lower energy state ->easier translation). So, Thrawn-like Interdictor tactics, for instance, don't really work. Inhibitors are only, really, good for one thing: preventing the enemy from jumping out.
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Spoon

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Can confirm that this is exactly how it works.
Urutorahappī!!

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

 

Offline Enioch

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Well. That went well.  :D

Unequivocal recommendation from both my examiners, with a strong undertone of 'You need to publish this, because it will revolutionise the field'. So, the upcoming weeks will be considerably less stressful that I had anticipated, because I will not have to do a lot of corrections.

Which is good news.

So, I might be able to squeeze in a double update or something (by next Tuesday). We'll see. Still not tomorrow, though. Gomen nasai orz
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Spoon

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Niiiice
Congrats!

Urutorahappī!!

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

 

Offline Enioch

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Chapter 5, Part 3: Strike



YCS Pamyat Slavy, in orbit near the Sodesuka Shipyards - 17:55 Central System Time.


Ermolai Yonsakuren prowled across the silent CIC of his flagship cruiser, looming over the backs of his bridge officers. Yonsakuren ships did not have commanders' seats - a commanding officer was not supposed to be comfortable in his role. Instead, all critical information was routed to the small augmented reality headsets the COs wore; and in turn they made their presence known by bouncing between bridge stations as the situation required.

The way the bridge of a Yonsakuren vessel operated would have seemed utterly alien to any trueborn human. There were no shouted orders; no reports being called out. The entire bridge crew was wound up tighter than a coiled spring, riding a sublime cocktail of adrenaline, endorphins and emotions; any escalation on that (even as much as a snarled order that could be mistaken for a challenge) could result in utter, unmanageable chaos. Therefore, orders were given subtly, calmly, with a minimum of interaction; and both the Commanding Officers and their crews kept an iron grip on their self-control.

They were Yonsakuren Bridge Officers, after all: the undisputed best of the best. It was a matter of pride that they used their battle-lust instead of succumbing to it. Unlike the crews and the fighter jockeys, who often reveled and danced in it.

"Open a secure channel to the Volga and the Baikal," Ermolai ordered his Comms Officer, casually brushing a finger across the man's nape. The officer, in turn, moved his head just so, acknowledging the order; and a new small translucent window opened on the side of the Arurior's vision.

"Receiving you, Ermolai," the heavily scarred Ter-Iio Esfir Yonsakuren of the Baikal said with a tooth-bearing snarl, as soon as the connection was established and her face flashed up. "What do you want?"

"Artyom, Esfir," Ermolai rumbled, "the Praetor will shortly be ready for his strikecraft attack. We will provide support."

Artyom Yonsakuren, the dark, swarthy commander of the Volga grinned widely. The expression would have sent any non-Yonsakuren running at the sight of the not-quite-human sharp teeth. "Flyswatting?"

"Yes," Ermolai responded, his hunched walk taking him behind his Tactical officer. His hand absently extended over the woman's shoulder, pointing at a cluster of contacts that looked like a lagging squadron of CRF Destroyers on her screen; the Officer grinned ferally with a low, guttural, chuckling laugh, gently tapped his arm to acknowledge the order, and assigned a couple of grav pulsers to hammer the enemy ships. "We take point behind the cloud, swat flies and pull back again."

"This is not a good fight," Esfir protested, her voice rising to a mewling complaint. "Too easy. Ermolai, we were promised a good fight!"

"I am aware of that, Esfir," Ermolai calmly said, gesturing in empty air to acknowledge the reports of his damcon teams and making his way back to the Pamyat's small tactical holotank. "We will wait until the Praetor has finished making the fight. I cannot see it all yet, but I can see it taking shape. Not long, now. You must show patience."

"Yes, Arurior," his subordinate replied and Ermolai was pleased to notice that she looked suitably chastised. As was only good and proper. "I am in error and you have corrected me."

"Good," Ermolai replied. "You have shown weakness of character, but your sense of duty and honour is impeccable. I am ending this matter here."

Esfir nodded slightly, her eyes locked on his, acknowledging both the rebuke and the compliment; and Ermolai allowed a thin smile to grace his face.

"Now-" he said, "-form up on me. The 5th-Fleet Grazhdanins will take the left flank. We have been granted the honour of providing cover to the Praetor's squadrons."

He had spoken out loud, for his bridge crew to hear; and he felt their reaction in the air; in the smell of their sweat and the subtle way they shifted in their seats. Tighter, ever tighter did the coil wind, tension building.

"Yes!" Artyom spoke for all, his voice even (as it should be), but resonating with triumph in a way that only a Yonsakuren would understand. "We are at the centre, we are at the fulcrum. The hand of Uuni tips the scale."

The dark swarm of the Delest strikecraft screamed past the bow and stern of the Pamyat Slavy in impeccably-ordered three- and four-ship wings, beginning their attack runs on the Pegasus fleet. From behind, their drives formed an almost solid wall of light moving away from the Delest formations. Ermolai couldn't deny that the sight was awe-inspiring: this was the largest such attack in living memory.

And then the deck of the Pamyat rang in a frequency just beyond human hearing, as thrusters fired and his ship nimbly turned, to follow that wall of death into the fray. The Volga and the Baikal slotted into formation at his side; his crew was riding high on battle-lust; the unseen hand of Clan and Home was behind him, pointing the way.

It was glorious.

And, as battle was joined and the weapons of his ship sang out, Ermolai allowed himself the luxury of closing his eyes for a moment, in exultation.


HMS Bellerophon, in orbit near the Sodesuka Shipyards - 17:50 Central System Time.


"What do you mean, you can't help?" Exarch Aretha hissed at her personal screen.

"Exactly what I said," the video thumbnail of Julius French replied, his face a mask of disdain. "It is impossible for me to provide any effective aid at this point in time."

"You..." Aretha gripped the armrests of her seat tightly, as Bellerophon shook under Delest fire "...what are you talking about? Their entire bloody fleet is here. You are not being engaged. There is nothing preventing you from helping us. All we need is for you to jump in and we can wipe them all out!"

She glanced up, hopefully, and saw Simmons looking back from the holotank. His expression was grimmer than she had ever seen before; and his eyes were dark.

"Your Grace," French said, notes of exasperation and anger in his voice, "first of all, my forces are being engaged by skirmishers and garrisons all through the asteroid belts. And even if they weren't, my capitals have been dispersed and are working based on a well-rehearsed plan and timeframe - a plan and timeframe that you were well aware of. I cannot simply order my forces to jump to your location from their current positions. The result would be chaos. I would arrive piecemeal, out of formation, and the Delest would blow me out of the sky. As you quite rightly pointed out, your sally has accomplished the one thing I was trying to avoid: get the entirety of Dyatlov's fleet in one location, ready to fight. And I will not feed my ships and crews into that one at a time. I might as well gift wrap my Dreadnoughts and mail them to Dyatlov."

"Damn you, French!" Aretha snarled. "You can't leave us here to die."

"Spare me," French spat right back. "You are in command of a well-disciplined force and you went looking for this fight. You got exactly what you wanted. You are an Exarch of New Britannia - bloody well act like it. Stand firm, and you'll live. You'll only need to endure for an hour or so - and by then I'll have pulled back enough forces from the asteroid fields to do a fleet jump and assist."

"An hour!?" Aretha looked up again - Simmons shook his head sadly, almost imperceptively. "By God, French, you craven bastard, we'll all be dead in an hour!"

"Not by my estimates," French replied, cooly. "But if you are, I'll have to avenge you, because I can't bloody well save you from your own stupidity. I warned you, Your Grace. You have taken yourself and your people beyond my help; I sincerely hope your crews pay a lesser price than they should for your mistake. French out."

The channel died, with a burst of static; and Aretha bit her lip bloody so as not to scream out her frustration.

Simmons approached, his brow furrowed. "One hour? We may survive, Your Grace. We'll be rightly mauled though."

"...I'm sorry, Paul," Aretha said, hoarsely. "I got us into this mess. I should have known that we shouldn't have counted on French. I should have.."

"He's right, Your Grace," Simmons said, smiling thinly as Aretha looked up in surprise. "It would be suicidal to commit his forces here without pulling back to reorganise. But it didn't hurt to ask. We might have been lucky."

"...If you say so, Mr. Simmons," Aretha said, hopefully not looking as unconvinced as she felt. She was angry now, and her anger knitted her shattered confidence back together. "Enough of that. We need to survive for an hour and that's that. What can we do?"

"Get through this mess, one minute at a time," Simmons said. "For now, we need to deal with this upcoming strike."

Aretha looked up at the holotank and her blood froze once again at the sheer number of contacts closing swiftly on her fleet. The incoming fighters were a wall of red contacts, much much closer than she had realised - and rushing closer to them by the second.

"What... get Fletcher on comms!" she gasped. "Every fighter we have. Engage them near the capitals, get our gunners to provide point-defense. We need to break their formations, force them to abort their runs."

"Understood," Simmons said, approvingly. "However, it will not be as simple as that, I'm afraid. Their battle-line is flanking us, Your Grace. We need to respond."

And, indeed, Aretha noticed, the Delest capitals were fanning out from behind their strikecraft in two distinct string-of-pearl battle-lines, forcing the CRF formations to split their fire. "Suggestions?"

"Redirect our battle-line to meet their own. Let the fighters and escort carriers deal with the Delest strikecraft. Fletcher's force will be utterly mauled, but if we allow those carriers shots at our flank unopposed, they'll drown us in torpedoes."

Aretha stared at him, aghast. Simmons was, first and foremost, a carrier man. Fletcher was his protegé; most of the crews in Aretha's escort Hangar-Dukes had learned their trade under Simmons. For him to just throw his boys and girls against the teeth of that Delest strike without battle-line support-

"I see," she said, truly realising that the situation was considerably more desperate than Simmons wished to acknowledge out loud. For the first time, it truly registered with her that she might not make it out of there alive. "Make it so, Sir Champion. And...and inform Mr. Fletcher that our thoughts are with him. Please."


In orbit near the Sodesuka Shipyards - 17:52 Central System Time.


The Delest squadrons bored in: light Cheburashka-class interceptors leading the front, in wings of three; then five-ship wings of old Zhuravlik space superiority fighters, their engines near-overheating under max thrust, but their weapon banks still deadly and ready to receive the enemy; and, following them, the true strike element. Wing upon wing of massive Shilo bombers, their missile banks housing several anti-capital torpedoes; and brand-spanking-new Sodesuka gunships, hot off the shipyard assembly lines and requisitioned into Dyatlov's forces.

In response, High Knight Fletcher had at his disposal the strikecraft complement of Aretha's Lords; and the Combat Space Patrol fighters of his own six Duke escort carriers. Hull-for-hull, his forces numbered almost two-thirds of the Delest strike wave but ton-for-ton, the Delest outmassed him almost two-to-one.

CRF strikecraft technology was simply not up to international par, and Fletcher (and Simmons) knew it. In the past, both Knights had lobbied hard to draw the focus of the CRF design bureaus into producing a modern, capable fighter design; but BuShips had, instead, stubbornly poured billions of Imperials into producing the new generation of battleships. And while the Earls and Lords were exquisite warships, that did not help the Pegasus fighter crews that now had to fly tincan Fireflies or cumbersome Tyrfings into battle.

First contact between the strike wave and the intercepting CRF fighters took place at less than three kilometres from the ragged carrier line and the retreating Lords. Fireflies and Cheburashkas were the first to join the frey, wings quickly dissolving into pairs or trios of dogfighting craft. Then the Tyrfings arrived, to brawl with the Zhuravliks and things truly got heated. Space boiled with the superagitated ether of the fighters' shields; weapons fire and plasma lit up a battle-zone nearly four kilometres wide.

Through this zone, the Shilos and Sodesukas stately waded, the former's shields supercharged for their final torpedo runs and the latter's turrets and gunports keeping their wards safe. The surviving Fireflies tried to intercept; in some cases even ramming the heavier bombers in desperate kamikaze runs. And, for a while, with point-defense fire coming in from the carriers, the Delest strike almost seemed to stall.

And then Ermolai's Grazhdanins arrived on the scene, their own point defense batteries on overcharge. Keeping to a brisk, constant speed and a parade-ground, rigid formation, they smashed into the fighter furball and out the other end with all the subtlety and effectiveness of sledgehammers hitting fine china. By the time they were through, less than one in ten of the Pegasus CSP fighters were still flying; and the path to the carriers (and the coveted target of the CRF battle-line) lay clear.

At 18:03, the Furious sent her last broadcast to her carrier group and the rest of the fleet:

"FIGHTER COVER COMPROMISED. STRIKE INBOUND. MAKE READY AS BEST YOU CAN. GOD SAVE PEGASUS."

All across the carrier group, crewmen and -women prayed by their stations; veteran officers and NCOs did their best to encourage them, but some amongst them had faced Delest anti-capital strikes before and they knew what was coming. "Brace for graviton strike" is the order, in most cases followed by muttered expletives. Those veteran crewmembers who were not actively manning a station curled up in their crash harnesses, making themselves as small a target as they can.

At five-hundred yards and under heavy point-defense fire the Sodesukas and Shilos silenced their particle turrets and anti-fighter weaponry and shunted power into their anti-capital batteries. Power flowed into the massive, massive graviton emitters housed in the gunships' sleek hulls. And suddenly, gravity was granted leave of absence and decided to take a short sabbatical. Space folded and formed passages, marked by flaring, tortured ether; and the not-so-miniature singularities that the Sodesukas were housing reached out in ravenous hunger.

The first graviton beam salvo hit the carriers at 18:04 and the shields only held for a few seconds. The beams were aimed at point-defense batteries, engines, gun emplacements, hangar bays, ship CICs. Metal found itself pulled - irresistibly pulled away; and giving way with tortured shrieks, in a hundred different places all over the striken ships. Turrets were ripped off, their crews sucked into space. Hull plating buckled and deformed. Implacable lost an entire engine pod, which then exploded a few yards from the ship. Illustrius' bridge was literally peeled off, armor layer by armor layer, her atmosphere venting in seconds. Three beams punched into the reactor of the Glorious and the ship just...died, internal explosions making parts of the hull balloon outwards grotesquely. But it was a Shilo anti-capital torpedo that finished the Furious, breaking her spine and snapping her weakened hull in two under her own engine thrust.

It took the Delest strikecraft time: they were meticulous and conscientious with their work and the carriers died hard and slow. It took over twenty minutes under repeated, overwhelming strikes for the last ones to fall silent and for the Delest wave to finally continue their pursuit of the Pegasus battle-line.

Out of the six thousand Pegasus sailors manning Fletcher's force, less than four hundred survivors were picked up after the battle.

« Last Edit: June 12, 2017, 05:23:21 pm by Enioch »
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Enioch

  • 210
  • Alternative History Word Writer
I am a kind and generous wordsmith and I feel bad for not having the time to do a double update after thinking that I might, so I'm updating early this week to make up for last week.
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline pim

  • 24
It's always worth the wait. This story is really nicely laid, nicely paced and nicely crafted. Thank you.