Link to Chapter 3 Part 1
October 9th, 2367 – 20:52 Hours, TGT
“All wing leaders report in,” came Tanner’s voice over the comm.
“Delta wing, ready,” “Beta wing, ready,” “Theta wing, ready for launch,” “Eta wing, ready,” “Epsilon wing, ready for action,” “Gamma wing, ready to rock,” came the replies.
“Alpha wing ready,” finished Tanner, “Bridge, this is the 77th Black Sheep, ready for launch.”
“Copy that 77th,” replied the British-accented voice of the Aquitaine’s X.O., “All pilots, the Aquitaine will be jumping in twenty seconds. Once our jump is complete, all fighters will begin launching in sequence.” The seconds ticked away and each pilot mentally prepared themselves for what could possibly be their most intense combat to date. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the X.O. began counting down to the jump, “five, four, three, two, one, jumping!”
The blue glow of the jump vortex filtered into the launch bay, which lasted only five seconds. A strong lurch told Sacks that they’d reentered normal space.
“Jump complete. Launches will commence in five seconds.” 5…4…3…2…1…“Launch!”
After fifteen seconds, Sacks felt the lift swing his fighter into the launch bay, and the electro-magnetic launch accelerators blasted him into space, with the rest of his wing in trail. In the few seconds after he cleared the fighterbay, and before his autopilot disengaged, Sacks gazed out of the cockpit of his Perseus at the vast number of warships before him. Behind him was probably the least attractive warship class in the fleet, the aptly-named Hecate class… the GTD Aquitaine. To the left of the Aquitaine, sat the plated and deadly graceful lines of a Hatshepsut class destroyer, the GVD Memphis. These ships were only reinforcing the blockade, which occupied the foreground. On his side of the blockade, sat two ship classes that half a century ago, would have been slugging plasma discharges at each other. Ahead, the familiar, boxy construction of an Orion class destroyer, the GTD Carthage, and off its nose to Sacks’ left, the alien curves of a Typhon class destroyer, the GVD Hedetet. Both were aligned so their flanks would face into the approach corridor for the node, maximizing firepower. In among them, the Sobek class Dahshor, and the Deimos class York… both of which were corvettes, and the GTC Warwick, an Aeolus class cruiser for fighter defense. All of these vessels combined to form the nearside of the blockade force.
The far side was occupied almost exclusively by the most awesome vessel in the entire alliance… the ungainly, but deadly bully of the battlefield… the GTVA Colossus. Word was that after a series of surgical strikes on the first Sathanas’ main weapons, the Colossus had taken down the Juggernaut almost entirely on its own. “MAN
,” though Sacks, “it really DOES look like a giant infantry gun.
” The only vessel alongside her was the comparatively tiny GVC Unut, a Mentu class cruiser, to assist in fighter defense. Along with numerous fighters and bombers, the group was assisted by three Mjolnir RBCs, positioned behind the node.
“Welcome to the blockade,” called out the Colossus’ X.O., whose name escaped Sacks at that time, “we just took down a Shivan cruiser wing. There should be light activity for the next five minutes or so, but they’ve been sending fighters through almost continuously.”
“Acknowledged, Colossus,” replied Command, “we are updating your mission orders at this time. Three allied supply and warship convoys will be making the jump to Gamma Draconis. Provide cover fire while they enter the node in sequence. Escorting pilots, don’t stray from the convoys if you can. The gunners on the blockade ships will have enough trouble trying to avoid the convoys.”
“Command,” added the Colossus’ X.O., sounding somewhat puzzled, “May I ask as to the objectives of this convoy?”
“We are recovering the GTD Phoenicia from within Gamma Draconis,” replied Command, omitting the whole truth, “The destroyer needs repairs to her subspace drive, however if the damage is too extensive she may have to be evacuated.”
A few seconds passed as the X.O. was crosschecking some of his data, and then resumed, “That’s quite a lot of support to rescue one destroyer,” he commented.
“That’s not your concern, Colossus,” declared Command, “just be prepared to open fire on any approaching hostile warships. The first convoy will be jumping in momentarily.”
“Roger, Command,” replied the Colossus, sounding somewhat shut down. Within a few seconds, a cluster of shimmering energy orbs within the approach corridor, signaled the arrival of Convoy One.
“This is the GTC Pershing,” began the cruiser, “we’re leading Lambda wing transports. Escort wings, close on our position.”
“You heard the man,” announced Tanner on frequency C3-2b-Theta, “Beta and Eta wings, take escort position. All other wings, hold here but be prepared to move in if they run into any serious trouble.” In addition to these, a group of Vasudan fighters and bombers pulled away from their standoff position off the bow of the Memphis, while a wing of medium bombers also from the Aquitaine pulled ahead. All joined Beta and Eta wings in escort of the convoy.
“Be advised,” spoke up the Pershing, “Our current speed is restricted to that of the transports. At our current rate, we’ll be in position to jump in two minutes, five seconds.”
“Gamma 1 to Gamma 3,” began Sacks on a closed C3-3 frequency, “how’re you makin’ out, Jen?”
“Just fine, sir,” she replied, still maintaining the pretense of rank, despite the privacy, “He…Lewis, made it out… he’s fine. He made it to 3rd Fleet HQ.” She let the words float in the zero G for a few seconds, then deflected the topic with, “Did you hear that the X.O. got out too?”
“I did,” confirmed Sacks, “But he may be in a coma for a few weeks. It’s a good thing they stabilized him when they did.” Little more than a third of the Hood’s crew had been evacuated before the end. “At least we did better than the H.M.S. Hood in that department
,” Sacks thought.
“Less than one minute to jump,” reported the Pershing. Suddenly, a cluster of blue specs within the node, signaled the arrival of Shivan fighters.
“We’ve detected two wings of Asteroths, designations Cancer and Virgo,” warned the Colossus, “Escort fighters, engage those hostiles. Pershing, open fire.” The flanks of the Aeolus class came alive in fire and energy discharges. Thin, blue streaks cut into the space ahead, as the Anti-Aircraft Artillery beams attempted to cut down the fighters. Explosive shells leapt forward from the fire bursts on the cruisers flanks, then exploded as Flak, in the vicinity of the targets. The escort fighters rushed forward, keeping clear of the weapons barrage from the cruiser. Normally, they’d each unload missiles at their enemies, then open up with gunfire when they got close, but the word was given that they needed to be sparing with their ordinance, so they all closed to laser fire range and let loose. Within thirty seconds, all the Shivans were down, and not one hit struck either the cruiser, or the transports.
“Well done, everyone,” congratulated Command, “Fifteen seconds to node entry. All escort pilots, form up on the convoy and prepare for jump.” Before long, the ships accelerated into subspace and vanished from sight. “Convoy One is away. Convoy Two will jump in within moments. All assigned escort pilots, be ready to take your positions.”
The moments ticked away, and Sacks’ thoughts drifted to Corporal Mars. Based on a loose interpretation of his dream, Sacks had predicted that he’d be joining them in their mission. Only Lizzy knew about it, though he hadn’t told her all the details. Time would tell if he was right, but even if his dream was prophetic, what would it mean for their future? Even now his dream seemed somewhat nebulous. “What was that about a burning bridge?
” he thought, “sounds like it came from the Bible somewhere… maybe the Old Testament?
Sacks’ train of thought was interrupted by a number of subspace vortices opening near where the first convoy had arrived. The Sobek and Deimos class corvettes led Convoy Two, with a Mentu class cruiser bringing up the rear. Between them, an AWACS and three Triton class freighters and cargo made up the civilian content. Multiple fighters and bombers swooped down to provide escort, including Delta and Epsilon wings. Before they could even form up though, a triad of medium sized jump signatures opened within the node, and a pair of Cain class cruisers and one Rakshasa class emerged. No sooner had they exited subspace, than they were set upon by heavy green and orange beam fire. The three vessels never even got a shot off before being reduced to debris. Unfortunately, the gunners on the surrounding warships had been somewhat overzealous in their assault and had hit the cruisers with far greater volume of fire than was necessary. As a result, when a Moloch class corvette exited the node seconds after, the heavy guns of the surrounding warships had not yet charged up or cooled down from the initial volley, and the Shivan corvette, the SCv Eligos, was able to open fire on the convoy. Its heavy “eye” turret fired on Lemnos, but the deceleration from its jump caused the corvette to miss scoring a direct hit. The shot delivered a glancing blow to the Lemnos’ starboard armor, but she was otherwise unscathed. The Eligos then charged its lower, secondary beam turret, and fired on the Maahes. Fortunately, the beams from the escort corvettes, combined with other medium beams from elsewhere in the blockade, made quick work of the Eligos, and the Maahes suffered only minor damage.
In all the confusion however, several wings of Shivan fighters and bombers entered from Gamma Draconis and closed on Convoy Two and the blockade force. Threat indicators began sounding in Sacks’ cockpit, and then he noticed that among the fighters, were the nastiest, the most hated of all Shivan fighters, and the only ones from the Great War era fighters that were still considered to be “Class A” threats… Dragons. The main force of Shivan fighters was attacking virtually any nearby hostile target, but only two wings were of any concern to Sacks… Arjuna wing… the Dragons, and Rama wing, flying Nahemas. They’d already slipped through the first line of anti-fighter defenses, and were rapidly entering weapons range with Gamma wing and the Aquitaine.
“Gammas three and four, engage Rama wing,” began Sacks, “the rest of you with me. We’ve got some Dragons to slay!” What he’d heard about Dragons from reading thirty-year old field diaries, told Sacks that the three most difficult aspects of combat with Dragons was first, that they were both fast and maneuverable. The second was, that they had a shield strength generally reserved for medium bombers. The third was, that they were extremely small and thus hard to hit. Their only major drawback was that they had only one missile bay, which had a very limited capacity. Most recommendations called for using medium or long-range anti-bomber missiles to take them out at range. Apparently, their threat detection system was based mainly on the proximity of enemy craft, rather than the missiles they fire. Unfortunately, Sacks had no weapons of this type, nor could he spare them for such purposes even if he had them. On top of that, the Dragons were now entering the range of Sacks’ Subach lasers. “So much for research
,” thought Sacks and opened fire.
Energy bolts flared from his fighter’s sides and raced towards a deflection hit of the Dragon, but at the last moment, the fighter nudged itself sideways and turned into Sacks’ attack. A stream of concentrated red energy pulses flared towards Sacks, striking his fighter’s shields. He only managed a quick snap roll to clear the fire before his shields in that quadrant buckled. As they prepared to merge, Sacks chopped his throttle, then pulled hard back on the stick and stomped on the afterburners. The gravity strain quickly exceeded the ship’s damper generators, as Sacks performed a hard two-hundred twenty-five degree loop. He’d managed to time the maneuver to bring his primary weapons to bear on the Dragon at close range. Sacks successfully landed several hits on the Dragon’s shields, before losing his optimal firing position. To stay with the fighter, Sacks had to divert nearly all of his fighter’s combat energy from his weapons to his engines, and ride his afterburners like a wild bull. Needing to land as many hits as possible, Sacks flipped his weapons to custom linked mode. “It’s a damned good thing that Subach’s aren’t the energy guzzlers that the Akethons are
,” thought Sacks, “Or I’d be either left in the dust or firing blanks
.” Following as close as he could, Sacks continued to land hits on the Dragon’s shields, and then its hull. When the Dragon’s afterburner reserves cut out, Sacks managed to close the remaining gap and, on a split second decision, unloaded a quick volley of Tempest unguided missiles causing critical damage to the Dragon. Another burst from his Subachs and the Shivan’s weakened hull broke up. This had been Sacks’ first run in with a determined Shivan opponent, and Sacks had to admit, the assessment made of the Dragon during the Great War, didn’t quite do it justice.
“Those are some nice moves, fly-boy,” came the voice of Tanner, over the Comm. “but you could’ve just drawn them into Triple-A range of the Aquitaine like your wingmen did.” Though tongue-in-cheek, that remark deflated Sacks’ pride somewhat, causing him to blush, unseen though he was. To Sacks, one-on-one fighter vs. fighter combat was more of a clash of the individuals’ skills, rather than tactics. It was his only real weakness. Of course, had another enemy joined the engagement, Sacks would have fallen back on a broader defense strategy.
“Command,” called out one of the Vasudan pilots, “we have nullified the Shivan attack squadron, but they continue to send reinforcements through the node. Our convoy will require a further twenty five seconds before they can begin to enter subspace, and an additional thirty seconds before the Ptah-Nu can jump.”
“Acknowledged,” replied Command, “Alpha and Gamma wings, close your defensive line to near the GTC Warwick and provide more assistance to Convoy Two until it jumps.”
“Copy that, Command,” responded Sacks, “You heard ’em Gammas, let’s close it up!” As his wing turned for the node, Sacks noted a wing of fighters departing the Aquitaine’s fighterbay. Even a quick glance told Sacks that these weren’t the Perseus or Hercules fighters he was used to. Selecting one with this targeting computer, Sacks was astonished to find that they were Erinyes advanced heavy assault fighters. He’d never seen one before, but he was surprised that the tongue-in-cheek descriptions he’d heard were actually fairly accurate… they really DID look like flying wooden clothespins. Of course, most clothespins didn’t have eight gun positions. It was then that Sacks noticed that not only was this Alpha wing, but that it bore the Squadron insignia of the 70th Blue Lions. That meant that the officer flying Alpha 1 was… Sacks had another slack-jawed moment, which was broken by a C3-2a transmission from that fighter.
“Command, this is Alpha wing of the 70th Blue Lions,” came the smooth, professional, feminine voice of its lead pilot, “we’ve cleared the Aquitaine and are preparing to jump to 3rd Fleet HQ.”
“Good hunting, Alpha wing,” replied Command, “The GTD Messana will be joining you there shortly.”
“Acknowledged,” finished the pilot, then spoke to the escort, “To all pilots heading into Gamma Draconis, the Blue Lions salute you. 77th, Alpha 1, Lizzy, I sincerely hope to see you again. You’ve always been an inspiration to me.” Then, the emotion beginning to sound in her voice, she added, “I love you, sister. Good luck, and Godspeed!”
Then, to Sacks’ surprise and relief, Tanner responded, “Take care Alexia, and thank you. I love you too. Goodbye.”
With that, Alexia’s fighter did a tight barrel roll, then entered subspace, followed by the rest of her wing. Although the entire Convoy, escort, and blockade force had heard the exchange, there was no follow up question or remark to keep such personal conversations off an open channel. In fact, it seemed to sum up all the emotions they’d been sorting out since learning of this mission. For those who were contemplating or had decided to proceed beyond Phase 2, wherever that might lead them, they were the ones saying goodbye, to a friend… loved one, or to known civilization itself. To the blockade force, who weren’t privy to even the basic mission details, it was enough to lie to rest their latent curiosity regarding the mission, without hearing too much. After that, everyone seemed to fight with a clearer purpose, free of the distracting emotional baggage they hadn’t quite identified until that point in time. Now, they were fearless.
The seconds continued to pass and Shivan craft were knocked out of space, until the GVC Ptah-Nu entered subspace, along with the remaining escort fighters.
“The second Convoy has made the jump,” announced Command, though everyone there could see the events unfolding, “well done everyone!
The third and final Convoy will be entering the field momentarily.”
“Command,” reported the Colossus’ X.O., with tension in his voice, “we’re detecting increased subspace activity within the node. I think we’re on the cusp of the next wave of major reinforcements.”
With that, a large blue orb formed within the node, with several smaller ones surrounding it, and vessels beginning to emerge. The first and largest silhouette Sacks observed made his gut muscles clench… he’d seen that before and it wasn’t sitting well with him.
“Command,” called the Colossus, nearly frantically, “we’ve got a Demon class destroyer with cruiser escort and multiple fighter wings. All vessels, fire at will!” Beams from the RBCs took the destroyer in its aft sectors, disabling it almost immediately. The Colossus fired a full flank side volley, hitting both the Demon and a Lilith class cruiser on its same side. The Carthage and Hedetet, joined in with full broad side attacks against the Demon, while the Aquitaine and Memphis spread their fire between the cruisers and the destroyer. Still riding on momentum from the jump, the Demon fired all three of its main beams. Its starboard heavy beam sizzled as it dug a swath into the armor of the Hedetet, while its port flank heavy beam left a scar on the Colossus’ heavy armor. The third, lighter beam roared as it gave a thrashing to the GVC Unut, providing fighter cover for the Colossus. The beam sheared off the highest portions of the cruiser’s main hull, and the bridge with it. It was only moments later however that it was all over for the Shivans, as concentrated fire brought down the destroyer and its escorting cruisers.
Now, at this point, a less informed pilot might be concluding that Convoy Two must have run smack dab into the Shivan destroyer group and been either blown to bits in the corridor, or been actually run down by the larger capital ship. The more informed pilot knows that the ability of two ships to occupy the space in the corridor next to each other mid-jump, depends on a specific resonance frequency setting within the inter-system jump drive. If ships using the same node at the same time, both set their drive to the same frequency, they’ll see each other during the transit. If those vessels are using resonance frequencies different from one another, then they will both occupy the corridor, but occupy different subspace phase planes from one another and thus not see, detect, or be able to harm one another, nor can they change this setting mid jump and ambush their enemy.
During the Great War, a group of Vasudan scientists uncovered the existence of the Ancients and their civilization, but more importantly, they uncovered the technology necessary to obtain a partial track on vessels making intra-system jumps, and a full track on vessels making inter-system subspace jumps. This would also allow the ability to lock onto the vessel’s subspace resonance frequency and ensure that any vessels sent to pursue it during an inter-system jump, could enter into the same subspace phase plane and conduct direct attacks mid-jump. Exploiting the near complete instability and massive energy drain of shields in subspace, pilots from the GTD Bastion were able to follow the SD Lucifer during its jump to the Sol system, intercepting and destroying it when its shields were offline.
While combat mid-jump since
the Lucifer’s destruction has been extremely rare, it is still standard procedure that all vessels that are part of a convoy transiting a subspace node, use the same subspace resonance frequency, to ensure that they are giving complete escort against any possible threat.
“Command, we’ve got a situation here,” reported the Colossus’ X.O., sounding exhausted, “Shivan activity is rising sharply, and the Unut is out of action. We’ve taken down their latest attack force, but I doubt we’ll be able to handle what comes next. You may need to postpone the third convoy until the next lull. Besides, there’s too much debris floating around.”
“That is not
an option, Colossus,” replied Command, giving no room for countermanding, “time is of the essence for this operation. Convoy Three must
complete the jump within the next ten minutes for our mission to succeed. Escort fighters, move to position Bravo and take point for the group. Destroy any debris that threatens the convoy.”
“Copy that, Command,” replied Tanner, “All remaining 77th pilots, form up!” She then rocketed off to a point within the heart of the crossfire zone, with the rest of Alpha and Gamma wings in her wake.
“Gamma 1,” broke in Yuka, “it looks like a few Shivan fighters survived the explosion of the Demon. They’re heading our way.”
“Move to engage, Gamma wing,” replied Sacks, “bombers and heavy assault first, but watch each other’s sixes.”
“This is the GTCv Hampton Roads,” came the southern drawl of Captain Grant, “we’re leading Convoy Three. We’ve got quite a load of ships here, so we’ll need all the cover you can give us.”
“Mu 1 to Hampton Roads,” replied a Vasudan pilot, “we are engaged with Shivan fighters. Maintain your approach but be prepared for the arrival of multiple enemy warships.”
“What kind of resistance can we expect?” asked Grant.
“The blockade just eliminated a Demon class destroyer and cruiser escort,” replied the Vasudan, “so given the Shivans’ predisposition towards escalation, it could be virtually anything.” He didn’t need to say the word “Sathanas”… it was implied.
“We’ll move as fast as we can,” offered Grant, “but we’re limited by our slowest ships.”
“It’s a good thing there’s no Leviathans in the Convoy,” joked Sharpov, “Otherwise we’d be here all day.”
“Don’t be silly,” added Rashid, with her usual serious tone, then added with a giggle, “we’d end up Sathanas splatter long before that. Cut down like insects on a wind screen.”
Another cluster of jump vortices opened within the node, and what emerged was a Moloch class corvette, two Rakshasas and a Lilith. This time, there was no overuse of firepower. Exactly the right amount of energy beams struck each target to ensure its prompt destruction. One of the Rakshasas got off a shot at the Carthage, but the damage was superficial. If that had been it, they’d have had no problem. Unfortunately, after only a few seconds, Shivan cruisers began entering the system nearly continuously. The view ahead became a near constant light show of crisscrossing energy beams and exploding warships.
Silhouetted by the fireworks, Sacks caught sight of bombers heading his way. As they closed, Sacks made out the lumbering, asymmetrical bulk of Nephilim class heavy bombers.
“Gamma wing,” called Sacks through the interference hums, roars, sizzles, and pulse shots, “Sagittarius wing bombers are heading for the Hampton Roads. Take ‘em down!” Sacks performed a hard, spiraling turn with Yuka in tow, pulling out at the nearest bomber’s ventral. Its nearest turret opened fire on him, but it only took a slight control change every few seconds for Sacks to keep himself from being hit. All the while, Sacks and Yuka poured Subach fire into the bomber’s shields, but it took several seconds of sustained hits before the shields were breached. At this point, Sacks squeezed off another short volley of the valuable Tempests into the Nephilim, before its outer armor was breached and the bomber shattered in its own reactor overload. As Sacks completed the kill, Yuka was already scanning for the next target, and saw a lone Nephilim launch a pair of torpedoes at the Hampton Roads, then bank away. Flak and blue Triple-A beams spit from the corvette, but it was Yuka’s marksmanship which took down the warheads. This time, Yuka was the lead attacker for the bomber, as Sacks swept in off the Lt.’s wing. He snaked his fighter left and right, distracting the Nephilim’s defensive turret, while Yuka concentrated on the bomber’s engines. Soon he had breached the shields and obliterated the bomber’s main engine. Sacks swept around and attacked the bomber from above. Unable to concentrate its shield regeneration in a single vector, the Nephilim was incapable of reestablish its defenses, and it soon erupted into flame.
“Sagittarius wing is toast,” reported Sharpov, triumphantly, “and the Hampton Roads is unscathed.”
“Don’t smoke ‘em yet, pilots,” warned Command, “you’ve still got about seventy-five seconds before the ships can begin to jump out.”
“I’ve been wondering,” began Sharpov, leaving a lengthily silence following to make sure people were listening.
“Yyyeeeeessss?” asked Rashid, in a strained sarcastic tone that said “someone had to say it or he’d never finish that thought
“Most of the time we’ve been trying to maintain a front against the Shivans, or we’ve been retreating from them,” he summed up, “but this time we’re doing the exact opposite… we’re heading into their attacks
“So,” Rashid continued with the charade.
“So, I wonder if our sudden change in tactics is confusing them any,” he completed.
“I don’t think that they care,” replied Rashid.
“I don’t think that they think
,” proposed Manetti, “I think that they’re actually some kind of organic computers.”
“Rrreeaaallly,” commented Mallory sarcastically, “And what might I ask are you basing that
“Put your chit-chat on hold,” interrupted Sacks, cutting off the conversation, “We’ve got bigger things to worry about.”
“You’re right on with that line, Gamma leader,” broke in the Colossus’ X.O., “We’ve got a subspace energy surge from the jumpnode. I’d say something destroyer class or larger about to come through.”
“Command,” reported Tanner, with apprehension in her voice, “things are about to get dicey here. Our convoy is entering the crossfire zone. It could limit the targeting options for the blockade.”
“They’ll just have to make every shot count,” asserted Command, “Hampton Roads and Warspite, be prepared to provide additional fire support.”
“We’ll be jumping in less than twenty seconds, Command,” warned Captain Grant, “we won’t be of much use here after that.”
“Then we’ll have to improvise,” replied Command, “both corvettes must adjust their course and speed. Hang back and let the civilians pass between you. You can both jump out once the Sparta is ready to depart.”
“We’ll do our best, Command,” acknowledged Grant, sounding somewhat skeptical.
“Here they come!” announced the Colossus.
A large subspace vortex opened within the node, on the side closer to the Colossus, and another Demon class destroyer emerged. Multiple beams struck its flanks, along with the slashing green beams of the corvettes from underneath. Flames and debris spewed from the Shivan destroyer, but it managed a shot from its port side heavy turret, which chewed its way into the already damaged Vasudan cruiser Unut. When the beam terminated, there was but the merest shell of a vessel where a moment before there had been a Mentu class cruiser. Concentrated fire had put the deathblow to the Demon, but it was followed from the node by another large subspace vortex. What emerged was the spiny, asymmetric mess of a destroyer that was a Ravana class… the SD Beast. With other vessels concentrating their weapon energy on the Demon, no one was able to pay immediate attention to the fresh arrival, and the Beast opened up with all its weapons. The two forward heavy beams, sizzled directly into the GTCv York, hitting just ahead of the main drive section. This concentrated heavy fire was too much for the corvette, and it was briefly bisected before the main reactor breached. The explosion tore through the forward hull’s insides, and fires spewed from the spaces between the armor plating. At the same time, the Beast’s two upper secondary beams struck the Colossus. One shot scorched armor at the front of the main body, while the second penetrated the weaker armor of the ventral engine pylon. Before the blockade could open up on the Beast however, the destroyer engaged its subspace drive and escaped into Capella.
“What’s your status, Colossus?” inquired Command, hastily.
“We’ve lost the York and Unut,” replied the warship, “and we’ve suffered damage to our engines. The SD Beast jumped out before we could respond. We’ve got a score to settle with that destroyer.”
“How bad is the damage, Colossus,” pressed Command.
“Our subspace field coils have temporarily depolarized,” reported the X.O., “I’ll take a few minutes to reset them. We won’t be able to jump out until that point.”
“This is the GTT Notus,” called up the transport, “we have entered the jumpnode. Departing now.”
“Another two minutes and the convoy will have jumped,” announced Tanner.
“If we can survive that long,” commented Mallory, “at this rate the next thing that we’ll see coming though is a Sathanas!” Just then, a cluster of smaller subspace vortices opened, and a cluster of fighters and bombers emerged.
“The Shivans have deployed two wings of Nahema bombers with Mara escort,” reported Rho 1, a Vasudan pilot, “We will engage Aries and Cancer wing bombers, Terrans, if you will engage Virgo and Pisces wing fighters.”
“Confirmed Rho wing,” replied Tanner, “All fighters, keep a tight defense of the convoy. At this range anything entering though the node is already on top of them.”
“This is the GTT Sunder,” reported the transport, “we’re departing now. See you on the flipside.”
Sacks raced towards an oncoming Mara. The Shivan was firing on his fighter during the approach, but Sacks kept his finger off the trigger. The two continued towards each other head on, with Sacks bobbing and weaving to evade the Mara’s fire, but not letting up on his ultimate course. As the final seconds before final impact drained away, the Mara suddenly flinched and banked aside. Clear of its weapons, Sacks turned into the Mara and opened up with all guns and Tempests, destroying the fighter in a single pass.
“GVG Hez-Ur here,” announced the Gas Miner, “We’re entering subspace now.”
“Command,” began the GVFr Har-Wer, “with the Gas Miner clear from our path, we can accelerate to our maximum speed and clear the system sooner.”
“Copy that Har-Wer,” replied Command, “all vessels, accelerate to maximum speed!”
“GVFr Monthu, jumping out,” announced the freighter, after a few moments.
“GVFr Ba-Pef, jumping,” called the next ship soon after.
“Har-Wer, departing now. May the Emperor protect you,” said the Vasudan.
“All hostiles down, Command,” reported Sacks, “Any readings from the node Colossus?”
“Negative,” replied the warship, “subspace energy readings are diminishing.”
“We could be in the clear,” speculated Manetti, enthusiastically.
“No way,” asserted Sacks, “We’re not that lucky.”
“Sigma wing departing,” reported the Isis wing transports.
“Iota wing here,” said the leader of the Elysium transports, “we’re at full speed but still twenty seconds from the node.”
“Command, we’re detecting a subspace shear-front forming!” broke in the Colossus’ X.O., “we’ve got a- belay that, multiple
shear-front’s forming! We’ve got multiple Sathanas class juggernauts preparing to enter the system from Gamma Draconis! All blockade vessels, engage your subspace drives now!
“Colossus, what’s the status of your subspace drive?” demanded Command.
“We’ll need at least forty-five seconds,” replied the warship, “but the first Sathanas will arrive before that point.”
“This is Iota wing, we’ve reached the node,” reported the transport, “Good luck.”
“GTC Sparta, how long until you jump,” asked Command.
“Not for another thirty seconds, Command,” replied the cruiser.
“Hampton Roads and Warspite,” ordered Command, “engage your subspace drives, now!”
“Command,” argued the Colossus, “The first Sathanas will arrive before the Sparta can jump.”
“That’s the best we can do,” replied Command, at a loss for options, “the rest is down to luck. All escort fighters and bombers except for those from the 77th will now enter the node and depart.”
The seconds ticked away, then “Sathanas arrival in progress!” reported the Colossus, as a massive subspace vortex, of a size that Sacks had never witnessed, exploded within the node. From the bright blue mist, came the forward mandibles of the juggernaut. The captain of the Sparta nearly soiled himself, as his ship drifted harmlessly between the Sathanas’ lower engines, and jumped through the node.
“All guns,” ordered the Colossus’ X.O., “fire, full
broadside! Jumping in three seconds!”
Alpha and Gamma wings were between and below the two warships as the Colossus let loose. Fortunately, the deceleration from the Sathanas’ jump had kept the Colossus out of the field of fire of its main guns. Otherwise the Allied warship might not have survived. That said, the Juggernaut did open fire with 3 lighter and one medium beam, the latter of which was equivalent to the heavy guns of the Demon. Red and green fire crisscrossed the space between the two ships, as the Colossus suddenly accelerated into a jump. As a final parting gift however, it signaled the Mjolnirs to fire on the Sathanas.
Sacks had anticipated that the next juggernaut would arrive from the same vector as the first, and led Alpha and Gamma wings down the same safe corridor that the Sparta had used. As the second warship entered the system, the RBCs were still firing on the first juggernaut, so their fire was abruptly cut off by the bulk of the new arrival.
“We’re within the node!” announced Tanner, “Alpha and Gamma wings, calibrate your subspace resonance frequency to match Convoy Three and jump out!”
The blue orb formed in Sacks’ path, and his fighter entered. Gazing though the closing aperture through his periscope, the last thing Sacks saw of the Capella system, was the ass-end of a Sathanas class Juggernaut.
October 9th, 2367 – 21:38 Hours, TGT
After the long and uneventful jump from Capella to Gamma Draconis, Sacks emerged from subspace to see the GTT Sunder entering local subspace, presumably on its way to join the Phoenicia. Ahead, several Shivan bombers and fighters were being kept at bay by the large cluster of fighters, as well as support fire from the cruisers and corvettes.
“Another minute of this and we can clear out,” called out Beta 1.
“Status update, Beta,” ordered Tanner.
“We arrived just as a Ravana class was jumping out,” replied Beta 1, “It was quiet for the first five to seven minutes, but then we started getting fighters and cruisers, and one corvette. We haven’t needed the RBCs yet, so they’re still in standby. You?”
“We jumped out just after a couple of Sathani arrived,” replied Tanner, “The Colossus took a few hits but not bad. She managed to jump before things got worse.”
“Where do you need us?” asked Sacks.
“The Ptah-Nu had a problem with its Triple-A turret heat sinks, so it can’t provide the cover we need,” called out the captain of the Lemnos.
“Copy that, Lemnos,” replied Tanner, “Alphas and Gammas, you heard ’em.”
“It’s a good thing that the Hamako is here,” commented Eta 1, “Otherwise we’d have every Shivan capital ship in the system breathing down our necks.”
“The Hez-Ur has jumped,” reported the Lemnos, “Another twenty seconds and we’ll be able to pull out.”
Sacks dashed his Perseus over to the Mentu class cruiser as a wing of Basilisks jumped in. In a dogfight, the Basilisk is known to be the least dangerous of those Shivan fighter classes from the Great War. It was slow and sluggish, just as any typical heavy assault is. Without even waiting for orders, Gamma wing rushed headlong towards the enemy wing, guns blazing. The Shivans responded with a heavy volley of homing swarm missiles, forcing the Terran fighters to take evasive maneuvers, and launch countermeasures. After evading the missiles, Sacks noted that the Basilisks were still headed for the cruiser.
“Don’t give ‘em an inch,” advised Sacks, “those assault fighters could be packin’ heavy missiles that could pose a threat to the Ptah-Nu.”
“Copy that, Gamma leader,” replied Rashid. She pulled her fighter into a sharp turn and attacked one of the Shivans for a ninety-degree deflection shot. Sacks followed suit with Yuka on his wing. The pair laid into their target with Subach fire. The Shivan began to turn away from Sacks and Yuka’s attack, then as they were nearly on top of it, it turned into their attack (as fast as it was able). Sacks knew that if they broke off and came at it from another angle, it would give the Shivan the time to fire on the cruiser, so he continued in to point blank range… even after Yuka broke away. At the last moment, the Basilisk’s shields in that vector collapsed, and Sacks’ fire struck the hull. A few more bursts later and the Shivan fighter was torn apart and Sacks’ fighter slammed through fire and wreckage.
“Are you OK, sir,” asked Rashid, who had already splashed her target, “did you get singed any?”
“Not as singed
as he got,” Sacks joked… though he admitted to himself, a little predictably.
“Well done, Gamma wing,” congratulated the Ptah-Nu, “thanks to your initiative, the Shivans were unable to score a single hit on us. Fortunately, our Triple-A defenses are coming back online.”
“And the last of the transports just departed,” added the Lemnos, “Once we’ve cleared out the hostiles, all fighters and bombers will execute an immediate jump to the Phoenicia’s position.”
“This is Tau wing,” reported a Vasudan pilot, “all hostiles eliminated.”
“All vessels, jump NOW!
” ordered the Lemnos.
Within seconds, the only allied presence near the node was the four Mjolnir cannons, which quickly entered safe mode and powered down.Link to Chapter 4 Part 1