Hello again, I've got a longer one here for you guys. Enjoy!
“Sir, as I said just now, we can’t go close to that asteroid field. We are practically blind in there.”
“I am not interested in excuses Commander! You will carry out this order or I will have to report to HQ that you are unwilling to carry out orders. I doubt they will like what I have to tell them.”
Price had been on the horn with the Rear-Admiral for the past fifteen minutes. In that time he tried to advise on the best place for Invictus to take station. For some reason he couldn’t get through. The man thought him an unwilling coward and didn’t take him seriously. He had no choice but to say yes and carry out the orders in the best way possible. Frustrated he slammed the phone down in the horn-nest. “No luck with him?”
“Indeed Mark, I just can’t get through that thick skull of his. Just what we need. An Admiral with a stick up his ass!”
“We’ll see how this turns out. Are we the only one in that specific sector?”
“No, there’ll be several ships nearby. But I am not sure if they will come to our aid if we ask them to.”
“Only one way to find out.”
“I’m afraid you’re right. Well, no sense in sitting still. XO, set a course to the asteroid field on the east-south-east corner of the system. It’ll take a couple of hours to get there. Have the pilots and gun crews in their racks. Let them rest a bit while they can.”
“Come to think of it. You’ve been holed up here for almost twelve hours. Maybe it’s time you catch a few hours rack time.”
“That does sound awfully nice. Can you take care of things here?”
“Aye sir. I’ll let you know when we get close to the new AO.” Price nodded and walked away to his cabin. When he looked back through the CIC hatch he saw his friend relaying his orders. He knew he would not fail him, but nevertheless he always looked back through the hatch. He never knew why. Maybe it was just an old bad habit.
He turned a few corners and bulkheads before he got to his cabin. He had barely sat down when he heard knocking on the hatch.
He unbuttoned his jacket a bit before answering.
The young Imperial Lieutenant stepped through the hatch and walked to the desk before snapping at attention. “Stand easy Lieutenant. How can I help you?”
Deamus relaxed his stance and handed the Commander a datapad. “The recognition data on known ships you asked for.”
“Ah yes, thankyou. I’ll make sure the right people get these in a few hours.” he paused for a moment before continuing: “But I guess this isn’t the only reason you stepped to my cabin...”
“No sir. Permission to speak freely?”
Price nodded “Pull up a chair.” he said before picking two glasses and a bottle from his desk. He poured whiskey in the glasses and offered Deamus one, which he accepted.
“What can I do for you?”
“I don’t know really how to put it...” he started.
“Just speak your mind Deamus”
“It’s Colonel Howard, Sir. I have the distinct feeling he seems to disagree with me.”
“How is that?”
“He is keeping me in his eye constantly. His expression isn’t always that kind either.”
“Howard has always been a bit intimidating. Nothing to worry about.”
“I know sir, but this isn’t like that. More severe. I didn’t really realise it at first, but when the navigator snapped, what was his name again?”
“Yes, that was him. When you two had calmed him down I was watching from the sidelines. Honestly I didn’t know what to think of it, but anyway. I caught the XO keeping me in his eye more. I was wondering if there is a problem I should know about, with respect to the Colonel of course.” he added afterwards somewhat nervously.
“Mark, or Colonel Howard for you, doesn’t seem to understand you. He is a good man and stands for his crew. He’s hard but fair.
He has told me lately that you react arrogant in front of the crew, from the heights down, in his eyes.
Now this may or may not have been your intention, but this is what he sees and doesn’t like. Especially now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you walked through corridor C25? The one with the pictures a bit to the right of the CIC?”
“No, I haven’t been to that part of the ship yet. What about it?”
“It is just another hall in the ship save for one thing. It’s a memorial. Maybe you should take a look at it some time.”
The mentioning of a memorial did raise an eyebrow on Goradin’s face, he seemed a bit puzzled.
“Back at Port Maw, did they tell you why this ship is out here?” Price asked before taking a swig of whiskey. Goradin shook his head.
“We are here because we lost our home. I won’t go much into details now, but the gist is this. Before all of this happened we, all of us, were living relatively comfortable lives. Many of us had a home, a wife, family. Wars like these” he pointed at the DRADIS screen behind him with his thumb, “Are just about unheard of where we come from. Now, we’ve had our own conflicts in history, but the only one on a similar scale was fought out about forty years ago. And then about two months ago now we were attacked by our own creations and just about wiped out. Our planets were nuked together with our friends and relatives. These men and women” he gestured around with his hand, “lost everything and everyone they hold dear, save for the ones onboard this ship. Especially Howard. He lost his family, his home. And all the while he is expected to do his job. He takes this hard and does not allow anyone to put any more stress on them than is absolutely necessary.”
A silent pause fell between the two men. Goradin was silently sloshing his drink about a bit before he took another swig. The stuff was strong.
“So you’re saying I put too much stress on the crew?”
“No. Personally I haven’t really seen you do anything wrong. Your command style isn’t mine, but that isn’t really a reason for me to order you to change.”
“Then what should I do?“
“Talk to Howard. Try to get along. Get a mutual understanding of each other. Let him get to know you. And maybe take a look in C25. But if you chose to do that make sure you mean it.”
Another silence fell. Price could see the young officer in front of him thinking. He took a final swig to finish his drink and stood up. “Thanks for the help Commander”
“No problem Deamus. Think about what I’ve said.”
Both men shook hands, Deamus put his glass down and walked out of the cabin.
A few hours later Price reappeared in the CIC. He didn’t give a hint to anyone that Deamus came to his cabin, and thought it best to keep it between them for a little while. Looking up on the DRADIS screen he could see a few ships duking it out in the distance, far away from his AO. To the front of the ship all dradis could see was a big mess of stuff floating about. They wouldn’t be able to see in there, no way no how. If they’d even stand a chance of looking inside that asteroid field they’d need to send in an armed recon. He didn’t like sending men in unknown territory, not knowing what is in there. He had no choice. He picked up the horn from the command table and keyed the right channel.
“Flight-Ops, Command. I need an armed recon section to scout out the asteroid field up ahead. Further instructions follow”
His order was acknowledged before he put down the horn. He looked up again at the DRADIS console. Nothing but random static and intermittent contacts ahead.
Lieutenant ‘Duster’ Andrews walked up to his Strike Viper in the middle hangar deck. The ground crew had already finished arming and fueling his bird and were finishing the last procedures. His crew chief walked up to him. “Hey chief, how is she looking?”
“As good as I can make her LT. Most of the damage was superficial, but I did have to change out the right wing hydraulics. They could’ve kept going for a while but I thought it best to get them overhauled.”
“Thanks chief, Appreciate it.” Duster replied before stepping in the cockpit. His WSO had already taken seat. “Ready Wizzo?”
“Was born ready Duster. Let’s get her started up!”
The men started the sleek striker up with professional speed. Within minutes the remaining red safety flags were removed and the canopy was closed. The inner launch tube door opened to let the spacecraft in. Within moments the sleek Strike Viper shot out the launch tube and set course for the asteroid field. He was one of the third wave of recon craft sent into the field in the last few hours. The previous recon missions found clusters of mines bound to asteroids and traps in the shape of asteroids with crude engines strapped to them. There was no sign yet of the enemy. Maybe he would be the ‘lucky winner’.
About ten minutes after launch the small recon craft entered the outer fringes of the asteroid field. Taking a quick look down, Andrews saw his ship’s DRADIS sensor system going crazy. With so many asteroids flying about the poor system couldn’t keep up and kept displaying false echoes and static clutter. Moments ago his Wizzo had already sent a message to Invictus indicating they entered the field. The Weapons Systems Officer in charge of targeting and jamming systems was always called the Wizzo. Just another abbreviation bastardized by the men who actually used them.
“DRADIS is going crazy here. You have anything on scope Wizzo?”
“Negative Duster. Nothing but static and false contacts here. Old style only.”
Mk1 Eyeball. When sensors failed all you had left to rely on were your own eyes. Just like the old days where men had just learned to conquer the skies. Now they were doing this in outer space, hundreds of years later. Though all pilots and crew were trained to never fully trust sensors, no one ever liked flying entirely visual. Especially in a field like this where every flying chunk of rock could be an enemy fighter or hide one behind it. They all knew the stories all too well of the men and women of the Battlestar Calypso who fought the Cylon machines in a similar situation decades earlier.
The Cylon raider often enough lied in wait behind rocks like these until an unsuspecting viper flew by. Before the poor bugger had realised he flew into a trap, the fighters had already transformed him into a burning wreck. Many good pilots had lost their lives that way. Duster had no intention of him and his Wizzo suffering a similar fate. Carefully he flew deliberate routes and sneaked around like a cat in the night, slowly peaking his nose around the corner looking for any sign of hostiles. In the back seat the Wizzo was acting as a second pair of eyes while at the same time looking for heat signatures or any sign of sensor radiation. Just looking for any sign they were seen to give them that split-second extra warning.
For the first forty minutes inside the field the pair didn’t see any sign of enemy spacecraft, save for a few mine clusters and asteroid traps which they carefully marked in their NAV-system. The relative peace and quiet was somewhat nice but it didn’t put any of the men at ease. At any moment they expected to find a fighter patrol or a small frigate around the corner. What they found they could not even dream of.
As they rounded another larger than average asteroid they found themselves in a big open space.
Like an open field in the middle of a forest. At the center they saw three huge asteroids linked together by beams, walkways and the sort. The asteroids themselves were too large to justify the name. Each of the humongous rocks was clearly hollowed out for bases and a makeshift spacedock. The place was big enough to park a couple of old jupiter class battlestars in there.
Anyone flying outside of the field could sail by and never see this hidden base. Around the entrances numerous gun emplacements were hammered in the rock. There were many anti-fighter/bomber turrets and main gun turrets present, though still quietly embedded in their nests. Clearly unaware of their presence.
The clearing and the docs were filled with numerous escort craft and a light cruiser, just sitting there. Hangar decks imbedded in the nearby rocks were filled with fighters and bombers of almost every shape and size while some of those craft were silently whizzing about between ships.
“Wizzo, are you seeing this?”
“Copy that Duster…” both men were struck with awe for a second before snapping back to reality.
“Get on the scrambler and connect me with Invictus. They’ve got too see this…”
“Comms - Commander? Echo 5 is on the scrambler. They’ve got contact.”
“Connect me to that patrol. Echo 5 - Invictus actual go ahead”
“Commander, we’re transmitting a download. You’ve got to see this.
Wizzo connected his targeting pod to the comms array and panned the camera around, giving the men on board the Invictus the same view they had…
“That’s a lot of ships massed out there….”
“Oh my Gods, it’s a staging ground. They are preparing an offencive here.”
“You got that right, Howard….”
Lieutenant Goradin wasn’t listening to both senior officers. He was busy counting enemy ships by classes and squadrons. Escort craft of just about every origin were massed there. Both chaos and imperial. Undoubtedly there were more tucked away somewhere inside the rocks that they couldn’t see yet. Most likely the pirates down there were already aware of their presence.
He was the first one to tear himself away from the pictures on the screen.
“Colonel, Commander. We must pull back the recon patrols NOW. Most likely they are already aware of us being here. We are on borrowed time.”
“Agreed. You copy that Duster?”
“Ahead of you Invictus. Gunning it for home.”
The connection ended there.
“Action stations!” Once Price gave the order buzzers began sounding and alert lights began flashing. Within thirty seconds every bulkhead on the ship was sealed and every able man was scrambling to get to his post. Fighters were refueled, pilots jumped in the cockpit and loaded into the launch tubes ready to go. Point defence turrets swiveled around and the main turrets rose from their nests, facing the asteroid field.
The sensors detected large IR signatures starting to grow from inside the field. Ships were preparing to attack.
“We don’t have much time, John…”
“Mr Goradin. Compile a high priority message to Rear-Admiral McCallun.
Message reads: Large pirate force staged in asteroid field area preparing to attack, break.
Pirate offencive imminent, break.
Request immediate reinforcements or risk losing flanks.
Send this with the proper priority codes. Include the recon pictures we’ve taken.”
Goradin wrote the message down and quickly walked up to the comms to carry out the order.
While waiting for a reply the crew prepared to repel any and all attack they could face. All the while they expected some sort of reinforcements or orders to help them face the threat.
But no reply ever came….
“Still no reply, Deamus?”
“No sir.” came from the Comms console.
“Howard, hail them yourselves. Explain to them if you must. Get us reinforcements!”
The Colonel walked away and connected to the Sword Of Orion, transmitting the intel.
Across the room Price could hear the frustrated grunts of his XO, trying to convey the message and the importance of it.
“Are they receiving?”
The Colonel took the horn from his ear and smacked it down on its nest.
“They can hear us alright. Command has their head up their arse. We’re on our own.”
“Gods damn-it!” Price cursed and punched his fist on the charting table.
For a few brief seconds the eyes of the CIC were fixed on him. All kinds of scenarios went through his head, frantically trying to find a way to turn the tides. One less likely than the next. He had no choice.
“Mr Goradin, give me all local Imperial Navy frequencies on the horn pronto!”
He raised the mic to his head and looked for the thumbs-up from the comms specialist.
“This is going against all Imperial protocols Commander…” Goradin began, seeing the intention of the foreign officer.
“I know Lieutenant, but we’ve got no choice.”
“This is Commander Price from the Battlestar Invictus stationed at the rear guard. We’ve got a Pirate offencive incoming and are severely outnumbered. We need immediate reinforcements or risk being overrun. Requesting all nearby units to assist. I am standing by…..”
And with that he released the squelch button on the horn. Now he could only wait and hope for a reply. He took a quick questioning look at Goradin as if he asked him who would answer. The young man could only shrug his shoulders and wait.
Just before the Price had almost given up, the comm system crackled to life.
“Commander Widman responding to Invictus. I’ve sent Bravo Squadron to assist you. Take good care of them, Commander!”
“Alien Bane responding to Invictus. Send your coordinates and details on enemy strength and positions. We will assist ASAP.”
Signs of relief could be seen on many faces around. Now they may actually able to pull this off!
“Get me their positions.” Price ordered as he pulled out the tactical map.
Meanwhile Andrews in Echo 5 had landed aboard and transferred all data to the ship’s data computer. His craft would soon be rolled out and prepared for anti-ship strikes. By this time all launch bays were loaded with squadrons of Mk II and Mk VII Vipers, all ready to launch within seconds.
They wouldn’t have to wait long.
On the sensor screens they could see swarms of small craft emerging at the edge of the asteroid field, ready to attack. Colonel Howard ordered all batteries on full Full FLAK. “All batteries to full power. Stand-by enemy suppression barrage.”
“Ninety plus enemy raiders closing in on bearing 285 mark 48.” the sensor operator called out.
“Enemy suppression fire, all batteries execute.” The moment Price gave the order the entire back and port side of the ship erupted with muzzle blasts. Clouds of FLAK shells raced towards the incoming spacecraft and exploded just in front of the formations, forcing them to fly though.
Within seconds the barrage shredded the first few fighters and threw shrapnel at the rest, forcing the formation to change direction.
“Perimeter established” Came from the battery control.
Flight Sergeant Mercer Trune had been sitting in his cockpit for the past ten minutes waiting for the order to launch. His engines were humming at idle and all systems reported green, ready to punch out of the Launch tube at a moment's notice. “Cleared for launch” Sounded in his headset.
The outer tube door opened, the catapult locked on his skids and he shot out the tube. This time he didn’t have any trouble keeping his fighter stable. He could see his squadron mates clear the tubes left and right from him while a mass of fire flew over his head to the enemy fighters.
There was no time to form up. They had to go in now and hard.
“Broken formation” Ordered Bingo, “Razzle dazzle, don’t let them use their targeting computers and for Frack’s sake stay out of Invictus’ firing solution!”
The formationless viper group sped towards the incoming craft. Both pirate and colonial groups turned to face each other and opened fire at point blank range. Las blasts and 35mm railgun rounds ripped through the two formations. Some vipers were hit from the get go, a few of them needed to turn back. Another three were destroyed in very short order. Mercer could see number 5 on his right being thrown out of the cockpit of his exploding Viper, having taken a direct hit from a lascannon. Ahead of him more enemy fighters were being struck by the guns of his squadron and fell apart, burning.
Moments later the two forces passed each other. From that moment on, the fight had really begun.
Through the furball he did everything he could to follow and cover his leader while he engaged pirate spacecraft.
But in a fight like this it would only be a matter of time before one of them would find themselves alone in the fight.
Suddenly he caught a glimpse of two enemy fighters diving down from above. He called it in:
“Bingo-Storm, double bandits left 10 high, Committing” and he burned upwards to force those fighters to break away. He lined up the shot and for the first time he pulled the trigger. Both his guns lit up in anger, throwing a dozen shells at the enemy every second. He could hear and feel the guns barking in his craft. It was a powerful feeling. His shots connected and shredded the first fighter. The second broke away and turned to reengage.
“Bingo. Got visual. Continue press. Your lead.” he ordered while getting behind his wingman. He was now covering Storm.
Only to find another fighter closing in on his squadmate from above.
“Storm, break right NOW!”
Without looking back Mercer yanked the stick right and pulled a 7G turn to evade, knowing Bingo would clear his 6 O’clock.
“Bingo-Invictus, heavily engaged. Mission outcome doubtful.” sounded through the speakers.
In the CIC the command centre was flooded with combat chatter. The sound was awful for anyone present to hear.
Price had already launched every frontline fighter he had. All there was left were empty reserve fighters and the strike units.
He was seriously considering launching the Strike Vipers to assist.
“They’re getting cut to pieces out there.” Goradin remarked. Price and Howard could see in his eyes that the young officer knew what he was hearing.
“How long till reinforcements arrive?”
Goradin quickly switched between the tactical map and the DRADIS screen, looking for the contacts of both Bravo squadron and the Alien Bane. “We’re looking at about 15 minutes for Bravo squadron if they’re burning hard. Alien Bane will take no less than 25 minutes to get here.”
“We’re outnumbered four to one. We can’t hold them off that long.” The XO said to no one in particular.
“Get strike squadron 1 and 2 to drop their heavy payloads and into the tubes. Keep 3 and 4 on strike loads.”
“You wanna do what?!” the XO called in disbelief.
“These ships are still very manoeuvrable. Their guns are loaded and they can carry four anti-fighter missiles each.
We need to even the odds. No choice.”
Howard swore inside and relayed the order.
On the hangar deck crew were scrambling to get the heavy anti-ship missiles off the wings. Usually this process took some time to do, but the veteran crew chief had to get them in the tubes and away as soon as he could. So he got the pilots in their cockpits, put ordonance carriers underneath the missiles and put the arming pins back. With the missiles on safe he let the pilots blow the release bolts, letting over a hundred pounds of explosives fall with a bang on the carriers. It was a gamble, but knowing how the arming systems worked he was sure this worked. Anyway, he figured with the situation as it was, playing it safe would leave no-one left alive to doubt his decision.
Within two minutes he had a flight of ten birds ready to fly. The moment the missiles were gone they were shoved inside the tubes and shot into space to join the fray. Although the strike vipers were less manoeuvrable than their fighter counterparts, they were faster and could burn away fast to get some distance and use their missiles. It wasn’t perfect, but it evened the odds a little. With FLAK to cover one end and vipers to help cover their tails, the strikers were surprisingly effective in taking down enemy fighters. Hitting them once in locked on wasn’t hard. The enemy craft were significantly larger than a regular Viper.
Outside Mercer and the rest of his squadron were fighting for their lives. By now he had already killed about five of the raiders and damaged a dozen others. He had only two missiles left so he had to make them count. He and Major Burke were rotating lead in turns. The one to first see and fight the enemy took lead while the other covered their six. Every now and again they had to evade other fighters duking it out and emerging smack-dead in front of their noses.
“Bingo, one at front-level closing fast!” Mercer called in his mic while squeezing off a burst. The enemy fighter was closing fast with suicidal speed while firing his las-cannons. His burst just missed by inches. Mercer’s burst didn’t and left the pilot a red smear in his cockpit. His plane erupted in flames and tumbled towards him. Mercer and Bingo could only just roll out of its way, while swearing, preventing a fatal collision. The wreck tumbled towards Invictus and would ultimately impact and bounce off its armor.
Seconds later Mercer felt his craft shake violently. A red light started burning and the alert-buzzer started wailing. He was hit on his right wing and was missing several panels. He left a thin trail of smoke behind but no severe damage. Still in the fight.
His warning systems started shouting warnings, telling him he was locked and had a missile inbound.
“Storm! Go defencive! Missile!” he shouted while pulling heavy G forces. He keyed his jammers while trying to defeat the missile guidance-heads. Bingo tried to intercept the missile but couldn’t get a shot. He did found the bugger who had launched at his squadmate and decided to return the favour.
His missile gave an eager growl in his headset, ready to fly. With the press of a button the missile was cast off from the wing mount. A fraction of a second later the missile computer ignited the missile engine and sped away to its target. The seeker head had locked the big IR signature of the massive fighter’s engine. A juicy target. Designed to lock on viper-sized engines the missile head had no problems following the huge engine. No matter what the enemy tried, the fighter was doomed. No more than ten seconds after launch the missile drilled itself in the engine bay of its target, exploding inside. When the explosion had dissipated, there was nothing left but debris.
Mercer had managed to lose the missile sent after him, but only after he pulled a tight turn and burned upwards at the last moment. The missile overshot and flew around aimlessly for a few more seconds before exploding somewhere in the void.
“You still good Storm?”
“I’m hit but OK”
“Need to pull back?”
“Minor damage. I’m not that easy to get rid off! Let's go!”
And both fighters turned back into the fight.
By this time the space between the Battlestar and the asteroid field was filled with a giant furball. Spacecraft from both sides turning and weaving amongst each other at point blank range. Invictus had covered itself in a thick FLAK screen to take out any pirate craft that got through. Every now and again a small group of strikers and fighters had managed to disengage and regroup outside the furball. They were soon joined by FLAK bursts, forcing them to break up and disperse.
Every now and again Vipers ran out of ammo and made combat landings. Instead of rearming the craft on the spot, the pilot was moved to a reserve fighter ready to go and launched back into the fray. Though not everyone who managed to get back was able to be sent out again. Many vipers were hit and their pilots wounded. Lieutenant Williams had managed to land his bird, only to die moments later from blood loss.
In the CIC flight directors were guiding their groups to the highest threats. Battery commanders were busy directing the guns and damage control parties were busy compartmentalising any damage taken. Though the Flak screen was thick and the fighter screen well executed, some missiles and bombs did get through to hit the armored hull. Within that logistical chaos of events both senior officers had their hands full. What Price heard next he had never thought possible.
“Commander, I’ve got the Orion on the line. Rear-Admiral McCallun demands to know why you’ve redirected his forces…”
“Tell him I’m busy!” Price snapped. He put the horn back to his ear. One of the last hits had hit the engineering section and caused a problem that needed fixing. The Rear-Admiral could go climb a tree for all he cared. He had no time to explain himself to some high ranking noble snob. A hard hit from a plasma bomb smacked everyone down to the floor.
They had been fighting for almost 17 minutes now. Luckily the viper squadrons didn’t suffer many losses. Most of the time the fighters had managed to evade before getting hit in any serious way.
Most of the units were now out of missiles and were fighting with guns only. Some units gathered a small group of fighters and herded them in a cluster of FLAK fire, allowing Invictus to tear them apart.
“We’ve got large ships coming on our tail!” someone called though the radio. “Blue wedges and grey hulls. They’re boxing us in!”
Mercer looked back though his canopy. Immediately he recognised the color codes and markings on the ships. “Storm to all Viper units. Those ships are ours! It is Bravo Squadron!”
Price looked up at his DRADIS screen and saw the tell-tale contacts of the Firestorm Squadron coming in from behind.
“Firestorm Squadron Bravo checking in. Apologies for the delay commander. Alien Bane should come up within the next few minutes.”
Price connected with the ships and picked up the horn.
“No problem. Move in to our flanks and join your FLAK barrage with ours.” and he put down the horn
“XO, tell our fighters to herd the enemy in the centre of the area. Let our FLAK tear em up!”
The close range FLAK of the frigates formed a new barrier: mighty turbolasers, missile banks and super-heavy auto cannon pelting out their contribution to the wall of FLAK along with Invictus, effectively boxing in the enemy squadrons. The longer ranged intercept cannons kept spewing out shells to make the centre of the area a massive confused fireball. The three ships together, in combination with the fighter force, managed to halt the enemy advances and tore the pirate craft to pieces. Attempts to break free were met with Viper groups forcing them back in. Eventually the enemy groups started to retreat back into the asteroid field, only to have the first of the pirate vessels to emerge.
Three corvettes and two Iconoclast destroyers were the first warships to stick their noses out, coupled with half a dozen sloops and gunboats for added defence. The Vipers pulled back and gave Invictus and the two frigates space to manoeuvre. The ships turned to face the incoming destroyers while all present ships started to blaze away at each other with all available batteries.
Though the pirate destroyers put up a good fight, they were soon reduced to burning hulks by cannon fire and lance strikes. Help from the Firestorm frigates breaking the pirates’ defences. After that, the fate of the destroyers was sealed. Bravo squadron took care of the remaining corvettes not long after.
The pirates kept coming, despite the losses, but by this time Alien Bane had arrived and joined forces with the other units. Pouring it's own lethal brand of death to the fray. Together the four ships formed a formidable battle line and managed to keep the enemy at bay under the leadership of Commander Price.
Hoping to exploit this opening, they kept the enemy occupied. In the confusion of all-out combat, Invictus had secretly launched a flight of BlackSharks armed with nuclear missiles. The flight of expert pilots had circled around the back and entered the pirate haven unseen. While the Invictus and reinforcements kept the attention of the pirates, the hunters snuck past observation posts ever closer to the pirate base. It took them a while to reach their intended target through the maze of rocks and debris, but they found the target nonetheless.
Though they were behind schedule, they launched the attack with professional conviction and speed.
This time the base was on full alert. Most ships were moving out of the base and towards the fight in close formation.
Once the group was close enough they launched their missiles, taking fire from the few gun ports and weapon positions that had been looking in the right direction. Half went to the base and the other half shot out after the largest ships they could find. The moment the missiles left the rail the BlackSharks turned around and flew back to base as fast as they could. Now coming under much heavier fire from the fully alert pirate emplacements. Shortly after the nukes detonated, huge chunks of rock were hurled in every direction. Some pirate craft not already underway to the battle zone were crushed by the chunks of rocks being thrown around.
“Multiple nuclear detonations detected inside the field, commander!”
“Good! Remain focussed. We’ve still got a pirate fleet to hold off.”
He had barely finished that sentence before reports from returning Blacksharks came in.
“BlackShark one to Invictus. Invictus be aware, you have two capital vessels heading your way. Advise you prepare for fleet action.”
Goradin turned back from the sensors consoles. “Confirmed inbound Commander. Looks like two Dauntless Light cruisers.”
Price sighed and called out: “Get me Alien Bane on the horn.”
After a few moments the comms crackled to life: “Alien Bane, Captain Harlan speaking.”
“Commander Price, Battlestar Invictus. Captain, we’ve got two Dauntless cruisers inbound. My ship can’t take that much firepower at once.”
“We’ll take one off your hands Commander. Give them traitors hell!” With those words Captain Harlan broke the connection.
“Get our remaining strikers back on board for rearm and refuel. We’re gonna need them fast!” Price ordered.
Both ships started to turn broadside on to face the incoming foes, while Bravo squadron got clear to provide support when needed. The pirate vessels however didn’t really feel like poking their heads out. Every now and then they emerged from behind an asteroid, blasted away a salvo and ducked back into cover again. Each salvo was answered by the allied fleet, but until Invictus had rearmed her strike craft there was not much they could do to chase them out.
After about twenty minutes repeating this way of fighting the Captain of Alien Bane grew tired of playing hide and seek. Without warning the Imperial cruiser turned all its lance batteries at the biggest asteroid it could train its guns on and fired, full discharge. The resulting explosion was not that impressive, but it did break the asteroid apart. Huge chunks of rock the size of entire city blocks flew in every direction. Repeating these blasts, Alien Bane forced the pirate cruisers to either come out in the open or get crushed between countless tons of rock.
This left the pirates no choice but to burn hard and try to break through. They were met with lance salvos and Macro fire from Alien Bane and the full broadside battery fire of Invictus.
“Commander” Goradin cried out. “We must turn the ship Now!”
“The prow lance doesn’t care about your armor. At the moment we’re a huge target and without shields, we are vulnerable. A single good hit could cripple us!”
Price hesitated for a split second, weighing his options…. “Do it!”
The massive hulk turned to face the enemy head on. This came to save the ship from terrible damage. The lance blast meant for her engine and rear-dorsal turrets missed their target. Instead it cut a long glowing hot gash in the starboard bow armor. Some compartments were breached and air was sucked away before emergency bulkheads sealed off the area. They would lose twenty men in there...
Sirens started wailing and warning lights came blinked red on the damage control panel.
“We can’t take much of this.” Howard said quietly.
“Launch all wings!” Price ordered Goradin, the man who had been sitting at the dispatch position lying unconscious next to his station. The violence of the lance strike having caused his head to impact off of the console screen. The young imperial shot to the console and took over the station immediately, launching everything with wings and engines. “Birds are away!”
Price turned to the helm. “All ahead flank speed! 3...2….1… Hit it!”
The helmsman slammed the throttle handles forward. All eight rear engines roared to life, leaving huge burning flames in its wake. Picking up speed Invictus quickly moved outside of the lance’s field of view, but not before a second blast cut a second gash along the starboard side.
Alien Bane had managed to chase the second Dauntless cruiser away from the fight, giving Invictus the room it needed. Captain Harlan had every confidence in his ship’s capability. She was designed to hit above her weight after all. This pirate traitor would not win here today!
By now both ships were turning around each other like fighting dogs. Each trying to get the upper hand while trading shells and lance blasts, each furiously savaging the opposing vessel. Maybe this opponent would put up a fight worthy of the Imperial Navy!
At the edge of the fight Bravo squadron was helping Invictus break the shields of the adversary with long range lance strikes. The two frigates could close in and join the fight at close range, but that would have to wait. Both Firestorm commanders agreed that Invictus would need the space to manoeuvre for now, considering the damage she had taken. Going head on with a lance vessel with no shields was asking for trouble. As far as Bravo squadron was concerned, Price could count himself lucky with the hits she had taken.
In any case, once the outsider ship was locked in a close slugging match, they would move in to provide extra support.
Closing the distance fast, even point defence guns were blazing away at each other. The enemy cruiser did the same, pummeling the battlestar’s armor with Macro shells. Though the armor was tough and angled well causing many shells to deflect and tumble away, enough hits managed to cause damage. Both ships shuddered on the trading of impacts and explosions. The sheer violence of the brawling ships was seen at the other side of the system. Both the armor of Invictus and the void shield of the pirate vessel were ablaze with explosions.
By now Invictus had managed to get halfway beside the traitor vessel all the while pounding its shields with every gun that could shoot. “Brace for hard manoeuvres!” Price ordered. “Bow batteries, load Super-Density shells. Prepare for salvo fire on my command. Helm, main engines to idle, shift ten degrees starboard. Five degrees nose down. Bow thrusters to full reverse!”
Looking to the face of his long-time friend, Colonel Howard saw nothing but angry determination in his eyes to put it mildly. Clearly he had enough. Warning lights started flashing and sirens wailed their cautions. Pulling off this kind of manoeuvre at this speed was dangerous. If the rear engines didn’t idle before the turn was initiated they would plow themselves in the hull of the other ship!
By burning the bow thrusters Price allowed the engine bay to overtake the rest of the ship in a rapid turn. Within a few seconds he had drifted the ship like a rally car to have the bow face the enemy vessel. “Bow batteries, FIRE!”
The Bow Batteries erupted in violent fury, unleashing their heavy armor-piercing shells and leaving muzzle flames meters long behind. The bow and dorsal batteries, in combination with the well-aimed lance blasts from Bravo squadron, finally broke the shield bubble and exposed the armored hull of their cruiser adversary. The moment everyone was waiting for....
With the shields down every Viper spacecraft swooped in to attack, firing missiles at anything that resembled weapons, engines, plasma thrusters and the like. Some dare-devil risked a gun-run, raking vision ports and small-calibre guns.
Invictus kept pummeling the hull, her Super-Density shells penetrating and causing all kinds of violent havoc inside. Bravo squadron quickly moved in and blasted expertly aimed lance-bolts, setting fires, overloading systems and blowing holes in the hull. The sub-macro turrets raked the bridge, breaching the protective armor and sent the high-officers screaming into the void.
With all this firepower bearing down on the Light-Cruiser, it was only a matter of time before it succumbed. A combination of solid missile hits damaged Plasma-thrusters, causing the ship to spin slowly unable to stop it. Fires from lance-blasts reached the munitions chamber and heated the shells to critical level. The resulting explosion took out half the starboard broadside while fire fountained out the sides. A final salvo from the Bow batteries aimed at the engine-bay ensured the breakout attempt from the pirates was ground to a halt. The kill was claimed by Bravo squadron’s ‘Vigil’ frigate. Its lance blast took out the generatorium, blowing the ship apart.
By the time the three ships had taken out the cruiser, Alien Bane had already reduced its adversary to a glowing-hot husk of molten metal and exploding shells.
The whirlwind and thunder flashes of violence suddenly died down, letting the dark void of space fall back near the asteroid field. The battle was over, leaving only the allied fleet to consolidate the forces and secure the area.
Rear-Admiral McCallun, enraged at Price for leading His forces, reluctantly dropped the issue and relayed new orders to the stranger ship. Apparently the higher-ups had different plans for them. Anyway, with that troublemaker gone he had his hands free again to make his own name in this theatre of war.
Priority message security code Aquilus
From: Battlefleet strategic Command Gothic Sector, Lord-Admiral Ravensburg.
To: Commander Price, Battlestar Invictus.
Regarding: Urgent Transfer
Babarus sub-system reclamation secure.
Orar sub-system under threat. Transfer at best speed to this sector.
The Emperor protects.
If there are any questions about events, factions or anything at all regarding this story, take a look at Caliger's topic here:viewtopic.php?f=28&t=22725
We can give some background information if people would like to know.
I can say myself that his notes have taught me a lot about the various ships and ranks within the imperial navy and more.