The Inexorable War Ep. 1
1146 UST 2775.03.13 Colonial Government Strategic Command Center (CGSCC)/Midway Evacuation Hub –Aelmere City, Midway
Colonial Army and Air Force liaisons rushed in and out of the ferrocrete fuel bunker that had been taken over as temporary CGSCC HQ. The deafening roar of battle echoed through the halls, punctuated by the heavy thumps of indirect fire landing on the bunker roof above. The screams and moans of the wounded, both military and civilian alike, added to the inhuman cacophony enveloping Stan Callosk, colonial governor of Midway. Blood and sand mixed on the floor, for hours wounded and dying were moved into the same space as the command center, military and civilian doctors were applying their grizzly trade only meters from Callosk. The lack of resupply forced surgeons to rely on ancient techniques to save lives. On the screens in front of him a mass of humanity surged to the open doors of a waiting ore freighter that was pressed into service. Indirect fire was raining down among the crowd but those poor souls kept pressing forward like maddened animals. It took Callosk all he could not to vomit in disgust at the scene; he could feel himself reaching the breaking point. No one knows how or where the populations of Boskara got their weapons, some reports indicated they were using their own shard type weapons while other transmissions from the perimeter tell about encountering colonial small arms; undoubtedly taken from the Midway Guard Base “Struckker” that was overrun two days ago. Worst of all, no one can estimate how many civilians were left behind when the colonies' capital fell. Estimates range into the tens of millions. Some of those civilians who did make their way through the lines reported of mass killings and, shockingly, consumption of those unlucky enough to be taken captive. Callosk tried not to think about that. He was racked again by stinging guilt, this was entirely his fault; he had been a proponent of integration of the Boskara in the core worlds and now his rhetoric doomed millions. A strong hand spun him away from the carnage on the monitor screens.
A major in the Midway Guard stood before him in tattered and bloodied dress greens. The woman looked as if she hadn't slept in a week. A blood soaked bandage covered the stump where her left hand used to be which was haphazardly tucked into a sling around her neck, “Governor Callosk, the perimeter has been breached a kilometer from here. Our orders are to get you and the rest of your officials on the next transport.”
Callosk st at the woman slack jawed. Why now, when there were so many more civilians to evacuate. How could he live with himself? The world was suddenly silent, Callosk wanted to protest but the words would not come. The major shook her head while saying something and motioned to a pair of guardsmen. The soldiers had to physically remove him from the room; Callosk was still overcome with a horrible emptiness.
“Why can't I move?”, Callosk internalized as he was dragged along the darkened hallway. He still could not hear but the smell of blood and ozone filled his head. “This isn't happening.”
A member of his six man security detail stopped before the bunker door, screamed something about “move fast” and “don't ****ing stop” in his face before slapping a helmet on Callosks head. “This is insane, this is a dream, it must be.” The man was cut down by an explosion outside as the door opened. Callosk felt his legs moving faster as he was pushed outside the door.
Outside of the bunker the air was alive with the beehive sound of shrapnel. The security detail pushed, kicked, and butt stocked their way through the crowd. Callosk turned to look behind him just as a guardsman escorting him shot a civilian that was clinging to another soldier. “Why?”, Callosk thought as he retched, “We are supposed to be saving them.”
The group was only one hundred meters from the open doors of the ore fighter. Ahead of them, where moments ago, stood a mother and her two daughters; there was a blinding flash. Time dilated to a crawl as the shrapnel from the explosion ripped through Callosks chest and shoulders. For the first time since he was told to evacuate Callosk heard sound in the form of intense ringing. Around him the remaining members of his protection detail were doubled over and motionless. His gaze returned to the place where the women and two children once stood. One of the children was standing bawling incoherently and her mother was digging furiously in the rubble where the crowd once stood, she was badly wounded. She was screaming as Callosk sat there in a daze and began to pull out her hair.
“No”, he said out loud, “No more, I don't care!”
Callosk pushed himself up, his clothes heavy with blood, and began running toward the woman. Callosk grabbed the young girl with his left arm as he passed her, the woman with his right. “We're getting out of here alive, I don't care!”
The black haired woman was biting and scratching him as they ran towards the ore freighter which was beginning its accent. No time. Callosk threw the girl in his left arm through the door to the waiting arms of a crewman. He took another step over a ruined Kaiden female and threw the woman at least ten meters into the rapidly ascending ship before collapsing to his knees. Callosk looked down to his blood soaked uniform and then back up to the woman who was now staring wide eyed at him.
“At least I could save you.”, Callosk began to smile. Somewhere behind the freighter a light ten thousand times brighter than Horecani Prime itself enveloped first the ship then Callosk. He had the sensation of floating for the briefest of moments and then nothing. The one hundred megaton anti matter bomb that was detonated above the evacuation hub spared nothing and no one.
0846 UST 2775.04.19 Colonial Government Complex - Geneva – Earth 'Two days after the fall of Spoi'
Speaker of the Senate Claire Raque walked swiftly passed the barricades and armed guards patrolling around the shuttle entrance. In the distance the faint sounds of an angry mob could be heard echoing through the white and blue marble halls of the Colonial Government Complex. As she passed the large central hall of the Senate wing the gold seal of the Confederation showed scuff marks and graffiti left by the sit-in 'United Front' protesters that were removed only minutes ago. In bright crimson paint the word “Traitors” was still drying on the grand seal. The lift ride to the Senate chambers reviled more, hundreds of thousands of protesters and counter protesters turned the streets below into a rivers of chaos. To call the last two months an unmitigated disaster would be gross understatement. Several colonies had populations of Boskara that have revolted with hundreds of millions of human civilians being listed as missing or killed. Several centers of trade in the north were lost with all human government officials and families killed in the ensuing violence. Koq was the most effected out of all of these planets as the governmental urban zone was nulled (term for anti-matter bomb) out of existence. The last moments of Koq played out live, and was preserved for the public at large, over hacked channels of the holonet station on that planet. After the fires of Koq the civilian population, already reeling for the effects of the loss of Midway, took to the streets and government centers on the remaining colonies. These people did not have a coherent voice as opinions ranged from calling for an immediate retaliatory strike with nuclear or anti-matter weapons on the effected planets to the toppling of the Confederate government. The most shocking, and difficult to address, event in the past month was the loss of Midway; first to the Boskara after Aelmere City was nulled and then to the Kaiden under “Special Administrative Control”. Raque and the rest of the Senate knew it was a power grab disguised as a humanitarian mission. Although the Kaiden have allowed government agencies, civilian aid groups, and military units to assist in controlling the remaining population and aid or recovery efforts, any attempt to negotiate the transfer of control over the system has been killed in its cradle by the Kaiden. Sooner or later the excuse of an 'extraordinary security situation' will no longer shield the Oligarchy from the consequences.
“Speaker, have you been listening?”, Claire’s aide held the lift door as they departed.
Claire paused for a moment embarrassed that she had missed a conversation, “I'm sorry please continue.” The entourage of aides and body guards continued through the arches of the Senate chamber. The words 'For the greater good' were emblazoned at the top.
“...as I was saying”, Claire's aide began cautiously, “This morning’s proceedings include discussions on military preparedness with Grand Admiral Attar and the joint chiefs as well as-.” The aide stopped short of finishing his sentence.
“Andrew, I have seen the schedule for today.”, Claire continued to her seat next to the consul, Alfonso Rivera, leaving Andrew visibly flustered. She had been vetted within the last few months by several members of the Senate to take over from Alfonso in the next election cycle. Those who did the vetting pointed to her strong leadership of the Senate during her time as speaker and her support from the moderates both in the government and amongst the citizens of the Confederation. Claire also had to be honest with herself, she wanted that seat. Her entire political career was centered on becoming Consul and with a half-witted yes-man like Rivera in the seat the election was already decided. The Confederation would not survive another five years of 'leadership' from the current consul.
The lights dimmed in the chamber except for those over the seats reserved for the representatives of Koq, Boskar, and of course Midway. The morning’s business continued, as usual, with Attar concentrating less on assisting the Senate on military decisions and more in pressing for a change to the war powers act that would allow the military to act freely. Attar and Raque had grown to respect each other over the past few months and although she had full faith and confidence in Attar he would never have his wish granted. Like Claire, most of the Senate members agreed that giving power to the military could be dangerous at this time. It only took one rouge task force commander to dissolve what little confidence the electorate had in the Confederation. The government was barely holding on as it was. Claire was certain that the only reason every member in the chamber had not lost their jobs was the steely resolve of a good portion of the population to wipe any trace of the Boskara from the galaxy. She found it hard to disagree with them. Claire had to control her disgust when the always fiery senator from Eden, Galen Yost, made the case again to expel all non-human races from the core worlds and detain any boskaran as a war criminal. Being part of the United Front and from Eden had afforded Yost several powerful friends but again his motion yielded to more rational minds. When Claire becomes Consul she would need to watch Yost and his party compatriots carefully. More importantly the notion of deporting sentient races to other parts of the galaxy would be swiftly curtailed. Nothing is more dangerous than a mob that fears for its existence. If only the founders could see the government now.
The bomb exploded on the fifty-sixth floor of the CGC halfway through the discussion on how to handle the new influx of thirty million recruits. Claire barely had time to notice the building shudder before her security detail swiftly moved her down the emergency lift to the shuttle bay. Despite repeated efforts to find out what exactly was going on no one on her team could say anything other than 'we need to get you to safety'. The detail covered the ramp to the shuttle as she was strapped into her seat. The pilot shouted something about hold on before the ship rocketed away from the landing pad and the g forces she experienced caused her almost to black out. Claire could tell something was horribly wrong when the ship lurched upward violently paired with a bone jarring blast from the rear of the craft. The nose dive that followed confirmed her fear.
Claire awoke in the Senate chamber seated as consul. Over the next few weeks she presided over the total victory over the Boskara and the reunification of the colonies. She lingered in that coma induced fantasy for several days before succumbing to her injuries.
2347 UST 2775.10.08 Phase line Zephyr - 15th Striker Division "Fundamenta Inconcussa" – Northern hemisphere – Burkaan 'Twenty-two days into Operation Pious Assassin'
Lieutenant Urban Perez loaded a fresh magazine into his weapon as he stepped over a still squirming Boskaran male. The lenses behind its compound eyes were clearly following his movements when his SSLO (Spaceborne Support Liaison Officer) delivered the coup de grace to the nerve center of the fallen enemy. The SSLO was a “Black Water Navy” lieutenant named Veronica Bailey. Perez had his doubts when she joined his platoon a month ago before planet fall but she had shown that she was more than capable of holding her own in a fight. Perez was following his second squad, which had been reduced from twelve members to seven, into their lane of responsibility. In that lane stood several Boskaran structures sprawling for several kilometers, a difficult task for an under strength squad. The buildings were nick named “shrooms” for both their mushroom like appearance and, half-jokingly, their tenancy to make a soldier lose their mind. The buildings themselves are not tall, only a few stories, with the real infrastructure existing below ground. It can take several hours or days to clear out the myriad of rooms and halls below. Burkaan was decidedly and infantryman’s fight trough and trough. No armor could safely be brought to bear in the close quarter environment of a Boskaran cityscape. Using indirect fire or spaceborne fire support only turned a shroom filled with shrieking Boskaran berserkers into a pile of rubble that had to be cleared of very agitated shrieking Boskaran berserkers. Perez couldn't decide if it was an asset or a horrible tragedy that most of these same buildings were cleared decades earlier. At least, this time, the infantry didn't have to worry about corrosive gas as well. Suddenly the platoon net lit up with frantic messages from fourth squad which was clearing rooms a level above but were suddenly silenced. Urban singled for another stop. Grayndler, the squad’s last remaining assault man, knelt carefully besides the entrance to the next chamber. His battle armor was outfitted with a bulky upgrade known simply as an ‘Armor Pak’.
This upgrade consists of enhanced composite armor attachments placed over the existing battle armor as well as thin square centimeter scale plates of reactive armor over the entire suit. The reactive armor was designed to work with the suit’s onboard computer to detect the changes of heat and pressure from a Boskaran shard-type weapon. Upon sensing the incoming projectile, the reactive armor plate would detonate destroying the shard. Or, at least, that’s how it worked in theory. There was only one layer of reactive scale and the Boskara had the tendency to deplete an entire shard rod into a soldier before charging. This lead to most of the scales being depleted at first contact and the clever moniker ‘rayet pak’s’ after the wolf-rayet star classification. Interestingly enough the paks were supposed to be issued only to Marines, Drop infantry, and Special Forces. Rumor has it that the supply officer knew a guy that knew a guy, the same old story.
Perez used his battle armor’s neural interface to bring up Grayndler’s helmet cam and pin it to his HUD. The dark hallway ahead was suddenly illuminated as Graydler toggled his low light filter from white hot to enhance true color. Onboard motion sensors began to detect vibrations attributed to the movement of Boskarans from every approach. Perez then keyed a short written message with the neural interface to his squad 'No light, no sound, possible contacts.' The squad leader, a Sargent Petralia from the southern end of Earth's Balkan Peninsula, began to move his squad into a 360 formation as every helmet light in a chamber went off. The pitch black of the room was slowly lit by their helmets auto light filter.
Every soldier was motionless waiting for the inevitable storm. Perez was attempting to contact fourth squad when the ceiling above the group exploded into razor sharp chunks of volcanic rock. He was temporary blinded by the helmets inability to compensate for the bright flash and his head was racked with pain as the dampeners in the helmet compensated for the lethal pressure change. It took a moment for Perez to recover and notice the long buzzing sound coming from his HUD indicating that one of his squad member's heart stopped, a feature that was only available to medics and leadership. As his onboard computer finished its reboot process Perez saw that Boskaran soldiers were already on top of a few members of his squad. As he swung his battle rifle into engage a large boskaran that was attempting relieve Bailey of her right arm Perez himself was tackled to the ground by a red berserker. The armored boskaran pressed the muzzle of its shard rifle into Perez's chest and depressed the pressure plate trigger. Time slowed down as the visible firing mechanism was released and shaved off a few slugs of stolzite alloy which were then propelled into his battle armor before harmlessly reaching the end of its ammunition. One of the three shards was able to penetrate. A white hot burning sensation was quickly relieved by the re-pressurization of his suit and the intravenous introduction of pain revelers.
The boskaran wasted no time trying to reload his weapon but was interrupted by wicked right cross from Perez. The red berserker was more taken aback by Perez’s action than by the blow itself but the pause did allow Perez to plunge his combat knife between the Sclerite plates of its thorax. Perez used his suits power exoskeleton to break the blade off at the hilt, roll away, and retrieve his battle rifle. Perez fired a burst at the charging berserker just has his rifle leveled. The explosive rounds left ragged holes in the creature, spraying gray-green hemolymph on the walls a floor which quickly solidified in the heat of the atmosphere. Wounded and enraged the berserker fell on Perez again. He had just enough time to activate the spring loaded bayonet on his rifle and brace himself. The berserker bent the battle rifle as it speared itself. Perez stepped violently to his left rear using the inertia of the boskaran and the power exoskeleton to fling his enemy to the ground. The rifle shattered from the force.
At this point Perez was in adrenaline induced frenzy and flung himself on his enemy. He was clawing at the berserker’s neck joint when its two lower limbs penetrated the armor on his back piercing the flesh underneath. Perez howled in pain as he redoubled his efforts at decapitating the insect. The Boskaran then went on the offensive, using its two upper limbs to try and crush Perez’s head. Perez knew that he only had moments in which to act, the pressure on his head was incredible and a crack had formed on the helmets ferroglass HUD. The ragged hole on the berserker’s thorax offered an opportunity to the wounded soldier. He plunged hands deep into the wound and began to pull on the remaining sclerite chest exoskeleton. Servos ground and squealed as they applied superhuman strength. At first the chest cavity gave slowly but then with a final crack the thorax exoskeleton separated from the rest of the alien’s body. The sight of congealing hymolyph made Perez gag and reminded him of fresh steamed lobster. The berserker loosened his grip and rolled into a death curl as it was cooked from the inside.
Any celebration was cut short as another boskaran tackled him into the steaming corpse just as he got to his feet. His attacker was clawing at his already wounded back trying to expose Perez to the poison inferno of the planet’s atmosphere. The pain and fear was becoming overwhelming. He repositioned his head under the pressure of his attacker just in time to see one of his squad members being torn apart by two assailants. Perez screamed for help but his comms package had been ripped apart and his vocalizer on his helmet was damaged. He began to feel ribs crack as his battle armor tried in vain to deliver anesthetic from empty vials. Just as his vision was turning red a dark figure plunged its bayonet into the neck of the boskara attacking him and squeezed the trigger delivering a three round burst to its head splintering exoskeleton and hemolymph across the far wall. Perez gingerly rolled over to see Bailey offering her hand.
It took several minutes to tend to the wounded and account for the dead, three KIA four WIA. Perez was able to patch his comms through Baileys and sent a STAR (Situation Terrain Ammunition Replacements) report to his company commander, Captain Methusha. It only took her seconds to respond over the squad net.
“Outstanding job on clearing the shroom, report back to the FOB. Rearm, reequip, reinforce. We need you supporting second platoon clearing the rest of your lane in two hours.”
Perez didn't need to see their faces to know what they were thinking. Graydlers pock marked battle armor visibly slumped at the news. Perez look a look at one of his soldiers shattered body. The armor had the unit crest wreathed by the motto.
1425 UST 2775.12.08 - Colonial Navy SSTC (Small Spacecraft Training Center) 'Europa' - VTS-7 ‘Lucky Devils’ <Training>
Victoria snapped her S-56 Rapier 180 degrees to engage her target, the blood rushed to through her body only to be stopped by the intricate air bladders and tourniquets in her flight suit. A short burst from her auto cannons turned the drone into shrapnel. As she maneuvered her fighter away from the deadly shower of metal Jupiter and Europa blurred and flashed in front of the fighter’s canopy. Other Rapiers in her flight danced in intricate circles around their respective target drones, stray shots being fired wildly. MQ-24 drones, relics of the original space borne drone program, were more nimble than their human piloted counterparts. After the Kaiden shared their knowledge about drone technology it became glaringly apparent how easily it was to disrupt the control interfaces remotely. The Navy had to cancel further investment in drone technology for CAG's and move back to the tried and true manned spacecraft for combat roles.
The flight leader’s voice broke in between hurried communications, “All Jesters, reform on lead, wedge.”
Small jets of ionized gas erupted from the nose of her craft as the fly-by-wire system pushed her into dive. Each member of the flight acknowledged in turn and formed on flight. The rest of Jester flight was already reformed on front of Victoria and they sped towards her, an empty space was left on the right side of formation. Behind harlequin flight was mopping up the rest of the target drones. As she called shackle to her flight lead Victoria took a brief moment to appreciate the immensity of the Red Nova training exercise that was swirling around her. Civilian traffic had been restricted around Europa to make room for the hundreds of ships. Bursts of light lit up the void between her and Jupiter as hundreds of pilots engaged drones of all sizes and makes. Against her ferroglass HUD six hulks, which had been towed into place as targets, were marked as hostile capital ships. A flight of STB-4N torpedo bombers lumbered into view vectoring towards their targets. As Jester flight closed the distance the gold and black emblem on their atmospheric wings announced they were part of VTB-28 ‘Heavens Hammers”, an active duty formation.
A gruff voice crackled over the net, “Jester flight, this is Sledge flight lead, committed vector 5-6 Zodiac point 9-8, LOKI clean.” You could almost see the boredom oozing through the coms.
For Victoria and her group this exercise was the final test before graduation and joining the fleet. Even after the twenty-four training missions prior she still got a rush from piloting her craft. Those vets, however, probably despised the routine nature of the exercise.
“Sledge lead, Jester lead, holding hands. Break. Specter control, this is Jester lead, Bogey Dope.” At the same time the transmission was sent to the SE-5 ‘Geist’ SWACs Victoria’s on board LOKI picked up the bogeys that were descending on the formation.
“Jester lead, be advised, tally six bandits, right two o’clock high. 9 clicks closing your pos.” Things began moving quickly. Jester lead, the instructor, split the flight in half and sent six fighters to engage the incoming drones. The rest of the flight proceeded onward to the quickly approaching hulks. Behind and above the rest of Jester flight was engaged. Victoria took a few precious seconds to look at the score, four to three, their favor with one bandit closing on the formation. Things were about to get interesting.
“Jester flight, Sledge lead, LOKI spike, hard lock, going defensive.” The vet broke from brevity. “Multiple spikes, missile boat, if you don’t get him we’re fragged.” Urgency finally crept into his voice. Suddenly a long tone burst into Victoria’s ears followed by a low warbling that increased in pitch and frequency. A slightly red tent covered her HUD as the words MISSLE blinked quickly in front of her eyes. Her LOKI indicated that twelve missiles were inbound from the drone which was quickly dispatched by the two remaining detached Jesters. Three of the missiles were locked on to her craft. They were 7km out and closing fast.
Someone called over the net between the frantic calls of Sledge flight “Jester five notch left!” She was already halfway through the maneuver.
Small pyrotechnics burst all over the ship as LOKI disrupting nano particles were released into the void. The on board Electronic Countermeasure system began jamming the warhead of one of the missiles with no effect. G forces were pulling her hard in different directions as Victoria tried to lose the missiles that were tracking her from less than 1 km. The LOKI screen burst into static as one of the warheads detonated in the nano particle cloud. She pulled back on the stick for half a second then went into a spiraling dive as the other two missiles overshot her craft and began a turn to reengage. Victoria refined the ECS signal to a 180* arc to the aft of her bird in an attempt to jam the missile’s warhead. This meant that she had to fly in a somewhat straight line for an unbearable few seconds that it took for the ECS system to work. The warbling in her headset came to a steady tone as the missile closed within 200 meters. As the missile closed within detonation range the ECS system made a series of popping sounds with the steady grinding sound of an electric arc. At 50 meters she threw the Rapier into a hard right and watched as a missile, a quarter of the length of her craft, sailed harmlessly by; the ECS worked. Alarmingly, her viewport turned red again as the second missile reacquired a lock and was less than a klick out. In desperation Victoria flipped her craft vertically on its axis and prepared to engage the missile with guns. The missile closed another 400 meters in a second. Clusters of red and orange bolts peppered the blackness ahead as her cockpit shook in eerie silence. Her target dissolved into a mass of metal as her maxos cannons made short work of missile’s thin skin. She tried in vain to turn her craft away but the shields caught most of the debris. Time to get back in the fight.
As she turned toward the bomber formation several of sledge flights torpedo bombers were adrift, disabled from the training missile strikes. Ahead the bomber formation was beginning to take long range anti-spacecraft point defense artillery (ASA) fire. Simulated HE-FRAG rounds burst among the formation causing each bomber to take its own defensive maneuvers. Individual ships shields lit up blue and red from a distance.
Victoria dumped coolant on her guns while calling flight lead, “Jester lead, Jester five. Posit. (position report)”
“Jester five, form on lead, proceed to TP Constellation - Galaxy – 2 – 5 as fragged”, the flight leader responded coolly.
As she rejoined the flight, now reduced to seven fighters, sledge flights leader broke through on comms, “Jester flight, Sledge lead, Committed TP Constellation – Galaxy – 2 -5, cleared hot. Break. 1 click to release.”
An authoritative voice broke over the net, “Jester lead, specter control, be advised tally gorilla, vector 5-8 zodiac null, ten plus.”
Victoria knew exactly what that meant. Another flight of drones was hiding in the hulks that were quickly approaching. Two smaller ships to the left of their target, a super heavy ore freighter, were now balls of rapidly expanding debris. The other flights must have already taken out their targets. Meters counted down quickly on her HUD as the IP (Initial Point) flew past as a yellow star in her helmets AR (Augmented Reality) display. Ahead and to the left a new furball erupted only 5 clicks away, red and blue bolts stitched their way through the blackness. At 2 km medium range point defense weapons began intensifying their fire. The bombers had the shields to take such abuse but the remains of Jester flight had to alter course to avoid the hail of projectiles. Blue and green FLAK bursts peppered Sledge flight with harmless simulated fragments. The scene below was almost beautiful if it were not for the context. Victoria in knew that in a real fight their trip would not be so smooth.
A, now familiar, voice broke over the chatter,“Sledge flight, ripple those pigs, standby to reengage.”
Almost simultaneously the eight remaining bombers released their first salvo of torpedoes, two per bomber. The ASA fire picked up dramatically with short range point defense weapons painting ribbons of blue and purple at the approaching torpedoes. A bomber burst into simulated fragments in Victoria's AR HUD as a point defense weapon nailed its intended target. The realism of the simulated carnage took her aback for the briefest of moments. She figured that it was doing its intended job. The small group of fighters and bombers were now well within the target hulks' formation. Somewhere, very close, there were bandits ready to pounce.
“Sledge flight, ripple and break left and egres-”, Sledge leaders transmission was cut short by two stealth drones that dove trough the formation turning two bombers, including the leaders into scrap. As a testament to their experience, sledge flight broke formation and egressed in an orderly fashion.
“Jester five and eight, engage those bandits”
Victoria snapped her ship into a near 90* turn putting its nose into a lead pursuit behind one of the drones. It's flight became very erratic which forced her to move into a lag pursuit at a further distance. Stars, planets, and star craft turned her HUD into multicolored blur as she stayed on the tail of the drone. Twice the drone attempted a direct reversal which was deftly countered. A third attempt by the drone to get behind Victoria was its undoing, the counter thrust bled off just enough speed to give her lead pursuit for a few seconds. That’s all she needed. The red cannon rounds shattered the thin plasma shielding of the drone buckling its spindly airframe and sending it tumbling end over end to slam into piece of hulk debris.
“Jester five, get this bugger off me!”, a panicked voice said in an interesting accent.
“Jester eight, vector 1-3-6 Zodiac point 9-5, drag that bandit to me.” The other pilot did as he was told and headed straight for Victoria. The distance was closed at blinding speed. Jester eight buzzed past at less than five meters head on. It only took a handful of rounds to reduce the drone to twisted metal.
“Take my wing eight; we're not out of the fight yet.”
Victoria's LOKI indicated that there were six drones closing in the rest of the flight as they attempted to cover the retreating bombers. A quick check showed that she still had twelve Active Reengagement High Maneuverability missiles (ARHM) at her disposal. It was risky but worth a try.
“Jester lead, Jester five, go defensive, arrowshot.” If there was any protest from her flight leader he did not make it vocal, the remaining flight members began making a concerted effort to distant themselves from each other, even if that meant taking a few hits to their shields.
Victoria steadied her fighter while simultaneously syncing her missiles to the SWAC's tactical suite. Twelve missiles locked on their receptive targets. A chorus of tones filled her head as she squeezed the trigger.
“Jester five, Arrow one!”
Twelve, half meter long missiles, left their bays on the structure of her fighter and raced away; their ion engines flickering and dancing like firefly’s against a night sky. Thrusters fired on each missile as they adjusted their trajectory and speed making seemingly impossible turns. Victoria tapped nervously on the throttle as the first missiles detonated a meter from their respective targets. Large clouds of splintered metal and superheated gas dotted the star scape. Between her and Jester eight their ARHM missiles dispatched all but two of the drones. As she began pursuit of one of the remaining drones a blinding light filled her cockpit as the surviving torpedoes from sledge flight pierced through the old freighters hull. Hit after successive hit unleashed a hurricane of loose metal and debris into the furball. Victoria’s shields flared bright shades of blue as bits of freighter vaporized or were deflected. Frantic calls from the remainder of Jester flight came blaring through the headset. Their flight had wandered too close to the impact zone and were now paying for it. Someone screwed up.
“Jester flight, break contact, bug out now!” the flight leader had an urgency to his voice that none of the trainees had ever heard before.
Amongst the storm of metal a single drone somehow continued to pursue the flight leader. Victoria knew immediacy that if the flight leader was disabled his fighter would surely be destroyed.
“Jester lead, bandit your six!”, Victoria broke through the coms chatter.
“Darkstar, Jester lead declaring an emergency, kill the drones!” Blue tracers began to fly past his canopy.
“Jester lead, Darkstar, no go, too much interference, standby for SAR”
The drone pursuing Jester lead had lost its shields and was taking damage from debris while still making hits. Jester lead could not maneuver safely as larger pieces of the freighter were now careening through the battle space. Victoria made a decision and began to pursue the pair of ships, dodging large chunks of ship along the way. The plasma shielding was beginning to fail as she popped up vertically over a house sized piece of debris.
“Five, bug out now! That’s an order!”
There was no way that was happening.
“Lead break left and climb on my mark” The drone zipped in and out of her AR HUDs gun path. Just a second more.
Jester lead broke left and pulled into a vertical climb as bolts from Victoria’s Rapier relieved the drone of its aft structure. Before she could celebrate the drone overcorrected with its maneuvering thrusters. Victoria could only watch in horror as the drone slammed into her craft. She was pinned to the starboard wall as she went into an uncontrolled spin. Master alarms drowned out the sound of her panicked breaths. Before she could declare an emergency a piece of freighter collided with her ship.
When she awoke a week later in a military hospital on Europa her Jester flight lead, Josep “Pescidon” Pan was at her bedside. On the pillow beside her lay a series of commendation medals along with her Colonial Navy Aviator’s Badge and the Colonial Navy Dedication Medal for non-combat related heroism.
Pan leaned over her, a deadly seriousness in his eyes.
“What you did was stupid and I’m surprised they didn't ground you permanently. Instead they gave you medals. If you, ever, do something like that in combat you may end up killing someone. Remember, we are in a shooting war now. Keep that in mind.” He laid a rectangular piece of QNP by her unbroken arm.
Victoria gingerly looked at the glowing letters on the paper. ‘Upon graduation you are order to ACTIVE DUTY in the grade of rank shown above. Report to Colonial Task Force 3 “Spear”, VFA – 301 <SS> “Snake Eyes” no later than…’ Tears filled her eyes as she looked up at Pan. He managed a smile.
“Welcome to the fleet.”
0530 UST 2776.03.07 – Flag officers quarters - CSS Columbia - Task Force 2 “Spear” - Umwatt System
The light from Umwatt 4's forest moon Esleahu bathed Vice Admiral Hugo Trebulo in melancholy shades of blue as he sat on his bed. Almost a year to the day from the rebellion on midway and still he had the same tortured nightmare that kept him awake long into the night. It always started the same, the barren wasteland of Midway littered with the bones of those who perished at the evacuation hub. He would chase his daughter Sidney through the ruined corpses until she reached a ship that was leaving the planets surface. It always ended the same. She would turn, tears in her eyes, and scream at him to stop it. He would hug her and try to comfort her, he would tell her that everything was okay and that they would get out. And every time she would turn to dust in his arms.
Hugo hadn't even been able to pay his respects in person, Midway had been under Kaiden control since the first anti-matter bomb went off. Now that the Alliance was broken with the Kaiden no citizen of the Confederation was allowed on the surface. September of the previous year the Kaiden declared an immediate ceasefire with the Boskara, turned back their 15th Strike Force, and took most of the Kaiden military volunteers with them. No reason was given. No answers. Hugo could never find answers. A deep cold rage began to fill him when his door chimed. Commander Lohengrin making his morning report.
The door slid aside noiselessly as the 27 year old Commander and Flag aide walked confidentially into the room, as always, clothed in elegant dress blacks. Lohengrin's brother came up with Trebulo in the boarding school that they were unlucky enough to be forced into. Promises were made and kept long ago to make more of themselves than what they began as. Trebulo kept those promises long after Lohengrin's brother passed and a lasting friendship had formed.
“Sir, the morning report”
Trebulo did not take his gaze away from the moon and sat in silence as Lohengrin continued.
“The new shipment of S-56 Super Rapiers have been delivered to the fleet as well as, a new complement of replacements.”
The admiral did not take his gaze away from the Starfield. The melancholy that struck him a few weeks ago had taken everything from him. He had lost his family again. In the months following the attack the Admiral had a drive that he had never felt in his life. A demonic fervor had taken him since he heard the news and those under his command had taken the brunt of his grief. He was hell-bent on making his command ready for war and push them over the red line. News of this reached the defense committee back on earth and several members of Congress were of the opinion that Trebulo was unfit for command. It is rumored that Attar himself had stepped in to block his transfer to reserve Fleet headquarters on Eden. It did not come without cost, the third task force was to remain in orbit around Umwatt. Somewhere along the way his anger turned into a viscous depression that he could not climb out of.
“Admiral?”, Lohengrin had uncharacteristiclly sour face. Trebulo failed to notice or even care. “I asked if you will be attending the funerals for the pilots killed in last weeks training accident?”
Lohengrin, known as a steady and cautious man, began to show signs of visible annoyance. Weeks of seeing his friend in this state had taken it's toll. Worse, it began to take a toll on those who served with him.
“No, I will not be attending. You may leave Commander.”, Trebulo said through clenched teeth.
Lohengrin stood in abject disgust.
“Sir, with all due respect, this is unacceptable.”, Lohengrin felt himself loosing control. “Those men deserve better and whats more you are better then this.”
A deafening silence fell over the room.
Lohengrin exploded, “Sitting here doing nothing will not help you bring them back.”
Trebulo shot a stare at Lohengrin that was meant to kill as he got to his feet and closed distance with his friend. “How dare you-”
“No Sir, how dare you!”
The Admiral took Lohengrin by the collar and spat insults into his face only to be interrupted.
“Hugo, goddammit, this fleet- this Navy needs you. If you want to prevent another Midway you have to square yourself away. What you decide to do, right now, can save another billion fathers from the same torment. If not for them then for our species.” Their faces were only inches away.
Something broke within Trebulo and from that moment until the day he died he would be a changed man. Nothing could take this away. A clarity had washed over him and all of this emotions were focused on one goal. He backed away from his friend and slumped on his rack. Tears burned at the corners of his eyes. Another long silence passed.
“What now sir?” Lohengrin regained his professionalism.
“We kill them, every last one of them.”
< Message edited by CrispMPS -- 5/15/2014 5:31:40 AM >