Saints of a Solar Empire Book 2, Part 9: Charge of the Light Brigade
"...and at last report, our Arcova scouts have detected an additional three phase space transfers in subsector 881 of Lazion. Based on correlations on the scouts at the Naeve star, at least two of the three transfers were additional Exile scout frigates. This brings their total number to approximately twenty three."
Fleet Admiral Yuri McKeon nodded as Commodore Theodora finished her report. His dark haired executive officer had been promoted along with himself after Admiral Cambridge had been lost along with the rest of White Fleet. McKeon himself had been a protege of sorts to Cambridge and so had been to logical choice to replace her, at least, the logical choice out of all the currently enrolled military personnel.
He wasn't quite sure he should be thankful for the promotion, given the circumstances. Namely, the seemingly unstoppable horde of homocidal maniacs who cared neither to reason nor negotiate. The fact that the entire Eastern Reaches was on the verge of collapse, Fifth Fleet had been decimated, and reinforcements wouldn't arrive until several months after the projected collapse of their defense only exacerbated the problem.
The Exiles had began seeding Naeve's cluster with scout ships mere days after the fall of the Trinh, one of the three clusters in phase jump of the Lazion nexus star. Subsector 881 of the Lazion star was the projected entry point of a direct phase jump from Trinh to Lazion. As Theodora had stated, there were over twenty scout ships in Naeve--that they could account for--gathering intel on the system defense forces. McKeon had no doubt that they were getting good scans of the defenses, which would make his job much more difficult.
Because of the imminent attack, McKeon was unable to reinforce the two nearby clusters, which means that any assault in strength would roll over them. In addition to that, Yuri had authorized the fleet unit commanders to withdraw rather than risk heavy losses. He lamented the order, but if Naeve fell, the Eastern Reaches would be cut off from the Core Worlds, which means that they'd be isolated and taken out any way.
On top of that, it had been sixteen weeks since the attack on Trinh, and that was sixteen weeks of intelligence the Exiles had gathered. McKeon could hold his forces under emissions control for quite some time, but nowhere near that long a time, which meant that if McKeon had wanted to keep any of his forces from being detected, he had to shut down their reactors and power down the ships. Such operating measures would basically turn the ships into cosmic debris, and only an intensely close scan could detech their nature.
Unfortunately, powering down ships like that tended to have some rather unfortunate side effects. Fusion plants that most ships used for standard power could have their feeds cut off to power down the system. Anti-matter reactors, which ships used to power high-charge capacitors for phase jumps and other energy-intensive activities, tended to be slightly more...enthusiastic. McKeon's ships had to actually drain the capacitors then safety crews had to remove the anti-matter itself from the core.
The powered-down ships would also require quite a bit of time to power back up. Each ship had a skeleton crew on board to start powering up procedures at a moment's notice, but it'd still take nearly a day for the vessels to become fully combat ready. As for the antimatter transfers, well, that'd take decidedly longer. Only the newer ships could take such reckless tactics, and they were the most powerful vessels McKeon's current Fifth Fleet had.
So it was that McKeon had scouts at the Lazion nexus star, watching for the first sign of an Exile fleet to bring word back to Anubis station and awaken the two dozen sleeping capital ships.
McKeon, while impressed by the hardware Naeve was pumping out at an incredible rate, was even more impressed by the people. He was putting everyone in the fleet through incredibly complex drills and practices. From the recalled--it wouldn't be polite to say conscripted--PDF forces going through crash retraining, to the captains and crews of the mothballed warships drilling aboard foreign vessels, from the pilots going up against cruelly realistic simulations on the estimated capabilities of Exile strikecraft. For a navy not even ten years old, the people were professional and performed admirably.
"How is the force build-up coming, Commodore?" Yuri asked, the rest of his fleet commanders also in attendance at the conferance.
"Better than expected, sir. We've plenty of crews for the smaller ships, but Naeve's shipyard faculties are unparalelled in the Eastern Reaches, and it's showing. We've added three squadrons of heavy cruisers, finished construction on three battlecruisers and a battleship, and nearly tripled our frigate strength, Admiral, all without displacing munition and strikecraft production."
"And the orbital defenses?"
"Ah, yes, sir. We had to cut corners somewhere, and in order to maintain steady ship construction, we've had to pull crews off of platform construction. Because of the projected time of attack, we've concentrated most of our efforts of strikecraft platforms. Strikecraft are most suitable to fending off raids, and their support, combined with planetary squadrons and launchers, as well as the original defenses, should be more than enough to delay any Exile attack long enough for Fifth Fleet to intervene."
"Mmm," Yuri said. The Exiles had two targets in all of Naeve--Fifth Fleet and the planet itself. Fifth Fleet was currently stationed at the Anubis Station, with several frigate flotillas deployed at Naeve and around the system. If the Exiles attacked Naeve, they'd almost certainly damage the orbital infrastructure, possibly decisively. However, that would leave them open to a counter attack by Fifth Fleet from the rear, trapping them between the orbital defenses and McKeon's warships.
If Fifth Fleet were eliminated, the Exiles could attack Naeve at their leisure, and simply wittle down the defenses with strikecraft assaults and frigate raids, not to mention the destruction they could inflict on the system economy. They'd certainly ignore Anubis until the station began running low of resources and forced to surrender.
"Alright, people, I'm deploying another operational plan. Theodora," he said, looking at his chief of staff and trying to ignore the silent groan, "please hand out Plan Light Brigade."
Commander Montoya had always been a patient man. As a commander of an Arcova-class scout frigate, he had to be. Weeks or month spent apart from the closest ship, coasting along in stealth, watching the deep black for any sign of the enemy would drive most people mad. Doing all that on board a ship with a compliment of less than a hundred that was, basically, a huge reactor and capacitor rings with a vessel built around it that would explode--violently--at the slightest containment fluctuation would finish it for the rest of the people.
Still, scouts were important. Knowing where your enemy was, what he was up to, and what he had were as old as war itself. Intelligence was as important to battle as missiles and lasers--as the Exiles had so adeptly proven to the TEC once again.
So it was that Commander Montoya was there, at the Lazion nexus star, at that moment where he spit blistering hot coffee all over his monitor when the general quarters klaxons sounded.
That was the largest phase out he had ever seen.
If Admiral McKeon had not been used to having his sleep disturbed, being promoted to Fleet Admiral had cured him of such a disreputable character flaw for a senior officer.
A part of him was relieved, however, at the news. The waiting was over--the Exiles had arrived.
Though he might have been asleep, his forces had not. Contengency orders had been activated immediately, and ships all over the system began to flock back to their hives. Merchant vessels and refinery ships began evacuating the outer system mining posts and retreated to Naeve, while his widespread frigate forces concentrated at either Anubis or Naeve. Most importantly, Anubis Station had already started transporting crews back to their powered down vessels. The sleeping behemoths began to stir as the call to war went out.
With everything well under control, Yuri rolled back over and attempted to return to sleep. When he finally fell into slumber, he was plagued by dreams of his planet burning.
McKeon entered the flag bridge several hour later, refreshed by a shower. His staff came to attention and he returned their salute. He settled quietly into his command harness, viewing over the reports as Theodora waiting respectfully and quietly at his side.
His scouts had quickly been pushed back from the subsector as the vanguard of the Exile forces deployed a patrol of fighters to sweep the area. That denied him exact readings on enemy vessels, but his Arcovas were still able to get estimated readings on mass and phase transfers.
The enemy had at least twelve squadrons of capital ships, which was much more dangerous than a TEC equivalent as the Exiles, like the Vasari, operated in eight-ship squadrons instead of the TEC's six ships per squadron. Nearly one hundred capital ships alone were already deplayed, and there was no way to tell exactly how many frigates were deployed with them, as the Exiles tended to use swarms of the things, especially their Dagger-class light frigates. Even the phase transfers were iffy on such ships, as their energy bleed caused by exiting out of phase space blended together on even scout sensors. The most conservative estimation was three hundred ships.
McKeon, on the other hand, had two Kol squadrons, four Dunov squadrons, two squadrons of Akkan battlecruisers and Sova-class carriers, and, the pride of his capital forces, an entire squadron of the Marza-class dreadnoughts, arguably the most powerful ships in the TEC's inventory. In capital ships, McKeon couldn't even match them in squadrons, much less actual ships.
The Exiles, however, did not possess any cruiser vessels, and that's where his advantage lay. He had eight heavy cruiser squadrons, six with a Cielo-class command cruiser. He also had eight squadrons of Percheron-class light carriers, each equipped with two squadrons of strikecraft.
His twenty-four squadrons of frigates was less than half of what the Exiles had, but twelve of those twenty-four squadrons were Javelis long range frigates, with the remaining twelve ships divided evently between flak frigates and the Cobalt-class light frigates.
Fifth Fleet, by itself, was outclassed and outmatched. However, when the four squadrons sent from Roma, Quaker, and Wolf-128 were still fighting to power up. McKeon had struggled with the decision on whether or not to keep them activated upon arrival, but he had wanted to spring a surprise on the Exiles for once. While the twelve battlecruisers from Roma were certainly useful, the two squadrons from Quaker and Wolf-128 would be far more useful.
Unfortunately, even with every military vessel in the system activated, McKeon still wouldn't stand a chance in a ship-to-ship action. That's where the immobile defenses came in. The Anubis Station, the most fortified position in the Eastern Reaches, would be his great equalizer.
Now, if only the Exiles would be so kind as to accept his invitation.
"Let's be about it, people."
A ping of alerts went out as the Exile fleet left phase space at the outer edges of Naeve's gravity well. McKeon almost wished he were there, as the energy bleed from so many ships slipping from phase must have been breathtaking. Of course, McKeon quickly realized that he would, in all likelihood, see a similar bloom in the near future.
"Well, I'll give them that. They're punctual bastards," Commodore Theodora said, and McKeon had to agree.
Given estimations on Exile energy costs, more or less, had placed the drain from the jump from Trinh and estimated the recharge rate for their ships. The Exiles had jumped almost immediately to Naeve once their capacitors had been charged adequately. They would have to wait a few hours before making another jump, even as one as short as from the Naeve star to either Anubis or the planet Naeve. Their capacitors would be running on fumes, so to speak, which meant that they would be hardpressed to escape.
The Exiles had come to conquer. This wasn't a raid.
The enemy had spent nineteen hours at the nexus star charging their systems for the next jump. In that time, McKeon's full forces had assembled, the Anubis Station had been put on full alert, and the most powerful fleet in the Eastern Reaches had assembled itself to fight for their world. The four squadrons were still struggling to come back under full power, however, and required at least another five.
The admiral began to regret his decision, but what was done was done. If he had kept those ships with his forces, the Exiles may have brought an even more powerful fleet, and while McKeon was charged with defending the sovereignty of the Naeve system, he badly wanted to bleed the Exiles of any attack. A successful defense would do wonders for moral, but crushing the attack would send it soaring, not to mention that it would, more than likely, delay the Exiles long enough for First Fleet and the Core Worlds to respond.
His entire forces were at a high readiness state without actually being at general quarters. He wanted his people fresh and at their best.
The Exile fleet composition worried him a bit more. CIC had been pretty much spot on about the ship numbers except that the Exiles had brought a disproportionate amount of their Dagger-class vessels. In fact, there were nearly ten more squadrons of the things than necessary. That could be bad if he was forced to get close, though the Exile's current close-range armament already highly discouraged him.
The enemy could attack by several axis if they so decided, but their choices were limited to three. One, they could attack Naeve itself, but that would leave them open to counter attack by Fifth Fleet, and McKeon's ships had full charges on their capacitors, and the Exiles would be trapped between Naeve's defenses and Fifth Fleet. Second, the Exiles could launch an assault on Anubis and Fifth Fleet. it would be the hardest target, but once Fifth Fleet was eliminated, even if Anubis wasn't, the system was theirs. Thirdly, the Exiles could attack both Naeve and Anubis Station, which was the worst of both worlds--they would be unable to quickly demotion Naeve's defenses, and their ships sent to Anubis would be unable to overwhelm Fifth Fleet. No, Yuri was sure they would go after Anubis.
The general quarters klaxon broke his concentration as he checked his monitor--his ships each began glowing the crimson of GQ. A quick check of his chrono revealed that the Exiles had only been in system for two hours--nowhere near long enough for them to charge nearly-depleted antimatter capacitors! But his screen was quickly updated as the energy bleed from a mass phase out began to allow sensors a more accurate reading of the enemy. His powered down ships wouldn't be operational until a minimum of three more hours, even with the safety margin cut at zero!
A screen was quickly opened by Captain Su, Yuri's flag captain aboard his Marza-class dreadnought, the Stephen Mackay.
"Admiral, we've detected the phase out of the Exile fleet. Numbers are confirmed at two squadrons of Ravager-class battleships, six squadrons of Reaper-class assault carriers, and four squadrons of Raider-class battlecruisers. We're having a hard time locking onto precise numbers of their lighter ships, but they seem to mostly be composed of their Daylight-class beam frigates and their Dancer-class anti-missile/strikecraft frigates."
McKeon nodded. "Any idea on how they managed to get here so quickly?" he said, referring to their four hour time-jump in attack.
"No, sir, none at all. However, sensors report that many of their small Dagger ships are not present."
The admiral frowned. That was a lot of ships that CIC had misplaced. It made his job easier, but smaller frigates had to expent a fraction of the energy capital ships had to in order to enter phase space. If capital ships made the jump then light frigates should have as well.
"Alright, well, plans have changed. We going to have to delay the enemy for three or more hours so our babies are aborted in their start-up procedures. Execute Alpha One."
"Aye, sir," said the flag captain. Orders went out among the fleet.
The TEC fleet quickly recovered from their shock and began to move out towards the enemy. The Exiles were somewhat surprised at the strength and enthusiasm of their enemy. Orders of their own went out--they would test these terrans and see their mettle.
The invader fleet began to compose itself as the TEC came closer. They would expend only a fraction of their fighting power to see how badly the terrans would bleed before their deaths, then Naeve would burn.
The Anima of the Rapture battlecruisers would be given the duty of first blood. As one they cried out in their silent scream and sixty-four squadrons of strikecraft, each more numerous and powerful than their TEC counterpart, spat out from the bowels of the battlecruisers and streaked across the black of space.
Admiral McKeon heard the alert as the faster, better, and numberous Exile fighters and bombers spat from their births. The numbers suggested that it was their entire compliment of battlecruiser parasite ships, but that still left the hulking assault carriers with their cargoes of death.
Yuri felt an urge to comm Admiral Danvers, but he and his fleet commanders had spent months hammering out their ops plans and their contingencies. He trusted Anthony to follow orders. More importantly, he trusted the rear admiral's judgement.
As was standard TEC doctrine, the carrier task force of Fifth Fleet carried equal parts fighter and bomber squadrons. Danvers was tempted to launch the entirety of his fighters, but he resisted. His pilots were green, and Exile pilots always seemed to get better and better, no matter how badly their were massacred in each battle, and there was no way that was their full compliment of vessels.
He had to dull the strike, though, and so he gave out the orders to only launch half of his fighter compliment.
Only forty one squadrons of fighters were sent out to duel against the Exiles' thirty-two.
Fifth Fleet's fighters performed admirably, but the Exile ships still held the advantage in both speed and experience, but while the enemy ships were armed for anti-shipping strikes, the terran fighters were armed purely with their own internal auto-cannons and anti-fighter missiles.
As one, the defending terrans salvoed out their missiles, concentrating on the bombers. If they had attacked the fighters, they would have surely killed more, and they themselves would have survived far better, but then the bombers would have broken through, and the new point defense mounts were still not battle-tested. If they failed, then Naeve would fall.
And so, the new, expendable pilots traded their lives so that their people would live.
McKeon watched as the two strikecraft formations intercepted each other. The hundreds of fighter missiles his forces had deployed had bit deeply into the opposing bombers but as he watched, the Exile fighters closed in and enacted retribution from his forces. The admiral felt a pain in his chest as he watched his men and women die, one after the other. They didn't go quietly and they didn't go alone, but their missile advantage was gone and they were on there own.
By the time his strikecraft broke off, only seventeen squadrons worth of fighters remained. For their sacrifice, the incoming attack wave had been blunted. Of the sixty-four squadrons sent to attack them, approximately twenty-one squadrons of bombers remained and nearly twenty-four enemy fighters remained.
As Yuri's fighters retreated, the Exile strikecraft followed in their wake. It was time for the Garda flak frigates to do their duty. As the heavy frigates pulled ahead of the formation, their cannons began to belch cluster munitions. Even a near-miss would generate a hit that would be deadly to a ship as fragile as a strikecraft.
Yet still they came, oblivious to their losses, ignoring all sanity as if they were unfeeling machines.
The enemy fighters salvoed their munitions into Fifth Fleet's Javelis ships, battering down shields and punching through armor. Admiral McKeon's people died as lasers ripped into their hull, blowing apart weapons, breaching armor, or igniting the unstable anti-matter or fusion reactors. The Admiral watched the screen as Javelis data-streams began to darken from the individual squadrons while others were forced out of action due to damage.
The bombers streaked past the frigate scream as the flak frigates attempted to stop them. The larger strikecraft could've massacred the frigates, but their near-capital strength weapons were tasked with larger prey, and they streaked down on McKeon's battlecruisers.
The fleet admiral sat at his command chair, the harness fully down and he de-com suit in place. He knew that his point defense crews were, to say the least, highly motivated. Pride welled in his chest as the defensive fire of his capital ships began to burn down the bombers. There would be no more massacres to the TEC to the Exiles's impossibly fast strikecraft!
The data, though, began to tell. They were taking a terrible toll, but the estimates were too low and too many bombers were getting through. Unlike TEC or Vasari bombers, the Exiles' energy strikecraft remained viable after the first and second pass.
So it was that handfuls of squadrons would pounce on one battlecruiser with another handful of bombers finishing off the bomber then streaking to another. It was an intricate, well-executed dance, and Yuri wondered if the TEC would ever be able to match anything like it.
There was almost a snap, the fighters broke off, the bombers had completed their attack run, and barely seventeen squadrons worth of strikecraft returned to the Exile fleet.
In their wake, the debris of seven Javelis frigates and three Dunov-class battlecruisers would drift endlessly through space, along with the remains of two Garda flak frigates and a single Cobalt which had interdicted an Exile missile launch meant for an air-streaming Javelis.
McKeon's knuckles were white as he clenched his hands. He knew that many of his people had not managed to get to escape pods in time. Fifth Fleet had lost more than five thousand people already in what was considered a straffing run.
"Admiral," spoked Kenzaki Theodora, "CIC reports that we're about to enter extreme missile range."
McKeon sighed softly, allowing calmness to creep back into his voice. "Very well. Tell Admiral Lit that the order is his to give. The Javelis vessels are free to go to rapid-fire."
"Aye, sir," said the Commodore, relaying the orders to the flag captain.
"Also, raise Admiral Danvers."
Advent capital beams, while long ranged, weren't in equal evelopes as the oncoming missile-armed TEC ships, and so it was that Fifth Fleet entered extreme missile range and belched hundreds--thousands of missiles--at the enemy, who were unable to respond in kind. Between each gargantuan wave of death, the Javelis vessels went to rapid fire, throwing out a full compliment of missiles every dozen seconds.
Such a sight was stunning to say the least, but the Exiles would not be intimidated by the streams of destruction heading towards them. Deprived of any ship targets, beams lanced out from the belly of their ships--light speed weapons that tore dozens of missiles out of space at long range.
As the missiles closed it, the codenamed Dancer vessels begin to form up in front of their fleet, and their laser clusters began to tear hundreds of missiles out of space. Even the Daylight ships added their own meager point defense to the fire, but if hundreds of missiles were stopped, scores slipped through the lattice work of defense and impacted on Exile shields.
As hits began to roll over the invading fleet and ships died, Admiral Danvers executed his own orders, and the entire compliment of Fifth Fleet's bomber strikecraft was launch into the missile storm--larger, slower, but infinitely more dangerous terran bombers streaked at the shrinking enemy fleet, planning to add their fury to the fire.
The Advent replied by releasing their Halcyon carriers' remaining fighter strength. Even the Vasari could only shoot down missiles or strikecraft--not both. Fifth Fleet's bombers roared through the fighter wall, taking their losses, then bared down on the capital ships, ripple-firing their payloads into the metal behemoths.
McKeon felt elation as enemy capital ships began to disappear or be forced out of action as air-bleeding wrecks. His bombers were taking heavy losses, but for all the damage he was taking, he was inflicting back on the enemy a hundred fold.
It was then that the Advent found the range on Fifth Fleet with their beams.
McKeon was horrified at the sheer amount of death unleashed in that moment.
While dozens of enemy capital ships were ruined, there were still more, and that first barrage was incredible. Attenuated at such range, those beams were still powerful, and there was no point defense in the world that could wittle it down, and that single instant where every Exile beam fired at once was even more destructive at all that fire power was focused on just six targets.
An entire squadron of Dunovs was erased from existance in an instance. One instant they were viable combat units, and the next, they were expanding balls of plasma. Such was their destruction that there was not even a single escape pod.
But even as McKeon's ships were dying horrible fats, so were the invaders. With their beams now taking on Fifth Fleet instead of missiles, more of his fire was hitting the ships, with much shorter launch times.
"Sir, our Javelis units have nearly depleted their ammunition."
"Aye, sir. Admiral Danvers is comming you, Admiral," Theodora said.
"On screen," he said simply and looked upon Danvers' haggard features. "Report."
"My bombers have completed their attack run, sir. We're down to seventy percent of our bomber compliment."
McKeon nodded. It should be much higher, but the fact that the Dancers were busy blasting his missile from space, he was grateful. "Relocate full squads to the fleet carriers. If a light carrier doesn't have a squad on it, send it back to Anubis."
"Aye, sir," he said, then cut the link.
"Theodora, raise Admiral Lit. Fifth Fleet will advance to extreme sprint missile range."
The Advent had stopped advancing once the terrans had been brought into beam range. The TEC, however, began to advance once more, and deployed their medium ranged weapons.
The sprint-missile was a smaller but more lethal version of a standard long range missile. Its warhead was smaller, but its suicidally powerful drive made it almost unstoppable by point defense. Its simple targetting systems were almost too stupid to be stopped by ECM or other measures. In short, they would nearly always hit their mark.
And now Fifth Fleet's Akkan-class battlecruisers and Kodiak heavy cruisers joined the fray, even as the other missile-armed ships added their own sprint missiles into the fray. The blue of the Advent targetting beams even were receiving a crimson reply from the TEC's own beam-armed Kol battleships.
The Advent reeled from the ferocity of the attack. More of their ships were wiped out from the universe. The mourning of their loss reverberated throughout their fleet, turning to white hot anger. Closely hoarded bombers belched from the hangars of the Halcyon ships and streaked in towards the enemy.
Beams ripped apart armor. Missiles burned down shields. Men and women on both sides died as their ships were blown in half or turned into drifting hulks.
And yet still the Advent came. The ranged closed and closed, and they took space meter by bloody meter.
It was then that Fifth Fleet's Admiral sent out his orders.
"Attention all ships, this is Admiral McKeon. Break off, repeat, break off. Execute Plan Gamma. They're trying to bring the fleet into laser range."
McKeon's need to get into sprint mode range had carried him too close to the oncoming juggernaut, and the fact that the exiles were closer to start with. If he was forced into energy range--
A squadron of flak frigates, the largest and least maneuverable of his frigates, was unable to turn quickly enough, and a single barrage of the leading Ravager-class battleship squadron was enough to erase them from his fleet. He watched in horror as more and more of his lumbering ships were beginning to be overlapped by the massive Exile energy weapons.
"Theodora, raise Admiral Lit and--"
"I'm sorry, sir. The Kim Jensen took a hit to the flag bridge. Admiral Lit is dead."
McKeon shook his head. "Then inform the battleline to focus their fire on those lead battleships. I want them dead."
Fifth Fleet's sudden diverting of fire to a single squadron of capital ships confused their point defense, but only for an instance. However, that instance was enough to cause the tip of their battleship spear to shatter, three of the squadron exploding violently with a fourth withdrawing from the battle due to severe damage.
That one final act bought Fifth Fleet enough time to withdraw, burning a path to the Anubis Station.
The Advent, confused at the ferocity of the TEC and disorganized from their losses paused long enough to reorganize their squadrons, determine the capabilities of the remaining combat vessels, and pursued their enemy.
Eleven battleships, thirty-three assault carriers, and seventeen battlecruisers along with a diminished frigate screen advanced on the shattered remains of Fifth Fleet.
A haggard Admiral McKeon surveyed his forced. The twenty four ships had finally powered up and reinforced the desperately depleted Fifth Fleet. Fifth Fleet had lost four Kol ships, half of its embarked Dunovs, and a single Marza dreadnought. Yuri was down to three Akkan battlecruisers, and his heavy cruisers had been butchered in the last attack run of bombers. Only his carriers were intact, as they were as nimble as battlecruisers and near the back of his formation.
Fifth Fleet had lost over fifty thousand personel.
He shook his head and breathed quietly. He calmed himself, and waited as twelve battlecruisers and twelve Kol battleships integrated themselves into her battered fleet.
Yuri turned to Theodora. "We only get one shot at this, Kenzaki. Rely orders to the fleet commanders and Admiral Corbain--we will wait until Kol beam range, if possible, before Anubis will fire."
"I know, Theodora, but Fifth Fleet won't be able to stop them if we let them get away. Hell, the number of their assault carriers alone will let them swat Fifth Fleet aside easily. We must stop them, here and now."
The dark haired commodore paused for a second. "Aye, sir."
The Advent closed on their prey. From all reports and captured enemy data, they knew that Anubis Station was powerful. Four gargantuan star bases surrounded a large asteroid base, with supported hangars and orbital weapon platforms.
After the mutual massacre in the earlier engagement, the next assault was almost tame. Rearmed Javelis vessels as well as the rest of the missile armed capital ships, as well as the twelve unshaken Dunov battlecruisers, launched their missiles at the Advent, whose own ships blasted a majority from space but still took crippling damage to another battleship.
Then their own beams found the range once more and started to repay the loss of their own people
"Damn," Fleet Admiral Yuri McKeon said silently. The bastards weren't going to get close enough after all. Even as he completed his thought, the Athena's, one of the relief battlecruisers, data stream ended as it blew apart from being lanced by a Raider's heavy beam cannon.
"Admiral Corbain," he said softly as he opened a comm to the Anubis Station commander. "They're not coming any closer. Fire at will."
Anubis Station had once been a pirate base. Because of Naeve's status as the gateway to the Eastern Reaches, it had had it's share of attackers as well. As such, the Trade Order saw fit to refit the Anubis Station as Naeve's primary naval and defense station in order to protect the life line to the Core Worlds. While its funding had be cut more and more every year, it still remained a powerful fixed fortification. With four tertiary starbases, and dozens of other minor, the asteroid base with megatonnes of armor, was indeed an impressive sight. Some would say, invincible.
Admiral Corbain had been watching Fifth Fleet fight all this time. The station personnel were watching friends, family, and loved ones die by the fire of an alien culture. They had waited for their revenge patiently.
And so they got it.
Anubis itself, the death god, unsheathed its massive racks and banks of missiles, even as squadrons of fighters and bombers flew out from hidden hangers. Besides its massive powerful, the four starbases' and hangers contribution to the carnage seemed mild.
The Advent forces had a brief moment to absorb the readings of thousands of missiles streaking towards them. In their defense, they performed admirably, going to evasive maneuvers and turning their primary beam weapons on the incoming horde.
It was too little too late, and hundreds of missiles slipped through the disorganized mob of the Advent fleet, blasting down shields and blowing ships apart.
Fifth Fleet did not remain idle in the face of the Anubis Station's awesome power. Under McKeon's orders, his ships closed range, his Kol ships pouring their own beams into the shocked Advent, and sprint missiles from his remaining ships adding more heat to the flame.
It was too much for the Advent, and the first time in their history, they were forced to retreat. Slowly, their ships turned, pouring their strikecraft into Fifth Fleet to buy time. Time seemed to hold still as the Advent fleet was torn to pieces under the waves of terran missiles. Slowly, the battered remnants of the fleet began to pull away from Anubis, and Fifth Fleet followed the Advent, harrying them with missile fire until the invaders were beyond even that.
"Sir," said Theodora, "the enemy is approaching the edge of the well."
"Send Admiral Corbain out estimates. If we can time this perfectly..." Yuri left the thought unfinished, feeling a vengeful smile tug at his lips.
Terrans had always attempted to acquire intact Vasari technology in order to reverse engineer and advance their own tech base. It wasn't practical, however. Vasari ships were so powerful that the TEC had to pound them into atoms usually for the ships to cease being a threat, and the Vasari had a habit of detonating anything of theirs if it even seemed like they would be compromised.
However, the Vasari weren't the only advanced, alien technology in the galaxy. One of the relics of a long-since passed race was a device known as the Phase Jump Inhibitor. Originally, they were automatically configured to send out a compressed, omni-directional wave through phase space, disaligning phase transfers and preventing.
While unable to duplicate them, the terrans had quietly reprogrammed quite a number of the alien devices. Some were deployed to vital military zones, like Anubis itself, in order to create artificial gravity wells. Others were of use in a way much closer than their apparent main purpose.
Thus, when the broken Advent fleet crossed the gravity well, they attempted to flee the the oncoming TEC units, but as their phase generators were activating, Admiral Corbain sent a signal to one of the six Inhibitors surrounding Anubis. For the briefest of instances, phase transfers were disabled, and the Advent's capacitors expended their energy uselessly into space, before the Phase Jump Inhibitor's jurry-rigged systems overloaded and disabled the device.
The energy lost cost the Exiles dearly, but more so was the time loss as they attempted to flee. Fifth Fleet had used the diversion to close the range once more, and scores of missiles were launched as the Advent as they attempted to flee.
McKeon felt the thrill of the kill as his forces closed on the Exiles. They were at extreme range and running hard, but battle damage had slowed them considerably, while McKeon had left the more seriously damaged vessels of Fifth Fleet back at Anubis. Not only that, but he had taken the station-based strikecraft onto his own fleet and escort carriers. Even when the invaders passed missile ranges, he'd send out his strikecraft on hunter-killer missions.
He would cleanse Naeve of the Exiles.
And that was when all hell broke loose.
Scores of phase transfer gates opened behind Fifth Fleet as the remainder of the invading fleet--the one hundred and twenty Dagger-class light frigates that the Exiles had left at the Naeve star. They had long since been taking out of the equation. Light speed communications would take hours to reach that position.
McKeon had crossed Anubis's gravity well in pursuit of the Exiles, and those fifteen squadrons had, against all probability, phased out directly behind Fifth Fleet--right between his forces and the Anubis Station!
The Disciple vessels had been kept updated of the progression of the battle at Anubis, but their low capacitors had prevented them from helping their fellows. Now, as their capacitors had charged enough to allow a single phase jump, and upon seeing that their beloved fellows would soon be lost if they did not intervene, they received their orders.
Almost before Fifth Fleet could react, the Dagger-class ships turned as one and fell upon the TEC vessels, right into the back of McKeon's formation, where he kept his carriers.
At the best of times, such a surprise attack would be troublesome, but this was certainly not the best of times. Fifth Fleet's losses had turned their organization ragged. Ships were cobbled together in squadrons with whatever class mates they could find, and with all their attention focused ahead of them, their carriers were sitting ducks.
The tiny, fleet Daggers were only armed with lasers, but there were one hundred fifty of the ships--and lasers were very powerful weapons at close ranges. The swarm of Exiles ships rolled over Fifth Fleet, dragging down larger prey like packs of feral animals. The carriers were torn to pieces as lasers burned out their shields and ripped into their bays.
However, the Daggers were still only light frigates, and they were at knife-fight range. The rest of Fifth Fleet fought back, pouring their own lasers and sprint missiles into the enemy ships. Dozens of the light frigates blew apart. Dozens became scores, even as another Kol lost control of its reactor and blew apart. Even the mighty Marza-class dreadnoughts as the Daggers straffed the massive vessels and riddled its armor with burning holes.
The Daggers attacked over and over, expending their own lives so that their capital ships might live. Even as their actions became futile, they continued on.
Once it became apparently that their forces had slipped away into stealth, they had one more duty. They could not escape, nor could they allow for the possibility that they would lead the enemy to their wounded vessels. They only had one option.
The Daggers formed up then maxed their engines as they headed directly towards the lead battleships and dreadnoughts at suicidal speeds.