"Sir, hull plating is at ninety-nine percent coverage. Weapons are in working order and all missiles are loaded and ready."
"Excellent, lieutenant, patch me through to the David," Captain Levin says.
"Admiral, we have battle functionality. Should we proceed?"
Alexander leans over his comm, "I think if we're going to do this, now's the time. Form on my wing and keep formation. Lieutenant, anything from the Centauri?"
The communications officer fiddles with the controls while holding his headset tight to his ear, "Sir, the 3rd is engaged in dozens of rescue operations across the planet and the 5th is forming up."
"Excellent, who's in command of the 5th?"
"Captain Marcus, sir," he replies.
"Tell Marcus to follow us through in three minutes. I want to see if we can surprise them twice."
"Understood, sir," the lieutenant replies.
"Helmsman, run the phase drive on standby and approach the gate. Let's hope Ryat's information is good."
"Yes, sir," the ensign says, "Engaging engines."
The David and Jericho approach the bluish flow of energy within the jump gate. As the tip of the David touches the gate, the vessel loses velocity rapidly, a mere moment passing before the entirety of the vessel is pulled in with a flash of light. Instead of the glittering, smooth flow of normal phase travel, the unnatural phase lane is harsh with dark colors coming off surfaces like vapor. The roar of the ship comes to an end as the David leaves the phase gate. Alexander leans forward in his chair, breathing deeply with his eyes wide open.
"Was that uncomfortable to anyone else?"
The ensign rights himself as his head spins and looks back at the tactical officer who just lost his lunch on the floor, "Just a bit, sir."
Looking up at the holovid, they find themselves in orbit of a planet where an Orkulus awaits. Rather than approach the new ships, the Jericho arriving a moment after the David, it holds a steady position while the two Kortuls from the previous battle are repaired by a pair of regeneration bays, small vehicles roaming across the surface as they repair the vessels. The Jarrasuls are orbiting close to the planet, just beyond a pair of hangar bays, a nanoweapon jammer and a Kostura Cannon. Defending the Orkulus are five missile platforms. Much to the Alexander's happiness, the minefield in orbit is stationed near the phase lane on the far side of the gravity well. Alexander points to the symbol for the Orkulus, "Inform the Jericho to open fire. Don't let those vessels become operational."
The David and Jericho rush towards the Kortuls, while the Orkulus spawns a large number of strike craft from its launch bay on top. The mixture of fighters and bombers approach rapidly and open fire. On their first pass, the David fires a large cloud of burning flak, sending many of the ships spiraling out of control. The flak is followed by two wings of gunships, launching from the David and pursuing the enemy vessels with haste. Turning for the second pass, the Vasari strikecraft discover a host of rounds scattered in their directions, further lightening the number of Vasari in space.
"Sir, our fighters have superiority," the tactical officer announces.
"Good, now bring down the Kortuls."
Coming just within range, the David and Jericho begin firing off their weapons. Simultaneously, the Orkulus and missile platforms fire their weaponry at the enemy vessels. The Kortuls are powered down, allowing the fire to rip into the hulls and cause subsystems across the vessels to breach and explode. The Vasari weaponry bounces and pops on the shielding of the two TEC vessels, only the occassional phase missile making it through to the armor. The Kortuls crumble beneath the onslaught while secondary fire shreds the armor from a couple of the missile platforms and the regeneration bays.
The tactical officer says, "Sir, the Orkulus isn't packing the punch I thought it would have. Our shields are down seven percent."
The helmsman looks back, "Sir, we're getting a large number of life signs aboard the station, especially on the lower decks."
Alexander nods, "It's a colony station. I don't think they expected us to know how their gates work. They're a low priority. Engage the defense structures and Jarrasuls."
The regeneration bays and missile platforms break into debris as the the David and Jericho continue past. The Jarrasuls are heading away while the two TEC vessels fire down on the hangar bays, them being closer that the Kostura Cannon. As they engage, the 5th Centauri come through the gate, a moment passing while they recover from the passage. Once done, they swarm over the station, littering it with fire and drones. The Orkulus fires wildly while turning away from the assault.
"Sir, should we direct the 5th away from the Orkulus?"
"No reason to. The Jarrasuls are a loss to us and I don't think we need any help with the orbitals. Bring us within range of the Kostura."
The Orkulus' shields have failed it and the hull is suffering greatly when the phase gate flashes with the arrival of new forces, this time Vasari. A Vulkoras stands amidst a slew of Skarovas Enforcers with Subverters and Overseers mixed in. Aboard the David, additional red lights begin flashing. Alexander glances between the view of nearly a hundred ships between them and the gate and the stats of the enemy configuration.
"Sir, the 5th has just been flanked. We have a mixed fleet of enemy ships in orbit," the ensign informs.
"They have fire superiority, sir," the tactical officer shouts.
Alexander turns to the comm officer, "Tell Marcus and Levin to head for the gate." He turns his head to the tactical officer, "Divert energy to shields. We need to get the hell out of here."
The David and Jericho turn towards the gate, their noses aligning with the round device as the 5th come into contact with the Vasari forces. Hot rounds of ammunition and wave shots light up the dark backdrop, creating exlplosions and sending tons of debris scatterd about. The two capitals delve into the conflict at its height, autocannons and missiles scattering about the host of targets. The Vulkoras hovers at the rear of the formation, firing phase missiles towards the Jericho, shearing armor plating from the square vessel.
A power converter explodes on the bridge, causing crewmen to reel. The helmsman looks up, "Sir, the Jericho is taking heavy damage. Our shields are holding, but I don't know how much longer."
"Marcus' ship just went down. The 5th is breaking," the comm officer shouts.
Alexander looks to the comm officer, "Tell the Jericho to hold their course and get the 5th through that damned gate." Another explosion causes panic on the bridge as crewmen rush to extinguish the flames. Alexander looks up from flinching, "Where's that Vulkoras?"
"Sir, they're dead ahead."
The holovid pulls the tactical image to show the Vulkoras between them and the gate, but at a higher declination, dangling a path before them. Alexander curses to himself as he rises from his seat and approaches the helmsman. The helmsman looks at the Admiral, seeing him point his thumb over his shoulder. The helmsman leaves his seat and Alexander takes over. He cuts the engine, allowing their momentum to continue their course. He fires the maneuvering engines, tipping the nose of the vessel upwards. The ship rattles as a few vessels bounce off the shielding, often bursting into flames in the process. The tip of the beam weapons run just beneath the Vulkoras, the shielding crackling as the two fields fight for space. Finally, the fields come to a compromise and fuse, opening a path between the ships. The beams fire, cutting a path across the belly of the Vasari vessel. As the Kol passes the Vulkoras, the engines take the final blow, cutting out upon taking damage and leaving the Vulkoras in a drift. Alexander presses the David to straighten out before contacting the gate, causing his teeth to grit as the distance closes. Within meters of the gate, an Enforcer pierces the shields of the David and delivers several successful blows to the ship. The forward holovid bursts into flames as the ship contacts the phase gate. The flames appear to grow into tendrils as they travel between systems, becoming darker and darker as they expand. When the David arrives on the other side, the fire extinguishes itself in a flash. The jolted crew recover quicker than the first time and attend to the damaged components and injured crewmen. Alexander returns command of the helm to the ensign.
"Take the flight log and record that. Might be a good one to keep on file."
"Sir," the comm officer says, "the Jericho just came through."
The Jericho arrives trailing shards of its own armor, atmosphere venting from several sections and plasma manifolds leaking trails of gas. More ships continue through the gate, all 5th Centauri.
"Turn our nose towards the gate and get me Captain Levin."
A moment passes before Levin's voice comes over the comm, "Sir, are you okay?"
"We're fine. What's your status?"
"We've got multiple hull breaches and blown systems all across the board. There's no way to know our losses just yet, but our missile systems are without power and... sir, it's a mess. I don't know what else to tell you."
Alexander nodded, "Alright, just hold her together."
Centauri vessels continue to come through the gate in small groups, almost all bearing some degree of damage. An Enforcer appears through the gate and the David promptly brings down the vessel. After another few Centauri appear, more Enforcers make their appearance, being engaged by the TEC forces and overwhelmed. After a dozen of the heavy cruisers make their way through the gate alongside TEC vessels, Alexander sighs, "Alright, blow the gate."
"Sir, Centauri ships might still be on the other side," the tactical officer protests.
"I understand that, but I don't need the fight following us back. I said blow the gate."
"What about the Kostura Cannon?"
"What about it?"
"Sir," the lieutenant commander calms his voice, "if we destroy the gate, we might not be able to make our way to it. That means the cannon can be used to ambush another planet when the Vasari are regrouped."
Alexander leans his head back and closes his eyes. "Alright, muster the third and organize a watch. Get hold of anyone you can. We need an Argonev built here to repair and resupply. I know the people below need help, but orbital defenses are a priority. Forget the other phase lanes, this gate is the front line."
"Yes, sir," the tactical officer says.
Alexander looks at his shoulder where the sleeve of his coat is torn, "Damn."