Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Battle for Krish Gate

Bridge: Dilgar strike cruiser Omen

"Increase to flank speed!" Jo'tok commanded, "Order fighter flights to defensive positions." Her tactical display showed that she would be through the blockade before most of the human ships could react. They had made a mistake in placing their powerful missile cruisers so far from the outside edges of their deployment. Now the squadron moving to intercept her would be unsupported and isolated. Assuming they avoided plasma cannon range from the assault ship, both cruisers might get through this unscathed.

Between her and the safety of Station Prime's defense grid was a single squadron of ships and a handful of fighters. The anchor of the squadron was an assault ship. Built on the hull of the ubiquitous Hyperon class, at long range it could fool a sensors officer into thinking they were facing a true heavy cruiser. While these ships were as tough as their cousins they did not have the lethal weapons suite of the Hyperion that had proven so deadly to Dilgar ships over the last several months. Supporting the assault ship were two Tethys class frigates. Sensors now showed that one was armed with missiles and the other with a small but effective laser array. Jo'tok cursed under her breath. There would be no avoiding these weapons. These were likely not enough to stop a strike cruiser alone but there was always the chance that a laser weapon of any size could gut a ship with a lucky sustained burst.

"Should we brace for impact?" Jo'tok's executive officer asked. She, too, noticed the patrol closing in on them and had seen the risk.

"No. Without missile support these ships present only a minimal risk." Jo'tok ran the scenario in her head, covering all possibilities she could in the seconds allotted. "Speed is our best defense now. Continue at maximum burn."

Light flared as the engines of the Dilgar cruisers strained to contain the energies being channeled through them. Blue ion trails followed the fast moving vessels like fading comet tails.

"Multiple locks on Slayer!", the ELINT officer reported with an excited staccato. "Detecting weapons locks from ahead and from the missile cruisers!"

"That can't be right." Jo'tok switched her own console to mirror the output of the ELINT station. "We are clearly outside range of the their missiles."

As if in answer the screen suddenly blossomed with contacts as a massive cloud of missiles launched from the Sagittarius cruisers and the scout ship escorting them.

"Incomming!" The warning from ELINT was an understatement.

The missiles separated from their launching ships and rapidly began to close on Slayer. A few moments later the nearby frigate launched its own missiles timed to arrive at the same instant as the others.

The nimble Thorun Dartfighters in formation around Slayer reacted quickly, interposing a wall of fire and even themselves before the incoming threat. Scores of the vulnerable missiles were shot down by defensive fire. As the missiles got closer a few fighters rammed them in desperation. But the weight of fire was too much to stop completely.

For a brief instant there was a second sun in the Krish system as half a dozen nuclear warheads detonated around the strike cruiser. Jo'tok waited in frustration during the long seconds it took for her sensors to recover from the massive spike in radiation. She found herself simultaneously concerned for the fate of Slayer and relieved that it wasn't her ship that had suffered the humans' wrath.

As the static cleared, Jo'kor could see that Slayer was still there. Damage reports were streaming in from the wounded ship. She had lost her primary power relays and was suffering from several uncontrolled fires but the ship was largely intact and stubbornly forging ahead at reduced speed.

"Readings indicate that the missiles had smaller yield warheads than standard human ordinance," the ELINT officer offered in explanation, "These missiles were optimized for increased endurance."

That explained the extraordinary range displayed by the human missile cruisers. Jo'kor had allowed her preconceptions about the humans to lull her into complacency. She should know better. The humans had shown a capacity for flexibility in warfare that the Dilgar had once believed was theirs alone. It was this ability to evolve in response to tactical challenges which had allowed Earthforce to push the Dilgar back the very doorstep of their homeworld.

"Tell Slayer to continue at best possible speed!" Jo'tok turned to her executive officer, "Be sure to record everything in the sensor logs. If we survive this War Captain Tor'han will surely want the data on the new human weapons." She hit the intercom at her station and spoke calmly, "Engineering. If there's any more power you could give us, now would be the time."

All deployed fighters were lost in the defense of Slayer, either consumed in the flurry of detonations or in ramming attacks against the missiles. Twelve more fighters were on standby in the launch bays of Omen and Slayer but the ships couldn't afford time for flight operations. Speed was the total focus of both crews. That and surviving the next few seconds.

As the two Dilgar cruisers made best speed toward the relative safety of Station Prime, the human vessels were busy reloading and preparing another volley of missiles. The process was a slow and laborious one as the massive devices were moved into the launch tubes, warheads armed and safeties calibrated.

"Human vessels opening launch doors."

Jo'kor silently nodded to her ELINT officer as she watched the distance between her ships and those missile cruisers slowly open. How far will be enough?, she wondered to herself. Another volley like that could easily finish off Slayer now that they had no fighters covering them. She leaned forward in her chair, watching the tactical display as if she could push the two ships faster by will alone.

"Multiple locks on Slayer! Incoming fire!"

Again the screens filled with scores of tiny lines, all converging on the Dilgar squadron's position like a grasping claw. The seconds crawled by as she watched the lines get longer and longer - messengers of death sprinting across the gulf between Dilgar and human forces. And then it happened. The lines were winking out, one by one, each terminating only a short distance from the lagging Slayer.

"They've run out of range! The missiles are falling short!" The ELINT officer was excitedly yelling, reflecting the relief of the entire crew.

Throughout the ship, Jo'kor could hear the shouts of celebration and joy as her ship entered the defensive perimeter of Station Prime. She let them have this moment. They had earned it. Close behind Omen her sister ship limped to safety - trailing a cloud of atmosphere and fuel from multiple ruptures - as a patrol of Torpedo frigates formed a wall of steel behind them. If the humans wished to continue the chase they would pay heavily.

"Human ships have broken off pursuit. Sensors show that they are leaving the region."

Now Jo'kor allowed herself to relax as well, breathing a long sigh of relief and clapping her XO on the shoulder.

She activated the comms channel at her station and broadcast squadron-wide, "This is Battlemaster Jo'kor. You have all done excellent service for the Imperium today. I know you don't like running. It is not the Dilgar way."

With a conviction in her voice none could mistake she continued, "I promise you time it is we who shall be the hunters!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yamamoto's Admonition

Shirish sat stiffly in the chair as Carstairs reviewed data across the desk. Shirish was quite anxious and tried his best to hide it behind military bearing.

Carstairs put down the datapad and spoke. "Alright son, what's the problem?"

Shirish laid out the facts. "Sir, I failed in my mission. Not only did my group fail to hold the blocade firmly but they managed to get through with enough Quantium-40 to build a small fleet of jump engines."

"True. If you had to let something through, this wasn't the one to miss. But that's not what I'm talking about."

Shirish was confused. "I don't follow you, sir."

Carstairs was a good judge of people's emotions. He could read most people like a book and Gonzalez was in big print. "You think you're in trouble... That you're going to lose your command, don't you?"

Shirish looked down for a moment and took a deep breath before answering. "The blocade was my mission. It was my responsibility and I take full responsibility for failure."

Carstairs pursed his lips. "Are you familiar with World War Two, Gonzalez?"

Shirish was not a historian but he read a lot and knew enough to follow a conversation on the war. "Germany invaded Europe while Japan invaded China. Conquered France and bombed Britain until the United Stated entered the war. The United States used the first nukes on two Japanese cities."

"And do you know who Admiral Yamamoto was?"

"Japanese High Admiral, managed a number of strong victories and was assassinated by American forces?"

"Yes, him." Carstairs replied. "Yamamoto said something about war that has been my guiding philosophy when it comes to military strategy. He said 'War is a series of mistakes and the winner is the side which makes the fewest mistakes.' Do you know what that means?"

Shirish thought before he made his reply. "I made a mistake that has threatened this entire campaign."

Carstairs let out a disappointed huff of air. "No. It means mistakes happen. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and you just have to keep going and try to win more than you lose. Every strategist has said it. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Eauclaire, Tsien Chin... They've all said it and it's as true today as it was for the Warring States or Renaissance Europe or the French Expansion or the War of the Rising Star. So why are you beating yourself up like this?"

Shirish furrowed his brow. "They're going to have more jump capable ships because I didn't stop them."

"No. They're going to have jump capable ships because they found a good supply of Quantium-40, put it on fast ships and managed to slip through a blockade hindered by radiant output from an ancient jump gate." Carstairs leaned forward. "And you didn't answer the question. Your ability in the captain's chair is almost without peer. You're competent and capable and a shark to be feared. Why are you beating yourself up like this? Why have you turned into a nervous Nancy all of a sudden?"

Shirish looked down at the floor. What can I say? he thought. How can I explain?

Carstairs knew it was time to back off a bit and act like the father and not the commanding officer. He leaned back in his chair. "Son, this is off the record, just between you and me. This isn't the Shirish Gonzalez in your record. What's going in there?"

There was silence for a minute as Shirish composed his thoughts. "Sir, when I take out a ship, I'm there and if I make a mistake, I pay for it along with my crew. I've never had the kind of command where I send people out to do things in my stead. I can risk myself but..." His words trailed off and he sat back as if a weight had been lifted from his chest.

Carstairs thought for a moment. "Do you know who Robert E. Lee was?"

"Confederate commander, American Civil War."

"Correct. He said something else I remember at times like this. 'A good general loves his army. A great general must be willing to send to death the very army that he loves.' I think you're a good officer. If you weren't, I wouldn't have requested you. But you're not a great officer yet. The war's not over so there's time and there's hope." Carstairs could see the gears of understanding turning behind Gonzalez's eyes. "Can you do the job, son? If you can't, let me know now."

Shirish understood. "Yes, sir. I can."

"Then go out and be great."

Shirish felt a little better. "Yes, sir."

Carstairs shifted in his chair. "Good. Now I've been thinking about the blockade. The energy field wreaks havoc with engines and weapons systems. We don't have enough ships to conduct the blockade from a longer distance so we're going to start having scouts closely watch what they're bringing in and follow their shipments. Something's going on here and we just don't know quite what. I want you to coordinate with the scout vessels and hunt down any of their incoming materiel. Try to keep out of the energy field whenever possible. Besides, they have a base close to it. Let them burn energy keeping it going that close to the gate."

"Understood, sir. And thank you for your confidence."

Carstairs cracked a smile. "You're welcome. You've earned it. Dismissed."

Shirish saluted and when it was returned, he turned and walked out of the office. He didn't make a mistake before and he wouldn't make a mistake again.

Carstairs sat back. I sure hope that fixes the kid. He pressed a button and brought up VicCom. "Give me the new consumption reports along with the projections and resource logs. And I want them by the time I get back from the head."

The voice acknowledged. "Yes, sir. Right away, sir."

He stood up but stopped at the window for a second. I've traded flying for paperwork, he thought. Glory for gravity. Maybe I made the mistake here...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Caged Tigers: Prelude to Kish Gate

Battlemaster Jo'tok reviewed the tactical display once more to check if she missed anything, any hole in the Earthforce net that was closing in on her position. Unfortunately there was no such easy route through. Omen and her sister ship Slayer were completely cut off. They had come through Krish Gate expecting an escort to take them to Station Prime. Instead they were faced with a contracting ring of Earthforce ships.

Each of the two strike cruisers had their cargo bays filled with the volitile Quantium-40. Together they had enough of the precious fuel to support local operations for weeks. The substance was rendered safe for transport by specialized stabilization equipment. Unfortunately, the local energy dampening field permeating the area was weakening the stabilizers to a dangerous degree. Escaping by way of the gate or a jump point was out of the question. The transition into hyperspace would overload the strained stabilizers and cause a chain reaction. Jettisoning the cargo was likewise not an option. Giving free Q-40 to the enemy was frowned upon by high command. The last captain who had ejected his cargo was last seen being taken to one of Jha'Dur's infamous hospital ships.

There was no choice. They would simply have to break through the blockade and make a dash for the station. The fuel on just one of the cruisers would be enough to keep the campaign supplied until more could be requisitioned from Omelos. Jo'tok considered having Omen race ahead and detonate her Q-40 stores in order to clear the way for Slayer. It would be a spectacular death, taking many human ships with her.

No, she thought, It would be a waste of resources. The fanatics in the Home Fleet might consider it as a first option. But she was a soldier not a martyr. Tor'han had picked the forces for this operation based on experience and professionalism. She would get her ships through this blockade. Both of them.

Analyzing the closing net of ships again, Jo'tok calculated her best chance at a breakthrough. One of the tasks forces seemed to be more of a threat in number than quality. Where the vessels first apeared to be multiple cruisers, it seemed many of them were assault vessels built on cruiser hulls. These ships, while as large as their cousins, had the massive heavy laser arrays removed to make space for assault shuttles and barracks. Tiny Tethys-class frigates were taking station where the heavier Olympus or Artemis escorts would normally be. The humans were making a show of greater force than they actually posessed. She percieved that this force was a paper tiger, and it was through here that she would make good her escape.

"Signal Slayer. We will make best speed to these coordinates. Our main objective is to break through to Station Prime," a feral grin spread across her face, "but destroy any targets of opportunity. Let's show these humans what happens when you corner a predator."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We Walk Where Few Would Dare

Admiral Carstairs walked along the floor in his new office. Gravity was relatively weak, but it was there, thank Goodness. He stared out at the stars, lost in thought...

Victory Station had gone up far more quickly than he had even hoped. Then again, it wasn't hard to convince his superiors to build it either. The mining colony below offered an excellent source of raw materials for the war effort. The ship graveyard offered alien tech that the eggheads in Earthdome had never guessed at before. The pretty little garden world was nice (and that massive coltan deposit they stumbled upon was helpful in building the station generators) but the mines and the tech were more than worth investing in this station. Besides, when the war was over, a presence could be strategically useful against the Narn or any of the other worlds in this area of space that may decide to act up. Having a place to do repairs and refits and cycle crew off all the zero grav ships... It was win-win on every front.

The Centauri being here (despite Captain Kallis' feelings about them) was, until recently, win-win also. They had taken possession of two other planets in the system, keeping them out of Dilgar hands. Reconnaissance had also found that the Centauri had stopped Dilgar attempts to dominate the shipping lines that all three races were already using. Of course, the Centauri would eventually attempt to do the same. They had already shown their commitment by constructing their own base over the primary planet of this system. They intended to be here for the long haul and that could present a long term problem.

The Dilgar had chosen their position well. They had possession of the local jumpgate and built the base they brought to defend it. They don't have the ships to stand up to us, but they want this jumpgate pretty badly. This system must be really important to them. But what did they hope to gain? We and the Centauri have captured the most useful worlds in this system. The Dilgar beat Earthforce here but instead of taking a planet and defending it, they chose the jumpgate. They either want to bring something here or take something away. Whatever it is, they would have to be stopped if for no other reason than because the Dilgar want it. Blockading the jumpgate has been much easier because of the reinforcements from Earth and the new Nova fighters from Victory. But how to crack that station of theirs? Maybe a few more Orestes fr...

The familiar beeping of VicCom broke his concentration. "This is Carstairs. Go."

The Station's female communications officer appeared on screen. "Sir, we have received word from Captain Gonzalez that two Dilgar capital ships are attempting to run the blockade. He has sent forces to deter them."

"Hmmm." Carstairs could see why Gonzalez was sending this message, but what good was it if he wasn't reporting a result? "Acknowledge his message and tell him that we await his report on the outcome. Carstairs out."

"Yes, sir."

As her image faded from view, Carstairs was possessed with a new though: this kid is some kind of butcher in the Captain's chair. Why is he so...insecure?

To be continued...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Battle of the Krish Trade Route

Summary of Summary of Summary of After Action Report: Krish Trade Route

Centauri Order of Battle: Maximus Scutario, Kutai Slash, one Sentri Wing.
Barbarian Forces: Dilgar Garasoch Heavy Carrier Wrath plus fighter compliment.

Instructions: For the eyes of Lord Maximo Drusella alone.

Special Instructions: To be delivered to Lord Drusella after he awakes from his customary nap. Per Senior Adjutant.

Summarized Description: The Dilgar Garasoch-Class heavy carrier Wrath, a trim vessel with an elite crew, had attempted to undertake commerce raiding along the Krish main trade route. In order to curtail this threat to Centauri economic security, a small task force was dispatched to intercept the raiding vessel. Scutario and Slash, along with their fighter escort, engaged Wrath in a fight to the death in the open space lane.

The battle consisted of a primary battle pass and consequent pursuit. As our forces came within range of the enemy's guns, their fighter compliment, which outnumbered Centauri fighters 10 flights to 4, engaged the escorting flights in a ferocious dogfight. However, the Dilgar's primitive weapons were unable to do substantial damage to either Slash or Scutario due to the latter's interceptors. Wrath, however, was raked several times by Centauri guns, suffering serious reactor damage and losing her bridge to almost flawless gunnery.

Meanwhile, Centauri fighter craft fought magnificently against their more numerous foes. Though they lost half of their number, they shot down many more than that and at difficult odds. Only 3 enemy flights would survive the entire engagement.

After the ships had passed, our forces swung around with characteristic agility to pursue the lumbering carrier. Wrath, unable to cope with the loss of her bridge and without any prospect of attaining another firing solution, attempted to quit the battle by speed. However, even though the last of the Dilgar fighters desperately attempted to shield their carrier against Centauri gunnery, our ships crippled and swiftly destroyed the barbarian vessel.

Analysis: Despite the glorious victory, our ships made two errors. First, they failed to attack from an oblique angle, which might have improved their prospect of gaining superior tactical positioning more quickly. Second, and to the embarrassment of the staff, the operator of Scutario's Guardian Array failed to effectively use her Anti-Fighter weaponry to assist our fighters in staving off the enemy attack. Consequently, several fighters and pilots were lost which might have been preserved. This crewman has been demoted and will be given an appropriately dangerous reassignment.

The Maximus-Class frigate continues to prove its worth as one of the finest vessels in the Centauri navy. Officers at all levels of staff urge that we obtain as many of these vessels as feasible for the duration of the campaign.

Outcome: Centauri victory! Congratulations, Lord Drusella. Your name will surely go down in history as one of the great admirals of the glorious Centauri Republic. Our light shines once again in the stars, as it did in the old days.

Trade and Tribulations

Station Prime: Fleet Command Center

Tor'han sighed as the lighting in the room dimmed for a moment and then reasserted itself. At least the engineers finally reconfigured life support so that it would no longer intermittently fail.

Over the last month, the fleet had moved in and begun to lay claim to various strategic locations in the system. But the jewel of their holdings was the jump gate. Tor'han looked up from his station to gaze at the mysterious structure. It was unknown who built this gate. His engineers told him that it was at least a hundred thousand years old. Worse, it permeated the entire region with a strange radiation field that drained energy from any weapons, engines, or generators nearby. For once, he was glad that the budget-minded high command had provided him with a station that generated gravity through spin rather than a gravitic field.

He could live with the lights failing from time to time. Ad-hoc shielding had guaranteed that other systems operated well enough to support the fleet. But his engineers has warned that bringing the station to battle readiness would overload the shielding and power would rapidly begin to fail.

Still...the field would prove as troublesome for any attacker as it was for him. And with Station Prime upgraded to a full Star Fortress he felt secure that the gate would remain in Dilgar hands. Also, the station couldn't now be moved even if they wished it. They would have to make the best of it.

The old War Leader turned back to his console and read over the latest reports. It seemed that the system was quickly divided up among the 3 empires. The Dilgar had gone for the more strategic locations, capturing the jump gate, the commerce station, and the sensors outpost in order to try and gain some advantage in the fluid combat environment. Data from Outpost IX had already given him some clues as to the tactics of his enemies.

The Centauri, however, had proven quicker even than he. Their centuries of experience in stellar warfare were evident as ships quickly subdued and captured the two primary inhabited planets, moving on to secure the space around the resource rich gas giant. Tor'han couldn't help but grin at this. The Centauri were always thinking solely about money and their choices in target showed it. Perhaps he could use that against them. He made a few notes for the next tactical briefing with his staff. One troubling item was the battle station they constructed in orbit over the industrial world of Krish Prime. Prying that prize from their hands would now prove to be a very difficult task. It also indicated a significant investment in the system. The Centauri were not simply raiding. They had come here to stay.

The Earthers were on the move as well. They first secured the mining outpost in the asteroid belt. Not surprising since each earth dreadnought seemed to use an entire asteroid's worth of metal in construction. They proceeded to immediately build their own powerful battle station near the smelting facilities. He had hoped that only the Dilgar would bring such a mobile facility to the system. The methods of making war spread too quickly throughout the galaxy. While construction of their station was underway, the Earthers built up rally points in orbit over Garden (the future Dilgar homeworld) and the ship graveyard that marked the site of an ancient battle. These concentrations of ships gave them control of these locations - for now. Tor'han sighed.

The most troubling news of late was the failure of the fleet carrier Wrath to report in. It's captain had taken it upon himself to try some commerce raiding in order to disrupt the nascent enemy economies. Scouts had reported a Centauri task force in the area. The conclusion was only too clear to an old campaigner like Tor'han. He pulled up his order-of-battle and crossed off the name of the Wrath. The ship was one of the elite crews from the Third Strike Fleet. Their experience and leadership would be sorely missed in the coming weeks.

He only hoped that they had died well.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Midnight Oil

Lord Maximo Drusella reviewed the status reports which had been set on the fine wooden desk before him. He sipped casually at a cup of hot jalla while he pondered the relevant matters. All around him were the trappings of an understated opulence befitting a noble house... though the star of Drusella had not been in ascendance for many years, they were still vastly wealthy.

The reports were troubling. The fleet itself was in good order, with the finest ships and crews that money and influence could buy. Truly, for House Drusella to be at the head of this fleet was a great honor and a singular opportunity to advance their status. However, the mission would not be as simple as first explained. The House Expeditionary Force could easily handle a campaign of simple suppression of barbarians... the obviously uncivilized native inhabitants whose lack of both technology and belligerence demonstrated their undeserving and inadequate nature. However, and this was the troubling matter, the campaign would not be one of simple suppression.

The Republic had many spies. These assets had uncovered, among other things, that two major stellar powers were simultaneously moving on the Krish system. While the Centauri had a clear legal and territorial claim to that system (or, such a claim could be readily fabricated and defended by the most skillful rhetoricians in the galaxy), the bellicose Dilgar and upstart Earthers were moving on the system as well.

Lord Drusella considered the dimensions of this intelligence carefully, the taste of the jalla and the luxury of the surroundings fading almost entirely from his consciousness. "The Dilgar...." he said to himself heavily. "What are they after? Resources?" The Dilgar were losing their war... and it was a dark war indeed. "What will be left of them, if they lose? How will they spend it?" It didn't make any sense. The Dilgar needed those ships at their rapidly retreating fronts. Obviously this must be some sort of desperation strategy, but whatever it was, Maximo could not fathom. There was clearly a piece of the puzzle missing.

His thoughts turned to the Earthers. "The Earthers are bold, brash. Slow-witted, perhaps, like the Drazi. But respectable warriors." Earth was beating back the Dilgar when the others could not. It would clearly be a mistake to underestimate them. There was something about them, their rapid expansion and bold strokes... something almost Centauri. "Obviously they are here because the Dilgar are here."

"Well," said Maximo aloud, to no one in particular, "anyone in the Krish system who is not a Centauri is an interloper." And then he mumbled to himself, in a low tone "And if we cannot chase away a few interlopers, we don't deserve the plunder." He let out a sigh and rose from the desk. Perhaps he could make common cause with the Earthers and then, when the Dilgar were destroyed, politely ask them to leave? It was a thought... but it would be a shame to let Earth interfere with the exploitation of the system. They would probably want to regulate it, or grant them autonomy or something. "Peh. Barbarians" Maximo mumbled as he retired to his chambers.

A Council Of Captains


Shirish straightened his jacket, took a deep breath and opened the door. The office beyond was larger than his own ready room and the three men seated didn't get up because of the seat belts they were wearing. He floated in slowly and saluted at the edge of the desk. "Captain Shirish Gonzalez reporting as ordered, sir."

The man behind the desk saluted back. "A pleasure to meet you, Captain," Admiral Carstairs replied, "but you were asked here, not ordered here, so there's no reason to stand on ceremony." He nodded to the two other men seated across from him. "Captains Jeremy Kallis and Bill Cargano." The two nodded to the new arrival.

Cargano spoke up. "No offense, Gonzalez, but I expected you to be Hispanic, not Indian."

"Happens all the time, sir." Shirish replied. "My family picked up the name back when the Portuguese still owned Goa."

"My family made it's mark in Pondicherry. Small world I'd say, yes?" Kallis' Englishness radiated.

Before Shirish could respond, Cargano spoke up. "And I like Darjeeling tea. Now that we've all expressed our love for the Subcontinent, can we get to the matter at hand?"

Shirish let out a low "Yes, sir."

Cargano spoke again. "We're all Captains here. We know you're new, but you don't have to call us 'sir'." He motioned to Carstairs. "And that boy-lover least of all!", he said with a slight grin.

Carstairs quipped back. "There's only one boy I care about. That reminds me... How is your wife and my son?"

Shirish began to turn red as the laughter filled the room. "Besides, new or not, you're currently leading Earthforce in capital ship kills." Carstairs brought the room back to business. "Please. Have a seat, Captain Gonzalez."

Shirish buckled himself into the empty seat as Cargano passed him a datapad and Carstairs began to speak. "We have more intel from the Delphi."

Shirish spoke up. "The Delphi, sir?"

"That's the scout ship that's been following the Dilgar," Carstairs replied. "They have reported that the Cat-Faces are towing in a small space station. It's not big enough to supply from, but it can serve as a system-wide C&C so that's going to be a strategic target at first good opportunity. There's more information about it on your pads but that's not the real problem. Gonzalez?"

Shirish felt the weight of all their eyes on him. Carstairs was part of the first contact with the Narn, he thought. Kallis had been taking on raider bands for years. Cargano? They were using some of his orbital assaults for training at the Academy. What could I possibly report to these men? His wits returned and he opened his mouth to speak. "Forty-one hours ago, I received word from the Curran, the scout assigned to my battlegroup, that Centauri forces had been seen entering system."

Kallis was noticeably taken aback. "What are those vultures doing here?"

"Unknown, but we have verified that they are not bearing the Imperial Crest. Their markings indicate they belong to House Drusella."

"According to Earth," Carstairs interjected, "they're not here on official business. I think we have ourselves a loose cannon looking to make a buck."

"More like a buck and a half." Cargano replied studying the information Shirish had broadcast to their pads. "They came here with about as much as we've got."

Carstairs spoke again. "And that's why I've called you all here. The Centauri involvement complicates things a bit. The Dilgar are our primary concern but I don't want to start an interstellar incident, either."

Shirish spoke up again. "This could work to our advantage. If the Centauri allied with the Dilgar, they wouldn't have to come all the way here to cause trouble for Earthforce. They could just attack where we're not heavily defended to draw off forces. If it's just a lone wolf, they'd get in a lot of trouble for endangering a treaty between Centauri Prime and Earth. I believe you are correct that someone just spotted an opportunity and is trying to, as you all say, 'make a buck'."

"I told you they're Vultures."

"Hmmm. And that's why the plan is changing," Carstairs spoke. "Originally I was going to have two battle groups out hunting and harassing Dilgar until we could pack them all together and finish them off. Unfortunately, the Centauri could probably finish off the winner easily. Even if they are our friends, I don't want to leave them with a foothold two jumps from Earth."

"So we let the vultures pick at Dilgar and wipe up after?" Kallis asked.

"We would be served well to keep this long and drawn out. Every ship the Dilgar send here is a ship that's not on the front lines. And eventually the Centauri will lose their will if it drags on long enough. Not enough profit..." Cargano said.

Shirish was concerned. "That's a lot of men and ships we could lose if this goes on a long time."

Kallis retorted. "If it makes it easier for Hamato to finish the war, it's completely worth it."

"Agreed." Carstairs sat up a little straighter. "We're going to be playing a little fast and loose with battlegroup assignments since we're facing two different styles of warfare but the Dilgar are the primary threat and they're the ones we want. If you have to mix it up with the Centauri, do so and win, but come back alive. They're an annoyance, not the enemy." The finality of his words was apparent. "Anything else?"

The silence was palpable as Cargano spoke up. "Yes. Your face looks like the waste from a plasma reactor."

Laughter split the tension as Carstairs' datapad flew at Cargano. "Get out of my office, you guys!" Everyone unbuckled and began to float. "Oh, and Captains... Good luck and good hunting."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Moves

War Captain Tor'han received the news with characteristic calm. The mission was not to be as simple as they had hoped. Instead of pacifying a primitive culture in a few weeks he would be forced to fight an extended campaign against two other forces. The arrival of Earthforce wasn't entirely unexpected. But if ELINT was correct the force was commanded by Admiral James Carstairs, a hardened veteran who had been crucial in many of the Dilgar defeats over the last year. Not a man to be underestimated.

The real wild card, though, was the arrival of a Centauri battle group. Throughout the conflict the Republic had remained carefully neutral. Intelligence believed that they would not commit forces to anything that might weaken their defenses against the ever aggressive Narn. As usual, intelligence was wrong. What were they doing here? And what was their allegiance? The ships bore the livery of House Drusella, not the Imperial Fleet. What did that mean? Tor'han pulled up what little information they had on the Centauri ships detected by his scouts. Centauri vessels were centuries ahead of the Dilgar in weapons technology. Their mastery of lasers made the crude spinal-mounted beams on the earth vessels look like toys. There would be no nimble dodging around the firing arcs of Centauri lasers - not until the battle closed to a knife fight.

Both his enemies had superior defensive technology, Earthforce with its vaunted interceptors and the Centauri guardian arrays. Simulations already showed that he would need to concentrate massive firepower to overcome these systems - far more than would normally be needed to destroy a Dilgar ship of comparable size. Tor'han made a note to brief his fighter wings on time-on-target attacks to overwhelm defensive systems, and on how to defend his own ships from incoming fire if need be. Casualties among Thorun pilots was expected to be high.

None of this would stop them. They were Dilgar, the terror of the galaxy. For two years their ships had conquered at will throughout League space, defeating every foe before them. Tor'han smiled at the memory of those heady days. It had seemed that final victory was inevitable. Even the vaunted technology of the Hyach was no match for Dilgar discipline and tactics. Then the Earth Alliance stepped in and everything began to unravel. In a short six months the blocky Earth ships retook all the territory gained from the previous two years; liberating the isolated and besieged homeworlds of the Brakiri, Abbai, after the other. Now the dream of a new homeworld in League space was ashes and it seemed that even Omelos would be assaulted within the year.

This system offered one last chance at survival for his people. He would not - could not - fail.

Gal'fen, his aide and executive officer broke the silence, "Sir, the fleet is in formation and ready to move on our first strategic target."

"Very well," Tor'han answered with a confidence born of years in command, "we will show these new foes why the galaxy fears our name!" Tor'han entered coordinates into the navigation computer from his command station. "Signal the fleet. We will move immediately to take this target. From there we will drown the skies in blood. This system will be our home or it will be our grave!"

All across the fleet, engines came to life and crews moved to combat stations. Once again the Dilgar were going to war.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Earth Expeditionary Force, Krish System

Captains, I know your reassignments to this task force were sudden but time is of the essence. Nine days ago, a Dilgar fleet was spotted departing into hyperspace. One of our scouts managed to follow them to a previously unknown jumpgate in a system called Krish.

According to our allies, everything in the system was wiped out in a war a thousand years ago and there was no indication of a jumpgate even being active there until less than a month ago. If the Dilgar have found it, we cannot allow them to capitalize on that find. We have them on the ropes and a forward base this close to Earth could tie up Earthforce for months, possibly even a year, giving them time to regroup and renew offensives against several of our allies. We cannot let that happen and I have been tasked with just that mission. I have chosen you three because you are some of the most aggressive and successful captains we have out there and this is too important to have anyone but the best. If we fail, Earth herself will be in danger.

Captain Kallis, your battlegroup is as follows:

Nova Dreadnought – EAS Chronus
Hyperion Cruiser - EAS Delhi
Hyperion Cruiser - EAS Veracruz
Hyperion Assault Cruiser - EAS Houseman
Olympus Gunship – OLC-65G
Oracle Scout Cruiser – OSC-36
Tethys Missile Boat – TLP-532M
Tethys Laser Boat – TLP-387L

Captain Gonzalez, your battlegroup is as follows:

Nova Dreadnought – EAS Charybdis
Hyperion Cruiser - EAS Richmond
Hyperion Cruiser - EAS Khartoum
Hyperion Assault Cruiser – EAS Guan Yu
Olympus Gunship – OLC-62G
Oracle Scout Cruiser – OSC-56
Tethys Missile Boat – TLP-396M
Tethys Laser Boat – TLP-404L

You will both be the hunting arms of the fleet. Your jobs will be to find and engage the enemy and to harass them until the main body of the fleet can arrive to deliver the knockout blow.

Captain Cargano, your battlegroup is as follows:

Avenger Heavy Carrier – EAS Mitchell
Nova Dreadnought – EAS Poseidon
Hyperion Assault Cruiser - EAS Vostok
Hyperion Assault Cruiser - EAS Erinyes
Artemis Escort Frigate – AHF44-E
Artemis Escort Frigate – AHF76-E
Olympus Gunship – OLC-21G
Oracle Scout Cruiser – OSC-89
Sagittarius Cruiser - SSM-67
Sagittarius Cruiser - SSM-114
Sagittarius Cruiser - SSM-186
Sagittarius Cruiser - SSM-221
Tethys Missile Boat – TLP-217M
Tethys Missile Boat – TLP-323M
Tethys Laser Boat – TLP-441L
Tethys Laser Boat – TLP-632L
Hermes Transport – HTR-388
Hermes Transport – HTR-521
2 Nova Fury Wings (5 Flights each)

You will have the main body of the fleet and you will be tasked with coordinating with Kallis and Gonzalez to bring the Dilgar to heel. Preliminary intel on the system indicates there are currently several habitable worlds so have to assume that they will attempt to fortify at least one if not more. Your experience with planetary invasions will most likely be tested, Cargano.

I and my ship (Orestes Battleship – EAS Winfield Scott) will rendezvous with you all at the predetermined position in four days at the predetermined time. Until then, godspeed and good hunting.

Adm. James Carstairs
Earth Expeditionary Force

The light of the Republic shines upon Krish

From the memoirs of Lord Maximo Drusella:

It was then, as I was surveying our majestic House Expeditionary Fleet from the observation dome, that my dear granddaughter Lyndisty came running in, calling out "Gee-pa, gee-pa!" I picked her up in my arms and showed her the great fleet, pointing out all the ships. "Some day soon your Gee-pa will retire, my dear" I said to her, "and your father will take over running our house. But first, the Emperor has granted me a great favor." Of course she did not understand what I meant. "I have been given the honor of leading this great fleet on a campaign to claim a new star system for our Empire."

She always did possess a quick wit. "If you are taking warships, Gee-pa, that means you are going to fight." "Yes, Lyndisty, I will have to supress some barbarians, and I will have to defend our claim from the lesser races, who will be jealous and try to take away what is rightfully ours." She wanted to know why the barbarians would even try to oppose us. "Well, that's what makes them barbarians!" I shouted, and we both laughed. What a sweet girl she is, a true joy. Of all my grandchildren, she has always been a favorite.

The expeditionary fleet we assembled was truly grand, just as it was in the old days of the Republic. With all the fighting going on in those days, I sought to assemble a balanced fleet that, one that could handle anything.

Our initial force was composed of the following ships:

One Octurion-Class Battleship, the Warmonger.
One Primus-Class Battlecruiser, the Emperor Morell.
One experimental Secundus-Class Assault Battlecruiser, the Empress Avena.
Five Sulust-Class Escort Destroyers, Valiant, Valorous, Fearless, Courageous, Stalwart.
Four Maximus-Class Frigates, Scutario, Retiario, Murmillo, Samno.
Six Vorchan-Class Warships, Ravager, Reaver, Reaper, Scavenger, Slayer, Slicer.
Four Kutai-Class Gunships, Riposte, Parry, Thrust, Slash.
Four wings of four Sentri medium fighter flights, for sixteen total flights.

Truly, a majestic fleet and the scourge of all barbarians.

The Dilgar Arrive

War Captain Tor'han reviewed the forces under his command. The Supreme Warmaster was generous given the circumstances, but it was the most important mission he had ever undertaken. If all went well the Dilgar would have a new home. If he failed then, barring a miracle, Omelos and his people were doomed.

Tor'han stared out the window at the blood red glow of hyperspace. His fleet was arrayed before him as if on parade review. For the thousandth time, he looked down and double checked his OOB.

His fleet was divided into three elements.

First was the Strike Force:
  • Mishakur Dreadnought: Incorruptable - Tor'Han's flagship
  • Garasoch Heavy Carriers: Wrath, Fury
  • Targrath Strike Cruisers: Slayer, Omen
  • Omelos Light Cruiser: Flawless
  • Ochlavata-Ki Command Destroyers: Doctrine, Discipline, Dogma, Duty, Destiny
  • Jashakar Tae Torpedo Ships: Javelin, Spear, Arrow, Bullet, Bolt, Hurler, Thrower, Archer
  • Jashakar Vi Scout Ships: Seeker, Hunter

Next was the Assault Force:

  • Wahant Heavy Assault Ship: Terror
  • Kahtrik Assault Ship: Footfall
  • Rohric Assault Ships: Kha'Zo Gate, Broken Shore

Finally was the Logistics Force consisting of various supply ships and freighters, but including one more item: a prefabricated battle station.

  • Battle Station: Station Prime (Habitation, Military Academy, War Room, Spacedock x2, Pulsar x2, Hangar)

The mobile station was a lesson learned from their Earthforce adversaries. It will serve as a forward supply base and a bastion in case the fleet needs to fall back. It will be quickly constructed at the first strategic location captured by the fleet. Command and control facilities were first priority when designing the base, followed by an extensive repair and refit component. The station should prove more than enough to organize and prosecute a system-wide invasion.

And So It Begins: The Krish Campaign

It is the year 2232.

The League of Non Aligned Worlds is in flames. The Dilgar Imperium is collapsing under the inexorable advance of Earthforce and its allies. The Supreme Warmaster of the Dilgar, Dar'Shan, has seen the inevitable outcome of the war and is desperately seeking an alternative homeworld for his people. To this end the entire Dilgar exploration division has been searching for new routes through hyperspace that might find anything of value. During the last few months of the war a new jump route was found; one that led to a system with a long deactivated but functional jump gate. Survey teams quickly reactivated the ancient gate and moved into the system to scout possible planets for habitation. What they found was beyond their wildest hopes. The plan was to secure the system, exterminate or enslave the indigenous population, resettle every possible civilian from Omelos, and then shut off the gate again to recover and rebuild in isolation. It was their last, best hope for survival.

Unfortunately, the best laid plans oft go awry.

Earthforce scout ships at this time were actively blanketing Dilgar space in preparation for the final push to Omelos. One scout ship, the Delphi, was able to detect a Dilgar task force in hyperspace vectoring for an unknown location. Earth high command believed that this might be a flanking maneuver intended to allow an assault into EA space. A fleet was hastily assembled and sent toward the unknown beacon close on the trail of the Dilgar.

Meanwhile in Centauri space...

Pressure from the Narn continued to cause the Republic to withdraw further from its former holdings. Some more ambitious minor nobles were dissatisfied with this turn of events and began to fund exploration missions in order to discover resources which would be unclaimed by the many enemies of the Empire and, more importantly, would be owned solely by their house. A new beacon was detected by Centauri scout ships where none had existed before. Initial probes indicated an unknown new system only 2 jumps from Ragesh. Better yet, the system was rich in resources and isolated from any other known jump routes. The house fleet was dispatched immediately to claim the system. All resources of the house were put behind the expedition. This was a huge risk for them - but the rewards of success could catapult them to the status of Major House.

The stage was set for these three powers to clash in a secret, desperate campaign that has been lost to history.

The Krish Campaign.

The Krish system was once the center of an interstellar nation. However, a thousand years ago there was a titanic war that engulfed all worlds in this sector and wrought untold destruction. As the forces of darkness drew ever closer, the Krish shut down their gate to hide from extermination. It didn't work, and the black ships filled the skies and rained destruction on the people. But before they were completely destroyed an opposing army of light arrived and a titanic battle was fought on the outskirts of the system. After this the war moved on to other locales and the galaxy forgot about the Krish.

Devastated by this disaster, Krish civilization collapsed to a pre-industrial level and eventually the people forgot their star faring heritage. Over the centuries they rebuilt and reached out into space again. They had primitive ships roaming the system mining asteroids for resources. They discovered that the 3rd planet was also inhabited by their people and the two worlds formed a union. Demeter would farm and Krish Prime would build. There were even plans to settle the Verdant world of Garden. It would become the symbol of partnership between the two worlds.

The nature of the ancient Jump Gate was unknown and the primitive spacecraft of the Krish were unable to breach the strange radiation that surrounded the artifact. They believed they were alone in the galaxy and were quite content with their lot.

Then, one day, strange energy spikes were detected at the edge of the system. A month later the ancient artifact opened up and hell poured forth fourth. Now, as in the ancient legends, there were advanced alien ships in the sky and the millennium of peace was broken. Krish was again a helpless pawn in a far greater struggle...