Starfire Shorts - “Academy” Campaign

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Starfire Shorts - “Academy” Campaign

Postby Dawn Falcon on Thu 23 Jul 2009 09:12

These three stories are from experiments I was making in the tactical game during Elite's development. In particular, stutter drives are something I was trying out the rules for.

Story #1 – Starstrike

The training simulator viewing room was crowded. In the display, it could be seen that the offensive force - one using Hazan designs - had pressed the defending one - a mix of Terran and Shalan designs - into a close engagement. As would be expected, the battle wasn't going well for the Allies.

Salisa winced as another of her dreadnoughts foundered under force beam fire, and she played the card she had hoped not to use. The assault ships which trailed the battle, which had swung back over the gravity node, engaged their stutter drives and re-entered the fight.

To say that the stutter drive was badly understood was like saying the sky was blue. Gravity Nodes was badly enough understood themselves, and the grav hooks which allowed ships to transit at a distance were basically not understood outside the practical. The Tahr-developed Stutter Drives were tended even on Terran and Shalan ships by Tahr drones.

The effect was startling, even in a simulator. Twelve battleships vanished, using the twisted potential space of the nearby gravity node to lead in close to it - or rather, seven did. The other five were rules by the computer to have misjudged the jump and ended up back on the other side of the gravity node in some disarray - kills for the purposes of the simulation.

Even so, the Hazan ships around where they were emerged were slow to respond, and even their transit-addled beams were accurate enough to smash several shield-down ships which the enemy formation had shielded from the Terran particle weapons for now. In the confusion, the rest of the Allied fleet broke off sharply, turning away and opening the range.

It was Evara's turn to curse. Not defending close-in had sucked the only dedicated beam ships away from the enemy fleet, too slow to keep up, and the rapid head-on attack had got her ships close with few casualties, but now the Allies had managed to disengage. Worse, she had lost three light monitors - cripples - to the particle beams. Fingers flashing, her response plan unfolded.

Hazan escort destroyers and gunboats threw themselves headlong onto the battleships, closing with their intact defences and ramming. Within seconds six of the battleships were wrecks, and several other beam armed escorts held them and their intact companion at bay as the majority of the Hazan fleet turned directly after the Allies, hoping to deny them the long ranged duels the Hazan less advanced missiles and lack of antimatter made so painful.

The running ships turned slightly, and poured missiles into their pursuers, who relentlessly closed. Without their anti-missile escorts, the Hazan capital ships own point defence was dangerously split and capital missiles slammed into their hulls. Hazan Gunboats slashed forwards to attack, and several squadrons of heavy cruisers dropped slightly behind - Terran ships all - to counteract the threat.

The Terran ships watched in some confusion as the Gunboats drew back, and then understood as the Hazan’s own missile weapons switched to them, pounding them until they streamed air, and then gunboats threw themselves forwards again. The Allied fleet scattered, putting some distance between it's main squadrons in an attempt to defend itself.

Shalan carriers desperately threw their last few squadrons into space - the devastating mousetrap with beam-armed gunboats had decimated their numbers early on - and the Terran escort cruisers held position, their flack batteries on rapid fire - if uncoordinated without their datalink and not overly effective. It was enough, barely, to blunt the gunboat strike, which smashed the escort cruisers and a squadron of missile cruisers.

In the meantime, the Hazan fleet had been chasing the Terrans, and they were in extreme beam range. Terran shield began to flicker and die under the hammerbeats of force beams again, even as the far fewer Shalan lasers splintered armour in return to accompany the missiles which still streamed in. Even so, it was a forgone conclusion and three minutes of fighting later, with the Hazan closing into ranges where their beams were ever more effective, Salisa surrendered.

Story #2 – Who thinks fastest...

There was silence in the room for a moment, and then Devlin’s friends broke into cheers, as the results were displayed. 147%..and a no-win scenario broken. Salisa stormed from the simulator, to the catcalls…one doesn’t lose a guaranteed-win situation without getting mocked. Wile he was pressed to explain how, Devlin’s instructions about not talking about the win in public until his performance could be properly a higher level. Still, later than night with a few friends he explained…

The reason the rapid-shot scenario’s always been a guaranteed win for the Akiri is that not only do you have less tonnage, most of your armed force is armed survey escorts and you only have the one decent datagroup – the battlecruisers - to fight their gunboats given the generally light point defence, and they’re also your best missile force. And your Shalan force only has a few fighters, and the drones are dead meat to gunboats in open space. So..most people go in trying to do as much damage as they can.

What they forgot is that you do have a survey force, and surveying doesn’t mean systems, necessarily. I surveyed the small moons around out by the ice world quickly, and found hiding places for my forces there. I detached one cruiser – one of the ones with a pinnace – to the other known warp point, and the cruiser had a “cloaking fluctuation” at the “wrong time”. While a transmission could have been detected, the pinnace stood off, and shut down it’s drive field. When the cruiser, being chased, fled through the warp point the pinnace powered back up and sent a message to the waiting ships.

She assumed my ships were trying to survey their way out, despite the relative uselessness of the tactic, so she started a standard search spiral. By the time she realized what I’d done – and ran down the cruiser – she was faced with the worst situation in the book. She HAD to get back into supply, and I was holding the warp point. Even better, I’d deployed my buoys around it, with specific orders.

As I expected, she lead with the gunboats. They fanned out from the warp point, but I’d held my fleet back and either LOD or cloaked. All they found was buoys, which were all tasked to open fire on them. While the buoys were expended, I got almost a third of her gunboats..and them my fighters slashed into them. I lost them as well, but the gunboats were done by then, and my force was closing even as her starships started to transit.

It was a mess. While the escorts gun missile launchers were at optimal range, her skilled crews still managed to knock down a fair number of the missiles with their point defence, so I concentrated on firing in what blindspots I could see. My destroyers closed to point blank, where my lasers were most effective, and I went for the datalinks. By the time she dealt with them, many of her ships were out of datalink, and my battlecruiser squadron opened up with capital missiles form beyond their range.

I had lost almost half my escorts, all the destroyers and I had just the two cruiser squadrons and the battlecruiser one relatively undamaged, but all her ships were in the system and over half were out of datalink. The cruisers dropped back, shielding the battlecruisers launchers from the kinetic fire by making their lasers count on ships which tried to close to ranges where their kinetics were especially accurate.

They smashed the remaining escorts quickly, and overran the cruisers eventually, bit the huge magazines on the battlecruisers held long enough for me to smash at least some of the engines on all her ships. Given that I was in supply, and could refill my magazines and return to kill them before they escaped because we both needed to use the same exit warp point, I was given the win. And that as they say, is that.

Story #3 – Deviln’s Dare

Devlin and Salisa were having it out. Two-all overall in combats, the school’s two finest tacticians were locked in a bitter deciding match. Devlin’s subtlety contrasted strongly with the aggressive, headstrong Salisa and it showed. They were fighting a theoretical conflict, between the Terrans and the Tahr, at the time of contact. While both used missiles for long ranged combat, the Terrans used crude energy beams, and the Tahr used force beams and gun missiles.

The Tahr force, stronger than the Terrans by nearly a third, was bearing down on the Terran force with Salisa’s usual directness. The Terrans – apparently running in stealth mode – were picked up by Salisa’s scouts as they tried to evade the Tahr forces, and make it to the warp point.

The initial fighting between scouts had been mixed, the Terran escort’s missiles had hurt the Tahr corvettes despite their point defence, until they reached force beam range and returned the favour with force beams…with interest. Now, the few remaining scouts kept well into their long-scan range, not wishing another ambush that might cripple their side’s scout capacity.

The Terran fleet, for some reason, turned and fled before Salisa, running towards their entry warp point and Salisa frowned. Retreating cost marks, and Devlin for all his subtlety was no coward…although he was STILL running in stealth mode despite being detected. And Salisa realized, suddenly, what Devlin was up to, and her lighter units fanned out…one could be TOO clever, after all.

Devlin cursed. The Courier Drones held station on a few corvettes, mimicking a stealthed fleet, but the sudden change in Salisa’s formation told him she had somehow fathomed his plan. Orders flashed out, and his formation brought their drive fields up, a mere light minute from Salisa’s oncoming formation.

Salisa smiled..Devlin’s dare had failed, and her time had come. Her orders went out, and her formations swept into their classic positions, beam armed destroyers surrounding the missile armed ones in a huge wall. As they entered range, the Terran Light Cruisers and the Tahr destroyers opened fire, missiles rushing back and forth. Despite their larger size, the Terrans mixed weaponry meant that the salvoes were equal in size, and Salisa had more launchers.

The range dropped further, several Terran cruisers falling into the meatgrinder of the Tahr force beams as they suffered engine damage, and suddenly the Terran formation imploded, ships halting and throwing power to EM, wrenching around to face the Tahr, trying to get in range with their energy beams…which they did, just.

Energy beams snarled, and shield-down missile destroyers were left hulks but a grinning Salisa pushed her advantage, her close-ranged destroyers still had their shields and now their sprint missiles and force beams tore into the Terran cruisers and corvettes. Even as the range dropped to near nothing, the Terran force’s numbers plummeted and suddenly Devlin fell out the loop as his flagship was picked off in a hail of sprint missiles…and surrender quickly followed.

Devlin’s dare had, indeed, failed.
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