The Terpla'ns - Chapter 11

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The Terpla'ns - Chapter 11

Postby Zume on Wed 01 Dec 2021 18:01

Star Admiral Mansel, commanding the AFC mobile defenses in the Bedrock system, brooded in his cabin on the command dreadnaught Iron Mountain. The Abom Commonwealth fleet was on the other side of the Bedrock/Circuit Run warp point, undoubtedly preparing to gauge the defenses. Regarding the defenses, Mansel read a status report on his monitor. The initial set of the big type-6 forts, 12 of them, had been completed two months ago. However, the crews were still green, and only 6 were at the Circuit Run warp point; the other 6 were stationed at the warp point leading to Tire Iron in case the Abom Hokum stage an assault.

Both warp points had to be defended, and fort deployment was evenly split. Each warp point was covered by 6 type-6, 6 type-5, 9 type-3, 3 type-2 automated weapons control bases, and 6 Bulwark 3 asteroid forts. The type-5 and -6s were evenly split between capital missile and fighter designs, and the type-3s were a mix of plasma, missile and point defense. Lavish minefields covered the warp points up to a 1.25 light-second radius, and the distant missile and fighter forts were surrounded by a thin minefield shell up to the same radius to ground down armed pinnaces and ships alike. Reusable laser, primary and energy beam buoys engulfed the warp points like a house cut off by massive snowdrifts.

Mobile forces were also split with the majority composed of carriers. 12 fleet and 6 light carriers, with escorts, along with 6 DN, 6 BB, 3 BC, 3 BC(R), 9 CL and 9 DD orbited the Bedrock/Circuit Run warp point at various distances with the same force composition at the Bedrock/Tire Iron warp point. These ships (aside from some new construction and majority of the carriers) were stationed in Laser Burn before being called back when Connectors fell. Additional ships that could’ve strengthen the defenses were instead parceled out to new formations far from Bedrock. Worse, in Mansel’s mind, was that the AFC was reinforcing a contingency plan developed when Bedrock was first conquered. Fixed defenses at the Gymnasium/Abyssal 17 warp point, already reinforced when the Aboms first occupied Bedrock, were getting a major boost in the form of six large asteroid forts along with a brace of new fighter and close-in bases. Had two-thirds of what was employed in Gymansium now been placed in Bedrock instead…

A klaxon blared in the cabin, sending Mansel out and dashing down the short passageway to the CIC. The combat watch team had the main imager display the contacts coming out of the warp point. Data feeds scrawled along the bottom edge. Tonnage revealed the six ships to be battleships in size, but the drivefield strength was 20% greater and they turned far better than any battleship had any right to do. The CAP squadrons and patrolling escort shuttles left their assigned orbits and were atop the six ships, racing to bring their weapons on-line. Mansel noted how the ships were obviously armored to the extreme, and their even transit-addled point defense swatted down the distant capital missile fire from the forts that went online. Yet with all the firepower from those units able to get their weapons up, and assisted by 120 rechargeable laser buoys, two of those battleships were able transit back out, the last one only due to its engine tuners. In reply the defenses lost only six mine patterns from mine clearance charges fired from the abom external racks.

Mansel only spared a parting glare at the imager before he and his staff took in the after-action reports and scan results on the abom ships.

********

Admiral Jki, while relieved that the reconnaissance of the Axis defenses was a success, grimaced internally that only two of the advanced hull battleships returned. She would have preferred to use a pinnace probe instead, even a massive one, but she needed every pinnace for the assault and the aftermath. Solitary pinnace probes would take too long, and in Jki’s mind every day waiting was another day lost in relieving the army on Bedrock and the ships stranded in Brickyard and Bulwark.

In the hours that followed the probe the intelligence staff made their conclusions. The Axis combat area patrol was strong at 46 squadrons of F1 Hatchets along with a handful of Stiletto shuttles. Relatively few of those patrolling Hatchets armed and fired their weapons, indicating a good number of the pilots were still inexperienced. 46 squadrons meant those remaining squadrons on the bases and carriers were at least three times that number. As for the buoys they numbered 600 and the immediate mine shell had 1800 patterns. The ships stayed just outside jamming range of the warp point, giving weight to the assertion that an extensive minefield covering the approaches to the warp point up to and including the orbiting forts and inner shell of bases. It also allowed them to fire their weapons in datalink groups until such time they were destroyed.

The six asteroid forts shared the same electronic and power signatures. They were a previously unseen class and didn’t fire any weapons. However, the type-3 bases were known. The larger bases were six-light seconds out, along with the carrier group, escorts, and three BCs, putting them at optimal range for both capital missiles and engagement time for fighter launches. It all came down to the Hatchets, ships, forts and bases closest to the warp point. After five hours of hashing out several assault scenarios Jki interrupted her staff, selected one, and went about to make the appropriate arrangements. Six hours later the assault went in.

********

In the A-1 system, one transit out from the Inna home system, the covert observation of what turned out to be an Axis drive field had born fruit. In the month that followed the first detection three Axis formations, each one mostly composed of commercial-engine ships, appeared and disappeared in the same spots. Admiral Coopersmith, commanding the 3rd Field Fleet, had aboard his flagship Dr. Dunn, head of the Tzelan survey squadron, and Kunus, lead Inna scientist. The fleet still held station on the Inna side of the warp point, waiting as automated weapons and prefabricated bases were being sown and assembled.

Kunus, having already become accustomed to the appearance of the bipedal Tzelans in general and Dunn in particular, had to remind himself that the Crajen Coopersmith was a sentient being and not sort of some animatronic prop. It was the four stalked eyes that made Kunus feel a tad unsettled, along with the pair of crusher claws. In contrast the pair of hands served as a point of commonality, and he noticed the use of gestures whenever Coopersmith talked via the translation software.

In the ship’s CIC the admiral waved his hand at the representation of the A-1 system on a flat screen. “Thanks to those three convoys, we’re now certain that the system in question is an Axis one. Given that no ship deviated from the path between the two likely warp points, and no evidence of even pinnaces sent out to deploy additional buoys, leads me to believe that this system is in the interior of Axis space.”

“With the general areas of the warp points known, Admiral,” said Dunn, “the survey squadron can pin down the precise locations in three weeks, five at most. If it’s deemed feasible.”

Coopersmith looked at Kunus with one eye, but quickly diverted it back to Dunn as he sensed the Innan’s apprehension. “Our ambassador to the Inna government will make the case for your squadron’s return to A-1 to finish the warp point survey, as well as deploying additional scanner and comm buoys along the path between the two suspect warp points.”

Kunus gazed at the display, finding it easier to speak to Coopersmith that way at the expense of etiquette. “Are you planning an aggressive reconnaissance of the warp points once the defenses here in Inna reached a sufficient level?”

“An aggressive advance more likely, Professor Kunus. It will be a few more months before the first set of bases are in place, and by that time more convoys will have been observed making passage in A-1. I plan to intercept one of those convoys and capture as many ships as possible for their databases. If A-1 is indeed an interior system of the Axis, I will exploit this opportunity to the fullest.”

********

The Axis defenders of Bedrock had settled down to their routine when the assault began. Leading the charge were 600 Whale armed pinnaces, crewed by Terpla’ns, Hazens, and Bulani respectively, along with 60 regular pinnaces. Accompany them were 150 explorer and escort sized ships. Following the numerous interpenetrations their numbers were now 104, along with 556 pinnaces.

Coming next were pairs of assault carriers, 10 Avamiand 10 Bedrocks. One pair of each type interpenetrated and exploded, the violence of their deaths proving their flightgroups were armed with antimatter ordnance. Observing this the Axis crews noted there were no antimatter explosions from the interpenetrated armed pinnaces. Unexpectedly, the pinnaces didn’t charge through the minefields to place themselves atop the bases and ships. They instead held station at the warp point in three distinct groups, with one each facing subjective north, southeast and southwest. Though transit-addled, the pinnaces engaged the CAP squadrons with point defense as they swarmed the carriers. 104 Hatchets were obliterated along with 94 weapon buoys taken down by equally-addled pinnace guns.

The Axis pilots involved proved just as green as before, being fresh replacements from the previous CAP. Staying true to their training the pilots went for the big ships, ignoring the pinnaces. Only 14 of the 46 squadrons armed and fired weapons, and it took the fire of those bases, forts and ships that became active in the opening moments to destroy 7 Avami assault carriers. The sprint-missile armed BS3s, however, kept to their assigned task and engaged the explorers and escorts, knocking down shields. Of the 200 energy beam buoys 169 remained, and they all fired. All the small ships had overload dampeners, electing to negate all internal energy beam damage by burning out the dampeners.

In came the second wave, comprised of 5 Endrili Maelstroms and a Perdition assault minesweeper. Transiting back to Curcuit Run was the remaining Avami and 5 of the Bedrocks, but all the carriers that remained from the first wave launched fighters, 300 strong and all were F2 models armed with an internal gun and three FRAMs. They swarmed the Axis ships even as their datalinks were jammed and every point defense mount within range engaged them. Taking advantage of this the Whale armed pinnaces fired their now-stabilized external ordnance, all comprised of stand-off fighter missiles armed with lasing warheads. Whatever brief satisfaction the point defense and missile-armed BS3s had in wiping out squadrons of Sharks and small ships they were utterly smashed as they in turn were wiped from the continuum. The remaining two plasma-armed BS3s became active in the second wave and targeted the two Bedrocks, removing their passive defenses.

On her command carrier Admiral Hovwen watched as Mansel’s dreadnaught, as well as the rest of the close-in mobile defense force, were utterly obliterated by Shark fighters that survived the point defense fire. What remained of the three laser-lacerated BS3s and two forts of the northwest group were disposed of by the transit-addled sprint missiles of the Endrili ships. Despite that all three remaining Bedrocks were destroyed by all available units, including those buoys that remained to be fired. The damnable Whales had swept the buoy parks with point defense even as their internal guns blotted out all the remaining CAP Hatchets and Stilettos at the warp point.

One a secondary monitor Hovwen saw those Whales that had yet to fire their new missiles pivot to bring their weapons to bear on the northeast group of BS3s and forts as the abom Sharks that destroyed the mobile force engage the first set of crash launched fighters. Outnumbered two to one, the Hatchet pilots followed instructions to engage those Sharks that still had external ordnance as the engagement took place over the northeast defenses. Those bases fired their point defense regardless, even those it meant the laser-tipped missiles from the Whales would be unopposed. As for the third wave it came in the form of five Salyf class assault carriers and a battleship equipped with engine tuners. The capital missile BS5s and BS6s and all other units able to engage selected one Salyf, but with datalinks still incomplete the antimatter fireballs were only able to inflict light internal damage on the carrier.

When the fourth wave came in, bring in five more Salyfs, Hovwen saw the writing on the wall. With the destruction of the remaining BS3s and forts even the firepower of the capital missile bases and the three BCRs could, at best, destroy one large ship per assault wave. Worse, with jammers in each assault wave the disjointed crashed launched Hatchets would be devastated by the abom Whales, Sharks and ships. Holding back the Hatchets would only allow the aboms to marshal their Sharks for one big strike against the missile bases, and every assault carrier left unengaged would be another one available for the next assault.

With Mansel dead the command of the remaining ships went to Hovwen. With a purposeful look she faced the senior comm tech. “Inform the fleet to fall back to the Gravel Pit warp point in accordance with order 5. All fighters that expended external ordnance are to disengage and land on our carriers. No fighters are to perform ramming attacks. We will need every fighter to defend the fleet (what’s left of it, she mentally told herself) from long range fighter strikes.”

“As you order, Admiral,” said the tech, leaving Hovwen to wonder if even half of her hanger bays would be occupied once all was said and done.

The fifth wave had five Nikazu-V carriers, one of which was destroyed. It didn’t die as quickly as the other carriers for it and its four brethren only had conventional nuclear-armed ordnance on their fighters instead of antimatter. The huge BS6s and BS5s accomplished this for they now acted as complete datagroups, and they had to because each carrier deployed their EDMs upon entry. Meanwhile the assault minesweepers with their large sprint missile launches set upon the remaining BS3s and asteroid forts as the Sharks from the first wave formed up on the warp point with those Sharks launched from the Salyfs. The surviving explorers and escorts started to leave, though priority was given to the carriers, and were grounded down by BS3 sprint missile fire.

The sixth wave was the last one in the initial assault, again comprised of five more Nikazu-Vs and 600 Whales, of which 84 interpenetrated and violently exploded. A massive dogfight on the warp point filled the space with pockmarks of nuclear fireballs as all the remaining Hatchet squadrons and a handful of Stilettos arrived as one group. Two more carriers died with two more damaged, all from the sixth wave, for the fresh Hatchets finished what the distant missile bases started. For this the Hatchet wave was devastated from the combined firepower of Sharks and Whales along with whatever fire the ships and regular pinnaces could contribute. Those Hatchets that did survive moved at maximum speed on different vectors in the hope that some would reach the now retreating carriers.

Hovwen watched her main plot as the Shark squadrons and the sixth wave Whales went through the minefields, making a direct line for the capital missile and automated weapons control bases. Though they were abominations she had to admit to herself that the armed pinnace crews had nerves of iron worthy of any Comensol, taking losses from the minefields in stride. Two minutes after their arrival those Whales that survived were more than enough to destroy the missile bases while Sharks still with external ordnance, albeit nuclear-armed attack missiles, worked over the small control bases and retired to the warp point. Before dying, the missile bases fired on the remaining minesweepers as they transited out, shifting fire to the explorers and escorts as they maneuvered and transited as a single group.

Informed by a returning pinnace, Admiral Jki sent in her three Humarsh Monitor class superdreadnaughts. Premiering in their first battle, this trio of ships began their bombardment on the now-empty fighter bases, lancing them with capital missiles armed with second-generation lasing warheads to denude them of their external ordnance racks and any ADMs they might have. Armed with spinal force beams, meant to pick off crippled ships, the fighter bases selected one Monitor and kept firing despite knowing it would mean little in the end.

Following the Monitors were twelve Oknib dreadnaughts, belching shoals of antimatter armed capital missiles. In no time all remaining bases were destroyed, permitting the rest of the fleet to enter, all the while the surviving sixth wave pinnaces fanned out in multiple search spirals to eliminate any scanner buoy within one light minute of the warp point. With fighters providing the locations and density of the mines, the missile ships fired mine clearance rounds, weakening a portion of the primary minefield shell enough for the dreadnaughts and undamaged minesweepers to clear a path through it as well as the subsequent far thinner shells.

Taking stock of the situation, Jki had two personnel transports detailed to pick up allied life pods and those pilots and pinnace crews that managed to eject. Comensal lifepods were to be picked up last and then only those that were observed to come from the dreadnaughts and large bases. No bases and ships remained to be boarded, and thus only a few teams were allocated to search the wreckage. She was tempted to send her fighters against the retiring Axis carriers but didn’t as she needed all of them for operations in the system.

The fleet was divided into three parts. The largest portion went to the Bedrock/Gravel Pit warp point to mine and guard it. Another went to Bedrock proper to secure the orbital space and aid the beleaguered ground forces. As for the third it went for the Bedrock/Brickyard warp point. For this there were only four BC-hulled minelayers with a respectable number of escort cruisers armed with AFHAWKs, light and escort carriers. Moving at maximum speed, this force entered and exited the Bedrock asteroid belt twice, encountering two equally underwhelming fighter swarms. Clearly had there been more time (or resources allocated, as the Allies would learn later) then the asteroid fighter forts would’ve been built back up to their former strength.

Also heading towards the Brickyard warp point was the Axis mobile force stationed at the Tire Iron warp point, leaving the bases there to their fate. A trio of Sloop scouts, heading to the Tire Iron warp point, detected this force and shadowed it. The mobile force was comprised with the same number and classes of ships that were at the Circuit Run warp point, moving at maximum speed for a dreadnaught. It was clear the Axis commander was acting upon a contingency plan, heading into Brickyard to escape destruction. Due to the timing the Allied minelayer force completed its job and left with just 30 minutes to spare for the Axis force sent all of it Hatchet fighters, F1 models with two close attack missiles and a life support pod each, ahead to attack. Once at the Brickyard warp point the Hatchet fighters investigated the full 15 light second area, finding an inner shell of 300 mine patterns and four outer shells comprising a total of 84 patterns before returning to their carriers. The Axis commander sent in one dreadnaught to clear a path through the outer four shells, only pausing to restore shields before proceeding to the next thin shell. With that done the Commander elected to have all of ships, except for the carriers, to enter and sweep clear one section of the inner minefield shell. To that end said ships each had an EDM placed on their external racks. None had mine clearance charges as they weren’t needed due to their previous mission guarding the Tire Iron warp point. It wasn’t until the formation entered the minefield, with EDMs and ECM fully engaged, point defense ready, and force and laser mounts set for wide pattern engagement that the truth was learned.

In hindsight the Axis commander should’ve considered that the inner shell of mines might have been of the antimatter variety as they were reported in the failed warp point assault at the Hamthen home system. That the outer shells were of the regular nuclear variety may have lulled him into believing the inner shell would be the same. Had scanner packs been available for the fighters they would’ve known the difference. As a result, the standard minesweeping protocols were set even before the first outer shell was swept. Thus, no follow up scan was done, and such complacency was promptly rewarded.

Unlike the outer shell mine patterns, the inner shell patterns were set to maximum engagement parameters. Along with being harder to intercept the mines, which were sprint mode missiles in all but name, swamped the defenses of all nine destroyers and promptly destroyed them in an orgy of antimatter fireballs. The nine regular light cruisers joined them, along with the three Firebow missile cruisers. Slightly tougher, the three Hero BCs barely survived. All six battleships had just a whisp of armor to their credit. Five of the six dreadnaughts were attacked by two patterns each and were consigned to oblivion just like the destroyers. In stark contrast the six escort BCs sustained very light armor damage while the three CLEs took minor internal damage.

Nonetheless, the selected inner patch of the minefield was cleansed. The Commander did not survive, and his replacement promptly had the surviving ships transit into Brickyard, detailing the CLEs to conduct SAR operations for as long as possible. Once in Brickyard the carriers were tasked to guard the warp point while all the severely damaged ships made for Brickyard A-2. A mining colony with an accompanying orbital station was there, and the small shipyard immediately began repairs on the first of the three Hero BCs. All that remained was waiting for the time the Allies would come to finish the job.

********

In the CIC of the battleship Coral Sea Admiral Jki went through the first reports coming from Bedrock Prime as the fleet settled at the Gravel Pit warp point. With contact made with General Tukuno, reporting locations of Axis army units and facilities, a series of kinetic strikes were conducted, along with busting all airfields, logistical hubs and repaired industrial centers. Isolated pockets of soldiers were relieved. In one instance the crew of a submersible patrol craft was found on an island in the southern polar portion of the Purple Murk Ocean. Overall Tukuno’s army suffered 20% losses with a further 20% rendered unfit due to injuries and illness. The hospital and troopships’ sickbays were at capacity, leaving freighters and mobile yards to pick up the slack.

Captain Lanaq, Jki’s intelligence officer, blinked his eyes in a confident manner as he approached. “Admiral, I have the current reports of all other operations in the Citadel sector. I can transfer them to your station, but I can give you summaries if you so wish.”

Jki blinked slowly, a sign of consent.

“Admiral, the Axis warp point defenses at the Tire Iron warp point are now isolated. With no need to destroy them since we already have other routes of communication to our Hokum ally, the bases will be allowed to slowly degrade once their supplies run out. Two years, perhaps three, the bases will be reduced to the point where they can be destroyed by missile bombardment with minimal resistance. But, if rumors from R&D are to be believed, we could use those bases as targets for a new weapon system before said bases are rendered totally ineffective.”

“Good if the system is available in time, Lanaq. Continue.”

“The Borehole assault launched early as the mass pinnace probe conducted by TF 12 showed defenses entirely within the capabilities of the assault element,” Lanaq explained. “Control of the orbital spaces above Meadow and Borehole will be established in short order. Meanwhile the task group that retook Brass Latch has moved into Tinsmith. Suitable minefields were placed at the Brass Latch/Impedence and Tinsmith warp points to trap any stranded Axis units that may try to escape. In six weeks Gilded Wired system will be entered, thus completing that warp chain.

“TF 21established control of the Output system and will be entering Data Disk in short order. As for the Kerama Retto system the Axis has shown us another closed warp point by launching a taskgroup-sized assault. We can thank our extended sensor buoy network in the system for pinning down its location. The defending taskgroup intercepted it before the repair anchorage could be threatened. Those Axis ships able to get away fled, using the same warp point they entered. Two crippled ships had their remaining engines lanced by needle beams and were successfully boarded and captured.”

“Some good news,” Jki acknowledged. “With luck at least one database can be examined. The anchorage will speed up repairs for that task group.”

Lanaq blinked. “However, Admiral, a small Axis detachment went for the first closed warp point and conducted a mine sweeping bombardment, destroying roughly 33% of all the mines and all the weapon buoys. The automated weapons control ship was chased off by 6 squadrons of Hatchet fighters.”

“A problem that has to be addressed at some point,” Jki mused. “We haven’t conducted a probe of that first closed warp point due to a lack of resources. Once that task group is strengthened up to task force levels then perhaps the higher ups will conduct a probe.”

“No doubt, Admiral.” Lanaq briefly halfway closed his eyelids. “Regarding bad news we lost a small convoy in the Silvershoe system. It was comprised of four Hazen F4Ts, two Rundenro FGs and two Outrider DDEs. An Axis BC and two undersized BCs were apparently waiting, drive fields down, along a parallel track along the most direct route between the Metalstorm and Connectors warp points. The Axis ships destroyed the Rundenros first with a mix of externally mounted missiles, internal weapons, and fighters. As for the Outriders they took down seven armed pinnaces before dying, and the Hazen interceptor pilots bagged five Hatchet fighters before being wiped out. An escort carrier task element has already been dispatched from Metalstorm to hunt down the Axis ships.”

“They only attacked because they determined they had a good chance of success,” Jki stated with begrudging respect. “Once Metalstorm fell, that Axis force in Silvershoe placed themselves at a prime spot where their scanners can determine the strength of individual drive fields and waited with their drives off. The density of our search patterns along those most direct routes will have to be increased.”

“It will also mean convoys will have to larger to discourage attacks from raiding forces of the observed sized in Silvershoe, Admiral. Regarding other convoys one is due to arrive in two weeks, and one week after that we will get substantial reinforcement. In one month we will be in a position to assault Brickyard and recover those support assets that took refuge in the far reaches of that system.”

“With the supplies they carried, and undetected, perhaps,” Jki quipped, and was immediately rewarded with a stabbing pain in her gut. Lanaq noticed the twinge of pain expressed by Jki’s eyelids. He briefly looked away at a wall monitor, not wanting to further add to her apparent distress, before replying.

“Along with assault ships, Admiral, there will be large numbers of pinnace tenders equipped with the updated model of Whale armed pinnace. So, depending on what our probes of the Gravel Pit warp point tell us, we can conduct two assaults at the same time.”

Jki suppressed the urge to put a hand on her midsection, for the pain was going on longer than usual. “Such is the economy of war, Captain Lanaq. I can’t help but think we have the Axis on the backfoot. We have more money, materials, willpower and blood to obtain our goals than the enemy has for theirs. The Gods only know we spent our fair portion already.”
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Re: The Terpla'ns - Chapter 11

Postby Idahobeef on Sun 26 Dec 2021 01:58

Wow this is great! Well done! Hey if you ever want to collaborate, hit me up at idahobeef@yahoo.com. I can structure for a book/story as you can see from my website here http://idahobeef.yolasite.com/starfire2.php

I have been writing Starfire stuff and sci0fi in general for decades now. Cheers! Damon
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