deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 143

Fiction by Sylvester Wrzesinski

Moderator: Xveers

deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 143

Postby Xveers on Mon 21 Dec 2020 19:27

When you run...

dWS Hans Zollner
Director Mk4-Class Heavy Cruiser
Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovereignty Capital World
Elysium Star System
Two days after 3rd Elysium

Junior PackMaster Phelan sipped a mug of pfen, watching the planet slowly turn beneath him. Three bloody battles. Four years. Tens of thousands of lives. A bloody price to be paid for certain, but finally the deWulf Navy lay in safe orbit above Attica. Some ships were more scrap than ship, but they refused to leave orbit for the succor of safety and shipyard just one jump away. Phelan could understand that. Every day they quietly orbited and tended to their wounds was one more day where their crews could see that they had succeeded. Eventually the Bureau of Logistics would shake free a few repair ships to patch up those cripples till they had no further excuse to make their way back to the yards for permanent repairs. Until then, those damaged ships wouldn't be going anywhere.

Not that the intact ones were going anywhere either. Elysium was still a hostile world, and the undamaged ships were needed to implement Directive 525, though that task fell primarily to the seven Sieg-Class Siege Dreadnoughts. They'd proved to be so slow that the battle had come and gone before they had gotten in range, and they'd protested loudly enough that they claimed the "honor" of destroying the final piece of orbital infrastructure: The Elysian shipyard. The Elysians began evacuating it when it was clear that their navy couldn't hold orbit, leaving it an automated derelict. Close scans had shown no weapons or defenses, but the deWulf Army had vetoed any boarding action. There was nothing that could be gained except more bodies to send home draped in cloth, and the senior officer on the fleet had point blank refused any action. So the task was taken up by the Siegs.

They closed in to a bare few hundred kilometers from the yards, sitting in a higher orbit with the planet backstopping their fire. Sieg opened fire first, her volleys ripping through the core of the station and depressurizing an assembly hall. Heiterkeit Valley followed shortly thereafter, and the seven dreadnoughts systematically pulverized the yard into chunks no bigger than a shuttle. As the pieces got smaller and smaller, more and more shots missed, but that was of no concern; the planet made a perfect backstop for every round. Junior PackMaster Korman had watched the spectacle for a minute before surrendering command of the bombardment squadron to his executive officer and filed for immediate leave.

"Just as well" thought Phelan. "This whole war is a bitter cup, and it takes strength to admit that it's too much. I'll have him shifted to Survey or Base Command. This isn't a profession for honorable men anymore."

"Sir, we're copying a transmission from the planet."
Phelan twisted, looking behind him back at the tactical holographic table and Hunter Mache. "What makes this different from the last ones?"
"Three things, Sir."

Phelan turned around completely, already walking back to the table as Mache continued.
"First, this isn't some local transmitter. This one easily has enough power to reach the warp points. Second, it's an omnidirectional transmission. Third, it's in the clear."
"What's it saying then?"

Mache looked at his datapad for a moment before finding the translation. "And I quote 'White wings blossom in the glowing night'. I presume it loses something in the translation. We checked it with the codebooks from Feather of Duty: no match."

Phelan sipped at his mug for another mouthful of pfen, looking back at the holographic table. He felt his forehead furrow as he tasted an idea at the edge of his consciousness. A free hand tabbed at the controls, zooming out from Elysium to show the whole star system. A few presses called up the wavefront of the signal, watching as it propagated across the star system in a steady crawl.

"The signal is repeating, Sir."

Phelan's eyes bounced from his position in the inner system. Then to the asteroid belt. The warp points. The gas giants. The Oort cloud.

"Did we ever get a good look at the outer system?"
"No sir. We jumped in here-" the warp point back to Dave's World glowed, deep in the inner system. "and we proceeded to Attica here-" a scarlet line cut across the inner system to Attica "on a direct path. As you can see, our sensor globe never touched any of the outer planets. We've gotten a pretty good look at the asteroid belt, but the last time we looked at anything in the outer system was before the war."

That thought slid into place and unfolded with agonizing clarity. "Their defenses were light. We all saw it." Phelan's voice spoke quickly. "They had years, but Attica didn't have the kind of defenses that time should have allowed. We know they were running intelligence operations in our space, and there's at least two other connections back to corporate space in addition to the one we used."

"You think they have some kind of strike fleet?" Mache's voice trembled as he followed that train of thought arrived at the same place as his commander.

"It's the only possible answer. Why else would their defenses be so light? They must have thought they could repel anything we could muster, and then they could launch a counterattack."
"So, what do we do?"
"Get a conference call set up with the commander of our Hares. I've got a job for them."

dWS Hassen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer

"Junior PackHunter, I wasn't expecting to speak with you so soon."

"Hunter Skory, I have an assignment for you and your Hares."

Hunter Skory felt his spine stiffen involuntarily. "Of course. What do you need done?"

"I'll be quick. We're copying a strange repeating transmission from Attica. I want you to dispatch all your Hares to check out every major planet in-system as quickly as possible. Try to cover the asteroid belt as best you can, but we need some eyes out there. Once your ships have done a sweep of the planets, I need you picketing the warp points."

"How soon do you need this done?"
"You are authorized to red-line your drive systems if you feel it necessary."

Skory rolled the idea in his muzzle, eyes looking down like he was consulting the specifications on his drives. "I see... we can probably do it in a few days, more or less. What are we looking for?"

"We think there may be Elysian units still in-system. But if our guess is right, they won't be in-system for much longer."
"And if we find them?"

Junior PackHunter Phelan's eyes hardened. "Then we show them what happens when you run. You die tired."
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Re: deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 143

Postby southwestforests on Mon 21 Dec 2020 20:29

This has the feel of an ugly surprise coming.
Screw the rivets, I build models for atmosphere, not detail
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Re: deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 143

Postby Xveers on Fri 05 Feb 2021 15:18

dWS Hassen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer
Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovereignty Capital World
Elysium Star System
Two days after 3rd Elysium

Hunter Skory watched as the comm cut out abruptly, leaving him looking at the blank screen. Leaning back in his command chair, he thumbed through his comm menu before settling on his executive officer.

"Godeke, I need a conference call with the rest of the scouts. They have two minutes. If Hacklander is sleeping, tell him I don't care if he's naked, I need him here."

"Understood Hunter, I'll make it happen."

That same thumb waited for Godeke to end the call before shifting around, tabbing the display back to the system navigational menu. His eyes focused on the geometry of the problem, figures of cruising speeds and sensor ranges spinning as he considered options. Redline the drives early and get on station sooner, but risk a burnout and potentially being unable to escape if contact is made. Only move at cruise, and you keep the engine capacity when you need to run but potentially miss the quarry. His eyes centred on Amsos, the outermost planet and the edge of the Kuiper belt. That was the problem. He could get everyone on station quickly enough, but someone could run from there to the jump point to Scylla and potentially escape. If they were at Tegesa, they'd be out and gone no matter what, so no reason to burn the drives for an impossibility.


The comm pinged. The call was starting. A few quick motions linked Skory into the call with a pleasant chime.

"Thank you all for making it to this meeting. I'm going to dispense with the usual preamble and get to the point. Flag has ID'd a concerning signal from the planet and we're going to check out the local hotspots to make sure nobody's holding a party without us."

Hunter Hacklander looked like he had just woken up. He was already nodding in agreement as he pulled his skinsuit out of his locker. "On a scale of one to ten, how poishit is this assignment?" Hacklander was most politely described as a 'character', and if he'd been a normal line officer there was no way he could have made it up to Hunter. But good scout officers were rare enough that they often got to write their own tickets, and that rarity meant they could get away with a lot. Of course, their job often put them out on the edge of any fleet formation, and their lifespan in combat was best described as 'technically present'.

"Call it a three at best, Hacklander. Flag's worried enough about it that we're explicitly authorized to redline our engines if we feel it necessary."

Hacklander paused a moment. "If they're going to let us run full throttle, then this is officially a poishit-free op."

"What's the orders, alpha?" Zilmer cut in before Hacklander could derail it further. "You wouldn't have called us together like this without orders"

Skory snorted at the informal title. He was proud he climbed his way up from a Trainee Sensor Operator, but this just wasn't the time. "Orders are simple. We're looking for anything that's running an Elysian drive signature. If you can, close to ID strength and numbers. As soon as you get a contact, bounce a message up to flag; don't wait. Once you get something, keep transmitting updates. Better for flag to get too much information than not enough. If you get in trouble, redline your drives and run like hell."

"Where are we going?" Kaarst looked like he was chewing on a rotten lemon as he digested the orders.

"Aufklarer is to head to the Piraeus warp point. Hare is to sweep Xioch while heading out to Psaro before heading to the Grant warp point. Spion, you're heading to the Grant warp point first, then out-system to Amsos. I'll head to Orous, then Tegesa before doubling back to the Scylla warp point. Try to eyeball as much of the asteroid belt as you can while you're passing through, but don't loiter. We need eyes on the warp points soonest."

"Why not rush to Piraeus?"

"It's the most out of the way warp point right now; they can't reach it without cutting across the inner system or taking a very long trip through the outer system. If they're there, then they'll have jumped out already. If they're headed that way, then you'll be there before they are. Frankly, I'm worried about the Scylla warp point. Orous and Tegesa are right there, and if they're out there, then we won't see them before they jump out."

Skorey looked at his fellow scout commanders. "I want you all moving in the next ten minutes. I don't care if your navigators have to eyeball the course; you can plot course correction later."

"And if we do find someone out there?"

"Like I said Hacklander, close and identify. And if they start gunning for you, redline your drives and don't stop till you see the fleet."

Aufklarer has departed on least-time course to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare en route to Psaro, conducting a close pass of Xioch and several asteroid colonies on the way. No contacts detected.
Spion en route to Grant warp point, skirting Elysium's star and scanning several more asteroid colonies. No contacts detected.
Hassen has departed to Orous, scanning additional asteroid colonies. No contacts detected.

Auflkarer sill en-route to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare has swept Psaro & moons. No contacts. En route to Grant warp point.
Spion has departed Grant warp point upon arrival of Hare, en route to Amsos. No contacts detected.
Hassen has arrived at Orous, swept local moons. No contacts detected. En route to Tegesa.

Auflkarer sill en-route to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare on station at Grant warp point. No contacts detected.
Spion en-route to Amsos. No contacts detected.
Hassen has passed Scylla warp point. No contacts detected. Continuing on course to Tegesa.

Auflkarer sill en-route to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare on station at Grant warp point. No contacts detected.
Spion en-route to Amsos. No contacts detected.
Hassen at Tegesa. Both moons clean. No cont-

dWS Hassen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer

"CIC, sensors. We have a possible contact at three-zero-three tac zero-one-zero."

"Confirmed, sensors. We see it on our board. Are you able to clean it up some?"

"Negative, CIC. It's right on the edge of our detection threshold. It's definitely a drive signature, but if it's several, they're all washed together."

Hunter Skorey stepped into the CIC, the hatch clanging loudly behind. "We have a contact?"

"Standby, sensors. Yes Sir." Godeke continued "We've picked up an intermittent signal. Not quite a least-time course from Amsos. Not sure if it's for Tegesa or the Scylla warp point, but those're close enough together."

Skorey growled "Damn. If we can see them then they can see us. Still, let's see if we can shake them some. Shields?"

"Shield systems are charged, but not engaged."

"Very well. Engineering; rig the ship for low detection. Helm, bring us to heading two-seven-zero. Comms, send off a contact report. Append everything that we know-"
"That isn't much, Sir."
"More than nothing. Comms, make sure you keep feeding updates down to flag as we get them. Standing order."

A chorus of acknowledgements filled the CIC as the ship rolled into the turn on her new course. Cutting across the contact's course would let Hassen close the range enough to get positive IDs, but at the risk of being identified and attacked in turn. Such were the dangers of stalking a hostile fleet, especially one equipped with small craft. Ideally the new course would let them cut just close enough to get some positive IDs but without closing so far as to be identified in turn. It was risky, but that was the dance that recon ships had to do, and Skorey had no doubts that his crew would do their utmost, even to the end.

dWS Hans Zollner
Director Mk4-Class Heavy Cruiser
Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovergenty Capital World

"Incoming signal from Hassen, Sir."

Junior PackMaster Phelan leaned forward from his chair at the edge of the holographic command table. He'd abandoned his usual seat, displacing a sensor operator to be right at "the big picture". By the time he was looking at Hassen's location, the contact report and probable vector was already extending in a single crimson line. The command ship's own analysts were already processing the data, a dotted line extending behind it and pointing right at the ice planet Amsos.

"So that's where they were. Staging that far out-system was risky. All the warp points are farther in-system."
"They were probably planning to make a run through the Piraeus warp point" Chimed in Hunter Mache. "That would let them punch right into our New Colony Region, and they've got to know there's nothing there that could hope to stop them."
"But with the orbital alignment being what it is, they'd have to drive right past us to get there."
"Looks like orbital mechanics screwed both of us then."
Phelan snorted when he heard that. "I think they're going to find that we got the better end to the deal." His paw reached out and opened a communications channel. "Comms, this is Flag. Inform Panfilov that it's his moment to shine. Ready a strike. Full deck. Flag will append vector and coordinates shortly." He cut the channel as comms acknowledged the order.

"A full strike, sir? We don't know if this is their fleet or not. Or even if it's everything."
"If there's another fleet behind them, we can engage with the battle line. But right now Panfilov's strike is the only thing that can engage them before they jump through that warp point. So, either we launch now and cut them, or let them get away and we give them a stern chase. And that's assuming we manage to track them."

Phelan looked at the display as a broad cone projected out onto the starscape, indicating possible course headings. As more and more detail trickled in from Hassen the cone continued to shrink, slowly focusing in on the Scylla warp point.

"Flag, Comms. Panfilov reports strike launching and forming up."
"Comms, this is flag." Phelan exhaled. "Tell him 'good hunting'."
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Dying Tired

Postby Xveers on Sat 19 Jun 2021 00:44

Strike Force Gull
Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovergenty Capital World

"Launch is clean, He-Four-Six. Looking forward to seeing you home soon."

"Affirmative, Andreev Boss. See you on the backside."
"Alpf-Four-Six, this is He-Four-Six. We're in the slot. Showing all groups accounted."
"He-Four-Six, this is Alpf. Confirm your spot."

Managing even a small strike group was an exercise in herding cats. Intelligent and loyal cats, but cats nonetheless. When a strike was the better part of two hundred craft, the need for explicit, precision organization was paramount. With the final gunboats off their carriers and in position, confirmations rippled up from squadron leads to wing leads and finally to the strike leads. While command authority technically rested with Senior PackHunter Panfilov aboard dWS Hans Richter, once up and off their carriers the strike lead's voice was just this side of god.

"Gull One to all Gull elements. All units confirmed in place. Form on me and engage cruise on three, two, one... mark."

In war, even the easiest thing is hard. And watching 184 gunboats all swing in a single synchronized turn on a single course looked like the easiest thing in the world.

18 hours later...

Gull One
Strike Force Gull
Passing Gas Giant Orous
Elysium Star System

"Remind me to force the designer to try to use that bathroom in a flight suit."

Lev Varga, callsign Gull 1 chuckled as he watched his sensor operator (SO) struggle his way back into his chair.
"That compartments roomy. Be glad you never served on a Partizan."

"Oh, head's even smaller on the gunship?"
Lev chuckled louder "You didn't get one. Imagine being on thirty-six-hour ops without droptanks."
The SO blanched, his outer membrane going a few shades paler at the thought "So how did you..."
"The suits were disposable. I'll let you figure the rest out yourself."

That brought a shudder in response from the SO as he settled back into his seat and scanned his receivers. His eyes lifted fractionally as he saw the ping of an incoming transmission. The Amur gunboat's electronic systems automatically logged it, processing and decrypting the communication before reporting its contents to both Lev and the SO.

"No secrets, SO. Play it."

The message began to play in the corner of all five crewmember's main monitors, the audio piped over the crew intercom.
"Attention Strike Force Gull. This is Hasen Actual. Welcome to the party. We've been shadowing a single drive signature on course for the Scylla warp point, but we haven't closed in to get hard IDs. Based on your current course and speed, we estimate contact in approximately six hours. In five hours we will close contact to attempt identification. Course corrections and identifications will follow on an hourly basis assuming you maintain present course. Hasen Actual out."

Lev Varga leaned back as the message screen dissolved into the static insignia of the deWulf Corporate Navy. "Well, that settles it. Contact in six." He reached forward, flicking open a communications channel. "Gull Two, this is Gull One. Advise the strike. Estimated contact in six hours. Final update to come one hour before that. Sound back."

"Gull One, this is Two. Strike in six, final brief in five. Pass to the strike."
"Affirmative, Two. One out."

Lev turned back to his SO "And now it's back the part we hate. Waiting."

Four hours, thirty minutes later...

dWS Hasen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer

"Alright Sensors, time to earn our money."

Hunter Skory considered himself lucky so far. The drop to Low Detection Mode had allowed them to slip free of the Sintillan Fleet's potential sensor net, and they'd put enough distance from the drive shift to put themselves clear of any potential reconnaissance strike. But the ugly truth was that they couldn't see small craft anywhere near as well as full-up starships, and they'd only spot an inbound strike on final approach, or near enough to it. But he couldn't play it safe forever. The incoming strike needed better data, and the only way to get it was to close in even closer. Close enough that even Low Detection couldn't keep them concealed.

"Take us three points to starboard. If they stay on course and speed, we should be theoretically detectable for only thirty seconds. A minute at most."

"And if they've got their sensors turned off, we might just get away with it."

Hasen continued on her course, sensors drinking in every signal it could detect from the unknown contact. Hunter Skory watched as the distance click down. Fifty light seconds. Forty-nine. Forty-eight.

"CIC, sensors. We are approaching estimated detection values for the contact. Contact is starting to diffuse into point sources, but nothing confirmed."

The challenge was how to maneuver after the contact was resolved. They couldn't just close in; that would still leave them detected. Theoretically. Running orthogonally would put the most distance, but it was also the most obvious. They'd have minutes, perhaps, to put enough distance from where they had been detected in order to try and get out of sensor range of any incoming small craft.

Forty-six. Forty-five light seconds.

"Standby engines..."

"CIC, Sensors. We are now in theoretical detection range of the hostile contact."

Skory exhaled. "Engines ahead full! Sensors, tell me what you see."

Hasen leapt forward as her drives came to full power, her signature radiating as bright as a star to anyone who could see.

"CIC, Sensors" the excitement in the voice sang out like a ringing bell "Confirmed contacts! I read ten, repeat ten contacts! Two dreadnoughts, six battleships, two battlecruisers, and one frigate. Running emissions through the warbook..."

"Sir-" Junior Hunter Godeke's voice was impassive "Sir, our drives are at full power. They can detect us."

"CIC, Sensors. Warbook has tentative IDs on some contacts. We're showing five Hydra-class battleships, two Mars-class battlecruisers, one Jupiter-class dreadnought. One dreadnought and the frigate are unknown."

"Hunter Skory!"

"Breaker, alright damn you! Engines, come left zero-tac-two-seven-zero"

"CIC, Sensors. We are outside theoretical detection-"

"Engines, secure for low detection. New course, right zero-tac-zero-nine-zero. Communications, transmit everything to the strike group's estimated location, then transmit to fleet flag."

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force
On course for the Scylla Warp Point, Elysian Sovergenty Capital World

"What do you mean it vanished?"

"Well, we had a phantom contact on our starboard flank, right on the edge of detection, about forty-five light seconds out. Then it lit up a full power drive field, altered course directly away from us, and then disappeared again.

Eyrie Commander Peres stifled his urge to grab his flag commander and shake him to bits. They'd detected a contact. A ship. And their first reaction was to wonder about it? His head twisted to the side, smothering the snarl but unable to conceal the ripple in his crest.


His beak gritted hard before he began to speak. Slowly, enunciating every word like one did to a misbehaving child.

"And. You didn't think. To Confirm?! The Sovereignty doesn't HAVE destroyers! Especially not ones in that displacement range. But you know who does? The pups that are Bombing our Homeworld! If you weren't..." The words melted into a single feral snarl reminiscent of past eons before civilization when the Elysians had merely been apex predators.

Peres turned to the strike commander "Get your patrol gunboats out there. Sweep the area where you last had a contact, then fan out. A single destroyer shouldn't be able to wipe out a whole squadron. Once you've located it, blow it to scrap."

"Do you think it was out here to find us?"

"No you brain-clipped dud, they're just out on a pleasure cruise and want to give us all treats for having been good little ships! If it's a deWulf ship, then they know we're here." Peres exhaled again; the stress finally having vented free. "And that means their fleet knows that we're here. Little good it will do them. We'll be through the jump point and in Scylla before they can do a thing about us. Still..."

The strike commander cut into the conversation "Gunboats are headed to last contact. Recommend we start cycling some of our craft to launch stations."

"Thank you, Rook Commander. Yes, do it. We're only six hours from the warp point; let's make sure we get there in one piece."

The dour strike commander nodded in agreement. "They aren't perfect against engaging other gunboats, but we'll make do."

dWS Hasen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer

"CIC, Sensors. We have a new sensor contact breaking away from Elysians. High speed, headed for our estimated last contact point."

Hunter Skory had no illusions about what it could be "Gunboats."

"Sensors concur. Speed matches the profile for armed gunboat strike. At our range we wouldn't have spotted them on launch. Now that they've broken away, we can track their signature."

The CIC crew watched in silence as the contact moved in closer still. It seemed to pause, warbling as it sat where they had broken away. After a few long moments, the same blip began moving again.

Directly at Hasen.

"CIC, Sensors. They must've caught our scent. They're on a direct course for us. They'll definitely have us in one minute, two at most."

"Recommend we go to full power on the drives and power our shields, Sir. Won't be much, but it's better than just crawling along." Junior Hunter Godeke gritted his teeth as he continued. "They already know we're here. Might as well charge them full price."

The contact closed in further, soon resolving into nine gunboat squadrons. Each of them was just as deadly as the ones the deWulf had used hours before, but this time the target was a reconnaissance destroyer, not a planet. There was no hurricane of defenses, only a pair of point defence guns that ran out and aimed dead aft as Hasen ran for her life.

"Gunnery, try to damage the gunboats; we can't do a thing about their attack, but every gunboat we damage might matter a little farther down the road."

"CIC, Gunnery. We copy that. Will do what we can, sir."

Skory looked back reconnaissance at the comm station "Start appending the Omega drone with our combat data. Full rotating data dump." He paused a moment before looking at his own comm terminal. "Prepare to transmit one final report from my combat station." He walked to his command chair, locking himself in before bringing up the communications interface. In the background sensors and helm and gunnery all called out reports as the strike bore down on his ship. A Hunter fought his ship till there was no chance, true. But a scout Hunter had an overriding duty beyond that.

To: deWulf Task Force One, from Hunter Skory, dWS Hasen. We have identified enemy Elysian ships, but we have been spotted in turn. We estimate nine enemy gunboat squadrons are closing in. If that's their current CAP, then according to their doctrine they have between thirty and forty gunboat squadrons altogether. If it's the higher number, then one of their unknown ships is another carrier, probably the unknown dreadnought class.

Markus, we can't stop this many gunboats. But we'll make them pay as much as we can for the pleasure, breaker take them."

dWS Hasen clear.

Get the message out.

Hasen rolled as the strike closed to point blank range, her two guns reaching out and damaging the reconnaissance lead gunboat. But it was a symbolic gesture at best. Reminiscent of the Elysian's first use of gunboats in combat, the gunboats lined up, each delivering their own strike in turn. A single enhanced decoy missile popped off of Hasen's external racks, but it stopped a bare handful of missiles that flushed off the Elysian's own rails.

Hasen disappeared in a single blinding light as her main fusion plant ruptured, sending dead wreckage spiraling into the void.

Gull One
Strike Force Gull

"Gull Two to Gull One. We're five minutes out from estimated contact."

"Understood Gull Two." Varga cycled his own transmitter to an all-craft link.
"Attention all Gulls. This is Gull One. We are five out from our point of contact. Hasen bled for this information, so let's bleed them back. Engagement plan is Che-5. One volley, then hard pull and Hassen’s evac. Whatever we don't get today, we'll get tomorrow. All Gulls, ping back acknowledge."

The commlink went quiet as Varga waited for the responses to flow back. His EW officer listened as the rest of the strike pinged back acknowledgement before reporting "All groups report ready. Formation has slotted into Che-5. Strike ready."

It only took a few minutes for the EW officer to say the words that everyone had been expecting.

"We are now 45 light seconds out. Estimate four minutes to contact."

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

"Another contact? Where did it come from?"

"Unknown! Current course suggests from the Scylla warp point."

Peres shuddered. Had the deWulf trapped him? Was there another fleet in front of him, blocking his line of advance? 'I can roll over them, but if they do enough damage to slow me down, then they'll have done everything they needed to.' But he was committed now.

"What kind of contact?"

"Unknown. At this range it's just a single point source. CIC is trying to clean it up, but..."

One thing that surprised Peres was the improvement in his flag commander. Amazing what a little public humiliation can accomplish. He began to open his mouth to 'suggest' an order, but his commander cut him of before he had a chance to speak.

"Task the escort gunboats to investigate the contact. Strike commander, get ready for launch. If he's another scout, the escorts can handle him. If not..."

The strike commander looked to Peres, who merely nodded in agreement. His flag commander was finally stretching his wings; this was no time to clip them.

Gull One
Strike Force Gull

"Gull Two to Gull One. We have one contact ahead. Closing in on a reciprocal course."

Varga looked at the data plot in front of him, his own turn to grimace.

"No additional contacts detected. Estimated one minute to primary contact."

"Gull One to all Gulls. Possible single contact ahead. I am evaluating this as a reconnaissance probe to ID us. Engage defensively if needed, but remember our primary target. Gull One out."

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

Peres was leaning over the edge of the strategic holotable that was part of his command suite. Both his flag and strike commanders were watching as the Elysian gunboats pushed out towards the unknown contact.

"Still showing as a single contact, flag. Estimate thirty seconds till we have a lock."

The trio of Elysians knew that the distance imposed a thirty second time lag for the communications. One of their first space commanders had commented that the three worst things to do in space combat were to react too early, react too early, and react too early. Which only made the waiting worse.

"Flag, this is Coros One! We have positive ID. Identifying multiple hostile gunboats, estimate One Eight Four inbound! Repeat, One Eight Four! We are attempting to break-"

The commlink hissed for the merest moment before going silent.

The strike commander was already on his own comm "All carriers, full launch. Repeat, immediate full launch."

Gull One
Strike Force Gull

"Gull One, Gull Forty. One hostile squadron crippled. Breaking to engage."

"Understood Forty."

Varga's EW officer was staring at his own sensor screen willing it to light up with the telltale indications of positive target identification. At the head of the formation, he would be the first to see what they were flying into. He didn't have to wait much longer.

"Contact Contact Contact! Enemy ships at Three-Five-Eight tac Zero-One-Zero. Hull count matches strike." The EW officer cycled onto Varga's own commlink, sending his first message to the rest of the strike along with his own sensor data. "All Gulls, Strike Confirmed. Targeting on the downlink. Say again, All Gulls, Strike Confirmed."

With those words, the strike wave melted apart into six separate formations, each focused on one of the last carriers of the Elysian Sovereignty, with a single formation in reserve. Each formation was six squadrons, 24 gunboats arrayed in a claw formation. While the formation sacrificed maneuverability, not only did it provide overlapping fields of defensive fire, it also allowed for large numbers of gunboats to concentrate their anti-shipping fire in a single cone. Originally an Elysian formation, deWulf naval planners had cheerfully stole it for their own doctrine, recognizing its immediate value.

Varga lead his claw in on the ship designated Che-5, the trailing Scylla-class carrier. An austere design, the Scylla sacrificed everything for maximum strike volume and high speed. It lacked defensive ECM, or even point defense mounts. With the rest of his strike riding on his heels, his targeting sensors picked up more Elysian gunboats launching from the Scylla's twin launch decks.

"Breaker damn them" he growled as more and more gunboats launched clear and formed up. It was clear this was no organized strike; the carriers were getting their gunboats out as quickly as they could, sending them in waves as they cleared the tubes and reoriented towards the hostile strike. It couldn't be the kind of crippling strike that had been envisioned, but it would be good enough. At least the escort formation had collapsed; Elysian ships were notoriously light on point defense, and they depended on tight formations to put up any kind of notable resistance.

"Forty's got them running!"

Varga pulled his eyes out of his tunnel vision as the gunner crowed in triumph. It wasn't hard to see why. The gunboats that had intercepted the initial combat patrol clearly had tasted blood, and a steady stream of damaged gunboats was running back to the carriers. Right across the flight path of the entire strike. His mind was already working out the engagement angle as his gunner laid a long burst into the first gunboat formation that flew across their path. The rest of the formation followed suit, ripping the lone gunboat apart.

Bitterly, Varga realized another truth. Even if he didn't cripple the carriers, this engagement would likely tear the heart out of the Elysian strike group. And without them, the carriers were nothing more than expensive barges. Threat warnings were pinging as the first wave of hastily launched gunboats were steadying down for their attack runs. Behind him what had started as an organized strike was quickly melting into a chaotic melee, gunboats swinging in to dive on each other as the two Elysian battlecruisers and their dreadnought command ship waded into the middle.

His console pinged as his SO told him what he already realized. The Elysian carriers were out of range, and running hard enough that they'd be staying out of range. Only his strike group had something that resembled a shot. But one damaged carrier wasn't going to cut it. A tentacle clicked his comm to an all-gunboats link: "Gull One to all flights; engage hostile gunboats and enemy warships. Let the carriers run."

It was a violation of mission goals. But it was better than dying for nothing.

Reefing his gunboat into a tight turn, the rest of his strike group followed perfectly, pivoting in sequence to emerge from the 180-degree course change in exactly the same formation and turning on the roiling chain of combat behind them. Behind them had been Elysian gunboats, then deWulf gunboats, and the three Elysian warships in one massive brawl. Now it was all laid out in a trail almost three light seconds long.

"Gull One to Strike One, copy lead." Varga set his pip on the nearest Elysian Battlecruiser. Behind him the SO was already passing along targeting data to the other gulls in his strike group. Varga saw a blip on his display that indicated the rest of the strike was ready.


Gull One rolled to the right, pivoting around a point just off the right wing. As she did her wing pylons flashed as multiple short-range torpedoes leapt off their racks, drives lighting up as soon as they were clear. Around Gull One thirty-five other gunboats were doing the same in a single coordinated motion that would have made a ballet composer weep with emotion. At that range the battlecruiser barely had a second to respond as the hurricane of torpedoes slammed into her nose. Shields flared and died, and armor plate crumpled. The staggered launch spread the torpedoes over a bare five seconds, and that meant that instead of spending themselves entirely on shields and hull the following torpedoes bit deep. A hurricane of fire roiled deep in the hull, a wave of destruction that washed away crew and composite both. The battlecruiser's crewed citadel shattered as the fire raved deeper still before it consumed central engineering and the rest of the battlecruiser disintegrated in a final flash of light.

Scores more gunboats exploded in the melee as the deWulf gunboats suddenly switched their targets, the Elysian gunboats discovering that they were no longer a secondary priority.

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

"We're losing gunboats."

Peres was watching the telltales on the side of the command holotank, showing individual craft and squadrons change in hue as they suffered under the refocused attention of the attacking small craft.

"Yes, we are" replied the strike commander "but the exchange is in our favor. We've lost eleven squadrons, but they've lost twelve. And far more of them are damaged than ours are. And we still have a reserve."

Peres felt his headcrest lift in surprise "I thought you launched everything?"

The older Elysian smiled like only a species evolved from a carnivorous predator could. "Always keep a little in reserve, just in case the commander asks for one last effort. We'll keep them prepped for launch, but I think we can hold them off.


Varga was in the thick of the fight now, having led the rest of his strike group in to cover an attack on the other Elysian battlecruiser by the few gunboats that still had their external ordinance. It wasn't a textbook attack, but it was an effective enough hammer drop. His wing screaming in to the battlecruiser's starboard, with the remnants of two wings coming in from port and ahead. And crucially, it gave its dreadnought escort more targets to deal with. Unlike almost every other Elysian ship, it actually possessed some point defense weapons, and its twin mounts were throwing out violence like it was going out of style.

Fixed with a cruel choice, the point defense systems tried in vain to defend their ally, but there simply were too many torpedoes. The strikes were uncoordinated enough that the dreadnought could engage them all separately, and that bought some safety as the battlecruiser heaved out of the firestorm bleeding atmosphere. But only some safety. Those same gunboats fired their onboard lasers, skewering the crippled ship and triggering a slow cascade of explosions as the engines came apart under the abuse.

The initiative had been sawing back and forth, either side getting the upper hand for a moment only to have it torn away. Damaged gunboats began to peel away from the combat on both sides, last survivors of entire squadrons. Some managed to break contact and escape, while others found themselves pounced by their more intact adversaries. What remained of the deWulf squadrons split their attention; damaged ones did their best to finish off Elysian squadrons, while the few intact ones coiled in behind the last Elysian capital ship, pouring energy fire into its blindspot without mercy. Slowly the dreadnought's plate came apart, but at the expense of more deWulf gunboats targeted and crippled by the Elysians.

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

"Exchange still in our favor?"
The strike commander looked back at Peres with a barely concealed glare.

"No. No it is not. But-" and that hungry glare came back in full "is why we have reserves."

Gull One
Strike Force Gull

"Additional gunboats detected, Sir."

Varga made the equivalent of a groan as he heard that news. His squadrons had been pounding the Elysian dreadnought into scrap, and their efforts had been rewarded by a stream of parts and atmosphere that was spilling out behind the flailing warship. They'd been fighting the whole engagement to a draw, despite their inferior weapons. But more gunboats...

"How many?"

The SO waited as sensor data was processed, the gunboat shuddering as an Elysian force beam impacted on the hull.

"Estimate six squadrons. They just launched off the carriers. Drive profile suggests full external ordinance load."

Six more squadrons. That was enough to tip the balance and ensure that none of the deWulf gunboats would be getting back to their bases. As it was crew berthing would be barely half full, but if they loitered, then they'd be empty instead.

"Breaker take them all. General signal, all craft are to make one final pass and withdraw. We've bloodied them. Let's hope it's enough."

Obedient to orders, the gunboats made one more pass before breaking off, managing to finish off a few more Elysian gunboats, but not without their own losses. The remnants of the Elysian gunboat squadrons recognized a reprieve when they saw it, and withdrew to their own carriers to assess the damage and count their dead. They had repelled the strike, but at murderous cost.
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Nothing is Futile

Postby Xveers on Fri 13 Aug 2021 23:51

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force
Elysium Star System
On Approach to Scylla Jump Point

One hour after the gunboat strike

"Have we restored communications with Tarquillian Glory yet?" Eyrie Commander Peres was looking over what remained of his strike force. Only two ships lost, but the gunboat squadrons had been savaged, cut to barely half of their standard compliment. And that was assuming that everything that had returned could be repaired. The dreadnought Tarquillian Glory had taken heavy damage, including her communications systems. But her engines and main power systems remained online. With luck the rest would be repairable.

"Latest emergency signal suggested they would be coming online in just a few minutes."

Peres looked at his Flag Commander disapprovingly. That promise had been made twice so far, and both times come and gone without result. Willing his crest to relax, he turned back to his Strike Commander, who merely twisted his neck in a grimace.

"We've completed an initial review of what we have left. Of the thirty-six squadrons we had embarked, we have eighteen left. Of the eighteen, four squadrons have taken severe damage, with another two lightly damaged. We might be able to get two squadrons out of all of them, three if we're lucky. The flight crews are still checking to see what's damaged where: if the White Wings favour us there won't be too much overlapping damage."

Taking advantage of the pause in the conversation, the Flag Commander lifted an arm and drawing attention back to him.

"We have Tarquillian Glory on comms. It's a bit rough, but we can communicate now."

The command holotank focused in on the stationary dreadnought, the model of the ship shrinking as a communications window appeared above it. While the picture was coherent, it was equally clear through the static that not all the repairs had been completed.

"Third Pinion Iphis reporting, Eyrie Commander."

All three Elysians looked at the scratchy communication in surprise. Third Pinion?

"Good to see that you've finally fixed your communications array. I need to speak with Prime Micycos. Immediately."

The scratchy image seemed to shrug in response. "Prime Micycos is with the Mendicants. The crew citadel was breached and he was badly injured."
"First Sosippos?"
"Dead. Tactical command took a direct hit. No survivors."
"Second Xanias?"
"Second Pinion Xanias is aft in central life support leading the repair efforts. Futile, but leading nonetheless."

Eyrie Commander Peres gritted his beak and leaned forward, doing his utmost to glower through the scratchy comm link.

"Nothing is futile, Third."
"I'm sorry Eyrie Commander, but I’m afraid it is. Central life support took repeated hits. Current systems are at fourteen percent of rated capacity. We may get it up to thirty or forty percent, but that's just not enough. The main regeneration tanks are shattered. Right now, the ship is running on backup scrubbers, but those are rated for thirty hours of full use." Third Pinion Iphis leaned back, far enough to show that their uniform carried the insignia of habitations specialist.

"In that case, Third. I will wait for the Second to get on the comms and inform flag of your Actual condition, and not what you think it is."

Peres cut the link with a dismissive wave.

"We'll see what Second Xanias has to say about this."

Twenty minutes later

"Central life support is a scrapyard. I can get us twenty five percent, but no more."

If there was one thing Peres hated, it was being told that he was wrong.

"Are you sure, Xanias?"
"Absolutely." The Second Pinion rolled onwards without giving a moment to Peres for him to respond. "Command has its own system in miniature. That's giving us what we have so far. But the central system is destroyed. The oxygen regenerators are shattered, the growth medium is contaminated with long-chain carbonates, and half of the regulation system is fit only for fabricator feed."
"Can you make the ship capable of moving?"
"Oh, the engines and main power plant are perfectly intact. We can move the ship. We just can't live on it. When we lost the forward dorsal launchers we also lost the primary radiator array. Parts of the ship are starting to feel like summer on Menausus, and it's only going to get worse."

Peres shook his head "is there anything you can do?"

"Yes, Eyrie Commander. I can strip the ship of any usable spares, pull the supplies and fabricator feed, offload the crew, and scuttle the ship. We can either do that, or we accept that this ship will become an anoxic roasting oven within two days.

He hated it, but arguing with engineers was never a path to success. "Very well Second Xanias. I authorize you to strip and abandon Tarquillian Glory. We'll make some space aboard Pyrabaris for you and your crew."

Eight hours later, Tarquillian Glory disintegrated as her scuttling charges finished the job deWulf gunboats had started earlier that day. The expanding debris glittered as light faded from what remained, another sacrifice to the void.

dWS Hans Zollner
Director Mk4-Class Heavy Cruiser
Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovereignty Capital World
Elysium Star System

Three hours after the gunboat strike.

"Incoming message from the gunboat strike."

Junior Packmaster Phelan looked up at the Lancer bringing him the message.

"Yes?" Phelan glared. He was still working the same pot of pfen that had been brewed yesterday, and it taken on a sharp, bitter taste. But it beat back the exhaustion. And it kept away the dreams.

"Sorry, sir." The Lancer provided a quick salute before handing over a datapad, retreating from the day cabin as quickly and quietly as he had entered. The hatch whispered shut behind him, leaving Phelan alone again. He snorted at the tradition. He didn't need a pad brought over to him; it would just call the message up from the ship's systems no matter who owned the pad.

But no matter how much he ignored it, he'd still have to read it. He put his drink down, pushing the fat-bottomed mug away before picking the pad with the same hand. His thumb pressed down on the ID square to unlock the message even as he pulled it up to his face. The navy logo melted away, replaced by a somewhat low-res image of Lev Varga.

"So he's still alive. Lucky." He snorted again as he looked at the image quality "Three generations and the picture quality is still trash. Should get some Krak compression algorithms. Looks like someone recorded this with a damage control console." The same thumb that unlocked the message slid down to start the message playing.

"This is Gull One, Strike Force Gull reporting."

Lev looked like he was coming down from a hard run of stimulants, body occasionally shuddering, his membrane a pale green.

"Primary objective failed. We were detected on final approach, and the carriers were able to achieve an effective escape vector. Secondary objectives partially achieved. Two hostile cruisers destroyed; one dreadnought crippled. Approximately half of the enemy gunboat force has been destroyed outright, with another ten percent badly damaged. We have sustained over fifty percent losses, with multiple squadrons crippled. Estimate Elysian forces have been delayed by two, perhaps three hours. Combat logs are attached. Formal report will be ready by the time we return to the carriers."

The video cut abruptly, replaced by a compilation of the attached sensor feed. Losses, confirmed kills, probables, as well as a rough prediction of next intentions. It was all likely to be updated later by actual analysts, but even this preliminary work was useful.

"Three hours… so they're probably starting to move now…"

He put the pad down, reaching over to the command console on the nearby bulkhead.

"CIC, Hunter Mache." 'Good' thought Phelan. 'Mache was on duty. He'd understand.'

"Mache, general signal to Task Force One: All combat-ready warships without engine damage are to form on flag immediately before proceeding with flag to the Scylla Jump Point. Task Force Two is to accompany Task Force One. Any ships unable to make full speed are to detach and join Task Force Six."

The comm channel was quiet as Mache digested the order. "Assuming cruising speed, Sir?"

"Negative, Mache. I said full speed. Order is for all ships to red-line their drives. Full combat speed."

Another pause. "Understood sir. Suggest you have the order written out?" Verbal orders could be refused, but with risks. But writing out an order made it Official, to be refused at the officer's peril.

"Inform the Hunters that they'll have a written order in the next ten minutes. If anyone isn't running their drives flat out by the time the official orders go out, I'll break them so badly they won't be able to operate a spaceship ride at the park."

"Understood Sir. I'll get the fleet moving."


To: Task Force One; Task Force Two; Task Force Six
From: Junior Packmaster Phelan
Subject: Immediate Deployment
Clearance: 2-Clarity

All Combat Ready ships are to form on fleet flag for immediate full-speed transit to the Scylla jump point. Ships that are not Combat Ready are hereby ordered to detach from their formation and attach to Task Force Six until ordered otherwise.

All ships are to proceed at full combat speed; damage to engine drive systems is hereby authorized. Any ships that suffer engine damage are to continue to make best speed until countermanded. Carriers that suffer engine damage are to transfer strike craft to undamaged carriers. Hunters and Chief Engineering Officers must take all precautions to preserve and protect their commands at all times.

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Re: deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 143

Postby Xveers on Sun 12 Sep 2021 04:51

Naval Intelligence Central Complex
Lowell City, Fenris
Capital of the deWulf Corporate Democracy

"Excuse me, PackMaster Schäfer? I have something you need to see."

Theodora Schäfer looked up from her desk, sliding her display to the side. Her staff knew not to disturb her unless it was something important, and her adjutant Derval Maler knew that better than anyone. So if he was there, he was there for a reason.

"Yes Derval? What is it?"

"You remember that we've been logging all of those extraneous datastreams in the quantum computer we salvaged from Helgoland Bight, correct?"

Theodora looked back at him blandly. "Vauegly. I remember we did a fairly in-depth examination of the thing before it got handed off to Steyer un Sohn for reverse engineering and analysis." Her lips tightened at the memory. In truth the part she remembered and hated was that they simply couldn't understand it, and they'd signed off on the hardware on the basis that 'it probably wasn't going to explode' and not much beyond that.

"Ah, well. Over the years Steyer's gotten a reasonably good grasp of the technology. In the broad strokes at least. But several parts of the system are still alien. They've noted that there are some additional processing threads that originate from several unidentified subcomponents. Occasionally they put a bit of load on the main processor array, but they've always assumed that they're some kind of error checking or system test. The hardware was still more or less fully operational even after a few centuries of deep space exposure, so it was assumed to have some fairly impressive self-diagnostics."


"Well, yes. The threads aren't encrypted; they can't be. So Steyer just recorded all the data and put it into cold storage."

That made Theodora chuckle. "That must be costing them a pretty few Kett in storage fees."

"Even bulk storage isn't cheap, with that amount of data being stored. But, stored it is."

"So what's the point of all this? It can't just be about a warehouse of junk data."

Derval nodded as he laid down a dataslate showing two sets of identical data. "The left hand data sample is part of a processing thread from two weeks ago. The right hand is from secure recordings of star system KR 229."

KR 229. Now THAT rang a bell. "Wait. Is that the system that-"

Derval nodded. "The system that the G2R2 array observed disappearing. We have no idea what the rest of the processing thread was, but we know one thing for certain. Part of the input data was a full dataset for the system's orbital data. With one additional point between the orbits of the c and d components."

Theodora's face tightened further, jaw clamping tight.

"Before you ask, I already verified that nobody was running any experimental data using KR 229's parameters. Steyer's logging shows that this entire processing thread originated from an unknown component, spent three hours running a low-priority process of some kind, before having data output to the same component. That component is completely isolated from the rest of the processing array. No connections in or out, no emissions of any kind."

Theodora pushed herself back from her desk, standing up and walking around it to look at floor to ceiling window on the north side of her office. Beyond it was the grey overcast skyline of Lowell, droplets of rain hitting the glass as a storm rolled in from the north.

"You know why I have this window here, Derval?"

"No PackMaster."

"That's because HR says that even two hundred meters underground, it's important for our sanity to think we're not two hundred meters underground. But I know it's because matter how tempting it might be, it means I can't just jump through it and leave some incompetent bureaucrat to deal with this mess."

An empty silence filled the room for long moments before Theodora turned on her heel and walked back to her desk before picking up the dataslate.

"Take this to Senior Analyst Trost in Forecasting. He won't know what to do with it. Yet."

"If I might ask, PackMaster..."


"You don't seem that disturbed. Poorly understood technology in our use is processing data about a star system that was destroyed over two thousand years ago which was observed barely two years ago. Data that we never provided."

Theodora looked at him and smiled. A sharp line that spread across her face, thin enough to slice atoms apart.

"If you ever go so far as to find yourself sitting behind this desk, Derval, you will find that madness is not is merely a side effect. It is the currency we pay for understanding."
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Re: deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 143

Postby Cralis on Mon 13 Sep 2021 14:35

errr.... what?

And even if you've seen a lot of stuff, it's still suspicious if you don't seem suspicious...
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Set Condition...

Postby Xveers on Tue 05 Oct 2021 02:25

dWS Baalensee
Baltic-Class Fleet Defense Battleship
Elysium Star System
On Approach to Scylla Jump Point

"Fire Fire Fire. Fire in compartment 1-2-5-8-Gil. Fire in compartment 1-2-5-8-Gil."

Baalensee's Junior Hunter clicked on the communicator "Engine Room, Bridge. You've had an incident?"

"Incident nothing! The portside number 2 drive torus just fucking detonated! I've got multiple casualties and fires spreading forward. I've tried to dump atmo in the compartment but the fire's feeding on the lithium battery array and the control runs are scrap. If the array cooks off we're going to lose the whole port side aft of the power rooms."

"What do you need?"

New alarms echoed through the CIC, the monotone voice coldly enunciating every word.
"All medical teams report aft to compartment 5-2-5-6. Repeat, all medical teams to compartment 5-2-5-6."

"I need to shut the main reactor down and get my crews aft to start blowing plate. If I can vent the portside drive room I might be able to get enough access to suppress the fire."

"Negative. Orders are for all drives to be at combat maximum."

"Bridge, our drives are badly compromised. Engine power is at 75% and dropping. If the battery array cooks off that'll breach the bulkheads AND the firewall. Fires will spread forward into frame 256, and if the fires spread into the neighboring compartments they'll start eating into the power rooms. If we lose THOSE we're dead in space."

"Permission Denied. That is a direct order."

"Bridge, under Fleet Regulation II-15, I obey under direct and explicit protest that your actions are hazarding the ship. If the situation deteriorates further, I WILL engage an emergency shutdown under my authority in Regulation II-14a(ii), and I will see you at your trial."
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Lasers at 10 light seconds

Postby Xveers on Tue 26 Oct 2021 03:57

dWS Hans Zollner
Director Mk4-Class Heavy Cruiser
Deep Space, Scylla Star System

"I hate combat ops in nebulae."

"Any reason why?"

"We can't bring our shield systems online, our sensors are barely operational, and if we actually get into combat it's going to be plasma cannons at ten paces. So take your pick."

The deWulf fleet was still running full throttle through the nebula, chasing down where they thought the Elysians were going. While there were three warp points they could have run for, there was only one that led back into deWulf space. So the deWulf charged down a least-time course for that warp point. In truth the Elysians could have gone for any of the three, but sometimes all you could do was place your bets and take your chances.

"Sir, incoming signal from Spion."

"Well, maybe they've got something. Pull them up."

"This is Hunter Hacklander on Spion. We might have something."


"This nebula's pumping out a lot of interference all across the EM bands. If you have complaints, file them with management."

Scout commanders always were a breed apart. Even flag officers didn't phase them.

"Understood. What do you have?"

"We've detected an intermittent signal ahead of us. It's fading in and out and we're having to run a lot of processing to even isolate it, but it looks like a drive field. Might be Elysian, but we're not sure. Give us another ten minutes and we should know for sure."

"Estimated course?"

"Their course is zero zero zero mark zero zero two. Might as well be ours."

Phelan looked over at Mache "We have any civilian traffic out here?"

"Negative. Ever since the State of Threat all corp traffic cleared out from here. It's not a direct link to anywhere, and the Corporate Council tagged the system as a no transit zone. Even EisenRucke stated that they'd void classification of anyone operating in-system. So, if they're one of ours, they're going to get everything they deserve."

"Well. If EisenRucke's willing to pull spaceworthy certificates, That's reassu-"

"Status change!" Hunter Hacklander cut into the conversation "Just detected an EM spike from the contact ahead. Running it through the.."

Another voice called out over the comms; a bit distant but still clearly heard over the link. "Got it! Sensor pulses from a Rhodia-class sensor emitter; Evaluating the contact as an Elysian warship. Detecting more point sources... estimate-"

Phelan waved a hand to Hunter Mache to cut the transmission.

"Well, that answers who they are. Signal all ships: Combat Stations."


"Sir, Panfilov is launching small craft but..."

The chime of an incoming comm request pinged from the command holotable. Mache looked down at the request. "It's Panfilov.”

"Nice to see someone's keeping flag informed. Put him on."

The command table flickered as the image feed of a Sintillan officer in a deWulf-cut skinsuit appeared. "Combat ranges are minimal here, PackHunter. And with the speed of the Elysian ships in combat, our warships will not catch them."

Junior PackHunter Phelan nodded "Agreed. But why are putting your gunboats out first? Fighters should be screening them en-route to the Elysian carriers."

Panfilov replied "Ordinarily, yes. But a fully laden gunboat cannot catch an Elysian carrier at a full run. Fighters can. That means our striking arm must be the fighters, and so we must instead use our gunboats to blunt the enemy attack."

"You know they'll get mauled."

"Badly damaged, yes. But I am not leaving the gunboats fully uncovered."

The holotank shifted, showing the command feed from Panfilov's command carrier. Ghost images of gunboats stacked up in a wall ahead of the fleet, backed by a third of the remaining fighters.

"The gunboats will either take the initial blows, or cripple some of the enemy's strike-"

"That we haven't even seen yet." Hunter Mache interjected.

"If they aren't launching, then they are fools and we will kill them in their hangars. No, they will be launching. But yes, once their strike meets the gunboat screen, the fighters will roll in finish off their own strike. Meanwhile-"

The holotank shifted again, showing the other two thirds of the fighters chasing after the Elysian warships, their blips intersecting with the Elysian sensor contacts "the remaining fighters will close in and wipe out their carriers. Fortunately, most of their carriers are entirely defenseless. We of course know nothing about their larger carrier class, but even if it has some defenses, we will have enough fighters to overwhelm it. The only challenge is if any combat ships remained."

"And if any did?"

The Sintillan bobbed his eyestalks in a rather convincing imitation of a shrug. "Then the fighters will harass and attempt to cripple and slow down the combat ships first. The losses will be... undesirable, but without their small craft, their carriers are useless. Even if they do escape, where could they go?"

Hunter Mache growled "Hidden colony, secret supply dump, a concealed fleet staging point somewhere else in the nebula."

"Point taken. Well, we'll just have to make sure that we kill them all, won't we?"

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

"Contacts, dead aft!"

Peres turned to look at the communications Pinion as they passed along a message from the sensor boat that was accompanying what was left of the strike force.

"How many? What kind?" Peres clamped his beak tight to smother another insult. "I need more information than that!"

"Standby sir... Kastri reports at least twenty contacts, more probables. They're classing them as deWulf ships."

"What? How?"

"Standby... drive fields appear to be unstable."

The Elysian Strike Commander bristled. "They were running their engines full out. Must have lost some ships running that hard."

"Not enough of them though." Peres watched as the command holotank slowly populated with more and more contacts, all of them slowly gaining on them. "Still. They're just as blind as we are. Do we know which ship is their own sensor boat?"

"They don't have many destroyer hulls..." The strike commander thought out loud "we should be able to work it out from there. And without it, they'll be even more blind than we are."

"Exactly. Launch our gunboats. And don't hold a reserve back this time. We're going to need every gunboat."
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Remind them how Fenren hunt

Postby Xveers on Thu 28 Oct 2021 03:57

Both sides watched as their small craft advanced, disappearing from their sensors into the miasma between the fleets. Farther ahead, the Elysian ships went to full combat speed to open up the range so they could change course once their gunboats completed their mission. They knew that they had brutalized their opposite number in their last engagement, and even if they had a slight numerical disadvantage, their superior Elysian weapons mix would easily crush their deWulf opponents.

Unfortunately, a slight numerical disadvantage wasn't what they faced. In the nebulae, their gunboats could not identify small craft until they were almost upon them. And when the thirteen Elysian gunboat squadrons met their opponents, they didn't just face fifteen deWulf gunboat squadrons, but an additional twenty-five fighter squadrons. Already facing a superior number of gunboats alone, the fighters gave the deWulf a little over a four to one advantage in small craft. Against that force disparity, there was only one possible result.

The Elysian strike died. It did not die alone; ripples of missiles and the invisible lash of force beams claimed their victims. A few Elysian gunboats managed to break through the cordon, screaming in on the target buried deep in the deWulf formation. All they found was one death traded for another, as a trio of the hated Baltic-class defense battleships ripple fired their defenses and blotted the survivors from reality.

In the end, twelve deWulf gunboat squadrons turned back to their carriers, all of them damaged. Joining them were two fighter squadrons that had also suffered from the frenzied Elysian craft. That left twenty-three fighter squadrons that redlined their drives and chased after the fleeting Elysian carriers.

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force


The Strike Commander shook his head. The nebula's interference smothered communications almost as badly as it did sensors, and the only messages they could detect were bursts of encrypted communications, garbled by electromagnetic sleet into barely identifiable static.

"We should be seeing them on our sensors soon. They know that at least one squadron has to get back; the rest can be counted on to do their duty."

That phrase hung in the air, its real meaning unspoken and clearly understood.

"Sensors are picking up multiple small contacts, estimate identification in two minutes"

Fang One
deWulf Fighter Strike

"Alright, get into formation! Let's spread a wide net; we don't want them to escape."

The deWulf fighters fell into a broad wall, each fighter barely within the sensor coverage of the ones above and below and to the sides. The broad formation put the strike at risk, but with the Elysian strike annihilated, there was little that could stop them. And try as it might, a carrier could not outrun or outturn a fighter.

"There we go! Contact triple zero mark zero one zero. Remember your assignments; get into their blind spots and stick!"

The fighters surged ahead, all of them curling in towards the fleeing carriers. They were at a run, their drives glowing hard as components were run deep into the Never Exceed bands. It wasn't enough.

ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

"Contacts! Multiple hostile contacts! deWulf IFFs detected!"


"Many contacts! Range is ten light seconds and closing!"

"Our strike-"

"Our strike is dead, Eyrie Commander. Not hard to see how."

"What... what do we do?" The shrill voice of the strike force's flag captain sliced through the air. He might have found some strength, but this was more strain than he could handle. "What do we do, Eyrie Commander?"

The oncoming fighter strike provided the answer. The fighters broke apart into smaller groups, each of them firing their onboard plasma cannons into the unprotected drive emitters of the Elysian ships. The sensor frigate was the first to go, subjected to half a dozen fighter squadrons pouring fire into her unarmored hull. Her communications managed only a distorted scream as her power plant failed in an eye-watering boil.

The first carrier to die was the Saminia, a full two dozen fighters latching onto her massive blind spot. Her drive field trembled as her crew violated every safety margin, cut out every governing system in a desperate attempt to try and buy a few more moments of safety. And that was all it bought. Plasma fire ripped through her armour belt, tearing deep into empty launch bays. Saminia's hull ripped itself apart as the engines desynchronized, drive units flying off in different directions for a racing heartbeat before exploding like fireworks.

"All Fangs, regroup. That big carrier of theirs has some teeth; Settle into her aft and remind them how Fenren hunt!"

The result was an organized slaughter as one carrier came apart after another, spilling atmosphere and structural frame in equal measure. One carrier managed to hold together, a gutted hulk instead an expanding cloud of debris. Quickly enough all that remained was Elyisan dreadnought-carrier, but her defenses had only bought her a little more time. deWulf fighters were piling up in her blind spot, sending salvo after salvo of stellar-hot plasma into gaping wounds that covered her aft hull. Exactly which fighter fired the final, killing blow was impossible to tell. The carrier came apart as internal explosions blistered out along her hull like lesions bursting through skin.

"That looks like a kill, Fang One."
"Affirm, Fang Two. Scratch six soap bubbles."
"And one armoured soap bubble."

Laughter rippled across the open comm channel. Something that hadn't been heard in months, perhaps years. The understanding that there might actually be an end to all this madness... that they had not just made it, but seen it through began to sink in.

"Yeah... that's it? That's..."
"Confirmed Fang One. My sensors show clear screens."
"Negative. We can barely see ourselves in this hash. Without their IFFs there's dammed all we can do."

"Alright... alright, let's get back to the den. We've our own to take care of. Fang Two, signal Panfilov when we're back in range."
"Signal what?"
"Clean sweep."
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