(33) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (139-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
The next skirmish will be at about 10:00. At that
point it will
represent a 22 hour delay for the invaders, with four days and 2
hours to go in the defenders' orders. Nevertheless, a total of
three days would be
significant, and that's starting to look achievable. One Happy
Fun Ball -- Glisten's Darotukshi -- has been wrecked to be
point where it only has scrap value, and the previously-installed deep
meson sites have all been destroyed in a particularly excessively
The crew of Nightshade have taken the chance
to rest while approaching the next orbital engagement.
The top twelve of the defending command chain has of
course been eliminated. According to the data link that Robert
has patched in, Commodore Eneri von Krantzhoff now commands the
Trin's Veil fleets.
At 09:30, Sir Misha contacts von Krantzhoff.
His first goal is to try to figure out his state of mind, if he's
qualified and prepared to command the fleets. After that, he'll
discuss Nightshade's role in the fight.
In response to Sir Misha's inquiries, Commodore von
Krantzhoff says that according to instructions left by Admiral Altrafe,
were to be left to do pretty much anything they wanted, and he is
certainly personally very grateful for what they've done so far.
He adds that he is very surprised at their capabilities for their
size. That was not a question, he says, as he's been told not to
ask, but he is pleased about it.
Sir Misha says they'd like to lead in the upcoming
attack, if it suits them.
Von Krantzhoff says that would be fine. He
says it's likely they'll be facing four fleets directly with their
four. The Murchison fleet will be leading point this time, and
they expect to be facing Iderati, Mirriam, Jone, and Egypt. Two
other fleets on higher station are likely to be available in a
supporting role if they have fuel for it; those would be Gl-X-1 and
Gl-X-2. The plan is to stay in low orbit.
Sir Misha observes that the Commodore does seem to
know what he's talking about. He has less confidence than he's
projecting, but he does understand what's going on. He didn't
come up with the strategy -- presumably it's Altrafe's -- but he is
continuing to follow it and understands it. He has obviously been
thrust into command a little unexpectedly, but seems up to the task.
Aloud, after verifying that it's a private
conversation on the Commodore's end, Sir Misha offers some
advice. He says it's a good idea to carry on with a good plan,
"But if it becomes necessary, don't be afraid to remember who's in
charge and go your own way."
Von Krantzhoff thanks him, and says he's looking
forward to what Nightshade can do against space targets as
opposed to ground targets. "If you draw as much fire as you did
last time, it might get a little hot there. Is there anything we
can do to back you up?"
Misha says "No, just don't become so enamored with
the light show that you forget to cover your own ass."
The Commodore smiles and says that they have another
four days to last here, and they plan on doing so.
The crew get back on duty just before 10:00.
On the bridge,
Kalida takes up the gunnery station at console 4, Helia at the pilot
station 3, Sir Misha on the command dais at 2, Callisto at console 6,
Shark at 10, and Robert at 9. Elsewhere, Mich is in
position in Engineering, Vonish in the Galley,
Bridgehead in Sick Bay. Teri is in full battledress in the Galley
with Vonish. Jack remains in her stateroom, room 20, presumably
monitoring things from the computer there. Shark makes sure that
if the need arises, she can use whatever weapons or force she feels
necessary to deal with it.
Kalida has already identified the current flagship
of the attackers, and it's the flagship of the Iderati fleet.
It's well protected, but with Nightshade's acceleration it's
not too bad for them to get up there. It'll be close enough to be
able to move into position to fire, but would normally be out of range
during the battle. The Iderati fleet is in a higher position,
with the flagship higher still to keep out of range of the front line
engagement. To get there, they'd have either to outflank or to
come up through the middle. It would be very hard for an Imperial
ship, but they should be capable of doing it. The high quality
expeditionary fleets are positioned higher again, where they too could
Even though they could do it, they would certainly
meet resistance. Coming back after the engagement would be the
most surprising, but going straight up through the middle would have
the enemy most distracted at the time.
Sir Misha favors going straight up the middle.
Kalida nods and smiles. It will also distract
the attackers and break their concentration on the defenders. She
then says that she hates to dump the nukes because it takes a while to
regenerate them, and it's hard to fire small salvos.
Sir Misha says that they can afford to use 6-12
since the battle will be an hour or so, with the next fight at least
4-6 hours beyond that. He's happy, in fact, to use 50 of them,
since they have so many.
"And what if a black ship shows up?" points out
Kalida and Sir Misha don't seem to take his paranoia
seriously. They discuss how many missiles to fire in each salvo,
taking into account the point defenses of the target.
With the crew in full sparkly pink battle mode, Nightshade
takes up position prominently at the head of the Murchison fleet,
leading them into battle.
At 10:00, the Murchison fleet opens fire on the
Mirriam fleets. Laser fire opens up but is being fairly
ineffectual. The front lines are now the larger ships that lasers
won't damage; it's not until the battle closes further that the smaller
vessels will move into the fray. Nightshade joins in the
laser fire, and return fire plays over the hull too. The glitter
of sandcasters scatter the beams, making the lasers a display of bright
intent rather than starting the fighting.
By 10:20, the fleets reach missile range before
coming into meson gun and accelerator range. Nightshade
is first to launch, Kalida selecting a strike cruiser from among the
front lines. Fighter screens should be launched shortly, but
right now she has an unobstructed shot. She spurts five missiles,
streaking out from the launcher below the hull.
Other missiles are flying around now too, but at
this range it's too easy for the defenses to take them down.
Smaller ships are assisting the larger, able to use their lasers to
help cover the more valuable assets. Callisto feeds
indentification of the ships running nuclear
dampers, which are the targets of conventional missile fire from the
Black tech missiles are flying much faster, but even
so four are taken down on the way, one finding its target and striking
the engineering section of Kalida's target. The strike cruiser
seems to be responding sluggishly, and the crew celebrate their first
hit of the engagement.
Incoming missiles are being no trouble for
Kalida. She flicks the laser around, taking out all of them
At 10:30, with Nightshade pulling away a
little from the Murchison fleet, Kalida is the first to reach heavy
weapon range. Sir Misha tells her to open fire. Of those
around her, the largest in range is a 100kt cruiser. Helia has
been carrying a straight course, waiting to evade until they're within
meson range. It's therefore an easy shot for Kalida, and the
cruiser brews up hard. It's not as spectacular as the
dreadnoughts were, but what is left of it is going down right now.
Sir Misha checks the tactical aura for any ship
displaying any non-Imperial characteristics, but finds none. No
attacker fleets have started any maneuver to outflank or reposition
outside the main engagement. The two high guard fleets are
At 10:40, Nightshade reaches meson gun
range. Helia starts evading as they come in, darting and
dashing. Around them the two Imperial forces are exchanging
missile fire. Against them, there are lasers scanning to keep
track of the black ship's position, and that's followed up with
coordinated meson fire from several ships. Eight shots slap at
the ship: three miss completely, put off by Helia's erratic flight
path; one is a direct hit and completely ineffective; the other four
are at varying distance from shields. Two are directly on the bow
shields, with the other two too far away to care.
Mich monitors the shields taking the load, and on
the bridge they see an afterglow from the shields where they were
impacted. Everything on the Engineering board is still red.
Eight shots means they are clearly a priority target.
In response, Kalida fires another 5 missiles (10
total) at a cruiser. Four hit and appear to cause mostly
surface damage -- several weapon batteries taken out, with one minor
hull breach. It isn't going down, but it's damaged. It'll
be less effective in battle, and it's another one that the attackers
will have to repair.
This already looks like it will be a longer
engagement than the previous orbital skirmishes. The attackers
are expending fuel to keep the forces in contact longer, making a real
fight out of what could have been a passing encounter. One of the
high guard fleets is moving ahead of the engagement, heading for a
position in which they could take over firing after the main bodies
It's 10:50. The lines of battle are now fully
engaged with all weapons, while Nightshade pushes on into even
closer range. Fighter screens are fully deployed in a point
defence role, while small ships are screening the larger with
supporting anti-missile fire and sandcaster deployment. So far
the fight seems fairly even, with no side taking visibly heavier losses.
The attackers have completely stopped missile fire
against Nightshade, using only lasers to ensure their location
and heavy weapons to target them.
Kalida asks Sir Misha how generous he wants her to
be with the missiles. Since they can well over a hundred in a
normal jump time, which is how long the other ships will take to get to
the next location, Sir Misha says that over the next four days they can
spend 100, plus any they can build in the meantime between
battles. He authorizes her to use 20 total in this fight.
Mich immediately considers connecting the large
power cube to the missile regenerators so they can run them all the
Helia's navigation thoughts feed into an indication
that the flagship of the Iderati fleet will be in range in about ten
In the meantime, Kalida picks a juicier target from
the ships around them. A dreadnought takes an expander shot
directly in the main bridge. It's knocked out of position,
trailing debris and drifting at the whims of the gravity well. It
may take some time to fall, but it will be a full kill, ending in a
plunge into the world below. She holds back on the missiles in
case she needs them later.
They are now taking a lot more fire. They are
not just a priority target, they are the priority target.
Spinal mounts from most of the capital ships in the Mirriam fleet are
directed at them. Fifteen shots in all come their way, five of
which blast simultaneously at the exterior of the shields. On the
engineering board the feel turns slightly purple, holding but heavily
loaded, with a slight weakening after the shot that takes about 30
seconds to recover. There's a bright visible ripple propagating
in the shields from the hit area, and the afterglow is strong. It
feels prickly and uncomfortable in sparkly pink.
The Murchison fleet is exploiting this distraction,
and the Mirriam fleet is taking heavier losses than they are. The
distraction is doing the job, and has affected the balance of the
initial fleet-to-fleet engagement.
At 11:00, the lines of battle come into
contact. All four fleets from each side are now engaging. Nightshade
has now penetrated the front lines and among the enemy. Up ahead
is the Iderati fleet, just coming into range.
In the lines behind them, the Mirriam fleet is still
concentrating its spinal mounts on them, but the other fleets are
trying to pick up the slack. The attackers are dropping into a
lower orbit, intermingling the lines in almost a dogfight. The
first high guard fleet is still moving ahead of the orbit to extend the
engagement, and the second high guard are just now starting to follow
them. This is not in the manuals. Both sides are rewriting
the book, inventing the whole concept of major fleet action at the
Shark observes the attackers are making a last ditch
effort to make their schedule. They have to refuel, but most
important of all is that they have to make their time. The whole
campaign depends on them clearing this system immediately. And if
they haven't secured refuelling capability by the time Santanocheev
arrives in an hour, a whole two days after the first ship entered the
system, it will make them look really bad. He makes sure that von
Krantzhoff is aware of the outflanking maneuver by the two Glisten
With Helia still dodging and evading, Kalida fires
the expander at the flagship of the Iderati fleet, the main command
vessel itself of this engagement. The bridge erupts and the hulk
jerks suddenly in reaction, kicking it into an eccentric orbit that
will inevitably end in atmosphere.
Meson gunfire explodes all around Nightshade.
The shields load heavily but hold, taking a full minute to recover to
full strength after the fusillade. The systems are stressed, but
holding. Shark wonders if it's stressing the engineer more than
it is the shields.
Mich is certainly stressed -- he reports that with
the current level of fire, if it lands just right it could take down
the shields. They're drawing fire from several fleets here.
Nevertheless Sir Misha says that while this main
engagement is going on, they will remain in the midst of it, draw fire
and wreak havoc, and when this peters out and the two high fleets
engage, they will race to them and do the same.
In the battle below them, the Mirriam fleet has been
taking heavy losses. The defenders are exploiting the lack of
meson fire and starting to force a weak point in the attacker line of
battle. Sir Misha reflects that their original comment to Admiral
Altrafe, that Nightshade could draw fire, was accurate.
They are clearly too dangerous to ignore, and yet going after them is
It's 11:10. Scanning the tactical aura,
enhanced with the data feed that Robert's been pulling from the
conventional forces, and Baron Bridgehead's conventional tactical
input, Kalida and Sir Misha identify the new flagship of this
operation. It's the flagship of the Gl-X-1 fleet, now moving well
ahead of the engaged fleets leading the two high guard units into
The Iderati fleet is on the move now, clearly
maneuvering to reinforce the growing gap. Sir Misha's command is
to delay engaging them until the Imperial ships can engage them too.
At his command, Helia drops back into the midst of
the Mirriam fleet, drilling into the weakness in the attacker line of
battle. She's still high enough that the Iderati fleet can still
bring some fire to bear, but the Mirriam fleet doesn't have a lot to
land on them.
Kalida targets one of the two remaining dreadnoughts
in the Mirriam fleet. It's a perfect expander shot, the reaction
to the explosion all but killing the capship's forward motion.
It'll make landfall within the hour.
Nightshade takes very little fire this
time. The board stays solid red.
The Mirriam fleet is now in ruins. With their
heaviest weapons concentrated on the black ship, they haven't been able
to hold the defenders. What's left of the Mirriam fleet is trying
to disengage and climb up out of the gravity well.
The defenders have taken losses too, but currently
have the edge. Elsewhere, neither side is taking substantial
damage, with no clear advantage.
Nightshade will not be pursuing the
retreating Mirriam fleet, but move in to where they can make a
difference in the front lines.
At 11:20, they move on to the Egypt fleet, engaged
with the Trin fleet. Both are in fairly good shape, but with the
Mirriam fleet out of the way the Murchison fleet is coming in on
Egypt's flank. Iderati will come in behind them too, but right
now the defenders are concentrating fire on the one attacker.
Nightshade streaks in, and Kalida strike
Egypt's flagship dreadnought deep in the hull. Gutted and with
this fight being in very low orbit, it will probably decay in a matter
They're moving so quickly and Helia's evading so
well that there's only one strike on the shields, not the slightest
threat to them.
At 11:30, the fight is getting nastier. The
range is closer, the orbit lower still, and heavier losses are being
taken on both sides. Nightshade is in the middle of the
most intense fighting of the skirmish.
Kalida picks her next target and kills another
dreadnought with the expander.
Bridgehead mentions aloud that this is the big
capability they are demonstrating: to kill one capital ship every ten
minutes, instead of beating them down slowly through attrition while
killing the smaller targets to get them out of the way.
It's not only Kalida who's causing problems with the
dreadnoughts, however. Callisto flags one that seems to have lost
engineering power and is helpless.
Incoming meson fire slams the shield heavily, with
ripples and shakes resonating across the surface. Everything's
holding fine, but Egypt's concentrated a lot of spinal mounts on such a
In response to the Murchison's flanking maneuver,
Egypt starts burning hard to move them ahead along the orbit line,
trying to delay the arrival of Murchison. Fuel conservation is no
longer a consideration compared with the potential to take fire from
two fleets at once. Overall numbers mean nothing when a local
advantage can be pressed.
At 11:40, the defender fleets have raked the
crippled Egypt dreadnought with fire, taking it down. Kalida
drives an expander blast deep into another one, and with the battle
pressing ever deeper to the atmospheric transition any kill does down
quickly with little opportunity even to abandon ship.
The shields are taking heavy fire, but sufficiently
spaced to offer no concentrated threat. There's barely a flicker
as the sporadic meson blasts hit.
With the Egypt fleet formation broken for a moment,
it's given a chance for Murchison to drive in and open up. Egypt
is taking heavy losses under the major local advantage of the defenders.
Shortly, though, at 11:50 Egypt regroups and pulls
their formation together into a defensive array. Kalida pokes the
tactical aura and with everyone's input -- including Sir Misha's
streetfight analogy -- identifies a weak point in the herd. She
culls that dreadnought with the expander, breaking the formation back
open again, splitting it into two groups that can't support each
other. Half is being swarmed by Murchison from its flank, while
the other is now vastly outnumbered by Trin. Egypt's attempt to
outrun Murchison's advance just pulled them further from Iderati's
help, and they have no help nearby.
Nightshade herself takes plenty of hits, but
they are uncoordinated and the shields handle them easily.
Two hours into the fight, at midday, Egypt is the
second attacker fleet to try to pull out of the line of battle.
They're trying to retreat in order, reforming the two halves into one
group as they climb, but the sheer number of defenders in the area
makes it difficult. Murchison pursues them higher, while Trin,
free from the fight now, moves on to reinforce Tr-X-2 which has been
engaged with Jone.
Kalida's goal is to disrupt the retreat. Sir
Misha helps pick out the critical target in what is practically a close
quarters knife fight.
The expander strikes home. A cruiser slews off
course in ruins, blasting debris into the formation and scattering
Egypt in disarray. Now that there's enough heavily damage ships
to perhaps drop their defensive abilities, Kalida tosses a 50
millisecond burst of five missiles (15 total now) at another
cruiser. Crippled, her target starts to drop slowly. The
shots didn't kill it outright, but it doesn't seem to have the ability
to climb back out. Another burst of 5 slams her next target
heavily in engineering, and this one loses power immediately and starts
to drop into the well.
Out beyond the reserves, there's a scattering of
lots of jump flashes.
The rest of of the fleets, Santanocheev's remaining forces, have come
into the system.
At 12:10, the Egypt fleet is climbing high in
complete disorder. Further out, what's left of Mirriam has
regrouped, showing no signs of coming back in. Neither are now
being pursued. Iderati never made position to reinforce the weak
point, and has pulled back out without really getting into the fight.
Further down orbit, the defenders are outnumbering
the Jone fleet by almost three to one, and it is attempting to
disengage too. Even further on, the two Glisten Expeditionary
fleets have broken off their maneuver and are breaking back up into
high orbit without firing a shot.
It takes until 12:30 before Nightshade can
get close enough to the Jone fleet to engage them in their
retreat. They're pulling out in good order, taking some losses
but giving back in return. The tactical aura shows two
dreadnoughts in close company of other ships, and taking one of them
out would force a break in the formation and with luck cause secondary
Helia has raced them into position very quickly, and
Kalida stabs one of the capships with the expander. It goes down,
breaking up the formation slightly but not as much as she'd hoped.
The Jone fleet is about to break clear of the
Kalida refers the decision to pursue or not to
Captain Sir Misha. He wants to press the advantage, but wants to
be certain that it's not a ploy to draw them away.
It's 12:40, and the Imperial fleets are no longer
firing on each other. If Nightshade continues the pursuit
for long, the defenders will be well ahead of them soon. The
attackers are pulling into formation in high orbit, and if they get
close to that they'll take excessive fire.
Kalida guesses they can make two more shots on Jone
as they climb. The first brings down a large cruiser, and the
first hits on the shield for quite some time. This group hadn't
targetted Nightshade before, and seem not to have the firing
solutions quite right yet. That won't last long, of course.
Helia continues to keep them in range, while at
12:50 Kalida takes down her final target.
Suddenly the ships around them are in the wrong
place, and Helia has to check up suddenly. Immediately Nightshade
becomes an easy target, heavy meson fire slams against the
shields. They drop to mid-strength briefly and show a blue tinge
on the board, but they hold. It stings.
It takes three minutes for them to recover to full
strength, but by then Helia has taken them quickly away from the enemy
and towards a rendezvous with Commodore von Krantzhoff's forces.
It takes half an hour or so to catch up with the
Trin's Veil fleets. At 13:20 Helia brings them into position with
the orbiting defensive fleets. They've been at battle stations
for almost three and a half hours. Everyone's tired and could use
a solid rest.
The attackers have regrouped in a much higher orbit,
and will not be in a position to threaten for quite some time.
Out in the reserves, classic Imperial regrouping on
third jump day is bringing the Llanamith battle group
together. Maneuvers are starting to rearrange the front and
reserve lines, bringing fresh forces towards the mainworld.
Bridgehead reports that it will be at least 6-8
hours before the attackers could possibly mount another assault.
They've bought some breathing space with a decisive victory in the
biggest skirmish yet. The attackers presumably intended to weaken
the defenders so much that another strike would wipe them out, which
may not even have been necessary if the defenders had chosen to retreat
from the system rather than be destroyed. He adds that it would
probably take about three days for the attackers to reform one fleet
from the shattered Mirriam and Egypt fleets.