Second Battle of Contact

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Second Battle of Contact

Postby Starfire on Tue 21 Jul 2009 10:28

Second Battle of Contact
First Ragnarok Arkan’in stared back at Alpha Fang Xotoch’ll. “What in the Gods’ name do you mean?”
Xotoch’ll shook his head. “These humans will not stop fighting. We landed over half a million troops on this planet and still they resist.” He bared his teeth. “Aliens. A Kendrill would have seen resistance is useless and rolled to his belly long ago, but these humans....” He waved his arms in frustration before scooping a paper off the First Ragnarok’s desk. “And now this." He shook the paper at the First Ragnarok. "Where are my supplies?”
Arkan’in shrugged. “I do not know. The freighters have stopped arriving. I sent the only one that was in orbit to find the source of the trouble, but it has yet to return.” Not for the first time did Arkan’in wish that his race had the message drones that the humans used to communicate. “I can do no more, unless I send ships from the Fleet.”
For a long moment, there was silence. Finally, the Alpha Fang spoke. “Could the humans have tricked us? Nearly our entire horde is on the planet below and the Fleet represents most of our spaceborn offensive power. Could the humans have allowed us into this system, simply to cut us off and have us wither away?”
Arkan’in scoffed at the thought. “The humans tried to prevent our entry. We crushed their fleet and drove off the survivors into deep space.”
“Indeed,” nodded the Alpha Fang. “But wasn’t it you, First Ragnarok, that told me that the humans had a much larger fleet? That the forces defending the gateway were only a portion of what had been seen? Where are the rest?”
“You worry too much,” Aarkan’in answered. “No one would do such a thing; to sacrifice so many lives for a trap.”
“No Kendrill would do such a thing,” Xotoch’ll replied. “But no Kendrill would fight such overwhelming forces back by orbital support if they knew no help was coming. These humans still fight. Why?”
Aarkan’in shook his head. “The humans are beaten. In another day or two, the freighters will arrive, then you shall see.”
Xotoch’ll stood. “I hope you are right, First Ragnarok.” Turning, he left Aarkan’in’s quarters. Aarkan’in stared at the hatch that closed behind the First Fang. He was right, wasn’t he? He nodded to himself. No beings would dare set such an elaborate trap, of that he was sure.

High Admiral Gray watched as the last of the crippled hulks left from the First Battle of Contact were carefully destroyed by ships of the First Fleet. The Kendrill mobile shipyards that had been attempting to salvage them had retreated back through the warp point though not before the Fleet's outriders had gotten in a few hits. As tempting as it might be to salvage the hulks themselves, Admiral Gray had rapidly come to the conclusion that none could be left to survive in case the Imperial forces lost the upcoming battle.
The retreat of the small Kendrill forces at the warp point connecting Contact to the Kendrill homeworld meant that the Kendrill fleet supporting their invasion of the colonies at the secondary star of Contact-B was the only enemy force still in system. The admiral smiled to himself. That fleet and the ground troops it supported would soon discover that no more supply freighters were on their way. First Fleet firmly controlled the only connection between those forces and the supplies flowing from the Kendrill homeworld. The Kendrill would be forced to clear the warp point and this time, the Imperial forces were ready.

First Ragnarok Arkan’in paced about his cabin. It had been weeks since any supplies arrived. Alpha Fang Xotoch’ll had made progress in suppressing the humans on the planet, but at the cost of the majority of his munitions. His constant demands for more supplies had worn on the First Ragnarok.
And as the Alpha Fang had berated the First Ragnarok, Arkan’in had done the same to his ships’ Fangs. Normally, the openness of the Fleet’s command structure was a source of strength for the Kendrill, but now it worked against them. The fear that all of them had been maneuvered into some gigantic trap may have started with the Alpha Fang, but it quickly spread to all the leaders of the Fleet. As each spoke with the others, fear played upon fear. Soon, the humans had taken on devilish proportions. Near panic seemed to grip every Kendrill of the Fleet.
Even the First Ragnarok felt its pull. Only one thought allowed him to keep his balance; that the freighters no longer came only because of some simple mistake on the homeworld.
Finally, he made a decision. Turning towards his viewscreen, he activated the comm. “First Ragnarok to all Fleet elements. Prepare for immediate departure.” He would go himself, with his entire fleet, to find out the situation at the warp point. The Alpha Fang would cry over being left with no support, but the First Ragnarok didn’t care. He had to find out what was going on. The devilish humans would not leave him here to simply wait for his ships to begin failing through lack of maintenance.
At his command, the fleet leapt into action, anxious to do something besides the mind numbing ground support duty. It represented the largest gathering of firepower the Kendrill had ever mustered. At its center, lay the five heavy cruisers; some armed with the old standard railgun/ion cannon combination while the newer ones were equipped with plasma torpedo launchers similar to the ones the humans used. The light cruiser serving as his flagship, the Tracker, was first of a new line of warships, born of the lessons that had been learned from the first engagement with the humans. With its new military drives and command center, it was his eyes to the depths of space and thus the center of the fleet. Three additional light cruisers and five destroyers rounded out the fleet.
Surely, the First Ragnarok thought as he reviewed his command, with such firepower the humans stood no chance. His fleet should sweep them from the skies; but always there, at the back of his mind, lay that gnawing fear that he was being led again.

A day later, the Kendrill fleet gingerly approached the gateway using LOD. It had been continuously broadcasting queries to the Mobile Shipyards that should have been salvaging the captured warships of the human fleet. There was no reply. There were also no freighters to be seen. It was clear that the humans had been there, and with each passing minute the fleet grew to fear their strength.
As his concern grew, the First Ragnarok ordered his screens out. The Forward screen, a single destroyer and a light cruiser, pushed almost four light seconds ahead of the main fleet. On both the Spear and Knife flanks, two destroyers and a light cruiser held their positions three light seconds away from the fleet, attempting to protect the main body. In the center, the main fleet of five heavy cruisers and his command light cruiser inched towards the gateway.
As he watched the Tracker’s sensor screen, he could hear the chatter of his Fangs on the command channel. He wanted to order them to silence, but such a thing was unheard of. Normally, the chatter on the channel encouraged the Fangs to ever greater feats of bravery, but now it seemed to only spread fear. Finally, he activated his own comm and cut across their words.
“The humans are out there,” he said. “I can feel them. They are hiding with their drives and shields down, waiting for our approach.”
“What shall we do?” asked the Ravenger’s Fang.
“We must face facts. The humans have indeed drawn us into a great trap. As we know they have knowledge of our total strength, they must have a large enough fleet to defeat us. We must not allow this! We represent the majority of our offensive power. We must attempt to win our way through to our homeworld.”
“But where are they?” asked another Fang.
Arkan’in considered for a moment. “They want to destroy us. There are two possibilities. The first is that their fleet is so large that they can place several elements at a distance from the gateway to engage us as we approach. They would make these elements close to our equal; otherwise we could defeat each in turn before it is reinforced by the others. Their second option is to have their entire fleet sitting within a light second or two of the warp point, waiting to use its firepower to pound us as we enter its range. They have no other options as we know from our interrogations that they lack our capitol sensors.”
The Ravenger’s Fang spoke up again. “Could not their entire fleet be some distance from the warp point, waiting for us in a mass?”
The First Ragnarok shook his head. “To do so without capitol sensors would risk our fleet slipping close to the gateway, where we could escape with little damage. No. They have only those two options. Thus, we must minimize their engagement time and maximize the number of ships that can escape back to the home system to bolster the defenses there.” He thought for a moment, but realized that he, unlike the humans, had only one choice.
“We shall try to close to within thirty-five light seconds of the gateway using LOD. If we make it that far undetected, the fleet will accelerate and make its way toward the warp point. The heavy cruisers must detune to keep up with the fleet. Perhaps some of us will make it through. If we are detected earlier, we will begin our run then. Comments?” The First Ragnarok looked at his Fangs through the screen. All stood silent. “Then let us go, and may the Gods grant us strength.”

“Multiple contacts, spotted sir,” the Liberator’s sensor tech shouted. “Range, thirty light seconds.”
“All ships to battle stations,” Admiral Gray ordered quite unnecessarily; the klaxtons had begun ringing on every ship in the fleet when the sensors had found the Kendrill. “Range from the warp point?”
“Thirty-five light seconds and closing fast.”
Admiral Gray nodded. “There’re running for it. To all ships, hold for my command.” Quietly, he watched as the seconds past and the lead ships of the Kendrill closed to within fifteen light seconds of First Fleet. “Let’s see how they like it,” he said to the bridge crew of the Liberator. He nodded to the comm rating. “To all ships,” he said. “Now.”

The Kendrill fleet had closed to within eighteen light seconds of the warp point without detecting anything. Arkan’in was beginning to think they may slip home without damage when the heavens opened and poured out their destruction.

With Admiral Gray’s command, the Liberators of First Fleet fired into the forward screen of the Kendrill, hitting its destroyer with three torpedoes. As the shields and drives of the ships of First Fleet were activated, the battle was joined.

Arkan’in leapt to his feet as dozens of torpedoes swept in from the Spear flank aimed at the destroyer in his Forward Screen. “Gods,” he shouted. “They have spread out their fleet.” This single force of the humans was almost equal to his own strength. If the other forces the Humans were sure to have placed around the gateway were even close to this size, he feared none of them would see the skies of their homeworld again.

With shields and drives now active, the Liberators continued to pour fire into their single target. They were firing from maximum range, however, and it was clear the Kendrill were quick off the mark. Accurate point defense fire destroyed the few torpedoes on target to hit.

Arkan’in looked at his screens again. Nearly a minute into the combat, no other human ships had appeared to help their fellows. Did the Humans have only these ships? Had they really gambled everything on the fact that the Kendrill would approach the gateway from this route? He spoke into the command channel, asking the opinions of his Fangs. None knew what to think.
“Let us engage,” he finally ordered. “No wait,” he said, as second thoughts filled his head. Visions of the manipulations of the humans ran through his mind. Was this another trick? One thing above all, the Fleet could not be risked. “Continue the retreat.”

Receiving contradictory orders, the Kendrill Fleet was thrown into confusion. The light cruiser of the Spear Screen ceased detuning and its now clear sensors sought out the humans. Its single torpedo launcher spoke once, hitting a human corvette. But it fought alone, as the remainder of the Kendrill maintained their headlong flight towards the warp point.

The ships of First Fleet returned its fire by targeting one of the Spear Screen’s destroyers whose charge towards the warp point had brought within thirteen light seconds. Hit by half a dozen torpedoes, it shuttered under the blows. Losing several drives, its race for the warp point slowed, and it too turned to fight.

The corvettes of First Fleet now accelerated towards the Kendrill, trying to bring their weapons into range. The Shields detuned directly towards the warp point in an attempt to intercept the Kendrill fleet. The faster Swift Fires closed directly on the ships of the now struggling Spear Screen, seeking to bring their SRMs (Short Range Missiles) into play. Meanwhile, the Liberators accelerated at an angle to the Kendrill, seeking the blind spots of their opponents.

On board the Tracker, the First Ragnarok finally decided that he was seeing all of the Human’s fleet. Somehow, he was now sure, they had guessed his approach vector. Immediately, he changed his orders again: general engagement.
It was here that the confusion of rapidly changing orders, weeks of anxious fear, and that fog of war that follows every battle finally showed their true weight. While under normal circumstances, such an order would have lead to a general charge against the enemy as each Kendrill Fang sought to bring his weapons to bear on the enemy, each now reacted differently and the Kendrill fleet lost any opportunity of fighting as an organized unit.

The Ravenger class heavy cruisers immediately ceased detuning and turned towards the charging human corvettes, seeking to bring their railguns into play. Meanwhile, the two Longtooth class heavy cruisers merely slowed, maintaining the drive for the warp point but allowing their torpedo launchers to fire.
The screens of the fleet followed their larger cousins in the pattern of confusion. The Lead and Knife screens did not slow their headlong charge towards the safety of the warp point, while the ships of the Spear Screen turned to engage the Imperial Fleet.

The Swift Fires dove towards the Spear Screen, finally entering a range where their SRMs could come into play. The two destroyers and light cruiser of the Spear Screen targeted the charging squadron and two corvettes were destroyed in a burst of railgun fire. The squadron took its vengeance as SRMs punched through the desperate hail of point defense fire, crippling the light cruiser Punisher and destroying the previously undamaged destroyer, Prowler. Immediately, the Punisher began to scream for assistance.
The desperate cries for assistance from Punisher finally penetrated the panic of Crusher's Fang, and the light cruiser of the Lead Screen turned to help its crippled sister. It paid a horrible price, as it became the target not only of the surviving Swift Fires, but the Shields which had finally entered force beam range. Getting off only a single volley, the Crusher was engulfed by force beams and SRMs. Finally, it could take no more and, in a blinding flash, exploded.

The Forward Screen of the Kendrill Fleet finally reached the gateway and transited to safety. Almost immediately thereafter, the First Ragnarok's flagship, the Tracker, whose headlong charge to the warp point had never slowed, reached the gateway and transited to the home system.
With the First Ragnarok's transit, the remaining Kendrill ships dropped any pretense of resistance and fled. The heavy cruisers immediately began detuning again, but their speed was too slow and their attempt to fight had cost them too much time.
The Swift Fires dove through the Kendrill formation firing their SRMs at each heavy cruiser in turn. Even while detuning, the ion cannons of the heavy cruisers crippled a Swift Fire, while their railguns destroyed another. But then, the Swift Fires were past the heavy cruisers and out of range. Their strike had severally weakened the defenses on every heavy cruiser.

The Knife Screen now reached the gateway. Immediately, the two destroyers transited home. The Fang of the light cruiser Marauder was made a sterner stuff. His light cruiser did not transit the gateway but turned back towards the running fight, seeking to cover the escape of his fellows. Before it could complete its turn, its crew saw the humans' Shields pass near the damaged light cruiser and surviving destroyer of the Spear Screen and watched as their force beams carefully targeted the helpless vessels, crippling the last of their engines. While each retained a single weapon, the running fight quickly moved out of range and the surviving crews were left to their fate.

Then, it became the turn of the slower Shields to pass through the fleeing heavy cruiser formation. As each ship past through, they targeted the closest cruiser. Explosions racked the huge ships, not only from the force beams of the Shields, but now from the torpedoes of the Liberators, who had finally slipped into their blindspots and begun to fire torpedo after torpedo.

When the Shields emerged on the other side of the Kendrill formation, they left several of their number in their wake, victims of the still dangerous heavy cruisers. Two had been destroyed outright by the cruisers' railguns while another three had been crippled by ion cannons, but they had accomplished their task. A single heavy cruiser had been destroyed, while the surviving four's flight had slowed to a crawl.

Looking at his screens, Admiral Gray saw a golden opportunity. Orders quickly went out to the Shields, who rapidly swung in a great circle behind the Kendrill heavy cruisers. On the Liberators, marines rushed to ship's boats. Several immediately launched and turned towards the crippled Kendrill light cruiser and destroyer that had been left behind in the running battle.
Half a dozen arrived at each Kendrill ship and cut their way through airlocks to enter the ships. Marines met little resistance as they swarmed through, securing the drives and magazines and rounding up the few Kendrill survivors.

The Kendrill light cruiser sitting on the warp point, the Marauder, now was in a position to cover the cruisers' retreat, and its fire heavily damaged a Shield that had thought itself safe after passing through the heavy cruisers. But its success attracted the attention of the remainder of the Imperial Fleet. Immediately, the Marauder was targeted by every Imperial destroyer and hit by half a dozen torpedoes.
Picking himself up off the floor, the Marauder's Fang looked at his sensors and watched as the Humans' Shields completed their turn into the heavy cruisers' blindspots. Realizing that he risked his ship for nothing, he turned to his helm and issued orders and the Marauder transited back to the home system. It was the last Kendrill ship to escape.

The four surviving Kendrill heavy cruisers, now limping towards the warp point, ceased detuning as it became obvious they would not escape. Each attempted to turn back towards the Humans and die with honor. They never got the chance. Carefully, almost contemptuously, half a dozen Shields opened fired, targeting the heavy cruisers' engines. Before any could complete a turn or fire again, all were crippled.
Not even the loss of their drive fields allowed the cruisers to strike a blow. None of the cruisers' railguns could bear on a human ship, while the Shields had been careful to remain outside of ion cannon range.

As the last drive field dropped, Admiral Gray leapt to his feet. "Launch boats," he shouted to the comm rating. "And contact those Kendrill ships; cease resistance and prepare to be boarded." He stared at the screens for a moment. "Any reply?"
"No sir," answered the rating.
Admiral Gray looked down again at the screen and watched the boats approaching. Before any could get close to the first heavy cruiser, it belched several escape pods, then exploded. In rapid succession, each of the other three surviving heavy cruisers met the same fate.
"Fanatics," the admiral muttered.
"Message from Lieutenant Mays, sir." The comm rating grinned. "One Kendrill light cruiser and one destroyer secured!"
Admiral Gray nodded to himself with the news. For the first time since the Kendrill assault three months ago, he grinned. On board the Liberator, the cheers began and rapidly spread to each ship in the fleet.

On board the Rejoice, Captain Tyler Moss ignored the cheering on the bridge, staring at the viewscreen, watching that area of space into which the last Kendrill light cruiser had disappeared. "Now, wolves," he whispered, "now we are coming for you, in your own den."
Nerf rock, paper is fine. signed:Scissors.
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Marvin Lamb
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