The Hokum - Chapter 4.50

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The Hokum - Chapter 4.50

Postby Zume on Fri 24 Feb 2012 18:49

The ISA Frontier Fleet, already consolidated at the Geode/Com-30 warp point, waited for an impending Axis attack. Keeping the minefields and buoy parks around the warp point company was the combat area patrol, composed of 16 squadrons of F1 Spears, 15 Garrocha and 9 regular pinnaces. Orbiting at 1.5 LS distance, just outside plasma gun range, were 18 Type A frigates. Lord Admiral Jocelin held the rest of his fleet 6 light-seconds out from the warp point, thus keeping any snooping pinnace in ignorance of the fleet’s true strength.

It had been five days since the Axis reclaimed Com-30, and all of the Fast Walker scouts in the system had been unable to send definite reports on the strength of the enemy fleet. Each scout had been intercepted either by escort or corvette-hulled vessels and then chased away by F1 Hatchets that had extended range. Jocelin was ready to bet his back arms that the boneheads had developed and deployed life support packs for their fighters. Such technology had just been perfected in the Imperium and the first examples were even now en-route to his fleet. That the enemy most likely had them now showed they were on technical parity with the ISA if not the Commonwealth. As for the scouts they were now isolated in Com-30, their drones unable to break past the invested Axis forces.

As for the fleet, Jocelin was stronger now than three months previous. Of the 21battlecruisers only three were of the new Broadside class and six more were undersized Foreguards. 18 Interior cruisers were joined by three Lancers, conversions of captured Axis light cruisers. All 27 Type 2 destroyers had be refitted with multiplex tracking systems, improving their flexibility. In regarding carriers there were two CV and 18 CVS hulls present with a total of 66 Spear squadrons. Given the importance to hold the warp point Jocelin had all three armed pinnace tenders brought forward along with the Balcony. Those Garrochas and regular pinnaces not part of the CAP were tasked with point defense the fleet in the radius of the jammers provided by the five CAEs, the Rodeo Clown and Union Animal minesweepers. 3 Taggers rounded out the formation, leaving all the auxiliaries and remaining warships in orbit of Geode Prime’s moon.

The three Interior cruisers in the Smelter system, two transits out Geode’s third warp point, had been given the recall message. Only two undersized corvette-hulled freighters were destroyed during the brief tour of the system, and since there were only outposts the Axis inhabitants could only produce refined minerals. It was a three week journey at cruising speed for the cruisers to rejoin the fleet, and if the Axis was willing to wait one more after that then Frontier Fleet would be even further reinforced from Whel.

Unaware of Jocelin’s wishes the Axis force in Com-30 made its move. On the sixth day they made their entrance with a mass transit of ships and armed pinnaces followed by five DN-hulled ships, the last of which was clearly using engine tuners. Of the 12 frigates, 108 corvettes, 84 escorts and 18 explorers that entered 8, 46, 26 and 6 interpenetrated respectively. 6 of the 36 armed pinnaces similarly were immolated. All the ships emerged facing the 18 Type A frigates, orbiting the warp point in a counter-clockwise manner 1.5 LS distant in an arbitrary northwest position. As yet unseen was the rest of the Frontier Fleet, 6 LS behind the Axis ships and orbiting in a counter-clockwise manner as well, perfectly tucked in the blindspots of their enemy. The leading DN fired first, three of its thirteen CAMs hitting, spreading their antimatter fury across the targeted Type A frigate. Three HET lasers and a capital force beam followed, completely destroying the small ship.

Those Spears and Garrochas of the CAP able to arm weapons in this opening exchange did what damage they could, aided by long-range missile fire from the active ships of the fleet. The Type A frigates spurred into action fired their needle beams into the shield-down DNs, lancing magazines, ECCM, long-range scanners and overload dampeners. Only three small Axis ships were destroyed outright, but one of the two assault carriers lost all of its hanger bays. Had the fighters in those bays been armed with FRAMs then the whole ship would’ve gone up in a massive fireball. That it hadn’t indicated the embarked fighters were primed for dogfighting. 9 of the 30 Axis armed pinnaces were shot down by the CAP Garrochas and regular pinnaces while the small Axis ships fired mine clearance rounds from external racks as well as internal launchers. Only twelve patterns were blotted out along with seven buoys.

For the Hokum they thanked the Five Gods as all three Empresarios came active and fired 300 of 360 one-shot laser buoys. Only 6 of the 138 Axis ships received no hits at all, and those already hit by the fleet were further harmed. Any amount of damage done at this point mattered, for 103 of the 138 ships started erratic maneuvers and pumped up ECM to maximum, entering the northwest mine patch just as the second wave started to transit. This included the heavily damaged DN(V) for in no way was it able to get out of the system in time. Set to maximum engagement parameters, the mines swamped the Axis formation. 27 ships were destroyed with 35 more rendered engineless. Jocelin could only shake his head. For the massive investment in expendable small ships only 42 of the 120 mine patterns in the selected mine patch were eliminated in this opening exchange. Once again overt aggression was a trait the Axis had to express at every opportunity and was perhaps their greatest weakness.

Of the ships that stayed on the warp point 2 of the 24 escorts transited back to Com-30, undoubtedly equipped with tactical scanners. The six corvettes that stayed put assisted the five Hatchet squadrons launched from the other DN(V) by turning on their jammers, messing up the datalinks of the remaining armed CAP squadrons but in the process made them priority targets for the Hokum. As for the 12 remaining Type As they moved 0.25 LS further away from the warp point, putting them out of reach of the plasma-armed Axis corvettes. Having accepted this, those ships seemed content with blasting away at buoy weapons while the gun-armed ships focused on the mines with clearance charges.

The second wave of ships were composed of three apparent DN(V)s and three BBs of an unknown class, but not for long. Facing arbitrary northwest the first BB fired external clearance charges into the minefield and dual pairs of spinal force and capital energy beams at one Type A, stripping it of passives and doing internal damage via massive electrical overloads. Only transit effects limited damage from the other two BBs on the remaining frigates. With ECCM gear sniped by needle beams earlier the three Axis DNs missed quite a bit, only savaging two Type As nearly to the point of death.

Exploiting their advantage the 30 Hatchet fighters obliterated 28 Spears for the loss of only six of their own from the Garrochas. For splitting the fire, and doing worthy damage to the newcomer ships, the Garrochas only bagged three Machetes while losing 13 of their own, leaving just two. The nine regular pinnaces failed to score a single kill. Three untouched Spear squadrons got their fire control on-line and blasted the passives of the three DN(V)s. Long range missile fire from the fleet only took out a few of the immobilized ships in the minefield, and further damaged a new DN(V)s, destroying all of its bays. Again this was taken as proof that the embarked fighters were armed for dogfighting.

With cool calculation Jocelin fired 50 of his remaining laser buoys, followed by 60 of the force beam variety, to ‘delouse’ the immediate area around the warp point of crippled Axis ships. Only 64 small ships remained, but nearly one-third of those were Dispersions atop the warp point. As for the remainder the minefield would expend fewer patterns to destroy them, and the energy beam buoys had far fewer targets to engage.

Two Dispersions, one toothless jammer corvette, two first-wave DNs and the surviving DN(V) transited back to Com-30, passing the incoming third wave. None of the second wave DN(V)s made it out for they had sustained enough damage so that they were coming about at reduced speed. Ten more Hatchet squadrons were launched, all intent to secure the immediate area of the warp point. All the CAP fighters and pinnaces that had remained were blotted out, but not before one final Spear squadron belched its load of FRAMs into a Soar DN(V), breaking shields and sorely testing the armor. For the other Hatchets and Machetes they savaged one buoy park, leaving just three known automated weapons that hadn’t fired yet. Back in the minefield the remaining small ships, 39 in all and regardless if they were moving or not, were beset by a fresh attack from the automated weapons. None remained, naturally, but their death reduced the patch to a little over 56 patterns.

For the BB trio and the newcomer SD they fired their spinal weapons and energy beams at the Type-As, reducing their number to 9 with one made into a shorted-out hulk. The little ships took revenge by lancing the overload dampeners and ECM suites of the second-wave Soars, making them all the more vulnerable to energy beam buoys. The National Reach DN concentrated on the mine patch and the temporary debilitated Hero fired and missed the buoy weapon it was targeting. Deliberate missile fire destroyed 9 Dispersions, leaving 28 ships on the warp point. To further ‘delouse’ the enemy Jocelin had 84 force beam buoys fired, 3 for each ship. One formerly noxious jammer corvette and two of the escorts were destroyed as a result. Next came 100 energy buoys, doing the most harm to the Soars while only destroying one corvette. One second-wave Soar only needed a harsh look for it to be destroyed.

Hangers intact, 15 more Hatchet squadrons from the third-wave Soars leapt into the void and held station over the warp point. Heading back to Com-30 was the last first-wave Prestige, two second wave and two third wave Soars and one Dispersion. Incoming were three National Reach missile DNs and three Hero BCs. With the abom fleet incoming the spinal beam armed ships started to come about to bring their weapons to bear. As for the noisome Type-As the 18 remaining Machetes braved the mines and charged, only losing one of them in the process and three more from point defense fire. Of the 18 that started the battle only two Type-As remained, one with just its weapon operable and another that was burned out by energy beams. In dying defiance the frigate used its needle beam to further slow the remaining third-wave Soar.

At 5 LS range the Frontier Fleet, sans carriers but covered by 47 Spear squadrons, fired on the Axis ships with their capital force beams as well as missile launchers. The rest of the Dispersions, jammer corvettes, and the broken second-wave Soar were swept away with the rest of the second and third wave ships getting shields pounded down and some with armor being scrapped. For all that only one Foreguard cruiser sustained shield damage. With the Machetes certainly coming back to finish them off Jocelin had the rest of the buoys fired in sequence against the 13 Axis ships – 7 force, 36 energy and 4 one-shot lasers. What was gained from this was seeing that two of the BBs, Cannonade class ships, had to burn out an overload dampener each to prevent internal damage. For that involuntary admission they were going to get pounded on force beams while missiles were targeted on the National Reaches.

Three Axis BBs and a like number of CAs joined their brethren atop the warp point. As for the last Soar from the third wave it had sustained more damage. Even though it achieved its exit vector there simply wasn’t enough motive power to carry through, all thanks to energy beam damage. There was no doubt that it was going to return to Com-30 a barely mobile wreck. At a range of 4.75 LS the Hokum concentrated on maximizing damage on the spinal force beam-armed ships with the National Reaches being a secondary objective. Most of the ships flushed their external racks of laser-tipped capital missiles, destroying those racks on Axis ships that still held EDMs. For their part the Axis badly mauled a Foreguard cruiser.

As before three more BBs and three CAs emerged from the warp point, all turning not only to face the approaching Hokum but also to achieve their exit vector. The last Soar past them as it finally transited back to Com-30, streaming air as well as debris. Now at 2.5 LS range the needle beams on the Type 2 DDs and converted Axis ships could do their voodoo on the internals of their enemy. A National Reach from the third wave lost its magazines, capital point defense and expensive improved multiplex targeting system. Jocelin believed in standard Axis behavior and was rewarded when, instead of targeting his BCs went after the three Lancer CLs. One was obliterated and another half-dead, along with the picked-on Foreguard, its remaining internals fired by energy beam fire and polished off by a single capital missile hit. In compensation all four National Reach DNs had their magazine lanced, along with four Hero BCs losing their ECCM gear and some HET lasers. So damaged the Heroes would be at heavy disadvantage when the Hokum ships went to full ECM, and they did. 40 of the 47 Spear squadrons, already 0.5 LS ahead of the fleet and loaded with FRAMs, moved to point blank range of the Axis force on the warp point. They were passed by 15 squadrons of Hatchets, leaving 15 more behind to savage the incoming strike.

Showing some prudence, the Axis commander had all four National Reaches and two Heroes transit back to Com-30. While the Hokum fleet crawled four of the number moved ahead. Each one was an anti-fighter escort, a mix of CA and BC hulls, and they moved just enough so that their jammers held sway over the warp point. It was fair play, for the three CAs of the sixth wave and the sole SD had jammers as well. Knowing they were doomed, with their fire greatly degraded by the defensive maneuvering and ECM, the Axis ships only shifted a portion of their fire to the jamming ships. The Lancers and Taggers were still the primary targets for the Axis ire. For Jocelin it was easier, for only the shields on the Axis CAEs had to be breached, allowing the Type 2s to lance the jammers with needle beams. As for the big SD, already with breached armor, it was going to be smashed into powder. The only surprise came as one of the Axis CAEs launched a squadron of fighters to reinforce the defense. In terms of the overall battle it was just a footnote, even though six Spears were brought about those latecomers.

Still, even though they operated as singletons the Axis crews and pilots put up a stiff fight. The Lancers and Taggers were destroyed, along with a Foreguard, Deflector 2, 2 Type 2s, and 42 Spear fighters. For that only 42 Hatchets out of 186 that survived launch remained, and only one practically dead BB from the fifth wave and a Stout from the seventh and last wave transited out to safety. Of the 15 Machetes one died in the minefield with four more interpenetrating back in Com-30. Expecting a suicide attack on the surviving CAE that jammed Axis datalinks it came as a surprise the Hatchets chose their five stranded ships instead. Only 20 Hatchets emerged from the five fresh debris clouds, and instead of attacking the Spears these doomed, dedicated pilots fired into the buoy parks right up to the end.

For all the effort expended the Axis could claim the expenditure of all 360 of the one-shot laser variety and leaving only 154 (180) force and 101 (180) energy buoys. The northwest mine patch was done to just one pattern plus change out of 120. Jocelin, having witnessed the use of armed pinnaces by the Axis, thanked the Five Gods that he initially held back his fleet from the warp point. Any closer would’ve invited a mass transit of pinnaces. Further reflection lead the Admiral to consider the possibility that this attack, as expensive as it was for the Axis in terms of small ships and crews, may have been nothing more than a heavily armed reconnaissance in force. Then he considered what remained of his fixed defenses. Mine patterns could be redistributed, along with the remaining buoys, but with laser buoys gone any fresh assault will have to augment the CAP with the firepower of his fleet at a much closer range. Even 100 transit-addled armed pinnaces could wreak havoc with his ships, especially the Type 2s.

Eighteen hours later whatever revised defense plans Jocelin had went out the airlock. Word came from the ISN fleet base in Whel. An Axis fleet successfully returned to Bedrock, smashing CSF fortifications and causing those mobile units in the system to flee. On his own admission the surviving senior CSF admiral in Bedrock said that the defenses at the Circuit Run/Bedrock warp point won’t be able to resist a determined assault. Once Circuit Run falls the Axis could go to Laser Burn and then to Cain, effectively cutting off Crimson Expanse and Lord Admiral Janus’ Expeditionary Fleet. Jocelin’s orders were to fall back to Cain and guard the Cain/Laser Burn warp point.

Of the 601 remaining mine patterns 300 were to be picked up, along with 64 force and 41 energy beam buoys, to reinforce the defenses in Cain. Two Empresarios, one Deflector, and eight Imperial Waves were to stay behind in Geode until the rest of the fleet cleared the system. They were to bloody the nose of any fresh Axis warp assault during their wait. As for the three Interiors coming back from Smelter, Jocelin gave new orders. They were to transit Com-27, Geode, Binary Code, and Laser Burn at full speed in order to reach Cain. In this instance it was better to have three ships on the defense with burned out engines than lose them in the dark to Axis forces or running out of supplies in Com-28, a trackless void with only a warp point to its name. As for the two Type A frigates there wasn’t time to repair their systems and were scuttled on the spot.

Regarding the captured and converted small station over Geode 3-B it was going to be destroyed. Instead of a nuke the station’s thrusters were programmed to fire in separate directions at full power. The crew watched from departing pinnaces as the station began to buckle from the stress, support girders breaking and bending like a massive windstorm was at work. What resulted was that the weak-hulled construct lost internal reinforcement, literally having a broken spine as it fell out of its orbit, eventually coming to a crash landing on the moon’s surface. Now freed from Hokum oversight, the Axis colonists began the laborious process of building a new station. It wasn’t long before they received help in their endeavor.


********


Inside the Comensal colonial enclave on Elotoshani Prime the morning tranquility was about to be shattered. Instead of calm orderliness System Admiral Wanfel found barely constrained chaos at the Science Development Bureau building. He sought out and immediately found his adjutant, Prime Commander Konset. “What is going on, Commander?”

“A sharp, twisting knife in the gut, Admiral,” said the charged up Commander. “Everything appeared normal just fifteen minutes ago. Then the databases began to crash and the firewalls are down. Every attempt to reestablish them has met with failure. Our security software is only slowing this attack. We’re now in the process of physically removing the datacores and isolating them in casks.”

Wanfel saw for himself several technicians rolling several large, lead-lined casks towards one of the datacore archive rooms. “Even the archives, Konset?”

“Even those, Admiral. Until we can secure all the wireless networks we don’t dare let those cores have access to them.”

Wanfel walked briskly to his office with Konset in tow. Only a blinking action light drew his attention to the screen on his desk. A priority message awaited his attention. It was a log of messages that the SDB received from the space communications network. One of them had the seal of the First Leader. After authenticating his identification Wanfel read the message, hands clenching into fists. “Have you seen this?” the senior asked of his junior.

“Yes sir, just as I got the first reports of irregularities. We’re the only two that have seen it. Clearly it has to be a master forgery.”

“Yes, Konset, it has to be, for in no way could a First Leader order the erasure of all R&D datacores,” Wanfel seethed. It was worse than that for the message didn’t tell the two officers to destroy the data, but informed them. An override program had came along with the message, and with codes supposedly only known by the First Leader began the process that had sent the SDB on its frantic effort to save what it can.

A malicious thought occurred to Wanfel. He left his office with Konset in tow, making for the ASP monitoring room. He went up to the security’s manager office so that he could look out from the bay window at the huge screen that dominated the workstation space below. Subdivided to display locations near or inside the conclave Wanfel had the manager change the views. Now he witnessed the activity in twelve Elotoshani laboratories across the planet. He did not like what he saw.

“It looks like the Aboms are celebrating,” said Konset. “They’re not permitted to do that in the labs.” Indeed the Eloto scientists, technicians, and their assistants were not only drinking vintage liquor but also what had to been food cooked right in their own labs, undoubtedly smuggled in over a period of days if not longer.

Wanfel’s eye went from view to view, his fingers plucking at the fine hair at the divide between two boney segments of his chin. “What are they looking at?”

The security manager had his workers find out. “Admiral,” he finally said, “they’re looking at raw data streams of our efforts to stop the database collapse.”

A twitch and a jerk by Wanfel pulled out some of the hair he had been plucking at, the pain bringing his mind into focus. “Those blasphemous abominations! Desecrating not only our work but also Providence by their mere existence!” He looked at Konset and the security manager. “The First Leader will give the proper orders on what to do to this abomination race. For now we can dispense punishment to those aboms disobeying our rules.” He swept his hand in front of him, like he was wiping the big screen clean. “I take full responsibility. I want all twelve of those labs gassed now. All other Eloto R&D establishments are to be evacuated and razed to the ground. Not even their basements will remain.”

“Immediately, Admiral,” and with that Konset left to fulfill those actions assigned to him. As for the security manager he pulled out a key he kept around his neck on a chain and inserted it into a lock he had on his desk. He turned it and then entered a password on his work terminal. Within twenty seconds of issuing the electronic commands all twelve labs were locked down with the ventilation systems pumping in black smoke. Wanfel watched, eager to see the Eloto writhing on the floor as the interior of their lungs were coated by slick, oily residue.

After a full two minutes nothing happened, aside from the Eloto not eating or drinking anymore. Wanfel was perplexed, ordering that the black smoke be increased. Two minutes after that there was still no sign of the four-legged freaks dying. It was becoming hard to see them, but the infrared view showed them quite well and kicking.

“Hey, Wanfel,” came an Eloto voice speaking perfectly fluent Comensal from one of the observed labs. “The condemned in both our societies are allowed an uninterrupted meal before facing death. Now why don’t you be so kind and send some of your groundpounders in here with some fresh fried meat and wine? Your black smoke has ruined the flavor of our food and drink.”

“I’ll show you fresh fried, you impudent wretch!” Wanfel yelled aloud, startling everyone in earshot. “Burn them!”

The security manager sent fresh commands. Troops stationed at each lab opened murder holes located in the ceilings and shoved flamethrower nozzles through them. After twenty minutes of firing the order was given to stop for there was no one left in the labs to kill. “Collect and incinerate their remains,” said the Admiral, his bloodlust and frustration sated… for now. “I want the senior abom R&D directors interrogated. They somehow found a way to neutralize our black smoke. They’re going to tell us the secret, or watch their families die right in front of them, one by one.”


Hokum Type A class FG AM2 AC 4 XO Racks 22 Hull TL 9
(1)(S0x4)(Acx6)ZHs(M2)(I)DzXrsN?2(Ii)Qs!2N(3)
22 RCP 3 MCP Trg: 3 Bmp +4 Tem -2 Cost = 590mc/88.5mc
HTK 23 S0 x 4 Ac x 6 Dz x 1 N x 2


Axis Hand of Providence class SD AM2 33 XO Racks 165 Hull TL 9
(3)(S0x30)(Acx60)AiHs[(IIIII/It)QODix2]HOQ(IIIII/It)O(Lh)DzEcEcFsFs!2Dc(Mi1)DiEcEcFsFs!2DcXrsZi?2(IIIII/It)?jQs(BbM)(4/5)
165 RCP 10 MCP Trg: 9 Atk +1 Bmp +4 Tem -2 Jam Cost = 4665mc/699.8mc
HTK 148 S0 x 30 Ac x 60 Ai x 1 Dc x 2 Di x 3 Dz x 1 O x 4 Fs x 4 Ec x 4 1 pinnace


Axis Cannonade class BB AM2 AC 20 XO Racks 100 Hull TL 9
(2)(S0x19)(Acx48)AiH(BbS)Q[(III/It)O(III/It)Dzx2](Lh)EcFs!2Dc(M8)EcFs!2DiXrsZi?2(III/It)Q(5/6)
100 RCP Trg: 9 Bmp +4 Tem -2 Cost = 2954mc/443.1mc
HTK 109 S0 x 19 Ac x 48 Ai x 1 Dc x 1 Dz x 2 Di x 1 O x 2 Fs x 2 Ec x 2 1 shuttle
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Zume
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