The Hokum - Chapter 5.50

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The Hokum - Chapter 5.50

Postby Zume on Sat 14 Dec 2013 15:03

Lord Admiral Jocelin, commander of Frontier Fleet, wondered not for the last time why the Axis was taking its time. In the day cabin aboard his command cruiser the admiral poured over a plaspaper printout of warp connections centered on Cain. It had been over two months since Frontier Fleet had been recalled from the Geode system to garrison Cain at the expense of burned-out engine rooms. The Bedrock system was reclaimed by the Axis, and having the advantages of position and time they could’ve rushed from Bedrock into Circuit Run, Laser Burn, and finally to Cain. From there the Axis could reclaim Crimson Expanse, just one transit out.

Circuit Run had been reclaimed last month yet there had been no Axis probe from there into Laser Burn, not even a pinnace as far as it could be determined. The Axis force that recovered Geode hadn’t even probed Laser Burn as well, despite securing the Binary Code system five weeks ago. That they had not done so was clear proof of their priorities were elsewhere. Tire Iron was still secured by Admiral Janus’ Expeditionary Fleet, leading the big-wigs at the Presidio to believe that, for the time being, the Axis was set on reclaiming those systems conquered by the Commonwealth. Jocelin appreciated whatever delay the Five Gods had imposed on the boneheads’ advance into Hokum-held systems.

Practically all the ships of Frontier Fleet suffered engine burnout. The assigned quartet of repair ships, sitting two light-minutes from the warp point, was adhering to a fixed schedule of one CVS, BC, CA and DD per cycle. Instead of simply fixing the engines they were being replaced for the ships, indeed the whole of Frontier Fleet, was taking whatever time was available to get refitted with new shields and point defense equipment. All fighter losses were made good with replacements, all of which were of the new F2 Spear model, as well as fresh Garrocha armed pinnaces. As for the fixed defenses there was cause for optimism. Twelve bases guarded the Cain/Laser Burn warp point, backed by a main shell of mines with two additional, much smaller shells for attrition against armed pinnaces. 200 force and 400 energy beam buoys kept the inner shell of mines company. Reinforcements did arrive in the form of additional Imperial Echelon carriers, Broadside missile cruisers, Decisive heavy cruisers and Type 2 destroyers. Admiral Janus even assisted by releasing assault units assigned to her fleet to reinforce Frontier Fleet. Among them were converted Axis ships, and their presence would insure the Axis to destroy them first and thus distracting them from pure Hokum units.

As for the small space station and its associated squadron of mobile yards at the Cain/Stonewash warp point the priorities were changed. There was still a sizable cache of captured Axis ships awaiting conversion and refit. In order to save as many hulls as possible only the bare minimum of repairs – engines, holds, life support and shuttle bays – were conducted, leaving the rest to be handled by the space station in Whel. To further help in that regard the four Opera repair ships in the system will finish what remained of the Axis ships after completing assembly of a quartet of bases.

A chime went off in the cabin, prompting Jocelin to turn his attention to the slim monitor on his desk. The message it displayed put to rest speculation on the Axis’ intention for the Laser Burn system. Four battleships and two DN minesweepers had emerged from the warp point leading to Binary Code, taking the fire of 100 laser buoys in stride. One of the battleships launched 12 Hatchets before retiring with the others. The sole mine warfare ship tasked at the Laser Burn/Binary Code warp point was chased down and destroyed. What remained of the laser buoys were undoubtedly destroyed by pinnaces. Eventually the sensor net in Laser Burn will be neutralized by Axis scouts. If the same pattern used for Binary Code is followed then in two weeks, possibly four, the Axis will invest the Laser Burn/Cain warp point. Jocelin mulled over the data for several minutes. He came to the conclusion that, having two months to reconstitute, the Axis was ready to reclaim the Cain system.

********

It was late morning at Camp Lazlo. The Mongoose crews of the 31st Tactical Armored Regiment gathered around sixteen Bear tanks from the newly arrived 51st Division. A Novillero (Major) from the division, commanding a company of Bears, was giving a briefing about the tank so that the Mongoose crews would become familiarized with it. “Fully loaded, a Bear weighs 42 tons. More than twice the weight of a Mongoose,” said the Novillero. “Front and side armor is 18 centimeters thick with a 35-degree slope, comprised of six layers of composites mixed with starship-grade steel. Back armor is 12 centimeter thick with the same level of slope. The lower hull has armor 10 centimeters thick and is designed to resist improvised explosives as well as mines known to be used by the Axis Army.”

“Just how much of an improvised explosive are we talking about, Novillero,” said Piton (Lt) Corsun, commander of a Mongoose platoon. “Does that include sub-kiloton nuclear charges? Our Commonwealth allies have reported that the Comensal used such charges in the Quad Cities on Borehole.”

“Actually, yes,” the Novillero said with forthrightness. “What the Commonwealth Army reported matched our testing results. In both situations the tanks were lifted as high as 30 meters. Even so the tanks were recoverable and restored to service. The crews in those Commonwealth tanks suffered 70% fatalities with the survivors sustaining major injuries, and it’s projected that our tank crews will have similar results. I remind you that a Mongoose would be obliterated by a sub-kiloton nuke, and there would be no survivors.”

“Not to mention body parts,” said Furdex, commander of a Mongoose named Loaded Vice, in a low voice to his gunner Pendex. “At least with a tank there’ll be bodies for the funerals.”

“You usually hold off on the dark humor until the fourth beer, Sarge,” Pendex replied. “The boneheads don’t need mini-nukes to destroy a Mongoose. Remember that rockfall that crushed one from the 14th last month? The resulting fire from the broken powerpack cremated the crew and cooked off the ammunition. Talk about the ultimate in closed caskets.”

“Now that’s being dark, Pendex.”

The Novillero had been talking during the exchange, reaching the next main subject – armament. “The main weapon is a 90mm smoothbore cannon with autoloader. Total number of projectiles on board is 87, comprising a mix of high-explosive standard, anti-armor sabot, beehive anti-personnel, incendiary, anti-air mini-missiles and micro UAV canisters. A pair of 7mm rail guns are carried – one in a universal mount on the turret and another mounted coaxial with the main gun. On either side of the turret there are two canisters for multi-purpose missiles, and the hull has ten adjustable hardpoints for rockets. Located in the forward upper portion of the hull, clear of the turret, are cover plates for two 50mm mortars. Each has an 18 round magazine with a rotary feed and has 20 degree of traverse left and right along with an elevation up to 50 degrees.

“Aside from armor, the Bear has three times as many point defense strips than a Mongoose and twice as many smoke projectors. Reactive armor blocks can also be fitted. Top speed is 83kph. It has the same power pack as well, and range is comparable if not more due to the fact that the Bear doesn’t have a large rail gun. Also its thermal signature is lower due to the same reason.”

Five minutes later the Novillero dismissed the group so that they could talk with the Bear crews and inspect the vehicles close up. Spuran, driver of the Loaded Vice, looked at the front of a Bear. It was blunt wedge shape, very much like that of a pike used by ancient warriors. In addition to being a good shot deflector the front also had an intimidation factor. Any bonehead seeing that coming at him would no doubt run away unless he wants to be impaled. “Looks great,” he said to Licus, the Vice’s comm and sensors operator, “but I would still like to have a bow-mounted mortar. I rather blow up an enemy in front of me than run him over.”

“Spuran, with this 42 ton beast any Bonehead you run over will hardly register as a bump. Besides, you hadn’t used the bow mortar directly since training. What’s the likelihood of that happening in the time we have left?”

“Licus, don’t tempt the Five Gods that way. Speaking of one’s deficiencies in public is a sure way to gain their attention.”

“You got my attention,” said the driver of the Bear, poking his head up through the open hatch. “Spuran, is it? Come in and take a look at your future office.”

Climbing up the side of the tank, Spuran lowered himself down the hatch and settled into the seat. He noticed that the driver’s compartment wasn’t separated like it was in the Mongoose. The electronics operator station was at the other end in one corner. Behind and above that was the crew access port to the turret. As for the seat the driver, crouching behind him, showed that it could be lowered to the prone position. There were handles on the ceiling and along the floor. When he asked Spuran was informed that these handled allowed the driver to pull himself out so that he could make use of the belly escape hatch. With only the top hull hatch a Mongoose driver ran the risk of being shot by a sniper if escaping from a burning vehicle or being entombed if said vehicle rolled and ended up with the hatch blocked.

“Your transition to the Bear won’t be difficult,” said the driver as he continued his explanation of all the controls. “This control station is very much like of a Mongoose. Once you mastered driving a Bear the rest will be just like a glorified re-certification program.”

Spuran put his front pair of hands on the gear levers. Forward and both treads moved the huge vehicle forward and back for reverse. To spin the tank in place one lever goes forward with the other pulled back. Right foot to accelerate and left foot for the brake. The back pair of hands stood ready over switches and knobs. The Mongoose used a butterfly steering wheel, but aside from that Spuran was sure he could master a Bear in record time. With a blindfold he could operate the smaller vehicle like a pro, going solely on instruments and tonal cues coming over his headset.

The driver continued. “Even the lasers used by the boneheads on their huge blowers will have difficulty with a Bear’s armor. It’s infused with laser dispersion ceramics, just like on a Mongoose, but thicker. ”

“We haven’t seen a bonehead tank laser, or even a man-portable lasing tube in months,” Spuran commented. “I’m sure they’ll bring some of them out just to see how they’ll work against a Bear.”

********

The Axis Fleet Command, after nearly two months of standoff in the Bedrock system, was making its move. Lord Admiral Janus gazed critically at the main plot in the Watchtower’s combat information center. Earlier a drive field contact registered 72 light-minutes out, moving at full speed for a dreadnaught. Once within 12 light-minutes of the Expeditionary Fleet the contact was resolved into 50. All drive signatures were Axis. As there had been no ship contacts until now, just shuttles and pinnaces ferrying supplies to the Axis force of 30 fleet carriers and ten battlecruisers sitting two light-minutes away from the Bedrock/Tire Iron warp point, Janus had four Spears on standing patrol four light-minutes out sent to investigate.

“We should know very soon,” said Cirro, Janus’ chief of staff. “Unless the Axis developed their own F2 fighters we will know what kind of ships we’ll be facing.”

“Especially if they’re assault carriers,” Janus commented. “As none of their scouts have come close enough to know what we really have they’ll likely err on the side of caution. For every assault ship they send against use is one less facing our other two fleets as well as our Commonwealth allies.”

Cirro glanced at a repeater plot displaying a recently received communique. “Speaking of fleets, it seems Admiral Calixto is doing very well, given what she has to work with. We can only hope her impending assault into Bandstand will have the desired effect and cause the AFC to redeploy reserve forces there.”

“Likely, but none of that will help us here. Their tenacity isn’t to be underestimated. Crimson Expanse is the only major colony world that we’re occupying. If the Axis succeeds in pushing us out then we’ll have no choice but to fall back to Doorstop or even Whel itself.”

Over an hour passed. With anticipated Janus and everyone else in the CIC waited as Maro, commander of the Expeditionary Fleet’s strike wings, read off the report from the recon fighters. “They were unable to get definite class identifications, Admiral. The boneheads had no less than sixteen squadrons of F1 fighters running interference with 14 more deployed in a shell 9 light-seconds from the ships. Based on drive strength, there are 18 dreadnaughts, 12 battleships, 12 heavy cruisers, 6 destroyers and 2 corvettes. At least five of those dreadnaughts are assault carriers, factoring in the 30 Hatchet squadrons so far encountered.”

“Well, we should be honored that the Axis has dispatched such a force against us,” Janus mused. “We can’t take them in open space and have a fleet afterwards. Recall all but the red line recon fighters, Cirro. They are authorized to drop life support packs to increase their speed. If the Axis ships or fighters move in force against us then implement the withdrawal plan.”

Cirro had his back pair of hands together in front of him, palm to palm in a gesture of compliance. “At a range of 2 light-minutes a fully loaded strike will reach us in one hour, Admiral. The remaining red line recon fighters can reach their carrier well before the Axis Hatchets arrive. It will take 16 minutes for all the ships in the Expeditionary Fleet to transit back to Tire Iron. Do you still want to employ the last part of the withdrawal plan?”

A sly smile crept on Janus’ face, revealing the tips of her canine teeth. “Yes. It’s only proper that we say something after being on their doorstep for so long.”


Once combined the Axis force launched its attack. The 30 fleet carriers spat out 1008 fighters, more than was anticipated, and sent them hurtling towards the Hokum fleet. Accompanying them was a Pursuer class scout, acting as the strike leader. After recalling the recon fighters Cirro waited until only 25 minutes were left, and then gave the order for the fleet to transit to Tire Iron. The Watchtower was the next to the last ship to leave. It was only a Fast Walker that remained to be identified by the Pursuer’s sensors. The feeling of being cheated radiating from the disappointed Axis pilots required no sensors to detect. Collectively, the Hatchet fighters and the Pursuer came to a halt 8 light-seconds from the warp point. The Fast Walker transmitted a message to its opposite number, asking for a face to face meeting between representatives.

The Axis fleet commander, System Admiral Novhom, felt it was a trap as the abom Hokum would allow a ship to dock to theirs. No doubt to self-destruct and take both to oblivion. To prove their sincerity, the aboms agreed to having the fighters and Pursuer present, and for the Fast Walker to be at a spot 4 light-seconds from the warp point. In such a spot the little scout would be one minute from escape, and would be in the firing envelope of the Pursuer the whole time. Also, once docked, what’s to prevent the destroyer’s marines from taking over the scout? Novhom couldn’t pass up the chance to get some prisoners, so he agreed to the meeting. He sent three destroyers, making the captain of one his representative, and to prove his good faith he had the Pursuer pulled back to 10 light-seconds from the warp point.

What Novhom didn’t know was that Janus had a plan all along. Of the mine patterns in Tire Iron at her disposal two months ago she brought them into Bedrock and deployed in two shells around the warp point. The first shell surrounded the warp point at a range of five light seconds for a total of 360 patterns. Closer in, at four light second range, the second shell comprised of 192 patterns. As for the Axis they were completely ignorant of this, and the Pursuer didn’t come close enough to find out. The shells were meant to slow and confuse an attack of a smaller, combined armed force. In this instance they served their purpose.

Oblivious to what awaited them the trio of Sprinter destroyers entered the outer shell. Set to full engagement parameters the trio of mines patterns in that particular part of the shell went after the ships like filings to a magnet. Already unprepared, the destroyers didn’t even have ECM up as that might spook the abom Hokum to turn about and flee. Severely damaged, the destroyers went on for the captains knew that two of their number wouldn’t make it past the remaining mines. The survivor emerged, moving as fast as its remaining engines would allow and full of malice towards the source of its current torment.

As for the Hokum scout it had come about and moved 1.5 light-seconds closer to home, firing its sole courier drone as insurance. The Pursuer closed to a range of 9 light-seconds and fired a SBM from its internal launcher but missed. Still half a light-second from the warp point the Fast Walker was able to witness the demise of the third Sprinter as it encountered the second shell of mines. The Pursuer fired again, hitting the Fast Walker with an antimatter-armed SBM. Made a wreck and down to one engine room the scout nonetheless escaped, leaving Novhom angry for what had happened and anxious of how he was going to explain this debacle to Star Admiral Mansel.

********

Millstand was the nearest Eloto city to the Comensal spaceport on Elotoshani Prime. Naturally the Comensal ASP had a strong presence here, but there were still a few places where ASP agents didn't check frequently or thoroughly. One of these was crematoriums. The ASP had banned funerals; due to their size they could serve as rendezvous points for resistance members. Instead deceased Eloto were cremated immediately after autopsies (under ASP supervision) and the ashes deposited in clear plastic globes so that nothing could be hidden from view. Due to the smell being quite disagreeable to Comensal sinuses visits to crematoriums by ASP agents were few and far between. A fact appreciated by the resistance.

In the basement of Millstand's crematoria was Nisecu Lake, one of the resistance's field operative managers, and Trodanscu Vat. Being told what to expect still didn't prepare Nisecu for the smell, but Trodanscu was unfazed. "I bet you experienced your fair share of foul smells in the wild, Mr. Vat," said Nisecu, looking a little purple around the mouths.

The retired wildlife ranger pulled a capsule from a compartment on his utility harness. He broke and held the capsule in front of Nisecu's left mouth. "Inhale. This will temporarily deaden your sense of smell. Useful when going through stinkweed patches when claiming a kill."

Nisecu took a deep breath with his right mouth and took the capsule in hand. "Thanks. I feel better already, though that may not last. You've provided valuable intelligence over the years, Mr. Vat. It has made a significant contribution to our plans, and the council has come to a decision. If the war between the alien Commonwealth and the Comensal comes to this system we will actively engage in our liberation."

"Open resistance? That will entail Comensal retaliation on a mass scale, Mr. Lake."

"If we allow it, Mr. Vat. While the orbital bases and space station may bombard us they will only do so under the direct order of the planetary governor and the commander of the Axis Army garrison." Nisecu took another whiff from the broken capsule. "If one of them was killed, then the commander of the orbital works will take his place in regards to the bombardment. However, if both the governor and army commander are killed then there will be no bombardment, from space at least."

Trodanscu looked incredulous. "You wouldn't be telling me this unless I've been chosen to perform this task. That is much to ask of an old man. I'm good with a rifle but both of those men will have to be very stupid to become targets."

"Well, they aren't stupid but they have made your job easier, Mr.Vat. We have learned that the Comensal colonial governor, upon hearing that a Commonwealth warp point assault is in progress, will be taken to the defense center underneath the spaceport. With your findings, and technical plans our other agents managed to secure, it is possible for one agent to get inside the defense center and detonate an anti-matter armed fighter close attack missiles in one of the magazines. Needless to say the resulting chain-reaction of exploding anti-matter warheads will utterly destroy the defense center, spaceport, and the surrounding region. Millstand will be devastated by groundquakes, shockwaves, thermal pulses and falling debris."

"Balancing the survival of our race with our civilian casualties and my noble sacrifice?" Trodanscu said with smiles. "Yes. How can I refuse? My family is gone, my health is going downhill, and the Comensal have desecrated the forest to such an extent that destroying it is the only way it can be redeemed.”

Nisecu stood up. “You’ll find the data on a bio-degradable reader at one of your dead drop points. Once you’ve memorize the contents you’re to heat the reader and then eat it. Stomach acid will do the rest.” From a leg pouch Nisecu handed to Trodanscu a thin sliver of plastic. “This is a beeper that’ll inform you when the operation is on. Upon hearing it carry out the mission. Keep it on you at all times. There will be no more contact with you. Good luck.”

“Thank you, young man. I’m sure the replanted forest will be named in my honor. Just make sure my name is spelled right.”

“Don’t worry. It’ll go through all the proper levels of academic review and endorsement.”

Image
Hokum Imperium Space Navy Imperium Class Battlecruiser - Tech Level 10 Refit http://www.novacw.com/Hokum%20ISN%20Imperium%20Class%20Battlecruiser.jpg
The three capital missile launchers are in the bow of the main hull and on the front of each secondary hull. A trio of force beam emitters are deployed from their dorsal hatches. Hatches for the PD missile interceptors are located at the front of each secondary hull as well as the bow. For the Imperiums their advanced capital point defense installations used four-barreled railgun mounts while the regular advanced installations used pulse lasers. External missile racks are underneath the connecting hull struts.
Art by Adam Kop http://adamkop.deviantart.com/
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Zume
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