The Terpla'ns - Chapter 10

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The Terpla'ns - Chapter 10

Postby Zume on Sat 16 Apr 2016 12:52

Advance Axis scouts had indeed reached the Silvershoe system well ahead of Star Force 3, 2nd Advance Fleet. That they were able to enter the system uncontested was allowed by Commonwealth Admiral Barsus, commanding Task Force 21. Once the scouts were in Barsus had three task elements comprised of carriers and battlecruiser-hulled minelayers move from their holding positions three light-minutes out from the Silvershoe/Connectors warp point. Now ringed with mine patterns and weapon buoys those scouts couldn’t get out until SF 3 mounts an assault. He wanted the Axis to know that the warp point was now invested, leaving them to decide to simply blockade or stage an assault. Either way suited Barsus.

Aboard the Captain Velkoi, flagship of Task Force 21, Admiral Barsus and Captain Yos, the senior staff intelligence officer, were going over reports in the admiral’s day cabin, located next the ship’s CIC. “The Axis has moved back into the Tinsmith system,” Yos said as he brought up the relevant data on a flatpanel screen on the bulkhead. “They’re advancing slower than expected, whether in accordance to their own plans or out of caution. Tinsmith connects to Brass Latch and the dead-end system of Ohm. It’s likely they’ll invest the Tinsmith/Ohm warp point with light amounts of automated weapons and send scouting elements into Ohm to satisfy their security concerns.”

Barsus nibbled on a bit of Salmon jerky, regarding the readout on the datapad Yos handed him. “As well they should, since we went through the trouble of making a sensor net in Ohm. They’ll be looking for it for some time since all communication is tight beam, so while the coverage will have gaps they’ll be compelled to station a few light units in Ohm for months while our ‘units’ stationed there run out of supplies.”

“The scout and the attached supply ship have enough endurance for 16 months, longer if the scout is abandoned in one of the designated solar orbits. As for our own supplies we had to put three now-empty supply ships in one of the designated parking orbits in the outer reach of this system. We have only three months supplies on hand to maintain our remaining ships, not counting any potential combat losses or having more units placed in parking orbits.” Yos flipped through the reader in had in his other hand. “In regards to the Axis force coming down the chain from Borehole it’s likely they’re rebuilding the fixed defenses for the Borehole/Guilded Wire warp point. Once it reaches a level they consider to be adequate they’ll move into Brass Latch and then lay siege to the Brass Latch/Citadel warp point.”

Getting up, Barsus tapped the icon for the Metalstorm system on the flatpanel screen on the bulkhead. It glowed yellow as it expanded to a full system schematic. “Thanks to the information we received via the tenuous link with the Unified Command Center we can infer the Metalstorm/Silvershoe warp point has been invested with significant force from the Axis fleet, given their pace of advance towards Hamthen.” He regarded the warp point icon like it was malicious smudge on a famous painting. “Their strategy still seems to be that of blockading us, letting the eventual lack of supplies to take their toll before attacking. That they haven’t sent so much as a pinnace probe, as far as we know, from this warp point and followed through with a task force lends credence to this assumption. With Evershem captured they’re committing themselves to their assault on Hamthen.”

Yos blinked agreement. “It’s a pity that the Hokum are unable to provide logistical support even to help out the Valhallan fleet in Battlement system. There’s simply not enough time for them to build the freighters needed to transship supplies across their territory, and they won’t allow allied convoys, even unescorted ones, to have access to their systems.”

“In two months that may no longer be a problem, Yos. There was an eyes-only dispatch in the message packet we got from the UCC today. It was signed by Admiral Jki and President Huj and had just two words assigned to a contingency plan. Task Force 21 is to go into Metalstorm as soon as practical. Task Groups 111 and 113 will stay in Citadel to guard the Citadel/Brass Latch warp point. Task Group 112 will cover the Silvershoe/Connectors warp point. The armed pinnace task elements from all three task groups will accompany us to Metalstorm.”

“Audacious, Admiral. We risk losing both Citadel and Silvershoe should the Axis decide to attack in strength while TF 21 is engaged in Metalstorm.”

“We need audacity, Yos. Even if we lose Silvershoe the Axis fleet now menacing Hamthen will be cut off from supply. Faced with rotting on the vine the enemy will either fall back and engage us or proceed to attack Hamthen.”

“If the latter is their plan, Admiral, then we have to hope the defenses in Hamthen are up to the task. That planet represents their greatest failure, even more so than the capture of their colonies. Even if it means the ultimate destruction of the fleet involved so long as Hamethen Prime is utterly destroyed the Axis will consider it worth the effort.”

“They will be bitterly disappointed. We’ll also be taking along the assault elements from Task Groups 111, 112, and 113. It is my intention to enter Metalstorm at the earliest possible moment. Yos, call in the rest of the staff to the CIC.”

“Aye, aye, Admiral. Oh, what was the name of the contingency plan?”

“Hurricane Fury.”

********

First Leader Grandous dismissed the governing council from the meeting room. He had the Chief Administrator of Health and Welfare, Tonsak, stay. One of departments included in Health and Welfare was Morale Resources, which is to say propaganda. The room had a bay window that looked out onto Comensal’s capital city of Unity. Grandous looked out onto that city as he motioned with his hand to have Tonsak join him. “You have something more to say,” he said without turning.

Tonsak went to the window and didn’t turn as well. “Yes, First Leader. Morale Resources is eagerly awaiting the good news from our impending assault on Hamthen. However, it has come to our attention that the populace is just as eager for news on the recovery of those systems still under abomination domination. Bandstand, Battlement, and Citadel. The last one, especially, since it has been occupied by the abominations for the longest time.”

“Yes, for the better part of two years,” Grandous admitted. “If what we’ve seen from the recovery of Borehole and Forger’s Gate is applicable then the people of Citadel are resisting with every fiber of their being. After our setback in the Cain system we’re going to wait another six months. My admirals know now that containment is the only viable option until the Hamthen system is neutralized. The aboms in Citadel will be even furthered weakened by the lack of supplies while we grow stronger.”

“First Leader, given the nature of the warp lines, would it be easier to mount a relief force for Battlement and Citadel via one of the two other closed warp points in the blue giant system that has the abomination repair bases?”

Grandous shifted his gaze to a structure in the distance. It was a 10-story building in the center of the Victory Plaza, constructed after the Lauset conquest. “I want our people on Citadel to know that their resistance provided the driving force of our impending victory. It is only right but demanded by Providence that their efforts on Citadel are rewarded with the destruction of Hamthen Prime. Once that is done a victory plaza will be built to commemorate Citadel as well as our eventual triumph over the abominations. Tell the people that the liberation of Citadel is coming. We shall succeed.”

“Thank you, First Leader. Morale Resources will have something ready to accompany the news of our Hamthen success.”


*******

The Axis citizens in the Metalstorm system had every right to be confident that they wouldn’t be occupied by Commonwealth troops for a third time, especially by those thrice-damned Hazen abominations. Mining was the order of the day for the citizens, but with Hazen marines, clad in armored pressure suits, the output of the mines was limited to keep the outposts and colonies operational. Now that they were gone the bounty of the system’s mineral wealth could be exploited to the fullest.

There were two colonies and eight outposts, and upon liberation their industrial capacity was restored as the Hazen marines had destroyed a good percentage of the infrastructure. Above each colony a small space station was constructed from prefabricated parts, equal to the tonnage of a battlecruiser. Equipped with a small shipyard each these small stations produced munitions, mine patterns, weapon buoys, fighters and small craft for the Axis fleet. Additionally, under construction on the colonies, were ground bases set to house numerous armed pinnaces and escort shuttles for the purpose to serve as a ready supply of replacements for the front. Whatever industrial production was left over was used to produce general use supplies for the Axis fleet train.

The same pattern was repeated in the Blood Pride and Forger’s Gate systems. Industrial improvements were made and with the minimum of infrastructure built the resulting production went towards enabling the various task forces and defenses to be supplied and bolstered. A sizeable number of mobile shipyards and repair ships were built for Operation Restoration. These went towards assembling prefabricated base components, and when that was done their energies went to building asteroid forts and repairing and refitting units. In the case of Borehole, Bedrock and Bulwark the emphasis was in building new orbital shipyards so as to make new ships closer to the front lines.

In contrast the sole Comensal world still occupied by Commonwealth forces, Citadel, the operation to break the colonial resistance went on. Stone Hearth, capital city of the colony, was looking more like a massive parking lot as the prefab buildings were taken down and their basements filled in with plasticrete. Commander of the 1st Expeditionary Corps, Field General Jingu-wa, wanted to accelerate the task for it was drawing in the Comensal colonists-turned-partisans. As it was the operation had to be drawn down considerably for Jingu-wa had a new responsibility placed upon him.

With abandoned ships being placed in distant solar orbits in Citadel and Silvershoe the crews had to be assigned somewhere. Space was at a premium on the transports, and it was decided to place the displaced crews on Citadel Prime. A site was selected in the equatorial tropics, factoring in such things as access to water, fishing and agricultural needs, defensiveness and remoteness from Comensal interference. Since Jingu-wa’s efforts at Stone Hearth were attracting the colonists, and the Comensal dislike of high humidity and temperature, it was a sensible plan.

This was by no means a vacation for those involved. First and foremost was the construction of prefabricated buildings and excavating underground chambers. Terpla’n and Esani army engineers taught spacers these skills among other things. When not building there were college-level classes and recertification tests, exercises, sports, farming and fishing to keep everyone occupied. Most important the spacers were taught infantry skills and tactics and were given weapons training. Many afternoons were spent on constructing bunkers, trenches, pillboxes and foxholes. All were made proficient in using the standard rifle, handgun, grenade launcher and mortars. If worse came to worse the equivalent to an army infantry brigade would be available should the Axis reclaim the Citadel system.

On Bedrock the stranded 3rd Expeditionary Corps, dispersed among the mostly unclaimed continental interiors, was avoiding contact as best it could from Axis ground forces. Sometimes combat was inevitable, both deliberate and accidental. It was one of former that had Dr. Ghon Huu, a specialist on the Comensal, present at the site of a Commonwealth Army devised ambush. He was examining remains and equipment captured in the aftermath. There were no living Comensal to interrogate since the ambush was total in its effectiveness.

Located under a dense canopy of trees the temporary camp was comprised of camo-cloaked tents. Huu was in one of tents along with a Terpla’n sergeant, Huxan, that lead the platoon involved. “We tried, Doctor,” Huxan offered, gesturing to the three tables that held Comensal corpses. “When possible we went for leg shots but the survivors either bled out or suicided with grenades.”

“I see.” The Tzelan regarded one dead Comensal with clinical detachment, removing the rifle it held in rigid hands. He inspected it like a jeweler appraising a precious stone. “A hunting rifle, and judging from the bolt action a well-used one. Quite possibly over a century old. You can see where the hands had left an impression on the wood stock.”

Huxan worked over the weapon with his eyes. “A single shot rifle at that, Doctor. What do these civilian ‘safari parties’ expect to achieve? There’s no need for them at all when the Axis can use regular army troops to deal with us. All there doing is denying themselves of the work the civilians can provide for the war effort.”

The Tzelan raised a wooly eyebrow upon making a discovery. “Look at this, Sergeant.” Huu placed the weapon down and raised the corpse’s hand, fingers extended with the palm facing the Terpla’n. “See how the fingers and palm are calloused? This individual is rather old, and judging from the trigger finger he has fired guns for most of life. I daresay he might even been a veteran of the Lauset conquest, putting him at least 120 standard years old if not more. Ah!” A small tattoo on the corpse’s trigger finger caught his eye. “I see that this individual had participated in a Lauset hunt at some point in his life. This tattoo signifies that he has killed one. In order to participate in such a hunt said individual had to be an expert marksman.”

Huxan did his approximation of a shrug, as much as his Terpla’n physiology would allow. “Could’ve fooled me, Doctor. I thought all Comensal were expert marksmen.”

Huu went to another body, exposing only the hand and again showing it to Huxan. “This one has far less callouses, but she has ‘trigger finger hook’, a form of arthritis that comes about in Comensal from firing guns on a regular basis. She obviously partakes of the firing range as well as sports hunting, judging from the rifle she uses.”

Huu went to another table where captured gear was placed. He picked up what looked like a dense clump of vegetation, but upon turning it over showed that it had webbing holding the assorted leaves and slender twigs in place. “Like all serious sports hunters, the owner of this ghillie suit has extensively modified it. There are no plastics, no metal, and the webbing itself is made of natural fibers. Moreover the native plants remain viable for several days when plucked and wilt slowly. With their low IR signature Comensal so dressed are practically invisible. These senior hunters know their trade well.”

Huxan blinked. “Come to think of it, Doctor, all the civilian safari parties we’ve managed to get intel on have been composed of seniors.”

“Old but seasoned, Sergeant. As you indicated earlier, they could be at home, doing those tasks that their aged bodies would permit them to do. By going out into the field and using their well-honed shooting skills they are contributing to the war effort. As they see it they’re enabling the young to concentrate on production and use their good health to do more. Indeed, there has been some success with these safari parties, much to our detriment.”

“My lieutenant was killed last week by a sniper. Perhaps by one of these Comensal.”

Huu rubbed his chin in contemplation. “If the civilians are going to treat us like dangerous game animals then it should only be appropriate we take advantage of that. Sergeant, I will give you several datafiles on Comensal sports hunting that our forces gleaned from a civilian library server. They should prove quite useful in predicting the behavior of the safari parties. Once our other units are informed and cause significant casualties this might convince the Comensal government on Bedrock to stop the civilians.”

“Or they might conclude that arming them with mortars and drone support is the way to go, Doctor.”

“Not to mention black smoke, Sergeant. We’ll see just how ready they are to kill off great swaths of forests just like they done on Hamthen Prime.”


********

The capital city of Elotoshani Prime, Deep Bay, was old and large. Like all cities, it grew organically so that while the center had narrow streets and densely packed buildings those neighborhoods further out were much less so. It was in the former that Nisecu Lake entered a bookstore that had been in business for over 300 years. The proprietor greeted him and showed him to a private reading room. From floor to ceiling three of the four walls had bookshelves filled with hardcopy print that was as old if not older than the store itself. Closing the door behind him Nisecu saw that that the table in the center of the room had two seats. One was occupied by an elderly Eloto, going through an old book with gloved hands so as not to leave fingerprints. Not so much as to prevent his identity to be discovered but to protect the pages from oils that could over time make the paper yellow and brittle.

“I’m happy to see you,” said the elder as he motioned to Nisecu to sit. “I take it that you had to lose some tails?”

“A few, actually. It seems that half the retirees living in this section of the city supplement their income by tattle tailing on their neighbors and strangers.”

“Yes, an unfortunate result of decades of occupation. Once the Axis is gone we’ll make sure that the black marks applied to them will stick.” The elder closed the book and returned it to the shelf from where he got it. “My sources have obtained some new kernels of knowledge on the Axis shipyard over Evergreen. Some insight has been gained on the progress of the war against their enemies.”

Nisecu’s eyes squinted. Evergreen was the other habitable planet in the Eloto system. It was colonized a scant forty years after the first Eloto went into space. By the time the Axis invaded the home system Evergreen had a population of 250 million. Due to the defiant defense and damage inflicted on the Axis fleet there was no occupation of Evergreen – it was simply bombarded with munitions followed by an Axis army 200,000 strong. In short order the Axis colonized the planet and over the decades of natural growth and a steady influx of population there were now 200 million Axis citizens on that planet.

There were pockets of survivors on Evergreen with radio contact on very few occasions. The last transmission was 20 years ago, describing how the remnants were systematically hunted down and killed by not only soldiers but also from civilian ‘safari’ parties. Both sets of Nisecu’s grandparents were on Evergreen at the time of the invasion. He hoped they had met their end in a bombardment instead of being hunted down for sport. “What have you found out?”

The elder rubbed two of his eyes. “Four standard construction slips were added to the station over Evergreen. Thanks to the intercepted message we know that those slips will be making prefabricated base components and transports to carry those components to the front lines. Two small slips were also added. They are tasked to build additional mine patterns and automated weapons buoys.”

“Sounds like they’ve made some gains.”

“Yes, a likely scenario. In that message a certain percentage of those mines and buoys will be allocated to this system’s warp point.”

Nisecu was perplexed. The Eloto system only had one warp point and was considered by the Axis to be far removed from the front lines. “If the Commonwealth made an unexpected entrance into Axis space in a nearby system that would be a sensible precaution.”

“Sensible, but in this case it’s a matter of restocking, Nisecu. You see, the Axis isn’t the production powerhouse it likes to think it is. All those mines and buoys for their offensive, their so-called Operation Restoration, had to come from somewhere. As of now there are only 60 patterns of mines and 12 weapon buoys in place around this system’s warp point. That is to say only 5% of the prewar total.”

“That’s rather confident on their part, elder.”

“And worrisome, my fellow. It was stipulated in the message that the rate of replenishment for the mines and buoys is 2% per month. If this is an indication that the Axis made considerable gains then they might go ahead and enact their ‘Eloto Solution’.”

“Something that the others will factor into their contingency plans when I tell them,” Nisecu replied. “I’ll have to be here for a few hours before I can leave. This isn’t the kind of store where one leaves after a few minutes.”

The elder pushed a time-worn book towards Nisecu along with a pair of gloves. “I suggest you read this to pass the time. It’s a study on ancient warfare, particularly on sieges. You may find it insightful when the opportunity presents itself to invest the Axis enclave on this planet.”

*******

Star Admiral Bonson, commander of Star Force 1, 2nd Advance Fleet, was in the CIC of his command superdreadnaught along with System Admiral Vangen, his chief of staff. They were waiting for news of the probe they sent into the Evershem/Hamthen warp point, staring at the holo imager with an intensity reserved to game masters in a tournament. Due to the nature of such probes it was a very short wait.

“Two minutes,” said Vangen. “We would’ve gotten at least a pinnace back.”

“240 of them, along with 200 Dispersions,” Bonson added as he glared at the readout as the probe force was officially marked as destroyed. “Factoring in mass transit losses there would’ve been more than enough to come back after one minute. With no courier drones from the Dispersions either we can come to just one conclusion. The Hamthen defenses must be formidable enough to destroy the whole probe force in 30 seconds.”

“It’s inescapable that it was a mix of fighters, bases, ships, and automated weapons, Admiral.” Vangen turned off the imager. “In my opinion the bulk of the losses would have to come from laser buoys. That way there would be no courier drones at all.”

“I’m forced to agree, Vangen. We’ll go ahead with variant ‘B’ of the assault plan. 80% of fighters embarked on the assault carriers will carry a pair of standard close attack missiles and a gun pack each. The rest will have pure loads of anti-matter close attack missiles. In conjunction with the armed pinnaces those fighters will destroy all bases within datalink jamming range of the warp point. All assault waves will be at the capacity of the warp point just short of causing it to destabilize.”

“The relevant orders will be passed immediately, Admiral. As for the tenders that carried the probe pinnaces they will head back to Output to get resupplied. At what time will the attack be carried out?”

“30 hours, Vangen. With Providence at our side we will crush the Abominations and blot out that mark against our honor – Hamthen Prime.”


On the other side of the warp point the allies were quite pleased with the results, none more so than Flag Admiral Tulcus Jki. Commanding from the CIC on the battleship Coral Sea, Jki reviewed the results. Only seven patterns of mines and nine weapon buoys were lost in return for the destruction of those pinnaces and Dispersions that survived the mass transit. In fact two of the Dispersions were captured, snared by capital tractor beams and liberally dosed in energy beam fire thanks to the quick action of a Tuphonese base commander and a Bulani battlecruiser. They were now in the process of being towed to Hamthen Prime to be inspected by the fleet train’s mobile shipyards.

An automated weapons control ship was sent in to rearrange the inner mine pattern and buoy shell so they were more-or-less even, thus denying the enemy a definite starting point for minefield clearance in their inevitable next attack. Jki turned from the repeater plot she consulted and looked at her staff. “They’ll come. Perhaps in an hour or perhaps in two days, but they’ll come. We can’t praise the gods too much for the Axis still being ignorant of our new weapons. Their mine clearance ships especially will get a rude shock should they enter the inner shell immediately. If they decide to wait until the inner mine shell thins out that will allow us to destroy more of those escorts, corvettes and frigates they’re so fond of. We have to win, for the fleets and ground forces trapped behind the Axis blockades are depending on us for salvation. Let’s not keep them waiting in vain.”

After the staff acknowledgement Jki sat down. The pain in her gut came back on cue, though now she now was able to control her external reaction for the most part. She left it unsaid that, as far as anyone knew, this was the only route the Axis had open to them to advance. Any attack they would make here would be an all-out effort. Even if they only had a carrier group left then it would be enough for Hamthen Prime only had the beginnings of a space station. All other defenses were rightfully prioritized for the warp point.

Jki trusted her staff to oversee all the necessary details without burdening her with unneeded, trivial matters. She purged her mind of doubts and concerns. The upcoming battle demanded that she confront it with a clear, unobstructed mind. It will come when it comes, she told herself as she left the CIC to her cabin for a few hours sleep.


Image
Commonwealth Space Force Okado Class Destroyer - TL 10 Refit http://novacw.com/CSF%20Okado%20Class%20Destroyer.jpg
Art by Adam Kop http://adamkop.deviantart.com/
The Okados were the most produced class of destroyers in CSF, closely followed by the Falogren class. They fulfilled whatever task was given to them, and with the refit and anti-fighter missiles the class was more flexible than their Axis Sprinter counterparts.

Sharing the same hull and build there is no immediate way to discern an Okado from a Falogren; even their solitary missile launchers were located under and behind the bow. Only when their missiles are fired and beam turrets deployed would one know which is which.
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Zume
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