The Terpla'ns - Chapter 10.25

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The Terpla'ns - Chapter 10.25

Postby Zume on Wed 29 Nov 2017 15:15

It was not a long wait after all. Star Admiral Bonson stayed to his schedule. 30 hours after the failed probe of the Evershem/Hamthen warp point the Axis commander launched the largest assault of the war to date. The first wave had 640 Machete armed pinnaces and 158 ships, comprising mostly of Critical Mass and Grenadiers and a handful of assault carriers. 40 of the little ships and 4 Falcon Crest carriers interpenetrated, leaving six intact along with three Talon Pride carriers. 540 Machetes also survived the mass transit, having been tasked into two groups and arriving on two separate vectors. One group went subjective ‘north’ with the other going ‘south’, plowing through four complete minefield shells with the first one far thicker than the others. They took their losses, antimatter fireballs fueled by their own exploding FRAMs marked their passing, and that was only the beginning.

What awaited the Axis forces were no less than 126 bases, arranged in four distinct shells. The inner shell had 36 bases split into groups of 6 sitting 1.25 LS from the warp point, just at the outer edge of datalink jamming. The second shell had 54 bases, arranged in six groups of 6 and six groups of 3 each at a range of 2 LS. As for the third shell it had 18 bases in six groups of 3 at a range of 3 LS and a final shell of 18 bases in six groups of 3 at 5 LS range. Base size ranged from diminutive type-2s to monstrous type-6s. 144 Shark fighters and 18 Hamthen Gar AFSC formed the cap, divided in six groups associated with the inner shell of bases. A group of 60 ships orbited the warp point at a range of 1.5 LS, with half being battleships and dreadnaughts and the rest light cruisers to battlecruisers. Another group of 24 ships, all dreadnaught sized, were orbiting at a range of 2 LS. The size of the innermost mine shell was 1200 patterns, less those mines spent on attacking the armed pinnaces that went through. The outer three shells were just one-fourth as thick. As for the automated weapons, they were considerable. No less than 1200 weapon buoys were present in one shell. Despite this the allied crews braced themselves for the Axis clearly was of the mind they had the strength to break the defenses and enter the system like a steel auger biting into nearly petrified wood.

No mine clearance ordnance was fired from the external racks of the Axis ships. Instead transit-addled CAMs were fired at one of the closest bases while the armed pinnaces settled above their targets, waiting while their targeting systems stabilized after transit so their weapons would be at full effectiveness. Those fighters of the CAP that armed weapons attacked as well as those bases and ships within range reaching action stations. On their external racks were anti-drive missiles, attacking the Axis Falcon Crest carriers with all other weapons (save one) in range engaging the armed pinnaces. Losses were inflicted, though not enough for what was to follow.

The second Axis wave entered as four Falcon Crest carriers managed to transit out with engine rooms burned out by ADMs or lanced by primary beams. Before doing so, however, those four and the other surviving assault carriers of the first wave launched 288 Hatchet fighters, staying together and heading for a separate base group of the inner shell. As for the second wave the total numbers involved were 196 explorers, 30 corvettes, 10 Falcon Crest carriers and 4 battleships. 70, 6, and 2 of the former interpenetrating and exploded while the battleships lost none. Those battleships were of the dedicated assault variety, firing transit-addled beams and external CAMs at one of the larger inner shell bases. Jammers on both sides knocked out the datalinks of everything within 1.25 light seconds of the warp point. As for the allied warships, sitting just outside that jamming, were firing as singletons or in pairs as their numbers still reached for battlestations. Not so for distant trio of Humarsh BS6. They fired a punishing salvo of 60 capital missiles, antimatter warheads utterly destroying one Falcon Crest.

It was here the Axis learned that both the Allies and the Hokum did indeed employ the same kind of new weapon, and it wasn’t some variant of a point defense missile. A Cqux class missile DN, along with every other ship and base equipped with launchers, fired anti-fighter missiles at every armed pinnace and fighter within range. Those pinnaces that didn’t expend their point defense against Shark fighters found that they could defend themselves, but those that did were just as dead as their fighters. Even so the pinnaces took even a heavier pounding from a new form of point defense, their larger size working against them as always. But for that the Allies lost 18 bases of the inner shell and a total of 10 mine patterns from standard clearance rounds fired from the Critical Mass explorers’ external racks, all at a patch that the pinnaces moved through earlier. For the moment the fact that the mine detonations were more powerful than expected was overlooked. Only 6 weapon buoys were shot down by Axis point defense, saving them for Shark fighters and missiles for the most part.

No carriers arrived in the third wave. 10 DNs, 10 BBs, 8 BC, 6 FG, and 16 EXs emerged with only 2 BBs, 4 FGs and 12 EXs interpenetrating in their sequenced arrivals and exploding. 216 Hatchets were launched from the second wave carriers along with 20 escort shuttles from one of the assault BBs. Only 4 carriers transited out as more Allied ships and bases fired ADMs from their external racks. 288 Shark fighters, crash launched after the first wave entered, had reached the inner shell of bases. Due to their location of launch, only half of the new Sharks engaged the fresh Hatchets as they went after more inner shell bases. Axis scanners now picked up a group of 12 Allied carriers, all fleet size, approaching the 5 LS mark at cruising speed though they hadn’t launched their strikegroups yet. As for the Machete armed pinnaces they turned and retreated to the warp point. At the same time the explorers (save for the 70 Defiants, which stayed put), corvettes and frigates from the first and second waves modulated their engines, ramped up ECM to maximum, and entered an untouched patch of the inner mine shell that was in line with the Humarsh capital missile BS6s.

One cannot fault them for charging in, not wondering why the buoys hadn’t fired and weaken them. As it stood even the fourth iteration of the Critical Mass series could take two mine pattern attacks before expiring. Even Providence had seemingly played a hand for not a single small ship was hit, much less targeted, by enemy weapons so far. Had they waited just 30 more seconds it would’ve given the tactical commander the time he needed to register what happened to the retiring pinnaces as they went through inner mine shell and made the connection with the results of the mine clearance rounds. As for the pinnaces they were heavily mauled, for only 96 Machetes survived transit back to Evershem (where they lost a further 14 by interpenetration). In retrospect, they were the ones favored by Providence, albeit briefly.

205 small ships entered the mines and were enveloped what could be best described as a hellstorm. Terpla’n scientists and engineers developed a new mine that contained antimatter instead of a standard nuclear warhead, giving it three times the destructive power. For the Endrili crews able to see the devastation on their monitors they gave thanks to Betrik for answering their payer of damnation against the Axis, purging them from the universe with holy fire. All told only 10 practically dead frigates and 5 untouched explorers were left for the price of 40 out of 200 mine patterns.

The Axis crews were much too engaged in combat to allow that spectacle to distract them. They kept to their task, attacking the inner shell of bases. However, those ships with missile launchers now fired mine clearance rounds into the patch that consumed the first massive wave of small ships. If no base was in range, or arc of fire, then the nearest ship, fighter, or pinnace would do. 54 Whale armed pinnaces, launched from the second shell of bases, went for the third wave battlecruisers, taking and inflicting losses. Strangely, the Allied warships elected not to fire on the third wave ships and instead went for those second wave ships still present as well as the third wave small ships. What most concerned the Axis was the group of 24 dreadnaughts that had now reached and began orbiting the warp point at a range of 1.25 light seconds. Their salvos were light missile volleys, aimed at Hatchet fighters, yet the only other weapons they fired were ADMs at those first and second wave ships still on the warp point. More importantly, they were in the blind spot of the BBs and SDs….

Star Admiral Bonson arrived in the fourth wave aboard his command superdreadnaught. The tightly ordered transit of 10 SD (mixed types), 4 Cannonade BBs, 10 Rapier BCs, 4 FG, 10 CT and 2 EX saw the loss of 2 Hand of Providence SDs, 2 Cannonades, 2 Rapiers, 2 FGs, and 6 CTs. He had his attention briefly on the datafeed from the tactical commander, absorbing the fact of the new kind of mine had wrecked this initial mine clearance wave. A glaring prompt on Bonson’s master plot brought up a fresh, new and utterly unexpected tactic from the abominations. The 24 dreadnaughts in the blind spot of his third wave ships had shown themselves to be tugs. All of them were active and had either snagged a battleship, dreadnaught or battlecruiser in their tractor beams. Just months earlier all those Axis ships had been refitted, removing their shearing planes in return for additional point defense. Worse still was that Bonson’s revised firing orders didn’t reach his units in time. So while the Hatchet fighters either attacked bases or defended the warp point, and the ships went after what could be reached, the 40 escort shuttles from the third wave pounced on a base group 2 LS from the warp point. At the moment there was no weapon that could be brought to bear on the tugs.

On her command battleship Coral Sea, Flag Admiral Jki was balancing the wrenching feeling in her gut with the mental satisfaction of the results of her inspired ingenuity. The first of the fifth wave of Axis ships bore witness on seeing 24 of their third wave brethren dragged into a mine patch and being utterly destroyed. Fresh Shark squadrons and a handful more Whales attacked fourth and fifth wave ships alike, smashing shields while all the Defiants were blotted out like so many intrusive bugs. With a subtle hand gesture Jki informed her operations officer to fire an appropriate number of weapon buoys. 400 energy buoys fired, but these were of a new generation for they had the same damage potential of regular energy beams. Internal systems on all the Axis ships were burned out by ruinous power surges. Even those ships with overload dampeners had to burn them out to stem the damage yet even then they lost weapons and engines. So weakened they couldn’t even pretend to put up resistance to the tugs. Embolden, those practical ships of utility grabbed two ships at a time, though the second was always a miniscule explorer or corvette.

Bonson stared at his main plot as the tugs selected fresh victims and dragged them into the mines like ocean monsters plucking sailors to the deaths. Some of his ships were able to turn around and fire at the tugs, but that exposed them to unopposed capital missile fire from the rear. The other abomination ships were now firing as complete datagroups. Those with capital energy beams were hosing down the cripples, turning them into shorted-out wrecks. It was clear what the outcome of this battle was going to be, despite inflicting substantial damage on the fixed enemy defenses. He quietly gave an order to a CIC technician. There was no sense to continue the assault.

--------

“Admiral, we did it,” said Flag Captain Conna as his eyes took in the holo image projected in Coral Sea’s combat information center. “It’s been five minutes since the seventh wave. All enemy fighters and escort shuttles have either be shot down or died in ramming attacks. Boarding parties stand ready to secure the wrecks.”

Jki’s eyes went from one dull red icon to another, each one symbolizing a shorted out hulk. The new energy buoys had worked as promised, and combined with those capital energy beams on Hazen ships all that remained was to secure the ships before the crews could scuttle. “Conna, have Mine Control create a lane in the field so that our remaining tugs can start pulling out the hulks to a spot in what remains of the inner base shell.”

“Aye, Admiral.”

A fresh pain stabbed Jki’s gut. The sixth Axis wave was comprised of dreadnaughts, battleships, and battlecruisers and whatever small assault ships could come along without destabilizing the warp point. As for the bigger units they were a mix of standard, assault and minesweepers. Interpenetration still took its toll, but some ships had brought weapons to bear on the tugs. As for the seventh and final wave it had 36 light cruisers and 108 escorts. As it turned out those escorts were, incredibly as it may seem, minesweepers, and while they died by the numbers the light cruisers picked up where their bigger brethren left off. Only four tugs remained, and two of those barely had the power to pull a dreadnaught hull from the warp point. Horrible as their losses were, they had their work cut out for them.

“Start SAR operations,” Jki went on. “Axis lifepods will be ignored until our own are rescued first. Afterwards those Axis pods that came from superdreadnaughts will receive priority.” Her eyes went to a cluster of icons that sat 20 light-seconds from the warp point. The pain now felt like a lump of hot iron dropped in a bucket of icewater. “Those ships with empty external racks will arm them with ADMs. Have the rest of the fleet come forward and form up in accordance to the transit schedule and moved into position once the ADMs are loaded. Have the assigned Whales on station. We will transit at my command.”

“Aye, aye, Admiral.”

-------

Back in Evershem the Axis forces weren’t exactly stunned, but it can be safely said they stoically accepted the outcome. They were, after all, going after a system that the abominations had to protect at all cost. With the new weapons used against them and the unorthodox use of tugs, combined with the bitter understanding that not enough armed pinnaces were used, the results were as good as they were going to be. From the last of the courier drones received just three abom bases were left in the inner shell and six were destroyed in the second shell, along with 3 abom light cruisers destroyed and damage in varying degrees to the rest of the ships. And, of course, 20 of 24 dreadnaught sized tugs. Combined with the losses in fighters, armed pinnaces, and minefield depletion the Aboms were committed to the defense.

There was cautious certainty on the Axis’ part. As being the prime focus of Operation Restoration the drive into Hamthen space will continue. Reinforcements were enroute, along with more armed pinnace carriers. Already those empty pinnace carriers involved in the assault were moving to the fleet train, now in the Dotz system, to receive new Machetes as they were uncrated and prepped. Time, and Providence, was on the Axis side, the crews told themselves. With abom fleets isolated and deprived of supplies in the Citadel Chain, and the those damnable four-armed Hokum freaks clearly on the defensive, it was just a matter of waiting for Hamthen Prime to be burned to a cinder before First Leader Grandous gave the word to reclaim the rest of Axis territory held by the aboms. With scanner data already being sent back to Comensal on the new abom weapons the Axis will be all the stronger and…

Scarcely 95 mintues after the Axis assault was launched the Terpla’ns and their allies conducted their own. Jki wasn’t going in completely blind, for she did conduct infrequent pinnace probes of the Evershem side of the warp point for weeks prior. If they were clever the Axis could’ve held a significant force back, safely beyond the scanning range of a pinnace. Two pinnaces did make it back to Hamthen, and combined what the Axis threw into their only fueled Jki’s speculations on the Axis’ strength. As it turned out she was right.

1600 Whale armed pinnaces, half of them Endrili with the rest a mix of Terpla’n, Hazen, Crajen and Humarsh crews, emerged from the warp point and suffering a loss of 244 from interpenetration. What they saw waiting for them was an enemy that subconsciously didn’t put enough faith into Providence. If they did, then they could’ve did considerably more damage before being defeated. As it stood, the Whale crews only saw a target-rich environment.

There were a relative handful of superdreadnaughts, dreadnaughts and battleships remaining in Star Force 1. With them were battlecruisers and heavy cruisers in substantial numbers along with a pittance of light cruisers and a hefty number of destroyers. All the aforementioned ships were in two groups, 1.25 LS from the warp point so that datalink jammers could come into play. The carriers were 4 light-seconds out with a CAP of 210 Hatchet fighters, along with 24 escort shuttles. Keeping the carriers company were capital missile armed battlecruisers and dreadnaughts. Given their rapid advance the Axis only had a single shell of weapon buoys, 480 strong, and the mines were comprised of two shells of what turned out later to be merely 1560 patterns strong. Along with the Whales emerged the rest of the first wave ships. Endrili Noise Maker and Energy Sink ships, 52 strong, were joined by four Avami assault carriers and 40 Magnet escorts. The Avami carriers arrived as singletons while interpenetration took its allotted portion from the smaller ships. For the subsequent assault waves there were no more mass transits. With 1600 Whales, the largest massed armed pinnace assault in the war so far, what was left for the following warships to attack didn’t require additional mass transits.

Divided into two groups, the Whales went after the Axis ships. Mines took their toll, those Hatchet fighters and ships that went active also took their share, but it wasn’t enough. The second wave transited in, comprised of a Bulani Conclave House SD and five of the brand-new Terpla’n Bedrock CVBs. They, along with the retiring Avami carriers, watched as the Whales utterly devastated the close-in orbiting Axis ships. Onboard point defense and internal guns also lacerated the defending Hatchet fighters and Stiletto escort shuttles, and what the Whales didn’t finish the strikegroups from the Avami carriers took care of.

Instead of retiring the Whales went back to the warp point, taking their losses from the mines. They didn’t transit out in a massive wave, however, instead leaving one by one as each additional ship came in. For those that remained they used internal guns and point defense to fire at the buoy parks. Seeing this the Axis defenders elected to expend the buoys before they were all lost, resulting in the smaller ships being consumed in overkill conditions while the bigger ones took the hits in stride. The Axis carriers launched their fighters as soon as they became active, going for those Shark fighters away from the warp point. Sending them against the Whales now would be suicide as there were still over 1,000 of them. The handful of Axis capital missile units fired on the warp point ships, knowing their time was limited as the strikegroups from the Bedrock carriers closed in on them, guarded by the Avami fighters. It was here the Axis learned that these fighters were of a new generation. Those from the Avami carriers had internal guns while those from the Bedrocks has lasers. A massive furball ensued with the advantage going to the gun-armed Sharks as they had the energy to spare for evasive maneuvers while the Hatchets, laden down with FRAMs, initially couldn’t.

The third wave ships were all Hazen, and armed with capital energy beams they hosed down the cripples and rendered them into immobile wrecks. As for the fourth wave it had three Cqux missile dreadnaughts, two Nikazu II battleships and a Hazen Trumpeter battlecruiser. One of those battleships was the Coral Sea, and from the CIC of that ship Admiral Jki directed the subsequent flow of events. A trio of capital missile dreadnaughts came in the fifth wave, along with a like number of fleet carriers, firing lasing-warhead armed missiles at their retreating Axis counterparts. Soon there were enough Shark fighters that reached the missile ships, crippling them so that the ever growing number of allied ships brought their weapons into play.

With minesweepers in hand, and the initial mine patch sufficiently reduced, Jki had her ships enter the minefield. Armor damage was done to some ships, however wide-angle beam fire cleared the patch, and the second targeted one was significantly smaller. “Flag Captain Conna,” Jki said, suppressing the urge to grimace as her gut wrought an avalanche of pain, “once the path through the mines is cleared release the assigned task groups. They are to pursue the retiring enemy carriers and cripple them with the intent to board and capture. The same goes for those ships that retired from the warp point assault. Accounting for the time lapse and with tugs involved those ships won’t be all that distant from this warp point.”

“Aye, Admiral.” Conna passed the orders on and then regarded the master hologram display like it was a priceless artwork. “So far we’ve immobilized over sixty Axis ships, both here and back in Evershem. With the number of mobile yards on hand and the station over Hamthen Prime we’re bound to get some worthwhile data from their computers. Afterwards it’s a matter of dividing the spoils.”

“A war trophy for the taxpayers back home, Conna?” Jki managed to say with a measure of whimsy, as much as her gut would allow. “Yes, I’m sure we’ll have one Axis ship taken back home and placed in a war museum. Our other allies will get one each as well. Since those ships were seized in Hamthen territory they are legally their property, but President Skuu will dispense with some of them in a gesture of appreciation.”

“If they so choose, those hulls can go a long way to rebuilding the Hamthen navy, Admiral. The Hokum have made use of captured Axis hulls.”

“Yes, but the Hamthen are not inclined to operate converted Axis ships. They would rather see them scrapped, but Skuu and his cabinet came up with an alternative. You see, they’re going to give them to the Hokum to do with as they see fit.”

Conna’s eyes blinked. “After a secure route between here and Hokum occupied space is open, Admiral. Still, it will be a nice addition to the Hamthen economy.”

“Not that much, Conna. President Skuu won’t be selling them to Hokum. Instead they’ll have to pay the Hamthen Ship Registry and Management Board a registration fee for each hull.” The incredulous look in Conna’s eyes alleviated Jki’s pain in her gut somewhat. “It will be a long term and dedicated process on the Hokum’s part to send mobile yards and a supply chain to Evershem and Hamthen. I imagine they’ll convert and repair the Axis ships just enough so they can go to Hokum space under their own power for final refitting. By doing this Skuu will further good relations with the Hokum. With so many hulls involved it’s a deal they can’t refuse.”

“No doubt, Admiral.” A repeater screen caught Conna’s attention. “Ah, we’re getting an update from Hamthen.”

“I’ll take it my day cabin, and I’ll be in there for the next few hours. Contact me only if something requires my immediate attention.”

Conna saw Jki’s brief but involuntary hand placement over the front of her uniform. Like everyone else he knew what it meant but tactfully didn’t broach the subject. “Aye, aye, Admiral.”

Located next to the CIC, the day cabin served as Jki’s office and, more often than not, her quarters. The chair behind the desk brought a measure to relief as Jki sat down and extended her six legs. After a few minutes the pain had become just a dull ache, and at that she reflected on the two battles. The Axis, thankfully, was still ignorant of the full strength of the allied fleet. Had it come down to using it in defense of the Hamthen warp point there was no doubt that victory would still been achieved but with much higher casualties. With the Axis fleet in Evershem all but practically destroyed it was down to returning to the Metalstorm system and prevent further Axis incursions.

With the war approaching the end of its fourth year the Axis will come to regret learning that the production capabilities of the Republic and its allies were really heating up. The 1600 Whale armed pinnaces used to assault Evershem were based on 54 Roundhouse space stations, and half of the Whale crews were Endrili, a major investment by that race. A massive fleet train stood ready to keep not only the Combined Fleet in supply but also those task groups in Citadel and Battlement. The large number of mobile yards and repair ships would go a long way in bringing abandoned ships back into service as well as upgrading them with the new shield and point defense technology.

Jki closed her eyes and imagined the battles yet to be fought, all for systems that have already taken their portion of blood and treasure from the allies. Just how much more of each would be needed was beyond her knowing.

-------

Back in the Hamthen system, at the warp point leading to the Stratus system, was the remnants of Axis fortifications, placed there during the occupation. Isolated, and out of supplies for 16 months, the four type-5 beam bases suffered successive equipment failures. The minefields and buoy parks were shadows of their former strength, yet the allies, at the behest of the Hamthens, were in no rush over the many months to finish them. The biggest battle occurred one month after Hamthen was liberated. The flight groups of the nine type-5 fighter bases, and the singular squadrons on the nine type-5 beam bases, were wiped out along with three of the nine capital missile bases.

Thereafter, each month saw six capital missile battlecruisers, all Hamthen, engaging the bases, starting with the six armed with capital launchers. It was a classical war of attrition with only one outcome. True, damage was done to the battlecruisers, but it was only armor and said ships withdrew before internal damage was done. Once the bases ran out of SBMs it became nothing more than a live firing exercise. The battlecruisers were rotated, reflecting those under repairs and new construction, so that fresh crews could be trained.

The Hamthen kept to the bombardment over those long months, staying just out of capital missile range while taking down one missile base at a time with laser-armed SBMs. Next came the empty fighter bases, but without offensive weapons (aside from XO racks), they were dispatched with measured practice. From this point on antimatter armed capital missiles were employed at a range of 5.5 light seconds. Those beam bases did have magazines for their former fighters and XO racks, but they, too, eventually ran out of SBMs to mount on those racks as well as EDMs.

Now it was different. The quartet received a data feed encoded in an Axis frequency. Only the commanding officers and their execs watched the resulting video depicting the battle at the Hamthen/Evershem warp point. Tactical data scrolled along with map projections, all the while the officers debating whether or not it was just a psychological ploy, especially since the spectacle ended in an apparent abomination victory. But the news couldn’t be concealed for the data was sent again, this time on multiple bands so that even lowly techs could receive it on their work station monitors. It produced a sourness fit to sink stomachs low.

Then the Hamthens came. With all scanner buoys destroyed it was the tactical scanners that picked up the approaching formation at a range of 15 light seconds. At 10 light seconds the composition of the force was three battlecruisers, one undersized destroyer, two corvettes and a class five freighter. With the smaller ships staying behind at the 7 LS mark the battlecruisers close to 5.5 and opened up on the first of two bases in the ‘southwest’ position of the warp point. Firing alternate loads of laser-tipped and antimatter armed capital missiles the first base barely had any working systems left because the datalink was one the things the Axis crews managed to keep working, along with all the point defense stations. Applying the killing blow was the freighter and destroyer, firing four laser-tipped SBMs from their external racks. With that done the Axis crews expected the ships to leave, waiting for next month for another of their number to be taken away.

Not so, for the Hamthen ships just sat there while shuttles from the freighter brought reloads for the magazines and the external racks. Once done the battlecruisers this time closed the range to an even 5 light seconds so that they could employ their capital force beams. With this the last southwest base was dispatched. Again the ships were resupplied and the process began on the sole southeast base. When it came time for the last Axis base in the north position no missiles were used. Sitting just outside the range of hetlasers the trio of battlecruisers kept firing their capital force beams, all the while transmitting a forced spectrum broadcast of video playbacks. Said playbacks were of Axis soldiers being killed in combat or otherwise eliminated on Hamthen Prime during the liberation. If they couldn’t see it then the Axis crew heard it on PA systems and audio feeds. Even they could distinguish Comensal screams amidst the static and distortion. The force beams missed more often than not, despite the base being a stationary target, but they kept firing, and firing, and firing…

It must’ve been when the last shield was downed that the base self-destructed. Whether it was deliberate, or an act of a crewmember pushed over the edge didn’t matter. After a minute of observance, the Hamthen went back to work. The pair of corvettes launched six Gars, sending them to sweep the area of any remaining weapon buoys and reporting the size and composition of the minefields. All the ships then closed in. Loaded now with capital, gun and even standard missile size minefield clearance rounds a path was blown through the mines. There was no need to destroy the remaining active mine patterns. In a year’s time the lack of maintenance will claim them. The destroyer was sent through the Stratus warp point, and five minutes later it came back and brought along a destroyer that had been stationed on the other side. From its holds the freighter deployed a comm/navigation buoy, the last one that linked the Stratus warp point to Hamthen Prime.

With great satisfaction the commander of the Hamthen task element sent a message addressed to President Skuu, stating that the last remaining Axis military presence in the system had been eliminated and that the Stratus warp point was cleared for shipping. Only then did the crews celebrate their accomplishment.
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Zume
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