The Hokum - Chapter 6.50

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The Hokum - Chapter 6.50

Postby Zume on Wed 25 Sep 2019 16:49

In the auxiliary control room of the missile battlecruiser that served as his flagship System Admiral Hensen viewed a flat projected map of warp lines, radiating out of the icon of the Solid State system, reflecting on the changes wrought by the Terpla’n abominations a month earlier. The fleet sent to destroy the Hamthen homeworld failed to breach the warp point defenses and in turn was destroyed by the abominations’ overwhelming counterattack. Worse yet, the abomination fleet in Silvershoe staged a successful assault into the Metalstorm system two days after that, and subsequently went on lay siege to the Metalstorm/Output warp point. Two convoys were destroyed in Metalstorm, along with the communication buoy chain. Now that it had been a month the massive Abom fleet from Hamthem was undoubtedly in Metalstorm by now, having the choice of either going on to evict Axis force between Citadel and Circuit Run or taking the shorter route through Forger’s Gate to assault Bedrock proper.

Upon learning of the loss of Metalstorm a month ago Hensen recalled the raiding force that he had dispatched under Star Admiral Norsen. Thankfully Norsen had only advanced as far as Com-11. Taking the only route available to him, Norsen should arrive back in Solid State in two weeks. Only one raiding element was left behind in Com-11 with enough supplies to last 18 months. In the meantime Hensen elected to stay on the defensive In Solid State. The warp point leading to Redwire was heavily mined and ringed with buoys along with three fighter and three missiles bases, 3 of new type 3 fighter bases and 3 of the new type 4 missile platforms, recently reassembled from the support flotilla. Likewise, the Ampere/Com-14 and Ampere/Redwire warp points were similarly defended.

Hensen enlarged the display and centered it on the Solid State/Fallowed Field warp point icon. He glared at the readout of the Abom Hokum defenses with the intensity of an engineer about to blow up a river ice jam. Just three fighter bases, along with mines and buoys ringed the warp point, and whatever number of ships were on the far side, barred his way. If it was up to him, Hensen would’ve used the raiding force last month to destroy the Hokum defenses and enter Fallow Field system proper and liberate the three colonized planets and assorted moons. The AFC, however, had its own plan, making the reacquiring of Hamthen systems the priority instead of starving out the abom fleets in Citadel (and beyond) and Bulwark. As for the oversized raiding force, it was meant to tie down Hokum forces and deny them choices, especially after the AFC failed to retake the Cain system months earlier.

Further brooding on the subject just convinced Hensen that taking out the abom Hokum should’ve been the priority instead of reconquering Hamthen space. Hell, even with weak forces the Hokum had made inroads into Comensal space that in all rights shouldn’t happen in the first place. Resisting the urge to move now, even with the new spinal force beam units, Hensen wanted to make a decisive attack in strength. More importantly, a successful break-in to Fallowed Field and liberation of said system would keep his forces in supply for quite some time. It would’ve added pressure on the Hokum fleet guarding the Tire Iron/Bedrock warp point. However, this meant the Blood Pride system, three transit out, would be left on its own, its population and infrastructure unable to support Hensen’s forces in a meaningful way. At the very least they can continue to mine and buoy their warp point for the foreseeable future.

With eyes now fixed on a wall-mounted chronometer Hensen consoled himself that he had to wait just two more weeks. Two weeks.

********

It was one week after the Terpla’ns and their allies had crushed the Axis fleet sent to reconquer Hamthen space. On Hokum Prime Emperor Valsur received Conovus, the Imperator of the Navy, and Renlus, Minister of the Interior, at his mansion. It was in Valsur’s office, preferring in this instance to hold the meeting in a private setting instead of the Palace of Government or on the massive orbital station. Folding both pairs of hands on the ancient desk in front of him, Valsur looked to Renlus. “So, does the Diplomatic Corps and the Bureau of Signals concur?” The Bureau of Signals was the Hokum’s state intelligence department, combining all forms of intelligence gathering from both civilian and military sources under one roof. Previously, it was concerned with organized crime within the Imperium. But contact with the Republic and then the Axis broaden its scope of responsibilities.

Renlus nodded. “They do, Sire. The Republic has launched a massive counter offensive from the Hamthen system after dealing a decisive defeat to the Axis. Our naval attaché has seen and boarded several captured Axis ships in Republic possession. Additionally, Signals has determined from the message traffic via the tenuous, roundabout link from Republic occupied Axis space to our own occupied systems that a fleet has successively broke into the Metalstorm system via Silvershoe.”

Conovus stepped in. “With that done, Sire, whatever Axis forces are in Solid State, Com-11 and Blood Pride will be cut off. Given the transit time involved the Republic forces from Hamthen will be entering Metalstorm in three weeks. Their first priority will be to blockade the Metalstorm/Output warp point. No doubt the fleet from Silvershoe has already done this.”

“How will this affect the disposition of the now isolated Axis forces?” Valsur said with neutrality towards the Imperator of the Navy.

Conovus wasn’t deceived by Valsur’s tone and replied with unflinching conviction. “The raiding force that has entered Com-11 can either continue its advance into what are essentially worthless systems. Cain, Whel, Doorstop, Com-3, 4, 5, 8, 9, and Stonewash have been steadily mined throughout the war. Given the speed involved there have been no battleships and dreadnaughts observed, either via direct reconnaissance or based on drive field strengths, thanks in no small part from our use of fighter scanner packs from the CVE element we sent to Com-11. The more distance they cover will only put them that much further away from the only reasonable objective the Axis have in that part of the sector. With that said, I’m disposed to think the raiding force will fall back to Solid State.”

“Which is linked to Fallowed Field,” Valsur added. “Renlus, is it the opinion of Signals that should this raiding force, combined with all other known Axis forces, mount a successful assault into Fallowed Field?”

“It is, Sire. That they haven’t finished off the three fighter bases at the Solid State/Fallowed Field warp point tells us that the bulk of supply, as well as ships, is with this raiding force. With our own fleets focused in three separate points of contact we can’t weaken them in case the Axis decides to mount another offensive in the near future.”

“Oh, what is the reasoning behind that assertion?”

The non-committal tone from Valsur didn’t fool Renlus either. “Sire, given their actions to date, along with their own historical record, the AFC will want to secure a measurable victory to salve the pain of defeat at Hamthen. Even isolated with no assurance of reestablishing contact with the rest of their forces for months, if not years, those units at Solid State will attempt to enter Fallowed Field and taken on those supplies the colonist have been stockpiling, despite our best efforts of locating them from orbit and using precise kinetic strikes. It is estimated that, at a minimum, each of the three planets will have enough to keep the combined known forces operational for two months.”

“I concur, Sire,” said Conovus. “Even with the assistance of those Republic ships that retreated from Bedrock, and the minefields, a successful break-in is likely. I dare not remove any more ships from Tire Iron, Cain and Bandstand. However, there is an option. Currently all assault ships and pinnace tenders are in the Cain system for the purpose of refitting. I propose we take all of those ships not currently undergoing refit and move them into the Ampere system and take station at the Ampere/Com-14 warp point.”

“Along with mine patterns and weapon buoys we have stockpiled at Cain,” Valsur said with Conovus nodding confirmation. “What’s to prevent them from simply taking another route? Namely the Com-11, 6, 12, 16 and Redwire route?”

“Time, Sire. Even at the cruising speed of a battlecruiser it will take them a minimum of two months, and even then they’ll have to face the minefields we can have in place at the Redwire/Com-16 warp point. The minefields and buoy parks guarding the Redwire/Cain warp point can be easily dealt with. Also, this will give us the opportunity to use the warp-capable missile pods in their first combat. With the Axis forces in the sector now isolated, knowledge of their use will stay in that sector for the foreseeable future.”

Valsur opened all four hands and planted his palms on the desktop. “Obviously a time constraint is involved, and a willingness on the Axis part to conduct a warp point assault on Ampere.”

“Sire, it can be made in such a way as to encourage them to act the way we want. I have brought with me an operations plan for your consideration. As for the time constraint, our window of opportunity is only five days, and will require all the tugs in Cain to tow the assault battleships and dreadnaughts at the required cruising speed.”

With eyes slightly narrowed Valsur gave Conovus an intense gaze, the receiver not changing his expression one bit. “Still, it will require pinnace probes to gauge the strength of the enemy beforehand, based on the actual live fire tests and countless computer simulations we’ve done. I can already surmise, without looking at that plan of yours, that a warp assault of our own will be needed to coax the Axis into their usual sense of grandeur.”

“I acknowledge your foresight, Emperor.”

Valsur relaxed, affixing a small smile on his face. “Then you have my blessing to use the missile pods in combat. You may want to factor in using all the current generation of pods for this, and slate some of them for use in Solid State. If those Axis units make an opportunistic attack on the fighter bases then we can use those pods to weaken them to an extent that will allow a counter-attack of our own.”

“Yes, Sire. R&D has stated that the second generation pods will be ready for production in a month, and we might as well clear out the old inventory.”

Valsur nodded his acknowledgement. “Now, Renlus…”

“Yes, Sire?”

“It is time to inform the representative of the Republic ships in Fallowed Field about what happened in Hamthen. Tell them that in a month’s time they could very well be on their way home.”


********

Star Admiral Norsen was annoyed but unsurprised to find his way into Ampere blocked. The abom Hokum had entered Ampere via Redwire, staging assaults that took out the Redwire/Cain defenses and then the six bases and minefields at the Ampere/Redwire warp point. At the Ampere/Com-14 warp point they destroyed the six bases there with a massed fighter, armed pinnace and capital missile bombardment. Norsen was just a scant one day out from the warp point in Com-14 when that happened, despite pouring on the oil and having his force move at flank speed once word of the first assault reached him.

He puzzled on why the Abom halted instead of coming into Com-14 after clearing a lane in the Ampere minefields and destroying all the weapon buoys. They had sent in one destroyer-sized carrier, and Norsen’s formation was being shadowed by fighters that always managed to stay out of range yet seem close enough to be taking deliberate scans of his ship numbers and types. Eventually that small carrier had to retreat back into Ampere.

Thankfully Norsen still had a handful of BC-sized minelayers filled to capacity. Once at the warp point they began dispatching their shuttles and taking shuttles from other ships that had them to lay down mines and buoys. No doubt the aboms were doing the same thing now, having the time to sweep the remaining mines and place their own. He began dispatching pinnace probes at random intervals to gage enemy strength. Likewise the aboms were doing the same to determine where and how many ships were encircling the warp point. In standard fashion Norsen kept his carriers, their escorts, and capital missile cruisers at a range of 5 light seconds out, just out of primary beam and hetlaser range yet close enough to fire accurate missile salvos from internal launchers and external racks. The BC and CA-hulled support ships were one light-minute out, drives down to render them undetectable. All other warships were 4 light seconds out, just within capital force beam and hetlaser range, external racks armed with anti-drive missiles to cripple enemy drives and permitting their total destruction. The minefield encircled the warp point at a range of one-quarter of a light second, comprised of 600 patterns along with 120 one-shot laser buoys. Norsen wasn’t about to apply more, preferring to save the rest for use in Solid State. 72 fighters and 15 escort shuttles formed the cap, orbiting at a range of one light second.

Scarcely six hours after arriving at the warp point the Hokum sent in their first assault wave, comprised of three Axis battleship hulls, two Axis dreadnaught hulls, and one slightly undersized dreadnaught of a class not seen before. It was clear that their pinnace probes, if not their first, had determined the defense disposition for the three battleships had orientated themselves on the slowly orbiting Axis warships. Transit-addled capital force beams settled on a Hero class BC, scoring three hits while externally mounted mine clearance charges flung themselves into a selected patch of the minefield, clearing four patterns. Only three of the ten fighter squadrons on the CAP were able to arm weapons and engage, attacking the battleships. Shields collapsed and armor was shredded by antimatter ordnance. With those ships able to arm and fire weapons in the first exchange one Hokum BB was destroyed outright, for it was still standing policy that all captured hulls were to be destroyed on sight.

Having been spared in the initial exchange, aside from some ADM hits, the two Axis dreadnaught hulls revealed themselves to be converted, albeit early versions, of Soar class carriers. 8 squadrons were catapulted into space followed by 5 more from the slight smaller dreadnaught. They engaged the other 8 cap squadrons and escort shuttles while the second wave emerged, comprised of three Indomitable DNs, two Imperial Valor DN(V)s, a Rodeo Clown minesweeper, and, from what Norsen first thought, 720 armed pinnaces, sans 108 lost due to interpenetration. As a group these newcomers moved from the warp point on a course that took them away from the Axis defenses, taking more losses from the minefield patch they went through. Norsen thought that was very odd, for despite being transit-addled the armed pinnaces could’ve easily devastated the CAP squadrons.

Another Hokum BB was destroyed and one of the converted Soars was heavily damaged, along with additional ADM hits as more Axis ships became active. With the third wave, this time comprised of three more Imperial Valors and a trio of the undersized dreadnaught assault carriers, the supposed armed pinnaces came about and moved toward the Axis defenders. Crashed launched Hatchet squadrons from a minute earlier, 10 strong, were upon these pinnaces with six more launched 30 seconds ago heading for the defending ships.

However, once upon them the Hatchet fighters found they weren’t pinnaces, for not one targeting scanner was focused on them. Instead these strange objects had orientated themselves and belched three missiles each, sending over 1600 antimatter-armed SBMs towards the Axis ships. The targets were the battlecruisers and carriers, and with each point defense system saturated, and no EDMs available, the carnage was extensive. Of the twelve beam-armed and six capital missile BCs only three were destroyed outright with the rest being hopelessly crippled. The three Wave Rider BC minesweepers barely retained armor. Being datalinked to these ships in a one-to-one manner, the trio of Falcon Crest assault carriers had very light internal damage. As for the two CVS, three CV and three CVLs they were completed destroyed, their light cruiser escorts unable to stem the tide. This left a mere 6 CAs and 12 DDs, along with 22 still-armed Hatchet squadrons and the pitiful remnants of the CAP.

It was a foregone conclusion. Now with jamming support the Hokum carved up the Hatchet squadrons thought it came at the price of losing the third BB and one of the Soars as the two buoy control ships armed and released their charges. As for the Axis warships they turned and fled, some still reaching action stations and thus were in range as three Implacable DNs and three Broadside BCAs came in the fourth wave. They focused on those DDs they were still only going at cruising speed, crushing them with antimatter capital missiles, and only switching over to second-generation laser warhead SBMs once the range was too much for the CMs.

After the Hatchets were dealt with, and taking further damage from fighter ramming attacks, the Hokum force rearmed all fighters and sent them after the retreating ships. They were soon joined by Pest DDs and Tagger FGs as a lane was cleared in the minefield. Those crippled Axis ships at the warp point that were unable to self-destruct also attempted to ram, but the needle beams on the Whel assault carriers lanced their engines and magazines for good measure. As for the support ships, despite having 45 escort shuttles and just 6 squadrons of outdated F0 Hatchets, they too in turn were either destroyed outright or had their engines and magazines lanced by needle beams.

For the losses incurred it was concrete proof of the efficacy of the missile pod system. Not one armed pinnace had to be used in this instance, though with heavily defended warp points they will be used to supplement the firepower of the pods. The operation also marked the last use of F0 Spear fighters in combat for the Hokum, the final squadrons being based on the two Soar carriers used in the battle. From that point on all carriers would use the F2 generation of fighter. Twelve ships were also captured. Eventually a Hokum mobile yard will arrive to effect repairs and conversion to the extent that full conversion for Hokum use could be conducted at a space station. It was an undisputed victory.

********

Hensen, back at Solid State, was concerned as the Hokum blew past the light defenses in Redwire. He became agitated as Ampere was entered via Redwire and then downright nervous as the Ampere/Com-14 defenses were smashed. It was with this state of affairs in mind that Hensen decided to make the most of the situation and improve his odds for when the raiding force returns. At the very least he can destroy the three fighter bases.

In the preceding four weeks Hensen’s fighter strength was restored and further augmented as the scheduled reinforcements arrived. Now he had 48 Hatchet squadrons, plus the addition of three squadrons of spinal force beam-armed BCs and CAs, along with three more Firebow capital missile cruisers and some light cruisers. So assembled his entire force moved for its holding position and sat 10.5 light-seconds from the Solid State/Fallowed Field warp point for a full three days. Strangely, the three Hokum fighter bases didn’t respond to this deliberate act; not even one fighter squadron was launched. They did send periodic courier drones through the warp point, but no drones came from the far side. Thus, on the start of the fourth day Hensen acted.

Like an elastic band released from being stretched to the limit Hensen’s ships, save for the carriers and their dedicated escorts, moved at full speed for one minute, coming to a stop 7.5 light seconds from the bases. Capital missiles armed with first generation lasing warheads spat from the launchers of the six Firebows while the six Sharpshooter BCs and three Bullseye CAs began their bombardment with spinal force beams. The plan was to expend just enough missiles to breach the armor of the three bases in turn while spinal force beams finished the job. Fighters were to be launched only if the Hokum did so, and if nothing changes, they were still going to be outnumbered. There were three pinnaces at the warp point with one transiting to Fallowed Field as the Firebows opened fire, leaving Hensen to wonder what if any forces were going to be summoned.

Two of the fighter bases flushed their XO racks together, launching SBMs equipped with the more powerful lasing warheads. One Firebow lost its armor and sustained light internal damage. When one of the bases lost its shields it launched fighters but held them over the warp point, leaving Hensen to hold his own for the moment. It was not until the first base was critically damaged that the Hokum responded with a mass transit of armed pinnaces from Fallowed Field. From the energy readings they appeared to be some new type, and all were on a beeline for his ships. Of the 240 that transited 36 interpenetrated. The other two bases launched their fighters, bringing the total to 30 Spear squadrons. With this level of threat Hensen had his ships come about and had his 48 Hatchet squadrons and 60 escort shuttles launch.

Hensen believed he had time on his side. Moving at full speed the pinnaces would only overhaul his ships very slowly, giving his fighters, escort shuttles and point defense all that time to whittle down their numbers. Fresh sensor contacts told him that six small carriers, the ones from the previous battle, had transited the warp point. Odd, though, for the 30 squadrons already deployed they hadn’t followed the armed pinnaces. It was then at a range of just under 5 light seconds from his ships that he got an answer.

The armed pinnaces were actually missile pods, the last of the first generation model that the Hokum had in inventory, and they performed flawlessly. They locked onto their 12 battlecruiser targets as programmed, set to fire just as they crossed the 5 light second threshold. Better yet, they were in the rear aspect of their targets. Unable to defend themselves directly, each ship had to rely on the degraded interception capability of their datalink partners, but with so many missiles it didn’t matter. Angry antimatter fireballs surrounded the 12 ships, and when they died down all of them had perished, along with Hensen. The six small carriers launched 18 more Spear squadrons just as six more ships transited. They were Fusillade missile cruisers, diverted to this operation enroute to Tire Iron on order of Admiral Janus. Joining them were 3 refitted Deflector 2 escort cruisers and 3 Type 2 destroyers. For good measure an automated weapons control ship transited to arm the mines and weapon buoys.

The Axis force was now down to just 3 CVs, 6 CVLs, 2 CVS, 2 BC(V), 3 CA, 2 CAE, 3 CL, 6 DD, and 6 DDE. Fully expecting a suicide attack the Hokum were surprised that the enemy kept running, altering course towards the warp point leading to the BRB-1 system. The Hokum sent a single carrier, launching Spear fighters with sensor packs that kept a discreet distance and following the formation all the way. At the warp point they met up with the Axis support group, containing 20 freighter hulls with machine shops and a bevy of cargo ships. Together they transited, leaving the trailing carrier keeping station one light minute out, keeping a pair of scanner pack-equipped fighters orbiting the warp point at 5 LS range at all times until buoys were set up.

Mobile shipyards were brought forth to repair and refit the trio of fighter bases with the plan to have them, as well as the mines and weapon buoys, brought forward to guard the BRB-1 warp point. Over 100 personnel were lost in the badly crippled fighter base, and 10 squadrons of F1 Spear fighters had to be abandoned, being chucked into the void as the pilots landed on the small carriers before their life support ran out. In the meantime, there was the matter of the six bases at the Solid State/Redwire warp point. The three type-4s were capital missile platforms, sitting at 7.5 LS and the other three were type-3s, parked at 10.5 LS and were fighter platforms. A single destroyer equipped with commercial engines stayed with the type-4s. The Hokum would’ve been content to let these units wither on the vine, but Redwire was the shortest route to Cain, and BRB-1 now had an Axis task group roaming who knows where in the depths of that solitary red giant’s domain. However, they did an option.

Five months after the battle saw the Axis defenders at the Redwire warp point facing one more month of supplies before the lack of same cause a cascade of malfunctioning, unrepairable equipment. The Hokum hadn’t sent in another close probe in over four months. The fighters they had were fast, sending in 90 in all directions and making a mockery of the Hatchet fighters’ attempts to engage. It couldn’t be helped for they were all of the F0 generation, drawn from system defenses forces to equip the prefabricated bases. While it may have saved the expense of equipping the quite fragile fighter bases with newer models, and the F0s were meant to destroy ships coming through a warp point in any event, the Axis defenders were wondering if the Abominations were just yanking their chain.

In that one and only probe the F0 Hatchets carried just one gun pod and a close attack missile. With their superior speed the Hokum waited until the Hatchets had to fall back to their bases to recharge their life support systems. Trailing close behind the 90 Spear fighters got no closer than 9 LS from the bases before each dropped an external pod of some kind and retired at an even faster speed, leaving even the defending escort shuttles in the dust. The chief base commander had a suspicion that the Spears had some sort of scanner pack, but without them coming closer it was impossible to prove. In any event it was a moot point. Totally cut off, the Axis crews could only trust that the forces in Bedrock would make their move and come to their relief.

It was now two days shy before the start of the sixth month. An hour before lunch saw the standard warp point patrol, consisting of 7 Hatchet squadrons and 6 Stiletto escort shuttles, orbiting the invisible flaw in space at a range of one light-second. The Hatchets squadrons came from one base in this rotation with the Stilettos based on the Outpost class automated weapons control ship. In an instant 60 contacts emerged from the warp point with 9 of them interpenetrated and exploding with such violence that there was no doubt they carried antimatter. A further five were immolated in the minefield, leaving 46 making a beeline for bases.

From the information transmitted by Hensen’s surviving ships five months previous the defenders knew these objects weren’t armed pinnaces, but they weren’t an exact match for their speed was that a fully loaded F0. Only the six patrolling Stilettos were able to achieve action stations in time to pursue the contacts, and only they had the weaponry in engagement range. 90 seconds after their entry the contacts were 1.5 LS from the missile bases and 4.5 LS from the fighter bases. 18 Hatchets and 6 more Stilettos, crashed launched and fully armed, were just half a light second from the contacts. 60 more Hatchets and 6 Stilettos were 2 LS behind them, leaving the third fighter base still scrambling to launch fighters and shuttles. The pursing Stilettos had bagged 4 while the six newcomers got 4 as well. It was at this point the contacts proved they were missile pods, and they showed that slightly faster speed wasn’t their only attribute.

Priorities set, the 38 pods fired as three groups, one per fighter base, and each pod has six SBMs with antimatter warheads. Even with three EDMs each (the bases had no ECM suites and point defense), there were more than enough missiles. All exploded like gasoline-soaked fireworks for they still had antimatter-armed close attack missiles in their magazines. The first field use of second-generation missile pods performed as advertised, making the Hokum’s task that much easier.

There days prior a small Hokum force had moved into detection range and took station 4.5 light minutes out. This was just at the range where even an unloaded F0 would run out of life support, and the 24 Stilettos wouldn’t have stood a chance anyway had they cared to venture forth. The force was composed of two fleet carriers, recently out of refit and loaded with new F2 Spears, one Greater Host pinnace tender, two Interior cruisers and a Barrel Man minesweeper. The waited until they got word via the roundabout comm chain from Redwire to Solid State that the pods had been launched. By the time they were 15 LS from the missile bases the surviving F0 Hatchets had long since run out of life support and only the 18 Stilettos offered any measurable menace.

The Greater Host launched 27 Garrocha armed pinnaces and were escorted by 72 F2 Spears. The Stilettos stayed on top of the bases, waiting for the order to attack. The Garrochas approached the bases until, at a range of 1.5 LS, they fired their external ordnance. They fired in groups of three, surprising the defenders and were further confounded as the stand-off missiles they carried has lasing warheads. The damage was appreciable since so many missiles were fired, but the crews were green, and lasing warheads were inherently less accurate than nuclear and antimatter ones. It was now the 18 Stilettos moved out. The Garrochas had turned to retire to their tender while the Spears engaged. Only three Stilettos managed to fire before they were blotted out like so many stains from a countertop. No Garrochas or Spears were lost.

After that it was just a matter of time. With all craft armed with the new lasing warheads the three bases were destroyed. As for the Outpost it was chased down by six Garrochas and dispatched. The Spears eliminated the weapon buoys, leaving the two Interiors to fire mine clearance charges. When the selected patch of mine patterns was sufficiently weakened the Barrel Man finished the job, only taking four shield hits as it cleared a path. There was no need to take out the remaining mines for without maintenance they would fail on their own accord. And so the great Axis hope of causing mayhem behind Hokum lines had ended, another disaster in a chain that would ultimately lead back to the doorstep of the Bedrock system.
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Zume
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