The Terpla'ns - Chapter 9

Stories by Zume

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The Terpla'ns - Chapter 9

Postby Zume on Sat 22 Jun 2013 16:18

The Unified Command Center on Hamthen Prime was located in a converted hotel in the capital city. In a former grand ballroom one can find row after row of consoles manned by Hamthen, Terpla’n, Crajen, and even E’sani technicians. Sitting at a banquet table serving as her desk Flag Admiral Tulcus Jki considered the imposing task placed upon her by fate. The Axis Fleet Command (AFC) successfully assaulted the Bedrock system, regaining their lost colony and sending those Commonwealth ships not destroyed running. Those ships that could made for the Bedrock/Circuit Run warp point, while the majority of the fleet train headed for the Brickyard warp point. With their supplies the ships of the fleet train could endure for a year in the outer reaches of that system. The CSF task force that conquered Bulwark, two transits from Bedrock, was now isolated and limited to four months of supplies. Any shrewd Axis admiral wouldn’t leave a potent enemy force behind him, and liberating that system would only provide more resources to replace losses incurred in that liberation. As for the troopships that remained in Bedrock to support the Commonwealth Army occupying the planet they went to Tire Iron. The military treaty between the Commonwealth and Hokum Imperium allowed for CSF ships to utilize a warp chain to reach Metalstorm, an Axis system occupied by the Commonwealth. However, that route was in real danger of being sealed off.

In a move that echoed an operation over six months earlier the AFC gambled considerable resources to isolate CSF units in Axis space. One part of that operation was an attempt via a closed warp point in Output, a system one transit from Metalstorm and in turn one transit from Dotz, a Hamthen system. Now it came from Data Disk, next door to Output. The CSF task group defending the Output/Data Disk warp point was destroyed along with the attending bases. In Metalstorm the fixed defenses at the Output warp point were more substantial but with no mobile units any determined Axis assault would succeed. Should Metalstorm fall back in Axis hands no supplies and reinforcements would reach allied forces in Axis space. Battlement, the point of the CSF’s furthest inroad into Axis space and secured by the Royal Valhallan Space Navy, was in double jeopardy due to a closed warp point in Kerama Retto, revealed when the AFC conducted a raid on the repair anchorage located there.

When the dam broke Jki had arrived at Hamthen Prime, expecting to give her opinion and insights on the long-term occupation of Axis worlds to a body of allied representatives. Instead she found herself made the commander of the Citadel Theatre of Operations by President Huj, representing the Commonwealth at the conference. That meant she had the authority to deploy those CSF and allied assets in that theatre as she saw fit. At the moment her eye was on a display showing Task Groups 111 and 112 in the Citadel system. A portion of both were undergoing refits, as was Task Force 21 in Forger’s Gate. Alone they would only serve as expensive speedbumps to the Axis steamroller. Together they might give pause to this offensive, long enough for the newly designated Task Force 14, forming up in Hagelkorn, to reach full strength.

“This is not unlike preparing for a budget debate,” spoke a voice from behind Jki. Her left eye turned and blinked, finding President Huj approaching. “Weighing numbers, potential outcomes, when to compromise and when to stand firm. The only thing missing is the smell of pickled mackerel. If your father Sal was here instead of me you would’ve smelled him long before seeing him.”

“To be fair it’s to give his opponents warning of his approach,” said Jki as she stood up and saluted Huj. “How was breakfast with the alliance representatives?”

Huj acknowledged the salute and took Jki’s vacated seat. “90% political and 10% nutritional, Admiral. They’re very concerned about our next course of action. Given the strength of the Axis assaults involved the consensus is that Hamthen Prime won’t be invaded a second time but destroyed, just like what happened to the Uan homeworld.”

“The Axis will come to enjoy the experience of the meatgrinder, Mr. Huj. They’ll have to go through Metalstorm, Dotz, Eversham and Hamthen’s warp point defenses, each one stronger than the last. Our minelayers and cargo pinnaces are moving stockpiled automated weapons even as we speak to reinforce those defenses, and those prefabricated bases still packed in their transports in Hagelkorn are being sent to Dotz and Eversham to be reassembled.”

“I imagine we’ll have the means to counterattack them when they arrive at Eversham, given the arrival schedules, construction here and rate of refits.” Despite his voice Huj looked tired. The increase of folds, spots and wrinkles around his eyes were clear signs of stress-induced fatigue for a Terpla’n. Traveling all the way to Hamthen was a duty that Huj felt had to be done by him, given the importance of the decisions required. Now he faced the potential of having his ally lose his homeworld permanently. That thought alone would give anyone migraines and ulcers, and at this rate Huj would get those as well. On her part Jki’s abdominal pain, a result of a combat injury, had become more frequent as of late. “Admiral, have you come to a decision regarding the use of the new ordnance?”

“I have, Sir. The new lasing warheads have been cleared for use since last month. As for the anti-fighter missiles the task group and task force commanders are under strict orders to use them for major engagements only. For the new mines, given their comparative scarcity, we’re putting them at the Hamthen and Eversham warp point defenses.”

Huj blinked, and Jki saw for herself that his inner set of eyelids had a cloudy complexion instead of being clear. Yet another sign of the unrelenting strain the President was experiencing. “I can trust the Axis to exhaust themselves in their effort to get here. It’s a tragedy that it’ll take an inordinate amount of our blood to make that exhaustion arrive sooner.”


The defenses of the Circuit Run/Bedrock warp point were respectable for the amount of time given to its construction. More bases would’ve been built had the assault into Bedrock failed, but with the allies advancing the current bases were slated to be dismantled and moved ‘up the chain.’ Now alone, for no ship was to be spared for the defense, the bases had to serve their function and slow the Axis advance. Nine type-5 bases, six beam and three escort, lay within plasma gun range in three equidistant groups. Further out at 3.25 LS were nine more bases, equally spaced in groups of three. One was composed of Crajen type-4s, armed with capital primary beams. Another had Bulan type-3s, also armed with capital primaries. The third had three Hazen standard missile type-3s. Together at 5.5 LS were three capital missile type-5s and three fighter type-5s. 9 squadrons of Sharks formed the CAP.

It was anticipated the Axis would send in a mass wave of corvettes and frigates to dilute the fire of the defenders, just like in previous assaults. They had unexpected help in that matter. In order the supplement the defense of the Bedrock/Gravel Pit warp point mine patterns and weapon buoys had to be drawn from somewhere, and that somewhere was Circuit Run. Only 600 patterns of mines and 240 laser buoys held watch now, and no mines surrounded the inner bases to inflict attritional losses on armed pinnace attacks. Only a pair of small bases, located 9.5 LS out, had the controls for the automated weapons since the control ships had been pulled to Bedrock. That an attack was imminent there was no doubt as 60 regular Axis pinnaces made a probe three days previous.

Having decided that three days was enough the Axis launched its first assault wave. Leading the way was a dreadnaught-sized minesweeper, followed by a Soar assault carrier. Next were the Grenadiers, and after interpenetration there were 7 escorts, 49 corvettes, and 18 frigates. Along with them came 78 Apins, though 12 of them interpenetrated as well. Surprisingly there were no Dispersion or Critical Mass ships. This either indicated the enemy was short on such ships or didn’t fancy using them against a mere 240 buoys. Following that lot were two more Soars and a Falcon Crest assault carrier. Despite transit effects, the minesweeper opened up on one of the southeast bases, hitting with four antimatter close assault missiles and a HET laser. In the ensuing exchange between ships, bases, and defending fighters the only active BS5E was destroyed and a BS5B lost shields and 70% of its armor. In turn the assault carriers felt the sting of primary beams from four active BS5Bs, seeing their engine rooms riddled with holes through control conduits and power regulators. Two BS5Vs crash-launched at total of 90 Shark fighters, and those CAP squadrons that got weapons online crushed the armor of all the carriers, two of them losing 9 squadrons in their hanger bays. 20 corvettes and 2 frigates were destroyed. Both automated weapon control bases failed to come on-line. 22 patterns of mines were destroyed by the external clearance rounds carried by the Axis ships, and even with addled systems the Machete armed pinnaces took out 14 laser buoys.

No ship from the first wave transited out, save for one pinnace launched from the minesweeper. 10 Hatchet squadrons launched from carriers, with five of them heading for the northern beam bases. As for the Machetes they went for the southwest beam bases, through the minefield and incurring the loss of seven of their number. The second wave came in, comprised of two Cannonade BBs, two Falcon Crest CVs, and two Hand of Providence SDs. With no immediate allied jamming support the advantage went with the Axis for they had 10 corvettes with jammers. Those CAP fighters that were still armed were hacked up by defense-tasked Hatchets but still managed to destroy two first wave carriers. Further out the Crajen and Bulan primary beam bases opened up on the newcomer SDs and BBs, crippling engine rooms, reducing their turn rate and ability to engage targets. Despite having destroyed 14 more ships, most of them datalink jamming corvettes, and with the help of 100 laser buoys, the allied defenders sustained a decisive blow. Four BS5s failed to fire, and between the Hatchets, Machetes and Grenadiers only one intact BS5E and two BS5Bs (one with 85% internal damage) remained one minute into the battle.

15 crash-launched Shark Squadrons were still 1.5 LS out when the third wave made its entry. Three Prestige class DNs and three more Falcon Crest carriers found the space around them being rapidly depopulated of allied opposition. The two second wave carriers launched their 48 Hatchets and transited back to Bedrock. Primary beams lanced engine room components on two of the new CVs while the third was atomized by a tight volley of antimatter armed capital missiles, taking its four Hatchet squadrons along with it. One hundred laser buoys were fired before their numbers were reduced further, destroying another first wave Soar, and polishing off three more badly damaged corvettes. With the intent of landing boarding parties on the remaining close-in BS5s the Grenadiers fired mine clearance charges into the selected mine patch, reducing it to 57 patterns.

Jammers on the assault SDs came to life as the first 15 Shark squadrons dove onto the Axis ships. Along with 13 defending Hatchet squadrons the fourth wave Barrier escort cruisers added their jilted fire to the maelstrom. Both BS5Bs were now energy-hulked wrecks, and the last BS5E still couldn’t bring its offensive systems online. But the overload dampeners worked just fine, taking all the energy beam hits from the Cannonades and Providences could dish out that round, but next time it will be different. The Sharks still pressed their attacks against the ships, and backed up by primary beams and antimatter standard and capital missiles sown great damage to the Providences and the last third wave carrier. All three Hazen bases were dashed into dust by a like number of second wave Hatchet squadrons. Those still with ordnance, along with Machetes still with FRAMs, began to make for the BS5Rs and BS5Vs ‘north’ of the warp point. What was left of the Shark strike stayed on the warp point, intent on bagging Hatchets.

Six Sprinter DDs made the fifth wave, arriving just in time for the last 12 Shark squadrons to pounce on the growing Axis formation. With primary and capital missile support the Sharks destroyed the two Providences and the Prestige that carried the datalink jammers. Even the two Cannonades felled to massed FRAM hits. It took the lion’s share of firepower on the remaining Axis ships to bash into the hull of the remaining BS5E to destroy its jammer. Once done, the defending Hatchets, Machetes and Barriers butchers the Sharks to such an extent that only 15 remained.

A Prestige left along with five Barriers, and were replaced by a War Engine and five Critical Mass explorers. That new big ship became the focus of the primary and capital missile bases, wrecking engine rooms, point defense mounts and leveling the shields. Four Machetes were splashed by the Sharks and in turn were wiped out, leaving no deployed Sharks within weapons range of the warp point. Due to that focus the last Soar of the first wave was able to transit along with the other Prestige dreadnaught, the last Barrier and three Sprinters. A Crajen beam base, having sustained multiple spinal force beam and laser hits, was destroyed in a final barrage of fire. The seventh wave comprised of six more Critical Mass explorers. No more ships were to follow as the commander on the Bedrock side of the warp point was coming up with a new transit plan.

Inbetween the newcomers and bouts of combat the Grenadiers had reduced the southeast mine patch to 33 patterns. It was enough. With the last three Sprinters witnessing as they transited out the remaining Axis ships, sans five frigates, modulated engines and charged the mines. Four frigates were destroyed and 8 corvettes and 1 escort were immobilized. The War Engine was on the receiving end of 17 primary beams from the Bulan bases, losing the bulk of its point defense. Even so half of the ship’s lasers and tractor beams survived the barrage fired from the BS5Rs. The first wave DN minesweeper, having taking some mine hits, sustained primary beam fire as well from a Crajen base, engines rooms and point defense knocked out. With lasers and tractors in wide angle mode the DN and SD took out 6 more patterns, leaving a mere 15.

Five fully-loaded Hatchet squadrons and those with laser packs reached the missile bases. One was destroyed with another losing almost 30% of its armor. Sprint-mode advanced launchers on the missile and fighter bases wiped out three fully loaded squadrons while antimatter capital missiles finished the War Engine. What few missiles the bases could spare was more than made up by the rapidly depleting mine patch for only the intrepid DN sweeper and 10 Critical Mass ships were left, along with five frigates. Primary beams failed to knock out the DNs two HET lasers, making the patch a mere 8 patterns plus change.

Knowing it was a suicide run, the 17 still-armed Machetes attacked the second missile base. Shields failed and with the laser-armed fighters aiding the base sustained internal damage. 15 Machetes were shot down along with a few more Hatchets. The primary beam bases held their fire for there were no worthy targets. Only a solitary frigate and two explorers remained. Four mere patterns were what’s left in the southeast mine patch. A moment later two patterns expended a portion of their mines on those two explorers. The frigate joined them a moment later, smothered in conventional nuke-armed capital missiles. Changing plans, the laser Hatchets headed for the Crajen beam bases. Following them were four Shark squadrons, trailing because they were fully loaded compared to the enemy. With 24 laser packs the Sharks destroyed 4 Hatchets, leaving 32 armed ones. The 50 unarmed ones, along with 35 Machetes, were holding station 0.5 LS from the warp point. As for the reason it became clear.

Having been kept informed by a steady stream of returning pinnaces the Axis commander launched his revised plan. An Axis battlecruiser made transit and plunged into the southeast mine patch, and in the process of leaving it took the remaining patterns that would’ve attacked its following squadronmate. That first cruiser was a shambles, and the second had its interior lanced by primaries from the Crajen bases. Holding fire, the Bulan bases expected more ships but none came. The missile bases, down to one salvo of antimatter capital missiles, used it on the second battlecruiser for it was believed to be a carrier. Distance, point defense and ADMs contributed to the outcome of only six hits. More laser-armed Hatchets were shot down by the trailing Sharks, but a damaged Crajen base received more internal hits as the Hatchets were within range for their lasers.

A fresh Falcon Crest carrier transited in, moving at full speed and making use of the cleared minepatch. It was out of range of the Bulan bases, and the Crajen bases were recharging their primaries. As for the missile bases they concentrated on the mine-wrecked battlecruiser, destroying it. The second Crajen base was lased to death by the Hatchets, losing more to the Sharks but now inflicting losses on them in turn for three Hatchets were armed with gun packs.

The carrier launched its four squadrons and they were met by the Sharks two light seconds from the last Crajen base. Seeing their demise the Shark pilots elected to take on the newcomers in a running charge against the carrier. Only five remained. The odds of the survivors reaching the carrier improved as the base fired its primaries, securing ten hits and reducing the carrier’s speed by two thirds. Both BS5Rs fired SBMs at the ship, obtaining 18 lock-ons. Point defense and three EDMs ensured only five hits, all nuclear.

With both lasers and close assault missiles the Hatchets destroyed the last Crajen beam base. In the meantime the five Sharks engaged the Falcon Crest, scoring hits with lasers and FRAMs. Adding to the damage the BS5Rs fired another salvo of SBMs, reducing the carrier’s armor to 12%. The trailing battlecruiser, a minesweeper, fired on the five Sharks, knocking down two.

Another new Falcon Crest emerged from the warp point, and like the last it moved at full speed, ending just outside the firing envelope of the Bulan bases. Sensing blood, the BS5Rs continued against the first Falcon Crest, wiping out its empty fighter bays and ensuring its destruction with the next volley. The new carrier launched its four squadrons and retrieved four spent ones. The BS5Rs fired just one volley at this carrier, comprised of antimatter SBMs at maximum range. Only 4 out of 16 managed to hit, and that was the last instance of armor damage inflicted on an Axis ship in the battle.

With the carrier out of weapons range the other spent Hatchet squadrons were able to be rearmed in safety. In all 111 fighters, 26 F0 and 85 F1s, moved on the Bulan BS3s first, controlling the range so that they faced only one outburst of defensive fire. Just two Hatchets died in exchange for all three bases. Next came the BS5Rs and BS5Vs. In the intervening time one base restored its shields. It might as well not bother doing so. For the price of 15 more Hatchets the five bases were destroyed. Reports from the boarding parties aboard the three hulked bases were favorable and with each passing minute more cutters and shuttles were latching on and disgorging more troops to secure them and hopefully any databases contained therein. The way into Circuit Run was cleared, and the Axis reclaimed another of its systems.


On Bedrock Prime a celebration was given by the Comensal civilians for their liberators. In the capital city of Resolute two regiments of the Axis Army, one of infantry and one of armored units, marched and rolled down the huge main thoroughfare. Before them was the divisional marching band, and in accompaniment of the martial music bouquets of scented ferns were thrown at the soldiers by the adoring public. After the troops came the spacers of the AFC: crewmembers, pilots and marines that fought the abomination enemy, destroying ships, fighters and boarding their bases and hulks. In an open top car at the back of the parade Star Admiral Mansel waved at the civilians. So did System Admiral Hovwen, though her waves were less energetic than that of her senior.

“If you’re not going to put the effort in waving at least smile like you mean it,” said Mansel.

Hovwen didn’t let her displeasure show on her face. “I would smile more earnestly if our most recent battle wasn’t so costly. Six of my assault carriers were destroyed in the process of securing our return to Circuit Run. Add the loss of the Grenadiers and the other assault units we were fortunate that no enemy ships were present to bolster the defenses.”

“They may be abominations, Hovwen, but they’re not stupid. What forces they have beyond Circuit Run will be pulled to a point where they have a reasonable chance to defend.”

“As long as they don’t run too far, Admiral. My carrier groups are anxious to engage.”

“They may have an opportunity soon. The abom Hokum are still in Tire Iron. I don’t doubt they’ve been informed by the Commonwealth, and may very well engage the minelayer group that’s enroute to the Tire Iron warp point. Won’t it be a pleasant surprise for them to find that 30 of those ships are carriers with over 900 fighters embarked?”

“With the number of hulls involved they’ll likely err on the side of caution and not engage.” Hovwen took a moment to wave at the crowds passing by the car. “We’ll be able to sustain the loss in fighter groups now that Bedrock’s industrial base, even in its current state, is at our disposal. Having said that, for the next two warp assaults, we’ll make use of F0 Hatchets in the initial assault waves.”

“Oh, why so, Hovwen? The F1s are more potent.”

“Conservation of resources, Admiral. As you know Gymnasium is now in the process of replacing its Hatchets with the newer model. Rather than breaking all of them up for scrap we can use them as long as they’re available, prolonging our reserve stock of the F1 models.”

“I imagine the pilots aren’t particularly thrilled in using the older model, whatever the role they’re assigned to.”

“Naturally, but I’ll rotate new squadrons to fly the F0s for each warp assault and then assigned them to F1s. An excellent way for our pilots to get combat experience, wouldn’t you say so, Admiral?”

“Yes, Hovwen. By the time the Aboms are cleared out of pre-war space we’ll have a solid core of veteran squadrons that will burn a path into the heart of the enemy.”

While the Comensal celebrated in the cities the hunt for the Commonwealth Space Army’s 3rd Expeditionary Corps began in earnest. Flocks of reconnaissance drones, large and small, flew over Bedrock, transmitting their findings to eager technicians in the orbiting troopships. If so much as a squad was found armed drones were sent to pin down the CSA troops while the Axis Army sent in loaded assault shuttles. Using a ratio of 6-to-1, the Axis ensured they had the superior numbers in the resulting battles. The use of tactical nukes on the Comensal part was ruled out, as was the use of support munitions from orbiting ships. Collateral damage had to be minimized, and due to other pressing research needs the Axis had yet to have their own version of the kinetic bombardment system. This strategy to eliminate CSA formations would take far longer than expected, a fact that 2nd General Bolsan had to live with.

From his command post, a camouflaged hunting lodge located on an equatorial mountain in the eastern hemisphere, Bolsan tried to get a feel of his opposition. Intelligence sources placed the number of abom troops on Bedrock at least 400,000. Chief among these were the Terpla’ns and their E’sani allies, roughly numbering 180,000 each. The third major group was Tuphon, listed at 40,000. Bolsan had a feeling that there may be more aboms on the planet. Having for the most part been occupied in finding Bedrock’s scattered army units for the past several months the aboms had left the cities alone. In fact not one city was garrisoned. As a result there were no barracks, campsites or assembly areas to collect information, inspect abandon equipment, or gauge the consumption of supplies. Out in the field they policed their trash, leaving it to signal intelligence to puzzle out the size, numbers and name of abom army units.

Most of all Bolsan wanted to know what sort of being Field General Tokuno was. He was identified by name from the head of the abom civilian liaison team and actually seen by Bedrock’s governor in two meetings. Was Tokuno a fighter, willing to attack in force? Or will he employ a guerilla ‘hit-and-fade’ strategy? Was his mission to keep his soldiers alive and refrain from combat for as long as possible? If he stayed in the equatorial zone then the latter was likely.

Comensal hated the equatorial tropics of most of the planets they inhabited. The combination of year-long heat, humidity and rain did not sit well for their physiology, as well as the inevitable thick vegetation and the claustrophobia it induces. A condition known as bone rot could take hold after a week of exposure to such conditions, and any long-term habitation in such a zone would require structures equipped with air conditioning to provide warm, dry air. If Bolsan had his way whole swaths of rain forests and jungles would be burned or defoliated so as to deny the CSA hiding places. However the governor had forbidden it as such action could lead to poisoning of the oceans, and the Comensal here had developed a taste for the local sealife. With so much to ponder Bolsan had no time to dwell on facts he couldn’t change. He examined his maps, consulted with his staff, and drew up his plans.

Meanwhile Tokuno couldn’t have been more pleased with his new headquarters on Bedrock. The orbital hospital base had successfully entered the atmosphere and soft landed in a mountainous area of the equatorial tropics. A combination of jamming, destruction of all Comensal satellites, detonation of low yield nukes to mess up radio and digital transmissions, and fake debris ensured that the true landing site remained hidden. Cammo nets were spread across the saucer-shaped construct, and having landed in an area with multiple magnetic anomalies added another layer of protection.

The Tzelan Dr. Ghon Huu, Comensal specialist, was outside with Tokuno as soldiers continued to improve the base’s camouflage by breaking up the distinctive circular shape. “An excellent effort, General. It’s a shame, though, that this base can’t be salvaged after the war. The interior framework wasn’t meant for surface gravity, and without the station keeping generators the majority of the supports have warped. Some of the deck plates and bulkheads have as much as four centimeters of spacing between them.”

“It’s not something that a few wooden wedges, plastifill and inserts can’t fix, Huu. The sickbays are all intact as well as the contents of the cargo holds. We can provide our troops with advanced medications for years.” Tokuno blinked as he turned to face a distant set of cloud shrouded mountains. “So, there are no permanent Comensal settlements on the equator?”

“That is correct, General. They prefer dryer climes with less humidity. However, in my research there are a good number of hunting lodges, both public and private, in the equatorial zone. They have found the wildlife here to be particularly challenging for hunting. Some even make the challenge more intense by not using dry suits or medication.” Huu stroked the fine curls of wool on his chin while contemplating taking a bite from a Valhallan ‘cigar’ that an E’sani trooper gave him a while back. “The civilian safaris have undoubtedly resumed, with us being the hunted prey.”

“Is that so, Huu? We’re perfectly willing to hunt them right back. I seem to recall a report from our Hokum friends that they found the hunting lodges on Crimson Expanse to be filled with all sort of material and information. Do we happen to know if the planetary governor has his own personal lodge?”

“Oh yes,” Huu said enthusiastically. “He mentioned it in the talks, and in one instance it was in his office. On his office walls he had not only the stuffed heads of the animals he hunted, but a wide painting of the view from this lodge. He didn’t mention it, but I knew this because it was inscribed on the nameplate, and I have very good eyesight from where I was sitting. He did tell me the animals were local to where his lodge was, and that it was accessed via helicopter.”

“That’s not much to go on, Huu. You’ll be consulting holomaps and satellite images for weeks.”

“True, General, but I’m up to the challenge. I’m also helped by the fact that this lodge is on a mountainside, facing north. As you see, the nameplate was rather detailed.”

Tokuno smirked. “It seems they didn’t appreciate that Tzelans have good eyesight, even with bangs of wool going over the eyes. If I was in that office I could’ve counted all the individual strands of hair between their boney face plates.”

“Indeed, and one doesn’t need good eyes to see that the governor would’ve busted a blood vessel by being in the same room as an ‘abomination’ if it wasn’t for the fact of the expensive carpeting on the floor.”


In the Hamthen town of North Branch there was a dedication ceremony for the new education center. At its core the center incorporated the remnants of the previous one, demolished when an Axis Army artillery unit used it for target practice. After the ceremony tours were conducted of the center as well as games and a cookout. In a refreshment tent Mr. and Mrs. Svaa were taking long draws of iced tea while their daughter Keltro continued to play out in the sun with the other children.

“I’m getting old,” said the father. “My bum knee has been acting up more and more. I think I’ll get all four replaced and take the next three months off.”

“You know it doesn’t work like that, dear,” said the mother. “It’s done one knee at a time. You’re too important to be loafing around for three months in a wheelchair. Buildings don’t build themselves, even with our technology.”

“There’s some truth in that, Ma. If they did, then they’ll want compensation for services rendered.”

“Now you’re just being silly, dear.”

A familiar figure approached the couple. For a Hamthen he had a paunch, though it was good manners to refer someone with his thick midsection as stout. “Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Svaa,” said Pnee, the center’s chief administrator. “I just got two messages for Keltro from her friend Sergeant Pepen-su.” He handed a datapad to Mrs. Svaa.

“Ah, I’ll read the first one,” she said happily. “He’s such a good writer, that Pepen-su.” After a moment she read aloud. ‘Dear Keltro. Nothing much has changed since the last time I wrote you. We’re still dismantling Stone Hearth like it was some child’s construction set. At this rate they’ll have to label our company as combat engineers as the residents are disinclined to see their city vanish from the face of Citadel. Now that they know what it feels like to see one’s home destroyed perhaps the Comensal will come to their senses and stop fighting.’

“Not likely at all,” commented Mr. Svaa. “The Axis Army went out of their way to destroy our abandoned towns and cities. On Citadel they’re living in prefab buildings and in structures left by a now dead AI servitor race. As long as their world is occupied those Comensal colonists will be happy living in the wild.”

“Hush, dear. It’s impolite to interrupt.” Mrs. Svaa resumed where she stopped. ‘This is a facet of war that belongs to another reality. What we’re doing is more akin to a city declaring eminent domain on a condemned building filled with squatters. We’re trained to engage other soldiers in battle, not civilians, even those belonging to a civilization that makes all of them combatants. It’s a strain that threatens to break the soul when one has to engage the youthful promise of a people on daily basis, even if it’s for survival of oneself and his platoon mates.’

Pnee blinked his eyes. “What wretchedness that business is,” he said. “I hope his regiment gets rotated off that planet.”

Keltro’s mother paused as she read ahead. ‘I have come to learn that those that remained true to their core beliefs, adhering to a righteous code of conduct in a war that would make everyone a savage, are the strongest of all. We need these people to remind the others that there is life after war, and that one should keep their soul to make life after war worthwhile. I’ll write again soon. Perhaps your next letter you’ll tell me that you’ve finally placed moths in Mr. Pnee’s ceiling lights.’

“Ah, that explains the fingermarks on the ceiling,” said Pnee. “Now just how Keltro find the time to get in my office and with a ladder no less?”

“My turn,” said Mr. Svaa, taking the datapad from his wife. “Ah, this one is from Corporal Minki-wa, his friend.” He read ahead, mouth at the ready, but no words came. His grip on the pad loosen, shifting downward so that the screen faced away.

“What is it, dear?” asked the concerned wife.

Mr. Svaa handed the pad over like it was a brick. “Mr. Pepen-su Karas is dead. His platoon was providing cover for combat engineers during a building removal. A Comensal child was inside, and Pepen-su went in to rescue him despite the fires and wreckage. Both made it outside, but the child detonated a suicide vest. There was to a party later that day. His regiment was due to be relieved and sent home one month from now.”

“A party,” said a dejected Mrs. Svaa, looking at her nearly empty glass of iced tea.

“Can I have that?” asked Mr. Pnee, hand outstretched for the pad. “I’ll post it for the children.”

Mrs. Svaa reloaded the first letter and had the pad’s built-in printer produce a plaspaper strip copy. “No, post this one,” she said, giving the copy to Mr. Pnee. “It’s theirs.”

Axis Fleet Command Prestige Class Dreadnaught - 3rd Tech Level 9 Refit
Hatches for the three capital missile launchers are in front of the superstructure. Side turrets are for the point defense systems - four ports/capital - six ports/regular - eight ports/improved. Each PD mount has an associated missile interceptor hatch. Has 13 capital missiles on external racks. Shuttle hatch on the underside of the ship.
Artwork by Adam Kop

Commonwealth Space Force Terpla Class Dreadnaught - Tech Level 10 Refit
Capital missile launcher on either side of the bow. Advanced missile launchers in the 'stack' behind the main superstructure. Shuttle bay inbetween superstructure and stack. Side turrets are for the point defense systems - two barrels/advanced capital point defense - four barrels/advanced point defense. Hatches for the PD missile interceptors are lined up between the upper and lower PD turrets. Has 26 LT2-armed standard missiles on external racks.
Artwork by Adam Kop
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