Joined: 07 Dec 2004
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Location: Nottingham, England
|Posted: Mon, 4. Apr 05, 12:47 Post subject: Destiny's Dawn - Chapter 15 (complete 04.4.05)
|Dear all, back from leave and though as always too short, I have completed chapter fifteen.
Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14,
Chapter 15. Sacrifices
When the Euripides jumped into the sector, Captain Tambla watched as the gate patrol squadron scattered to avoid his firepower. They were flying oddly erratic courses as they headed away from his ship.
“Lieutenant, scan the area. There is something not right here.” He ordered one of his officers.
“Sir, I am detecting a number of anomalies dotted around the gate.” The lieutenant called across the bridge.
“Can you get a lock. What are they?” Tambla replied.
“Hold on…” The lieutenant swore. “They have mined the area. We are surrounded by Squash mines.”
“Damn it this will slow us down. They still have to trade, there must be a safe path, extrapolate a course and patch it through to the helm.” The captain ordered.
There was a tense few mezuras as the navigation team tried to plot a course through the mines. Every sezura gave the Split defenders a chance to rally and might even bring the carrier into the sector. The ship’s nav computer displayed its attempts on the main view screen. The bridge crew stared spellbound as the display flicked between routes each one ending with a flash as the icon for the Euripides collided with a mine. Finally a course was located, it was circuitous and would delay them further but it would get them free from the fixed position.
“Helm, ahead best speed. Flight control get all fighters ready for launch.” Tambla commanded.
The Euripides began to move slowly through the minefield. The view screen was displaying the effective range of the mines’ proximity sensors. One of the mines loomed into view and the crew sat with bated breath. At the last possible moment the ships swung round and headed for a new gap. The helm officer was sweating from exertion and the pressure.
“We are clear Captain.” The helm officer said letting out a long sigh.
“Excellent work lieutenant. Let me know when we are six klicks away.” The captain said genuinely impressed. TL class freighters were big ships and had poor manoeuvrability; it was a wonder they had survived. “Flight control, Launch all squadrons and target the nearest concentration of enemy shipping.” He added.
After a few moments “All fighters have been launched and are headed for the shipping lanes” The flight officer reported.
“Captain, we are over six clicks outside the minefield.” The Helm officer interrupted.
“Good, arm a few mosquitoes and launch them at the mines.” Tambla said.
From the rear of the huge ship, a small opening emerged. In sequence, six missiles launched from the ship’s magazine. They headed towards the minefield, each targeting a different point. As each missile closed with its target it made minor course corrections before ploughing right into one of the mines. Six small explosions occurred as the tiny warheads set off their target mines. The closely packed field meant that the mines overlapped. Each of the six initial explosions set off a chain reaction. Within sezuras the entire area around the gate was a filled with devastating explosion. It looked like a sun had gone supernova in the glaring light of the expanding devastation.
As quickly as they had started, the blasts subsided. Battered and scarred but still intact, the gate sat serenely, the workmanship of the old ones far surpassing the destructive power of even the most mighty of weapons.
Mu Rori, led his squadrons towards the heart of the enemy sector. The enemy defence fighters were scrambling to intercept his ships, but were still too far away. He ordered his Mako squadron to engage the freighters. The lumbering ships should be easy prey for the nimble but well armed medium fighters.
With a keening cry he launched his Barracuda into an attack vector against the gathering Split opposition. His squadron of heavy fighters followed him. The Split were taken by surprise by the audacity of the attack and scattered.
The Barracuda squadron split up into wing pairs and began to hound the Split fighters. Mu Rori laughed with glee the Split defence was in shambles.
He switched his guns to system destroying ion disrupters. The lightening like beams tore apart the shields on the nearest ship. Small tendrils expanded from his target, striking other ships in the cluster about him. Several of the Split fighters turned away, trying to avoid the draining effect. His current target was suffering from the effects of disruptors as electricity danced across its hull damaging many of its systems. Within moments its guns were disabled.
Mu Rori switched back to his plasma guns and pummelled his opponent into shreds. As its hull collapsed the pilot ejected, leaving Mu to select a new target. The nearest enemy was an Iguana assault transport. It seemed to be armed with three particle accelerators and was driving off any of his comrades who tried to approach.
With the far superior manoeuvrability of his Barracuda, Mu Rori slipped onto the tail of the Iguana. His ion disrupters shredded through the assault ship’s shields. The Split ship banked away rapidly, desperate to withdraw and recharge the shields. Mu Rori launched a pair of silkworm missiles at the ship and then headed after a pair of scorpions.
On board the Euripides, Captain Tambla watched the battle unfold. The Boron fighters were taking a heavy toll of the Split defenders, but as more fighters were launched from the stations, he new tat eventually they would be overwhelmed.
“Mu Rori, have you fighters withdraw toward the Euripides and form a cordon. We need to buy more time.” Tambla ordered to the Boron commander.
As the two Boron squadrons carried out a fighting withdrawal, Tambla ordered his ship into the fray. “Helm move us toward the main engagement area, we need to support our fighters.”
The Helm officer complied, and the Euripides picked up speed as it made its way toward the rolling turmoil of the massed engagement.
A group of Split Mambas came bearing down on the ship. “All turrets engage at will” Tambla commanded from the bridge. He activated several screens around his command seat. They displayed images from the gun cameras on his turret.
Tambla could feel the ship shudder under the bombardment of the Mambas’ plasma throwers. One of the small status panels indicated that the shields were taking a pounding but were still holding.
As enemy fighters flew around the ship, Tambla watched as each turret opened fire, trying to track the fast moving vessels. One of the Mambas went spiralling out of control as a turret found its target.
“Mu where are you we need assistance ASAP.” Tambla shouted into his comm. unit as a panel overhead exploded.
Mu Rori was not sure what ASAP meant, but he could see the beleaguered Euripides surrounded by heavy Split fighters. “Mako squadron.” He called. “You must move to top speed and save the Euripides, we will hold off the reinforcements.” He hoped that the medium fighters would help tip the balance.
As the Makos sped off, the Barracudas turned to face the onrushing hoard. Mu could see that the Split fighters had formed a trail, which stretched back towards the stations as more ships were launched. It would give them a small reprieve if they could face the enemy piece meal.
His thoughts were interrupted by an incoming flight of Scout fighters.
“The Jaguars are launching missiles, watch yourselves.” He shouted as he fired a spiral of plasma fire, hoping to detonate any missiles headed towards him. His squadron followed suit and opened fire too. Most of the light missiles were destroyed. A few slipped through the wall of plasma fire, but the low power of the wasp missiles the Jaguars carried barely dented the shields of the few ships they impacted upon.
“Pick a target and destroy it before they have a chance to get past” He ordered.
He watched as the scout fighters were torn apart. The enemy squadron commander had misjudged his approach. It was foolish to try a head to head run against heavy ships.
Mu could see that the next Split wave was a few mizuras away. “All ships, we must try to get nearer the Euripides.” He called. “We will use this lull to our advantage. We must not get drawn away.”
He led the heavy fighters in a mad dash for the large transport. The pursuing scorpions strained their engines, slowly gaining ground due to their faster speed. The Euripides was still a couple of mizuras away when the Barracudas were forced to turn to face the second wave.
Despite the heavy firepower of the Boron ships, they were slowly being worn down by the lightning attacks of the faster Split scorpions. The Split medium fighters could outrun any of the missiles the squadron tried to launch and when one fell to plasma fire another took its place.
Mur was desperate, he had lost three ships to the Split’s darting attacks, and a new wave of enemies was fast approaching. He forced his ship into the centre of a large group of any fighters and fired his ion disrupters. The dancing bolts of lightening drained shields and damaged systems, causing several of the Split fighters to withdraw for repairs.
The brief respite caused by the breach in the Split web, allowed his own squadron to limp towards the Euripides. As the enemy wings rallied for another assault the Mako squadron returned tearing into the disordered Split ranks. Enough time was bought for his squadron to take up positions around the powerful ship.
The Split squadrons were unwilling to engage, whilst they were so overstretched, and held back waiting for their comrades to form up with them. The GDI taskforce limped towards the gate.
Mu pondered why the Split would not engage; perhaps their ruse had been successful. The task force were still several mizuras were from the gate when it lit up with an approaching wormhole. He stared enthralled as a Split carrier slowly made its way through the gate. “Success,” He transmitted to his wingmen.
“Sir, the gate is activating again,” one of his pilots called.
Mu Rori stared in horror as a flotilla of corvettes followed in the carrier’s wake.
The station had become a lot quieter since the task force had departed, Keltana noticed as he continued his exploration of the GDI headquarters. He had found that the Argon designed their stations well when it cam to security. The public areas of the station were entirely separate from the corporate zones. The only access between the two areas was via doors guarded by security staff. He could not even find a maintenance access tube, which might connect the two sections.
He doubted that there was any way that a Split would be allowed passage beyond the public zone, regardless of the security clearance given by his identification. There was only one way he could proceed, that would be in disguise. Unfortunately right now he could not find suitable attire, which would hide his Split origin.
He went back to find his Teladi contact, perhaps she could find a way into the secure area. Keltana knew that the female liked to spend much of her time in one of the many bars in the commercial district. He headed off to find her he had an idea where she would be.
Although the GDI tried to limit illegal activity and deter the more undesirable elements of the galactic society, there were always places, which drew the denizens of the underworld. Keltana walked into the Jade Dragon bar. It was filled with a scattered array of tables and chairs. The bar was barely a quarter full. Most of the occupants were small time traders who could not afford the prices of more comfortable establishments.
Keltana walked towards the bar and signalled the barman. “A glass of Trelba juice, on the rocks.” He ordered, placing a small currency credit chit on the counter. After his drink was supplied he added. “Keep the change.” The barman muddled his thanks and stepped back to a stack of glasses he was ineffectively polishing.
Sipping his drink, Keltana scanned the room, he noted that illicit deals were being made at, at least six of the tables. He noted that only one Teladi was in the room, rapidly talking with a pair of Argon pilots in grubby flight suits. It was his contact. One of the Argon stood up and began to gesticulate wildly with his arms. It seemed the discussion was getting heated. He decided to walk over an find out what was wrong.
“Twenty thousand credits is too much.” The first man said.
“That isss the priccce I musss asssk for. The tasssk is very difficult.” The Teladi replied with the usual lisp of her people.
“You don’t seem to comprehend the situation. You’ll do it for ten, or else you won’t be doing anything every again.” The second added maliciously.
Keltana could see the fear in the Teladi’s eyes as she answered back. “No I refussse to continue thisss conversssation, you mussst leave.” It was time to intervene. Even if he had not got a use for her, he liked to see defiance, particularly against unsubtle petty thugs.
“Why you little…” the first male shouted as he swung his arm to strike the Teladi. The blow never reached her. It was held in Keltana’s vice-like grip.
“I think the lady asked you to leave.” Keltana said wryly.
“Mind your own business.” The second man warned aggressively.
Keltana laughed. “Actually this is my business, now leave before I break your friend’s arm.”
The two men could see the menace behind his eyes and decided it best to quit. “We’ll be back.” Said the first, rubbing his arm.
“I doubt it.” Keltana called after them.
“Thank you for you assissstancce.” The Teladi said, cocking her head in appreciation.
“It was hardly worth the bother, those thugs were pathetic.” He replied.
“Ssstill I must be able to help you.” The Teladi offered. “I will give you a dissscount.”
Keltana laughed she must be grateful; the Teladi did not give up profit willingly. “I need to find a way into the secure part of the station, this ID you gave me will not get my past security.”
“Thatsss easssy, I can smuggle you in on a sssuply ssship, but you will need to make the ressst of the way yourssself.” The Teladi replied.
“When and how?” He asked.
“You will need to get to the Cahoona Bakery, there isss a sssuply ssshipment moving from there in two ssstazuras. The organic material will hide you from bio sensssors.”
“Excellent, I will head over there now.” He replied. With a flourish he produced a large credit chit. “This should cover your costs with a bonus.”
The Teladi’s eyes lit up. For Keltana the cost was insignificant with the reward once he succeeded.
Commander Dentill was stood on the bridge of the Ardent when the signal came through, The Jxu carrier had been seen entering Nopileos’ Memorial. The crew began to quickly check their systems one last time before Captain Greene gave the order. “Activate the jump drive.”
The ship launched itself into the artificial wormhole as it crossed the dimensional barrier. As it emerged on the other side, they could see too late the danger that waited for them.
On the sector map, Dentill could see the cluster of ships, which comprised Captain Tambla’s taskforce fleeing from the growing sector defence forces. He could also see that their escape route was blocked by the large Split carrier taskforce.
“Captain Greene, have all fighters launched and direct all available guns on the carriers launchbays.” Dentill hastily ordered.
“I’m on it Commander.” Greene replied.
As the bridge crew rushed to carry out the launch commands, across the bow of the Ardent the heavy photon pulse cannons began to open fire. The massive blue balls of energy were hurled into the void between the two ships. Shields began to flare on the carrier as the bombardment began to eat away at the ships defences.
“Commander, the corvettes are turning to engage us.” Cried one of the sensor officers. “They are headed for our fighters.”
“They must be trying to eliminate our defence screen before it has a chance to deploy.” Dentill guessed.
“Have the photon cannons divide their fire between the corvettes, perhaps we can drive them off.” Greene ordered his voice betraying a hint of nervousness. This would be the first major test of his ship.
“It should buy us a little time.” Dentill replied.
“At least they have given us a clear path to the carrier.” Greene grimaced. It was true, the corvettes had manoeuvred to loop around the Ardent’s flanks, leaving an open corridor between the two capital ships. It was a ripe opportunity to exploit.“Missile deck, fire two volleys into the carrier’s aft.” The Captain added.
The bridge crew watched in anticipation as a dozen hornet missiles hurtled towards the Split flagship. Flights of Split fighters continued to launch from the carriers hanger bay as a pack of Jaguar scouts sped to intercept the missiles. The Jaguars opened fire on the hornets with their light guns. The missiles were small and fast, making them very difficult to target. Still several of them were destroyed. As they closed with the carrier, it opened a desperate barrage from its rear guns. The space around the carrier was filled with energy explosions as the many weapon emplacements tried frantically to protect the ship.
Buffeted by explosions around them, the Jaguar pilots veered away from their targets, they did not want to be hit by their own mothership. The carrier would have to defend itself. If the Jaguar pilots had had trouble with the missiles, the carrier had more. Its heavy gun turrets, so useful in defending it against other warships could not easily track the small missiles. Still the weight of fire was so great that one after another missiles began to explode. It looked like the carrier might succeed after all as the hornets’ number dwindled. When the remaining warheads reached the ship, there were only three left. The shields on the Raptor were designed to absorb such damage.
“Damn! It looks like they have failed.” Dentill exclaimed, regret tingeing his tone.
“No wait sir.” An officer called across the bridge.
“It looks, like… Yes! One of the missiles struck within the launch tube of the carrier. It seems that it has been knocked out of commission.” The officer said with noticeable glee. The bridge crew cheered in relief.
How many enemy fighters launched before it was knocked out?” Dentill enquired.
“Er… six squadrons.” The sensor officer replied, some of his confidence gone.
“Better than all twelve.” Green offered encouragingly.
General Dhjn raged at his crew, hurling abuse at any warrior who crossed his path. “What incompetence has led to this?” he screamed, standing over the corpse of the Bashar’s erstwhile captain. There was a thin haze of smoke throughout the bridge from several computer panels, which had exploded in the energy surge caused by the hornet volley. “I want a damage assessment now.” He demanded.
A small voice spoke up from the cluster of officers cowering in the crew pit below him. “Our shields are holding at seventy percent power, and are slowly rising.” The officer said. “Unfortunately the hanger has been put out of action, although we do have six fighter squadrons already launched.”
“Excellent, I see at least one of you has the courage to speak. What is your name?” Dhjn asked the quaking Split, the hint of a smile creeping into his tierce lips.
“Hes’pan R’tika, Lord General, tactical officer.” The split replied.
“Well, it is Capitan R’tika now.” Dhjn gestured. “Now we must salvage this battle. Have our Mamba squadrons move to support the corvettes. The rest of the fleet will move to eliminate the force trying to escape.”
“As you command, General.” The newly promoted captain whispered.
“Get repair crew working on the launch tube, we must overwhelm our foes.” Dhjn ordered. “We will crush them in the name of Lord Jxu.”
“I am reading over twenty enemy fighters moving to intercept us.” The Ardent’s sensor officer reported. “It looks like they are all Mamba class.”
“Damn, we cannot get bogged down in an engagement here.” Dentill replied angrily.
“Send the Perseii to engage the incoming fighters.” Captain Greene ordered to the fight controllers. “have the Novas split up and drive the Dragons onto our guns.”
A brief flurry of acknowledgements followed as the GDI fleet began to follow the orders. The squadron of Paranid fighters circled around the Ardent to avoid the streams of fire pouring from her turrets and headed for the Split wing closing on the task group. The Nova squadron divided into threes and began to open fire on the circling corvettes.
“I should be out there with them.” Dentill said through gritted teeth.
“No, we need you here Commander. “ Greene replied. “I need your experience, more than we need pilots.”
The two senior officers stood over the tactical display, watching as the engagement enfolded. The Paranid fighters, had formed into a wall blocking the incoming Mambas. The Novas had begun concentrating fire on the four corvettes, using their superior manoeuvrability to keep away from the powerful turrets.
“What is the status of the enemy carrier?” Dentill enquired.
Greene zoomed the display outwards and focused on the Raptor. It was clear from the array of information surrounding the carrier icon that it was accelerating. The squadrons surrounding the carrier began to form a wedge around it, ready to punch through the Euripides small screen.
“The Carrier is heading towards Tambla’s group, it does not look good.” Greene thought out loud.
“We have got to finish here in the next few mizuras or else it will be too late.” Dentill said.
The pair watched as the icon for one of the corvettes winked out. In space, one of the Dragons succumbed to the withering fire of the photon cannons. A pair of Novas flew through the debris and headed for the next corvette.
“Loral.” Dentill called through a communicator. “Concentrate your fire upon the split squadrons as soon as you can, we need to clear a path for the Ardent.”
“Acknowledged commander.” Came the Paranid’s reply.
“Set our velocity to maximum.” Dentill ordered the helm officer. “We are going after the carrier.”
The frigate burst into motion as it headed deeper into the system. Ahead of the ship, the Paranid squadron began to engage the incoming Mambas. The telltale ripples of shockwave weaponry expanded from the Perseii, engaging the Split sqaudron’s head on. Shields buckled on the enemy fighters and several exploding, leaving gaping holes in the Split formation.
“Take us through that gap.” Green ordered as the hurtled towards the enemy.
“Loral, finish up against the fighters, then help out the Novas with the corvettes.” Dentill commanded as the Ardent slipped past. The Split Mambas blossomed outwards trying to avoid the huge ship’s bulk. As they passed, the turrets on board the Ardent made brief parting shots, before the Split were out of range.
“We are slowly gaining on the Raptor. ETA three mizuras.” The sensor officer reported.
“That’s not going to be soon enough.” Dentill shook his head. He stared as the Carrier began to engage Captain Tambla’s task force. The two squadrons of Boron fighters launched a hail of missiles against the closing Split wing. The target rich environment ensured that several of the missiles struck, causing explosions throughout the poorly shielded fighter force.
After the initial success the sheer weight of numbers began to tell. The already exhausted Boron pilots were slowly overwhelmed by the Split attacks. Every sezura saw the Line shrink as ships were destroyed or forced back towards the Euripides. The Carrier’s heavy guns began to open fire on the heavy transport, nibbling at the shields, trying to find a weak spot.
“ We are in range now Sirs.” One of the gunners called to the two officers.
“Open fire!” Dentill and Greene ordered simultaneously.
The blue bolts from the Ardent’s turrets began to envelope the Raptor’s rear shields but the barrage was not enough to stop it. The ship simply shrugged off the blasts. Dentill and Greene stared in horror as the shields began to collapse on the Euripides.
“They are not going to make it. Get out of there!” Greene shouted to the screen. All thoughts of communicators and radios lost in the sickening moment.
Over the comm. unit a voice slowly began to speak through burst of static. “Am abandoning… crew heading for… boats… reactor…tical… engines to maxi… m… going to… the carrier.” It was Tambla.
“What is he doing.” Greene cried as the transport accelerated, escape pods launching from its sides.
“he is going to ram the carrier.” Dentill shouted back.
The entire bridge crew watched in complete silence as the two massive ships approached each other. At the last moment the carrier realised its peril and began to turn away. It was too late. The huge bulk of the Euripides slammed into the flank of the carrier, caving in one of the large wings. Half the lights blinked out along the ship.
“Enemy shields are down to ten percent.” One of the officers reported, breaking the silence.
“Open up with all weapons.” Dentill ordered. “Let’s not waste Captain Tambla’s sacrifice.”
The guns on the Ardent began to fire on the stricken carrier. With much of its power lost in the collision, the Raptor was helpless against the bombardment. The shields collapsed and energy blasts began to chew through the hull. A gaping hole opened in the carrier’s side and bolts began to seemingly pass right through the ship. As the integrity of the ship failed, life pods began to jettison. From the blasted maw of the hanger, a large troop transport sped out, heading for the sector’s centre.
The final death of the carrier was spectacular. Its plasma engine exploded scattering fighters and debris around the vicinity. The Ardent was rocked by the blast and its shields fell alarmingly.
“It seems our mission has been accomplished just barely.” Dentill said to the crew, “it is time to go. Pick up our remaining fighters and the escape pods and lets head home before the Split have a chance to regroup.”
As the scattered GDI ships headed for the Ardent, the frigate began to limp towards the jump gate and the ongoing melee between the GDI squadrons and Corvettes. When the Split leader saw the large bulk of the frigate headed for his remaining ships, he panicked, leading the last two corvettes and scattered knots of Mambas through the gate to Hatikvah’s Faith.
As the remaining Novas and Perseii docked with the Ardent, Greene gave the order. “Charge the jump drive, it’s time to leave.”