Approximately one month post First Contact
Admiral Katrikkan arrived at the Combat Bridge, where he opened a comms channel to Admiral Veris. Veris was the one who spoke first.
“Katrikkan, I’ve got Fleet Admiral Saren in the brig. The Reaper sustained massive exterior hull damage and lost pressure on two hundred fifty-three decks. The shield generator was disabled, and the antimatter tanks’ seals were broken.”
Katrikkan shook his head, amazed that they’d lost pressure nearly three quarters of their decks. The shield generator would have to be fixed if they wanted to even think about using the ship in battle, and the hull damage seemed extensive enough that it would need a complete stay in a shipyard to repair the damage, if it wouldn’t be less expensive just to scrap the ship and build a new one.
“How about the engines?” Katrikkan asked.
“They suffered considerable damage, as well as the support structure. Maximum output is eight percent of normal. They aren’t going anywhere fast. Phase drives are better, but not much. Maximum output: fifteen percent.”
“That ship would have been quite helpful in an engagement. Send it back for repairs; I don’t want to lose it if it can be saved.”
“It’ll take a while to turn it around. Maneuvering thrusters aren’t in very good condition. Half of them are nonfunctional.”
“The news gets better by the minute,” Katrikkan said sarcastically. “How is the planet bombardment proceeding?”
“The planet has nearly been wiped of all command and control structures and will soon be taken. Ground forces are proceeding at an extremely quick pace. The natives aren’t putting up much of a fight.”
“That is good. Anything else change that I should know of?”
“Nothing of importance. No comms messages or orders from command, and no phase activity detected in the vicinity.”
“Thank you. Korigul actual out.”
“Sinistra actual out.”
It was common practice to speak directly to the commander of an operation when one of equal rank wanted to know the progress of the op. This had arisen as a way for the commanding officers to acquaint themselves with one another when working together in a task force. It kept the commanders friendly toward each other, and helped fleet cohesion.
During battle, this was kept to audio only, in order to free up computing space for performing the countless calculations involved in maintaining a shield under fire and plotting missile and weapon trajectories. This is difficult enough in a near flat world of the ancient sea-going vessels, where threats appeared in essentially two dimensions. In space, however, there was no median, such as water, that limited their movement, so attacks could come from anywhere, and could be going anywhere. This affected sensors and shields the most, as weapons usually were fired straight ahead, or close to.
Katrikkan sat back in his chair, considering whether he should immediately push forward, or if he should hold and let his ships get some rest and build some orbital facilities around the planet they had just taken.
There were many artifacts left in the galaxy from previous civilizations. Should he search the planet for one of these, or save the resources? If nothing was found, the higher-ups wouldn’t be pleased that he had spent the resources for nothing, but if he did find something, then they would be extremely pleased. Hell, if he could find one of the ancient jump drives, then they would surely promote him.
There were only two ranks higher than his in the military – Fleet Admiral, and Grand Admiral. There was already a Grand Admiral, but there could always be more Fleet Admirals. And he would have access to many more reinforcements and modifications to capitol ships to carry out his objective. His fleet would be among the first to receive upgrades and retrofitting if they were available.
Admiral Katrikkan carefully weighed his options, and finally decided that he would leave build orders for defenses and income structures, would detail two scouts to Low Orbit Observation to assist in exploring, and would continue with the portion of his fleet that was not heavily damaged. He hoped to at least find some natural feature that would assist in developing the planet.
He radioed the colonization teams with his orders, and then gave his orders to his fleet. The task force moved to the edge of the gravity well, where they waited for the other ships to catch up. Katrikkan had sent a scout ahead already, and was waiting for its scheduled report back. He didn’t have to wait long.
The raw report appeared on his chair display. It listed total ship counts, defensive structures that had been built in advance, and included a map of the gravity well. They had arrayed a defensive barrier along the close edge of the well. It would be easy to flank, but the garrisoned fleet was sitting behind the structures. They would provide strong fire support and could be dangerous if they remained under the cover of the structures. Their fleet was combat-heavy, and had few support ships.
Provided that they could neutralize the structural defenses, it didn’t appear that the fleet would pose much threat.
Katrikkan thought for a moment.
After half a minute, he had a plan. He outlined it on the holomap that was projected from a projector mounted flush in the floor. He sent the data to his subordinate commanders. He would have to use something not normally allowed in battle, but he believed its use justified. He brought up the comms menu, selected the nearest suitable Vasari controlled world, and issued the order. He then ordered the task force’s phase drives to be activated, and waited in his chair for the small shudder that meant they had entered phase space. He heard the phase drive start up, and began a count in his head, timing when it activated.
“One… two…three…four… now,” he recited mentally. The drive activated a moment later than he predicted, sending them toward the fight.
He had several hours in phase before the fleet reentered real space, and so he brought up a map of his task force’s progress into the natives’ territory. Aliope was set as the “homeworld” from which he was starting his campaign, and had two places where phase space was stabile enough to conduct local traffic. One ended in the magnetic storm that linked to the previous world, as yet unnamed except for a generic classification, and the other ended in an empty asteroid belt.
He touched the world he was heading toward, and the holomap zoomed in on it. There, it displayed the gravity well, shown as a translucent sphere, and the planet as the major features. Small icons representing the last known positions of ships and structures were located on the map. He paused a moment, then pressed a button on the side of his chair arm, and touched the place where his ships would exit phase space. A swarm of icons appeared there, and, after tapping another button that reduced the amount of icons into different, larger groups, he moved each one to its planned location. He intended to keep all of his ships out of range of the structures, and so each group was set to pass wide around their predicted firing arc. They moved together, leaving behind a trail of thin blue lines. As his “fleet” turned around the structures, he had them stop and had the Kanrak Assailant group begin firing on the fleet.
This is where he stopped the map, being unable to predict the natives’ plans and whether they would move out of cover or not.
After he turned off the holomap, the admiral left the combat bridge and headed toward the elevator. This brought him up to the transit bridge, which was in fact above the combat bridge, as it was set near the top of the ship and was farther forward than the combat bridge.
He walked in on the bridge crew who were busy plotting their route and checking the different readouts. They little more than glanced up at him, and then continued their work. Outside the windows, he could see the light oscillating blue that surrounded the ship while it was in phase space.
“At an hour out, move to the combat bridge,” Katrikkan ordered.
His order was met with a mixed chorus of “yes, sir” and “aye, aye”. He nodded, and then asked, “How’s our energy levels?”
“Green, sir. Our reactors are functioning at 98% efficiency,” responded the engineering officer. 98% was a high number, but still within normal ranges. He had a good engineering crew, and expected no less.
* * *
The ship shuddered as it exited phase space, and the sensor screen came online. The Aluxi ships were still in the formation the scout had reported them in, and the scout ship appeared on his screen as well, as a translucent point off to the side of the gravity well, indicating that they had engaged phasic cloaking.
Katrikkan’s task force stormed into the gravity well, following the plan Katrikkan had outlined in phase space earlier.
As the Assailants opened fire, the native ships began to move within their cover of orbital turrets. They halted at the far edge of the structure ring, and launched small fighters and bombers. Their movement brought them out of the firing ranges of the Assailants, and their strikecraft were too small to be targeted by the Vasari’s main guns. The Jansurak Sentinels, however, moved among the fleet so they were dispersed, providing cover to all the ships. The capitol ships, as well as the small contingent of Lasurak Transporters, launched their strikecraft – all of which were squadrons of fighters.
They moved to intercept the haphazard formations of trader strikecraft, and tore them to pieces in the initial sweep. The Sentinels easily took down several fighters each pass, and together they quickly eliminated the small ships.
Aboard the Korigul, a small blip appeared on the sensors display, traveling at extreme speed toward the planet surface. It impacted, and the Trader ships all ceased firing.
“Sir, sensors aren’t picking up any native transmissions,” The sensors officer noted.
“Very good. All ships close on the native formation and erase it from existence. Priority target is the battleship on the far side of their formation,” Katrikkan ordered.
Several replies came at once, but only Admiral Veris and Rear Admiral Soth’s replies were clear enough to make out.
The fleet charged inward, racing past the inert point defense structures straight to the natives disabled within. The whole of the task force opened fire at once, devastating the defenseless natives. Within the first minute, three fourths of the native fleet was wiped from existence. Within the minute after, the Vasari task force had annihilated the native fleet and had begun systematically destroying or disabling the point defense ring.
As the last of the point defense structures went offline, Katrikkan contacted the planetary bombardment detachment of his force.
“That was rather… easy,” the leader of the detachment prompted. It was technically a breach of protocol for the receiving party to speak first.
“Yes, that’s the idea. Keeps our casualties down. Now, I want you to begin bombardment of the planetary fortifications. After clearing the fortifications, send down ground teams to secure the planet and begin building defenses and a phase stabilizer node. Once the planet is secured, the node must be up and running as soon as possible. Is that clear?” Katrikkan asked with the barest trace of annoyance.
“Yes, admiral,” The Desolator captain replied.
Closing the link, Katrikkan leaned forward, resting his head in his hands. He had already received the total damage count, and was not looking forward to the inevitable call from high command.
The warhead he used was hard on the Vasari ships’ systems, damaging the crystal layer that covers said systems to protect them from just such a weapon. Some of the systems had blown because their shielding had failed from age, and would need repair.
The crystal they use for the shielding had become rare as their flight from the darkness brings them farther and farther from their home system. Occasionally, they stumble across a source for the crystal, but the Dark Armada must always eventually abandon it as the flight continues.
Currently, supplies of the crystal were running dangerously low, and the Dark Armada was searching everywhere for a source. This reminded Katrikkan to contact Aliope to check the results of the mapping, as he was constantly searching for sources of that crystal and suspected that some of the asteroids contained crystal of some form.
Acting on the thought, he opened a communication channel to Aliope. He was greeted by the excited faces of two Vasari workers who were hastily bringing up something on a holodisplay, as it was several hours earlier than their scheduled report.
“What’s the mapping uncovered?” Katrikkan queried.
“My lord, we have uncovered something of the highest value – a large deposit of crystalline asteroids orbiting the planet!” one of them began, his scientist’s white giruus swaying from the motion. His finger dipped into the holo-keyboard momentarily and the image of several crystalline asteroids came up in the display
“What form of crystal?”
“Katarn. The form that protects our ships from our Kostura warheads.”
“Very good. They’ll give you a promotion for this,” Katrikkan replied.
“They’ll give us all promotions for this!” the second scientist added excitedly.
“Thank you for informing me. That will be all,” Katrikkan said with finality.
“Of course, my lord!”
Katrikkan closed the link with the scientists and brought up the comms network. Updated continuously, it was an easy and fast way to set up a link. It showed all of the Vasari expansion into the Aluxi space, as well as several planets farther into the Vasari territory. In the bottom corners were two symbols. He tapped the one in the lower left, which brought up the image of the Grand Admiral, this time in a mostly red giruus with black trim, instead of his military uniform.
“My lord, I have news of the greatest importance,” Katrikkan said, kneeling momentarily.
The Grand Admiral clasped his hands on his desk, and waited expectantly.
Standing, Katrikkan continued, “My scientists have discovered a large deposit of crystal in a local system. It is Katarn crystal. In all probability, the nearby systems will have even larger deposits.”
“This is good news. Full efforts will be made to support your campaign and to recover as much of the crystal as possible. We are sending another task force to assist and protect your flank. You will be receiving reinforcements almost continuously, in order to form more task forces to help expand the territory we are acquiring.
“The task forces will not be under your command, I’m afraid. You have been doing an excellent job so far, but the distances…” The Grand Admiral said, unsure how to easily explain.
“I know, logistical reasons. I should be fine with what I have.”
“Good. Fleet Admiral Saren is on his way back to the home fleet to await trial for cowardice and abandonment of duties. His case isn’t looking very good. Just thought you should know. One a side note, however, you may want to arrange an event for your force – they have been shipside for too long.”
“Thank you, I canot believe I forgot to do so.”
“Just try to remember in the future,” the Grand Admiral replied, nodding to indicate his dismissal.
Katrikkan swiftly kneeled, fist over his heart as the link closed.
The screen blanked, and then displayed a field of stars – the outer view – and he stood again. Katrikkan paused a moment, wondering whether to backtrack to Aliope, then decided against it. He walked back to his chair and summoned his exec with the press of a button and an uttered word.
A little over a minute later, Tarkin appeared on the combat bridge. A worried look flitted across his face momentarily, and then passed as he regained full military discipline.
“Tarkin, how long have the crews been at sea?” Katrikkan asked.
“Nearly a year, sir,” the exec answered.
“And so there are certain… stresses that have built up, yes?”
“Let’s have a port built around this planet, so that we have a space to relieve those stresses. The crew will want to get off of the ship, change their environment, rather than use the ship’s R and R room.”
“Aye, sir. I’ll have groundside begin the construction. Two would be a better number, to help hold all the crew, true? They’d be packed rather tight if we only had one.”
“Good idea. Have two built, but in close proximity to each other so the crewmembers can travel back and forth easier.”
Tarkin saluted, and then walked off of the bridge with an almost too crisp military step. Katrikkan walked back to his chair, where he began filling out the necessary forms.