A.F.R.I.C.A. (Quasar 4x - Aurora 4x spinoff - AAR)

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Cryogenic War

Vanguard Offensive Defense System progress report

So far the project continues uninterrupted. Batteries Cell-A-L, Cell-B-L and Cell-D1-L are fully operational as of now. Cell-C and Cell-E-H are going to come up online until the end of this year. As requested we gave up on E-class batteries since installing anything on Earth was deemed too risky in terms of potential compromise of the project data. Unfortunately I am obliged to inform you that I had to make a decision to drop M-class batteries installation as well. I know Mars is more politically stable than Moon, but I had no choice. According to the reports of SkipHub espionage team (the one praised for successfully infiltrating Duranium Components Inc HQ back in the day), business run by Exadev Space Industries is more shady than we thought. Remember those wreckages from the ruins of Cydonia Spaceport? Agents from SkipHub claim that thanks to them engineers from Exadev were capable of building a very successful prototype of a railgun based on their findings. While we've been testing some ourselves, theirs proves to exceed in missile speed and as a result, accuracy. Our physicists wholeheartedly agree that they would have no trouble precisely bombarding our lunar batteries from Earth and maybe more, depends on the state of their targeting software. Alternatively a dense grid of these weapons could, in theory at least, intercept our missiles. I don't have to tell about the consequences of hundreds of nukes blowing up in the orbit, right? The EMP blast would obliterate life support, computers, robots, individual implants of our citizens...

The good news is that new versions of kinetic forcefield can withstand a few shots from our railguns before their integrity gives up, so we expect at least 1-3 shots of the enemy to be stopped by them before they need to recharge. Problem is, the generator size is just too big to attach it on a missile. But we could, in theory, protect our launch platforms with it. That's not the end of issue list, though. A bunch of other agents in our service claim to have spotted some rather well-concealed satellites circling at mind-blowing speeds in low orbit around Mars and some blue-purple flashes at Exadev testing sites, far beyond the eyes of civilization on the planet. We can't tell for sure, but there's a chance those flashes were from laser weaponry. Or it's just a targeting system for their missiles. Very fast missiles. Either way, photos from the spying drone we've put on Deimos last year show craters appearing on the testing grounds pretty much instantly after the flashes would end.

Again, there're still a lot of blanks in our theory, but here at Loyalty Department we are all inclined to believe mentioned corporation is working on putting up a full-sized, combat-ready space fleet our stationary batteries won't be able to counter and is already ahead of us in space warfare-related research. And we have information that suggests Exadev management might have some ties with N.O.V.A. Megacorps, maybe even some of its members are former CEOs of our enemy, the ones we've never caught. I advise for assembling a space fleet of our own, so when the day comes, we'll be ready.

Louis Daly, leader of Loyalty Department, 30th March 2196

P.S. I allowed myself to already take some initiative and prepared the best of our men for storming Exadev facilities to steal their technology and maybe harass their factories. Engineers from our space department also designed a new type of spaceship that should serve them well. It is effectively twice as fast as Martians, meaning we could get anywhere first for as long as we have intel we should get there.

QuoteVoid Bird class Dropship    25 000 tons     220 Crew     827.2 BP      TCS 500  TH 400  EM 0
800 km/s     Armor 1-76     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
MSP 21    Max Repair 50 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Spare Berths 0
Troop Capacity: 6 Battalions    Cargo Handling Multiplier 50

200 EP Commercial Nuclear Pulse Engine (2)    Power 200    Fuel Use 7.07%    Signature 200    Exp 5%
Fuel Capacity 1 450 000 Liters    Range 147.6 billion km   (2136 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

Exadev testing facility, somewhere in the deserts of Mars

Sean Leonard gazed at the blasted gates in disbelief. His suit was covered in blood after he flipped over one of the bodies, but he was oblivious to the world around him, having bigger problems to worry about. These laser guns were surely powerful. Very powerful. So powerful they could blow up the entire facility if let to overheat for too much. Nobody in the facility would complain about starting a weekend earlier due to lack of coolants preventing further tests, but the key was to know the transport that arrived two days earlier was a hoax in the first place and the real coolant got spilled somewhere in the mountains. Of course convoy assault was the easiest way, but "easiest" in this case was far from easy. Knowledge about the existence of these labs was limited, let alone knowledge about the transport routes and schedules, updated randomly each week. According to the managers above him, somehow Comitee of Humanity must had picked the long buried track leading to N.O.V.A. Megacorps once again. An unpleasant conversation with his boss awaited. The attack itself wasn't even the most ominous thing that happened, either. Determination-class ships were slowly coming to shape, prepared to cancel VODS program before it could reach its full potential, lasers for Velociraptors (oh, the irony of N.O.V.A. Megacorps naming a spaceship after the infamous group of rebels who once dared to threaten it) were mostly done, too, and, ironically, the incident in fact had the potential of further improving their design with new safety measures, but the fact that Sean Leonard let remote-controlled EMP bombs slide in some containers undetected was a serious infraction.

With all surveillance fried up, there was hardly any trace of the attack. Of course, given enough time, it was possible to chase down the team that intercepted the transport and dropped the bombs, but with the exception of maybe some rookies in the Counter-Sabotage Bureau at the start of their careers nobody believed anything useful would come out of this without capturing the mastermind behind all this. And this is why letting EMP detonation occur was an infraction worse than if a literal nuclear bomb would blow up thanks to Sean's oversight. Or not really worse, since nuclear explosions were accompanied by EMP blasts too. Anyways, it was bad. Sean could only be glad that canceling of life support subscription didn't really mean what it meant back in the days of N.O.V.A. Bunker System. Still, with such a record no corporation would ever hire him as a security officer, let alone at his current rank, and security was all he knew about. Also this social skills-enchancing biochip in his brain wasn't going to pay down itself without his salary. Still, maybe with a bit of luck he could land another job using his enchanced rhetoric and observation skills? Social interactions were just a game he was good at, and these advanced machine learning algorithms kept a good job at releasing the proper hormone sequence at the right time to keep his emotions under control and put him in a mood where he was more likely to come up with the right responses, tone and posture.

Exadev Space Industries HQ, Cydonia Megacity, 12th January 2197

The owner of Exadev Space Industries, formely only a mid-tier manager back in the N.O.V.A. Bunker System, stared at the design documents in front of him. Determination-class missile destroyers, a squadron of Velociraptors, an impressive fleet of Dark Phoenixes armed with successfully weaponized particle accelerators and the biggest asset, Project PURGE. And two Scandroids to get eyes on the enemy with enough time to prepare. Duranium-Neutronium layers were enough to prevent a random railgun missile from tearing a ship in two parts which would likely happen with the speeds involved in case of civilian vessels, but nevertheless combat officers worried that, unlike kinetic shieldings Comitee of Humanity apparently mastered, they could not regenerate. A destabilized field could mean stabilized field once again if given enough time. But a hole in the hull would mean a hole in the hull till the end of the battle. Further research could allow for better forcefields and less reliance on the armor, but the CEO had already made a decision. Further wait was too risky. The Comitee wouldn't just scrap all their batteries if they weren't able to immediately throw them at Exadev in mobile variants. Of course it could be bluff attempting to force the opponent to enter production stage with weaker tech, but it was just too damn risky. No, under no circumstances would they risk having nothing to show for themselves when their enemy could bomb them into space dust already.

Proposed fleet faced certain problems, though. Lasers tended to be too dispersive at greater ranges. Particle beams faced no such issue and the enemy wouldn't even know what hit them, unlike with lasers, but the accuracy of these was a bit worse and accelerated particles weren't able to just burn a hole in the hull like a concentrated laser from up close would. Targeting systems of Determination were carefully engineered to provide an effective screen against missiles, but their speed was too low to be used for offensive action. The slugs fired from the railguns were just too slow. While speed of enemy ships remained a mystery, the difference between them and the projectiles was likely relatively small, causing diminishing effects of the railgun fire. And that is if the slugs would connect at all, which at the expected engagement range was almost impossible. The amount of time enemies would have to dodge them would be just absurd. That is assuming dodging would be necessary, of course. Predicting enemy movement for periods long enough to aim raigluns correctly was another can of worms.

And that's why the fleet was supposed to contain a PURGE Team. Microwaves, EMP blasters and jamming software. A wet dream of every cyberpunk fighting corporate drones, bots and augments of security guards. And a wet dream of a corporate CEO not sure whether the firepower of his fleet would be enough. These kinetic fields were problematic, but with just how heavy the generators were, it wasn't likely enemy would wield that many. And the equipment of PURGE Team, at least when sticking close to its maximum range, still performed better against forcefields than lasers and about as good as particle beams. And once the shields would be down... A few good volleys and the hostile fleet is silenced. No bloodshed needed. No serious, risky combat for longer than a few minutes. Just neutralize them and force obedience at gunpoint.

QuoteScandroid class Deep Space Survey Ship      5 000 tons       174 Crew       918,8 BP       TCS 100    TH 800    EM 0
8000 km/s      Armour 1-26       Shields 0-0       HTK 16      Sensors 400/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
Maint Life 0,17 Years     MSP 114    AFR 200%    IFR 2,8%    1YR 665    5YR 9 972    Max Repair 400 MSP
Lieutenant Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months    Morale Check Required   

Ion Drive  EP800,00 (1)    Power 800    Fuel Use 221,36%    Signature 800    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 382 000 Litres    Range 6,2 billion km (8 days at full power)

Thermal Sensor TH50-400 (1)     Sensitivity 400     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  158,1m km

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

QuoteDetermination class Missile Destroyer      15 000 tons       605 Crew       2 829,2 BP       TCS 300    TH 2 400    EM 0
8000 km/s      Armour 6-54       Shields 0-0       HTK 96      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 43      PPV 45
Maint Life 7,32 Years     MSP 3 890    AFR 55%    IFR 0,8%    1YR 127    5YR 1 908    Max Repair 600 MSP
Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months    Morale Check Required   

Ion Drive  EP1200,00 (2)    Power 2400    Fuel Use 180,74%    Signature 1200    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 1 518 000 Litres    Range 10,1 billion km (14 days at full power)

10cm Railgun V10/C3 (15x4)    Range 10 000km     TS: 8 000 km/s     Power 3-3     RM 10 000 km    ROF 5       
Beam Fire Control R192-TS8100 (50%) (2)     Max Range: 192 000 km   TS: 8 100 km/s   
Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor R45 (2)     Total Power Output 90,7    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS12-R1 (50%) (2)     GPS 64     Range 12,8m km    MCR 1,1m km    Resolution 1

ECCM-1 (1)         ECM 10

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

QuoteVelociraptor class War Cruiser      30 000 tons       883 Crew       5 300,1 BP       TCS 600    TH 4 800    EM 3 330
8000 km/s      Armour 15-86       Shields 111-370       HTK 144      Sensors 48/0/0/0      DCR 57      PPV 36
Maint Life 4,46 Years     MSP 5 189    AFR 153%    IFR 2,1%    1YR 422    5YR 6 330    Max Repair 600 MSP
Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months    Morale Check Required   

Ion Drive  EP1200,00 (4)    Power 4800    Fuel Use 180,74%    Signature 1200    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 2 892 000 Litres    Range 9,6 billion km (13 days at full power)
Gamma S37 / R370 Shields (3)     Recharge Time 370 seconds (0,3 per second)

18,750cm C3 Near Ultraviolet Laser (1)    Range 192 000km     TS: 8 000 km/s     Power 9-3     RM 30 000 km    ROF 15       
15,0cm C3 Near Ultraviolet Laser (6)    Range 180 000km     TS: 8 000 km/s     Power 6-3     RM 30 000 km    ROF 10       
Beam Fire Control R192-TS8100 (50%) (2)     Max Range: 192 000 km   TS: 8 100 km/s   
Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor R22 (2)     Total Power Output 43,1    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS2-R1 (50%) (3)     GPS 2     Range 2m km    MCR 181,7k km    Resolution 1
Thermal Sensor TH6-48 (50%) (1)     Sensitivity 48     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  54,8m km

ECCM-1 (2)         ECM 10

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

QuoteDark Phoenix class Assault Ship      15 000 tons       529 Crew       2 793,8 BP       TCS 300    TH 2 700    EM 1 110
9000 km/s      Armour 8-54       Shields 37-370       HTK 85      Sensors 48/0/0/0      DCR 35      PPV 24
Maint Life 4,62 Years     MSP 2 910    AFR 72%    IFR 1,0%    1YR 222    5YR 3 326    Max Repair 675 MSP
Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months    Morale Check Required   

Ion Drive  EP1350,00 (2)    Power 2700    Fuel Use 170,40%    Signature 1350    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 1 356 000 Litres    Range 9,5 billion km (12 days at full power)
Gamma S37 / R370 Shields (1)     Recharge Time 370 seconds (0,1 per second)

Particle Beam-3 (4)    Range 150 000km     TS: 9 000 km/s     Power 7-2,5    ROF 15       
Beam Fire Control R192-TS9000 (50%) (2)     Max Range: 192 000 km   TS: 9 000 km/s   
Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor R10 (2)     Total Power Output 20,2    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS2-R1 (50%) (2)     GPS 2     Range 2m km    MCR 181,7k km    Resolution 1
Thermal Sensor TH6-48 (50%) (1)     Sensitivity 48     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  54,8m km

ECCM-1 (1)         ECM 10

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

QuotePURGE class Assault Ship      15 000 tons       519 Crew       3 013,5 BP       TCS 300    TH 2 700    EM 0
9000 km/s      Armour 10-54       Shields 0-0       HTK 84      Sensors 48/0/0/0      DCR 38      PPV 20
Maint Life 5,32 Years     MSP 3 515    AFR 64%    IFR 0,9%    1YR 208    5YR 3 120    Max Repair 675 MSP
Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 3 months    Morale Check Required   

Ion Drive  EP1350,00 (2)    Power 2700    Fuel Use 170,40%    Signature 1350    Explosion 20%
Fuel Capacity 1 443 000 Litres    Range 10,2 billion km (13 days at full power)

R90/C3 High Power Microwave (5)    Range 90 000km     TS: 9 000 km/s     Power 6-3    ROF 10       
Beam Fire Control R192-TS9000 (50%) (2)     Max Range: 192 000 km   TS: 9 000 km/s   
Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor R15 (2)     Total Power Output 30,4    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS2-R1 (50%) (2)     GPS 2     Range 2m km    MCR 181,7k km    Resolution 1
Thermal Sensor TH6-48 (50%) (1)     Sensitivity 48     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  54,8m km

ECCM-1 (1)         ECM 10

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

Somewhere else in Cydonia Megacity

Ben Brennan: Good. Very good. It was a brilliant idea of yours, to use hacking drones and then fry them with EMP once they sent the data we needed, leaving no evidence for them to investigate. Comitee of Humanity is so happy to see these laser designs... Anyways, looks like we might have overdone providing Comitee with intel. They will have their space force ready at least one year ahead of N.O.V.A.

Yoshii Yukinaga: Don't worry, I already took care of that. Tomorrow a very unfortunate accident will happen at their hangars. Who would have guessed some workers are going to disregard safety protocols for handling nuclear warheads... This will set them back just for the time the other side needs. Once they're both ready, a few fake reports and some political drama and I'm almost certain we could have them launch roughly the same time, one from Mars, the other from the Moon.

BB: I can see that work. Especially with these social enchancers many of their higher ranking officers have implanted... My cybersec team found a backdoor. With the right input, we could remotely control them to give the feelings of extreme anxiety and paranoia rather than charisma and confidence. They'll freak out so badly they'll start shooting at each other right away! There's one problem with it though...

YY: Huh? Let me guess... The signal strength... Isn't quite up to interplanetary ranges, right? I'd be surprised if some brain implant's antenna would.

BB: Yeah, yeah, obviously... Which is why we'll need to have our people close to both fleets...

YY: Wait, I have an idea! Remember Channel 9 News? These self-proclaimed independent journalists, independently choosing which corporation to serve based on the amount of... "encouragement" received? I think they would be thrilled for the opportunity to stream a bloody space-battle themselves, from the POV of soldiers taking part in it... Such material would be worth a bazillion dollars. Maybe they could even finally afford to be truly independent, who knows. Let me toss a coin... Ok, heads. That means they'll fly on the side of the Comitee. If you would be so kind, arrange neccessary "encouragements" and start preparing some "journalists" for operating the implants.

BB: Pleasure doing business with you.


Battle of Three Bodies, 12-13th October 2199

Sam Tucker stared at the radar sweeps coming from Scandroid. He was put as the high admiral of the N.O.V.A. Strike Force because of his decisiveness and professionalism, but out of a sudden had trouble concentrating on making professional decisions. If these traits weren't his traits but features of his cybernetic implants instead, he'd probably start expecting someone installed some recovered software from 2077 on them, maybe even as a result of hostile sabotage.

The fleet hovered in the asteroid belt, except unlike in sci-fi movies there were no asteroids to be seen. Density of real asteroid fields was dissapointing, to put it mildly. On the other hand all these rocks and dust would render a belt with sci-fi-movie-tier-density an impassable obstacle even for the smallest and most agile craft modern technology could produce. He wasn't sure why he had been ordered to fly so far out of the way of space liners and inhabited parts of Solar System, but upper management insisted on sending the fleet far away, beyond ground and orbital stations detection range, to masquerade as an exploration/colonization fleet targeting Europa, Titan and beyond.

Two Scanrdoids, one staying with the fleet, the other for independent operations. Main bulk of offensive and defensive firepower - six Velociraptors, Assault Squadron of eight Dark Phoenixes and eleven Determinations making N.O.V.A. Megacorps look seriously determined, all ready to fly and blow things up. And a PURGE Team, likely the most precious asset. But for now all they had to do was wait. Wait in deep space, monitoring faint red blinks of Martian encrypted channels, staring into the endless night all around them and at radar that presented a scenery as deserted as the one behind windows.

Comms: Ok, our espionage team confirms their claims. "Spain" should have launched their fleet already. They will be heading towards Mars. All our facilities have kinetic shielding online as well as jamming sequences to make these shields appear as cosmic radiation static on detection systems, but this camouflage will only work for so long. You've waited enough in deep space already. Our intel suggests "Spain" still thinks we're passing Jupiter by now. Surprise them and get to Mars before them. But not too fast, do not waste fuel on speed. These reactors are efficient and you have a lot, but spare it for battle maneouvres if it comes to that. Confirm reception of orders.Over.

ST: Copy that. Orders received. Proceeding to Mars.

Sam Tucker tried to appear calm. And trying to look calm while giving orders brought a bit of his proffessionalism back. Accelerate to 3000km/s, keep radars offline besides passive scanners, proceed towards the Mars, have the separated Scandroid move alongside asteroid belt and scan for any space activity not registered as civilian transit. And check civilian transit too, just in case. Smooth and easy.

The cruise to Mars was smooth and uninterrupted. Too smooth and too uninterrupted. Sam Tucker stared at the red surface and oragne sky beneath him, not believing the radars didn't pick up anything suspicious? Maybe the enemy had technology for fooling them and was hiding on the other side of the planet, in plain sight, laughing at the clueless opponent? Maybe it didn't start its fleet and if N.O.V.A. Strike Force would reach Earth in time, it'd simply point their guns at corresponding spaceport and win without risking a battle that could spiral into disaster in way too many different ways? Or maybe... The agents were in fact double agents and lied, wanting to see the N.O.V.A. fleet exposed like that? But in that case they couldn't bombard Mars like they were supposed to want to do. But maybe... That was not their goal? Maybe they gathered enough intel to figure out they didn't have a chance in battle, so didn't want to fight at all? Maybe they aimed for a PR victory? To expose Exadev Space Industries as really N.O.V.A. Megacorps preparing to take over the Solar System with brute force and turn the public opinion away from their own shady business?

Fleet admiral was growing more anxious as tense minutes in Martian orbit went by. This... Shouldn't have happened. Propaganda was a powerful weapon... But could it really stop a space fleet armed to the teeth? This wasn't something AR-15s-bearing rebels could destroy as easily. But maybe... Maybe the government just had balls from duranium? No way N.O.V.A. management could just go on a trigger happy spree and blast every last human holdout into radioactive space dust, and ships had to be maintained and refueled from time to time, plenty of opportunity for sabotage... After all that had happened already, with indicdent at a top secret facility, with people responsible still unidentified and free...

Yes, this all made sense. News stations supporting the Comitee were probably already broadcasting the evil monsters who wanted to destroy the glorious utopia comitee had built... And people above him must had understood that too, because his next order simply said "proceed to Earth". Maybe at this point there really was nothing better to do than bombard space facilities of Comitee, already identified and located by agents?

Tucker already started calming himself down, inclined to believe this was going to be just one-sided bombing job and it's the PR department that's going to be on fire with all the stressful work then while he'll be chilling in one of the tropical domes on Mars, maybe even will get a raise... His chain of thought got brutally interrupted, though. His heartbeat accelerated as scanners began to display "Spanish cities" on the screen one by one, with every dot label matching the specification of a given hostile spaceship class, fitting the chosen naming convention put there for the case of communication interception and decryption perfectly.

The state-of-the-art detection systems were amazing. They were able to not only pinpoint enemy's location, but also analyze the thermal signature to detect even the slightest deviations in speed, figuring out the current heading of the observed vessels based on the applied acceleration and the output in the form of new positions. And so was Olivia Cook, leader of the navigation team stationed on Scandroids. Assuming the current course and bearing, the best chance of interception should be presented if the fleet would change the course for Mercury. In that scenario, the encounter would be resolved relatively close to the sun. Admiral briefly contacted his boss to just be sure he was really supposed to cancel previous orders and go meet the enemy, forgeting about Earth and Moon under this sudden change of circumstances. "Correct. Travel to Spain. We can't tell you whether to fire or not. We don't know ourselves. This is new to all of us. Try to win by propaganda and skilled diplomacy first, but ultimately it's up to you. You've been trained for space combat and know more about it than we planet walkers do. Use your best judgement. Good luck. Comitee of Humanity ends tonight." was the only reply he received.

He couldn't tell whether the enemy had already seen him or not, but had to assume it had. If not by the fleet itself, then for sure by deep space tracking stations on Earth. The enemy was flying at 3000km/s. Changing course to align with Mercury and travel towards it was a bit slow, because under no circumstances did he want to show the enemy the full potential of his engines until the shots would be fired, but surprisingly, now that the final result of VODS project was already visible and stood no chance of making it to Mars past N.O.V.A. fleet, there was no rush. 16 hours have passed, uneventful. Automatic warning system should wake up everybody if distance between fleets would drop below 60m km or the enemy would disappear from radar or another fleet would pop out somewhere else.

And it was the latter that happened. 120 contacts, 42,6m km from N.O.V.A. Strike Force, speeding towards it, head on. Mind-blowing 12502km/s. No way any of N.O.V.A. ships could fly that fast. Or rather they all could, but they would end up drifting away from Solar System, with not enough uranium to at least stop and have someone pick them up.

Brief war council, 13th October 2199, 12:59:12 Earth time, Velociraptor 001

Sam Tucker: We have less than 46 minutes till the distance between two fleets drops to zero, counting from initial detection, which means now it's closer to 42 minutes. 120 contacts, navigation department claims they weight 300 tons each, based on thermal signature analysis, so nothing more than small fighter or bomber, each of our guns shall have no trouble reducing one to plazma. Engines must weight 150 tons, that leaves 150 tons for fuel, weapons, ammunition, shields, spare parts, life support, navigation, controls and everything else. Weapon Engineering Department Officer, report on weapon simulations?

Charlie Jons: No way its lasers or particle beams. If we have 150 tons to work with for everything besides engine itself, then it's impossible. Lightest generators would weight over 100 tons... So unless they have a so reduced and weakened version that it'd literally disperse on our hulls like it was a laser show and not a battle, they can't have these weapons. Technically they could go with generators small enough to fit in that'd take hours to charge one volley... But... Even at such speed... We would get a few volleys of our own at them from up close. Our targeting systems would struggle, we would miss a lot... Still, there's a 79,45% chance we'd destroy every single one of them before they'd leave our range to recharge. All that cost for one volley of 120 medicore laser beams? Doubt. Don't get me started on the PR aspect of wasting soldiers like that... Even I can tell, even if it's not my specialization.

ST: So that excludes railguns, too, I suppose?...

CJ: Oh yes, definitely. Of course these would stay equally powerful no matter distance traveled, but first you need to hit something. I can assume they'd have better fire controls allowing them to bombard us from range that's too far for ours, but let's be honest, the potential difference can't be big enough to allow them to avoid our guns. At such velocities... No, impossible for a 150t engine, no matter how good and no matter it has to carry only 300t in total, to outmaneouver us and stay outside of our effective firing range through the whole time. There's only one possibility left. These are their initial VODS launch platforms, but with engines strapped to them. A missile could, in theory, be fired from far enough to allow them to turn around before we could get them. Again, it wouldn't hit a damn thing at these ranges with the technology they might have, but if it's a full-sized missile, not a railgun slug, things change. Such warhead could have an engine and targeting computer of its own, allowing it to adjust the course slightly to make sure it does hit its target, overcoming targeting system's limitations...

ST: Any chances you could estimate them?

CJ: Oh, we already did. This data was essential for Determination, remember? We have a certain candidates. First, it could be a swarm of small missiles not crossing 2,5t each, with barely anything left for the warhead. They'd be the fastest they could build, giving our raigluns trouble, but the explosions would be weak enough not to worry about them too much. Most likely they weight more than 7 tons, we estimate somewhere between 7,5t-10t. Each of these little bombers would be able to carry only a few of them, though... It's obvious there must be a carrier among the enemy which likely stores more. We expect them to fire off their ordnance, turn around and come back once reloaded. With the speed advanatge they could do a few runs... We don't expect the missiles to be too dangerous, as anything above 10t would really mean only 1, maybe 2 missiles on board with careful engineering, hardly a challenge for Determinations. Still, our missile simultation shows a few optimal deisngs... Some stronger, some weaker, but generally expect roughly 25000km/s speed and at least class 3 nuclear load...

ST: smeg... smeg smeg smeg. They could potentially fire hundreds of them in one go... smeg. Determination Leader, stopping power?

Max Storey: Assuming 25000km/s? According to railgun specifications, that means roughly two missed shots out of three... Yes... About 200, maybe 210-230, depends on the exact speed and their targeting systems and all the data we currently don't have.

ST: 200? Are you kidding me?! Each of these bastards fires 2 and we're already facing more than your upper limit! smeg... Okay... Okay. Increase speed to 5000km/s. We still don't want to show our true potential just yet, but we also need to make it harder for their targeting software. I want all the forcefields and active anti-missile targeting sensors online. Also, switch all guns to anti-missile mode. I don't care they'll get full intel on our weapons, at this stage it hardly matters anyways, I want to stop the missiles with everything we've got, understood? Good. PURGE Commander, stay for a while. Rest, go back to your duties.

Luke Short: Yes?...

ST: Okay. Once we detect them, you'll only have a few seconds. Let's hope software on your ships wasn't written in 2077. Try to prepare jamming sequence based on the simulation data. It's better than nothing. You know your team is our key to the victory. I count on you. Bring us victory today and the corporation shall reward you accordingly...

Just as the admiral went back to staring into the void and corporate soldiers braced for impact, communication channel lightened up again. Strange, N.O.V.A. Megacorps wasn't supposed to contact him anymore, but yet here the message came...

Combatant, please be advised - this vessel, designation WRV Marie Colvin, is unaligned in this conflict and has been deployed for purely journalistic purposes by the Channel 9 News team. In accordance with Convention IV, targeting civilians is a war crime of the highest order and any antagonistic action against this vessel will be reported.

ST: What the hell?! What the #@!%$!@*&! is that?! Channel 9 News was supposed to be on our side, we had a deal with Duranium Components Inc... I don't know who paid them, but I'll find them and I'll laser them to death... PURGE Commander!

LS: Any new orders?...

ST: Track the source of this message and hack them. It's your biggest priority now, far more important even than jamming their missiles. Find out what are they up to. And someone tell me what the #%$@!&* Convention IV is...

LS: Yes sir!!!


Half an hour has passed. Fighters closed in to the dangerous distance of 12,6m km. PURGE Team reported readiness for a few variants of the missiles that were likely to be fired. Besides Channel 9 sudden incident, the enemy hadn't made any diplomatic moves. No negotation, no talk, not even a surrender demand. All official channels remained silent. 120 fighters maintained a collison course and the speed of 12502 km/s. At this distance more sensitive radars were able to already tell the exact hull composition. The scanned profile left no doubt the weapons glued to the side pannels couldn't be anything but missile launchers or railgun array.

Minutes passed. Distance decreased to 7m km. Everyone on board became more nervous and paranoid with every second. The truth about the volley size was about to be determined. There was nothing more to be done but wait. And sure enough, it was what everyone had already realized. Crewmembers remained oddly calm when 480 small nasty contacts were detected at a distance of 6,6m km. They were travelling exactly at 25000 km/s. Class 3 missile, thermal signature type 4. Radars were weak just enough to not be able to see them from a distance they've been fired.

Combat simulation officers had a lot of work to do. Distance of 6,6m km meant exactly 220 seconds till impact if speeds were to be maintained. But engineers working on simulating possible scenarios just got an idea. The starting point for them was the obvious observation that there was no way these missiles were able to hit anything from such a range. 220 seconds were more than enough to comfortably affect the speed vector in a way that'd allow them to pass at safe distance and get a decent safety margin, too. To score hits, they needed engines. And engines needed fuel. With a missile weighting only 7,5t in total and having to carry payload, engines, targeting computer all encapsulated in its own hull, only so much fuel could be brought along. First step was to calculate the exact burnout rate. The missiles didn't accelerate, which meant 25000 km/s was a good balance between speed, not wasting too much fuel and still make the final adjustments moments before impact. Determination onboard computers had already implemented Evasive Corrections Protocol, triggered automatically at missile detection with the missile simulation variant that was the best match for reality, with a new model, fine-tuned for the presented situation, being already uploaded to the engine controls.

Slight modifications to flight trajectory weren't neccessarily easy at 5000 km/s, with a few millions kilometers ahead, the tiniest change meant missing entire volley. According to PURGE report, targeting software was not of the best league, too. Every time N.O.V.A. Strike course modified speed vector, missiles corrected theirs, too. By the time there were less than 197 seconds till impact left, crew of Scandroid 001 was the first one to determine fuel consumption patterns of the missiles and predict its changes in the future. That data was enough to determine that at worst, these missiles should have enough fuel to cover a bit over 10m km before their engines turning off, maybe more but in that case they wouldn't hold enough power to apply the final change during last kilometers of their journey, severely limiting their accuracy so that shooting down 200 of them would statistically be enough for the whole fleet to come unscratched.

After briefly looking at the numbers, admiral gave orders to turn around. His intuition told him that if the fleet could force the missiles to fly for at least 10m km or maybe even a bit less, they'd waste all their fuel, making them easily dodgeable. Smaller relative speed was also vital for anti-missile fire precision. However, there was no time for simply firing engines in the opposite direction. Even with reactor overload turned on, the ships would barely start accelerating away from the missiles by the time they'd catch up. So instead he issued orders for turning only 90 degrees away from the hostile contacts. It should be much faster this way, compared to canceling current velocity altogether. Also it forced missiles to take same turn, hopefully crippling their fuel supply. They had five times higher speed to work through. Five times bigger problem for that particular case.

Soon everyone onboard felt the heat accumulating from overcharged reactors, having nowhere to be dispersed, but the fleet slowly started shifting towards its new course. In the meantime fighters had all finished making U-turn and proceeded to redenzvous point with the bulk of enemy forces. Sam Tucker was cursing all the time for the fact there was no chance of detecting which ship was a carrier. N.O.V.A. Strike force would have to simply rely on luck to pick the right one once in laser range.

Distance between missiles and their targets diwndled, but at 1,5m km the shift was almost complete and the fleet was pushing forward, faster and faster, trying to get to 8000 km/s. That'd leave missiles at only 17000 km/s worth of effective speed. Enough to have them fly by if they'd burn through all of their fuel. Finally the magic 8000 km/s barrier had been reached by the time missiles were less than 1,1m km away, chasing the fleet's tail. Moment of truth was drawing dangerously near. Many officers didn't even notice holding breath for half a minute or more at this point.

Some soldiers let screams of relief or even celebration out as soon as the thermal signature of missiles disappeared with only 468000 km left before impact. Final evasion pattern was applied, ensuring clear course, but even at 100000km and less not a single missile lightened up again. Even if they would have been programmed to save a last resort reserve to surprise the enemy who got too comfortable with them being dead weight, with less than 6 seconds left and presented angular distance there was nothing they could do.

Crews and officers watched in awe as the enemy detonated the missiles in frustration, somehow clinging to the hope that the blast would catch up to N.O.V.A. forces. But it just couldn't. Cosmic fireworks lasted for a few seconds until everything went silent once again. The fleet was safe (till another volley). Anti-nuclear EMP shields held, too. The enemy had 480 missiles less and yet nothing came out of them.

After detonation N.O.V.A. fleet immediately plotted the shortest interception course possible with the main forces. Post-processing of the first encounter in this battle revealed the effective range of missiles to be more or less 9,4m km, but it hardly mattered. No way Comitee would make the same mistake again. They didn't even make the mistake first time, at least not when it came to volley timing, their leadership simply got tricked into assuming the speed at which their opponent could fly. No way they would let that happen again.

N.O.V.A. Strike Force had more worries than that, though. Their speed meant effective speed of next volley increasing to 33000km/s. Theoretically nothing wrong with changing it, practically there was only so much fuel left and the bulk had to be spared for the main firefight. Tucker knew all he had to do is repeat the maneouver for a few times and see all nuclear material depleted, with his fleet drifting away into interstellar space, without any chance to slow down.

As cruise towards enemy continued, sensors kept warning about identifying new hostile contacts. One, two, three... The fleet wielded by the Comitee of Humanity was massive.

Before distance from the enemy dropped to 150m km, all 120 bombers disappeared from the radars. Another two contacts popped up, though. By the time range was about to cross 120m km mark, a total of 17 hostile spaceships had been identified to be a part of hostile formation. Quick scan on thermal signatures and a bunch of computations later admiral was very anxious. Most of the fleet had comparable mass to the N.O.V.A. ships, except four. Four behemoths weighting bloody 75000 tons each. Their hull profiles differed slightly. It was reasonable to assume two of them were the carriers, each for 60 fighters. The other two... Just thinking about them turned many people pale. If someone was using only two curses per sentence at that point, it meant that solider remained very calm and had nerves of duranium.

Many considered early retirement if they'd be lucky enough to survive after a swarm of Sabadells had been detected. Only 5000 tons each, but an impressive and fearsome squadron nevertheless.

While computers were burning from all the simulations of possible weapons, armor and kinetic forcefield ratios, defensive systems and many other details that might or might not be present within hostile forces, 120 fighters reappeared again, this time spotted at 25,6m km. There was no point in even trying. PURGE Team checked their jamming sequence for the final time, a few diagnostic scans on weapon platforms were run, but that was about all that could be done.


They didn't fire until 4m km away. Just to be sure nothing could be done to escape. Nothing left to do but to hope for the best, prepare for the worst. 3m km... 2m km... 1m km... 468000 km... 100000 km... 50000 km... Everything was ready. At distance of 10000 km, hundreds of railguns opened fire, showing the enemy their Determination. At 5000 km, PURGE Team broadcasted jamming sequence. At 2000 km, a series of EMP blasts followed, mixing with pulses from nuclear detonations as warheads popped out like punctured baloons all around. Stars faded and the endless night saw the light of the day for a brief moment. Some crewmembers weren't fast enough and got blinded before they could turn around their eyes. For a human observers, it was total chaos. For the computers resolving this volley, it was a perfectly calculated, precise maneouver, an art of computing and programming. Swarm of slugs kept bumping on the missiles. Electronic and magnetic warfare turned some off, either disarming them, rendering them easily dodgeable or in some rare instances even smashing them against each other. Some flew a bit too close and got caught in their own blasts, triggering chain reactios. Admiral was standing in the middle of the bridge, listening to the sound of sirens and watching the volley being thinned away. Blue and violet lasers flashed in front of the fleet, sometimes burning through the missiles, overloading warheads and kickstarting nuclear reactions preemptively. Particle beams were even more effective at this, once they connected with the target. Some shots would miss the payload, but instead burn through the internal circuits, also resulting in a missile being disarmed.

But it was still a total of 480 missiles, and only so much could be done. Five of them exploded across Dark Phoenix 001's kinetic field. It didn't destabilize. The ship was intact. Not a scratch. But Determination 002 wasn't so lucky. These ships, lightly armored and with no shields, never meant to get into direct firefight and having railguns as their main defence against things that could go beyond pewpew range, were weak if one could luck out to work their way through the storm of slugs. A total of 82 missiles impacted. Hull dissipated heat, thin but densely packed layers of armor prevented any serious damage from each missile alone. But there were 82 total, and their power combined breached hull in two places. Explosions killed hundreds, radiation outbursts another hundreds. Only 213 were lucky enough to not stand too close to have a second chance in life (provided RadAway would be administered within the span of next day, two at most), out of witth only 154 got to the escape shuttles before they'd get sucked out into the void.

A total of 225 missiles got destroyed or disarmed, 168 were countered by the PURGE Team. 87 landed on their targets, out of which 82 caused any meaningful, permanent damage. Firepower of N.O.V.A. Strike Force didn't suffer in the slightest, but there were now 10 Determinations instead of 11. Next volley would hurt more. And the morale damage was worse than expected. No simulation could prepare anyone for the scale of space combat, when mighty spaceships could be removed from existence in a split second after hundreds of ridiculously fast objects overshadow their field of view.

Battle intensified. Only a few minutes later another 120 missles were detected, but this time their speed was only 17766 km/s relative to the Sun. Class 6 missile, thermal signature type 5. They would knock half the fleet out of combat if given chance... Still, 10000 km was deemed safe enough to let them explode and so they all did. Something had clearly gone wrong in the enemy's anti-missile defence estimations, because one Determination less wasn't nowhere near enough for only 120 missiles to stand a chance. Before they would get annihilated, though, enemy fired yet another volley, only 125 seconds later. But as soon as the first one was removed, no additional missiles arrived. Whatever glitch caused Comitee to waste 240 powerful warheads must had been fixed when anti-missile defence reports arrived.

When the distance separating both fleets was only about 30m km, all 120 fighter contacts disappeared from the radar, shortly after they more or less bruned out through most of their velocity and approached the fleet. Teams on Scanrdoids tried their best, but ultimately failed at detecting the mothership. At such distance all ships have been way too close to each other to determine which was the closest one the fighters were when their signatures vanished. Active sensors were a guarantee they would still be visible until they'd get "swallowed" by the hangars, despite thermal signature progressively diminishing, so that one bit of information would suffice for getting a certain answer, but even that was too much to ask for.

Another round of calculations displayed that the second trip of fighters had been detected when the fleet was at 69m km, but they disappeared at 30m km worth of distance. That meant the distance shortened by 39m km since they launched, fired and till they returned, and even more than that as at 69m km they were already ahead of the fleet. This meant in theory N.O.V.A. could position its ships in the laser range before third, even more punishing volley, but the distance fighters had to travel through also was an important factor, so there was a risk they'd fire for the third time. On the other hand, maybe it'd be better if they did before close range firefight...

Distance was reduced to 2m km only, but it was then when the third, most powerful volley had been launched. 480 class 3 missiles from fighters, 120 class 6 missiles from the main bulk of enemies, accompanied by previously unregistered 120 class 1 missiles, too. This could be the matter of victory and defeat already. Sam Tucker sweated nervously. Only 2m km. Despite engine differences, all missiles should have enough fuel to synchronize speeds before reaching targets and then 10 Determinations would have to deal with 720 missiles at once. 600 were already flying in sync at 25000 km/s, even if 120 of them were significantly smaller. The fleet stood no chance against something like this. Even with prioritizing the 120 most deadly ones, at lest a few Determinations would likely got destroyed, and everything would spiral out of control after that.

However, class 6 missiles started accelerating a bit too late. They were still over 200000 km behind main bulk when the 600 flying at 25000 km/s splashed against N.O.V.A. Strike Force. 81 class 3 missiles and 61 class 1 missiles got through. Class 1 missiles weren't powerful enough to change the outcome of the volley compared to the previous one by much.

The damage got split between PURGE 001, PURGE 002 and PURGE 003. Second and third from the PURGE Team came out of this with only a few dents on the external armor layers. The damage wasn't too threatening and both ships cleared their course and continued cruise towards enemy. But the first one suffered a lot. Significant holes in its armor belt had been made, with 4 missiles in total breaching through it all and destroying one of the control rooms and killing 25 soldiers. 120 remaining missiles arrived a bit too late and were no match for the railgun defence array.

Targeting Determinations was bad... But N.O.V.A. admiral came to a conclusion that in a way targeting PURGE Team was very dangerous. With so many ships on the enemy side, laser firefight might not go as smooth as anticipated and risk of defeat could be high. PURGE Team was the key to prevent this. If Assault Squadron and Velociraptors wouldn't cut it, PURGE Team was the difference between easy victory and certain doom. Plus additional benefit of switching off enemy ships instead of destroying them, reinforcing N.O.V.A. security forces, further discouraging anyone from rebelling ever again.

The distance was just above 1,6m km. Given the speed difference, less than 6 minutes remained till the fleets would sync with each other. Meaning less than 5 minutes till the beginning of the main battle.


N.O.V.A. Strike Force was already slowing down to 3000 km/s, preparing to match the enemy and maintain comfortable distance, with everyone in command chain keeping fingers crossed for the enemy to be have a disadavntage from up close. The enemy had turned away from the fleet when it had still been far away and was trying to "escape" from their pursuers, delaying the moment of contact as much as possible. But then out of a sudden five ships broke the formations, turned 90 degrees, accelerated in their new directions, then turned some more, creating a gap between them and main bulk of their squadrons, widening every second. Among the split ships were two cruisers weighting 25000t each, a small vessel PURGE Team had already identified as belonging to Channel 9 News (bold move of theirs... What they were doing in a battlefieldspace remained unexplained, but maybe it was simply for the money? Live streaming space battle from up close was something many news stations could only dream of...) and one class of 75000t behemoths. The distance was too small to try to pass the main force and get to them... But maybe this could still be achieved, velocity was dropping rapidly, after all. And that split was basically an open invitation telling "hey we absolutely wanted to make sure which of these are our carriers since it might be difficult for you to tell otherwise".

Still, it was worth a shot. Brief report from engine controls about fuel supply, reactors' parameters and engine condition was enough to convince the admiral to try. But it ended as quickly as it started: as soon as turning began, Comitee responded by syncing speeds and maintaining distance between both parts. It was no longer possible to destroy the smaller squadron while keeping safe distance from the rest of ships. As in to say "screw you" the two mid-sized ships from the "separatists" fired 120 missiles, with 120 other following within 50 seconds. It looked more like another glitch of the enemy missile hit chance optimalizations, not a purposeful attack, still everyone felt a tiny bit better knowing the enemy had just self-destructed 240 missiles. There were only so much they could have stored onboard.

750000 km... Sam Tucker was getting more paranoid with each kilometer closer. Second and even, so to speak, "third" thoughts. That was a lot of ships. Even if half of them had missile launchers and missile launchers alone, plus maybe some sort of anti-missile arrays of its own, the other half still could have more guns no problem... 500000 km... Technically that's what PURGE Team was for... But absolute max distance of effective operating for them was 90000 km. Too close. Below 90000 km lasers could melt through their armors in just minutes. Maybe less, assuming the enemy had them at least as deadly as N.O.V.A. Megacorps... 250000 km... There was also a case of Determination. Comitee commanders might as well ignore all these lasers and go for Determinations, one by one reducing anti-missile capability. Past a certain point the whole fleet would be essentially naked in front of missiles and nothing short of surrendering would be a reasonable action to pefrorm. But keeping Determinations outside laser range while advancing to 90000 km was just begging for the assault force to get shredded by missiles before Determinations could redenzevous back with it.... 200000 km... Staying far away was optimal, according to test results about 150000 km was a decent distance for Dark Phoenixes to land many shots, but lasers would be so weak N.O.V.A. might keep the upper hand in battle. It'd be slow, but steady and safe. At least as far as anything could be considered "safe" during war. Assuming there weren't twice as many particle beams coming from the other side... 192000 km...

A small course adjustment had been made to avoid coming straight at the enemy, but rather glide next to them, potentially getting close to the carriers with enough luck. Velociraptors would fire first, their range still exceeding targeting capability. Generators roared, barrels brightened, moving through the entire spectrum. A couple of blue flashes three miliseconds too early, rest of the lasers fired at perfect moment and were violet, though. Bright flashes cut through the darkness and disappeared in the void. Radars indicated first hits. Sabadell 002 was hit, for a total of 4 times. None of the pulses made it through the armor, but it was something. No kinetic forcefield detected. Potentially perfect target for the PURGE Team.

Three quarters of a second later two 75000t behemoths returned fire. A total of 36 double laser turrets let out 72 yellow flashes. Weak laser... Too dispersed at 170826 km. Maybe some shots were accurate, but it was impossible to tell. Laser counterfire concentrated somehwere between PURGE 001 and PURGE 002, but even if some beams theoretically connected, the dispersion must had killed any lethal potential they carried.

N.O.V.A. Strike Force pushed forward. This was the moment eveyone was waiting for. A few seconds later Dark Phoenixes crossed 150000 km (as well as other ships). They opened fire. Particle beams dented holes in Sabadell 001, but nothing significant, the ship was still mostly intact. Comitee of Humanity immediately responded. But not with yellow lasers this time. Sabadells, Tarragonas, Santa Cruz, all kept pounding at PURGE 001. The whole enemy fleet ligtened purple in a brief flash. The initial assumption was false. Maybe their lasers went just a bit too early, that's all. They had the same wavelength, no doubt. Streams of violet light concentrated on the poor ship. Armor was still holding, but one went right through, exiting on the other side, illuminating the space behind PURGE 001. Radioactive material spilled into the void from destroyed fuel storage. No casualties reported and it was one of many, but if this was barely the first proper volley of the enemy, it couldn't end well. Their advantage of firepower was clear. Turns out ruling over Earth and moon meant a big difference in power balance. One could do only so much with not more a few millions employees on a Red Planet.

Firefight ensued. Violet lasers, with occassional downgrade to blue due to firing controls and recharging systems misaligning, flared on both sides. PURGE 001's armor was still thick across most hull and absorbed most of the heat, yet still occassionally a beam would cut through. Some crewmembers had died, but not too much, at that range one had to stand directly at beam's trajectory to get killed. It was obvious PURGE Team was withering away for no good reason, idling instead of taking part in battle, meanwhile rest of the guns just coudn't get enough done in enough time.

The decision had to be made. Now or never. N.O.V.A. forces maintained a steady distance of 134000 km. Only 44000 km beyond PURGING area. It was a risk... But it shouldn't take long for a PURGE Team to accelerate to get closer and then slow down slightly to get back under the shield of railguns. At 9000 km/s it meant closing the gap under 8 seconds. From such a close distance, missile detection could be assumed to be instantaneous. Using engine overdrive, 44000 km could be cut to merge PURGE Team with the fleet in under 4 seconds. Their fastest missiles needed 4 seconds to travel 100000 km by default, likely less as they could burn more fuel to catch up quicker. Not by much, though. At this point it had to be assumed most of it must have been burned in initial acceleration. Gaining 22000 km/s was a feat, after all. It was risky. But as the admiral thought, yet another volley was wrecking PURGE 001's hull. There was no time. Each shot fired under these conditons brought N.O.V.A. Strike Force one shot closer to defeat. Orders were given, reactors overcharged and six ships making up PURGE Team proceeded forward. 40000km... 20000km... 50000km...

PURGE Team was speeding across the void, accidentially pushing above safety threshold. Microwaves and EMP blasters fired at 74000 km. Predicted jamming sequence was emitted. It wasn't much to look at compared to the constant barrages of laser fire, repeating every ten seconds, precise like a Swiss clock. And yet many engineers boarding PURGE assault ships cherished when plots and numbers flooded their screens. Between outstanding force of the blast and no shields on any Sabadell, there was no chance for their electronics not going haywire. One even suddenly emitted a power outburst from propulsion systems, pushing it just a bit too far to the side and ramming at the other Sabadell, causing a minor explosion in between the hulls.

Having precisely calculated the right second to fire engines, PURGE Team got in close range right between hostile volleys and had been safely merging with rest of the forces already when dozens of laser blasters heated up again on the other side. One went right through the engine chamber. It didn't struck the reactor itself, but with the engine already running on overdrive to allow extreme maneouvres, cooling systems was just not enough. Ion chambers exploded violently, tering the ship apart. Loose chunks had to be picked off by raigluns while engine-less hull spinned into the void, with nothing to slow it down. Some made it to escape shuttles and started decelerating, those who weren't fast enough before two chunks colliding blew up emergency hangar area had to stay on board and pray someone would have a spare ship to pick them up before they drift too far away and their damaged life support goes down.

However, Only Sabadells 001, 003, 007 and 009 were able to fire. First PURGE had a catastrophic result for the Comitee. And it was the first. Never the last. PURGE 001 might have been taken out of the equation, but for the remaining 5 only two had minor armor scratches and that was it. It was still a deadly force.

Sam Tucker noticed his hands were shacking. His head hurt, too. Health scanner under his skin displayed all parameters within norm, though, apart from physiological symptoms of acute stress. Weird. It was the first space battle for everyone involved, but it just wasn't right to feel that way for him and it not being a result of some disease's symptoms setting in. He had to clear his mind. A tactical meeting might not be optimal, on the other hand the distance was about to increase again, so not much damage should be done within next 2 minutes and having to reorganize tactics might be just what he needed to clear his nerves. Before calling some officers, he briefly looked at the radar. Detached squadron had turned around and synced speed, maintaining a constant distance while staying behind.


Sam Tucker: PURGE Team, how's progress with modeling enemy ships? Any solid estmiations as of yet?

Luke Short: Trying my best, sir. As for lasers, we've been fired at by Las Palmas, Sabadells, Tarranogas and Santa Cruz. Bilbaos are also armed with missile launchers, just like our two behemoths with laser turrets that cause so many problems. My team is confident we shut down their lasers, we win.

ST: Good job. Make sure you wipe out remaining Sabadells.

Adam Glitter: Sir, enemy has switched targeting! Determination 003 under attack!

ST: Ah smeg, Luke, this is what I was talking about... Anyways... smeg... smeg... Damn it! #&^%$!@! If they blast through our only missile defence...

LS: Excuse me... Yes... Good... Very good. Sir, I've just received reports our team managed to land one more EMP blast before we broke contact. All of them should be silent now.

ST: Excellent. Assault Squadron and Velociraptors, focus on one Tarragona, doesn't matter which one. Keep blasting until it no longer blasts back or I tell otherwise. Enigneering team, status on guns and equipment?

Lan Screwsmith: Everything's operating within optimal parameters. As we keep on firing, we've been able to optimize wavelength subroutine in the fly and now only 15,4% of our shots are shorter than violet waves. If our PURGE Team holds, I'm certain we can win. Enemy must be terrified now.

ST: Good. We'll now be regularly changing speed to close in for the PURGE Team to fire, then turn around and fire engines backwards to slow down and gain distance. This requires frequent, rapid maneouvres. Inform me if something happens to the engines or reactors. Redirect additional power to cooling systems if needed. Hopefully we'll avoid more shots this way while landing the crucial ones ourselves. How do we stand with dodging? Any success yet?

LS: While we can't dodge lasers in a conventional sense because by the time we register enemy firing at us it's already over, which is obvious, a quarter of my team is now fiercely writing scripts for automatic parameters testing. The enemy firing patterns are predictable. With the right set of parameters our model could accurately predicting at least some, and by doing a barrel roll we might just be able to dodge that one beam. Or two. Better than nothing, if you ask me.

ST: Fair enough. Everyone return to your post and proceed. Let's get through this.

And so the battle carried on, interrupted by violet flashes, particle beams speeding not much slower than these lasers, cracks of hulls burning and breaking, engines roaring in overdrive after entering "circling mode" to "orbit" the enemy, modifying orbital shape to switch distance as neccessary, curses from command posts and regular stations as well, admiral cursing who the hell thought only 6 layers of armor and no shields on Determination would be a good idea and so on.

Particle beams eventually breached shields of targeted Tarranoga, but at the same time enemy lasers eventually dealt a final blow to PURGE 001. On a pure tactical level wasting firepower on an already disarmed vessel was plain stupidity. But this simple act had another purpose. Purpose that could be seen in the eyes of surviving PURGE crewmembers. Comitee of Humanity was ruthless. It didn't target its blasters in the most effective way. It wanted to make sure to blow up every ship, one by one, no mercy, kill as many as possible. Being knocked out of combat didn't mean surviving anymore (for as long as life support didn't get damaged too much). It meant certain death instead. However, it had as much positive as negative effect. Some crewmembers just got enraged by this and wanted to double their efforts to make sure the Comitee would pay for this.

With shields reducing the effectiveness of electronic warfare waged on every PURGE assault ship no longer being an issue, a quick EMP sweep rendered Tarranoga 001 disarmed and maybe even blind. Unfortunately, soon after massive, accurate barrage of laser fire severely weakened Determination 003, scoring multiple penetrating hits and blasting through one of the engines. With the enemy's ruthless doctrine and not enough thrust to gain distance, its fate was sealed, so the captain already gave an order to evacuate while setting remaning engines to full stop to increase likehood of being picked up by resuce team after the fight is over. Maybe it could get away in time, but one could let engines on overdrive for only so long.

Just as Determination 003 had met its fate, 40 class 6 missiles and 120 class 1 missiles had been launched. A total of 160 missiles from the main fleet. Nothing to worry about, thought Sam Tucker, as he decided to push a bit and maintain closer distance. Enginees needed a break and it was a great opportunity to switch off all four Tarranogas, one by one.

After a few more flashes and particle beams, only the two behemoths remained capable of firing on the Comitee's side, plus two undamaged ships Santa Cruz 001-002 as well as Tarranoga 004. That last one had made admiral start ripping his hair out from frustration, because as particle beams kept punching right through it, it remained operational.

Tarranoga 004 just kept refusing to shut up. But as firefight continued and engines were ready for another round of overdrive mode, something weird started going on. Out of a sudden, pilots struggled with maintaining distance. Navigation software would tell them to fire main engines at 84% power to accelerate to 8102 km/s and cut the distance to the enemy to 88000 km/s only for them to land 56000 km/s. Not only did it screw accuracy, but also potentially exposed entire fleet to missiles as ships began to desynchronize and get too far ahead or behind. For a couple of seconds even Assault Squadron has skipped an entire volley worth of 32 particle beams because the ships decelerated a bit too much and their computers could no longer lock to the enemy. Using 5 curses per every two words, admiral of N.O.V.A. space forces demanded an immediate explanations. PURGE Team quickly put away their work on dodging optimizations and began investigating the issue.

Luke Short: Sir... I think I have... Baaaad news... We still don't know what the bug is about... Buuuuut... A driver for calculating engine power output needed for various distances, inertia of ships, turning ratios, fuel consumption and alll that... Is based... On a framework... That had been released... In 2077...

Sam Tucker: @#(*!(#*&!(*@#&$^*!&@#%$^!&@^$#%!&@#$*^%&*!@#$%^!*@&#^$%@!$!!*(&%#$(*!%@^&#$(*&!@%#$(*&!@%#$(*!@$%!@$#%(*!@&#%$^(!@#$%(&!*@$%^#(*&!@$#%^(*!@#%$^(*!^#@%$(*!@%$#^(*!@$%#(*!@%^#$(*!@#$%^!!!!!!!!!

LS: Sorry... Not much I can do about it now...

ST: !#@^&%!&^#@%&%^!#@$&!%#@$&%^!@$#@%&!#$@

LS: Gulp!... I mean... I CAN do something... For the most part, these calculations aren't that complex... We could redirect some computing power from other systems for this... Just let us program in some basic equations... Precision of the outputed predictions and engine control input will decrease slightly... But it should be stable enough... I think...

ST: !#@^&!@&^#%!&^%&^!#%(*))(*@#&!!!!

LS: Yes sir!!!

Struggle with state-of-the-art-2077-bugware continued for a while, but PURGE Team had yet again proven to be an invaluable asset and got it all under control for the most part. Whole fleet briefly synced new protocols and the battle could continue. However, enemy suddenly also fired their engines with double force, turning around with a large squadron of inactive ships, but including damaged Tarranoga 004, to shift them to the smaller squadron staying behind.

During all this time PURGE Team was being fired at quite a lot. Laser bolts exploded over their hulls over and over again, steadily melting through them. And just as the Dark Phoenixes were supposed to finish off Tarranoga 004 at last while rest of the fleet received new orders to focus on Las Palmas, one of the two 75000t behemoths with 36 laser blasters each, hoping to bring it down and turn the tide for real, several laser beams landed on PURGE 004. In the same spot. Violet beam illuminated the hull as it turned to white from all the heat. They stood no chance. A powerful explosion which PURGE 003 barely got caught in tore through the void.

Fleet admiral was already down through half of his hair after looking at damage report. PURGE Team was down to four ships. And yet after Tarranoga 004 had stopped blasting, Comitee of Humanity was down to only two behemoths firing those pesky 72 lasers every ten seconds and Santa Cruz 001-002. N.O.V.A. Strike Force proceeded to keep fairly close to the behemoths. Battle was still tough and undecided, but jamming one of them might be just enough for the corporate military to secure victory.


And I thought I wrote detailed AARs!  :D

Good synth version of Toto's Africa, too.  :coolsmiley:
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Haha, thanks a lot! O0

I'm just trying to fill in the void Aurora leaves when it comes to literally everything else besides ship design - it lacks some cool tech tree, economy model, society characteristics and all of that. And honestly games where you create and build an entire civilization are the "worst" when it comes to detail. If this is a tactics game, you just write battles. But here? Battles are just a minor part...  :buck2: And with space games it gets even worse if you encounter aliens... Now you have to invent a civilization that's not even human, good luck  ;D So it's always nice to encounter someone who appreciates my effort.

And that Africa cover is wounderful, I've been in love with it ever since it came out and can listen to it on and on... Too bad these guys do relatively little of cyberpunk covers.

By the way, if anyone wants to comment on/ask about something, be encouraged to do so, no need to worry about breaking my post structure or whatever.


Battle progressed fairly straightforward. Violet flashes from laser beams exploding over one of the behemoth's shields with no visible effect contradicted the burns and explosions on PURGE 002 and 003's hulls. But according to almost every advisor, bringing one of the Las Palmas down was a key to victory. If silenced, that meant 36 laser blasters less for the enemy. And 36 laser blasters less for the enemy meant N.O.V.A. Strike Force would then have a straight advantage in raw firepower. Coupled with their engines generating superior thrust, the fact that the enemy's missiles weren't enough to leak through railgun array, meant an inevitable victory in a finite amount of time and finite amount of shots fired.

Las Palmas 001's kinetic shielding was a nightmare. Entire fleet pounded on it with everything it got, but the forcefield absorbed and dispersed it all. 75000t worth of a dreadnought could hold a lot of shield generators... But a finite number of shield generators. At least that's what the gunners overseeing targeting subroutines liked to tell themselves when no matter how accurate their guns would be each shot, dozens of beams just miraculously disappeared right before making contact with the hull thanks to that damned shield. PURGE Team tried it's best, but couldn't hack through them, either. The system was too secure on that one, meanwhile EMP blasts and microwaves could get them only so far.

Soon PURGE 002 and 003 met their fate, but the shields were nowhere near to be down. Two PURGE ships remained and their squadron was still considered nemesis by the Comitee, rightfully so. The only hope was to get through the shields and PURGE or face certain defeat. Admiral had to take risks. Being fairly certain it was PURGE Team and, later on, Determination squadron that'd be priority targets, he decided to push Velociraptors very close to the enemy to concentrate their lasers, while PURGE Team was supposed to get out of the heat zone and merge with the rest of the fleet further away. Admiral had finally agreed for a split, after seeing reports on possible missile ETA. From up close, all missiles were bound to pop out on the radar before they could even gain any speed at all, meaning automatic sync programs could act immediately, modifying velocity of all ships to quickly combine the whole fleet under railgun protection layer. To do so before impact it was advised for the ships to not be stretched across range beyond 80000 km, so a safety margin of 20000 km had been decided upon, with only 60000 km between Velociraptors and main forces. With additional firepower and accuracy, the shields should go down faster and remaining PURGE ships should survive till that moment and PURGE.

But before that could happen, PURGE Team commander requested to speak with the admiral immediately.

Luke Short: Sir, we've done it! We are through the firewall! We can now tune in to internal Channel 9 News comms! We can now hear everything they say, not only their curated porpaganda on TV... And I have bad news. We've been ignoring their movements, but now they make more sense... This isn't about getting a better angle for their onboard telescopes. They are heading directly towards our survivors floating in escape shuttles. They plan on picking them up for... "interviews"...

Sam Tucker: Ah, smeg, little traitor bastards!!!... "Interviews", huh?... A supposedly neutral journalist vessel tries to capture soliders of one side for "interviews"? During combat? Without asking for their or their supervisor's consent, preferably both? All this while suddenly shifting narrative to be more pro-government than the last time... smeg... Okay... I don't have time for this. These are our best employees. They know too much. No, we can't... Damn it, I want, say... two laser blasters on these "journalists" ASAP! Don't need to kill or even seriously damage them, just make it a warning of some sort, possibly throw them off course, whatever to make them break contact...

Agner Sato: But... Sir... Okay, we all know Convention IV is some non-existent made-up bullsmeg. Nevertheless, officially they are a neutral war reporting vessel, even if their actions say otherwise. So far we have a perfect PR opportuniy: we just disable their ships and go for tactical victory, meanwhile they ruthlessly murder us one by one. Younger generations don't remember N.O.V.A. Bunker System and the rebellion that spawned Comitee of Humanity. But they do see the low quality of life, slums, failed anti-corporate statements, they already blame them for letting this battle happen in the first place... In fact, our public image compared to theirs right now is soo good I think we can even afford to lose this battle and still win the war!

ST: Damn PR Advisor, you're damn right. But... If they interrogate our people... Things will get ugly. I'm not even sure how much they know about our true identity in the first place. We might officially still be Exadev Space Industries with no ties with theoretically long-gone N.O.V.A. Megacorps... And the identity is not the worst part. If they find out about the kinds of smeg our management agreed to do on Mars... We're all in trouble. Sure, large population will still hate Comitee, but it'll hate us more than it does now and by the time another rebels coup the Comitee, we might as well all be dead. They have Void Birds, fastest among supposedly non-military spaceships, pretending to be just another line of passenger cruisers, for a reason. The way I see it, Comitee of Humanity is coming to an end. It's already shaking from convulsions in agony. The question that's asked in this battle isn't about whether Comitee wins, but about who replaces it. We win, we replace it. We lose, we might replace it, just like you explained. We lose and our people get interrogated, we're in deep smeg. If the Comitee won't get to us before it collapses, then whoever comes next will.

AS: Fair enough, it's your call after all. Guess I'll contact Cydonia HQ and start working on official statement. I'll do my best to calm the public opinion down.

13th October 2199, Channel 9 News, "Breaking Corruption" program, Special Edition Livestream

Big screen in the studio simulatenously displayed images from the telescopes on WRV Marie Colvin. Every ten seconds most of them would flash in violet for a split second, followed by a extraodinarly bright blast on the shields of one of the Comitee's behemoths and a couple small explosions on the other side. A few images displayed Exadev employees floating in deep space in life pods. They were close enough to the reporting ship that it was possible to see their facial expressions, at least for the ones sitting closest to the windows. Some expressed fear, but some seemed relieved as the battle was over for them and they were relatively safe. A violent explosion illuminated the darkness for a while on one of the monitors.

Emily Mortan: ...As we all can see, another ship from Exadev Space Industries goes down. Comitee of Humanity tries its best to defend its citizens from the corporate oppressors. Sketpics claim it was very irresponsible for the government to let corporations grow so powerful without supervision, but most of the population seems content this battle is about to end it. Exadev might seem powerful, but not as powerful as the protective forces of our government. Comitee of Humanity is yet to lose one of its ships. Our experts predict Exadev will surrender soon. Complying with Convention IV regulations, Comitee of Humanity has promised a fair treating of war prisoners and claims to not take any hostile actions towards whoever that wants this bloodshed to be over. PR specialists point out this is a prime example of how members of the Comitee strive to defuse the conflict with as little casualties as possible...

On a different monitor, another ship blew up.

EM: ...So far we estimate there are at least a few hundred survivors from Exadev floating in space, some of which need medical aid ASAP, some badly needing to take a doze of RadAway... Speaking of which... Do you work in hazardous conditions? Have you recently travelled outside the protective city barrier for some reason? Have you observed symptoms of radiation symptoms setting in? Or are you simply worried increased radiation expousure is not good for your health? Buy next-gen RadAway brought to you by Thorium Conglomerate and save up to 45%! Sign up for a monthly subscription and bring get even as much as 60% loyalty discount! RadAway! Make all your worries go away! Limited time offer. Thorium Conglomerate - if you want to cleanse the world, start from yourself!...

Next PURGE Team member turned into space dust.

EM: ...And we have a confirmation another Exadev ships, one of the most threatening according to space combat experts, is destroyed. Now I'm going to present you... Yes?... Are you sure?... How is that possible?... No way... No...

Several screens in the studio went offline.

EM: Dear viewers, I've just received last minute report and I am forced to announce tragic news from the combat zone. Our team is still trying to figure out what's going on and get a better picture as I speak. Corporations tend to be more evil than we all anticipated... During an unprecedenced and unjustified act of cruelty, WRV Marie Colvin's just got hit with two laser blasters. There are casualties... Currently 57 crewmembers are confirmed to be dead, 128 injured, 36 are considered missing... Our medical assistance is risking their lives right now trying to get to the ones that got sucked out through the hull breach into outer space... Ship is still operational and capable of providing neccessary aid for all that need it... But we don't know how long will it hold on... Alright, more than twenty seconds have passed, next two volleys didn't attack us... Seems it was just these two shots...

Still, we're all witnesses of a war crime that's just been commited. We didn't expect corporate management to have much empathy for human life, but this tragedy is just beyond any understanding. The death toll has just risen to 61... Many in critical condition... 61 lives already taken away, 61 brave, skilled workers doing the best they could to make tonight's "Breaking Corruption" livestream possible for you, dedicated to the cause they fought for... They might not be armed, they might not be a part of this conflict, but we all know they carried the most powerful weapon, the one that can cross light years with pinpoint accuracy and no shield nor armor will ever stop it: the truth. They all tried to tell the truth, so that we all might be aware about the world we live in. Tonight we saw how Exadev Space Industries, blinded by their desire for power, didn't hesistate to kill innocent civilians, trying to silence the truth.

But truth shall always come on top. On top of their outrageous propaganda about how the ship's crew supposedly was attempting to threaten and torture the survivors and how Exadev needed to step in to protect them. According to Convention IV, this was just a ship to be used by war reporters with the sole purpose of independent journalism. It came into the conflict unarmed, harmless, weak and broadcasting its mission statement loud and clear. There was absolutely no reason for such rutheless treatment. Our reporters wanted to only assist and comfort the ones for whom the battle was already over, but the survivors' employer denied us this chance, choosing to become war criminal instead, preferring to let them die rather than get another chance in life. We've just received a direct statement from the Comitee of Humanity adressed at Exadev CEOs: "Even if you win on the physical battlefield, we will have won on the moral one."

Simultaneously, combined effort of N.O.V.A. military spaceships eventually destabilized behemoth's forcefield. In a final push, PURGE Team ran two PURGE sweeps in total, one that already silenced the dreadnought and the other one just to be sure the ship was really offline and it wasn't some sort of enemy's psychological warfare. The sacrifice was brutal, as PURGE 005 suffered a catastrophic failure under concentrated laser barrage and melted in half before it could get back to safer distances like PURGE 006, but thanks to this monstrous effort the enemy's firepower was at last weaker than what N.O.V.A. Strike Force could have wielded. Finally the victory for the N.O.V.A. Megacorps became a real possibility.


Lan Screwsmith: ...according to the estimations, Las Palmas' shields are placed somehwhere around 600-800 points on anti-beam scale... Probably at elast 650, though. That'd give them regeneration rate in betwen 20 and 30 points per volley so 2-3 points per second... Probably closer to 20, though. If it was more of an upper limit, that'd mean not only faster restabilization, but also at least 800 points, and given we went through them quicker than originally anticipated...

Sam Tucker: So... We won? I mean, I pushed Velociraptors so close for a reason, the accuracy and concentration of laser beams at 70000 km is amazing... Buut... I think there are still at least 32871346578513476 things that might go wrong. Technically we have advantage in laser firepower now, plus particle beams are better than lasers for that stalemate we're stuck in... Another behemoth and 2xSanta Cruz... That's... Still 52 laser blasters. Barely below our own firepower.

LS: On one hand, I also believe we've won. On the other... If we continue like this, we'll win. But... While Assault Squadron can stay further behind, maintaining 130000 km and score decent hits... Lasers are barely usable at this range. I'm afraid PURGE Team will not hold. We have only one ship left... And without them... We'll need to go through the second's behemoths armor... Things will take... some time...

ST: As if I didn't know... For now PURGE 006 will act as our meat shield, whether we want to waste our best soldiers and equipment like that or not, because enemy won't target anything else. But once it goes down, those 52 blasters will be aimed at a Determination... One after another... We might have to pull them further away... But that means Velociraptors will be pulled away too, we can't stretch too close or we're at a risk of instant loss from sudden missile strike... smeg... Alright. Let's show the enemy a magic trick. We'll multiply their 52 laser blasters into 36 laser blasters. All fire on Satna Cruz 001. Velociraptors at 70000 km, rest at 130000 km. Maintain speed and course. Notify me of shields. Oh, and one more thing: no PURGE sweep on that one, just blast it until it falls apart. No point getting the last ship blown up over reducing firepower by only 8. Prolong its destruction as much as possible. PURGE Commander?

Luke Short: ...

ST: Turn on autopilot script and board escape shuttles. We've lost damn too many of you. Too many of too valuable soldiers... Too bad we can't save any ship itself... But you're more important. PURGE 006 is going down. But I don't want any more dead PURGE Team members. Be ready to leave the ship any moments. Program it so that it closes in and attack second behemoth if by some miracle it'll survive till its shields destabilize because their generators stop working or something.

LS: ...

15000t for Santa Cruz meant half a weight of a Velociraptor. And it took less than a minute, a total of three volleys and the shields on Santa Cruz 001 already dispersed.

PURGE 006 was still holding on...

Velociraptors had a total of 15x86=1290 points on a deflection scale, a crude surviviability approximation based on armor physics under extreme kinetic projectile velocities on when exposed to deadly-tier particles or photon streams. With Santa Cruz having similar firepower, half the tonnage and more or less same shield generating potential, it was estimated to have 645 deflection points. Not good, but not too bad either.

As more shots exploded over Santa Cruz 001's hull, engines of both Santa Cruz-classified ships suddenly lightened in a blaze of glory. They started accelerating away from the battle, increasing speed up to 7500 km/s until finally turning engines off, putting main fleet in between them and the pursuers dictating range.

This was the final straw for the fleet admiral to rip remaining hair of the top of his head, creating a new style that hairdressers would later refer to as "Cosmic Emptiness". Shields had already gone down and time had been wasted. Santa Cruz 001 just had to be silenced. This sudden acceleration was a nasty surprise, but still not enough to outrun N.O.V.A. engines. But raw speed and thrust weren't everything. Main fleet awaited ahead and moving past it, especially when going at 8000 km/s, could be... a tiny bit complex. Admiral permitted to reduce distance to 100000 km, but with Velociraptors slowing down briefly to also get at 100000 km and merge with the fleet. That was set as a safety margin from the main fleet. From then on, N.O.V.A. Strike Force would slowly change trajectory to go around and then close in at crucial moment before straying too far from the target, while already leaving the behemoth, still advancing at only 3000 km/s, behind.

Problem was, the moment N.O.V.A. Strike Force started leaving their straightforward path, enemy did the same. Both detached ships engaged their engines to get them as far away from the threat as possible, while maintaining remaining fleet in between. Attempting to switch directions and catch them from the other side would be hopeless, so Sam Tucker had no way but to slowly decrease distance, circling around the behemoth and the rest towards Santa Cruz.

Soon it turned into both sides establishing a circular route around Comitee of Humanity's main forces, firing engines only in bursts at crucial moments to keep them on track, without getting "ejected out of a circle". With each volley Santa Cruz 001 was weakened and it wasn't a question whether N.O.V.A. Strike Force would destroy it. It was a question what the enemy was preparing that required otherwise pointless prolonging of the battle.

Admiral had to think about carriers and fighters, whether he wanted to or not. Only a bit more than thirteen minutes had passed since first lasers lightened up the sky. 120 fighters... 75000t carriers... Assuming equal split that meant 18000t worth of fighters alone on each. Adding up hangar space, likely shields, missile storages, storages for everything else, all the fighter maintenance services... Reloading 120 fighters could... take a while. And by taking into account distance from the enemy between the moment second and third volley came in, speeds of all the ships, it was estimated that "a while" meant 5202 seconds, so over 86 minutes. This calmed the admiral down... But soon he attempted to rip off more hair he didn't have.

Destroying Santa Cruz 001 and 002 would take some time this way. PURGE 006 wouldn't survive till shields going down on second beheomth. Next in queue were bound to be Determinations. No other way around. Loose too many and suddenly regular missile volleys are enough to shred the whole fleet to pieces. Of course it could be prevented. By getting them out of laser range, so at least to 180000 km. Maybe 170000 km would do, the damage and accuracy would still be too low to matter significantly in the next hour. But that would mean Velociraptors couldn't stay closer than 100000-110000 km, otherwise they wouldn't merge with Determination for next missile strike in time. Firepower and accuracy would be reduced. Even assuming only 20 points per volley on behemoth regenerating, whole N.O.V.A. Strike Force would just barely outpace that. More intel on enemy came in. A behemoth could easily hold 15 layers of armor, giving it roughly 3000 deflection points with shields combined, possibly more. It would still go down. But just barely. And with no Determinations to target, it'd get through Dark Phoenixes next. They were a bit less resilient than Velociraptors, but far deadlier at considered distances. Firepower would drop. Behemoth would go down. No doubt. But the question was when. It could take dozens of minutes just for that one dreadnought alone...

It was dangerous territory. Dozens of minutes... Maybe an hour? Maybe more? Fighters would come online again. That could be the end. Their missiles would target Determinations exclusively, obviously. At 11 missile destroyers and PURGE Team operating at full capability and every blaster targeting missiles because of no better options to lock onto, one was erased. There were 9 missile destroyers remaining. No PURGE ships remaining by then. And blasters having many other important things to blast. How many would blow up? Two? Three? Even if only two... That was unacceptable. Railgun array would leak. And with Determination waivering, it'd leak more. And more. And spiral out of control.

No, just no. Fighters had to be stopped. But how?... Even assuming lucky run... Behemoth might go down before them going up. But... Behemoth and at least one carrier, which was also a behemoth? With 10 armor layers at bare minimum? Unless absurdly fortunate, no chance. On the other hand... Destroying a behemoth should still leave quite a generous safety margin. Not to blow up a carrier... But possibly enough to blow up other missile ships. With both behemoths taken out of the equation, that'd leave only eight laser blasters on one Santa Cruz, assuming fogetting about the games it was trying to play and coming straight at a dreadnought first. A formality. Afte that, entire fleet could maintain, say, 50000 km. It'd make for a powerful laser-particle beam barrage. All gunboats would go down in flames quickly. Then, no matter targeting, fourth volley from the fighters wouldn't matter. It would deal some damage. That's it. Without other missile launchers to back it up, it'd lose its game-changer status. Yep, that was the strategy. Silnece lasers, then silence gunboats. And win.

But... Almost an hour had a chance to spawn another obstacle. PURGE damage wasn't permanent or requiring dry dock repair. Jamming sequence, EMP blasts, computer viruses, backdoors, microwaves frying stuff... If the enemy was prepared, and there was no point assuming it wasn't, maybe an hour of peace was all it would take them to repair. And then open concentrated fire. No, N.O.V.A. stood no chance either. If Comitee would make a mistake of not syncing all the ships at once and have them reopen fire as they come online again, without waiting for the others... So silence lasers, silence gunboats, then still foget about carriers and just destroy everything else... So many things could go wrong, nothing better could be done.

Despite desperate cat and mouse attempts, Santa Cruz 001 took one laser too many. The beam drilled through the armor and overheated something. And that something blew up. It was not powerful enough to cut more smaller ships out of what was one ship before, but it could be a reactor powering weapons, because they didn't come online for the next volley:

After that it was all or nothing. Velociraptors speeded towards remaining behemoth, not caring abotu Santa Cruz 002 that had reunited with main fleet shortly after realising it was not being fired at. Dark Phoenixes also came together with Velociraptors, maintaining 70000 km. Closer meant more accurate. And they weren't the ones to be targeted and everyone knew that everyone knew about this. Determination and PURGE 006 had been left at 135000 km. Just before the new plan was implemented, a final volley had been fired at Santa Cruz 001, just to double check. At the same time, first laser beam melted through PURGE 006's hull.

Shields on Las Palmas 002 held, meanwhile PURGE 006's armor not so much.

Tense moments extended into infinity. As if Sam Tucker was staring at a battle being fought on the edge of a black hole. A total of 695 points of damage had been done to the behemoth's shields, but just kept deflecting lasers and dissipating heat over and over again. Meanwhile PURGE 006 was already without a spare fire control, leaking fuel, blinded from sensor damage (at least that was not important because of other ships in the formation). Dodging helped survive the ship for a little longer, but it was about time to launch escape shuttles. And prepare for a lenghty space equivalent of trench warfare...