NATION

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The Nicean Front [Closed][FT]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Lady Scylla
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The Nicean Front [Closed][FT]

Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:41 am

National Archives
Minutes taken by Archive Secretary Lianne Drewer
Meeting: Security Council
Attending:
Empress Nerys Harlow
Sec of State Ria Solomon
Sec of Defence Sarah Carter
Sec of State Security Louis Vanderbilt
Sec of the Nation Augusta DuVal
Sec of Technology Liam Bletchley
Sec of Ecology Yoshiro Matsuyama
Grand Admiral D'kanni
Admiral Raina Rousseau


...
Empress: Are we sure about these reports?

Mats: Very. There are laconium deposits in the region.

Carter: They have fortified the systems since the last war.

Solo: Is diplomacy on the table? We don't have a formal embassy but I'm sure we can —

D'kanni: They won't even give us the time of day, Solomon.

Empress: D'kanni is correct. They are vicious in war, and see us as a threat, and always have.

Carter: They've mobilised quite a bit on their frontier. It gives us an excuse, one that can't be challenged too easily.

Rous: I can position my fleet in this system and we can quickly overrun them at Narthis.

Empress: And there's still Nalari in these systems?

Carter: Liberation sells well.

DuVal: It would be popular among the public.

Empress: Our FSD is too slow, they'd detect us before we got into position. What about Project 81?

Bletch: It's operational, we could put it in a freighter or install on a stealth frigate and send it in.

Empress: Alright, we need to hit fast and hard. Narthis has a gate, if we can disable that, we have the region locked down. We'll plaster it as a liberation and pre-emptive strike to save the Domain.

D'kanni: Understood.



Narthis Periphery, Nicean Federation Frontier

An object drifted through the periphery, its sleek and angled body reflected no light, nor could its well enshrouded engines be seen. It was a small vessel, no larger than 150 meters, but menacingly looking even for its small size. It was a prototype of a new Martian frigate known as Type 121.

It used specialised light-absorbing panels on its hull with regulators to mimic the background temperature of the universe, with cavities of water behind this skin to prevent certain scans. No lights or markings could be seen along its exterior. It was a phantom in space.

The vessel had only so much time to get into position. Internal heat sinks and radiators helped regulate heat, but it'd need to open up its armour and eject spent sinks to avoid too much heat. Doing so would open it to detection. It needed to act quickly.

As it cleared the Oort, a panel opened and a device was slowly extended on a hardpoint that used to mount a railgun. The device itself was physically unremarkable, looking just as angular and mysterious as the ship. But it carried a profound purpose.

There was a bright flash behind the ship. Security had been alerted to an intrusion in the system, and quickly the Niceans at Narthis' anchorage, Dess Utaa, had come to life. The ring-like station lit up as large doors opened along its side, revealing clamped in place warships that fired their engines. Batteries along the top of the ring had turned and dumped a series of nuclear missiles into the void that sped across the system.

Behind the stealth frigate, a large bubble of light had formed, and as it did, out came dozens of Martian frigates followed by destroyers, cruisers, battlecruisers, a carrier, and a battleship. The Nicean security forces were already outnumbered, but a call had already been made.

The Imperial Martian Navy destroyers dumped missiles of their own that sped towards the Niceans. A variety of flechette and nuclear warheads designed for long-range combat. Behind them, IMN cruisers deployed their point-defence autocannons and joined ranks with the frigates who had done the same. The drone carrier dispatched its cargo, with wide doors swinging open and hundreds of autonomous craft entering the gaps of the formation.

The Nicean and Martian missiles passed eachother, and as the Nicean warheads neared, the point-defence of the IMN began to lay down an envelope of fire. Explosions dotted the space in front of the advancing Martian fleet as enemy missiles were taken down, yet some got through and so the drones from the IMN carrier sprung into action, chasing down and intercepting missiles with their own fire.

One warhead struck the IMN cruiser Victory. A ball of plasma splashed over the vessels hull, burning away the abalator and disrupting the ship's polarity shields, creating brilliant aurora along the hull. Its signature white panels were notably scorched, with entire sections having melted under the heat. The cruiser fell back as frigates joined into the space and returned fire with more missiles of their own.

Nicean defences had also opened up on the incoming IMN warheads. Many were taken down, but several got through. A flechette warhead detonated meters off the hull of a Nicean frigate, sending high velocity shrapnel through the hull. Crewmembers inside ducked for cover behind anything they could find as the fragmentation perforated the ship. The vessel lagged behind as its drive began to malfunction.

A second salvo of missiles were traded as the fleets neared. No IMN warship was struck, but a Nicean corvette found itself vapourised in the ensuing detonation of a Martian fusion warhead. As the fleets entered medium engagement range, the Martian frigates broke off and headed for the flanks with the cruisers moving forward. Their powerful railguns began to track Nicean warships, and finally opened up with volleys of fire.

The shells sped across the void, entering the Nicean formation. The damaged Nicean warship lagging behind was struck by a round, it slagged through the bow and into the vessel's CIC before exiting out the aft. An explosion ripped through the ship as its drive detonated, spraying shrapnel into nearby warships. The Niceans loosened their formation and responded with direct energy weapons.

Lasers entered the IMN's fleet, and as they struck Martian warships, they were mitigated by the shields. Vibrant colours of reds and greens from the high energy particle wash could be seen waving over their hulls. One frigate was finally overwhelmed as its magnetic field was disrupted enough to expose the hull, the bow panels melted and though it deployed its radiators, the vessel exploded.

Martian railguns continued to fire, slinging shells at Nicean forces, and taking advantage of their exposed drives. At last, the battleship had begun to charge its spinal MAC as the teams inside loaded a massive tungsten slug. The Niceans had detected the energy spike and began to fire their railguns at the warship.

Frigates and cruisers moved into formation around the battleship. As shells came in, they were caught by the cruisers' kinetic generator. The shells slowed as kinetic energy was pulled from their momentum and dumped into the vessel's EM shielding. They grew closer to the battleship and quickly dispersed this energy into the vessel's own shielding, the charging of its capacitors sped up as the warship aimed at the station.

The Martian battleship's shields disappeared as all energy was dumped from the capacitors. This moment of vulnerability allowed a number of Nicean slugs an opportunity to strike the ship, and they did so, creating craters along the vessel's armour. There was a bright flash as the mass accelerator cannon of the battleship launched its projectile.

The Niceans attempted to get in the way, but the slug ploughed through them like butter. The projectile slammed into the station, perforating its ring and exiting out the other side as a tumbling, fast-moving piece of slag. The station went dark as power was cut, to the Nicean's horror, the central reactor had been cut clean through. The station had been disabled and was quickly enveloped in an explosion.

The Nicean security forces broke and began to flee. The Martian fleet turned their attention to the Nicean FTL Gate. Battlecruisers fired their railguns, dumping their capacitors in three-burst shots. The fleet watched as the gate was torn to shreds under the ensuing fire. The Battle of Narthis was over.
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Aug 23, 2020 4:14 am

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

"Admiral Rousseau," a young man greeted as he walked into the CIC of the IMN Warhammer. The battlecruiser had taken a few rounds in the fight, and some of the staff had lazily placed some clipboards over the holes in the hull. The fleet had stopped near the destroyed station of Dess Utaa and salvage teams were scurrying the wreckage for survivors.

"Commander," Rousseau said to the man, who was dressed in a Marine officer's uniform. The name 'Seltzer' could be seen on his nametag. The two stood in silence as they stared at the camera feeds. "Hell of an introduction," the admiral mused. Seltzer couldn't disagree. They had delivered a surprisngly effective blow, and while the Niceans were assuringly preparing a counter-attack, they wouldn't arrive for a few days.

"Their FTL is slow," Seltzer commented, walking over to a small kettle sitting on a counter with steam billowing from its spout. He inserted the spout into a vaccuum mug and filled it up, taking a moment then to inject some sugar and milk. His magnetic boots could be heard as we walked back to Rousseau and took a sip.

"The Fourth and First will be arriving tomorrow. Our intel shows that they pulled their security from Tialla and Paal," the admiral commented, looking at Seltzer with a faint smile. "Are your men ready?"

"As much as they can be. It's different than the Kadrians," Seltzer said, taking another sip as his wrinkled eyes stared at the screen. Rousseau tilted her head.

"The stubborness?"

"The big fuck off mountain gun," Seltzer chuckled. The Niceans weren't privy to such weapons. They had a few orbital platforms around Narthis, but the battleship, the IMN Dreadful had dispatched them after the rout. "Have the strikes been made?"

"Yep," Rousseau turned around and pulled up a hologram displaying a map of some of Narthis' terrain. A few smouldering craters could be seen. They had deployed a few tactical nuclear strikes on some bases and other installations on the planet. The RoE was clear though — no strikes were to be used on civilian centres. And that was where Seltzer came in. What they believed was a centralised planetary defence facility was located in the city of Lath Nok. Crippling it would be a priority to sever communications and pacify the planet.

"That'll be a bitch," Seltzer stated as he leaned on the holotable and let go of his tea which floated idly about.

"You've got twenty four hours to disable it, according to the Brass. If you can't, then we'll have to drop a city-buster on it. That's a hundread thousand dead," Rousseau commented, taking a moment to pull up some diagnostics of her ship on her HUD.

"Best get to it then."




Nissiyea, Nicean Homeworld

The city of Ark Hatu was a sprawling metropolis that dominated the coast of the Hangranar continent. For nearly two thousand years, the city had remained, with its titanic whitestone walls laid out in rings, and its massive canal that cut through the terrain and the city like a golden river of lava under the burning sun.

The Palace of the Moon stood atop the Asrak vun Targa, a large cliff that braced the shore like a shield of rock. Its large golden domes and shining diamond butresses were a tale of the city's opulent history. For generations, every Archon that ruled over the Niceans enjoyed great splendour. The Mines of Grengar worked by the slave-caste made well society's lavish lifestyle.

And as the sun of Nissiyea began to set, turning the once golden ocean before Ark Hatu into a pale purple, there was a sense of anxiety. A man ran through the hall, in his hand he carried a scroll, and as he entered the Great Chamber, he found him. Archon Vysterix.

"What is the meaning of this intrusion!?" The Archon bellowed, his court quickly shuffled away into the side chambers as the scribe panted. The Archon's eyes were red with anger as he began to hasten himself towards the scribe, he reached out and grabbed the messenger by the throat and lifted him.

"Tuk na valya shal kyt ark vanu taha?" Vysterix spoke in High Nicean, tightening his scaly grip on the scribe's throat. He wound back an arm with its jagged protrusions extending out. The meaning was clear, 'Should I break your neck or remove your head?'

The scribe offered the scroll, and Vysterix took it, squeezing the scribe's neck until it popped and then dropping his body to the ground. The Archon opened it and began to read.

They had returned.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:14 pm

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

The Third Fleet had positioned a strike group around the planet to defend the carrier: IMN Dawnhammer. The ship was a kilometer in length, with bright white and orange paint, and a roundel of the Martian Star on its side near the aft. Her crew of three-thousand sailors and marines made her the most populous vessel in the current fleet.

Admiral Rousseau had set about assigning tasks to various parts of her fleet as they spread out across the system. Task groups for screening composed of frigates and corvettes patrolled the periphery, and several strike groups had been assigned near the other planetary bodies with the battleship strike group being dispatched to the belt.

At long last, the First Fleet had entered the system, composed of several battleship and carrier strike groups, and a mobile defence platform known as a citadel. These titanic stations operated as anchorages with shipyards and services for the fleet, as well as being armed and capable of locking down entire planets. They dwarfed any ship in the IMN and were the newest addition to the navy.

"Admiral Rousseau, it's nice to see you," Admiral Dewitz spoke, his hologram had appeared on the bridge of the IMN Warhammer. Dewirz was twenty years older than Rousseau, his weathered and grey face more evident than ever. Rousseau smiled as she faced him.

"Dewitz, it's a pleasure. I see you've brought the big guns. Expecting a fight?"

"Valkyrie picked up movement two hours ago in the Kalankar system. Admiral Shur Nel Vaas has mobilised her fleet," Dewitz spoke, not seemingly keen on delivering such ill news. And ill news it was. Nel Vaas commanded the Nicean Armada, and was responsible for the Martian defeat during the Fourth Conflict. Five wars in a century, Rousseau smiled as she mused, perhaps there was some insanity to fight so much.

"We're deploying our Marine detachments and some of our automated battalions to Lath Nok," Rousseau stated, watching the Dawnhammer's launch bays prepare to deploy their dropships. The clock was ticking. She pulled up her HUD and looked over the Warhammer's fusion warhead complement.

"Well, at least we're early. The Fourth is still mobilising, they're heading to Tallia," Dewitz said.




Lath Nok, Kel Narthis

Lath Nok was a large city that straddled a river. It was the industrial heartland of this region of Kel Narthis, and home to around a quarter million people. Its sprawling city-scape was different to the towering skylines of other Nicean cities, but Kel Narthis was originally a Nalari frontier world. The architecture was different, if only buried beneath Nicean industry.

The IMN Dawnhammer released its dropships. From below, the carrier was barely visible, but as the dropships hit the atmosphere, residents were greeted with the spectacle of streaking lights like that of a meteor shower.

The entry was smooth for the first few seconds. Then Lath Nok opened up. Sirens sounded across the city with their terrifying wail as residents began to panic. Clouds trailed behind missiles as they reached out towards the skies above the city, and the distinct whirr of autocanons from around the city filled the evening air with light.

"We're taking fire," Lieutenant V'Kanni stated as she looked at her men. They were in the seating area of the drop-ship, since the craft was autonomous and didn't need a pilot. She was one of three Nalari in her platoon. She slid a magazine into her rifle and pulled back the charging handle as a round entered the chamber. "Check your equipment, if we make it to the ground, well, you're going to need it," she said.

An explosion outside shook the drop-ship though they hadn't sustained a direct hit. The sound of flak around them as they descended had everyone's nerves captive. Only V'kanni had access to the camera feeds from outside. With no windows, the rest were in the dark about what was happening. There came another explosive sound, and they all could clearly hear the flame-out of an engine from another drop-ship. V'kanni checked the feed, and sure enough, a drop-ship had been hit and was spinning down towards the ground.

Their dropship cleared the clouds and a redlight came on inside. The marines activated their helmet's hyper-reality visor, and they all stood and took positions. The ship rattled as explosions continued around them. One by one, V'kanni could see them connecting to the battlenet. The light turned green, and thus it was go-time.

The drop-ship began to pull-up. The geforce from the manoeuvre made it difficult to stand, but their suits compensated. Doors along the ship opened, exposing them to the air as the craft continued to make its manoeuvre. A counter had appeared on their HUDs now, and finally the word 'JUMP' covered their vision. The marines dropped from the craft as it peeled away.

They had dropped out at several hundred meters and were greeted with the chaos over the city. A large pillar of smoke climbed high in the sky from where one of the drop-ships had been shot down. Clouds of black plumes dotted the skies above them from the flak. And explosions ripped into the city-scape below them as the carrier used its orbital artillery to take down anti-air defences.

At last, the jump booster on their packs kicked in and they were brought to the ground. It wasn't exactly a soft-landing but they had been trained to roll on impact. V'kanni landed on a roof and quickly dove behind cover. There were sporadic gunfights around the city, but their landing zone seemed safe. The others had landed nearby. They began to ping things of interest on the battlenet as V'kanni looked around. She cycled through IR and UV to pick up anything of interest.

"Looks quiet here, Lieutenant," the platoon sergeant, S'la announced on comms. V'kanni hated that word. She activated her sonar to get a local map of the terrain, though the noise from the ongoing battle disrupted much of it, and Valkyrie could only do so much.

"Looks like we're doing this the old fashion way, there's an old marketplace two blocks east. We'll rendezvous there."

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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:32 am

Lath Nok, Kel Narthis

V'kanni's platoon had converged on the market. By then, news of the assault on Lath Nok was coming in over the battlenet. It hadn't gone as well as the Brass would have hoped, if the Lieutenant could believe the numbers. Many dropships were shot down from heavier anti-air defences than expected, and while the Dawnhammer was providing ortillery support, she wondered if it would have been easier to have dropped a FLBM on the place.

The team had taken cover behind a low wall and around the stalls which were still stocked with the fruits of Narthian labour. The civilians hadn't been given a warning before the assault, there were concerns this facility would evacuate. In the confusion and chaos on the streets of the city, there were just as many bodies of civilians as there were of the Nicean.

"LT, I've got word in from SysDef. The First has arrived, they're bringing in a citadel," S'la said as she checked the external air quality on her suit. The Nalari unlocked her helmet and pulled it off, taking a moment to breath. The air was acrid with the smell of smoke and burning bodies. She pulled out an M-Ration, a stimulant filled gum, and started to chew on it before putting her helmet back on.

V'kanni had her weapon resting over the wall and was peaking just over the edge at the empty square. It was too quiet on this side of town. Distant explosions and gunfire was all that reminded her that they were in a combat zone and not some frontier backwater. "We've got to move," she said.

"About that, 2nd Armoured was dropped in about twenty minutes ago. They're moving up the main MSR to the Kal... Whatever the hell this place is called," S'la said, sharing the map on her visor to V'kanni.

"Kel Aantari," V'kanni said. It was the palace complex just a few klicks north of their current position. They could link up with the armour, it'd give them support and a springboard west towards the facility. "Alright."

IMN Warhammer, Kel Narthis

Rousseau was leaning on the holotable, staring at the map of the city they were assaulting. There was a flash on the monitors that surrounded the CIC everytime the Dawnhammer fired down into the settlement. The twenty year veteran of the navy was not pleased at the results as she heaved a heavy sigh.

"Admiral," said one of her subordinates, it was Captain Grace, the actual commander of the ship. He handed her a vacu-mug of coffee which she took happily. He sipped from his and gandered at the map as well. It would update every fifteen minutes or so with the latest data from orbital and surface scans.

"What's the word?"

"It's a shitshow, Captain. About half of our transports got taken down by AA. A quarter were automated droids. We did get 2nd Armour on the ground, but we needed to deploy them about ten kilometres off the mark. They're rushing to the city, resistance isn't as strong as we expected but they had more anti-air than we originally had accounted for," Rousseau said begrudginly.

Grace whistled, "Sounds like the Brass wants to play politics."

"They don't want a hundred thousand civilian casualties on the bill at the start of this war, yeah," she commented and sipped her mug and stood up straight, taking a moment to loosen the tie on her hair.

"They should've thought about that before throwing us into a war," Grace grinned, giving the Admiral a playful nudge before he was called over by one of his officers. Rousseau couldn't exactly disagree, she'd rather drop a bomb and be done with it.

A klaxon sounded three times as the lighting changed from blue to red. The ship shook as its engines engaged and it began to perform a burn away from Kel Narthis. "General Quarters, General Quarters," the intercomm announced. The holotable's map changed to ladar scans of the system, depicting warp-signatures. The Nicean Armada had arrived.

Lath Nok, Kel Narthis

V'kanni peaked around the corner at the avenue that the Navy had designated MSR Orange. It looked clear. She signalled for her men and the rest piled up in the alley behind her. She called up her sergeant, and S'la who had been near the back with the autogunner came running up. "Is this it?"

"It is," S'la confirmed, trying to peak the corner as well. There was no armour. "They should be here," she said, looking at the time. She peaked again, though this time there was a whiz. V'kanni was staring out over the sergeant when a round cut through the platoon sergeant's helmet. It grazed the Lieutenant's bracer, spinning her off the corner and onto the ground where a second round followed.

The rest of the platoon took cover as the autogunner moved up from the rear. Two marines grabbed V'kanni and pulled her back into cover just as the second round missed by her feet. There came the sound of the autogunner's LMG and then all hell broke loose. The gunner was struck by rifle fire from one of the buildings across the street. They had found themselves in an enemy enfilade of fire.

"Move, move!" V'kanni shouted as the platoon tried to disperse, but the alley was flanked by walls. Smoke was deployed along the entrance to the street, and V'kanni pulled her bracer off and fired a few grenades from her rifle into the smoke towards the building opposite of them. She had switched her HRV to sonic mode and was using sonar from her helmet to see as it generated a 3-D map on her visor.

One of the engineers had been hit, and as the medic had swung in to help, the lieutenant pulled a breaching charge from his pack and ran to the wall. "Breach! Breach!" she shouted, turning away from the wall as the charge went off and sprayed the alley with rock and dust. The platoon started to pile in. V'kanni helped the medic pull the engineer into the yard.

The gunfire from the street had only grown, but was still focused on the alley. The marines had cleared the yard and moved to the front of the lot and started firing on the Niceans from there. The enemy had taken up positions throughout the buildings on the west side of MSR Orange, and V'kanni knew they had been waiting for them.

The next several minutes was filled with sporadic gunfire as the two sides traded. V'kanni had gotten ahold of Corporal Ryder, who had the radiopack for the talking to the fleet. She pulled her helmet off, exposing her purple skin and pulled the handset out of the pack. "Baker Baker 194," she said, after a moment there was a voice.

"Authorised. This is Overwatch, Go ahead Vendetta 2."

"We're taking fire by some roofhops and need fire-support, standby for grid," she waved Ryder over who had the grid coordinates, "Quebec Golf 071, South-East of the MSR Orange, how copy?"

"Copy that, Vendetta 2. Fire-mission has been denied."

Ryder and V'kanni traded glances, "What do you mean denied?" There was no answer. "Overwatch, this is Vendetta 2 Actual. Repeat last!"

"Vendetta 2. We cannot provide support at this time."

"Motherfuckers!" V'kanni shoved the handset back into Ryder's hands. They were safe for the moment, the high walls of the yard gave them cover, but it was a matter of time before the Niceans moved on them. "We need a hole blown in this fucking wall, get it done!" the Lieutenant gestured towards the house. She would blow holes through half the block to get out of here if she had to.

A charge had been set and the team took cover just as the sound of heavy cannon fire ripped through the air. 2nd Armoured had come barreling down the street finally, and one of the Maverick APCs had turned the front of the buildings where the Niceans were into rubble. The convoy stopped as Ryder flagged them down.

"You fucks are late!" V'kanni shouted as she emerged from the alley.

"We got held up by some barricades. You look like hell, Major Walton," a man introduced as he climbed out of the second Maverick. V'kanni looked at them. They'd brought four APCs, a Tortoise MBT, and a few supply trucks. Not much of a reinforcement.

"This isn't it, is it?"

"All they sent, I'm afraid," Walton said as he pulled his gloves off and opened his jacket a bit. The sun was bearing down on them at this point and the desert was baking under it. "Do you have wounded?" he gestured towards the alley, where S'la was still lying. V'kanni looked back and nodded.

"Sorry. How many?"

"Four down, one KIA," she answered and called over Ryder. Walton agreed to take them in one of the supply trucks and to support the platoon to Kel Aantari. Though they'd be alone westward from there. V'kanni climbed into the Maverick with Walton, and soon enough they were moving again.

The Nalari pulled her other bracer off inside and sat her helmet down by her feet. Everyone else inside the vehicle was quiet in typical Martian fashion. V'kanni felt her wrist that had taken the round from S'la.

"Who were they?" Walton asked, chewing on an M-Ration as he leaned against his scope. V'kanni wasn't one for small talk but she leaned back and sighed. Walton offered her some of the M-Ration, which she took.

"S'la," she said, "Our platoon sergeant, bit of a wild sort. What a shitshow."

"They've already lost four dropships in this gamble, and it's only been eight hours," the Major said as he looked at his watch. V'kanni shook her head. "There's a reason we don't do ground-ops. This is why."

V'kanni sighed and took a drink of her water. It wasn't refreshing like she had hoped, just warm and sandy. She spit some of it on the floor after swishing it and propped her rifle up against the wall. "They wouldn't even give us fire-support."

"You're fucking kidding."

"Welcome to the Navy," the Lieutenant said as she took another swig of her water. The convoy had stopped as Walton was called up. He pulled open the hatch and poked out to see what was going on.

"Lieutenant, you're going to want to see this."

V'kanni opened up the hatch above her and stared. Niceans were waving white flags as they came out into the street. The convoy had stopped and the marines had dismounted with their guns trained on them. "What the hell is going on?"

The Niceans pulled their helmets off, dropping them to the ground and revealing that they were a levee of Nalari. "Conscripts," Walton said. They had laid their arms down as the marines quickly moved on them.

"Baker Baker 203," Walton got on the radio. V'kanni climbed out of the vehicle with her weapon in hand and stood beside the Maverick as the enemy levee was stripped of their suits and brought over to the vehicles and were made to sit down beside them. Several stared at V'kanni as she stood over them.

"V'kanni, you won't believe this shit," the Major shouted and waved her on up. She climbed back on top of the Maverick as he sat the radio down. "They fucking surrendered. Reports coming in from across the city. According to Battalion, they're all Nalari levees. The Niceans packed up and hauled ass a week ago for some Mars-knows reason."

"Levees?" V'kanni looked down at the dozen or so they'd come across. They'd spent all this time and effort. "What about the comm depot?"

Walton shook his head, "There isn't one. They have an ammo depot, but its empty."

The liuetenant leaned against the turret in disbelief and sat her rifle down. "What the hell are we fighting for?"

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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Aug 25, 2020 4:17 pm

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

The IMN had split themselves up into battlegroups across the system as they awaited the Nicean arrival. Admiral Rousseau was sceptical of the new naval strategy. For decades, the prevailing theory was Big Guns, Big Fleet, but this was not the fleet of old. For one, dreadnoughts had fallen out of use, and secondly, medium-class warships became the primary source of firepower in the fleet. The Admiralty had to adjust to this new reality. Otherwise, they'd suffer the same defeats during the Great War.

The Niceans had held a technological advantage over the Martians in every war previously. Their civilisation had existed for nearly 2,000 years and were in their primacy. Any act against them by the Martians was merely an act of hubris. Four wars had been fought between these two vying powers over a century. Neither could get an upper hand, more so out of annoying persistence on the Martians' part. For each Martian Incursion, the Niceans merely turned another cheek, and when the Martians stalled, they'd strike like a hammer to hot iron. It was an almost effortless response, but when the Niceans tried to push the Martians back in their own territory, the Martians fought desperately.

Rousseau thought about this a lot. She was in the last war with the Niceans, though as only a midshipman. There was a saying by Grand Admiral Dewitz, "The Nicean fights with steel, the Martians fight with spirit." But she could not shake a feeling that was nagging her in the back of her head that there was something different. She stared at the hologram of the system and where the Niceans were. Between the two fleets, the IMN had about 700 warships total. The Niceans had responded with 1500. Often it was the Martians that outnumbered the Niceans, that was all the Niceans needed.

"We're being hailed, Admiral,'' Captain Grace announced. Rousseau left the CIC and entered the communications room. It prevented any vital intel from being leaked to the enemy, who she was sure would try and analyse the footage as much as possible afterward. A hologram appeared of Nel Vaas as the connection came through. The Niceans were a humanoid species with an armoured appearance about their heads and limbs. They generally had colours of grey to light gold with golden eyes. Their faces were sharp, and they had razor-like teeth. Their voices were always raspy. Unlike the Nalari, the Niceans grew up in arid conditions, and were very lizard like.

"Admiral Rousseau," Nel Vaas said, trying her best to pronounce the Martian's name. "This is your only chance, you must withdrawal or be destroyed."

"I see you've done your homework, Nel Vaas. We're here to take back what is rightfully ours, Admiral,'' Rousseau said firmly. Nel Vaas didn't flinch, though she tilted her head and clicked.

"You must withdrawal, Rousseau. You have fifteen minutes to decide," the Nicean spoke before the transmission was cut. Nel Vaas was known as the Nicean Butcher. Her reputation as a ruthless military leader and adversary had spread long after her major victory against the Martians in the third war. She had never been diplomatic.

Rousseau emerged back in the CIC as Captain Grace was instructing his staff. He smiled at the Admiral, but could tell something was on her mind. She joined him on the small island that was elevated in the centre of the CIC with the holotable. "We're going to pull them towards the jovian worlds, notably Ikra. If we stay spread out like we have been, they'll have difficulty choosing which battlegroup to target first,'' she suggested.

Grace nodded, pulling up the holomap and manipulating it around to see where the best positions were to send the different parts of the fleet. "You know they'll likely push for the flagship then," he noted. Rousseau nodded, though she gestured at the citadel. "That's untested, you want to base our strategy on it?"

"It was designed to lock down a system. If we can draw them in, we can collapse our flanks and pin them between Ikra, our fleet, and the citadel," she suggested. Grace sighed and rested on the holotable. It was one hell of a gamble, but he didn't have a better plan. "Trust me, Grace."

"Alright."

The battlegroups had formed up with Rousseau's flagship and its escort taking a position near Ikra and the inner belt. There were only two jovian worlds in the system: Ikra and Ru Tulak. Two asteroid belts existed with one between Ikra and the inner planets, and the other just beyond Ru Tulak. The inner belt was far more thicker.

As the timer on Nel Vaas' ultimatum expired, Martian frigates and destroyers dumped hundreds of warheads into the void that sped towards the enemy fleet. The Niceans responded with their own and advanced. As the missiles neared the Martians' formations, point-defence filled the space before them with rounds, tearing into missiles all around them. The battlegroups had adopted tighter formations, with cruisers protecting the lighter warships with their autocannons. These fortified islands of ships proved formidable.

Martian missiles encountered the Niceans by Ru Tulak, and several made it through with detonations being clearly visible on a number of ships. "Damn good hits,'' Grace remarked with a satisfied grin. A few ships had been disabled or were pulling back, but it opened them up for weaknesses when they got into range. The Warhammer rattled as its railguns began to fire. Each time, the weapon's officer would alert them, and dozens of rounds from the ship's three forward facing turrets would fire.

The AI controlling the guns were targetting weakened spots on the hulls of the Niceans where the warheads had detonated. More ships were crippled in their salvos as the Niceans finally returned fired with their lasers. The Martian ships, like before, absorbed much of the energy with their new shields. Dispensing it across their hulls in beautiful aurorae.

"Bring us around, Captain," Rousseau ordered. The flagship and its escort flipped and executed a burn, pulling energy off of Ikra's rotation as they boosted to supercruise and swung under the inner belt. The Nicean fleet began to breakup into three formations with the centre pressing Ikra and giving chase to the command group. The flanks of the Martian fleets began to collapse, swinging around as the cruisers were brought into railgun range and put the other two Nicean formations under over-lapping fire.

As the main formation of Niceans approached the inner belt, they were greeted by destroyers and corvettes that had hid themselves among the asteroids. Using warheads on the many rocks had gassed out ice to throw LADAR off. The corvettes darted out and began to fire their autocannons into the Nicean fleet as the destroyers used their missiles to weaken ships further. Admiral Rousseau's battlegroup had flipped around again, and the IMN Warhammer had brought its railguns around to fire on the pursuing Niceans.

The citadel near Narthis had activated its lances as the entire station began to glow. Large, titanic guns that dwarfed any Martian ship had started charging and the first salvo was fired. The Martians kept up the pressure on the main formation until Grace was practically begging Rousseau to break-off so they weren't in the crossfire. At last, the command group did just that. The Niceans were blindsided as the lances came through the dispersing Martian ships and slammed into them.

"By fucking Mars," Grace gasped as they stared at the screen. The lances tore away Nicean shields and ships erupted in violent explosions as they were cleaved apart. The other two Nicean formations had been caught. Swarms of ships from the citadel had entered the fray, dumping missiles into the formations as the fleets lit up in bright flashes. Through the carnage, the Nicean flagship had appeared and fired its spinal cannon at the Warhammer in one last act of defiance.

The Warhammer rolled under its RCS and fired its engines to dodge. The round struck the aft of the ship, damaging one of the drives as it began to spin off axis. The AI took control of the ship and aimed the heavy railguns along its bow at the approaching dreadnought. Rounds slammed into the bow of the Nicean flagship as the two closed in. Autocannons from both began to spray each other's hulls. Grace pulled Rousseau into cover as the hot tungsten rained through the CIC and other compartments, striking officers and marines alike.

"Deploy the corvettes!" Grace shouted. The aft-facing bays opened and two missile corvettes came sliding out and fired their engines. They swung around the dreadnought, dumping thousands of rounds into the ship before dropping magnetic warheads onto the Nicean's hull. The devices clamped down and fired, burning their way into the ship through its armour, and leaving a hot ring inside the clamp. After a second, both detonated and the ship was torn in two by the explosion sending debris in every direction.

The Warhammer fired its engines to escape the approaching debris field as the Admiral and Captain finally crawled from their cover. The CIC had been destroyed. As the ship moved, everything had fallen back to the floor under the thrust-gravity, with bodies of sailors and marines coming down as well which had originally been floating in the zero-g, tethered only by their magnetic boots. "Get medical!" Grace ordered as the rest of those on the bridge scrambled to plugholes and assess the damage.

"Did we do it?" Grace asked Rousseau. She was staring at the only working screen in the room. He stopped and looked as well. What remained of the Niceans was jumping out of system, with the rest being cut down by the Martians by the inner belt. They had defeated what was once a more powerful force, Rousseau sat in a chair and rubbed her face in disbelief. The Nicean Armada had been defeated.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Aug 26, 2020 5:01 am

Rathaus, Laconia City, Mars, Sol

The Empress and Secretary of Defence, Sarah Carter, were busy looking over reports in the Empress' small office. Papers and holotablets were strewn about, along with a hologram being projected in the middle of the room depicting the Nicean Reach and its twelve remaining systems. They pair had been at this task for hours, and at last, Empress Harlow decided it was time for some refreshments and so made some tea. Carter took a seat and stretched out with a whine before finally settling in her chair as she was handed a cup of steaming tea, and a tray of sugar and milk was put before her.

Harlow sat down on the couch beside the chair and idly played with the hologram. It was midday, and much like Harlow, Carter liked to be up early and start working, which was why she was here to start with. She had to keep the Empress informed of the situation, and Harlow's expertise in naval and marine warfare made her a valuable source of wisdom.

''We will have to amend the RoE,'' Harlow stated after taking a soothing sip of her tea. The Kel Narthis fiasco, which is exactly what she would call it, had cemented the end of planetary assaults of that scale. While the casualties were low compared to most invasions, per capita they were quite high and demonstrated just how ineffective it was to deploy dropships into an AO. She wasn't at all surprised, the citadels she had designed were to allow a new solution to the 'planetary question', expecting that such assaults would be futile now.

Carter was in agreement. The IMN would just need to clear the system, deploy a citadel over a planet, and let it lockdown the planet instead. The station could use automated battalions for terrestrial deployments, and service ships in the system. If anything needed a harder hand, it could commit to orbital strikes. Both of them reclined more into their seats and mused about it.

''It'll mean civilian casualties,'' Carter reminded the Empress. That was indeed the unfortunate trade-off with the new RoE. The fiasco with Lath Nok was because they wanted to avoid such casualties during the onset of the war, but dropping a fleet-launched ballistic missile or using some other form of orbital strike would have more easily resolved the issue. The other matter was intelligence.

Harlow manipulated the hologram and pulled up a recent letter from Admiral Rousseau regarding her recent concerns following the Battle of Narthis. She had highlighted a definitive change in Nicean doctrine as well, and a seemingly unwillingness or hesitance to fight. Something Carter smirked at while reading. ''They deployed over a thousand ships, how is that being hesitant?''

''In the past, the Niceans were always outnumbered by us. They would deploy a hundred against say, five-hundred of our own warships, and would win every time. I believe her, it seems desperate to deploy so many warships,'' Harlow commented. Carter sipped her tea and then sat it aside. She stood up and pulled the starcharts for the Nicean Reach, highlighting two systems.

''I think these two are the next best priorities,'' Carter said, looking at the Empress, ''Assuming we want to keep pushing into the Reach. We've already got the laconium, but we could finally secure an absolute victory. If they are desperate, then something is going on.''

''We need better intelligence, yes,'' Harlow interjected, ''That is the great question though. Do we press on into the Reach or do we consolidate what we've just taken,'' she said in thought as she rubbed her chin. If the Niceans had lost the advantage as it seemed, then the Martians could finally deliver a total defeat and annex the Reach entirely. It'd be the first time the Empire had colonies in Beta for a decade. It'd also put them just north of the Domain again.

''We'll push into these two systems next, but I'll need to meet with Civil Defence and Military Intelligence to discuss getting more intel,'' Harlow stated as she stood and sat her beverage aside. ''We can't be fighting in the dark like this. We'll need to deploy some more frigates along the periphery and see if we can gleam anything off of Nicean chatter or some probes.''

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The Ctan
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Postby The Ctan » Wed Aug 26, 2020 10:04 am

Somewhere in Nicean Space

Thalekh was not a happy individual, she had not been happy for approximately sixty million years, more or less. She was terminally unhappy, and right now she was at least able to spread that unhappiness to others. The others in question were Nicean.

She stepped through the chamber with a delicate mincing motion, her trio of legs carrying her over a bulkhead lower step as she stepped in. Four pistols pointed in four directions and four shots lashed out, synaptic interruption weapons were briefly painful, she had considered making them something less neat, like projectile weapons, but sadism could not compromise efficiency.

She felt the damage striking her armoured form not as pain but as a dim awareness of the damage being done by their weapons, they were not formidable, as she rated such things. The shots did little damage, penetrating but remaining in her outer carapace of the tangle of low-priority mechorgans that were less protected under them. She pressed on, tasking her symbiotic repair units to repair the laser damage within her as she stepped through the next chamber, seven targets; she had to fire one of her six weapon-limbs more than once.

She adjusted her chronosense, allowing the limbs to move in slow motion, it was not always a useful ability, she could accelerate her chronosense so that she was experiencing hours for every second that passed externally but to do so was to be input-output bound, the acutators that operated her limbs were fast but had limits. She did not need to do this to hit her targets, she did it instead to watch the expressions of of enemies, savouring their expressions in the microsecond as they realized the guns on her limbs were coming in to point at them, locking into position to fire.

She watched and savoured, then moved on. She would be destroyed eventually, all of her group would be, they had been displaced within the enemy compound as a prelude to a more organized assault, but Thalekh did not care about that. She died and lived again, and she needed to do so more before her treatments would be fully effective.

Her mind was infested, with a burning hatred of all life, sapient and otherwise, and while that was seen as a disease, there were times when that was simply not enough. She could busy herself with simulations, but it was not the same as the release of watching those who had wasted lives freely given to them expire. She watched the guns go active, even with her chronosense adjusted the time between the weapon engaging and the impact disrupting the neural processes of the target was imperceptible; as one they lost motor control, and entered terminal siezures, they would, she calculated watching the impact points, still be concious as their bodies shut down. That was pleasing.

There was enough of their minds left to appreciate what was happening to them. Much the same as with Thalekh though, her mind had been stitched together from the engrams of her original life that remained, and while she could experience emotions and thoughts, nothing could truly replace all of her loss; she did not know what loss had made her vulnerable to the spreading curse of existential homicidal nihilism that she experienced, but she knew that holes were missing in her memory; people sized holes. At some point she suspected that she had conciously scoured her memories of her lost life from her mind, and aeons of warfare had filled in the blanks.

Thalekh was a weapon, she was not sure she ever wished to be other than a weapon, she could pretend at being an organic necrontyr at times, she could hide what she was, for days, months, weeks, even years at a time. But then the urge to pick at the scab and probe about for what the core of her essence was came back, and she found herself withdrawn from her life.

The C’tan had promised an immortality of revels, the Szarekhan Dynasts had sold them short on that, they now had those revels, but there were times when she simply could not endure another poetry recital, another memorial, another orgy. Most who sought to repair themselves moved on, Thalekh knew those who had, but three weeks ago, she had wanted to take her dagger and cut her arm bare, flay the skin from it and reveal the machine beneath the muscle. To see what she truly was when false smiles stopped and patience ran out.

It had been time. She had sought out the active clades, those who were hunting now, and migrated her mind to a war-form, the hulking thing that even now shot down Niceans. The Great Civilization always had them, a place for the veterans of the War in Heaven who could never truly set live in peace. There were always slave-takers, mind-stealers, and other acceptable targets.

Oppressors who operated by species, phenotype, gender or other visible criteria were particularly valuable targets, Thalekh saw a group of Nalari, armed to fight her, but adjusted her weapons to produce a subtler interference with the neural process, not the terminal shock, and she fired at them, watching them lose focus and fall; they would recover, more than likely.

She stepped over them, and was struck by a plasma burst from an anti-vehicle weapon, she felt the damage as a brief warning as he body was overcome, and the recall system engaged, bringing her back to the ship.

She was in pieces, but paid little attention, impatient to return to the fray, willing the repair constructs to attend to her as she reappeared in the transit bay.

+My Fleshmorsel! The Fleshmorsel cannot be allowed to escape. Return me, return me at once! Do not let others finish the banquet before I have my fleshmorsel!+

She incanted her thoughts furiously, unfiltered, willing the machines to mend her so that she could be returned to the Nicean troopship. They would leave nothing but a charnel house, some would take the leadership caste of the enemy vessel captive, for other purpouses, but the warriors merely had to die, and she wanted to make them die before her brothers and sisters did.

+Send me back! Send me back now!+

As they threaded her limbs back to her torso, replacing components and restructuring them with atomic fabrication, she thrashed free from the mechatendrils that held her, pacing and flexing her beweaponed extremities.

The troop ship was no match for a Great Civilization Harvest Ship, the term for a line warship, kilometers long and heavily armed, these were powerful vessels indeed, operating behind the enemy lines, they had the speed to intrude and operate against most species without impediment.

+Ship, send me back, I’m ready!+

She did not want them to run out of enemies before they returned her to the stricken ship.

+As you wish, Thalekh+

She inloaded the target area’s details automatically, already aware of the nearest life-signs as the ship found a knot of possible enemies to sort through.
"If any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. When I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." ~ Abraham Lincoln
"The Necrons were amongst the first beings to come into existance, and have sworn that they will rule over the living." - Still surprisingly accurate!
"Be you anywhere from Progress Level 5 or 6 and barely space-competent, all the way up to the current record of PL-20 for beings like the C’Tan..." Lord General Superior Rai’a Sirisi, Xenohumanity
"Many races and faiths have considered themselves to be a threat to the Necrons, but their worlds and their cultures are now little more than interesting archaeology."

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Aug 26, 2020 3:36 pm

IMN Warhammer, Narthis System

Custodian bots had been hard at work cleaning the damaged CIC room. Admiral Rousseau counted her and Captain Grace as lucky. The room was littered with holes from the attack, and engineers were busy tackling the damaged drive. They had towed the flagship to the Narthis Citadel, and the vessel was sitting in dock as large robotic cranes cut and pulled the armour plates off the ship. These panels would be refurbished and the severely damaged ones would be melted down and remade at the Citadel's foundry before being mounted.

''Hell of a thing,'' Grace marvelled as they watched the Warhammer be serviced. The Martians had designed the Citadels with one thing in mind: controlling a planet. There was, Grace thought, more firepower in a Citadel than all of the Old World nations combined. The structure was many kilometres in length, capable of servicing hundreds of ships. Large ortillery batteries made up the platform's spiked look, capable of aiming down towards the planet or out towards space.

A central cylinder concealed a neutron lance that could deliver a beam of so much energy to readily annihilate anything within several hundred kilometres on the surface. Foundaries and assembly plants existed along the drum and were complemented by a resource-harvesting fleet of autonomous miners that could mine the planet and then refine these materials into machines of war. The human element aboard was more of a back-up. It was the pinnacle of automation, demanding nothing short of obedience.

''You alright, Admiral?'' Grace asked as he sat down at her table. Rousseau had always been tight-lipped, it seemed like a common theme with admirals. Grace was sure they had their sense of humour removed once they got their stars. But Grace had known Rousseau for fifteen years. She was more quiet than usual.

''I've been thinking. We have fought with the Niceans for a century over this region. Why fall for something like that?''

Grace raised a brow as an android brought them some coffee. ''Why does it matter? We won, and we've got a foothold in the Reach,'' he reassured her, gently squeezing her arm. But she remained unconvinced.

''I know Vel Naas. She was a Nicean Harlow. Their mustering, the hail, the tactics — none of it was very characteristic of her or the Niceans. It was desperate. Fearful, almost. I don't know, Grace,'' Rousseau frowned and reclined.

Vardi System, Nicean Reach

A stealth frigate had been moving along the edge of the Vardi System. It was the next priority of the IMN. Unlike the Narthian Expanse, the systems here were a part of the Nicean coreworlds. So the Martians were expecting actual Niceans and not Nalari. The vessel entered stealth-mode finally and pushed into the system. Using passive scans, they began to collect data, taking time to exit the system when they needed to cool down.

The ship's captain, Tyril Grippen, looked over the data during one such period. They had pulled out of Vardi and opened up the vessel's hull, expelling some heatsinks and deploying radiators to cool the ship down. As a precaution, the ship activated thermo-optical camouflage while it deployed its antenna to communicate with Amsterdam Station — Martian Military HQ.

There was a shortburst transmission from the ship of the data they had compiled so far. The antenna retracted and the vessel exited its camouflage, then fired its drives and quickly began to leave the area in case the transmission had been intercepted. What they had found though was unexpected, and Grippen couldn't believe it himself. It would change everything.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Aug 27, 2020 7:58 am

IMN Cardinal, Interstellar Space, Nicean Reach

Grippen had been called to explain the new data he had found. He stood in the communications room with his arms behind his back. The young officer had only served for seven years before being put in charge of an Aegis-class stealth frigate — the navy's answer to a 'submarine' in space, as some would jokingly remark. Humour aside, the Aegis was effective at what it did, and what it had found in the Vardi System was concerning. Admiral Rousseau appeared in hologram before the captain, who immediately stiffened and saluted.

''Admiral,'' he respectfully greeted. Rousseau returned the salute, and in characteristic fashion of 'no-nonsense, fuck the formality,' immediately followed with a question that got them straight to the point. The Cardinal had found something groundbreaking in Vardi, and its impact on the war changed everything. It was Grippen's first assignment, but already he was making waves. There was a bit of quiet satisfaction in his mind with it all.

''Captain, I understand you uncovered something, and from the data you sent us — you're positive this is active?'' she asked. Her voice softened at the end of her question, perhaps with a quiver at the immense weight those words were pulling her down.

''Aye, Admiral. The Niceans have a circlet in the Vardi System. It looks to be military in nature, though I'm unsure as to why,'' he answered. A bead of sweat slowly formed along his brow, and made its journey down the contours of the captain's face. Rousseau nodded.

''Will need more intel, Captain. I hope you understand that. You've already managed to turn the tides of this war, but the Empire still needs you to perform your duty,'' she stated, giving Grippen a salute which he returned before the transmission was cut. He exited the the comms room and entered the bridge to take command once more.

***


Vardi System, Nicean Reach

The circlet had a steady flow of traffic. Whatever its intentions, the Niceans had definitely been busy with it. A number of orbital platforms existed around the system with defensive batteries designed to deter any would-be invader. Beyond the circlet, Vardi was a binary system with a blue and yellow star in a delicate dance. Two rocky worlds were detected on long-range scans, and three jovian ones. The circlet had been built in between the jovian and rocky worlds, and this was also where the defence platforms were.

Rousseau had opted not to sacrifice her entire forces. Instead, two battlegroups had been deployed to the system, and were commanded by two battlecruisers — the IMN Victory led Group Red and the IMN Sovereign led Group Blue. Accompanying the battlescruisers were some regular cruisers, a few destroyers, and some frigates. Commodore Bjorn Sangvhi was in command of the expedition, and served aboard the Victory.

The ships entered the system at the periphery and were immediately set upon by cold-running mines. Autocannons made quick work of them but the obstacle had slowed them down. The Niceans had dispatched a dreadnought and several of their own warships which were now speeding to the edge of the system to meet the Martians. The Victory fell back in formation as the frigates took charge and pre-emptively fired a volley of missiles.

''We're in the shit now,'' Sanghvi said, pulling up scans of the system. The Niceans were moving fast to intercept them. They were just out of range of the defence platforms but didn't have a battleship available to long-gun the installations. They were sitting ducks. ''I need a defensive line, make sure the destroyers are are spacing themselves out,'' the Commodore commanded. Unlike the the frigates, the destroyers were designed specifically for anti-ship combat with faster, heavier missiles than the frigates, which were designed to dump large volumes of fire. Sangvhi knew they'd be their best hope of surviving this.

''We're still under a cool down, Commodore,'' Sangvhi's navigator alerted him. It was moments like these that a commander had to make choices. He stared at the charging status of their jump-drive and the fast approaching Niceans. Time seemed to slow for him as the chatter of the CIC faded into silence. ''Orders, Commodore?'' came the navigator's voice, snapping him out of it.

''Direct all power to the capacitors in the MAC. Order the others to divert power to their shields and weapons. We'll make a stand here! Call for General Quarters, I want all hands on deck, we're going to need fire-suppression and engineering up and running. Do it now!'' Sangvhi barked out as he quickly marched up to his station, and with a flick of his hand, pulled up a large hologram of the system.

The Victory's reactor began to whirr loudly as the ship stopped recharging its FTL system and began to dump power into the capacitor banks that would power the battlecruiser's spinal-mounted mass-accelerator. Sailors inside the large chamber that ran the full length of the ship had quickly evacuated as bulkheads were shut. General Quarters sounded alongside All Hands, and everyone, including the cooks in the chow hall had ditched their original stations and began to suit up. Every sailor was a firefighter aboard a ship and the armouries were raided for firefighting equipment and weapons by the crew.

As the Niceans slipped into range, the firing chamber of the Victory went dark. Lights across the ship flickered in the few split seconds it took for the capacitors to dump their energy into the ship's firing-coils. The cannon pulsed and a stream of heated plasma was accelerated out of the chamber in a process that took less than a second. Everyone felt it when the ship fired as it rattled down to the rivets.

''Pulse!'' shouted the weapon master on the bridge. There was silence, and then the sound of warning alarms as the Niceans began to fire missiles. Sangvhi could see the pulse moving across the void on the hologram and he waited with anticipation. There wasn't much time to react for the Niceans, and a feed of one of the enemy cruisers getting hit sent cheers erupting in the CIC. A detonation followed as the ship was cracked open. More cheering. But it was just one kill.

The frontline of the Martian's battlegroup created an envelope of fire as the autocannons aboard the frigates began to spray thousands of tungsten-core rounds ahead of the impending missile strike by the Niceans. Warheads were shredded under the concentration of fire, and while it was largely successful, the Niceans had done something unexpected. Some detonated within the envelope, creating a ball of plasma that quickly ate away a gap. Behind this gap were further detonations of flechette warheads and chaff.

The cloud of fragmentation overwhelmed Martian sensors and the point-defence system struggled to track and destroy the flechettes. High velocity projectiles rained on the Martians, cutting into their hulls and severing vital systems. The IMN Sovereign had been crippled under the onslaught, along with much of Group Blue. The Victory pulsed again, delivering a strike through the gap as Nicean cruisers attempted to take advantage of it. One was cut in half, spraying out its contents as a second slammed into the aft section behind it.

''Take cover!''

The flechettes and shrapnel hit the Victory. There was a sick grinding sound as metal cut through metal at intense speed. A tungsten rod, now malformed, embedded itself into the reinforced bunker of the CIC at the shock of the officers inside including Sangvhi. ''I need a sitrep!'' he demanded angrily, climbing to his feet as he stared at the lacerated insides of the bunker. People had lost limbs and others were bleeding out on the floor.

''We're still operational, but the same can't be said for Blue, Sir!'' one of the subordinates answered. They were now in range of the Nicean main armaments, and lasers illuminated the dark, spacious void. The vanguard, now in disarray, was cut down by the enemy. The Victory pulsed again as the Martian line collapsed. ''We've lost most of the frigates, the frontline has been broken!''

''Close the ranks, we need overlapping fire,'' Sangvhi ordered. They were going to tighten the formation, relying on the cruisers' railguns and PDC to hopefully remain steadfast against the Nicean. The ships maneouvred into position, collapsing the formation down towards the battlecruiser, and the Victory deployed its secret weapon. Three Aegis-class frigates were dumped from their berth and fired their drives to quickly rocket away from the fleet. Sangvhi watched as they disappeared from all sensors.

The Niceans were now several thousand kilometres out and well within railgun range. The two forces traded fire. The Victory sustained a hit as its bow was damaged from railgun fire. The round had compromised the MAC and the Victory fell silent as fires broke out in the forward compartments. Crews were quick to react, but the Martians had lost their largest asset.

''We need to pull back, Sir,'' Sanghvi's navigator recommended. She was covered in water and blood, with a tattered uniform and matted hair. It was that way with all of them. They had moved the wounded to the auxiliary CIC where a makeshift triage had been set up, and already it was filling to capacity as more sailors and marines were being carried in from elsewhere on the ship.

''We can't pull back, Amanda,'' Sangvhi replied, wiping sweat and dirt from his face with his uniform. Amanda shook her head and gestured at the scan-data. They were losing the fight, Sangvhi knew this. The Martians were holding their own, but it was going to be a matter of time. ''We don't have the time to charge our drives,'' he said solemnly. Though, he may have spoken too soon.

The Niceans had also stopped firing on them, and there was visible confusion among the enemy fleet as they focused their weapons elsewhere. Sangvhi stared at the tactical map. The stealth frigates had swept around the side at a wide angle, and dumped missiles into the enemy formation. A number of detonations followed, and the Nicean dreadnought sustained several strikes. ''Now's our chance,'' Sangvhi said softly.

The remaining Martian ships pressed forward as the cruisers focused fire on the Nicean dreadnought. Railguns lobbed slugs in their direction. The dreadnought's weakened hull was piecemeal for the railgun fire, which threw shells straight into the internals of the ship. Flechette detonated around the fleet, spraying warships as the stealth frigates continued to draw enemy fire. At last, the Niceans broke from their attack run against the battered Martian battlegroup and burned away. They were running, but Sangvhi knew they were now in no shape to give chase with the defence platforms still active in system.

''All hostile warships are fleeing,'' Amanda announced. There was some cheering, but the atmosphere wasn't as lively as before. Sangvhi gave the order, and the ships had started to charge their FTL. They were going to withdrawal while they still could. ''Spinning up the FSD,'' Amanda said, then paused, ''Commodore, we're detecting an energy spike from the inner system.''

The circlet fired. A blue flash enveloped the inner system and was rapidly approaching. ''Get us out of here, Amanda!'' Sangvhi shouted. Some of the smaller warships managed to jump, but the Victory wasn't ready yet. The retreating Nicean fleet disappeared from scans as the wave struck them, and Sangvhi gripped the railing in anticipation. Warnings sounded as the shipmind announced that there would be impact in just a few seconds. They had no time, and Sangvhi braced. The blastwave hit the Martian fleet, and the shields were brought offline as bolts of energy arced over the hull.

Amanda and Sangvhi exchanged glances in those few seconds. The plating was stripped from the ship, and the lights exploded. ''I'm sorry,'' Sangvhi said, watching Amanda's face as a tear rolled down her cheek before she was burnt to dust before him. As the wave cut through the ships, they were mangled and finally destroyed, vaporising entirely.
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Thu Aug 27, 2020 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Aug 27, 2020 9:18 am

Narthis Citadel, Narthis System, Nicean Reach

The battered warships of the Vardi Expedition were tugged into port as Admiral Rousseau watched from the observation deck of the IMN Warhammer. Rousseau was a slender, tall woman. She had smooth black hair that she typically kept short and tied up in a bun. Her brown eyes were reflected in the metallic glass of the observation deck and glowed ever so slightly like pools of honey. She would be lying if she said that she believed the expedition was going to return fully intact. She knew it was folly, and that she had just sacrificed lives for some intel on Nicean capabilities.

The admiral could rationalise it all she wanted, any other officer in the imperial navy would have done the same. Yet, she couldn't shake the soured feeling in the pit of her stomach as she watched the engineering crews cut into the hull of the returned warships. Their hulls were so badly damaged that not even the docking ports were functional. Thousands of lives had been lost for some results, did the ends justify the means? Rousseau turned away.

The deck was empty, save for her, and a few lounge-chairs. There was a plant in a pot nestled in the corner of the room that sat by the door. It was one of those plants that never needed to be watered or maintained at all because it was fake. Rousseau stared at it quietly.

''Admiral,'' Captain Grace's soft voice interrupted her musings. Her eyes settled on the man's face with a dull, opaque look. Grace was holding a folder with some papers in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. ''The Empress is in the holoroom. She's asking for you,'' he pointed out towards the hallway he had emerged from. ''Are you feeling okay?''

''I'm fine, is she already there?'' Rousseau snapped back to reality and quickly exited the observation deck with Grace in tow. He confirmed as much as the two briskly walked down the corridor towards the lifts. Rousseau pressed the button when they arrived and the two stood there quietly as they waited. Grace sipped his coffee and stared at the number indicating the floor the lift was currently on as it moved to theirs. At last, there was a distinct ding and the doors slid open. The pair stepped in and selected G-Deck.

Rousseau glanced at the file tucked under Grace's arm. ''How many came back?'' she asked quietly, folding her hands together in front of her.

Grace pursed his lips, ''Five warships. About fifteen-hundred sailors.''

The lift dinged. The two parted ways after Grace pointed out where the holoroom was. The entrance to the room was unsuspecting, with a door like any other. It slid open for the admiral. She stepped inside and pressed a button on the panel as the door sealed shut behind her. Empress Harlow glowed to life as the hologram was materialised.

''Admiral,'' Harlow greeted.

Rousseau bit her lip. ''Empress, I was informed that you needed to speak with me.''

''Please call me High Marshal. And I did, I heard about the defeat in the Vardi system, and about the circlet the Niceans have. There's more. Grand Admiral D'kanni informed me that there are other circlets that have been encountered by other expeditions. Valkyrie is now operational and has been performing deep-scans and surveillance on the Reach. We've kicked the hornet's nest,'' Harlow said.

The admiral nodded stiffly. ''The victories in the Narthian Expanse were a fluke, I think. The Niceans underestimated us, unaware of our modernisation program,'' she said.

''It would seem so. Initially, we wanted just the Narthian Expanse under our control. However, the Secretariat has mistakenly believed that the early victories we had signify either a weakening in the Niceans' strength, or a considerable advantage in our own. It was enough to justify a protracted conflict, so expect this to be a long affair. I understand you sent an expedition of your own into Vardi,'' Harlow spoke, tilting her head.

''We weren't sure of the circlet's capabilities. We've had limited intel since this was quickly put into action,'' the admiral responded cautiously.

''We're operating with entirely new rules and a new fleet. Unfortunately, that means we're going to make a lot of mistakes. The Kel Narthis affair, as an example. There's going to be some problems, Admiral. Especially as those like you settle into this new reality. That being said, I'm not reprimanding you for the expedition. You made a calculated decision. From what we've learnt over the last few hours, the Niceans seem to have a defensive bubble of these circlets around their core systems. Meaning that in order for us to get through —''

Rousseau interjected, ''We need to punch a hole through one of these systems.''

''We're fighting on their turf, Admiral. They're going to put up a fight, and hopefully we haven't bit off more than we can chew. That being said, captured Nalari from Kel Narthis have provided some insightful information regarding the Niceans. Much of their resources are coming from a region known as the Golden Reach. Like their core systems, this region also has circlets. Valkyrie has determined there are agricultural and mining worlds in these areas with an enslaved population of Nalari,'' Harlow noted.

''So you want us to focus our efforts there?''

Harlow nodded. ''First and foremost, we need to figure out how to tackle these circlets. I've no doubt they'll use them if we dump a large force in the system. If we can secure a foothold in the Golden Reach, we will have control of Nicean food. Likewise, interstellar space between these two regions will have their convoys. We need to raid them. I'm sure they have agri-worlds of their own in their core system. Do you understand?''

''I do.''

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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Aug 27, 2020 12:58 pm

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

Narthis had become a hotbed of naval activity. The supply lines had finally been established with hundreds of freighters now parked across the system and more pouring into it every hour from the Solarian Reaches and the Martian Delta. As these ships came in, they would unload at the two mobile harbours that had been towed in by the First Fleet. These large automated ports could unload hundreds of ships at a time and store equipment in their warehouses until it was needed. To defend these assets, the First Fleet had also brought with it two more citadels.

Lines of ships were moving freight and equipment between the harbours and the citadels, enabling the Martians to resupply their warships while they were being serviced. Frigates had been dispatched out into interstellar space to lay down sensor buoys and deploy probes while corvettes screened the area for signs of the enemy. Patrols were organised and a schedule adopted that rotated ships out from the citadels to maintain a presence in the Narthian Expanse where the fleets could cooperate between the three systems. What had begun as a small foothold in the Nicean Reach, was now looking more like a theatre.

By now, the IMN Warhammer had rejoined the Third Fleet, which was mustering out by the jovian world of Ikra. Refuellers were topping the ships off with H-3 and pellets as the sailors enjoyed the last few hours of R&R. Petty Officer Nolan Laux was one such sailor. Laux was a tall, muscular man with dark skin. His crewmates jokingly referred to him as 'Tank' for his bulky look.

Laux had grown up in Caracalla in the Martian Delta. He signed up for the imperial navy in '72 and enlisted as a cook. It wasn't as flashy as being a rifleman in the marines or some other job, but it was Laux's calling as far as he was concerned. He enjoyed what he did. 'An army marches on its stomach.' And for Laux, he had one of the most important jobs in the entire ship.

He had been hard at work dishing out chow to the sailors as lunch had hit. The chow hall was filled with sailors lining up for a bite or already seated and taking the time to eat. Each team of sailors would come in off their scheduled shift, and their own Petty Officer would salute the Master-of-the-Mess — a Warrant Officer, announcing their arrival, and be delegated a table. They would get in line, get their food, and go to their table and eat after their PO had ensured everyone had gotten food. This ritual had been ingrained in their minds and was odd to the Marines.

Once lunch had been served for all three shifts, then it was a matter of breaking down and cleaning the kitchen. Laux and his fellow cooks scrubbed, swept, and cleaned everything until it was satisfactory to the Chief. Once that was over, they were given a few hours of recreation, and Laux headed off to the rec-room.

Others from elsewhere on the Warhammer had also come to the 'Rec' to relax and unwind. Wayne Hammacher, Laux's best friend, had been stretched out on the couch watching Mars' Greatest Home Videos, it was a rerun but it still had him chuckling. He was greeted by a granola bar hitting him in the face. Wayne shot up and looked to see Laux standing over him.

''Oh shit! You scared me, Laux,'' Wayne said surprised as he looked down at the granola bar. It was apple flavoured, which was his favourite. He pealed it open as Laux took a seat on the couch.

''It is hot as balls,'' Laux said, ''Hot as baaaalls.'' He scratched his nose and pulled a magazine from the table next to him. It was a swimsuit cover with Miss Mars' Laura Ritchfield on the cover in a blue bikini and a suggestive pose involving a chair. He flicked through the pages for a second before tossing it aside.

''We're shipping back out here soon. Looks like Llewellyn is going to miss coming to the Fleet,'' Wayne said with a stretch.

Laux shook his head, ''Bastard got lucky. That shrapnel about took his arm off.''

Wayne shrugged. ''Well, he'll get a new one at the meditech.''

The emergency light in the room began to flash, drawing a gaze among those in the Rec. Then came the order: General Quarters. General Quarters. All Hands. All Hands. ''God dammit,'' Wayne sighed and quickly switched the television off. Laux had already leapt over the catch as everyone else quickly left the room. The corridors were filled with sailors as everyone hurried to their stations.

Laux stopped at the firebox, pulled it open and grabbed an SCBA, a few others had done the same. The ship shifted as it began to burn harder, making the thrust-gravity stronger than the typical 1g acceleration they would usually have. Laux cleared the deck and headed topside to the engineer's room. About a dozen had already flooded in and were busy activating the water systems that'd flood the ship's pipes so the hoses could be used throughout.

''Alright! SCBAs on ladies and gentlemen!'' a masked man said as he checked a series of gauges. Water was leaking from the pipes around them as everyone suited up. ''Here's the situation. We've got Nicean pushing into the system. All of you are covering service from K-deck to M-deck. Got it? Good. I want three to a deck, go!'' Laux and two others quickly took a color-coded tag and strobe that specified what deck they were after and headed for the maintenance lift.

Once they had arrived, Laux quickly turned the valve for the water pump that ran the lines to the hoseboxes. Emergency lights had turned on and the corridors were now lit with a red glow. There wasn't much else for them to do beyond keep an eye on the gauges for their deck and check the compartments for damage or fire. The Warhammer rattled as its guns fired. The hum of the ship's reactor could be felt through the walls and floor, an unsettling feeling for anyone not used to it.

''Laux! Switch me spots!'' Diana had shouted, she was one of the sailors that had joined him down on the deck. He switched with her and headed to the starboard side compartments when a shell perforated the hull. The sound was terrifying, coming as a loud, high-pitched whine of shearing metal as it passed through. The explosion from the impact as it tore into the ship had thrown Laux to the ground. When he woke up, he could see flames licking at the roof and smoke filling the compartment. He quickly stood up and checked his equipment.

Diana had been where the shell was when it came through. Her torso sat on the ground by the hole. Laux rushed to her side, but it was already too late. He pulled the level near the hosebox which sounded the alarm on the deck and grabbed a hose. Others had joined him and quickly they got into position and opened it up to fight the fire. Rounds from autocannons flew through the ship as they fought the blaze. The man behind Laux was struck, losing his leg in the process as he collapsed screaming. The round had ruptured the hose which snapped and began to swing wildly around, throwing the others off it.

Laux grabbed the injured man and dragged him into a different room. ''My fucking leg! My leg!'' the man shouted. Laux quickly grabbed a first-aid kit and dumped it out next to them. Water from the hose had flooded the compartment a bit, with about an inch of it free-standing. Laux yelled for the others to shut the hose off and get a new one as he applied nanogel to the man's leg. By this point the sailor had fallen unconscious, but the nanogel had taken well to the wound and began to seal it off.

''You and you! Take him to med! I'll get the hose!'' he shouted as he emerged from the room. The fire had engulfed the port side of the deck. The others carefully carried the injured sailor out and to the maintenance lift which was thankfully still operational. Laux grabbed the auxiliary hose and fastened it as quickly as he could, despite his wet, slimy hands and powered the hose on again. It immediately stiffened and with all of his strength, he grabbed it and held himself up against the wall to spray. More rounds came through the hull sending sparks everywhere. A piece of shrapnel struck Laux in the face. He screamed and fought to hold onto the hose. At last, some more had joined in with a new hose from the dorsal side and others got ahold of Laux's hose and together they pushed on the fire.

The emergency lights had turned off as the all clear was sounded. The hoses were shutdown and the drains opened. Laux slid down the wall. He had sustained a gash to his forehead that was thankfully just a graze, but the blood had clouded his mask. He felt some people help him up and get him to the lift to go to med.

Med was filled with people crying, groaning in pain, and frantic in chatter. They removed Laux's SCBA and a medic applied some nanogel to his forehead. ''Just a graze,'' the doc said. Laux looked around at the carnage. People were missing limbs, disfigured, mangled, shot, cut. Every few minutes, medics will roll up the most severely injured to a docking bay in the Med Quarters, where a shuttle would arrive to take them to a hospital ship. Whatever had happened, it had done a number on them.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Fri Aug 28, 2020 4:39 am

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

The Niceans had attempted an incursion into the system. A dozen warship had been detected by the Valkyrie Array, which was later confirmed by the sensory buoys in interstellar space. Mobilisation of the Martian forces in Narthis was quick, with the IMN Warhammer being the first to respond to the breach. The Nicean expedition was quickly repelled with only Rousseau's battlecruiser suffering some minor damage. It was what the Admiral expected though. She knew they would begin testing their defences in preparation for a major counter-offensive.

After the incursion, the system returned to business as usual. Narthis would serve as the launch point for further invasions into the Nicean Reach. Mobile harbours, citadels, defence platforms, supply trains, and a communications array had been established in the system. For the moment, this fortress of Martian defences would deter the Niceans from an immediate large-scale assault. It bought them time. It also enabled them to come up with a daring plan.

Many of the warships that had been severely damaged from the initial invasion had been towed out to the edge of the system. Tugs had manoeuvred them into place as some last minute repairs were being made. The First Fleet's Worker Bees, the Engineer Corps, had towed in a phasegate mock-up with a repurposed dreadnought reactor from before the Great War. The Martians knew the Niceans were capable of launching deep-space scans, and they were going to use this to their advantage.

An adjacent system had been identified by the fleet of Aegis-class stealth ships as the best location for their plan. A number of candidates had been considered, but this unnamed system was in a prime position for Nicean scans and an invasion into the Golden Reach. Synchronising jump-drives with the AI aboard the derelict ships, the Martians dumped this scraggily fleet into the system which had been codenamed Calais. To the Niceans, it looked like a massive fleet had just performed a jump. And even worse, the Martians had put a phasegate in the system. And so the plan had been set into motion.

Calais System, Nicean Reach

The Calais Fleet had arrived. Tugs quickly began to escort the ships to a staging point as the mock-up phasegate was jumped in as well. A pre-war drone carrier had been deployed fully loaded, and the Worker Bees were quick to set it up. Before long, every ship's reactor was setup and running at full power as thousands of drones swarmed around the fleet. The dreadnought core had been activated on the phasegate and hardlight generators installed along the aperture created a blue field that mimicked what a regular phasegate looked like when operational.

The energy signature was scanned by Valkyrie's sensor array, and on paper, it looked like a massive force had assembled and was in the process of making a large scale jump. While the Niceans had been busy launching expeditions into Narthis, the risk of another massive assault by the Martians was simply too great to pass up. Five battleship strike groups were deployed and ordered to run dark in interstellar space. The trap had been set as Valkyrie's deep-space arrays were focused on the system.

A warp signature had been detected and then appeared a small Nicean corvette. Several probes were fired from it as it attempted to remain undetected. But the Martians had caught it's entrance thanks to Valkyrie. Scans were launched by this ship as the probes gathered information and then the corvette vanished as it jumped back out.

There was anticipation now as commanders waited to see if the Niceans would fall for it. The plan was more than to just goad the Niceans into a fight, but to also divide them. Preparations had been made elsewhere to create and set into motion what Grand Admiral D'kanni and the top Brass had called 'Operation Fortitude'. Stealth frigates had been deployed to interstellar space between the Golden Reach and the Nicean Reach and were now awaiting Admiral Rousseau's command. Strike groups had also been assembled under the guise of routine patrols in adjacent systems to the Nicean periphery, this process had been especially meticulous as the Martians knew they were being watched.

To avoid tipping off the Niceans, the Martians began a routine schedule of patrols along the Nicean frontier. They allowed the Nicean to monitor their movements, and ensured that it was routine down to the minute. All three fleets in the theatre had cooperated closely to maintain the schedule. After awhile of this, the Martians began to build forces in key systems under the Nicean's noses in what would be a master-class of deception.

Martian battlecruisers began to carry retrofitted corvettes that had been rebuilt with a laconium generator and equivalent ship cores of the ships being used during these patrols. A patrol would jump into a system, and a number of ships would power down and go dark as the battlecruiser deployed these decoy corvettes. These decoys were activated, and using the laconium generators to mimic the mass of the missing ships, would then jump out with the remaining force and head back to Narthis. To the Nicean scans, the Martians had hoped, nothing would seem amiss and they would be unaware that sizeable strike groups were now sitting in these systems along the frontier just waiting to pounce when the command had been given.

This was the importance of the new communications array in Narthis. This massive station had a dish of panels that stretched out to a good kilometre and was covered in other sensors and tight-beam communication towers. Typically used for the Valkyrie Array to communicate with Amsterdam and other forces, it had been towed in from deep space to communicate to the assets the Martians had put into place. At last, though, the Martians had gotten their answer.

A Nicean force had jumped into the Calais system. Immediately, they open fired on the decoy fleet. As the ships boosted towards the the Martian formation, they were caught off guard by the five battleship strike-groups that jumped in after them. From all sides, dozens of Martian ships had lunged on the Niceans. Too far out in system to be in range of Nicean main armaments, but well in range of the Martians' battleships, the Nicean fleet panicked.

Martian cruisers overlapped their shields and linked up with the battleships they were guarding. Directing energy from their reactors straight into their shields — the cruisers were being used as additional capacitors for the battleship which fed off the energy to reduce its recharging time. The MACs of the battleships were now firing every minute as the cylinders inside the spinal-mounted gun aboard them cycled slugs quickly. The shells used in the guns were flechette and broke apart using a timed-explosive charge just before striking the Nicean fleet. A hail of tungsten rained on the warships with kilotons of force as ships were torn asunder from all angles.

Nicean Convoy Route, Interstellar Space

The command had been issued. The dozens of Aegis-class stealth frigates retracted their comms arrays and cycled into stealth mode. Broken up into small wolfpacks, the ships coordinated themselves and set upon the convoy route like beasts after lambs. Nicean freighters had been assigned convoy escorts in anticipation of Martian attacks, but they had not been prepared for the use of the subspace ships like the Aegis.

One convoy had jumped into a system and were now awaiting their cool down to make another jump along the route. Three destroyers and some frigates had accompanied the group of freighters and set up a defensive perimeter. As these ships idled, a group of Martian subspace ships had drifted into the system. Using their shrouded drives, they made their way to the formation, their black bodies reflecting no light as they did so. Laconium generators aboard the ships hid their mass-signature as they prepared their attack run.

At last, Nicean sensors aboard the escorts had detected the medium-range launches of the SLBMs, but they were far too close for them to react fast enough. The missiles rocketed towards the ships, detonating chaff and warheads across the convoy. Autocannons struggled to track the subspace ships and the missiles under the cloud of metal, spraying wildly into the void before their guns were silenced under the attack. The group of Aegis quickly rocketed away and jumped out of system. This process began to repeat across the route as Martian wolfpacks of convoy raiders began to target Nicean supply trains.

Nicean Frontier

As Operation Fortitude went into motion with the attack in Calais and the convoy raiding taking place along the Galactic North of the Nicean Frontier, the strike groups which up until this point had remained idle in adjacent systems were now springing into action. Quickly, these groups began to jump into frontier systems where there weren't circlets and engage Nicean defences before jumping back out. These hit and run attacks had stirred the Sleeping Giant as Nicean fleets moved in to counter the Martian onslaught.

What the Niceans hadn't realised was that the Martians had become more well coordinated. As Nicean forces engaged the incursions along the frontier, spreading themselves out to repel the Martians along the entire front, the Martian strike groups would unexpectedly condense and consolidate into specific systems seemingly at random. This cascade of warships would quickly outnumber and overwhelm individual fleets of the Niceans under a process known as 'Defeat in Detail'. Suddenly, Nicean forces found themselves unable to jump and at the mercy of rapidly expanding forces of the Martians. The second phase of Operation Fortitude could now begin as Admiral Rousseau prepared her forces.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Mon Aug 31, 2020 10:20 am

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

''They were picked up at the outer screen, and they're moving fast,'' Rear Admiral Delila Deturi spoke as she rested on the holotable. A hologram depicting the battlespace around the Third Fleet including Narthis and interstellar space was on display. Red triangles representing a Nicean fleet and its elements could be seen in interstellar space, with lines drawn from them towards where they were predicted to enter the Narthian Expanse.

Around Deturi were holograms of the other Rear Admirals, Admiral Rousseau, and Grand Admiral D'kanni. They had anticipated this — Operation Fortitude had put pressure on the Niceans, and they were looking to rid the problem as fast as possible. The gloves had come off.

''What's the final count?'' D'kanni asked, looking towards Rousseau who had her arms folded as she examined the table.

''We have two-hundred and fifty ships at our disposal, and they're flinging twice as many at us,'' the Admiral stated coolly. The fleet had been divided into three task forces with Task Force One managing the outer screen, Two managing the inner screen, and Three being the main body protecting Narthis. A Rear Admiral was in charge of each force, and then these forces were further divided into task groups and spread out over the area they were operating in, with each under the command of a Commodore.

Likewise, the Niceans had spread their forces out into three groups that were moving into the Expanse. They couldn't engage them tit for tat, and they couldn't be put into a position where the Niceans could concentrate their forces. They had already built up Narthis considerably to act as the launchpad for further pushes into the Reach, but now the question lingered on everyone's mind. Should they withdrawal?

''The citadels are going to be their biggest concern,'' Rousseau commented.

''What if we pulled the fleet away from them?'' Deturi asked.

''They could go for them, it's a matter of whether they think they could disable the citadels fast enough to then turn around and defend against us,'' D'kanni mused.

''They're bearing down on us with half a thousand warships. It's likely, given the power of the citadels, that they'll commit the bulk of their force to them if we leave them open. So around three-hundred warships, which is still more than what we have in total and we're spread out. They'll probably dispatch the remaining force to delay us from reinforcing it. It'll buy the assault force on the citadels extra time to reorganise and then push on us from two sides,'' Rousseau said as she gestured along the holomap.

Deturi rubbed her chin, ''What if we manoeuvred out of the plane?''

''That's a lot of energy to burn doing that. We'd be at even more of a disadvantage because the drives would need to pull extra to make those burns and swing under or above the Niceans.''

''It's more efficient to stick to the plane,'' D'kanni followed Rousseau's comment, ''We'll have to avoid them. It may mean losing the citadel, but we can have it focus fire on their auxiliary force and commit our main forces to it as well. We'll only have a fifty ship advantage but with the orbital support we could cascade on them there.''

Rousseau shook her head, ''We might take down the auxiliary force, but that'll leave their main force in a better position after they take down the citadel. We'd be outnumbered and outgunned.''

''What if we blow up the citadel?'' Deturi said, getting looks from the rest. ''It'd catch them off guard after they move into the Kel Narthis Well, and the Well will put them at an energy disadvantage to us in interplanetary space. If we move asteroids from the inner belt to the citadel to use as shrapnel in the detonation they'll have to burn to avoid the collisions and after we take down the auxiliary force, we can move on them then.''

''It'd risk a Kessler for Kel Narthis, not to mention there'd be a lot of meteoric debris raining down on the planet. We're talking casualties,'' Rousseau countered.

''Well, if we don't face them off here, Admiral. They'll come for Sol,'' D'kanni said.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:11 pm

The Battle of Narthis


At long last, it had begun. Nicean warships pushed into the Narthis System as Task Force One fell back to the inner screen. There was sporadic exchanges of fire by the picket and expeditionary forces but the front seemed relatively calm. Commodore Isaac Riven stood at the bridge of his Merlin-class cruiser — the IMN Anseris. Battlestations had been called just minutes before and Cmdre. Riven had organised his battle group of seven ships to prepare for the conflict.

On the bridge with Riven was Captain Octavia Alder, who was in control of the IMN Anseris itself and oversaw its operation. The Merlin-class was the newest type of cruiser built by the IMN's Yokohama Shipyards. The vessel was heavily automated with a virtual combat intelligence centre (VCIC). Rather than a room of flag officers, each department aboard the ship could interface with the Captain directly without needing to be on the bridge. The Captain's responsibility was to prioritise strategic targets, navigate, and coordinate with the other ships at the command of the Commodore. Everything else was delegated.

Riven's battle group had been assigned a callsign, Strike Group One. Thirty task groups had been created across the fleet — strike groups, assault groups, carrier groups, and so on. Their mission orders had been assigned. Their positions and the point of motion established. And now they waited for the Admiral's call.

SG-1 consisted of the battlecruiser IMN Arwig's Revenge, the cruiser IMN Anseris, two destroyers the IMN Dewitz and IMN Silvershield, and three frigates the IMN Cyclops, the IMN Minotaur, and the IMN Gargoyle. Two Aegis-class corvettes had been stowed in the Arwig's Revenge and an arsenal cruiser, the IMN Juwon had also been stationed with them.

''What do you think, Sir?'' Alder had asked as she read over the mission. Alder was a short redhead in her late twenties and about ten years younger than Riven. The pair had served together for many years now, originally on the patrol frigate IMN Colter. Their new post was a major upgrade when they were reassigned to the fleet. Though neither really expected to be in the Reach fighting Niceans.

''It's an interesting plan, I'll give it that. We are facing down the barrel, though,'' Riven said as he slowly walked to the front of the bridge and looked at the screens. The Martians were withdrawing from the Narthis Citadel and heading out to the inner belt. Admiral Rousseau had ordered them to hold their defence there. The Niceans had entered the system and wouldn't be in range right away, though the picket had been slowly collapsing back towards the fleet and sporadically harassing them to slow them down.

''EWS has reported missile launches, Sir.''

''Alright, make the call for General Quarters. Have the Arwig's Revenge and Juwon make a tighter formation with us so we can cover them with our PDC. We'll stick the frigates out front and the destroyers between us. Make sure the Arwig deploys its corvettes, we're going to need the screening,'' Riven ordered. Alder picked up the phone and called for General Quarter's and instructed the ship's master-at-arms to begin the arming phase.

Conveyors from deep in the ship had come to life and began to pull thousands of rounds of autocannon ammunition from the internal magazines. Across the hull of the sleek looking and white body of the cruiser appeared point-defence autocannons as they were lifted from their berths by a lift system. The master-at-arms sub-routine had announced that the weapons were operational and slowly but surely began to be loaded by the shipmind.

The ship's Omnispectrum Warning System or OWS had been switched from passive scans to active ones, allowing the ship to more deliberately use its RADAR, LADAR, and GRADAR detection and tracking capabilities. Much of this data was broadcasted over the battlenet Valkyrie to the strike group, which was especially important for the arsenal cruiser that was moving with them. The ship's two heavy railguns started charging their capacitors as they waited.

Riven stared at the impact timer of the missile barrage from the Niceans. He watched as the two stealth corvettes disappeared off their scans. He thought about the next moves they would make as the two fleets got closer. The Niceans were already in missile range of the Martians, but the Martian fleet remained silent. They wanted to ensure a crippling blow.

As the two forces accelerated towards the inner belt, the quiet calm before the storm was unnerving for many. Even as hundreds of fusion warheads were rocketing towards them at insane speed, the vastness of space made any conflict seem so distant. But Riven knew, this feeling only lasted for as long as it took forces to get into railgun range. Then the realisation that they were in a windowless tin can moving at thousands of kilometres a second in a field of shellfire was as close to war as one could get.

As they waited, Riven excused himself to the lounge below them. There he filled a cup with some coffee and took a few gentle sips as he stared at the pot. He pulled out a small pocket watch and looked at the time, counting the seconds down before the missiles were in range. The ship began to shake as the Anseris' autocannons began to fire. The sound of the conveyors shifting munitions through the walls was the only thing indicating to anyone else that the guns were now engaging missiles. Riven sipped his coffee and pocketed his watch before heaving a sigh.

''Commodore,'' a male's voice greeted. Riven turned around and saw one of the ship's cooks. The man took a cup, as Riven stepped aside, and filled it with some coffee for himself. There were some tremors in the man's hands that Riven could see as he sipped his coffee. ''Are you alright, Petty Officer?'' the Commodore asked.

''Aye, sir,'' the man said quietly as the two stood there. All Hands had not been called alongside General Quarters, so the culinary specialists and other technical crew rates aboard the ship, while on standby for the All Hands, were able to continue working at their designated station. Riven stared at the CSPO's nametag which read 'Zahra'. He could see some sauce on the man's hands.

''What're you making?'' Riven asked with a sip.

''I was working on some spaghetti, Commodore,'' he replied quietly again.

''C'mon,'' Riven gestured for Zahra to follow. The pair walked into the back of the kitchen where a fresh pot of sauce was boiling away, the smell was amazing to Riven, who hadn't had spaghetti in sometime since their deployment began. Riven got some plates and silverware and took a portion of spaghetti and slowly began to eat. Though as Riven slurped down some noodles, he noticed Zahra was staring at him, and hadn't filled his plate.

''Is there something wrong, Petty Officer?''

''No, sir. I was a bit surprised that you weren't upset,'' Zahra gestured to the food.

''Ah,'' Riven said as he twirled his fork in the noodles, ''It's not my place to punish you, Petty Officer Zahra. That'd be a matter for your warrant officer. That being said, it's after-hours and while misusing naval resources to make yourself a snack is against the naval reg — I'm willing to look past it. Besides, I haven't had a meal this good since we departed Caracalla, Petty Officer Zahra. The lemon seasoning is a new one with the mealworm and gives it a nice zest. Please, we've got some time before shit hits the fan, it'll calm your nerves.''

Zahra hesitantly filled his plate and began to eat as well. Riven drank from his coffee and sat it aside, attacking the noodles with determination. ''Permission to speak freely, sir,'' Zahra asked. Riven stopped chewing for a second and looked up, nodding to him. ''It's my mum's recipe. She used to make it for me and my brother when we were younger.'' Riven nodded as he took a bite and slurped the noodles loudly.

''I can say that she taught you well, it's very good. How long have you been aboard?'' Riven asked.

''Two months, sir,'' Zahra answered, taking a bite himself.

Riven sat his plate down and pulled a napkin to wipe his mouth, ''Well, I won't say anything if you don't, Petty Officer. If it's okay with you though, I'd like to add this to the menu. I'm sure your mother might appreciate it,'' he smiled.

Zahra's face lit up at the suggestion, ''I would love that, Commodore, thank you.''

''Tell me. It's been two months since you came to the fleet, we've been stuck here for awhile now, what's going on in your head, Petty Officer?'' Riven sipped his coffee and reclined against the table behind him. He wasn't at all surprised with someone so new to the fleet. Conscription of refugees and citizens alike had increased greatly in recent months as the Navy lured in more and more recruits through targetted ad campaigns. So many were coming out of New Salamis that it was impossible to keep up with the new faces.

''Well, sir. It's different. A lot has changed, not just for me, but for everyone,'' Zahra replied.

''Are you terrified, Petty Officer?'' Riven asked bluntly. Zahra nodded.

''Good. That's perfectly normal, Petty Officer. There's plenty of sailors aboard this ship that'd tell you otherwise. They're all liars. A good sailor is a scared sailor, it means he's going to look out for his crewmates and his ship. Without either, they all will suffer the consequences,'' Riven said.

''Are you scared, Commodore?''

''I am. But I can count on my crew,'' Riven said.

''Thank you, sir.''
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:04 am

The Battle of Narthis II


Riven stepped onto the bridge. The ship was still rattling as the autocannons laid down a curtain of fire into the oncoming missiles. Alder had been coordinating with her crew as the ship braced for the upcoming battle. The Martians and Niceans were still racing to the inner belt, and as expected, the main force had broken off and started moving towards the citadels. The battle had begun.

''Commodore, they're in railgun range,'' Alder said, pulling up a number of holographic screens as she communicated with the VCIC. ''We're still waiting on Deturi's orders to engage,'' she followed.

''All task groups, this is Rear Admiral Deturi. New order. You are free to engage all targets. Follow assigned mission parameters,'' Deturi announced over the battlenet. They had been cut loose finally, and the fleet began to break-up as the different task groups moved on to their assigned missions. As a strike group, SG-1's role was to continue on its intercept course to the inner belt and carry out strikes on the Nicean forces in the battlespace. And thus why they had been assigned an arsenal cruiser.

Riven picked up the phone connecting him to the strike group, ''General Quarters — All Hands. General Quarters — All Hands.'' Alder pushed the alarm on her console as the klaxons flashed red and the call was made over the intercom of the Anseris. The space surrounding the bridge's bunker, and the outer hull of the vessel would vent atmosphere as the magnetic floor engaged beneath them.

''Juwon, this is Executive Anseris, standby for fire-mission,'' Riven said over the battlenet, ''Alder. Begin active sweeps of the OWS. We need tracking data.''

''Executive Anseris, this is [i]Juwon, awaiting fire-mission,'' the arsenal cruiser responded. Riven could see their hatches opening along their deck on the holofeed. The Juwon was about seven-hundred meters in length, around the same size as a typical battlecruiser. Unlike a battlecruiser though, which was designed to chase down and engage larger, slower capital ships — the arsenal ship was there to provide volumes of fire.

The cruiser had all the gadgets necessary to command the strike group. It's OWS was vital to the detection and tracking of the other ships' weapon systems in the formation. And its Centralised Communications Array or CCA ensured real-time communication between the ships of the strike group and the fleet. It could prioritise targets and convey information using HUDs like the holoscreens Alder was currently using on the various bridges of its task group.

The Anseris tracked the Nicean ships closest to them and identified a small formation of about a dozen medium-class warships similar in class to cruisers and destroyers. Unlike the Martians, or any other human-based civilisation, the Niceans didn't really have a concept of such classes. Martian High Command was sure they did have classes of ships, but how they designated them and their roles was unknown. So enemy warships were always given a 'weight' rating instead such as heavy, medium, and light-class. This corresponded to general sizes of warship in the Imperial Martian Navy.

As OWS tracked this group, they were assigned as 'Action Red' for the strike group. This would be their priority set of targets. One ship also stood out in the formation, sitting in the middle of the formation near the rear and was assigned Red Actual — most likely the flagship of the group. This would be the high value target they were after.

''All stations this is Executive Anseris. Fire-mission. Fire-mission. Arsenal Primary — Flechette. Count Forty. Medium Fuse. General Target. Other Stations Break by 3. Other Stations Primary — Long Artillery. 3 Seconds. Count Twenty. Assigned Target. Over,'' Riven announced over the battlenet. They now had their orders and the Juwon was the first to go. There was a call to fire and the arsenal cruiser launched four salvos of ten missiles.

Three seconds after the last salvo of missiles was launched the cruiser and battlecruiser fired their railgun batteries. OWS tracked the outgoing ordinance. The Niceans returned fire as alerts went off in the bridge. The frigates out in the front of the formation launched missiles of their own to intercept the incoming ordinance as their point-defence kicked in to create a curtain of fire in front of the strike group.

The Nicean fleet had engaged their own point-defence as the Martian missiles came in. The long fuse-time on the warheads meant an early detonation as the missiles shotgunned flechette rounds towards the formation. As their PD engaged, the railgun fire every three seconds came in behind the wave of tungsten darts. Several ships were struck either by the flechette or the railgun fire.

''Incoming!'' Alder alerted as several missiles broke through the frigate line. The cruiser began to shake as its autocannons engaged. Like the Martians, the Niceans had followed up with their own railgun batteries. Shells tore through the frigate IMN Cyclops, disabling it. While none of the missiles had detonated, the rain of shellfire had broken into the inner formation. The Juwon took a hit in the aft and the Anseris had a glancing blow along its port-side. One of the destroyers, the Silvershield was severely damaged.

The two groups were now closing in to point-defence range. ''All stations — Clear to engage. Over,'' Riven commanded and looked at Alder, ''Take us to port, Captain. The Juwon and Arwig will follow. We'll send the frigates in to harass their smaller ships. Rotate us starboard 90 degrees so we can bear our guns down on the formation. I want the destroyers to push out in front.''

''Aye, Commodore,'' Alder responded as she announced the turn over the comms. The ships had started their manoeuvres, the sensation was uncomfortable to say the least for the sailors. They had been using thrust gravity and with the change, everyone had to grab a hold of something and wait it out. The Anseris rotated so that its side-mounted railguns could swivel towards the Niceans. The manoeuvre was risky as it gave them a larger profile but the frigates had kept their initial direction and were firing on the enemy force to keep them occupied. The arsenal ship dumped another salvo as the autocannons of both groups lit up the void between them.

Rounds perforated the hull of the Anseris. Alder and Riven could hear them ricocheting off the inner bunker of the bridge as they looked at each other briefly. The inner hull was similarly armoured protecting the crew though some rounds still made their way through. Having turned the ship as they did, any that would make it through were going to hit less systems. The same couldn't be said for the frigates under the brunt of the fire.

The IMN Minotaur had gone dark and drifted leaving just the Gargoyle. Several of the Nicean warships had also been disabled in the exchange. It was now six to five. The remaining ships of the two formations were nearly overshooting each other now. A Nicean cruiser broke off from their main force and barrelled down on them while firing its naval guns into the cruiser's formation.

''By fucking Mars,'' Alder said, pulling the cruiser hard to the port. Metal could be heard shearing inside as the shellfire ripped through the ship's armoured hull. A shell hit the bunker of the Anseris and sent both Alder and Riven to the ground. The ship rotated and pulled back around to starboard with immense g-force as the guns trained on the pursuing Nicean cruiser.

Another Nicean warship plunged into the formation. The arsenal ship was struck repeatedly across its decks. ''We're taking heavy fire!'' came the panicked calls from the Juwon. These warships had rapidly-firing railguns and were more manoeuvrable than previous classes the Martians had dealt with. Even as the the Anseris riddled them with gatling fire, their armoured hulls kept the damage minimal.

''We're getting torn to shreds!'' Alder shouted. An explosion ripped through the Juwon as the magazines detonated. The explosion was bright on all their screens as the two watched helplessly. ''We've lost the Juwon, we need to break off, Commodore,'' Alder said.

Debris from the Juwon rained on the brawling ships as the Anseris continued to try and get ahead of the Nicean cruiser but to no avail. At last, one of the destroyers had swung in and fired its missile batteries at the Nicean ship, causing it to break-off and spray tungsten into the oncoming ordinance. More missiles came in from behind the Niceans that were now chasing the Martian strike group.

The two Aegis-class corvettes had engaged. A fusion warhead detonated off the hull of one ship, blasting it apart down the length of its hull. The Silvershield swept in and delivered a few critical blows from its own guns on the breaking cruiser. The enemy ship's drives went dark as the destroyer broke off but was then struck by an incoming missile.

The Anseris had finally swung around with only the Arwig's Revenge in tow. The two cruisers littered the remaining Niceans with their guns. The Gargoyle was giving chase to a smaller Nicean corvette off in the distance as the Dewitz delivered crippling blows to the lighter warships. The last cruiser of the Niceans, the flagship, had now broken off and was fleeing.

''Permission to engage, Executive Anseris?'' Captain Steward of the battlecruiser had asked. The greenlight was given by Riven and the battlecruiser rocketed away after the retreating flagship. The Arwig's spinal lit up and moments later, a bright detonation could be seen from the vicinity of the Nicean flagship. The Niceans had been defeated at the inner belt. Though SG-1 was now down to just four of the original ships plus the two corvettes.

''Are you okay, Alder?'' Riven asked as he examined her face. Blood was running down along her cheek. She brushed his hand away, however.

''I'm fine, Commodore. Just a scrape, what are we going to do with the wounded?'' she asked, gesturing to the disabled ships on the LADAR.

''We can't stop for them. We need to rendezvous at the citadels.''

''Aye, Commodore.''
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Sep 01, 2020 12:18 pm

The Battle of Narthis III


''The citadels are bogged down in the fighting with their main force,'' Deturi said as her and Rousseau looked over the details. ''Our forces are now moving towards Kel Narthis. We've sustained some casualties.''

''This plan of yours better work, Deturi,'' Rousseau commented, levelling her gaze at the Rear Admiral. Rousseau would have preferred a withdrawal, but she knew that wasn't an option. With as much assets as they had put in the system, there would have been no time to get everyone out. It was going to be a fight regardless. But now they were risking not just the citadels, mobile harbours, and more but the fleet as well.

***


SG-1 was in full burn now towards Kel Narthis. The rest of fleet joined them as they sped towards the Niceans that were now assaulting the citadels. Damage assessments were being performed by the crew on the Anseris. Most of it was superficial. They had sustained some damage to the port-aft radiator.

''All stations, open to engage,'' Riven called. Like before, the engagement with the Nicean fleet started with missile salvos between them. But this time, the Niceans had found themselves within Kel Narthis' gravity well and were more limited to the orbital mechanics than the Martians. Riven's strike group manoeuvred in as the forces exchanged fire from their railguns and energy weapons. This attack run was largely successful though many ships in the fleet were taken down by the sheer firepower of the Niceans.

''Maintain a safe distance,'' Rousseau reminded the fleet.

''Alder, what's our status?''

''We've sustained no damage on that run, Commodore. Preparing for a burn around the planet,'' Alder said. Fighters and corvettes from the fleets swarmed in the void between them. Missiles and other armaments were traded in the second run. The Anseris sustained a few more hits but nothing severe. The Niceans had begun an exit burn to get away as they realised their position.

As Riven's strike group came back around the planet, they watched as the citadels detonated. ''We're going to need to break-off, Commodore,'' Alder stated. Alarms sounded in the bridge as they watched the chaos slowly unfold. Chunks of asteroid and station had started a cascade in orbit with debris as it began to expand outward in a bubble towards the escaping Niceans. The other strike groups had barrelled down on them and large streams of fire could be seen.

''Break-off, Alder. We don't want to be in the vicinity, let's head back towards the moon,'' Riven commanded.

As SG-1 broke off, reports came in from the main fleet over the fight. A force of the Niceans had managed to break out, but most of them had been caught in the attack. Rather than give chase, Admiral Roussea ordered a stand-down.

***


The crew aboard the Anseris had gathered in the chow hall. They were being served spaghetti and alcohol as they all celebrated. Zahra was hard at work managing things in the kitchen as Riven stopped by.

''Petty Officer Zahra,'' the Commodore called out.

Zahra put a towel he was using to clean down a counter aside and walked to the Commodore, ''Sir?''

''Nice to see you've made it in one piece,'' Riven stated, ''I do hope you've got some left for me.''

Zahra smiled wide and rushed over to get a plate as Riven joined him. A blob of spaghetti was put on the plate and handed over to Riven. ''Here you are, sir,'' Zahra said.

''Good, now go and get you some. I've already talked to your CO. Come up to my quarters and have a drink,'' Riven said. Zahra took off his apron and grabbed himself a plate and quickly rushed off to join the Commodore. Riven was holding a smaller party with the command staff of the ship in his quarters as Zahra joined in on the drinking and story-telling. For now, Narthis was safe.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:17 am

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

The admirals had gathered aboard the IMN Dreadnought, a battleship and the flagship of Grand Admiral D'kanni. Together they begun discussing what their next step would be. Narthis was now secure and it'd be unlikely that the Niceans would attempt another incursion. However, they couldn't push further in without disabling the circlets of the Nicean core worlds. This was the matter being debated.

''What if we use a gate?'' Deturi suggested to a group that seemed unenthusiastic about the suggestion.

''We'd need to find an asteroid and tow it to the gate quickly enough before they activated the circlet,'' Rousseau countered. They'd lose a gate and it'd be stuck in enemy territory. Not something High Command would be too happy about.

D'kanni had a different suggestion entirely, ''What about the subspace ships? The Aegis-class.'' There again the group disagreed. While the stealth corvettes had proven themselves in combat time and time again, they didn't have the payload to take down a megastructure. It'd require repeated strikes and in great number. Especially if the Niceans repaired them between strikes.

''We can't long-gun them with the battleships,'' Rousseau rubbed her chin in thought as she looked over recent reports from their intelligence gathering. ''It's not the calibre, it's the time,'' she added to a few confused glances about why they couldn't. While the battleships carried the most powerful mass-accelerator outside of the citadels, it would take hours to cross the system. They'd fire the circlet if the ship got any closer for an easier shot.

''What about the ships being built in Ewanport?''

The group turned and looked at a newcomer, it was a man with a helmet slung under his shoulder and sporting a mid-waist cape. Rear Admiral Granger was the son of the same disgraced Grand Admiral that had been politely retired decades ago. Unlike the older Granger, this one was in his early thirties and more sprightly. Though his family name was infamous, the younger Granger didn't have his father's qualities. He sat the helmet down on the table and looked at them.

''It is an option,'' Deturi stated, looking towards D'kanni.

''It's untested in combat. This is new technology,'' the Grand Admiral fired back. Project 715 was a development going on with a new battleship known as the IMN Titan. The warship had been outfitted with a laconium integrated mass-accelerator. Rather than firing projectiles with electromagnetism it fired them with gravity using laconium's unique properties. They exchanged glances.

''Fine. But we're going to need to test it first. I don't want to stick an expensive ass parlour trick in an enemy system only for it to fizzle out,'' D'kanni sighed.

''We'll need to get approval from the Empress, she authorised the project to start with,'' Deturi reminded them.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:55 pm

Caracalla, Martian Delta

The IMN Titan was travelling under escort as it slipped into Caracalla, one of the frontier systems of the Martian Empire's territory in the Delta Quadrant. Commander Ramona Harcrow had been appointed to the prestigious position of testing the weapon. Unlike regular battleships, the Titan's spinal-mounted accelerator had its coils made with laconium, the gravitic material the Martians had been experimenting with.

The ship had travelled from Ewanport with an escort of frigates and destroyers and an old pre-Great War dreadnought-style battleship. Their goal was to test the weapon out at ranges expected to long-gun the Nicean circlets. Hundreds of scientists and engineers had joined the sailors aboard the Titan, and Grand Admiral Bedwyr Tameron, the military governor of the Martian Delta, was also present.

''We have the Arcturus in position,'' the lead scientist announced. Everyone had gotten off the Titan and boarded an observer ship that was at a safe distance. Tameron stood eagerly on the bridge of the expedition ship, the Dolphin with the others as they watched and waited for the countdown.

''Firing in 3... 2... 1...''

A bright flash ripped down the length of the battleship. It disappeared at the bow but they knew it had fired. Moments passed and cameras aboard the Dolphin showcased the Arcturus.

''Impact.''

It took another moment before the feed updated but one moment the Arcturus was there, and the next it had been cleaved in two with a cloud of debris encircling it. There was some quiet chatter among the group observing the results. The lead scientist, Professor Dowe, approached the Grand Admiral.

''Did it work, Professor?''

''It did,'' Dowe replied, though his face was solemn. The weapon had indeed worked, and it had drastically reduced travel time of the shell. However, sensors had detected the projectile. The shell hit hydrogen as it moved through the vacuum, producing a distinct 'ping'.

Commander Harcrow had joined them now, ''It produced a low power radio-wave as it passed through the medium. The Nicean would detect it and immediately launch a counter-strike on the ship. What we have, Grand Admiral, is a big gun that screams on every sensor in the system.''

''D'kanni isn't going to like those results, nor the Empress for that matter,'' Tameron said, his face now turning sour as he looked at the debris around the Arcturus. ''Looks like this war is over before it even got started.''

''Not necessarily, sir,'' Harcrow replied, ''It could still be used but we'll need to convince the Empress, and probably the Defence Department and Navy Secretary.''

Tameron raised a brow at this, a glint in his eye, ''What are you getting at, Commander?''

''Think of it as a sonic boom, Grand Admiral,'' Professor Dowe interjected. There was a glare from the Grand Admiral for interrupting but the scientist continued anyway. ''The signature this will produce will be extremely 'loud' on any sensor. To be fair, even at the muzzle velocity its capable of, one projectile likely wouldn't be enough to destroy a circlet. Maybe inconvenience the Nicean. What we need is a volley!''

The admiral and commander exchanged glances, as Harcrow was just as lost as Tameron. ''What are you getting at, Dowe,'' Harcrow asked, putting a hand on her hip as she rocked her weight on one foot.

''If we deploy other battleships along with the Titan, we could use the fire from this ship to mask the others,'' Dowe suggested.

Harcrow rubbed her brow with a sigh, ''It could work.''

''Absolutely not! Do you have any idea how much we've already spent on this project?'' Tameron protested angrily. ''We're talking about sacrificing the ship — you said so yourself, Professor, one projectile might not be enough. Who's to say that a few dozen will?''

''What I hear is a possible solution,'' a stern woman's voice came from behind them. It was Empress Harlow in a remote piloted android. Tameron turned around angrily at first before seeing the Sovereign and immediately bowed. The others quickly followed. Harlow stepped towards them and stopped just shy of Tameron. ''I came out to observe the test myself, what Rear Admiral Deturi had suggested intrigued me.''

''Your Imperial Majesty, we're talking about risking new technology that is still being developed. I strongly —''

''You'll do no such thing, Tameron,'' Harlow said, stepping passed him as she looked out the windows of the observation deck towards the nearby Titan. ''This war is as much an ideological one as it is practical. We need these victories. And I expect them to be delivered,'' the Empress said, turning around to stare down the three.

''Your Imperial Majesty, we were discussing whether we should use the Titan to mask the fire of a battleship fleet,'' Harcrow repeated from their conversation earlier.

Tameron rose from his bow and slowly folded his arms behind himself. ''My apologies, Your Imperial Majesty.''

''I want the Titan en route to Narthis. Captain,'' the Empress said, looking at Harcrow, ''And congratulations on your promotion. You'll be in charge of ensuring it gets there. We need to punch a hole through their defences, I expect it to get done.''
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:32 am

Narthis System, Nicean Reach

The Third Fleet was mustering their forces in preparation for their push into the Nicean coreworlds. An inhabited system with one of the famed circlets had been selected as the target. The Martians weren't sure what the Niceans called it, but they named it Victoria.

The IMN Titan arrived via the gate in Narthis with an escort of ships. Captain Harcrow was at the helm of the vessel as it drifted in and hailed the fleet. Other battleships had been assembled as well. The First Fleet had also joined them, bringing with them a citadel for Victoria. It would be the reserve force after the Third Fleet's assault.

''Welcome to Narthis, Captain Harcrow,'' the system's traffic controller greeted. With the loss of the Kel Narthis citadels, the Martians were running their headquarters in the system out of an outpost they had established on the moon of Kel Narthis. Salvage teams were busy cleaning up the planet the headquarters orbited after the citadels were blown up.

Harcrow took a shuttle from the Titan to the outpost, known as Quebec, to meet with the other higher ups planning out the invasion. As her craft landed on the regolith pad near the structures, the Captain took a moment to reflect. They would soon be back in hostile territory again, and if the Battle of Narthis had taught them anything, the Niceans were not going to be as easy as when the IMN overran the levees here.

The Captain slipped on her helmet and EVO and stepped out onto the walkway leading towards the small outpost. The Martians had rocketed in a number of buildings from one of the logistic carriers, and floodlights illuminated them and the paths around the area. The gravity was even less than Mars, making walking a very difficult experience at first.

Automated anti-orbital CIWS Wizard batteries could be seen around the complex with their guns trained towards the stars. They'd spray tens of thousands of rounds at anything that'd dare the complex harm. Harcrow could also see a number of marines in hardsuits patrolling the area.

She entered the building where the meeting was being held, and was greeted by on-duty marines guarding the entrance as she stripped out of her EVO. They were like statues and she could read from their patches that they were OSIRIS operatives. It wasn't often that special forces were put anywhere but it made sense to her. She stepped into the room where Deturi, Rousseau, D'kanni, Granger, and Admiral Llewellyn of the First Fleet were gathered around the table.

''Now that everyone is here,'' D'kanni spoke, clasping her hands. Harcrow glared at the Nalari for a second as she took a spot near a few stacked crates away from the group. ''We'll be pushing into Victoria at 0500 hours with the Warbridge jumping first to activate the mobile gate. The Titan and Battle Group One will jump into the system. We've retrofitted some capacitors from a battlecruiser to power the jump so that the MACs can be charged before the jump.''

''Are we going to have escorts?'' Deturi asked. They weren't. It was simply too risky to provide the group escorts in case the circlet was fired. They couldn't lose more ships than necessary. ''What about an egress if things go south?''

D'kanni shook her head. ''Unfortunately, if the circlet is fired or BG-1 is set upon by their defences, there'll be no help. We can't risk it,'' she said.

''Shitty odds,'' Granger said as he chewed some gum and reclined against a pillar with his arms folded. D'kanni looked at him sternly for a second.

''I understand that this mission doesn't sound great. The Empress has personally intervened to have this go through, and we should trust her judgement. This is our best shot at breaking through the Nicean fortress systems. If we can take Victoria, then we will have a way in,'' she said.

''Mars Invicta,'' Rousseau said.

Victoria System, Nicean Reach

The Warbridge had warped into the system and deployed the phasegate receiver. The battleship strike group jumped in from Narthis and quickly manoeuvred to take their positions as the Titan pushed out in front under the command of Captain Harcrow and Rear Admiral Deturi. The system was quiet but they new this wouldn't remain for very long.

''We have the target,'' Harcrow announced, pulling up the circlet on the holofeed. A fire-mission was created by the ship's onboard computer and that data was disseminated to the other battleships. ''We're primed and ready to fire.''

An alert rang out as the ship's OWS detected a missile launch. A small patrol boat had engaged them. ''Fire, fire now!'' Deturi yelled. The Titan flashed as a blinding blue light raced along its hull. The other battleships fired just behind the Titan as the patrol boat's missiles drew closer. Deturi pulled Harcrow from the controls as the two raced for the escape shuttles.

''C'mon!'' Harcrow shouted as she climbed in through the hatch, but Deturi was programming the launch. ''What are you doing?''

''We need someone to alert the fleet! I'll get on the PDC and protect you long enough to get back to Narthis, but you've got to radio the fleet for us. Go!'' Deturi shut the door to the shuttle and hit the launch button. The craft jettisoned down the rails and was ejected out the aft-bay of the Titan. Harcrow watched as the battleships' point-defence systems engaged the missiles, but they weren't designed for it. Several bright impacts struck them as ships were torn apart by the fusion warheads.

Other Nicean ships had warped in as they descended on the battle group. The alarms inside Harcrow's shuttle whined as the debris field was rapidly approaching. She slid into a seat and buckled herself in as the engines engaged. The Warbridge was getting ready to jump back out. ''No, no, no!'' Harcrow panicked, sending out a message to the ship.

The autonomous ship had stopped its jump preparation and activated the phasegate. With the debris field hot on her tail, Harcrow's shuttle passed through and was dumped into Narthis. Debris piled through before the gate deactivated, striking the shuttle repeatedly as it was tossed and turned over. Harcrow screamed in her restraints as sparks flew and hoses were torn from inside. As the debris field passed, she slid from her seat and hit the beacon.

''This is Captain Harcrow of the Titan, you are clear to jump,'' she panted before passing out.




Narthis System, Nicean Reach

There were muffled voices. A bright light. As Harcrow opened her eyes, she could see a doctor standing above her with a torch in his hand. ''Captain Harcrow, can you hear me? There we go.'' His voice was very soothing as the Captain focused on the man's blue eyes. Slowly but surely, everything else came to and she realised that she was surrounded by the Admiralty.

''Where am I?''

Rousseau slid off the cabinet she was leaning against and unfolded her arms, ''You're aboard the Arwig's Revenge. Commodore Riven got your beacon and picked you up. Did it work, Captain?''

Rousseau was stopped by D'kanni's hand as the Grand Admiral looked at Harcrow sympathetically. ''You're lucky to be alive,'' she said.

''I can't. I can't feel my arm. Why can't I feel my arm,'' there was a sound of the heart monitor beeping faster as Harcrow started to shift. The doctor put his hands on her to keep her down. ''Get off! Get off! Why can't I feel my arm!?'' The others joined in to try and hold her down as the doctor grabbed an auto-syringe.

''You need to calm down, Captain!'' Rousseau shouted.

''Not helping,'' D'kanni scolded as they kept wrestling with Harcrow. The Captain was stronger than she looked and managed to push the Grand Admiral aside and sit up to the sight of a stub with wires and cables connected to some sort of animatronic arm on a shelf. The others backed up as Harcrow settled down and stared in disbelief. ''We're sorry, Captain. Your shuttle was caught in a debris field. We tried what we could,' D'kanni said reassuringly as she rested her hand on the Captain's shoulder.

''My arm...'' She wiggled her fingers and watched as the prosthetic moved. Her face went pale and she threw up on the floor afterward as the others stepped back.

''We can't wait any longer, Grand Admiral!'' Rousseau protested, stepping in and grabbing Harcrow. ''Captain! I understand this is all very upsetting but I need you to answer me. Did. It. Work?''

Harcrow wiped her mouth and looked up at the Admiral, ''Yes. I think. We were set upon by a patrol boat when we jumped in but we did get off our shots.''

''The Warbridge never came back,'' Riven said as he stepped into the room, ''I would appreciate it, Admiral, if you didn't manhandle my guests.'' He glared at Rousseau as he handed the Captain a towel and nodded to the doctor.

The Doc shot the auto-syringe in Harcrow's neck as she jolted, ''Ow! Fuck off! The hell did you hit me with?''

''Sorry, Captain. It's just a shot of nanomachines to help your nerves adjust to the prosthetic. We had to upgrade your cortical stack to accept it. You may feel a bit dizzy but that's it,'' the Doc said apologetically. Harcrow rubbed her neck as she stared angrily at him.

''The Warbridge never returned,'' D'kanni said to Rousseau.

Rousseau sighed and rested against the cabinet again, ''So we don't know if it worked, and we don't have a way to jump without using our FSD. Great. I hope you're happy, Captain.'' Rousseau slid off the cabinet and stormed out.

Riven placed a hand on Harcrow's shoulder, ''Don't worry about her. Deturi was a friend, but that's not your fault. Let's give the Captain some rest, please.'' Riven looked at the others with a 'I wasn't asking' look as they all filed out of the room. Harcrow leaned back in the bed and sighed.

''So what's the plan now, Grand Admiral?'' Riven asked as the two walked down the corridor.

''I'll have to inform the Empress and Navy Secretary that we likely lost the the battleship group. And that we don't know if it worked and can't immediately verify it. It's not going to be a good meeting,'' D'kanni stated. ''We'll have to use Valkyrie's Deep Space Arrays and see if it can detect the circlet, but that'll take time. Processing data like that always does,'' she said.

''Well, I'll keep you posted on Harcrow's condition. Doctor says she'll make a full recovery, she may need some leave for a little while to adjust to her arm,'' Riven suggested.

D'kanni nodded, ''I'll authorise the leave, I'm sure it'll be best with Rousseau.''

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:46 am

Deep Space Array, Valkyrie Intelligence Network

Above the galactic disk, a large station was sitting quietly. Its sensors and equipment were running cold until a signal arrived from Amsterdam. The station's RCS fired and slowly manoeuvred itself into position. As the platform's reactors stirred to life, it began to take snapshots of the region. This data was sent back to Valkyrie's core, where it would be processed and using complex probabilities determine what the most accurate frame was of the snapshots it had taken. Such small adjustments of the station's telemetry could create snapshots hundreds to thousands of years apart.

Lath Nok, Kel Narthis, Narthis System

Harcrow walked down the busy street leading into the market of Lath Nok. The Nalari, Nicean, and Martians intermingled in the market as Martian Military Police patrolled the streets. The signs of the war were still present with bombed out buildings and large towering columns of smoke in the distance. Debris from the citadels and the destroyed Nicean fleet in orbit had been raining down on the planet since the battle. Several neighbouring villages had been completely destroyed from some of the impacts, and the situation between the Martians and Kel Narthis' residents had soured as strict rationing of goods was enforced.

''Come and get your premium armour! Come and buy! Good price!'' a scraggly old vendor shouted. Damaged helmets and armour was stacked on his stall. As Harcrow passed, the man reached out to grip her hood. She twisted and slapped his hand back. ''I do apologise, miss!'' the man said, knocking over some of his goods that clattered to the sandy ground.

''Don't touch me,'' Harcrow glared at the Nalari. A damaged Martian helmet with a hole through the face-shield rolled to Hacrow's feet. She picked it up and brushed it off as she felt the padding and metal with her thumb. The name S'la was visible on the nameplate. Her face twitched as she shoved it back into the hands of the man. ''What are you doing with all of this?''

''Just trying to make a living like anyone else, miss!''

''These are pieces of Martian equipment,'' she said accusingly, stepping forward to examine them. The Nalari was visibly tense. Harcrow rested her hand on her sidearm as it activated and a distinct click was heard as the weapon released the trigger. ''Where did you get this?''

''Is there a problem here?'' came a male voice. Harcrow and the vendor turned and looked at an MP standing nearby with his rifle in hand. His black armour barely reflected any light, though the orange trimming was visible. Like all kits of Martian armour, the helmet was fully enclosed with the visor completely opaque. The MP stepped forward as Harcrow relaxed her hand from her sidearm. ''Captain Harcrow,'' the MP said, running her face through the facial recognition software in his implants.

''Yes?'' she answered, gritting her teeth.

''Please don't harass the civilians,'' the man said.

Harcrow stood straight and scoffed. ''Who the hell are you?''

''I don't answer to you, Captain. I have my orders, if you have an issue with it, you can talk to Admiral Rousseau. We're not to cause problems with the locals,'' the MP said as his finger slid over the trigger of his rifle.

''This... thing... is selling our equipment, you don't see a problem with that?'' Hacrow pointed at the vendor.

The MP stepped over and examined the items. He looked up at the vendor, ''Where did you get all this?''

''Paid for it from the depot!'' the man said cheerfully.

The MP sighed and looked at Harcrow, ''It's not a crime to sell defunct equipment, Captain. There's no weapons here anyway. Please, move along.''

Harcrow stared at the MP as he gripped his rifle tighter and then looked at the vendor, ''Fine...'' the Captain huffed. She pulled her hood back over her head, about-faced and quickly started off on her way. She couldn't believe it. Letting them sell equipment like that, let alone some creature. In her anger, the Captain had walked to the outskirts of the city and came face to face with a crater.

Dunes had been swept up along the edges, and the neighbouring buildings had been blown over. She stared at it for awhile. A piece of rock and mangled metal could be seen down at the bottom. It wasn't clear if it had come from something Martian or Nicean. She didn't hear the footsteps from behind, nor the readying of whatever object was used on her. There came a searing pain and a dizzying spell as the world twisted and then darkness.

When the Captain awoke, she stared out with blurry vision at a dark, musty room. There was some clamouring and voices nearby. A Nicean speaking in something foreign knelt down in front of the bars and stared at her menacingly with his reptilian like grin. ''Captain,'' the man said, speaking Galstan. Something that Harcrow could understand. ''Welcome. You're going to be here for awhile,'' he laughed and stood up.

There were others in the room, all speaking Nicean amongst themselves before the one that had spoken to Harcrow said something and they all shuffled out. ''We'll see what sort of price we can get for you all,'' the man said, shutting the door. Harcrow could hear them locking it behind them. She looked around and could tell that several Nalari were also in cages like her. They'd been captured by slavers.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:28 pm

Quebec Outpost, Narthis System

The Admiralty had gathered in the room as a meeting had been convened by the Empress and her security council, whose holographic projections stood among the other officials. They had been discussing recent events, namely the incident involving the Victoria expedition. While they discussed, preparations were being made elsewhere as the fleets began to muster their forces.

Riven grunted as he slid a crate onto the shelf. He had been helping the Martians stock the outpost by delivering supplies from the harbour while they waited for a new citadel. And in classic Riven style, if he didn't need to command, he was out helping his crew. They always liked Riven for that. He sat another crate down on the floor and took a seat.

''Take a break guys,'' he said. He pulled up his cybercom in his HUD and radioed the others to take a few minutes themselves. ''Phew, stocking warehouses — now that's fun,'' he chuckled as one of his men handed him a bottle of water. The others gathered around and found themselves spots to recline.

''Heard the big wigs are having a meeting,'' Gordon, one of Riven's subordinates commented as he passed out water to the others. The middle-aged man plopped down onto the floor and leaned against the shelves as he took a swig, spitting out some water onto the floor after a swish, and then another to drink.

Riven pressed his fingers into the bottle, ''You should know better than that, Gordon. They don't wear any wigs,'' the commodore smiled. The rest got a laugh out of this.

''Are we going to push into Victoria, Commodore?'' Alison asked, another of Riven's subordinates. Everyone focused their attention on Riven.

Riven looked up from fidgeting with his bottle, ''I don't know,'' he said slowly with a tilt of his head as he stared at the label. ''If the plan worked, then I suppose we will,'' he looked up at them again, more seriously.

''We've done well,'' Gordon looked at the others, ''Maybe we'll finish this thing, Commodore.''

''Maybe.''

Bricke stepped in, he was one of the lieutenants serving under Captain Adler. He peered at them all resting, and then looked towards Riven, ''Commodore?'' Bricke asked expectantly.

''We're taking a break, Lieutenant. Best pop squat while you can, there's a lot of work to be done, and it's a moment of quiet right now with the meeting,'' Riven answered, offering the lieutenant a bottle. Bricke shook his head and walked past them all, disappearing into the hall.

Gordon took another sip, ''That man's a hothead,'' he said.

''He's after Adler's post,'' Alison remarked, ''I don't want to serve under him. Fucker has one of those looks.''

''Looks? What looks?'' Santiago spoke up.

''C'mon, San. Y'know Alison has a knack for these things. She did sus you out for that bottle of liquor in your locker,'' Gordon chuckled.

''Don't make me send you to scrub the bay,'' San grunted.

''Now, now. San, you were in violation with that afterall,'' Riven smirked as they all started to laugh. San tried to hide a bottle of Caracallan De Jure Magnifique many years ago when he was just a seaman. It was a type of spiced rum that was quite popular in the system, and something San had taken a liking to. He was allowed to keep it since alcohol wasn't forbidden aboard the ship, it just couldn't be consumed during working hours or on mission.

''Riven,'' Adler called from the hallway.

''Welp, there's my cue. Back to work,'' Riven said as they all playfully complained while the Commodore stood. He clutched his water and stepped out into the hall with the Captain. ''Everything alright, Adler?''

''The meeting is over,'' she said, handing him orders, he tucked the bottle under his arm and opened the folder to look at the contents. They were shipping out. Valkyrie had confirmed through observation that the circlet had been disabled. What was worse was the forces amassing in the system, the Nicean had gathered nearly a thousand ships. All three fleets were being mobilised.

''By Mars,'' he exclaimed, looking at Adler for a second in surprise. ''We're going to be outnumbered,'' he commented.

''There's one other thing,'' she said, taking Riven by the arm and pulling him aside into a vacant room. She shut the door behind her, ''Captain Harcrow. She's gone missing.''

''Missing?''

''Yes. They'd put a tail on her when she went on leave, but she managed to shake them apparently. We're not going to Victoria, Riven. Rousseau requested to the Empress that you take on finding her,'' she said.

Riven sighed with a roll of his eyes, ''That woman — of course she did.''

''They're giving us an OSIRIS detachment. We're to embark for Kel Narthis immediately and pursue all leads 'by any means necessary','' she said, her hand still gripping on Riven's sleeve. It wasn't good news, and it was even less good news knowing he'd have to control an OSIRIS unit. They had been known to be less 'refined' in their tactics — Riven couldn't deny they were specially trained and very effective as a fighting force, he just didn't agree with their methods.

''Anything else, Adler?''

''Just this,'' she said, placing a gentle kiss on the Commodore's lips before pulling away. The two stared into each other's eyes for a moment. They were still on shore-duty, and could be for another hour or so at least. He wrapped his arms around her as she gently caressed his cheek. ''We've finally got a moment, if I could trouble you, Riven.''

Narthis System

The other fleets had come through the Narthis Gate that had been assembled from the supplies brought in throughout the occupation. With them came the First Fleet, towing in two Goliath-class citadels — the Mars' Wrath and Shield of Athena. They were the first of the new line of structures, replacing the smaller and less powerful Goliath-class which had been used originally in Narthis.

The First Fleet moved the Shield of Athena into position, and then began their mobilisation phase with the other fleets. Grand Admiral D'kanni had been assigned to supervise the offensive from the citadel with Admiral Rousseau serving as the operational commander in the field. Together, they were going to report to the Empress and her security council on the events of the battle. Everything about the battle would be recorded and logged. Valkyrie and Athena, two of the nations warminds, would be busy observing and coordinating drone and other autonomous forces with the IMN.

IMN Anseris, Kel Narthis Orbit

''Beginning departure,'' Admiral Rousseau announced over fleet comms. Riven and Adler were on the auxiliary bridge where the other commanders were that helped run the ship. Commander V'ran had joined them as the man in charge of the OSIRIS detachment that had been assigned to SG-1. He was an unsightly fellow, with a scar over one eye, which had been replaced with a bionic one, and a general unpleasant demeanour.

Riven found him disagreeable, whereas Adler thought of the man as a hard-ass. V'ran was a nalari, but he had a reputation. He was known as the Butcher of Kathira for his treatment of the Eridani during the frontier wars in that region. The nalari, as a people, had become fervent supporters of the Martians in the century long relationship they had.

There were many that were more level-headed, Riven knew this. D'kanni was one of those. Yet, there were also many that were like V'ran. Zealots to the Martian cause, devout adherents to Kaseism, which was a form of Martian Fascism. The nalari had earnt their reputation among the Martians during the Colonial Wars. It was a war that had long troubled Riven.

''Launching a probe,'' Adler announced. The Anseris fired a drone down into Kel Narthis' atmosphere. The object burned through the upper altitude before deploying its wings and rocketing out over Lath Nok, the last known location of Harcrow.

''Commodore, how long do we expect to wait?'' V'ran said, standing dutifully with his harms around his back.

''We'll see if the probe can pick up any signature of Hacrow's shard first. I don't want to cause any unrest with the locals,'' Riven spoke candidly.

V'ran's face remained emotionless, ''Aye. We'll have our shuttle prepped then. Don't keep us waiting too long, Commodore. My men are good at what they do, if your probe can't find her, we definitely will.''
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lady Scylla
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New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:57 pm

Kel Narthis

Harcrow was thrown to the ground by her captors and made to bow before the Nicean sitting in the chair. There was some back and forth in their language before one splashed water on her. The other grabbed her by the hair and pulled her up so that she would see what was assumed to be their leader. Like the other Nicean, he was scaly like a reptile, with an armoured looking face and horn-like protrusions that formed a sort of crown atop his head. Some of these were missing.

''Fucking unhand me,'' Harcrow grunted, twisting and writhing against their grip. They dug their claws into her arms, cutting into the skin while one placed his boot on her head and slammed it into the stone floor. The leader said nothing, though he looked amused.

They yanked her up again, pulling out some of her hair in the process and held her dirt-ridden and scraped up face. The leader leaned forward in his chair with a creak. ''You have a lot of fight in you,'' the Nicean smirked, his lips parted in a thin line exposing serrated teeth. ''You humans always do,'' he tilted his head, placing a hand on her jaw and twisting her face around to get a better look.

Hacrow spit some blood into his face. The Nicean clicked his mouth in irritation and took a moment to wipe the dry skin. He then backhanded her in retaliation as she yelped. They yanked her up again, exposing the three gashes along her cheek from where the strike had made its mark. The leader looked at his arm — like his face, there was a dermal plating along the forearm with some sharp edges that had now been stained with red. A lizard like tongue brushed over the blood as its bristles scraped away at the plating.

''If only human tasted as good as nalari, maybe I'd throw you in a stew,'' he growled and then spoke in their tongue again. The guards dragged her away as the leader laughed, ''Don't worry. I'm sure my people will pay a fine price for you.''

They tossed her back into the cage. The others in the small cellar clamoured away to their corners in fear at the guards' presence. One of the men that had tossed Harcrow into her cage stopped and urinated in Harcrow's water bowl with a laugh. There was another exchange in Nicean before the two departed, chuckling as they exited. The door was shut with a loud clang, and the room fell back to darkness.

Harcrow felt her face. The blood had run down her jaw and neck and was saturating her shirt. It stung at just the lightest touch, making her wince. She ripped a piece of cloth from her shirt and very carefully started to wipe away any dirt and debris. She hadn't noticed the nalari next to her that had come closer to the bars to get a better look. Unlike Harcrow, the nalari could see in the dark.

''Does it hurt?'' came a female voice.

Harcrow looked towards the direction of the sound with pause. ''No.''

''Do you need some help?''

''No.''

''Okay, then,'' the voice said as its host shuffled in the cage, presumably back to a corner away from Harcrow's side.

''What's your name?'' Harcrow asked finally, tossing the bloodied cloth aside. She slid up against the bars and wrapped herself in her arms to help warm herself against the chill in the cellar.

''Q'marra,'' the voice said, sliding back towards the bars.

''So you're nalari,'' Harcrow commented with a sense of distaste.

''I am. Do you see many of my people where you're from?''

''I do,'' Harcrow answered. By now her eyes had adjusted, and she could see the faint outlines of her cage and the room. There were some pale glowing eyes of various colour in the dark. And like them, there was a pair of violet ones just behind her from Q'marra.

''Are they free?''

''Why are you asking so many questions?'' Harcrow growled as she twisted around to see. Q'marra slid back from the bars fearfully. ''Yes. They're free, and there's so fucking many of you, you could build a god damn pyramid to the sun out of the bodies!''

Q'marra gasped, as did a few others in the room. ''Don't shout like that at her, she's only a girl,'' a woman scolded.

''Hush, Jula,'' a man's voice joined them, ''She is an outsider. An invader to our hosts. Best to leave her alone, otherwise they're going to punish you for talking to her.''

''I'm right fucking here, asshole,'' Harcrow called out, but this time the room was silent. None dared speak. ''Say something! C'mon. You think you're tough because you're in the dark?''

''We are just as much captives as you. Now silence, human. Before you draw the guards,'' the man calmly said. Harcrow slid back against the bars. What the Nicean planned to do with her was anyone's guess — though now it was clear that she was truly alone. All except for Q'marra, who was still leaning on the other side of the bars.

''Are you angry?'' she asked.

''What do you think? Didn't they just tell you to shut it?'' Harcrow sneered.

''You remind me of my momma,'' Q'marra spoke, letting go of the bars as she sat down. There was silence as Harcrow looked at the door to her cage.

''What happened to your mum?''

''She disappeared,'' Q'marra said solemnly as she scraped her fingers along the floor. ''When the Amuai left, the stoneskins came and they were not like the Amuai.''

''Amuai — You mean the Martians?''

''Yes. That's what momma always called them. She says it meant Fire People. She says they were from the sky and had saved us from the Great Scourge. They brought food and medicine, and made everyone better including my momma. She says they were very strict but kind. And then one day the Amuai left and the stoneskins showed up and they were different. Meaner. Momma always told me not to talk to them,'' Q'marra explained.

Harcrow swallowed and sighed, ''She sounds like a smart woman.''

''She was. I don't think I'll get to see her again. She always told me that one day we would be free and go live with the Amuai and we would get to fly in the skyships like them and they would take care of us. Have you seen the Amuai?''

''No, I haven't,'' Harcrow replied, ''I haven't seen them.''

IMN Anseris, Kel Narthis Orbit

''Any news, Commodore?'' V'ran asked as he stepped onto the bridge. Screens around them were lighting up the dark space in hues of blue as Riven looked over some data. Adler was not present on the bridge, having gone to bed for the night, and leaving command with Commander Gordon, the navigator.

Riven shook his head with a sigh, ''We haven't found a trace. The damn iron plate Lath Nok is on isn't helping.'' The Commodore pinched his nose and sighed again, it seemed he had no choice now. ''I'm sending you down, Commander.''

''Excellent! I'll notify my men right away —''

''But —'' Riven held up his hand, interrupting V'ran as he looked at the commander sternly, ''You are operating under my authority, Commander. Do not harass the locals more than need be, I don't want an incident, got it?''

V'ran put his hands up in protest, ''You wound me, Commodore. My men are well trained, we'd never besmirch your good name and reputation, Commodore. Gotta keep those stripes good and clean, while we dust our mucks, yeah?''

''I'm serious, Commander. Do not violate the RoE,'' Riven responded harshly.

''You've nothing to worry about, Commodore. We'll find her,'' V'ran gave Riven a sympathetic pat on the shoulder and about-faced and departed.


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