Month 265, Undine Space, Helium System, day 9, once again into the breach...
First Warleader Giovanni Gambesone wondered what those charged by the capi de tuti capii to enter this system and help their undine allies might have thought when they met their doom in this expanse of rocks, asteroids, lifeless worlds all lit in a reddish glare from its orange primary and red companion. For real estate this system was pretty not much but for the wealth of its four substantial belts. But strategically it was priceless. Maybe it was foolish to return here, but the eight inhabited systems cut off from the main undine expanses had demanded attention. Ok.. seven systems now, the implacable aliens in their red hulled ships had apparently managed to find the isolated Neon system and eradicated it. But Tantalum at least was able to get updated blueprints and release its guarding fleet for a desperately needed upgrade by moving in here together with the retribution fleet of the undines.
Now the combined might of the Undines and the Cartell guarded the warp point towards Tungsten, where the whole long, drawn out war had started. Privately he was less sure about the wisdom of focusing here, as there were at least two other open points of contact. But also here was the only one where no fixed defenses had been emplaced. Maybe once the Undines got their disorganised selves to build some they could release the fleet gathered here. But having lost so many systems, the undines suffered financial strain.
Still, the foe behaved way less aggressive than before, retreating from the system before the combined fleet. Now, with the reinforcements liberated from Tantalum, it was a mighty force indeed.
The Cartell had brought a combination of the Undine support force and the now defunct Bullet relief force, with nine Killer IV Battleships, twelve Shotgun escort battle cruisers, six Creeper class battle cruisers, twelve carnage class heavy cruisers and twenty Obliterator IV destroyers. These guarded three Butcher class carriers with thirteen Bushwhacker IV light carriers and four Bloodmaker strike carriers. Together these provided 304 improved strike fighters, a few less than their full complements but some had been lost due to accidents.
(ok, somehow 43 fighters went awol... *shrug*. It didn't make a difference)
These were joined by the undines nine Tango Class battleships, nine whiskey class Battle cruisers, fifteen whiskey class battle cruisers, twelve Romeo class heavy cruisers and nine Alpha class light carriers, providing 108 prototype fighters.
now the fleets had settled in and waited, and a week ago the foe had probed the situation with at least one pinnace. having learned from past battle reports, Gambesonne elected to have his fleet stand somewhat back, at four and a half light second, with the heavy cruisers, destroyers and carriers even further back. No use having the enemy kill his lighter combatants right away. Admittedly, the capital force beams now employed allowed a more distant stance than before. The undines joined his stance, just their carriers stayed even further back, way out of reach from missiles. Anyway, as he watched the quietly humming activity from his flag bridge, something changed....
"Contact! Contact! One,.. two, .. three... four...five.. six... multiple.. whohaa.. Sir... we have six heavies and lot of small craft.. sensors overloaded by interpenetration glares."
The sensor techs sounded quite exited, but understandably so. Six dreadnaughts had emerged from the warp point, followed by forty-five destroyers, three hundred and sixty gunboats and two hundred and sixteen armed pinnaces. The gunboats were joined by a further 96 from the dreadnaughts racks, and though some died by interpenetrations, that still left almost four hundred gunboats and one hundred eighty one pinnaces on the warp point., swarming around the thirty-nine surviving destroyers.
Alert gunnery crews started to exchange fire with the leading dreadnaught, whose capital missile fire revealed it to be a catapult class ship, as his compatriots. They all focused on an undine Victor class battle cruiser, sending explosion after explosion into the hapless ships passive defences, stripping away shields and armour until an engine room died in the fire. In return, the Catapult was relieved of some of its massive shields, while the destroyers send wave after wave of missiles into the minefield, eroding them into nothingness.
"All ships, advance on course hundred twenty degrees from the warp point!" The allied fleet warmed up its engines and put some distance between itself and the point, making the small craft come to them. Lead by the pinnaces, who tested the absence of the minefield by advancing into it, the swarm pounced, followed by the destroyers while another six dreadnaughts emerged. This time demolishers. Apparently the foe only had its usual complement of heavies. But where did all those small craft come from? The war leader definitely was happy that he didn't have to meet this fleet in deep space, but maybe the two months his force had spend in Helium had been necessary for the foe to concentrate his force? still, this hinted at quite some fleets close by. Or maybe they had upset the red aliens own plans? Who knew?
Furious fire between the destroyers and the defenders left another Victor damaged, and four destroyers damaged and one destroyed. Such light craft had shown their uses against smaller fleets, but the concentrated firepower here was deadly. still, fourteen of the destroyers were of a new type with four advanced missile launchers each. Maybe the aliens had planned them for a use against tantalum, which utilised a lot of fighters in its defence? Next the allied fire shifted to the approaching gun boats, but range and them being difficult targets accounted only for twenty-two of them.
But this changed in the next exchange. One hundred and nine gunboats died, along with several destroyers damaged, and one Catapult loosing most of its engines. In return, only one Victor class battle cruiser lost its defences. But then the gunboats, destroyers and the evading allied fleet all converged.
The gunboats rapidly melted under the fire of the converging allied fleet, including the closing heavy cruisers and destroyers. After they ran out of gunboats the allies started to savage the red fleets destroyers. But it was not all one-sided, the destroyers and gunboats managed to get shots off themselves, and although not at point blank range, still it was enough to destroy four shotgun class battle cruisers and heavily damage a fifth and destroy three undine Victor class battle cruisers and damage a fourth. While the allied fleet continued to run before the still dangerous armed pinnaces, the launched Cartell fighters swept closer and the CAP dove into the pinnaces.
There they reaped small craft i droves, leaving 65 dead after them, but loosing sixteen of their number. Meanwhile the armed pinnaces picked apart the damaged shotgun class battle cruiser, and then went to eliminate a Creeper class battle cruiser. Together with the red fleets destroyers they damaged another two, including one whose main damage was having its magazines rendered inoperable by needle beams, but with the escorting heavy cruisers and battle cruisers, all destroyers and armed pinnaces were eliminated. But the foe now had twelve dreadnaughts and battleships and six battle cruisers of its own and another 260 gun boats on the warp point. Undaunted, the allied fleet drove closer, bringing all its weapons to bear but for the still closing fighters. Strangely enough, the red fleet transited out its beam armed Demolishers, together with their gunboats. The ensuing exchange of fire saw a Catapult obliterated and another damaged, but also lost the cartell two Creeper class battle cruisers. Then the surviving catapults transited out with their gunboats docked, followed by the twelve battleships and six battle cruisers warping out together before the allied fighters and the fleet approached into range to deal serious damage.
First Warleader Giovanni Gambesone saw tem leave with relief. Yes he could have killed even more heavy ships had they stayed, but also the hostile gunboats would have been able to pounce upon his ships and kill even more of them. But the battle had been costly, three Whiskeys destroyed and one damaged for the undines, and his own fleet five Shotguns and three Creepers destroyed, an obliterator gutted, and another Creeper unable to fire its main broadside launchers. For all this they had damaged three dreadnaughts and killed one, but then only 42 destroyers and four hundred gunboats and two hundred armed pinnaces. Privately he thought that the red fleet had once again done better, with its looses more easily replaced. On the other hand, they had shown that they could destroy huge numbers of gunboats and small craft with relative ease, and they had blunted a major assault, and retailed Helium as a hub system. Now they could stand down and deal with potential hostile populations on once undine worlds branching from Helium.
Ok, I tried a more cinematic style, not writing down each individual salvo for easier reading and faster write-ups. Hope its better. Also you know your campaign is different when the local hive mind simul transits OUT to save its ships.