CHAPTER 14: Engage and Destroy
“This is Admiral Wyatt Yukio, commanding officer of the UEF Space Force 1st Fleet. If the two starcorp basestars continue their present trajectory and at their present rate of acceleration, we will be within lethal-range of both in 7 hours and 19 minutes. By our estimation the starcorp basestars should achieve jump speed in half that time, give or take 20 minutes. It is my belief that one or both basestars will not engage their star-drives when this happens. I am basing this belief on the calculation that the basestars are accelerating at a rate far below their potential. If I am right, a space battle is imminent. Starting now, I will be sending status report updates on the half hour if feasible. This is Admiral Wyatt Yukio, commanding officer of the UEF Space Force 1st Fleet. Out.”
ADM Wyatt Yukio recorded this video message from his acceleration pod inside the command capsule of the Voltaire Battlestar. Because of their closing proximity to the starcorp basestars, Goliath and Colossus, all personnel aboard the Voltaire and within the entire fleet were at their battle stations. ADM Yukio issued the order for all ship’s crews to assume this posture because they were close enough for things to change quickly. If the starcorp basestars shut down their thrusters or reversed them, the length of time before lethal-range could be cut in half. ADM Yukio did not want his crews to be in the middle of a call to battle stations during an attack.
The WDF02 Basestars turned away from a head-on collision with the UEF Space Force 1st Fleet and began accelerating a dozen hours earlier. Their new trajectory was arching them away from Earth, and if they continued this trajectory long enough it would take them out of the solar system. In response to this turn, the UEF’s 1st Fleet corrected its trajectory to intercept them.
ADM Lawrence Moseley was the theater wide commander for the upcoming confrontation with War-Machine WDF02. The entire UEF Space Force was under his control. ADM Wyatt Yukio was just one of Mosely’s 4 Admirals on active duty who were under the direction of ADM Moseley. It was ADM Yukio’s task to engage with the invading starcorp war-machine beyond Earth Space and destroy it. When he was given this task, ADM Yukio was anticipating a clash of forces culminating into a massive firefight in space. He deliberately paced the deceleration of his fleet so that their contact with the UEF war-machine would occur when both forces were moving slow enough to clench into a continuous stationary battle. It was Yukio’s estimation that an engagement of this type would decimate the bulk of the Spacers starfighter force and destroy or cripple their two basestars within a few hours. This new trajectory of the WDF02 war-machine now had him questioning if he would ever get close enough to engage with the two invading basestars. He suspected that the size of his battlegroup scared the Spacers away from a head-on stationary firefight and into a highspeed run and gun dogfight.
To defeat the starcorp war-machine, ADM Yukio was given the bulk of the UEF Space Force. This consisted of 33 battlestars and 17,083 space-fighters. From a distance far enough away for a video display to encompass the entire battlegroup, the individual ships were too tiny to see. The battlegroup moved in a formation characteristic of an elongated oval. The battlestars were positioned along the perimeter of this oval. The Flagship Battlestar, Voltaire, was situated at the leading edge of the oval. The spacefighters were evenly distributed within the interior. This formation was being used to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of the battlegroup.
On average, battlestars were ten times the mass of an early 21st century aircraft carrier. Despite their size, battlestars were too small to hold hundreds of spacefighters, internally or externally. There was also the problem of diminished combat effectiveness. Building hangars and platforms for even a sizeable number of spacefighters would require the removal of rail-gun batteries, directed energy cannons, targeting sensors, and their supporting power plants and ordinance sheds. The primary purpose of a battlestar was to be a massive weapons platform. Their firepower was the equivalent of 200 spacefighters, and each railgun could be individually directed. Because of this immense power, battlestars were never used as a bulk spacefighter carrier, and the capability of spacefighters made that an unnecessary addition.
Spacefighters were equivalent in size to an early 21st century transnational airliner. They provide living arrangements for small crews that could sustain them for a minimum of 3 months. By traveling in the company of a battlestar, life aboard a spacefighter could be sustained indefinitely. The spacefighter and the battlestar had a symbiotic relationship. Large numbers of spacefighters served as escorts and fighter screens for battlestars, and the battlestars served as supply spaceships, powerful supporting weapons platforms and long-range sensor and targeting systems. Together, the battlestar and spacefighter enhanced each other’s firepower and quadrupled the force they would project separately.
The location of the battlestars along the perimeter of their sphere formation enabled them to extend their sensor fields out for maximum effect. The spacefighters were positioned to provide defense for the battlestars and to reinforce any weak spots that developed on the perimeter. The sensor fields being projected by the battlestars and the spacefighters overlapped with their neighbors. This arrangement interlinked their computers and allowed for instantaneous communications between them.
The UEF 1st Fleet was positioned for battle, and all systems and personnel were still at the ready 2 hours and 43 minutes after ADM Yukio sent out his first status report. It was at this moment that the 2 starcorp basestars disappeared from their viewing screens.
“They were there, and then they were gone,” LCDR Gleeson, the senior officer monitoring the space in front of the fleet, reported.
“Sensors are detecting 2 energy bursts, Admiral,” LCDR Mendelsohn, the officer monitoring the passive sensors, yelled out. “The signatures are consistent with star-drive technology.”
This was all superfluous information for ADM Yukio. He suspected that the basestars had jumped into null-space when LCDR Mendelsohn reported the 2 energy bursts. The disappearance of the two specs of light that represented the thrusters of the basestars was confirmation. ADM Yukio was flummoxed by this event. He was convinced that at least one basestar and probably both would stay and engage with his battlegroup along their perimeter. The disappearance of both basestars had his mind fumbling with ideas on how to react. After several seconds of thought, he came to a decision.
“This is Admiral Yukio to the fleet, shut down thrusters and extend sensor fields by 50%.”
This order was the only action ADM Yukio could think to do under the circumstance. By his understanding, the two basestars had escaped his grasp. He had no way of following them, and he calculated that their trajectory would take them further out into the orbit of Sol or out of the system altogether. Shutting down their thrusters and extending their sensor fields seemed to be the only sensible reaction. He rationalized that the basestars could have launched something towards them that they would detect when it entered their sensor field. They needed only to continue falling on the same trajectory and wait. They were 32 minutes into this wait when a second energy burst washed over them.
“Admiral, we’ve just passed through an energy burst,” LCDR Mendelsohn reported.
“Where?” ADM Yukio called out with a startled inflection.
“Calculating,” LCDR Mendelsohn immediately responded while studying the display in his helmet monitor.
It took the computer mere seconds to respond to the request for the energy burst’s point of origin.
“It’s straight ahead,” LCDR Mendelsohn reported with amazement in his tone. “The same location as the first 2 energy bursts.”
ADM Yukio turned his attention to the officer examining video imaging of the space in front of his fleet.
“Gleeson, is it a basestar?”
Lieutenant Commander Gleeson did not have an answer for that question. He knew what area of space to search, but the objects that he was trying to get a visual on was proving to be difficult to see against the backdrop of space. This difficulty suggested to him that the basestars either had their thruster’s shutdown or were not there.
“Lieutenant,” ADM Yukio bellowed at LCDR Gleeson. “Is it one of the 2 basestars?”
LCDR Gleeson was an instant away from replying to that question with a non-answer answer when the sensor alarm began blaring.
“We’ve just been enveloped by a sensor field,” LCDR Mendelsohn yelled out to the command capsule crew.
“From where?” ADM Yukio yelled back at LCDR Mendelsohn.
“It’s in front of us,” LCDR Mendelsohn yelled out as he studied his helmet display monitor and waited for the computer to pinpoint the center of the sensor field.
By clocking the moment that the sensor field enveloped each spaceship in the battlegroup, the computer could use that data to measure the curvature of the field and calculate the location of its center. It took the computer 4 seconds to complete this calculation. The information it produced gave LCDR Gleeson a much smaller area of space to examine.
“I found it,” LCDR Gleeson called out with relief in his voice. “I have a visual on one basestar.”
“Put it on the large screen,” ADM Yukio commanded.
An instant later, a tiny image of a single basestar within a black backdrop of space was barely visible on the large monitor at the center of the capsule. It took ADM Yukio seconds to deduce that the basestar was generating a sensor field 20 times greater than what his battlestar could produce. He also deduced that the basestar was coming toward them.
“What happened to the other one?” LCDR Mendelsohn pondered out loud.
“They must have split up,” Captain Jared Patel asserted with assurance.
ADM Yukio agreed with his second in command, but he was not inclined to believe the second basestar left the vicinity.
“It’s coming toward us,” LCDR Gleeson announced with an amazed inflection. “How is it doing that?”
It took ADM Yukio an instant to understand the factor that he had not allowed for. It was not only possible to make course changes in null-space, it was possible to make sharp changes in direction. This was the explanation for everything the basestars had done. ADM Yukio realized at that moment that the basestar was coming to do battle. What he did not know was the speed of its approach. This was information he would discover when the basestar crossed into the sensor fields of his battlegroup. An instant after he came to these conclusions, ADM Yukio activated his intercom and set it to communicate with the entire fleet.
“This is Admiral Yukio to fleet, power up all weapon systems.”
The UEF Space Force 1st Fleet was ten hours away from lethal-range with War-Machine WDF02 when ADM Nathan Lazaro ordered his two basestars to battle stations. Because of the enormous size of Colossus and Goliath, 33 and 29 miles in diameter, it took close to two hours for their personnel to secure the habitat and assume their stations inside their control and escape capsules. ADM Lazaro was not anticipating that they would be engaged in combat at the end of the two hours, but he was planning to go into battle a few hours later. In the interim, ADM Lazaro wanted to prepare his forces for what was to come.
The UEF Fleet was 4 hours and 30 minutes away from lethal-range when ADM Lazaro gave the order for Colossus and Goliath to activate their temporal projectors. The two basestars had reached jump speed 27 minutes earlier, but this was the moment that ADM Lazaro calculated to be right for this action.
“We are at NS plus 9-7,” LCDR Cooper called out the basestar’s time dilation so that all in the command capsule could hear.
“Start timer,” ADM Lazaro ordered without hesitation. “Fighter pilots to their starfighters,” he continued in the same breath.”
“Clock is running,” CAPT Fazal returned with equal swiftness.
“Goliath is at sync and maneuvering to our aft,” Lieutenant Commander Perez followed in a loud voice.
“Commence the turn,” ADM Lazaro called out to Lieutenant Commander Hoffman.
Travel through null-space was an inexact process. The measurements of real distances and real time that a spaceship traversed while in null-space could only be approximated. The words plus and minus were used to signify when the spacecraft was moving forward and back in time. The act of entering null-space always brought the spacecraft up to the speed of light. Negative numbers meant that time was being manipulated to send the spacecraft backward in real-time as it moves forward through real-space. This had the effect of moving the spacecraft faster than the speed of light. The larger the negative number, the faster it was moving. The same was true in reverse for positive numbers. The act of entering null-space propelled the spacecraft forward at the speed of light. Positive numbers meant that time was being manipulated to move the spacecraft faster than real-time as it is moving forward through real-space. This had the effect of moving the spacecraft slower than the speed of light while inside null-space. The larger the number, the further back from light speed the spacecraft is moving. Single digits meant the spacecraft was moving just below the speed of light. Triple digits meant the spacecraft was traveling at a speed that was barely noticeable, and anything above 150 meant that the movement was too infinitesimal to be seen.
The UEF had a vague understanding of how the starcorp star-drive worked despite their inability to duplicate the science. What the UEF scientists and engineers did not know and had not considered was that a spacecraft in null-space had the capability of steering itself through null-space.
Null-space had the feel of a fluid universe that had currents, ebbs and flows. These fluid forces were being generated by real-space gravity. The extent of the universe that a spacecraft in null-space could sense and measure onto a graph was dependent upon the size of the temporal sphere it was generating. When a spacecraft was moving back in time, it was creating a temporal sphere greater than the distance that light could travel within a second. Large real-space gravity wells that exist within that distance become discernable, and the small ones became less so. When a spacecraft is moving forward in time, it creates a temporal sphere smaller than the distance that light can travel within a second, and its feel for large distant real-space gravity wells begin to fall away into the distance, and nearby tiny gravity fields become more discernable. This information made it possible for spacecrafts in null-space to know where they were in relationship to the real-space around them. Experience taught starcorp spaceship captains that they needed only to adjust the polar axis of the temporal field to turn the spacecraft in null and real-space. This act always added a sizeable fraction of time to the null space jump and was an added complication to the process of measuring the real space distances and time traveled.
“Thirty seconds,” CAPT Fazal shouted.
Commander Fazal was calling out the time that was counting down in the corner of his helmet display monitor. When the timer hit one minute he called out “60 seconds.”
“Turn is completed,” LCDR Hoffman reported more than a minute after receiving the order. “Detecting the UEF magnetic signature directly ahead.”
ADM Lazaro said nothing. He was waiting for a second report that came nearly a minute later.
“Goliath is at our aft,” LCDR Perez shouted out. “Our fields are synced,” he reported after a pause.
The syncing of temporal fields was not a difficult maneuver to effect. Two or more spacecrafts needed only to get close enough in space and time for their temporal fields to overlap. Once this had occurred one of the two computers managing the temporal fields needed only to adjust its dilation up or down until the two field were a match. Once they were matched the temporal field could be used as a communication bridge to link the computers within the spaceships. In this configuration, null-space egresses of two or more spaceships could be coordinated to resemble a single event. The dangerous part of this operation was the moment of egress. Two or more spaceships egressing in the same vicinity had to be careful that their speeds were a match and their trajectories were aligned to avoid a collision.
“Linking with the Goliath’s computer—now.”
At the instant LCDR Perez called out his report that the Colossus and Goliath were linked by their computers, ADM Lazaro initiated a live video connection between himself and the Commander of the Goliath. Commander Craig Chaffin’s image popped up on the large monitor at the center of the capsule.
“Goliath, Colossus has control,” ADM Lazaro declared without fanfare.
Commander Chaffin relayed that message to the officer managing Goliath’s temporal field projector and then reported back his confirmation that Colossus had control. This return report told ADM Lazaro that he was clear to go ahead with the next step. CAPT Fazal called out 90 seconds an instant before ADM Lazaro spoke again.
“Shut down both temporal field projectors now.”
The temporal field around the Colossus and Goliath Battlestars dissolved away simultaneously. A few seconds later the 2 basestars exploded into real-space in visual range of each other with the appearance of being a single event by distant sensor readings. Their fall through real-space was one behind the other. Their speeds were near to identical and their trajectories had them falling straight at the UEF Fleet.
Immediately after entering real-space, ADM Lazaro had the Colossus extend its sensor field out to maximum range. With the habitat, thrusters and weapon systems powered down, this extended the sensor 30% beyond what it would have been with these systems active. A second after giving that order, ADM Lazaro instructed the Goliath to start falling back. Thirty seconds later, the distance between Colossus and Goliath had doubled. Two minutes later the distance between the two basestars was ten times that. By this time, the UEF Fleet was enveloped by the sensor field of Colossus. This sensor field data was being shared with Goliath.
“The computer is counting 33 vessels with enough mass to be battlestars and 17,083 vessels in the spacefighter range,” LCDR Cooper reported with some excitement in his voice.
“How long to lethal-range?” ADM Lazaro sharply queried LCDR Perez.
“Seven minutes and change…”
ADM Lazaro had no orders for that moment. He did not want to give the UEF Fleet anything to react to ahead of what the data from their own sensors might provoke them into doing. And he suspected that the perimeter of the UEF Fleet’s sensor field was roughly 2 minutes away at the speeds they were moving toward each other.
“Sensor field,” Commander Fazal yelled out just short of 2 minutes later. “We’re in their aura.”
Aura was the term used by captains and crews of spaceships to signify that they were inside another spaceship’s sensor field. This report from CAPT Fazal was the signal ADM Lazaro was waiting for.
Moments after hearing this report, ADM Lazaro ordered LCDR Hoffman to steer the Colossus onto a trajectory that would keep it to the right of the UEF Fleet and just outside of lethal-range as it passed. This order did not consider the possibility of the UEF Fleet altering its trajectory to compensate because ADM Lazaro was expecting this. Fifteen seconds later, this expectation came into being with visible evidence that the UEF Fleet was turning toward Colossus.
It took the Colossus 35 seconds to complete this change in trajectory. At the end of this time, the basestar turned its broad underside toward the UEF Fleet and fired off 2,000 railgun warheads toward the right rear of the UEF formation. This took just under 20 seconds to complete, and then the basestar began launching starfighters. The maneuver, volley and launch were executed with deliberate speed. Within 30 seconds time span 200 starfighters were moving toward the right rear of the UEF Fleet at a speed faster than Colossus by half and slower than the volley in front of them by a third. The UEF spacefighters reacted to this starfighter launch the quickest. Half of the UEF spacefighters began reducing their speeds and shifting toward the right-rear. They were nearly ten seconds into this adjustment and down from their original speed by one-eighth when the Goliath suddenly appeared on the UEF Fleet’s sensor field display monitor. This sighting was followed by a volley of 2,000 rail-gun warheads from the basestar. A few seconds behind the volley, 200 Goliath starfighters appeared on the UEF Fleet’s sensor field display monitors.
The volley of rail-gun warheads were less than a minute away from the UEF Fleet and were closing in from straight ahead. The 200 starfighters were 3 minutes away and were moving at a speed that was faster than the Goliath by three-quarters. The Goliath was more than 7 minutes away and was in the middle of deviating its trajectory to the left of the UEF Fleet. A few seconds later, the UEF Fleet began discharging their directed energy cannons at the onslaught of warheads coming toward the front and the right rear of their formation. Instantly, the energy beams began destroying warheads in rapid succession. The beams detonated the warheads upon contact, and the radiation burst this produced shrouded a sizeable chunk of space on all sensor field display monitors imaging the area. This effect lasted for several seconds and dissipated quickly. This created a problem for weapons systems but not by much. The targeting computers paid little attention to warheads that were not on an impact trajectory and maintained a projected trajectory of those that were. A few seconds later, a few dozen warheads across a 5 second interval began bursting apart and flying off onto 4 separate trajectories. Each piece was a separate warhead that detonated 5 seconds after dispersal. The resulting disruption in sensor data complicated the work of the UEF Fleet’s targeting computers ten-fold, but this was still not enough to panic the battlegroup. The Fleet held its formation and continued to destroy all warheads on a collision trajectory with a battlestar or a spacefighter. This composure held until the moment that the tail end of both volleys came to within 3 seconds of impact, lethal-range. The defense systems of the fleet were still tracking the warheads from the basestars without fail, but the newly fired warheads from the starfighters were a complication that the targeting computers of the UEF Fleet knew they would not be able to fully manage.
“Evade! Evade!” ADM Yukio yelled out to the Voltaire Battlestar pilot.
ADM Yukio’s order to evade was a reaction to the warning message blaring out from his spaceship’s computer, “MULTIPLE IMPACTS IMMENIENT!” ADM Yukio understood that the computer was saying it could no longer fend off this attack using the Directed Energy Defense System alone. This message was not unexpected. It was clear to him from the beginning that the orchestration of the attack was designed to overwhelm the defense systems of the Fleet to a massive degree. Holding their line of fall until the last moment gave their defensive weaponry time to destroy the maximum number of incoming warheads that it could before resorting to evasive maneuvers. By the time of the alarm, the bulk of the barrage from the basestars was falling through and behind the UEF Fleet and self-detonating in empty space. There was no chance of the Fleet being impacted by them. The threat at this moment were the starfighters and the barrage they were launching at this moment.
The starfighters of the Colossus and Goliath basestars were 20 times the size of a spacefighter and equally as much more powerful. Despite their large size, starfighters were built for a single occupant, and had no living quarters. A cockpit and an escape pod were the only areas within starfighters that were constructed for human occupation. Starfighters were large robotic spacecrafts that were engineered to mimic the motions of the pilot. The cockpit of a starfighter was a spherical zero-gravity chamber with a display monitor and a computer interface module built into its lining. The pilot was kept suspended in mid air by the zero-gravity the sphere was generating and repulsive magnetism. Magnets in key locations of the pilot’s clothing and the walls of the sphere enabled him or her to adjust, rotate and maneuver their postures, not unlike an underwater ballet dance. Motion capture sensors and technology made it possible for the onboard computer to read the movements of the pilot and mimic them with the starfighter. It also made it possible for the computer to interpret hand and arm movements as commands. All of this made the starfighter an agile gunship that could engage a dozen targets in the time it took a spacefighter to engage with just one. Starfighters were a credible match for 30 spacefighters and a serious threat to 50.
Inside the basestars, starfighters remained collapsed into a compact fold that resembled a pumpkin seed in shape. This form maximized the number of starfighters that could be stored in the bay of a basestar. When in battle, starfighters opened out into humanoid configurations, two arms, two legs, a torso and an array of sensors, communication disks and directed energy cannons were situated where the head would be. The railguns were in the arms. Thrusters were where the feet and hands would be, and in the lower front and upper back of the torso. The power-plants were in the upper arms and upper legs. This configuration was the reason behind the Man of War moniker that was given to its prototype. In this humanoid form the starfighter had the ability to shoot and maneuver simultaneously. They were quick, agile and could spew out 20 times more warheads than a spacefighter could, per minute. They also produced energy shields that enabled them to endure directed energy beams for prolonged periods of time, several seconds to a few minutes depending on distance and the power of the beam. It was for these reasons that starfighters were such a dangerous threat. They could move in close before launching their warheads.
“We’re pitching forward!”
“Main thrusters are down!”
“We’re hit again!”
“I’ve lost helm control!”
“Multiple structural alarms down the length of the ship!”
“8—11—15 capsules are off line!”
“Primary power is gone!”
“Navigation is down! Targeting is down! Sensors are down!”
The occupants of the Voltaire command capsule were being buffeted about in their acceleration couches as they yelled out these reports in rapid succession. Errant waves of inertia caused small untethered items to fly about the capsule in intermittent bursts. All of this transpired across a handful of seconds. At the end of this time, ADM Yukio called out his final order as the Commander of the Voltaire Battlegroup.
“Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Abandon ship!”
Battlestar Voltaire’s position at the front and center of the formation caused it to be among the first warships in the fleet to be targeted by the WDF02 starfighters. The 200 starfighters from Basestar Goliath pierced through the front perimeter of the UEF Fleet at a speed that gave opposing spaceships a little more than ten seconds to engage each other. The starfighters raced in from behind the barrage of warheads they launched and maintained their fire as they passed through the Fleet. UEF battlestars and spacefighters managed to burn through the shields and vessels of a dozen starfighters during this assault, but the bulk of their energy beams were focused on the warheads coming at them. The starfighters directed most of their attention at the battlestars. Each starfighter rifled out of their railguns more than 500 warheads over the course of this attack. Six battlestars were shattered into pieces by the kinetic energy in 68 warhead impacts.
The rear of the UEF Fleet endured a fate like the front. The 200 starfighters launched by Basestar Colossus pierced through the rear one-third of the UEF Fleet and destroyed four battlestars. Eleven starfighters got burned through by the hundreds of defensive energy beams gleaming out from the UEF Fleet. In total, 109 spacefighters were destroyed during the assault, but this was negligible by comparison to their total number. What was significant was the disruption this assault had on the formation of the fleet. At the end of this assault, half of the spacefighters and all but 4 of the remaining 23 battlestars were out of formation and falling further away. It took another 12 minutes for this disassembly to stop and begin to contract. Five of those minutes were spent establishing who was the new fleet commander.
“This is Admiral Elliot Teale, Commanding Officer of the Battlestar Canberra—Senior Operational Officer and Acting Commander of the UEF Space Force 1st Fleet. Admirals Wyatt Yukio, Zach Milligan and Ralph Bogdan, along with the remains of their battlestars, are adrift in space. Be advised, while in null-space the enemy basestars can make changes in trajectory within a time span of a few minutes and without a loss of speed. Future engagements with the enemy basestars must be done at speeds significantly below their star-drive jump minimums. Their star-drive technology gives them too great of an advantage when they can engage at jump speeds. I repeat, we must avoid a second battle with the starcorp basestars at jump speed velocity.”
ADM Teale paused behind his final remark to give weight to its significance, and then he continued to report.
“We have engaged with War Machine WDF02. One-hundred and nine spacefighters have been destroyed and ten battlestars are out of action. Eight of my remaining battlestars and half of my starfighters are out of formation and scattered in the expanse. I have slowed the Fleet by one-quarter while the force reforms. The enemy basestars sustained no damage in the engagement. Sensors detected evidence that one to two dozen starfighters were put out of action during the engagement. The locations of the basestars and the remaining starfighters are unknown at the time of this recording. They have fallen outside of our… Hold.”
ADM Teale turned his attention up toward the large monitor at the center of his capsule. He gave it a moment of study and then turned his attention back toward the camera in his personal console.
“Sensors have detected two energy bursts at our rear. The signatures are a match for star-drive technology. I will continue to transmit reports on the half hour or at the end of any future engagement. This is Admiral Teale. Out.”
Basestars Colossus and Goliath continued to fall away from the UEF and their battle with the starfighters until it moved out beyond their sensor fields. For the whole of this time they tracked the progression of the battle behind them and fed that data to their starfighters. It took the basestars a little more than 7 minutes to fall out of range of the battle behind them. At the end of this time, the two basestars jumped into null-space one after the other and less than a minute apart.
Eight minutes had passed when Basestar Colossus reappeared from null-space. Once again it was ahead of the UEF Fleet and falling on a trajectory that would take it across its path. The Goliath appeared ahead of the UEF Fleet two minutes later, and it too was on a trajectory that would take it across the path of the UEF Fleet. The trajectory of the Goliath had it crossing the path of Colossus at a point that the latter had traversed through less than a minute before. The intersection of this crossing was directly ahead of the UEF Fleet and beyond their lethal zone, but not excessively so.
The UEF Fleet responded to the approach of this coordinated attack by closing into a tight formation with as many vessels as they could. This new formation contained 15 of the 23 remaining battlestars and half of their spacefighter force. The other half of the Fleet was scattered out and behind this new formation. A simultaneous 90 second barrage from Colossus and Goliath commenced 17 minutes after their reentry into real-space, two and three minutes before they crossed the path of the UEF Fleet, respectively. At the point of intersection, directly ahead of the UEF Fleet, each basestar launched another 200 starfighters one after the other. Four-hundred starfighters streamed toward the front of the UEF formation in two separate groups. Ahead of the starfighters, a total of 4,000 warheads were streaming toward the Fleet from its left and right fronts.
“Admiral, should we evade?” LCDR Andrews yelled out for a response.
At this moment, ADM Teale’s thoughts were stuck in a quandary. He knew that the Fleet could easily evade the 2 barrages coming from their left and right fronts, they were more than ten seconds away. His mind told him that this evasive maneuvering would make the targeting of their Directed Energy Defense Systems (DED) exponentially more difficult. This was a concern because of the barrage he was expecting to come from the starfighters. He knew that the starfighters would wait to commence their railgun barrage when they were inside their combat zone. He also knew that the energy needed to evade the barrage from the basestars would severely limit the power he could apply to the DED System. A counter railgun barrage to break up the starfighters would also divert a great deal of power away from the DED System. Evading or firing upon the railgun barrages from the two basestars meant that his ability to blunt the assault of the starfighters while they were far out beyond their combat zone would be close to nil.
“Admiral? Should we evade?” LCDR Andrews questioned again with an insistence in his tone.
ADM Teale gave his Lieutenant Commander a momentary look of rage and then configured his intercom controls so that his words went out to the fleet.
“This is Admiral Teale to the fleet, hold the course,” ADM Teale forced out with a huff while holding down his intercom button. “Battlestars, draw back sensor fields by half,”
ADM Teale took a second to scan the faces of his command capsule crew and then continued to speak into his intercom.
“Direct all available power to DED’s,” ADM Teale spoke into the intercom. “Fleet, prepare to defend yourselves.”
ADM Teale paused to give the crews of the fleet time to comply with his orders, and then he spoke his final order into his intercom.
“Fire at will.”
The initial engagement lasted for little more than three minutes. The UEF Fleet took out a significant number of basestar warheads in the opening moments. Several seconds behind this start, they began adding starfighters to this number. At first it was one at a time. That quickly rose to two starfighters within the same instant. Several seconds later the starfighter losses were at 7 every 2 seconds. It was at this moment when the starfighters began launching screening fire.
In the beginning, the starfighters were launching a thin fusillade of fire. Warheads were being rifled out in twos and threes every other second. Each warhead dispersed into 4 separate warheads a second after launch, traveled away from each other in 4 different directions and detonated 2 seconds after that. Their detonations far out in front of the assault created a static smoke screen that the starfighters could briefly disappear into while they made slight up or down and left or right shifts in their tracks. The number of starfighters being knocked out of action fell to one every few seconds.
At the start of the engagement, all loses were on the side of the WDF02 forces. Shortly after the starfighters launched their full-scale barrage this changed drastically. The first wave fired off 100 warheads per starfighter across a 5 second span of time. Before the end of this time, the first wave of starfighters crossed the perimeter of the three second flight time of their warheads from launch to target. The flight time of the starfighters was 20 times that.
The barrage of starfighter warheads took a heavy toll on the UEF spacefighters. More than 100 spacefighters were shattered into pieces within the first 5 seconds of the warheads intermixing with the fleet. The battlestars escaped this fate because of the fierce defense they applied to their protection. When the first wave of starfighters came to within 10 seconds of intermingling with the UEF Fleet, they expanded open into their humanoid configuration. The fully expanded starfighters emitted a momentary burst of reverse thrust to slow their fall and then they commenced to fire into the leading ranks of battlestars in the UEF Fleet. As the battlestars attempted to evade the assault, 7 of their number took hits in the first few seconds and three were destroyed by multiple hits. Another 100 spacefighters were shattered into pieces as the starfighters fell into their midst as they passed through. The first wave of starfighters were well out of the firefight when the second wave started pouring into the UEF formation in their humanoid configuration and with all railguns blazing.
Within a few seconds of the next wave of starfighters intermingling with the UEF Fleet, the entire formation began scattering out into a hundred different directions. The injection of the starfighters into the UEF formation bore a resemblance to a faint puff of air into a cloud of smoke. The fast draw and agile maneuvering of the starfighters were too much for the spacefighters. This was space warfare’s version of close quarters combat, but in this instance, it looked more like a firefight of lightly armored vehicles versus heavily armed light helicopters. Within every second that passed, dozens of spacefighters were making desperate attempts to escape these point-blank range engagements with starfighters. As the second wave of starfighters fell through the UEF Fleet’s evaporating formation, several hundred more spacefighters were destroyed. Another 5 battlestars in the formation were either damaged to the point of being inoperable or destroyed.
As this event was happening, the two WDF02 basestars were launching their third and last group of starfighters. 100 starfighters were jettisoned out of the respective bays of the two basestars and toward the back end of a dissipating cloud of enemy UEF warships. In addition, the basestars were also collecting their first and second group of starfighters. Because the UEF Fleet was falling away from the basestars, the starfighters they just launched were in a pursuit position, but this effort did not take long. It took a dozen minutes for the pursuing 200 starfighters to catch and engage with nine of the remaining 15 battlestars and the dozens of spacefighters that were screening for each. As this was happening, the first two waves of starfighters from both basestars were being recovered, rearmed and relaunched.
The scattered forces of the UEF Fleet made for easy pickings for the starfighters. They came at the battlestars from all directions, dispatching all nearby spacefighters that dared to try and protect them. Three hours later there were 2 battlestars and a little more than 700 spacefighters that were still intact and strewn across the expanse. This is when Captain Broussard, the commanding officer of UEF Battlestar Onslow—Senior Operational Officer and the Acting Commander of the UEF Space Force 1st Fleet, sent out a broadcast announcing his surrender.