Starcorp 2: Hostile Acquisitions

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CHAPTER 22: Battlestar Casius

“Somebody find me something,” Captain Murillo called out to his command capsule crew.

Captain Albert Murillo was the commanding officer of DPG09 Battlestar Casius. He and his vessel had just jumped into null-space when he called out this command. The something he was looking for was the Basestar Colossus or Goliath. Captain Murillo was operating under the orders of the DPG09 War-Machine commanding officer, ADM Keith McCall. The battle plan laid out to him and all the other commanders within the DPG09 Fleet was to lure the WDF02 basestars into null-space and then to use their battlestars to drag Colossus and Goliath back into real-space. There were two motivations behind this action, bring the real-space transit velocities of Colossus and Goliath far below jump speeds and to hide Basestar Orion in the black of space.

Luring the WDF02 Basestars into null-space was the biggest unknown in ADM McCall’s plan. He could not be sure that the WDF02 basestars would follow his fleet into null-space, but it was ADM McCall’s assessment that they would. He calculated that the WDF02 basestars would follow them to avoid being outmaneuvered by the DPG09 fleet. He also suspected that the WDF02 Starcorp Directors would want his command destroyed to prevent it from coming back bigger and stronger later.

Hiding the Basestar Orion in the black of real-space was not a certainty either. ADM McCall knew that the basestars Colossus and Goliath would be searching for it. Staying undetected in null-space while remaining in the same vicinity of real-space was Basestar Orion’s first order of business. To accomplish this, ADM McCall instructed his fleet to attempt a simultaneous return to real-space after 83 seconds of null-space time. This they were instructed to do even if they had not merged with Battlestar Colossus or Goliath in null-space. The thinking here was to put an extreme limit on the length of time Colossus and Goliath had in null-space to search for Battlestar Orion. It was McCall’s calculation that his 47 battlestars would find the WDF02 basestars before they could find the Orion.

“Come on, the clock is ticking,” Captain Murillo grumbled at his crew through his headphone after a minute of silence. “Where are those basestars?”

Captain Murillo got no response to his inquiry. His command capsule crew were diligently looking at their displays and listening to the audible returns from their computers. They all detected several magnetic signatures across the past two minutes, but all the signatures were consistent with a vessel too small to be a basestar. They surmised that the computer was reading the signature of another DPG09 battlestar and then adjusted the magnetic sensor to search elsewhere.

“Captain, I estimate we have another 15 seconds before null-space egress,” Lieutenant Commander Nick Kambanellis reported in a matter of fact tone of voice.

Due to the seemingly unending spectrum of time-dilations in null-space, Captain Murillo understood that real-time calculations were a little better than guesstimates. It was the job of his second in command, LCDR Kambanellis, to keep track of this calculation and notify the Captain when it was time to exit null-space. After another 15 seconds of silence, LCDR Kambanellis sounded the alarm that time was up.

“Shut down temporal field projector,” Captain Murillo called out an instant after hearing LCDR Kambanellis’ alert.

Several seconds later, the helm officer reported they were back in real-space.

“Combat posture,” Captain Murillo called out to the crew of Battlestar Casius.

An instant after his command went out, the sensor field of the battlestar began extending out to combat-range. The thrusters remained shut down while the crew examined, scanned and listened to their surroundings. Twelve seconds later, into this activity Captain Murillo’s command capsule crew began reporting the detection of multiple time-jump energy bursts coming in from the expanse of space around them. After a span of just over two minutes, 27 time-jump energy bursts and one radio message were detected by the battlestars’ array of embedded antennas.

“This is Battlestar Patinkin plus two, we are engaged with Basestar Goliath. I repeat, the Patinkin, the Albaneto and the Sheridan are engaged with Basestar Goliath.”

Captain Murillo wasted no time in reacting to this radio message. Within seconds, the Casius was thrusting into a trajectory that would take the battlestar to the location where that transmission originated. Thirty minutes later, Battlestar Casius loosely formed up with DPG09 Battlestars Bowen, Sheridan, Albaneto and Patton. After another 33 minutes of thrusting, the group breached the sensor field of WDF02 Basestar Goliath. It took another 12 minutes for the group to move into a parallel trajectory just inside the basestar’s sensor field perimeter.

“This is Captain Dunham of the Battlestar Dulan. Spread out and engage the starfighter screen. Do not engage the basestar. I repeat, do not engage the basestar.”

This message was an encoded radio transmission when it came into the command capsule of Battlestar Casius. Previous messages had already forewarned Captain Murillo that CAPT Dunham was the senior officer in this engagement. Embedded in the message was CAPT Dunham’s computer-generated graphic of the artificial battle plane that he set for this engagement. That was information that a team of combatants needed to know to separate top from bottom and left from right. Armed with this knowledge, Captain Murillo adjusted the thrust and position of his battlestar so that Goliath was fixed at Casius’ four o’clock low-low. As this was happening, the ten starfighters attached to the hull of Casius launched. Their orders were to defend the battlestar.

Over the next 27 minutes, Battlestar Casius and its starfighter support engaged with a swarm of Goliath starfighters that numbered up to 33 and down to 29. Over the course of this time, seven of Casius’ starfighters were destroyed or severely damaged. The only thing that prevented its entire starfighter support from being wiped out was the bristling fire of the battlestar. The DPG09 starfighters needed only to move back into easy range of the Casius’ plethora of railguns and directed energy weapons to shake off greater numbers of WDF02 starfighters. At the end of 27 minutes, a voice message began blaring out of the radio receivers in the command capsule of Battlestar Casius.

“This is Commander Masamune of the Orion Starfighter Force—500 strong. We are on approach for the perimeter of Goliath’s sensor field—ETA 15 minutes. We are 17 minutes out from cracking the top of the egg on an attack trajectory of eleven high to five low-low on your plain. Coordinate to my attack. I repeat, coordinate to my attack.”

Captain Murillo interpreted from this report that the Orion Starfighter Force was attacking Goliath from near head own at a left to right high to low angle. The Orion starfighters were not on Casius’ sensor screen so he could not see it, but he knew that visual was approximately ten minutes away. Captain Murillo mentally calculated that he had time to coordinate an attack on Basestar Goliath with four minutes to spare.

“Shut down main engines. I want a ten second reverse thrust, maneuvering thrusters only,” Captain Murillo commanded into his headset.

The helm officer repeated the order and then commenced to carry it out. The Casius began drifting back closer to the Goliath. As this was happening, the starfighters of Basestar Goliath were still harrying the Casius. Seven minutes later, Casius’ eighth starfighter was destroyed. Two minutes later, the WDF02 starfighters began moving away from Battlestar Casius and falling back into the interior of Basestar Goliath’s combat zone.

“Enemy fighter screen is dissipating,” the weapons officer of the Casius reported into his headset.

“Roger that,” the CIC officer agreed into his headset. “Goliath’s fighter screen is pulling back into the interior of the basestar’s egg.”

Captain Murillo had no doubt that the Goliath was seeing the Orion Starfighter Force coming in and was forming up to deal with it.

“Adjust course onto an intercept trajectory with Goliath, main engines, maximum thrust,” Captain Murillo roared at his helm officer.

Seconds later the Casius began thrusting toward Basestar Goliath and the thick screen of starfighters shielding it. Several seconds later, a second battlestar, the Boxberger, angled into Casius’ sensor screen along the same general trajectory that would send it across the top front of Goliath’s egg and through its lethal-range zone. A few seconds later, the leading edge of Orion’s Starfighter Force appeared on Casius’ monitors. They were coming from its seven o’clock high-high and on a trajectory that would crisscross with Goliath. Captain Murillo appeared to be counting the seconds as he watched the dots move about the 3D monitor. When it was clear to him that his battlestar was a few seconds away from being fired upon, Captain Murillo reacted.

“Shut down main engines,” Captain Murillo called out to his command capsule crew in a rush. “Activate the DED and direct all available power to weapons.”

Captain Murillo hesitated just long enough for his crew to comply with his order, and then he called out another order.

“Initiate smoke screen program.”

In that moment, the 234 railguns of the Casius began a continuous preset pattern of rapid fire. The firings were directed into a broad area in front of the battlestar. Each projectile exploded apart into four warheads at the instant it left the railgun and detonated milliseconds later. The thousands of bright, brief bursts of light dotting the space in front and around the Casius did no justice to the havoc that its radiation bloom was doing on the sensor screens of the Goliath and its starfighters. In appearance, this event looked like a long pitch-black tunnel filled with fireflies and the Casius was flying through its center at a high rate of speed.

In the sensor displays of the Goliath and its starfighters, it appeared as if the Casius was flying within a thick static cloud that was growing out and around as it fell. The nearby Boxberger Battlestar began producing the same effect at nearly the same moment. Seconds after the start of the event, the starfighter force of the Orion began racing past the Casius and Boxberger battlestars. A few seconds into this overrun, the DPG09 and WDF02 starfighter forces began spilling into and through the ranks of each other. When being viewed in its entirety in the 3D holographic monitors aboard the Goliath, this clash of opposing starfighters looked like blue and yellow particles of mist colliding. Visible within this clash were dozens of miniscule flashes of red occurring across a span of several seconds. The only other thing visible in the display was the tiny smudges of static being produced by the battlestars. In appearance, they looked like gray lines, 1/16th of an inch thick and 3/16th of inch long, that were falling toward Basestar Goliath.

“Charge maneuvering thrusters,” Captain Murillo commanded in haste. “Adjust track down and to the left and give me a 3 second burn of the rear maneuvering thrusters.”

The helm officer complied with the Captain’s orders with a deftness born out of practice. No time was given to verbally acknowledging the orders. He knew what the captain wanted and why. Training for this battle had taught Captain Murillo and his officers that computers could target them in these static clouds by using their last known speed and trajectory to reckon their location. Changing the speed and track of their fall was the way to defeat this calculus, but there was nothing they could do to defeat a lucky shot fired from within the lethal zone. The Casius and the Boxberger were now falling through the dispersed ranks of the Goliath starfighters.

“Evade! Evade!” The computer blared this alarm after a few seconds down the new track. The helm officer made a minor adjustment in Casius’ track and the alarm suddenly stopped. The locations of several dozen incoming starfighter projectiles were clearly marked in Casius’ command capsule 3D holographic monitor. The path of the warheads beyond the static cloud around the Casius was easily detected by the battlestar’s sensor field, but their movement through the static cloud had to be gauged and calculated by the targeting computer.

“Evade! Evade!” The computer alarm blared again, and the helm officer slipped by the threat again with minor shifts in the battlestar’s track. Over the next twelve seconds, the evade alarm blared five times, and each time the helm officer narrowly eluded impact with a WDF02 starfighter railgun warhead. At the end of this time, Basestar Goliath’s starfighter screen was behind the Casius and quickly falling away. CAPT Murillo promptly ordered the shutdown of the smoke screen program. The battle with the starfighters was over, and the battle with Goliath was ahead.

“New trajectory,” the weapons officer shouted out. “Goliath is eleven o’clock low and dropping to ten o’clock low-low and widening.”

“Confirmed,” the CIC officer seconded.

“Helm,” Captain Murillo called out an instant behind his CIC officer’s confirmation. “Adjust trajectory to best intercept path—maximum thrust!”

“Diverting available power to thrusters,” the helm officer initiated of his own volition and reported in the same instant. “Adjusting attitude.”

Under the gentle nudging of the helm officer, the large battlestar began rotating around its center mass. After a few seconds, the massive battlestar stopped rotating.

“Going to main engines—maximum thrust now,” the helm officer reported as the large rear thrusters of the battlestar erupted with light and heat.

Captain Murillo could see all that was happening on the large 3D holographic monitor in the center of the capsule. The Goliath had clearly adjusted its trajectory and was about to fall below and away from them. Captain Murillo knew that he had no time to hesitate. His forward momentum was 30 seconds away from throwing him past the Goliath. He could tell by what he was seeing that only two of the five battlestars that made it threw the starfighter screen had a chance of getting to inside Goliath’s close-range zone. Casius was one of the two. It was also clear that most of Orion’s starfighters were going to fall far outside of Goliath’s close-range zone as they crisscrossed.

“Approaching combat-zone,” the weapons officer reported a few seconds into Casius’ new trajectory.

“Activate DED,” Captain Murillo called out.

Every pair of eyes in the command capsule that were not occupied with other duties followed the approaching engagement on the large 3D holographic monitor. Orion starfighters were the first to engage with the humongous basestar. The number of yellow specks approaching the vicinity of Goliath grew like the beginning of a snow fall. The frequency of yellow specks erupting into red flashes and then disappearing from display grew as the force moved ever closer to the basestar. The groups of specks that came the closes to the basestar suffered the greatest losses.

The focus of Casius’ command capsule crew was on the Battlestar Patna. Unlike the specks that represented the starfighters that were slowly falling across the display, the battlestar was a small gray smudge with its name displayed in the hologram. The Patna was several seconds ahead of Casius and on a trajectory that would take it across the top back end of the egg and just inside its lethal-range zone. A few seconds into this watch, the battlestar moved into the close-range zone around the basestar. A second later the smudge transitioned into a flashing red dot. The Patna dot flashed red and then back to yellow several times. Seconds later it began winking red repeatedly, and then the dot disappeared from the display. For several seconds after this event, the command capsule crew was still with silence.

“Entering combat zone,” the weapons officer announced through his headset mouthpiece.

Everyone in the command capsule knew that it was their turn to make a run at the humongous basestar and its massive array of defensive and offensive weapons. The crew of Battlestar Casius took some relief that the weight of starfighter attacks on the basestar was continuing to grow with each passing second. It was the hope of everyone there that these attacks would occupy the basestar’s weapons system enough to give them a fighting chance.

“Incoming fire,” the CIC officer reported with a start.

“DED system engaging,” the weapons officer reported an instant behind.

Captain Murillo said nothing as he watched his battlestar commence its fall through the upper front of Goliath’s egg.

“Crossing into close-range,” the weapons officer called out.

Almost in that same instant, Casius’ computer began blaring.

“Evade! Evade! Evade!”

“Evade,” Captain Murillo shouted out to his helm officer.

The helm officer gave no response to his order. He was too busy carrying it out. The evade alert stopped an instant after the helm officer began adjusting the battlestar’s track to slip an incoming warhead.

“We’re starting our pass across Goliath’s trajectory,” the CIC officer reported a couple of seconds after the evade alert.

“Point the nose,” Captain Murillo called out.

The helm officer reacted to this order by rotating the battlestar into a bow to stern line that pointed directly at Basestar Goliath.

“Evade! Evade!”

An instant after Casius’ computer began blaring this alert, it stopped. A slight adjustment by the helm officer moved the battlestar out of line with several incoming projectiles. This was easier to accomplish now that the battlestar was showing Goliath its smallest silhouette. On the 3D holographic monitor, it was obvious to all that Basestar Goliath was under the heaviest assault yet from Orion’s starfighters. Casius went through another two seconds of fall before the weapons officer gave his next report with an inflection of dread.

“Entering lethal-range.”

“Initiate smoke screen program,” Captain Murillo yelled out with urgency an instant after hearing his weapons officer’s report. “Adjust track down,” he continued a second later.

Battlestar Casius began spewing warheads out all around it an instant after the smoke screen program was activated. A second later, the battlestar used its maneuvering thruster to shift its track down.

“Rotate 90 degrees to the right,” Captain Murillo called out when he was sure his previous two orders were enacted. “Shut down smoke screen program! Target the Goliath!”

With a few taps of his fingers, the weapons officer stopped the smoke screen program and redirected the computer to the task of targeting the Goliath. Less than 2 seconds had passed when the weapons officer reported that he had a target lock.

“Fire!” Captain Murillo yelled out without hesitation.

An instant after Captain Murillo gave this command, the Casius began spewing out hundreds of warheads per second into a stream that flowed at a target so distant that it would barely register as a speck when viewed through a hand-held optical telescope. For the first time, the humongous basestar attempted to adjust its posture to slip through the onslaught of warheads coming at it from Battlestar Casius. Less than three seconds into this effort, a warhead slammed into and through Goliath. The exit hole spewed material from the basestar’s interior. Goliath began to tumble as hundreds of warheads began streaking by and bursting into small brief sparks of light as they detonated in the near distance. All defensive fire from the basestar came to a stop. A second later, a second warhead pierced through the basestar followed by a third, a fourth and a fifth. Space capsules began ejecting from the basestar as large chunks of the vessel flew off into space. Basestar Goliath was tumbling through a rainstorm of warheads from different directions that were missing their target. A few seconds into this tumble, a starfighter warhead from the opposite side that Casius was on slammed into and through the basestar. This event was followed by nine more warheads that came in from starfighters in multiple locations around the basestar. Several seconds later, huge segments of the basestar began breaking off. One minute into this event, the onslaught stopped. The violence of this attack suddenly transitioned into an eerie image of the drifting debris of what once was a basestar 29 miles in diameter.

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