CHAPTER 26: Colossus
“Battlestar approaching—seven o’clock low and accelerating. ETA to combat zone nine minutes.”
ADM Chaffin took a couple of seconds to note what CIC crewman LT Butler was referring to, then he turned his attention back toward the 341 DPG09 starfighters coming at his basestar head on. The approach of this lone battlestar was given next to no consideration in ADM Chaffin’s thinking. The logic behind its advance was obvious to him as was its futility. It made perfect sense that ADM McCall would want battlestars to participate in this assault. Their large sensor fields would be a much-needed asset in the absence of the massive sensor field of a basestar. But ADM McCall was convinced that one battlestar would not make it through the torrent of defensive fire that Colossus could produce. It was for this reason that ADM Chaffin did not consider positioning a squadron of starfighters between Colossus and the battlestar. He thought it unlikely that this one battlestar would dare to engage with Colossus, and he wanted to inflict maximum damage to the Orion Starfighter Force attacking at the front. In ADM Chaffin’s mind, the fact that this one battlestar was going to take part in this engagement made it the first of several battlestars that would soon be destroyed.
CAPT Hoffman not only anticipated ADM Chaffin’s command, he was waiting for the authority to act upon it. He quickly gave the order to his helmsman to alter the trajectory of Colossus five degrees to the left and ten down. Outside of the basestar, the large main thrusters on the underside of Colossus shutdown and a dozen tiny maneuvering thrusters began rotating the basestar. With surprising quickness, the rotating stopped when the main thrusters faced one o’clock high. An instant after the rotating stopped, the main thrusters came to life for a short burn. When this burn stopped, the basestar rotated back to its original position and began thrusting forward again. The purpose of this maneuver was to put the basestar someplace other than where it would be five minutes into its original trajectory. The DPG09 starfighters were sure to be blind to this trajectory change, and at the end of five minutes some of their starfighters were sure to be close enough to envelope Colossus with their own sensor fields.
“Konoval, concentrate starfighters on all enemy starfighters approaching combat-range,” ADM Chaffin commanded.
Far out in front of Colossus, its starfighters began forming up to engage with the starfighters of the Orion. The coming collision of forces was being digitally displayed on hundreds of monitors throughout the basestar. The Orion starfighters were in free fall and coming in fast. The Colossus starfighters were in reverse thrust, causing them to slow their approach and promising to lengthen the period of engagement between the two forces. The goal of the Colossus starfighters was to destroy as many enemy starfighters as they could and to force the survivors off their trajectory. The goal of the Orion starfighters was to get past the enemy starfighters and to stay on trajectory as best they could.
“Starfighters are engaging” CDR Konoval announced to the command capsule crew after nearly a minute of silence.
Nearly everyone in the capsule was already watching the clash of starfighters as CDR Konoval spoke. The holographic monitor at the center of the capsule was highlighting the movements of hundreds of starfighters with blue and yellow microdots. At the start, a dozen microdots every few seconds were turning red and then winking out. The computer displayed a running tally of loses and kills. Thirty seconds into the battle, dozens of microdots were turning red and disappearing from the monitors every second. It took just over a minute for the two opposing forces to past through and begin to fall away from each other.
“Captain, 211 enemy starfighters made it through,” CDR Nielsen reported in a rush. “I estimate about 60 of them will pass through our combat zone and about a third of them will come into close-range. Seven of those are on a trajectory that will bring them within lethal-range of Colossus.”
“Time to combat-range?” CAPT Hoffman yelled out.
“Two minutes,” CDR Nielsen returned on the quick.
“Charge all weapons,” CAPT Hoffman called out after hearing CDR Nielsen’s report.
“Konoval, what are our losses?” CAPT Hoffman yelled out.
“Forty-four starfighters destroyed or out of commission,” CDR Konoval reported back. “We’re getting 43 beacons and the biotelemetry on 37 pilots.”
CAPT Hoffman switched his attention back CDR Nielsen.
“Nielsen, what’s the time to combat-range on that battlestar?” CAPT Hoffman queried with urgency.
CDR Nielsen took a moment to read the data.
“Four minutes and change, Captain” CDR Nielsen reported with a sharp delivery.
CAPT Hoffman turned to the senior officer of his weapons team with speed.
“Galliano, task a quarter of Colossus’ guns to that battlestar,” CAPT Hoffman commanded with aggression. “When it enters combat-range start firing on it and don’t stop until it’s destroyed.”
“Roger that, Captain,” LCDR Ethan Galliano snapped back.
CAPT Hoffman did not want to run the risk of forgetting about the DPG09 battlestar during their battle with the approaching starfighters. He surmised that the sensor field of the battlestar would soon envelope most of the battlespace between Colossus and the DPG09 starfighters. Preventing this from happening meant destroying the battlestar soon after it came within combat-range of Colossus. CAPT Hoffman wanted to eliminate its sensor field as soon as possible despite the minuscule effect he expected it have. The sensor field of this lone battlestar was a resource that he was determined to deny the starfighters.
“Starfighters approaching combat-range,” CDR Nielsen yelled out.
“Shut down main thrusters,” CAPT Hoffman yelled out in response. “Charge all weapons. Set DED System to automatic. Helm, adjust bearing to edge on.”
The command capsule crew of the Colossus Basestar responded to CAPT Hoffman’s orders with practiced precision. Externally, the massive basestar began to bristle with armaments as it rotated into an edge on fall through space. This posture presented the thinnest target for the starfighters that were coming head on. Along the top and bottom perimeters of the massive disk shape spaceship, hundreds of railguns protruded up from the interior of the hull. When looking at the whole basestar, these deployments were not noticeable to an unsuspecting viewer. From a distance they took on the appearance of a minute decorative fringe. Particle beam cannons were interspersed among the railguns at a ratio of 1 to 30. Each railgun and particle beam cannon was capable of being independently aimed or directed as part of a group.
“Starfighters entering combat zone,” CDR Nielsen called after a short silence.
“Fire railguns,” CAPT Hoffman yelled. “Concentrate railguns at targets on lethal and close-range trajectories.”
ADM Chaffin listened and watched as the battle unfolded. He was content to watch CAPT Hoffman defend his basestar in silence. He heard and saw nothing that made him want to overrule the commands he heard. Everything was transpiring as he expected.
“Sensor field,” CDR Nielsen shouted. “Enemy battlestar approaching combat-range,” he continued. “Enemy battlestar entering combat zone,” he called out a second behind.
“Targeting battlestar,” LCDR Galliano yelled out. “Eighty railguns firing now.”
CAPT Hoffman and ADM Chaffin gave a momentary notice to the battlestar approaching from their seven o’clock low, and then they turned their attention back to the starfighters approaching head-on.
“Incoming fire from the starfighters,” CDR Nielsen reported.
“DED went active,” LCDR Galliano announced. “All cannons in the green.”
“Three enemy starfighters destroyed,” CDR Nielsen called out an instant behind LCDR Galliano’s report. “Tracking 16 starfighters on a trajectory that will bring them into close-range.”
What felt like a long silence to the crew filled the command capsule for nearly ten seconds.
“Five enemy starfighters destroyed. Eleven starfighters approaching close-range threshold,” CDR Nielsen yelled.
CAPT Hoffman and ADM Chaffin took a moment to focus their personal monitors on the track of the battlestar. They were both curious about its disposition. They both knew the enemy starfighters had to be using the battlestar’s sensor field to target Colossus.
“What’s happening with that battlestar?” CAPT Hoffman questioned as he noted a fuzzy ball of static moving across his display.
“It’s producing a large static screen,” LCDR Galliano responded, bewildered. “The targeting computer hasn’t been able to lock on to it.”
“Fire into that cloud!” ADM Chaffin ordered LCDR Galliano.
“We’re doing that, Admiral” LCDR Galliano quickly responded.
“Double the guns!” CAPT Hoffman roared.
“Tasking an additional 80 railguns—now,” LCDR Galliano spoke out seemingly to himself.
A silence briefly filled the capsule, then LCDR Nielsen announced an update on the movement of the starfighters. A total of thirteen enemy starfighters were destroyed and six were crossing the close-range threshold. Six starfighters were considered less than a significant threat. The closer they were to Colossus the greater the threat Colossus was to them. The dominant concern at that moment was the battlestar. Its continued existence had everyone surprised but not worried.
“The battlestar is still on an approach trajectory,” CDR Nielsen reported.
This report was based on the continued existence of the static cloud and its steady movement forward. A handful of seconds later, LCDR Galliano gave a report update.
“Enemy battlestar approaching close-range threshold.”
LCDR Nielsen followed LCDR Galliano’s update by announcing a total of seventeen enemy starfighters were destroyed by Colossus’ railguns. Eight of them were destroyed inside Colossus’ combat zone and another nine were destroyed inside the basestar’s close-range zone.
“Enemy battlestar inside close-range zone,” LCDR Galliano called out a second later. “No incoming fire.”
The missing return fire was no great surprise to ADM Chaffin or CAPT Hoffman. They knew that railgun fire could be tracked back to the battlestar. They also knew that if the battlestar did not fire its railguns soon, it would be destroyed before it could.
“Twenty-four enemy starfighters destroyed,” CDR Nielsen shouted. “Fifteen starfighters in the combat zone with one starfighter approaching close-range.”
The mood within the command capsule was now noticeably elevated behind this report. Everyone could see that the bulk of the DPG09 starfighters were beginning to drift past the Colossus. All but one of the starfighters that were on a trajectory that would pass through Colossus’ lethal-range zone had been destroyed. The mood was further buoyed by the sight of the enemy battlestar moving out from under its static screen, turning red and then disappearing from the monitor.
“Battlestar destroyed,” LCDR Galliano bellowed. “Enemy sensor field is gone.”
There were several cheers and whoops from several crewmembers in the capsule. ADM Chaffin and CAPT Hoffman showed only a small measure of relief. They expected this ending for the battlestar. They had just turned their attention back to the starfighters that were falling past Colossus when they were startled by the shout “starfighter!”
“Enemy starfighter approaching lethal-range threshold,” CDR Nielsen called out. “Sensor field!” He yelled out an instant behind. “It’s got eyes,” he finished with alarm.
ADM Chaffin and CAPT Hoffman were shocked to see the lone starfighter charging forward along the same trajectory of the battlestar.
“Fire on that starfighter!” CAPT Hoffman yelled in panic.
LCDR Galliano was already action before the order was given. In less than two seconds, 160 railguns were spewing warheads at the approaching starfighter. Compared to the battlestar, the starfighter was tiny and far more agile. It continued to slip through the rain of warheads coming at it.
“Starfighter approaching lethal-range threshold!” CDR Nielsen yelled out in shock.
“DED engaged,” LCDR Galliano reported with alarm.
Immediately, the starfighter began producing its own static screen. A second later, the starfighter crossed into Colossus’ lethal-range zone. Suddenly the capsule went silent. Eyes filled with dread were fixed on the main holographic monitor. Everyone knew what could happen in the next couple of seconds. The starfighter was close enough to be an immense threat to Colossus, but it was also second away from being destroyed by Colossus. Inside the next second, the starfighter moved out of the static smoke screen it had produced, turned red and disappeared from the screen. But events were moving too fast for anyone in the capsule to experience any relief.
Evade! Evade! Evade!
The helmsman reacted to the computer alarm without waiting for orders. One second into his attempt to adjust the basestar’s profile so that it was edge on toward the threat, a slight jolt rattled through the capsule.
Hull breach, the computer reported.
“We’re tumbling,” the helmsman yelled.
This report did not surprise anyone inside the capsule. A slight feel of inertia had crewmembers on one side of the capsule leaning forward and to the left. On the opposite side, the crewmembers were being pushed back and to the right. Seconds later, two more jolts rattled the capsule. The pull of inertia was greater this time. Arms and hands flew up toward the capsule ceiling and torsos tugged at the restraints that kept them tethered inside their escape pods.
Multiple hull breaches—Main engines offline—Power production down 63%
Another jolt pressed the crewmembers hard to the left and back into their escape pods. In that same moment all the displays, monitors and lights in the capsule went out. A second later, the emergency lamps switched on and an alarm klaxon began blaring. The computer monitors began powering back up a couple of seconds after that.
Catastrophic failure—Reactors off-line—Capsule on battery power
In response to the basestar computer’s report, ADM Chaffin initiated the abandon ship operation with a voice command seconded by CAPT Hoffman and CDR Nielsen. The computer responded by empowering crewmembers throughout the basestar to eject their space capsule out of the framework that kept them secured beneath the hull. From the outside, these jettison sites looked like a large patchwork of hexagon lids built into the center of the basestar disk. One after the other, these lids began blowing away in quicken repetition. Beneath the lids were large cone shaped space capsules. Immediately after a lid blew away, the capsule blasted out and fell away into the surrounding space. Through his personal monitor, ADM Chaffin examined the tattered and broken remnants of Basestar Colossus as his command and control space capsule fell away into the black.