(36) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (140-1123)

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140-1123 : Tussinian / Trin's Veil / Spinward Marches

   It's 07:20, and what looks like the final engagement of the Battle of Tussinian has been going on for an hour and a half.

    On the Defender starboard bow is Tr-X-1, engaged in a maneuvering dance for position, facing off against the attacker fleets of Raweh (base layer) and Iderati (high position, second layer).  All three of these are being conservative, and none of them have taken noticeable losses, or even exchanged much serious fire.  Commodore von Krantzhoff is commanding the loyallist defense from the flagship of Tr-X-1.

    On the Defender port bow is Tr-X-2.
    Initially they were fighting Elixabet, but those attackers were routed and the remains are climbing towards the two fleets already out of action at the innermost moon.
    New Rome had been assigned to this location, but was pulled out of position and damaged by Nightshade.  The flagship and three other capships have been killed.  It has finished regrouping and is moving retrograde towards Tr-X-2 on the lower layer.
    Gl-X-1 moved from the bow of the third layer diamond to replace Elixabet.  They have engaged the defenders with heavy fire, but in the one-on-one conflict there has been no clear advantage.  Gl-X-1 holds the high position.
    The Glisten fleet has started to move from port of the top layer to join Gl-X-1, but made a bad approach and were caught with restricted maneuver in the gravity well.  Tr-X-2 took advantage of that to inflict significant damage.  They are still recovering from their mistake, and will have to engage at the base layer level.
    In about 20 minutes, Tr-X-2 might be facing three fleets.

    Defender port aft is Trin.  They have suffered heavy losses and are well under half strength.
    Emape was initially on the base layer here, ahead in the orbit.  They took the initial brunt of the conflict.  Nightshade hit this fleet at a critical moment, getting capship and cruiser kills and disrupting formation.  The resulting hole in the shield was exploited by Trin, driving Emape's formation into dispersed halves and forcing them to withdraw.  They are currently climbing to the reserve position by the innermost moon, but only just started to do so at 07:10.
    Motmos was in the high position, with more room to maneuver but expending more fuel.  They used position to gain the advantage in the early fight here.  They advanced strongly on Trin while the latter was out of formation and vulnerable, only to encounter Nightshade diving directly into the center of their front line, mission-killing six cruisers and one capship so far.  While there is a hole in their front facing the regrouping Trin, their capship core has demonstrated the capability to coordinate spinal mount shots on Nightshade's shields.
    Trin is still out of formation, exposing their rear to Motmos, but Nightshade has bought them time to regroup.  They will be very weak, however.
    Gl-X-2 has moved out of position from aft of the third layer diamond and is descending and moving forward in orbit to reinforce Motmos.

    Defender starboard aft is Murchison.  They are starting to yield under the heavier numbers facing them.  Jone and Mille Falcs are facing Murchison, Jone on the lower layer and Mille Falcs in the high position.  They are winning mostly by sheer weight of numbers.

    In the attacker third layer is the Darotukshi Tigress Battle Group, yet to move out of formation.

    At the top of the attacker pyramid is the Llanamith Tigress Battle Group, yet to move out of formation.

    On station matching the innermost moon on orbit around the mainword, well out of battle, are the remnants of the Egypt and Mirriam fleets.  Elixabet and presumably Emape are on their way to join them.  As yet, Santanocheev's actual whereabouts are unknown.

    Nightshade has expended 96 missiles -- four less than Sir Misha's initial allowance -- and is spearing head-on into the well-prepared Motmos fleet at the starboard-aft of the battle.

    It is 07:20.  The battle continues...

    Nightshade hurtles under full acceleration straight down the middle into the Motmos fleet.  Kalida fires at the flagship, taking it out with the expander.  It starts dropping rapidly.  Helia is doing her very best job at pilot, managing to dodge everything on the way through despite the speed.
    The Motmos capships deliver 5 meson gun shots directly on Nightshade's shields, perfectly coordinated.  The shields go down for the first time -- there's a big flash, and the shields dissapate visibily.  To those in sparkly pink, this is much more than just a prickly feeling.  It's not enough to be distracting, but it feels like they could really use some sunscreen.
    Thanks to Mich, however, there is no internal damage as he shunts the overload around.  He can't give a realistic estimate of how long it will take to get the screens back up.
    Shark is very impressed by the coordination of fire.  He suggests that they have some communication system that is allowing just one person to fire the spinal mounts of all these ships.

    Trin still regrouping, but will probably ready to engage by the time Motmos gets there.  Gl-X-2 is still 20 minutes from arriving.
    Tr-X-2 and Gl-X-1 are getting into very heavy fighting, but not taking too many losses now.  Glisten has pulled into postion and should be fully engaged at the base layer in 10 minutes.  New Rome is 20 minutes out.
    Murchison is doing a little better than expected, in other words not very well.
    At the starboard bow, however, von Krantzhoff's Tr-X-1 suddenly gets a positioning advantage over Raweh and unleashes heavy fire into them.  Iderati can't compensate for it, but is not in trouble themselves.

    At 07:30, Helia makes it out the other side without any collisons, but with a very near miss bursting right through the middle of a fighter formation on the way out.  On the way past Kalida fires the expander, taking out a significant capship among the possible targets.  After doing a quick tactical scan of the ships that could bring their weapons to bear, she also fires one salvo of eight missiles on a heavy cruiser, the missiles arriving just before it has a chance to fire, taking out its spinal mount, screens and the main bridge.
    Mich has managed to get the screens back up at about 60%, just in time to take two more meson gun hits.  The shields take the hits and immediately go right back down again.  Mich deflects the overload so there is no damage.
    These will be the last shots from this fleet on the way through.  They'll be clear now for a little while, although they are still in laser range and still being scanned.

    Elsewhere in the battle, the Trin fleet is now in as good shape as possible to face Motmos.  They two fleets engage, with no real losses on either side.  Gl-X-2 is still ten minutes away.
    Tr-X-2 is outnumbered but otherwise doing reasonably well against Gl-X-1 and Glisten.  New Rome has started their approach and is just 10 minutes out.
    Murchison is taking more losses from Jone and Mille Falcs, but has managed not to fold yet.
    Tr-X-1 is back into a maneuver contest with Raweh and Iderati, Raweh having been damaged in the last round.

    Nightshade's crew decide that given the current state of the battle, their best strategy will be to swing back up to the top layer and hit the fleets up there, with their primary target being the remaining Happy Fun Ball, Llanamith.  That will remove the best command and control ship from Santanocheev's fleets, even if he is not currently on board it.
    It will take them 10 minutes to slow down, another 10 minutes to get back into orbital velocity, a further 10 minutes minimum to engage, and an extra 10 minutes to hit the top layer.  They won't make their intention obvious until they're clear of laser range.

    At 07:40, Nightshade is still in laser range, but will be out shortly.  Helia is visibly stretching her wings out as she tries to slow down the ship as rapidly as possible, and Shark's football sensors register a definite spike.
    Shark checks the sensors and determines that there won't be any ships in the immediate area for a while.  He suggests that the crew should take a 30-minute break, except for critical core crew.  That would mean Helia, Mich, and also Shark to keep the tactical flow going constantly.  Vonish arranges a snack to be brought to those remaining on station.  Shark also suggests to Kalida that she might want to have a word with Jack and see if she can shed any light on where Santanocheev might be.

    Kalida first visits the lounge, and seeing that Jack is not here grabs two cups of coffee and heads back forward to the staterooms.
    When Kalida enters, Jack does have a tactical feed up, but it's only a subset of what she's doing.  Kalida explains that they're taking a short break for a while, and asks if she's been paying attention to what's going on.
    Jack says that she has, but she's not really a battle kind of person.  She asks how it's going.
    Kalida says it's going better than expected, but they probably aren't going to be able to delay them as long as necessary.  Still, they've caused enough damage that they're going to have to do some rearranging before they leave here.  She then moves on to the real subject, and says that she's been trying very hard to figure out where Santanocheev is.  She adds that there are several places that she knows he is not, but hasn't been able to work out where he might be.
    Jack says she's been working on that herself too, but she hasn't been able to come up with anything either.  She then asks about the plans.
    Kalida says they had to shoot themselves through a fleet as quickly as possible, so they're out of the main action right now.  The attackers don't know where they are now, and they're going to try to come in from a different direction.  She says that's allowed everyone to take a break.  In fact, Kalida's going to go and take a power nap now.
    Jack says quietly that she's been working on something, and while it isn't ready yet, if they're still here a couple of days after the battle, she might have something they can use.  It might be a little risky, though.  She asks Kalida not to tell the others yet.  She adds that it's along the lines of Robert's Blue Screen of Death Ray, but it has drawbacks.  If it gets to the point where it can be used, Jack says she'll let Kalida know so they have the option.
    Kalida agrees that they shouldn't tell anyone about it for the time, and goes off for her nap.

    Mich has been working on the shields.  He reports that he should be able to get them back at full strength in 15 minutes, which would be at 7:55.

    Shark is still monitoring the overall situation in the battle, of course.
    Trin, Motmos, and Gl-X-2 are now facing off and are fulling engaged in a maneuver confrontation.  Motmos at 40% strength.  They're all working by the book and looking for a local advantage.  That does mean it will probably take longer before anything else happens here.
    Tr-X-2 now facing three fleets: Gl-X-1, Glisten, and New Rome.  All are holding off, thoroughly backed out of tight fighting.
    Murchison is still holding on, amazingly, against Jone and Mille Falcs.
    Tr-X-1 is still maneuvering with Raweh and Iderati.
    Elixabet has made it to the wrecked fleet zone.  Emape is still on their way but now safely clear of any fighting.
    Some communications have been picked up, including some standard messages that Robert can easily interpret.  None of these are critical, however, and none give any clue to Santanocheev's location.  The transmissions do include a very surprised fighter squadron reacting to Nightshade streaking straight through their formation.

    By 07:50 Nightshade is out of laser range already.  They slip into stealth mode, then changing direction back and upwards towards the top layer.  It should take about 20 minutes to get there.

    Trin, Motmos, Gl-X-2, are into classic maneuver situation.  They're not really exchanging fire, just looking for an advantage.
    Tr-X-2 has maneuvered out of a tight enclosure, and is now in a clearer position.  Gl-X-1, Glisten, and New Rome are moving to re-engage.  Shark checks with his tactical staff whether they should withdraw.  Bridgehead says that they should still press their positional advantage, not try to withdraw -- if they did that with three fleets on them, it would probably turn into a rout and they would take heavy losses.
    Murchison is still holding on against Jone and Mille Falcs.
    Tr-X-1 is still maneuvering with Raweh and Iderati.

    At 08:00 they are now 10 minutes out from the top layer, and will be hitting laser range soon.  Everyone is called back to stations.  Shields are back online at full strength.  Their intention is to take out Llanamith and sweep through as fast as possible across an edge, so they can attack before the fleet has much of a chance to react.  They will be hitting the shell fairly flat, so it will be a real challenge to Helia's piloting skills to avoid a collision.
    Also, this time they will be hitting the best elite fleet in the entire attacker flotilla.

    Trin, Motmos, and Gl-X-2, still maintaining situation.
    Tr-X-2 advantage on Glisten, lets loose with heavy fire, clears.  This is the second big mistake the Glisten fleet has made in this engagement, and it's cost them heavily.  Gl-X-1 and New Rome clear of that firefight, but are working on maneuvering to a better position.
    Murchison is now getting a slight positional advantage, and manage to damage both Jone and Mille Falcs.
    Von Krantzhoff's Tr-X-1 has also moved into a clear advantage, and has inflicted losses on both Raweh and Iderati.

    At 08:10 they sweep into laser range.  Helia brings them in at a very high closing speed, shields up, and stealth off.
    It's a bad sign they they are picked up very quickly and tracked effectively by the lasers from the Llanamith Battle Group.
    On board their own ship, Callisto is tracking the fleet motion so Kalida can analyze later for clues to Santanocheev.
    Kalida has determined that Nightshade and the Llanamith fleet core will probably get the chance to open fire at pretty much the same time.  She could send some salvos in now, but it would not disrupt any ships that could fire on them.  She and Sir Misha decide to reserve the missiles for later.

    Trin is now starting to get into a tighter situation against Motmos and Gl-X-2.
    Tr-X-2, having exploited the advantage over Glisten, is back into a maneuver situation with them, Gl-X-1, and New Rome.
    Murchison is beating up on Jone, but Mille Falcs is ready to counterattack.
    Tr-X-1 is still holding with Raweh and Iderati.

    It's 08:20, and fire is finally exchanged with the Llanamith Battle Group core.
    Kalida inflicts more massive losses on the Imperial Navy budget in the Spinward Marches, and takes out Llanamith with one perfect shot.
    In return, the Imperial rebels land seven perfectly coordinated shots on the shields.  The shields go down right away, and will be down for quite some time.  Through some miracle of engineering skill, Mich manages to avoid any permanent damage to the ship.
    Helia takes them through the fleet formation and bursts into clear space beyond, slipping gratefully into stealth as soon as she gets the chance.

    Trin looks like it's about to get into a full-on engagement with Motmos and Gl-X-2.
    Tr-X-2 is managing to give Glisten, Gl-X-1, and New Rome the run-around.  How they're managing that is beyond comprehension.
    Murchison has been really lucky, they leave an opening but Mille Falcs can't exploit it.
    Tr-X-1 is still holding with Raweh and Iderati.
    The Darotukshi Battle Group is now on the move to attack Murchison.  It will be about 30 minutes before it gets there.

    It's 08:30, and they are in stealth and in the clear.
    So what to do now?  A quick discussion agrees with Shark to help whichever defending fleet is doing best.  The fleets that are doing poorly won't make that much difference, but if they can reinforce one that's doing well they can draw out that sector of the fight.  That one is selected as Tr-X-2, half an hour away.
    That's when Mich breaks the news on the shields, and it's not very good.  It's going to take an hour and half to get the shields back up, and clearly they can't go into battle without the shields.
    Shark's suggestion is that they go underneath the fight in stealth mode.  Obviously they'll have to go a lot more slowly in the atmosphere without the shields, but they can get into position.  If the fight's over before the shields are ready, they can then just move on to harrassing the refuelling operations.
    Callisto's record of the movements of the Llanamith Battle Group during their attack did not show up anything out of the ordinary.
    Nevertheless, Kalida tries to come up with a guess as to who was coordinating it.  The fire control was all coming from Llanamith, and of course that stopped once Kalida took out the flagship.  She sits back, clears her mind, and gazes into her mental crystal ball.

    The battle is finally starting to turn against the defenders.
    Trin is down to 30%, taking losses from Motmos and Gl-X-2, and is in serious trouble.
    Tr-X-2 in a bad situation too, pinned between Glisten and Gl-X-1, with New Rome backing them up but not significantly involved.
    Murchison on the other hand is getting clear from Jone and Mille Falcs, with the Darotukshi Battle Group still 20 minutes out.
    Tr-X-1 still holding on, von Krantzhoff playing his maneuver game with Raweh and Iderati.
    The Llanamith Battle Group is moving down to Tr-X-1, 30 minutes out.
    Emape has finally made it up to the reserve holding area.

    Shark is full of praise for the defender fleets and how they've been holding up against such vastly superior numbers.

    It's 08:20 and Mich has been working hard.  He announces that he's managed to cut 15 minutes off the repair time, and he'll be done in 1:05 from now.  Nightshade is now just 20 minutes out from Tr-X-2.

    The Trin fleet is finally going down, 10% and falling.  Motmos and Gl-X-2 are smashing up what's left.  Loyallist ships are starting to jump, and lifeboats and small craft are diving into the atmosphere as other ships are being abandoned.  Another 10 minutes and the fight will be over completely.
    On the other hand, Tr-X-2 manages to get out of the tight spot, no longer pinned, but all three fleets are now in good position to maneuver against them.
    Murchison holding on, and Jone and Mille Falcs can't exploit an advantage out there.  The Darotukshi Battle Group is just 10 minutes out now.
    Tr-X-1 manages to hit Raweh again quite hard, but Iderati doesn't suffer.  The Llanamith Battle Group is 20 minutes out from that fight.
    The wreck of Llanamith is still in orbit, and looks like it'll stay up there for a good many days yet.

    It's 08:30, and Mich has 55 minutes remaining to finish repairing the shields.  Nightshade is just 10 minutes from Tr-X-2, but staying in stealth mode outside laser range.

    The Trin fleet is gone now.  The victorious Motmos and Gl-X-2 fleets are regrouping, not moving out.
    Tr-X-2 catches out Gl-X-1 and New Rome and lays very heavy fire on them, but it's put them in a tight position relative to Glisten.
    Murchison is amazingly still holding on, but Jone and Mille Falcs are now reinforced by Darotukshi.
    Von Krantzhoff's Tr-X-1 is working on maneuvering position against Raweh and Iderati again, with Llanamith 20 minutes out.

    At 08:40, there's still 45 minutes until the shields are fully repaired.
    It's now that Kalida's crystal ball combines with Callisto and Robert's skills to determine that Santanocheev's personal directives are being transmitted from the innermost moon.  Suddenly that changes the priority target -- if there's a chance of getting Santanocheev himself, that is more important than helping out the defending fleets.
    Helia says it'll take 35 minutes to moon directly, but more like a full hour avoiding the fleets and their constant laser scan.  They'll time the approach to hit laser range in 45 minutes precisely, at 09:05.  At that time, if Mich is right, the shields will be up.

    Motmos and Gl-X-2 are still regrouping.
    Tr-X-2 gets clear of Gl-X-1 and New Rome, but Glisten slams into their rear.  The defenders take heavy losses.
    Murchison is taking fire from just Mille Falcs, while Jone and Darotukshi are still positioning.
    Tr-X-1 is maneuvering with Raweh and Iderati, but the Llanamith Battle Group is only 10 minutes out.

    It's 08:50.  Shields will be ready in 35 minutes.
    Kalida says that if Santanocheev isn't on the surface of the moon, he's relaying through there.  Callisto will probably be able to tell passively right before laser range whether it's a reflector or not.  If it is, as soon as stealth is taken down she can actively scan and pick out the location within a few minutes.

    At Sir Misha's request, Robert manages to get a tight-beam with von Krantzhoff's ship.  Sir Misha relays that he needs the Commodore to draw out the fight for an hour more if he possibly can.  If that means he needs to run and make the enemy chase him, that would be fine.  They need an hour.

    The Motmos and Gl-X-2 fleets are holding position in orbit.
    Tr-X-2 has pulled out of the bad position, but is down to about 50% strength.  The odds arenot good against Gl-X-1, New Rome, and Glisten.
    Murchison is still holding on against Jone, Mille Falcs, and Darotukshi.
    Tr-X-1 breaks clear of the now three fleets coming in on them (Raweh, Iderati, and Llanamith)

    At 09:00, Callisto can't make a determination if it's a reflector or actual transmitter yet.  She'll have to wait until they're just outside laser range, just a little closer now.

    Motmos and Gl-X-2 are still holding.
    Tr-X-2 and Gl-X-1 are engaged in a close fight, with New Rome and Glisten on the outskirts attempting to maneuver.
    Murchison's great run looks like it might be over.  They're in very bad shape now, pinned between the three fleets and down to about 20%.
    Tr-X-1 is holding clear with Raweh close by, but with Iderati and Llanamith lagging behind.

    It's 09:10, with just 15 minutes until the shields are ready.
    Callisto says there's a ship on the surface, a small courier, about 400 tons.
    A quick crew discussion results in a guess that it probably has a crew of no more than 5.  They make plans to board the ship.  They'll go down in stealth and detour around the fleets to get into position at the surface of the moon.  Then they'll pop out of stealth, disable engineering with a laser shot, and drop back into stealth.
    At that point the boarding party will go out in battledress and secure the courier by entering through the hole in the hull.  If Santanocheev isn't on board, work on the courier's computer should be able to determine where he was relaying from.
    Shark of course does his duty and points out that this could be a trap.  Still, even he considers the potential payoff to be so high that it is worth that risk.