Mobile Suit Gundam: Into The Abyss

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Into The Abyss

Post by Dendrobium Stamen » Sat Sep 15, 2007 8:06 pm

Mobile Suit Gundam: Into The Abyss

Phase-01: Chaos

Space, Between Debris Zones “Antipholus-E” and “Antipholus-S”, Thirty Thousand Kilometres From Lagrange Point 5.
Colonisation Age Year 98, July 17. 1730 Hours GMT.


Between two zones of space junk, a Kara-class cruiser of the Soviet Cosmonaut Armada, the Vladivostok, lay in wait. Its orders were to ambush and capture a warship of the Royal Orbital Navy, the space fleet of the British Empire. The ship’s captain, a weak man who owed his position to his Party membership, was none to keen on the orders, but they had come directly from the Motherland, so he would carry them out as best he could. Nicholas Petrovich sighed.

“Commander Petrovich, you seem perturbed. Not having second thoughts about this mission, I hope?” enquired the ship’s lanky Zampolit officer, Colonel Prokhor, his tone condescending as ever. The man was a political commissar, whose sole purpose was to ensure the continued loyalty of the commander and his crew; Petrovich knew Prokhor was even more cowardly than he, though.

“Not at all, Colonel. Merely considering the losses we’re likely to incur. The ship we’re tracking is a Type-22 British cosmo-cruiser, at least a match for us in direct combat, and I won’t remind you of the superiority of British mobile suits.”

Prokhor gulped slightly. “…Indeed. I expect, however, that you will carry out this operation to the fullest of your abilities, Commander?”

With a smirk, Petrovich replied. “Of course, of course…”

Sitting in the armoured Combat Information Centre, Petrovich was proud of his vessel. It was shaped roughly like a spoon, with a prow wider and taller than the rest of the ship, with a flat bottom. A pair of heavy dual-barrel railguns side-by-side adorned the prow’s flanks, with a triple-barrel beam cannon atop it. A dozen vertical-launch missile tubes were behind the bulge, at the point where the ship’s hull narrowed. On the aft hull, four heavy torpedoes were stored on telescoping launch rails. For defence, the ship had six 40mm CIWS turrets. The bottom of the bulge held a relatively basic hangar for three mobile suits, and currently carried a trio of Ro-138 Forger types, the old-model interceptor of the Soviet space forces; due for replacement by newer Ro-141 Freestyle models, Major Tanya Sablin made do with what she had.

The Soviet ship continued to lay in wait.

****************

Bridge, Her Majesty’s Space Ship Neptune.
Space Debris Zone “Antipholus-E”, Thirty Thousand Kilometres From Lagrange Point 5.
C.A.98, July 17. 1742 Hours GMT.


“Sir, this isn’t a pirate ship…” stated Constantine Harris, the Neptune’s radar operator. A Welsh man of average height and looks, his only particularly distinctive feature was being prone to overexcitement.

“Other than ‘not what we were sent to hunt’, can you narrow that down any further, Lieutenant?” replied Charles Ferdinand, the ship’s XO. His blonde hair was unusually long for a military officer, but still within regulations.

“Trying, all this debris is playing silly buggers with our radar… oh, bloody hell. Ship confirmed, sir: Kara-class Soviet cruiser.” Harris replied, somewhat flustered by the report.

From her chair, Captain Bridget Highfield listened to the report with interest. “A Soviet cruiser? Any idea of their intent?”

Highfield was one of the many captains of a Trafalgar class cruiser, one of the Type-22 warships commissioned into the fleet in the early ‘90s. Just over three hundred metres long, the long, sleek warship was well-equipped for battle. Its bridge tower, mounted above the engines, was protected by a pair of 105mm dual-barrel railcannons, in addition to the eight laser turrets, on each corner of the hull. The ship’s main offensive armaments comprised two dual-barrel beam cannons, on the flanks alongside the bridge, four forward-firing missile tubes, and two aft-firing ones. Finally, the ship’s hangar allowed it to carry four mobile suits – though it was far more cramped than the Type-24 design vetoed by the Ministry of Defence on cost grounds – with a main linear catapult on the ship’s deck ahead of the bridge tower.

“No sir, it seems to be running quiet, almost as if it’s laying in wait…” Harris said.

“That’s not good. Sylvie, order Lieutenant Morrison to put his team on standby, just in case. All bridge crew to CIC, put the ship on Condition Two.”

“Aye, sir.” Sylvie Ash, the ship’s MS controller, immediately set to work relaying orders to the hangar deck.

Meanwhile, XO Ferdinand was on the ship-wide address: “All hands, set Condition Two throughout the ship, repeat, all hands set Condition Two throughout the ship.”

All thoughts of her original pirate-hunting mission forgotten, HMSS Neptune prepared for an interception mission. Such operations were common in the current “Cold War” climate, but were becoming increasingly common of late.

****************

Pilot’s Lounge, Hangar Deck, HMSS Neptune.
Space Debris Zone “Antipholus-E”.
C.A.98, July 17. 1751 Hours GMT.


“Hangar, this is Bridge. Soviet cruiser confirmed on radar, prepare for long-range interception, Lieutenant.” ordered Sylvie Ash, her face on the wall-mounted comms screen. Lieutenant Commander Morrison always found her cool gray eyes reflected her all-business duty persona.

“Roger that, Bridge.” replied Laurence Morrison, the tall, dark-haired Welsh commander of the Fleet Space Arm’s 308 Squadron, commonly known as ‘Morrison’s Meddlers’. Currently assigned to the Neptune, the four members of 308 Squadron were aboard primarily for real-world testing of their new mobile suits. “All pilots will be on standby in three minutes!”

With a nod, Sylvie replied “Confirmed” and closed the connection. Laurence shook his head, wondering how the controller could change personality so drastically when off-duty. Turning to the remaining three members of his unit, Morrison passed on the instructions: “Alright, suit up! Everyone in their cockpits in three minutes, last one in gets the first round of drinks when we get back to The Rock!”

After his three subordinates dived into the locker room with reckless abandon, Morrison followed. He knew all four would have to strip off royal blue jackets, white trousers, and black boots to put on their white pilot suits, as he put on his royal blue one. He also knew that he’d be out of the locker room first.

Sure enough, in less than sixty seconds Laurence was changed and heading into the main hangar.

****************

Neptune’s hangar was a busy place.

The smaller Type-22 design of warship made for a cramped hangar, especially carrying the fleet’s brand-new mobile suits; three of English Electric’s new GST-343A Falcon models, plus one GST-347C Falcon Commander for Lieutenant Commander Morrison. The new model was taller and broader than the old Harrier or Hawk models, and so made for less room on the hangar deck than there had been with the older mobile suits. The main reason behind the size of the Falcon was the newly-finalised transformation system, which allowed it to switch into a high-speed fighter mode. All four were the latest Gundams in the service of the Fleet Space Arm, and as such were highly sought after by pilots.

The ship’s deck chief, Chief Petty Officer Adams, often said he’d far rather be servicing machines on a Vanguard-class carrier, or a Thunderchild heavy cruiser failing that. For all his claims, however, he enjoyed working with his deck crew, and enjoyed the freedom Captain Highfield offered him, far too much to request a transfer.

“Lieutenant, your suit’s ready!” Adams exclaimed. “Fuelled, armed and ready to go, though I still don’t trust these new nuclear fusion engines.”

Morrison smiled, Adams was known for keeping machines in good shape. “Thanks, Chief! Glad to know my team’s suits are in great hands.”

The Chief saluted as Morrison boarded his Falcon. The machine, the latest Gundam type of the Royal Orbital Navy, stood just over twenty metres tall, with angular armour that contributed to its largely robotic appearance. The only exception was the head, with its dual main cameras that resembled human eyes and the ‘chin’ antenna, set beneath a four-point gold V-fin – the mark of a commander, rather than a standard two-point silver antenna. The head also mounted four laser guns, to go with a pair of vibrating-blade sabres stored in the wings, ten missiles – three per wing, two per shin, a shield with two missiles and a multi-barrel laser gun, and a 115mm railgun rifle. When the machine switched into fighter mode, it lost use of its head lasers, but gained two in the head cover, and a quartet of dual-linked 50mm machinecannons.

All in all, the Falcon was a match for just about anything in space. With unrivalled mobility and plenty of firepower, combined with a new hybrid armour developed specifically for the Falcon project, it could go toe-to-toe with any other machine, even the Japanese Imperial Space Force’s new Wakizachi Mk.4 interceptor.

Just under three minutes after the order to standby was given, all four pilots from the 308 Squadron were secure in their cockpits. The last was, as ever, Hannah Drayman; even the new kid had beaten her.

“Sorry Hannah, first drinks are on you again.” Morrison stated over the squad comms channel, mirthfully. His MS was opposite hers in the hangar, Leo Andrews’ next to Morrison, and the new kid Daniel Bauer’s next to Hannah.

Hannah grumbled unintelligibly, unhappy to have lost the ‘race’ for the third time that month. Leo laughed, while Bauer looked… impatient. the three pilots had the machines’ centre-torso cockpit hatches closed, nametags above the hatches marked them as Lt. Hannah ‘Thunderbolt’ Drayman, Lt. Leo ‘Leopard’ Andrews, Sub-Lt. Daniel ‘Driver’ Bauer, and finally Lt. Cmdr. Laurence ‘Lifter’ Morrison. Their call-signs had come from their Academy days, Bauer’s far more recent than the rest of the squad. Only Morrison still had his suit’s cockpit hatch open, and would until he cleared the catapult; another Academy habit.

Aside from its V-fin, the only difference between Morrison’s machine and those of his subordinates was its colour. The standard Falcon was painted all in navy blue, save for their upper arms and thighs, which were painted white, and silver detailing; the Falcon Commander replaced white with black, and silver with gold.

Connecting to the CIC, Morrison reported in: “CIC, Morrison. Mobile suit team ready for launch, awaiting further orders.”

“Roger that, Lieutenant. Stand by for further orders.” Sylvie closed the connection after that. All-business, as ever.

Morrison stood by.

****************

Combat Information Centre, HMSS Neptune.
Space Debris Zone “Antipholus-E”.
C.A.98, July 17. 1804 Hours GMT.


With Condition Two set throughout the ship, the crew of Neptune were on combat standby, waiting for further orders. In the CIC, the crew prepared for combat, on the off-chance that this Soviet ship wanted a fight, rather than to probe the Empire’s defences. Fortunately, none of the pirate raiders Neptune had been sent to deal with seemed to be present; Captain Highfield wondered if the Soviet ship had destroyed them as ‘enemies of communism’ before her ship arrived.

Neptune, as with other Trafalgar cruisers, had a large CIC, dominated by the Command Table. Shaped like a large pool table, the Command Table had stations for the XO and Captain on its shorter sides, with two additional Warfare Officers manning consoles on each of the long sides; the purpose of the table was to maintain a constant, real-time view of the tactical situation. The port side had a further four consoles for radar and communications officers, the starboard had four for weapon control, and the aft two stations for helm and navigation. All in all, it took sixteen people to man the CIC, and all of them were thoroughly trained to bring out the best in the Royal Orbital Navy’s hardware.

“Launch mobile suits, XO.” ordered Highfield. “Let’s see what these Russians are doing…”

“Aye, Captain.” Ferdinand replied, picking up the comms phone. “Morrison, CIC. Launch your squad, Lieutenant, run a fly-by.”

“Roger that, CIC!” replied the MS commander, with more enthusiasm than he expected.

Setting his Falcon’s controls to ‘walk’, Morrison brought his machine out of its maintainance berth and moved aft toward the deck lift. The hangar had been emptied of mechanics minutes ago and the bay depressurised. With the crew clear, the deck lift had lowered to take an MS back up to the catapult; as the 308’s commander, Morrison would go first, leading from the front as per British tradition. Stepping onto the lift, Morrison turned his machine to face in the correct direction for launch, more carefully than before due to the Falcon’s width.

“Okay Chief, raise me!” Morrison ordered. With a quick confirmation from the top mechanic the lift started up, raising the Falcon up and onto Neptune’s deck six seconds later. Stepping forward, Morrison’s machine was on the catapult, ready to go. “This is Morrison, Falcon Commander launching!” he exclaimed; in response, Sylvie Ash in the CIC activated the linear catapult, firing the mobile suit from the ship’s bow at incredible speed. Even as he cleared the ship, Morrison could see Hannah’s machine stepping off the deck lift, already prepped to go.

Having achieved space, Morrison sealed his cockpit, filling the gap in his machine’s panoramic monitor, the spherical cockpit that gave him a complete view of space around him. He could feel the adrenaline building.

****************

CIC, Soviet Cruiser Vladivostok.
Between Debris Zones “Antipholus-E” and “Antipholus-S”.
C.A.98, July 17. 1809 Hours GMT.


“Are the mobile suits in position?” asked Commander Petrovich.

“Yes, sir.” replied an operator. The cramped CIC was dominated by a large forward monitor showing the view from the bow, with banks of consoles on either side of the control centre. “They’re hiding in the debris field, the British won’t find them easily.”

“Commendable zeal, Lieutenant!” exclaimed Colonel Prokhor, standing on the deck ahead of the commander’s chair. Petrovich shook his head.

Standing, the commander issued orders. “Show no sign of hostility until the enemy suits approach. When they do, show them what our point-defence guns can do, and send our own suits on the offensive.”

A variety of operators went to work relaying orders to the pilots hiding in the debris field and the gun crews. Meanwhile, Prokhor took notes on his senior officer’s ‘lack of patriotic ambition’, intending to report back to his Zampolit superiors on their return to the asteroid Ivangorod Fortress. If the battle went successfully, the report would mean a slap on the wrist and possible reassignment for Commander Petrovich; any slip-ups however, and the same report could mean demotion, or much worse. And, given his known pre-service association with the Russian Orthodox Church, officially banned by the Party, ‘worse’ could be on the cards for Vladivostok’s CO.

Deciding to ignore the political officer, Petrovich steeled himself for combat.

****************

Within Space Debris Zone “Antipholus-E”.
C.A.98, July 17. 1815 Hours GMT.


Major Tanya Sablin was an impatient woman.

Through the transparent aluminium of her mobile suit’s upper torso cockpit, she glared at the chunks of rock and metal that formed the debris zone, marvelling at how wasteful humans were. Computer-enhanced images projected onto the glass gave her readouts on the size and composition of the junk. No sign the British had found her or her comrades yet. Soon, their mobile suits would head for her mothership, and when they did, the Sablin Team would strike down the Royal Orbital Navy warship that was Tanya’s prey.

Her Ro-138 Forger, built by Romanov Industries, was an ugly machine, all things considered. It was bulky, with relatively basic systems compared to a British or Japanese mobile suit. Its limbs were flexible but basic, designed more on robotic lines than humanoid ones. Rather than holding its weapons, they were mounted on the ends of the arms in modular pods, and the feet were simple X-shaped things. To add to the arm weapons, there were four 40mm guns in the head, plus six180mm missile launchers below the cockpit. The cockpit itself required the pilot to physically look into space – with some computer enhancement provided by a single red camera in a hood-like head – rather than the enclosed ones common to other MS. The black suit’s thrusters were centred in its backpack and under a flared rear skirt.

Protected by thick Titanium-D armour, the Forger was all in all an adaptable and well-armoured mobile suit, but hopelessly incapable in a melee due to its lack of effective close-combat weapons and sub-par mobility. Many Soviet pilots, had, however, shown the effectiveness of the machine in its twenty year career, putting it to good use in hunting down space pirates and other ‘enemies of communism’.

Hiding behind a nearby rock, she could see Alexander’s Forger, a 90mm Gatling gun mounted on each arm. Her own machine mounted a dual-barrel 190mm cannon on its right arm, and an 820mm rocket launcher on the left; she had plans to lob a round through the British ship’s bridge, then the other two through its engines. Ambition is a dangerous thing, and Major Tanya had a lot of it. She had achieved the rank of Major without the benefit of Party connections, and sinking a British cruiser would only propel her further up the ranks.

Thoughts of promotion in mind, Tanya continued to wait.

****************

Within Space Debris Zone “Antipholus-E”.
C.A.98, July 17. 1819 Hours GMT.


‘Morrison’s Meddlers’ slowly advanced through the debris zone in a loose diamond formation. Laurence intended for them to fly in this shape, roughly six hundred metres apart, in order to navigate through the debris whilst also remaining alert for any surprises. Morrison led the formation, with Bauer to his left and Leo to his right, Hannah bringing up the rear slightly below the others. It covered them from all angles, but also gave them room to manoeuvre around the junk that had accumulated from pre-colonial spaceflight and later colony construction.

“Sir!” exclaimed Bauer, with too much enthusiasm. “Picking up something on radar, definitely not junk. Permission to investigate?”

“Negative, Bauer. In this environment, anything can look like ‘not junk’ on the radar. We have our orders, this is a Mark One Eyeball job investigating that Soviet cruiser.”

“If it’s a Mark One Eyeball job, does that mean we have to leave our camera-based, computer-enhanced cockpits?”

“…Shut up, Bauer.”

With a smirk, Bauer replied, “Yes sir.”

Laurence wasn’t particularly fond of his new subordinate. He had been friends with Leo and Hannah since their days at the Orbital Navy Academy, and had immediately chosen them when he had been given command of his own unit. The old ‘Fourth Meddler’, Zoe Rimmer, had been killed in a training accident with 333 Squadron eight months ago; the assignment to Neptune, with Bauer and the new-model Falcon, was Morrison’s first since, the Meddlers having been put on Reserve duty following the loss of one of their pilots.

Though he was a capable pilot, a prodigy by Fleet Space Arm standards having graduated as a Sub-Lieutenant at the tender age of nineteen, he wasn’t much of a people person, much to the annoyance of his squad-mates. Bauer also seemed to be carrying some sort of burning desire to prove himself, to take down an enemy mobile suit. For some reason his personnel file had been marked as ‘enthusiastic’, but all Morrison saw was a kid who hadn’t got to grips with the realities of being a soldier.

Something caught Morrison’s eye, though. While he hated to admit he’d overlooked something, it seemed Bauer may have been right. The superior radar of the Falcon Commander was picking up an object that certainly wasn’t space debris…

…it did, however, score a near-perfect match to a Ro-138 Forger, according to the combat computer. Why Soviet MS were hiding here, Morrison had no idea, but it didn’t bode well at all.

“Everyone, full stop!” ordered the commander. All four MS came to a total halt within a few moments. “We have enemy suits in here with us, we’re going to bypass them and head for the mothership. Neptune, you hear that? We have enemy MS hiding in the debris!”

“Roger that, Morrison.” replied Sylvie. A pause. “We are setting Condition One throughout the ship.”

Just then, however, all Hell broke loose. All four Soviet MS broke away at full speed, tearing toward Neptune. Bauer tried to get a shot off – in direct violation of British rules of engagement – but missed, as the quartet of Forgers sped toward their prey. Instantly, Bauer flipped his Falcon over, intending to give chase.

In the blink of an eye, the machine’s head cover slid upwards as the head rotated back following the shield’s attachment above the nose, the wings extended outward, arms locked to the torso after attaching the rifle to the crotch block, as both legs bent themselves to position the feet slightly above the main body as the feet pointed out. Even though it only took a second and a half, Bauer still believed the Falcon’s transformation into Fighter mode far too slow as he blasted off towards his mothership, faster than was possible in MS mode now all his thrusters pointed directly rearwards. The impatient pilot thought he could hear Morrison’s voice in his ears; he didn’t hear it though, the blood pulsing through his brain and thoughts of glory drowned out anything else.

“God dammit, Bauer!” exclaimed a distinctly pissed off Morrison. He had little patience for insubordinate subordinates, especially at a time like this. “Okay, Leo, Hannah, go for the warship. I’ll assist that daft bastard, if I don’t shoot him first!”

“Leopard, roger that.” replied Leo.

“Thunderbolt, aye sir.” Hannah chimed. “Good hunting, sir!”

Leaving his long-time comrades to engage the Kara they had been sent after, Morrison spent a moment wondering just who he was hunting, before switching his machine into Fighter mode and heading for Neptune like a torpedo.

****************

In Neptune’s CIC, Captain Highfield kept track of the approaching Soviets on monitors on the bow bulkhead, noticing the three-dimensional radar screen pick up allied suits closing despite the heavy interference being put up by the opposing vessel. That the ship had made it to Condition One so quickly filled her with pride, her crew impressing their captain once again.

“Hit those suits with cluster missiles, see if you can’t force them away!” she ordered, raising her head to face Charles Ferdinand, the ship’s blonde XO and senior CIC officer.

Ferdinand turned to face the weapons consoles on the CIC’s starboard side, relaying the firing order to Campbell Daud, the ship’s missile control officer: “Set targets on those suits, set missiles to discharge on radar tracking, all bow tubes.”

From the raised starboard platform of the weapons section, the missile controller replied, “Aye commander, firing now!”

A single missile, shaped like a triangular prism, shot out from each of the ship’s six bow missile launchers, blue-white rocket trails behind them. Operating on a proximity sensor, each missile darted towards the predicted location of the Soviet suits, hoping to crush them within a wall of micromissiles. As the missile’s sensor detected incoming objects of roughly mobile suit size, each of the missile’s three sides released thirty-six smaller rockets, the aim being to catch the Soviet machines as they flew through an area now saturated with deadly warheads.

The plan was semi-effective. One Soviet machine was caught right between two missiles’ discharges, the effect the warheads had similar to firing a pistol through paper as holes the size of a human fist punched through every part of the Forger. Its cockpit was torn to shreds easily, as was its main energy battery, the result a blue-white fireball jumping into existence where a heavy mobile suit once existed.

“Alex!” exclaimed the pilot of another Forger, this one suffering less fatal wounds, having merely lost its right arm and the Gatling cannon it contained.

The Soviet commander, whose machine was distinguished by the horn atop its head, quickly transmitted her orders. “Roman, take the warship. Dimitri and I will take these chasing suits.”

Roman, piloting the one-armed Forger, confirmed his orders and continued on his way, burning up propellant as he twisted and turned to avoid the lasers of the British cruiser’s point-defence system. Behind him, Dimitri and Commander Tanya had reoriented their machines to face their opponents, currently shaped like old-style cosmofighters.

****************

Despite the reduced agility of the Fighter mode form of the Falcon, Bauer somehow avoided being blown to bits in the hail of micromissiles fired by the Neptune. “Daud, you stupid bastard!”, the pilot cursed, still tearing towards his mothership. Not only had Neptune’s weapons officer almost killed him, he’d taken a potential kill from the young hotshot. As he did so, however, the two unscathed Soviet machines swung round, opening fire with their chest missile launchers the moment they did so.

His hotheadedness aside, Bauer was a surprisingly good pilot. With a turn of speed that impressed even Morrison, the young pilot brought his machine above the line of fire, switching the Gundam into its MS mode as he did so. Grabbing the suit’s railgun rifle, the young pilot snapped off a pair of shots, the two so close together they appeared to be a single blast. Thanks to the amazing reaction times of Bauer’s mobile suit compared to the Soviet Forgers, he successfully destroyed one Forger’s head, the double-shot penetrating right through the machine’s mono-eye and sensor computer, leaving it blinded; Soviet MS’ backup cameras were notoriously slow in coming online, and had far slower computers than their British or Japanese counterparts.

Before Bauer could take advantage of this, however, the horned Soviet commander machine entered the fray, firing its quartet of head machineguns to force the British aggressor away. As it did so, a volley of missiles swept in from nowhere; Lieutenant Morrison and his Falcon Commander had arrived, quartet of shin-mounted 220mm missiles pounding the torso of the blinded enemy warrior. Its heavy titanium-D armour protected it from most of the missiles’ intensity, but had weakened the armour and its anti-laser skin to the point at which all it took was a few needling shots from the lasers in the nose of Morrison’s machine to finish off its cockpit.

“Damn commander!” Bauer screamed, perceiving his kill as being stolen. It took the pilot a few moments more to realise that the Soviet he had damaged was moments from firing the remainder of its chest missiles into the Falcon’s torso. It was at this point, however, that the Soviet commander did fire her machine’s chest missiles, pelting Bauer’s Falcon with half a dozen 180mm warheads. Despite the advanced hybrid armour used in its construction, Bauer’s mobile suit was heavily damaged, and when the lead Forger fired the massive 820mm bazooka mounted on its right arm, the Falcon was destroyed instantly.

“BAUER!” exclaimed Morrison, angry both at his young subordinate and at the Russian who’d killed him. As his machine was now directly facing the mothership, Morrison restrained his fire, instead choosing to duck within Neptune’s CIWS laser coverage, transforming the Falcon Commander into MS mode above the mothership’s catapult as Charles Ferdinand’s CIC crew fired the ship’s lasers toward the Forger. Despite its bulk the Soviet managed to avoid the streaks of fire, firing the second and third shots of its heavy bazooka towards Neptune. The first blast was easily shot down thanks to the auto-tracking system on the CIWS guns, but the second destroyed the ship’s bridge, fortunately unmanned; the distraction allowed Tanya to throw her machine beneath the relatively undefended – but heavily armoured – bottom of the Trafalgar-class ship, swinging around to its engine block.

As she lined up the 190mm dual cannon attached to the suit’s right arm, though, a blue and black Falcon appeared above her, having flown over the stump of Neptune’s ruined bridge tower. Morrison, senses amplified by a sense of vengeance and desire to protect his ship, opened fire with his Falcon’s shield laser cannon, perforating the arm-mounted heavy gun before it could fire, rendering it useless.

Distracted, Commander Tanya opened up with the guns in her machine’s head to try and ward off the enemy encroaching on her space, but the 40mm bullets were easily deflected on the Falcon’s curved shield. Mounting its rifle on its rear skirt armour, Morrison chose to exploit the major weakness of all Soviet mobile suits: lack of close combat weapons. Drawing the vibrating-blade sabre from his machine’s right wing, the Lieutenant swooped in towards the Russian-made robot, blade ready to plunge through the enemy’s cockpit. As the British sword penetrated Soviet armour, Morrison felt no regret at taking this enemy’s life.

****************

As this was going on, Leo and Hannah drove towards the Vladivostok, the 40mm machineguns dotted across its bulbous prow doing nothing to drive them away. With both mobile suits in Fighter mode, it was easy to unleash all ten of their missiles, which streaked towards the cruiser in a loose enough collective that only a handful were cut down, sixteen impacting across the Soviet ship, destroying its main railguns, one of its beam cannons, and half a dozen machinegun turrets.

Swooping above the Soviet vessel, both machines made use of their attached rifles as turrets, piercing enemy armour across the dorsal side of the vessel before flying over its engines and switching into MS mode. After Leo fired a parting shot at the Kara-class vessel’s missile launchers, setting off a few missiles in their launch tubes in the process, and Hannah put paid to the upper pair of torpedoes, the two pilots sped back to their mothership.

****************

“Commander, do something!” exclaimed Prokhor, clearly terrified by the turn of events.

“There is nothing to do. We have no fighting ability, not compared to that British ship, and no mobile suits. We are finished.”

Prokhor’s terror turned to rage. “Do something, damn you!”

“No need…” Petrovich replied, peacefully, noticing that the British ship was advancing, cannons ready…

****************

“Captain, the enemy suits have been destroyed, looks like Andrews and Drayman did a good job on that Kara too.” reported Constantine, his face set in a relieved expression.

“Good, good.” she replied. Captain Highfield knew that this would surely lead to war, however. “No doubt the Russians are preparing to declare war anyway, and wanted our demise to announce it. Fire the beam cannons at their bridge, simultaneous fire, one round.”

“Aye, ma’am.” the order was fairly typical of Orbital Naval policy, the destruction of an enemy’s CIC was the ultimate confirmation of their inability to fight, so had no hesitation in aiming the ship’s heavy guns toward the enemy’s prow. They did after all have a functioning beam cannon left, as well as two torpedoes.

A quartet of blue beams tore across space moments later, cutting through the forward hull of Neptune’s opponent with an ease only superheated plasma could manage. The Soviet ship, already lacking most of its arsenal and – thanks to damage across the ship’s spine – much of its command capabilities, submitted easily to the beams.

Ninety-eight years after the Colonial Age began and humanity began living amongst the stars, the first true space war was beginning.

****************

Portsmouth Rock Space Harbour, Lagrange Point 5.
C.A.98, July 19. 0844 Hours GMT.


A day and a half after its baptism by fire, Neptune returned home.

****************

Almost a century ago, the three key powers on Earth – the British Empire, the Japanese Empire, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – had entered a period of détente, their hegemonies over the planet having reached as far as was possible without descending into an all-out global war. The USSR, born out of Lenin’s revolution in the former Russian Empire, controlled Eastern Europe and northern Asia, with Germany across its western border, Japanese China at its southern. Japan, its empire having grown considerably, controlled much of South East Asia, with China and Korea under its control.

Nobody doubted that the real global superpower was the British Empire, however. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth IV, oversaw the British Isles, the Indian Subcontinent, much of Africa, and all of Oceania, though the true jewel in the crown was in North America, British colonies comprising almost the entire continent, only the former Spanish colony of Mexico eluding the Empire north of the Panama Canal. It was the formidable standing armies raised to keep the Spanish at bay in Texas and California, and in Alaska to ward off Russia, that had allowed Britain to successfully vanquish the German Empire in the Great War that followed Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in 1914 of the old Anno Domini calendar.

Following this ‘war to end all wars’, the German Empire collapsed, though the generosity of King George V allowed the newly-formed Federal Republic of Germany to recover and prosper, though at the cost of its African colonies. The French Republic fared less well from the conflict however, with its own colonies in Indo-China lost to Japan and its economy ruined; after a brief disastrous flirtation with fascism, France recovered to become an equal with Germany, strong within Europe but no longer a major power on a global scale. A similar story played out in Spain.

With one of the world’s largest populations, and some of its most innovative minds and dauntless leaders, it was no wonder that Britain had led the move into Space, beginning with the creation of the Great Londinium lunar city in the moon’s Copernicus Crater. From here, the Empire went on to build dozens of massive orbital space colonies at Lagrange Point 5, based on the Island-3 design of BASA scientist Gerard K. O’Neill, hence the informal name ‘O’Neill Cylinder’ given to the thirty kilometre long settlements.

Quick to jump on the bandwagon, the Soviet Union laid claim to the Aristoteles Crater – in the name of the Soviet people, of course – and began their own colony construction plan at L4, using the same colony design. Japan, which had little desire to go into space, followed suit a few years later, but utilised its own colony design, known as the PLANT type, at L1, built from the initial staging grounds of the Zodiac space station and the relocated asteroid Erato, a rock ninety-five kilometres in diameter.

Predictably, and somewhat regrettably, the militaries of the key spaceborne nations were quick to follow the civilians making new lives for themselves in space. In space, technology boomed just as the population did. With a network of space stations throughout their territory, nobody doubted that the Soviet Union’s newly-formed Cosmonaut Military was anything to mess with. Similarly, the Japanese Imperial Space Force, having converted Erato into its new Sakura Island fortress was well equipped for space warfare. The British Empire naturally fell into step, using the Royal Navy as the basis for the new Royal Orbital Navy.

Warfare in space, much like warfare on Earth, was now the domain of the giant robot. Advances across the board in technology had made these weapons, named mobile suits, a feasible tool of the military, rather than fantasies of science-fiction. Taking the spot of another old sci-fi fantasy, the powered armour suit, the mobile suit was invented by the Japanese Army to reinforce their defences on the Japanese-Soviet border; almost ten times the height of a soldier in PA, an MS was immune to all but the most ferocious attacks by the smaller soldiers, capable of directing larger and more powerful ordinance over greater ranges, and most importantly more able to defend themselves against precision air-strikes.

Overnight, the balance of power tipped hugely in favour of Japan, prompting a massive catch-up operation by the British Armed Forces and the Soviet Military. Awakening from years of complacency the British Empire went on to field numerous powerful MS on Earth and in space, whilst the Soviet Union took its typical approach of massive numerical superiority.

And against this backdrop, war was breaking out once more…

****************

In her home port, Her Majesty’s Space Ship Neptune moored at one of Portsmouth Rock’s many piers. Around her, dozens of other ships of the Royal Orbital Navy lay at rest, though Captain Highfield knew that the whole fleet was itching to go into battle. It just wouldn’t be cricket for them to leave the Red Spacy for anyone else. Still, as the first ship to go into battle against the Soviets, she felt that her ship deserved a front seat in the next major battle.

“Captain, docking is complete. We’re home.” reported Elaine Darling, Neptune’s perky navigator.

“Good. Begin disembarking the mobile suits, then prepare to disembark the crew.” the CO ordered, glad to be back at a safe harbour. Unfortunately then she saw the mobile suits begin disembarking… three of them, not four. “I’ll leave this to you, XO.” she said, turning to Lieutenant Commander Ferdinand.

“Aye, ma’am.” the peroxide blonde Scot replied. Though tall, Neptune’s XO was unusually thin, to Highfield it appeared the navy-shouldered gray uniform jacket and black trousers of the RON uniform hung off him. He was also one of the ship’s more popular officers, which made the somewhat reserved captain slightly frustrated. As his superior left the bridge, Ferdinand watched over the surviving Gundams from 308 Squadron, known to the Space Fleet Suit Arm as ‘Morrison’s Meddlers’, as they departed through a hatch to one of the base’s many mobile suit hangars, passing an obsolete Albion battlecruiser as they did so; the older ship had been developed when beam weapons were new and novel, mounting four triple-barrel railcannons and six missile tubes as their main weapons, with a pair of ‘knockout blow’ short-range beam cannons in the prow. The new Yorkshire class battleships hugely outclassed those old relics.

The XO, satisfied that Lieutenant Morrison hadn’t led his team into the core of a nuclear reactor or something similarly stupid by accident, sat down in the captain’s chair and began looking over the latest bulletin of Orbital Observer, the space forces’ newspaper, on a datapad. It seemed that the fleet was taking things seriously, bringing ships intended for the scrapyard out of Lunar yards – ships like the Albion nearby – and bringing thousands, tens of thousands in fact, of reserve forces personnel back to active service.

With a sigh, Ferdinand oversaw the shutdown of the ship he hoped to command someday, tapping out the notes to an old song called “Summer of Sixty-Nine” on the chair’s arm, eagerly awaiting tonight’s karaoke night.

****************

Piper Bar, Main Gravity Block, Portsmouth Rock Space Harbour, Lagrange Point 5.
C.A.98, July 19. 1215 Hours GMT.


Having signed off on their mobile suits, putting them into cryogenic storage in one of the hangars assigned to the SFSA’s 3 Group, the pilots of ‘Morrison’s Meddlers’ entered The Piper, a favourite bar in the main space fortress of Britain’s Orbital Navy. Even at midday the place was packed, a testament to its popularity amongst pilots, as well as to bad base design; most pilots agreed it should be at least twice its current size.

Sat around a small table, Lieutenant Morrison and his two surviving subordinates, both Sub-Lieutenants, were amassing an impressive collection of empty neo-plastic shot glasses; though they may not have particularly liked him, the death of a comrade was a serious affair, especially when that comrade had become the first casualty of a war. For the Space Fleet Suit Arm, the immediate reaction to any serious affair was heavy drinking, a tried and tested method which had been proved to succeed in almost all cases, though it was known to sometimes produce unpleasant after-effects.

A screen on one wall of the bar was showing the BBC News. Through slightly booze-blurred eyes, Morrison could see very little was wrong with the world, apart from some kind of breaking story on nuclear explosions at the Japanese Space Force’s asteroid fortress…

“…Waitaminute.” Morrison slurred, drawing the screen to the attention of Hannah and Leo. “Thass not right, isit?”

“Is it? It could be…” mumbled Leo, already feeling somewhat the worse for wear; Leo had always been the lightweight drinker of the trio.

“It’s not!” replied Hannah, who’d just swallowed a ‘purge pill’, which neutralised the alcohol content in her bloodstream in record time. Passing one over to each of her male companions, she continued: “The news reckons the Soviets attacked, but all we know at the moment is that there’ve been massive explosions on Sakura Island…”

Laurence sighed, wishing his old friend and ‘fourth Meddler’ Zoe Rimmer was still alive. With a second, guilty sigh, the commander swallowed the alcohol-killing pill, and tried to focus his attention on the screen. Nobody knew why the Japanese asteroid fortress had suffered this damage, but it couldn’t be anything innocent. It was impossible to believe one of the military ‘expert’ commentators claiming it was a Soviet attack with Inter-Stellar Ballistic Missiles, or ISBMs; even absolute rook pilots in the SFSA knew Sakura had space mine halos intended to destroy exactly those.

Leo, having taken the pill and forgotten once again that he was allergic to its active ingredient, dashed off to the bar’s nearest toilets. He would, as usual, rely on the ‘other’ method of evacuating one’s system. Hannah sighed, “When will he ever learn?”

The commander simply smiled, immediately returning his attention to the news. The bar was coming alive with discussion on the topic, though it was all useless speculation at present. Nobody doubted something was afoot, but there’d probably be nobody outside the SIS – better known as MI6 – had even the slightest clue about the situation.

Fleet deployment was inevitable, though. Even if it was just a relief force of Irish class supply ships, Britain’s diplomatic ties with the Japanese Empire made a formal response compulsory, for the sake of preserving those ties. What effect this debacle would have on the Japanese Space Force remained to be seen, though. Nobody doubted the quality of Japan’s fleet; their excellent ‘Jack of all trades’ Shizuoka-class mobile cruisers were at least on a par with the Trafalgar, and even the skipper of a Yorkshire-class battleship would be nervous at the prospect of facing his Japanese counterpart on a Saga-class ship.

Either way, Morrison had no doubt he’d see combat again, soon enough. The only question now was who would replace Daniel Bauer…

****************

Space Fleet Suit Arm 3 Group Hangar Deck 4A, Portsmouth Rock Space Harbour, Lagrange Point 5.
C.A.98, July 19. 1856 Hours GMT.


“These new ’uns with the nuclear engines are a lot harder to work on than some of t’ older types, y’see. On the old Hawk it was easy, just recharge the battery and go. Easier to work on than t’ Harriers though, with the dual power supply, half-battery, half-nuclear. What a ‘mare they were!” the 308’s chief mechanic, Chief Petty Officer Adams, explained. The friendly engineer had been servicing mobile suits for fifteen years, and had seen the end of the Hawk’s era in the SFSA, the whole trouble-plagued existence of the Harrier, and was now helping usher in the era of the Falcon. This didn’t mean he liked it too much though, the idea of servicing machines with nuclear fusion reactors in their bellies rather than old-style hyper-capacitors unsettled him.

Leo smiled agreeably. “The nuclear types have their problems for us pilots, too. See, the battery types had less power, but they’d get to full power a lot faster, which’d be a lot better in fleet defence. Course, the nuclear engine gives way more power, so we can take on bogies further from our ships, plus it gives the suits far more endurance in combat.”

As the two chatted, Adams’ team soldiered on, getting the suits of the 308 Squadron ready for another fight. Though they hadn’t been given any orders yet, Lieutenant Morrison was convinced that ‘The Meddlers’ would be reassigned to Neptune and sent into the next fleet engagement. Rumour had it that Fleet Command wanted to launch a direct attack on the Soviet’s space bases. With a big enough fleet, it would be easy enough, but Leo doubted FleetCom had the nerve to risk deploy that many ships at once, unless the ships were packing nukes. They could outfit some Harrier Torpedo Bombers with nuclear launchers too, but that’d mean giving ‘trigger-happy flying fools’ the big shiny weapons, something FleetCom hated the idea of almost as much as risking their big shiny warships in actual combat.

Well, all except Admiral Ross, who had established a reputation in wargames for throwing his fleet headlong into battle with little regard for consequences. It worked, apparently. Now combat-tested, Leo hoped to serve under Ross’ command.

****************

“Just as long as we’re not under Admiral Ross’ command, I’ll be happy…” mused Hannah. His reputation in wargames didn’t impress her.

“When did we get a choice of admirals? I’d take Cain any day…” replied Laurence, thoughtfully.

“Is she still serving in the main fleet? I thought she’d been transferred to Special Tactics?”

Laurence shook his head. “Temporary job after Dubois retired, they gave Ackbar the permanent job. He claimed it was a trap to keep him from retiring.”

“I see…”

“Anyway, Ross isn’t that bad an admiral, really. His tactics keep suit losses way down compared to the way Ackbar used to command. It’s a good thing he’s in Special now, for us at least.” asserted Laurence.

“Whatever. Go help fix your Gundam.”

****************

“That’s odd…” noted a mechanic, running a check on the MS operating system in Leo’s machine. As powerful and versatile as it was, the current incarnation of the GUNDAM OS was still prone to the occasional glitch, ‘teething troubles’ as some described it. Adams’ man shut down the main computer in the cockpit, and pressing the power switch on the right arm panel saw a familiar screen:

Gressorial
Unified
National
Defence
Armoured
Mecha

GUNDAM OS – version 06.01.20 Beta
Royal Orbital Navy Mobile Technologies Force


The new version had been integrated into the suit force only two months ago, so it was hardly surprising that it was still slightly unstable, and required near-constant patching to filter out the bugs which kept cropping up. Still, this one was easy enough to track down, a simple memory conflict; nothing harmful, but it could have caused some momentary freezing in the panoramic monitor.

Shutting the system down again, the mechanic went back to work.

****************

Space, Two Thousand Kilometres From Portsmouth Rock Space Harbour, Lagrange Point 5.
C.A.98, July 20. 0930 Hours GMT.


Almost a week after the first shots were fired, the Royal Orbital Navy was going to war.

Centred around the flagship-carrier Nelson, a giant of a ship at almost eight hundred metres long, the fleet comprised thirty ships, a full quarter of the Navy. Nelson alone carried sixty-four mobile suits, with thirty-two more on eight Trafalgar cruisers, another thirty-two on four Thunderchild battlecruisers, plus sixteen standing on special platforms behind the command tower of four Yorkshire battleships. The remaining ships of the fleet were split between Lancashire fleet-defence frigates (‘Flying CIWS class’) and Surrey destroyers, all vital to the working of the force.

Whilst centre stage in the mobile forces was being taken by 2 Group on the Nelson, 3 Group had taken stations on the Trafalgar and Thunderchild ships. 308 Squadron, ‘Morrison’s Meddlers’, were back on the Neptune, and ready for a fight, their fourth man having arrived a mere day before deployment from 3 Group HQ at the Ebor colony.

They were going to get it.

****************

Phase-01 End.

Another fic, another idea… this one’s a very AU, diverging well before the modern day. More to come in Phase-02: Impulse!

****************
"Trust me, I know what I'm doing." - Sledge Hammer.
A Wind Raging Through, a Destiny sidestory.

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Post by Dendrobium Stamen » Sat Sep 15, 2007 8:07 pm

And so, onward with the fic! Presented here for your amusement are the first two parts of Phase-02, a chapter in three parts. Given that this chapter is named Impulse, just guess what the parts are named...

****************

Phase-02: Impulse / Stage-01: Force

Buckingham Palace, London, England.
Colonisation Age Year 98, July 23. 1200 Hours GMT.


“Good evening, from Buckingham Palace. As has been reported by many news outlets, a warship of the Soviet Union’s space forces attacked and heavily damaged a vessel of our Royal Orbital Navy. As the British Empire is committed to bringing an end to all conflicts within the sphere of human influence, such an event cannot be ignored.”

Queen Elizabeth IV, reigning monarch of the British Empire was, three days after the Battle of Antipholus – as it was already being called – addressing the world via the British Broadcasting Corporation. Across the Empire, almost seven billion people were watching, and the BBC had no doubt the broadcast was being viewed by the five billion others within Soviet, Japanese, and neutral territories.

“As our diplomats, including Prime Minister Snowdon himself, have failed to reach any compromise with Soviet leaders, the British Empire and its Dominions have issued a formal declaration of war to the Supreme Soviet in Moscow. Let us pray for the success of the Royal Orbital Navy in their fleet actions and our forces here on Earth, defending all God-fearing people of the Empire against communist aggression. Thank you all, and good night.”

****************

Orbital Naval Station New Mombasa, Kenya.
C.A.98, July 24. 1420 Hours GMT.


On the coast of Africa, the British Empire’s largest terrestrial spaceport was preparing for war.

Mombasa played home not only to the New Mombasa orbital elevator but two major mass-drivers, capable of launching a massive quantities of equipment and manpower into space in far less time than old-fashioned rockets, and at a far lower cost. The city’s location near a huge body of water, as with the Lake Victoria mass-driver, gave it access to a huge amount of liquid to cool the electromagnet system. In priority situations, Mombasa was capable of launching spacecraft with massive boosters to tear them from Earth’s gravity.

Today, New Mombasa would only require its modern facilities, as the launches would be relatively light.

Amongst those preparing to launch into space aboard an Irish class transport ship was Rear Admiral Robert Lee-Morrison. Having spent the past half-decade in relative obscurity, the flag-rank officer had been reactivated as new commander of the Knight Watchmen.

I wonder how Laurence is doing… it’s been five years… thought the Admiral, thinking of his son, now an accomplished Fleet Suit Arm pilot. It saddened him that his son had only kept his mother’s name, but it was no surprise.

“Admiral?” the overly-timid nature of his aide, the lanky Lieutenant Jackson, annoyed Lee, but he dismissed it as youthful inexperience. “Our transport is boarding, please come this way.”

Sure enough, an announcement informed those waiting that passengers waiting to launch aboard the County Down should make their way to the boarding area.

Sighing mentally, the aging admiral stood from the generic uncomfortable chair favoured by bureaucrats who designed waiting areas across the Empire. At his full height, Admiral Lee-Morrison was an impressive man, standing two metres tall in his stocking feet. The officer was as intelligent as he was broad-shouldered, having never been less than perfect in his professional life – the ideal man to command the Knight Watchmen. In his personal life, however, perfection was always out of reach.

“Let’s go, then. Admiral Thiong’o can’t be kept waiting forever…”

****************

Bridge, HMSS Neptune, Fifty-Nine Thousand Kilometres Out Of Lagrange Point 4.
C.A.98, July 24. 1443 Hours GMT.


“Are we there yet?” moaned Lieutenant Morrison, growing slowly bored. From his position at the back of Neptune’s newly-fitted bridge, he had been asking the same question every quarter of an hour or so since the ‘day’ shift started at 0800.

“For the…” Ferdinand consulted a number on his datapad, “twentieth time, NO!”

“Are you sure?” Morrison replied. “We must be getting close…”

“If you think you could get there any faster, you’re welcome to take your Gundam out and go yourself, Lieutenant.” interjected Captain Highfield, patiently. “Otherwise, please let my bridge crew go about their duties without reminding us all that we’re still on our way to Soviet space.”

“Aye, sir. Permission to go below, in that case?” replied Morrison.

With emphatic nodding from Ferdinand, Ash and Daud, and Darling’s giggling, Captain Highfield replied with a simple “Granted.”

****************

CIC, HMSS Horatio Nelson, Fifty-Nine Thousand Kilometres Out Of Lagrange Point 4.
C.A.98, July 24. 1446 Hours GMT.


At the front of the British fleet line, the flagship of what was being termed the ‘Grand Fleet’, HMSS Horatio Nelson, spearheaded the push towards Soviet space. Flying the flag – literally, as tradition demanded – of Admiral Lord Jonathon Ross, Britain’s space forces set out to begin retaliatory actions against the USSR, aiming to conquer the enemy’s Ivangorod Fortress before it had the chance to launch a major fleet action.

Separated by a hundred kilometres each, a pair of Yorkshire-class battleships sailed on either of Nelson’s flanks, the Leeds and Sheffield to port, Bridlington and Wakefield to starboard. With four triple-barrel beam cannons and six triple-barrel 750mm railguns, as well as ten dual-barrel 105mm railguns, eight missile launchers, and a variety of anti-MS missile and CIWS batteries, the Yorkshire-class were the most formidable battleships in space. Though their mobility was inferior to a Japanese Yamato-class, the British ships were better armed, and their Ferranti/Marconi sensor systems were far superior.

Few people could believe that global affairs had descended into war. On Earth, combat in space seemed a far-away thing, something to read about in newspapers and see on the news networks. There were those in the British Empire that believed war had been declared too quickly, mostly bleeding-hearts willing to ignore that an Orbital Navy warship had been deliberately fired on by Soviet guns; oddly, many of these same people were also quite prepared to ignore what had been determined as Soviet sabotage to the Sakura Island asteroid fortress, an act of war against a nation Britain was treaty-bound to support.

To Admiral Ross, politics was merely a sideshow for people on Earth. The realities of the world were drawing nearer to his flagship. “How long until we’re in firing range?”

One of Ross’ staff officers consulted his datapad, wireless-linked to the ship’s computer. He knew this was the Admiral’s impatient way of asking if they were there yet, and mentally sighed. “Eighteen hours, this speed, sir.”

“Hmm. If it weren’t so wasteful I’d have the whole fleet move up to flank speed for a few hours. No matter. Carry on, Mister Willis.”

“Aye, sir.” Commander Rudyard Willis, Ross’ staff officer, hated ship deployments, and longed for a return to the space colony Londinium and a comfortable desk job.

Around him, the expansive CIC went about its business. The command centre was built on two tiers, reminiscent of a theatre. The smaller upper tier controlled ship’s functions – navigation, weapons, mobile suit launch, etc. – whilst the large lower tier coordinated the operations of an entire fleet, tracking both friendly and foe ships and mobile suits. Both tiers, linked by ramps on either side, faced an enormous three-dimensional display, which showed the face of the entire combat zone. Standing beside Ross at the front of the upper tier, Willis couldn’t help but be impressed.

And a Vanguard-class carrier was certainly impressive. With eighty people in the CIC at any one time – twenty for the ship, sixty for the fleet – the room was surprisingly un-cramped, nestled as it was in the core of the ship. Even the sixty-four mobile suits stored on Nelson’s four hangar decks had more spacious arrangements than could be found elsewhere in the fleet. The ship, essentially of catamaran design – though the two hulls merged about six hundred metres aft – fitted two MS decks into each of its large, fork-like prows, a dozen mobile suits on each.

The price for all this, of course, was firepower. Certainly, the ship had twenty-four missile launchers set in dorsal and ventral vertical arrays, as well as sixteen anti-MS micromissile pods and sixty CIWS lasers, but even though it could defend itself against enemy robots with relative ease, in ship-to-ship combat its ‘missile swarm’ type of firepower would be of little use against a ship with decent CIWS protection and powerful beam cannons – or railguns, better yet.

Though plasma beam weapons were the most recently developed and most advanced of those used in space warfare, they were generally considered superfluous. A railgun, it was accurately said, could cause just as much damage, and its electromagnetic coils required far less energy than a beam of superheated plasma drawn from the ship’s engines. As such, in British use beam weapons were largely used on ships too small to store ammunition for heavy railguns, though larger vessels did mount them for bombardment purposes, as the plasma would spread across a larger target surface on impact, while a railgun would simply pierce straight through.

With the size of the fleet surrounding her, however, it was doubtful anyone would ever get to test whether Horatio Nelson could stand up in a fight.

****************

CIC, Soviet Battleship Kirov, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
C.A.98, July 24. 1503 Hours GMT.


In the centre of the taskforce charged with defending the northern sector of the Ivangorod asteroid fortress sat the battleship Kirov. One of the latest warships commissioned into the Soviet fleet, she was an impressive vessel. Just under six hundred metres long, Kirov was of unusual design, with a long, swept prow, bulbous midsection, and a stubby aft. Ahead of the bulbous centre were eighteen vertical missile launchers and four dual-barrel 580mm railguns, with two dual-barrel beam cannons on the flanks. Beneath the prow were torpedo racks similar to those on Kara cruisers, only Kirov-class ships mounted six, not four.

In the centre of the cramped CIC – a Soviet design tradition – stood the imposing red-haired Commander Vladimir Abramovich, an experienced officer with more years commanding warships than most of his crew had in the Cosmonaut Armada. Few of his senior officers had much experience under their belts, a fact not lost on Abramovich. Nonetheless, he had faith in them to follow orders when they were issued, and that was all that mattered as far as he was concerned.

“How long until those damned British arrive?!” Abramovich demanded of someone in the CIC, taking out his mixture of boredom and frustration on the crew. “All this firepower is going to waste while we sit here!”

The senior communications officer, a woman quite happy to sit and wait, decided to head off the commander’s ranting by replying to his question. “At their current speed, just under eighteen hours, sir.”

Abramovich nodded, thoughtfully. “Eighteen hours? This demands a raiding party. Someone needs to disrupt their lines!” Clapping his hands, the Commander issued his orders. “Signal that coward Vice Admiral Danovich on Ivangorod! Tell him Abramovich and his escorts are going to intercept the British fleet in open space. Have a mobile suit division fall in with us!”

Nervously, the two communications officers went to work, preparing their ship and crew to engage the British far earlier than anyone expected.

With the 81st Independent Mobile Suit Division and their twenty machines on the hangar decks of Kirov and her three Kara-class escorts, Abramovich’s raiding group moved out.

****************

Bridge, HMSS Neptune, Seventy Thousand Kilometres Out Of Lagrange Point 4.
C.A.98, July 24. 2041 Hours GMT.


“Sir,” Constantine Harris exclaimed from his station, “massive radar jamming off our starboard bow. Before jamming began, we had contact with three or four ships, profiles looked to be Soviet.”

In the captain’s chair, XO Ferdinand scratched his chin thoughtfully. Neptune was on the fleet’s far right, part of the group intended to keep Soviet flank attacks at bay. “Possible Soviets approaching under heavy jamming… not good. Keep trying to break through and get positive contacts. Louise, inform the flagship we may have enemy forces approaching. Sylvie, get Morrison and his pilots ready. Be ready for transfer to CIC!”

With a round of confirmations from the bridge crew, Ferdinand picked up the phone on his chair’s right arm, punching in the code for the captain’s quarters. “Bridge to CO.”

“Highfield here, go ahead Ferdinand.” replied the drowsy-sounding commanding officer.

“Sorry to wake you sir, but we have possible Soviet ships approaching our side of the fleet.”

“Hmm. Go to Condition Two, I’ll be in the CIC momentarily.” Highfield replied, sounding more awake now.

“Aye, sir.” Ferdinand replied. Switching the phone to ship-wide mode, he announced, “All hands, set Condition Two throughout the ship, repeat, all hands set Condition Two throughout the ship.”

The bridge crew knew what to do. In a matter of moments they were all down the connecting tunnel to the armoured CIC, which locked shut with numerous reinforced bulkheads. Seconds after they had taken their posts, Captain Highfield arrived, looking none the worse for her interrupted sleep.

“Possible contacts?” she enquired, moving to her position at the command table.

Ferdinand replied, from the XO’s position. “We’ve confirmed them now, sir. Three Kara class, one Kirov. We assume at least full capacity of around twenty mobile suits with them.”

“A Kirov… quite a ship to put into a raiding party. Signal this to Admiral Ross, see what he’ll do for us.”

Moments later, the reply came back, read by Louise Simpson. “Sir, we are to rendezvous with battleship Wakefield, light carrier Illustrious, and cruiser Agamemnon, orders are to keep them away from the fleet.”

“Right. No less impressive a force, must want to force them away before a gun battle starts.”

Abramovich, however, would not be deterred so easily.

****************

Pilot’s Ready Room, HMSS Neptune.
C.A.98, July 24. 2042 Hours GMT.


“…so then the admiral says ‘That’s my wife!’” concluded Lieutenant Adam West, the latest pilot to join ‘Morrison’s Meddlers’. Leo and Hannah laughed at the punch-line as the three sat around a table. Laurence, who’d heard it before, smiled slightly while chewing on a chicken sandwich. As he swallowed, handily, the ready room phone buzzed. “Flight leader, bridge.”

“Bridge, Morrison. What’s up, Sylvie?” replied Morrison, hoping to tease even the faintest of smiles from the ever-serious officer.

No luck. “Possible incoming, prepare for immediate launch.”

“Aye, shall do.” Sylvie closed the line, all-business as ever. Morrison sighed mentally. “Okay people, we have possible incoming, get to your machines!”

Just as the four dashed to the changing room, Condition Two was sounded throughout the ship. All four leapt out moments later, Hannah slightly behind, but she managed to reach her cockpit before West, the tall, blonde newbie – and the newbie he’d always be, even though he’d logged almost as many flight hours as Leo and Hannah combined.

“Drinks are on you, Adam!” Hannah exclaimed, joyfully.

“Nope Hannah,” admonished Morrison, “for mocking our newbie, you’re buying next time.”

“Frak! That’s no fair…”

Just then, however, Ferdinand announced that the ship was setting the ship to full combat mode: “Action Stations, Action Stations. Set Condition One throughout the ship. Repeat, Action Stations, set Condition One throughout the ship.”

With that, the crew set about getting to their positions, ready for a fight. Damage control parties would be set and ready, gunners at their stations, medics ready to deal with wounded, and so on. A British ship at Action Stations was an impressive feat of military training, with a full crew of people all serving the same purpose in different ways.

The first significant skirmish in space was about to begin.

****************

Phase-02: Impulse / Stage-02: Sword

Space, Seventy-One Thousand Kilometres Out Of Lagrange Point 4.
C.A.98, July 24. 2109 Hours GMT.


In darkest space, the battlefield was shaping up.

The four Soviet ships had lined up, ready for a fight. All four had their heavy torpedoes ready to fire, and were readying their beam cannons and railguns. On the British side, the two Trafalgar-class cruisers had formed up on either side of the considerably larger battleship Wakefield, whilst the carrier Illustrious took up a position slightly behind, its light armament of missiles and four British Mk.XIV torpedoes no match for the heavy guns of the other ships in the fight.

In Kirov’s CIC, Abramovich was ready to go. “How long until gunnery range?!”

“Six minutes for us, sir.” replied an operator. “Guns are ready.”

“Excellent! Let’s show those Albion bastards what we can do!”

****************

Just as Abramovich steeled himself, Neptune received her firing solution from Wakefield. “We’re to aim for the closest Kara while Agamemnon takes the furthest, Wakefield will take the Kirov and remaining Kara.” read Ferdinand, relaying firing the firing order to the CIC’s gunners. “Three waves of missiles, continue with two rounds from the main guns. Launch mobile suits, keep them out of our firing solution!”

As his orders were confirmed, Sylvie sent out the ship’s pilots. “Morrison, Falcon Commander, launching!” exclaimed the senior FSA man as his Falcon hurtled down the catapult track. Moments later he was joined by the rest of his team, who positioned themselves below the immediate line of fire. It had taken three and a half minutes to launch the MS; there were still two and a half minutes to go until the Soviet ships were in range to fire. A signal lamp started blinking on Wakefield’s bridge tower.

“Open fire!” exclaimed Highfield, as Wakefield opened fire with three waves of six plasma beams, twelve railgun shells, and eight missiles. Neptune and Agamemnon chimed in with their own firing patterns, Agamemnon’s simply the reverse of Neptune’s. Moments later, space around the Soviet battle group erupted in flame, though it would take a few seconds to tell how many of the explosions were from hits, and how many from missiles shot down by the enemy’s CIWS guns.

****************

As it turned out, Wakefield’s guns had put one Kara cruiser completely out of the battle already. Kirov herself had taken several hits from Wakefield’s guns and missiles, and only continued in battle as the final missile of four that had struck close to the CIC was a dud.

“Are we in gunnery range yet?!” exclaimed Abramovich, enraged. He had been thrown to the floor when the dud hit in the second wave, and was picking himself up just as the final wave of beams scorched paint off his ship.

“Yes, sir!” replied the gunnery officer, who had only just re-seated himself.

“Then fire, damn you, and don’t stop firing until those British ships are in flames!”

The gunner had little trouble following his orders. Given that the Commander had forgotten to give signals orders for the other ships, he hoped they’d follow suit. Tapping in a few more commands, the gunner immediately launched all six of Kirov’s torpedoes in a salvo with a dozen missiles from the launchers that were safe to use. He doubted even that much firepower would be much good, considering the effectiveness of the British laser CIWS.

Sure enough, he saw on his own monitoring screen that none of the torpedoes struck home, all shot down by streaks of orange laser fire well before they reached British steel. None of the missiles were of much use either, only two striking Agamemnon’s forward armour from the fan pattern with little effect. Only one of the Kara cruisers had realised the gun battle had begun, and fired its railguns toward the British ships. One shell scorched Wakefield’s paint, but had little effect otherwise.

“What are you shooting at?! Hit those frakking British ships before I hit you stupid bastards myself!”

“Sir!” exclaimed the senior comms tech. “One of those shots took out our main radio and laser transmitters, we’ve got nothing left but signal lamps.”

“Dammit!” the Commander exclaimed. “Keep firing then, damn the others!”

The battle raged on.

****************

Above the lines of light streaking from the fleet’s guns, four Falcons from the Neptune and sixteen Harriers from Agamemnon, Wakefield and Illustrious made up the British mobile suit force. Illustrious only had eight of her usual thirty-two mobile suits, the rest having been on patrol when their mothership split off. Of the Harriers, most were the standard type, carrying a shield and 90mm railgun rifle in addition to 30mm guns in their heads and upper torsos. A few, however, were the heavy weapons Harrier Torpedo Bomber type, equipped with four ‘Tyne’ anti-ship missiles on their hips, and two heavy Mk.XIV torpedoes on their backs.

As senior pilot by rank, Laurence was left leading the mobile suits of the taskforce that had formed around Wakefield. He wasn’t entirely sure what would be demanded of his force, the ship drivers being quite content to slug it out with their heavy guns without mobile suit support. As such, he was content to issue relatively simple orders to his new command.

“Okay, people! Torpedo Bombers, join up with the other squad from Illustrious and hit that battleship from below! Aggie and Wakey teams screen our ships. Meddlers, we’re going hunting!”

Receiving confirmation from the other squad commanders, Laurence prepared for a fight. Illustrious’ machines were the renowned 311 and 314 Squadrons, the ‘Roughnecks’ and ‘Browncoats’ respectively; unleashing them on a Soviet warship was probably cruelty to Russians under the Corsica Convention. Agamemnon had 326 ‘Roger’s Reavers’, while Wakefield carried the outsiders of the unit, 231 Squadron ‘Cruise Controllers’; the fleet was safe in their hands. Meanwhile, 308 Squadron formed up to charge in headlong and cut off any Soviet forces before they got close.

****************

Having finally made it out of their damaged hangar, Major Marko Kuznets and his mobile suit unit launched from the Kirov. The eight mobile suits aboard, divided equally between Ro-141 Freestyle general-purpose machines and older Ro-1095 Bear bombers, headed toward the British flotilla, ready to exact revenge for their mothership.

Kuznets was well-liked by his underlings, known to be a firm but fair commander who regularly recommended pilots for better, safer assignments than those usually given to him; as a holder of the Order of the Red Banner, the Major almost never got easy deployments. “We’re doing this ourselves! Since our friends on the other ships are too lazy to come out we’ll have to take their victories too!”

Whilst not a zealot, Kuznets did agree with the Soviet Union’s ideology, and saw the British Empire as a historical curiosity that had refused to go quietly into the sunset. Though not a fan of killing, the blonde, blue eyed officer saw it as his duty to break the British stranglehold on the world, believing the sacrifice of Briton and Soviet alike would lead to the genesis of a better world order.

Under the authority of his deputy-commander, Captain Baranovsky – a fellow Ukrainian and excellent pilot – the unit of older Bear bombers advanced toward the British forces, underneath the streaks of fire being exchanged by warships. Larger than an average MS, and far bulkier, the Bear carried three warship-grade missiles on its back and two in place of forearm weapon pods, its only other armament an angular quad-barrel 40mm turret atop its head above the single main camera.

The Freestyle squadron prepared to go on the hunt themselves, searching out British mobile suits that cared to get close. It didn’t take long for them to find a quartet of new-model machines heading their way, moving at high speed in their fighter form.

“Enemy sighted!” Kuznets exclaimed, “Show them no mercy!”

With the battle cries of his subordinates repeating over the squad comms channel, all four Soviet MS threw themselves into battle.

****************

“Enemy sighted!” exclaimed newbie Harold, “Freestyle types!”

“Fire missiles, switch to MS mode once they’re away!” ordered Laurence. “Don’t give them room to shoot!”

Following their commander’s orders, all four Falcons unleashed the ten ‘Dee’ interceptor missiles they carried, hoping for a quick kill. Soviet CIWS guns kept them at bay, while Gatling fire tore through the cloud of missile debris toward the transforming British machines. None of the Freestyle pilots had opened fire quickly enough to hit any of their opponents, and found themselves ducking through railgun fire even as they fired a return volley of missiles.

Harold scored the skirmish’s first hit, his ‘Vidar’ rifle tearing the Gatling arm from an unfortunate Freestyle. It returned fire with the micromissile pod on its surviving left arm, but to no avail as ‘Hammertime’ West cut down the rockets with his CIWS lasers. Despite its appalling mobility compared to its enemy, the Freestyle managed to keep out of the line of fire for long enough to receive backup from one of its allies, who was running from Leo and his machine.

Leo, keen to even the odds, joined Harold in pursuit of the two. Almost simultaneously, both pilots opened fire on the one-armed Soviet machine Harold had wounded earlier, both scoring direct hits on its exposed cockpit. Leaving that machine for dead, they quickly went in pursuit of its comrade, whose machine was emptying its chest missile launchers in a futile act of defiance. As Leo pushed far above the line of fire, he switched the Falcon’s rifle into its left hand, whilst drawing a ‘Cortana Mk.VI’ sword with the right. Sabre ready, the experienced young pilot swept down, ignoring the hail of 40mm bullets his machine’s armour was bouncing. With a neat horizontal slash, Leo cut the machine in half at the waist, and with a quick burst of thrust pushed away from the ensuing explosion.

****************

The quartet of Bears under command of Baranovsky quickly found that, despite avoiding the British main force, there were other machines to content with. Under the command of Lieutenant Dominic ‘Dominator’ Cruise, 231 Squadron’s equal-sized Harrier force believed it wouldn’t be too tough to pick apart their Soviet opponents.

Cruise himself opened the exchange personally. With his suit’s shield attached to its left shoulder hardpoint, the long-serving pilot grabbed a ‘Forseti’ 140mm pistol from each forearm hardpoint and took aim at the leading Bear, Baranovsky’s machine. Despite shock absorbers in the suit’s arms, the heavy pistols still had quite a kick, which made repeat firing tricky at the best of times. Still, Cruise squeezed off three shots from each gun before the recoil really kicked in, and five connected. Two struck the Bear’s gun-turret head, the explosive rounds ripping the 40mm barbette to slag. Two sheared the left arm off just below the shoulder, whilst the last punched right through a missile warhead, forcing Baranovsky to eject it before its premature explosion.

Baranovsky knew his troops were doomed, as was he, but had no choice but to carry on, since retreating to Abramovich would be far worse. Advancing at a pace, his Bear unit tried their best to push past the enemy force before it could tear them to pieces. No such luck.

Another explosion, this time a near-miss, rocked Baranovsky’s Bear. One of the Harriers carried a hyper-bazooka, and its first shot missed, but exploded on a proximity sensor, shaking the Soviet mobile suit. Though he knew death was always a risk in combat, the fact that a 360mm ‘Foss’ weapon had almost struck him was terrifying to the pilot.

“Charge the British fleet! Death or glory, preferably glory!” Baranovsky exclaimed over his team comms channel, before diving headlong into the fray.

One of his Bears, unfortunately, got the former all too quickly. One of the Harriers swept into the Soviet formation, seemingly unnoticed. Rifle stored on its rear skirt, the British machine grabbed a ‘Cortana Mk.IV’ sword from its sheath on the inner side of its Roman Legionary-style ‘Scuta’ shield, wielding the five-ton curved armour plate in front of it as it charged, plunging its sword through the Soviet MS’ abdomen and its main batteries. Pulling its blade from the gaping “wound” left in the machine, the particularly vicious British pilot fired the quartet of 30mm guns in his machine’s head and upper torso into the hole, a quick burst driving eighty rounds from the ‘Tyr Mk.II’ guns into the damaged batteries.

As one of his comrades met with his maker – Baranovsky was a religious man, despite the Party’s official ban – the lead MS pilot cursed in rage. In sheer frustration, he unleashed a heavy missile from the machine’s surviving right arm toward one of the British ships, hoping for something at least. Unfortunately, the missile was barely a few hundred metres out when a British machine neatly holed it from tip to butt with its railgun rifle, a 90mm slug tearing from warhead to rocket motor with spectacular results as the torpedo exploded in an impressive fireworks show.

The fight carried on.

****************

Laurence was engaged in a dangerous dance. The enemy leader had homed in on his Falcon Commander almost instantly, likely homing in on his suit’s different colour scheme and four-point V-fin. Why do they have to make commanders stand out? Laurence wondered, even as he ducked past another burst of Gatling fire.

Still, the Soviet machine had a horn-like antenna on its own head, which evened things out somewhat. Firing another burst from his rifle, Morrison raised his shield to bounce a few more Gatling shells that managed to get perilously close. Having none of it, the Welsh pilot charged forward, shield laser spraying needle-like orange bursts toward the leading Freestyle. As it tried to keep its essential components out of Laurence’s line of fire, a wave of missiles shot out from its chest launchers.

Like its namesake, the Falcon swooped down on its prey.

Major Marko had taken it upon himself to take on the British command machine himself. His subordinates were already getting cut apart by the enemy’s superior mobile suits, so leaving them to fight someone who had achieved command would be sentencing a regular Soviet pilot to death.

Frustrated, he ducked and dived between lines of laser fire shot from the enemy machine’s shield gun, which was proving difficult to avoid. With his own missiles proving to be of little effect, Marko opened fire again with the Gatling cannon in his suit’s left arm. Powerful as the gun was, its bullets were getting nowhere close to the enemy machine as it weaved its way through the high-velocity shells, making its way ever-closer.

Laurence, taking the initiative, stored his suit’s rifle on its rear skirt armour rack, and drew a sabre. As he charged in, ready to stab, the commander-type Freestyle raised its Gatling arm again, but rather than fire, it, he used it as a club, whacking the Falcon’s head with enough force to shatter the faceplate and both ‘eye’ main cameras. Recoiling, Laurence immediately fired the lasers in the suit’s head, fortunately undamaged by the blow.

As his sub-cameras came online, Morrison found the enemy commander and its surviving wingman retreating, streaks of fire from Hannah’s railgun rifle chasing them away.

****************

Lieutenant Cruise and his suits were having almost too easy a time.

The team had so far shot down two Bears for no loss, the second falling victim to a hyper-bazooka rocket, its reinforced armour no match for a high-explosive warhead, particularly one delivered from the powerful 360mm weapon wielded by a Harrier mobile suit.

With his surviving wingman, Baranovsky and his damaged machine charged forward regardless in the knowledge that they were drawing ever closer to their prize, British warships. At a close enough range, even their super-effective CIWS lasers wouldn’t be able to pick off the heavy torpedoes carried by the Bear.

Despite this, Baranovsky found himself wishing his team’s new-model Mu-3160 Blackjack bombers had been ready; their superior mobility compared to the old Ro-1095 Bear would have been a blessing from God in these conditions. Cursing his poor luck, the Soviet pilot continued on, trying to duck out of fire from Harriers as he did so.

Eventually, however, his luck ran out. Two British machines, including the one with the hyper-bazooka that had killed off poor Boris, started to hit their mark. Almost sadistically, they picked apart his machine, the one with the railgun rifle taking his machine’s surviving left arm off at the elbow, as a hyper-bazooka rocket blasted the Bear’s right leg off at the knee before another cut through its left thigh.

Resigned to his fate, Baranovsky hit the firing controls on his two remaining torpedoes, those attached to his machine’s back launching rails, before a final yellow-tailed railgun blast cut straight through him and his cockpit, never knowing how the heavy weapons did.

In an act born equally of self-preservation and defiance, Neptune’s forward CIWS lasers cut through both torpedoes long before they could be a threat.

****************

“Retreat! Use the damned signal lamps to signal our retreat to the rest of our useless ships!” ordered Abramovich, as his raiding party was slowly cut to pieces. He’d deal with the cowards on the other ships later, but for now his priority was returning to Ivangorod intact with the one man in this joke of a flotilla he respected, Major Kuznets.

Torn between relief and joy at their orders, Kirov’s communications officers began transmitting their commander’s orders to the trio of Kara-class cruisers escorting them.

****************

“Captain, looks like the Soviets are pulling back. Orders, sir?” reported XO Ferdinand, monitoring the battle alongside Neptune’s gunners in the CIC, personal datapad in hand; the datapad chose that moment to beep at the XO. “Wait, scratch that. Orders through from Wakefield, we are to… pursue?”

Bridget Highfield was as surprised as Ferdinand. “Damned peculiar order. What does Captain O’Brien hope to achieve, I wonder?”

“Seems he wants to claim a kill, not just damage, sir.”

“So it does. Bloody stupid order though. Ours not to reason why though, prepare to advance, signal our mobile suits to return to ship.”

****************

Alongside the battleship Wakefield, HMSS Neptune advanced toward the Soviet fleet, having left Agamemnon behind to escort the carrier Illustrious back to the main fleet with the little taskforce's MS.

Captain O’Brien, commander of the Wakefield, did indeed want to score at least one confirmed warship kill as part of this engagement – whether it was a matter of Gaelic pride or sheer arrogance Highfield had no idea, but she did know it was a damned silly plan. Fortunately, Soviet ships were unusually designed with all their batteries facing forward, which meant they’d have to turn if they wanted to fight; such a turn would give Wakefield’s mass of main railgun and beam cannon batteries a clear shot at their broadside, something O’Brien relished.

“Let’s show ‘em what we can do, boys!” exclaimed O’Brien. “Fire some warning shots with the beam cannons, see what they do.”

Confirming the order, Wakefield’s shaven-headed XO went about preparing giving tactical orders to the gunners, whose job it would be to fire with such brilliant accuracy as to miss on purpose. As a method of scaring the enemy, it seemed less intuitive to the hairless XO than, say, blasting their engines out with high-powered railguns, but he wasn’t at the right pay grade to make those kind of decisions, merely implement those his superior made.

“Sir, firing solutions ready, we can fire on your command.” relayed the XO, his deep voice echoing slightly in the CIC.

With a not, Captain O’Brien simply ordered: “Fire!”

Brilliant blue plasma erupted from the four forward guns, streaking below the engines of the closest Kara cruiser. As O’Brien had hoped, the ship began turning, desperate streaks of fire from its 40mm machineguns hoping to hold back a British battleship as she came around to starboard to open fire with her own main batteries.

“We’ve got her broadside, open up with the railguns!” yelled Wakefield’s enthusiastic captain. “Missiles too, sink them before they can squeeze off a shot!”

With merely a nod from the XO, the tactical officers went to work finalising a firing solution they had been expecting to use since O’Brien decided to pursue – knowing how the captain thought, Wakefield’s XO had already prepared the necessary firing solution.

A dozen 750mm shells tore across space seconds later, all eight penetrating the Kara’s hull across its length. Thanks to the angles Wakefield had its turrets at, the main engines’ fuel lines and CIC had been struck, depriving the ship of its ability to escape and its core command. While Soviet ships like their British cousins had auxiliary fire-control facilities at the individual gun mountings, a wave of Mk.VI anti-shipping missiles from the forward launchers destroyed the starboard railgun, and main beam cannon, as well as the starboard torpedo rails and two machineguns.

Having somehow survived the sheer firepower that consumed her bow, the Kara cruiser Wakefield faced down transmitted its surrender by laser communication, a group in the secondary CIC seeing sense and choosing the option that involved not dying.

****************

Neptune, meanwhile, was keeping herself busy harassing the other surviving Kara, with a combination of beam cannons and missiles. Unlike its dauntless cousin, and the equally indomitable Kirov, this ship was choosing to run for Ivangorod and keep running, rather than try and fight. Unfortunately, thanks to O’Brien’s orders – having held the rank of Captain longer, he outranked Highfield – Neptune had no choice but to hunt this cruiser down, as Kirov steamed away at full speed.

“Aim for those torpedo wings, secondary guns, five rounds rapid.” ordered Ferdinand, hoping that their target would simply give up if its armament was being picked apart.

The two dual-barrel 105mm railguns either side of the bridge tower quickly opened up, each of the four guns firing five rounds in quick succession, the turrets moving automatically to track the different targets they had been assigned. With alternating fire, five slugs had been aimed at each of the torpedo-carrying pylons, a task made difficult by the small size of the launch rails and the evasive action taken by the cruiser. However, with five rounds aiming at each, the chances of missing were almost non-existent, as proved by the fact that all four were torn off at various points along their length, leaving oddly-sized stumps on the hull.

In a move Neptune’s crew had expected, but still found rather annoying, the Kara fired missiles from its vertical launchers, half a dozen streaming toward the British cruiser. One slipped through her CIWS fire, a slightly misaligned sensor in one of the guns letting the lone missile through whilst the others were cut down by streaks of laser fire. The surviving missile caught the portside corner of Neptune’s bow, causing a small explosion. Whilst not crippling, it was certainly an annoyance, and just the excuse Captain Highfield wanted.

“Full stop!” she ordered. “XO, coordinate the DC response. Signal O’Brien, tell him we’ve taken damage close to our missile launchers and are slowing to make sure we’re combat safe.”

“Aye, ma’am.” as the damage-control crew set about inspecting the wound inflicted on their ship under Ferdinand’s watchful eye, a message was sent to Wakefield indicating Neptune’s current status and inability to continue in pursuit – as per British regulations in non-essential situations, of course.

The response from Wakefield was simple enough; a brace of missiles streaked out toward Neptune’s former prey, most of them slipping through its weak anti-air fire and slamming into the Kara’s main engines, leaving the ship dead in space, only inertia keeping it moving. Laser communication from Horatio Nelson, however, intervened before Wakefield could continue her pursuit, ordering her and Neptune to rejoin the main fleet.

Satisfied that they had done their duty, Captains O’Brien and Highfield returned to the fleet, their mobile suits having already returned with the Illustrious.

The stage was set for the main battle, now only a few hours away.

****************

So, that's the first two-thirds of this chapter done and dusted! Come back for Phase-02: Impulse / Stage-03: Blast.
"Trust me, I know what I'm doing." - Sledge Hammer.
A Wind Raging Through, a Destiny sidestory.

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Dendrobium Stamen
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Post by Dendrobium Stamen » Sat Sep 15, 2007 8:08 pm

****************

Phase-02: Impulse / Stage-03: Blast

Space, Six Kilometres Out Of Lagrange Point 4.
C.A.98, July 25. 0518 Hours GMT.


Six thousand kilometres from Ivangorod Fortress, the British ‘Grand Fleet’ lined up for battle. With Daring frigates interspersed between the fleet’s ships of the line for near-impenetrable CIWS protection, and carriers holding position at the rear, it would be a mighty force indeed that took on Ivangorod.

Captain Highfield, however, was less unyieldingly convinced of their chances than, say, the more jingoistic Captain O’Brien of the Wakefield. As the commander of a much smaller, vulnerable ship, she had no delusions about the unstoppable power of the Royal Orbital Navy, especially after having her ship’s bridge blown off in the conflict’s opening skirmish. It was the kind of thing a commander remembered.

As any navigator will say, space is big. It is, in fact, really, really big. However, some things were easy to find. One of them was an asteroid fortress. On one of the monitors in Neptune’s CIC, the Soviet fortress Ivangorod was clearly visible, a dead red-brown rock in space. bristling with oversized railcannons and flak cannons. Not to mention, of course, the fleet of warships and mobile suits within.

“I thought they’d painted a big red star on that thing?” muttered Elaine Darling sarcastically, from the navigation console..

In front of her, at the command plotting table, XO Ferdinand rolled his eyes, turning to face the female pilot with a ironic grin. “Just because some pilot jocks somehow painted a kilometre-wide Union Jack on Portsmouth Rock doesn’t mean the Russians are going to do the same…”

“Hey, the guys from Eight Group spent hours working on that, and it turned out pretty well!” replied Lieutenant Morrison with a grin, having just entered the bridge from the portside armoured hatch.

Captain Highfield restrained herself from a chuckle, forcibly maintaining her poker face to glare at the assembled crew. This unfortunately set off Campbell Daud, who could see through the captain’s desperate attempt to stay composed. Fortunately for her, the ship’s senior officer bit her lip and managed to avoid losing herself. Ferdinand rolled his eyes and smiled.

On another monitor, a quartet of stocky Harrier mobile suits soared past. Painted in standard fleet colours it was difficult to identify them visually. Readings from their IFF beacons confirmed that they belonged to 220 Squadron, ‘Wallace’s Warriors’. Based aboard the flagship Horatio Nelson, the long-standing MS unit had declined the chance to upgrade to the Falcon, preferring to stick with what they knew for the time being.

It seemed the Warriors were practicing fleet-busting tactics. Two of them carried standard 90mm railgun rifles, one a 360mm hyper-bazooka, and the fourth was a Torpedo Bomber. Flying in a loose formation, all four proved to be perfectly coordinated, perfect for the ship killing units to launch hit-and-run strikes on Soviet warships while their allies kept any pesky mobile suits off their thruster-laden backs.

Laurence wasn’t impressed. He’d been glad to ditch the Harrier, its hybrid fission/battery powerplant providing too little power for extended missions and simply too difficult to keep in perfect working order. A plan had been considered to replace the antique General Engines ‘Boreas 449G’ engine in the Harrier’s belly with the same ‘Minerva 2293’ reactor that powered the Falcon but the project was cancelled on cost grounds, much to the dismay of Rolls-Royce who provided the nuclear fusion reactor for Morrison’s machine. As a pilot, he couldn’t work out how it was cheaper to deploy a whole new mobile suit and retrain every pilot in the Orbital Navy, but he wasn’t paid to think about these things. It would make sense to keep the Harrier in service too, if they got a better engine; the older machine may be wholly outclassed by the Falcon, but it could carry a wider range of weapons, unlike the new machine which was limited to its standard arsenal, a curse of the transformation system.

With a grunt, the pilot excused himself, heading down to the hangar. There was a mobile suit down there with his name on it, and he intended to enjoy sitting in its cockpit while things were tranquil.

****************

Pilots’ Lounge, HMSS Neptune.
Two Thousand Kilometres From Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
July 20, Colonial Age Year 98. 1920 Hours Greenwich Mean Time.


“…so then he said, ‘That isn’t my wife!’” exclaimed Adam West, the newest member of 308 Squadron. Tall, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, he could be the poster boy for the Fleet Space Arm, with chiselled good looks that had won over many a female officer. “Ah, I’ve told that one before, haven’t I?”

Morrison nodded, with a friendly smile. “How about this one then. An Englishman, an American, and an Indian walk into a bar –”

With little warning, the lounge lights dimmed, and an alarm started sounding. The voice of XO Ferdinand resounded over the PA system, announcing that the ship was to set Condition One and prepare for battle.

I hate this part… thought Morrison. “Okay, you heard him, let’s go! Anyone not in their MS in three minutes is buying for everyone next time we’re at Piper!”

That had the desired effect. All three of his subordinates scrambled to the changing rooms, even attempting to remove uniform jackets to uncover their gray undershirts before getting through the hatch. Laurence joined them moments later, getting out of his uniform and into his navy blue pilot suit before anyone else. The others, in their white pilot suits, looked vaguely put out by the commander’s impressive turn of speed, even while dashing to their machines.

Pushing off from the balcony that ran along the bow side of the upper deck, all four floated towards their mobile suits. Laurence slapped the nametag above his suit’s centre torso hatch, another habit he’d never kicked. Standing on the hatch’s cusp, Morrison watched Leo ‘Leopard’ Andrews board his machine in record time, then Adam ‘Hammertime’ West, and finally Hannah ‘Thunderbolt’ Drayman. Poor Hannah, her turn again… thought the commander, pushing back into the cockpit chair, pressing the button on his left arm console that raised the master display between his legs.

Morrison’s first instinct was to contact the CIC. “What’s the situation?”

The reply, as expected, came from Sylvie Ash, who looked vaguely annoyed. “We’ve encountered the Soviet garrison further out than we expected, Admiral Ross has ordered the fleet to engage.”

How odd… “Roger that, CIC. Morrison team ready to launch.” Opening a communications channel, Morrison issued his orders: “Hannah, you lose again, drinks on you. Okay, diamond formation as practiced, intercept in fighter mode, switch to MS form as soon as you can.”

“Hammertime, roger that!” called out the new pilot.

“Leopard, confirmed sir!” replied Leo.

“Thunderbolt, aye…” Hannah sounded put out, again.

Morrison moved his machine to the aft of the hangar, where the deck lift had been lowered ready for the Falcon. Once it was confirmed as in place, the lift raised up, bringing the mobile suit up to deck level seven seconds later. Even with his cockpit hatch open, Morrison could see that there was a battle looming, as mobile suits stood on the decks of their motherships or prowled between the fleet, all ready to engage at a moment’s notice. The ships were ready too, Morrison noted, as guns elevated and lowered, training out on targets the naked eye couldn’t discern at this range.

“Lieutenant, you are clear for launch!” ordered Ash, all-business as usual.

“Roger that! Laurence Morrison, launching!”

An instant later, the Falcon sped down the catapult, hurled into space with impressive force. Its pilot quickly closed the cockpit hatch, switching the machine into Fighter mode a moment later. Within a minute or two the unit formed up, awaiting orders from their central Suit Director in Horatio Nelson’s expansive CIC. The order came through moments later in the form of a text message:

To: All MS Forces.
From: HR04 (Horatio Nelson) CIC.
Message: All MS move below line-of-fire – intercept enemy MS following fourth missile barrage by fleet.


“Okay everyone, duck below the battle line!” ordered Laurence, anticipating an impressive lightshow.

He wasn’t disappointed.

****************

Space, Two Thousand Kilometres From Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
July 20, Colonial Age Year 98. 1940 Hours Greenwich Mean Time.


Moments after the ‘duck’ order was issued to the MS, the fleet’s offensive ships launched the barrage. Hundreds of missiles lashed out at once, almost fifty from Nelson alone, then a second wave moments later. A curtain of explosions blossomed into view in a matter of heartbeats, though Laurence had no idea whether the missiles had been shot down, or hit their marks, or both. Either way, it took less than a minute for the fleet to bring their big guns into the fight. Trafalgar cruisers lashed out with their two dual-barrel beam cannons and Thunderchild heavy cruisers lashed out with their six identical guns, older Nemesis heavy cruisers fired six dual-barrel 460mm railcannons, whilst the Yorkshire battleships struck out with their four massive triple-barrel 750mm railcannons and two triple-barrel beam cannons.

Another curtain of lights flashed into being as the third wave of missiles cut through space to keep the Soviets on their toes as the fleet readied their cannons, though the second cannon barrage set off far fewer fireworks than the first. With a fourth wave of missiles launched for good measure, the fleet readied itself for closer-range combat; that was the mobile suits’ signal to attack.

‘Morrison’s Meddlers’ didn’t disappoint. All four in Fighter mode for maximum speed, they tore out into space just as soon as the fourth wave of missiles passed them by, wanting to claim some kills before their slower Harrier-piloting allies or simply slow-witted Falcon pilots could get in there. Laurence found radar contacts first, a formation of high-speed bomber MS, identified by the combat computer as Mu-3160 Blackjack types. The trio of Soviet mecha, replacements for the Bear, were heavily loaded with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, but could still only tackle British MS with the 40mm gun barbette on their heads.

Flicking the selector switch down until the main display’s weapon panel showed the nose lasers and dual-barrel 50mm machinecannons selected, Morrison squeezed the trigger, unleashing long blades of light and streams of steel toward the leading Blackjack. Heavily armoured as it was, the bomber mobile suit’s armour was no match for the concentrated attack. The explosion of its main batteries set off its payload, shrapnel peppering its comrades.

With their leader torn to pieces, the surviving bombers attempted to restore some kind of formation, covering themselves with a hail of machinegun fire. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, as the new central Bear found itself the victim of Leo’s shield laser, fire cutting through its main batteries, repeating the fate of its dead leader. The remaining two fell victim to missiles from Hannah and Adam, whose weapons proved more than Soviet mobile suits could handle; each of their cockpits vaporised under the force of a pair of ‘Dee’ missiles, pilots and machinery destroyed as easily as each other.

“Crap!” exclaimed Adam, as his proximity alarm started beeping. A pair of high-speed Mi-225 Foxbat interceptors had snuck up on Morrison and his team, and the hit-and-run Foxbats looked to have Adam in their sights.

A volley of missiles lashed out from the first Foxbat’s arm launchers, infra-red sensors seeking the heat from the Falcon’s thrusters. Despite his best efforts, and expending several decoy flares, two missiles caught his machine’s right leg, explosions mauling the shin, leaving it useless scrap. The second followed up with a hail of 40mm fire from quad-barrel shoulder turrets, raking the spine of Adam’s machine. All in all, the Falcon had taken a pounding. Hannah and Leo immediately blasted off in pursuit, while Laurence remained with his wounded pilot.

“Hammertime, get back to Neptune! Get your machine fixed up, you’re in no state to carry on fighting.” ordered Morrison, sympathy clear in his voice even through the tinny skin-touch communication.

“Aye, sir.” Adam didn’t like the idea of leaving the fight so soon, but he had no real choice; even though his machine was mostly intact, the psychological effect of the Gundam’s damage was just as worrisome for a commander as the damage itself.

Forlornly, Adam spun his battered Falcon round, trying to lock on to Neptune’s IFF beacon.

****************

Grid 70-21, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2004 Hours.


Laurence suddenly realised that he had lost the rest of his team. In the middle of a battle zone, with enough electronic jamming from both sides to render radar virtually useless at ranges of more than a few kilometres, he had no time to scan for fellow 308 Squadron beacons, leaving him alone, and vulnerable.

A proximity alarm alerted Laurence to a new threat. Four Forgers were bearing down on him, lighting up space with tracers from their Gatling cannons. In that moment, he felt totally hopeless. As instinct started to take over, he swung up the Falcon’s shield to deflect any rounds that got too close, whilst raising his rifle. With a furious battle cry, he fired twice from the railgun rifle his suit was carrying, and blinked.

When his eyes opened, three of the Soviet machines had taken severe damage, bathed in the light of the fourth’s explosion.

A Harrier placed its hand on the Falcon’s right shoulder. “This is Lieutenant Rico, from ‘Rico’s Roughnecks’. We’ve cleared most of the Soviets out of this grid. You alright?”

“Yeah… yeah, I’m fine. Thanks, Lieutenant.” replied Laurence, still clearing his head.

“Don’t mention it. You must be Morrison, looking at your IFF tag and that machine of yours?”

Morrison nodded to himself. “Right. Lieutenant Commander Morrison, that’s me.”

“Care to tag along? We’re being directed to the main fight in grid seventy-forty.” Rico sounded like he genuinely didn’t mind picking up a stray. “Just remember our Harriers ain’t nothing on that Falcon of yours.”

“So noted, I’ll throttle back for you guys.” Laurence replied, amicably.

With nothing more needing to be said, the four Harriers blasted off, leaving trails of thruster exhaust behind them. Laurence gave them a five-second head start before hitting his own thrusters, and caught up with ease, on a bearing for the main fight.

****************

Grid 70-39, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2008 Hours.


Hannah and Leo found themselves unable to even reach the main fight.

Whilst the majority of mobile suit combat was going on in 70-40, the two pilots found themselves too tied up by Soviets in 70-39 to even make the ‘party’, as Leo called it. “Pick a target and go, Hannah!”

“I’m thinking that group of Blackjacks trying to sneak away at ten o’clock. You in?” the female Meddler replied.

Leo smiled to himself. “I see ‘em. They look so smug, avoiding the main fight like that. Bet they wanna sneak by and bag themselves a ship. Let’s crash their party if we can’t make the main one.”

Hannah gave an “okay” and blasted off with her machine in Fighter mode, Leo following in MS mode. She was well-aware this was how her long-time friend psyched himself up for battle – trying to vilify the enemy as much as possible; it made it easier to shoot at them.

The pair found themselves in intercept range almost immediately, the relative distance between Falcons and prey quickly traversed by the British mobile suits. Both pilots noticed the unusual configuration of these Soviet bomber machines – their usual arm missile launchers had been replaced by considerably larger versions, twice the size of regular anti-ship missiles. “Leo! What the hell do you reckon to those arms?” Hannah exclaimed.

“I have no frakking idea! Those missiles look fairly big though, better hit them before they hit anything!” Leo snarled.

His Falcon immediately went into action, firing missiles from his shield. The two ‘Dee’ missiles streaked toward the leading Blackjack, which had turned to face its team’s aggressors as soon as they were visible. As they cut across space, both missiles were cut down by a Soviet machine’s 40mm guns, which was uncommon at best. Frustrated, Leo dived in toward the Soviet formation with Hannah in tow.

“Too close for missiles,” Hannah exclaimed. “I’m switching to guns.”

Sure enough, her Falcon opened fire with its 50mm machinecannons moments later, streams of hot steel cutting across space toward the closest Blackjack. One stream connected with one of the heavy missiles on the machine’s left arm; moments later, the missile exploded violently, far more so than any normal weapon, destroying the carrier Blackjack almost instantly.

“That… that was a nuclear missile!” exclaimed Hannah, with some surprise. “All those machines… we’ve got to stop them!”

“No argument from me, signal ‘Big H’ and let her know. The main fight’s just a distraction!”

****************

Grid 70-36, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2014 Hours.


As a Harrier from the ‘Roughnecks’ finished a Freestyle near his left shoulder, Laurence found himself in an interesting dance with an old-style Forger, the Freestyle’s obsolete predecessor. Its pilot was good though, holding Morrison at bay with its arm Gatling cannon whilst occasionally lobbing a missile from its shins. The Welsh pilot was doing his damnedest to kill the Russian, CIWS fire cutting down the missiles whilst his shield easily caught the Gatling fire that got too close for comfort, all the while firing his rifle towards the damned thing.

Its surprisingly good pilot was holding him at bay, Morrison realised. But for what? An alarm in the cockpit alerted him to exactly what a moment later, as a high-speed Foxbat interceptor blasted toward the pair, firing micromissiles as it sped in. Morrison remained well out of their way, but found himself annoyed at the persistence of the two enemies. A flash of inspiration struck the Falcon pilot at just the right moment.

Diving towards his original opponent in the Forger, Morrison stored his railgun and grabbed a sabre, shield in front of the cockpit hatch. As Soviet bullets bounced off the curved metal, Morrison thrust forward in a zigzag pattern, diving above and below his target’s line of fire at insane speeds. The Forget pilot never saw the sabre that impaled his cockpit coming. As its Foxbat comrade joined the battle, Morrison sheathed the mobile suit’s sword, grabbing its dead prey with its free right hand. Warrior one moment, shield the next. With the Foxbat approaching, Morrison swung his suit’s torso and threw the Forger carcass, aiming with all the mobile suit’s might at the other Soviet machine. It didn’t hit, but unbalanced the Foxbat for just long enough to have its cockpit riddled with laser fire.

****************

CIC, HMSS Neptune, Grid 70-12, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2019 Hours.


Captain Highfield had little sympathy for her Soviet comrades. They had the impertinence to put their ships between her and the target she was aiming for, so it only made sense to shoot them until they got out of the way.

“Soviet cruiser approaching on starboard bow, Captain!” exclaimed Constantine at the radar console.

Highfield merely nodded to her XO. Ferdinand glanced at the main tactical display before making his decision. “Target main cannons, aim for their bridge.”

The ship’s gunners didn’t hesitate. “Aye, targeting now.” Using a feed from Constantine’s radar console and the visual sensors, they easily established a lock-on. “Targeted, starboard cannon ready to fire.”

“Fire!” ordered Ferdinand.

With the push of a button, both barrels of the starboard cannon unleashed their beams, tearing out towards the enemy ship, a Kara cruiser like the one that Neptune had engaged in the war’s first skirmish. Both beams reached for the enemy’s bridge, a fatal shot for any warship. The glowing streaks cut straight through with surprising ease, separating the bridge and main railcannon from the rest of the ship with unerring precision.

“Impressive shooting…” noted Captain Highfield.

In its death throes, the Soviet ship fired its quartet of heavy torpedoes, stabbing from Hell’s heart toward its nemesis. With a turn of speed that would have impressed any commander, the ship’s automatic CIWS went into action, lasers streaking out from the ship and through the torpedoes before any could connect with the powerful vessel.

“Maintain see-whiz cover, keep us on track!” ordered the captain. The CIC crew went back to work.

****************

Hangar Deck, HMSS Neptune, Grid 70-12, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2021 Hours.


In the ship’s hangar, Harold was feeling somewhat useless. His Falcon had made a safe landing, and was being repaired at that very minute; to save time, the crew had started attaching a shin, and would repair the old one later. Armour plates were being swapped out on the spine where it had been raked, and for good measure the machine was being refuelled and rearmed.

“Oi, Hammerfest!” called out the ship’s chief mechanic, “Your machine’s ready!”

“That’s Hammertime, but thanks Chief!” the pilot replied, pushing off from the balcony towards his cockpit.

As he boarded, the chief merely groaned. “Hammersmith, daft name…”

The Falcon moved to the deck lift, and prepared to go right back into the fight; apparently the rest of ‘Morrison’s Meddlers’ were practically spearheading the offensive, along with ‘Awesome Aegis’, so Harold had no time to lose joining them and getting back to the fight.

****************

Grid 70-38, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2026 Hours.


Having warned the fleet’s command of the Soviet nuclear threat, Leo was still deep in the fight. A Freestyle team had been harassing him and Hannah for a few minutes, firing Gatling blasts across them as they tried to approach a Balkan-class battleship. Tiring of the exercise, both pilots decided to ignore their Soviet counterparts, and simply charged in. Weaving in and out of fire from the mighty ship’s machineguns, both pilots admired the vessel’s sleek lines, heavily ‘inspired’ by the Yorkshire battleship.

Inside its defensive perimeter, the two had almost free reign, but both chose the simplest route possible; Hannah pushed her suit above the ship’s bridge tower and fired downwards through its CIC, whilst Leo’s shield laser tore through its engine block.

As the Balkan exploded, the two Orbital Navy pilots flicked round to face a trio of stunned Soviet Freestyle machines. With tremendous speed Leo lived up to his ‘Leopard’ callsign, bringing himself to almost arm’s length of one Freestyle before firing his rifle through its reactor. Tearing away, he left ‘Thunderbolt’ to her task, two well-placed snapshots decapitating the remaining Soviet machines. A minute later, Leo had snapped a shot through one’s reactor whilst Hannah did the same with the other, racking up another set of kills for the two.

****************

Grid 70-36, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2034 Hours.


Nearby, Morrison was facing down a Freestyle, the leader of a team which had paired up with a team of older Forger units to harass the ‘Roughnecks’ and their tag-along ally. Despite the amount of firepower being directed toward them from the ‘Roughneck’s’ Harriers and the Falcon fighting with them, the Soviet machines had managed to avoid any significant damage so far.

Laurence found himself tiring. The battle hadn’t been going all that long, but his psyche had been rattled, and that was manifesting itself now as a profound desire to curl up in bed for a few days. Unfortunately that was impossible at present, so instead he joined Lieutenant Rico in attacking the commander-type Forger of the group. Between the Harrier and his own Falcon, Laurence guessed they must have wasted a dozen shots trying to kill this Russian, he was proving damned difficult to kill.

Finally, a lucky shot caught the Forger commander’s leg, throwing it off-balance just long enough for Rico to grab a ‘Stiletto’ dagger from his suit’s front skirt armour and impale the Soviet machine’s cockpit. Pulling out the bloodied dagger, Rico turned to find the remaining three Forgers facing him down, even as the surviving Freestyles played havoc with the rest of his team.

Moments later, lasers streaked out and cut down three of the Forgers, even as another was destroyed by missiles. Surprised, Laurence turned to look at his rear panoramic monitor panels. The fleet was advancing! It had been a Daring-class frigate and its powerful array of close-range weapons which had destroyed the trio of Soviets. A quick IFF check confirmed that it was F41, HMS Dangerous. A moment later, one of Rico’s Harriers shot through a Freestyle’s cockpit with its 140mm pistols, as the Ivangorod garrison machines were still surprised at the increasing penetration into their space by British forces.

A Freestyle with two 190mm cannon arms shot forward, moving toward Dangerous’ bridge. As it advanced it fired its cannons, scoring three hits on her forward superstructure. Unfortunately for the Soviet pilot, her mobile suit was being tracked by four of Dangerous’ triple-barrel CIWS lasers, improved and enhanced versions of the guns used by ships such as Neptune. With a dozen long streaks of laser fire cutting through it, the Freestyle was cut to pieces quickly, losing its arms even as the cockpit and torso were pierced by orange beams.

Even as Dangerous cut down its fourth MS, other British ships pushed forward too, the frigates Dido and Dominion pushing forward with destroyers Magellan, Minotaur and Morning Star, their IFF beacons identifying them to Morrison’s mobile suit. With fleet support coming, it seemed that the battle was finally going rather well for the British forces.

“Hey, haven’t you bastards heard? You’re meant to be covering us, those Soviet sons of bitches are tossing nukes around against our ships!” exclaimed a voice over the comms channel, the commander of one of the Meteor-class destroyers, Laurence didn’t bother to check which. Nuclear weapons, though?! It seemed insane that the Soviets thought them necessary, particularly for a fight on the doorstep of their main space fortress. “Admiral Ross is ordering a retreat, we’re pushing forward to inflict as much damage as we can before we pull back to The Rock!”

In stunned silence, Laurence carried out his orders, firing toward a new wave of Soviet bombers as the five ships near him began to turn, their own point-defence lasers and anti-MS missiles contributing their support. A blinding bright explosion in the distance confirmed everything the ship driver had said a moment ago, as a warship fell victim to a nuclear warhead. A minute later a second followed, and a third just after that. And those were just the ones he could see, while he and the ‘Roughnecks’ tried to hold back further waves of nuke-carrying Blackjack bombers.

Staring into the mouth of Hell, Laurence did what any other sane man, what the few who had kept their sanity in their cockpits did. He turned and headed for the fleet. The rest who had lost their minds did as Lieutenant Rico and his team were doing, and were vaporised by nuclear fire minutes later.

****************

CIC, HMSS Horatio Nelson. Grid 69-96, Ivangorod Fortress N-Sector.
2042 Hours.


“Admiral…” began Commander Willis, before being cut off.

“What is it?!” exclaimed Ross. He could see the lights winking out, one by one, as more and more of his fleet’s machines fell victim to enemy fire. He sighed. “My apologies. Carry on, Willis.”

“The fleet is retreating, sir. It seems the Soviet forces are setting their sights on us, now.”

“I assume the implied message is that we should retreat?” the admiral replied.

“Yes sir, exactly.” Willis was relieved the admiral saw some sense.

Ross sighed. “Well then, we’re screwed. This ship is bait, the Soviets won’t pass up the chance to sink a warship this size. In the meantime, the rest of the fleet can get out of here. Abandon ship, the automation systems should allow me to keep the guns firing until everyone’s away.”

Rudyard Willis was taken aback for a moment. “Yes, yes sir. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to serve with you, Admiral Ross.”

“Thank you, Rudyard. Is there any other business?” replied Ross.

“Just one thing, sir.” Willis promptly decked his superior, knocking him out cold. Looking to one of the operators nearby, he ordered, “Take the admiral with you to the escape pods. Sound the abandon ship alarm!”

So much for the desk job at Londinium…

****************

Space, Forty-Four Thousand Kilometres From Lagrange Point 4.
0400 Hours.


The situation was a complete mess.

In total, fourteen ships had been sunk, amongst them the battleship Wakefield; Captain O’Brien had thrown his ship headlong into Grid 70-40, fighting off waves of Soviet MS with every gun and missile it had. Legend had it that her main guns fired their very last shell through the belly of a Blackjack just as the final British mobile suit got out of the supposed main fight, before a Soviet bomber team condemned Wakefield to her fate with a full eight nuclear missiles.

HMSS Horatio Nelson had fared little better. Under the brief command of Rudyard Willis the mighty carrier had served as a mighty decoy, taking a pounding that would destroy whole squadrons of lesser warships; as Admiral Ross had promised, her guns had fired to the end, CIWS lasers and missile launchers cutting down a horde of Soviet MS before the death-blow was delivered.

The official count still wasn’t complete, but the surviving carrier ships in the fleet assumed at least half the Fleet Space Arm mobile suits that had gone into battle at Ivangorod didn’t make it back. Hannah and Leo’s machines had been grappled aboard HMSS Invincible as soon as they found the carrier after passing by Wakefield, lacking the time to try and pick out Neptune during the retreat. With only seventeen of her original thirty-two machines aboard, it wasn’t as if Invincible was pressed for room after all.

Laurence had ended up aboard the Invincible not long afterwards, having hitched a ride out of the battle standing on a free area of deck on Dido as she escaped the battle zone. He hadn’t been able to think of any words to sum up his ecstasy at seeing his two long-time friends and team-mates alive, so he’d said nothing, choosing instead to pass out from stress.

Led by the battleship Sheffield, the British fleet limped home to Portsmouth Rock, almost as many ships, mobile suits and soldiers wounded as had died at Ivangorod.

The First Battle of Ivangorod Fortress had ended with defeat for the British Empire, its first in over a century, but the Orbital Navy was not humbled; rather, it was defiant, and eagerly awaiting round two.

****************

Phase-02 End

Okay, so Phase-02 ends. Come back soon for Phase-03: Gaia!

Also, for the curious, there's a thread over at Gundam Evolution for all the background material to this AU (or will be, once I post more of it...), located here. :)

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"Trust me, I know what I'm doing." - Sledge Hammer.
A Wind Raging Through, a Destiny sidestory.

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