PHASE IV : THE LOKI ARC ( 37 of 66 )
: “ Wins and Losses ”
TCS Endeavour; Bridge
The Loki System, Union of Border Worlds
0735 Hours (CST), 14 Feb 2681 (2681.045)
sure that is the enemy battle group?"
The scanner operator keyed in a few commands into his console and quickly analyzed the information that was being fed from the TCS Lewis. "Yes, sir," he responded. "Confirmed contact with four enemy capital ships."
"Four?" questioned Commander Stevens. "Hanton said that there would be closer to eight in this particular battle group."
The scanner operator looked back at her. "We might not be able to detect smaller ships like corvettes at this range, ma'am," he said. "The group's actual size may well be near eight ships but we can't be certain until we get closer."
She nodded in acknowledgment to the officer and then looked at the Captain.
"Well, what we do know is that we have an enemy battle group ahead of us, no matter what size it is," he said. "Commander, notify the WC to get his flight wing prepared."
"Yes, sir," she said before turning around and heading towards the lift at the back of the bridge.
"Mr. Coins," Captain Griffin continued. "Inform the task force that we are at full alert status now and that we will be moving ahead with the plan against Nephilim battle group shortly. I want their wings to be ready for when we need them as well."
"Aye, skipper," responded Coins as he turned back to his console and began relaying orders to the rest of the Confederation ships in the task force.
"Engineering," Griffin said to the department's liaison. "Run checks on all of the ship's systems. Especially the weapons and defenses. I want everything running smoothly before things start to get rough."
Admiral Miller and Griffin looked at each other. "We should go over the mission plans with the other commanders so we all have things organized," said the Admiral.
Griffin nodded as the two headed towards the lift. "Mr. Coins," he said as he looked back at his communications officer.
Coins turned his head and looked at Griffin, covering the mouthpiece of his headset with his hand.
"Get me the ship commanders on a secure vid-link. Patch it through to the CIC," Griffin told him. Coins nodded in acknowledgment and once again turned towards his console.
With that, Griffin joined Miller in the lift and the two of them headed down to the CIC to go over their attack plans with the other commanders.
TCS Endeavour; Flight Wing Briefing Room
Colonel Paul Taylor stood at the front of the room, going over his notes on what he had to tell his pilots. The enemy force had been detected and it was time to put their plan into action. "All right, ladies and gentlemen. Listen up!" he said over the chatter of the assembled pilots.
The noise died down quickly, giving Taylor the opportunity to begin. "As you know, we've located the Nephilim battle group that we were assigned to track down. At the moment, we're beyond their sensor range and tracking them using the advanced scanners on board our two escorting frigates. However, its only a matter of time before they detect us as well, and there isn't much cover out here."
He paused to glance down at his notes. "At this moment in time, four pilots from the Hornets squadron along with their Wasp interceptors are heading to the... ah, TCS Awesome in exchange for two Thunderbolts and two Excaliburs. The Hornets will bolster the anti-fighter capabilities of the 8th Cruiser Squadron. The flight from the Awesome will be assigned to work with the Hammerheads and Hunters in protection of our carrier group."
The pilots nodded and whispered to each other. Taylor picked up a remote control from the podium and used it to activate the wall monitor. The lights in the room dimmed and an image depicting the location of their ships as well as that of the enemy taskforce appeared on the screen.
"With the help of the Clarke and Lewis, we've been able to keep track of our friends without entering their sensor range. Their extended sensor range will allow us to keep an eye on the Nephilim while the cruiser squadron makes its way around to another vector," Taylor said while glancing down periodically at his notes. "Once they're in position, we will head towards the enemy battle group and engage them. Soon after, the cruiser squadron will enter the area and flank the enemy."
Taylor pressed another button on the remote and the image zoomed in to show the suspected composition of the enemy battle group. "This," he said as he motioned to the monitor, "is our target. The enemy group is comprised of one Leviathan-class carrier, one Hydra-class cruiser, and two Orca destroyers. We're also expecting a few corvettes to be in the area, but hopefully we'll end up lucky."
Expressions of doubt and concern rippled through the crowd of assembled pilots. Leviathans were huge, over twice the size of the Endeavour herself and capable of carrying about several times the number of fighters. That, along with its escorts, each ship formidable in its own right, made taking out this target quite a daunting task.
Colonel Taylor looked at his pilots, noting and expecting their expressions. "The Leviathan and the Hydra are our primary targets. Admiral Hanton has assured us that their fighters will be busy trying to hunt down the Border Worlds big guns, so their fighter complement won't be as overwhelming as it would be under normal circumstances."
"Normal circumstances don't involve taking out a super carrier," chimed in Will Davies, a Black Dragons pilots who went by the callsign "Waverider."
Both Taylor and Davies' commanding officer, Cameron Garrison gave him stern looks. "Perhaps not," responded Taylor. "But this is what we have to deal with." He continued on with the briefing, handing out assignments to individual squadrons and provided them details of the attack they would be taking part in.
"You'll be on standby alert starting now. So be ready to get to your fighters at a moment's notice. Dismissed!" he said, concluding the briefing.
The pilots stood up and began to file out of the briefing room. Davies strutted out of the room with arrogance, only to be grabbed by the collar and shoved up against the bulkhead.
Commander Garrison looked him straight in the eye with an intense glare. "You listen to me, Davies. I don't care how good you are or how good you think you are, any more shit like what you pulled off in the briefing and I'll have you grounded in an instant!" Garrison lowered his voice slightly as some of the pilots stopped or slowed down to look at the proceedings.
A stone cold look from Iceman sent them on their way.
"I don't need an arrogant and cocky hotshot disrupting my squadron or this flight wing in any way, especially morale-wise, so you better shape up or else you'll be seeing the barracks walls more often than usual, Lieutenant! Do I make myself clear?"
Davies' face was pale and he looked at Garrison wide-eyed. Nodding quickly he replied "Y-y-yes, sir. V-v-very clear, sir." Garrison didn't usually let his emotions get the better of him, but this time it had. And it scared the shit out of Davies.
"Good," said Garrison after a brief pause. He let go of Davies and straightened out the young kid's collar. "Now get out of my sight."
Davies nodded and then saluted before rushing down the corridor, moving away from his commander and the eyes of his fellow pilots as fast as he could without breaking into a sprint.
TCS Endeavour; Flight Deck
"ALL PILOTS, REPORT TO YOUR FIGHTERS
Garrison's brain registered the announcement and the alarm klaxons immediately. It then only took him a split second to bolt from his chair and out the door towards the flight deck. He arrived at the locker area in order to grab his flight gear. "Busy" didn't describe the scene accurately enough. Pilots from all of the Endeavour's squadrons hurried to put on their flightsuits and collect their equipment before they headed to their fighters.
Garrison put his hand on the scanner of his locker to open it and grabbed his flightsuit. He pulled the suit over him and zipped it up. In one corner of the room, he saw Serge Cayouette, the newly assigned CO of the Hornets squadron in light of Renegade's death. He was talking to Mike Ford, one of their young lieutenants.
Pattenden couldn't have been the traitor. It was impossible. A man of his integrity and honor could never do such a thing.
His mind was wandering. Garrison shook his head. This wasn't the time to deal with such issues. He had to focus on the task at hand. The elimination of the Nephilim carrier group was of the utmost importance right now.
Garrison locked the pressure seals around his boots then reached into his locker. He pulled out his gloves and his helmet, then closed the door and walked down to the deck.
As he walked onto the cavernous flight deck of the Endeavour, the two pilots in front of him, from the Warhawks Bomber Squadron, touched helmets.
"Good luck, pilots," Garrison said.
"You, too, sir."
He smiled as the two pilots headed to their fighters and then broke into a jog towards his own.
His plane captain was standing near the
fighter, examining it one more time before Garrison took her out. "Captain,"
Garrison said as he approached.
The plane captain looked at him and smiled. "Hey there, Colonel. Here she is," he said, trying to sound cheery. No doubt he knew that they were facing overwhelming odds. "Prepped, primed and ready to go."
"Thanks, Captain," Garrison said with a smile as he ran his hand along the smooth surface of the Panther-class fighter. "You guys hang in there while we exterminate these bugs."
"Will do, Commander," replied the Captain as he started to walk off. He patted Garrison on the back as he left. "Good luck out there, sir."
Garrison nodded and watched him leave, then looked down the line of fighters. Vicky Sullivan walked towards her own fighter. She looked back and smiled as she saw Iceman walking up behind her. Vicky extended her hand out over her shoulder as she turned her head forward. He took her hand and held it for a moment, then said something to her as he walked by and continued to his fighter.
Iceman got to his fighter and looked at Garrison. Garrison gave him a thumbs up and he nodded in return. Then both pilots donned their helmets and climbed into the cockpits of their fighters.
It was show time.
Deep Space, Loki System
A Few Minutes Later
The launch bays of the TCS Endeavour catapulted wave after wave of combat fighters out into the blackness of space. The ships entered formation and raced towards the enemy task force ahead of them. Colonel Paul Taylor's voice rang out over the comm channels. "This is it, people. You know what you need to do, so let's get out there and get this job done!"
Taylor took a deep breath. "BREAK AND ATTACK!"
The Confederation fighters jumped into action. Major Serge Cayouette grunted as he was crushed back into his seat after activating the booster pack of the Wasp interceptor he was flying. Along with the rest of the Hornets Squadron, his fighter darted ahead of the pack, rapidly approaching the Nephilim fighters.
Behind them, the Black Dragons fighters had formed up with the bombers from the Warhawks Squadron and started to escort them towards the enemy capital ships. It wouldn't be long before that group came under fire.
The Emerald Falcons squadron along with Colonel Taylor had taken up a space superiority role, assigned to take out any fighters that threatened the group while the Hunters and Hammerheads provided the carrier group's inner defense.
The unique targeting reticule for the Swarmer missile pod enveloped one of the enemy Manta bombers. The lock tone filled Major Cayouette's ears and he depressed the trigger, sending seven missiles blazing towards his target. The space around him was filled with a large number of missiles of the same type as the rest of his squadron also fired off their swarmers.
A number of enemy bombers were torn to shreds as the missiles impacted on their shields and hulls, sending the surviving ships into disarray. Explosions lit up the area as the Hornets flew straight through the group of enemy ships while jettisoning their booster packs.
One enemy fighter, a Moray, tried to veer out of the way of one of the stray booster packs but ended up flying right into the path of a larger Manta-class ship. The smaller Moray was split in two and the Manta sent spinning as the Confederation interceptors came around for another pass.
Meanwhile, the bombers from the Warhawks Squadron, along with their Black Dragons escorts made a beeline for the enemy capital ships. Nephilim Squids, lightning fast interceptors, bolted out to meet them.
Disrupter fire was met with tachyon blasts and friend-or-foe missiles darted out from under fighters from both sides. A number of Confed pilots struggled to regain control of their ships as the effects of the disruptors threatened to shake their ships apart.
For the Squid pilots, their fighters became less maneuverable as the "arms" of the ship extended out to allow them to fire. As a result, a few of them went down quickly to Confederation weapons fire.
The battles raged across the void. Cheers of victory, screams of defeat. Each engagement provided a winner and a loser as weapons fire and missile trails blazed across the immediate area.
As the Endeavour and her escorts moved closer to the enemy task force, seemingly endless waves of sleek fighters emerged from the opposing carrier's launch bays; threatening to overwhelm the Confederation forces.
Sometimes they ended up on the losing end...
"Raptor 4! There are two of them on your six! Look out! Talon 4!"
"Watch those turrets, dammit! Evade! Evade!"
Other times they were on the winning side...
"Scratch one corvette!"
"Skate bomber dispatched!"
But despite their best attempts at gaining a quick victory, the threat of being overrun by the enemy grew with each passing moment. That is, until some help arrived.
"Captain! The cruiser squadron has entered weapons range and is attacking the enemy task force!"
Captain Griffin looked at the view screen. The group of cruisers and destroyers that made up the squadron hammered the Nephilim ships. Within moments, the powerful particle cannons of the Plunkett cruisers tore through two Nephilim Barracuda corvettes like they were nothing more than paper. One more win for the Confederation.
An explosion lit up the sky near Battle Group Aurora. The scanner operator on board the carrier cried out. "The Clarke's been hit!"
One more loss.
TCS Clarke; Bridge
About The Same Time
The place was in shambles. Fires burned in
various areas, sparks flew out wildly from consoles, and smoke filled the room.
Numerous crew members lay motionless around the bridge, their impaled or
horribly charred bodies garishly displaying the effects of the Nephilim attack
on the ship.
The emergency lights flickered on and off, providing at least a little visibility on the bridge. Captain Kleigger pushed his command chair, which had toppled over onto him, off his body. Slowly he rose up, putting his hand to his head. It came back covered in blood. Kleigger winced and then coughed as the smoke filled his lungs.
"Report!" he yelled out as he looked around the wreckage that was left of his bridge. "Dammit! Is anyone still alive?" he called out.
The sound of metal hitting the deck came from one of the stations to his right. He rushed over to see what caused it.
An injured crewman sat up in pain, coughing due to the smoke. Kleigger bent down beside him. "Lieutenant, are you all right?" he asked concerned.
The crewman nodded as he tried to get his bearings. "Yes, sir," he replied. "I think I've got busted ribs or something, though," he continued as he tried to stand.
Kleigger helped him up and they walked over to one of the still active consoles. "What's the ship's condition?" Kleigger asked, still wanting to know how battered his ship was.
The Lieutenant called up a report and a grim expression flashed across his face, "We're pretty much crippled, sir," he said with a solemn tone. "Shields are out, weapons are down, and propulsion is nonexistent. We've also got multiple hull breaches and," he paused for a moment. "Life-support is failing."
Kleigger looked down to the floor. After a brief silence, he looked up at the large view port in front of him. The remaining Nephilim destroyer was making its way towards them, surely on its way towards the rest of Battle Group Aurora. "Can we get the torpedo launchers back on-line?" he
The lieutenant looked at him apprehensively and then checked. "Uh, yes, sir... I think so," he replied. After a few seconds he provided a few details. "There are a number of leaks and breaches in that area though. If we reactivate them, it'll fill the surrounding decks with tons of radiation. Not to mention that the launchers might overheat and explode... provided that they work at all."
Kleigger nodded slowly, his eyes still fixated on the enemy destroyer, looming in the viewport. "Activate the launchers."
"Do it!" Kleigger's glare was intensive enough to burn a hole through the young lieutenant. "I'm not about to let the Nephilim beat us! Not when we have a chance, no matter how slight, to win this!" His emotions vented out of him as he spoke. "Now that destroyer," he said pointing towards the viewport "is moving in to target our battle group! Chances are that we aren't going to make it through this anyway. The way I see things, we might as well bring one of these bastards to hell along with us!"
The Lieutenant looked at Kleigger for a moment and then nodded in support. Turning back the console he acknowledged the order. "Yes, sir, reactivating the torpedo launchers."
Kleigger watched the destroyer grow larger in the viewport as it moved in their direction at best possible speed; each passing moment his despite for the Nephilim growing, his need to eliminate them rising. His fierce dedication to his duty to protect the worlds and citizens of the Confederation, ingrained in him since the beginnings of his training in the Academy, consumed him.
He knew what he had to do and he knew the consequences. The loss would be his; the Confederation would claim the win. A sacrifice for the greater good. There was no hesitation, no second-guessing, and no need for debate. The course of action was crystal clear.
"The launchers are active, sir."
The lieutenant pressed down a button on the console. For one breathless moment, everything was still. The universe seemed to stop, just waiting for the torpedoes to launch.
And then they did.
A salvo of torpedoes ripple-fired out from the TCS Clarke, banking to the ship's left and raced towards the enemy destroyer at breakneck speed. There was no defense for the destroyer as the torpedoes pierced right through the armor. The Confederation fighters had already taken out its shield emitters and the surprise of having the Clarke, the frigate that was supposedly crippled, firing the torpedoes didn't give the Nephilim much of a chance at stopping the attack.
Plumes of fire burst out from the rear portion of the Nephilim destroyer, quickly dispersing in the vacuum of space. Seconds later, the hull shattered as if it were glass, sending debris flying out in all directions. The ship itself slowly turned over on its side like a wounded animal crying out in agony, awaiting the inevitable to overtake it. With a final series of explosions, this animal lost its battle. Kleigger won it. But he wouldn't be around to celebrate the victory. He had another battle to engage in. One that included his completely defenseless ship and the three Manta heavy fighters fast approaching with missile locks.
It was their turn to win. His turn to lose. He simply accepted the fact as the missiles came soaring towards him.
A Few Minutes Later...
The tide of the battle had shifted decisively in favor of the Confederation with the arrival of the 8th Cruiser squadron. Despite the loss of one of its destroyers, the group had eliminated not only the two corvettes and a number of fighters, but the menacing Hydra-class cruiser as well, which significantly lowered the Nephilim's anti-capship capabilities.
Only the final victory blow remained. All that was needed was a couple of torpedoes to hit the now unshielded enemy carrier and the hard fought battle would be over.
But not until then.
"Torch Five, cover me!" Lt. Dawn Summers shouted out over the comm and she positioned her bomber for a final torpedo run.
"I've got you covered, Hammer Seven!"
Lt. Victoria Sullivan moved in with Summers and escorted her in on her torpedo run.
Two enemy fighters converge on their position. Summers needed to keep her bomber steady in order to acquire the torpedo lock as the Nephilim pressed their attack.
Sullivan banked from side to side, shooting at the enemy fighters. One of the ships spun out of control as her shots ripped through its armor and tore off a piece of the ship. Using her fighter's thrust pod she quickly turned to her left and let loose a tachyon barrage at the other, lighter enemy fighter. It vaporized before her eyes. Two quick wins.
However, the Devil Ray that had snuck up behind her foreshadowed her loss.
The enemy ace pounded away at her shields as she desperately tried to keep the fire away from Summers' bomber. Sullivan transferred more power to the aft shields to buy herself and Summers more time, but soon there just wouldn't be enough left to hold out against her attacker.
"Torch 5! Break off, I have her covered!"
Iceman's fighter spun on its axis, its afterburners flaring and the sunlight gleaming off its smooth hull.
"Just a little more," Sullivan said, as she was jolted around in her cockpit by the weapons fire.
An instant later, two projectiles raced away from Summers' bomber just before it pitched up ninety degrees. "Torpedoes away!"
Sullivan banked away from the carrier, but not before the Devil Ray got one last shot in. Her fighter spun out of control. Warning lights flashed in her eyes, alarms rung off in her ears, leaving her with only one option. She reached down and pulled the ejection ring.
She could hear the explosive bolts firing off hull. She could see the oxygen escape the cockpit. Right before a bright light blinded her.
TCS Endeavour; Medical Bay
1352 Hours, 14 Feb 2681 (2681.045)
She opened her eyes slowly. It took a few seconds for things to come focus, but she still couldn't figure out what was going on.
Turning her head to one side, she saw her sister Julia sitting beside her. The look on her face was one of extreme happiness and relief.
"What... where... am I?"
Julia smiled and gently stroked her sister's hair. "You're in med-bay. You've been unconscious for over an hour," she said quietly. "You took quite a few hits when you ejected from your fighter."
It was all slowly coming back to her now. The mission, they had to take out the Nephilim carrier group. Escorting Summers in on the final torpedo run. The Devil Ray that took her out.
"Did we... did we get the job done?"
"Yeah, we won. Summers took out the carrier with those torps," replied Julia. A somber look flashed across her face. "But we lost the Cicada and the Clarke. Not to mention over a dozen good pilots."
Victoria nodded slowly. Her eyes drooped slowly as her weariness caught up with her again. Julia adjusted the blanket to cover her sister properly and sat quietly by her side as she drifted off into sleep.
TCS Endeavour; Wing Commander's Office
1400 Hours, 14 Feb 2681 (2681.045)
Paul Taylor glanced over the reports on his desk. They had eliminated the Nephilim task force. One carrier, one cruiser, two destroyers, four corvettes, and over one hundred and fifty enemy fighters. Quite a dent in the Nephilim fleet. But it had its price.
They had won their battle. But in the process, they lost quite a bit. And it weighed heavily on Taylor's heart as he activated his computer
terminal and started to type:
"Mr. And Mrs. Roberts, it is my sad duty to inform you..."