: “ Loud and Clear ”

"Nothing in the world is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
Winston Churchill


Nifelheim System, Downing Quadrant, Vega Sector
Aboard TCS Yorktown (CV-54); Briefing Room
February 17th, 2681/2681.048, 1612
Hours (CST)

“So what you’re telling me is that the entire air wing is operational again? Including the escorts’ flight wings?” Admiral Kennedy said. 

Assembled over the map table were Colonel Alvarez, Captain Ramirez, and each of the Yorktown’s squadron COs, along with her Marine detachment CO. 

“Yessir. The Maintenance folks worked their asses off. Right now, they’re all on a three hour stand-down. I’m guessing they’re all asleep, not that I blame them. What’s the latest on the group coming in from Seggalion? Has the Valeria’s strike engaged them yet?” Alvarez replied. 

Kennedy smiled ruefully. “They’re not hostile, Colonel. Looks like the Tanfen Corporation decided to show for this one. Apparently, they’ve been running from a Nephilim group that they encountered.”

Major Rosencrantz did a double-take. “Are you kidding? Good guys showing up for once? Well thank God. It’s about time we got a break. What’s the ETA on the incoming fleet from Ymir?” he said.

"The bad guys are supposed to show up some time after 2200 this evening. Other than that, no guarantees,” Kennedy replied. 

“Anything else we should know?” Colonel White, CO of the Marines, asked.

“Looks like we’ll have support and be working with the Endeavour and CVBG-A's Hades-Shrak’har group for our strike on the enemy dreadnought. We’re not sure what kind of group the enemy will form around the Tiamat we’re supposed to take out, but we can guess at least a pair of cruisers, maybe another pair of destroyers and numerous smaller vessels and lots and lots of fighter support. We’re going to be planning an Alpha Strike, with help from both of the carrier groups. With that in mind, Rapier, Aurora, and Auriga will be in fairly close proximity to one another, so if you’re in trouble, you might be able to reach one of those carriers if you can’t reach the Yorktown. Questions?” Kennedy asked. 

“What about the Dragonslayers? Will they be going in with us on this strike?” Major Carter asked.    

“We’re throwing everything we’ve got here out against them, and that includes the Dragonslayers, or part of them, anyhow. I know how short on torpedo-carrying craft we are, so we’ll be sending the Thunderbolts from them in any case. Hell, we’ve even had plans to send the Wasps out, due to the number of fighters we’ll be throwing you against,” Alvarez replied. 

Major Pierce looked a bit hesitant at that. His Wasp Interceptors weren’t made for long-range patrols, mainly BARCAP and close-in defense of the battle group they were assigned to. “What about endurance, ma’am? The Interceptors weren’t designed for high-endurance runs. We may have some trouble if we have to hit them way the hell out there.” Pierce spoke up.

“Your boosters can get you out of trouble and back to the carrier if you need them to, Major. We can also tank you coming and going, though that might be problematic,” Alvarez replied.

She took a breath, then continued, “Keep in mind, we may be called upon to support a strike for the Auriga battle group and its strike against whatever their target is. We also will probably want to keep an ear out in case the Endeavor calls, but they haven’t had reason to ask for our assistance yet.”

“When do we commence flight operations?” Captain Martinez asked.    

“We’ll commence launching in five hours. In the meantime, give your people a bit more rest, get them spun up on what our mission is, and get them ready for one hell of a day,” Alvarez stated.


There were none.

“Then you’re dismissed,” Admiral Kennedy said.

The officers filed out of CIC, heading for various locations about the ship, all with one thing on their minds:

The storm was nearing.

William Kennedy looked around as his officers left. It looked like the Yorktown had her work cut out for her again. He could only hope that their luck would hold out one more time. He’d been with these officers since the start of this conflict, and couldn’t believe their willingness to endure such circumstances. He was still angry with the Confederation Senate in its decision. He was still wondering about how to wreck Senator Diego’s political career when Ramirez walked up next to him.

"Can’t say I’ve got a good feeling about this one, sir.”

“Nor me, Captain. Nor me. The odds are most certainly not as good as they were during Loki. We don’t have as much strength, and they’ve got a better assessment of our tactics and capabilities now, along with fresh reinforcements. They’ve still got numbers, despite what we’ve done so far. Every crewmember aboard this ship deserves the medal of honor, but do you think they’ll get it? No. God damn Senator Diego and his flower-power friends anyhow.” Kennedy said.

Ramirez was wisely silent, having just put his own feelings on that little fiasco out of his mind, and not wanting to have to struggle for another forty-five minutes to do so again.

“Admiral Kennedy, report to the bridge. Repeat, Admiral Kennedy, report to the bridge. Captain Ramirez, report to the bridge. Repeat, Captain Ramirez, report to the bridge,” the loudspeaker blared.    

Kennedy and Ramirez quickly made their way to the bridge.    

“Sir, we’ve copied transmissions from Hades and Endeavour. They’re conforming to our movements and closing with us. They estimate they’ll be in position in about four hours,” the communications officer said.

Kennedy frowned. “Cutting it close, aren’t they?”

“Navigational hazards in this system aren’t exactly easy to avoid, sir,” the Comms Officer piped up.

Kennedy nodded. “Very well. Acknowledge the signal and relay our intention to commence flight operations in -- ” Kennedy checked the clock on the bulkhead, then continued, “four and a half hours. Have Colonel Alvarez prepare a reconnaissance sweep as the preliminary launch. Report our intentions to Admiral Hanton, then resume EMCON,” he finished.

“Aye aye, sir," the Comms Officer replied.


Aboard TCS Yorktown (CV-54); Crew Quarters
2125 Hours (CST)

“It’s so strange. Almost dreamlike in a way,” Martinez said.    

Carter, finishing a glass of ginger ale, couldn’t help but nod. “Do you think this would’ve happened during peacetime?” He asked.    

“Probably not,” Martinez said. “Circumstances are different, and emotions tend to get twisted around during wartime.” She said, finishing off the last of her own drink, an interesting mix of seltzer and fruit juices.    

“Do you regret it?” Carter asked, taking her hand, and kissing it lightly.    

She smiled, the expression reflected in her eyes. “Not a bit.”    

“Me neither,” Carter said, then leaned in for a kiss.    

It was indeed remarkable, Carter thought upon further reflection. He’d never been one much for romance. Women in general were just too alien to him… then, along come those three little horrible letters, W-A-R, and the universe seemed to turn itself inside-out around him… but, at this point, it looked as though there might be an upside to all of this slaughter…now if only the slaughter itself would end.    

The hell of it was, Carter thought, there was nothing to do at this point. Patrols were out from other ships, but everybody else was stood-down to get some well-deserved rest. Now, there was nothing to do, nothing to watch out for, nothing to anticipate for another… four hours, at the earliest.    

This was the heart of warfare, even more so than the fighting that embodied it: The tedium, the monotony, the hours upon hours of waiting and tension that wore down all human endurance with the certainty of the ocean eroding the shore.    

But this time, Carter was sure, the waiting and the doing nothing, or relatively nothing, was helping the Combined Fleet to regain its fighting edge after skirmish upon skirmish, clash upon battle upon slaughter.    

For once, Carter was glad of the monotony.    

Martinez leaned her head against his shoulder, and let out a sigh. “I hate to break it to you, but I’ve got a patrol to fly in about fifteen minutes.”    

Carter nodded. “They’re giving you one of the sweeps?”    

Martinez shrugged. “Actually, I could use the flight time. I figure if I survive, they’ll probably give me a promotion to major, and stick me at a desk after they dump medals on us, so… get the flight time while I can.”    

Carter grimaced. “To survive all of this, only to fly a desk… ouch. I don’t even want to anticipate what that would be like…”

Martinez also grimaced. “Yeah… underlings to do the paperwork for you… lots of dinner parties and easy commutes to home… no scrambles…” She smiled.    

Carter’s grimace increased in size. “Don’t even start. Also remember: No flying.”    

Martinez nodded. “But first, we have to survive this miserable conflict.”    

They both sat silently for a while.    

“And that’s the greatest trick of all,” Carter concluded.


Aboard TCS Yorktown (CV-54); Major Brancer’s Quarters
Same Time

For Adam Brancer, religion was a vague thing. God was indeed present, and had created the universe, but he and Brancer had a somewhat distant relationship. Brancer felt, for some reason, the need to pray at this moment.

He struggled to remember the prayers he’d heard others say, then just stopped, and tried to contemplate peace.

Still, the strange feeling that had come upon him during the past few hours refused to go away. Something was amiss…but he couldn’t figure it out.

He shook his head. He was a pilot, there was an enemy, and he would be launching against them in a while. What could be simpler than a case of the jitters? It was perfectly normal, and he’d been scared before.

But something was different this time. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.

Brancer didn’t really consider himself superstitious, but he didn’t just set his feelings entirely aside, either. He double checked his will and testament… then stopped, wondering why he’d just done that.

As long as he could remember, he hadn’t done anything like this.

All right, Adam, he thought to himself. Snap out of it. You’ve got a job to do not long from now, and you’ve got to get some sleep. Get into your bed, and put this out of your mind. Focus on the mission. Everything else is of secondary concern.    

Brancer rolled into his bunk, and turned out the light, but still, sleep would not come.    

He struggled to find sleep, to find something, anything resembling rest, but something still troubled him.    

He wracked his mind for the next twenty minutes, trying to figure out what it was he was missing.    

What was it?    

He pulled out a small snack from one of his desk drawers, and munched on it for a while, still deep in thought, trying to identify the source of his unease.    

Brancer rolled back into his bunk, pulled the sheets up to his neck, and tried to sleep.    

Eventually, but not without a fight, sleep did come.    

The dreams were disturbing. Nightmare images that he could never quite make out, causing him to toss and turn, then wake up an hour later.    

He rolled out of his bunk and tried some pushups, jumping jacks, and situps, trying to wear himself out. He was mentally tired, but his body refused sleep. He went to the small bathroom setup and splashed water on his face, trying to snap himself out of it.    

Then, he realized, that the nightmares had taken his mind off of his unease… but why?    

Jesus, Adam, he thought to himself. Get over it. Get some rest and be ready for tomorrow. You’ve got a big day ahead.

That phrase actually seemed to clear his mind. He went back to his bunk and fell asleep, forgetting all about the feeling of unease. 

It would indeed be a big day, after all.



Aboard TCS Yorktown (CV-54)
Combat Intelligence Center
February 18th, 2681/2681.049, 0702 Hours (CST)

Admiral Kennedy was glad that he wasn’t fighting off sleep with caffeine any longer. He was glad his pilots were rested as well. Hell, he was glad the whole of the Combined Fleet had gotten a stand-down. 

Because the enemy had arrived, at long last.    

Warning beacons had transmitted their data from their positions just within clear sensor range of the jump points the Nephilim were expected to use, along with whatever data they picked up before they were destroyed by Moray and Manta fighters.    

It was time.    

Time to fight.    

Time to live.    

Time to die.    

Time to end this thing right here and right now, before the Nephilim could do any more damage.    

Kennedy turned to Commander Preston Wallace, the York’s XO, and said, “Commander, summon all squadron leaders, the Wing Commander, your captain, and the Marine CO to the briefing room. The Nephilim are here. As soon as you’ve done that, get a message out to battle groups Aurora and Auriga. Inform them of our target’s heading and location, and that they should be prepared to launch an Alpha strike when we give the signal. Transmit this,” Kennedy said, handing over a PDP, “As the rendezvous coordinates for the fighter groups. Get to it.”    

Wallace nodded, and not-quite-ran to the bridge. Kennedy, in the meantime, walked as calmly as possible to the briefing room. Major Adam Brancer saw the Admiral walking, and knew what the relaxed but guarded look on his face meant.    

Time to go.    

He quickly fell into step behind the admiral. His final will and testament were already written out, and he’d gotten his final letters out to his family the day before. All he’d been doing was waiting.    

His stomach gave him a turn as he remembered the odd occurrences last night, but it wasn’t bothering him now. He put it out of his mind, and walked towards the Admiral.    

Kennedy turned, and saw the question in Brancer’s eyes. With a slight smile and a nod, he answered that question.    


Brancer returned the nod.


Captain Selena Martinez pulled her flight suit on as she received the announcement. She’d gotten back from her patrol three hours before, and had spent the extra time sleeping, as she’d ordered the rest of her pilots to do.    

She made sure that all of her final letters were sent, and that her final wishes were written out, then turned and began to walk out of her quarters.

Before she left, she dropped to her knees beside her bunk, folding her hands in front of her, and began whispering a prayer.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”

As she spoke the prayer, she reflected upon the words, turning their meaning over and over in her head, until she drew the prayer to it’s inevitable conclusion:    

“… Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Her task accomplished, she turned, and strode smoothly out of her quarters.


Major Timothy Carter performed a similar task. He stood up, closed out the paperwork he’d been filing, then turned to his desk.

A picture of his parents was upon the desk, next to a small cardboard container. He picked up the container, and removed the content. It was an antique wooden cross, with a metal figurine upon it. He zipped it into one of his suit pockets and walked out, knowing what was about to begin.



Major Matthew Pierce emerged from his quarters at the same time that Major Vladmir Karpoff emerged from his, and Major Michael Rosencrantz emerged from his. Each of the three exchanged looks, then nodded, drawing strength from one another’s presence. As one, they turned and walked towards the briefing room.


Colonel Victoria Alvarez lifted her eyes from her computer and examined her quarters. The pictures and other memorabilia seemed to jump out more prominently from the metal bulkheads as she recalled which incident each commemorated and how she had gotten them.    

There was a picture of her, standing beside a late-model Sabre that she had first qualified in during the First Kilrathi War. There was a picture of her Arrow light fighter that she had used when she had attained flight leader. There, the picture of she and her first squadron standing before a Hellcat V which had marked her first squadron command during the Border Worlds conflict.    

Finally, the picture of her upon her taking command of the Yorktown’s wing hung before her eyes, reminding her of the men and women she commanded currently.    

She stood, and, without another look around, left her quarters.


Captain John Ramirez looked around his bridge. While not spotless, it was clean and well-organized. The only untidiness was that which came from a regular day’s operations, which would be cleaned at the shift change.

His command. He had attained it by surviving and by excelling. Now it was all threatened. As far as he could remember, he hadn’t really stood to look around at his accomplishment. He took such a moment now. At the plotters, who made sure accurate information was displayed about the aircraft involved in flight operations. At the sensor and communications officers, both bent over their consoles. At the helmsman, standing erect and making minor adjustments to the Yorktown’s course.

Finally, at his chair, centrally located upon the bridge. His accomplishment, his prize for all of his hard work.

A shadow of a smile flitted across his features… and then he was gone, having entered the turbolift.

Armageddon had finally come.


They filed in one-by-one or in small groups. But in the end, all were present.

Kennedy nodded to the officer, who punched a button on his console. The images of five more fliers and three ship captains appeared, coming in from other ships by laser link. These were the leaders of the Dragonslayer composite flight wing off of the escorting vessels, and those vessels’ captains.

The large map table before them came to life, displaying wireframe images of the Nephilim warships as they were jumping through the Ymir jump point.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the game is afoot. The Nephilim jumped into Nifelheim approximately ten hours ago. We’re going to be preparing for an Alpha strike. Major Pierce, your fighters are going to be running round-the-clock CAP beginning in ten minutes. However, for the rest of you, here’s what you’re going to be hitting,” Kennedy said.

He isolated one of the groups that the Nephilim had split up into.

“This battle group is headed almost directly towards us. This -- ” He said, pointing to the largest ship, a spidery Tiamat-class dreadnought, “is the primary target. These two Hydra-class cruisers are secondary targets. Make sure these are dead.”

Kennedy nodded again to the intelligence officer. A small, flashing yellow point appeared on the screen. “This is your rendezvous point with the flight groups from battle groups Auriga and Aurora. You’ll link up here and proceed inbound to the target. When you’re headed outbound, you’ll use this same point at which to break off into your respective fighter groups and return to the correct carriers. And if anybody lands on the wrong ship… well…” Kennedy and the rest of the room laughed uneasily, then returned their attention to the briefing screen.    

Small icons, representing the hundreds of fighters moving towards the enemy group illuminated, linking up, and proceeding to the enemy group.    

“This is a maximum effort. We’ve even thought about sending Major Pierce’s group into the fray, but -- ” Kennedy began.    

Pierce raised his hand. “Sir, we’re ready to go.”    

Kennedy shook his head. “No, Major. You’ve got to stay here for this one. We can’t afford to be ambushed with no fighter cover, and your Wasps don’t have the endurance. No Major, I’m sorry but you stay here, and Colonel Alvarez agrees.”    

Pierce nodded, then looked down dejectedly a moment before returning his attention to the goings-on displayed on the screen.    

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a slugging match. We’ve got some interesting obstacles for you to use in this system, but the Nephilim appear to be doing everything they can to minimize the protection you can provide for yourselves,” Kennedy continued.    

“In other words, we’re on our own,” Alvarez said.    

Kennedy grimaced. “You’ll have fighters from three different carrier battle groups, and almost everything we can spare from CVBG Rapier itself, Colonel. That’s very close to one hundred fighters and bombers, not counting the attachments from the other groups.”    

Alvarez nodded. “Then it is certainly a slugging match.”    

Kennedy frowned again. “That’s correct. You’re authorized to do everything you can to tip the odds in your favor. I want all of you back home in one piece, and I want the bugs gone. Clear?”    

There were nods and muted "aye aye sirs" from all across the room.    

“Very well. You have...” Kennedy checked his wrist chrono, then continued, “... fifty-two minutes in which to finalize any plans you think up. After that, it’s show time.”

Kennedy paused again, then continued, “I know you’ve all lost friends, and some of you have probably lost family in this campaign. I know you’ve sucked it up through the endless patrols, the fall-backs, the air strikes and overwhelming odds, the victories and the defeats,” he said, then paused again, looking as though he were in the grip of a powerful emotion to all present… which he was.

“Now I’m asking you… the Confederation and the Border Worlds are asking you… to stick it out one more time. No more running, no more pullbacks, no more surprises. What the enemy has here is all he can get here. This is it, people: The last hurdle. I’m so damned proud of you all I could cry. Before this campaign, we were a group of separate elements with mutual orders. Now, we’re acting as a single entity with a single goal: To save our species from this threat. Fight today as you never have before, because every fight we’ve had over the course of this campaign up to now has been for this moment. The line has been drawn; today, we stand up and say ‘This far, and NO FARTHER!’ And no farther shall they get!”

As one, the entire group assembled, whether on a screen or present, sitting in the briefing room, stood up. As one, they responded, “YES SIR!!”    

And as one, they prepared to fight the final battle, or final series of battles, in a system which used the Nordic term for ‘hell’ as its title.



Aboard TCS Yorktown (CV-54)
Flight Deck, 0812 Hours (CST)

Major Timothy Carter sat in his ejection seat. His squadron was the last to launch. Across from him, upon the number one catapult, was Colonel Alvarez. In space ahead, he could make out the spindly forms of the destroyers Maribel and Stasheff, one having already launched its fighters, the other standing by to launch them in the event that CVBG Auriga was attacked.

Each of the three task forces was in close proximity to the others, so as to provide mutual protection. An impressive force it was, but coming towards them was something even more impressive.

Well, Carter thought, here’s to hoping luck is with the underdogs today.

“Panther one-oh-one, two lit and in the green, ready to fly,” Carter said after drawing a deep breath.

He heard Alvarez call echo his. “Panther one-zero-zero, two on the line and ready to roll.”

The catapult officer twirled his fingers, and Carter ran the throttles to the stops, kicking in the afterburners. He gave a thumbs-up to the cat officer, then snapped off a quick salute. The catapult officer returned the salute, then reached down, touched the deck, and pointed forward.

Carter’s Panther shot forward across the deck, and then out into space, his breastbone trying to touch the vertebrae of his spinal cord under the forces of acceleration.

Looking around, he marveled at the firepower assembled. A grand total of one hundred and one aircraft would be launched and operating today from Yorktown’s Battle Group Rapier alone. Of those, eighty-seven would be proceeding on with the strike, while Major Pierce’s interceptors stayed behind and flew CAP, and the ten Tigersharks aboard the Stasheff remained to support them if necessary. One after another, the remaining Panthers shot down the catapult, forming up into neat groups in space.

Leading were the Sindri Stars, with Martinez in the lead. Following them were the Arkrunners under Brancer, and the Grendels under Rosencrantz. Behind them flew the Cavaliers, all eleven that remained after their severe losses in the last two systems, under Karpoff. Directly above them were the Fearless Felines, and on the left and right flanks respectively were the Excaliburs of Theseus Squadron under Major Coursain, and the Thunderbolts of Hercules Squadron under Major von der Graf, carrying torpedoes.

“Lima-Golf to all craft, assume base course one-one-seven z-plus five and set speed to three hundred KPS. Time to go, people. You have any problems, call them now."

Carter smiled in pride at the silence that followed. No backing out. All-or-nothing by everybody in the flight group. He ignored the cold chill that ran down his spine. It was time to end this thing, once and for all.


Aboard Wasp 149 "Death Stinger Lead"
Same Time 

Matt Pierce had never been more disappointed in his life.    

The entire force, less twenty-three fighters, was going on a strike mission, possibly the biggest of the war… and here he was, sitting in an interceptor, waiting for something… anything to happen. He could hear the chatter over the frequencies, feel the tension in the pilots of the strike group as they headed towards the enemy, to engage him on his own turf, as it were.

And he felt as if a part of his heart were being torn from his chest as he watched them recede into the starfield of space.

“Good luck, guys,” he whispered. Then, he remembered his own task: To make sure the strike had something to come home to. “All right, Stingers. It’s going to be a long wait. Split into sections and take positions around the group. Perseus and Viper Squadrons, what’s your status?” he asked.    

“We’re up and on the line. We can all be in space in two minutes or less,” came the voice of Captain Prescott, CO of the Vipers.    

“Eagle Eyes, this is Stinger Lead. Transmission check, over," Pierce said, addressing the SWACS radar craft that were at the front and rear of the group.    

“Eagle Eye One, loud and clear.”    

“Eagle Eye Two, up and ready.”    

“Texaco, how about you?” Pierce asked, calling the two refueling vessels in space.    

“Texaco One, green and good.”    

“Texaco Two is sweet.”    

“All right, folks. Settle in for the long haul,” Pierce said, shifting himself into as comfortable a position as possible. It would be a long flight.


Aboard Panther 100 "Lima-Golf"
0828 Hours (CST)

“Lima Gold, this is Sindri Lead. I show contact, dead ahead, distance about thirty-two thousand klicks… correction, many contacts. Showing IFF codes…friendlies,” came Martinez’ voice over the tactical frequency.

“Let’s make sure,” Alvarez said. She shifted to the common strike frequency. “Alfa-Kilo,” she called.

“Tango-Zulu,” came one reply.

“Charlie-Juliet,” came the second.

Alvarez let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Those were the correct responses to her authentication challenge. The first came from the Endeavour flight group, while the second came from the combined Hades/Shrak’har flight group.    

“Damned glad to see you folks,” Alvarez said as her group approached, and the new contacts began moving towards Battle Group Rapier’s flight group. 

“Roger that, Colonel,” replied Commander Garrison, the Endeavour’s flight leader. “After encountering swarm after swarm of bugs, it’s good to see some friendly faces.”


Aboard Tigershark 101 "Sky Raider Lead"
0830 Hours (CST)

Looking out his cockpit across the canvas of what would soon become a battlefield, the squadrons of CVBG-A's 188th FW could be seen massing in force.

Major Dan "Bugfix" Burdock, squadron commander of the White Hopes, chuckled in his cockpit as he heard Colonel Alvarez's voice over his headset. "Sky Raider Leader here... can't say me or my flyboys are glad to be out here, but we'll do our job, don't you worry about it."

As Major K’tik "Firedrake" formed on Burdock's wing, Burdock double-checked his instrumentation and weapons one last time as he prepared to lead his squadronmates into yet another fray.


Aboard Panther 100 "Lima-Golf"
Same Time

“Alright. We all know why we’re here. Aurora Group, take station four thousand klicks to port. Auriga Group, take position same distance on the opposite side. Rapier Group, resume original course, same speed.”

“Moving into position,” Garrison replied. Moments later, the Endeavour and escorts changed direction and headed towards the Yorktown’s left side.


Aboard Panther 100 "DDT Lead"
0832 Hours (CST)

"Copy that," Major Hishori "Ronin" Nawazaki of the "Aztecs" piped, veering his Panther around to lead his squadron to their ordered position. Ah, back into the hornet's nest, Ronin thought. Orchin Man, it seems I'm not that far behind you, old friend...


Aboard Panther 100 "Lima-Golf"
Same Time

The group of fighters and bombers slid through the inky, star-speckled blackness of space without a peep, the fliers from Battle Group Rapier feeling instantly more at ease with their comrades-in-arms beside them, not feeling quite so alone on this vast ocean.

Looking around her, Alvarez tried to figure out the composition of the other wings. It looked like the Endeavor group had committed one squadron of Panthers, and one each of Shrikes, Tigersharks, and Piranhas. At maximum, which they weren’t, they would’ve totaled sixty-four aircraft, Due to the losses incurred by the Nephilim, they were significantly less than that at this point. Still, fifty-plus fighters and bombers added nicely to the total.

From a distance, the Hades/Shrak’har group looked like it had sortied what was left of its squadron of Panthers, its Vampires, its Shrike torpedo bombers, and one of its squadrons of Tigersharks. And also present… were Kilrathi fighters of two types. They looked like Vaktoth and Paktahn torpedo bombers. Before the war, that would’ve been well over eighty, according to peacetime squadron organization. But eighty fighters they were not. The Panther complement was sorely depleted, and the other squadrons had taken damage as well. 

However, even with the losses, the group of fighters and bombers approached two hundred strong… a powerful enough force to end the threat that this task force was posing.

It was an eerie feeling, flying silent with so many craft around them. It sent shivers down Alvarez’ spine, and she hoped that the silence was not a harbinger of things to come.

This was it.