PHASE V : THE NIFELHEIM ARC ( 45 of 62 )
“ Check and Mate ”
Aboard Vampire 117 "Grendel Lead"
“All right, people, you heard her. Stand by one MIRV apiece. I hate to use them, but we’ve got to keep their fighter count down. Wingmen, keep with your leaders. I don’t want to write any more letters,” Rosencrantz said.
He selected a Manta, and flipped his missile selection to one of the two Tracker MIRVs his fighter was equipped with.
The range dropped rapidly as the enemy accelerated towards the strike group. Fifty thousand…forty-five thousand…forty thousand…
Rosencrantz risked a brief look left and right. His fighters had spread out, making it less likely that the Nephilim could fire a large-scale weapon into the heart of the formation and knock out multiple fighters with a single missile.
Just like he’d trained them to do… with Arkadyova’s help.
White Witch had been a good XO… he just wished that she was here, flying with him, helping him keep the squadron together right now.
Rosencrantz took a deep breath, then blew it out.
Time to dance.
As one, the Grendels fired off their Tracker MIRVs, sending white streaks arcing towards the oncoming enemy fighters. As one, the pilots of the Vampires they’d been fired from released the firing triggers, and the additional boosters separated from the four IFF missiles, which themselves separated, locked onto individual targets, and did their best to obliterate them.
Along with the missiles from the other groups.
Altogether, a total of sixty-six missiles, either IFF or IR, were targeted upon the enemy fighters. Fifty missiles impacted the enemy formation. Of those, thirty-six were enough to get kills.
But the enemy was still launching fighters.
“Break by pairs and attack!” Called Rosencrantz as the enemy closed range and counter-fired their own missiles, turning the neat, dagger-like formations of fighters into a swirling mass of chaos.
Into this mix was thrown the Sindri Stars, their small, agile Piranhas darting about, spraying laser, ion, and stormfire cannon rounds across space, resulting in an additional seven kills.
Two squadrons of the incredibly fast Squid interceptors had been waiting for the majority of the Confederation fighters to become bogged down in the furball, and streaked across space "above" the engagement, headed directly for the bomber formation.
Between the bomber formation and the Squids stood only the Tigersharks, Alvarez, Raptor, and Frost. Rosencrantz took a moment to wish them luck, then plunged back into the battle, destroying a Moray with three full salvoes from his frontal weaponry.
Aboard Tigershark 302 "Arkrunner Lead"
“All right. Here they come. Everybody stay with your wingmen, and try to get as many of them in the first pass as you can. Break and attack… now!” Garza called.
The Tigersharks began maneuvering slightly, opening their spacing up while as the same time clearing themselves of other fighter fields of fire.
Garza selected his Dragonfly RP pods and lined up an oncoming Squid, which was racing towards him at incredibly high speeds, its weapon outriggers tucked tightly in behind it. It wasn’t maneuvering as a result of its high speed, trying to blow straight through the fighter screen and engage the bombers, its primary targets.
He watched the range drop… until only ten thousand klicks remained… and then he depressed and held the missile trigger.
One after another, eight Dragonflies screamed out, trailing white lines all across space. Seven of them hit the Squid head-on, and at the combined speeds, with the warheads that each rocket carried, there wasn’t enough left of the Squid to even lead somebody to suspect the wreckage had been a fighter.
Out of the corners of his eyes, Garza could see other Tigersharks letting fly with Dragonflies, and in six of the eight cases where they were used, they hit the target, due to the Squids’ high speed and low maneuverability at those same speeds.
Though the Squids had originally had superiority in numbers to the total of seventeen Tigersharks facing them, after the head-on volley they were now facing an inferiority, the odds having become those same seventeen Tigersharks versus fifteen Squids, and of those fifteen, three were damaged.
Garza reefed his fighter around, selected a Javelin HS missile and charging mass driver cannon, and began charging the gun, watching his capacitors dip precipitously as the guns hungrily consumed the energy.
He saw a Squid moving across his line of sight, having rolled into a right bank, and lined up a deflection shot.
It wasn’t a great angle, but it worked. Garza released the trigger, and the rounds tore into the Squid, completely severing one of the outrigger arms, which had deployed to restore some modicum of agility to the interceptor. The Squid attempted to come around and present it’s relatively small cross-section to Garza, but, with a burst of afterburner, Garza shot past the fighter, hauled back on the control column, and looped around onto the Squid’s tail.
The tone signifying that his missile had locked onto the heat being put out by the enemy’s engines range clear in his ears, and he depressed the trigger.
There was a slight jolt as the explosive bolts blew the missile off of the pylon, and the missile streaked ahead.
One half-second later, there was an explosion as the missile detonated, leaving only shards of the target.
But five of the Squids had gotten past the Tigersharks, which were now engaged and moving relatively slowly, having been forced to maneuver to engaged the Squids.
Aboard Panther 100 "Lima-Golf"
“Here they come. Bombers, don’t hesitate to open up with your turrets if they get past us. Do whatever it takes, but get through alive and deliver the torpedoes,” Alvarez said, accelerating to afterburner herself, and watching as the range closed rapidly.
Yes, she and the pair of Retaliators were outnumbered, but they outclassed their opponents, and assuming that no other Squids got through, they could handle the problem.
Alvarez selected the leading Squid, and loosed a trio of full salvoes, two of which impacted the Squid. The forward shields of the interceptor failed, and the fighter rolled away as though scalded, extending and trying to maneuver clear of Alvarez’ forward arc.
She released an IFF missile, and brought her fighter back around towards the next oncoming Squid, hoping to keep one distracted while she destroyed the other.
This time, she selected a Spiculum IR, snap-rolled to get her fighter in behind the Squid, and waited for the lock-on tone.
It was short in coming, due to the fact that the Squid pilot seemed to have expected her to attempt to keep him at arm’s length, as she had done with the first target. Now, Alvarez was in knife-fighting range.
The tone chimed, and she mashed the firing button.
The missile streaked into space, ignoring the first three decoys that the fighter punched out, then locking onto the fourth, arcing after it. It passed through the decoy without detonating, and brought itself around again.
Alvarez swore under her breath, and began spraying the aft end of the Squid with tachyon and ion cannon fire, punching through its shields. The Squid tucked in its outrigger pods again, and began pulling away. Alvarez took careful aim, and loosed two salvoes.
The precision beams of energy tore the stern section of the fighter apart, and over the communications frequencies, there came an echo of an inhuman scream.
Raptor felt his pulse quicken and his breathing speed up as he and Frost accelerated towards the three Squids racing towards them. No matter how many times he did this, every combat still brought on the razor sharp edge of reaction and perception evoked by the eons old fight or flight response. Every fighter pilot knew that he or she could win a dozen or even a hundred dogfights in his or her career, but it would only take a single loss, a single mistake, to end that career for good. The moment that any pilot stopped treating each combat as if it were the last, chances were that it would be the last. Experienced combat pilots didn’t think consciously of that while in a dogfight, certainly didn’t allow themselves to be distracted by it, but they were always aware of it.
What Retaliator pilots had going for them though, was the knowledge that someone was always watching their backs. The Retaliator was different from most other superiority fighters in that it carried a tailgunner. It was also different from most fighters that carried a tailgunner in that the gunner wasn’t in a turret, but in the cockpit directly behind the pilot. From there the gunner could not only watch their six and fire the rear guns by remote control, but could also monitor the RHAWS and other warning sensors, operate the ECM equipment, and even release additional decoys as needed. The second crewmember was essentially a defensive systems officer, whose job it was to keep the fighter in one piece.
That in turn freed up the Retaliator pilots to focus on flying the powerful fighters and using their crushing offensive power to the full. Retaliators were relatively slow and cumbersome compared to most modern superiority fighters. They could run and turn with First Kilrathi War superiority fighters like Excaliburs or modern medium fighters like Tigersharks, but they would struggle to keep with Panthers or similar craft in a knife fight. What they did have going for them however, was impressively thick defenses, and brutal firepower. They was designed to smash straight through an enemy formation like a runaway train, killing as many enemy fighters as quickly as possible with a devastating barrage of gunfire and missiles, before engaging the survivors in a conventional dogfight. It wasn’t pretty, but it had proven effective against both Kilrathi and Nephilim.
That was precisely the tactic Raptor and Frost employed against the trio of Squids. The Squids were flying in a tight arrowhead formation as they closed in on the two Retaliators. Their outrigger pods were almost touching as they approached, allowing them to concentrate the fire from their quantum disruptor cannons, and presenting the Retaliator pilots with a dangerous gauntlet to run. The firepower of the twelve disruptors could be matched or even exceeded by that of the eight tachyons and four stormfires on the Retaliators, but it was still not a good option. The Retaliators could ill afford to lose armor or take systems damage this early in the mission, and both were carrying depleted stormfire ammunition magazines after their mission the previous night.
Raptor and Frost had been flying together for the better part of a decade, and they had been in similar situations many times before. One of the best solutions to superior enemy numbers was the effective use of firepower. Not only did it quickly cut down the odds, the sudden and highly visible downing of their colleagues would demoralize and disorient the surviving pilots, often pushing them on the back foot even while they still had the advantage of numbers. That in turn would allow the Retaliator pilots to dictate the terms of the engagement.
Each of the Retaliator pilots locked and launched an Image-Rec missile at one of the Squids. Given the shields and armor of the Nephilim interceptors, not to mention the numerous missile decoys they carried, it was unlikely that the missiles would kill or even seriously damage their targets. That wasn’t the point, though. No fighter pilot could ignore a missile launched at his or her face. The two Nephilim fighters broke away sharply to avoid the incoming warheads, going evasive and dropping strings of missile decoys behind them.
That in turn converted a potential three on two head-on firing pass into a two on one attack in favor of the Border Worlders. The single Squid that hadn’t been targeted by a missile stubbornly pressed the attack, but it was now facing a crushing gauntlet of tachyon cannon bolts and stormfire rounds from the two Retaliators. The Retaliators’ weapons were guided by deadly accurate auto-tracking systems, and none of the Squid’s evasive maneuvers allowed it to escape the barrage of gunfire. The interceptor’s shields lasted only a few seconds under the ferocious assault, and then the gunfire began smashing into its hull, vaporizing armor and melting vital systems. The Nephilim fighter vanished in brilliant ball of fire, and the Retaliators raced straight through the wreckage, their shields flaring as disturbingly organic chunks of its hull struck them.
The two Retaliators snap-rolled away from each other, opening up distance as they lit their afterburners. This was now a simple two versus two situation, and they could take the Squids down faster by splitting up. The Squids were too close to the bombers for comfort, and time was of the essence. Raptor and Frost had hunted Confed Longbows together during the battle for Circe, and they knew first hand just how much carnage a pair of fighters could cause if they were let loose in a bomber formation.
Raptor locked on to the Squid he was hunting, which had by now shaken the missile that had been launched at it, and was heading back into the fighter. The Squid was on full afterburner, though it was avoiding the use of its booster in order to have use of its weapons. Raptor was on full afterburner as well, and the range between them closed at frightening speed. Each pilot had only a few seconds firing time, and each depleted the others’ shields without doing any damage to the fighter itself.
Both pilots broke hard as they shot past each other, trying to out-turn his opponent and maneuver onto the other’s six. The Squid managed to turn inside the Retaliator, but that only brought into the firing arc of the tail-guns. The Retaliator’s twin rear reaper cannons could cause a lot of damage to an unwary opponent, and the first barrage stripped away what was left of the Squid’s forward shields. At the same time, Raptor punched off a pair of friend-or-foe missiles in an “over the shoulder” launch. The self-guiding warheads automatically targeted the nearest opponent, ripping the now unshielded Nephilim fighter to shreds.
Raptor rolled sharply down and to the left to avoid any last ditch missile that the Squid might have launched before it died, but his six was clear. He glanced around quickly to check for other threats, and then down at his radar screen to check on Frost. He needn’t have worried. She had already dispatched her opponent and was on her way back to join him. With the Squids that were threatening the bombers gone, the next priority was Colonel Alvarez, who had been taking on two Squids on her own.
“Reaper Lead to Lima Golf. What’s your status?”
”All clear, Reaper Lead. Stay with the bombers, I’m on my way back to rejoin you.”
“Reaper Lead copies all. Bravo Zulu, Colonel.”
Aboard Panther 101 "Feline Lead"
“Lead, break right!” Called Carter’s wingman.
Instinctively, Carter whipped the fighter into a hard right turn, using the best maneuverability feature the Panther had: It’s incredibly high yaw rate.
A Manta slashed through space behind him, its weapons firing, missing their mark, luckily.
Carter blinked sweat out of his eyes, even as he maneuvered in the vertical plane, sighting a Stingray fighter cluster about to link up. His HUD projected the appropriate windage, and Carter fired, attempting to stop the link-up of the fighters.
His shots chipped away at the shields of three different fighters, dropping each, but infinitely more slowly than if he’d managed to catch them before the link-up.
He selected an IR missile, and watched as the brackets closed around the cluster of fighters, finally isolating the single fighter his targeting computer was locked onto. The tone rang clearly in his ears, and he depressed the firing button.
The missile tore into space, and then into the fighter it had been targeted on, completely dropping the aft shields of that fighter. Carter sprayed the aft sections of all three fighters with full salvoes of ion cannon and tachyon cannon fire.
Pieces began to fly off of the crippled Stingray, which exploded, blowing the other two into uncontrolled spins in separate directions.
“Lead, watch your six!” Called Carter’s wingman again.
He looked over his shoulder to see a Manta, perhaps the same one as had originally attacked him, spraying purple spheres of energy his way. He rolled the fighter, yawed it around to face the Nephilim fighter, and then punched in his afterburners, heading straight at the Nephilim ship at thirteen hundred KPS.
All around him, fighters were dueling in space, whipping past to either side, maneuvering for position, exploding, taking damage, trailing vapor and pieces of metal. The sheer number of combatants made for some blue-on-blue fire incidents, though neither side could help that; deflection shots, or shots taken at targets glimpsed for just a heartbeat, filled space, hitting friend and foe alike.
Both sides knew this, and continued to fight anyhow. No quarter was asked or given, and if an ally had to take damage in order for an enemy to die, so be it.
The Nephilim had started off with an advantage in numbers, but that had been pared down a bit due to the missile barrages. The Confed fighters were taking damage, and already, a pair of fighters had been lost, a Panther belonging to the Black Dragons and one of the Piranha scout fighters, but the Confed fighters were staying ahead of the Nephilim’s attempts to get more fighters in space and meet them en masse. The bad news was that whenever a Nephilim fighter was destroyed, there was another to take its place, having just launched from the carrier.
Carter glanced over his shoulder as the Manta rolled and passed him down his right side. Using the incredible yaw of the fighter again, he brought his Panther around onto the enemy’s tail as it attempted to open the distance between itself and the agile Confederation fighter.
Carter let loose a pair of salvoes, one of which impacted the Manta’s shields, while the other streaked harmlessly into space, dissipating. The enemy pilot was dancing, up, down, right and left in an unpredictable pattern.
Carter smiled. He had a grudging respect for his opponent’s talents, but the enemy wasn’t going to get off that easy. Again engaging the afterburners, the Panther closed in on the Manta, and Carter held his fire until he had neared point-blank range --
-- when the Manta suddenly decelerated. Carter chopped his throttle and poured salvo after salvo into the enemy fighter’s rear shields, armor, and finally hull. The fighter, taking hammerblow after hammerblow, disintegrated, throwing debris into space along it’s trajectory.
Carter banked around, in time to see a Piranha jinking in all axes, the nimble little fighter dancing in space, plinking with its laser cannons rather than using up its powerful, but limited supply, of stormfire ammunition.
The Piranha seemed badly outclassed by its much heavier opponent, a Manta heavy fighter, but the pilot of the much smaller craft was putting that same craft’s maneuverability to good use, never giving the Manta a good shot, and a few times, managing to get shots back at the Manta, which jumped as though scalded each time one of the laser, ion, or stormfire cannon rounds connected with its shields.
Carter brought his own fighter up to its maximum speed, streaking by craft left and right with incredible speed, latching onto the rear of the Manta, even as the Nephilim fighter loosed a full salvo, which barely missed the rear shields of the Confederation scout fighter.
He lined up a deflection shot, and pulled the trigger twice, sending out full salvoes of weapons fire, one of which hit and savaged the rear shields of the Nephilim craft.
The Manta pulled a tumbling turn in space, bringing itself head-to-head with its much heavier and much more dangerous opponent --
-- Only to be stitched with stormfire cannon rounds from behind as the Piranha snap-turned and opened fire, lacing the already-weakened rear shields, then armor, and finally, hull of the Manta, which had forgotten for a moment about the much smaller fighter.
Round after round of stormfire ammunition shredded the stern of the Nephilim fighter, triggering a secondary explosion that broke the back of the Nephilim ship, splitting it into two pieces and leaving it floating in space.
Aboard Piranha 133 "Sindri Star Lead"
Martinez smiled, seeing her wingman’s victory. One of the greenest pilots in the squadron now, a plebe off of the Endeavour, he’d just gotten his double-ace strip. What did it say about the level of intensity in this campaign, she thought, if the plebes were all credited with ten kills or better?
She snapped her attention back into the battle as a call came over the squadron frequency.
“Six, break left!”
“Somebody get over here and help me!”
“I can’t shake the guy on my six right now! Give me ten seconds!”
She checked her scope. The transmission was coming from Sindri Star Six, a damned good pilot, but who had apparently allowed himself to become separated from his wingman, Martinez’ XO, Michael Hewton.
“Two, stick to me like glue! You cover Five, I’ll get Six!” Martinez called.
Pushing the nose of her Piranha over, she dove through the vertical plane, orienting her fighter towards the call for help. She tapped the afterburners in, accelerating past a pair of Morays that were attempting to isolate a Vampire, which was having none of it. She selected a Javelin HS missile, and waited for the tone as the Moray pursuing Sindri Star Six unknowingly presented its tail to her.
If there was one thing she had learned at the Academy, it was, if at all possible, to keep situational awareness as broad and as complete as possible. It seemed that, despite all of their losses, the Nephilim had yet to learn that discovery, instead getting tunnel vision and focusing on one target at a time.
With a chime in her headset, the Javelin locked on.
She triggered the missile and watched it arc out after the Moray, which flipped into a roll and desperately tried to accelerate away from the missile… but the missile closed much too quickly.
The missile slammed into the rear shielding, and the warhead detonated, the warhead detonation blowing completely through the enemy aft shields and chewing into the after armor of the enemy light fighter. Martinez triggered a one-second burst with her stormfire cannon, which obliterated the remaining armor on the enemy fighter, and immolated it, shattering the enemy fighter and leaving the debris drifting through space.
“Thanks, lead!” Sindri Star Six called out.
“Likewise, Two,” Hewton quickly chimed in from Sindri Star Five.
“Get back into the fight, and concentrate on watching each other’s backs this time!” Martinez called, more than a little annoyed that her well-trained and experienced pilots had forgotten one of the oldest lessons of fighter combat: Never leave your wingman.
She quickly reformed with her own wingman, and checked her remaining armaments. At this point in the fight, she was down to one hundred and eighty-four rounds for her stormfire cannon, and was already down to a single Spiculum IR missile and a single Javelin HS. The good news was, those weapons had all been well spent, as she’d managed to down four enemy fighters and cripple another pair. The problem was, she was running out of missiles and stormfire ammunition, which were the weapons that, in the hands of a good pilot, made the Piranha as deadly as a Panther.
But without those weapons, the Piranha was a great deal less deadly.
A Lamprey fighter flashed across her sights, and she reflexively brought her fighter’s nose around to follow it, switching to her full frontal armament of energy weapons. Lining the small, nimble fighter up was tricky, especially as it was jinking in an attempt to throw her off, but its course remained the same as it tried to approach the bomber group, now lining up for their attack on the Hydra-class cruiser designated as their primary target.
She snapped off three quick volleys, two of which impacted the Lamprey’s aft shields. The Lamprey began a rolling turn, attempting to come around and get behind her --
-- and exploded as her wingman blew it to bits. “Got you covered, Lead!”
Martinez clicked her mike twice, and once more brought her fighter around for a run through the massive dogfight in space ahead of her.
Aboard Shrike 501 "Cavalier Lead"
Karpoff had seen the Lamprey attempting to make its run in, and before that, the five Squid interceptors attempting to get past the Arkrunners, Hammerheads, and then Alvarez and the two Retaliators. Luckily, all three attempts had been stopped cold, through it had been close the time before Martinez had intercepted the Lamprey.
And now, it was about to get much worse.
“Everybody hang on back there, and get ready to make our attacks. Gunners, stand by to engage enemy contacts if they break through our escorts!” he called. Keying his communications array, he called out, “All right, Cavaliers. I want two sections, and four shooters per section. The rest hold your fire, but go for locks in case the initial run fails! Keep together. Five, you’ve got the second section. Line up on their shield generators and engines. We’ll take the bridge. All gunners, watch for any fighters that get past the screen, and if you’ve got a spare moment, try and take out enemy turrets, but don’t get tunnel vision!” Karpoff called.
“Copy, Lead. Second section beginning our run.” Rubio’s voice replied, cool and calm as a mountain spring, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) enough.
“First section, break starboard on my mark, and line up their bridge. I want myself and Two to line up a pair of heavy torps. Three and Four, lock on with light torpedoes, but do not fire unless Two and I are unable to take their bridge completely out.” Karpoff ordered.
“Lima-Golf, we are preparing to make our run,” Karpoff reported.
“Acknowledged, Major. Hammerheads, begin your SEAD runs. Arkrunners, hang tough and don’t let them get through,” Alvarez broadcast.
“Hammerhead Lead here, we’re beginning our run,” called the lead pilot of the Endeavour’s Tigershark squadron.
“Stand by… lock your target… break!” Karpoff called.
Matching actions to words, he spun the bomber over as hard as it could go, and punched in the afterburners. The bomber jumped forward, accelerating towards the enormous Nephilim warship with speed that belied its ungainly design. Six other bombers, half of the Cavaliers, followed his maneuver, while the other half moved vertically, arcing "upwards," and then nosing over and diving down upon the cruiser from its dorsal side.
“We have initial lock. Counting down…” Rubio began.
“I’ve got four Morays, coming in, eight o’clock, high! Top gunner, give me some support!” called Karpoff’s tail gunner from his position.
The discharges from the two single laser cannons sounded clearly and loudly through the bomber, and all across the bomber formation, fire broke out from dorsal turrets.
Karpoff had laid out their plan of approach carefully before the bombers had left the Yorktown. They were now arranged in a wedge formation, the point of which was closest to the cruiser. They were oriented not in a single plane, but instead in a descending pattern, with the bomber at the extreme left of the formation at the highest point, and the rest of the bombers descending in equal increments, with the lowest being the bomber at the far right. This formation allowed the bombers to maximize coverage of defensive fire, making life very difficult for any fighter that approached the formation. Gunners had the largest clear field of fire possible, much like the "stacked box" formations of bombers that the Allies had used to raid Germany during the Second World War. Another benefit was that, due to their formation, each bomber had a clear shot against their primary target, the cruiser, with no allies on the same vertical plane.
“Two Mantas, coming in, two o’clock low!” called another pilot, one of those from the Endeavour.
Immediately, fire from the formation began arcing out in that direction as well, while the Arkrunners re-oriented to meet another incoming squadron of fighters.
One of the two Mantas peeled away from the other, and zipped across Karpoff’s line of sight, attempting to distract the other gunners in the formation while it’s wingman made another approach, forcing the gunners to divide their attention and weaken their firepower. Karpoff found himself listening to his gunners’ calls even as he waited for Rubio’s triumphant call that the shield generators had been taken out.
Karpoff selected his charging mass driver cannon, and prepared to engage a fighter is it should pass through his crosshairs. With this much fighter activity, the chances weren’t all that remote…
A pair of the four Morays that had gotten to the formation flashed across Karpoff’s line of vision, fire from the laser turrets pursuing them closely, tracking across his line of sight.
“Lima-Golf, we’ve got some leakers here!” he called.
“We’re a little busy at the moment, Cavalier Lead! Give us about thirty seconds!” Alvarez’ voice came back.
Karpoff swore, then called, “Gunners, keep them off us! Shooters, sound off when you have lock!” Having said that, he quickly glanced at his own HUD, in time to hear the tone sound. “Lead has a lock!”
“Cavalier Five, Torpedoes away!” Rubio called.
Followed a half-second later by, “Cavalier Six, torpedo away!”
Karpoff’s eyes locked on his sensor display, tracking, amongst the orange, red, and blue blips, the pair of yellow tracks that indicated the torpedoes that had just been fired by Rubio and her wingman. They quickly drew closer to the orange blip representing their target…
… and hit with all of the smashing, annihilating force that their antimatter warheads could release. The shields on the cruiser failed as the generators vanished from existence, leaving Karpoff and the rest of Rubio’s flight with an open shot at the cruiser.
Immediately, Karpoff and his wingman depressed the firing buttons, and the torpedoes were blown off their pylons, streaking into space as their engines ignited.
Karpoff’s view of his torpedo was interrupted as his shields began flashing, revealing that he had become the focus of a Nephilim fighter’s personal attention. He quickly checked his radar, but refrained from maneuvering. He quickly spotted the Moray, closing quickly from his three o’clock position, despite the concentrated fire of the turrets on Karpoff’s bomber and one other, its own shields flaring furiously.
Despite his instincts screaming to the contrary, Karpoff forced himself to ignore the fighter and the flashing of his shields, hoping, praying, that the gunners could take care of the enemy fighter, so that he could maintain the torpedo bomber’s attitude relative to the destroyer, and hold his space in the protective formation.
“Impact in five… four… three… two… one…” called Karpoff’s NFO.
Space in front of Karpoff lit up with the detonation of the Hellfire heavy torpedoes launched by himself and his wingman, followed immediately by a second pair of flashes as the second two members of Two Flight, under Rubio’s command, scored direct hits with their Hellfires on the cruiser’s unshielded bridge.
The cruiser began to crumble in space, pieces spalling off as the engine core of the massive enemy cruiser ruptured, due to the torpedo impacts, and the loss of control from the bridge.
“We’ve got the bastard!” called one of the Cavaliers.
The cruiser’s engines exploded, propelling the cruiser forward. A Barracuda-class corvette, which had been the lead of three trying to break out of the enemy formation across the bow of the cruiser, was cut in half as the cruiser’s after end erupted in a massive explosion, which propelled the bow into the unfortunate corvette. The other two corvettes, while caught in the explosion, survived thanks to their shields… and then angled down towards the bomber group.