PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 16 of 28 )

: “ Twilight Fury ”

"The outcome of battle depends not upon numbers, but upon the united hearts
of those who fight."
- Kusunki Masashige

TCS Yorktown; Flight Deck
Tyr System
Contested Zone, February 3rd, 2681
1401 Hours

Colonel Victoria Alvarez walked down to the flight deck. It had been a while since she'd been on the flight deck for something other then a quick reception. She looked at the rear of the deck as a pair of Vampires entered and landed perfectly. A sign of competent pilots is the way they landed. It was clear that this was a "non-tractored" landing, the type of landings the Grendels always performed when they flew.

Alvarez walked down to where the Air Boss was located. Chief Petty Officer Daniel McNight was a handsome man with blond hair and blue eyes. In his late twenties, he had done well for his career. His first service was back in the Cynium conflict, where he had been stationed aboard the TCS Invincible as a deck hand. After his essential action of getting an entire wing of Excaliburs operational after they had taken several hits, he had been promoted to Chief Petty Officer and transferred to the Yorktown where he had been a valuable asset. The short man was dressing down a pilot (who was clearly a newbie) from the Sindri Star Piranha recon squadron.

"You know the god damn rules, fly boy. No smoking on the flight deck! Now get the hell out of here!" ordered the Deck boss.

"Um... I'm a lieutenant... I don't think you're supposed to talk to me like that..." he replied, clearly confused.

The boss smiled at this and proceeded to smack the hell out of the plebe. The boss then brought the kid to the end of the deck right next to the airlock force field. The boss took the plebe's hand and stuck it outside of the field, where his bare hand started to lose moisture and puff up. The kid screamed and the boss removed his hand from vacuum as the force field shimmered. Alvarez stared in awe as she saw this atrocity play itself out.

"Listen, you little son of a bitch. That's just how you're going to feel, along with everybody else, if you smoke and light up some goddamn fuel. I answer to the Wing Commander and the Captain. That's it. Now get the fuck off of my deck before I throw you outside," ordered the boss.

"A... aye, sir!" said the plebe as he ran off of the flight deck like a scared schoolgirl. Alvarez then walked up to the boss. He saluted her.

"Ma'am, just distributing some discipline," said the boss. Alvarez returned the salute.

"I understand, but keep it a little lighter next time. That boy has to fly tomorrow and I don't want his hand destroyed." Alvarez smiled. "However, the reason I'm down here is because I need you to prep my Panther up for tomorrow's sortie."

"You're going to be flying tomorrow? Yes, ma'am, Panther one zero zero will be ready. Anything else?" asked the boss.

"Yes. Be sure that all of our fighters and bombers are ready for tomorrow's action. We need all craft prepped and ready to go."

"Roger that, ma'am. Besides, our new Shrikes haven't even seen any action at all. We are ready to go," replied the boss. Alvarez nodded her head and the boss saluted. She returned the salute and walked off of the deck.


TCS Yorktown; Briefing Room
Tyr System,
Contested Zone, February 4th, 2681,
0800 Hours

Alvarez walked up to the podium and cleared her voice. All of the pilots then began to take their seats and be quiet. "Okay, let's begin. I would like to start by giving a compliment to the Grendel Squadron for being the first squadron to discover the bugs. Great job, and I hope you guys didn't get spooked."

A round of applause sounded as Alvarez glanced over at Major Rosencrantz. He was smiling.

"Now, onto today's sortie. We will be directly attacking several key targets of the enemy fleet. I'm going to let Lt. Colonel Linche explain the details." Lt. Colonel Linche walked up to the podium. He was the Assistant Wing Commander (AWC) of the Yorktown's flight wing and was well known for his stern demeanor and strict discipline. Being a tall slender man, he was said to be popular among the female population of the Yorktown, especially with the newbies. He tended to stay out of the cockpit and assist Alvarez.

He pushed a button and the navmap came to life. At the bottom was a large number of blue dots in close proximity. Next to it was a label named "Confed 3rd Fleet." Then at the top was an extreme number of green dots. The map then zoomed in on a small outcropping of dots that focused into shapes that no one had seen before.

"These shapes are Alien destroyers. We will be deleting them. That is our objective. It is my understanding that these ships are away from the main fleet because they have been sent to attack the main planet of Tyr. It's our job to destroy them and we will do everything possible to take them out. This area is noted as Nav One."

The navmap then shifted to an area closer to Tyr where three nav points were located. "These points are noted as navs Two, Three, and Four. Here, our Piranha squadron will patrol in one large wing and destroy any enemy presence in the area. We believe it to consist mainly of light fighters and maybe even a heavy or two. Nothing that should pose a severe threat, so Captain Martinez, if you believe that you can, we want your squadron to support the Dragonslayers at Nav Five, which brings me to my next topic."

Finally, the navmap shifted to another position where four objects and a few fighters were in the screen.

"This is designated Nav Five and will be the final prong of the sierra strike. Dragonslayer Wing from the Agincourt, Perez, and Maribel will attack this group of four Alien corvettes and their escorts. Knowing full well that four corvettes of any race would destroy the Dragonslayers' Excaliburs and Thunderbolts, we will be sending the destroyers Perez and Maribel to even up the odds. We are also going to send the Agincourt with the Yorktown's flight wing to make sure that we eliminate the destroyers. What the ships don't have in speed and finesse, they make up for in strength and brute force."

"People, I must stress how important this mission is. According to Admiral Hanton, the 6th is when the Tanfen Corporation transports we commandeered will be evacuating the civilians on Tyr. Until then, the transports will be vulnerable. 100,000 people on Tyr depend on those transports. With those destroyers, fighters, and corvettes in the area, a quick attack by the Nephilim could eliminate them all. With those capital ships down, we will have a small shift in power for us."

The Lt. Colonel stepped back and Alvarez again took the podium. "These are the mission assignments." Alvarez glanced at the Sindri Stars, "Sindri Stars will be, as stated before, acting as the patrol fighters and eliminating all enemy presence at Nav Two, Three, and Four. Because most of you are still new, here's some advice. Don't be stupid. Your fighters are not Vampires. They are Piranhas, the lightest fighter in the Confederation. You won't survive long against heavy fighters if you decide to fight a war of attrition. Also, as Lt. Colonel Linche stated, it's up to Captain Martinez to decide if your squadron will assist the Dragonslayers at Nav Five."

"Next is the Arkrunners, the Tigersharks. You, along with the Fearless Felines, Grendels, and Cavaliers, will be attacking the capships and escorts at Nav 1. Intel says the turrets on these ships are very weak and vulnerable. Use this weakness and destroy those cannons."

"Finally, for the Dragonslayers who are attacking the corvettes, please remember this: your fighters may be upgraded, may even be brand spanking new, but none of them except the Tigersharks can stand up to the might of the aliens and even they will have problems. You Excalibur boys are the second wheel in the ancient fighter bicycle that you and those Thunderbolts are riding. You keep them alive with your superior guns and speed; they take out the cap ships with their torps. Leave the turrets to the Tigersharks. They have speed and shielding on their side and can take them out easier."

"Okay, guys, this is going to take a lot of teamwork to pull off, but I'm sure with your skill and the cap ships' awesome firepower, we can make this work. Remember, however, this is a delaying action, a tried and true defang-the-beast campaign. We cannot afford to lose any hardware or fighters. Also, I will be personally commanding the Nav One attack on the destroyers."

A murmur of voices arose as she stated this fact and then it was quickly silenced.

"I feel I can better coordinate this attack out there, than on the deck of this boat. Any further questions? No? Okay. Dismissed!" ordered Alvarez as the pilots left their seats and walked out to the flight lockers.

As the pilots got up to go to their lockers, Rosencrantz approached the Colonel. She was speaking to Lt. Colonel Linche. After she finished, she turned to Rosencrantz.

"Colonel, a moment of your time?"

"Of course. What do you need?"

"I was wondering about the exact nature of our timetable."

"We'll be hitting the destroyers full force with a time-on-target flight plan. Your Vampires will be going in with space superiority loadouts to clear out the fighter cover. The Panthers will do likewise. Brancer's 'Sharks will cover the Shrikes and take out the turrets while the Agincourt provides supporting fire."

"Colonel, may I suggest a second strategy?"

"Go ahead."

"I suggest that we move the Vampires to the front of the launch queue, send us out on a secondary vector, then have us engage from a different angle. We'll draw off the fighters while you can lead in on the primary vector. That will give you the chance to establish superiority. It will also allow the tougher fighters to make turret runs."

Alvarez deliberated for a moment. Rosencrantz's plan had a lot going for it. It had one main problem: if it fucked up, the Grendels would be hung out to dry. She had utter confidence in them, though. It was worth the risk.

"Agreed. I'll update the flight profiles. You had better get to your ship."

"Yes, ma'am. One other thing, though. I'd like to leave a pair of Vampires with the Shrikes, just in case."

"That will cut your power by quite a bit. Can you risk it?"

Rosencrantz shrugged. "We should be able to hold out well enough. Just make sure your Panthers get there on time," he said, making a minor breach in protocol.

Alvarez called to Major Brancer as he was about to exit the room. He approached immediately, giving a quick salute. "Major, I'll be assigning a pair of Vampires to your Charlie Wing. They'll provide an ace in the hole should you be attacked," Alvarez declared.

"Aye, ma'am. May I ask which pilots?" Brancer inquired. Part of him felt a twinge of annoyance at the idea that his Arkrunners, green though some of them may be, couldn't take on whatever may come. He also felt relief; a pair of Vampires would be a powerful boost, especially with the support of the Agincourt.

He turned to Rosencrantz, who paused for a moment to think. "I'll give you Drake and Waterston. They work well together, and you and Waterston flew together," Rosencrantz responded. Brancer was satisfied. Rosencrantz had given him a pair of pilots he knew and could count on. Alvarez dismissed both of them, and Rosencrantz made his way to the flight lockers.

Rosencrantz entered the Grendels' locker room. Most of the squadron had put on their flightsuits. He cleared his throat, announcing the intention to speak.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the mission's been changed somewhat. We're on the first launch cue. We're going ahead to peel off the fighter cover on a different vector. After we do that, we join up and cover the flight group."

The Grendels worked their clasps more quickly, quite aware that their new timetable would prove all the more demanding. Rosencrantz approached Waterston and Drake. Waterston braided her long, red hair into a tight twist, preventing it from coming loose in-flight. Drake had no such concern as she kept her blonde hair close-cropped. They noticed Rosencrantz and stood at attention.

"I wanted to let you two know that you won't be a part of Alpha Wing. You'll be on Foxxman's Charlie Wing helping him protect the Shrikes," he said. Both acknowledged him, and he went to get his gear. Rosencrantz pulled on his flightsuit and led the Grendels to the flight deck.

The Yorktown's flight deck proved to be a mass of activity. Techs scurried over every fighter like army ants. The Grendels separated, each finding his or her own ship. Once again, Rosencrantz caught sight of his crew chief, Jen Sheldon. She was helping the techs load a rack of Trackers onto Rosencrantz's fighter. She noticed him and handed him a validation pad.

"Looks nasty out there, Rosie. You take care of yourself," she said. He signed off on the fighter and handed her the pad.

"Thanks, Jen. I'll try to be easy on the hardware."

"That's all I ask," she replied. Sheldon directed the rest of the ordnance loading. The crew finished. Shooter gave Sheldon a quick, friendly salute.
She smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, then got out of the way. Shooter readied for launch.

The Grendels, minus Torchie and Harpy, awaited launch. One by one, their mother ship expelled them into space. WhiteWitch radioed in confirmation of launch. The Grendels locked themselves onto their spoof vector, then engaged autoslide. They performed their preflight routine, testing their axes in unison. As they finished, Alpha Wing slipped silently into the darkness of space.

Next up came Bravo Wing's Panthers, led by Col. Alvarez. For this mission, Alvarez's old moniker of "Latin Girl" would come into use once again. Though it had been a while since she last flew, she had absolute confidence. Her last session in the sim yielded a top ten score. More importantly, she had absolute faith in the men and women under her command. Latin Girl glanced over at the Yorktown. She watched as the last Panther launched. Latin Girl ordered Bravo Wing into formation, then gave the order to sortie. Bravo Wing disappeared into the void.

After that came the two errant Grendels, Torchie and Harpy. After they were catapulted out, they headed to the rendezvous point with the Agincourt ahead of Charlie and Delta wings. As they made their way to the Agincourt, Torchie and Harpy tested their axes, maintaining the discipline.

Delta Wing's cue came up next due to the time-on-target scheduling. Major Frances "Silence" Rubio waited until the last of her lumbering Shrikes had assumed formation. The Shrike, though not a true pigboat like the Devastator, lacked agility and speed. Its survival depended on a good set of escorts. That escort would be provided by Foxxman's Tigersharks. The Arkrunners quickly joined up with their charges. Charlie and Delta wings, lacking autoslide, slowly eked their way to the Agincourt.

Torchie and Harpy were the first to reach the Agincourt. Both were awed by the massive firepower on display. The Plunkett-class had been designed with sheer brute firepower in mind. With a speed of 240, it also kept a respectable pace with the average bomber. The two Vampires radioed in for permission to form up, then waited for the rest of Charlie and Delta Wings. Soon after, the bombers and their escorts arrived. The great mass of ships linked up and began their slow, inexorable push to the enemy's position.


Alpha Wing
Tyr System, Terran Confederation
Contested Zone
0920 Hours

Shooter checked his timetable. Alpha Wing was in position and on time. Bravo Wing should have arrived at its waypoint a short while ago, waiting for the Grendels to send the "Go" signal. The bomber group would be in position shortly. He studied his navmap. It was almost time for Phase One.

The Vampires approached their targets stealthily. Only BlueNote had his sensors on active, and even they were set to minimum. Alpha Wing had stalked its quarry on a vector far removed from the Yorktown's in the hope that the element of surprise could be maintained.

The mission clock ticked to H-hour. Alpha Wing prepared itself for the coming battle. Shooter adjusted his comm system to send a discrete transmission to Bravo Wing's position.

"This is Alpha Leader. Beginning Phase One."

With that, Alpha Wing shot through space toward its target. Gradually, BlueNote's display acquired targets. He soon had the full picture of the area.

Shooter radioed in. "Okay, people, this is it. Remember, be careful. We're here to eliminate their fighters, not tackle them head-on. Shooter out."

Alpha Wing neared the destroyers' fighter defenses. As numerous fighters converged on the Grendels' position, all the Vampires went to active sensors.

"I have a confirmed total of twenty-nine fighters. Twenty-three Manta heavy and Moray medium fighters. Six unidentified light. Wait... Now it's just twenty-five!" BlueNote exclaimed. Shooter checked his navmap. Indeed, six of the fighters had merged into two clusters. At the center of each cluster lay a massive gun, perhaps one large enough to damage a capship.

"I don't like the look of those clusters. If those things are mounting as big a gun as I think, they are an unacceptable threat. Matchlock, Tommygun: take 'em out. Everyone else, break and attack. Try to take out at least one before we bug out," Shooter commanded. Alpha Wing broke formation. Each pilot chose a target and engaged. Shooter keyed his comm.

"Alpha Leader reporting engagement in target area. Phase One initiated."

Matchlock and Tommygun careened through space, homing in on their respective targets. One of the clusters opened fire, emitting sky-blue bursts of energy. The two Vampires dodged the shots in time and pitched out.

"Matchlock, do you copy?" Tommygun radioed in.

"Right here, gun."

"That cluster's too heavy for our normal missiles. I think I can pop one with a Tracker."

"Sounds good. Moving in."

Tommygun and Matchlock lit their burners and overshot their clusters. They engaged autoslide, allowing the clusters to edge away. They toggled their Trackers to "armed" and waited. Matchlock and Tommygun aimed for the deflection shot, then fired. Their ships bucked with the release of the massive Tracker MIRV. The MIRVs reached their separation ranges, both just a few hundred yards behind their targets. The Trackers each split into four IFFs. They headed for the clusters. The two clusters tried to jink away to no avail. The missiles were too well-aimed. The combined explosions of eight IFFs utterly destroyed the two clusters. With a stroke of luck, both explosions left no surviving ships. One fire had been put out.

Shooter had locked on to a Manta heavy fighter, pounding away mercilessly. Behind him, a Moray merged onto his tail. Shooter began to weigh his options, and then another Vampire swooped in on the fighter behind him. Psi-Cho unloaded his gun capacitor into the Moray, vaporizing it. Shooter fired a missile up the Manta's tail. It exploded with a flash.

WhiteWitch fired two of her precious Trackers into the clump of aliens, hoping to stir up a hornet's nest. Several of the missiles found targets and sheared off chunks of armor. Whisper took aim and finished the job on a Moray while Footman set his sights on an ailing heavy. It joined its fellows. Dagger and Trader tag-teamed a heavy fighter. They went immediately for the kill. A combined barrage of guns and missiles vaporized the alien in a fireball.

Shooter checked his navmap. He noted that Alpha Wing had forced most of the fighters to engage. They had done their job. Now it was time to spring the trap. He radioed Latin Girl.

"Phase One Complete. Heading for your position..."

Latin Girl ordered her Panthers to head for the destroyers at maximum burn. Shooter's Vampires would be arriving shortly.

"Alpha Wing: Disengage and fall back to navpoint. We've done our job here," Shooter ordered.

Alpha Wing broke off and retreated, drawing a few of the remaining fighters along with it, mostly Morays. The plan was working. Shooter fired an IFF to throw the aliens off-balance. The Grendels burned toward the navpoint, awaiting their backup. Just then, a new set of blue blips appeared on their HUD. The Panthers closed in on the pursuing fighters. The aliens noticed the new arrivals and turned tail. At that moment, the Vampires flipped and closed on in for the kill. They made short work of the aliens. Alpha and Bravo Wings formed up.

"This is Bravo Leader. Phase Two commencing," Latin Girl transmitted to Charlie and Delta Wings. The success of the mission now depended on Alpha and Bravo Wings solidifying their gains. They hurtled toward the twin destroyers. Only three enemy fighters remained, all of them Moray mediums. All of the surviving Manta heavy fighters had departed.

"Something's not right here. Where are the heavies?" Shooter wondered aloud. He boosted his sensors to maximum. A faint contact winked off his sensors just as he spotted it. The vector lay directly in the Agincourt's path. He opened a private channel to Latin Girl.

"Colonel, I think those heavies are heading towards Charlie and Delta Wings. I doubt they can do much to the Agincourt, but against Shrikes..."

"Agreed. Alerting Charlie Wing."


TCS Agincourt & Fighter Escorts
Tyr System
Contested Zone
0925 Hours

"Charlie Wing, this is Bravo Leader. Be aware that we track an unknown number of hostiles heading your way. They are presumed to be Manta-class heavy fighters."

"Roger, Bravo Leader. We'll keep a look out," Foxxman replied. Charlie Wing went on alert. The smooth ride was over.

Torchie felt her gut tighten. Her adrenaline surged. She could feel it do her thinking for her. Torchie recognized the feeling. It was called "Go Fever." She resisted her urges.

Torchie turned her gaze to her left. Harpy flew along side by a mere three meters. Harpy noticed Torchie glancing her way. She gave Torchie a thumbs-up. Torchie returned it. Foxxman came over the comm.

"Stay frosty, folks. Torchie, Harpy: take the point," he commanded. The two Vampires throttled up. They linked their sensors to those of the Agincourt, receiving a boost from her powerful sensors. Minutes later, red blips appeared on their HUD.

"Hostiles inbound. I count about ten," Torchie announced.

"Shrikes, pull back and provide support to the Agincourt. Charlie Wing, prepare to engage," Foxxman ordered. Torchie watched as the contacts on her radar drew nearer. She recognized her foes. She keyed her comm system.

"Well, Harp, we're back doing this again."

"Set'em up; knock'em down," Harpy replied. She, too, studied her HUD. The Mantas had not yet engaged. Behind her, the Arkrunners had gone to full afterburners. All of Charlie Wing would be in on this fight. Suddenly, the alien heavies broke formation.

"This is it. Break and attack," Foxxman ordered his people. Torchie and Harpy went to full burn. Harpy armed her Trackers and lit one off. Torchie twisted her fighter out and fired a pair of IFFs. Both locked to a Manta and impacted with a flash. Torchie felt elation at her first independent kill in a Vampire.

Unwilling to be left out, the Arkrunners joined the fray. Going hell-for-leather, Diablo recklessly screamed after a Manta. He charged his mass driver and released it into the back of his target, collapsing its rear shields. He launched a spread of dragonflies. All but two hit home. The fighter exploded, much to Diablo's triumph.

"Aww-right! One roach checking in! Vacancies to all!" Diablo exclaimed. As he enjoyed his kill, another fighter drifted behind him. Too late, he noticed it and began jinking. The alien bored in and landed a shot with its main gun. Just as he was about to call for help, the enemy fighter fell to a barrage of Javelins. Foxxman blazed across Diablo's cockpit, fresh from the kill.

"Watch your ass, kid," Foxxman admonished him sternly. Diablo took the warning to heart and rolled left.

LittleBear was exchanging fire with one of the remaining Mantas. Diablo switched to his regular mass drivers and fired on LittleBear's target. His shots scraped off the target's side armor. LittleBear in closed for the kill. He fired off a heat-seeker as the fighter made a fatal turn.

The missile vaporized the enemy fighter but as the fighter expanded, another enemy fighter afterburned out of nowhere and collided with the Tigershark, shreding the port engine in a vast show of explosive death, destroying both ships. No pods were detected.

Two other Arkrunners blasted a fighter with charged mass driver shots. The impacts of the shots sent the dead fighter into a flaming cartwheel. As they turned to face the last few fighters, a pair of Mantas broke from the furball and made a dash for the Shrikes. Torchie and Harpy burned after them in a race to catch up. As the two Vampires closed on their prey, Harpy noticed that these heavy fighters had a reddish tint to their hulls. A call came in from the Agincourt.

"Vampires, we're detecting localized targeting radars from those bogies. They're bombers! Get them now!" the Agincourt's captain demanded.

The two Vampires had but one recourse; they launched their remaining Trackers at the bombers and prayed. The MIRVs sailed toward their release point, then broke apart. Torchie and Harpy closed, readying their ImRecs just in case. The Trackers' IFFs homed in on their targets. Seconds passed. The IFFs struck their targets with a blinding flash. Detonation. One of the fighters had attempted torpedo launch, but the munition had gone up with the rest of the craft on impact. Torchie and Harpy breathed a sigh of abject relief.

They turned to rejoin the battle. They found that the Arkrunners had disposed of the remainder of the alien fighters. The Arkrunners had not gone unblooded, however. A second pilot had joined ranks of the fallen. Foxxman ordered Charlie and Delta Wing to form up around the Agincourt. They began their final push to the destroyers.


Destroyer Engagement
Tyr System
Contested Zone
0930 Hours

Shooter twisted and turned to avoid enemy fire. The bugs had managed to send reinforcements. Bravo Wing's Panthers held the dozen or so fighters at bay while the Vampires brought their fearsome guns to bear on the turrets. He took aim at a missile turret and fired. He left a scorched husk in his wake. Matchlock and Tommygun, his sharpshooters, had begun autoslide strafing the turrets on this destroyer. The demise of the missile turret made their jobs easier. Shooter rolled out, and BlueNote took his place.

Shooter allowed his shields and guns to recharge while he checked on WhiteWitch's status. She and her Vampires had slowly de-clawed the other destroyer a piece at a time. Only a few turrets remained. Trader and Dagger leapfrogged from turret to turret, dispensing destruction with each shot. As he saw his shields return to full, Shooter headed back in to finish the job.

Meanwhile, Latin Girl commanded her Panthers through a horde of Morays. The bugs fought hard in spite of their being outnumbered. Latin Girl herself barely evaded a missile. The missile slammed into a decoy just 10 meters from her ship. The explosion rocked the fighter. Only skillful use of her Panther's maneuvering pod had saved her. A message came over her comm system.

"This is Charlie Leader to Bravo Leader: we ran into your bogies. All are splashed, with two friendly casualties. We are on the final leg of our nav route. ETA to destroyer engagement: ten minutes."

"Acknowledged, Charlie Leader. Awaiting your arrival," she responded. Ten minutes. They needed to hold out that long. So far, their luck had held. Suddenly, she saw a Vampire break from the action. Its aft section trailed fire and debris. A Manta pounded it mercilessly as its pilot radioed in for help.

"Jesus Christ! Somebody, help me out! I can't shake this bastard!" Cockney shouted over his comm. He twisted his fighter, but the damage had turned his ship into a metal slug. Latin Girl targeted the alien attacking Cockney, hoping for a miracle.

"Cockney, get the hell out of there!" Shooter commanded.

"Eject - Shit! Ejection systems dead! Gotta evade!" he responded.

Latin Girl got on the alien's tail and began firing. Its shields were at full strength, and her Panther's guns couldn't winnow them down fast enough. Cockney's fighter rocked violently with every hit. The alien ceased firing its main gun and switched to it lighter weaponry. It finished him off with a single low power burst. Cockney's fighter disintegrated in a flash. He had no time to scream.

Latin Girl, lacking missiles, poured her guns into the Alien. Cockney would not go unavenged. Soon, it joined him in the hereafter. Later, Cockney's friends would feel their blood boil. The alien had toyed with him at the end.

"What's the status on those turrets?" Latin Girl asked, returning to the larger battle.

"Destroyer One is defenseless," Shooter replied. Latin Girl shifted her attention to the second destroyer. A small explosion greeted her eyes.

"All turrets destroyed, all defensive systems inoperative," WhiteWitch responded. No elation could be found in her voice, only a hint of fatigue. Latin Girl then directed the Vampires to another task.

"Alpha Wing, provide assistance and establish superiority. Let's not have a bug welcoming party for the big friends," she ordered. With the addition of the Vampires, Alpha and Bravo Wings made chewed the remaining fighters to pieces. No other fighters were lost, but all had taken varying degrees of damage. All that remained was the waiting.

A few minutes later, the Agincourt and its accompanying fighters arrived. Agincourt powered up her main guns, and the Shrikes throttled up to take firing positions. Each of the Shrike pilots locked on to a major component and awaited firing orders. The Agincourt loomed large in space, an overseer demanding that the destroyers meekly succumb to their fates.

Latin Girl gave the firing orders. Torpedoes lanced away from each Shrike, who then burned away to avoid the shockwave and secondary explosions. The vacuum of space denied the destroyers both bang and whimper. The Yorktown Flight Group surveyed the shattered hulks, satisfied that they were dead.

Latin Girl ordered the strike group home. Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie wings had destroyed over forty fighters between them, but they had lost three pilots in the process. And judging by the reports coming in, the pilots attacking Nav Five were having a much harder time of it. They conducted the trip in silence.