LANCER: BATTLEGROUP - To Kill the Worthy King

Swift Amity

"We could trim down these numbers somewhat, Tabitha," Caspian says, looking up from the weapons console that he and CGO Bryant have been methodically working over. "My crew has managed to work out some shortcuts in the powerup procedures for the Wagner's guns. If we push them into overdrive we can launch an immediate strike on one of the capital ships and take it out of play before the battle really gets going and have the second weapon ready to fire soon after. If all goes well, we could take two capital ships out of play before we get stuck in. Of course, there will be... consequences if we do this. We'll almost certainly burn out the power conduits to the overcharged gun which will take it out of the battle."

Tabitha frowns. "That's quite a gamble and you're assuming everything goes well and according to plan."

"My plans always go well, Tabitha," Caspian counters with an arrogant smirk.

On the bridge of the Bukharin, the bridge crew roll their eyes at that.

Tabitha St. Germaine looks worriedly at the readings. They're outnumbered and outgunnd. Caspian's plan might help even the odds but at what cost? She runs the numbers through her head. Cutting down the number of charge guns is a priority in her mind but unless the Wagner gets lucky, she isn't willing to bet that it would successfully kill a Battleship in a single strike. On the other hand...

"Given the number of charge weapons pointed at us, the Wagner might not get a chance to fire a second time, Captain," CSO Ghebo pipes up, watching his Captain closely.

Tabitha looks down at her feet for a moment. Then looks back up, facing the conference.

"Very well, Captain Var, proceed as per your suggestion. Take your shot at the Shaka Zulu and take it out of play as quickly as possible. We will aim for the Hannibal and its group. Colonel Milch, follow the Bukharin's lead. We take those charge weapons out of play as quickly as possible but we'll need cover against incoming. The Shamokin Rising's wings got chewed up the last time. I'd like that not to happen again."

"All ships, close. Full power to the engines and forward shields, Vera, open comms to all incoming ships and sound battle stations."

Tabitha St. Germain straightens herself and her uniform and faces the comms display.

"Attention, Purview ships. This is Captain Tabitha St. Germaine of the UNS-BB Nikolai Bukharin. You are in violation of the Union no-fly corridor - this route is closed to all military traffic. Please power down your weapons and remain where you are until such time that we can assign a battlegroup to escort you out of this conflict zone."

Even she says this, the Bukharin's sensors detect a massive energy spike originating from the Wagner.

Caspian smiles amidst the disconcertingly gentle warnings of the massive energy surge coursing through the Wagner's guns.

"Just a little bit of Big Stick diplomacy," he says coolly.

The gunnery crew smile along with him, the flashing red warnings lighting their faces in a sinister glow.
 

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Expeditious Remarks

The reply comes just minutes later. The red-haired woman glares angrily out from the hologram, spitting her words like fire. "This is Strike Captain Catrina Bannon of the PCV-DN Shaka Zulu. We are on a mission of mercy to DS12 New Creighton. The legitimate government of the Perfect Ministeriat has come under vicious attack by terrorist factions sponsored by the Karrakin Trade Baronies. The Harrison Armory fleet is merely meeting its humanitarian and treaty obligations to our allies. We urge the Union Navy to step aside and let us do our job. We will not be held responsible for what happens if anyone interferes with us!"

She pauses for breath, then continues. "Captain, you can't seriously intend to throw away the lives of your men. I have six battlegroups under my command. We have numerical superiority. Our ships are more advanced. Our crews are dedicated and unrelenting." She snorts. "I laugh at your feeble fleet. Are we supposed to be impressed by these...mercenaries? When we are finished with you, Captain, I will take great pleasure from -"

The signal breaks up. There are stellar flares in the neighbourhood, and long-distance comms and tracking systems are being affected.

"Well, damn," says Colonel Milch over fleet comms, chuckling. "Our crappy name worked again! Nobody ever overestimates the Sour Brains!"

"Sir, perhaps we want to keep Bannon alive until last?" suggests Vera. "Lest someone more intelligent takes command?"
 

This Will Be Rough, Part 3

"A more intelligent commander would use their heavier ships to buy time for their carriers to slip past us," Tabitha leans over the plotting table. "And I believe the more intelligent commander is in charge of the carrier fleet."

"You think he might make a break for it?" Caspian asks with a raised eyebrow.

"They might if they see things go badly for their battle line. I might need you to get the Wagner stuck in, Caspian."

"Rather expected that Tabitha. We will follow you in. We'll also revise our targeting priorities as appropriate."

"This will get rough," Captain Evans mutters under her breath to the uneasy assent of the other ship captains.

Tabitha nods, "Unfortunately, these are the cards we've been dealt. We have our orders. Vera? Get confirmation from Fleet that they are aware of our situation," then she straightens up and faces the broadcast screen as the line opens once more.

"You are not expected to be impressed, Strike Captain. You are expected to comply. You are in violation of the Union no-fly corridor and are required to stand down immediately pending a suitable escort out of a live conflict zone. Union has made is stance on the issue clear and we will not be intimidated into inaction by superior force..." Tabitha pauses for effect and continues clearly and coldly, "... or deliberate acts of mass murder."

In the background, Caspian chuckles grimly.

Next: The 2nd Expeditionary Fleet
 

Order of Battle

State of the fleets:

2nd Crisis Response Group (Union Navy)

Battlegroup Eland (Range 5)
Interdiction 1d6+2
UNS-BB Nikolai Bukharin (31 HP, 5 OS)
UNS-CV Shamokin Rising (16 HP)

  • 2x Fighter Wing (5 HP, 5 HP)
  • Destroyer Unicorn (8 HP)
  • Destroyer Undine (8 HP)

Battlegroup Splinter (Range 5)
Interdiction: 1d6+2
UNS-BB Richard Wagner (26 HP)
UNS-LS Björn Járnsiđa (14 HP)

Battlegroup Sour Brains (Range 5)
Interdiction: 1d6+2
MSMCS We Demand Hazard Pay (25 HP)

  • 4x Mounted Chassis Wing (5 HP, 5 HP, 5 HP, 5 HP)
  • MSMCS Facefirst (8 HP)
  • MSMCS Fool's Gold (8 HP)

2nd Expeditionary Fleet (Harrison Armory Colonial Legionate)

Battlegroup Hannibal (Gyre Center)
Interdiction: 1d6
PCV-DN Hannibal (Turtleback) (35 HP)

  • 2x Brothers in Arms (8 HP, 8 HP)

Battlegroup Shaka Zulu (Gyre Center)
Interdiction: 2d6+2
PCV-DN Shaka Zulu (Paladin) (25 HP)

  • 2x Roughnecks (8 HP, 8 HP)
  • Ace: Albedo Cavalier (10 HP)

Battlegroup Titania (Gyre Center)
Interdiction: 2d6
PCV-DN Titania (UNKNOWN Man O'War) (35 HP)

  • 4x Daggerflight (6 HP, 6 HP, 6 HP, 6 HP)

The Turtleback is a big slow bruiser with heavy siege plating that takes half damage from any attacks from range 5-3. It is accompanied by subline destroyers with baby charge guns.

The Paladin is a sleek advanced battleship with a "jousting" charge gun that shoots just a bit earlier in the Impact step, various buff and debuff abilities, and decent defenses. It has marine transport escorts and an ace with paracausal charge gun technology.

A typical Man O'War is a big brutal battleship with a slow but devastating charge gun and additional batteries for laying down suppressive fire. The UNKNOWN template adds a paracausal omnigun that never misses, and blink-tunneling movement (needs time to power up). Its escorts are a squadron of fast corvettes that can screen it from attacks.

There are additional Harrison Armory battlegroups in Reinforcements (2 carrier groups, 1 battleship group), although they haven't yet committed to converging into the intercept.

The battle has an Environmental Modifier- Sensor Flares.

Environmental modifier- Sensor Flares: High levels of electromagnetic interference, solar flare activity, derelict IFF transponders, or other such phenomena make utilizing guided weapons more difficult as they waste time tracking phantom signals. Each time a ship launches a Payload attack roll a d6. On a result of 1, add 1 to that Payload’s flight time.

And yes, the Turtleback and Paladin have Payload weapons, so they'll suffer somewhat because of this.


Next: More trash talk
 
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Ultimate Remarks

"Weapons are at 50%, Captain," CGO Bryant says, her face glowing red amidst the sea of blue from the warnings flashing across the screen.

"Starboard SPK is nominal. Systems are holding," calls out one of her gunners. The man next to him reports: "Portside SPK is nearing critical surge capacity. Power coils are close to meltdown." He looks up, "She'll probably blow when we fire."

Caspian nods. "Have all crews clear the port weapons spaces and secure them against damage cascades. Arm the emergency breakers," he stares at the sensor shadows of the distant purview fleet and a cruel smile crosses his lips.

"I do hope you will be impressed at our little light show, Strike Captain," he says quietly to himself.

On board the Richard Wagner, Captain Rodin straps himself into his spacesuit with just a slight sigh of regret. "My first space battle, and no sign of the Rex anywhere."

"Sir, it will get hot enough even without the Rex," says his NHP assistant, Hawker. "The Titania is carrying a Demisolar Lance, which is rated at...well, a significant fraction of the output of a star. If the battle drags on into 2 days, we will see that weapon fire. And that is in addition to whatever that black sphere is."

Hawker highlights what appears to be a globe of utter nothingness suspended over the Titania's bow.

Tiburce Rodin tilts his head. "That sphere reminds me of the omnigun on the Horus Pegasus. The gun that defies physics and never misses?"

"I'm sorry sir, you're absolutely right. A ship-scale omnigun."

Rodin sighs again.

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Horus Pegasus art by Tom Parkinson-Morgan

A message comes through from the Shaka Zulu to the Nikolai Bukharin, but it is marked Captain's Eyes Only.

Strike Captain Bannon looms large, leaning into the display interface. "The disrespect. The sheer disrespect. That, I will not forgive. Captain St. Germaine, before this fight is done, I swear I shall rake your Second Committee relic from stem to stern!"

"Respect is earned, Strike Captain. It cannot be demanded by force," Tabitha replies coldly, then turns back to open comms. "This is the UNS-BB Nikolai Bukharin of the Union 2nd Crisis Response Group to all encroaching Purview ships. You are violating the Union no-fly corridor and are required to stand down pending an appropriate escort out of the conflict zone. Failure to do so will considered a hostile act and you will be fired upon. This is my third and final warning. Stand down immediately!"

"Well, now that procedure is out of the way, can we shoot?" Caspian smirks slightly.

Tabitha, nods, "I don't think they're going to stand down when they think they have the upper hand, so we give them enough time to get the message, then we start shooting."

Next: Prayers and digital apotheosis
 
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Prayers. Apotheosis.

On the Shaka Zulu, the Armory crew members work at a brisk pace, clearing the ship for battle. Strike Captain Bannon is in a foul mood, sweeping through deck after deck on last-minute inspections. The junior officers pass around word that the Union fleet took out an equal force of Karrakin ships without taking a scratch. Splinter and Eland have already gained a rep in the Dawnline Shore. They are a force to be reckoned with, no matter what the Strike Captain says.

Every Armory capital ship carries a small garden lounge area, a small piece of Ras Shamra to remind the spacers what they fight for. In the last hour leading up to inevitable engagement, as the two fleets deccelerate and lock into the gyre of battle, some of the Rittermeer crew members stop in the ship's rock garden to press their hands against the slate boulder at its centre, saying a little prayer.

On the MSMCS We Demand Hazard Pay, Major Mahayhay busies herself with the readiness of the mounted chassis wings, ensuring that they have been fitted with breaching charges, CQB loadouts and boarding beacons. Data on the Armory ships is loaded into each mech's COMP/CON or onboard NHP. Where she deems it appropriate, she slaps the odd pilot on the back and gives them encouraging words. She keeps up a solid front that belies her misgivings about their voyage of death.

In his ready room, Colonel Milch revises his final will and testament. Messages to both of his ex-wives, and all seven kids. Despite his outward bravado and bluster, he too has a bad feeling about this battle.

Ship NHPs merge. The fleet legions coalesce.

In the Union fleet's command centres, Aegis greets each captain simultaneously. "Fleet is ready for action, Captain," the legion says to Tabitha. There's a slightly different tone to her voice - of course, Tabitha realises, the mercenaries's NHP, Cunningham, has been integrated into Aegis for this battle as well.

"I'm ready to designate targets for superheavy and primary weapons," says Aegis. "The Richard Wagner will soon suffer battle damage from its overcharging procedures. We will fire before any of the enemy flagships. Two of the Hannibal's destroyers will retaliate with short-spool spinal guns at roughly the same time. The Shaka Zulu's RED GIANT Solar Lance will take some hours more before it can fire. The Titania's Demisolar Lance will fire at the start of the second day of battle. And then, if the Wagner survives, one of its guns might fire again. Some time during this sequence of events, at least one enemy carrier will arrive to join the Armory fleet. These are some of the most probable events we must plan around."

In the Shaka Zulu's CIC, the Armory fleet's digital shipminds knit together and resolve into the towering figure of Aelita, the fleet legion. "Strike Captain, what is thy will?"

Catrina Bannon looks around the virtual battlespace at the faces of her subordinate captains. "We should keep our distance, let our spinal lances do the work. Captain Klukas, I want a curtain of Pulse-Pack Missiles in their path. Let's see if the Red scum want to taste nuclear fire to get to us."

Captain Ashanti of the Hannibal clears her throat. "Our lads on the Siegfried and the Roy will be the first to draw blood with their spinal guns. Who do we kill first?"

"That one." Bannon stabs her finger at one particular ship. "But Titania will be the one to fire first, with the Omnigun and the Harbinger laser. Klukas, soften her up, why don't you?"

"The pleasure will be mine," replies Klukas, stiffly saluting.

Bannon looks up at Aelita. "Coordinate the firing. Ensure the most efficient distribution of damage. Make them bleed."

"Thy will be done."

"Good. Remember, we just need to wait for Gopalakrishnan and his ships. Hold the line. Stall the Reds. Victory is inevitable."
 

Lasers at a Distance

The Wagner's bridge crew tensely watch the data readouts as the ship begins to shudder under the massive strain of its overcharging weapons. There is a certain sense of fatalism to their actions as their fingers dance across their datascreens. Most have already put their affairs in order with the crew chiefs firing off last minutes data flashes back to fleet for further action in case anything goes wrong. For many, the specter of death is made only bearable by their sense of duty and the cold comfort that - even if the worst should happen - many of their foes will join them in oblivion.

"They'll probably be shooting at you first," Captain Lutjens of the Björn Járnsíða observes flatly to Caspian Var, "You've got the biggest guns and they'll want to take you out of play before you can fire too many times." Caspian nods coolly.

"Perhaps, though they might well choose to fire on the Captain St. Germaine first seeing that our contribution to the battle is... relatively slow to build up to," He shrugs, "Regardless - we shall see shortly. Gunnery, how are our SPKs looking?"

"Both weapons are already at 250% nominal power loading, Captain," CGO Bryant responds, "80% Charge on both." Caspian nods.

"Make these shots count, Chief," He says. "If we fail, we die."

Even as he speaks, glittering emerald rays reach out from the Björn Járnsíða and caress the Shaka Zulu in their deadly light, disrupting shielding and burning away armor plate.

Logistics Step:
Battlegroup Splinter: Remove two charge tokens from one of the SPKs, remove one charge token from one of the SPKs. Add two Overcharge tokens to one of the guns and take 2 points of damage.

2 x Harbinger Confidence Lasers on the Björn Járnsíða deal 4 points of damage to the Shaka Zulu.

Battlegroup Hannibal: Brothers in Arms removes 1 charge token from Short-Spool Spinal Guns (1 token remaining).

Battlegroup Shaka Zulu: Shaka Zulu removes 1 charge token from RED GIANT Solar Lance (2 tokens remaining).

Battlegroup Titania: Titania removes 1 charge token from Demisolar Lance (3 tokens remaining) and its targeting laser deals 2 damage to a hostile Capital Ship in range 5-3. It chooses to deal the 2 damage to the Richard Wagner.


Demisolar lances, while not literally drawing half of a star’s energy, demand and output truly staggering wattages. Even a Demisolar’s targeting laser can kill a ship: a square hit will take anything out of the sky.

The Richard Wagner feels the strike of the 'hot' targeting laser against its bow. Temperatures rise alarmingly.

Titania also adds 1 charge token to its Naphoros Omnigun, which then deals damage equal to the number of charge tokens to a hostile target in range 5-0 (cannot be prevented in any way). It chooses the Björn Járnsiđa.

Lutjens' tactical officer speaks up: "Sir, I don't understand what happened, but we've been hit - just a glancing strike of some kind, no idea what it was. Very minor damage. But they may be ranging in."

System: Pulse-Pack Missiles (adding 2 Reloading tokens)
The Man O’War launches a massive volley of multi-warhead missiles that blanket an area in devastating explosions and deadly radiation. During the Logistics Step, choose one range band from 4-3. The Titania chooses Range 4. Until the next Logistics Step, any enemy battlegroup that ends their turn in the chosen range band takes 2d6 Area damage.


Aegis reports that the Titania has mined the approach vectors with nuclear missiles. "Capital ships and escorts alike will be taking dangerous levels of hard radiation if we spend too long in their area of effect. They're using these weapons to play keep-away, and it's a strong disincentive for our fleet. What do you want to do?"

"Damn the mines, full speed ahead," Tabitha snarls, "I want all power to the engines, signal the group - emergency maneuvers!"

Next: Helldive
 
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Helldive

Battlegroup Eland: Tactic - Emergency Maneuvers. Battlegroup Eland moves to range 4.

The crew of the Nikolai Bukharin simultaneously clench as the massive ship surges forward, its inertial dampeners straining to keep the men and women in place and in one piece, even as the first series of nukes go off. The crew watches with growing apprehension as momentum builds towards the ever growing energy blooms on their screen.

Tabitha is watching as well, tensely, timing it - there; a series of detonations go off close at hand, momentarily scrambling screens on the Bukharin's bridge. But the Titania's Pulse-Pack launchers cannot launch fast enough to carpet the area completely at all times - and Tabitha seizes on this.

The timing is meticulous as the ships of Battlegroup Eland plunge into the storm of nuclear hellfire with Tabitha calling out course corrections to the increasingly harried updates from the Bukharin's sensor teams, calculating launch times and ballistics amid the continuing series of detonations.

Then with one last order "All ahead full!" Battlegroup Eland surges through the killzone - their hulls singed but intact - and their guns swinging to bear flash a defiant reply.

Battlegroup Eland: Maneuver - All Ahead Full!, move to range 3.
Heavy Kinetic Battery fires on one of the Brothers-in-Arms; Roll: 9 (hit), Damage 5
Barrage Doctrine (Trait): Destroyers both fire, Damage: 2 + 2
One of the Brothers-in-Arms is destroyed.


"Battlegroup Eland is beginning its dive," reports Aegis to Colonel Milch and his bridge crew. The Bukharin and its accompanying ships steadily accelerate toward the sea of pips representing the pulse-pack missiles.

"Well, damn. Follow her in," Milch orders. Around him, the Mirrorsmoke crew check their straps and make preparations for the helldive. At the Liability station, Zoltan Pesh updates the risk assessment for the We Demand Hazard Pay.

The Sour Brains follow Battlegroup Eland into the fight. The journey into scope range is harrowing, and the hours tick by, punctuated by the many nuclear detonations.

On the Hannibal, Captain Ashanti grinds her teeth as she watches the approach. She shouts orders to the legion and the bridge crew. "Track the flagships with dorsal and ventral batteries, spin them up when we see them in scope range. Load swarm missile tubes and start printing reloads, because we're going to need them."

Surprisingly, the Bukharin and its companions come through with barely any damage. And they come through firing.

Captain Ashanti blinks in disbelief as the destroyer Siegfried, just a dozen kilometers off to starboard, goes up in a flash of kinetic impacts. The Bukharin's accurate shells smash into the subline ship's bow. Then, following fire from the Undine and Unicorn finishes the job.

"Siegfried is gone," Aelita reports. "No sign of ejections."

Ashanti pounds a gloved fist into her command panel. "Tell Bannon we're moving to engage!"
 
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Boarding Exchange

But Bannon has already planned for this. The Shaka Zulu's advanced systems and robust CIC design allow its Fleet Legion to coordinate multi-pronged offensive advances across the entire theater. Targeting data cross-referenced from all three Armory battlegroups is fed to fire control teams. "These are priority targets," Bannon tells them.

Alongside the flagship, its escorts take action. The marine transports launch boarding skiffs at Battlegroup Eland. A lone mech launches from the Shaka Zulu's belly catapult, and a zero-point beam cannon lashes out, testing the Bukharin's shielding.

Battlegroup Shaka Zulu takes its Action Step.
1. Maneuver: Coordinated Advance, it chooses one of the options - Lock On to one or two hostile Capital Ships. Targets are Nikolai Bukharin and Richard Wagner.
2. The Roughnecks use Tactic: First On, Last Off to launch boarding skiffs at two Capital Ships within Range 3-0: Nikolai Bukharin and Shamokin Rising.
3. Albedo Cavalier uses Maneuver: 0 Beam. Deal 1 damage to a hostile Capital Ship or Escort in range 3-0, then add a heat counter to the 1 Beam ability (it deals more damage, the more heat it has). The Cavalier automatically hits the Nikolai Bukharin for 1 damage to its Overshield.

Next is the players' turn. They choose to let the mercs act.


As the fleets close the unpredictability gap and the first shots start to cross the kill zone between them, the Mirrorsmoke marines are already hurtling towards enemy battleships in their landers. The Shamokin Rising's fighters dart out to safeguard the landers on their way out. "Godspeed, Sour Brains," signals Lieutenant Vau as the deadly cargoes speed to their destinations.

Far behind him, the We Demand Hazard Pay disgorges its chassis wings: Raleigh and Everest frames, bulked up with high-powered flight mounts, toting fusion torches and assault rifles. But they're still just taking off, and won't reach their targets as soon.

Battlegroup Sour Brains:
1. Maneuver: Legionspace Siren. Sour Brains advances to Range 4. One enemy battlegroup must then choose; either they cannot take or benefit from actions or effects that would move player battlegroups any number of range bands until the end of their next turn or a Capital Ship of your choice in that range band takes 1d6 damage. Target is Battlegroup Hannibal.
2. Tactic: Emergency Maneuvers to move Sour Brains to Range 3.
3. Facefirst and Fool's Gold use Tactic: First On, Last Off to launch boarding parties at Hannibal and Titania.

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Nelson Flight Type by Peyton Gee
 
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A House of Flying Daggers

The narrowing space between the flagships fills with smaller missiles and point-defense gunfire as the Titania's escort corvettes lunge into action. The dagger-shaped vessels make strafing runs at the Nikolai Bukharin and the Mirrorsmoke carrier. Aegis also marks Unicorn and Fool's Gold on the CIC display in amber, indicating some damage.

But the Titania's primary batteries bark mostly ineffectively at the Bukharin. The Thoreau Class Battleship's forward interdiction screens and shields fend off the worst of the shots.

"Klukas, what the Hell kind of gunnery is that?" Bannon shakes her head ruefully. "You wasted our targeting solutions. If we survive this, I expect major improvements!"

"Yes, Strike Captain," he replies in a monotone.

Battlegroup Titania:
1. Maneuver: Counter-Battery Fire, a Single Target Attack at Range 4-0 aimed at Nikolai Bukharin, and consume Lock On. Roll: 8 total, which misses. Reliable damage 2 chips away at the Overshield some more.
2. The Daggerflight uses Maneuver: Battery Fire. Deal 2 damage to a different target Capital Ship or Escort within range 3-0 for each ship remaining in this Escort group. Since there are 4 Corvettes in the Daggerflight, they deal 2 damage to Nikolai Bukharin, 2 damage to Unicorn, 2 damage to We Demand Hazard Pay, and 2 damage to Fool's Gold. Fool's Gold has the trait Point-Defense Kinetics which deals 2 damage back at the Daggerflight automatically.
 
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