LANCER: BATTLEGROUP - To Kill the Worthy King

Okay.

I have a number of earlier space battle rule systems. I suppose I can always use another! The setting is intriguing as well. I am definitely enjoying your battle report / story hour!
😁 The rules also give notes about integrating a regular LANCER game with the fleet rules - have players control their parent fleet in the Battlegroup system, but when a boarding action affects the ship their pilot party is on, have a corridor-to-corridor fight using the regular LANCER rules instead of rolling for the success of the boarding action!

Alternately, if the LANCER player characters are represented by an Ace Squadron (as is suggested), instead of rolling for the Ace Squadron's boarding attempt on the enemy flagship, have a LANCER fight instead! Fun times.
 

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The Sword, Part 5

"You gloat too early, Captain. A shattered sword can still slay." Caspian allows a smile to crack across his face as he says that. Then he turns to his crew.

"Engines engage full thrust - keep us moving forward. Richards, bring the Sandstorm in closer around us. Bryant, prepare to launch all our remaining asteroids. van Ghent... have the crew prepare to abandon ship. I want all nonessential personnel in the lifeboats and making their way to the We Demand Hazard Pay as soon as we pass them."

"Lutjens - stand by to cover recover all lifeboats. We know what these scum are like so you'll have to snatch as many people up as possible before the massacres start. Inform Colonel Milch of our intentions." He turns grimly at the Arminius' sensor trace and snarls.

"Full speed ahead!"

The Wagner begins to accelerate, her battered hull barely holding together as white-knuckled crewmen make preparations for her final charge.

Next: Old friends
 

Battlegroup Splinter:
Maneuver - All Ahead Full!
Moves into range 2, launches Dorsal Razorback Missiles. Roll of 1 for Sensor Flares, so add 1 to the Payload's flight time. It won't be hitting so soon.

Tactic: Lithoscreen: +5 Overshield to the Wagner
 

Old Friends

The imposing bulk of the Hannibal still stands in the center of the gyre of battle, its batteries continuing to shell the Union fleet, only pausing for the time it takes to cool off when they overheat. Several shots land on target, blasting away hangar boxes on the outer hull of the Mirrorsmoke carrier. Others rip away at the Wagner's asteroid shield with terrifying swiftness. One hit penetrates into a generator bank on the starboard side, wrecking it - but then, the Wagner's starboard SPK won't fire again, anyway.

Within the bowels of the Hannibal, the Mirrorsmoke marines continue to move from one deck to another, stopping only to hack into the local Omninet, launching new tech attacks on the dreadnought's systems. The incursion has kept the ship jammed up for the better part of a day. It's a virtual ankle weight, dragging the foot of the fleet.

The lieutenant leading this platoon stops to read an encrypted message from Aegis. Then he looks around. "All right, let's get moving again. The Facefirst's boarding pods are coming in!"

Battlegroup Hannibal:

1) Maneuver: Heavy Kinetic Battery Fire, against both Richard Wagner and We Demand Hazard Pay, with Accuracy. Roll 10+6 against Richard Wagner, which hits for 6 and destroys the Overshield and deals 1 damage to the Wagner. The destruction of the asteroid Overshield deals 3 damage to the Hannibal. Roll 12+6 against We Demand Hazard Pay for 6 danage.

Roll to repel boarders from Fool's Gold: 7, failed.

Thermonuclear fireballs light up the black sky ahead of the Bukharin. "Again with this," sighs Meade.

"Captain, you have an incoming blink-transmission from the PCV-DN James I," reports Aegis. "Not live - they are still en route via nearlight."

The recorded message pops up on Tabitha's screen. Captain Lowell Petrie has a bit of grey in his black hair, but otherwise his boyish good looks have not changed at all. He sits at his ready room desk, hands on the desktop.

"Tabitha. I know you don't want to do this any more than I do. Everything happening now in the Dawnline Shore, there has to be a better way to negotiate an end to this. We always talked about this, at the late night coffee chats, remember?"

"I'm not getting live updates but I can see from reports that your battlegroup has fallen back. You have chosen restraint, and I'm thankful. You've shown me the way. Let's agree to both detour around this fight and save some lives, shall we? I know in my heart you'll say yes."

Transmission ends.

"That is bold of him to suggest," says Aegis. "It could cost him his career and his life."

Meade is baffled. "Does he not know we were teleported? He thinks we retreated..."
 

Taking a Breath, Composing a Letter

Tabitha taps her chin thoughtfully. "Not really. Our orders are to prevent additional belligerents from entering the Shore. Allowing him to bypass the battle means that the Purview still gains reinforcements, even if diminished. Additionally, we cannot take the Bukharin and the rest of Eland out of line - at this point we're the only force still combat capable. The Wagner won't last much longer, there's still a heavy Turtleback that's basically untouched, a carrier that's about to eat a battlecruiser to the face and another carrier that might well drop in even if the James I does not. The Sour Brains have taken a lot of damage as well. I don't give much for their chances alone against two capital ships."

She looks at the chart, now flashing red as damage reports and lifeboat beacons from the Wagner come floating in. The first set of evacuees from the stricken battlecruiser are being packed aboard the Björn even as she accompanies her crippled flagship in its death ride towards the Arminius.

"We cannot back down from this fight unless he can get his fellow Captains to stand down. Ike - while we're waiting for the pulse storm to clear, gather up the marines and arrest those boarders. Tell them to clear up anything else that might have gotten aboard while they're at it. Meade, get CSO Jordan to do the same for the Shamokin."

"I'll send off a message to Lowell while you're at it."

Battlegroup Eland:
Maneuver : Clear all boarders. No other actions.


"Lowell. You know that I desire nothing more than to prevent unnecessary bloodshed. Unfortunately the situation as it stands makes it impossible for me to extricate my battlegroup from this conflict. You may not be aware, but we have evidence of war crimes being committed by Purview ships against unresisting civilians. Even as I speak, Union crew are taking to the lifeboats and I cannot in good faith abandon them with this kind of threat hanging over us.

"You are taking a great personal risk proposing this, and for that you have my undying respect but I must decline any sort of quid pro quo between us while active active hostilities remain between Purview and Union forces and the Bukharin and her escorts are the final card to play. I can, however, offer you a truce to recover the survivors of your fleet and allow you to extricate your forces from the conflict zone.

"It is likely that by the time this message reaches you, the Wagner will be gone along with the Arminius. Your fleet has already lost the Shaka Zulu and the Titania. Whatever mission you and your fellow Captains were on will only be further weakened by additional conflict that even if the Purview should emerge victorious, it will be a pyrrhic one at best, having succeeded in losing the majority of its force for the sake of weakening a Union presence that might otherwise be used to prevent Karrakin units from entering the field."

Tabitha pauses as the sound of gunfire echoes dimly through the ship's vast bulk. Clearly there is some fight left in the Roughneck's marines.

"If it is within your power, please have your fellow Captains stand down. There is no military advantage for them to gain through further conflict. Whatever chance they had in running the Union blockade with any semblance of a battleworthy force is gone and further resistance will only serve to weaken your position regardless of outcome and throw away lives for nothing more than pride."

"Do you think he'll bite?" Captain Ki looks dubiously as Tabitha signs off.

"I hope so. There's been enough blood today," Tabitha says watching the death ride of the Richard Wagner with a mixture of anger and sadness, "In any case, Ki - once the Wagner hits, you're up. You've always wanted to bag a Cap Ship, so you'll have your chance unless Lowell can talk sense into his fellow commanders."

"Somehow I doubt that smug bastard on the Arminius is going to go down without being shot," Ki replies casually.

Next: Never surrender!
 

Defiant in Defeat

The Bukharin's security troops advance cautiously across the bullet-scarred deck of Sector 40, shields held before them. Scores of hardsuited Harrison Armory marines stand in the open, under the bright hangar lamps, their hardsuits scuffed and scratched and scorched, their weapons lowered and powered down. Surrender has been negotiated.

But not for all. One makes a break for it. Running for a ragged hole in the hull, where shells from the Hannibal had penetrated before...

A few Union troopers track the fugitive with their assault shotguns. "Sir, do we shoot?" "Hold, hold..."

The other Armory marines watch silently. He makes it to the rent in the side of the hangar. Black sky beyond. He leaps. He won't be taken.

The onlookers lower their weapons as the escapee drifts out away from the Bukharin. Such willpower, to be willing to lose yourself to the void, a truly awful death. Then the Flyswatter launchers lock on.

The missiles streak out and blast the drifting marine into vapour.

Fool's Gold Marines on the Hannibal attempt Deploy Ontological Payload, roll 16, success.

Facefirst Marines on the Hannibal attempt Sabotage Fire Control, roll 9, success.

Next: Ladder
 

Musical Chairs

Strike Captain Bannon has been on the Hannibal for 30 minutes and she still hasn't managed to take back command of her fleet. Struggling in her emergency vacsuit, she claws her way up a maintenance ladder-shaft. Above her is E3 Nilsson, a deckhand who met her in the damaged mech bay where she landed. Below her are two more deckhands, bringing up the rear with the precious NHP casket from the Shaka Zulu.

A burst of static, and then the voice of Aelita echoes in her helmet: "Strike Captain, you should not be moving around inside the maintenance shaft."

"Well, it's about time you replied! The lift was out! We need to get up to the bridge as fast as possible. No, wait - get me a fleet legion linkup with the other captains!"

"I'm afraid that will be challenging," replies the diminished fleet legion. "This ship is under a severe ontological attack. Escort command network is down, and we are experiencing infrastructural crashes."

"Just patch me to the bridge! This is a fleet command override order!"

A limited mini-display pops up, showing the brutal dance of carriers and dreadnoughts, all pivoting around the Hannibal. The painful sight of the debris fields marked "Shaka Zulu" and "Titania" burns her soul.

"Give me Fleet Comms."

"Yes, sir."

"This is Strike Captain Bannon, I am safely aboard the Hannibal and I will be raising my flag as fleet commander here."

A condescending chuckle. It's Strike Captain Gopalakrishnan. "With all due respect, Strike Captain, we have the matter in hand."

"I don't care what you think, Strike Captain," she hisses back at him. "The Directorate put me in charge here -"

Aelita puts up a warning pop-up. Another Armory carrier is entering from nearlight. The PCV-GC Ching Shih is here now, its launch ports catapulting squadrons of mounted Sherman chassis into the battlespace.

"There! Now we have the forces to finish this fight!"

Captain Ashanti breaks in on the channel, sounding distressed. "Strike Captain Bannon, sir, you have to get back to the mech bay! We have enemy boarding parties crawling all over your sector!"

Seconds later, a burst of gunfire shreds E3 Nilsson, spraying his blood all over Bannon.

An armoured marine lurks in the shaft above - and the outlines of more behind her.

"Good morning, y'all," chirps the marine. "I am Lieutenant Park of the 120th Mirrorsmoke Detachment, and you are now my prisoners!"

Bannon freezes, uncomprehending. How has it come to this?

Over the fleet legion channel, Gopalakrishnan can be heard telling Ashanti that he is taking command once more.

If Aelita could throw her hands up in frustration, she would. "For Ra's sake, we might as well be playing musical chairs."


Next: Last lifeboat
 

Last Lifeboat

Round 4.

State of the fleets:

2nd Crisis Response Group (Union Navy)

Battlegroup Eland (Range 4)
Interdiction 1d6+2
UNS-BB Nikolai Bukharin (25 HP), 2 volley tokens on 3x3 Block Short-Spool Cannons, 3 greywash tokens.
UNS-CV Shamokin Rising (16 HP)

  • 2x Fighter Wing (5 HP, 5 HP)
  • Destroyer Unicorn (6 HP)
  • Destroyer Undine (8 HP)

Battlegroup Splinter (Range 2),
Interdiction: 1d6+2
UNS-BB Richard Wagner (2 HP), 3 charge tokens on Spinal Petajoule Kinetic.
UNS-LS Björn Járnsiđa (11 HP).

Battlegroup Sour Brains (Range 2)
Interdiction: 1d6+2
MSMCS We Demand Hazard Pay (15 HP)

  • 2x Mounted Chassis Wing (2 HP, 3 HP)
  • MSMCS Facefirst (8 HP)
  • MSMCS Fool's Gold (6 HP)

2nd Expeditionary Fleet (Harrison Armory Colonial Legionate)

Battlegroup Hannibal (Gyre Center)
Interdiction: 1d6
PCV-DN Hannibal (Turtleback) (32 HP), Boarded by 2x Tenacity 10 Marines. Deploy Ontological Payload: All Wings and Escorts are disabled until end of next turn. Sabotage Fire Control: The boarded ship makes all attacks with +2 Difficulty until the end of their next turn. Inbound Razorback Missiles, 3 flight tokens.

  • 1x Brothers in Arms (8 HP), 1 charge token on Short-Spool Spinal Guns (1/2 strength)
  • Ace: Albedo Cavalier (8 HP), 2 heat tokens on 1 Beam.

Battlegroup Shaka Zulu (Gyre Center)
PCV-DN Shaka Zulu (Paladin) (-6 HP)

Battlegroup Titania (Gyre Center)
PCV-DN Titania (UNKNOWN Man O'War) (-15 HP)

Battlegroup Arminius (Gyre Center)
Interdiction: 1d6+4
PCV-GC Arminius (Mastermind Breakwater) (21 HP)

  • 4x Fighter-Bomber Wing (5 HP, 5 HP, 5 HP, 5 HP), 2 reloading tokens on Bombing Run
  • Diluvia (15 HP)
  • 1x Daggerflight (1 HP)

Battlegroup Ching Shih (Gyre Center)
Interdiction: 1d6
PCV-GC Chang Shih (Corsair) (25 HP)
- 4x Mounted Chassis Wing (5 HP, 5 HP, 5 HP, 5 HP)

- 2x Stalwarts (10 HP, 10 HP)

Logistics Step: The Wagner's Razorbacks remove one payload token. 2 turns to impact. The Hannibal's Brother In Arms removes 1 charge token, so its spinal gun is ready to fire, but it is going to forgo firing this round because of Ontological Payload.


The lights are almost completely out on the bridge of the Wagner, the only illumination being provided being the glow of the crew's screens, many of them flashing dire warnings of systems failures throughout the ship. In his seat, CSO Richards is still managing the evacuation of the last few crew that can be spared out the overloaded lifeboats. At this point he's simply shoving them in as quickly as he can and watching them jettison as they sweep past the We Demand Hazard Pay. From now on, anyone who survives the coming storm will have to take their chances with the Björn - even assuming the frigate itself survives.

The bridge crew itself is down to the absolute minimum to manage the ship, and all of them have their survival suits on, emergency life support packs plugged in and each strapped securely in their seats with crash straps on and deceleration padding fully charged. Caspian is seated next to van Ghent, behind CGO Bryant whose strained face is glued to her screen. No one says anything.

Around them, the ship creaks and groans as she accelerates at ever increasing speed towards the Arminius. A warning flashes on the bridge screen, alerting the crew that the Wagner is close to the do not exceed speed for its trajectory. No one budges. There are thumps and bangs as purview shells slam into the dying battlecruiser, destroying vital internals and venting large portions of the ship to space. But the ship is almost empty anyway.

200km. Battlegroup Splinter is right on top of the Purview fleet now. Guns flash, flak bursts tear at them as they storm past the Hannibal and straight at the looming bulk of the Arminius. At last, CSO Richards announces "Last lifeboat away."

Battlegroup Splinter: Tactic - Emergency Maneuver

100km. The Arminius is no longer just a sensor dot, not a glint of light. It's now clearly visible with the naked eye. CGO Bryant makes last minutes adjustments to her targeting trajectory. Caspian grunts in approval.

50km. The Arminius is now visibly maneuvering. The glow of her exhaust brightens as she seems to belatedly realize the danger she's in. Around them, diminutive fighters swerve wildly to avoid slamming into their suddenly maneuvering carrier or being crushed by the arrival of the Wagner in their midst.

20km. The Purview Carrier's point defense systems open up in a final desperate attempt to stop the Wagner as the Arminius slams itself into reverse in a last ditch maneuver to avoid getting hit. Bryant sees this and simply updates her targeting vectors and hits the release button. On command hundreds of massive asteroids once held in position around the Wagner by her directed tractor beams are cut loose like pellets from a gigantic shotgun arcing straight for the Purview carrier.

5km. The Wagner won't make the turn. The Arminius' helmsmen have managed to turn the ship beneath the Wagner's trajectory.

For an instant, there's a tense silence.

Then, Bryant ejects one last apartment-sized asteroid right into the path of the Arminius.

Battlegroup Splinter: Maneuver - Slingshot
 


Is ramming an option? That's a little surprising, but they are massive ships.

Picked up Lancer- quite interesting and adds a bit of context to your narrative. Enjoying the battle!
Ramming is quite a costly Maneuver. You have to be extremely close (Range 0) and your capital ship and the enemy target both automatically take the same damage (a 2d6 roll).

What Caspian did here was to unleash the Sandstorm Vanguard's Slingshot attack.

SLINGSHOT Maneuver, Limited 1
Your battlegroup may advance one range band forward, after which you lob a group of asteroids at a hostile CAPITAL SHIP. This counts as an attack using the following profile:

Superheavy, Single/Area-Target, Payload Range 3–0, 10 single-target damage + 4 area-target damage

INTERDICTION against this attack is applied to its area-target damage first. This attack ignores hostile effects and abilities that add or remove FLIGHT COUNTERS or destroy PAYLOAD attacks. On hit, this attack erupts into a dangerous cloud of debris that lasts until the start of the next Logistics Phase. For this duration, the next time the target battlegroup would use an ability or effect that forces you or an allied battlegroup to move, it takes 2d6 area-target damage and all of its single-target attack rolls receive +1 DIFFICULTY until the end of its next turn.
 

Breaking, Badly

The carrier slams bodily into the giant nickel-iron hunk of space debris, the impact instantly caving in her main hangar bay. The momentum of the blow slams the Arminius right back into the Wagner's crippled starboard quarter. The force of the impact is too much for the Wagner's already tattered hull and the entire starboard quarter of the immense battlecruiser shears away just forward of the bridge.

On Fleet comms, Caspian's hologram winks out.

Both ships are tumbling wildly now. Lights all across what's left of the Wagner go out as the ship loses power. The crash alarms sound, immediately inflating the protective nanofoam crash cushions to try to keep the surviving crew on board alive as what's left of the UNS-BB Richard Wagner caroms out of control, slamming into asteroid after asteroid like a giant pinball.

Her opponent, the Arminius, fares little better as she ricochets off one asteroid after another. Her hangar bay is torn asunder and fires break out across multiple decks as atmosphere vents from damaged systems. The massive carrier, with somewhat more reserve structural integrity slowly claws her way back into some semblance of control amidst the dense asteroid field she's suddenly found herself in.

Captain Lutjens watches the carnage as his frigate's shields flicker on to protect her from the storm of debris.

"Well, there she goes." someone next to him says. He's not sure who it is.

Turning away from the screen he quickly starts rasping out orders. The Björn Járnsíða is intact but how much longer is another matter but while he's still alive and his ship is still intact, he'll do everything he can to ensure that his flagship's sacrifice will not be in vain.

"Prepare to ram!"

10 Single Target Damage to Arminius and 8 Area Damage to its battlegroup. The Arminius is still (just barely) functional, but it has lost its Daggerflight, while the Diluvia is down to 7 HP. The Arminius' Wings are scattered and still alive, since Wings do not take Area damage. But they are about to lose their home and will have to ditch when the carrier is lost.

5 Single Target to Wagner and 4 Area damage to its battlegroup. The Wagner is down to -7, a sundering hit that tears it in two and exposes the crew to space.


Next: This is Fine.
 
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This Is Fine.

Commandant Almarik, in command of the newly-arrived Ching Shih, is very quietly panicking. It's her first battle. She was told they were winning.

"This is good," she says as her carrier turns to avoid the debris of the Shaka Zulu. "This is fine."

Gopalakrishnan's cool, confident orders have turned to increasingly emotional exhortations to continue carrying out The Plan even as the Richard Wagner and its deadly payload bullied itself into point-blank range.

Gopalakrishnan went from "no, they're not a threat," to "they will get close, but not to worry," to "the lunatic won't stop!" in a short span of time.

Everything Commandant Almarik learned at Purview Interstellar College doesn't apply anymore (except the Karrakin Funeral Poetry course, that's still good). Union using cheap asteroid-tossing tactics like backwater pirates? A sniper ship charging all the way to point-blank? Toss out the Advanced Battlegroup Tactics coursebook! Throw it all out!

She draws upon the last of her military education. "Um," she says, "Richard Wagner / dead in winter / jaunted far / yon and hither. / Lay carnations / orchids, white roses / now peace lilies / And call him Friend."

Her terrified young bridge crew have all stopped to stare at her.

She cracks a sad smile. "They're our brothers and sisters too. Let's keep some sympathy in our hearts for them."

Junior Lieutenant Browning looks incredulously at her. "Are...are we stopping?"

"Of course not," she says with a shrug. "Target the Turenne frigate with the superheavy. Let's clear up the neighbourhood."

A private message pops in for her. Encrypted text from Captain Lowell of the James I. She opens it on her handheld terminal, peeks down surreptitiously. "Oh good. Very good."

She takes a deep breath.

"Browning, hold fire. Let's not be too hasty."

Next: Flourishes
 

What I find interesting is the statements "We lost one ship, you've lost half your forces" and "you are still woefully outgunned" are both true. They're at a tipping point, but which way?

Is it possible to capture or just neutralize a ship with boarding parties?
 

No, boarding parties represent a pretty small force of saboteurs, not enough to take out a ship just with their own abilities (except in the case of boarders that have damage-inflicting abilities).

However, a player or GM controlling a ship can opt for Nearlight Bolt to escape a battle from the 5th round onwards. And a fleet can opt for surrender at the start of a round. So it becomes a case of roleplaying and negotiation. When there is a specific mission objective in a battle (a Sitrep), one side can choose to end hostilities when it becomes clear they cannot win the objective.

Of course, if I am running a combination LANCER/Battlegroup campaign, I could give a party of Lancers an opportunity to board and capture an enemy flagship during a fleet battle, probably as a multi-part mission! That would be suitably epic.
 

Flourishes

Forgot to mention that Bukharin takes 3 damage from greywash during Logistics Step. 2 greywash tokens remaining.

The battered Arminius is far from finished. Its flak guns send a hail of explosive projectiles into the Björn's side, shaking it. Meanwhile, its fighters dash out to hunt down the last remaining mercenary mechs, exterminating them ruthlessly.

The Diluvia swarm, while greatly reduced by the devastating asteroid strike, is still operational. Defensive drones take up position to guard the Arminius.

And they aren't the only defenders. In a brilliant flourish, another four Harrison Armory corvettes enter the battlespace from nearlight, crossing the path of Battlegroup Sour Brains to make gun runs on the We Demand Hazard Pay, Facefirst, Fool's Gold and Björn Járnsiđa. Then, the attack runs complete, the corvettes take up a screening position before the Arminius.

Battlegroup Arminius:

1) Mastermind Tactic: Perfect Timing (once per battle). A non-unique Escort jumps in from nearlight, as was planned all along, and joins Battlegroup Arminius. We choose a Daggerflight. It gets to take a free Maneuver or Tactic right away, and chooses to do the Maneuver Battery Fire, dealing 2 damage each to Hazard Pay, Fool's Gold (takes 2 damage back from Point-Defense Kinetics), Facefirst (takes 2 damage back from Point-Defense Kinetics) and Björn.
Daggerflight is now at 6HP, 4HP, 4HP, 6HP.
2) Arminius Maneuver: Flak Batteries at Björn, roll with 2 Accuracy for total of 14, which is a hit for 4 damage.
3) Arminius Tactic, All Wings, Attack! to have two fighter wings do Dogfight (deal 3 damage to a hostile Wing and take 2 damage). This wipes out the last of the mercenary mech wings.
4) Diluvia Tactic: Drone Control, Swarm Wall. Diluvia takes 3 damage and goes down to 4HP. The Arminius is orbited by a series of defensive drones. Single Target attacks against that ship are made with +1 Difficulty until the end of their next turn.
5) Daggerflight Tactic: Draw Fire. The Daggerflight takes up a formation to draw away incoming fire from their battlegroup.

Until the end of their next turn, all non-Charge Single Target attacks made against their battlegroup must target this Escort first. Against Single Target Payload attacks that reach 0 during the Impact Step, you may sacrifice a ship from this Escort group to reduce that Payload’s damage by an amount equal to the sacrificed ship’s HP. If the Daggerflight is completely destroyed, this effect immediately ends.

"More reinforcements. The Mercs aren't going to last much longer," Meade observes worriedly.

Tabitha looks down at the battlescape chart, running the calculations in her mind. The situation is deteriorating rapidly.

"We could proceed with our original plan, Captain." CGO Petrov remarks. "I have firing solutions on the Ching Shih. If we are lucky, we can destroy two Purview ships in one fell swoop before the James I arrives."

"Not on the cards anymore." Tabitha grimaces pointing at the Daggerflights, "They're going to eat our shots. The Undine and Unicorn don't have the firepower to blast through that group."

"Captain, at the rate things are going we're going to be standing up against three Purview capital ships alone." Meade says. "I don't like those odds."

"Neither do I, Elliot. Neither do I. Unfortunately we are fully committed at this point. We just have to make do with what we have left. AEGIS? Send a direct message to Vice Admiral Gentle. Inform her of the situation and advise that unless we have a clear guarantee of reinforcements within the next standard day, I will authorize all forces to strike colors as befitting their situation."

"I'm not going to power down anything in the face of these scum," Captain Gunther Lutjens snarls over fleet comms amidst the explosions wreathing his ship. "You've seen what they're willing to do!"

"Captain, I understand the sentiment but at this point we will be throwing more good lives after bad. We can, perhaps, deal with the Ching Shih once we've finished off the Arminius but we have the James I coming in next and once she enters the fray, I don't think we have enough firepower left in our fleet to take her down."

"I have my ship!" Lutjens nearly yells back.

Next: Get rough
 

This Will Be Rough, Part 4

"Captain, I highly doubt your ship is going to survive the next series of shots from either side. I'd strongly advise that you prepare for that eventuality. I'd order you to strike your colors right now but I don't want to give up on the slim chance that the Purview forces will power down first."

"That's a very, very slim chance," Captain Evans observes sourly as Lutjens subsides into unintelligible muttering. "Everytime it seems like we might establish superiority, they bring more firepower to the field. Are you really going to ignore the Ching Shih?"

"I don't have a choice, Jac. The point still stands - we must reduces the number of ships able to coordinate against us and the Arminius is the easiest kill. Its a chancy shot against the Ching Shih at this point, anyway. I would rather wait until we are closer in to guarantee a kill if it comes to that."

"Assuming you survive that long," Meade observes quietly.

"Assuming we survive that long." Tabitha nods grimly. "Helm, take us in close! All stations fire at will!"

Then, like an avenging angel wreathed in fire and smoke, the Nikolai Bukharin and her escorts storm forward through the deadly void once blocked by the pulse-pack barrage from the Titania, their guns barking defiance at the enemy fleet.

First to fall is the Roy, torn asunder like its brother the Siegfried by the hail of fire from the advancing Union battlegroup. Then the Unicorn and Undine advance rapidly, their guns still firing as the Nikolai Bukharin swings around behind them, her fully charged main guns pointing menacingly at the Ching Shih.

The two escort flights scream towards each other, their plasma trails bright in the frigid darkness. The Daggerflights open fire first, rounds searing towards the two Custodio-class sublines. In response, in a planned maneuver, the Undine arcs downward below the Unicorn as she swerves across her inital trajectory and lobs a wide spread of Snapflights at the surprised Daggerflights. Neither Destroyer slows down and they both streak past the wildly evading Daggerflights towards their quarry. A series of explosions behind them, followed by the blinding flash of a reactor core detonating signifies the death of one of the Daggerflights.

The surviving Corvettes swarm after the two destroyers like angry hornets. The Unicorn is weaving wildly behind firing off Snapflights at their pursuers, forcing them to repeatedly shift their angle of attack and, in doing so, fall further and further behind. The Undine on the other hand, just keeps accelerating altering course only to avoid the massive chunks of space rock - some the size of a suburban neighborhood - still drifting around in the area.

On board the Arminius, the little point of light begins to grow. Smaller pinpricks streak towards it. Captain Ki, however, is thoroughly enjoying herself as her diminutive escort screams towards the stricken carrier, swerving only to blindside an unfortunate Purview fighter into an asteroid as she streaks past them, their tiny pulse cannons desperately seeking her.

Flak guns open up, streams of fire steaking past. A wolfish grin crosses the little Asian captain's face as the Arminius looms in her screen. With a look of triumph she yells at her bridge crew - "Present broadside! Give her everything we've got!"

The little destroyer swings broadside on to the titanic carrier and her guns blaze sending a barrage of shells into the hangar bay and strike craft elevators of the Purview carrier exposed through the gaping hole punched by the Wagner's final defiant strike. The tiny shells, normally of little concern to a fully operational capital ship now find soft innards to feast upon.

Detonation follows detonation as the Undine completes its gun pass and swoops off to rejoin her sister, plowing through what's left of the Diluvia swarm on her way out splattering drones across her bow like bugs on a windshield. The two destroyers retreat back to the safety of the Bukharin as, behind them, the lights wink out on the Arminius. Her core fatally breached and emergency generators completely destroyed, the Purview carrier fades quietly as her crew are left to contend with increasingly uncontrolled fires aboard a dead ship drifting in the void.

Battlegroup Eland:
Maneuver - All Ahead Full! Move to range 3.
Fire on the Brothers in Arms - Roll: 18, Damage 9, destroying it.

Tactics: Destroyer Command - Cannonade, Target the Arminius, Damage 3, reducing it to 0. Diluvia is destroyed as a bonus escort kill.

Wolfpack Tactics: Destroyer Command - Snapflight Torpedoes, Target full HP Daggerflight, Damage 6, destroying it.
 
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Maintain

The mood on the Hannibal's bridge is bleak. Captain Ashanti watches helplessly as Strike Captain Gopalakrishnan's image vanishes from the display. Aelita's voice sounds faint and hollow as she loses her fleetmind connections with Battlegroup Arminius. "Sir, you have fleet command. Orders?"

"Maintain bearing, keep firing," she snaps. Ashanti remembers Bannon's last order. Hold the line, reinforcements are coming. The Hannibal's hull plating will hold. The enemy is running out of momentum.

At least, that's the narrative she needs.

The Hannibal's guns continue to fire at the enemy flagships, but the Mirrorsmoke marines have hacked into kinetic gunnery guidance. CGO Ivanov has resorted to placing spotters on the surface of the hull to provide manual corrections. It's not enough. The intimidating bulk of the opposing Thoreau Class Battleship enters scope range, and the Hannibal fails to land a hit. The mercenary carrier is getting closer still, but so far its zigzag approach has kept the worst of the barrage from hitting it.

The obstinate resistance of the mercenary boarding parties is proving a major problem. Armory marines are clawing back control of the ship one bloody compartment at a time, but the Mirrorsmokes just fade only to hit again somewhere else. It's a big ship.

1) Maneuver: Heavy Kinetic Battery Fire at Nikolai Bukharin, roll 10, Difficulty roll 2, 2, miss. Fire at We Demand Hazard Pay, roll 9, Difficulty roll 5, 5, miss.

Rolling to repel boarders: 9, 3. No luck, the Mirrorsmoke marines continue to run rampant below decks.

Captain Ashanti could take damage to unjam control of the Ace. She could cease fire to spend a Maneuver and purge all decks, get rid of boarders. But she's conservative and won't take risks. Bannon said to hunker down and wait.


Next: Danger Close
 
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Firing In Anger

The We Demand Hazard Pay has lasted remarkably long for a carrier charging under the guns of the lumbering Turtleback. Crew chiefs all across the ship watch the readouts, tense and sweaty. The mech wings have gone silent, one after another. The Wagner is gone. The night is full of enemy mechs.

But a tone sounds across gunnery stations. They're in effective range. All the long weeks they drilled for this, and now their mass accelerators are being fired in anger for the first time.

"Incoming fire, danger close!" signals Major Mahayhay to the marine boarding teams on the encrypted fleet legion channel. Maybe they can hear her, maybe not. At least she's tried to give them a heads-up, wherever they are.

A torrent of hyper-dense munitions carves white-hot rents into the Hannibal's ventral armor. From the outside, it doesn't seem to have made a difference. But on the inside, capacitor banks are blowing, critical thrust systems are bleeding gas, and hundreds of Rittermeer spacers are dead or dying.

"Deploy magnetic chaff clouds," orders Colonel Milch. He doesn't have the luxury to enjoy the blow his ship has struck, not even for an instant. "Reload the accelerator carousels, she's going to need another volley before she goes down!"

The Hazard Pay swiftly becomes obscured behind an expanding field of defensive measures, launched from silos all along its length.

Battlegroup Sour Brains:

1) Maneuver: Scrapcaster, using banked +1 Accuracy. Total roll is 12, hit for 4d6 Overkill damage. After rerolling 1s, final damage is 13. Hannibal is knocked down to 19HP.

Until end of its next turn, Single Target Attacks against the We Demand Hazard Pay are at +1 Difficulty.

Place 2 Reloading counters on Scrapcaster.


Next: Survival
 
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