After I reported my side of the story I decided that I was going to authorize the IEC to assist the machine intelligence called the Horde and use my influence to get other countries and corporations to help as well. Assistance to the Horde became known as operation Canned Sunshine. I summoned a legion of scientists from Earth to study Eta Carine. Sikorsky practically emptied Russia of physicists, chemists and a variety of other scientists to do the same thing.
While the brain trust got to work on that I was drawn back to the hunt for Admiral Buchloren. We had an honest to god lead on that bastard. At The Dodonres System, sixteen transits beyond the Durga system. A Neptune Corp ship had just returned from there and had brought back images of what looked like a shipyard of some sort.
I deployed there with every battleship in Task Force V. I figured that would be enough to deal with whatever we found there. When we arrived at Dodonres we found something that made no sense. It was a shipyard, what was left of one. It had been an orbital yard above a marginally habitable planet. The main structure of the yard had been purposefully crashed into the main population center of the planet. Other population centers had been subject to orbital bombardment. There wasn’t a living person left on the planet.
I went down in a Corsair. Was this some kind of new tactic that Buchloren had thought up? If so then it didn’t seem particularly bright. Perhaps there was some other enemy in this part of space. This certainly wasn’t the work of The Horde. Their nearest known activity was nowhere near here and even if this was their work. Why didn’t they consume the planet? Something didn’t add up so I suggested that we have a look at the nearby star systems to see if there was anything hiding nearby that might explain this. I took Big Blue and the Russian battleship Catherine the Great to investigate.
Once we arrived in the next system the sensors detected a ship. It was something that I hadn’t seen since the battle of the Durga system. A ship the size of a heavy cruiser, armed as heavily as a battleship and armored better than either. One of these “Battlecruisers” had very nearly killed Big Blue when we had become entangled in the upper atmosphere of Durga Prime. This one had even more weapons than the last one we saw. I took one look at it an gave Captain Hoover my usual order to commence battle.
“Alright Bob, make this building dance, all forward guns, open fire!”
The Catherine fired her primary weapon. We let fly with six shots from the forward rail guns. It dodged all but three of our shells and absorbed the impact from the Russians CLERGy laser cannon with no visible damage. I immediately ordered Ross on The Semblance to take his ship back to the Dodonres system and get help. If this thing could take a direct hit from a Russian battleships main guns with no visible effect then we were in a lot of trouble.
While the Catherine recharged her main weapon I launched everything we had at the enemy ship. Railgun rounds, torpedoes, missiles, laser pulses. A 10 kiloton nuclear detonation slowed them down a bit, not much. Now they were within plasma weapons range.
The first hits from their plasma cannons did more damage to Big Blue than anything since the battle of the Durga system. They caused the armor to fissure and buckle like nothing I had ever seen. This armor could withstand baking in the plasma of the Suns upper magnetosphere for hours on end. This was something utterly unprecedented so I ordered that the remaining mark 30 torpedoes be loaded, both of them. As Big Blue’s secondary weapons plinked away harmlessly at the enemy ship we were so close to the battlecruiser that the Russian crew were reluctant to fire. I screamed into the radio for them to hit them with everything they had, so they did.
We caught the edge of the blast, doing more damage. The battlecruiser did not look noticeably damaged. Now it focused its attention on the Catherine instead of us. With its primary weapon discharged. Catherine the Great launched torpedoes and missiles. I had forgotten that the Russians even had those. She deployed fighters. They were scythed from the sky shortly after launch by accurate railgun and plasma fire from the Battlecruiser. A huge energy pulse erupted from the enemy ship. It hit the Catherine like a ton of bricks, nearly annihilating her bow. Her terrifying primary weapons were rendered inoperative.
The Catherine accelerated. Goddamn brave fuckers were going to ram the Battlecruiser. The enemy ship sped up, gracefully escaping the Russian Battleship. Another storm of plasma erupted from the Battlecruisers bow striking the Catherine amidships. As she imploded I screamed at weapons control officer.
Our next volley of railgun shells hit them in the ass so hard that they drifted into the Catherine’s exploding wreckage. A couple of nuclear armed double motor torpedoes hit them shortly after. They struck but did not detonate, they had upgraded their shields. They were able to stop slow moving projectiles now. Before we launched the mark 30s I told weapons control to rig them to detonate as proximity charges instead of penetrator charges. Reprogramming would take awhile, until that could be done we had to roll the ship away from the enemy. Showing them our more heavily armored bottom. They were about to take their turn to attack.
Another massive plasma blast. Terror shot through my mind as I realized something. This ship wasn’t filling the sky with plasma energy. They were targeting everything they had right to our location. My nightmare had come true, at long last the Drankmastarains had upgraded their targeting systems. Turret 1 took part of the hit, badly damaging the three gun tubes there. Hoover pushed the engines up and we started moving away from the Battlecruiser. We were still faster than them and our weapons had longer range. There was no reason for us to hang around here and get stomped. There was a planetoid not far away that we could use as a shield. So Hoover took the ship towards it as fast as the engines could manage.
The Battlecruiser followed us. It wasn’t quite as fast as the Montana. Still it was going far faster than any imperial ship that I had ever seen. In desperation Hoover screamed at me. “Call in the Singers. We can’t handle this shit!”
“There aren’t any around or else they would have jumped into the battle already.”
“Just get them here!”
“How? they are out of radio range. We still have no way of reliably accessing their communications system. A madness gun only works when you are standing right next to one. What am I supposed to do mr Hoover? Pray to them!?”
So I prayed, hoping that my prayers would be answered by as near a thing to a god in corporeal form was known to exist. I opened my eyes to see that there was no sign of Singer ships. More impacts ravaged the hull.
Weapons control reported that the mark 30s had been reprogrammed. So I ordered one fired along with a barrage from the rail guns and smaller missiles to camouflage the attack.
The TV feed from the mark 30 was incredible. It had to be launched out of the forward tube so its reaction control motors had to turn it around 180 degrees in order to just get it going in the right direction. Once it did the Battlecruiser launched an unbelievably well aimed spray of plasma and railgun shells in front of it to stop the torpedo, didn’t work. Hitting a thirty foot long torpedo bouncing all over the place is a bit more difficult than hitting a kilometer long battleship. The missile detonated 1,800 yards in front of the Battlecruisers hull.
20 megatons of atomic explosive going off in its fucking face and their shields still held. This thing was Cerberus incarnated in metal. It had sloughed off everything that we could throw at it. Unless reinforcements came soon we were going to die. It was as simple as that.
Suddenly the Web-Way terminus activated. It was the battleships DaVinci and Munich. The Battlecruiser snapped around and started taking shots at the approaching battleships. The Munich used the standard German tactic of bearing down for a close in, short but furious brawl. Unbelievable the Battlecruiser was able to stay with them. Dodging their pulses, while firing back accurately. The Munich took a direct hit in the engines while the DaVinci desperately maneuvered around to keep from getting hit.
Bob dutifully turned around the Montana to make one last attack run. I had one mark 30 left and by God I was going to use it. The helmsman of the Munich must have noticed us on an attack run because he took his ship towards mine in a flat out dash. As the hundred thousand tons of German warship blew by the Montana. I fired the mark 30.
The blast was so close that Big Blue took damage. The Battlecruiser got it much worse. It was impossible for me to know at the time but the DaVinci had fired all her weapons seconds after the mark 30 launched. There wasn’t a bit of that ship left bigger than a pipe wrench.
Task Force V limped back to Ristavron. One ship, one goddamn ship had taken on four of our best battleships and very nearly won. Now we knew what Buchloren had been working on all this time, why he had been avoiding battle and why he had refused to drop out of the war. Even with the Singers on our side this war might not be over yet. As we landed back at our base I was scribbling down the last bit of my mission report as furiously as humanly possible. Slashing holes in the paper with my pen. Going half mad from nervousness as every creak and crack of my formerly sound ships hull threatened a new system failure. Or even a catastrophic failure.
There was a solemn ceremony for the destroyed Catherine the Great. Big Blue was going to need at least two months of repairs. Turret one had to be completely replaced. That was going to be really expensive. Making matters worse was the fact that we had no idea how many of those battlecruisers there were in the wild. Since their shipyard was destroyed they had guaranteed that we would have no idea how many there were. What their weaknesses were, etcetera. Though it had hopefully meant that there would be no more built, hopefully.
A warning was sent back to Earth about the new enemy ships. If just one of those battlecruisers was able to get there. Then the war would probably be over. A planetary defensive grid had been set up around Earth and Eutopos after the Zilnj showed up. I doubted that either would be up to the task of taking out one of those monstrosities.
If Buchloren wasn’t attacking Earth. Then he was probably going to come after Ristavron. For the next two months I was stuck here waiting for my ship to be fixed. So I set about organizing operation Canned Sunshine. Hopefully once the problem of Eta Carine detonating was resolved then we could all focus on dealing with the rogue admiral.
Canned sunshine didn’t eat up all of my time though. I was also able to work on ways to increase the Montana’s offensive and defensive capability. Installing shields was an appealing idea. However, shield technology as it currently existed only worked with extremely powerful fusion reactors and as much as I may have wanted to. One doesn’t just install a fusion reactor in a ship not designed to handle a fusion reactor.
Offensive measures were easier to install. The Japanese had discovered that the wreckage of their prototype super battleship had been turned into an exotic form of transphasic matter. What that meant was that when a chunk of it was fired out of a railgun it would pass through energy shields like they were not even there. If it struck a big solid target at sufficient speed it would detonate. Turning into raw nuclear energy at an estimated 97.3345 efficient transformation.
That Japanese had used this to give their ships a fighting chance in combat against shielded enemy vessels. They had 40,000 tons of the stuff but no one had any idea how to make more of it. So they were reluctant to part with any of these rounds. Still, I reminded them that if it hadn’t been for me they wouldn’t have them in the first place. So they transferred 50 rounds and relevant technical information to the IEC.
Shoring up the fusion rounds was a new type of atomic weapon. The stockpile of conventional atomic weapons from the Iron Hand was getting kinda low so we were starting to get into the collection of unconventional atomic devices. Some of these were the bombs that the Martians used for propulsion in space. A Martian meteor car was driven by the force of a nuclear weapon exploding on the backside of the ship against a concave shield. Modify the shield into a tube and you have a nuclear shaped charge that directed energy into a target as opposed to scattering it into space.
This new form torpedo was called a mark 32. It was challenging to make and really expensive. Even with the stockpile of parts the Martians had left behind. Still I wasn’t going to take Big Blue into battle against another enemy battlecruiser without having a few new cards up my sleeve. They had stepped up their game, we had to step ours up too.
New weapons trickled in. Along with the battleships Boudicca Lwarchelt, Intrepid and the Aotearoa. They and a refitted force of twelve Orion Class Cruisers had returned under the command of Admiral Santander. By the time turret A was replaced I and several commanders decided to reform task force V. For lack of a better way of saying it, we formed into an assassination squad. This squad would consist of the warships Montana, Semblance, Hustler, Aotearoa, Aurora, Siegfried, Intrepid and the Photolekos. Our heaviest hitters, all tasked with one job. Finding wherever admiral Buchloren was hiding and burn him out.
With the Orion Class cruisers back in the war, supplemented by dozens of Bounty Hunter class boats the Allied Fleet had its long range reconnaissance back to full strength. With these ships prowling the galaxy it was only a matter of time until the rogue admiral was found out.