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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 34[]

State of the Union - Book 3[]

FCS Ardan Sortek, Sudeten
Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, Federated Commonwealth
February 11th, 3068

The approach to Sudeten reminded Marshal Jon Davion of the final hours before landing on New Avalon with Peter Steiner-Davion, years ago. He hoped that that wasn’t an omen: while they’d won that battle, just getting to the surface had cost the life of his predecessor in command of the Davion Heavy Guards.

There was the same sense of being a helpless spectator though. At least the command deck of FCS Ardan Sortek was more spacious than that of the dropship John Gordon that he’d occupied then. The main tactical display projected the defenses around the Jade Falcon capital showed a considerable number of dropships forming up around the enemy warships. Most of them were armed transports pressed into service and likely emptied of their troops - the Jade Falcons simply didn’t have that many assault dropships.

At least this time the numbers favored them, rather than the even numbers encountered at New Avalon. Jon picked out the Sortek’s icon, near the heart of the spearhead of warships that was intended to secure the orbitals. Their own transports were only visible on a wider strategic display - they wouldn’t arrive for twenty-four hours and if the battle turned against the Federated Commonwealth, they could cease deceleration and make for a jump-point with little chance that the Jade Falcons could manage an interception.

Mjolnir Battlecruiser (Underway)

Mjolnir Class Battlecruiser

Beside the bulk of the Mjolnir-class battlecruiser that Jon rode on, he could see the icon of FCS Hanse Davion. The two ships anchored each other, like the two friends that they had been named for. Most importantly, the Avalon-class cruiser offered Jon’s superior much more protection than the dropship that Marshal Ann Adelmana had ridden over New Avalon.

Avalon Cruiser (Fan Made - Artist Unknown)

Avalon Class Cruiser, FCS Hanse Davion

Even on the strategic display, there was nothing to indicate the presence of the Davion Heavy Guards. Jon’s former command were light years away, still guarding Twycross. His reward for commanding the defense there had been a promotion, trading his command of the Regimental Combat Team for a place on Victor Steiner-Davion’s staff as the Generalfeldmarschall laid the groundwork for administering and protecting the liberated worlds. In theory, Jon was second-in-command of the AFFC contingent here but he’d barely had time to meet most of the commanders involved.

“There she is." murmured one of those commanders. Amanda Steiner stabbed one finger towards the display, where an icon flickered as it updated with positive confirmation of the identity of an enemy warship.

“Who or what?” he asked curiously.

“Falcon’s Nest.” The captain of the Sortek folded her arms. “The only Jade Falcon warship to get away from Coventry.”

“A battleship?” Jon wasn’t entirely conversant with the nuances of the display yet, but he was sure that the suffix of BB after the name attached to the icon represented that term.

“Texas-class." Amanda confirmed. “A tough ship, and one that we don’t want to get away. She’s got history back to the invasion.”

Texas (Delranes Fighting Ships 3061)

Texas Class Battleship, Falcon's Nest

‘Get away’? Jon was glad that the naval officer was confident enough that she wasn’t worried about winning. “Can she escape?”

She gave him a look. “Only if we mess up. Han and Dan can generate more delta-v, but right now we’re tethered to our allies and some of them are real slugs.”

“Han and Dan?”

“Hanse Davion and Ardan Sortek.” The captain gave him a shrug. “We’ve been assigned together for more than a year and it’s a mouthful.”

Jon studied the display. There were a pair of Fox-class corvettes escorting the two FedCom capital ships, but the majority of the fleet came from their allies. A trio of Aegis-class cruisers from Clan Nova Cat formed a loose perimeter around them; while the point of the spearhead was the ComGuards flagship, Invisible Truth, backed up by three Lola III-class destroyers.

Lola IV Class Destroyer (Space Background)

Lola III Class Destroyer

In comparison, the Jade Falcons only had four warships available - less than he had seen estimated as still active. Besides the Falcon’s Nest, Jon saw two battlecruisers - a Cameron-class sister-ship to the Invisible Truth and a Black Lion - with a single Whirlwind-class destroyer as their escort. “They seem to have quite a heavy force.”

Black Lion II Class Battlecruiser (Underway)

Black Lion Class Battlecruiser

Amanda smiled. “Let me tell you a secret, Marshal. All these terms like battleship and battlecruiser are just jargon that we spacers use to confuse ground-pounders.”

“I knew it!” he joked.

“What matters are the size and speed of the ships." she continued. “We’ve got five ships that can outmaneuver anything they have, if we use them intelligently. Beresick isn’t a fool - I expect he’ll cut loose mixed forces - our slower ships to pin theirs in place, while the rest of us outflank them. With numbers and tonnage on our side, that’s hard to beat.”

“Fire and maneuver.”

“Even in space, catching the enemy in a crossfire can be decisive.”

“Sir!” One of the naval crew turned from their console. “Orders from the flagship.”

Jon knew that that meant the Invisible Truth. Victor Steiner-Davion had assigned naval command to Precentor Beresick, as the most experienced naval commander. That probably wasn’t a crown that the ComGuards officer would retain long though. The Federated Commonwealth Navy had racked up quite a number of victories over the last eight months. Small battles, perhaps. But victories.

“I hear you." Amanda told the crewman.

“Targeting priorities are assigned, captain. Indefatigable and Indomitable to focus on enemy dropships, Ardan Sortek and Hanse Davion to focus on Falcon’s Nest. We’re clear to break formation and engage by division.”

The captain seized a handset. “All hands, check your suits and brace for maneuvering.”

Jon looked at the controls built into the arm of the pressure suit he’d been helped into before leaving his quarters earlier. Naval practices had been reviewed after the Civil War and crew losses to depressurization had led to compact pressure suits being issued. They weren’t really suitable for a full extra-vehicular activity, but they’d hold atmosphere once the helmets were locked into place. Many of the crew were donning the helmets already, so only lowering their visors would be required.

Amanda Steiner let go of her handset and donned her own helmet, then helped Jon to do the same. “I know it’s a pain," she admitted to him, “but it’s better than breathing hard vacuum.”

“No arguments." he agreed. Another telltale on the forearm display went green, indicating the helmet was fully sealed. With that done, he tightened the straps holding him in place.

Satisfied, Amanda did the same and began giving orders, perhaps one in three of which made any sense to Jon. He felt it in the pit of his stomach when the massive Mjolnir-class battlecruiser stopped slowing down and began to turn, presenting a harder target for the Jade Falcons. Despite weighing one and a quarter megatons, the Ardan Sortek’s powerful engines and maneuvering thrusters gave it similar agility to a Leopard-class dropship of under two thousand tons.

The Ardan Sortek shook briefly. Smaller icons appeared around those of the warships and dropships. For a moment Jon thought it was missiles being launched but then he realized that it was both sides launching aerospace fighters - they’d kept all but a modest patrol of interceptors aboard to save fuel and pilot endurance for the real fight.

The dropships closed in around the warships to provide overlapping fire against inbound aerospace fighters. This close to a planet, hopefully no one would break out the nuclear warheads but no one wanted to find out the hard way that the other side was desperate enough to have done so.

The Falcon’s Nest was also turning, trying to keep its flank facing the two FCN capital ships without exposing a weak spot to the three destroyers closing in on the Black Lion-class battlecruiser or the similar formation of Nova Cat cruisers that was picking on the Jade Falcon’s Cameron-class. Precentor Beresick hadn’t chosen to directly compete with the Invisible Truth’s sister-ship and was instead focusing his flagship’s firepower against the one destroyer in the enemy force.

Cameron Class Battlecruiser (Delranes Fighting Ships 3061 - Matt Plog)

Cameron Class Battlecruiser, Invisible Truth

Jon watched the icons of Jade Falcon dropships flare and vanish under the guns of the two Fox-class corvettes. Friendly dropships were also being broken, but they were being hammered by the main batteries of the enemy warships, which meant that that firepower wasn’t being directed at their counterparts.

Fox Class Corvettes (Battle - BattleTech Space Wars Mod)

Fox Class Corvettes in combat

Then the battlecruiser shook again and this time he knew that it was missiles launching. Six from the Ardan Sortek and ten from the Hanse Davion, the holodisplay marking them as they plunged towards the battlecruiser. He knew, from the snatches of conversation around him, that other weapons were firing - up ‘above’ him in the nose of the ship, heavy particle cannon and gauss rifles were firing, but their shots weren’t as clearly visible.


Small version of the Holodisplay

Four missiles missed the Falcon’s Nest entirely, three others were picked off by Jade Falcon fighters. That still meant that nine struck home. They didn’t seem to have much immediate effect, but another sixteen were on the way.

The markers for missiles launched the other way showed that the battleship had shifted its firepower to them. It only fired six though and Jon watched as four went wild, then the other two detonated short of the Hanse Davion.

“Anti-missile systems." Amanda Steiner noted. “I wish we had them, but the Lyran admiralty didn’t agree. The next Mjolnir will have them but the Yggdrasil and the Ardan Sortek will need to wait for their next major refit.”

“The Falcon’s accuracy doesn’t seem as good as I expected." he said. Two-thirds of the FedCom missiles had been on target, but only a third of those fired at them.

She shook her head. “We’re harder targets from this angle.”

There was another jolt and it took Jon a moment to realize, as the ship’s status display lit up, that the Ardan Sortek had taken hits.

“Any moment now…” Amanda murmured, eyes anticipatory. Then she straightened sharply. “Bring us around forty-five degrees, fire as you bear!”

Jon’s stomach complained as the Ardan Sortek whirled upon its center of gravity, and he could hear the heavy naval autocannon firing, even though they were hundreds of metres away.

The icon of the Falcon’s Nest lit up with amber and crimson lights. “Multiple hits on the prow!” someone called.

The Avalon was still hammering the larger vessel with missiles and it appeared to be practically on fire, so many damage codes appeared around it in the display. Jon called up an image of the ship on his own display, magnified massively since they were barely close enough for the battleship to be visible to the naked eye, and found that the reality was very similar - the blunt wedged bow of the Falcon’s Nest had been torn open by repeated impacts and fires were clearly raging inside, with one of the dorsal drop collars streaming flames as the atmosphere within leaked explosively.

Then he saw the next salvo of missiles smash into the port flank  of the Texas-class ship not far behind the nose. Something some structural fault must have been created or found, because entire slabs of armor blew away from the side of the battleship, leaving it looking like a partial cut-away, perhaps of ‘fatal failure of damage control’.

The heavy ship turned on its axis, perhaps trying to present the less damaged starboard side to its enemies, but the ship was bracketed now, and wherever it went, either the Hanse Davion or the Ardan Sortek could engage the damaged prow and flank.

“Should we offer them the chance to surrender?” Jon asked mildly. A captured battleship would probably be more valuable than close to two million tons of scrap.

Amanda Steiner gave him a tight look and then nodded reluctantly. “Comms, invite the enemy battleship to surrender - not hegira, just surrender. We’re not letting them leave but there’s no use risking them falling out of orbit. They might hit someone.”

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