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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 23[]

State of the Union[]

Universal Shipyards, Delavan III
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
23 June 3063

There was no prospect of sneaking up on Delavan using false identification - the drive flare of a warship was far too large to be mistaken for anything else. Nor could they allow days for an approach - New Avalon was only a jump away if Katrina chose to dispatch Warships in response.

That left only one way to do this: quick and dirty. FCS Intrepid had jumped into the outer system a week before and while the jumpdrive recharged, the warship's astronomer had obsessively plotted the movements of the system's planets and moons, refining the data for a transient point arrival.

Fox Class Corvette (in orbit from MW3 art revamped)

FCS Intrepid, Fox-Class Corvette

Peter gripped the arms of his seat. If the navigator's figures were right, they'd arrive only a comparatively short distance from the shipyard. If they were wrong...

Well, he'd probably not be alive to worry about it.

That thought wasn't very reassuring, honestly.

"I think they're aware of the transient point." Vice Admiral Paxson moved his finger to indicate another icon moving towards their destination. "Our data's a few hours old but it looks as if the Fox is moving to cover it - just in case."

Peter rubbed his jaw. "We'll need a moment to re-orientate on arrival." he recalled. "If the Fox opens fire, she'll have us cold."

A sister-ship of the Intrepid - namesake of her class in fact - FCS Fox had just as much firepower, speed and protection. The image of FCS MacBeth's inglorious end came irresistibly to mind.

Paxson's face was grim. "We'll have to take it. Unless they launch nuclear weapons, we can survive a few hits. It's unlikely they'll have them loaded though. And they won't be at full battlestations, which could help."

"Alright. No change to the plan." Peter lent forwards. "We need to get the shuttles away as soon as we can. I hate to say this, but even if Intrepid is battered beyond repair, the shuttles have to take priority."

"Understood. I don't like it, your highness, but I agree."

The clock on the bulkhead was counting down and Peter watched it reach five minutes. Four. Three. He hated being little more than a passenger, but he had no choice. He didn't even have his 'Mech with him - not that it would be any use in this battle.

No more minutes, just seconds.

Then those ran out too.

In a flash of visible light and other radiation, FCS Intrepid and the hundreds of people aboard her bypassed the laws of physics and several million kilometres of space. Peter felt the usual nausea that he had always denied experiencing and closed his eyes for a moment as he drove it ruthlessly down.

When he opened them again the tactical holotank was updating.

"We're on target!" the navigator called. "Right where we should be!"

"Find me the Fox!" snapped Paxson. "Engines!"

There was a kick as the main thrusters lit, beginning to build up momentum and providing the bridge with gravity.

Then the deck heaved again as weapons’ fire smashed into the hull. Fox had found them - and her fire was just as accurate as Intrepid's navigation had been.

"Aft arc!" someone reported. "Damage to jump sail, collar number three and our aft missile tubes."

"Bring us around to port." ordered Paxson. "Launch all small craft. Your highness?"

Peter tapped the push to talk button on the microphone that was his only way to influence the battle. He saw icons bursting away from the Intrepid as he did so - shuttles and fighters deploying. "FCS Fox, this is Prince Peter Steiner-Davion. Stand down, Admiral Hagen. Don't make this harder than it has to be."br>

There was a momentary pause - every second one that the Intrepid's crew were using to shake off the shock of arrival and that Fox's crew must be using to reach their duty stations. "Respectfully, your highness, I must ask you to stand down and prepare to be boarded." Vice Admiral Hagen's voice was steady. "This is an exclusion zone and your arrival is hostile in the extreme."br>

"We both know that that isn't going to happen. Admiral, you're acting in defense of an illegal regime. Katrina has violated the fundamental freedoms of the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth." He paused. "We've all but proved she's a matricide."br>

More seconds passed. Peter could see the weapons officers firming up a lock on the Fox.

"There are a great many people who disagree with you on that," the Admiral replied. "I doubt she'll thank me for blowing her brother out of space, but if you don't cut your engines and recall those small craft then I will do it."'

Peter looked away for a moment. So here it was. "Too all those loyal to House Davion and the true spirit of the Federated Commonwealth." he declared. "In the words of my uncle Morgan Hasek-Davion: sic semper tyrannis."

Both warships opened fire as one, no ranging shots now, broadside to broadside. Fox's fighters launched, chasing after the shuttles and their escorts. Peter watched, the command deck shaking around him as the scientific savagery of void warfare battered at the two quarter of a million ton warships with forces that would have obliterated his Mackie with ease.

Fox's fighter squadrons couldn't have overtaken Intrepid's - there was too much of a lead - but the latter were tethered to the protection of the shuttles and that forced them back, engaging the loyalists to keep them away from the most critical part of the operation.

"More fighters launching from the shipyards." someone reported in a shrill voice.

"Whose?" Peter demanded.

"I don't know. Local defense, I think."

Of the twelve fighters from the Fox, only four were left, but the Intrepid's two squadrons had been cut in half. Six fresh fighters could make all the difference.

Peter closed his hands in prayer...

The new arrivals streaked past the shuttles without firing, a grace they didn't share with the Fox's last surviving fighters.

"Oh thank God." Peter didn't realize until he heard the words that he'd spoken out loud.

"It's said that he -" The ship lurched again, forcing Paxson to a moment's distraction. "That he has a special kindness for fools."

"Inbound missiles!"

Peter watched as three capital missiles left the Fox's flank and dived towards them. One missed as the Intrepid twisted as wildly as such a massive vessel could to avoid them. Another was intercepted by Intrepid's point defense turrets. For a moment, he thought that the third would have the same fate...

Then white light blazed away, blanking half the battlespace in the holotank and sirens howled.

"Roll ship!" snapped Paxson, face white.

Peter stared at the holotank. "What happened?"

"Nuke." a petty officer concluded. "Damage control says... damn, there's a hole in the side you could park a Leopard in."

Clutching the push-to-talk, Peter snarled: "Hagen! Are you insane?"

For a moment, he didn't think he'd get a reply. But: "I don't need a egotistical boy to tell me my duty." Hagen sounded tired, but determined. "You'll never get those ships for your brother."

"She's turning away?" the navigator declared as the Intrepid's roll brought undamaged sensors to bear.

Paxson went even paler. "He's going to fire on the shipyards. Starboard tubes, tell me you have launch solutions."

"Sir, aye sir!"


Fox Class Corvettes (Battle - BattleTech Space Wars Mod)

Fox and Intrepid battling one another.

Peter nodded grimly. The eight capital missile launchers had been held back from firing so far for one simple reason: like the Fox's, they could carry nuclear warheads. "That may not stop them."

"I'll ram him if I have to!" Paxson told him. "If we can catch him." the man added a moment later, which was probably more realistic. Even Peter could see how their courses were diverging. He watched the missile icons crossing the distance.

One missile missed, but Fox's point defense seemed ineffective for some reason. The next missile scarred her armor, blowing away broadside guns and a dropship collar. The last of Intrepid's broadside hit just aft, detonating almost within the warship.

The entire flank of FCS Fox disintegrated and a moment later, her hydrogen tanks blew - spectacularly venting their contents and sending the ravaged warship tumbling.

There was a muted cheer from the bridge crew but Peter didn't join in. Lowering his head he crossed himself and spared a moment to pray for Hagen and for the crew that had followed the Admiral - willingly or not.

"Your highness," Paxson said formally. "Our shuttles have a clean run on the shipyard."

He nodded understanding and turned to watch as the shuttles closed in on the silent hulls of FCS Andrew Davion and FCS Hanse Davion. They didn't pause to dock, troopers in battle armor spilling out to approach the two warships using their jump jets.

Terias Sortek had brought her own 48th Battle Armor Battalion from the Davion Assault Guards and the First NAIS Cadet Armored Infantry as well. Over five hundred suits of battle armor stormed the airlocks as Peter watched from afar.

"See if you can save anyone from the Fox." he murmured, as if to himself.

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