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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 26[]

State of the Union[]

Part Five - New Avalon
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Orbital Space, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
14 July 3063

One of the major problems with securing New Avalon was that with three moons, it had several transitory jump points to police and guarding them all wasn't feasible.

Sparrowhawk (by Colourbrand & Nuclear-Fridge 2-2018)

Sparrowhawk Light Aerospace Fighter

FCS Andrew Davion had been the first to jump, carrying three large assault ships and two of the well-armed Conquistador transports. The pair of picketing aerospace fighters did their duty, which mostly amounted to screaming for help and trying to escape - there was simply no way that the two Sparrowhawks could have done more than that - and one of them was too slow anyway, losing a wing to a barrage of LRMs from the Andrew Davion's secondary turrets.

Avalon Cruiser (in Space) Ironwinds miniature

FCS Andrew Davion, Avalon-Class Cruiser

Through all of this Jon Davion was nothing more than a spectator. As a courtesy he'd been offered place on the command deck of the FCS John Gordon, but he'd declined and instead was watching from the amidship command center, where there were all the communications and computer systems needed to run a full task force.

"How long do you think we have?" Donovan Kleif asked. "Before the loyalists respond."

Jon simply shook his head. "We'll find out soon enough."

On the display, FCS Intrepid arrived - the damaged corvette was carrying three more assault dropships, aged Avenger-class ships. If the jump point had been heavily contested then it made sense to frontload such craft but right now Jon would have preferred to see some of the heavy transports with his tanks aboard them.

His eye went to the bulkhead where a timer was ticking away the minutes until the jump point became unusable. "I'm more concerned with getting fully clear of the point. We really can't afford a collision."

Intrepid began to thrust quickly, there was no practical way to communicate the situation back to Galax. The ships just had to clear the jump point before the next transit. If they didn't and the jump fields intersected... both ships would be crippled or destroyed, with the same for the troops aboard them.

To Jon's relief though, it all seemed to go smoothly. Intrepid was followed by FCS Hanse Davion - the less completed of the two Avalon-class cruisers. Both had been rushed from Kathil after the loss of their sister-ship the Robert Davion early in the fighting over the critical industrial world, something that had done little to help in their completion schedules. The litany of issues both ships faced had been raised more than once at the frantic staff meetings as the invasion was prepared.

With the three warships clear, the jumpships came through at broader intervals, each carrying a single tug that could haul them clear of the jump point. Peter Steiner-Davion had commandeered the still relatively rare tugs from Delavan over howling protests from the owners.

"It's going too well," Klief muttered. "..something has to go.."

"Hostile warships!" one of the ratings declared. "Two cruisers, one corvette!"

"You just had to say it, Donovan." Jon tightened the security harness on his seat as sirens began to blare, warning that the dropship was about to maneuver.

The last jumpship arrived, detaching the Royal Guards' dropships and the flotilla broke apart into constituent parts - transports rushing to the surface, assault ships and warships moving to intercept Katrina's loyalists, who had escorts of their own.

Given its armament, the John Gordon took position on the outer edge of the formation of transports. Anything that got past the main space combatants would reach them first.

"Do we have confirmation of a landing zone?" Jon asked with forced calm, trying to focus on something other than the chances of dying here, helpless to control his fate.

"Last data has the First Guards somewhere in the Grand Avalon mountains. We're trying to establish contact."

Bringing up a map, Jon confirmed his understanding of the geography of New Avalon. He hardly thought he'd be mistaken but foolish errors were part and parcel of the stress of combat.

The mountain range stretched east-to-west across much of New Avalon's largest continent with Avalon City at the easternmost point and the Royal Court located on the sides and peak of Mount Davion, the first of the mountains overlooking the city. The confined valleys and passes would slow the Guards' advanced but they'd also make it hard to track them and even harder to bring the more numerous defenders of the city to bear against them.

On the other hand, landing reinforcements in the mountains would be a miserable business...

"Transmission from the Marshal!" said Donovan

Jon nodded. "Put her through."

Ann Adelmana was in a similar seat to Jon, aboard one of the other Conquistadors DropShips, the FCS Michael Barlow. "Jon, we've established contact with the First Guards. The situation has changed, they're out of the mountains and south of Avalon City."

He checked the map. The southern approaches to the capital were relatively open with scattered commuter towns, the campuses of Albion military academy and the New Avalon Institute of Science and the Peace Park occupying the Camelot region. "That should make landing easier."

"Yes. I'm copying you the data, but the good news is that the March Militia forces are still trying to catch up. I'm -"

"Sir, the Intrepid is gone!"

Fox Class Corvette (in orbit from MW3 art revamped)

Fox Class Corvette

Jon jerked his head towards the main display screen. Gone was perhaps too strong a word - the corvette was still visible on the screen but the mass of red damage codes around it couldn't be a good sign and it was no longer in formation with the two cruisers. Escape pods and lifeboats began to escape the ship, signaling the crew's own assessment of their fate if the Fox-class ship continued to fight.

Adelmana's face grew tighter. "I've... advised the Prince to take his Royal Guards down to join Bishop's forces directly. You're to take the Huron Panzers, the Seventh and Fourteenth Lexington and everything boarded with them to land west of Sortek's position and keep advance elements of the March Militias from catching up. I'll land the rest of the Regimental Combat team south-east of Sortek and pincer the loyalist troops in his path."

"Understood, sir." Jon already had a good idea what would be grouped with his three principle combat formations and it would make for a decent combined arms force, even detaching two-thirds of Klief's support command to support the remainder of the infantry brigade and BattleMechs.

The marshal cut the channel without further comment and Jon set his staff to the specifics, keeping one eye on the space situation as he hastily reviewed the information on the First Guards' situation.

Thus he was among the first to see a change of status on one of the Loyalist cruisers. "What's that... the Lucien doing?" he demanded, picking the name of the ship from the data codes.

One of the technicians checked the data. "Accelerating." she reported, curiously. "She's taken a pounding though, and she's exposing herself without the rest of the enemy warships backing her up."

An older officer turned from plotting the landing zone and slashed a line along FCS Lucien Davion's course. "Trying to break through!" he decided. "It's a risk but they only have thirty more minutes before we hit the atmosphere. If she can make it past, the Lucien will rip us apart."

"Let's hope she can't." Jon paused and then looked around. "Get back to work," he reminded them, seeing eyes focused on the main holotank rather than duty stations. "We've still got ships of our own out there to handle her."

Unfortunately, the Hanse Davion and Andrew Davion seemed to be more focused on pounding their other sister ship, FCS Alexander Davion to scrap and it was dropships and fighters that turned to intercept the Lucien Davion.

Despite his own orders, Jon couldn't look away as the massive ship continued to accelerate at three gravities. The John Gordon began to weave, setting some of his staff to retching into sick bags as the dropship tried to make itself a difficult target.

Based on some logic on readily admitted he didn't have the training to understand, the Lucien Davion began to turn as it approached the transports. Then explosions wracked its aft section - small compared to the size of the ship but something must have affected it for the ship stopped turning.

"Steering controls, maybe some engine damage?" the naval officer suggested hopefully. "Just a few minutes to the atmosphere and they're going to overshoot us unless they slow down. We're still in extreme range though and..."

Damage codes sprang to life suddenly around one of the transports. Jon looked closer and saw it was the Michael Barlow. "Get me a status report on the flagship!" he ordered sharply.

The big aerodyne was still flying, but more red data lines sprang up.

"Major hits." the technician reported. "Probably long range fire from the Lucien's Naval Gauss Rifles."

"Can you raise them?" Jon asked

"Trying, sir." the busy Tech replied.

Jon forced himself to sit back and nod approvingly. "Keep me informed." he ordered.

The first dropships were already beginning to glow as they hit the upper atmosphere before the Barlow's communications were restored.

"Sir." The technician's voice was unsettled. "Barlow is aborting the landing. They've taken massive damage to the ventral mid-section. The troop bays took the brunt of it but they can't land without substantial repairs."

"Casualties?" Jon demanded.

She hesitated. "They're not sure. High to total, one shot went right through and vented the control center. Marshal Adelmana isn't accounted for."

Jon closed his eyes for a moment in prayer. Then he opened them. "We continue as planned. Inform General Tuttle that I'm taking command and that he's to carry on the south-eastern landings, coordinating directly with Marshal Sortek and Prince Peter until we regroup."

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