A Combined Review and Mission Report for Matrix Games’ Starshatter
Dragon wouldn’t get away this time, Elena mused. Not this time.
She closed her eyes tightly and squeezed the bridge of her aristocratic nose, trying to ignore the migraine headache slowly building at the back of her head. She was tired. And she wasn’t the only one. The war had gone on far too long. Force:Space was far from its bases, and Operation Nightfall had brought them too deep into Marakan space for her personal comfort. She raked wispy blonde bangs back off her forehead for what seemed like the hundredth time and made a mental note to visit Devastator’s barber the first chance she got.
More documents scrolled past on the padd propped up on her desk. The life of the boss, she thought sourly. She was still trying to complete the Report to the Court of Inquiry on Thrale, to detail Vance’s loss in Isham system the month before. I told them not to send an Asher DD to screen three cruisers.
Her Fifth Battle Squadron had been tasked to take out an enemy cruiser, and in Relay orbit instead had happened upon a true pearl of great price: an enemy carrier. CV Serpent, a Dragon class carrier all alone and unprotected since its escorts were destroyed. Serpent’sobjective was the Terellian CV Orion, the center of Force:Space’s First Fleet and the one ship that had to be protected at all costs. Abandoning the search for the Marakan cruiser, Elena had snapped an order to Devastator’s Pilot and told off the cruiser’s Tactical Action Officer to get her consorts Steadfast and Dauntless in line. Vance had been detailed to escort and screen the flagship against fighters, not to join the battle line.
Busy commanding her own ship against an inbound fighter squadron-at first, she’d thought them to be from Serpent — as well as directing Dauntless and Steadfast, Elena hadn’t seen Vance depart station and engage two Volnaris class destroyers, part of CVDragon’s coterie. Dragon wasn’t supposed to be in-system, but apparently had joined Serpent in the attack on Orion. Dragon quantum-jumped away as Devastator wheeled and fired a swarm of thermonuclear-tipped Athena torpedoes at her, but her escorts remained behind. Alin Volnaris herself killed Vance with well-placed torpedoes before Devastator could match velocities and give the enemy something else to think about. No matter that Volnaris too died quickly at the tips of Devastator’s gamma-ray lasers and Athenas. As hadSerpent, when the carrier had quantum-jumped to the next orbit toward Isham’s sun, and Elena, ordering her consorts to the pursuit, guessed Serpent’s escape-haven right. The two Courageous class cruisers had killed the enemy carrier before Devastator even made it into the area. And then Elena’d had to report to Vice Admiral Evars aboard Orion on their return to Relay orbit after the action and account for why they’d lost the destroyer. And she’d taken it on herself to write to each of the families of Vance’s one hundred and thirty sailors.
She’d lobbied Admiral Evars ever since for a chance to finish Dragon off. They’d pursued her all through Marakan space, killing her remaining escorts one by one and now Force:Intel’s agents had her as alone as Serpent had been. And in Garrison system, as were Force:Space’s First and Second Fleets; Both the Orion and Antares task forces were here, with the goal of killing Garrison Station, the Marakan fortress where their scientists were rumored to be developing a super-weapon. This was the Terellians’ absolute top priority. But before Garrison Station could be assaulted, they had to do something about the relentless fighters. The ground-based ones were bad enough. But the naval fighters, those the battle-fleet could do something about. The order went out to kill Dragon, and Elena was finished with her plan.
Waypoint One would be the rally point, where Devastator, Dauntless, and Steadfast would gather before setting off for Dragon’s last known location. Garrison Station was somewhere in that area, but the Marakans’ heavy sensor jamming made it impossible to locate for sure. Regardless, she could read between the lines and knew that Orion’s tactical fighter wing was itching to get its F/A-38 Thunderbolts into an attack on the heavily defended station. It would be suicide for the fighters alone, without heavy support. Garrison Station was equipped with its own fighters, and on top of that was armed like a cruiser itself.
She awoke feeling refreshed; the cruiser’s medic had given her something for the headache and she carefully buttoned herself into the high-necked, deep blue broadcloth Terellian naval uniform, with its silver piping and the bright silver shoulderboards with the single golden star signifying her rank, Commodore. Eligible for battle command of anything in Force:Space’s arsenal, including a carrier group. Elena was a pilot by training, as were all Force:Space recruits. Her first assignment had been in Operation Highland, the Solus-Renser guerilla wars against the Dantari separatists who had taken over the Independent Solus Fleet. She’d flown F-32 Falcons in particular, and as a Lieutenant had commanded CV Archon’s tactical fighter wing. In Renser system Elena Nakhimova led her outmatched Falcons against a Dantari frigate that had maneuvered itself into position to attack Archon by stealth, and driven it off with her MRM “Javelin” missiles, winning the Flight Medal in the process. That was Force’s highest award for a pilot, and it outranked a lot of other medals. Even the Gold Star she’d won during Operation Firestorm, in command of cruiser Justice years later, at Kolchev. Her first cruiser command,Justice had taken out an entire destroyer squadron alone, prompting the cruiser group’s commander to whisper in awe, “who says there’s no Justice?” as the battle staff watched the action on their holographic displays, the Devastator-class flagship too far out to help.
Her aide brought breakfast for her, and she asked him to pass the word for the battle staff to assemble in Devastator’s command center after the morning meal. It would be action stations-stand easy after the crew finished eating. She ate, thinking of past actions. Operation Shining Fortress had been the most difficult of her career, personally, and professionally. The Marakans had attacked across the Solus-Renser frontier, into the heart of Terellian space. Two fleets were all that stood between the Marakan advance and the Terellian home worlds. She’d asked for a destroyer command, and been refused. And when she’d received her commission as Lieutenant Commander, CV Hyperion’s 22d Tactical Fighter Wing needed an air group chief more than the destroyers under Evars’s command had needed a captain. And Elena had gained notoriety as Force desperately fought to defend the Terellian home systems. They’d waited too long to evacuate Athenar, and war took that center of Terellian culture by surprise. The destruction of a heavily damaged Marakan Broadsword-class destroyer under her F-36 Stormhawk’s guns, in Athenar orbit, as the learned and artistic Athenars watched, horrified, through the tri-dee, had earned her a measure of public acclaim, the Distinguished Service Cross, and command of the destroyer Gamma.
Now, the shoe was on the other foot. It was Force:Space that was advancing into Marakan space, and Operation Nightfall was intended to drive the last nail into the Marakan coffin. They searched for an ancient artifact and a rare substance that could be used to assemble a terrible weapon, and the Marakans couldn’t be allowed to have that. Now, the war was come to Garrison, one of the Marakan Hegemony’s core systems. Elena now led a full cruiser group, and she commanded a powerful ship.