Friday, December 24, 2010
Wing Commander reboot, part 33
In 2665, the Naval Budget that should have been allocated to the newer, and giant Maui Strait-class carriers, with four reinforced flight decks was diverted to an escort carrier project. Instead of three giant carriers, it went into converting twenty freighters into escort carriers. They were smaller than even the old Concordias, and able to slip through the narrowest gage jump points that most ships have to avoid. The flight decks on the Wake-class escort carriers were small and could barely hold its forty-eight fighter compliment.
The carriers were fast, but lightly armored, and were not intended for a full on fight. Instead, they would free up heavier carriers for front line action. Since they were second-line ships, they were equipped with Ferrets, Rapiers and Sabers for combat missions, but could ferry any fighter to reinforce the compliments of the fleet carriers. Their speed and agility also left open the option for high risk raids. The Wakes were made cheap because they were declared expendable. The loss of a single escort carrier would cost Confed far less than the loss of a larger fleet carrier.
The decisions to shift focus on the Wakes and delay the Maui Straits caused an uproar among naval pilots as well as the admiralty. Banbridge, well over ninety years old, nearly had a stroke during his argument with the design bureau. A fleet carrier extra could tip the balance during a battle, while these glorified transports could not hope to stop a Kilrathi task force, much less a fleet. They did release heavier carriers for combat duty as early as April of 2666, which allowed them to take part in the strike on K’tithrak Mang.
With the Kilrathi in disarray, Confed struck at the heart of the Kilrathi power in the Enigma Sector, K’tithrak Mang. Tolwyn lead the attack from the Concordia and had to fight its way through the Racene, Rar’karahk and Bradbury Systems, clearing each of these outer systems of Kilrathi ships. Losses were heavy, including the destruction of the carrier Fredericksburg in the Racene System. Like with the Venice System, years before, the goal of Confed was simply to destroy Mang Station.
Upon entering the system, Tolwyn launched a full scale assault with fighters from all four of his remaining carriers. The first attack failed, with Confed losing some fifty of its fighters. The Kilrathi counterattack was not much more successful, with the Kilrathi losing some sixty-eight fighters. However, all Mang Station had to do was hold out until Kilrathi ships could reinforce it. Tolwyn was pressed for time, and had to destroy the station before a Kilrathi fleet equal his own could tip the balance in their favor.
The second strike fared slightly better, in that it did not lose as many ships. A Kilrathi task force jumped into the system during the second flight, striking at Tolwyn with only a lone carrier and two cruisers. It was enough to abort a third attack and turn the fighters against the new and more immediate threat. Defying orders, Sabers from the Concordia diverted from the Kilrathi ships and made their own run on Mang Station. The attack coincided with the bulk of Mang Station’s own fighters being away from the station, and aiding the three ships. The station’s point defenses had a single flaw in that they could not be turned directly above or below the vertical axis of the station. This opened a very narrow space, wide enough for fighters to come in one behind the other. This was enough, for all of the anti-ship missiles launched reached their target, and breached ammunition and fuel stores, gutting Mang Station.
With the Station destroyed, the Kilrathi ships attempted to make a break for it, scooping up as many of the Station’s fighters as possible. The carrier and a cruiser escaped, covered by the second and what fighters that could not be retrieved. Instead of dying peacefully in space, the Kilrathi fighters made one last run against Tolwyn, with several fighters colliding with Confed ships. Confed carriers escaped damage, but at the loss of six frigates, three destroyers and the cruiser Ceres.
Strangely absent from the attack on Mang Station was the TCS Gettysburg, which had flown several missions along side the Concordia. Instead, the Gettysburg was placed on patrol duty within the Epsilon Sector, doing all it could to thwart Kilrathi attempts to retake Ghorah Khar. On the rebellious worlds, not all the Prides were in favor of separation with the Empire. Those that were not, fought fiercely against the rebels, and those not killed were forced to flee the planet.
The Gettysburg encountered such ships during its patrol. The captain of the Gettysburg order a flight of Sabers launched to destroy the convoy. However, when it became clear that the convoy they were pursuing was full of refugees and not Kilrathi soldiers, the pilots refused to attack. More over, they refused to launch. When pilots from other squadrons were ordered to take over, they too refused. The captain ordered the pilots arrested, and sent Marines from the ship’s platoon to arrest them. The Marines were divided on the issue, but followed orders. When the pilots resisted, the Marines were not so eager to fight back against their own kind. They had no love for the Kilrathi, but enough of their humanity remained after decades of war to know the difference between the butchers in the Imperial Army and Pride females and cubs.
When the pilots decided to take their grievances to the bridge, the Marines did not stop them. Nor did they aid them. These Kilrathi might be civilians, but that did not mean the Marines liked them in the least bit. The Captain attempted to have the pilots removed from the bridge, which resulted in a fight between pilots and bridge crew. The pilots eventually won the struggle, and placed the Captain and Executive Officer under house arrest, before taking the Gettysburg out of the system.
Word of the mutiny spread fast, and Tolwyn sent in the carriers Waterloo and Mackinac to take back the ship. Marines from both carriers boarded the Gettysburg, which surrendered without a fight. The pilots were arrested and brought before a court marshal. Though all of the pilots were eventually acquitted on charges of treason, they were all transferred from the Gettysburg and placed on duty on board escort carriers. The Captain was also brought up on charges of issuing illegal orders, but he to was acquitted and transferred back to Confed HQ on Earth.