The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by DKeith2011 » 2018-10-16 09:54am

Probably the grand finale.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-10-16 12:44pm

I've never read those books so I'm afraid that's a no. For the moment I have a pretty solid concept of who the Big Bad/Greater Scope Villain is, and who the main opponents will be. Leave it there for now, I'm still only about 40% of the way through Book Two at the moment.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-10-20 12:31pm

Comes the Lightning
Ten Million Kilometres from Reach, Epsilon Eridani System
Ninth Age of Reclamation/August 23rd 2552 (UNSC Military Calendar)


The Prophet of Restriction was idly observing the activities on the command deck of his flagship, the supercarrier Triumph of the Will. He commanded the Reclamation Group, the relatively small force assigned the seemingly-eternal task of hunting down Forerunner artefacts. It had been something of a sideways promotion when he received it at the beginning of the Ninth Age of Reclamation twenty-six cycles ago. He had been a prominent member of the previous ruling faction of the San’Shyuum, too low to be a serious opponent to the beings who became Truth, Regret and Mercy but too high to be simply disposed of.

So he’d been given this “prestigious” and “holy” posting and in all honesty Restriction agreed with the purpose even if it was tedious. They had had some notable successes, even if Regret had largely stolen his thunder by excavating the ruins on the world the humans called Meridian and interpreting the Artefact recovered from another human world. It was to that world that Restriction was now approaching, hoping to find the Great Crystal.

He knew from his initial scout ships that this was a human-held world with powerful defences but he was supremely unconcerned. His flagship alone would out mass and outgun the relatively small handful of ships the humans had guarding the planet. His escort force of twenty destroyers and forty frigates would be overkill; there more to keep any humans from escaping and reduce the time needed to scan the planet than actually fight the enemy.

Restriction has never fought humans, nor had anyone in his fleet. They had of course heard the reports of the brutal fighting over recent days as Fleet after Fleet flung themselves at human worlds in a widespread, general offensive. But the Prophet was reluctant to accept those reports at face value, they were the Covenant, on a mission from the Gods Themselves, they could not possibly be beaten by such an inferior species.

The timers counted down methodically as the force approached its designated slipspace emergence point well beyond the planet’s orbital space. This would serve a double purpose; it would leave them far out of range of any human defences and give them a perfect vantage point to both scan this side of the planet and observe any approaching human defenders. Forcing the humans to come to him rather than clustering around their admittedly impressive orbital weapons platforms appealed to Restriction; he was an inherently conservative San’Shyuum and most definitely not a warrior, though it did amuse him that they could effectively adopt a defensive strategy during an offensive strike.

Then the moment came. The featureless black of slipspace gave way to a brilliant starfield with a normal, boring yellow main-sequence star in the background. Directly ahead lay a blue-green sphere, the atmosphere shot through with streaks and masses of white cloud formations. The humans would call it beautiful, but to the San’Shyuum it was repulsive. Their own long-lost homeworld had been very different, a planet of arid deserts and strong winds. So much green was not a pleasant sight for Restriction.

He called for one of his trusted Sanghelli officers to bring up a display of the human defences. The huge metal structures in orbit were as unimpressive to the Prophet as the planet itself was: they were built on a large scale certainly but there was no elegance there. It was a forest of hard angles and sharp edges with seemingly no colours beyond a dull metallic grey and countless small flashing lights in red or green. No flowing lines, rounded hulls of the pleasing purple colouration the Covenant used.

“Pathetic humans. They can’t even build pleasing structures for us to destroy.” He muttered under his breath while his old eyes scanned the display for any sign of the captured battlecruiser his scouts had reported. Seconds ticked away into minutes as he continued looking, eventually concluding that the humans had moved it to a different world after this one was discovered.

He had no way of knowing that the captured ship in question was even now adrift in a star system thirty light years towards the galactic core with an apocalyptic cargo aboard.

Finally, Restriction decided it was time to begin. “Fleetmaster, move us towards the human defenders. Halt at maximum energy projector range and prepare for long-range bombardment. Slowly though my friend, let them see us coming and quake in fear.”

The Sanghelli clicked his mandibles together and slammed a fist against his chestplate in response, clearly approving of the order. This Fleetmaster had the least combat experience of any in the Covenant Navy; he was as close to a non-combatant as it was possible to get in a race of warriors. He’d been something of a political appointment; as a much younger warrior he had saved Restriction from a cave-in during an excavation and the Prophet had kept him around ever since. Finally, just five cycles ago he had prevailed upon the High Prophets to appoint this young officer to command the warships assigned to the Reclamation Group. As it was essentially a non-combat role Imperial Admiral Wattinree had been happy to go along with it, knowing he would never have to rely on the young Fleetmaster in battle.

As the sublight engines increased in power and the Fleet began moving another thought occurred to the Prophet, something he should have searched for earlier but had forgotten about.

“Fleetmaster, any sign of those new warships the Imperial Admiral warned us of? And how many human ships are we facing?”

“We can see no sign of those new vessels. As for known designs, there are a mere handful of light attack vessels, exclusively class A-2 and a single class C-2 present around the orbital structures. There are, however, twenty of their orbital weapon platforms though we will be well out of range of those crude weapons. We are detecting considerable signal traffic between the various ships, they would appear to be panicking at our arrival.”

Restriction smiled. It was the smile of a confident predator that knew his prey could not escape. “What of the planet?”

“The Forerunner sensor arrays are detecting a vast facility buried under a mountain range in the nearest hemisphere, we will need to be much closer before getting an exact fix. At our present speed we will be in firing range in twenty-six minutes…”

He was interrupted by a shout from the communications station. “Sir! An urgent message from High Charity, the Prophet of Regret is dead!” Silence reigned in the command centre. Restriction tried to muster up some semblance of pity but none came, Regret had stolen his glory too many times for Restriction to have even the slightest care.

“Does the message give any further details?” His tone was almost bored.

“The High Prophet was investigating a world believed to hold the Portal when his Fleet was ambushed and all but annihilated. Regret continued with only his Assault Carrier and found the target world to be heavily garrisoned by the humans. His ship was attacked while he was sending a message to the other Hierarchs with the details and location, the message was cut off before it could be completed, presumably his ship was destroyed.”

Restriction nodded thoughtfully. The bastard had been stealing his divine task again, at least this time he had overreached himself and gotten killed. “Did we get the full location?”

“Partial coordinates only Sir. They give an area not far from this system, a few hours travel at most. There are only three star systems with habitable worlds within the possible area.”

Restriction grinned once again. “Excellent. Then once we have dispatched these humans we shall make this mission a double triumph by finding the Portal as well as the Great Crystal.”

There was a roar of approval from the assembled Sanghelli officers. Most of them were like their young Fleetmaster and fairly inexperienced in combat; all were eager to show the rest of their race just what they could do. None of them knew they had very little time left to do anything.

Warstar Jupiter

The huge and brand-new ship was waiting alongside her older sister and the rest of the assembled UNSC, Terran and Tau’ri force on the far side of the gas giant Sanctuary in the outer regions of the Epsilon Eridanii system. They were just seconds away from springing their trap, the first in the Battle of Reach.

Only Battle Group Keyes, under command of the eponymous Captain aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn remained as a visible defence force around Reach itself. They had no intention of moving from their positions; if the Terran heavyweights weren’t able to deal with this advance force their orders were simple. They would raise the Fortress Shield and turn turtle until the ODP’s under Captain Suranov obliterated the enemy.

The moment had arrived. Aboard the Jupiter Admiral Jellicoe gave the order and the two Warstars jumped away, accompanied only by the heavyweight Battlestar Phoenix. Three ships against sixty-one, in any other situation it would have been suicidal odds, worse even than the now-legendary Frankie’s Wild Ride at Terra four years prior.

The three goliaths appeared in flashes of light above and aft of the Reclamation Group, a classic killing position. Very few weapons would bear on them from this angle while all or nearly all of their myriad weapons could target the enemy. In CIC Commodore Fischer shook off the disorientation inherent in FTL jumps and issued his orders.

“Weapons, fire superlaser on primary target. Main battery acquire secondary targets. At the rapid rate, commence fire!”

“At the rapid rate” meant the hypervelocity guns and the plasma turrets would push their capacitors and loading mechanisms to the limit. This was not a time for holding back. In the bows of all three warships the distinctive blue glow of a charged superlaser could be seen. The fire plan for the primary target had been carefully laid out – the two older ships would fire together to bring down the shields, and then the Jupiter would fire her four lighter weapons in sequence, shifting their aim point very slightly to utterly wreck the mammoth target.

The hypervelocity guns would likewise fire staggered volleys from each turret, delivering a deadly one-two punch. The slugs would impact with far more energy than standard UNSC MAC rounds would and everyone was confident that two shots would be a kill on even the Covenant battlecruisers. One shot would drop the shields leaving the target open to the second heavy slug.

The Nemesis and the Phoenix fired their superlasers in full-power mode. The blue beams slammed into the Supercarrier’s shields with immense force, draining the protective fields at a prodigious rate. In the command centre, the Prophet of Restriction and his inexperienced Fleetmaster barely had time to respond to the shout that three huge warships had appeared from nowhere before they were hurled to the deck by the impacts. The two commanders had the same idea in mind, to order the escorts to swarm the enemy ships and burn them. Sixty frigates and destroyers, all enhanced with Forerunner technology above and beyond their normal fellows should easily be a match for even the heaviest human warships. Those orders died in their throats as the shields failed completely, allowing some of the remaining energy to burn away five square kilometres of the outer armour on the stern, leaving countless systems and compartments exposed.

Then Jupiter let fly with her own heavy weapons. Four deadly blue beams spat out from the bow section in as many seconds, all of them aimed at different sections of the Covenant behemoth. The first punched deep into the larger ship’s aft, shredding and blasting every single sublight engine, the slipspace drives and many of the primary reactors before finally abating. The resulting explosion was only added to by the aforementioned plasma reactors being catastrophically breached. The aft section exploded into a billion fragments even as the rest of the ship died. The second and third beams likewise gutted the midships hanger decks, Seraph and Banshee fighters exploding like strings of firecrackers as the colossal energy swept through the ship. The destruction was so swift that the few fires that began didn’t have time to spread beyond their initial compartments despite the abundance of fuel and oxygen available to consume.

The final beam tore into the bow section, obliterating the command centre as it passed with the Fleetmaster and the Prophet of Restriction not even knowing they were dying. The forward section joined the rest of the ship in breaking up into fragments, propelled outwards by the force of exploding plasma conduits and rapidly-combusting internal atmosphere. The flames died instantly in the vacuum but the fragments and debris continued outwards, at the mercy of inertia.

Even while the Triumph of the Will died, the three Terran ships had been firing on the escorts. The turret-mounted megalasers on Nemesis joined with the hypervelocity guns, plasma beam turrets and the collection of over seven hundred turbolaser turrets in unleashing hell on the frigates and destroyers that were only barely starting to react to the spectacular destruction of their once-invulnerable flagship. The new weapons were the ones that held the most interest and they did not disappoint.

Five Covenant destroyers died in the first salvo. Each took one of the heavy slugs on the shields; the force draining them completely and leaving the ships staggering as if they were punch-drunk. Four of them disappeared when they took a second hit, the huge energy imparted shattering them completely. The fifth escaped that fate by pure chance, it had been turning in just the right direction so that when the shock of the first round pushed it far off-course the second round was not an instant kill. Instead it merely obliterated the rear half of the light ship, leaving the bow section adrift and without power or propulsion.

Everywhere in the vastly-reduced Reclamation Group their ships were dying, either to the crushing force of the hypervelocity guns, the searing power of the plasma beams or just the simple yet effective hail of turbolaser bolts and occasional megalaser beam. The Covenant managed to fire off a salvo of plasma torpedoes but they were too few and too poorly-aimed to cause any real damage. Six torpedoes splashed across the forward shields of the Nemesis, another four on the Phoenix while the Jupiter took eight hits. The defensive fields glowed red as they absorbed the energy, briefly obscuring the Terran ships from view. Covenant Shipmasters were initially delighted, thinking that maybe they could still claw back a win; only for the fires to fade away revealing three undamaged ships spitting out yet another deadly salvo at the beleaguered Reclamation Group. They were the most advanced ships in the Covenant Navy, they had shields stronger than other ships of the same size, faster engines and stronger shields. Despite those advantages they were dying just as Commodore Fischer had ordered; ”at the rapid rate.”

After just a few minutes only six ships remained and the Covenant commanders decided to run for it. That plan died as their sole remaining destroyer vanished in the blink of an eye as a hypervelocity round gutted the ship from bow to stern. The five frigates survived for only a few moments longer – three more died to the Jupiter’s heavy guns, a fourth was reduced to a blob of molten metal by a megalaser salvo from Phoenix while the fifth had its shields battered down and its engines shot away by the massed turbolaser batteries of the Nemesis.

That remaining ship was left adrift for mere moments. Six plasma turrets on the new Warstar had the ruined frigate in their sights and wasted no time in sending a dozen blue beams to burn through the armour and inner decks with contemptuous ease. A reactor exploded, taking the last of the Reclamation Group with it but not before an automated data burst had been sent to the Navy’s flagship, the Long Night of Solace and it’s commander Imperial Admiral Wattinree. He would now know just what the humans had protecting this world. Unlike the now-deceased and largely unmourned Prophets of Regret and Restriction, the senior Sanghelli would not attack blindly or complacently.

The first act of the Battle of Reach ended in a decisive victory for the humans but it was merely a taste of the holocaust that would soon descend upon them.

=======

Yup, another slaughter as the new Warstar fires her guns in anger for the first time. I'll repeat comments I've made on similar engagements: of course this was going to be a slaughter. The humans had the Reclamation Group dead to rights, in a disadvantageous position and the one heavy Covvie ship died first. The Covvie commanders were also at best armchair admirals.

This will however be the only such slaughter in this entire Act. Admiral Wattinree is not going to be acting this dumb come game time.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-10-20 06:11pm

More slaughter! More slaughter! Blood for the Blood God!
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by fnord » 2018-10-21 05:41am

I wonder if Wattinree would count that as a partial win - clueless Prophet blasted to plasma, more info learned about the human superheavies, etc.
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-10-21 06:21am

I imagine he would.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-10-21 07:52am

That was as one sided as it can get. But expected against overly confident Prophet and his captains and crew with next to no real combat experience. Jupiter didn't even fire Ancient beam weapons, presumambly after Supercarrier was gone there were no remaining targets worth those.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-10-21 03:30pm

Yeah, the beam weapons weren't needed. Plus those don't have the same arcs of fire that the turret guns do - the bows were pointed at the supercarrier, and with all the other guns present turning the ship to hit frigates with the Ancient Death Beam (TM) would probably have taken longer than just smacking them with twenty tonne slugs did.

Incidentally, my story is all over the place when it comes to the "Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better" trope :D
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by fnord » 2018-10-21 04:41pm

You sure it isn't shading towards "Relativistic Weapons Are Just Better"?
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-10-21 05:00pm

I think the Jupiter is just a flying trope-killer, since she can throw up an utterly lethal combination of More Dakka, Beam Spam, Macross Missile Massacre and Wave Motion Gun all at once. In other words, I just like messing with it :D

Though I did mention in my last update to the story's page that the "Kinetic Weapons are Just Better" trope is definitely "played with" in Book II - kinetic weapons are effective, just not effective enough until the burst-fire upgrades appeared. And of course the ODP's are plenty effective for smearing Covenant warships across deep space.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by fnord » 2018-10-22 02:46am

Now you got me curious about wanting to see not your proposed planetbuster per se, but the story, people, arguments, etc behind the TCN Special Arm's genesis (proposed motto: Don't Make Us Come Over There).
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-10-22 01:48pm

It's spherical. They call it a Deathstar.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-10-23 04:38pm

It will be interesting to see Admiral Watinree reaction to Reclamation group's destruction. Will he press on with the attack hoping to use his numerical advantage or be cautious. After all only 3 human ships took out a Supercarrier in seconds and wiped out 60 escorts with ease. Such event easily could make him reconsider his initial battle plan.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-10-23 06:03pm

He'll be cautious, and will call for more dakka before pressing his attack. He may not have any respect for Restriction and his morons, but he has to respect hard data.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-10-23 06:26pm

Well I did say that Wattinree wouldn't be charging in blind. As for calling in more dakka, he has ten times that force in Supercarriers alone already assembling for the strike, not to mention the dozens of Assault Carriers and hundreds of battlecruisers in his assembled force - something Restriction didn't have. His officers and crews are all hardened combat veterans.

As powerful as those three human ships are, they simply cannot face down that kind of force alone. Even with the rest of the Recon Force, Battle Group Keyes, Battle Group Zulu (Stanforth's force), Harper's First Strike Fleet and the Reach Garrison, they are seriously outgunned.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-11-04 09:06am

Sorry it's taken so long, but I had to re-write this a couple of times, first due to a laptop malfunctions (bah humbug) and then a decision that I could have a lot more fun with the Sanghelli leadership than initially thought. Anyways:

The Darkness and the Light
Covenant Supercarrier
Long Night of Solace,
Covenant Combined Fleet, Approaching Staging Area
Ninth Age of Reclamation/August 23rd 2552 (UNSC Military Calendar)


Imperial Admiral Wattinree was once again holding a conference of his subordinate Supreme Commanders, though this one was not in person but via hologram transmission as the various flagships were still in slipspace heading for their assembly point thirty light-years from the human world Reach, spitting distance for their advanced slipspace drives. The assembled officers, the upper echelons of not only the Covenant Navy but Sanghelli society as well were putting the finishing touches on their assault plans when not one but two messages arrived with world-shattering implications. Wattinree reviewed the messages in silence before informing the other officers of their contents.

“The Prophets of Regret and Restriction are dead. Regret and his Fleet was ambushed and destroyed while investigating a world believed to hold the Portal. It also appears to be a major human world as it is very heavily defended. We have a partial location for it but nothing definite; we will consider that another time. More importantly, Restriction and that incompetent Fleetmaster of his did exactly what we thought they would, they went charging in to our target world blind and totally self-assured of triumph. They and the entire Reclamation Group were destroyed – by just three of the new human warships.”

That resulted in a lot of angry clicking of mandibles and worried muttering. Three ships being able to outgun sixty frigates and destroyers was not impossible, their own Supercarriers managed that feat and more. But for a mere three ships to be able to fight all of those escorts and a Supercarrier was unfathomable.

Thel Vadamee hissed in anger. “We have to reconsider our views of these new human ships. According to this sensor packet they’ve built or brought up another of their heaviest vessels, those two ships alone are a match for a supercarrier and their main guns can shatter anything else we have in a single shot. We will need weight of numbers to bring them down.”

Nerak Mastanee spoke next. “Agreed. However the sensor packets also show us that the defences of this world appear to have been stripped bare, a mere thirty-one of their Attack Vessels stand guard over the orbital positions. The rest of their fleet is elsewhere. It is conceivable that after the two scouts found this world they have pressed ships into an evacuation, hoping to save vital resources before our assault force arrives.”

Nial Declanee nodded. “That is a possibility, but they still have twenty of those orbital cannons the humans are so fond of. While they are primitive weapons they certainly do not lack in power – they are more than capable of obliterating our light carriers in a single shot and they can maintain a high rate of fire. We need to factor that in to our plans. A massed ground assault on the surface generators would seem to be the easiest way to shut down the orbital defences, leaving them ripe for destruction.”

Thel Vadamee answered, a tone of mild rebuke in his voice. “And how do we deploy those ground troops Nial? We would lose many ships trying to do so – ships we can ill-afford to lose as our only remaining source of new vessels are the foundries on High Charity. And if our suspicions about the Hierarchs is correct, even those may soon be denied to us.”

Nial came right back at his fellow Supreme Commander. “You are quite correct Thel, but a frontal assault is not what I had in mind. Our light carriers will add little in terms of firepower to the fleet engagement, so I would suggest we have some of them make a precision slipspace jump into the planet’s upper atmosphere, they can then deploy dropships and supporting fighters directly to the surface.”

Wattinree grinned fiercely even as Thel Vadamee bowed his head in acknowledgement of the plan. The Imperial Admiral nodded his approval. “Excellent Nial, that part of the plan could prove vital, but we would need to initiate it after the main fleet deploys in order to maximise the element of the surprise. Can our navigators plot such a jump in such a short time and with the needed precision?”

Declanee nodded. “I believe they can Admiral. And while I appreciate Thel’s point about minimising losses, we must be realistic. Against a heavily defended world such as this, with the possibility of substantial human reinforcements arriving with their new teleporting drives losses are inevitable. That is why we have gathered such a fleet, no? I would much rather risk losing a dozen light carriers to disable those orbital guns via a ground assault than lose double or triple that number of heavier ships in a direct assault. It is both faster and easier to replace a light carrier than an Assault Carrier after all.”

Thel Vadamee nodded. “I concede the point Nial. However he raises the spectre of major human reinforcements appearing from nowhere; we do not know the range or limits on these new engines but we can reasonably assume they have interstellar range and require some time to both charge and recover after a jump, most likely proportional to the distance travelled, otherwise they would be using them to jump all around the battlefields dodging all of our shots. We need a full recon sweep of the entire system, not just this planet’s orbital space.”

Wattinree grinned in approval. “You anticipate my next comments well Supreme Commander. Between our various carriers and battlecruisers we have some seven hundred stealth corvettes. We will send them in first under full stealth protocols to obtain a full sensor picture. They can also launch opportunistic attacks as needed – they are too small to be worth targeting with their orbital guns and numerous enough to prove difficult for any defending ships.”

Mastanee grimaced. “It will be murder for those crews but there is no other option I fear.” The hulking Sanghelli hesitated for a moment before continuing. “I have said this before but it bears repeating. Why bother attacking this world? The Hierarchs have found two of those blasted Rings of theirs, if they start their Great Journey then all of our losses, both to date and those to come will be for nothing. They will destroy us and the Covenant to become Gods. We should break off our offensive and oust them now before the damage is irreparable.”

There it was, baldly stated and in the open. Wattinree held up a hand to silence the outbreak of murmurs that had erupted. Mastanee remained silent, defiantly meeting the gaze of his superior as a Sanghelli should. Xytan noted that several others, notably Thel Vadamee and Silas Sorsanee looked on with what seemed to be agreement.

“Nerak…in any other situation than this I would be ordering your senior Fleetmaster to execute you for that comment. But this is an extraordinary mess we are in so I will let that treasonous thought pass for the moment. The simple answer is that we are not yet ready to turn on the Hierarchs. I have begun quietly shuffling ground forces back to High Charity – after all, we aren’t using them for landing operations – so that we will outmatch those loyal to the thrice-damned Hierarchs when the time comes. I’ve also been rotating out Loyalist ships from the Defence Fleet and I have a very reliable Zealot appointed to command High Charity’s own guns. But those are mere precautions, not actual plans.”

Nial Declanee nodded. He may have been a senior commander but he also had the keenest grasp of politics among the group. “If we are seen to attempt to eliminate the Hierarchs, it would cause a civil war as apocalyptic as the Great Journey would be. Most of our own people would support us, but not all – and certainly not the Unggoy or the Kig-Yar or the Lekgolo. If we are seen as the victims of the Hierarchs, the entire balance shifts – they would be the ones threatening the Covenant, we would be defending it, a vital distinction in public opinion among the other races.”

Nerak remained defiant. “I concede that point Nial, but if we press this attack the losses will be severe – perhaps severe enough that the final outcome against the Hierarchs would be in doubt.”

Xytan sighed. “I cannot dispute that, unfortunately we are left with an impossible situation. And before anyone else stakes their life on the treasonous idea, let me say it. Calling a ceasefire with the humans or gaining their help against the Hierarchs is impractical at best, impossible at worst. Their resurrected Admiral Cole” and there was an outbreak of hissing at that name “would not allow it. He is as much a fanatic as the most rabid Jiralhanae. Add to that the new ships and technology they have, and the fact that for the last quarter-cycle they have been winning the war means they are even less likely to help us.”

Declanee nodded. “And getting help from our sworn enemies would destroy any support we might get from the other races.”

The ship’s engines changed in pitch as the mammoth supercarrier dropped back into realspace alongside the thousand other ships of the massed fleet. The assembled holograms flickered for a moment during the transition then settled down. Before anyone else could speak, an alarm sounded.

Xytan looked at his display screens in surprise, and then suspicion. “We have detected a vessel in this system…a Covenant vessel where none should be. Identification coming through now – curious, it is the Legendary Valour, the ship captured by the humans.”

Thel Vadamee instantly jumped to a suitably paranoid conclusion. “Admiral we should not approach that vessel. It may be sabotaged in some fashion, most likely with their nuclear warheads.”

Xytan nodded and pressed the symbol for a fleet-wide channel. “All ships will raise shields and move away from the Legendary Valour. it may be sabotaged in some fashion. One battle group from the Fleet of Divine Purpose will close and investigate. At the slightest sign of a trap that battle group will open fire and obliterate the suspect vessel.”

With his orders passed on, Xytan turned back to his Supreme Commanders. “Ready your commands for action. Deploy the corvettes under stealth protocols in a dispersed shell formation, I want plenty of warning if those damnable teleporting warships show up. I will be on the command deck.”

His subordinates nodded and the holograms faded. Xytan took a moment to erase all logs of the conference as a precaution then moved from the briefing room to the fleet command deck of the supercarrier. He arrived after a minute to hear a shout go up from the comms station.

“Incoming signal from Legendary Valour!

Xytan frowned. Maybe his paranoia was just that. “I will answer it myself.” The Zealot in charge of that section bowed in response. A hologram flared to life, showing a weary-looking Major standing among a ruined command centre. The Major straightened as best he could when he saw who had answered the call.

”Imperial Admiral, I am Major Torik Sorsanee, third-in-command of this ship and senior survivor.”

Xytan nodded as the Major spoke, his attention was focused on a display screen showing the missing battlecruiser’s crew manifest. Near the top was quite clearly Major Torik Sorsanee, a younger kinsman of one of his Supreme Commanders. The Admiral gestured at the nearby Zealot who stepped close.

Admiral Wattinree spoke quietly, even as the hologram of Major Sorsanee fidgeted slightly, a fact that merely fuelled Xytan’s suspicions. “Contact the Chainbreaker, I need Supreme Commander Sorsanee on a secure channel immediately.”

The Zealot nodded and moved away. Xytan turned back to the hologram. “Major, tell me how you were taken…and how you escaped.” His tone was flat, unemotional, as if the answer was really immaterial.

”I still do not know how they took the ship. Human vessels had suddenly appeared and we were about to engage when multiple explosions went off in the ship. The command centre, the engineering spaces, the control links and power feeds, all were destroyed or severed. We lost power quickly and then suddenly the outer decks were swarmed with heavily-armoured shock troops, thousands of them. We were overrun quickly. The ship was taken to their shipyards for analysis and the surviving crew were impounded on the hanger deck, where they could vent us to space if needed.”

Xytan nodded again, even as a second, smaller hologram of SIlas Sorsanee appeared beside him. Silas took in the situation quickly and realised why he was needed. He typed out a question for Xytan to ask Torik when he got the opportunity, a question that would prove this was indeed Torik.

The Admiral let the Major finish his explanation before moving on. “Very well Major. Just one other question then, what happened to your brother Vorak?”

The hologram blinked and remained silent. Ten seconds passed, long enough for Xytan to know that whatever this was, it was not Torik Sorsanee, the Sanghelli who had accidentally killed his sibling Vorak in a training fight when they were just nine cycles old. He cut the channel and shouted orders.

“All ships go to maximum thrust away from Legendary Valour and divert all power to shields! Charge slipspace drives for emergency transition!”

His subordinates barely acknowledged the order before the ship bucked under his feet, hard enough to suggest it had been struck by the fist of an angry god.

Covenant battlecruiser Legendary Valour, Moments Earlier

There was no life on the Covenant ship. Certainly there was no sign of Major Torik Sorsanee, he was still safely imprisoned on Reach along with the other surviving crew. Colonel Ackerson’s fireship idea had evolved somewhat to improve the deception, a set of emitters to generate false sensor readings had been installed, along with the enhanced NOVA warhead and a “dumb” AI to oversee the deception.

The AI called himself Janus and had spent most of his time as a security/investigation program for ONI. Now though he was an actor, playing his part to confuse and deceive the enemy. ONI had extracted enough information from the computer records and the interrogations to allow Janus to create a passable facsimile of the ship’s third-ranked officer. As his brief conversation with Admiral Wattinree showed it was far from totally convincing however. It had served its purpose though, and now Janus carried out his final orders.

First he sent a data burst to the waiting Terran warships, giving Admiral Jellicoe a complete list of Covenant ships that were present, and the knowledge that the senior-most Sanghelli commander was present in person – and which ship he was on.

Second he sent the detonation signal to the massive bulk of the NOVA warhead sitting in the battlecruiser’s portside hanger deck. And finally, he spent the remaining milliseconds of his existence thinking that he had rather enjoyed being an actor and that it would have been more fun than being a security program for ONI.

The huge bomb exploded. The original design had involved nine high-yield fusion warheads detonating as one, triggering a tertiary fusion stage to boost the yield a hundredfold. While never tested before the weapon’s builders confidently predicted that it would shatter small moons, destroy entire continents and render worlds uninhabitable at least. And then Admiral Whitcomb had insisted they use the weapons-grade naquada they had available to enhance not only the nine fusion warheads but the tertiary stage as well. How dangerous it would be now was an entirely open question.

Had the bomb detonated in the midst of the massed Covenant Fleet there would have been no survivors. Fortunately for Admiral Wattinree that was not the case. A combination of an initial slipspace coordinate error and his prompt orders for all ships to move away from the suspect vessel, and then to divert all power to shields, saved a great many of his ships from obliteration.

The Long Night of Solace was half a million kilometres from the Legendary Valour at detonation, as was most of the Fleet. The single battle group sent forwards to investigate had no chance, the Assault Carrier, six battlecruisers and twenty light ships simply vanished as a white sphere of radiation blasted outwards at the speed of light, washing them away.

The sphere continued to expand, crossing the distance between the fireship and the other nearby Covenant vessels in a fraction over a second. Dozens and dozens of ships, frigates, destroyers, battlecruisers and carriers alike vanished as the sphere washed over them. They didn’t explode violently as so many ships had done in this war; nor were they left as shattered derelicts to drift among the stars. They were vaporised, the particles scattered and carried outwards by the sphere of death.

By far the worst casualty for the Covenant though was the supercarrier Oathsworn, flagship of the Fleet of Divine Purpose that had already seen one battle group immolated. The supercarrier was hit stern-first as it had been accelerating away at full thrust. The shields held for less than a millisecond, the hull armour for even less time as energy sufficient to melt the crust of entire planets burned inexorably through the massive ship. The crew didn’t even have time to scream as the sphere continued expanding, the outer edges passing the Oathsworn’s bow as the supercarrier vanished from view forever. Around the doomed ship the rest of the Fleet of Divine Purpose died identical deaths as their ships were overcome.

Further out, the Imperial Admiral’s flagship and escorts were far enough away that the sphere had already faded considerably from its initial brilliant white radiance. The energy was being diluted over a greater and greater volume every millisecond and it was this dilution that saved the bulk of the Covenant ships. The Long Night of Solace shuddered as the sphere of radiation grazed the after shields, enough to drain them completely but nothing more.

Imperial Admiral Wattinree regained his feet and bellowed for a damage and casualty report. A quick glance at the sensor display showed that a substantial chunk of his massive fleet was no more, the missing ships either immolated in that apocalypse or left as burning and blasted wrecks. Even as his officers began to report in, one of the damaged Assault Carriers on the sensor screen vanished in a flare of plasma as its reactors finally succumbed.

He growled low in his throat as the numbers came in after only thirty seconds. One hundred eighty-five ships gone, including the Oathsworn and the entire Fleet of Divine Purpose. Nearly one-fifth of his force, gone in barely a second. He knew those damned humans were behind this.

Beneath the anger though were a set of troubling thoughts. If the humans could build weapons like this, why hadn’t they used them before now? What had changed to warrant their deployment? And most concerning, what else could they do?

Wattinree would get his answer to that in a little over sixty seconds. Admiral Jellicoe was waiting for the second part of the plan.

=======

Phew! The enhanced NOVA bomb is pretty horrendous aint it? Good thing Wattinree and Vadamee are properly paranoid. The Covenant entered this system with a hair under one thousand combat vessels, plus the seven hundred stealth corvettes carried aboard various ships a la the Tranquil Repose. Now they have just eight hundred and twelve, plus five hundred fifty corvettes.

So yeah, roughly one in five ships destroyed - but only one of ten Supercarriers. Not as good at dealing with the heavy ships as hoped.

The Sanghelli commanders are proving interesting. They're something the Kobolians, and indeed the SGVerse Alliance haven't faced before - a skilled, competent enemy. SO they're coming up with fun plans and deducing things about the Kobolian technology as well. Yes, they are also making contingency plans for being betrayed by the Prophets, but I tihnk that's completely in character - they are sworn to defend the Covenant, not the edicts of Truth, Mercy and Regret. Also, the Covenant was born out of the San'Shyuum-Sanghelli War that the Sanghelli lost, a long-term bitterness is to be expected.

Note however that they have no intention of seeking aide or a ceasefire from the UNSC - at the moment anyway. They are also not intending to hit first - as Nial Declanee (and another shoutout for y'all to spot) says, doing so makes them the aggressor trying to destroy the Covenant while if the Prophets act first they can play the heroic victim card. Insane alien politics and a massive kaboom, what more could you ask for?
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-11-04 09:20am

As an added bonus, a rough fleet list for either side!

UNSC/Alliance Forces

Alliance Recon Force - 2 Warstars, 7 Battlestars, 20 cruisers, 59 destroyers, 1 BB-306, 4 BC-304, UNSC Everest and Shield of Eternity (95 ships)

Harper's First Strike Fleet - 3 superheavy cruisers, 10 heavy cruisers, 40 destroyers, 80 frigates - 133 ships

Battle Group Keyes - 1 heavy cruiser, 10 destroyers, 20 frigates - note that all thirty-one ships have stronger shields and Tollan ion cannons - 31 ships

Battle Group Zulu - 1 heavy cruiser, 2 light carriers, 14 destroyers, 30 frigates - 47 ships

Reach Garrison - 1 supercarrier, 4 heavy carriers, 12 destroyers, 20 frigates, 20 ODP's, Fortress Shield - 37 ships

Total: 343 (hehehe) ships (95 Alliance, 248 UNSC) plus 20 ODP's

Covenant:

9 supercarriers, 35 Assault Carriers, 68 light carriers, 200 battlecruisers, 200 destroyers, 300 frigates,

Total: 812 ships plus 550 stealth corvettes.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-11-04 11:44am

Yeah, I like it when big problems are solved with big explosions! NOVA bomb really deserves AI piloted jump capable ship built around it. Imagine what kind of damage that could do if precision jumped in the middle of enemy formation or over strategically important planet. Someone among Alliance or UNSC officers should suggest that.

Nice to see Covenant being smart. I wonder why they assume Alliance forces are UNSC. Alliance fleet have so big tech advantage over UNSC that it would be sensible from Covenant point of view to consider them belonging to another civilization. It would be highly improbable for UNSC to have suddenly developed such advanced tech out of thin air.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by fnord » 2018-11-04 11:50am

I wonder how worried Wattinree et al are (now) about naquada-enhanced NOVA bombs mounted in bomb ketches (what goes around in book 1 seems to come around in book 2)? Drone ships mounting aforementioned bangers being thrown into the midst of Covenant fleets would do numbers on slightly less cautious Fleetmasters. Not to mention, after a couple of kabooms that would make Marvin T. Martian quite happy, dummy bomb ketches.

I think Covvies assume Alliance forces are UNSC on the basis that "they're shooting at us, alongside the UNSC bastards shooting at us, so they must be UNSC". Maybe a strategic reserve of battlewagons and weapons that haven't previously been committed?

Ninja'd by Sky Captain re: bomb ketches.

Assuming it's Xytan Wattinree, the unannounced jump from refererring to him by last name to first was quite jarring.
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-11-04 11:59am

fnord wrote:. Maybe a strategic reserve of battlewagons and weapons that haven't previously been committed?
All painted red, so they're three times more powerful than the whole Covie Navy.
Last edited by U.P. Cinnabar on 2018-11-04 12:03pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by fnord » 2018-11-04 12:01pm

Bit of last post that got chomped by edit window:
Wattinree grinned in approval. “You anticipate my next comments well Supreme Commander. Between our various carriers and battlecruisers we have some seven hundred stealth corvettes. We will send them in first under full stealth protocols to obtain a full sensor picture. They can also launch opportunistic attacks as needed – they are too small to be worth targeting with their orbital guns and numerous enough to prove difficult for any defending ships.”

Mastanee grimaced. “It will be murder for those crews but there is no other option I fear.” The hulking Sanghelli hesitated for a moment before continuing. “I have said this before but it bears repeating. Why bother attacking this world? The Hierarchs have found two of those blasted Rings of theirs, if they start their Great Journey then all of our losses, both to date and those to come will be for nothing. They will destroy us and the Covenant to become Gods. We should break off our offensive and oust them now before the damage is irreparable.”

There it was, baldly stated and in the open. Wattinree held up a hand to silence the outbreak of murmurs that had erupted. Mastanee remained silent, defiantly meeting the gaze of his superior as a Sanghelli should. Xytan noted that several others, notably Thel Vadamee and Silas Sorsanee looked on with what seemed to be agreement.
My first response was "Who the hell is Xytan?".

Not to be outdone earlier, you spin me right round (like a record) a few paragraphs later:
Xytan nodded as the Major spoke, his attention was focused on a display screen showing the missing battlecruiser’s crew manifest. Near the top was quite clearly Major Torik Sorsanee, a younger kinsman of one of his Supreme Commanders. The Admiral gestured at the nearby Zealot who stepped close.

Admiral Wattinree spoke quietly, even as the hologram of Major Sorsanee fidgeted slightly, a fact that merely fuelled Xytan’s suspicions. “Contact the Chainbreaker, I need Supreme Commander Sorsanee on a secure channel immediately.”
A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by fnord » 2018-11-04 12:03pm

U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-11-04 11:59am
fnord wrote:. Maybe a strategic reserve of battlewagons and weapons that haven't previously been committed?
All painted red, so they're three times more powerful than the whole Covie Navy.
Maybe "Paint It Black" as the soundtrack for the next bit?
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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-11-04 12:07pm

Then, the Black Fleet would be immortal. And, assigned to defend the Gates of Sto'vo'kor.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
—29th Scroll, 6th Verse of Ape Law
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---Doctor Christine Blasey-Ford

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-11-04 12:10pm

Yeah, the assumption that the Kobolians are UNSC or at least humans is based on the fact that they're aligned with the UNSC and fighting the Covenant.

The Prophet of Regret did ponder that they might not be humans, but he's dead now so it doesn't matter. And frankly, it really doesn't matter as far as the Sanghelli leadership is concerned - human or not, the Alliance is aligned with the UNSc, and the UNSC High Command are...unlikely to be willing to consider helping them.

As for deploying the NOVAs as long-range missile warheads - they've got three of them. One is installed on Installation 04 as a fail-safe, a second is reserved for Installation 05 and the third for High Charity. They've got bigger thigns to focus on than apocalyptic bombs. But someone in the Alliance R&D will be taking note of them.

As for Xytan Wattinree, I'm using the same thing I do with John Jellicoe and Commodore Wallace - switching between first name, last name and rank as needed. Keeps things from getting too repetitive.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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Re: The 13th Tribe Book II: A Symphony of War

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-11-04 03:24pm

Right now humans have more pressing problems that have to be solved with weapons they have, but at some point later it would make sense to build a strategic force of jump capable missiles with NOVA warheads. Even if each missile cost as much as destroyer or cruiser it still is a bargain given the firepower to wipe out entire fleets without risking ships and crews.

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