The Tactical Commander dropped heavily unto the cushioned chair at the end of the long meeting table. He was exhausted from the fast and dangerous interstellar trip past enemy patrols to get here. The former commander of this planetary base had been killed by the enemy troops who attacked and pillaged the place so he had been rushed in to take over. The dead commander's specialty had been construction so he would not have been able to handle the new situation in any event.
He looked down the long table at the assembled survivors of the base command staff, most still showing the fatigue and wounds of the recent battle. They looked back and he could see in their eyes they needed a leader with a plan and they needed it now.
"The enemy has withdrawn back to their ships so we have to act fast" he said firmly using his best command voice. "We will start by rushing into production as many fighters as we can build in one day. The production workers at all the shipyards will work double shifts so that the fighters will be ready to strike by this time tomorrow." He paused to gulp from a glass of water and to gather his thoughts. "We will close all the Economy Centers and the construction crews will immediately begin converting them into Command Centers. The Battle Computers will be needed for tomorrow's battle." He noticed a couple of the senior leaders already had their personal comm units out and were using them to pass instructions to their staff. He nodded inwardly in approval of their efficiency.
"I have been in contact with Imperial Fleet Command and they are assembling the Rapid Reaction Fleet at our fastest jumpgate. They will execute a 'Time on Target' attack to coincide with our base fighters strike." He paused once more, taking the time to make eye contact with several of the more worried looking command staff personnel. "The next 24 hours are going to be tough but I have complete confidence that every single one of you are up to the task." He rose to his feet and there was a crash of boots hitting the floor as the officers rose to attention. "Dismissed!"
The Tactical Commander stood watching at one end of the large spacecraft runway where hundreds of freshly minted space superiority fighters sat in precise rows. The frenzy of activity around each of the aggressive looking spacecraft indicated they were undergoing final prep for the quickly approaching strike mission against the enemy fleet in orbit. Most of the spacecraft would not return from this battle but there had been no problem finding pilots to volunteer. He was impressed with the men and women of this base.
"It's almost time" said an aid who had appeared unnoticed at his side. He nodded and turned briskly to walk the short distance to the entrance of the new Command Center. The smell of fresh paint and sweat assaulted his nose as he made his way to the main control console and approached the officer standing there. "Status?" The officer turned toward him. "Scanners show the Rapid Reaction Fleet is 15 minutes away. Its time to launch the fighters."
At the Commander's nod the officer leaned over the console and pressed a button. Klaxons sounded inside and outside on the runway. After a few seconds the clamor ended and a prerecorded voice erupted from the loudspeakers.
"Attention! Automated combat launch in 90 seconds!"
The Commander turned toward the wall sized display at the front of the control room and could see the computer controlled fighters were quickly moving into 5 fighter V-Shaped formations on the runway.
"Attention! Automated combat launch in 30 seconds!"
By this time the engine noise of all the spacecraft could be felt through the floor as well as heard through the walls.
"Attention! Prepare to execute combat launch!"
The Battle Computers immediately begun to move the first fighter formation down the runway. The fighters gained speed rapidly and begun flying a few meters off the runway as they retracted the landing gear. They continued to fly close to the ground and gained even more speed. The first formation crossed the end of the runway then performed a near vertical climb with engines at full thrust. The second formation in line had already been rolling and were only seconds away from executing the vertical climb as well. The Commander continued to watch as the rest of the fighter formations performed the same computer controlled maneuvers.
The officer's hand moved on the console and the scene on the wall display changed to a view from orbit looking down at the many fighter formations leaving the upper atmosphere. "We have a scout-ship in orbit, sir. They report the enemy cruisers are launching escort fighters. They know we are coming."
The Commander's face betrayed no sign of the tension he felt at this moment. "Link our Battle Computers into the Rapid Reaction Fleet's network and give the base fighters clearance to attack." The officer moved quickly to comply but he made no effort to hide his feelings. The feral grin he wore was plainly visible for all to see.
The view on the wall display continued to track with the base fighters as the formations sprinted towards the enemy fleet. The entire battle space came into view just as the base fighters broke formation and begun their attack runs. The enemy fighters were still struggling to get into a defensive formation when the base fighters blew through their midst. Laser cannons flared on both sides and the first wave of the battle was over in seconds.
The enemy's fighter escort had been utterly destroyed but a few of the base fighters had survived and were now looping back to the base to regroup. The wreckage of hundreds of fighters was floating scattered across the entire view of the battle space. The scene abruptly jumped to show the enemy cruisers frantically firing thrusters to realign for the next wave of the battle. The fast attack frigates and bombers of the Rapid Reaction Fleet were already engaging the enemy cruisers from the opposite vector.
The first salvo of missiles was halfway to the enemy fleet when the cruisers began firing back. The high energy bolts of plasma moved at .5 of light speed and quickly found their marks. Bombers simply disappeared in a gust of radiance whenever they took a hit but the frigates suffered more. Entire sections of the fast ships were consumed like slips of paper lit by an open flame. The surviving frigates fired a 2nd salvo of missiles and continued to quickly close the distance. The 1st salvo of missiles finally started finding targets and it was the cruisers turn to suffer the wounds of battle. The shaped-charge warheads did not waste energy as the full force of the blasts penetrated the hulls and several decks below. Debris of armor plating, metal superstructure, atmosphere and bodies would gout out from the deep wounds.
On several of the cruisers the missiles thrust must have reached the power-plants because these ships continued to endure secondary explosions until they lost power. More plasma bolts jumped across space to incinerate the frigates and the 2nd salvo of missiles finally homed in to stab into the cruisers. By this time the frigates had gotten closer and were now speed firing the missile launchers. Entire clusters of missiles would target a single cruiser and the multiple hull breaches would be simply too much for it to survive. Some cruisers died dramatically with flashes of energy erupting from random locations on the hull until there was nothing left. More simply died quietly with loss of power and tumbled through space. The bomber force dove into into the melee and hunted down the last few cruisers that were still fighting back. The enemies devastation became complete.
The Commander stood quietly watching as the Command Center echoed with cheers and shouts of joy. The command staff were pounding desks triumphantly or hugging each other with tears and smiles on their faces. A faint smile finally reached his face as he realized how proud he was of his people and how much they had accomplished this day, his first day on the job.
Story sent by Krall Bliss for the AE Stories event.