Written by Deus Ex on . Posted in AE Stories

51 01 CheckmateAdmiral Horton stood at the helm watching the holographic rendering of the Nemesis Center Force as it mobilized around Ios Primus, one of the few remaining United Colonies strongholds in the Argon Cluster. It had been six years since the beginning of the Ravens March that long and brutal war waged across the Argon Cluster between the United Colonies and the Styx Imperia. In that time Nathaniel Horton had secured his legacy as the infamous Chess Master perhaps better known as Horton the Undefeated. 
“Tac-Com Central to Flotillas Pegasus 01 to Pegasus 08 report your station,” following the helmsman’s summons six AI constructs illuminated before the admiral. The Constructs were sentient AI programs designed to handle inter-fleet traffic. Without these angels of death massed military maneuvers between battle groups would simply be impossible since only an AI with its advanced neural archeology could organize millions of moving ships into formations while developing fleet patterns into enveloping formations with spheres of interlocking shields and spherical flak coverage.

"This is Tac-Com Central, all Flotillas are traversing the fastest lines. Defense coverage of Ios Primus is complete. Fleet moving into stand-by positions.”

Horton looked at the holographic read out of Ios Primus, that toxic moon whose only strategic benefit was its large quantity of commercial traffic between the Argon Cluster and Ajax Cataclysm. If it was not for the simple fact that this one planet sat at the lay lines between the two major clusters then there would be no need to defend it. Unfortunately, the opportunity for pillage was more than Styx Imperia could resist. There primary assault fleet was detected twenty hours out. The initial scouts arrived six hours ago just as the Nemesis Center Force was ushered into position.
“What of our preparations?” he asked while stroking the tip of his freshly shaved chin, grinning deviously as one of the AI’s stood phasing from blue to red as it calculated the latest nav-com data.
“Confirmed… all preparations are complete. Awaiting your orders Admiral.”
Horton grinned even more deviously than before as the first alert sirens started to blare across the bridge. “Alert! Alert! Enemy transponder codes identified 10 million kilometers off the port bow.”
“They’re here,” replied a nearby helmsman as he scrolled down a holographic log of fleet traffic registry codes from the Arcadian Clad, the Leviathan and Admirals Flagship at the core of the interception fleet.

Within seconds the first silhouettes of enemy frigates and fighters broke through the void of space. “Numbers?” barked the Admiral.
“Calculating now,” replied one of the AI’s, “10,000 frigates and 40,000 fighters. Mass to density ratio… 1-4.”
“Form ranks, organize fighters for field coverage. Destroyers at the Vanguard. Cruisers for fire support. All other ships in the rear ranks. Use the shields for the Capitol ships to bolster the vanguard cruisers.”

Within minutes the AI’s had calculated the necessary movements and put them into action. The Dreadnoughts were placed in the rear with their shields protruding outward to give a field of coverage to their escorting cruisers. The destroyers were in front around the cruisers creating a sphere of flak coverage around the front ranks.

The enemy fighters closed like a swarm weaving between the flak fields of the destroyers. Many were shot down, but as expected they penetrated the front ranks and started to rake the cruisers.
“Admiral, we’ve lost the UCS Cerberus and UCS Landown. The UCS Orion has taken serious damage,” yelled one of the helmsmen as the Leviathan shook from explosions along its starboard hull.
“Give the order to all ships. Fold the front ranks. Merge the cruisers and destroyers into salvo teams in ratios of 1-3. Focus the salvo teams along the rear and side ranks to the capitol ships.”
“But sir, that will leave our front ranks open to…”
“I know!!! Just do it!!”

The AI’s performed their duty to the letter. The front ranks were reassembled into escort teams and deployed in the gaps between capitol ships as escorts. The fighter swarm withdrew as the enemy Frigates closed the gap.
“Sir, we have 10,000 confirmed hostiles inbound along an intersecting vector to the main fleet.”

The admiral watched as the hungry vultures that were frigs closed the distance in a giant dagger like formation. They were almost like wolves moving in for the kill.
“Begin collapsing our line inward towards the orbital line of Ios Primus. I want damage control teams on standby.” As to the infamous Chess Masters orders the skirmishing line started to fold inward with the Leviathan baiting the hungry frigs which after coming within firing range opened up on the massive warship.

Admiral Horton could hear the hull of the Arcadian Clad ripping at the seams as Ion cannons shreaded the hull at 50,000 kilometers. “Confirm, are all the hostile units within the kill-box?”
One of the AI’s shimmered before responding, “Confirmed, 90% of all hostiles are within the kill-box. Awaiting orders.”

Horton grinned eagerly as the hungry frigs closed the gap pursing him into the gates of hell. “Then give the order.” Just as the order was given the enemy frigates started to bump into numerous unknown spherical capsules left behind from the destroyer and cruiser skirmishers.

At once and without warning the night sky over Ios Primus ignited into a massive inferno as 200,000 mines exploded at the heart of the Frig Fleet. White light, tearing away at metal, melted them away in a blinding flash of phosphorus and fire. The greedy frigs had been mostly destroyed, wiped out by their own folly.
“Give the order to all ships, envelope the sons of bitches.”

The remaining frigs and fighters watched in horror as the entire United Colonies fleet moved in along the flanks enveloping them on all sides. What remained of the Ravens March ended that day and the infamous Chess Master Lord Admiral Horton remained Undefeated.

Story sent by Deus Ex for the AE Stories event.