A Dance of Death

January 19, 2291

The veil of space was a strangely welcoming sight to those accustomed to it. To those unfamiliar with the blackness, it was a mystery, full of adventure, danger and the unknown. For Gavin Kinser, the cold blackness of space was familiar, but as he looked out of the cockpit of his Lancer-3 fighter he felt a sense of dread. His onboard computer confirmed his fears. The 4th Fleet was in position, which meant soon his squadron would soon be on active CAP, Combat Aerospace Patrol. He and the 11 others in Avenger Squadron would soon lead a 4 squadron wing into battle against the enemy’s fighters and capital ships.

On his screens, Gavin saw the USS Redemption, his home ship. He had served on her for almost four years now, he had been made Avenger Squadron leader and Lieutenant Commander two weeks ago after his predecessor John Hansen had been shot down and killed while strafing an enemy frigate. Gavin had lead the Avengers on several high risk missions, he had attacked enemy space stations, capital ships and star fighters, all in an effort to make it possible for the 4th Fleet to take its position for the assault on Venna, the enemy home world.

60 years, Gavin thought as he was checking his instruments, the United Human Confederation and its Adean allies had been fighting the Vennan Hierarchy for the last 60 years. It had been a bloody war, with entire planets being devastated, billions had died already. Gavin remembered the stories his grandfather and father had told him about the beginning of the war, how the Vena had obliterated Humanity’s colonies upon discovering them, calling humanity a “blight upon the galaxy.” The UHC had done its best to respond, sending ships into Vennan space to retaliate, but Humanity had only been space faring for 150 years and was outmatched. Earth’s fleets were wiped out by vastly larger and more advanced Vennan, one by one Earth’s colonies and stations fell to the Vennan onslaught. It seemed hopeless, Alpha Centauri, Earth’s closest and richest colony, was under siege and had it fallen the Sol system would have been all that remained and eventually Earth itself would have come under siege. The tide of the war changed 30 years ago, in the Earth spring of 2270, when the Adean Empire sent its vast fleet to aid the Human garrison on Alpha Centauri.

The Adeans fought with fury. Three days before their entrance into the war a Prince of their Empire had been assassinated by Vennan interests, in an attempt to destabilize the Adean government. While the assassin had successfully killed the Prince, he failed to frame a rival family and was discovered. The Adeans, who until then had been providing both sides humanitarian aid, entered the war on Humanity’s side and changed the course of the war. With the Adeans, who were vastly technologically superior to the Vena, on Humanity’s side, the Vena were driven into retreat and humanity and the Adeans slowly retook what was left of the conquered Human Colonies and eventually went on the offensive into Vennan space. Now the 4th, 5th, and 7th Human fleets and 6 Adean fleets were simultaneously assaulting the Vennan Core systems, the 4th Fleet and 2 Adean fleets were assaulting the Vennan home world directly.

Gavin’s communications system came online, “Okay, listen up people. This is it, the final push; if we take Venna we win the war. All ships are in position and the enemy is coming to us, stick to the plan people and we will win this!” the voice of Admiral Jackson, the Fleet Commander, was confident and cool. A few minutes later, his voice echoed through Gavin’s cockpit once again, “we have the enemy fleet on sensors ahead. Numbers and ship classes are even, but we are better and we are fighting for our home! Star fighter wings; begin your runs on your home ships signal. Good luck everyone, Jackson out.”

“Ready for this Lead?” asked Gavin’s wing mate Lieutenant Howard Rogers, call sign Avenger 2. He was using the Avenger Squadron Frequency so he didn’t interrupt fleet communications

“I want to finish this, go home. I’ve got an important date to keep, Two.”

“Oh yeah! How is Jen doing?”

“Ready for this war to be over, and for the little tyke to be born, just like the rest of us.”

“Attention, squadron leaders check in.” the Redemption’s Executive Officer, Commander Yal said over the Redemption’s communication frequency.

Gavin switch his transmitter from Squadron to Ship and reported in, “Redemption, this is Avenger-1, all pilots ready and accounted for.”

“Very good Avenger Lead.” Commander Yal proceeded to receive and acknowledge check-ins from the Redemption’s three other squadrons before addressing all the squadrons, “Redemption wing, commence your run. Good luck.”

“Thanks Redemption, same to you.” responded Gavin. He switched back to squadron frequencies, “all pilots, all squadrons switch to Redemption’s combat frequency.” He paused as he followed his own orders, “Redemption wing, let’s go get ‘em.”

Gavin’s Lancer fighter shot forward, his squadron right behind him, the rest of Redemption’s squadrons forming up with them. Redemption wing’s job was to thin out the enemy fighters to allow the 4th fleet’s attack gunboats and capital ships attack the Vennan capital ships without being harassed up close by Vennan fighters, Rather than wait for the scoops to close like they normally did, Gavin had suggested that they rush the enemy fighters and engage them quickly, near to their capital ships, they would have to stay nimble enough to avoid the anti-fighter batteries of the Vennan ships, but Gavin’s pilots had recently gained a lot of practice at doing just that. Nimble and quick, Lancer-3 fighters were exceptional dogfighters but of little use against capital ships except at close range engaging soft targets, such as hangars, engines and weapons platforms. Unfortunately the Vennan fighters, nicknamed “scoops” by Human pilots, were heavily armed enough to pose a threat to the 4th fleet’s capital ships, but the scoops were slow and clumsy compared to Lancers, however their heavy armor and weapons leveled the playing field and turned dogfights into tests of skill rather than technology.

The Vennan “scoops” were heading towards the 4th fleet and Gavin and his wing quickly closed on them, their distinct yellow “C” shape bodies with cockpit on one end and weapons on the other becoming visible to the eye instead of just sensors. Gavin saw other wings from the 4th fleet beginning to engage the scoops, the nimble Lancers darting around in pairs, pulses of red light coming out of their three wings, which extended and swept back sharply from their small oval shaped, white hulls. With 120 degrees between them, the stout wings gave the Lancer a good field of fire, but their small hulls prevented them from carrying any many weapons. The UHC had opted to fit them with shields rather than many torpedoes, making the Lancer-3 a hardy, if lightly armed interceptor.

Gavin’s squadron came into firing range of the scoops and opened fire. Wing mates shot at the same target in an effort to make up for the light armament on the individual fighters. Any scoops that broke through Gavin’s wing and didn’t engage them directly would be taken out by the second wave of Human fighters that were on station for Capital ship defense, or the anti-fighter weapon positions on the capital ships themselves, at least that was the plan.

All this ran through the back of Gavin’s mind as he guided his fighter through the scoop formation, settling on the tail of the lead scoop. The Vennan tried to shake him but Gavin and Howard stayed with the scoop, peppering his rear armor with laser fire. The scoop’s engine flared and began spewing fire, Gavin rolled out to the left of and above the scoop, gaining some distance. As Howard copied Gavin’s maneuver he fired into the scoop’s engine, which exploded, taking the fighter and the two Vennan pilots inside with it in a ball of fiery doom. Gavin swung around and found another scoop, he saw on his sensors that his squadron was doing a good job of containing the scoop formation away from the 4th fleet capital ships, which were now beginning to trade laser, missile and torpedo fire with the Vennan capital ships.

While the Vennan ships fired on individual ships in the 4th fleet, Admiral Jackson coordinated fire across the fleet to focus on the largest of the Vennan vessels. The Vennan ships were easy for Gavin to spot in the distance, with their yellow hulls and straight, geometric lines. With long, straight hulls and engine pods the Vennan fleet looked like a formation of varied size cylinders with wings and spikes protruding from their hulls at uneven intervals functioning as weapon pods, engines and fighter bays. The 4th fleet was light grey, with each class of ship obviously different from the others, unlike the Vennan classes which differed in little other than size. Vennan frigates were shaped the same as dreadnoughts, except frigates were considerably smaller. The same shape applied to Vennan cruisers and carriers, carriers having hangar bays open on the front of the ship to allow quick launch and recovery operations. Human frigates were small, they had disk shaped hulls with engine and weapon pods mounted directly on to the top and bottom of their hulls, small and fast, frigates served as scouts and skirmishers, the cavalry of the space fleet, able to flank and out maneuver enemies then strike and retreat before the enemy had time to respond. Frigates most often had no fighters, however some classes could carry half a squadron, or six fighters. Humanity had many classes of cruisers, but all shared the same essential shapes. Long engine pods mounted from “V” shaped supports on the top of ship, with two large weapons pods mounted directly to the bottom of the saucer shaped main hull. Cruisers were often described as looking like birds of prey about to attack with the engine pods resembling wings and the weapons pods resembling the bird’s legs and talons. Cruisers formed the backbone of the fleet, with formidable weaponry, shields and armor they were often sent out alone on patrols near hostile territory and were usually quite capable of dealing with the random encounters they would find. Cruisers carry 1 to 4 squadrons of fighters, which added considerable force to the cruisers arsenal and have crews between 200 and 600 persons. Human carriers always operated with frigate escort, being slow and lightly armed, the large, brick shaped ships were easy targets when operating alone. The strength of Carriers rests in the fighters they carry, small carriers carried as few as 4 squadrons, larger ships carried 10 or 12, well over 100 fighters, bombers and gunboats. Carriers had small operational crews less than 200 usually, however another 500 personnel are usually on board, most are pilots or air support crew such as mechanics and launch officers, all of whom work to ensure correct flight operations. Dreadnoughts and battleships were unique, not built in classes but rather constructed as needed and refitted to keep current, but; each of Humanity’s dreadnoughts and battleships was a powerful machine of war, crewed by upwards of 1000 personnel, Dreadnoughts and battleships lead fleets into battle and are commanded by only the most senior flag officers.

Gavin saw a Vennan Dreadnought explode from mass coordinated weapons fire and a 4th fleet frigate disappear as her engines burst into a ball of flame. Gavin and Howard had already destroyed 4 scoops and the rest of Avenger squadron recorded similar kills, thinning out the attacking scoops nicely. Gavin and the rest of his squadron broke up to aid the other wings of fighters, each engaged in a dance of death, a battle of skill and nerve with the Vennan who flew like madmen, resorting to ramming human fighters and self-destructing themselves to take out the Lancers. As Gavin dove onto another scoop’s tail he spared a silent thought for all the men already lost in the battle and all those who wouldn’t make it back to Earth and the colonies, he could only hope he wouldn’t be one of them.

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