USD: During skirmish at Tifara
Location: Dedia IV Orbit, Space Elevator Rendezvous, Tears of Fire, Mess Berth
Alex frowned as an alarm beeped at her. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up in her bunk and waved the intrusive sound away. Nameless’s voice prompted her to wakefulness a little faster.
[Notice: A call from Dedia Prime Forward Position Alpha is awaiting your response.]
Her HUD had a lone flashing icon in the bottom right, and with a flick of a thought she acknowledged it.
“…say again, this is Oaktree for Blue-Star actual, over.”
Alex had taken the time to memorize almost two dozen callsigns for the campaign, but it still took her a second to recognize who the caller was. Which was embarrassing because Oaktree was the callsign for the command under Brigadier Taverson. It was the commanding unit of the forward deployed forces outside of the city and the second most important one after Elis’s and her own.
“This is Blue-Star actual; how can I help?”
“Blue-Star, check ground telemetry update. Hostiles have circled around the eastern flank and are threatening to complete an encirclement. Brigadier Taverson is requesting KKRV saturation fire on the Rexxor line of advance.”
Alex had already asked for Nameless to get the Kinetic Kill Railgun Vehicles prepared for firing, and switching her HUD mini-view to check the ship’s readout on their ready status confirmed that nearly a thousand of the long rods were active. Each salvo bundle icon was marked green, and the eight drones that had remained in orbit with her were just enough to operate the manual loading required.
She stood up and pulled on her uniform so that she could head to the CIC.
The projectiles were much longer than the normal railgun rounds, and designed to survive entry into the planet’s atmosphere, impacting at extremely high velocities that gave them a large sub-kiloton explosion. A dedicated battery would have produced kiloton-range energy yields, but the Tear's railguns only fired 1-2kg projectiles normally.
They were cheap and easy to manufacture, and didn’t leave radioactive fallout across the planet, so they were one of the most common orbit-to-ground bombardment systems available.
The Tear’s railguns weren’t designed with that purpose in mind, but Nameless, with his inexhaustible ingenuity, had modified them to accept the larger projectiles safely. It wouldn’t be as effective as a dedicated system, but it would work well enough.
“Oaktree, do you have a detailed fireplan for us?”
“Uh, no Ma’am, FDC figured you had better visuals from orbit than we have on the ground. Telemetry should show our current line. We are dug in with nothing beyond it. Nothing alive anyway.”
“Right. Be advised, impactors will be en route, ETA 5 to 15 minutes before we are in position. You’ll have time to get some popcorn for the show.”
“Brigadier sends his regards, Blue-star. Oaktree out.”
Alex turned her attention to the ground telemetry map and examined the battle lines.
“Nameless, are all our drones accounted for? We need to adjust our orbit.”
[Affirmative: Preparations have already been made for orbital adjustment. All units are secured.]
“Right, we’ll need to drop to low orbit, but do we have enough TWR and delta-V to handstand over the target area so we can do direct fire?”
[Informative: A temporary handstand can be achieved for approximately five to six hours before propellant levels reach critical levels.]
“We aren’t paying for the fuel and looking at the map, it looks like they need support sooner rather than later, so let’s do that.”
[Affirmative: Orbital maneuver locked in. Departing elevator orbital parking orbit now.]
Alex felt nothing as their RCS gently pushed them out of line with the other ships trailing the space elevator. Once they had moved a safe distance, the Linear drive kicked on, and they were burning retrograde.
Once all their angular momentum was killed, Nameless let them ‘fall’ toward the planet until they were nearly inside the atmosphere. A second full burn killed their momentum completely. That was not the end of the maneuver, however.
It would require a constant burn of the thrusters to keep them from falling out of the sky now. That meant they would burn their propellant stores constantly, but they would achieve several advantages in doing so.
First, they wouldn’t have to worry about where they were in their orbit when a fire order came. Instead, they’d be able to drop them as they were needed, without having to wait. That would save five to fifteen minutes if they received another call.
Second, it simplified the targeting parameters. Instead of the kinetic projectiles making a long arc through the atmosphere to hit at an angle, they’d be driving almost straight down. That meant less material from the projectile would burn up, and the projectile would be much more likely to remain on target.
That meant bigger booms and less computational headaches for Nameless.
It only took a few minutes to reach the desired altitude with the Linear Drive throwing its torch behind them. Alex watched as Nameless flipped the ship around and began the counter-burn.
She turned her attention to the targeting map. “Nameless, can we get a better visual now? I would like to identify any big clusters.”
[Notice: This unit is correlating updated optical data. Highlighting targets of interest.]
“Highlight any friendlies within the red zone for max yield and adjust fire to fall outside that range.”
[Notice: Maximum yield is unlikely to be achieved with current weapon configuration. Full reconfiguration of railguns would be required.]
“Yeah, I know, but I don’t want to risk dropping these too close to our own troops. The extra leeway should help.”
[Informative: This unit does not make targeting mistakes.]
“Everyone and everything makes mistakes sometimes, so building in a healthy margin of error is smart. You can’t call back the bullets once they’re fired.”
[Informative: This unit calculates the margin of error required to be 0.01%.]
“The people on the ground aren’t too likely to be thrilled if you scorch them, too. Don’t you remember what happened when A-3123Y took that torpedo from the Fed drones?”
[Notice: While energy releases in the atmosphere are orders of magnitude more violent than in vacuum due to shock forces, KKRV munitions are sub-kiloton at projected yield and should not overly threaten allied units.]
“They are still several tons of TNTe, and that’s going to ruin anyone’s day if some freak accident occurs. Build in a margin of error.”
[Informative: This unit has adjusted dead zone to Avatar parameters, highlighting detected clusters of Rexxor movement. A five-hundred fifty-six point saturation bombardment along Rexxor axis of movement has been calculated. Seventy volleys, 8 projectiles per salvo, 30.04 second travel time, 700 second total duration.]
Alex examined the highlighted red circles showing the kill zones, detected Rexxor concentrations, and the black circles denoting areas near friendly forces. Lots of nasty things were heading towards the relatively thin defensive line that had been formed between the city and the forward front.
“Ok, let’s call it in. Get me the militia FDC.”
The communication console scrolled rapidly through a long list of frequencies to land on one labeled ‘Firestorm’ before a green light lit up beside it.
[Notice: Connection established.]
“This is Blue-Star to Firestorm-Alpha. Be advised KKRV strike package is ready. Transmitting telemetry to you now. Awaiting confirmation.”
“Firestorm-Alpha to Blue-Star, telemetry received. Please stand by.”
While waiting, Alex rechecked the map, thankful she wasn’t required to crunch any numbers herself. Another comm channel with top priority lit up.
“Elis-to-Alex, learn to count!”
Before Alex could respond, the call cut off. She fumbled at the console as she switched the screen to check on Tifara when the frontline FDC called her back.
“Firestorm-Alpha Actual to Blue-Star, confirming KKRV strike package Golf-Romero-India-Delta-Five-Five-Six, authorization Foxtrot-Delta-Charlie-Three-Three-Niner-One.”
[Informative: Authorization code is valid.]
Grounding herself back to the task at hand, she was glad she didn’t have to look it up in the code book she’d received from the Governor.
“Blue-Star confirming, Golf-Romero-India-Delta-Five-Five-Six KKRV strike package. Authorization accepted. Strike order is green-lit. Firing for effect.”
Alex opened the tactical panel, confirmed the correct package was highlighted, and pressed to confirm it.
“ETA: 30 seconds, tell them to find cover. Might get a little rough down there.”
“Thanks for the support, Blue-Star. Firestorm-Alpha, out.”
Alex clicked off the comms and turned the plot map to the projectile telemetry.
[Informative: At this altitude, 12cm lasers can provide effective ground fire. Recommend initiating a direct fire sequence. Analysis indicates using directed energy weapons could herd Rexxor lifeforms into denser clusters for more effective bombardment.]
Alex opened her mouth in surprise. Why hadn’t she thought about using the lasers, before? The atmosphere would reduce their effectiveness, but they could still cause a lot of damage on the surface.
“Wait. You mean like draw big flaming circles around where the KKRVs will hit?”
[Notice: This unit will attempt to simplify future statements to be comprehendible by Avatar’s poor computational processes.]
“Hey, that’s not nice. If you are so smart, why didn’t you suggest this earlier? We could have been taking orbital stabs at them for days to support the ground forces.”
[Informative: Long-term bombardment with laser weaponry would present a serious drain on fuel rod lifespan and heating challenges. While replacement rods are available for purchase in-system, a constant drain over the duration of the mission would likely consume them all in short order.]
“Euh. Yeah, while the Gov is covering our fuel and energy costs, I doubt he’d be happy if he had to pay for all the rods in the entire system.”
[Informative: Utilizing lasers in a tactical role to enhance KKRV effectiveness is calculated to be cost efficient.]
“Okay, I approve. Start cooking the bugs.”
[Informative: Analysis has determined Rexxor lifeforms to be more reptilian than insect in nature, therefore the nomenclature of ‘bugs’ is incorrect.”
“They have a lot of legs and teeth, and they are freaky looking.”
Alex shifted her attention back to Tifara, to see what had prompted Elis to message her. She froze when she saw the long line of contact that had nearly reached the town’s walls.
“Fuck! Nameless, why didn’t you tell me Tifara was under attack?”
[Informative: Tifara defenses are effectively holding Rexxor assault at bay.]
Alex almost fumbled the controls in her hurry as she switched to optical and tracked in on Elis’s location. The view on the console telescoped inward until it reached max zoom. Booper was clearly visible, standing on top of one of the towers that dotted the fortification. Miniguns blared long lines of fire across the ridgeline as Rexxor crested over the nearby hill.
“They are hiding behind that depression. Why don’t we target our lasers there?”
[Notice: Allied artillery units are already targeting hostile clusters.]
Alex shook her head. “Sure, but there are a lot. Let’s help them out and test the lasers at the same time. Even if it’s overkill, I’m sure it will be appreciated and not everything has to be 100% efficient, Nameless.”
[Notice: Proceeding with Avatar targeting priorities.]
Alex didn’t have to press anything, Nameless carried out the targeting, firing solutions, and then high-energy lasers flashed through the atmosphere at the speed of light, impacting their targeted locations a fraction of a second later.
The atmosphere lit up in a blaze of fiery light as the beams punched through several clouds to strike the massed Rexxor below. At the same time, high-explosive artillery shells began to pound the area with wild abandon.
Alex watched on her monitor as the lasers crisscrossed the field, dragging molten lines nearly a meter wide in their wake. The sudden massacre of violence seemed to be the final straw for the Rexxor trying to breach Tifara’s defenses. The horde turned as one and divided into two streams heading east and west.
Alex didn’t stop Nameless as he continued to chase the fleeing Rexxor with light-turned-death.
She felt a moment of awe at the extreme destruction writ onto the surface of the planet by the weapons. She had never considered just how deadly the tools she wielded could be. In space, it was much more difficult to comprehend their incredible power.
And Elis had told her The Entity had consumed an entire moon and wielded much, much more powerful weapons than the Federation technology they used now…
[Notice: KKRV within the margin of error. No targeting mistakes detected.]
Alex turned her viewscreen to the other battle front just in time to see the kinetic impactors slam into the ground. Mushroom clouds jetted into the air as the rounds hit and then exploded with incredible energy for the small 20kg projectiles. If the lasers had been surgical, the railgun bombardment was a rippling trail of massive fireballs that laid waste to the forested foothills outside of Dedia Prime.