Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CXXII: The Battle of Oskran

This page Copyright (c) 2019, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
21 Secondmonth 573JR
9 September 2367CE
Oskran

The feared Nikar involvement in the Third Interstellar War had not manifested; Gnop, too, was suffering a civil war, between the old aristocracy and the new. The Jeffersonian embassies to the Nikar peoples had been withdrawn. Gnop was theoretically unified under a single figurehead king, but in fact was divided into some twenty duchies, many still backward and practically pre-industrial, while a few had starships and orbital possessions. The dukes formed a ruling council and held the real power on Gnop. They had fallen out, and there was now word of Nikar forces bombarding each other from space, and ship-to-ship engagements above. Some Nikar among the stars were taking sides and feuding, while Jeffersonian Nikar, renouncing their clan positions and ranks, remained neutral- unless attacked by a faction which only saw a thousand-year-old grievance in an ethnic pattern of reflective scales.
Still very little was known about the Blood Rose, except many of Michael Danner's theories seemed to have been confirmed. Every Reserve Privateer in the Naval Register had been activated, their interception software running nonstop, capacitors charged, Marsten Guns ready to automatically engage any relativistic object on a collision course with any friendly object. Privateers were swarming the orbits of any world which might be a target, taking the place of the automated stations not every world had time to build, or the real warships which were desperately needed elsewhere. Not every Privateer carried faster-than-light Marsten Guns, but most had at least a Class Three; ships which didn't served as support, delivering fuel and food, parts and personnel, to keep better-armed ships in action. They all knew they were doing their part.

Oskran, a rich world and system, was an obvious target for the Glautak/Flike Alliance's invasion of Republic space. It had been feared that Ganhol, Lanos or Garch would invite GFA forces, allowing them to preposition themselves for strategic advantage. That fear, at least, was moot, since the declaration of war; any Imperial or Consolidation ship would be engaged on sight, but a greater danger was the Alliance's proven willingness to use world-killers on any target they could not seize intact. There were about three hundred million people on Oskran; forty-one million in Lii, eleven million in Hewnak. These two Jeffersonian states began evacuating their women and children, as much as they were able. Most were sent to Dakota, where an Alran community already existed... but which would be the next target in line if Oskran fell.
The People's Establishment of Lanos had declared war on the Republic and her Allies, which was psychotic. As big as it was, their nation's entire industrial base could be wiped out with a single orbit, they had no space capability at all, their best aircraft could barely reach Lii or Hewnak one-way and would be shot down seconds after crossing either border. The Republic of Nuce had effectively ceased to exist, overrun by Lanos; only handfuls of survivors, well under a thousand, had made their ways to Lii or Hewnak. The Holy Kingdom of Ganhol seemed to be methodically slaughtering itself. Their former axis would probably have no part to play in the coming battles. Likewise Yabag, the island nation, was still occupied with its own civil war.
The Federation of Hewnak had been accepted as a Territory of the Jeffersonian Republic, and was making changes to its constitution and body of law to be eligible for Membership; likely they would end up as new provinces of Lii, for legal convenience. Alran from Hewnak were already enlisting in the Jeffersonian military and many were now Provisional Citizens, serving aboard warships above their world, or training in ground forces to resist invasion... though a relativistic strike would render ground troops irrelevant.
King Ronton IV of Narloof had signed a mutual-defense treaty with the Republic, on his cousin Duke Spak's advice, and on receiving news of the declaration of war. If the GFA came to Oskran they wouldn't be friendly to Narloof, which had already been friendly toward the Republic and Hewnak. The kingdom was not a poor nation, but also not an advanced one; while they had been buying Republic technology it was not yet widespread. Narloof's contribution to the war effort was food and raw materials, rare earths and the like. Such things had to come from somewhere, and the kingdom's efforts were worthy. Also, the new treaty compelled Narloof to come to the aid of neighboring Hewnak if necessary, for example if Garch attempted to invade - and Narloof had defeated Garch before.
Garch, with Hewnak between them and Narloof, still had a large land army, which could be quickly transported by rail to the Hewnak border. They too could be wiped out from orbit, and unlike the invasion of Nuce, Hewnak's border was being constantly watched. Garch had not declared war and was in fact unusually quiet. Probably they were awaiting the outcome of the GFA invasion and expecting a share of spoils. They also had no space capability, though they now had a small fleet of bomber aircraft; they had acquired fabbers from somewhere, which could make more fabbers, which could make bigger fabbers and labor robots, but again all that effort and materiel would be wasted... unless the GFA conquered Oskran.

Forces began to gather above the still-divided world. First were the Shrakor class frigates the Lii Confederation had already been making - fifty-three of them. These were supplemented by the first pair of Alran-built light cruisers; unlike fat modern designs which spun their entire selves to generate internal weight, these bore quite a resemblance to Aurora, with extendable weight pods in rings fore and aft. They also carried twelve Class Six Marsten Guns, eight in ring-turrets like Aurora's, and in pairs bow and stern. Unlike Aurora's original design, these cruisers, the Uary class, named for an ancient Alran goddess not unlike Aurora, projectile weapons, either missiles or mass drivers, were a minimal afterthought.
The Lii Confederation's shipyards had also produced a flock of simple support ships, only nominally armed for self-defense but rugged and versatile for their supply and maintenance roles, like the Jeffersonian Tommy Atkins class from the Republic-Empire War, or the American Liberty ships long before them. These served as general freighters, or were configured under construction for specific duties as tankers, troopships, tenders, and the like. A standard spaceframe had been designed which could be mass produced, then customized as needed while fitting out. Nearly sixty of these ships were now in action, bringing metal and other materiel from the asteroids and moons, fuel from the comets, landing on the surface to load food from the farms; and evacuating refugees to other worlds.
Then the true warships began to arrive. The dreadnoughts, well over a hundred kilotons, bristling with weapons of every kind including massive Marsten Guns, Class Thirty or larger, in their spines: Yamato, New Texas, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, forwarded from their Home Fleets above New Israel and Terra and the other Central Worlds. Fleet carriers came with them, though it wasn't clear what role they would play in a relativistic fleet engagement; Saratoga, Shinano, Yorktown, Constellation, each with over a hundred fighters and bombers - nearly two hundred in Shinano's case, she being a half-sister to Yamato. Battleships and cruisers, some over a century old, out of Mothball Orbits with shipwrights aboard during Transit. Destroyers and frigates likewise, including the museum pieces of the Confederate Air Force; Eric the Bear Linfarger, Lieutenant Commander JRSP(IR), was in command of JRS Marjorie Halliwell, DD212. These ships' crews were made up of his fellow Confederates from CAFB Everett and other bases across the Central Worlds, and his drinking buddies from The Hungry Kraken - every one a veteran, every one intimately familiar with their ships.
More were on the way - allies by treaty, mercenaries hoping for loot, privateers official and not... but they would not arrive before the enemy.

Small detachments of small ships had been spread throughout the Oskran system, constantly sweeping with active sensors. A side benefit of this was a more thorough mapping of the system for safer navigation in the future.
If the system had a future.
FF1927 JRS Shrakor, the Lii Alran word for Defender, was leading three of her sisters in Detachment 10.2 on a sweep of the outer system, about one and a half light-hours from Oskran's orbit. Sensor Officer Lieutenant Nrii Tlam, Jeffersonian Republic Navy, was at her station in the Combat Information Center in the heart of the little ship, overseeing two ratings and two strikers, newer recruits learning on the job, as they watched screens and holotanks for the enemy.
For the past two hundred hours there had been many contacts, many moments of suspense; so far all had turned out to be friendly, allied warships, Privateers, hired transports for supplies in or refugees out. Still, tension was only building. The Oskran Sector of the Republic Navy knew the enemy would come.
And come they did, as a single two-kiloton gunship, the same kind which had destroyed Sherrington and Sidonia, but this one bearing Flike markings. A scout, obviously, its Transition was detected some twelve light-seconds away from Shrakor's position. Commander Jihn Kyoh, commanding Shrakor and the detachment, ordered a Short Transit for interception. He also ordered constant streaming of the approaching action to Oskran Sector Command, by Marsten Device, stating, "I intend to capture this ship for intelligence-gathering purposes."
The crews of the four frigates had been nearly living in their suits, but despite the internal differences, Alran bodies were much like Human on the outside, and Human suit designs were easily adapted. Helmets were sealed, compartments were drained of atmosphere, weapons were charged. The four ships formed a tetrahedron 150 kilometers per side, and Transitioned together.
Engineer Jenny Blain of JRS Aurora was not present, and couldn't be for hundreds of hours more, but she'd left notes the last time she visited Oskran, and sent more through the Reserve Privateer Bureau and the Office of Naval Research. The Engineers of the four frigates adjusted their Marsten Drives - Blain Drives, in actuality, refit to the earlier production of the Shrakor class and built into the later - to maximize the electromagnetic pulse generated by their Transition. Detachment 10.2 performed a Danner Maneuver, using these effects to overwhelm the enemy ship's systems and disable it. The frigates returned to realspace in perfect formation surrounding the enemy scout - Sarah Heusner had been sending notes too. The enemy gunship appeared to be lifeless, totally crippled.
FF1931 JRS Shinot, Guardian, was ordered to close with the enemy and board. She carried a squad of Mobile Infantry in power armor, all of them Alran, formerly of the Lii Confederation Army but part of the Jeffersonian Republic Marine Corps now, the 149th Legion. As Shinot closed to a kilometer, the troopers disembarked, using their suits' maneuvering jets to cross the gap in open space.
As the squad leader, Staff Sergeant Kale Unti, touched the gunship's hull, there was a brilliant flash of light. The enemy, the Marines, and JRS Shinot disappeared.

Shrakor's computer estimated a yield of six hundred kilotons, or two and a half petajoules. The other three ships of Detachment 10.2 were still some eighty kilometers away, and there was no atmosphere to compress into a shockwave, but the fusion bomb generated a powerful EMP of its own. Naturally these ships still had their Marsten Fields active for defense, and shrugged off the pulse and radiation.
They couldn't shrug off the Class Eleven Marsten Guns from the four Flike heavy cruisers which appeared moments later.
Streams of superluminal particles tore into Shrakor, Avenger and Sword. Avenger fell dead at once, losing all power as the beam drilled most of her length, stern to bow. Sword and Shrakor returned fire but the Alliance had been building their warships with older standards of armor, and the frigates' Class Four Guns could not penetrate. More beams converged on Sword and she exploded. Shrakor was hit, a beam piercing sideways, right through CIC, killing the captain and most of the command crew.
The enemy cruisers closed for interception, and shuttles were launched for boarding.
For harvesting.

Feeling her suit's tourniquets tightening, the numbing hiss of anesthetics, Nrii Tlam looked down- and looked away. Not much time left, she knew.
Using her remaining hand, she pulled herself to the helm controls. She had helped install them - she knew how to use them. Quickly, before the pain could overwhelm her, she entered commands. The helm responded, and Shrakor turned her face to the enemy for the last time.
"This is my world," she said aloud.
She ignited her ship's fusion torches, and shoved the throttles to their stops. The nearest enemy cruiser grew large in the last functioning viewscreen, and in her last moment she screamed:
"YOU CAN'T HAVE HER!"

Nothing of value remained for the enemy to collect. The surviving Alliance cruisers charged their Initiators and Transitioned away.

Nrii Tlam's uncle, Councilor Nalat Yonn, had been watching live in the Triumvirate Redoubt, far removed from the city of Arriod and deep in the planet's bedrock, where it might survive even a relativistic strike. Enough of JRS Shrakor's bridge sensors had survived to show him... everything.
He slumped in his seat, as his fellow Councilors offered their condolences. Then he roused. "I should be up there," he cried, "fighting for my world! Not cowering in a cave while my betters die!"
He collapsed into his chair again, sobbing.

Admiral Maet of the New Israel Home Fleet, aboard Yamato, had been placed in overall command of Allied forces at Oskran. He too had watched the live streaming of Shrakor's first and final action. All Allied ships were on full alert. "You have all seen," he transmitted to them, "how our enemy will behave. There will be no attempt to seize enemy ships or to take prisoners. If an enemy vessel indicates it wishes to surrender, it will be bypassed, neither taken nor destroyed unless it resumes hostile action.
"Likewise we can expect no quarter from this enemy. They view us all as slaves, or food. We shall fight to the last ship, gun, and person. There can be no peace, no survival, except through victory.
"Kill them all. Kill every one you can reach. Or they will surely do the same to us."

For days there were more such contacts, single scout ships in the outer system, possibly automatic, without crews; but these did not lure victims into range of their destruct charges. Some thirty hours after Shrakor's loss, Detachment 10.5 performed the same Danner Maneuver as Shrakor and her companions had, but simply destroyed their target with broadsides of Marsten Guns. Another batch of enemy heavy cruisers responded, but Commander Tyer Olen, thinking ahead, had already ordered evasive maneuvers and countermeasures. These held off the enemy fire until his Detachment could Transition to safety.
Detachment 10.1 did exactly the same thing when another scout appeared twenty-eight hours later, but this time it was the dreadnought Oregon and the two new Lii light cruisers, Uary and Gela, who mousetrapped the Alliance cruisers in turn. Two of the four enemy were destroyed, at least one more damaged before escaping, with no Allied losses.
Admiral Maet was concerned. The enemy's tactics seemed tentative, hesitant, diffuse - wrong. He ordered all ships and stations to remain on full alert, all defenses on automatic, while he waited for the enemy's next move.
On the fourth day of the battle, his wait was over.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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