Chapter 8: Origins II: The Battle of Jupiter

*The disembodied female voice starts speaking once again. This time with an almost sarcastic tone, and then a feeling of distain filled pity.*

"Jupiter the king of the gods, the god of the sky, and commander of thunder. The Stator and the Victor; he is the leader of armies and the one who led nations to victory. Once more mankind was to battle under his eternal watch, as if to earn his gifts and praise. Mankind was to fight one of the most titanic of battles in all of existence high above the blood stained clouds of the mighty Jupiter."

*Beep* "All ships, prepare to synchronize operational clocks." *Beep*

*Beep* "Operational clocks synchronized. Operation Sabertooth will commence at Oh three hundred hours. You have two standard hours to complete all needed ship preparations; all operation vital preparations must be complete within this time, before fleet wide jump. Use of radio communications once the operation has begun is strictly prohibited; only the use of photon beam communications for the transmission of vital information only, is permitted. Once we have entered warp, ship commanders may brief crewmembers on mission details. Good luck to you all, and may fortune guide us." *Beep*

The fleet wide transmission from the United Alliance 3rd Fleet flagship, the USS Enterprise, the premier ship of the Alliance's Super Heavy Carriers, the mighty Endeavor-class, also known as the Promethean-class; fell silent.

Stretching over 5 miles in length, it carries a fleet of fighter and attack craft in its vast hull, and boosted two massive Super MACs. The USS Enterprise and her sister ship the USS Yorktown sat in the middle of a vast fleet of over 350 Alliance vessels ranging in size from the 800 foot long Road Island-class frigates to the two mile long Iowa-class battleships with their powerful 4,000 ton MAC gun and 400 ton rail turrets.

Aboard the Road Island-class frigate, HMS Hampshire, preparations were being made for the operation.

"Ensign May…"


"Bring us to our assigned formation coordinates."

"Yes Sir; bringing us to bearings 30° by 22°, half impulse burst for 4.3 seconds." The ship's engines roared to life, and the hull of the frigate groaned under the sudden push and began to move. Thrusters on the bow pulsed intermittently, and the bow slowly began to rise up and shift to starboard (right). "Cutting main engines in 3… 2… 1… mark." Ensign May confirmed, and the engines became silent shortly after.

The ship continued on its heading, taking no notice that its engines had quieted; it continued forward on momentum alone. While it is true that in an atmosphere, or gravitational field, objects lose their momentum quickly; in space Newton's laws ruled over everything. Newton's First Law of Motion: An object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest, unless acted on by an imposing force. All this means that in space, where there is no imposing force, such as gravity or friction; objects such as ships retain their momentum, unless they produce an opposite force to cancel out their momentum.

"Preparing to activate reverse thrusters at full burn for five seconds;" Ensign May announced. "Firing reverse thrusters." The helmsman confirmed.

Eight powerful jets of fire shot from the sides of the of the Hampshire's bow, shooting forwards and pushing against the ship's forward momentum. After five seconds the thrusters cut off, and the ship had stopped moving.

"We have reached our assigned fleet coordinates." The navigations officer, Lieutenant Keys confirmed, her eyes still glued to the three main navigation monitors in front of her.

"Very good. Ronaldson; what is the state of the rail capacitors?" The captain inquired.

"Main rail capacitors at 63% charge. They will be fully charged in ten minutes."

"Good, get me main engineering on the comm."

"Yes Sir;" communications officer Lieutenant Junior Grade Mitchell replied, "opening a comm. channel to Chief Engineer Scott." He quickly pressed a few buttons on his main console, and the intercom crackled to life.

The captain depressed a button on his chair console and began speaking. "Lieutenant Scott, what is the status in main engineering?" The captain's voice echoed through the main engineering deck; and a short, skinny man, with ginger hair popped out from within a tangled grouping of pipes and cables, his face and cloths covered in grease.

Still tangled up in several cables, he hurried over towards the small communications console mounted on the opposite wall. But just as he was about to reach the comm. unit, one of the wires wrapped around his ankles ran out of slack, and he fell face first to the floor. "SHIT!" The man exclaimed as he quickly untangled the offending cable and stood up next to the comm. unit. He pressed down the talk button and started talking. "Welcome to main engineering, may I take your order?" As he said this a wide grin appeared on his grease stained face.

"Lieutenant Scott, right now is a time to be serious. Now, how is the ship adapting to the new upgrades?"

"Oh everything is just peachy down here, absolutely no –" *BANG*-*"Get that ruptured plasma conduit off!"*– "As I was saying, everything is going perfectly down here." Lieutenant Scott finished, in a calm, nonchalant voice.

Captain Reeds shared a slightly worried look with some of the other crewmembers on the bridge, and depressed the talk button again. "Umm… Mr. Scott…"

"Yes Captain?"

"What was that?..."

"Oh that?.. Just a small –" *bang**yelling in background* "maybe two small plasma conduit leaks. Nothing a little bit of solder and some tape won't fix; it's just the old girl getting anxious."

"If you say so Mr. Scott."

"Oi, Captain, if you don't mind me asking; what in the hell are all these bloody upgrades for? All this new hull plating and weapons systems, especially that damn rail cannon, weren't designed for this ship, and she wasn't designed for them either."

"Sorry, but I can't tell you that quite yet."


Aboard Constitution-class, Heavy Carrier; USS North Carolina: Location; starboard No. 2 Hanger Bay.

The hanger is a buzz with activity as fueling trucks, weapon trailers, and rearming dollies cris-crossed the hanger bay; loading and readying various fighter and attack craft, as well as, many troop transports. While the hanger crews were preparing the craft, the pilots were crawling over and around their respective vehicles performing prefight checks, most of them at least.

"Oi, Shorty. You not done with your checks yet?" Yelled a man with a slight southern drawl; and stood roughly 6'2", wearing a dark green extra-atmospheric fighter pilot (EAFP) suit and cradling his gun gray HUD-helmet, which he had decorated with red wings running along both sides, under his right arm.

"You know; some of us pilots like not losing control of our fighters, Yeager." The pilot referred to as Shorty shot back at the other pilot from inside his cockpit.

"But that's half the fun;" Yeager claimed, "knowing that at any second your atmo-vents may open on your engines and choke them in the middle of combat can really get that blood pumping."

"Ya' know you ant' a test pilot no more, right Yeager?" Questioned a feminine voice; with a heavy southern drawl from behind the pilot in question.

The two pilots turned and faced the woman; she was a good deal shorter than Yeager, at around 5'5", and was wearing a black suit often called 'Hell bringer' gear, instead of the fighter pilot gear.

A sly smirk appeared on Yeager's face. "That may be, but I'd rather fly in space with an air-jet than that fat tub of a transport you call an aircraft."

Then Shorty looked back up from his checklist towards the woman; "Why are you over here Holly, shouldn't you be doing your checks and preflight bitching at the poor bastards you're transporting?" he inquired.

A smile stretched across her face as she walked towards his Eagle Champion fighter's left wing engine. "Unlike the two of you procrastinators;" she started, as she reached her right arm under the left main-engine intake nozzle and started feeling around it, as if searching for something. "I already finished my prep and preflight bitching. We must be boarding space stations, judging from the gear they got." Just then Holly's hand found what she was looking for; and with one swift jerk, she brought her hand from under the engine holding a small pin with a long red cloth ribbon attached to it. She looked at Shorty with a look of triumph on her face; she tossed it at him saying, "You missed one;" and walked away.

Shorty caught the pin, and looked at the tag with a defeated sigh; the tag read '*REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT*'.

A few moments later the ship's intercom crackled to life, and the voice of the captain of the North Carolina came across the intercom. "All crewmembers get to ready positions. We will be commencing fleet wide jump to warp in 120 seconds." Everyone scrambled to their assigned posts and readied for the jump.

All throughout the staging area ships made final positional and course adjustments, moving into their assigned locations within the massive fleet of over 350, frigates, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and carriers; of all shapes, classes, and sizes. Ships were closing all hanger bay doors, after their patrolling fighters had landed.

Then a ship pulled just ahead of and to the starboard of the Hampshire; it was massive, dwarfing all the frigates, destroyers, and cruisers around it. The Hampshire was nothing but a spec next to it by comparison.

It was the mighty Super-dreadnaught, the UAS Yamato; a remnant from the first Solar War, she was anything but weak and feeble from age. Weighing in at over 8,400 feet long, boasting ten 600ton triple-barrel rail cannon turrets, seven on the top of the ship and three on the bottom; four 400ton twin-barrel rail cannon turrets, two on the bottom and one on each side of the hull; and four 200ton twin-barrel rail turrets, two on each side of the hull; with armor up to 30 feet thick or more in places. She was more than a match for any enemy ship.

On the bridge of the USS Enterprise a countdown clock was displayed on the main view screen.


10 seconds remaining… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…


When the countdown reached zero the entire fleet jumped to warp.

Once they had entered warp, Captain Reeds prepared to brief the crew of the Hampshire on the operation, hoping it all went off without any problems. Ready, he signaled comm. officer Mitchell to activate the ship wide intercom. "Attention all crewmembers; I must now brief you all on what we are doing, where we are going, our objectives, why we are going, why the Alliance has dedicated such a large fleet to this operation, and why there is such a veil of secrecy around this mission."

All around the ship, every crewmember stopped what they were doing and watched the intercom speakers, eagerly waiting to learn what their mission really was. Then the captain's voice came back over the speakers: "We are going to strike at the heart of the Imperial Union. Our destination is not the capital though; we are headed towards Jupiter. Even with the alliance between the United Alliance and the Republic of Outer Colonies, this war could last for nearly a decade, if not more; and seeing how these first six months of war have caused so much destruction already, if nothing is done, by the end of this war there will be little left of humanity. So we are hinging our hope of shortening this war on this very operation. Our mission is to capture, destroy, or disable the mining and refinery stations, factories, shipyards, and military outposts in the Union's Industrial Jupiter sector. The Imperial Union force guarding their Industrial Jupiter sector is roughly thirty ships at the moment. Though they consider this sector vital, they also do not believe that we are in any position to launch a strike so deep into their territory right now. Moreover, we have leaked Intel to them that our forces will be launching an assault on their capital; that force is merely a decoy to draw their fleets away from this sector of space. If we are successful the Union's main military industry will be crippled, and this war could be over in less than a year. May God watch over us all and guide us." The intercom went silent as the captain concluded his speech; throughout the rest of the fleet, captains finished giving their own speeches to their respective crews, and crews readied for battle.

In the hanger of the carrier, North Carolina, aircraft were being prepped for battle and pulled into their launch-ready and standby positions. Yeager and his squadron wing of F-30A Eagle Champions were marked to be launched first, followed by two more fighter squadrons, who would then be followed by both attack-fighters and troop transports. A hanger launch crew pulled Yeager's fighter to one of the many launch catapults and locked the forward landing gear into the launcher. After they moved away from the fighter, Yeager preformed a full control surface responsiveness test. First he tested the main full-tilt engines (FTE's) connected on each side of the fuselage, which could freely rotate up or down with complete circular rotational freedom, and were what connected the main wings to the rest of the fighter; then he preformed control test on the smaller forward full-tilt thrusters (F-FTT's) which were identical in appearance to the main engines and wings setup, except much smaller and mounted to either side of the fuselage forward of the cockpit, and the rear full-tilt thrusters (R-FTT's) which were about twice the size of the F-FTT's and mounted on either side of the tail end of the fuselage, all the control surfaces rotated or opened and closed in accordance to his commands. Once he was satisfied with the working order of his fighter, he looked out to the launch attendants to the left of his fighter and gave them a stiff salute, balling his hand up into a fist with his thumb sticking straight up as it completed the salute, giving the all green thumbs up.

Sitting in the standby position further back in the hanger sat Holly in her C-202B Valkyrie troop transport.

The Valkyrie dropships were the main light and medium payload workhorses for the Alliance military; able to carry twenty-five fully equipped soldiers in the standard military comfort, the C-202B's also could hold two large cargo containers in the center of the troop bay, while the C-202A's instead were fitted to carry larger cargo as big as a medium support tank in a separate bay connected to the rear of the troop bay which could be detached or reattached for rapid insertion and pickup. At the front of the long, fat fuselage there was the cockpit which tapered down to the stubby noise; the pilot seat was to the port side of the door to the troop bay, and the copilot seat was positioned inline and slightly elevated, behind the pilot seat like in most attack helicopter cockpits. Midway down the body of the craft were the bulky, mid-length, gull style wings with much larger full-tilt engines on the tip of each wing as opposed to the Eagle Champion, where the engines connected the wings to the craft. Further beyond the wings three-quarters the way down the fuselage laid the drop ramp of the troop bay; and continuing on from above the top of the drop ramp the body tapered down and ended in a pair of short, stubby gull wings, with large full-tilt engines on the tips of each of the wings.

Instead of two large containers they had loaded a single container into Holly's Valkyrie, which was one and a half times as long as a normal container carried by the C-202B. But the part about it that pissed Holly off was that they refused to tell her what was in it, and there were no clear identifying markings visible.

Alert sirens began blaring on and off every three seconds inside the hanger bay; signaling that in ten seconds the hanger doors would be opening, and to prepare for combat.

Not a second later the entire fleet exited warp. All across the fleet, every ship with a hanger started opening the bay doors, and craft of every type and size began pouring out like swarms of bees from their hives.

The doors of the hanger bay opened and the launch chief crouched down on one knee, pointed at Yeager's fighter with two fingers from each hand and swung both arms to his left, towards the open hanger doors in front of Yeager. Yeager snapped him a quick salute just as his fighter was shot forward by the launcher and through the clear atmospheric containment field, out into space. Almost immediately the rest of his squadron followed suit.

As Yeager and the rest of the single craft from the North Carolina formed up with the thousands of other craft from the other ships in the Alliance fleet, he gazed towards the massive gas giant to his starboard, Jupiter, and the massive orange and blood-rust colored storm raging in its atmosphere along the equator.

After only a few minutes the single craft had all reached formation and started to advance towards the enemy installations in the far off distance. The Alliance forces were just out of range of the enemy scanners, but soon the attack and transport craft would enter into sensor range of the Imperial forces.

Shorty, Yeager's wingman, noticed a massive contact breaking away from the rest of the 3rd Fleet and following the attack formation on his radar. He tapped the contact signature on the radar screen and a detailed IFF appeared next to it.

It read: '[UAS Yamato]'…

The super-dreadnaught silently followed only a few miles behind the attack formation.

Ahead, far in the distance, two red IFF markers appeared on the radar and HUDs of the fighters; the two red squares marked the location of an Imperial patrol. The ship on the right of their displays was an aging cruiser, and the other was a small frigate.

When the advancing formation was only 180 seconds from entering enemy sensor range the Yamato began accelerating suddenly and dramatically. The massive ship moved faster than seemed possible for such an old and huge ship. In seconds it had already overtaken the single craft attack formation, coming within only meters from striking several attack craft as it did.

Once it was just outside the enemy sensor arrays' range, four jets of fire shot out along the starboard bow of the ship. The bow of the super-dreadnaught lurched hard to port from the force of the thrusters. After rotating ninety degrees four more thrusters fired, this time on the port bow of the ship, halting its rotation; the massive ship's original forward momentum still pulling it in the same direction, causing it to slide sideways, towards the enemy patrol.

Shorty, Yeager, Holly, and certainly every other pilot were greatly amazed and impressed by the display of the old ship's agility.

Almost immediately the super-dreadnaught came to life. As all seven of its topside 600ton triple-barreled rail cannon turrets, all three of the bottom-side 600ton triple-barreled rail cannon turrets and two 400ton twin-barreled rail cannon turrets, as well as the two starboard side mounted 200ton twin barreled rail cannon turrets and single 400ton twin-barreled rail cannon turret came to life. The turrets swung ninety degrees hard to starboard, bringing all of their firepower to bear in the direction of the still unaware enemy patrol.

At the same time, the attack group formation began to pass around the Yamato.

Aboard Endeavor-class, Super Heavy Carrier; USS Enterprise; Location: Command and Control Bridge. Five seconds earlier.

"Admiral Halsey, Sir: The UAS Yamato and fighter-attack forces have reached the edge of the operational sector." A young radar officer informed, never taking his eyes off the screens in front of him.

"Good. Has the USS Looking Glass sent us confirmation that they have blocked all long range Imperial communication channels?" Admiral George "Bulldog" Halsey asked in his strong, commanding, and gruff voice.

"Yes Sir." Another bridge officer voiced from their station.

"Send the message then." The Admiral ordered.

A simple message appeared on the main view screen of the UAS Yamato's bridge.

It simply read: "Tora Tora Tora"

The Yamato fired! The stillness of space was shattered under the mighty power of the super-dreadnaught's full broadside fifteen turret, forty gun strong, declaration. The flashes of light issued forth by each gun lit up the dark void of space as each of the turrets fired in sequence. Forty fiery white streaks bolted through the empty void of space, on a collision course with two unsuspecting ships and their crews, and annihilation.

The Imperial Union ships took notice of the sudden starburst of light, as well as the threat they indicated. Both the cruiser and frigate powered up their engines and fired emergency thrusters in a futile attempt to evade the oncoming streaks of light. But it was all in vein; they had no chance of beating the slugs moving towards them at roughly 30 kilometers per second.

The first slug slammed straight on into the starboard side of the old cruiser's bow. An explosion erupted from the force of the slug; the hull of the entire ship groaned and shuttered in protest of the impact's force. The hole left behind was an impressive sight, nearly fifty feet in diameter, and just as deep, if not deeper; it alone was survivable for the ship, but that was only one 200ton slug.

Only a few milliseconds later the other slugs caught up. One hit just below the first impact, and then another one to that one's left. The ship began to slowly rotate to port from the massive amounts of kinetic energy hitting it. Then two more slammed against the cruiser mid-ship, these were far bigger, 400tons each, ripping through the hull like it was made of glass and leaving two huge trenches scaring the hull. Three 600ton slugs shattered the main engines on impact, tearing straight through both like lasers; and when another slug hit the engines, they sheared clean off the hull. Every impact caused the body of the vessel to wrench and groan in pain, as it continued to suffer hit after hit.

The frigate and its crew however, were not so lucky. Two 600ton slugs completely broadsided the small frigate ripping the front third of the ship clean off, and then another pulverized the severed front section. Another slug smashed into the starboard engine, destroying it; and then two final slugs punched straight into the center of the ship, through the reactor, and out the other side, taking most of the port engine with them. It only took an instant for the catastrophic hit to send the reactor, or what was left of it, into the super critical stage and then complete meltdown. The hull began to glow a dull red, then yellow, then blue, and finally white hot; then the ship exploded, vaporizing it along with anyone or anything onboard.

The results of the Yamato's single volley showed just why such an old ship was not only still in service, but commanded such fear and respect from all sides.

A single broadside of forty deadly slugs, not one missing its target, had pulverized a cruiser into a shredded hulk and completely vaporized a frigate.

The fighter-attack formation continued advancing towards the remnants of the destroyed patrol and onto the operational sector; while the Yamato rejoined the now advancing main fleet.

As they passed the debris field most of the pilots were too lost in thought to say much of anything. All Holly could get out of her mouth was one word; "Fuckin'– …" Her voice was airy and weak as the rest of her comment died in her throat. The destruction was absolute in every sense of the word; the debris field of the cruiser alone covered at least fifteen cubic miles. However, it was not just twisted metal that floated through the vacuum of space.

Yeager, as well as every other pilot, continuously had to readjust his flight path in an attempt to avoid the dangerous debris and gruesome remains. But some had to make the difficult choice of either hitting a jagged piece of metal and risk damaging their single craft, or hitting the flash dried remains of the doomed crewmembers.

Holly was one of those who were unfortunate enough to be put in this situation. Her C-202B Valkyrie was nimble, especially under her skilled control, but it was still incredibly bulky. When she had almost cleared the debris field she saw multiple pieces of the destroyed cruiser's hull plating bigger than her Valkyrie, surrounding her flight path, but because of the formation she was boxed in. The only route that would prevent her transport from joining the Imperial ships was to pull up roughly fifteen degrees, but as soon as she began to pull up she discovered the gruesome obstacles that she was on a new collision course with. Just ahead of her in the empty, nearly-infinite void of space, several flash-freeze dried and shriveled bodies floated in various states of dismemberment. "Ahh, Fuck!... Well an't today my lucky fucking day." Holly cursed her luck.

"What are you yelling about the –, eeck!" Holly's copilot, Cynthia, was cut off by her own screech of alarm when the first corps lightly bumped against the window just above Holly, and directly in front of Cynthia. The unsuspecting copilot had been too busy monitoring many of the secondary systems of the transport to notice the bodies; and was taken completely by surprise when a mummified face that all the liquids had boiled out of, smacked against the canopy in front of her own face. Cynthia froze in place immediately, doing her best impersonation of a statue; like the body would suddenly become reanimated, and the empty eye sockets would see her if she moved. She didn't handle the sight of dead bodies very well; that was the reason she became a troop transport pilot in the first place.

"Hey Cyn. You still among the living?"

Shaking herself out of her terrified daze, Cynthia looked towards Holly and responded in a somewhat shy and still shaky tone. "Yeah I'm fine. But could you please not hit anything else, or at least warn me before you do?"

Holly spared a glance back up towards the younger woman; a sly grin appeared on her face as she spoke. "You should be paying more attention to everything, and spend less time trying to picture me naked." She gave a low chuckle as she turned to face forward again.

If she had seen it, the look of utter shock on Cynthia's face would have sent Holly over the edge of hysterics. "What..? I.. I wasn't picturing you naked! I was just looking over all the systems."

"I'm just messing with ya Cyn. I already told you I don't swing that way anyways. But damn girl; could you be any more innocent? I can practically feel your blush down here." The pilot gave another stiff laugh, but very quickly became deathly serious. "I'm gonna need you clear headed when this shit hits the fan Cyn."

Her voice told Cynthia that Holly had become completely serious, and that it was time for her to do the same. "Right."

*Beep* "The operation has begun; all units begin moving towards your designated targets." *Beep*

As soon as the order was given various assault groups, consisting of fighters, attack craft, and transports of all kinds, broke off towards their respective targets. Not to fall behind, the fleet of ships began to disperse, as each moved to support their attack groups.

Soon the Imperial defense forces and all the hundred or so space stations were within view of the armada. There were no Imperial ships larger than a couple of aging medium cruisers.

'They must really not consider this area to be under any real threat of attack.' Captain Reeds thought to himself as he considered how outmatched the defending forces really were.

Even though they knew they were out gunned more than 12 to 1, the Imperial ships quickly took up a defensive formation. Now on red alert, the defenders rushed to launch as many of their own fighters and interceptors as they could. But by the time they had started launching the first of their fighters the Alliance attack groups reached them. Half of the fighters split off to engage the new threats, while a small amount of the attack fighters broke off to launch strafing and bombing runs on the Imperial ships. The transports continued past the defensive line, weaving in and out of the screens of anti-fighter and point defense fire. Those that made it through the merciless flack screen wasted no time moving to their designated targets.

Once the Alliance ships were within range both sides opened fire with their MAC guns, trading blow for blow. An imperial corvette fired its relatively small MAC gun against a much larger Alliance cruiser; but the thick armored hull of the larger vessel shrugged off most of the glancing blow, leaving only a small hole in the hull. In return, a much larger slug ripped into the corvette's bow and out the stern of the ship, gutting the vessel.

One of the larger cruisers amongst the defending vessels got a lucky shot on its Alliance counterpart when it fired its MAC gun and the projectile impacted the port aft section of the ship, breaching the main munitions store room. More than four dozen tactical cruise missiles detonated instantly, tearing a massive hole in the ship's hull and putting the ship out of commission.

Fighters from both sides fought for superiority like swarms of angry wasps. While the attack craft peppered the hulls of ships with both unguided and guided projectiles; and the Alliance troop transports started landing in the hanger bays of the various platforms and stations, unloading their cargo of soldiers and supplies. Point-defense turrets silently chattered away in the soundless vacuum of space, attempting to ward off enemy attackers.

In the cockpit of his Eagle Champion, Yeager assessed the situation and what little remained of the enemy fighters. Most of the Imperial forces' fighters had been taken out in the first few minutes because of how vastly outnumbered they had been. In less than half an hour most of the defending Imperial force had either been destroyed or had retreated deeper into the Jupiter sector.

After one more quick look around, he opened his comm. channel up to his wingman. "Hey Shorty, how's your bird holding up?"

The pilot in question pulled his own fighter alongside his squadron leader and replied. "Not even a scratch, I didn't even really get to engage anyone."

Yeager just let out a hard sigh. "I know, to many of us, and not enough of them." He thought for a second and decided to check up on their transport pilot friend. "This is Grim Reaper One to Ice Cold Bitch. Come in Ice Cold Bitch."

Holly was sitting in her parked transport waiting for the marines she had dropped off to return and unload the large container sitting in the troop cargo bay of her Valkyrie when she heard Yeager's message. "I believe that is Miss. Ice Cold Bitch to you jet jockey." She replied over the radio.

After a second or two she heard Yeager's voice come back over the radio; "You still not finished fuckin' around down there?"

A snide smirk appeared on Holly's face, and she wasted no time giving him her answer. "That's what your mother asked me last night in bed."

Without missing a beat Yeager responded in a nonchalant southern accent; "Now I'm glad you showed my dear ol' mama a good time last night, that I'm sure was worthy of her needing to double her heart an' blood pressure medication; but I don't think she would appreciate you advertising it too much. I'm also sure your making little Cyn jealous."

Holly couldn't help but laugh at his comment. "Like I would go anywhere near your mother Yeager; anything that made something as ugly and ass backwards as you, must be pretty fuckin' backwards itself." She quickly reasoned.

With a still level voice, and an even heavier southern drawl Yeager replied to the insinuation; "Now say what you will 'bout me, but my mama is good ol' Southern Bell kind a gal, and my upbringin' says you don't mess with a boy's mama."

Now Holly couldn't keep from laughing at Yeager's mention of their similar roots. "Yeah whatever. This whole thing is one big pain in my ass; me and Cyn have to sit here and wait for these assholes to stop fuckin' around with the enemy and come unload whatever this stupid container is. Bastards wouldn't even tell me what is in it; and I'd sure appreciate it if you would shut your big ugly trap, so I can catch some z's. Fow' out." And with that, she switched off the comm. link.

Aboard Road Island-class Frigate: HMS Hampshire; Location: Command Bridge. Twenty minutes later, in advanced guard patrol.

Captain Reeds was relaxed but fully alert; in just under an hour they had routed the small Imperial fleet defending the industrial sector, but the defenders on the stations had yet to concede a single space station. This operation was far from over and he knew anything could happen. Just then the tactical officer, Lieutenant Reynolds, called out in an urgent but collected voice; "Captain, I have multiple unknown contacts approaching from the other side of Jupiter."

Immediately, the captain tensed up, "Could it be the remnants of the enemy defense fleet?" he questioned the officer.

"Possibly, the contacts ar–… Wait, more contacts have been detected rounding the planet. Number of contacts is still increasing; 70, 90, 130…, 200, 250…, 300 confirmed contacts, no 346, 380…, 400 unidentified vessels have been detected!"

"Put it up on the main view screen. Mitchell, alert the rest of the fleet." The Captain was barely able to hide his concern.

"Yes Sir," both bridge officers confirmed, quickly complying with their orders.

When the radar map filled the main view screen, everyone could see the true scale of the unknown fleet. The map was covered with yellow contact arrows of varying sizes approaching the six green arrows that represented the small Alliance patrol, but luckily it seemed the unknown ships hadn't noticed the presence of the small patrol. "Sir, the Atlanta his identified the ships as Imperial Union; all Alliance vessels are to regroup with the main fleet immediately."

"Very well, fall back."

Soon all the Alliance ships had regrouped with the main body of the fleet.

*Beep* "All units form up into a staggered phalanx box fleet formation immediately and prepare for heavy combat." *Beep*

Every Alliance ship did as ordered and began to join the growing formation, creating a series of staggered rows and columns, to create a box fleet formation. The formation measured 10 x 5 x 7; meaning that each row was made up of ten ships, each column consisted of five rows, forming a battle line, and the formation was seven battle lines deep. No ship was directly in front of another, allowing all the ships to fire on the approaching enemy armada.

Fighters prepared to intercept enemy attack craft and the attack squadrons readied to assault the Imperial ships.

All the now outnumbered fleet could do now, was sit and wait. They didn't have to wait long.

The 23rd Imperial Union Fleet was slow to react when they discovered the unexpected Alliance fleet ahead of them. When they had detected the small Alliance patrol on the edge of the industrial sector, they had assumed the vessels to be an Imperial patrol and not scanned the unknown ships. Now they were faced with a fleet almost equal in size to their own. Their surprise was made even more evident by the chaotic, and mostly unencrypted, communications chatter; much of which was concerning why there was a United Alliance fleet in the Jupiter Industrial Sector.

But before the Alliance forces could take advantage of the enemy's initial shock, the Imperial fleet had formed their own staggered battle lines and scrambled their own fighters.

In the very heart of the oncoming Imperial fleet sat one of the most powerful and most terrifyingly massive vessels the Imperial Union possessed. Measuring over three miles in length, it was almost comparable in size to the Endeavor-class; but this was no carrier. Running nearly the entire length of the ship's spine was a Super-MAC cannon, but it had not one, not two, but three Super-MACs, positioned like the three points of a equilateral triangle; each able to fire a 4,000ton ferric-tungsten slug at nearly 7,500 kilometers per second. Instead of hangers to hold fighters it had eight three-barreled 500ton rail turrets on each side and dozens of smaller turrets covering its hull.

It was the IUS Grand Sovereign, the flagship of the Sovereign-class. Only three Sovereign-class Super Heavy Battleships were ever built, and each could annihilate a small fleet of ships without a second thought. Each was commanded by at least one Regent, the leaders of the Imperial Union, at all times.

The distance between the opposing formations rapidly continued to shrink as the Imperial fleet charged towards the Alliance phalanx. Suddenly, with seemingly choreographed synchronization, both sides opened fire.

Hundreds of brilliant flashes lit up the darkness of space as bolts of light streaked across the sky. Ships and attack craft alike launched all kinds of missiles, each leaving trails of smoke in its wake. In an instant the silence above Jupiter's violent skies was shattered, at least visually, by the destruction of battle.

The unrelenting MAC rounds ripped through anything in their path. Several ships on both sides were shredded by the opening salvo. As the super dense slugs hammered against their hulls; even what could be considered glancing blows still tore huge gashes in the sides of ships. Others utterly annihilated any single craft unfortunate enough to be in their path. Soon after the MAC and rail gun slugs' bombardment, the missiles reached their targets and began their own. The ship launched Aegis cruise missiles began slamming into the armored hulls and detonating, magnifying the damage caused by their kinetic force with the explosive warheads equivalent to 4,000 pounds of TNT. Flashes of fiery light dotted the hulls of all the ships hit by the Aegis missiles, as the explosives blew holes the size of city busses in the armor and the oxygen rich atmosphere violently decompressed and ignited.

"Contacts ten 'clock high; split formation and watch for friendly's." Yeager and Shorty broke off from the rest of the Grim Reaper squadron to make a pass on a wing of enemy Razorback interceptors.

The sleek Imperial fighter interceptors earned their name; their engines were similar to scramjets with few to no moving inner engine parts. The sharp, slender, flat, angular body of the fighter was continued by the razor shaped wings that ran most of the length of the fuselage: Inside the thin wings sat the scramjet engines; a long opening along the leading edge of the wing was the air intake for in atmo flight, and a slightly narrower opening ran along the rear of the wing where the engine exhaust was focused by thrust vector ailerons. The more complicated space based maneuverability issues were controlled by thrusts strategically positioned in the frame of the fighter. No denying they were fast both in space and atmo, but they couldn't keep up with the Eagle Champion when it came to maneuverability. And that was what Yeager and his fellow Eagle Champion pilots were counting on in this vacuum, micro-gravity environment.

"You ready Shorty?"

"Ready, willing, and able. Let's show them how to fly."

Yeager primed his Sparrow missiles and locked onto his first target; the instant he received a smooth continuous buzz in his headset, informing of a locked target, he fired his first missile, as Shorty did the same. The targeted Razorbacks had no chance, as the Sparrow missiles hit home and exploded, tearing the fighters apart. Yeager and Shorty darted through the gap where the destroyed Razorbacks would have been in the enemy formation.

Other pilots throughout the area entered into their own dogfights. Attack craft weaved in between and around ships to evade interceptors and AA batteries, launching their explosive payloads in kind as they went.

Long range ship weapons were mostly forgotten, as the two opposing fleets began to intertwine. Point defense missiles, and close range turrets became the main weapons of choice for many ships; even AA batteries were used by some of the smaller ships.

Opposing vessels exchanged fire like ancient pirate ships, but with dozens of miles between them. And even with their superior numbers, the Imperial fleet was on even footing with their Alliance counterparts, trading blow for blow.

However, they were proving more successful aboard the mining and orbital factories. A few of the Imperial Union stations had begun repelling the invading forces.

A station suddenly and without warning exploded; but it hadn't been hit from the outside. It wasn't clear if the fighting inside had caused a reactor breach, or if one of the sides had decided that if they couldn't have it no one could, and had intentionally triggered an overload. All that was certain was that anyone that had been aboard that station was now dead.

As the battle continued to rage the Alliance vessel, the USS Looking Glass, detected a massive gravitational disturbance from in-system.

Yet another fleet appeared from the same direction the Alliance task force had. Only a few seconds after exiting warp, the almost 400 newly arrived and still unidentified vessels opened fire. On both sides. Plasma and laser fire rained down on both fleets. There was no mistaking the energy based weapons of the Solar System Core.

At the back of the SSC fleet was their proud flagship, the Super Nova-class, Super Heavy Cruiser, the SSCS Cathedra Solaris. The Cathedra Solaris measured over three miles long, and while not as big as the flagships of the other factions, they were huge and just as powerful. Unlike the other factions, the Solar System Core used highly advanced shielding and energy based weapons. The Super Nova-class vessels had the most advanced energy weapons of all; its main cannon fired, not super dense slugs, but a bolt of superheated plasma which could turn a small frigate into a cloud of ionized particles. It also possessed twelve plasma torpedo banks, and hundreds of pulse laser banks. The Super Novas' energy weapons and multilayered shielding were powered by a Micro-Nova reactor, a much smaller version of the Hemisphere-class' Super-Nova reactor. The vessel's long, sleek, body looked far more advanced than any other, a trait all SSC ships possessed; the bow section split into two angled sections in the shape of an upside down V that had been split apart slightly, and positioned just under the split tip of the bow was the Nova Cannon. Protruding just out past the end of the bow, the end massive plasma cannon was split into three evenly sized parts, like the muzzle flash suppressor of a assault rifle, and positioned in the shape of a split upside down triangle.

Metal glowed and boiled away, as scolding hot plasma splashed against the armored hulls of warships like water against rock. Unlike water however, it burned through anything in its path. Near misses caused the dark armor plating of ships to glow red hot, then blue with heat as the plasma torpedoes moved closer; then the titanium alloy armor cooled to red and finally back to its natural dark color as the plasma passed.

Retrorockets fired from the forward port side of the Hampshire swinging the ship's bow hard to starboard, and bringing the newly installed rail cannon to bear on the nearby SSC corvette, Truth's Breath. Before now the Hampshire had only provided close support for larger vessels with its point defense missiles and turrets, and had yet to use the new rail cannon. The capacitors were already charged, and a 400ton slug was loaded into the rail chamber. When the firing solution was confirmed, the primary capacitor bank was switched open, sending a surge of immense power through the opposite polar rails. As the slug completed the electric circuit the perpendicular magnetic fields produced by the flow of electric current through the slug and polar rails, accelerated the round forward to around 40 kilometers per second as it left the cannon. The entire superstructure of the Hampshire groaned in protest of the unfamiliar weapon's recoiling force.

For only a second the round shot through the void, passing between other ships engaging one another, before it hit its intended target. The corvette's shields flared into existence, shimmering like silver waves, as the slug slammed headlong into it and vaporized from the impact. But the shields were unable to completely protect the vessel from the impact of the weapon and the hull began to buckle beneath the shield. Violent ripples traveled over the protective barrier, spreading out all across the surface trying to spread and disperse the impact's energy over its entire surface area. But the small size of the corvette compared to other ships meant that its shielding had far less surface area in which to disperse the energy. Finally the whole shield was ablaze with silvery waves of energy, then it flickered once, twice, and then a third time, disappearing completely as the shield failed.

Not wanting to miss the window of opportunity that had been opened; Captain Reeds commanded the cannon be fired a second time, before the enemy corvette could reform its shields. "Lieutenant Scott, is the secondary capacitor bank charged?" He asked over the comm.

"Yes Captain;" came Lieutenant Scott's reply over the radio, "everything is all shinny."

"I need you to reroute the main rail cannon's power conduits in a way that will let us use whatever power is left in the primary capacitor bank in tandem with the secondary capacitors."

Scott's oil stained face was that of absolute shock. "Captain, doing that could fry half the power conduits on the ship…," he paused for a second, "and there is a slight possibility that it could tear the cannon apart, possibly ripping a few of the top sections of the ship off along with it."

"Could you do it, Mr. Scott…?" Was all the captain said.

Scott let out a heavy sigh, thinking of what it could do to the old girl, and after mentally reviewing the power distribution grids of the ship he gave a simple; "Give me three minutes tops."

True to his word, after less than three minutes the primary and secondary capacitors were linked. Not long after, the slow process of loading the next slug was complete as well. Not wanting to waste a second more, Captain Reeds ordered to fire the main cannon. Once again the Hampshire shook from the recoil, as the round accelerated towards the damaged corvette. Reeds hopped they had beat the recharging of the corvette's shields.

The slug soon reached the damaged ship, impacting… the shield. Reeds' heart sank, if the enemy corvette survived this shot, the Hampshire would be a sitting duck; even if the cannon was still functional, both capacitor banks were drained. But then almost as quickly as the barrier had appeared, it failed, as it was ripped apart and bypassed by the rail slug. It hadn't been able to recharge completely, just enough to form a weak and feeble shield concentrated in one area; but the extra power imparted to the slug by the combined capacitor banks allowed it to easily break through the shield, with plenty of energy left over to punch a hole straight through the center of the corvette's bow. The powerful slug tore through the center of the ship, gutting the inside, and blew an exit hole out the back three times the size of the entrance hole.

The Hampshire did not get off so easily either. On the bridge sparks were shooting out of several monitors, control panels, and power conduits, as they were overloaded. Down in engineering the main weapons' conduits were now nothing more than a useless chunk of molten metal. While the Hampshire was not totally out of the fight, its new main weapon most certainly was.

Outside, the battle was only growing in ferocity with every passing moment now that three fleets were duking it out. Distances closed between ships, as they used anything they could to take down their opponents; while still trying to evade incoming fire, and ward off fighter attacks.

The dogfights had escalated to a whole new level of ferocity themselves, with the addition of the SSC's Attack Darts; which were only capable of flight outside of an atmosphere. The Attack Dart was the main attack fighter single craft of the SSC navy. Their long, slender, triangular prism shape made them truly unique amongst fighter craft; the nose of the fuselage tapered down to a sharp point, the "wings" and fuselage were inseparably one and the same, shaped as an arcing delta wing shape. Their lack of aerodynamic properties made them useless in an atmosphere, but in the empty vacuum of space that didn't matter; their incredible speed and considerably smaller cross-section, made them hard targets to hit.

Without the gravitational inertial dampeners in all spacecraft, the supersonic acceleration, speeds, and super high-G maneuvers that the pilots were subjected to would crush their bodies. It was thanks to this the F-30A Eagle Champion could use its freely rotating engines to their full potential, and allowed it to completely change its direction on a dime; but even then there had to be safeguards and limiters to protect the pilots and the fighter. The maneuverability of the Alliance single craft was one of the few things that gave them the edge over their counterparts.

Yeager was one of the best dogfighters in the Alliance, and it was all thanks to his original profession as a test pilot. Even compared to other fighter pilots he was an adrenaline junky; pushing the limits of what a craft was physically capable of and what his body could handle. What would be considered an insane maneuver by any sane individual, Yeager did because he decided he could. With the arrival of the SSC and their own combat craft the dogfights weren't going well. Yeager and Shorty had been separated by a large group of SSC and Imperial fighters, and even though he would never openly admit it, Yeager knew he was in trouble; with three Darts and two Razorbacks on his tail.

"Now it's gettin' interesting," *Beep!**Beep!**Beep!* Yeager looked down at his center LED display showing a flashing red dot racing towards his fighter, *Missile Launch Detected* a female like computer voice warned; "Persistent little bastards." He quickly launched canister flair counter measures to intercept the missile, and just before the missile hit his fighter it was intercepted by one of the canisters, pelting his fighter with hundreds of metal fragments.

"You still breathing Yeager?" questioned Shorty's voice over the radio.

"Yeah I'm still here, how are you holding up on your end?"

"These guys just keep coming, I shake one and two more try to turn my ass into swiss cheese ." Shorty responded over the radio.

Another near miss forced Yeager to change coarse yet again, and he knew at this rate it was only a matter of time before one of the enemy fighters got a lucky hit. That is when he had a moment of what most would call insanity; "Hey Shorty, I think I'm feeling a little tipsy turvy."

"You can't be serious Yeager! You do that and you're dead for sure." Shorty knew exactly what Yeager meant, and what he was planning to do.

"Yeah, yeah. That is what my old flight instructor used to say all the time." He began flipping switches and pressing buttons on the various control consoles, and warnings started popping up all over the screens as he did.


"Don't do it Yeager! You're going to get your ass blown out of the sky." Shorty continued to try and reason with his wing leader.

"Alright, just one more switch." Yeager commented, reaching down and flipping the red safety guard for a switch. Below the switch the factory label was covered by a piece of tape with a hand written label which said, 'Crazy Ivan' in black marker. With his thumb primed to flip the switch Yeager lifted his head back up and said as if talking to his opponents, "Here's something you can't do." He flipped the switch, and yanked back on his directional thruster controls. Both main engines spun around a full 180 degrees and went to full throttle backwards and the four smaller thrusters began rotating wildly. Instantly all its forward momentum was overpowered and Yeager's fighter shot straight back at full acceleration, as the erratic spinning of the four smaller thrusters caused the nose of the craft to pitch up and the fighter to start spinning in every axis like a out of control top. Inside, Yeager was being crushed against his restraints from the sudden and dramatic changes in direction; even with the gravitational inertia dampeners, his body was being put under more G's then the members of a space shuttle crew on takeoff and he was just fighting to stay conscious. In seconds he shot past the group of pursuers as they scrambled to avoid colliding with the out of control fighter, breaking their target locks and forcing them to split apart. Once he had shot behind them he adjusted the smaller thrusters' throttles so that his fighter was spinning along the length of the fuselage, so the nose of his fighter was still facing the scattering formation. Several low growling sounds started sounding in his headset and he pulled his launch trigger, firing several missiles from within the internal compartments of his Eagle Champion straight towards some of his would be pursuers; two hit home while the third missed, but it forced his attackers to call off their assault for now. Yeager quickly righted his fighter and reengaged the safeties before speaking again to his wingman, "No what was that you were saying?"

Volleys of plasma torpedoes shone in stark contrast to the blackness of space and the orange and red clouds of Jupiter, like blue comets of fire. An Alliance destroyer, an Imperial cruiser, as well as any combat craft surrounding them were caught in a volley of five such plasma torpedoes. The smaller combat craft were vaporized before they contacted the plasma, their occupants' boiled alive long before that. As the torpedoes approached the two ships, the armored hulls of the two vessels began to glow red, then blue, then as the torpedoes splashed against their hulls the metal became white hot. The armor boiled like water, the inner structures groaned and screeched in pain as the bulkheads were wrenched apart by the expanding of the metal under the extreme heat; and the very air inside became so hot it began spontaneously combusting and turning into plasma, causing more and more air explosions. Soon enough, the reactors went super critical and all that remained of the ships was a large cloud of ionized particles.

The Nova Cannon, the main weapon of the Cathedra Solaris, was far more powerful; when it fired on an Alliance light cruiser the mass of plasma washed over the vessel like water over sand, leaving behind nothing in its fiery wake except another ionized cloud.

However, unlike the Alliance and Imperial Union forces, the Solar System Core had no interest in the capturing of the space stations; they were just more targets to destroy. Pulse-lasers and plasma torpedoes sporadically bombarded stations at random.

When the situation seemed to be completely unsalvageable and that the entire Alliance 3rd Fleet was doomed to destruction; an SSC Constellation-class Heavy Battleship, a vessel over 7,500 feet in length, was completely and utterly annihilated in a blinding flash of light with absolutely no warning. There seemed to have been absolutely no resistance against or protection from whatever had destroyed it offered by the shields of the former vessel.

On the command bridge of the USS Enterprise, this did not go unnoticed. The Admiral looked to one of his radar operators and barked at them in his gruff yet commanding voice, "Lieutenant, what in the Sam Hill was that!"

"I don't know sir, there isn't anything on– " the flustered officer began to explain before he was cut off by the beeping indicating an incoming transmission.

Several seconds later the image of a woman appeared on the main view screen, a sly grin plastered across her face. The woman couldn't have been any older than her mid to late forties based on the way she carried herself, but looking at her, one would probably mistake her for far younger. Standing at around 5'9" her body was lean and muscular, her skin and features were soft, but denoted her strength. She was well endowed not only physically but mentally as well, her eyes were those of a gifted leader and tactician. Her clearly not standard issue clothing only accentuated her very feminine form; the form fitting black long sleeve leather jacket came down from her shoulders and crossed over one another over her chest, still showing plenty of her ample chest, and was fastened by three large clasps running down her abdomen. Her pants were long dark brown leather and closely hugged her legs, and she wore long knee-high black leather boots. "Admiral George 'Bulldog' Halsey," she began with a slight jeer in her voice; "I should have guessed you'd be part of this when we first detected this battle. Only the infamous Mad Bulldog could make such a ruckus that it could be heard clear across to the other side of the galaxy. I guess some things just never change."

"I'm not sure if that's a compliment or an insult coming from you, Isabella." The Admiral countered the woman with his own mocking tone.

His reply only made the woman's grin deepen even more before she replied; "I would never speak with anything but the upmost respect for a man such as yourself," her voice dripping with sarcasm; but even then the solid tone of her sharp, commanding, yet still very feminine voice showed that she held nothing but the highest respect for the man.

"So what can I do to help the Commander and Chief of the Senatorial Grand Fleet, Fleet Chancellor Helen Isabella?" Admiral Halsey inquired, his own voice filled with sarcastic grandeur when speaking the titles; but his voice also showed his upmost respect towards the woman and her position.

"I believe the best answer to that my old friend is: 'What is it I can do for you?'" Was all the Chancellor gave for a reply.

Suddenly all the gravitational distortion readings went off the charts on not only the bridge of the Enterprise, but every gravimeter in the sector, even the much less sensitive detectors in the combat craft. An instant later one enormous reading appeared on every radar screen, dwarfing everything else other than the gas giant in every imaginable way. But radar was a pointless redundancy in this case, because the object which was causing it was clearly visible to anyone gifted with the ability to see. Time itself seemed to slow to a stop as all sides were rendered speechless by the sight of the titanic object which had appeared from the direction of the outer system. Many had never laid eyes on it or any such thing like it. It was a ship… no… it was a space station… no, it wasn't a space station either…

It was the Super Platform, Hemisphere-class ship, RSS New Hope. The largest and most powerful vessels ever conceived, the Hemisphere-class ships were the most imposing in existence. They were in so very much a class of their own that a new type of ship classification had to be created to even remotely describe them; stretching for more than fifty-five miles, spanning over fifteen miles wide, standing higher than fourteen miles tall, and carrying a huge landmass within its gargantuan six mile high, forty-eight mile long oblong semi-dome, they were dubbed Super Platforms. The hull of the vessel stretched four miles out beyond the forward most point of the dome's rim, the dome sat atop the massive main body of the vessel for the next forty-eight miles before it joined up with a rear superstructure standing six and a quarter miles above the main body of the ship, a quarter mile higher than the point where it joined the oblong semi-dome, and the rear superstructure continued for the final three miles of the ship.

The New Hope's main weapon the mighty Hemis-MAC ran through the center of the vessel's massive hull, just below the landmass within the dome and measured forty miles long; the end of the massive cannon protruded just passed the tip of the bow. But the weapon did not just dwarf all others in simply length, no its ammunition dwarfed some ships. The Hemis-Round, or Hemis-Slug, was the size of a Nimitz-class Super carrier of the early 21st century; and weighing in at over 100,000 tons, it weighed just as much. When fired, by the time the slug left the cannon it would be traveling at around 120,000 kilometers per second, 40% the speed of light. The amount of force on impact was all but immeasurable, and inconsequential by any means. When a Hemis-Round is fired it became the closest thing to an unstoppable force in existence. On impact with a massive enough target it simply ripped the atoms of it and the target apart, converting both to pure energy.

At the heart of the vessel sat the only thing powerful enough to power the titanic ship, the Super Nova reactor. The reactor was like the heart of a miniature star, burning with the intensity of a thousand Suns.

Too big to be moved by normal engines which relied on physical thrust; the Hemisphere-class used engines which moved space itself. Relying on the same principle as warp drive, where the expansion and contraction of the space around an object pushes and pulls that object, the engines of the Hemisphere-class were able to move the vessel at impulse speeds, the normal cruising speed of ships, by distorting the space behind the ship.

Slowly the New Hope began to move until the three fleets were directly between itself and the mighty gas giant Jupiter; passively assuring anyone who wanted to continue aggressions against the Alliance forces or itself, that it was willing to use the massive Hemis-MAC again without hesitation. Normally it would never be fired against anything, even meteoroids unless its firing line pointed out into interstellar space where it couldn't do any unintended damage. But in this case it had the perfect barrier with which to stop the Hemis-Rounds that missed, or simply went through their target, a planet that almost became a star, a gas giant. The giant planet was one of the few things that could take the awesome destructive power of the Hemis-MAC without a problem.

Then to the surprise and shock of everyone, even the seasoned Alliance Admiral, several SSC ships and even an Imperial battle cruiser fired on the New Hope; the SSC vessels fired a volley of ten plasma torpedoes, and the Imperial battle cruiser fired its main MAC cannon. The much faster MAC round reached the New Hope first; slamming against the titanic vessel midway up the dome. But it didn't actually hit the transparent dome, it hit some previously invisible barrier coving it, a shield. A small section of the brilliant and smooth blanket of energy became visible at the point the round impacted it; the protective blanket shone with a brilliant semi-translucent silvery gold light which spread across the shield like the petals of a budding flower as the energy was dissipated over the surface of the shield. Then the plasma torpedoes caught up and began pounding against the shield around where the MAC round had hit; their superheated plasma splashed over the smooth sea of silvery-gold beneath them. But throughout the unrelenting onslaught the shield remained strong, not a single ripple ran across its shimmering surface; a bombardment that would have destroyed entire ships was brushed aside like dust in the wind.

Admiral Halsey was speechless, partly due to the awesome strength of the vessel's shields, but mostly because of the blatant stupidity of those ships which had fired on the New Hope. To blatantly target the habitation zone's dome was not only pointless with such comparatively weak firepower, but also considered to be one of the most atrocious of acts and greatest of war crimes by the Republic. Firing on the hull of the vessel was deemed a permissible military action of war by the Republic for it was considered a military force. But the habitable zone was officially considered a separate entity and a civilian non-combatant zone, where the families of those who served either aboard the ship or accompanying vessels lived, as well as refugees and other humanitarian aids were based. And to fire directly against non-combatant civilians or humanitarian personnel was considered absolutely unacceptable by the Republic, for which the penalty was death; not just the death of the offending vessel's captain, but the vessel and all aboard. They had signed their own death warrants.

That train of thought brought him to a sudden and shocking realization, something that should have been so blatantly obvious that everyone had overlooked it. 'Accompanying vessels,' there weren't any other ships with the New Hope. But that couldn't be right, where was the fleet of Republic and Alliance ships that made up the New Hope's task force called the New Hope Fleet? Those ships were duty-bound to guard and protect the New Hope at all times and at any cost, there was no way they would ever leave it unguarded. Halsey knew that those ships were somewhere nearby watching, but where he wondered.

At that very moment Fleet Chancellor Helen Isabella slowly closed her eyes and shook her head ever so slightly side to side, as if in slight pity. The Admiral watched as she slowly began to raise her left hand until her upper arm was in line with her collarbone, and her hand and forearm were directed up at a ninety degree angle to it. Then she simply started speaking, in a low, even tone almost a whisper; "And so the hammer fell…"

"Like lighting from the heavens;" Admiral Halsey began, continuing from where Helen had left off, it was one of the creeds of justice the Outer Republic had, and then he completed it. "The wrath of the gods above, and the Titans above them, came down upon the wicked to punish them for all their sins and destroy them." As he finished the Republic proclamation of justice it clicked; "ALL SHIPS BRACE FOR SHOCKWAVES!" he hastily ordered the Alliance fleet.

No sooner had he given the order than Helen let her hand drop forwards like a switch being thrown.

An instant later, dozens of brilliant starbursts of light flashed in the seemingly empty void of space far above Jupiter's northern pole. Bolts of light issued forth from the flashes, each like a great pillar of light which reached straight down past the northern hemisphere of the gas giant towards the equator, and into the sea of ships. They struck several Imperial and SSC ships, but the majority of them were focused on a select few; the very same vessels which had fired against the New Hope.

The loan Imperial battle cruiser that had fired on the New Hope was pulverized by four of the powerful MAC rounds; all four rounds hammered against the top of the ship in quick succession, smashing their way through the vessel until one reached its target, the reactor. Sections of the ship began to glow white with heat and small atmospheric explosions doted the hull; finally the battle cruiser disappeared in a blinding flash of light.

Many of the guilty SSC ships shared similar fates to the cruiser, their shields unable to stand against such an onslaught. Two of the vessels were directly above and below one another, but neither was spared. A MAC round slammed against the destroyer's shields, and tore a hole halfway through the vessel after breaking through the protective shield. Several more rounds followed the first, ripping into the broken ship's hull; one entered the scar made by the first and easily punched straight through the bottom, before smashing into the shields of the of the vessel below. Two of the rounds ripped through the upper ship with enough leftover energy to cause serious damage to the ship beneath; but one final blow was required to finish the two vessels off, each other.

After so many high speed MAC rounds hitting it, the top ship had been forced into a downwards direction, straight towards the one below and no way to correct its heading. The ship's bow crashed against the broken ship below, and ripped into the reactor core; both ships were consumed by the brilliant blast. Waves of energy ballooned out from the detonating vessels, slamming against all the surrounding ships, weakening shields, destroying subsystems, and pushing them away from the epicenter.

Over the next few minutes as the Imperial Union and SSC fleets attempted to reorganize after the unexpected assault, a new and massive armada of Republic ships approached the sea of opposing vessels. Nearly 450 Republic and 25 Alliance vessels joined the battle; the Alliance ships that had arrived alongside the Republic fleet were those that had been assigned as part of the New Hope Fleet. Leading the newly arrived Alliance fleet was the Yamato's sister-ship, the UAS Musashi.

Among the Republic forces there were ten of their Heavy Attack Cruiser, Titan-class vessels. Each Titan-class vessel was over 8,000 feet from stem to stern, and possessed an R-MAC cannon which not only could fire a super dense 3,000 ton slug at nearly 7,000 kilometers per second, but fire one every ten seconds for a minute straight if needed. They may be the smallest of the heavy cruisers but they were also by far the fastest.

Normally there were only around thirty Republic vessels in a Hemisphere task force, far fewer than the number of ships that had arrived; Helen Isabella had come ready for a fight. Now the stage was set for the largest space battle in history, and numbered well over 1,400 ships strong.

Once again all hell broke loose as ships opened up against one another at closer and closer ranges. Where before ships had engaged each other from several thousand meters; now they were only a few hundred meters or less.

The Yamato propelled itself through the tangled web of ships firing its mighty turrets in every direction at point blank range as it passed between enemy ships. At point blank range virtually nothing short of a capital ship could withstand a broadside from the Yamato's old but still just as deadly turrets. At times the ship even placed itself between much smaller allied vessels and their attackers, taking the blows against the extra armored plating positioned a short distance away from the main hull, giving the smaller ship time to fall back.

Keeping a fair distance from the main battle, the New Hope released thousands of tiny defense drones that looked like electronic eyes with four fin-like arms that created an X-shaped pattern when deployed. These tiny drones darted into the fray of the battle, swarming around Alliance and Republic ships alike. At the same time the New Hope was releasing swarms of what appeared to be little specks of light, each roughly a foot in length and shimmered like gold; they were attack drones that served as the main offensive weapons of the Hemisphere-class.

Ships pounded their opponents with every weapon at their disposal once again, be it anti-ship turrets, lasers, anti-fighter batteries, plasma torpedoes, or ship and combat craft launched missiles. No weapon was ruled out as ships passed within only a few dozen meters from one another; fighters darting between them still in their own dogfights.

A Republic Olympus-class vessel was assaulted by plasma and laser fire, the super dense meteoroid material which its armor was composed of resisted the high energy weapons as hard as it could, but soon it began to boil and buckle under the heat. Firing one last volley from its four twin-rail turrets the ship's hull failed and began to tear in two.

Elsewhere an SSC destroyer received a crippling blow from the R-MAC of a Titan-class. The powerful slug smashed into the protective shielding and into the port-side engines of the smaller ship, and was soon followed by another round to the engines.

Though the blow alone was not directly fatal, it sent the destroyer into a now uncontrollable spin, and set the ship on a collision course with Jupiter's atmosphere surrounding the planet's equator. Knowing their ship was doomed a few tried to escape death using the escape pods, but any that tried to launch were quickly pulverized by the rapidly spinning ship. Soon the ship hit the upper atmosphere of the planet and disappeared behind the orange rust colored clouds. Inside the gas giant's crushing atmosphere the hull of the vessel groaned in protest, the sounds of steel being pushed past its limits many times over filled the ship, and the ship was quickly crushed like a tin can.

Warning sirens screamed to life on the bridge of the Enterprise as a plasma torpedo was launched towards the command deck. Knowing there was no time to evade the attack, the bridge officers braced for impact; but to their great surprise and relief it never came. When they looked out the main viewing window all they could see was a brilliant sea of blue and gold light just meters away, it was a tri-shield deflecting the torpedo. A group of three defense drones had created a triangular shield between them, and though it caused the drones to overload it saved the entire Enterprise.

Throughout the battlefield the Republic defense drones did what they could to protect allied ships, even if all the shields could do was lessen the impact of a rail or MAC round. Attack drones darted through space in swarms, ramming into enemy fighters and bombarding opposing vessels with massive and overwhelming numbers. The attach drones had been designed for combat inside asteroid belts where they had to be able to weave around obstacles to reach their intended targets and they were proving their deadly effectiveness in such a chaotic and cluttered battlefield.

Danger came not only from weapons but from destroyed ships themselves. With such close quarters it was almost impossible to evade debris from other ships. In one case when a medium cruiser was torn in half by a MAC round the bow of the vessel was blown downwards away from the rest of the ship, and T-boned another much smaller ship cutting it in two.

But at the same time that the growing carnage of battle caused more destruction, it proved itself to be a saving grace for some. Throughout the battlefield clouds of ionized metal particles were all that remained of some ships, but provided salvation for others. Several Alliance ships flew into the clouds to shield themselves from a volley of plasma torpedoes; when the torpedoes hit the clouds of metal particles the magnetic field which held the plasma together was disrupted and the small metallic particles absorbed the energy of the plasma, and the clouds glowed red with energy for several seconds after.

For hours the fighting raged and losses on all sides began to grow. On many of the orbiting space platforms battles continued to rage, including the one Holly was on. She could hear the sounds of fighting getting closer and closer to the hangers. But all she could do was keep her Valkyrie ready to launch when the marines were aboard. Suddenly Sergeant Major Abrams, the squad commander of the squad Holly left had dropped off rushed into the Valkyrie's rear troop bay. He stopped next to the mysterious container and slid open a small control panel. Seeing this Holly left the cockpit to go see what he was doing, and find out what the situation was.

Outside the battle was about to reach its destructive climax.

The Titan-class vessel, RSS Colossus had destroyed yet another ship with its mighty R-MAC cannon, when it came under fire from the Cathedra Solaris. Wave upon wave of high energy weapons punished the though armored hull of the Colossus, but the ship was as though as its namesake implied, and it shrugged off the blows mostly unfazed.

But then the Cathedra Solaris fired its most powerful weapon, the Nova Cannon. A single massive bolt of plasma was sent burning through space straight towards the Colossus. Despite the crew's best effort to move out of the fiery plasma's path, it was already too late. Seconds later the plasma smashed against the underbelly of the ship, breaking like burning waves and covering the rear of the ship. Even the Colossus' super-dense skin was quickly boiled away by the burning plasma. Deck after deck was atomized by the advancing plasma; but because of the unusually tough alloys which made up the Colossus' skin enough of the plasma had been dispersed in the initial impact that it only penetrated half of the aft decks.

The damage was done however; the reactor containment generator was gone, atomized by the capital ship's main gun. Without the field generator the reactor's fusion reaction began to spiral out of control, causing system wide failures throughout the ship, and soon the reactor would go super-critical. Mighty as she was the ship was doomed, but instead of abandoning ship before losing total control, the crew of the dying Colossus gave one final act of defiance.

Pushing the crippled ship's engines to full power, well beyond what the damaged engines could take, it launched forwards; now on a direct collision course with the very ship which had mortally wounded it, the Cathedra Solaris. The SSC flagship fired anything it could bring to bear against the rampaging Colossus; but it was all in vein, there was no way to stop it now. When it was only a few hundred meters from impacting the top of the flagship, the Colossus fired one final R-MAC round into the vessel's shields.

Normally the powerful shields of the Cathedra Solaris, second only to those of the Hemisphere's , could have taken a single hit from a Titan's R-MAC; but the combination of hours of fighting wearing it down, and the chaotically fluctuating magnetic field of the point blank R-MAC shot proved too much. The powerful slug fired by the Colossus slammed into the Cathedra Solaris' energy shield with incredible force. When the slug hit the protective barrier the shield flared from clear to a brilliant silvery film around the ship like a turbulent sea of molten silver, the force from the impact and the magnetic field from the weapon itself bent and twisted the plasma, it sent massive ripples out in every direction.

The shield flickered for an instant more before blinking out of existence, the field generators having burnt out, allowing the remaining energy from the round to create a shallow gash in the capital ship's great hull. Though the shields had done their job and the ship was still intact, it was too late to evade the oncoming Colossus, its destruction imminent. The crippled Colossus was only fractions of a second from impact, charging at full speed towards destruction like an angry rhino, and there was no stopping the wounded beast.

Finally the charging Colossus crashed into the Cathedra Solaris with immeasurable and unrelenting force; even the Cathedra Solaris' massive superstructure bowed down and buckled underneath the force of the collision. As the bow of the Colossus impacted the top of the SSC's flagship, and the engines continued to push with everything they had at the sharp angle, the bow crumpled inwards as it tore into the monstrous flagship. Tearing a gash wider than two football fields and a fifth of a mile long into the hull and inner-superstructure of the larger Cathedra Solaris. For an instant the two ships became one, and at last the dying Colossus could take no more; the ship's reactor containment field failed, the hull of the once strong beast now torn and shredded began to glow red, then blue, and then white hot as the now runaway reaction of the matter/antimatter fusion reactor was released from its bonds.

An instant later the reactor went super-critical and exploded with a force greater than a 30 Megaton nuclear blast; vaporizing the Colossus and all its crew in the blink of an eye, and violently ripping the once proud flagship of the SSC fleet in two. Causing its massive Micro-Nova reactor to rupture; turning the ship's hull white hot, steel and composites bent and buckled under the great internal forces and heat. Metal boiled away like water and small pockets of atmosphere inside the titanic ship exploded with the power of multi-thousand pound bombs from the raw heat alone. And then, like the vaporized RSS Colossus, the ship was ripped apart molecule-by-molecule and atomized in a massive nuclear firestorm fueled by the power of a manmade star. A powerful blast wave shot out in every direction, rocking ships and space stations alike like tinker toys as it passed. The Honor ships charged with the protection of the SSC flagship fell victim to their charge; their shields and hulls as mighty as they were may as well have been dust against a blast with the power to level entire mountain ranges in an instant. All six of the unfortunate Honor ships were disintegrated by the point blank range blast as the wave of energy tore past and consumed them.

[ACESSING FILES: AUDIO LOG]… [TITLE: LAST AUDIOFILE RECORD OF RSS COLOSSUS; ACTING CAPTAIN: Commander Karen Ronaldson]… [FILE START: *static and alarms*… Captain reactor containment failing…*alarms*…Ready the MAC gun and prepare to fire on my mark…MAC gun loaded and ready to fire in ten seconds… Give me best possible speed and set collision course… Ma'am?... You heard me; if we are going to hell we are taking those bastards with us: Let's show them what happens when you mess with a Titan… Yes Ma'am!. Collision course set, 30 seconds to impact, reactor containment failure accelerated…15 seconds till impact.. All hands brace for impact!... 5 seconds till impact.. 4.. 3.. 2.. Fire!..*audio cuts out*… Minimal damage to enemy vessel.. It has been an honor serving with you all… Ma'am… *impact… audio source lost…*… FILE END]...

Back aboard the space station, the powerful shockwave shook the whole station with the strength of an 8.5 earthquake. Holly was barely able to remain standing by grabbing onto a storage rack bar; the Sergeant Major had not been so lucky, his head bleeding from where he had been thrown against the hard metal wall of the transport. She quickly rushed to help the man up, but when she tried to move him a harsh grunt of pain came through his clenched teeth.

'His back must have been broken' she thought.

But even with this he forced himself into a sitting position against the cold metal. "Forget about me;" he grunted, "what about the cargo?"

Holly looked over to the broken screen on the container and answered; "It looks busted. What is that thing anyways?"

Silently cursing to himself the Sergeant Major reluctantly replied, "It's a thermo-nuclear warhead, we wer-"

He was cut off by Holly's enraged voice. "What the FUCK! You strapped a nuke to my ship, and didn't even think it was a good idea to tell me!" She was furious that they had stuck a giant bomb to her precious Valkyrie, her baby.

"We.. were ordered," he continued each word harder than the last, "to blow.. the station… if we couldn't capture it… But now the timer is all kinds of fucked to hell,... so the only way to detonate it is with a remote detonator.. and we an't got one."

An explosion suddenly shook the transport once more as a rocket tore into the Valkyrie parked next to it. The Sergeant Major was thrown out of the Valkyrie's open rear drop ramp; but as Holly reached for him another near miss sent shrapnel everywhere. When she looked back towards him she saw a large piece of metal lodged in his throat, he was dead. Adrenaline now coursing through her veins, she rushed back to the cockpit and punched the drop ramp close switch, yelling for Cynthia to start launching while she strapped in. The Valkyrie took off not a second too soon as another rocket hit where it had been seconds before, setting off all kinds of warning alarms in the transport.

Relinquishing the controls to Holly, Cynthia unloaded question after question on Holly, "What happened back there? Where are the marines? Why is there blood on your suit?"

At the last question Holly looked down at her flight suit and found that there was indeed blood staining it, and the stain was getting bigger. There was a deep wound just below her left lung; with all the adrenaline in her system she hadn't even noticed the painful hole in her. Once they had escaped the defense grid of the station and were drawing near to a friendly ship allowing fighters to land she let out a long sigh, as an unwanted realization washed over her over her. The landing gear had been damaged by the rocket attacks, and she couldn't risk a crash landing with a partially activated nuke onboard.

"Well doesn't this fuckin' suck big ones…" she cursed her luck.

Still unaware of what was sitting in the hold of the transport Cynthia gave a questioning "What?"

"I didn't expect it to end this way;" Holly began to speak, more to herself than anyone else, "I always figured I would die in some boring ass way." Slowly she pulled a chain from within her flight suit and began to fiddle with it absent mindedly; it was her dog tags, but between them sat an old crucifix. "It's too damned soon to die… Damn this sucks…"

"Holly what are you talking about? We're almost to that Alliance ship, we can get you patched up and you'll be fine."

Taking one last look at the necklace, she said; "No Cyn… You're not going to die here, I won't let that happen. Ha, you know.. It's funny, I never even believed in God." With that she pulled on the chain around her neck until it broke. "Never expected to have to be some damned hero, sacrificing myself for a bunch of fuckin' soldiers."

Slowly Cynthia was piecing together what Holly was saying, and then it hit her; the only reason why Holly wouldn't risk a crash landing during combat, but she couldn't bring herself to believe it. "Holly what happened back there? What is in that container?"

"You know damned well what's in there Cyn."

"It's a nuke isn't?"

"Bingo, and the damned bitch is armed and ready to blow."

"Maybe we can eject." Cynthia suggested hopefully.

"Nope, can't let an armed nuke loose in space. Sorry Cyn. There ain't no other way, one of us has to stay behind."

"Then let me stay;" Cynthia yelled, "or let me come with you! You don't have to do this alone Holly." She was on the verge of tears now.

Holly just let out another sigh before speaking, "Cyn, I need you to do something for me;" she threw the broken necklace over her seat and into Cynthia's lap above, "I need ya' to make sure my brother gets that. He may have disappeared from the face of the Earth, but he sure as hell ain't dead. I need you to give him that and tell him he still owes me that drink."

"No!" Cynthia protested, "I won't leave. I don't care what you say, I'm not going anywhere."

"Sorry Cyn… But you don't get to choose." With that Holly triggered the copilot ejection system, and two glass panels sealed the copilot seat independently of the rest of the cockpit. Once both sections were sealed the retro rockets launched Cynthia's section out and away from the transport straight into the open hanger of the Alliance carrier.

After recovering from the unexpected ejection Cynthia radioed Yeager. "Yeager, you have to stop Holly! She has a live nuke, and she's going to use it!" By this point she was crying.

Yeager was quick to respond, switching his comm. to speak to both Holly and Cynthia. "What do you think you're gonna do with that nuke Holly?"

Holly calmly activated her radio, "I'm gonna use it. What the fuck else?"

"Holly, now you don't need to be goin' off to be some damn hero, and you went and upset poor little Cyn. That just an't like you."

That brought a small pained smile to Holly's lips. "I don't wanna be some fuckin' stupid hero; that shit just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like your mother Yeager."

Holly watched as the Grand Sovereign grew larger and larger. She was going to fly right down its throat, the center Super-MAC gun.

"Holly you stupid, selfish, uncaring bitch… and… Damn it Holly!..." Cynthia finally broke down completely; "I hate you! Hate, hate, hate…" she screamed until she was hoarse.

Holly just closed her eyes, "I know Cyn; I'm sorry... Hey Yeager?"

"Yeah Holly?" Yeager knew it was hopeless to try and talk her out of it.

"I think I need an escort." She looked at the swarms of interceptors between her and her target.

"You got it girl. Grim Reapers lets–"

"Don't think you can go die all on your own battle sister." A female voice interrupted Yeager over the radio.

"Bella?" Holly hadn't heard that voice in years. Not since she had been part of the Valkyrie wing of the Sisters of Battle squadron; an all female air squadron which had some of the best pilots in the system.

"You may not fly with us anymore, but you will always be one of our sisters. We protect our own and we will fly alongside you one last time." Bella responded to her fellow female pilot.

"You insult me by excluding me from such a fight comrades." Complained a man with a deep and gravely rough voice with the thick tone of a Russian accent.

"Yuri! You thick russki guerrilla." Yeager called out. "How in Sam's hell are you still alive you drunk son of a bitch?"

A cheerful laugh roared through the radio in reply; "Hohoho! As flattering as ever my friend! Though I know not this Sam you talk of but he must be strong, of that I am sure. This shall be a battle remembered for many decades through our comrades' tales and songs of glory."

Yeager couldn't help but nod in agreement. "Ya' sure you want ta join this ride? It could be your last."

"Then I shall make it a grand one! As they speak in whispers of your deeds, they shall drink and sing to mine. Death is teeny tinny mouse to men like I and you my friend. But our dear malen'kaya sestra makes us seem like child's stuffed bear by comparison. Truly I grow envious of the great honor awaiting her after this glorious day." Yuri spoke with great joy and celebration.

"I ain't any of you idiots' little sister!" yelled Holly. "Especially not yours you drunk Ivan bastard. And who asked you to help me anyways?"

"Little Holly is more terrifying than bitch ex-wife, and just as cold to try denying me chance at such a grand fight. Me and my men shall lead way into fight, for our armor is thick and our bullets heavy. Come my comrades let us be Holly's shield!" Yuri roared with pride and zeal, ready to charge into almost certain death.

Yeager chimed in, not about to let Yuri steal his thunder. "Alright gentlemen… and ladies;" he started, making sure he included everybody, "lets plow the road!"

Only seconds later a dozen Eagle Champions marked with the Grim Reaper belonging to Yeager's squadron, the flying Grim Reapers, formed up in an angled alternating phalanx formation to the forward and left of Holly's Valkyrie. The Grim Reapers were quickly followed by over a dozen more Eagle Champions embossed with a screaming skull with long white hair in front of two crossed swords, marking them as belonging to the Sisters of Battle, mirrored the Grim Reapers' formation to her front right. Finally a group of nine AC-62 Stalin craft sporting the hammer and anvil of the Russian Forge formed the spearhead at the head of the formation taking the lead.

The Russian designed and built AC-62 Stalin embodied the classic Russian ideology of design; overly simplistic in design and far over engineered in sheer mass and material strength, it earned the name 'Stalin' Russian for 'one of steel'. Sometimes referred to as the 'Gremlin' for its ugly and disproportional size and appearance; it was far too big and bulky to be called a fighter or attack craft, and wasn't capable of carrying supplies or personnel like a support craft would, it was in a class of its own as a heavy arms gunship. Originally the Stalin was designed and built as a space construction vehicle for large projects such as mining operations, asteroid based and free body space stations, and ship construction. Because it was a meant for civilian applications it had no actual weapons, instead the construction variant had anywhere from two to four mechanical manipulation arms; the outer skin and inner support structure was over engineered to allow massive objects to be handled by only one or two of them. The wings were more like stubs attached to each of the four massive engines which were equal in size to the Valkyrie's main engines and like the smaller Eagle Champion they had full rotational freedom on their axis'; the short wings allowed for closer proximity work by reducing the danger of clipping the wings on objects around them, that plus a forward armor thickness of 5.5" and a minimum of 4.5" armor around the rest of the craft made it perfect for potentially explosive jobs in mining. Inevitably a contractor for the Republic military took the large flat-faced pug-nosed vehicle, stripped it of the manipulator arms, and equipped it with as many as 4 interior missile bays, 3 exterior rocket pods, 4 forward facing chain guns, dual miniguns mounted under the nose, and increased the front armor to 6.5". Some variants sacrificed the dual miniguns, a rocket pod, and 3 of the missile bays to equip a belly mounted 150mm gauss coil gun a miniaturized version of the MAC guns mounted to large ships that could fire kinetic kill or high explosive ammunition. The end result was a slow moving mechanical brute able to shrug off hits that would shred attack craft and continue to fight even with over 30 percent of the craft reduced to scrap, while it could pay back the blows with plenty of interest. Three of the nine Stalin gunships in Yuri's group where equipped with gauss cannons, including his own.

More than 60 Imperial Razorback interceptors positioned themselves between the oncoming Valkyrie and its escort, and their flagship the Grand Sovereign. The Razorbacks rushed forward to intercept the new threat as far away from the Imperial flagship as possible. Unaware of the true threat held within the dropship's belly.

Yuri led his wing of Stalin heavy arms gunships in an unrelenting charge straight for the titanic vessel, followed closely by the Grim Reapers and Sisters of Battle with Holly's wounded Valkyrie at the center of the formation. Yuri crying out: "TO DEATH AND GLORY!" All hell was unleashed. Eagle Champions and Stalin gunships alike released a hell storm of fire as one; bullets, rockets, missiles, and gauss rounds were hurled at the interceptors, many without even bothering to lock onto a target.

Even without aiming the effect of the opening salvo was devastating. Razorbacks were mutilated by the 30mm rounds from the fighters' miniguns and shredded by the crippling 60mm chain guns of the heavy gunships; before they could even retaliate, nearly 20 interceptors were stopped dead in their tracks; the remaining fighters unleashed their own wall of firepower in return just before the incoming missiles and rockets reached them.

Only one of the three gauss rounds hit and utterly demolished an interceptor, while the remaining two shot past the defenders and slammed against the Imperial flagship's hull destroying an anti-fighter missile turret.

The slower missiles and rockets finally reached the swarm of Razorbacks; most of the missiles that had been locked before firing were diverted by the wall of decoy flairs released by the fighters while others hit their mark, and a few got lucky hits. Unaffected by flairs the unguided rockets hit anything that dared stand in their way; most of the rockets and a handful of missiles raced past the fighters and beat against the flagship's hull like an army of mad drummers, tearing into and destroying dozens of defense batteries.

A wall of fire and steel from the interceptors reached the attacking formation hoping to return the favor. However the counter attack was far less successful than its offensive counterpart made by the ragtag group of attackers, partly due to the difference in the two sides' respective skill levels. But the main reason was because of the crazy Russians that formed the spearhead of the group and their massive metal beasts of burden.

Whether he had truly intended to or not Yuri's decision to lead the headlong charge into the fight proved to work as a moving wall of steel protecting the wounded transport and several other craft purely by their presence, and many of the missiles that had locked onto a target had locked onto the aircraft in the front of the formation. Any fighter hit was shredded by the missiles and hail of 30mm rounds, but with the AC-62 Stalin heavy gunships it was a different story entirely. The deadly 30mm armor piercing rounds either bounced off or were pulverized harmlessly when they met the gunships' incredibly thick and dense metal skin. Missiles that weren't diverted by decoys and managed to hit at a sharp enough angle had more of an effect, but the mechanical beasts simply continued their charge completely disregarding the wounds their enemies inflicted.

Both sides continued to fire everything they had against one another, and when the attacking craft were within range the point-defense batteries unloaded their own forms of punishment.

By the time Holly was about ready to break away from the protective net guarding her several Eagle Champions had fallen to enemy fire, and still more were running out or were out of ammunition but they continued to push. Even the flying fortresses that were the AC-62 Stalin gunships were feeling the newly focused and unending onslaught against them from the heavy defense emplacements; but even when the Stalin immediately to Yuri's left was dealt a fatal blow the pilot made sure he wouldn't be going to hell alone. Veering to the left he sent the dying beast into a kamikaze run, the forward right engine almost instantly collided with and pulverized an unlucky Razorback but that didn't stop the metal goliath; the gunship continued forward at full speed as it was pummeled by more defense turrets, seconds later it hit home crashing into the flagship, taking out a heavy turret on impact and several smaller emplacements as it skidded along the hull bulldozing through them before it finally exploded.

Not to be outdone by their fallen comrade's final act of bravery and defiance, when two more of the gunships were brought to their knees they too charged their enemies making sure to take as many of them with them as possible.

Finally Holly pulled away from her escorts and moved to the mouth of the Grand Sovereign's center Super-MAC gun.

As the remaining escorts began to peel off and turn back towards friendlier skies Holly spoke to Yeager and her guardians. "If you ever tell people about this, you better not say I said some fuckin' profound shit; or any showy crap like that. Or I swear… I will come back to haunt you."

Yeager gave a low laugh; "I wouldn't dream of it doll face."

"Good…" Was Holly's simple reply; she didn't even bother complaining about him calling her doll face.

Bella took advantage of the rare opportunity to see one of her fellow Battle Sisters off, even if Holly wasn't technically part of the sisterhood anymore. "You will always be one of us Holly. I am truly happy that you were allowed to choose your own death on your own terms. I can only pray that I too will one day be given that privilege."

Holly just cracked a smile, barely able to chuckle through the pain of a collapsed lung. She hated sentimental crap like that, but she really didn't care anymore.

Even Yuri chose to say his farewells. "Holly my friend! You have brought honor to us all this day; I am honored to have been allowed the privilege to fly next to you here one last time. Now I have high bar set for me to earn tale's as grand as those I shall tell of you! To show my great thanks and admiration; on this day for the remainder of my years I shall pore entire bottle of my finest vodka onto ground, that you too may share a drink with us in celebration of this day!"

This time Holly really wanted to laugh, but she couldn't. She was more of a bourbon kind of girl, but she knew that in his own thick headed way; Yuri was really trying to say that he would miss her, and was going to remember her the way he knew best, celebrating.

Looking down to her control panel, she began preparing for her plan. While the Sergeant Major had been right about not having a remote detonator, there was still a way to detonate the nuke. The cargo palates used by the Valkyrie dropship used explosive bolts and booster rockets for airdrops; but if there just so happened to be something like an active nuke on it and the drop ramp just so happened to still be closed giving it nowhere to go; it was a perfect brute force detonator.

Soon she entered the massive barrel of the Super-MAC gun and continued to move deeper into it.

Those aboard the bridge of the Grand Sovereign were completely unaware of what was traveling down the very Super-MAC gun they were preparing to fire; that is until a message came across the main view screen. There was a three dimensional diagram of the Grand Sovereign which showed a small red dot traveling down the central cannon. Then a text box with an arrow pointing to the flashing red dot appeared with a skull and crossbones on the left side of the text box. Immediately two short phrases appeared next to the skull, simple saying: '[Life fuckin' sucks… Don't it fuckin' suck to be you…]' The text was quickly followed by a second symbol, the symbol representing nuclear radiation.

Holly chuckled one last time to herself. "Haha..ha… Yep... Don't it suck to be you…" Pressing the launch switch, and sending the 1 Megaton thermonuclear warhead crashing against the bulkhead triggering the weapon of mass destruction.

The superstructure of the entire titanic ship shuttered as the nuclear blast atomized the small transport in an instant, and blew through the top of the ship three-fourths the way down the Super-MAC gun's barrel. Smaller secondary explosions ripped through the mammoth battleship as the city killer rocked the vessel's mighty bones of steel, crippling the feared flagship in mere seconds. All that saved the ship from absolute destruction was the strength of the Super-MAC cannon's thick walls, and the fact that it was open to the vacuum of space.

In the resulting confusion, both the Alliance and Republic fleets decided it was time to pull out of the fight. Even the usually fearless SSC fleet began retreating when their own flagship had fallen. All three forces knew that more Imperial reinforcements would soon arrive, and all sides had been pushed to their limits by the battle of attrition. The combined losses totaled more than 200 ships and 30 space stations destroyed, another 300 heavily damaged including the Endeavor-class, Super Heavy Carrier the USS Yorktown which had to be towed into warp by the Yamato, and all other ships had sustained verious levels of damage; millions of lives had been lost during the battle.

It was the deadliest day since the war had begun, and there had been no clear victor. The SSC lost its only operational flagship, the Imperial Union's flagship was crippled and would be out of action for months to come, and the United Alliance had failed in its goal to shorten the war. But for the Republic new heroes were born that day, the Titan-class vessel, RSS Colossus was lost with all hands; but every one of her fallen crewmembers received the Senatorial Golden Cross, the highest possible honor in the Republic of Outer Colonies. Their final act of defiance and self-sacrifice, becoming an inspiration to all who faced death; such was their act that it continued to turn the tides of hopeless battles for the many years after their own deaths.

Similarly, Sergeant Holly S. Ernestine of the United Alliance Air Force was posthumously awarded the Alliance Medal of Honor, the highest possible honor in the United Alliance: for uncommon valor in the face of the enemy and great adversity, and for willingly making the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Airman First Class Cynthia A. Valentine accepted the award in Sergeant Holly S. Ernestine's steed, and was permitted to complete the late Sergeant's last known request.

Disclaimer: Holly and Cynthia were inspired by characters which are the intellectual property of jm1681. Any and all similarities to people, characters, or other technologies are purely coincidental and unintentional.