deWulf High Command, 8th Sub-Basement
Fenris Command Central, “The Pit”
deWulf Corporate Democracy
“I can’t believe that they deployed us and THEN had us come back here for a briefing. Central Command’s getting sloppy”
“It’s not their fault your Sieg is as slow as she is. If they didn’t do it like this, we’d be getting to the front next year. Besides, we’ll still catch up before we cross the Cloak.”
“So I hear you’re short a few ‘suits. Drop me a message after the briefing and we’ll have a quick chat. I’m sure my quartermaster can scare up a few spares. You’ve still got contacts at Jenver, right?”
“You mean, ‘do I still have three cases of `04.’ And yes, I do. But you better be giving me set of Mark Tens, and not some of those Eight-Beths.”
deWulf officers filed into the boardroom, idle banter and side deals floating amongst them as they jockeyed for seats. This many commanding officers in one place was a rarity even in peacetime, and many of them were taking advantage of the ability to do a little under the dock trading and shop talk.
“Look, if you want this seat then you’re going to have to approve my request.”
“Lormman is my best Master ECM Commander. I can’t just give him up for a chair.”
“You give him up, and I’ll sign off on getting Junior Hunter Birn off your command deck.”
“… Seat’s all yours.”
PackMaster Donnal reviewed the gathered Hunters in the auditorium. When it had first been built, the idea of having more than forty ship commanders here was viewed as excessively optimistic. Even so, the original architects had built the space to accommodate double that in steeply raked seats back and above the main working space. Now, though… every seat was filled, and the stairs themselves had been taken by squadron commanders and the seconds in command. And even that wasn’t enough.
The holotank showed the same accursed star system that every officer there knew by heart, its baleful yellow star a single point of light as the rest of the star system orbited slowly around it. There were no converging arrows showing sweeping, artful tactics that promised a bloodless defeat in detail. Just a single broad line that went from the Dave’s World warp point straight to the single shirtsleeve planet in the Elysian system.
Donnal took a moment to step up to the podium as the lights dimmed that little bit show that the final briefing was starting.
“I appreciate you all coming back here, especially on the eve of your departure, but it is, as most things, important that we have this discussion now, before we get to the front lines. There will be little time once you arrive on station to absorb last minute changes, as this offensive will go kick off as soon as possible after your arrival in Dave’s World.”
The display zoomed in to the warp point in Elysian space.
“Your emergence into the Elysian system will be led by the heavy battle line. Based on our continued reconnaissance, the warp point in has not been fortified and we expect to encounter no resistance upon entry. Still, we will lead in with our battleships and heavy cruisers to secure our initial entry. If we experience heavy resistance, you are to break off the attack and wait for fresh orders.”
The holo then shifted to follow the broad red arrow leading in system.
“Once in-system, you will fall into a close escort formation, covering the carrier force as well as the Bombardment Fleet.”
A young voice called out “Sir, why is that flotilla called the ‘Bombardment Fleet’? It’s only a bunch of freighters being escorted by a single battleship.”
“I will explain in just a moment. While conducting your run in-system, we expect to be dealing with oncoming gunboat strikes. To deal with this, we will be counting on Junior PackHunter Kraft and his fighter squadrons to provide a combat patrol to protect the main fleet. Once we arrive 30 light seconds away from Attica, the Bombardment Fleet will begin to deploy their cargo of missile drones.”
He stopped, watching as this soaked into the assembled commanders before continuing again.
“The Saaman-class freighters have been optimized for ‘fast’ drone deployment. Unfortunately they still represent a war-emergency class, and it is estimated that it will take them approximately 23 hours to complete full drone deployment. It will be imperative for the fleet, and especially the carriers, to protect them while this evolution is underway. The good news is that this fleet will have seven of the Sieg-Class siege dreadnoughts along for the fight. We’ve developed a ‘canister’ round for them that should be especially effective against any inbound small craft strikes.”
The holotank zoomed in further, till the planet loomed over them all, barely showing the assembled deWulf fleet.
“That single battleship is a new design of ours, a Kortex-Class command battleship. Instead of weapons, it mounts multiple drone command suites. It has the ability to manage over a hundred individual drones at once, which represents several orders of magnitude more control than we have ever fielded in the past. Using intel we have recovered from previous engagements, it will target all PDCs on the planet that are equipped with the longer range Capital missiles. While this bombardment will likely not destroy all such emplacements, it is expected to cripple the currently existing batteries.”
“But that still leaves the rest of the batteries on-planet.” Another voice, older and considerably more wary commented. “Our battle line won’t be able to close with those still operational.”
“Correct. But in conjunction with repeated gunboat strikes, we will be able to identify and knock out the rest of those long-range missile PDCs. Once offline, the Siegs will move in at their maximum range and commence a saturation bombardment of all identified PDC sites. While this may take several days, the Siegs have the ammunition capacity and the endurance to carry this out. Once they are offline, the rest of the fleet can move in and properly implement Directive 525.”
One of the gunboat commanders stood up from his seat on the stairs “What are our expected casualties for strike craft?”
Donnal shifted a bit before steadying himself, eyes locking on the Sintillan who had asked the question. “We are expecting heavy casualties. Current projections point towards approximately 50% casualties on the fighters on the run in and in defensive operations. Gunboats will be held back from defensive operations unless required. But we expect to take heavy casualties when they move in to strike the planet. PD fire will be especially heavy, as the initial strikes will be ignoring dedicated PD as well as mixed bases. As such we’re projecting upwards of 75% attrition over the course of the operation.”
The temperature in the room felt like it had dropped a few degrees as those words were spoken. Sure, losses were to be expected. But that heavy? Elysium was expected to be a hard target, but everyone always thought they would be the lucky ones to make it through. With those numbers, one would truly need luck to survive.
“Replacement equipment and crews will be shuttled to Dave’s World and staged for immediate replacement. Damaged squadrons will consolidated or rotated back, depending on losses. I’m sorry, Lev. But this is going to be a maximum effort operation. Casualties are unavoidable.”