Kampfgruppe Kosz was utterly destroyed by the Union.
When Admiral’s Gottwald’s flanking force crossed the mountains on the edge of Thassal, a pair of escaping vessels stumbled upon them and relayed the bad news. At first the text messages sent over the acoustic communicator were derided by the Admiral as sheer cowardice and treason, and he nearly ordered security to seize the ships: until he saw the battle damage on them.
There was no denying that the escaping ships had taken a beating. Coilgun scars ran across the upper hull. Emergency ballast was deployed. These were newer ships, and that was the only reason they escaped with beaten-down crews and damaged hulls. Speechless, the Admiral shouted for all of his flanking force to deploy maximum sensor power on the Plains approach.
“I want every kind of scan on the plains! Maximum power! Fleetwide!”
Admiral Gottwald ordered the fleet to scan again and again and collate all data on the Strasser’s computer, but no matter how many pings and lasers they threw at the plains on approach, it was all the same. A mass of debris and the unmentioned bodies within it was all that remained of the main Imperial force at Thassal. There was no resistance being offered whatsoever.
Ahead of them, the Union fleet, with a bloody lip but continued resolve, waited for him.
Because of all the scanning, Gottwald’s fleet had essentially pointed a flashlight at itself in a pitch-black basement. Torpedoes began to fly at them by the dozen, homing in on the sonar pings and the LADAR traces. Having knowledge of their exact heading, the Union could begin a “headless” torpedo barrage from over 2 KM away. The Imperial fleet’s computers would easily find the acoustic traces of the Union torpedoes, but the incoming attacks slowed and distracted the fleet. Headless torpedoes were normally terribly inaccurate: unless the target was very obvious. And yet, having to deal with the shockwaves before meeting your enemy was a serious issue.
To tackle the danger, Imperial Destroyers and Frigates moved ahead of the formation.
Armed with a larger number of gas guns and light coilguns than the heavier vessels, they screened ahead for torpedoes. While this reorganization briefly gave the Admiral a sense of control over the situation, it did not solve the problem at hand. Somehow the Union had routed– no, not just routed, destroyed— a fleet of equal strength. Did they possess some kind of secret weapon? Had they deployed some sort of trick? Had Kosz simply made grievous mistakes in command?
There was no point in conspiratorial thinking, so he ruled out secret weapons. And Kosz should have performed acceptably even with a basic strategy of moving forward in a protected formation. He had an equal number of ships, but superior armaments. Three Dreadnoughts was far more than the Union could muster in Ferris on short notice. They only had five operational in total.
All that was left to contemplate was the terrible truth.
The Union defeated them with the weapons at their disposal. What did they have? Nothing that was superior to Imperial weapons. Ships, ordnance, watercraft– Divers? No, the Revolution was behind them all. The Empire had superior Divers than the Union– they had to be.
To think that the Union, those bandits and barbarians, could outmatch the Empire?
It was ludicrous. And yet evidence of it now lay undeniably before Admiral Gottwald.
All of this was weighing heavily on his nerves.
Without a submissive, easily broken Union, everything he struggled for was ruined.
He turned to his niece with a grim expression. She had been standing still by his side.
In a hushed tone, grabbing her by the arm, he spoke.
“I do not need your services. I need to concentrate, and your skittishness is bothering me. Go to the escape pod room and suit up. Watch out for any alerts and go north-northwest if needed.”
Abigail’s eyes drew wide. She was momentarily stunned. “Admiral– Uncle–”
She had not been skittish at all. She had been far more reserved than he.
“Girl, I can’t concentrate with you here chirping. Leave my sight now!”
He shoved her toward the command pod lift and took seat again.
For a moment, she turned back around to stare at him.
He gave her no more heed. And she finally understood his response.
Her heart pounding, eyes weeping, she obediently ran away from the command pod.
As she hurtled down the corridors of the Strasser, the fleet marched inexorably forward.
For Gottwald, and the officers and soldiers here, there was no turning back.
To even contemplate what they decided to do was a violation of Imperial sanction. They were Imperials, but what the Union could never have been aware of was that the circumstances that led them to fight meant they would no longer be welcome in whatever would be left of the Empire in the days to come. An era of chaos was brewing. Gottwald foresaw it, and he took action.
He was tempted to act. Tempted by the blood in the water.
And behind him was a nation of sharks, bigger, stronger, and more bloodthirsty than he.
Admiral Gottwald had taken what was once the Emperor’s; all in his presumed absence.
“You old bastard. Look at what you’ve reduced us to.”
Gritting his teeth, the Admiral sent an encrypted laser text message to all crews.
He had lost the nerve to say it out loud.
You did all of this to us. You planned on it, from the very beginning, Konstantin.