Arc 2 Intermissions [II.3]

“The Battle Of Serrano”

“Attack, attack, attack, attack!”

Aboard the Cruiser Brocéliande, a loud and boisterous one-woman chant sounded across the bridge.

An astounded crew, who had never seen their commander so excited, put their heads down and focused on their tasks. Behind them, the woman stood up on her seat, pointed a finger forward, and shouted.

Her name was Rear Admiral Marceau Laverne De Champeaux-Challigne, a blond-haired, olive-skinned woman, tall and lean with sharp brown dog-like ears and a tail fiercely wagging. The edges of the main screen of the Brocéliande filled with the impressions of her escorts and subordinated combatants, dozens of Cutters and Frigates, two other Cruisers and a group of two Destroyers defending them. Organized as a three sectioned box, with one wing beginning to expand to the left flank per the Admiral’s strategy.

And in the center of her main screen were the broad sides of an unsuspecting Volkisch Fleet.

Twenty frigates, painted all-black with sharp beaked prows and a handful of small, angular cutters arrayed amorphously around a Cruiser and a Destroyer, bedecked in great winged fins and rounded gun turrets, and escorting two large, boxy supply vessels. They had been traveling from Serrano to link the Volkisch forces there with a larger combat group that had been tasked with occupying Ajillo and Pepadew substations. Admiral Champeaux-Challigne would not allow this. She would cut them off with her Fleet Combat Group C, and then join Nadia Al-Oraibi’s FCG-D for the final assault on the substation forces.

“We have them in our sights! All forces know what to do! I want a fusilade so bright it’ll redden my face!”

Without attempting to establish contact with the enemy commander, Marceau gave the order to fire.

From the edges of her main screen, dozens of lines of bubbles and gas raced toward the Volkisch fleet.

Her left wing began to appear on the distant corner of her screen as more than their gunfire and prows.

Moving quickly to block the escape of the Volkisch forces and pen them into the main fleet’s killing zone.

“Attack! Attack at once! Our guns will be a drumbeat of death! Do not let up the attack for a second!”

Within seconds, hundreds of explosions blossomed into short-lived bubbles and bursts of gas in the distance, amid and around the Volkisch Fleet. 76 mm light guns on her Frigates fired barrages of a dozen shots a minute from multiple turrets, while the 155 main guns on the Brocéliande unleashed frightening and accurate damage, spawning a bubble twice as large as those surrounding and leaving wide, gaping gashes on the broad sides of anything it struck near. Shells flew like the thrown javelins of old hunters from ancient myth, digging into the steel beasts and drawing geysers of metal and flesh from them.

Seventy-sixes were not powerful enough by themselves to gut entire ships. But the Union volley cut vast and swift into the amorphous Volkisch formation. Those hundreds of shells cratered armor with grazes and wound holes into the hulls with direct impacts, tearing out electronic sensors, breaching maintenance passages, damaging the water systems that sustained life and allowed for underwater movement. Recurring shockwaves disturbed the water around the Volkisch fleet and transferred ominous power into the crews in the bridges, hangars, and halls. The flagship’s One-Fifty-Fives created enormous vortexes that tore great fissures into the flanks of the enemy vessels, putting each target out of action in sequence.

After the initial volley, the Volkisch ships were battered. Their crews were shaken. After the second, third, fourth and fifth volleys, within the unending volume of gunfire amid minute-long endless sequences of chaos, ships began to falter, one by one, one after another, taken as surely as if by entropy. From the moment they failed to either escape or engage the Union fleet, from the instant the Union fired the opening, unanswered volley, the fight was theirs. Inexperience and carelessness on the part of the Volkisch gave the Union the fatal opening. It was a foregone conclusion before the battle even began.

It was too late when the Union’s volleys were finally answered by the Volkisch, at less than a quarter the intensity. Stray explosions washed over the Union fleet, barely rattling the wall of guns fast ensnaring their prey. Surviving enemy frigates turned their guns and fired broadside, launching periodic 76 mm shells while dramatically accelerating to escape speeds. There was no organization. After absorbing a few volleys the battle was a rout. Only some of the enemy ships attempted to turn to fight with their armored prows forward, which was foolhardy, as the change in direction made them even more vulnerable targets.

Within ten minutes, twenty minutes, the enemy fleet was cut to a third, then a half, and then to strays attempting to escape whichever way they could. Even as they ran the Union’s envelopment forced the Volkisch’s escape routes wider and farther and bought more time for Union gunners to finish the grim work. Admiral Champeaux-Challigne had hardly needed to shout as vigorously as she was. The Union gave no less than everything they had, and annihilated their enemy in less than half an hour.

“Magnificent! Simply magnificent! Congratulate yourselves, my beautiful fleet!” She cried out.

The Union fleet finally converged on the graveyard of their making. A field of debris where there once had been a few thousand human lives — but the lives of fascists hardly counted as human, after all. Volkisch vessels that retained some amount of flotation while losing most of their crew and propulsion, drifted eerily in their last positions, but most ships sank catastrophically to the bottom, littering the rocky ocean floor of Sverland. Torn open, split apart either neatly or in pieces, the battlefield was a vast, silent field of dissipating gas clouds, micros and macroscopic debris, and hulks, almost two dozen.

The Union did not engage in any rescue operations. They hadn’t the time. Perhaps the reserves could possibly take it upon themselves to do it, but Admiral Champeaux-Challigne had another battlefield where she was needed. FGC-C was the largest Union combat force in the theater. They had been bloodied now, and they would follow the appetizer with a main course. Sverland’s substations awaited her.

“We are about to enter the operational area. Limit all communications, and carry out your tasks according to your briefings. Whether or not the enemy falls for our deception, we will still have fighting to do.”

“Await the acoustic signal to descend, then commence the next phase.”

On the bridge of the dreadnought Typhon, Maya Kolokotronis sat with her hands crossed over her chest, staring at the main screen. All active detection had been suspended, so instead of the predictive array readings and images, there was a preprogrammed map with their trajectory and in the far distance, known enemy positions. They were moving as fast as they could under the circumstances. Fleet communications officers shared final remarks, wished each other luck, and then left the airwaves.

“We are too high up, and too spread out. Is this really going to work?”

Maya received a text message — silence was being strictly enforced.

This message came from the woman at her side. Despite sending it, she had a big smile on her face.

She was a Commissar, named Georgia Doukas. Long, orange and brown hair fell over her shoulders, and partially covered two long tentacles that began at the sides of her head and ended in tight paddles. Her skin was a pinkish yellow, but was also mutable. When they first met, her face was a bit more brown. She was a soft-looking and smiley girl, but nobody made Commissar on a ship without having a will of iron.


Maya’s reply text was extremely simple.

She glanced at her Commissar from the corner of her eye and watched her begin gently typing.

“Do you think they will take the bait?”

They continued to speak in text messages delivered to their adjacent terminals.

“Even if they suspect detached forces or a flank attack, they will not be able to guess the direction.”

“We are sitting ducks if they figure us out.”

“If you disagree with our course of action, then shoot me and take over.”

At her side, the Commissar giggled gently.

“My, my. You are still such a Katarran at heart. I see how it is.”

Maya herself snickered while writing her reply. “I am a Katarran. That’s the beauty of the Union.”

There was nothing preventing a Katarran from being a communist. Whether one was a humanist critic of the atrocities of Katarre, or whether one still held the ideologies of power and control inherited from the Katarran culture, the Union was still welcoming, provided that humanism served the Union’s people, or that brutal exercise of power be directed at the Union’s enemies. Even someone like Maya, who wanted to believe in the humanist elements of communism while still being swayed by the pragmatic authority of militarized power, was welcome in the Union. In fact, probably most people in the Union were like her.

To the Union’s people, who had been dehumanized and enslaved by the Empire, brutality was easy to cast outward. As emotionally-charged revenge or as solemn and grimly measured liberatory rhetoric. The Union easily accepted the cunning brutality of Maya’s warfare. Soon, she thought, Maya’s warfare, a distillate of Katarran warfare, would just become “Union warfare.” That was her hope with this operation.

“Operation Tenable” — she had been compelled to name it as a form of symbolism.

Other officers had trepidation about a Union attack, an outright entry into the Empire’s war of collapse.

Maya Kolokotronis, however, had always believed that the Union needed to fight the Empire again, with all of its might, at the first viable opportunity. The people of the Union needed to realize they were no longer sheep awaiting the Imperial wolf. The Empire had to become their prey, and they had to become the hunters. They had to awaken the brutal power within themselves, and kill, and destroy their enemies, to prove to themselves that they could do so. To show that fighting and winning was possible, and therefore, that it was worth throwing the weight of their efforts and resources behind fighting to win.

To show that building their own little utopia in a bubble was pointless.

Bubbles were easy to pierce.

Communism had failed in the Imperial heartland. In Bosporus, in Buren, Volgia and Rhinea.

This failure was the seed, the second chance, for a successful communist revolt. A revolt in the colonies where all the failed revolutionaries who were not slaughtered ended up enslaved. And yet, the Union still remembered that failure, told of that failure, in its writings. That failure, and the brutal power of the Empire, cast a shadow upon their works. Until they found the power to kill, that failure would loom.

“Communism cannot survive without achieving the power to inflict mass violence.”

“Is that so? I didn’t take you for a philosopher. This is not in Mordecai’s books, you know.”

“No, but it is. This is class struggle. What we are doing — it’s far above mere Katarran plunder.”

“Impassioned words. I don’t disagree with you, however. I am also glad to be fighting here with you.”

“It’s because we are both Katarrans. The Volgians and the Bosporans don’t know. Maybe the Shimii do.”

All of the world was driven by networks of violence. Katarrans were simply exposed to one far less disguised in aesthetics. So they understood the eat-or-be-eaten mentality of war, perhaps better than most of the other ethnicities that had come to comprise the Union’s population. That was the beauty that communism held for Maya, when she was going through her readings years ago. The Union was something all of them could join hands to fight for– something that was worth fighting for.

It gave her unnatural birth a shred of meaning.

Maya Kolokotronis herself became an existence which was “Tenable.”

Now she had to prove her convictions to the rest of her beloved Union.

And thus, she sailed, in command of Fleet Combat Group A with some forty-odd vessels. Nearly 600 meters above the Sverland seafloor, partially disguised within the edge of the enormous, teeming mass of life that blocked them from the surface waters, known as the Upper Scattering Layer.

It would be a bold plan, if it worked.

A few hundred meters from the main pillar of Serrano station, several Volkisch vessels waited for their flagship, docked in the upper pillar, to report on the status of negotiations with Serrano’s government. These negotiations were mainly for show — the Volkisch intended to take over and the Serrano government did not intend to stop them, but it was necessary theater so the population didn’t feel like everyone had given up without a fight. If the civilian administration appeared too weak and lost control of its subjects, it would have created an enormous headache for the Volkisch occupying forces.

It was important for the Volkisch to respect business in Serrano. There was a growing unrest due to the economic and social situation, so the Volkisch had an opportunity to get in good with the business class by giving guarantees that business would continue as usual. That meant dealing with a lot self interested people, however, and such dealings required time, and also required Bloch and many of his officers.

As such, Admiral Bloch’s retrofitted dreadnought Pantagruel was docked, half-crewed and at low readiness when the fleet’s Aufklärung Frigate detected a incoming ships, moving in from the south.

Initially, there was some confusion as to how to respond. The Volkisch were an invading force in “enemy” territory, and by the book, they should have already disseminated patrols to confirm the disposition of the approaching element. But they were treating Sverland as the helpless, largely civilian territory that it had become, and were at low readiness and hesitant to deploy to respond. The Aufklärungruppen signals reconnaissance team confirmed that the approaching vessels were four or five small, fast ships, based on predictive calculations. They were several kilometers out, and they were not making any effort to disguise the noise they were making. For the veteran Volkisch officers, this was suspicious, but for the majority of the soldiers, it looked like it would be easy prey. But then, to whom did this easy prey belong to?

There had been reports of former Imperial navy vessels that had turned to banditry, particularly against goods-laden ships from Veka and Rhinea in the waning days of inter-duchy trade. Katarran bandits were thought to be relatively common as well. There was always the possibility, also, that these were Union vessels, but that possibility was distant. It could also have been an incursion from the Vekan navy too.

Such things would have to be confirmed by getting closer to the enemy.

Whoever this tiny fleet section belonged to, it would be hunted down and slaughtered.

If it was a trap, they would spring it. If it was a patrol, they would make sport of it.

And perhaps, it would even impress upon the fat cats in Serrano who the real bosses were.

Power and brutality was the way of the Volkisch. None would disrespect their authority so easily.

The Pantagruel, sans Bloch who remained in Serrano, deployed quickly with the crew that it had, while the rest of the fleet, composed largely of Frigates with a single Cruiser in the center, sailed forth to meet the enemy encroachment south of Serrano. In their eyes, this was probably nothing but target practice.

One lead element of five Frigates served as the vanguard, deploying immediately while the rest of the fleet hovered obediently around the Pantagruel. One central element and two wings at just the right distance each to potentially detach and meet approaching forces on either side, depending on which direction a trap was sprung from. Finally, a small element of four Frigates were left behind including the Aufklärung vessel to patrol Serrano station. The Volkisch believed their preparations were adequate. If it was a trap, they had the forces to bait it out and fight it openly, and multiple angles of coverage.

There was about a kilometer between the vanguard and the main fleet, and the vanguard was moving faster to pursue. This caused drift in the formation over time, but the Volkisch did not mind it.

After the fleet sailed out of Serrano they counted down the minutes until they were in range to identify the enemy presence. Finally, the lead element confirmed via active sonar and LADAR on clear waters the identity of the enemy. Five Union Biryuza-class Cutters on a northwestern course. The Biryuzas realized that they were detected immediately due to the active measures, which would have triggered their acoustic and radiation warnings– something of a blunder, but it was overlooked by the Volkisch command as it still effectively accomplished their aim of identifying the enemy immediately.

Having been exposed, the fast Cutters turned back south. The Frigates engaged in pursuit, though they did not have explicit orders to do so. Torpedoes launched from the Frigates as they chased to maintain pressure, but they were too far behind for their main guns to have meaningful effect. This was owing to the fact that they ran active scans at maximum distance rather than closing in further, giving the Cutters room to flee. The Volkisch liked their chances in a chase, however. Even their old Frigates had a larger and more powerful reactor and thrust systems than any Cutter, and they would eventually catch up.

The Volkisch central element around the Pantagruel remained fixed in speed even as its vanguard accelerated further. The Pantagruel finally ordered its left wing of 15 Frigates to join the chase, but to retain its current orientation to the main fleet. That latter detail caused further drift in the formation. As the Frigates achieved pursuit speed, they began to move closer to the center, rather than remaining in the westward direction. This was overlooked, as the Pantagruel’s central element simply moved itself west and became the left wing of the overall advance. Some leeway had to be given to the greenhorns, after all.

The Cutters managed to react quickly enough to stay ahead of their pursuers. Their flak fire successfully neutralized several torpedoes, fending off major damage. Some of the Cutters sustained a few close pressure waves, but it was not enough to stop them fleeing. Eventually, the “chasing” elements became disentangled from the “main” element by about two kilometers, moving them out of mutually supporting range. The mission command on the Pantagruel quickly lost its taste for blood as the separation between its elements and the slow drift of its formation became apparent, and began to recall the pursuers.

It was at this moment that the Volkisch’s right wing began to detect more ships coming in from the southeast. This was a relatively larger formation, and it was the trap the Volkisch expected to meet.

At this juncture, the Biryuzas turned back and headed northwest, and the pursuers adjusted to intercept them. They had not yet been informed of the new enemies as the situation was developing quickly. This led to the Volkisch fleets becoming twisted, the lead elements moving southwest, the western elements pushing south, and the eastern elements slowing down, forming an awkward wedge where every other element was in the way of the Pantagruel and the Cruiser Thor, the biggest guns available there.

Everything was exposed, and the Pantagruel and Thor were being blocked from firing eastward.

Despite this, even with the new enemy force, the Volkisch still outnumbered and outgunned the Union.

For perhaps a few minutes, the few minutes it took for the Union to alert their second hidden force.

What the Volkisch failed to notice, was the trap being sprung that they were not expecting to meet.

While this exact development was not planned to this degree, the Cutters and the fleet they belonged to had achieved their overall objective. They had drawn the Volkisch out far enough away from Serrano where it was safe to shoot indiscriminately at them without involving civilians or station infrastructure, and they had drawn the enemy elements just apart enough from one another to prevent tidy, mutually supporting defensive gunfire. And so, on the eve of cycle 188 of A.D. 979, the signal went out–

“Shatter the sky! Shake the earth!”

Across the Union fleet descending from the Upper Scattering Layer, the attack signal went out, first from the communications officer of the Typhon, to whom the quotation would come to be attributed, but spreading through every communication officer on each of the over forty participating ships in FCG-A. Communications which had lain dormant opened up across every vessel, and there was no more care about what noise was or wasn’t made anymore. On the main screens, the maps which had been previously followed disappeared, and in their place real time predictive data began to flow again as active scans revealed their presence to the disorganized enemies while crucially lighting them up for the guns.

“FCG-B has elements on the southwest and southeast of the enemy, fixing them in place! Descend at once, FCG-A, and snatch the glory which is yours!” shouted Admiral Maya Kolokotronis to all vessels. “Wipe out the enemy! No prisoners, no mercy! All elements, as soon as you reach 1000 depth, open fire!”

She did not have to be much more candid or specific. This was entirely for morale and excitement.

Every ship had been given meticulous orders and knew exactly what to do.

As one, FCG-A’s ships descended from above, fixing their sensors on the Volkisch fleet just a few kilometers to the west. They had always known that their descent would be impossible to coordinate with the exact positions of the enemy, but as long as the initial distance from the enemy was under 5 kilometers they could make something happen. That they ended up 2 km from the enemy was a huge boon. With the tides clearly favoring them, Admiral Kolokotronis’ ships entered the fray as essentially the naval equivalent of an arrow flying past the cheek of the Volkisch, paralyzing them with uncertainty.

Completing their descent, the ships divided into three sections while on the move.

“All missiles, saturation fire on the Volkisch right wing! Now!” Admiral Kolokotronis ordered.

One of FCG-A’s sections comprised eight “missile frigates.”

Unlike the Empire which had dedicated Frigates with supercavitating cruise missile launchers on the upper deck, as well as combination missile/torpedo tubes on its Cruisers and Dreadnoughts, the Union did not wish to introduce such complicated designs to their own fleet. Instead, the Slava-class Frigate could be affixed with Katyusha-class dedicated “missile docks” on its left and right flanks, connected by struts and wired into the Frigate. These appeared to be enormous, angular metal “pontoons” on the sides of the frigates, and each dock contained 18 supercavitating unguided cruise missiles of 2 meter diameter.

Compared to the 8 missiles at a time that an Imperial missile frigate could fire, or the 4 missiles at a time available to a Ritter-class Imperial Cruiser via its tubes, the 36 missiles that could be launched at once out of dual Katyushas was worth sacrificing some mobility. Now, these ships would sound the horn of war.

As soon as the order went out, the Frigates reacquired the relative position of the enemy forces.

Firing solutions piped out to the rudimentary computing equipment on the Katyushas, which were only designed to accept orders to fire, quickly program them into the missiles, and then send the ordnance on its deadly course. Those eight Frigates, each with their two Katyushas, programmed a total of 288 missiles to fire at one second intervals per four tubes. There was a short delay as the Katyushas prepared.

Then, after drawing in a breath, the horns bellowed.

Out in the water, an airy fwip of dispersed water and gas followed by a loud shunt as the seals over each missile tube burst open in sequence, followed by several shocks one after another after another as the missiles rose, achieved supercavitation in an instant and arced out toward their targets. Masses of bubbles and gas surrounded the Katyushas as their payloads soared toward the enemy fleets.

In under 20 seconds, the first missiles collided with the spread-out Volkisch across several kilometers.

Enormous fiery orbs of gas expanded across the entire length of the distended Volkisch formation as if fissures torn open in the walls of reality itself. Blossoming into existence in a brilliant and terrifying sequence, missiles crashed under, over, around and into the enemy hulls. Several Frigates were instantly sunk by direct impacts that first caved in the outer hull and then sucked the guts from explosive, runaway decompression. Powerful shockwaves rocked the water around the enemy vessels, damaging the flank sensor arrays, cameras, and in some cases tearing off control surfaces like fins and the jet cover “wings.”

Then followed wave after unending wave of grey shells cutting a hundred lines in the water.

Amid the shock and awe of the missile attack, conventional gunnery from FCG-A and FCG-B’s Frigates sailed into the reeling Volkisch fleet from south and east, hammering the exposed and disoriented flanks. Hundreds of 76 mm cannons firing three and four times a minute, unable to defeat the enemy armor by themselves but in such volume and with such frequency able to smash those hulls over and over and over again, tearing chunks, battering plates out of shape, and eventually twisting, crunching and tearing until the armor had enough. Breaches followed, small at first but quickly expanding in scope and lethality across dozens of enemy vessels, killing a few and crippling more, disrupting the enemy’s response.

FCG-A and FCG-B pressed their advance, methodically hooking sections of their forces around the enemy’s rear and to the west and commencing a spirited pursuit. Their battered targets accelerated in kind, heading south on a predictable path in an amorphous formation. The Volkisch’s organization on the edges of their fleet grew haphazard and limited the overall mobility of the central elements and therefore, the whole fleet. Very few ships managed to leave the formation entirely in order to attempt to maneuver around the Union, and they were easily picked off when they strayed too far. This meant that the battle was not a dance of two mobile formations trying to break each other, but a hunter pursuing prey.

Clouds of debris and gas spread wherever the battlefield went, a literal fog of war outlining the pursuit.

Already hardly anything could be seen, but visibility only grew worse. This did not slow the carnage.

A paltry few Divers from the Volkisch side attempted to snake out of their own formation, managing to contribute very little; but the Union’s own Divers, keeping clear of the firing lines of their own forces, buzzed the enemy fleet with effective supporting fire. Moving quickly, sneaking over and under the enemy vessels, they took advantage of the Volkisch fixing their flak curtains to defend from the conventional attacks of the large ships. With their 37 mm rifles peppering the enemy’s soft spots, and finding opportunities to lob grenades and even to launch depth charges, the Streloks of FCG-B’s Daksha Kansal carried themselves notably well as an additional striking element, largely unopposed.

As the battle raged, there were inevitable casualties on the Union side as well, as a pair of Frigates and one of the bait Cutters sank under enemy fire. A few unlucky Streloks met their end either at the hands of a few enemy Volkers or by the concerted flak of the single Volkisch Destroyer Troll which was effectively holding its ground with its enormous quantities of defensive fire — until enough larger guns turned on it.

Despite this, Union morale never once flagged. They were dealing the most death, by far.

Throughout the running brawl, an effective barrage of counterfire originated from the central element around the lead ship Pantagruel, but thirty guns on less than a dozen vessels would never stop the encroaching mass of the Union’s fleets. Within twenty or thirty nerve-wracking minutes since the first shot, the battlefield had shifted several kilometers from its starting point but the Volkisch came to be surrounded by over seventy Union vessels and could not hope to escape no matter their speed. They were unable to find a means to meet the Union or hook around to flank, fleeing from start to finish.

The Volkisch fleet was reduced to a quarter its effective strength between destroyed vessels, disabled vessels, and fleeing and abandoned ships. Despite their desperate struggle, they were losing handily.

Soon there was no longer a formation capable of opposing the forces of Admiral Kolokotronis.

There was a flagship and its attendants, and long line of corpses and strays left behind them.

Hollowed-out hulks hit the ocean floor one after another. Guns silenced on disabled ships.

A brilliant purple sphere consumed the cruiser Thor as it rose above the enemy to prevent its runaway reactor from destroying anything other than itself, annihilating whatever crew survived the torpedoes which had torn into the ship. There was not even pause to contemplate this horrifying spectacle.

Pure chaos, the sound of death and destruction muted within the hulls of the Union vessels.

Experiencing war through the relative calm of their station monitors.

There was only chaos within their breasts, as they tried to keep their nerves steady.

They were winning, however. They saw it themselves — they could win against Imperials.

“Helm, move forward! Gunners unleash all arms on the Pantagruel! Let’s put this enemy out of its misery!”

Maya Kolokotronis directed her own ship forward for the coup the grace, and her crew complied.

From among the lead section of FCG-A, the dreadnought Typhon accelerated quickly, an enormous, sleek column of a ship with a tightly arched conning tower and folded fins. Rather than its turret-mounted 76 mm guns, it brought its Republic-style “in-line six” forward guns to bear from its imposing prow, three 155 mm guns in two rows. These guns had devoured many vessels as a former Kattaran mercenary ship, and they would add another victim that day. What they lacked in flexibility, these fixed forward guns made up for in their sheer and rapid brutality, and showed why they were favored by the Katarrans.

Where other ships could put ten rounds a minute out of their twin turrets, the Typhon launched between thirty and sixty. In moments, the Pantagruel’s aging armor was pummeled by long sequences of enormous blasts that tore its prow from its hull and shredded the central pods, casting it to the ocean floor in a cloud of gore and metal. The Typhon’s own attendant Frigates picked off the remaining vessels, but by the time the Typhon fired its impressive barrage, everything had already been decided.

Maya Kolokotronis watched, her heart racing, her face and chest sweat-soaked, standing at the back of her bridge where she had been shouting commands. Through almost purely conventional warfare, before her very eyes, the Union had won a second battle against the Imperial foe. Their own loses amounted to what could be counted on their hands, while their enemy was near totally erased from the world.

In her own mind, Maya did some “napkin math.” She had killed, perhaps, 10000 people that day.

In less than fifty minutes of active fighting. This was war– this was what the Union would have to accept.

This– was what the Union had accomplished. In an offensive battle outside their territory.

The Union had won. The Union had conquered an enemy territory.

“Admiral, how are you feeling?”

Commissar Doukas spoke up from behind her, seated calmly in her chair.

Maya hardly waited to respond. “I’ll only rest under the steel sky of Serrano. Let’s keep moving.”

Volkisch Admiral Vitaly Bloch took his own life a few hours after receiving the news.

Powerful enemy forces had not only destroyed the Volkisch’s Serrano occupation fleet in the south, but they had intercepted the fleet group that was to link the Volkisch presence in Serrano to the advance forces in Ajillo and Pepadew substations. He had a handful of Frigates in Serrano and fifty outnumbered and encircled ships split between Ajillo and Pepadew with twice the number of advancing enemy ships.

Nobody in the Volkisch high command had predicted that the Union would launch such an assault.

Many underestimated the capability of the Union to fight. The Volkisch characterized the Union as a state of ethnic inferiors with a pretend navy composed of lesbians and effeminate men in women’s uniforms. Their government that could barely feed them kept them docile with handouts and propaganda. The masculine and martial Volkisch state, which was already on its way to defeating the Royal Alliance, should have been able to easily cast aside the communists. It was a rude awakening to be defeated by them.

Furthermore, they had no idea about the Union alliance with Veka, which they would have taken seriously.

Veka were also racial inferiors, but they were known to be well-equipped racial inferiors.

Even those who weren’t so blinded by fascist ideology, however, believed that the Union would stay out of the Empire’s business due to a fear of retaliation. For a small child of a country that was still practically building its economy, it was the pragmatic thing to do. But now they had entered the Empire’s business, and there was no way the Volkisch could retaliate. They were barely sustaining their campaigns against the Royal Alliance in the Yucatan, and the Serrano forces were the only invasion group they could spare.

Bloch’s force was on the cusp of losing nearly two hundred of Achim Lehner’s precious ships.

They had squandered almost a third of the Volkisch fighting strength.

It was catastrophic.

It was a turning point.

It was not a fear of facing Lehner nor history itself that led Bloch to his decision, however.

It was more sudden than that. It was rawer, more emotional.

Chiefly, he was tormented by the idea of surrendering to a band of untermensch homosexuals and being subjected to whatever degenerate torments and humiliations they had in store for him as a prisoner of war. A devoted and loyal fascist, Bloch obsessed with this lurid fantasy by himself for over thirty minutes, supported by everything that made sense to him and the brutal shock of his vast, and total defeat. He would not let the communist lowlives make a fool of him and debase him — he would die with honor.

And so he went, locked inside a personal office in the Serrano port authority building.

With his death, “command” over the remaining forces passed invisibly among various men whom the Union was already in the process of destroying. Ultimately, the humiliation finally landed on a man who desired to live more than retain his honor. Captain of the Frigate Ulrich Graf, Arnold Fischer, a member of the Serrano patrol. While the ships under his ostensible command fled in every direction, he accepted an unconditional surrender in place of whatever Volkisch forces had both survived and remained in contact — about a dozen ships and most of the logistical staff scattered around the Serrano and Goryk regions.

There was little time to celebrate the Volkisch surrender, however. As soon as Union forces entered Serrano itself they soon found themselves confronted with their next and most serious set of tasks.

On the upper tier of Serrano, a brown, boxy shuttle craft approached and entered a highly exclusive dock once reserved only for the upper crust, settling next to a sleek, curvaceous 50 meter long superyacht. A watertight compartment encased and held the shuttle, drained the water, and admitted it through an enormous shutter into a bright, beautiful port. Shimmering floors of white stone tile clean enough to eat off of; actual trees, tended by machines but open and accessible on their mounds, rather than encased in bubbles; in the distance, manor houses of false wood, and closer to the center, the Serrano capitol building, an enormous, lavish concrete monument, its colonnaded facade inexplicably intricate.

The shuttle brought down its hatch, and a horned woman in a green uniform, black cape and peaked hat walked out flanked by a phalanx of power-armored soldiers, interlocking angular plates over their limbs and trunk and imposing, visored helmets projecting an aura of invincibility amid the rich surroundings. They carried AK pattern rifles, but the woman in between them carried no weapon of her own in hand.

Maya Kolokotronis beheld the splendor of the upper tier of Serrano with growing disgust.

She had already received reports from the Marines that landed in the lower levels.

“Can you believe this?” She asked aloud. “Such a waste of space? We could house thousands here.”

At her side, one of the power-armored soldiers removed her helmet. Her tentacles, which had been folded behind her head, relaxed and stretched out. Commissar Georgia Dukas sniffed the air.

“Everything smells so sweet too. I can’t understand it. How are they doing that? And why are they?”

“The Marines arrived to a squalid riot-stricken warzone down there. This is– insane to me.”

“You don’t really understand the class divide until you see something like this, I suppose.”

Commissar Doukas and Admiral Kolokotronis exchanged looks, shaking their heads.

After several minutes of waiting at the edge of the docks, a party from Serrano came to meet them.

There were a few men, all in pristine grey suits. At the head of them was a man in a blue suit. Arberth Hoffman, former Defense Commissioner for Serrano, extended his hand to shake Maya’s. She left him waiting, never lifting her hands from her sides. Her eyes gazed critically into his own, she hated him. If her glare could have struck him dead she would have wanted it to happen. For a moment, she blamed him for all of this. That old Imbrian man was the specter of all this injustice. His wizened face glared right back.

“I believed that I would be negotiating with the Union forces.” He said.

“We are Union forces. But there’s no negotiation to be had.” Maya replied.

“I mistook you for Katarran mercenaries. I’m still not sure what to believe.” Arberth continued.

At that point, Commissar Doukas took two steps forward, and smashed the butt of her rifle into his gut.

Behind him, his entourage took nervous steps back, but the power armor troops were faster.

Soon they had everyone on the ground, on their knees, with their hands behind the back of their heads.

Several men had been given a quick butt in the back to make uncertain the folly of their resistance.

“I am in control of Serrano station!” Arberth finally cried out. “Good luck containing the rabble below without my support! You need me! Don’t act high and mighty here, you communist thugs! You don’t know what you’re dealing with! Those undercity mobs won’t care what uniform you are wearing! I have the merchants, police, bankers, the lifeblood of this city is behind me! Even Bloch wouldn’t dare kill me!”

Maya grinned at the assortment of suits brought low before her. Feeling a bit of that old Katarran sadism.

He really believed he was in the right, didn’t he? He really thought he had the high ground here.

She squatted down in front of him, staring at eye level with a smile that rendered him finally speechless.

“That administration ends now, Mr. Hoffman.” Maya said. “Serrano is a now a territory of the Labor Union of Ferris, Lyser and Solstice. I am the law now. Vasily Bloch’s best interests were served by your continuing pathetic existence, but the Union has little use for your merchants and bankers. If you value your life, then assist us in identifying, seizing and distributing necessary goods within the city to avert the crisis. Perhaps your exemplary service will be rewarded with a commuted sentence when we put all of you scum on trial.”

It was a pragmatic thing to say. She still definitely planned to kill Hoffman at the end no matter what.

In her eyes, he was the last Volkisch enemy to be purged here, in communism’s mass, righteous violence.

But for now, there was another matter. That hand which killed had to give way to the hand that fed.

Putting Serrano right would be Operation Tenable’s next task. That too was essential to communism.

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