As ships went it was pretty diminutive. One hundred and twenty-five metres in length, twenty-five metres wide and twenty metres in height, giving her an internal volume of 62,500 metres cubed, which placed her decidedly on the ‘small’ side of a Confederation Navy war ship. This didn’t make the Campbell-class destroyer Coulsen any less potent, especially when she was travelling with her consorts. Only on this occasion, she was alone, which wasn’t reason to underestimate the weapons that bristled beneath the innocuous-looking hatches on her hull.
She was not however, running active. All her sensor systems were on passive mode, her drive was cold, and emissions down to the absolute bare minimum. For two days she had more or less coasted in the direction of a star the Chon’ith called ‘Ikicieth’. Two habitable worlds orbited the orange sun, one of which was densely populated – over a billion Chon’ith resided on Ikicieth IV – whilst Ikicieth III was quite warm, being closer to the star, and ‘only’ eight million Chon’ith called that world home. Coulsen’s long range sensors had picked up a lot of intra-system traffic between the two worlds, as well as a large asteroid mining operation and an extensive orbital industry. The full details however, were lacking, and with any military operation, getting the full picture was vital.
Captain Sarah Kindle stood on her command deck, surveying the scene. Soon the first phase of the Confederation’s counter-attack would be complete, and then the work of her crew and ship would take on greater significance. Punching out the more industrialised worlds under Chon’ith control was going to be huge, if they could pull it off.
“Coming up on the drop point Captain.” Reported the helmsman, Lieutenant Takahashi. She was tapping at her display screen with a smartpen, double-checking her numbers, which didn’t have to be precise, though accuracy was a symbol of pride in her work.
“Understood. We drop and then we go. Let’s leave our Chon’ith friends a present shall we?”
That ‘present’ was in fact several packages. On the outskirts of a cool ice giant, similar in size to Neptune, Coulsen deployed eight car-sized recon platforms. Each one fired up thrusters in minimal bursts to attain some acceleration and push on into the inner system, though they did not need to get in particularly close. Advanced stealth systems rendered the platforms virtually invisible to Coulsen’s own sensors, which gave Kindle confidence the Chon’ith would not detect them, though she had learned in her time with the CN that battle plans never survived first contact with the enemy. The platforms were spreading out, rapidly leaving each other behind, to provide as wide a sensor net as possible on enemy movements. In a few days each would deploy eight football-sized drones of their own, that would scatter throughout the system, constantly updating the platforms as to key installations. A few days after that…
Kindle allowed herself a small grin. The Chon’ith had been arrogant and aggressive, and they had assumed far too much.
Ikicieth was a reasonably important world to the Chon’ith, though not absolutely crucial to the survival of the Empire. Even so, it was a Chon’ith world, and no one had any right to intrude upon it, unless permitted. The arrival of sixty Confederation battleships, twenty-two battle cruisers, fifteen heavy cruisers, sixteen light cruisers and twenty-five destroyers was therefore not only something of a shock to the system’s Overseer, but was offensive on a level he could not properly express. Weapon platforms and orbital bases, always on standby, came to full readiness, and the system’s fleet, twelve battleships, thirty-eight battle cruisers, twenty-eight heavy cruisers and four light cruisers, readied themselves to repel the invaders. The broadside weight was comparable between the two fleets, though the Chon’ith were only dimly aware of the difference in performance between the two forces. Nonetheless, with the advantage of their own sensor nets and fortifications, they could be forgiven for thinking they enjoyed a superior position.
As the fleets closed, the Chon’ith had hoped they could fire from further out than usual and score more casualties. They had hoped that the density of their ECM and decoys would provide an advantage that would force the humans to withdraw. Defensive battles were not a Chon’ith speciality, but they understood having layered defences were important, and their own weapon platforms were at full readiness. Normally 85,000 km was the very edge of even semi-reasonable targeting for Chon’ith vessels, but they held a range of just over 100,000 km now. At least, they did, until the drones the Coulsen’s recon platforms had launched enacted their self-destruct protocols. Half the drones had been fitted with small nuclear warheads, and now each unleashed five megatons of fury that wiped out clusters of Chon’ith sensor platforms and produced an impressive EM pulse that blinded several others. The remaining half were linked to the recon platforms, and they began providing the humans with targeting solutions. At a range of 105,000 km, with the Chon’ith still reeling from the gaps in their own net, the Confederation Naval forces opened fire, and then began to reverse their acceleration, keeping the range open for as long as possible.
Panicked counter-fire raced toward the Confederation fleet, but it was sporadic. It became even more sporadic when the first wave broke through the now-inconsistent jamming and sent nuclear fireballs through the heart of the Chon’ith fleet. The battleships and battle cruisers bore the brunt of that fury, which tore gaping, burning holes in armour and ripped apart the machinery and equipment beneath. Missile tubes, energy cannons, sensors, fire control systems, all of it vanished, boiled away or simply left a charred mess from the massed and well organised fire of the enemy. Even as the first salvo’s effects were being felt, a second wave of missiles was following on, and the Chon’ith had not even managed to get into the fringes of their own range. In the end, a badly weakened fleet had managed a few rallies, but they inflicted only a handful of hits, in exchange for their complete annihilation. Weapon platforms shared the same fate, as did the orbiting fortresses, which were first targeted by the drones, crippling their defences before a single human vessel was even remotely at risk.
After the military targets had been destroyed, the Confederation Navy issued the planetary Overseer a simple ultimatum. The crews of the orbiting production facilities and the ones working to refine the resources of the asteroid field and gas giants would be permitted time to evacuate. Mining and industrial installations on the planet itself would also be given the opportunity to be emptied, prior to their destruction. To a Chon’ith, removing one’s self was simply impossible. The women who ran those facilities refused, insisting the humans kill them, for they were not cowards. It was a horrible, ugly situation, but crippling Chon’ith industry was why the Confederation Navy had ventured to Ikecieth in the first place. Low-powered energy weapon fire at least ensured there was little damage to anything other than the intended targets.
It was a scenario repeated on two other Chon’ith worlds.