The Faithful, Chapter Six
Command Nexus, High Citadel of the Paladin Order, Tumni
"I'm sorry to come to you on such short notice, but something urgent has come to my attention."
A series of guarded looks circulated among the assorted Paladins in the room as the First Consul took a seat at the head of a large conference table. Short notice wasn't the only thing strange about what was going on. As either the First Consul or the High Priest, Nemisa had the right to come here to Tumni and speak directly to the Order's leaders, but this was almost never done. Expectations, however, were a hard thing to apply to the first person to hold both of thetwo highest positions in Zidagar society.
The newly promoted Major Vehn Dorja was probably the lowest ranking Paladin in the room, and it was only by chance that he'd been called here from Stror. He sat and watched as the final few Generals and Admiral that had been in the Citadel arrived and took their seats. There was more high ranking brass in attendance at this meeting than he'd ever seen in one place. From the looks on the faces of some of the highest ranking commanders, including General Deran, he could tell that they knew something unpleasant was about to happen. The room grew silent and after a few moments, Asrin Nemisa stood to address them.
"Honorable Paladins, I come to you with grave news. As I'm sure you know, the links between the Igadzra unbelievers and the Miranu have grown considerably in the past weeks. More than that, they have sheltered the Azdgari pirates in Raigar for centuries. They claim that they pursue this for mere trade and scientific advancement... but the evidence has continued to mount that their motives are anything but innocent."
As he said this, assorted information began to stream across their data-consoles. Miranu involvment in the rebellion on Pozdag-3, incitement of riots in response on several frontier worlds, MTC involvement in industrial espionage... the list went on. Towards the end something caught Dorja's attention, he keyed open an attached file and watched a vid clip of a Miranu Courier's involvement in reporting fleet positions to the Igadzra. What the hell? This can't be right...
"As you can see... the Miranu have even gone so far as to make themselves the Igadzra's personal spies, giving them the very positions of our forces. How many brave Paladins died at Stror? How many more will die as a result of their treachery if we let it continue?"
Dorja wasn't sure what kind of response Nemisa was looking for, but as he looked around the faces of his brothers, he wasn't seeing much of a difference from their typical stoic expressions. His gaze fell on Samael, and what he saw was almost as disturbing as what he was hearing. The General was leaning back heavily with his eyes closed as the First Consul spoke, but his face was covered in an expression of the deepest sadness. By this time Nemisa seemed to have come to the realization that he wasn't going to inflame his audience to the same patriotic fever that he was used to getting from commoners or the Governing Council, and paused before going on.
"To put it simply, the time as come that we must not longer be satisfied with defending ourselves within our own borders. The Azdgari have grown stronger over the past few months than ever before, but they have underestimated us. The Igadzra have tested our strength, and they will pay for the lives of those who fell at Stror. Our Navy is more powerful than it has been in a hundred years... and the time has come to show the infidels the meaning of that power. The time has come to launch an offensive that will bring the Igadzra and the Azdgari to their knees. What say you General Deran?"
Opening his eyes and leaning forward, Sammael Deran looked as if he'd aged ten years in the last few minutes. His gaze was now locked with that of Asrin Nemisa, and the First Consul was obviously uncomfortable. Again the General bowed his head for a moment... then he swept his eyes over the men seated to either side of him down the long table, then back to Nemisa at it's opposite end. The tension in the room was palpable, many of these Paladins would be heavily opposed to such rash action. The First Consul was all but demanding that the Paladin Order pursue a strategy that was counter to decades spent defending the Holy Worlds from within their own borders.
The balance hung on the shoulders of General Deran. His word would decide whether the Paladin Order would accept Nemisa's request, or if they would refuse, an act that would approach direct betrayal of the High Priest of Zid.
"It is your wish that we do this High Priest?"
Nemisa's face could have been etched in stone. His gaze never left that of General Deran, but the barely restrained emotion from those around him radiated into his senses.
General Samael Deran nodded, then stood bringing his fist to the center of his torso, covering his heart in salute.
"So let it be done."
Chambers of the High Priest of Zid, Great Temple, Zidagar
The room was entirely dark when Brenon Sernak entered. He could barely make out the form of the High Priest sitting with his back turned to him and looking out his window into the night sky. He stood silently in the middle of the room for a moment, and was about to speak up when Nemisa turned around.
"It's done, the Paladins will be launching their offensive within the week."
The High Inquisitor nodded his head. This was the moment for which he had prepared for years, and there was really little more to say. He simply turned around and strode back in the direction he had just come.
"I will begin the final phase immediately."
High Orbit above Tumni, Zidagar System
It had been several days since First Consul Nemisa had set the Paladin Order on it's quest to all out war. For decades the Strand Wars had been little more than border skirmishes, and outpost hit here, a raid there. While soldier killed in a raid is just as dead as one who fall in a legendary battle, the history texts never seem to fill up with mere "skirmishes."
By this time all of the preparations had been made for the largest offensive in Zidagar history. Almost every ship on the eastern border was being pulled to strike a blow to the Azdgari that they would not be able to withstand. While this was happening the ships stationed on the southern border with the Igadzra would engage in a lightning war that would keep their forces too destabilized to exploit any gaps in the Zidagar offensive. General Deran had also given orders that most of the ships stationed on the border with the Miranu be pulled to shore up the Strand borders.
It was the uncertainty of what was being undertaken here that was keeping Samael Deran from maintaining any sort of clarity as he attempted to meditate. Ever since the final form of this offensive had taken shape his sleep had been fitful at best, and meditation escaped him. Finally giving up, he stood, and activated the lighting in his quarters. It's just as well, I'm needed on the bridge...
He donned the heavy purple jacket of his Paladin's uniform, then left his room and entered a turbo-lift to the bridge. Half way up, he halted his progress and redirected the lift to Main Engineering. How long has it been since I've toured this old girl? Since the he'd been granted his first command of a Zidara years ago, he'd always made it a point to tour his ship before every battle. In his current flagship, the Zi'etara, he'd only been on one tour, and that had been years ago.
When the lift stopped, he was greeted by the sight of the main reactor powering the ship's hyperdrive, nestled in the center of the ship's mechanical nexus. Busy crewmen were moving around dozens of consoles and panels making sure that the ship would be in full fighting readiness before battle. As he walked in the Chief Engineer quickly spotted him, and ran over to ask if there was anything he needed.
"Sir, did you have something you needed me for?"
"No no, carry on Brother," he said with a smile "I'm
only having a look about."
For the next hour Samael Deran toured every duty station on the Zi'etara Wherever he went the crew couldn't help but feel encouraged by his calm demeanor and quiet resolve. For those who met him that day the story of his tour would become a legend that they passed down through countless generations of their descendants. It was to be the General's last tour.
Leka System, Several days later...
The Zi'etara accelerated at half impulse as it came to the for of a massive Zidagar fleet. Ships from Terapin, Plogok, Muid, Fluron and even Zidagar itself had assembled for the offensive against the Azdgari. Several Azdara scouts were even now looking in horror at the four hundred Zidaras and other ships that had swarmed into the system. At the same time in various other parts of the galaxy Zidagar battle groups were also preparing to attack the Igadzra.
Finally, all of the Zidagar ships were in position, and the fleet jumped as one to hyperspace.
The Azdgari warband in Molar had absolutely no warning as the massive Zidagar fleet came out of hyperspace, but it wasted no time in reacting. Despite having little idea exactly what the Zidagar fleet was made up of because of their advanced ECM coverage, the Azdgari knew that now was the time to prepare to defend themselves. After only a few seconds the Zidaras had launched their fighters and were closing the distance between themselves and the Azdgari in order to bring the enemy fleet in range of their missiles. They would most likely concentrate their Javelin fire on whatever Azdgari Warships were in the system, taking them down one at a time as they prepared to engage the main Azdgari fleet.
The Zidagar formation looked essentially like a half sphere extended forward almost into a kind of rounded cone. The Zidaras formed most of the edges and the front of the formation, with squadrons of fighters concentrated on the flanks and the Zidagar Aradas in the center surrounded by the Zidaras.
Accelerating, the Zidagar fleet began to approach it's maximum missile range.
Paladin Battle-group Alpha
110 Zidagar Aradas
600 Zidagar Fighters Mk. I
800 Zidagar Fighters Mk. 2
Major Vehn Dorja was back in command of his fleet based in Stror. He'd gained a great deal of respect among the Paladin High Command for his defense of the system against the superior Igadzra attack force, and it had been decided that he should have the honor of returning the favor to Ersadt. Despite is eagerness to take the fight to his enemies, however, his feelings were mixed concerning the entire offensive. To be perfectly honest he didn't trust the First Consul in the least. This entire business with the Miranu made him sick to his stomach, and he had a hard time believing that any of the accusations against them were genuine.
Nevertheless, he had been ordered to attack the Igadzra, and he had no problem with that. He'd make those bastards pay for those they'd killed at Stror, and pay dearly.
Five minutes later his fleet was on it's way to Ersadt to collect on a debt.
The Igadzra in Ersadt were caught just as unaware as the Azdgari had been in Molar, but similarly, they were quick to react. Once again, the Zidagar had entered the sytem under full electronic emissions control, and the Igadzra had a very hard time determining their strength. Within moments however they had formed a defensive formation and were ready to meet the Zidagar invaders.
By the same token, the Zidagar wasted no time in launching their fighters and forming themselves for battle. The entire fleet accelerated to the edge maximum missile range and immediately launched a full salvo of Javelins, followed quickly by another in it's wake. As the missiles streamed in close to the Igadzra fleet dozens of beams lanced out to destroy the incoming projectiles, destroying many before they come anywhere near their targets. With the large of missiles fired however, a number of them managed to get through, especially where they had been focused most. Unable to withstand the power of the new Zidagar weapons, a number of Igaras were engulfed in fireballs of plasma.
Paladin Battle-group Beta
55 Zidagar Aradas
135 Zidagar Fighters Mk. 1
200 Zidagar Fighters Mk. 2
134 Igaras (16 Destroyed)
Above the skies of Innor much the same situation that had occurred in Ersadt was taking place. The Zidagar jumped into the system under ECM protection, then launched a few volleys of missiles doing minimal damage as a result of greater PDS coverage.
Paladin Battle-group Gamma
20 Zidagar Aradas
200 Zidagar Fighters
174 Igaras (9 destroyed)
As a Zidagar battlegroup, notably comprised of black, not purple, ships, including the new Zidagar Arada, exitted hyperspace into the Blaga system, sparsely patrolled by Miranu fighters and busy with trade, they caught the Miranu defenders by surprise. While the Miranu may have been suspecting the Zidagar of such a thing, they were unprepared for the sudden ferocious attack.
Miranu fighters scrambled all across Blaga and those that had not been patrolling quickly exitted low orbit to meet with their fellows. Disturbingly for the Miranu, their sensors were unable to penetrate the Zidagar fleet and could not even determine how many ships they were being attacked by.
With the Miranu vessels quickly targetted, and plasma missiles ready to launch on a seconds notice, the Zidagar fleet hailed them.
Miranu vessels, lower your weapons and surrender immediately. You have one half hour to land your ships on Blaga and evacuate with self destructs set. No Miranu military vessel is to be allowed to remain. Blaga is being liberated by the Zidagar Inquisitors.
Inquisition Battle-group Delta
75 Zidagar Fighters
122 Crescent Fighters
Meanwhile, exactly the same as occuring in Himgro, and while Himgro was in a slightly better position to defend itself, the situation still appeared to be hopeless.
...Himgro is being liberated by the Zidagar Inquisitors.
Inquisition Battle-group Epsilon
75 Zidagar Fighters
152 Crescent Fighters
At the same time as Blaga and Himgro were struck, another Zidagar battlegroup struck in Zimla, responding according to the plan and immediately demanding an unconditional surrender involving the Miranu defenders destroying their own ships within one hour, or facing annihilation.
Inquisition Battlegroup Zeta
75 Zidagar Fighters
122 Crescent Fighters
As a massive Zidagar battlegroup, albeit one whose size could not be determined upon entering the system due to their ECM systems, entered Zachit, they were surprised to find the system not as heavily defended as expected. With ECMs already powered up, the Zidagar ships immediately fired off salvos of their Javelins against the limited Zachit forces, who responded with their own missiles which were hopelessly incapable of striking any Zidagar. In the opening seconds of the battle, several Zachit vessels were destroyed, and the Zidagar quickly moved to engage a closer range where their advantage would be even more pronounced.
Inquisition Battlegroup Omega
105 Zidagar Aradas
394 Zidagar Fighters (1 destroyed)
236 Zachit Fighters (4 destroyed)
80 Zachit Aradas
175 Zidagar Aradas
300 Zidagar Fighters
Pozdag (to Zimla)
Terapin (to Molar)
70 Zidagar Aradas
100 Zidagar Fighters
Neradag (to Zachit)
70 Zidagar Aradas
60 Zidagar Fighters
Stror (to Ersadt)
35 Zidagar Aradas
30 Zidagar Fighters
This post has been edited by Vice Admiral Ipvicus : 06 March 2005 - 10:08 PM