Jellicoe immediately contacted Commodore Axtes, who commanded a substantial force of cruisers and whose battlegroup had been shadowing the Tau in the Tarsis system, wainting for an opportunity. Commanding from the bridge of the mars class heavy cruiser Illustrious, Axtes also had the dictator class Redoubtable and newly refit dauntless class Ajax under his command, along with an escort squadron. This powerful carrier force was now ordered to raid and destroy as much of the Tau fleet as possible, since the Tau heavy carrier Vigilence had taken heavy damage against Thok's fleet and was unavaiable.Axtes travelled immediately to the inner biosphere region where his forec quickly located a force of three Protectors and three escorts on an intercept course. Axtes slowed his fleet, launched a defensive fighter screen and engaged with Illustrious's Nova Cannon. Meanwhile the Tau began frantically launching waves of Mantas and torpedoes, while closing the range.
However in the ensuing engagement the Nova Cannon won the day. Excellent shooting from Illustrious first crippled one protector, then another, forcing the enemy fleet to disengage before they were even in range with their main weapons. Worse was to follow for the Tau as one of the Protectors, badly damaged, could not flee, and another precision shot from Illustrious blew her apart. Only Ajax suffered minor damage from torpedoes and manta waves, the fighters from Illustrious and Redoubtable doing their job protecting the big ships.