Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Battle of Ephesus Secundus

On 1909.009M42 a major fleet battle occurred near to Caitlen Station, in the Rim Worlds, in a system known as Ephesus. The system itself had no strategic significance, but it was where Admiral Thok's forces, as well as a significant force of new Chaos vessels, had been tracked by the Imperial Navy's intelligence department.

Admiral Jellicoe was very worried when he got the report. What did it mean? Who was in command of these new, unidentified Chaos vessels. While the Imperial Navy Tacticae tried to work this out, Jellicoe realised this was an opportunity to deal the Chaos fleet a major blow.

The Imperial fleet however was split up. Although Audacious and Ark Royal were now available, having been transferred from the vastrid subsector, all of Jellicoe’s battleships and a significant number of his cruisers were on duty elsewhere. He himself, aboad Vanguard, was still in the warp returning from the battle which saw Thok’s fast battleship, Ragnarok, destroyed.

As it happened however, the Imperial Navy had recently been reinforced by a large fleet belonging to the Adeptus Machanicus. These technically advanced vessels had been escorting the Titan Legions from systems hubward of Zadoc, and after a long astro-telepathic meeting it was decided that a joint venture to destroy or capture the Chaos vessels would be undertaken by the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Imperial Navy.

Ark Royal, the Mars class battlecruiser was named flagship, under Vice Admiral Sturdee, was named flagship, and she was accompanied by Renown, Audacious and Repulse, all recently refitted, along with three cruisers and two light cruisers from the Mechanicus fleet. After a three day warp jump the fleet converged on Ephesus Secundus, a gas giant surrounded by a number of gas clouds and rocky rings and arcs, where the Chaos fleet was apparently rendezvousing.

Imperial intelligence speculated that the new ships were a completely new force and not ships of the Warmaster Traegan nor admiral Thok. This was disturbing news, and Sturdee immediately formed up the fleet into close formation and approached the Chaos fleet with the intention of doing as much damage as possible.

The Battle

Battle was joined at 04:15 standard time, with Repules, Renown and Ark Royal embarrassing themselves infront of the Mechanicus with woefully inaccurate Nova Cannon fire. The Chaos fleet immediately formed up and approached the Imperial fleet at a leisurely pace.

The Chaos fleet consisted, fortunately, of no battleships, but could still call upon the firepower of the Grand cruiser Jormungandr, three of Thok’s main cruisers, Fafnir, Sigurd and Naglfar, and four of the unidentified Chaos vessels, which included a very rare Hecate class heavy cruiser.

A large asteroid field of the starboard bow of the Imperial fleet became an important feature in the battle. Most of the Chaos fleet stayed to the left of the field, approaching while firing their long range lance weaponry. However Fafnir, accompanied by escorts, approached from the right, sealing her doom.

As the Chaos fleet closed the Imperial cruisers took the worst of the fire. The tyrant class Audacious was soon crippled and forced to disengage having taken concentrated fire from Fafnir’s squadron. Soon after Renown was reduced to a hulk despite the best efforts of her crew. Worse was to follow as the Imperial cruiser careened into the asteroid field, blowing up spectacularly.

By 04:45 the Imperial fleet, in close formation, had made a turn to the right, blasting the lead elements of the Chaos fleet with broadsides while concentrating most of their firepower against the isolated Fafnir. The result was inevitable and the chaos cruiser was torn apart by lance fire from the Adeptus cruisers Suppono and Potentia. Fafnir then exploded with a devastating warp drive overload which narrowly missed severly damaging the Imperial vessels.

The broadsides of the two dominator class vessels and their escorting swords also damaged Sigurd heavily, and she limped away under cover of a gas cloud. However the Imperial fleet had made a mistake in not finishing her off.

With the isolated Fafnir dealt with the Imperial fleet now found itself in a difficult position. Shielded by the asteroids the Chaos fleet had got round to the rear of the Imperial vessels and was starting to do some damage. Seeing this, the two Imperial commanders ordered their vessels to maximum speed and moved away from the van of the Chaos fleet. The light Adeptus cruiser Praesel however, at the back of the fleet, did not like the odds she was facing and disengaged.

The move away from the Chaos fleet bore fruit for the Imperium however. Eager to engage the enemy the Chaos fleet became strung out, with the cruisers now identified as Semmerhage and Aran’gar now facing the combined broadsides of Repulse, Ark Royal, Scienta and both the Adeptus modified gothics. Thanks to some accurate gunnery from the Mechanicus vessels, both were soon reduced to hulks.

By 05:45 the battle, which had been swinging from one side to the other, now looked good for the Imperium. They had destroyed three enemy cruisers and crippled another, for the loss of one of their own, plus two crippled cruisers, one of which was the light cruiser Corrigere, who was unable to flee behind the safety of the Imperial broadsides. Meanwhile the gothic class Mechanicus vessels were moving at flank speed, attempting to manoeuvre around to the rear of the chaos vessels.

This was however the high point of the battle for the Imperium. Jormungandr, leading the remaining three chaos cruisers in a tight group, now unleashed its firepower on the Ark Royal. This however had little effect, but then the grand cruisers torpedoes, escorted by massed bomber wings from the Chaos carriers, arrived abeam of the Imperial flagship.

Bad luck now played a major part. The experienced Vice Admiral ordered his turret gunners to concentrate on the more dangerous bombers, leaving the torpedoes to acquire their target unmolested. Five out of six hit the ship, which was bad enough, but one managed to detonate inside the Ark Royal’s warp core. The resulting explosion first broke the ship in two, then into a rapidly expanding shockwave which tore through space at a shocking velocity. All the Chaos bombers were lost, but this didn’t matter. Scienta took several hits, causing severe damage and fled, disengaging inside the asteroid field which had shaped the battle. Seeing this disaster, the remaining two Adeptus Mechanicus vessels headed immediately towards jump co-ordinates.

When the survivors of the encounter arrived back at Caitlen station, there was much consternation. Ark Royal, and a very capable Vice Admiral had been lost, as well as another capital ship. The Imperial Navy had been hit hard, and although it was a victory in terms of ships destroyed, two of the Chaos vessels had merely been hulkes, and would most likely be returned to service. Only the Fafnir, scourge of the Imperial navy, had been destroyed for good. Once again Jellicoe had sent out his fleet to engage the forces of Chaos, and been unable to claim a victory.

Losses - Imperial

Ark Royal – exploded
Renown – exploded
Audacious – crippled
– crippled
– crippled
1 battlecruiser 1 cruiser destroyed. 2 cruisers and 1 light cruiser crippled. 2 excorts destroyed.

Losses – Chaos
– exploded
– hulked
– hulked
– crippled
3 cruisers destroyed. 1 cruiser crippled. 5 escorts destroyed.

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