Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lord Tragean moves in force 1709.011M42

While admiral Thok led his force out of the port of Mordecai, Lord Tragean was leading a much larger force of seven capital ships, led by the desolator class battleship Irredeemable Apostate, out of Kendrenec. This was the first time in ten years the warlord had personally led his ships, and it was the largest fleet Kendrenec had seen leave its docks in a decade. Fully half of Tragean's force left port in a series of escalating engagements which began to alarm Jellicoe. It seemed the Chaos fleets were testing the Imperial blockade. The Imperial admiral now worried that a truly apocalyptic fleet battle may ensue. What if all the forces of chaos sortied simultaneously? Could they, or would they, co-ordinate such an effort? His blockade had to isolate the Chaos bases from each other, as well as bottling them up.

Tragean's force was indeed impressive, but Admiral Craddock was well placed to intercept from his base in the Valitane subsector, as his fleet was on exercise near Zog at the time. Beattie already had to contend with Thok, so Craddock's force, the battleship Vanguard, cruisers Redoubtable, Aboukir, Dreadnought, Invincible and the light cruiser Ajax, immediately turned towards the Kendrenec space lane to give battle to Tragean's force.

The two fleets converged on 1709.011M42, the same date as Beattie's victory over Thok, the Imperium's six capital ships facing an enemy of seven, though the latter lacked escorts. Craddock's fleet lacked a ship armed with a nova cannon, and so the admiral chose to close the range, moving his fleet in formation towards the chaos fleet. Tragean's fleet did the same, and the two fleets maintained formation as they passed one another in between dense asteroid fields.

In the opening salvoes Invincible and Dreadnought took most of the firepower, and were forced to take evasive manouevres, throwing off their gunnery. Even so the heavy fire crippled the overlord class heavy cruiser Dreadnought, although somehow Invincible remained unscathed. Vanguard fired back, supported by the Aboukir's lances, and this weight of fire quickly took its toll on the slaughter class vessels Doomblade and Reaver, who's high speed and short range meant they had taken up position closest to the Imperial line.

Suddenly and without warning Doomblade exploded in a catastrophic warp drive implosion, crippling her sister ship and doing even more damage to the dreadnought. Desparately Dreadnought and Invincible, now crippled, attempted to move away from the chaos battle line. Invincible was successful, but Dreadnought's captain evidently failed to order a general power down of his vessel, and the battlecruiser's augur signal remained a bright beacon to the chaos vessels. Within minutes of Doomblade's destruction the Invincible also exploded, a critical hit to her plasma engines detonating the vessel and damaging Ajax in the process.

The two fleets passed, Reaver disengaging on the chaos side and Ajax and Invincible similarly leaving the fray. Repeated charges by the four sword class escorts were woefully poor, and three were destroyed in their futile attacks. As the battle wore on the gap between the two fleets opened out, briefly allowing Vanguard to rake the chaos flagship with heavy fire, but the chaos vessel remained battleworthy. Admiral Craddock then had a choice. Turn his fleet to starboard and accept a long range firefight he couldn't win, and risk the faster chaos vessels crossing his T behind his fleet, or turn to port taking shelter behind an asteroid field.

Craddock had little choice and turned to port, although this in itself didn't guarantee the rest of his fleet's safety. Only manic changes of course by Redoubtable saved the dictator class vessel from being crippled, and Vanguard herself took damage from the long range guns of the chaos fleet. Clearly Craddock was outgunned by a superior fleet, and it was equally clear that the scourge of Admiral Choraeous had returned to lead his fleet once more. The Imperial fleet fled back to the Valitane subsector for repairs, allowing Tragean's fleet clear passage to Thok's base at Morecai. The chaos forces were concentrating their forces as Jellicoe feared. Soon Jellicoe himself would have to face an enemy his predecessor had failed to best almost a decade earlier.

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