For over two years the Imperial Fleet at Mordecai had been engaging in a standoff with chaos forces, unwilling to engage directly, fearing that a decisive confrontation might lead to total disaster for the Imperial invasion of the system. The chaos naval forces in the system were strong, backed up by a fleet base and the power of the daemon world Astralis, and the Imperium had been focussing on a "fleet in being" to similarly deter the traitor forces from launching their own decisive operation. By 07.022M42 both sides had amassed a significant fleet presence, and Kutuzov's army was struggling with supplies and reinforcements, as each shipment had to be escorted by one of Admiral Stark's battlegroups to run the gauntlet from the jump point to the inner biosphere. All this changed with the re-appointment of Admiral Jellicoe to overall sector fleet command.
With the change of leadership, the cautious standing orders of the previous Lord Admiral, the timid and decadent Bova Magnus, were torn up. Instead Jellicoe made a proclamation stating that any well planned and reasonable offensive actions by his subordinate admirals would have his full support. At Mordecai Admiral Stark saw this as both an endorsement of the aggressive stance he had advocated for, and also as a challenge to show his worth as a commander of His Imperial Majesty's finest warships. In mid 07.022M42 Stark and Gorshkov decided to initiate a showdown with the Emerald Serpent in the primary biosphere of the Mordecai system. To do this, Admiral Stark put together a large force of capital ships, led by his battleship Kirov, with no fewer than four retribution class vessels and nine other capital ships. Moving these into place in the region of Mordecai Secundus, the closest habitable planet to the Mordecai star, would force the chaos fleet to respond rather than yield their hard won logistical control over the battle on the ground.
Admiral Stark's prediction of the response by the chaos forces proved correct, as the Emerald Serpent duly appeared with ten capital ships, and one vessel the Imperium had suspected was in the possession of the chaos faction, but had never confirmed - a ship simply known as "planet killer". Although it was uncertain as to whether the vessel was equipped with the same devastating planet destroying weapon that gave the class of ship its name, the ship itself was massive, and bristling with other weaponry. Seeing the Emerald Serpent fleet bearing down on him, Stark issued his orders and the largest fleet action in the Mordecai campaign so far soon followed.
Line of Battle:
Imperial Grand Fleet (Admiral Stark)
Kirov (Flagship, Retribution class battleship)
Vanguard (Retribution class battleship)
Resolution (Retribution class battleship)
Bulwark (Jovian class battlecruiser)
Malinovka (Dominion class cruiser)
Narva (Gothic class cruiser)
Tsushima (Dominator class cruiser)
Tanenberg (Dominator class cruiser)
Implacable (Dominator class cruiser)
Repulse (Dominator class cruiser)
Basilisk (Dominator class cruiser)
Medusa (Dominator class cruiser)
Emerald Serpent (estimate)
Planet Killer, Despoiler class battleship, 10 cruisers
The chaos fleet formed up into a a line, attempting to bring the long range broadsides of the heavy chaos cruisers to bear on Stark's battlegroup, with the carriers (at least on Styx class and several devastations)on the right flank, with the planet killer and a Despoiler class battleship on the left. In between these the rest of the chaos fleet armed with heavy broadsides formed the van of the chaos fleet. Stark positioned his dominator class vessels, armed with nova cannons, towards the back, with his battleships deployed at 45 degrees so that if the Emerald Serpent rushed his nova cannons, they would inevitably have to face the full broadside of these mighty vessels. The imperial deployment now put the chaos fleet into a difficult position. If they charged, their "T" would be crossed. If they went for the retributions, they would be forced to face nova cannon fire for an extended period of time.
Throwing caution to the wind the chaos fleet decided to charge into the centre of the imperial fleet. The chaos vessels took heavy punishment from the retributions and the dominators as they attempted to get to within close range, with the planet killer taking much of the fire, and being knocked out of the battle. Accurate fire from the imperial fleet also caused a significant amount of damage, as the imperial cruisers targeted the bridges and communications structures of the chaos vessels. The effect was devastating. Once the chaos fleet had managed to close, they now had the chance to strike at close range, evening the battle, but the damage to their communications now rendered coordinated actions all but impossible, and the return fire from the chaos fleet was haphazard and sporadic.
Eventually the chaos fleet did manage to position their five carriers behind the imperial fleet, but without gunboat support this was too little too late. The carrier attacks did limited damage to the imperial formation, and inevitably Stark's ships swung round to bring their firepower to bear on the last remaining functional portion of the chaos fleet. The Emerald Serpent commander gave the order to disengage, and those who could, did, but plenty of the chaos cruisers did not receive the order, or had difficulty obeying, such was the chaos wrought by the imperial hits to their bridge areas and communications centres. Several chaos cruisers did not disengage, and were pummelled for target practice by the imperial vessels while their comrades fled the battle.
At the end of the battle the Imperium had lost two cruisers, reduced to hulks by the chaos fleet, but the Emerald Serpent had lost five, including their flagship. The result was a decisive victory for the Imperium, forcing the withdrawal of Emerald Serpent fleet units from the system, and ensuring Lord Tragean's vessels stayed within the protective envelope of the Mordecai Spacefort's powerful gun batteries. This yielded full control of the space around Mordecai Secundus to the Imperium, allowing reinforcements and supplies to flood in to Kutuzov's army for the first time in two years. Pleased with the result, Admiral Jellicoe sent his warm congratulations to Admirals Stark and Gorshkov, and the pendulum on Mordecai swung decisively in favour of the Imperium f Mankind.
Chaos: 5 cruisers destroyed
Imperium: 2 cruisers destroyed