Yes I know I ought to finish the stories I'm already committed to. But for now I want to try something I rarely see. That's right, guess who stars in this first contact. I'll give you till the end of the chapter to guess. I have difficulty writing sometimes. I will eventually get back to the Morrigan Effect and Battlefront.
Rear Admiral Beatty was often considered to be a very symbol of the Royal Navy. The short man dressed in his navy blue admiral's outfit onboard the HMS Lion was unremarkable if one only took a quick look at him. Even more so if you should happen upon the Admiral in one of Scapa Flow's many pubs he would appear as a jovial lad with a pint of beer and an arm around his colleagues singing songs. But beneath the grandeur, confidence and an air of command was a shrewd tactician who could command his ships with utmost respect.
He had risen through the ranks speedily and quickly placed in charge of the 4th Battlecruiser Squadron. His command involved offensive and scouting actions with his four mighty Indefatigable class Battlecruisers. The enormous ships stretch about 890 meters long, with a bulky and curved hull similar to that of pre-war ironclads. It's main armament was four enormous turrets each possessing 2 Mk 320 gun batteries. Besides it's frightening main armament where 16 much smaller Mk20 gun batteries for engaging smaller warships, and a set of massively powerful 12 meter torpedo launchers. The decks where shielded with several meters of the thickest iron alloy armor money can buy, compressed with element zero. It's four Parsons-direct drive Element Zero drive cores could generate enough power to move the massive warship at almost 25.8 Light-knots. A huge improvement in speed compared to the older warships.
His own personal flagship, was the HMS Lion. The class prototype for a new era of battlecruisers, they used the same hull arrangement as the Indefatigable class ships, but improved on it's weapons and speed. The only ship which boasted more power than the Lion was the HMS Queen Mary. She had been the most recent addition to the Royal Navy and boasted even further improved engines and weapons systems. While all six ships looked similar at a distance, if one would head close enough they might notice the subtle differences in design. At the present moment, Beatty was carefully regarding the radar scope on his command deck and keeping a keen eye on the other squadrons under his command.
About 1 week earlier, the Aurora Borealis, a civilian mining ship bound for Sheffield, had gone missing with all hands. She was a lightly armoured vessel with no guns, and piracy was inherently rare in the empire. Most paramilitary ships couldn't hope to outrun a destroyer, or even a modern battlecruiser. They had thought it was pirates, put out a bulletin and continued. But when the starbase in the system which controlled trade went dead a day later, without any distress signals being sent, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had ordered the current Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet, John Jellicoe, to dispatch a recon squadron.
Rather than risk the loss of a cruiser flotilla to what could simply be an insurrectionist movement or a particularly powerful pirate group, Jellicoe had ordered Beatty to immediately take his battlecruiser squadron, along with a screening flotilla to investigate the system. The Grand Fleet itself rarely left port, with a few battlecruiser and armoured cruiser squadrons taking care of interstellar patrols. The supply of trade from the New East Indies was vital to the british war economy. He wasn't going alone though, Alongside his cruiser squadron and battlecruiser squadron, was a much more dangerous foe.
Four of the Royal Navy's largest ships, the immense Queen Elizabeth class Super Dreadnoughts. They where enormous ships, at 1580 meters long and carrying a frankly absurd amount of guns. Enough to engage anything the british had ever deployed. And he had four of them at his command. Oh yes he was looking forward to this. Thomas Evans was the commander of the four dreadnoughts, but he had jurisdiction in this case.
And so he had steamed out, with Admiral Hood aboard his own battlecruiser squadron a few hours behind, and Jellicoe with the grand fleet just 3 days behind if he really needed support. Why would anyone want to take on six of the Royal Navy's newest battlecruisers along with four super-dreadnoughts though?
"Sir the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron is reporting sector clear, shall we move on?".
He thought for a moment, "Tell them to proceed to the wreckage of the starbase and start looking for anything which can explain the situation. Starbases don't just vanish".
"Aye sir". And with that, a steady stream of dots and dashes where quickly transmitted via FTL eezo accelerated from the communications mast. It didn't take much to get FTL communications. Just a little creative physics involving firing individual molecules of element zero from a cannon.
As the minutes ticked on, an unnerving silence descended on the bridge. No-one seemed willing to speak out of place. The only noises where the hum of machinery, the tapping of buttons and keys, along with the occasional hushed chatter. The silence was eventually broken, when one of the sensor machines started beeping. It's printer began whirring and spitting out a long piece of paper, which the ensign retrieved from the machine. "Cruiser Galitea reporting unknown contacts just left FTL Admiral. Reading 28 heavy sized contacts, 90 light cruisers and 2 capital ships".
"Are they appearing hostile?".
"They've pulled into a matching orbit, but aren't moving to engage, though we are picking up power surges".
He sighed, "Bring the flotilla about and enter a course which will bring us to within firing range, but make it subtle and no-one is to open fire until I say so. Got it?". The ensign nodded and saluted. "Aye aye sir".
The vessel continued to hum as they pushed onwards. the entire battlecruiser squadron turned one-by-one. Four vessels blanketed against the night turning. A line of them with their turrets oriented to one side. Time continued to pass by the engines pushed the vessel to it's cruising speed of 21 light-knots. With that speed they'd be within range in 90 minutes. All across the ship Klaxons sounded, bringing the crew into action. Quickly and diligently torpedoes where loaded, weapons primed, engines stoked with eezo.
Unfortunately, the inherent instability in eezo communication shot him in the foot, and he cursed when the dreadnought squadron continued steaming towards the starbase. For almost ten minutes they did so, until they finally understood the communication and swung their ships around. They would be delayed now and he might not have the advantage of dreadnought fire for the first part of battle, if it was coming.
When the Lion it rotated to a broadside, and the other ships followed. During the movement, the Indefatigable had pulled ahead of the Lion. A purposeful choice which spread out the firepower. In the event of hostile contact. The Lion and Indefatigable would each focus fire on one of the capital ships. the other vessels each had their turrets assigned a target.
"Sir the Light cruiser squadron has arrived".
"Excellent. Order them into position and assign each a target in the form of the cruisers".
The Light Cruisers where similar in aesthetics to the battlecruisers. Except each stretched only 600 meters. They where much less heavily armed, with only a pair of single Mk 160 Gun batteries at the bow and stern. 6 smaller still Mk 100 Gun batteries spread out over the ship, a QF-12 Anti-Fighter Laser cannon and 4 torpedo tubes where it's more multi-use batteries and it was also quicker than the battlecruisers it accompanied. In this battle they would screen the british fleet in case the unknowns attempted to use aircraft. Though everyone knew that sending aircraft against even a single heat ray was suicide.
"Sir what are your orders?".
"Open the communications, it's clear those ships may well know what happened to the starbase". A single tone rang out, before Beatty began to speak. "This is the HMS Lion to unknown vessels, please identify yourselves at once and prepare to receive certified inspection".
The message was sent, and they waited,
And Waited. It seemed either the unknowns where too shocked, too stoic, or unable to reply. "Unknown ships, I urge you to comply and acknowledge my transmission. If you do not reply, we will be forced to deploy boarding teams".
Once again there was utter silence. No-one, it seemed, on either side wanted to point out that maybe the different fleets used different languages, english had long since become the standard language of the british empire. "Right, switch to Electromagnetic, all frequencies".
EM Communication was rarely used in the empire. It was limited to the speed of light. That meant that sending a message anywhere could take hours if you where far away from a communications skiff. "Channel open".
"This is the HMS Lion to unknown vessels, I am ordering you to power down your ships and prepare for boarding teams".
Whether it was the atmosphere, the silence, the inability to reply or that face that the unknowns where directly oriented at the british fleet, didn't matter. But when the flash of an FTL vessel rang out clear as day. The perceived order on the Lion went to jelly. "80 new contacts have been received. IFF's match those of the enemy".
"We have another capital ship! I repeat, capital ships are present on the engagement, two more of them".
"Sir I have Jellicoe on the line, he wants to know what the situation is". Beaty angrily snatched the phone. "Commander we are currently staring an unknown armada in the balls. They possess enough ships to outnumber us 4 to 1 despite our superior tonnage, and they aren't responding to communications".
"Admiral I've got confirmation from navy command in London. They aren't British ships. You are clear to take whatever precautions you deem necessary. At this time we are still 8 hours out even at full speed. Unless you want to meet us halfway".
"Aye Aye. See you in half a day". and with that, he cut the communication, and gave the order to slowly retreat. The seconds turned to minutes, the minutes to hours. Neither side willing to attempt provoking the other. Beatty was on his eight cup of tea now and had about had enough of the unknown fleet. "Right. I want every damned sensor we have pointing at them. I want to know everything about them". The ranging lasers and 3d scanners extended and almost immediately began painting the fleet with lasers. This set off all sorts of alarms in the unknowns bridges, and subtly, they extended smaller laser batteries all across their own ships.
"Unknowns are increasing speed to interception, but have not yet fired".
"Anything in the database?",
"Ships don't match anything in our system. Only two possibilities is it's a paramilitary group or extraterrestrial". The man shivered as he said that, and Beatty swore, before pointing at them. "Cleared to engage, weapons free".
Almost in slow motion. The Lion pivoted it's main battery and fired. A shell with the mass of a small asteroid, was propelled by magnetic confinement and explosive propellant at almost 4 percent light speed. The low mass shell struck the hard, kinetic barriers of the unknowns and immediately exploded, igniting into a fireball several dozen meters across. More explosions rang out across the red and grey ships, until they finally seemed to realize what had happened, and one of the capital ships fired back. One of the shells missed completely, while the other struck the Indefatigable on it's side plate. It then shattered, and flattened into the armor, heavily denting the plate and sending a jolt that was felt across the ship.
"Damage report on the enemy?".
"Negative damage sir, the shells hit, exploded and failed to damage".
"Fire again, and have the cruisers fire torpedoes".
The guns spoke again, and this time the secondary batteries followed suite, striking their targets almost immediately. This time, one of the cruisers near the rear of the formation was hit, and an explosion tore off one of the slanted wings.
"Hit sir, confirmed damage on a cruiser, still nothing on the capital ships".
"Open fire again then! Keep firing. We have the tonnage advantage". It was certainly true that the British fleet outweighed the alien ships. The battlecruisers weighed more than the alien ships combined, mostly thanks to heavy armor and their enormous gun batteries. That mattered little to the barrage of slugs which struck the Indefatigable.
They tore through the already damaged armor plating, and hit one of the element zero reactors. The destabilized eezo quickly escaped from it's housing and flooded the rear battery with radiation and fire. The fire ignited the ammo stockpiles and quickly rendered the rear turret non-operational. What followed was another barrage, which hit another drive core, causing a similar reaction, and before the captain of the battlecruiser could even comprehend, the ship disappeared in an enormous explosion which sent debris flying in all directions.
This shook Beatty, who watched in shock as the vessel disappeared in a blinding flash. The battle continued. And both sides laid into one another with everything they had. The British finally got a kill, when the torpedoes of the light cruisers broke through the point defense fields of the first alien battleship and hit it's now unprotected underside. An explosion measuring at 60 megatons consumed half the ship in a nuclear fireball, and by the time the explosion died down, 80% of the ship was consumed in smoke and fire, while the remaining pieces spiralled away.
Finally some good luck came, as it seemed like the Third Battle Squadron had entered range, and an accurate salvo of shots from the HMS Queen Elizabeth slammed into the rear of both heavy cruisers, which broke off their attack and retreated behind the fleet.
Not even 4 minutes later, the majority of alien fire was refocused to that of the Queen Mary, which soon disappeared in a blinding explosion which cracked the vessel in two and killed much of her crew. The HMS Tiger, who was behind the Queen Mary, quickly fired it's side mounted thrusters to avoid the wreckage, continuing to fire at the alien fleet.
On the deck of the Lion, a nervous crewmen entered, the bridge, bound for Beatty.
"The Queen Mary is destroyed. She just exploded and we're now down to 4 battlecruisers and 4 dreadnoughts".
The stoic face of Admiral Beatty didn't change, and he turned to his second in command. "Chatfield, there appears to be something wrong with our bloody ships today".
As the rain of fire continued, with shells slowly being exchanged between both sides, Beatty watched as another of the screening cruisers exploded in fire, having taken the brunt of a salvo from the Valiant. "Signal half the cruiser squadron to cut off their retreat and get behind them".
"Aye Aye sir". Chatfield picked up the speaker and quickly gave the order. Having seen that the alien fleet didn't seem to want to send it's fighters, or launch any torpedoes, he could quite happily use his cruisers in an offensive role. Beatty watched the cruisers pull far round the flank of the aliens, before turning and burning hard to get behind them. But at precisely 16:48 standard time, Chatfield picked up the phone again, before slamming it back down. "We have a major situation. The cruiser squadron just stumbled on 8 more capital ships. We're completely outnumbered and outgunned".
Beatty, shocked at the sheer number, turned to the helmsman. "All ahead full and bring the squadron, we can try and lead them into the Grand Fleet. Contact Hood and Jellicoe with the information".
"Sir Rear Admiral Evans is requesting instructions on what to do?".
"Tell him to join us in retreating, I don't like the odds of us winning this alone". The ships swung about in formation, while the battle squadron took up an intermediary position between the battlecruisers and the alien fleet, shielding them from some fire from the remaining few capitals and pocket capitals.
For an hour the ships dashed away, their retreat occasionally punctuated when the much closer alien ships let out barrages of fire. To which the dreadnoughts replied with their own barrage. Finally, Beatty nodded in approval as the IFFs of the friendly fleet registered they where approaching at sub-light speeds. This would mean they could get much closer.
"Helmsman, signal the flotilla to try and cut off the aliens. We need to draw them into the fray".
Beatty watched the display carefully as Hood's battlecruisers entered sensor range. They had one shot to cut off the alien fleet and by god he was going to take it. "Take us further around and bring the broadside guns to bear".
As Beatty's squadron began to turn, the three battlecruisers lead by Invincible began opening fire, and almost immediately one of the cruisers near the front of the alien formation took several hits and began spurting fire, before rolling to a relative halt and falling out of formation. Disabled. The four battlecruisers and dreadnoughts belonging to him curved further into the flank of the alien's perimeter. If he could cut them off completely, or 'Cross the T' then he could fire all of his large caliber guns, while the enemy would have to rotate to keep him within their range. Normally this meant trying to cross the front of the ship, but as these ships had forward facing guns, this meant trying to flank them.
To compensate, the alien ships tried to change their vanguard of cruisers and their further back capital ships to meet Beatty's ships, exactly as he intended. Finally, from the other side of the sun, Jellicoe's fleet emerged. A grand total of 24 dreadnoughts, supported by numerous armored cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers began to turn forming a battle line dozens of kilometers long. All of their guns rotating to meet the alien fleet. Who had now realized the peril they where in and tried in vain, to bring their fleet back out of range of the guns.
The enormous concentration of fire power meant that before the alien fleet could realize, their T had been crossed and quickly the already damaged dreadnought exploded in fire and flames. As it did so, the initial squadron of Beatty's nemesis which had first engaged them turned and began to flee behind the safety of the enemy's main fleet. As the enormous line of dreadnoughts let out a blaze of glory. Beatty slotted his own dreadnoughts and battlecruisers into a gap which had opened in the line, between Admiral Hood's squadron, and the main fleet under Jellicoe, however just as he finished getting into position, a partially obscured flash sent out debris which caused both battleships in front of Beatty to pull a hard starboard. "What in the name of god was that?".
"Sir... the... the Invincible. She just exploded!".
An explosion. Three times in one period. One ship exploding was bad, two was unthinkable, they had lost three! Three of the most sophisticated battlecruisers in existence had been destroyed by much, much smaller ships! How where their cannons that powerful. He gripped the railing harder, and calmly turned to Chatfield and ordering another torpedo strike.
As the torpedoes lanced out, the destroyers and cruisers in the human line scrambled to use the confusion to escape from the flanks of the human fleet. Two of the armored cruisers dashed for the disabled cruiser, but the HMS Defense would suffer twelve hits from dreadnought grade iron slugs, which obliterated the 890 meter long ship.
The alien fleet suddenly executed a perfect 180 degree turn in unison, slowly pulling away and disappeared into FTL with a bang, as the human fleet held their fire. Beatty, staring at the huge amount of debris scattered between the Grand Fleet and the alien fleet. "Admiral anything from the spaceplanes?".
"No contacts- wait... They're coming in for another pass!".
The fleet appeared without warning, charging for the fore of the formation, and what remained of Admiral Hood's flotilla. They all fired at once, and one of the battlecruisers took severe damage to its keel, but with the entire human fleet firing at once, the dreadnought at the nose was hit 40 times by human shells, which turned it into a floating hunk of scrap.
The next retreat from the aliens was nothing short of a complete rout. No coordination was present at all as every ship elected to turn and run. The smaller ships fired off a storm of small missiles which Jellicoe called a torpedo attack drill on. In unison, the grand fleet rotated and burnt hard away to minimize hits from the torpedoes, while a few stray explosions signaled that some of the alien ships had been disabled and where now being blasted with EMPs from missiles to remove any semblance of defense.
1 minute passed, and the aliens did not reappear. 2, then 3, then four. All along the British battle line the turrets remained fixed on where the fleet had disappeared. Until finally, an entire hour later, the all clear was sounded. A spaceplane had spotted the alien fleet utilizing the local mass relay, and where completely retreating. At that point, the exhausted human fleet let out a cheer and much of it came to a relative halt, now trying to take count of the losses.
All in all, the losses where similar to that of their enemy, and Beatty was assured that he had done everything correctly. And that the loss of the Indefatigable and Queen Mary was an unfortunate event for a battle. But when he finally received the casualty counts, he narrowed his eyes in anger, besides his own two battlecruisers exploding, and admiral Hood's flagship detonating, 3 armored cruisers and 8 destroyers had been destroyed. 2 battleships where heavily damaged, the HMS Warspite's engines had been blown off, and she would have to be tugged back to Cromarty for dry dock repairs. Other than that, much of the damage to the human fleet was odd. Mainly heavy dents in the armor, which could be fixed by simply re-attaching the armor. Some smaller ships just had holes which went through them.
It seems as though the alien fleet had lost a few of their own capital ships, and almost 3 dozen smaller vessels, 2 of which where pocket-capitals. Somewhere between Armored Cruiser and Battlecruiser weight. But the most devastating news would come ten minutes later. Admiral Hood. Second in command to the entire British navy, had been killed when the HMS Invincible exploded. Beatty was promoted quickly to Vice Admiral. He would keep his current fleet, and would be given what remained of Hood's ships, his two battlecruisers and their cruiser and destroyer escorts. He would also find out, that the first lord of the navy, was coming. Along with the prime minister.
His crew where tired, his ship moderately damaged, but he couldn't yet rest.
As the Prime Ministers carrier had just arrived, flanked by two dreadnoughts.
I know it seems like I made the British Majorly Overpowered there with their capital ship numbers. But I'd like to say, that what you just witnessed was about 70% of the entire british fleet in one place. Carrier are a new thing only just entering service. Whereas dreadnoughts, battleships and battlecruisers are a proven doctrine which the empire threw itself into. While they outnumber the Turians in capital ships, they do not outnumber them in destroyers or cruisers. Specially when you consider the humans don't have frigates or corvettes for reasons I will get to.