Growth of a Seed

"Speaking"

"Radio"

'Thoughts'

Location

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Author's Notes

Below is a list of ships from the Imperials so that when I reference one by name the reader will know what I am referring to.

RagoGS – Charger c70 Consular class Corvette

RagoGS II – Charger c70 Consular class Corvette

Monitor IV – Charger c70 Consular class Corvette

Picket – Marauder class Corvette

Quillion II - Marauder class Corvette

Farstar - Marauder class Corvette

Picket II - Marauder class Corvette

Retsub – EF76 Nebulon-B Escort Frigate

Compton – EF76 Nebulon-B Escort Frigate

Star Guard – Dreadnought class Heavy Cruiser

Annealer II – Acclamator I Assault Cruiser

Doneeta – Acclamator I Assault Cruiser

144 TIE/ln Starfighters

36 TIE/sa Bombers

48 Various Non-TIE model Starfighters

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Chapter 4

Planet: Earth

System: Sol

Sector: Not Applicable

Grid Coordinates: H-7

Region: Unknown Regions

Date: CE 75

Corellian Corvette Tantive IV

Two Days Post Probe Droid Incursion

The Tantive IV was currently flying above the surface of the moon several kilometers out from Copernicus City. Aboard the rebel ship, the crew was going through diagnostics of the engines to ensure they were ready to head out the following local day. Currently, everything seemed to be going just fine with the Earth-made parts and they were on schedule, so they were heading back into dock. All in all, Antilles thought it was a good day.

Until the sensor officer spoke.

"Sir, I'm picking up Imperial ID beacons! Thirteen military ships have just appeared in-system!"

Antilles felt like growling in frustration at their luck, but being the professional soldier he kept his personal opinion in check and began considering options. 'Thirteen ships, that's squadron size, not as bad as it could have been.' "Sensors, are they on a line-of-sight angle?"

"Yes sir, but the moon's luminosity and proximity should keep us hidden for the time being. The Imperial ships came out of hyperspace further away from the planet then anticipated but still on the estimated entry vector and are currently decelerating. At their current rate they'll be here at the moon in five hours. I am trying to use sensors to determine ship composition, just need a few more seconds…got it." After acquiring the information the crewman looked over it and became visibly startled by the information. "Sir, sensors read that the composition of the ships includes seven corvettes, two frigates, and three cruisers under Victory-class size."

'That's not so bad,' thought Antilles. 'The corvettes will have comparable firepower to the Earth ships but an edge in speed and defense. The frigates and cruisers will be more troublesome but as long as the Earth forces utilize their numerical advantage they can win.' Then his brain counted the ships and found that the number he came to was 12. "Wait, what about the last ship?"

"The last ship," the sensor operator gulped, "is a Praetor II Battlecruiser."

Antilles's muscles jolted at the name.

From his station at the helm Ceda could be heard whispering in fear, "A mark II Praetor? That thing must out-mass all the other ships put together." Similar awed/fearful reactions were occurring throughout the crew on the bridge. Despite their extensive travels through the galaxy and their familiarity with Imperial warships, none of them had ever laid eyes on a Praetor II, but they heard of them. Three times the size of an Imperial Star Destroyer with a similar increase in firepower the battlecruisers were rare sights because even the Empire was cautionary about mass producing such expensive ships when smaller Star Destroyers proved sufficient for most of their needs. But there was little doubt that where a battlecruiser went, destruction followed.

Antilles considered the options for the ship and immediately shoved any that involved direct combat into a secondary list. The Tantive IV was a diplomatic ship and retained only two duel turbolaser cannons and four mock laser cannons for defense. The turbolasers packed a modest punch and had a fast enough tracking system to be a threat to starfighters while the mock laser cannons were to increase their danger profile and make the likes of pirates think twice about attacking the corvette. Antilles had little doubt that any of the Empire's corvettes alone would be more heavily armed, so fighting would be dangerous, but not impossible.

He completely discarded any option of running. First, because the princess was still in the city and by the time they picked her up the Imperials would be too far in-system to escape. Second, it would make them look very bad to the people of Earth.

That left only one viable option where they could be useful at this point in time.

"Get us back to the city ASAP! And get as much information about the Imperials' ship composition! We have to provide as much information as possible on what those ships can do and possible weaknesses to be exploited!"

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Planet: Earth

System: Sol

Sector: Not Applicable

Grid Coordinates: H-7

Region: Unknown Regions

Date: CE 75

Support Ship Eternal

Kira walked onto the bridge of the Eternal, where he was greeted by the ship's captain, Andrew Waltfeld, who was standing over a newly installed holographic tactical board.

"Hey, kid," greeted the senior officer in his usual relaxed manner as he sipped some coffee. "What are you doing up here? I'd thought you'd be on the moon with Lacus." He took a small sip and smiled appreciatively, "Mmm, this is some good coffee."

"I would prefer being back on the moon," said Kira, "but because of the recent development everyone's been put on alert. Didn't you get the orders?"

"Of course I did kid; I even received the data on current ship positions and mobile suit strength. I just figured that with Lacus being the Supreme Chairwoman and you being in charge of her security…" Waltfeld let the thought trail off. He didn't need to say anymore, and it would have been reasonable for Kira to stay with her.

"Security in Copernicus City is as tight as it's ever been, so Lacus should be safe there without me. We decided that my skills would be of better use aboard the Freedom. Now what's the situation?"

Andy put down his cup and called up a presentation he already prepared that showed the information he had just received.

"Since the arrival of our first visitors, most military forces here in space began moving. Currently the three largest forces are the Eurasians at Artemis base, ZAFT at the Solomon asteroid base that was built during Durandal's administration, and finally the combination of the Atlantic Federation and Terminal forces here on the moon. After that everyone is pretty spread out. ZAFT has a fifth of their ships patrolling the entire Earth Sphere; Orb currently has four ships stationed here at Copernicus City with another seven at Ame-no-Mihashira; the Republic of East Asia and the South African Union are gathered at the L4 region where they've been trying to bring some of the abandoned colonies back online. The Atlantic Federation Space Forces are gathering its forces that are scattered around the moon to help concentrate defenses… for what it's worth."

"They got hit pretty hard in the last war didn't they, so what do they have left?"

"From their original number of fleets at the beginning of the first war, they have two remaining more or less intact with enough ships left over to form another half a fleet. To compensate for their losses and the restrictions placed on warship production they've been re-commissioning older ships that were taken out of active duty before the first war. They also reactivated all of the decommissioned Moebius armors. On the bright side they have put forward a rather interesting plan using the new AB gas that they are calling the 'Nebula Trap'. They've been preparing it ever since they first learned of the Imperials."

"What about the Terminal fleet?"

Andrew brought up new statistics. "Our forces are significant. Since the attack on Requiem our numbers have tripled thanks to volunteers and supplies donated from the other military forces. The biggest donator of course was President White, after his investigations turned up all of those secret LOGOS storehouses hiding all of those mothballed ships that were documented as destroyed from first war. They also provided a fair number of mobile suits, but kept some of the LOGOS equipment for themselves. In particular is one ship that has an important role in their 'Nebula Trap' plan.

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Planet: Earth

System: Sol

Sector: Not Applicable

Grid Coordinates: H-7

Region: Unknown Regions

Date: CE 75

Praetor II Battlecruiser Venomous Fang

The Imperial ships had dropped out of hyperspace and began deceleration at a rate that would allow them adequate time to get sensor readings of the system. After 15 minutes of scanning using long range sensors, Davros was confused as he gained an overview of the situation.

When preparing for this action, Davros had expected to find some backwater, sparsely populated (if not outright uninhabited) world, where the only source of technology and hyperdrive-equipped ships belonged to the rebels.

He also expected to find a number of military vessels such as starfighters, a few corvettes, frigates and maybe and old cruiser. The ships that he expected to find in the system he also expected would be aged and at best maintained to a "fair" condition, as was typical of most the equipment the Rebels used.

Because of the seeming communications blackout around the system and the successful elimination of an enemy ship, the rebels had no reason to evacuate till the probe droids entered in system. Given the amount of time that had passed, he suspected that the rebels would have been preparing either a second trap or, more likely, an evacuation that Davros's ships would have jumped into the middle of.

But that was not the situation he found. Preliminary scans had discovered hundreds of multi-kilometer long objects floating around the world that are distinctly artificial in nature, with each successive scan revealing more information such as how the largest objects were concentrated around three areas that basic mathematics said would be relatively stable gravitationally because of the interaction between the planet and its moon. As his assault force drew closer they could also detect energy sources emanating from the moon, and eventually energy patterns of ships. However the planet itself proved frustratingly impervious to scanning from a distance, requiring a closer inspection to learn anything about the surface.

'This society is fairly well developed, but they've had no contact with the Empire. And if that analysis is right, their technology isn't up to our level. So any ship analogue won't be comparable. Considering what happened to the Mangle, which was likely the rebels' doing, I could begin an invasion. I'd set up a forward base, and then send a runner out for additional troops and supplies. However, the bureaucrats wouldn't be happy if I didn't at least try a diplomatic approach first. So I'll begin with talks and if it doesn't go the way I want, I'll take action. So I best prepare for a fight.'

"Annealer and Doneeta, hold back to position Beta-436 with corvettes Picket, Quillian II, and Farstar. General Ulic-Cuell, when the signal is given you may begin ground assault operations if you determine it is viable. Star Guard, Picket II, and Monitor IV are to go over the planet's northern pole and maintain a geosynchronous position on the side opposite the moon. Retsub and RagoGS will go to position Alpha-298 to engage the constructs in that area and serve as a communications relay to the Star Guard. Compton and RagoGS II will perform similar duties in the region on the other side of the moon. Remember; do not engage until the signal is given unless fired upon.

As the ships broke formation to go to their assigned positions a report came in that several of the systems native ships, all ranging from corvette to light frigate in size, were approaching. The speed of their approach did not indicate an attack vector, though it was difficult to tell with unfamiliar designs.

"Launch a squadron of fighters to form a screen," ordered the Admiral. "As long as they maintain their distance ignore them. If not, shoot them out of space."

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Planet: Earth

System: Sol

Sector: Not Applicable

Grid Coordinates: H-7

Region: Unknown Regions

Date: CE 75

Support Ship Eternal

"They're splitting up," said Waltfeld as he went back to sipping his coffee while listening to the system wide alert. He took a look at the tactical board as new data was inputted and grinned. "It looks like each of the Imperial group is targeting one of our most heavily armed areas. They've also slowed down which makes maneuvering to meet our guests easier. All military forces have been ordered by their respective nations to intercept as per commanding officer's orders. Our target will be the big one."

"With the Sol Council assembled, they'll probably want Terminal to take command of the moon's defense," said Kira. He briefly scanned the tactical board before touching an icon representing a group of military ships which were currently the closest to where the new arrivals appeared. When the information came up, the name of one of the ships jumped out at him. "That's the ship Shinn's assigned to."

"Really?" asked Andy as he took a look at the info, noting that the ships were currently a part of the Terminal fleet. Their composition was made of two Nazca, an Agamemnon, two Nelsons, three Drakes, and the last ship was the Diane. A sister ship to the Minerva that was never launched before the end of the war. "Yeah, it is. It's also the one Lunamaria is on."

After the second war both Gundam pilots volunteered their services to Terminal, and thanks to Lacus, they retained possession of their repaired mobile suits after the transfer. The two made a good team so they were kept together. "Think they'll keep to the directive?"

By "they" Waltfeld meant Shinn. The young man had matured by a considerable degree over the past year, but he still had something of a temper and though he tried to hide it Shinn had grown to enjoy the thrill of battle.

"Under these circumstances he'll follow orders not to engage," answered Kira. "But if they show signs of any hostile intentions he will respond."

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Planet: Earth

System: Sol

Sector: Not Applicable

Grid Coordinates: H-7

Region: Unknown Regions

Date: CE 75

Minerva-class Battleship Diane

Shinn growled in annoyance as he flew the Destiny back and forth between the imaginary borders that separated the Terminal taskforce from the one ship of the Imperial force that was heading to the moon, a monstrously huge ship that the new database identified as a Praetor II-class Battlecruiser.

Shinn's annoyance stemmed from a group those small ridiculous-looking mobile armors of theirs, those TIE Fighters that kept buzzing along the imaginary border to keep the Earth ships away.

There were only 12 of them and they kept flying around the battlecruiser in V-shape formations like birds. Though, personally, Shinn thought they looked more like a bunch of buzzing flies.

Shinn would have liked nothing more than to take his Arondight sword and slice the interlopers to pieces, but that would be going against direct orders.

"Man, this is annoying," he grumbled.

"Well there's nothing we can do," said Lunamaria as her Impulse slid up alongside the Destiny. "As long as they don't initiate any hostile actions, we're not allowed to do anything that could lead to conflict."

"Yeah, I know," replied Shinn. "Still, the waiting is really getting on my nerves. I mean what if that whole 'talk request' they're broadcasting is just a hoax to get close?" He asked in reference to the periodic repeating message that was being broadcast from the fleet in such a manner that just about anybody with any sort of receiving equipment could pick it up.

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But it gives us time to gather the fleet, and if it is real, it may prevent a war." Though that was what she said, there was no real conviction in Lunamaria's voice. In the time since the rebel ship had come into dry-dock; no one had tried to prevent the crew from mingling with the residents of Copernicus, though they were discreetly watched at all times. Because of that, word was spreading about this battle between the Empire and the Rebellion. And everyone was getting the distinct impression that any interaction involving those two organizations would get bloody and that anyone caught in the middle had to pick a side.

It was a situation no one liked, but at least the Rebels had been polite and were playing by Earth's rules. It was time to see if the Imperials would play ball.

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Praetor II Battlecruiser Venomous Fang

Hundreds of kilometers above the surface of the northern pole of Earth's single moon, a standoff was in progress. A standoff between dozens of Earth made ships across from a single massive Imperial battlecruiser with a mass that rivaled the entire Earth fleet.

Between the two forces, starfighters and mobile suits flew as interdiction barriers.

Aboard his flagship, Admiral Davros waited for the promised transmission from the leader of this world. As the appointed time drew near, his comm. officer spoke up.

"Sir, we are being hailed."

"Put it through."

The communications holo-projector lit up, the blue tinted light taking form, the form of a young woman. As Davros saw the hologram, his eyebrow rose in curiosity, wondering who this young woman could be.

"Greetings, Admiral Davros, I am Chairwoman Lacus Clyne, the chosen representative to speak with you."

Davros scowled as he answered, "What is this? I requested that this planet's leader be presented to me."

"Our world has several leaders, Admiral, among whom I was selected to represent our world."

Davros twitched as he tried to reign in his annoyance. "This is ridiculous. If you have multiple leaders than I demand to speak with whoever has seniority. I can't even imagine why someone like you would have been chosen in the first place."

Flashback

The world leaders had reconvened in the chambers of the Sol Council, hotly discussing the latest development. Namely the appearance of Imperial fleet led by a massive warship the likes of which none of them had ever conceived of, followed shortly by a transmission calling for opening dialogue.

They were trying to decide how to proceed with the Admiral's request to speak with the planet's leader. Should they go as a group or select one as a representative?

Eventually, President White turned to Princess Leia, who was present as a consultant and asked, "Have any suggestions, Princess?"

Leia didn't even need a moment to think before she explained, "The Admiral would probably respond best to whichever man here leads the strongest nation. I can't guarantee that he will respond with respect or courtesy, but that would be the sort of individual he will respond best to."

That came off a bit confusing so White asked her to elaborate on why it wouldn't simply be the leader of the strongest nation.

"I have told you of the Empire's High Human Culture doctrine, but the Imperial Navy has its own unofficial doctrine of discrimination against non-humans and women. They are not barred from the service but they are typically assigned to some of the least desirable posts and meet resistance with promotions. Only the best and most loyal can achieve any significant rank. I can't say anything about this Admiral's personal beliefs, but it is best to err on the side of caution. Also, many Imperials respect the distinction of merit."

"Is that so," muttered White. "If that's the case, then I nominate Lacus Clyne to represent us."

"What?" Princess Leia asked in shock at how the president of the AF just put forward a nominee that pretty much went against her suggestion. She wasn't the only one to voice such confusion.

"It's really quite simple," he said. "It would be easier to gauge the intent of this admiral if we were to present him with a situation that, if the princess is right, should put him on edge. Though I fear that if pushed, he will attack, such an outcome is one we were prepared to accept should the Empire be as the princess has told us."

His reasoning was sound to the others, and though they disliked the idea of a battle they knew their respective forces were prepared for one. This upcoming meeting could very well be the test that would determine which side the people of Earth could take arms with should they choose to involve themselves in the rest of the galaxy.

With the decision made a communications link-up was made with the Tantive IV that could be used to relay communications with the Imperials. Making things easier as their systems would be compatible.

Flashback End

"Be that as it may, Admiral," said Lacus sternly, "I was the one chosen for my capabilities. By our standards, I am the best suited for this job, so the decision of my appointment is final."

Davros snorted in annoyance at how he was addressed by a girl that couldn't even be half his age. "Very well then, 'Chairwoman' was it? I am here concerning the matter of the Mangle, a ship that is currently in distant orbit around this planet, with obvious signs of battle damage, and with what appears to be your ships guarding it. And I am here for the rebel vessel it was chasing. And before you answer, Chairwoman, I should warn you that because of the state of the Mangle and the presence of your people in this system, I can make certain assumptions which allow me to order an invasion of this planet. And I will, if the outcome of our talk is unsatisfactory. In fact it should be noted that a considerable portion of the men under my command have become a tad twitchy over the condition of their compatriots, and without shields your vessels won't be able to defend against the power of mine."

"That sounds like a threat, Admiral. You should know that it was the captain of your ship that fired on my people first."

'Of course he did.' "Take it however you will, Chairwoman. The fact remains that you have become highly involved in Imperial military affairs. As an Admiral of the Imperial Navy, I hereby demand that you order your people to stand down so that we may retrieve our personnel and that you hand over any criminals you are harboring."

The Chairwoman didn't say anything for a few moments, giving the admiral the impression that she was being fed lines.

"The planet Earth is a sovereign society and does not recognize your Imperial authority here. We are not harboring anyone we recognize as criminals, but we will allow you to rescue your people stranded in this system under the condition that you leave immediately afterward and leave us in peace."

Like a hunter that had caught his prey, Davros smiled and bared his teeth. "You just made a mistake Chairwoman. As soon as we were close enough we tagged the ID signal of a ship on your moon, hidden from our sight. Currently the name and vessel type is restricted from us, but that's only possible if the systems had been given illegal modifications. And that's something no loyal and honest child of the Empire would ever do. I warned of what would happen should I be dissatisfied, and I really hate being lied to." The killer smile was replaced with a smug smirk. "But I am feeling magnanimous. Surrender the rebels and control of your system to the Empire and I will ensure that when the new government is installed there will be minimal interference in your daily lives, aside from the dismantling of your military."

Lacus turned her head and nodded to someone off screen. Davros quirked an eyebrow, curious as to the significance of the gesture but taking a guess he turned to the tactical holo. As he suspected the Earth formation was moving, altering itself in what was undoubtedly preparation for battle. As he continued watching 15 of the wedged shaped ships disengaged from the fleet and began approach maneuvers. They were evenly spaced apart but with some distance between each ship, leading Davros to suspect that the Earth humans thought that this would give them some measure of protection. Davros smirked. 'How wrong they are.' "Weapons, target the lead ships. Minimum salvo, I want to see how easily it is to destroy them. And communications, you may transmit the order to attack to all other elements."

Davros then strode to the forward viewport to witness the coming carnage with his own eyes.

Along the length of the 4,800 meter hull heavy turbolaser turrets rose and tracked their assigned targets. Brilliant bursts of emerald energy surged forth from fifteen individual cannons, streaking across the void to their predetermined targets. The turbolaser bolts' journey lasted only a second before they struck true. The death of each ship came with a fantastic level of destruction as they were ripped apart from explosive shockwaves.

Davros smiled. 'Fifteen ships destroyed in 5 seconds. Will you surrender now or will I have to spend the next two minutes destroying your fleet.' Then Davros noticed something was off. The explosions of the ships had produced very little in the way of fireballs from combusted gas. The void of space may snuff such flames out quickly but there should have been more for that level of destruction. 'Is space turning green?'

Through the transparisteel windows he could see as the black void took on a greenish hue, a hue that was expanding across his entire field of vision. 'What?'

He turned back to the tactical holo to confirm what his eyes were seeing. From the wreckage of the destroyed ships a substance was spreading and connecting, forming some sort of gaseous barrier that covered hundreds of square kilometers between the Fang and the Earth fleet. Then the quiet bridge erupted into a cacophony of sound as junior officers began reporting changes to the situation.

"Enemy ECMs have activated and knocked out our long range sensors, subspace radio, and hyperwave communications. We have lost contact with other fleet elements."

"Aural, radiation, and thermal sensors are still online, but the latter two have slight distortions, attempting to compensate and adjust."

"Visual cameras and electro photo receptors are online but the distance to the enemy is reducing effectiveness."

"Weapons report that their long range targeting systems have been blinded with the exception of light receptors, but enemy is out of range."

"Quiet!" ordered Davros. "Order all TIEs to engage. Boost power to sensors and communications, punch through that ECM by whatever means and restore contact with all fleet elements. Connect weapons to whatever sensors are still working and slice whatever programs you can for the computers to get targeting solutions from that information."

Further orders were cut off as another officer shouted, "Impact!"

They only produced minute tremors that could only be felt because the ship's engines were idling, and the aural sensors translated vibrations into sound that could be heard, but either then that there was not much change. Davros against looked out the window to see a steady stream of missiles and an almost imperceptible streaking yellow projectile that was coming through the gas in a staggered attack so that at least two hits per second.

"Shields?" he asked of the shield operator, not bother to fully form the question.

"Shields are holding sir. We've lost a few percentage points and it's still going down, however with this level of assault it will take over an hour before shield penetration."

"An hour they won't have. Weapons, fire a full spread. Don't bother with aiming, just shoot."

At his command a sheet of turbolasers and ion cannon fire lanced out, lighting up the sky like a meteor shower. The wave hit the edge of the gas, penetrated, and fizzled out within the first kilometer.

Shock rippled through the bridge at the sight of the heavy weapons, weapons that could lay waste to cities and fleets in a single salvo, weapons that could burn planets in a Base Delta Zero, halted by some gas. And it was then that Davros figured it out. "It's an anti-laser aerosol field."

He had heard of anti-laser aerosols before, but to his knowledge they had only been used twice in recent history, both times during the Clone Wars. 'It will stop my cannons and the TIEs' weapons will be useless.' "Helm, move us forward to the far-side of the gas cloud. Weapons, as soon as we can get locks fire missiles and torpedoes. Recall what TIEs we can contact to defensive formation around the ship until we hit the cloud. They are to fly around it, not through it."

"Sir! Incoming fighters!"

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Earth Fleet

Terminal Command Ship Eternal

Several seconds after Anti-Beam Gas cloud forms

Andrew saw the cloud form just as Davros did and began relaying orders. "Switch communications to N-Jammer countermeasures and activate all N-Jammers. Bombardment forces prepare all missiles and linear weapons to fire on my mark. Relay satellites are providing additional targeting information but even without it I expect none of you to miss such a big target! Escort teams get into position with the N strike squad. All units must avoid the battlecruiser's ventral side until we receive the signal. All unit weapons ready! Mark!"

From the dozens of ships under Terminal's command missiles launched from their tubes as railguns accelerated heavy solid projectiles. At the same time the assault force mobile suits detached from the defenders and accelerated forward, with a formation of 12 Windams and 33 Moebius from the AF forces. Following behind them would be the units that would be in the most danger for their lack of mobility, 12 Terminal controlled Nelsons, 3 Laurasias, a Nazca, the four Izumo-class battleships, the Archangel, and the Seraph, a newly built Atlantic Federation Archangel-class assault ship.

"Godspeed," he whispered, knowing that even with laminated armor it wouldn't take more than a few hits from the battlecruisers heavy guns to take them out.

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Earth Fleet

AFSF Command Ship Washington

Several seconds after Anti-Beam Gas cloud forms

Admiral Gene Wakkein also observed the gas disperse and began issuing orders. "The drone ships have been destroyed and the Nebula Trap has been successfully sprung, all ships begin missile barrage. Keep the corridor clear for the strike force. All Drakes are to keep their anti-beam torpedoes ready; control will give you the firing schedule. The electrostatic charge will keep for a few minutes but it will disperse faster if the Imperials figure out they can burn through it….

"Nuclear Strike Force, keep your missiles aimed at the ships topside armor. We don't want to hit the shadows."

From the formation of the Atlantic Federation Space Forces a detachment of 12 Windams and 33 Moebius units moved forward, quickly surrounded by a protective escort of mobile suits and mobile armors. The Windams and Moebius units of the N strike force were equipped with their respective nuclear missile launchers, and were armed with the last of the AF's nuclear stockpile.

In this day and age, no Earth made weapon could match the sheer destructive power each of the 57 missiles possessed. Only two other weapons came close, and one was on Earth. Of the other, the positron blaster cannon, there were thirteen present for this battle. Four of the cannons were onboard the legendary Archangel and its sister ship as the two vessels got into position to trail behind the nuclear strike force.

Another eight belonged to the four Izumo battleships.

And the last of the cannons, aboard the Diana, was currently in the most precarious position since it was behind the battlecruiser and not protected by the nebula trap. Fortunately it seemed that the admiral of the Imperials had more or less forgotten them, or else was preparing a deadly trap.

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Flanking Diana Group

It wasn't hard to tell when the battle began, not when a massive gas cloud suddenly appears and the Empire's TIEs begin converging on your position.

But Shinn was ready for them. As the first flight of TIEs vectored in on the mobile suits he activated the Wings of Light, more than tripling his acceleration. Thanks to the unanticipated acceleration the Destiny swooped upon an inspecting pair of TIEs. The starfighters jerked in response to the pilots' jerks of surprise but they didn't have the skill or time to properly get out of the way as the mobile suit was upon them, slicing through the one on the right with the Arondight before quickly spinning around and shooting the left in the tail with the beam rifle.

Lacking the Destiny's raw speed, Lunamaria chose to go after the TIEs that scattered from his attack, using her training to shoot along her target's predicted path. Easier said than done.

Though its overall maneuverability paled in comparison to a mobile suit's, it wasn't something to sneer at and its speed was daunting. The Impulse chased after the fighter but its speed let it quickly pull ahead out of the beam rifle's effective range. Once out of range it dove quickly, with the Impulse following at an angle in an attempt to make up ground. The TIE pulled to port and looped, coming about to face the Impulse once more and spitting laser bolts.

The maneuver may have caught a starfighter but Lunamaria had to simply adjust the left arm to block the incoming lasers as she spun on her midline axis. The TIE tried breaking off, presenting a nice target as a solar panel turned to face the Impulse. As the TIE jinked around a beam clipped the upper portion of the solar panel and had enough energy to continue and melt part of the cockpit. The pilot survived but due to surprised he paused a few seconds too long as second and third follow up shots completely eliminated the TIE from existence.

As Lunamaria moved to return to the main group she could make out a trio of TIEs that were spiraling around one another, spitting laser bolts in a deadly dance that overwhelmed the defenses of a Gunner ZAKU and Aile Windam. Limbs went flying as they were blown off before lasers found the torso cockpits and pieces of armor joined the limbs.

The distance was too great for the Impulse to get there in time to make a difference, but there were others that could.

A GOUF and Slash ZAKU charged up from below at the TIEs from port and starboard, their high rate of fire scaring the TIEs up into the path of a Blaze ZAKU's missile barrage and a pair of Dagger Ls' with beam rifles firing at maximum speed. The first of the TIEs was blown apart by missiles, the second was scored by a beam, and the third was struck on a pylon but the engines must have been damaged as it spun out of control.

Nearby six TIEs were being led around by the Destiny with Shinn using the afterimages caused by the Wings of Light to confuse the pilots.

A Nelson-class destroyer tried to take advantage by moving closer and attacking with its multiple weapons. The ship did not go unnoticed as three TIEs broke off from the group and swooped on the Nelson.

As they buzzed by the ship they blew several small holes in the hull and destroyed two weapon turrets, including one machine gun and one beam cannon, but a skilled gunner in another machine gun turret destroyed one of the three TIEs. On the second pass another beam cannon and a launch catapult were destroyed as a second TIE was clipped. It flew away with sparks erupting from the cockpit near the engines.

The final TIE arced up and around, intent at getting the bridge tower with the next pass had the Luminaria not shown up and shot the distracted fighter.

With the Destiny, Shinn had dropped his beam boomerangs into the path of the trailing TIEs. Spinning fast enough to be considered beam buzz saws the magenta blades sliced through a TIE that had been looping to keep up with the Destiny's latest maneuver and had failed to see and react. It exploded spectacularly, shocking its wingmen into banking left and right respectively before they closed formation to continue pursuit.

Smirking Shinn then killed the Gundam's acceleration while spinning 180 degrees and bringing up the beam shields to protect its body. The TIE pilots had not expected the maneuver and the leader had no time to alter his course before his TIE smashed into the beam shields. Acting on a principle similar to beam sabers the beam shield destroyed a good portion of the fighter before its engine exploded.

Not having its thrusters active the Destiny was pushed a good distance back thanks to the TIE's momentum but between its shields and phase shift armor the mobile suit escaped relatively unscathed. The explosion had caused it to tumble through space but Shinn quickly brought it back under control to confront the remaining TIE that had moved enough to escape its companion's fate. The TIE was circling at a good two kilometers away, its pilot clearly nervous at taking on the Destiny without backup. Its pilot decided that discretion was the better part of valor and swung away, clearly hoping to find another flight element to join and leave the Destiny to someone else.

With the immediate threat gone Shinn paused and scanned the area for enemies. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity when his console beeped with an incoming message.

"Shinn," said Luminaria as the Impulse slid beside the Destiny. "We're being called to escort the Diana."

"Yeah," responded Shinn. "They are making their run and need us to help keep the enemy fighters off."

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Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala flew as a vanguard for the nuclear strike force in the Strike Freedom and the Infinite Justice. Though neither had done any fighting since the end of the last war, they were still amongst the best, and their METEOR equipped Gundams kept just ahead of the slower, less powerful mobile suits and the assault carriers.

Supported by the DOM Trooper pilots Hilda Harken, Mars Simeon, and Herbert Von Reinhardt, along with a squad of Murasames, the two Gundams were the first to break through the edge of the nebula trap, and almost immediately unloading a firestorm of their METEOR's 154 Erinaceus anti-ship missile launchers and eleven high energy beam cannons against the hastily targeted TIE formation guarding the battlecruiser.

Some missiles struck their targets, others missed, and many ended up striking the Praetor II's shields. But it had the desired effect of scattering the TIEs as various Moebius, Dagger, Windam, Euclid, GINN, GuAIZ, ZAKU, and GOUF models appeared and began firing at targets of opportunity. Between the missiles and sudden mobile suit attack a good twenty TIEs perished in the opening assault, but as their numbers originally exceeded a hundred the gaps in the formation was quickly filled as the TIEs went on the offensive.

The Venomous Fang also joined the fray, unleashing wave after wave of missiles and laser bolts that ranged from heavy cannons to pin-point defenses.

It was in this melee, begun only five second before, that the nuclear strike force emerged. With the battlecruiser approaching the nebula trap they didn't waste what few kilometers they had and launched their nuclear missiles. With the missiles away they detached the launchers to join the fray.

Aside from their high yield nuclear warhead, a yield that Antilles could have told them was comparable to heavy assault proton torpedoes, the missiles were packed with ECM and ECCM equipment and high thrust rockets that would put all but the swiftest of mobile suits to shame. These combined with the general confusion and havoc already being sown by the swarms of battling mobile suits and starfighters and the sensor dampening effects of N-Jammers, allowing all but six missiles to reach their target without being shot down.

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Praetor II Battlecruiser Venomous Fang

Had he still been standing instead of having taken his command chair, Davros might have been thrown off his feet by the latest and far more massive round of vibrations that had done just that to several unprepared bridge officers. "What in the name of all that is Imperial was that?"

"Multiple high-yield detonations, upwards of forty distinct hits. Radiation analysis suggests that element 92 was the energy source."

Davros sneered in contempt. He would concede that when used properly element 92 was useful and in its own right powerful, but it was primitive, inefficient, and dirty compared to many of the more modern nuclear energy sources available in the galaxy.

"Shields?"

"Holding at 33 percent sir."

"Redirect energy to reinforce forward shields."

"Enemy ships approaching."

Davros glanced to the tactical holo and watched as three ships approached his battle cruiser. Two were just emerging from the gas cloud ahead and a third was approaching from behind. The ships were small compared to the Fang, barely over 400 meters in length and unless they were carrying more missiles he dismissed their ability to inflict damage to his ship. Still there had been too many surprises for his liking.

"Guns, target the incoming ships."

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N Strike Force Escort Ships

Before they had even emerged from the nebula trap all ships were firing their various projectile weapons. CWIS and machine guns targeted flights of TIEs as linear cannons and missiles targeted the battlecruiser. But most importantly the Lohengrin positron cannons of the Izumo and Archangel classes were deployed and building up positrons.

Much like the mobile suits before them they had wasted no time after emerging, firing beam cannons and positron cannons as soon as the final charge up sequence was complete, hoping that no mobile suit pilot strayed into their path.

Ships fired only one volley before turning to retreat back into the cloud, but not before the Fang struck at them. The gunners having had little to do because of the gas cloud; they were eager for blood and fired as rapidly as their capacitors would allow creating a rain of fire.

Although the Earth ships had been prepared for the assault and had already fired anti-beam depth charges, they quickly dissipating depth charges could not keep up. The slower Nelsons and Laurasia were virtually ripped apart as the plasma energy of the turbolasers superheated and melted the armor. Though faster the Nazca had lost its starboard wing and bow.

A heavy ion bolt struck the Archangel. Azure arcs of energy played over the ship as electrical systems were overloaded and shut down, some even fusing into useless slag and causing a minor explosion in the engines. The ship was practically dead in the water as one of the standard turbolaser bolts struck and blasted a hole in the left "leg" between mobile suit hangar and positron cannon. A second shot passed within feet of the engines, threatening to melt nacelles.

The Seraph was struck by a pair of heavy turbolaser bolt that vaporized one of its right wing despite laminated armor.

The Izumo suffered similar levels of damage, one having lost its hangar, another losing the bow, the third losing its weapon fins, and the last being destroyed completely.

More damage might have been sustained had the remaining ships had not flown/drifted to a safer distance into the cloud.

But as the Earth ships were damaged/destroyed, their own attacks had struck.

Having been weakened by long range missile bombardment, followed by 50+ nuclear missiles that could each wipe a small city from the face of the Earth, the battlecruiser's shields were not able withstand a confrontation with their naturally opposing compositional particle. Having delayed their attacks by nanoseconds allowed the first seven positron blasts, from the Seraph, Diana, and two Izumo respectively, to bring down the shields to allow the remaining six positron attacks to strike the armor, drawing first blood as durasteel armor was annihilated, leaving gouges in the outer armor the penetrated the first several deck levels and destroying numerous weapon emplacements. The beam cannons similarly scored gouges in the armor, though not quite enough to penetrate it, and destroyed the less well protected weapon banks.

The ships weren't the only one to strike while the shield was down. During the entire exchange the long range bombardment had not let up, allowing anti-ship missiles to impact the armor which held up admirably, but could withstand without taking damage.

This came in concurrence with an assault from the mobile weapons, the Kira and Athrun using their second METEOR volley as thirty mobile armors switched from TIEs to the ship. Moebius units fired their linear rifles and missiles as the Euclids used beam cannons. The two Gundam pilots then activated the METEOR's massive beam sabers and rammed the four energy blades into the hull armor and began carving out what they could before their blades were cut off by a renewed shield.

The units were then forced away by an intense Imperial counter attack from TIEs and ship cannons, an attack so fierce that they abandoned the METEOR units in favor of decreasing their size to more easily avoid the onslaught. The mobile armors were not as fortunate as one squadron of TIEs caught them from behind, destroying a group of three Euclids and eight Moebius. The squadron was broken apart by the DOM Troopers, the pilots using their famed Jet Stream attack to scatter and destroy the TIEs as a group of twenty Moebius swooped in from behind to attack the remains of the squadron.

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Praetor II Battlecruiser Venomous Fang

"Status!" shouted Davros over the din on the bridge, making his voice heard over the various alarms and the shouts of crewmen and officers.

"Emergency power rerouting has brought forward shields back up," said his aide, the man doing his best to make sure he had all up to date information for the admiral. "Multiple weapon banks have been destroyed, reducing combat capabilities by 38 percent. Multiple hull breaches have been reported and emergency magcon fields are activating throughout the ship. Fighter control reports that the ferocity of our enemies has already destroyed half of our TIEs. Our estimates of the enemies' strength indicate that we have in turn destroyed a fifth of their 200 fighters."

"What of the other battle groups? Has there been any word?"

"No sir, their jamming is too good. Unless they investigate our lack of communication we are on our own." The aide gulped as his next words left his mouth. "Sir, our position is unfavorable, and we can't handle another attack like the previous; I suggest that we withdraw to get reinforcements."

The admiral glowered at the aide. Any other day he would have given the lieutenant kitchen duty for suggesting that his battlecruiser couldn't handle any situation, but today his fears had some real basis. However, if his understanding of tactics was spot on, all was far from lost…

"Look," said Davros as he gestured to the viewports, "the battle is turning. We have already weathered the worst our enemy can throw at us. Surely if they could produce a second assault of that magnitude they would have taken advantage of our momentary weakness. Now, as long as our shields remain up we can still emerge victorious." Davros glanced at a holograph that represented the ship's condition and noticed ventral shields were currently the strongest. "Reduce ventral shields to minimal strength and reroute the energy to all remaining shields."

"Sir, is that wise?"

Davros gave the aide a patronizing look. "The enemy has yet to attack us from below and they have no units down there. Either they cannot, or are too stupid to think of it. So that shield energy is of better use elsewhere. Now obey my commands!"

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AFSF Special Operations Ship Redemption

The last ship of the Girty Lue-class had been renamed Redemption after the Atlantic Federation discovered and chose to keep it as opposed to dismantling it. It was so named as a symbol of the Atlantic Federation's desire to rid their government and military of the taint left behind by LOGOS and units such as Phantom Pain.

After the first incursion by the Tantive IV and the Mangle President White ordered the Redemption put on high alert and had his military commanders begin drawing up plans for how to use it against future extraterrestrial hostiles.

When it had become known that a second incursion was anticipated the plans were put into motion and when Captain Antilles had shared the data about the Praetor II battlecruiser the AF had spent every minute available preparing. As such from the beginning the Redemption had, under a cloak of mirage colloid, used its gas propulsion system to stealthy approach the battlecruiser's ventral surface as part of a trap.

The ship's target was the massive ventral hangar bay entrance. At 300 meters long and 150 wide it was just on the small side for the Redemption to completely enter, but there would be enough room to wedge up it and deploy the thousand troops that had been packed into every single available space aboard the ship.

Currently the armored hangar bay doors were closed, a suitable precaution, and as long as the shield was in place the Redemption simply would not be able to blast through it. This was why the ventral shields had to be brought down before the battlecruiser passed the stealth cruiser.

Fortunately the efforts of the AF and Terminal fleets had ensured just that, and as soon as the shield weakened to acceptable levels the Redemption and its escorts of 4 N Daggers surged forward, firing all weapons at a frantic pace as they dropped their cloak. While the six Gottfried turrets of the Redemption focused on the area of the hangar doors, its 38 vertical missile launchers were firing anywhere and everywhere that had been deemed critical, including marked locations of weapon turrets and shield generators.

The shield was already paper thin and dropped almost immediately under the assault. Multiple bursts of Gottfried derived high energy beams struck the armored doors, melting and mangling them into ribbons. An N Dagger with seven 3-barrel missile launchers mounted on its hardpoints led the way, using missiles and beams to clear the path of debris before entering the hangar proper and eliminated what threats it could detect.

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Praetor II Battlecruiser Venomous Fang

New alarms sounded as fresh reports appeared on data screens. Davros's aide immediately brought up the information at his station. "Admiral! Enemy attack from below!"

Davros looked to the tactical screen in disbelief. It has happened so suddenly, almost as soon as he had shield energy redirected. 'That's impossible!' he mentally screamed. 'They're attacking too quickly! They would have to have been right beneath…' It then dawned on the admiral. 'They have cloaking technology!' It hadn't even occurred to the admiral that his enemies would have such technology since even in the vast military of the Empire such technology was rare to the point of being almost mythic.

With the loss of rare stygium crystals, the production of cloaking devices had dwindled to virtually nothing a century before the Empire's rise. Since its founding research into alternative methods of generating a cloaking field had been a top priority for Imperial military research, but had yet to have any real positive results.

With that in mind Davros hadn't even considered the possibility that his enemy would have what the Empire couldn't produce after two decades of research. But now that he knows… 'They could have reinforcements hidden anywhere, waiting to attack at the right moment.' "Restore ventral shields! All weapons fire! I don't care if you are shooting empty space just fire! The enemy could be anywhere!"

"Sir," the aide tried to get his commander's attention. "Numerous shield projectors and weapon turrets were destroyed around the hangar and enemy units are breaching… including a warship."

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AFSF Special Operations Ship Redemption

Technicians ran from the mobile suit as it landed and began its sweep, what few armed guards there were fired with blaster pistols that had little effect against the mobile suit's armor. The N Dagger pilot gunned down the guards with CWIS fire before firing a beam into a Lambda shuttle that one tech had scrambled into and was trying to bring online. With the shields down the beam struck the stationary target dead center, destroying it. Most of the other technicians were scrambling for the entryways, thankful for the emergency magcon field array setup through the hangar that separated its atmosphere from space's vacuum.

The Redemption was right behind, bursting through the opening like a whale breaching water. But where a whale would fall back into the ocean the Redemption deployed its rocket anchors, anchoring itself to the hangar bay ceiling and walls, hanging there because the area above the hangar doors was a zero gravity zone.

Hatches opened along the side and the first four dozen soldiers, wearing space combat suits deployed using magnetic grapples to get from the ship to the areas under the effect of gravity, their mission to secure the hangar as engineers built sturdier bridges from the Redemption to the hangar.

Among the first across these bridges was a certain white and blue astromech droid that had some very sophisticated code slicing programs, and to much protestations (from the droid and those that had to endure its presence) a golden protocol droid that could translate what the astromech said. The pair of droids had been loaned to the Redemption along with a dozen of the Tantive IV's security detail to aid in the mission to capture, or failing that internally destroy, the Venomous Fang.

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Author's notes:

I decided that this was a good place to stop with the chapter. If I kept going with the battle it would reach an unwieldy size. And I still find battles of such massive scale to be difficult to write in any sort of elegant manner.

The next chapter(s) will have scenes from the other battle locations and a deeper focus on the infiltration team.