Here I am again. This time I bring you a breather chapter (sort of). And we see why everyone in Babylon 5 fears the Centauri Royal Navy... Or should do so.
by lord Martiya
07: New Combatants
Emperor Turhan, of House Vintari, was ready to do what many of his predecessors had feared they would have to. It wasn't something he really wanted to do, but this was the moment it had to be done, and the conditions couldn't be more favourable. So, when his technicians signaled him he was on air he spoke.
"Once upon a time, the Centauri were a peaceful race, dedicated to arts and science, who had rejected even the very concept of war. It was a long time ago, before the Xon, the other race of our homeworld, was discovered and decided to try and exterminate us.
"The First Empire fell in the blood of thirty million Centauri before the Houses could stop the onslaught and create a new Empire. One forged in war, and looking for threats anywhere. Because the Xon didn't have the technology to reproduce the Centauri vessels that brought them from their lands to the northern continent, nor the skills to do so... Yet, they did. And when they fell, other enemies called Shroggen came from the sky to attack us and those who had helped us in our hour of need.
"In those wars we changed, and took upon ourselves the duty to protect the weak, defeat the oppressor, and destroy those who would manipulate or murder the weaker races. I will not deny we often forgot our reason to reach for the stars and would act no different from the monsters we swore to fight, and sometimes found ourselves to keep our oath. Yet, now we've seen reason... And we saw the monster show its true colours. I'm talking of the Minbari.
"We suspected about them since we learned their story. Not of being those who would manipulate and destroy the weaker races, but of being their enforcers and drunk with their own power. A power they said they would use to protect the weak but never used. A power that, even after a thousand years of research and technological acquisition, the Centauri Republic cannot fully match.
"But fight them we must. Because the Minbari have tried to exterminate the Humans, who did their and our job against the Dilgar due a misunderstanding, and tried to scare into submission those who came to their help. Scared of the Minbari we didn't dare to help Earth Alliance overtly, limiting ourselves to pass information and sneak in weapons similar to those the Narn were already selling them.
"But why fight now, that the Minbari might is broken? Because otherwise they'll try again once they've rebuilt. Because in their madness, their leader could cause the death of the Minbari people and that of the races of their so-called Protectorate. And because they still have the power to cause the death of millions innocents.
"This is why I call upon every Centauri and every one of our subjects, without distinction of race or gender. I call upon you to fight, to build weapons and bring them to the soldiers, and support our combatants and the soldiers and civilians of our allies, in this war against the Minbari Federation, until the Grey Council is brought to justice for its crimes and the Minbari are willing to learn how to live with the other races."
Thus the might of the Centauri Republic, the strongest of the Younger Races of that region of space now that the Minbari power was broken, was awakened and brought upon the Grey Council. A might that, differently from the Great War between the Centauri and the Orieni, was now led by officers worthy of their ranks. Among those who still had sympathy for the Minbari rose a prayer to the gods to have mercy of their souls, for the Centauri would have none.
Londo Mollari was observing the newest arrivals from the other side of the galaxy. A clear show of the industrial might and military expertise of the Federation: as stretched as it was from other commitments, their merchant fleet had managed to move there a decent number of freighters (even without taking in account those from sympathetic powers: the Minbari had managed to piss off pretty much everyone on the other side, even if not enough for them to send their fleets), twenty of what he had been informed where the Pearl-class mobile repair facilities (something the Centauri had long tried and failed to create an equivalent), and, the most important from his point of view, thirty fuel carriers, a prefab space station capable of producing antimatter, the immense Defender-class command ship USS Roma (sister ship of the Inaieu), and an old Daedalus-class cruiser in its original configuration. Alongside her, an ancient Klingon Raptor-class scout and an almost equally ancient Rihan Vadaso Sterli light cruiser.
It was telling that the Federation considered what they had brought as a pittance, and knew that the antimatter production facilities they had been able to spare would not support the continued offensive they would have to execute to safely crush the Minbari.
Still, why had those Rihanh reacted that way when the Roma had been mentioned?
"What the hell?"
It had been a relatively tame day. Medea and the rest of the Long Range Raiding Force were being resupplied and fitted out (not as much as he wanted, but the new equipment was still being tested) for a new sortie against the Minbari trade, and he was passing the time looking at the aliens from the convoy that had brought various war help from neutral nations when he had been approached by a rather unusual visitor: himself, only older and in what looked like civilian Federation clothes.
"Why so surprised? The chance for a duplicate was there, wasn't it?" the other said. "Still, I have to say I'm surprised too: what are you doing as a professional soldier? 'Cause you don't look like a conscript."
"Joined the Force to pay for college, figuring I could retire after a while." he admitted. "Then there was the Dilgar War keeping me from retiring long enough for this to grow on me... And I made a career. You, instead, what do you do for a living?"
"Federation Merchant Service security inspector, formerly from the Panaccio Transports-And before you say anything about nepotism, my sister's took over after our uncle died because our cousin was an incompetent sloth who expected the thing to just be handed over to him."
The captain had heard of the Federation Merchant Service: born from the Earth Cargo Service, it was the Federation equivalent of the Belt Alliance, a union of corporations and independents involved into shipping and transports providing legal services and even anti-raider escort (while the combat fleet was numerically larger than the Belt Alliance's military armada, it was proportionally much smaller as Starfleet and Grand Fleet's efficiency in dealing with piracy had reduced the need for that kind of service even before the Orion threat was diminished and the Klingon cut support to raiders). Still, there was a thing that picked his interest more than that.
"So, on your world the Panaccio Transports wasn't brought down by the mob for not paying?" he asked. It was the whole reason he joined the Force.
"Uh... Organized crime in the Federation is pretty much non-existant." he said. "During the Earth-Romulan War, general Georges 'Orbital Bombardment' Picard took advantage of popular opinion and the martial law after Hell's Gate to force the mob to go honest or be destroyed with military power, and few dared to continue resisting after he earned his nickname."
"A Mexican cartel thought having their base in the middle of Nuevo Laredo protected them, but starship-mounted phase cannons disintegrated it without collateral damage. That and the right social policies took care of Earth organized crime, and similar policies with military support to the police took care of the rest, without resorting to orbital bombardment again."
The captain preferred not to comment. EarthForce had used orbital bombardment in multiple occasions, but to deal with criminals inside a populated city... Then again, Federation starship weapons were much more selective in causing damage than anything in their region of space he knew of (according to rumours, the models put on the Constitutions and successive could even be set for stun. He'd believe it when he saw it), and that could have also been a factor. Frankly, he was happy he wasn't in the place to judge, and wished to never have to make the call.
"Ok... By the way, are those Federation members too?" he asked, preferring to switch topic and ask about the various aliens from the newest convoy. He could swear he had seen a tentacle monster...
"Not all of them." he said. "You see, the Federation isn't in good relationship with everyone, but even our enemies were appalled by the Minbari and have decided to send some non-military help to Earth Alliance. Of course, if you fashion some of the raw resources into warships, that's your call, not theirs. Now, let's see who we have here...
"First of all, those Kzinti there are Mirak. They're the descendants of the losing side in an old Kzinti civil war, and weren't included in the protectorate when the Patriarchy went at war. Follow the example of everyone here and keep yourself away from them and the gun loaded." And in fact the captain was wondering why his counterpart carried a gun, security had shown up with BiL-Pro weapons, and the various newcomers were armed and keeping an eye on them and another group of felinoids.
"The other group of cats are Lyrans. Similar technological level and temper to the Mirak even if mostly capable of keeping it in check, loathe everything Kzinti or Caitian, and the Hydrans for saying they and the now extinct Carnivon have a common ancestor. Shouldn't be too dangerous, as there are others between their groups, but better safe than sorry.
"The bulky guys in contact suits are Hydrans. They breathe methane, and are relatively peaceful. They're negotiating joining the Federation.
"The slim guys in contact suits are Breen. Nobody knows much of them, except they tend to attack whenever given the chance.
"The spoonheads there are Cardassians. I'd call them totalitarian fascists, except I'm scared Mussolini would rise from the grave to beat me up for the comparison if I did. Anyway, they're an expansionistic regime with fascist-like overtones, and have enough worlds, manpower and industrial production to be the strongest of the lesser powers, even if their tech is lacking enough they're not a serious threat to the Federation.
"The giant lizardians are Gorn. Peaceful when not provoked, except it took years of non-declared wars with the Rom-Rihannsu, not yet used to that, and an encounter with the Enterprise before they learned to signal their territorial claims. Good technology, but their warp cores are lacking.
"The small lizardians with chameleon eyes are Tzenkethi, and the small lizardians with the same body paints and the Kzinti with suits that reproduce the body paint are their subjects. Extremely conservative both sociologically and technologically, relatively peaceful, and have a bone to pick with both us and the Cardies. Apparently, they had planned to colonize Europa Nova and put buoys there while they prepared a colonization fleet, but when Starfleet inspected the system to check for that they found nothing, and allowed our colonists to move in. As for the Cardies, they simply blasted their way on another planet similarly claimed but not yet colonized."
"And those Kzinti?" the captain asked.
"Descendants of a military expedition, or at least the members that survived the large amount of nukes the Tzenkethi fired back. The survivors and their women were sent to colonize a rather cold planet in Tzenkethi space.
"Those mantis-like guys there are Chakuun, they work for the Tholians. The Tholians are a rather reclusive race with particular environment requirements who come from another galaxy, and have a very dim view on xenocide and a rather anal one on how you measure a border between interstellar powers that got us in a war with them years ago.
"Those guys there are Thallonians, xenophobic but innocuous as long as you don't trespass.
"The griffins there are Kinshaya, the Klingon's favourite annoyance. They're religious integralists who believe the Klingon are demons, but are too weak to constitute a serious threat while just strong enough the Klingon could never afford to conquer them.
"Finally, the things there are Sheliak. Rather xenophobic but without the bite to be a threat, and are rather precise when making treaties. They don't believe in renegotiating them."
"Uh... And the tentacle monster?"
"Sulamid. They're Federation members."
"A rather interesting physiology, if I can say." ambassador Mollari interjected. "Just who I needed: captain Lucio Panaccio, and who appears to be his counterpart from the Federation. I take you also have his interest in history?"
"Good. I wished to ask you something. Exactly, why are the Rihannsu so scared of the USS Roma?"
"I think I know." the captain said. "You know how the Rihannsu value names, right? Well, the name of the Roma carries a rather scary meaning.
"For starters, it's the original name of Rome, a city whose ancient inhabitants had many things in common with them: little trust for giving great power to just one people, birds of preys as symbol, gave so great meaning to names they made a crime to mention the real name of Rome in public for fear the enemy would use it against them, great military prowess in spite of having originally wanted to remain peaceful, even if it was because they wanted to use their excellent position for trade instead of just staying alone... And at war a rather disturbing tendency for overkill, in which the Romans at their nicest were much worse than all but the cruelests of the Rihannsu.
"Then there are the naval warships with that bloodthirsty name.
"The first was an ironclad who never saw combat and was given an outdated configuration.
"The second was a battleship made obsolete during construction by sudden technological development. She did see combat through two wars, but in the first the enemy was too outmatched to come out and fight and in the second she was not allowed even when her squadron was attacked.
"The third... The third was a Littorio-class battleship, of the second, improved batch. Their main battery were the mightiest built by any European power for that war... And that's where her trouble starts, for the Littorios' fame is outclassed by that of the Bismarck, a ship with a far weaker main armament who conducted one single raid against a superior enemy in which she was crippled by an outdated plane and sunk, while the Littorios fought that same enemy for years and lived. As for Roma herself, the late date of completion and fuel shortages prevented her from seeing combat before her nation, Italy, was forced to an armistice, and while under route to be interned the former allies from Germany sank her. Any ship inheriting the name would have quite the chip on her shoulder.
"The fourth, finally, was a liner who was stripped of her name due the existence of the battleship when it was decided to convert her into a carrier, but the conversion was never completed and she was captured without a fight.
"All in all, I'd say they would have all reasons to fear a ship with such a bloodthirsty name inherited by such unlucky ships... And that's assuming they haven't met ships with that name in battle."
"They did, thrice." declared inspector Panaccio. "First time was at Hell's Gate, during the First Romulan War. She was an old Sarajevo-class surveyor slated for conversion into a carrier, and took down one of the two warship destroyers they had there at the start of the battle when she rammed it at warp during approach.
"Second time was the Daedalus cruiser that inherited the name, and scored a large number of kills during the same war before helping the Charge of the Midgets at Cheron. Had to be towed back home, but survived the battle and helped in taking down the destroyers.
"And then there's the very same ship out there. During the Second Romulan War, before Ael and her revolution forced the Tricameron Loyalists to interrupt their war against us to fail to defeat her, Roma fought and murdered, MURDERED, the last five destroyers they still had in service in less than one minute before leading her escorts into giving chase on the ships that had decided to run. Took 'em all down before the border, where they were supposed to stop the chase, and the border jamming meant the Rihannsu found out what happened to their main offensive arm only after the war.
"Nowadays the Rihannsu consider the Loyalists as misguided at best, but I doubt they'll forget what Roma did to them anytime soon... Nor her performance in her first battle, when she faced four Fatmen and was about to blow up the last when the Organians butted in, or how the crew of ships named Roma seem to be just as bloodthirsty as the ancient Romans."
Londo Mollari understood why those Rihanh reacted that way. After all, why shouldn't they?
Alyt Kutenn often complained about his posting. He was an alyt, fit to command a Sharlin or a squadron of lesser warships, yet he was there, commanding a space station with some fighters crewed by rookies who still had to qualify for the Nial or older pilots who weren't qualified as instructors and a pair of patrol ships, guarding one of the mothball yards where the Minbari kept their reserve ships secured by the secret of their location and hyperspace currents that even EarthForce feared to penetrate, while people like Sineval had been on the front. What was the difference?
Had the various warleaders who had kept him there deigned to reply, they would have answered that Sineval could be trusted to follow orders and procedures, and had actually earned in combat the command of the Trigati when, in the early days of the war, he led a pair of Tinashis in the successful defence of a convoy from an EarthForce cruiser that had appeared from nowhere (only later the Minbari learned that Medea had been establishing first contact with the Orieni when the war started), successful as "no merchant ship was lost, at most some damage" as it was defined back then (and the only one in the war). Kutenn, on the other hand, only got his rank due his family being well placed in the Moon Shields clan and had little skill to speak of, and thus the now late warleader Delenn of his own clan, unable to drum him out without risking the life of more competent warriors, placed him where she expected him to not be able to screw up. She had been an optimist, as he couldn't even manage to fail with dignity.
"Ravinas, what are you doing?" he called when he noticed one of his two patrol ships putting herself in the way of the new arrivals.
"We're challenging the newcomers as required by procedure, and-" the commander of Ravinas started to reply, only to be interrupted.
"Relax, it's just our people coming to reactivate some of the relicts."
"No buts. Stop acting like an idiot, understood? Dur'alyt Vyasen, respond. Why aren't you res-"
Kutenn stopped talking. After all, dead people can't talk to anyone.
Antono Refa, heir of the House Refa, was having trouble believing what his subordinates were telling him. Here he was, an admiral commanding a Gold Fleet combined force including his own Harrier group and a squadron from a Cesti group (usually assigned to planetary assault, but capable also of a few other tasks) sent to a strategic strike to destroy one of the Minbari mothball yards Mollari had somehow located, and his men were telling him the local commander had been rebuking the one dur'alyt intelligent enough to check if they were Minbari or not, the one who was actually trying to at least cause some damage on his numerically too superior force. The Royal Navy never had put someone so incompetent in a position of such power, not even before the Great Orieni War, when you could practically buy officer rank. For someone as he who had worked hard to earn himself a command, it was almost a personal offence. Why didn't they just organize him an 'accident', even one that only crippled him? Oh, yeah, 'Minbari shall not kill Minbari'... Probably didn't even get an excuse to kick him out of the fleet, so they put him where he wasn't supposed to cause damage.
"All bombardment cruisers, proceed as planned." he ordered.
While he thought an appropriate message of praise for the Minbari admiralty for having at least tried to put the local commander where he couldn't do any damage and for dur'alyt Vyasen and his crew for having died with bravery and dignity, the three bombardment cruisers (known into Earth Alliance with the codename of Secundus-class assault cruisers) fired their mass drivers, loaded not with the solid projectiles that had smashed the space station while the other ships wiped out the patrols but with the Centauri take on the Narn energy mine-just as powerful, but, thanks to superior Centauri technology, reliable enough they could safely fire all the mines at full power at such a short distance. The reason for this choice of munition was logical: a shot from a mass driver could only destroy ships placed in a perfect row, while the mines would cause crippling damage when exploding inside the thigh formations of mothballed Minbari ships. Enough that, even if Minbari reinforcements arrived before the weapons of the combat ships could fully destroy them, they would only find relics and a single intact warship-a relatively recent Sharlin he planned to bring home for study.
As it was, however, the Minbari reinforcements didn't arrive in time, and he was able to fully destroy the mothballed ships and bring home his souvenir without a hitch. The most successful of the strategic strikes, as it was the one where no ship was damaged by Minbari patrol ships and fighters trying to at least score some damage.
It was a mixed day for the warleader. On the bright side, since the war declaration the Centauri had hit at least thirteen mothball yards (that was the number they had confirmed, as communications with those areas were often disturbed by the very measures taken to hide them, but he suspected they had hit at least eighteen. After all, whenever they found a black box from the patrol ships they discovered the attack force included one sixth of a Cestus Group, and they had three of them in active service), severely curtailing the Minbari ability to replace their losses in terms of ships and thus making easier for him to get to the point they would have to surrender while still fighting honourably, and as a bonus they had eliminated multiple failures from the gene pool and given him the excuse generations of warleaders before him (and two after his first tenure) had needed to push more meritocratic standards in selecting the personnel. On the other, they still had no idea where Jha'dur had disappeared to, the Centauri had stolen multiple ships with all their advanced technologies (including neutron, fusion and disruptor weaponry and, worse of all, weaponized antimatter converters), and the Orieni were proving more trouble than anticipated thanks to their fanaticism, the fact they had, for some reason, rearmed the Usuuthir and brought them in their military (leading to increased integration troubles with not enough benefits, as there weren't enough of them to even serve as cannon fodder), and a stunt they had just told him they had pulled.
"Was that a joke?" he asked to their representative, a Blessed (telepath, in their terminology. Not that it would help him with any Minbari who knew anything worth stealing, they had defences for that) called Shrieka Vas.
"Not at all. The Hand of the Blessed" that being the name of the Orieni military "had provided to eliminate the potential enemy forward bases at New Berlin and Myoto, and is now moving toward the enemy concentration at Kandhi."
"I hope you've converted to electronics for the death notifications. Using paper for the incoming battle would be really expensive." he said, before explaining him why with all the gruesome details he could remember.
EAS Medea, flagship of the Evil Eye wolfpack of the LRSF, en route toward Myoto.
"Ladies and gentlemen, there's a change of plans." Panaccio informed his subordinate captains after reading the new orders. "We've been ordered to join with the Retribution pack and intercept the Minbari new allies to provide information for the fleet at Kandhi, and possibly enact some payback for what they've just done."
"Wait, what happened?" captain Poulain of the Lilith asked.
"The Orieni mass-drived the settlements."
Took the Pearl and Vadaso Sterli from the FASA Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator game to fill in. As for the Defender-class, that originally comes from Diane Duane's novel The Wounded Sky. Think of it as a Constitution refit, only five times as long, over twelve times as massive, with four nacelles, and somewhat more firepower than three Star Empire-class dreadnoughts, and that's due being undergunned due the need to carry spare parts, antimatter production facilities, supplies, troops, and a few toys mostly useless in anything but a planetary invasion. There's at least seven of these monsters, eight with the Roma.
OK, I gave the Federation a private military contractor, but I did it for a reason: even at this point in time, the Federation is enormous and Starfleet, in spite of its apparent efficiency in dealing with criminals (seriously, confront the situation in Enterprise with the Original Series and TNG), can't be everywhere. Here the Merchant Service military fleet is tolerated only because of that, and, differently from the Belt Alliance, their firepower is purposefully kept more to security guards-levels outside of wartime.
That's why, in canon, Picard claimed to be the first Picard to ever leave the Sol system: someone like Georges Picard is not exactly the kind of person he'd acknowledge as an ancestor unless forced. That bombardment is highly controversial, and Jean-Luc is among its detractors.
Took the Mirak, the Lyrans and the Hydrans and the background on the Tholians from Starfleet Battles, with the right alterations for the Mirak to fit in.
The Usuuthir are a race that was caught in the middle of the Centauri and the Orieni when they went at war, with the Orieni invading to bypass the Centauri defences, the Centauri using the very first mass driver on their homeworld first to dislodge the Orieni and then to deal with the Usuuthir trying to keep their independence, and both sides generally causing a lot of collateral damage while contesting the system. When, years after the war, the Orieni showed up to try and repair the damage there were only about 100,000 Usuuthir still around, that, in desperation due the war having ravaged their homeworld, became vassals of the Orieni.