There was silence on the bridge of Summer Wind as the 18th Battlegroup dropped out of subspace near Cortaris. To Belatras, it felt as if everyone in the fleet was holding their breath. This was the most crucial part of the operation. If the Fangalin fleet didn’t commit all, or at least most, of their strength to intercepting the 18th, the operation would have to be aborted. The Imperial Fleet simply didn’t have the numbers to go toe-to-toe with Fangalin. They needed to fall for the bait.
“Report,” Belatras said quietly after a few minutes. There was more silence for a moment, and then a lieutenant responded.
“Sensors indicate that three Fangalin Battlegroups are headed this way, your majesty,” she said. A palpable sense of relief swept through the officers on the bridge. Belatras smiled slightly.
“Inform the 17th and the 3rd to commence Phase Two,” he ordered. The battle was not won yet, not by a long shot, but at least now they had a chance.
Captain Allemay Mosevin, commanding officer of the Fangalin Starfortress Triumph, was feeling grim. She had just received frustrating orders from Captain Soromine. He expected her to hold the siege with one Battlegroup while he fought off an Imperial Battlegroup with the rest of the fleet. It was a risky, and in Mosevin’s opinion, unnecessary, gamble. If the Imperial Battlegroup was really alone, three Battlegroups would utterly obliterate it. But two would as well. And the same logic applied to Mosevin’s Battlegroup.
“Are we picking up anything on the sensors yet?” she asked her officers. A lieutenant shook his head.
“No, sir,” he said, “Everything is clear.” Captain Mosevin began to relax slightly, and then the lieutenant spoke again.
“Wait,” he said, and hesitated. “I’m picking up multiple contacts, Captain. Looks like…at least two Imperial Battlegroups!” Mosevin swore, and then started barking orders.
“Full alert!” she yelled, “Move into attack formation! Hold them off at all costs! And send a message to Captain Soromine! Tell him that we need help, now!” There was still a chance that the siege could be maintained, but it all depended on how quickly Soromine admitted his mistake and adapted to these changed circumstances.
Captain Soromine was somewhat less pleased than he had been when the Imperial Fleet first showed up. The Empire was failing to be decimated by his superior might, and it was somewhat…annoying. Rather than trying to break through his forces and reach the planet, like he expected, the Imperial ships kept darting near his fleet and then backing off a little farther before they could be engaged. It was exasperating. He wished the Imperials would stand and fight like men.
“Captain Soromine!” yelled out one of the crew.
“What is it, Ensign?” Soromine growled.
“We’ve just received a message from the Triumph!” the ensign exclaimed, “Captain Mosevin is requesting assistance! Two more Imperial Battlegroups have dropped out of subspace and are engaging her forces!” Soromine’s eyes widened in shock and he swore loudly.
“Tell Captain Mosevin to hold her ground!” he screamed, “We’ll get to her when we take care of the first Battlegroup!” The ensign nodded to him and began sending the message, but Captain Vesketar rounded on him.
“We’ll do WHAT?” she bellowed, “Are you out of your mind? That’s exactly what the Empire wants us to do! They’ll have ripped Triumph to shreds before we can deal with this Battlegroup! And then they’ll come after us! We need to take advantage of our superior numbers!”
“Captain Vesketar, you are relieved of duty,” Soromine announced coldly, “Commander Borodeim is now commanding officer of the Radiant. Captain, I suggest you retire to your quarters.”
“I will do no such thing,” Vesketar responded, just as coldly, “You are leading this ship and this fleet to ruin, and I will not stand by while it happens. I am placing you under arrest. MPs!” The two MPs stationed at the entrance to the bridge approached, but hesitated, waiting to see how Soromine would react. Soromine stared at Vesketar with a blank expression on his face.
“So,” he finally said in a soft voice, “you would stoop to mutiny. I don’t know that I would have believed it of you.”
“I’m not the one carrying out mutiny, Soromine,” Vesketar said firmly, “You know better than I that Admiral Fenjeelin would not approve of your strategy.” That name set Soromine off. His eyes widened and his face went pale.
“Fenjeelin isn’t here!” he screamed, “I am in command of this fleet, and you are under arrest! MPs! Get her out of my sight!” The MPs rushed to obey, grabbing Vesketar by the arms and escorting her off of the bridge.
Soromine stared after her with wide eyes, breathing heavily. Then he realized that every officer on the bridge was staring at him.
“What are you staring at?” he yelled, “Get to work!” Quickly everyone averted their gaze and returned to their duty.
Things were going poorly on board Triumph. Half of the ships in Mosevin’s command had been destroyed, and her forces had only managed one kill of their own. In addition, Triumph itself was badly damaged and would not be able to withstand much more punishment. Mosevin was not one for prayer, but if she had been, she would have prayed her heart out that reinforcements arrived soon. Instead, she got more bad news.
“Captain!” yelled a lieutenant, “We just received a response from Radiant!”
“Well?” Mosevin snapped, “Where are our reinforcements?”
“Not coming, sir,” the lieutenant responded, “Captain Soromine has ordered us to hold our ground until he deals with the first Imperial Battlegroup.” Mosevin was stunned. Had Soromine gone insane?
“Sir?” said her XO, “What are your orders?” Mosevin thought to herself for a second, then nodded decisively.
“Retreat,” she said.
“What?” said her XO, stunned, “But Captain Soromine ordered us to hold our ground! If we retreat, the siege will be broken!”
“If we hold our ground, we will die and the siege will still be broken,” Mosevin said, “Sometimes, you have to know when to live to fight another day.” She turned to her navigation officer. “Drop into subspace and set a course for Hechelen. And order the rest of the Battlegroup to follow. We’re done here.”
To be continued…