Forward: Was digging through some really old CDRs I had kicking around in a box and found my old PBM from the early days of the CIC... 1997/98 PBeM... if any of you guys who collaborated on this are still kicking around, I'd love to finish the story with you... it'd be interesting to see how our writing styles have changed and/or matured. This story branch starts during Chapter 4 of the main TAF story TAF:Battle Cry by Adam 'Hellfire' Keylor TCS Agamemnon, under temporary command of Captain Cromwell. **** Captain Jim Cromwell stood on the bridge of the TCS Agamemnon, wondering how this disaster had happened. This was the only carrier that hadn't been hit (so far) by the damned Kilrathi. He had lost two destroyers in the last hour, the Stardagger and the Merrimack, and his own ship, the carrier TCS St. Nazaire. He and most of the crew had been able to abandon ship, against his better judgement. He watched as the six Cat ships, all of them Sivar-class Dreadnaughts, as well as their fighters, ruthlessly attack his task force. His boys had taken one of them out, and the boys from the rest of Ruchard's fleet had taken out two more, but the Cats were still winning. He looked at the battle display, seeing at least three times as many enemy dots as friendly. A spread of torps leapt from the nearest Sivar and shoot towards his ship. "Deploy the rest of the anti-torp missiles! Try to get a lock on their lead ship!" "Lock acquired!" "Fire! Full spread! Throw everything we've got at them!" The torpedoes flew from the bays of the Agamemnon, many of them being shot down before they ever got near the Dreadnaught. One did hit the big ship's shields, but did little to it. "Prepare to fall back," he said. *** Third Fang Kar'lah pulled his Grikath bomber in behind a human Ferret, firing his neutron guns at point blank range. The puny human's screams filled his ears, and he smiled. Today was a good day, he thought. Thousands of hairless apes killed. He had aided in the destruction of the human destroyer Merrimack, and killed several of their pilots in these last hours. He growled as he saw a Terran torpedo strike the Pakh, his own ship, and targeted their last undamaged carrier. He came in on the ship's blind spot, just below the hangar, and slowed to lock his torps. "Die, humans!" he said in what little English he knew, and fired. *** There was a massive impact on the ship's hull that almost knocked Cromwell off his feet, and he saw part of the bow peel away from the Agamemnon. "Status report!" he yelled over the sirens ringing through the ship. "Shields at 16%! All weapons systems out! Casualty reports coming in from all over the ship! We've lost 91% of our pilots, and-" a lieutenant from tactical cut the damage control officer off. "Incoming!" he screamed. "Impact in 45 seconds!" "ETA to jump point?" Cromwell hollered. "36 seconds." announced the nav officer grimly. "Flank speed! Advise the Defiant to follow us! Recall what's left of our fighters, were getting the hell out of here!" "Jump!" he heard the nav officer say. He felt the twinge in his stomach as his ship leapt through the point, and heaved a sigh of relief. "Sir, engine room reports that the Jump Engine is out of phase and is in need of realignment." "Contact Admiral Richards, and advise him of our situation. Send him the visual records of the battle. Tell him we need pilots, supplies, and reinforcements, and we need them NOW. I'll be in the wardroom. Send me a complete status report when you have it ready." he stepped into the turbolift. 196 dead, 456 wounded, and 41 out of the ships 45 pilots lost. He threw the report down on the wardroom table. At that moment, the intercom whistled. "Admiral Richards wishes to speak to you, sir," the comm officer's voice echoed through the empty room. Cromwell stood up, and turned on the vid-comm monitor. "Ah. Captain." Richards said. "I've reviewed the reports, and am sending you reinforcements immediately. The cruisers Winterwood and Cobalt are on their way, they'll be your new escorts. And I'm transferring some pilots from both ships, plus ISS. They should all arrive within the hour." "Thank-you, admiral." Cromwell replied. "Out." Cromwell shut off the monitor, and collapsed onto a couch, cursing silently. *** Major Carlos Alomar piloted his Sabre class heavy into the bay of the damaged light carrier. He saw a Rapier follow him into the bay as he was pulled away into the fighter storage area. He popped his cockpit, and jumped to the deck, his boots hitting hard, and walked over to meet the other pilot. Alomar saw colonel's pips on the pilots uniform, and saluted. The colonel returned the salute, and reached out to shake hands. "Major Carlos 'Jaguar' Alomar, sir." he said. "I have command of the squadron of Sabres." "Colonel Adam 'Hellfire' Keylor." he replied. "Late of the St. Nazaire, I'm tagging along for the trip and acting as the ship's new wing commander until Colonel Fremantle recovers. I'll also be commanding the Rapiers." Jaguar saw the colonel's ship behind him, and noticed the torpedo hardpoint under the wing. "Excuse me, sir, but is that a torpedo hardpoint on that ship?" he asked. "Yes, it is. I've always found the 'Rap underarmed, so I added those last week. I also changed all the missiles to Imrecs." Jaguar nodded, and a klaxon went off. The Kilrathi had sent a pursuit force into the system. No peace for the wicked today. *** Hellfire manuvered his Rapier into formation with the scramble wings. He switched to Jaguar's comm channel, and asked for confirmation whether or not those really were two goddamn Sivar-class Dreadnaughts on his targeting computer, and one really had just launched 5 flights of Drakhri and Jalkhei fighters. It was. "All fighters, prepare to meet incoming hostiles. Jaguar, you and your wingman cover me. I'm gonna see how good a Rapier is against a Dreadnaught. Switch to torps, and come on!" He hit his afterburners, shooting past the wing of incoming hostiles. He listened for tone as his torpedos began to lock, and the space around him filled with flak and mass driver shots. His torpedos locked and he ordered his wingmen not to fire theirs until he gave the word. "Comon damnit..." he whispered as he saw his shield indicators drop. "Comon..." "NOW!!!!!" he yelled into his comm. The three Confed fighters all released their torps at once, and began to burn away. Jaguar's wingman was caught in the massive explosion that followed, but the other two fighters sped away. The Sivar drifted away, disabled and holed in a dozen places. The other reversed engines and jumped out. This is too easy... he thought as he helped the mop-up effort. They'll send more after us... I know it. And God help us all if I'm right. *** Jim Cromwell sat on the bridge of the Agamemnon , and contemplated his next decision. The cats obviously wanted to take their now battered fleet out, espically if they would send two more ships to attack them. "Sir, signal from the Admiral. He's ordering us to fall back again, we can't stand more losses." "Fine. Set course for the jump point, and engage." "But our Jump Drive is out of phase, we can't assure 100% jump accuracy, sir!" "We'll be dead if we don't sailor, do it!" "Aye, sir, Jump is full auto in 3, 2, 1, JUMP." There was the usual distortion effect, and the space around them changed. But the stars were not familiar. "Where are we?" Cromwell asked. "Sir, if this is correct, were halfway to Kilrah." "The rest of our task force?" "Gone, sir. It's just us, and if this equipment is working, a heavy cruiser is on an intercept course. Adam "Hellfire" Keylor "I gotta get a life!"