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. Please bear in mind that this was written 13 years ago, so some of the slangs and references may be unfamiliar to you, and also bear in mind that we were all probably college kids typing away on monochrome AIX terminals in the public email labs on campus... which explains the horrendous formatting... The Armageddon Factor This is a story which I just started last night, I'd like your feedback, mostly positive feedback if you pls. "Khantahr on the bridge!" shouted Fourth Fang Shalrah. The bridge crew, as one, dropped to one knee and bowed in respect to their revered khantahr, the great Jakara hrai Redclaw nar K'tithrak Mang. Jakara was one of the last great Khantahr's of the 8th Fleet of the Claw. The rest had either been wounded or killed in the great 2nd Enigma Campaign. He scanned the crew with his cool, calculating eyes, his bright colored mane brilliant under the bridge lights. "At ease. Our glorious heir to the empire, Prince Thrakath, has ordered us and our special cargo to the Hytakar system to rendezvous with the Sivar class dreadnaught Sarmak. There we will engage in an operation that I am not allowed to reveal to you as of yet, but I will tell you that it is of utmost importance and that it will guarentee us final victory if successful." Completing his speech with the standard "Hail the emperor and the Empire!", Jakara sat down on the throne-like command chair and called up the status report on the fleet. He smiled inwardly as he scrolled through the list of ships under his command. The Prince must have had great confidence in him to trust him with a three carrier force. He would do his utmost to ensure that his cargo reached it's intended destination. Prince Thrakath had personally briefed him on the mission, he had told him that the cargo must reach the system no matter the cost, the carriers were considered expendable. He inwardly shuddered when the prince stated that. The empire could no longer afford to throw away carriers meaninglessly, not after the losses suffered in the Firekkan and 1st Enigma campaigns. For the prince to have considered them cannon fodder imprinted the importance of the cargo to Jakara. He would not fail. "Set course for Jump Point 1E, the Dallas system, engage!" he barked. The ship vibrated softly as the four powerful Breath of Sivar class engines came to life and pushed the ship away from the Starbase and into the infinite black seas of space. "Jump transition in 3...2...1...mark!" In a blinding white flash of light, the Carrier entered the jump point, followed closely by her escorts. Perhaps seconds, minutes or hours later it seemed, the carrier emerged in the Dallas system. Shaking off the wave of disorientation customary to jumps, Khantahr Jakara looked at the main viewscreen. His eyes opened wide in horror and his mane stood on end. A whole enemy task force was arrayed in front him, fighters deployed. "By the blood of Sivar!" exclaimed Jakara, "Where in the nine hells did they come from?!" "My lord!", a startled comm officer blurted, "sensors detect an incoming strike force of Broadswords escorted by Rapiers!" "Order our escorts to form a defensive screen while we launch our fighters. Death Claw squadron to launch first, have First Fang Tahmak intercept the Broadsword squadron closest to us." On the other side... "Roger that Control. Green Leader to squadron, our target is that medium carrier on the right, Two-Flight, juke left and slam her from the starboard side, the rest of you, keep tight, follow my lead and start your countdown asap." Colonel Jonathan Hudson glanced to his left and saw the four Broadswords of Two-Flight break off and start their flanking run. Arrayed around him were the other seven Broadswords of his squadron and it's escort of four Rapiers, further off was the rest of the sixty craft strike group. Wow, he thought to himself, intelligence finally struck gold, having pinpointed the enemy fleet's ETA and destination flawlessly. This was perfect, 3 carriers fresh outta the jump point, caught with their boxers down. hmmmm...I wonder if the cats wear boxers... Shrugging off the silly thoughts he concentrated on what lay ahead. Already, the 3 enemy carriers were launching their first fighters, not enough to stop the strike. "Range is closing, 22,000 meters and closing fast, begin target lock on. Green Leader to group, I have initial countdown, 30 seconds..." The comm came alive as the other Broadswords announced their countdowns. He could see small flashes of light as the Kilrathi cap ships started firing their anti-fighter IFF missiles. The first light screen of Drakhri fighters hove into view as the long range batteries on the forward frigates started firing. "20 seconds...here's where we really earn our pay people." "Break and attack! Show these human vermin no mercy!" Kicking in the afterburners on his Drakhri, First Fang Tahmak shot past the outer picket of Rapier fighters, leaving them to his wingmen. He angled in on one of the trailing Broadswords and lined up his Drakhri's guns for the kill. A hail of neutron bolts spat out from the Broadsword's rear turret, with only a few hitting the Drakhri turning his phase shield a cherry red, a testiment to the gunner's nervousness and inexperience. Tahmak quickly fired off a short burst of laserfire, catching the Broadsword amidships, detonating it's fuel cells. It vanished in a ball of incandescent light. The space immediately in front of him was a mad throng of fighters, bombers, missiles, gunfire and explosions. The carriers were throwing caution to the wind and utilizing magnum launches to deploy their fighters quickly in order to counter the Confed threat. Weaving his way through the formations of Broadswords, Tahmak dumped IFFs left and right in the middle of the formation, causing two more Broadswords to explode. Smiling, he thought yes, today will be a day full of glorious kills. More gifts to Sivar. "Keep him the hell offa me!..." "Green Two, watch it! You've got 3 on your six!" "10 seconds and coun-..." "Keep your birds steady boys, lock on in 5...4...3...2... Hail Mary, full of grace...launch!" The seven remaining Broadswords in his squadron launched a volley of Mark III torpedoes just as another 2 Swords disintegrated under a withering hail of flak fire. The torpedoes closed in on their target, 10 klicks...9 klicks...8 klicks... The anti-missile turrets on the carrier opened up, filling space with a virtual wall of mass driver shots. Explosions near the carrier marked the destruction of the torpedoes. "C'mon, c'mon damnit..hit!" he prayed. A torpedo impacted on the bow of the carrier, momentarily causing it's phase shield to go fuzzy. Two more hit the carrier along the side, striking with insufficent force to split the carrier open. Picking himself up off of the floor, Khantahr Jakara called for a damage report. The damage control officer, emotionless, spoke, "Minor damage to the catapults in the center bay, we won't be able to launch fighters from that bay for awhile my lord, but otherwise, superficial damage to the hull." The wing officer spoke up, "My lord, squadron leaders report the suppression of the enemy strike group. Mopping up stragglers as we speak." "My lord, we have a positive identification scan on the enemy carrier, it is the TCS Jutland, a Gettysburg class carrier." announced the comm officer; his voice and tone calmer now that they had achieved the upper hand. Jakara flashed a toothy-fanged grin, "Prepare our Grikath bombers for a magnum launch, I want that carrier! Signal the destroyer Jarvak to escort our strike in! For the glory of Kilrah, strike!" "Move boys!, move!" Hudson shouted as he led the 3 remaining Broadswords of Green Squadron away from the combat zone. A bright flash lit up his rear display. Two remaining Broadswords he thought grimly. The strike had failed miserably, what was supposed to be a clockwork operation turned out to be rout. Only 3 lousy torpedoes struck glancing blows on the carrier, rendering it's center bay inoperable. The rest of the force fared no better, with only one enemy frigate destroyed. What concerned him now, was the wall of red he saw on his radar screen. Switching to his rear display, he feared the worst. A flight of Drakhri were closing on him and his wingmen, and behind them, a wave of Grikath with Sartha mixed in. Clutching the control yoke to his chest, and straining the Inertial dampers to the max, he executed a loop and Immelmann and brought himself level with the approaching flight of fighters. Triggering his mass driver cannons, he managed to shear the left wing off of the lead Drakhri, spinning it wildly around. The others scattered and continued to close. Throwing his Broadsword into an aerial bootlegger reverse, he brought the ship around and gunned the engines and headed back towards his carrier. The Broadsword shuddered under the impact of laserfire, a sharp jolt twisted the ship "upside down" as a dumbfire hit it's portside engine. "Damnit, damnit!" gritted Hudson as he fought to keep the bomber under control. Sparing a quick glance at his damage status, his left gunner was no more, and he had lost his port engine. Looking up he saw the four Drakhri coming about for the kill, undaunted, he maneuvered his ship inline with the enemy flight. "You chumps ain't cashing me in yet!" He toggled to his Spiculum IRs and prepared to fire. "Eyes of Sivar!" shrieked Tahmak as he wrestled with his ship. The human bastard had clipped part of his wing off. He's good for a lumbering pig, Talmak thought. Bringing his ship about, he headed straight towards the maimed Broadsword, arming his missiles for volley fire, he let loose a flight of DFMs and grinned in bloodthirsty delight as the Broadsword detonated. For a gut-wrenching instant, John Hudson, thought of his wife and kids back on Enyo, he felt a pain beyond pain, then he felt nothing as the light engulfed him.