Light Carrier Battlegroup 23

Moonsword

Spaceman
Based around TCS Ticonderoga, an older Yorktown-class light carrier, Light Carrier Battlegroup 23 is mainly either a defensive asset or supporting pushes my major carriers, including the Bengal-class TCS Tiger's Claw, in their push into the Vega Sector. Currently assigned to the Vega system, CVL-BG 23 has orders to push through to Alcor to support an advance by the Tiger's Claw into the Dakota system and draw off Kilrathi forces, who are likely to respond by sending reinforcements either from Venice via Cairo or from Freya. The current date is 2654.113 (right around the time of the McAuliffe series in Wing Commander 1).

This carrier group is intended for a small fanfiction series centered on the fighting in Vega and Alcor concurrent with the more famous advance by the Tiger's Claw into the Venice system.

Ships of Carrier Battlegroup 23:

TCS Ticonderoga
Class: Yorktown light carrier
Commanding Officer: Commodore Anton Winfield
Embarked Squadrons:
Squadron One: Valkyrie Squadron (12xF-36 Hornet, recon, patrol, escort)
Squadron Two: Silver Cavalier Squadron (12xCF-105 Scimitar, patrol, light attack, escort)
Squadron Three: White Lightning Squadron (12xA-14 Raptor, patrol, attack)
Squadron Four: Crimson Thunderbolt Squadron (4xA-17 Broadsword, attack, long-range patrol)
Notes: The A-17 Broadsword has problems launching and landing on a Yorktown's relatively tight hanger deck. As a result, the Thunderbolts are usually the last ones off the deck and the last ones back on it - particularly in situations where CVL-BG 23 is making an 'expedited' jump transit, since the Broadswords are capable of jumping on their own and have less to fear from being left behind. Two of White Lightning's Raptors are on five-plus standby at all times to assist the usual CAP fighters from either the Cavaliers or the Lancaster's Blue Stars.

TCS Lancaster
Class: Exeter destroyer
Commanding Officer: Captain Virginia Asimov
Embarked Squadrons:
Squadron One: Blackfoot Ferret Squadron (12xF-36 Hornet, recon, patrol, escort)
Squadron Two: Blue Star Squadron (6xCF-105 Scimitar, patrol, light attack, escort)
Notes: The Lancaster is sometimes the centerpiece of a strike run, especially against cruisers. Very often, her own Blue Stars are joined by a few Raptors from White Lightning when this happens.

TCS Creully
Class: Caernaven frigate
Commanding Officer: Commander Leonardo Gonzalez
Notes: Named after a Norman castle, the Creully nearly always stays close to the Ticonderoga, the final line of defense before the carrier's own guns.

TCS William S. Bruce
Class: Venture corvette
Commanding Officer: Lieutenant Theresia Long
Notes: Named after a Scottish explorer of Antarctica, the Bruce is only a temporary part of CVL-BG 23, assigned as a scout for the push into Alcor.
 

Moonsword

Spaceman
Vega 1

Vega System
Date: 2654.113

In the outer reaches of the Vega system, eponymous system of the Vega Sector, two small spacecraft cruised alone on a vector from nowhere that went somewhere even more boring. As the spacecraft moved closer, the green-and-white paint scheme became clearer, then the markings, indicating them to be fighters based off the Terran Confederation light carrier Ticonderoga. The lonely pair of F-36 Hornet light fighters was, no doubt, flying yet another of the endless patrols that deep-space pilots flew, and Hornets in those days flew more of them that went further than nearly anyone else short of a full-fledged corvette crew.

"Remind me again why we're on this run, Archer," 2nd Lieutenant Bridgette Argyle complained, looking down at her radar panel. "There's nothing out here, and NavInt says the furballs aren't this far out in the system."

"We're here because of that stunt you pulled, Firebird," her wing leader, 1st Lieutenant Kim Tyler retorted. "You know, the one where you put that stuff in the Old Man Ivanov's coffee? That stunt?"

"That wasn't me!" she protested yet again. Neither her innocent tone nor her wide, blue eyes and red hair - courtesy of her Irish ancestry - had impressed the Wing Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jason "Hammer" Ivanov at the time and, as far as pranks went, Bridgette "Firebird" Argyle was the only one crazy enough to pull something as stupid as messing with the notoriously caffeine-dependent Ivanov's precious ship-grown, hand-made coffee. The other pilots knew better, but Firebird was either too new or too suicidal to have the discretion not to.

"Yeah, yeah, save it for someone who doesn't know you, Bridge," Tyler shot back. "Besides, someone had to do it, and you managed to get us nominated. And, remember, the jump point to Brimstone is out this way. If the Kilrathi do send in reinforcements, they might try moving through here."

"So this isn't just makework?" Argyle asked.

"No. Dunno why Ivanov didn't mention it at the briefing, but there's a chance we could see some Cats."

"Alright!" she cried, excitable and hungry for vengeance against the Kilrathi after they had killed her brother a few months before.

"Keep your head screwed on straight, Firebird. If we do run into some Kilrathi, our job is to get the news back to the Tico, so don't go getting yourself killed," he cautioned. Tyler wasn't more than a year her senior but he was more cautious by nature and a lot less high-strung while still being young enough that Argyle's tendency to buck authority didn't see him as dictating to her.

"Yeah, yeah," she replied, sounding a bit disappointed.

"And remember, the Hornet's a fast scout, not a slug like those Scimitars you flew in training," Tyler reminded her. "You don't have that kind of armor or shields, but you're a lot faster and more maneuverable. And if we run into a capship, we're going to need every bit of speed we've got!"

"Right," she answered. Tyler was reassured to see her nod on the VDU - she might be vengeful and high-strung, but Argyle wasn't stupid or suicidal, fortunately. The pair fell silent for a time, keeping their attention on their sensors as they flew to the next leg of their long patrol.

---

Tyler had almost drifted off when Argyle's excited shout came. "I see bandits, sir!" she squeaked.

The wing leader shook his head, knocking some of the sleep out, and peered at his own scope. "I do think you're right," he replied, caution and a hungry, predatory edge warring in his voice. "No idea what they are, though. Keep your eyes open, but let's find out what these bastards are, shall we?"

"I've got your back, Archer," the redhead answered.

Tyler's eyes watched the right VDU in his Hornet, waiting on the fighter's warbook program to ID the unknowns. "C'mon, c'mon," he said softly, wondering just what kind of hand Fate had just dealt them. "Krants, two of them," he called out to Argyle.

"I got the same thing. We can take 'em!"

Tyler nodded. "Right." His eyes flicked over to the nav terminal before he added, "We're awfully close to the jump point..."

"So? I don't see any carrier," Argyle replied and then he saw her eyes widen in her helmet. "...wait, Krants aren't jump-capable, are they?"

"They're not supposed to be, not anymore," Tyler replied as the two Hornets settled onto an intercept vector. "But there was a bomber variant a decade ago, and it had a single-use jump drive," he said.

"Well, if they're bombers, I guess we need to make sure they don't get a chance to torpedo anything, huh?" Argyle answered with a cold smile.

"Indeed we do," Tyler agreed. "Now, hit your burners and prepare for an end-and-end. Let's skin these kitties."

Tyler and Argyle pulled in fast and hot, splitting apart and then cutting their engines as they put the Hornet's maneuverability to good use, flipping tail and nose in bare seconds as they suddenly whipped past the pair of Kilrathi fighters. Tyler settled his lasers on the trailing Krant, letting his heat-seeker get a long look at the Krant's engine bloom as he tapped his afterburners again to restore thrust. "Welcome to Vega, furball!" he taunted, splattering the medium fighter's aft shields before letting the missile loose. Right as the missile impacted, the Kilrathi started to respond, but then the comm died off in a fizzle of static. The Krant's engines died for a few moments, just long enough that Tyler had to jerk the stick back to avoid the fighter, and he swore as the Krant's pilot returned the favor. Juking his Hornet in a hard weave, Tyler winced as a few laser bolts lit up his rear shields before one bounced off his dorsal armor with a harsh metallic *WHANG!* He slammed the stick sideways into a loop, turning inside the less maneuverable Krant's attempt to follow, and then feathered his throttle a bit as he pulled out of the tight turn. "Burn in hell," he whispered quietly as he finished the enemy off. "You need any help, Firebird?" he asked, turning his fighter to get into a support position.

Meanwhile, Argyle had peeled off his wing as the lead Krant tried to cut down and left. Riding her throttle carefully, she used her laser shots like they were rationed, putting single, precise bursts into the enemy. The Krant's pilot weaved a bit as he tried to shake her before the kil pulled his fighter into a right turn. Argyle slipped behind him and then her eyes widened as the Krant abruptly pitched up into a fishhook maneuver. She tried to turn with him, but the Krant's one edge in maneuverability against a Confederation light fighter was its pitch rate and both pilots were perfectly aware of it. "I can handle him, sir... shit!" She kicked the fighter sideways as the Krant let loose with a missile. Initially off-vector for a lock, the redhead frowned in fierce concentration as the special warning tone the engineers had reserved for the Fang FoF missile bleated into her ears. Turning into the missile, she lit her burners, missing the friend-or-foe seeker's proximity detonator by bare meters, then forcing her fighter into a tight dive, twisting the Fang missile around again and slamming into another afterburner-powered run. She grinned as the Fang lost its lock and then turned back. Tyler had been herding her opponent, but he hadn't finished it off. "Why, thanks for keepin' track of him. True gentleman, you are," she teased as she and Tyler bullied the Krant into a trap, then she rippled off a single Dart dumbfire missile right into his face. She dove through the flames as his reactor cooked off, her shields rippling as they fought off the energy release.

"You're welcome," Tyler answered, locking onto her for a moment to check her damage. "Nice shot with that dumbfire, by the way. I can never use the damn things effectively," he admitted.

"Thanks. You just gotta time 'em right," the redhead replied, shrugging.

"Well, after that missile, those weren't bombers," Tyler said, checking the warbook. "Still, they might've adapted the..." he trailed off as a sudden flash filled his vision. "Dive, dive, dive, hit your burners!" he screamed. Both Confederation fighters slammed into an evasive dive as an eighteen-thousand ton Ralari-class destroyer jumped in and glided through their immediately prior flight path. The destroyer's gunnery crews were slow off the mark, though, still fighting off jump shock while the two fighter pilots looped back around for a better look at the new arrival. "Firebird, you okay over there?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. What about you?" she asked, a bit rattled.

"Fine." Tyler eyed the enemy ship, mentally weighing the odds before he nodded slightly. "Let's see if we can rip this tin can open while it's still getting adjusted."

"Yes, sir!" Argyle answered, her voice tinged with excitement. The two fighters weaved between the lackluster flak fire from the destroyer, its gunners still trying to get their bearing, before settling into the Ralari's vulnerable aft quarter.

"Use your missiles - as soon as we're done here, we're headed back to the barn," Tyler decided. Matching action to words, he lined up a shot with one dumbfire while Argyle splashed laser fire into the destroyer and let her Javelin heat-seeker lock on. As soon as the tone sounded, she cut her fire, let the missile go, and followed it a few moments later with her remaining dumbfire and watched as Tyler did the same. Adjusting their fire slightly to avoid killing their missiles, the two pilots watched with a matched eagerness as the destroyer's armor wore down. Then, almost before they noticed, one of Argyle's carefully-aimed shots managed what was still sometimes called a "golden BB" and caught a piece of the Ralari's fusion plant. "Let's go."

"Affirmative," Argyle replied. Another flash behind her caught her eye and she turned in her seat to look behind the fighter and her eyes widened. "A carrier!"

"Hit your burners and let's get out of here!" Tyler replied. The two Hornets lit off at over 1200 kps. Behind them, the Kilrathi admiral commanding the battle group surveyed the rapidly-cooling debris of his escort and snarled in anger.

---

Tyler sighed in relief as the Ticonderoga and her escorts - four Scimitars on CAP along with the frigate Creully and destroyer Lancaster - came into sensor contact. "This is Rho Wing to Junction, I repeat, Rho Wing to Junction," he signaled.

"Rho Wing, this is Junction," Ticonderoga's CIC replied. "You're back early, Rho."

"Yeah, well, we found a flat top and decided to get out while the getting was good," he answered ruefully.

"Say again, Lieutenant," a different voice came back.

Tyler felt just a little chill as he recognized it as Commodore Winfield, Ticonderoga's captain and the commander of the little battle group centered on her. "Sir, a Kilrathi carrier jumped in at our third nav point," he replied slowly.

"Understood, Lieutenant," Winfield said after a moment's consideration. "You're cleared for landing. As soon as you do, I want to see the two of you in my office along with Colonel Ivanov."

"Aye, aye, sir," Tyler acknowledged, moving onto an approach vector for the carrier's aft end. "You heard the man, Firebird."

"Yes, sir," she answered, sounding excited at the prospect of meeting the carrier's captain for the first time.

---

Tyler gave Argyle a warning glance as the pair approached Winfield's office. "Don't do anything stupid, Firebird," he said quietly.

Her glare was eloquent as she shot back, "How stupid do you think I am?"

"Just looking out for my wingman," he replied just as softly as before. Then he clapped her on the shoulder. "Well, let's get in there - never good to keep a captain waiting!"

They stepped inside. "Reporting as ordered, sir!" the pair announced, coming to attention.

"Sit down, please," Winfield ordered after returning their salute. He gestured to the coffee table in between the chairs in his small, slightly cramped office. "Get some coffee. I was just looking at the summary from your mission recorders."

Tyler's nose twitched when the smell reached his nostrils. Ivanov's own brew? He must be pleased, especially to offer it to Bridge after what she did last week, he thought, discipline keeping him from smiling. Pouring a mug for himself and a second one for his wingman, he settled into the chair.

Ivanov smiled slightly. "A bit more than a carrier out there, wasn't there" he remarked conversationally.

"Yes, sir," Tyler said, nodding. "We found a couple of Krants nosing around at nav 3 and splashed them."

"Right." The wing commander looked over at Winfield. "Looks like Intel was right, they are trying out those single-use drives on regular fighters, Skipper."

Winfield nodded, taking a sip from his coffee. "It seems they were, at that. Not too surprising - the strategic benefits are pretty useful. I'm more interested in those capital ships, personally." He gave the two lieutenants a judicious look and gestured for Ivanov to continue.

"Good work splashing that Ralari, you two," the colonel went on. "That said, trying it with a pair of Hornets wasn't what I'd call a good idea." He gave Tyler a firm look.

Tyler had the good grace to flush slightly under Ivanov's gaze. "It was a calculated risk, sir. The destroyer had just jumped in and the gunners were clearly disoriented. I thought it would be worth the risk to try and get rid of it while it was vulnerable."

Ivanov held his junior's eyes for a few moments more, watching Tyler shift uneasily while Argyle looked on, wondering nervously if they were about to be chewed out. Then he gave them a thin smile. "You're right, and that's what we call initiative. It wasn't what I'd call a good risk, but it paid off... this time. Next time, it might not. A Hornet's awfully flimsy for dancing with a tin can, you two. In this case, the gunners were disoriented and unable to respond, a fact I intend to emphasize when I discuss this with the wing, but that was good work. Intel's review of the recorders calls it Argyle's kill, due to those last shots and the damage from her missiles."

"Thank you, sir!" Argyle answered, visibly relieved. Winfield hid an indulgent smile behind his coffee mug.

"As for the carrier, that's a cause for concern," Ivanov went on. "We're outnumbered, although your kill on that destroyer will even the odds a bit, as will the squadrons on Lancaster. Report for briefing in the morning. Dismissed." The two pilots stood, saluted smartly, and exited the office. Ivanov chuckled slightly and turned his eyes back to Winfield. "Gutsy move against that carrier," he noted.

Winfield snorted in amusement. "Gutsy and just on the stupid side of brave, Jason," he replied. "Of course, that's what you fighter jocks are like. Good coffee, by the way."

Ivanov smiled slightly, chuckling. "I do try," he answered. "What about that carrier?"

Winfield shrugged slightly. "I've signaled back to HQ, but personally, I think we can handle it, between your kids and Lancaster's birds. Besides, we can't really withdraw without leaving the carrier in a position to flank the Claw."

The Space Forces officer acknowledged the point with a tip of his mug. "Not a lot of choice, then. It's not ours to wonder why, merely to do or to die," he quoted with an ironic, crooked grin.

"Exactly, Colonel!" Winfield chuckled. "If you'll excuse me, Captain Asimov and I need to discuss this. Get on the line with Major Carter and make sure he's aware of things. We'll need his fighters to deal with this mess." Ivanov nodded and left the office, leaving the coffee mug for Winfield's pleasure later. The commodore turned to his desk terminal to contact the Lancaster's captain.
 

Moonsword

Spaceman
Naukar-class Kilrathi Fleet Carrier
The main Kilrathi class of fleet carrier of the first twenty years of the war, the Naukar became infamous at the Battle of McAuliffe for the torpedo strikes their bombers launched that crippled the Confederation's battle fleet. Visually similar to the later and much larger Hvar'kann dreadnoughts, the Naukar was not nearly so intimidating, particularly up close. Relatively thin-skinned and lightly armed, they depended heavily on their fighters for defense but were faster and had a longer range than the battleships that would easily pound one into scrap if it was caught without escorts. One of these carriers deployed the first-generation Strakha fighters that destroyed TCS Tiger's Claw during its unsuccessful attack on K'tithrak Mang in early 2656. They were known to carry ten eight-ship squadrons of fighters along with two supporting squadrons of shuttles. During the mid-2650's, this was typically two squadrons of Salthi scout fighters, two of Dralthi light fighters, two of Krant medium fighters, two of Jalthi heavy fighters, one squadron of Grikath attack fighters, and another squadron that varied from assignment to assignment (most often an extra squadron of Krants, but sometimes a second squadron of bombers, instead).
 
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