I don't know how I managed to save all three transports in the first mission, the bugs seemed to spread their fire between all three. Which meant that all three were held together by spit and bailing wire but they were still there. A quick snapshot with a Cloudburst onto a torpedo definitely helped.
As the Cerberus jumps into the Talos system, I take advantage of the small downtime to check my email and the news. There's a little bit of random guff in there. The Senate has started some hearings into the reasoning behind the first alien attack. I scan over the transcript provided to us. There's a lot of wild speculation in there, I don't think anyone's worked out what's going on inside the bugs' heads but it seems clear that, whatever their objective, they're willing to accept massive losses to achieve it. We've only been through two systems on the Cerberus and my kill score is already 3 digits. There's a short piece on the dust cannon that doesn't really tell us anything we need to know, though I'm sure some will love reading the technical specs. There's also word that our captain's callsign was "Clippy" back in the day. Apparently he's not too fond of it and I'm note sure if we'll ever know the real reason.
The rest of it reads like bad news, despite our success in Ella. Our destination, the Talos system, is reported to be swarming with bugs that we need to push through if we're to reach the Cygnus system and cut off the alien forces. Zero and Spyder's fears about what scavengers will do with the alien technology left behind in battle zones appears to be coming true. Spyder compares the situation to the trap-laden Kilrathi fighters from early in the war and the simply disasterous first contact with the Double-Helix. Finally, there's news from Blair's memorial ceremony. Thinking back to what the Bugs did to him while we were still on the Midway means that the bugs in the Talos system are going to be in for a nasty suprise when they try to deal with the Cerberus.
My email check is interrupted as a distress signal comes in over the comm. A transport named the Shy Meadows is under attack and needs our assistance. Every pilot races to their Wasps to engage. As we make space, a quick check of the radar show that the situation is dire. The transports are already surrounded by Stingrays and Devil Rays and Red Mantas are already beginning their torpedo runs. I order my wing to break and attack and engage my booster. My first kill is a Stingray, tagged by an ELRIR as I race towards the bombers. As soon as my booster pack is finished I lock the afterburners on and continue to close, weaving around the shots from the Devil Ray chasing my tail. In order to destroy the bombers as quickly as possible, I use the tactic of launching an ELRIR as soon as I get into range and finish off the target with my cloudbursts and dust cannons. The Mantas never survive my first pass, but there are too many of them and the transports are soon calling for help as the torpedoes impact.
The Devil Rays are still on my tail but weaving between the bombers is helping to keep my tail clear of enemy fire. This close in, I'm also deactivating the afterburners occasinally so that I can ensure the Swarmers track properly. The bugs are down to two bombers and I've just managed to tag a torpedo heading for the Shy Madows when Zero passes word that more aliens are inbound. I finish off my current target and swear, the new bombers are on the other side of the transports. I set a staight line course towards the new targets and unleash my last ELRIR at a Stingray cluster that had just formed up. I have to get closer to the bombers this time to start the engagement, which means the Devil Rays are having an easier time tagging my poor Wasp, the rear armour is down to a paper slice when my first Swarmer locks on and I can begin some evasive manuevers.
Between my wingmen and myself, the new bomber wave is being dispatched rapidly as the bombers choose to continue their torpedo runs over avoiding our fire. As the last bomber goes down, I turn the fury of a point blank Swarmer blast on one of the Devil Rays chasing me before locking afterburners and chasing down another Stingray cluster that's about to form. They're just lining up on their target when my last Swarmer locks on and I unleash its fury. A second Stingray goes down to my guns and now it's time to finish off the fighters on my tail. The Wasp still has plenty of firepower after the missiles are gone and it's a lot easier to score hits when I'm not ducking and weaving fire from behind. The second Devil Ray on my tail dies a quick death and I turn to face the last remaining target. There's a definite race to tag this last Stingray, a race that I'm proud to say I won.
I'm almost knocked senseless by the following conversation. The transports thank us for saving their butts but refuse to part with any of the supplies they're carrying for Talos station. Given that they've just asked us for an escort, you'd think they'd be willing to part with some supplies to ensure their protection. The Captain is in the middle of pointing this out when he directs us to land so that he can have a private conversation. Maestro has been tasked with flying a shuttle out to pick up the goods, giving the rest of us a break after such a big dogfight.
With the supply situation cleared, it's time to concentrate back on our mission. Intel is expecting a massive push into the Sol system and we need to make it into Cygnus in order to cut the alien forces in half and give the defenders of Sol a much better chance. First, we must dock with Talos station and make sure that our back is clear of enemy fighters. We can also escort the transports we saved to the station while we're at it. As expected in this system, the aliens try to stop us every step of the way. Fortunately, they don't seem to have many bombers at hand to throw against our forces. The Panther doesn't quite have the gun power that the Wasp does, but the pattern here is still the same, afterburn towards the bombers and hit them with an ELRIR then follow up with the guns. Once the bombers are dealt with go after the fighter annoying you.
A secondary advantage to this technique that I discover on the mission is that it places you nice and close to any torpedo that gets launched, which makes them a lot easier to shoot down. I pull off this trick three times during this mission, enough torpedoes to have taken out one of the transports under our guard. There are still distress calls coming from them but that's only from the aliens strafing their turrets and not any critical damage. The captain doesn't seem to worry too much about their safety, though, and I watch the Cerberus big plasma gun come awfully close to both the transports and our fighters during the battle. I managed to avoid getting tag by that bug, which would vapourise my Panther in an instant. After the Excaliburs from Talos help us clean up the bugs flying around their home, the captain gives me the all-clear to land.
Some additional help arrives at Talos station in the form of the Murphy-class Destroyer TCS Foehammer. With these additional reinforcements it's time to try to sweep some of the aliens out of the Talos system with the assistance of some fighters from the Foehammer. Unfortunately, the Foehammer is only equipped with older Excaliburs and Thunderbolts and the difference in quality shows during our mission. The alien presence is quite heavy at the first two nav points and a number of the Foehammer's fighters are beginning to look a little battered as we set a course for Nav 3.
At Nav 3, we find two Triton transports that seem to be making a break for it. Without any torpedoes of our own, we have to rely on the Thunderbolts from the Foehammer. The aliens appear to know this is well and make a beeline for the old heavy fighters. I use the Nav map to render as much assistance as possible but one Thud is shot down on their approach and the second is looking a little damaged. The area of space around them is clear for now, so I risk a run into both transports to take out the rear turret before turning and engaging the fighters again, leaving the Thunderbolts to their work. They must have taken too much damage from the engagement because both fighters are taken out by the turrets on the transports without landing a single torpedo hit.
I'm swept up into a dogfight with a Devil Ray as the transports make their escape. The pilot is obviously a novice and twice falls into the trap of swinging his nose around right into my fully charged capacitors. A FF missile puts him out of his misery and our remaining forces contiunue the patrol. More of the Foehammer's pilots are lost at the last nav point as a Stingray manages to form up and take out all but one Excalibur before being put down. The Cerberus' fighters aren't in great shape, but at least they're not coming apart underneath us like these Kilrathi War-era fighters. The last remaining Excalibur and our Panthers set a course for home with another several dozen kills under our belts.
With the number of alien fighters taken out during the last patrol, we've created a window for the transports at Talos Station to make a run for the Sol system and it's heavy defenses. Excaliburs from the Foehammer will be joining us as we escort the freighters to the jump point. Our early success shows as we reach the first Nav point and find no aliens present, a first for this system. They're waiting for us at the second Nav point, however. The first wave consists of two flights of bombers escort by some Morays. Ignoring the Morays, I gun for the Red Mantas, taking out any that looks like a threat to the transports.
I'm just tearing apart the fourth one as a second wave of alien ships jump in. Another two bombers with fighter escort accompanied by a Corvette escort. The bombers are dispatched quickly and I decide that it's time to scrape some Morays off my tail as the Corvettes won't be able to badly damage the freighters before they jump. Black Panther vs Moray is a fight that's decided from the get-go and these fights are no different. With their fighter cover gone, the Corvettes are easy prey for our combined firepower. We stay behind to make sure there are no more suprises as the 4 freighters jump and then set a course for home.
After helping the transports, it's time for the Cerberus to make it's own departure from the Talos system. There's just one more thing we need to do before we jump and that's to take out an alien Destroyer that's present in our system. Talos station will be providing a light escort as we blow up the Destroyer on our way out. The aliens have other plans, of course, and meet us halfway with a light force of Morays. I hold our Shrikes back from the dogfight as the Panthers and Excaliburs can easily handle the force that we've been faced with and I don't want to risk any bombers before we engage the Destroyer.
The wisdom of this is evident when we arrive at the Destroyer's location and find it under heavy escort. I release my wingmen to engage the Destroyer and move to cover them from the fighters, using the Shrike's heavy guns and Rocket Pods to full effect. Zero and Maestro manage to penetrate the cover and begin make torpedo runs while I continue hunting down random bugs. Maestro manages to torpedo the bridge before being taken down and I'm just engaging the last Corvette in the area when Zero reports the death of the Destroyer. With only the transports remaining, we race to engage them. My Shrike arrives first and I strip both transports of turrets before beginning my torpedo runs. Both transports are dispatched as quickly as I can lock Light Torpedoes on them and the Cerberus moves on to the jump point. The captain calls us back home as the Cerberus jumps into the Cygnus system.
We launch in Wasps to respond to a distress call from the Shy Meadows. There are alien Devil Ray aces along with Manta bombers. The Dust Cannons of the Wasp make fairly easy work on one Devil Ray, and I use a missile and gun combination to drop a second Devil Ray. Stiletto has chalked up a kill of her own, and I let two Mantas have Swarmer sandwiches. Another Manta is popped by the Dust Cannons, and I dust another Manta with my guns. One more Manta is stung by the Swarmers, and I have to handle two more of those Devil Rays. Two Mantas fall to the Dust Cannons, and then two more are taken down by the Swarmers. Our group takes out the last Manta, and the Shy Meadows thanks us for the rescue. The Cerberus requests some of the supplies from the ship, and the Shy Meadows does not want to get into trouble by sharing some of its supplies. The Captain of the Cerberus points out that new supplies will prevent other ships like the Shy Meadows from falling to the bugs. The Captain of the Shy Meadows protests ‘pirating’ of their supplies, but our group of fighters along with that plasma cannon of the Cerberus convinces them that a tussle against us would be ill-advised.
Confed intelligence believes that the bugs are massing for a strike against our home system. We’ll have to reach Cygnus to divide the alien attack and improve the chances to stop the strike. We’ll rendezvous with the Talos station as the first part of the defense plan. We’re heading to the first nav point with the Cerberus and some Confed transports. The bugs want to whittle down our capital ship contingent with a reception committee of several Mantas along with Moray fighter support. I take care of two of the Mantas with the guns of my Panther, and then have to use a missile along with guns to quickly take down a Manta after getting another Manta on my tail. I make another Manta fall from my guns, and then use another missile and gun combination to bring down a Manta. I get two more Mantas with my guns, and make an assist on shooting down a third. Our wing takes out the remaining Moray fighters, and we proceed onward to the next nav point. There are more Mantas to give our capital ships some grief, but I’m able to drop five of them with my fighter’s firepower. I mop up one of the Morays, and our group takes out the final fighter. When we arrive at the next nav point, there are again Mantas and Morays to handle. I’m able to take two down, and there are only the Morays left. Amazon uses a missile to destroy a Moray, and the turrets of the Cerberus finish an alien fighter. I take down three of the Moray fighters, and the way is clear for us to reach the Talos station. We have to defend the station from alien attackers, so I pursue with my Panther against the Mantas. I use a missile and guns to quickly eliminate the threat of one Manta, and then trash another as it’s on a torpedo attack run. I use missiles and guns to ground two more Mantas into mush. The final two Moray fighters are taken down by my fighter, and the station looks unscathed.
The TCS Foehammer has arrived to assist against the aliens. Our fighter wing of Panthers will combine with Excaliburs and Thunderbolts from the Foehammer to do a sweep of the area. There are Mantas and Morays to deal with, and I know they’ll try to blow up our bombers first. I shoot down two of the Mantas, but we lose one of our bomber pilots. I’m able to pursue and shoot down another Manta with my Panther, and I make three of the Morays permanently pay in retribution for our fallen pilot. The next nav point has Mantas, Morays, and Stingrays to take care of. I handle six of the Mantas with missiles and guns, and then account for one of the Morays. Two Stingrays are shot down by my missiles, and I eliminate the final fighter. When we reach the next nav point, there are a few of the big bug transports along with fighter defense. I head straight for the transport to eliminate its rear turret. I then trash the rear turret of a second Triton transport, and turn my attention to the fighters. One of the Excaliburs is shot down by the aliens, and I let two Mantas feel my firepower. Another Excalibur pilot ventures into the void, and I give two more Manta pilots a final fate. I notice a Devil Ray, and pursue it to shoot it down with a combination of guns and missiles. Another Confed pilot is exterminated, and I take down a Moray fighter. Our group handles the rest of the fighters, and it looks like the transports got away. As we head back, we’re attacked by a group of Stingrays and Morays. I feed a Stingray a missile for a meal, and make short work of a Moray. I see a clustered Stingray, and Stiletto has to eject from taking too many hits from its plasma shots. I break the cluster apart and shoot down one of the Stingrays with a missile. I easily take care of another Stingray after its clumsy frontal attack attempt. Two Morays fall from my fighter filling holes in their rears, and I shoot down yet another Stingray. I deal with the final Moray fighter, and our group returns to the Cerberus. The Foehammer took the brunt of our losses with almost all of their ships being shot down.
We’re to escort the civilian transports to the Sol jump point. After handling all alien resistance and making sure all of the transports safely reach Sol, we’re to return to the Cerberus. The first nav point is empty of alien attackers, so we move onwards. The aliens want some Confed cap ship kills since they have Mantas waiting at the next nav point. I focus on and fry three of the Mantas, and punch the tickets for two of the Morays. The bugs snuck in two Barracuda corvettes and a few more Mantas while we were busy. I blast a Manta, and then go after the Barracudas since they are almost right on top of our transports. I get behind one of the Barracudas and use up a missile along with a lot of firepower to blast it into the beyond. Our group combines together to shred the other Barracuda, and Zero is a brief hero by taking down the last alien fighter.
Data from the Talos station has confirmed an alien destroyer in the area. I’m to be part of a Shrike strike force to destroy the ship. Once alien resistance is cleared, the remaining Confed forces in Talos will assist the Cerberus to safely jump into Cygnus where we can continue on our bug hunt. When our force arrives at the first nav point, I let the fighters go to work and watch for any aliens closing on my position. A Moray gets close enough for me to engage pursuit, and the Plasma Particle guns of the Shrike send the Moray’s remains into the void. I got a bit of attention from that attack, and have to drop a decoy to avoid an incoming missile. Another Moray is pummeled by my Plasma guns. I have to go under the fire from the big gun of the Cerberus to take care of a third Moray, and this area is clear. At the next nav point, I see the alien destroyer along with its fighter defense. I wait for any aliens to get to close range, and then hit the afterburners once a Manta is worth pursuing. I take down that bomber, and have to hand out more decoys to avoid more missiles heading my way. Another Manta goes down from my fire, and a second one soon follows suit. A Moray and two more of the Mantas are taken care of, and Maestro makes a complaint about the turrets on the destroyer. I make another Moray bugged out, and the fighters on our wing take care of the final Moray. I begin my attack run on the destroyer and try to find a good angle to attack the bridge. Maestro saves me the trouble, so I head for the rear to trash the destroyer with my torpedoes. It takes three light torpedoes to finish off the destroyer, and I engage my afterburners to quickly close the distance on two Triton transports. I take down the rear turret, and decide to finish off the transport. I make sure I get a clear torpedo shot at the engines first, and then make sure that I’m in a good position to tag the bridge with a torpedo. With that Triton down, I head for the second transport to help out. I take out its rear turret after it shoots down multiple torpedoes from our other bombers. As I ready myself to get into position to finish off the transport, Zero takes down the transport with a torpedo. We reach the Cygnus jump point, and I land on the Cerberus before she makes the jump into the system.