Bashar Varott was in an unusually good mood. Looking at the movement of his flotilla on the screen, he could only feel proud of the subtle intricacies of his strategy. The capital ship he stood in would head straight in, bombard the planet and hold its spacecraft in base. Meanwhile, his battlecruisers would take the planet's moon and begin sorting through whatever maps or data they had, in order to find the main population centres.
And then bomb them, of course.
But it wasn't a proper Craan invasion if it was all in space. No, Varott was sending a hundred transports and their cruiser escort down to the surface to secure the main spaceport and any defense cannons they might have, then turn them on any resistance. A victory parade and the enslavement of the population would round things off nicely.
This planet was just a stepping stone, though. Those kragging Alxen were the real target, and they were sending an ambassador to this planet right now. He would land to find the standard Craan welcome.
It wasn't really a pity about this species- Urahob, were they called? Stupid creatures. They deserved to be beaten and made into servants to the great Craan empire. Oh, today was going to be a wonderful day.
Allowing himself a small smile, he opened comms to the pilot. "Get us going. Tell the fleet- it's that time again."
General Alhtu's ship, the Golden Orb, sped off from the planet's surface. After the sort-of-disasterous encounter with the Flesh Thieves, the Urahob had put together a stellar military. Cannons, with some larger ones and lots of smaller ones, had been built in the main strategic areas for attack, plus large population centres.
Now, there was another ship approaching Ageriul, and they were launching a good amount of ships to check if they had been misinformed and the Alxen were early and in the wrong ship.
The General tried to hail this mystery ship. The Unification was circling Ghioas, which still didn't have any scraf-tearing colonies. They really needed to put some there.
"This is the FTLWS Golden Orb. You are in Urahob space. Identify yourselves," he said through the intercom. The translators were working well by now. "Ageriul has been recently attacked by Flesh Thieves, and we are not taking chances when it comes to more mystery ships. The Alxen are not due to arrive for a lunar orbital cycle."
Alhtu turned the microphone off, and said, "Prepare a warning shot, in case they don't reply. Prepare a couple of antimatter bombs, too, in case they're aggressive."
He frowned. They had their chief strategists, Chiefstrategist Fea (Irkaputh) and Strategist Polaris (Urahob), working on a battle plan. This was not going to go like the last battle. The armour had been improved, too, while these newcomers seemed to just have material strength. If the antimatter bombs released the antimatter early, it might work better. The Darts would also work. He looked back to the screen.
The Bashar tutted. "Open the comm link."
It was done, and Varott took a look at the occupants of the Golden Orb. "This is the CS Triangle Three, and you are an idiot."
A dozen cruisers sped out from the ship's hangar, surrounding the Golden Orb. Their frontal cannons rolled out to fire, and they pulled in their radiators for protection.
"Goodbye, I suppose."
The Craan ships began to fire.
The Craan battlecruisers, led by the CS Triangle Eight, drew closer and closer to Ghioas. They began to scan its surface, triangulating and matching targets, then began to turn to face its surface, pointing their guns at the bases there.
"Fire on the Bashar's mark!" Barked Lebrech Huntis, pointing up at the targeting display. "Prepare missiles!"
The landing flotilla entered its approach vector, hitting the atmosphere with a bump.
"We're not detecting many defensive structures. We should keep together until we reach the spaceport."
"Fire weaponry! Break the ring!" the General called. A well-placed antimatter bomb tore a small hole through the offensive, and the Orb charged through it, firing as it managed to escape. It had been risky, though, and the ship had been hit quite a bit. Well, at least they were out.
The intercom was still open. "We're not going down that easily, and we're gonna fight you to the death, you load of egoistical scraf-tearing douches!" Alhtu shouted, before closing the transmission. If I'm going down, at least I got to insult them, he thought. "Launch all the fighters! Keep these idiots on their toes! Keep firing before they circle us again, because we're bitten by israphels if that happens!"
The massive ship known as the Unification homed in on the flotilla's location. The Urahob arsenal had been able to modify some of their weapons to work in space, and the precise, computer-guided bombs known as the Reactions were able to take down a target without damaging too much of the nearby structure.
A deadly rain of missiles descended towards the centralised mass of Craan as Urahob soldiers homed in.
A squad of fighters, led by the MSWS Blast Zone, launched themselves at the Eight. A quick mockery had been made for their foes. A sheet of thin metal hit the front of the ship. Printed on it were the words 'THESE GUYS ARE ON DRUGS, EGOISTICAL DOUCHE WARNING'. It was a bit of psychological warfare to try and make the Craan fight less hard by virtue of thinking the Urahobs were idiots, and as encouragement for the Urahobs.
It was vapourised by a rocket blast, unfortunately.
The Basher watched the display bemusedly, then chuckled. "Fighters? How quaint."
The cruisers switched targets, and unleashed a barrage of missile and cannon fire that tore through the little ships. Then turning, they accelerated after the Orb.
The Triangle Three kept on towards Ageriul, almost within bombardment range. These Urahobs stood no chance.
The first battlecruiser was hit by half a dozen Reactions, which tore through its structure with ease. The debris shot out and one piece went straight through another of the battlecruisers, entering through the nose and exiting through the drive. The gutted wreck span off towards the ground, breaking apart as it did so.
The second was hit dead centre by one of the bombs and broke into two. This was not a victory- each half's turrets slowly rotated to face the Unification.
The Triangle Eight, its cockpit vaporised, was a mess. The crew sealed the bulkheads and desperately tried to contain the fires. "Get all the turrets manned! Get suppressing fire on the fighters with the flak guns!"
With a silent BLAM, the remaining battlecruisers let loose.
The first wave of transports were getting very close. A low rumble began, increasing in volume, as they approached.
Their bay doors opened, and out dropped dozens of Craan paratroopers. Landing, they began to set up a perimeter, setting up machine guns to meet the Urahob that they knew were coming. They didn't notice the Irkaputh watching them from above.
Silently, on the surface of Ageriul, hundreds of Irkaputh prepared an inside assault. Their silent speech meant that they didn't have to alert the Craan, and the miniscule size of their weapons meant that there was barely a noise as they prepared their bullets.
The leader, Chiefgeneral Atkin, sent a message to the Urahob soldiers that the attack was ready. They fired at the necks of the Craans, where the flesh was thin enough for the tiny detonations of the bullets to do some damage. A rain of boiling chemicals showered the soldiers, slipping into any cracks in the armour.
That was when the jets arrived, dropping turrets and bullets into the fray. The machine guns of the Urahob troops joined the frenzy, creating an attack from every angle possible.
"Sir, the Triangle Three is nearly in range of Ageriul!" a voice said through the Ageriulid intercoms. The Unification responded immidiately. A cluster of Tornado Darts, guarded by a swarm of fighters, launched from the ship. One hit the Triangle Three directly in the cockpit. Another drilled into one of the split ships. More attacked the battleships. About ten were left, charging through the void to the Three.
The ground-level cannons then started firing their own weapons.
It was plain to see that the Orb was doomed. Nevertheless, there was still a way to keep the assault going. "Activate procedure Black Light," General Alhtu said.
Procedure Black Light was a desperate attempt to make sure that the dying ship made its mark. The cockpit seperated from the ship, as did the two weapon bays and four fighter bays. Engines fired on the remnants, pulling them away from the remnants. As a final send-off, the ship's mighty engines separated, and went on full speed. As swarms of ejector pods left the Orb, and as swarms of fighters and thousands of bombs left the pieces of ship to seek and destroy the Craan's ships, and the Tornado Darts and Reactions set their course, the engines and their cargo had been transformed into the most powerful Urahob bomb ever known.
The Craan soldiers jumped to ground or behind their hastily erected barricades as soon as the shooting started. Still, the deadly accurate shots of the Irkaputh did their job, sending a number of them to their deaths. Urahob machine guns stopped the Craan from getting back up, holding them supressed as they closed in.
"Hold them back!" Yelled the Lebrech, then received a hit to the shoulder. His armour took most of the impact, but he was forced down onto the ground.
The Craan machine guns began to fire, their rattle answering that of the Urahobs'. But the troopers were still pinned.
The Lebrech pulled out his radio. "Second wave, now!"
Another group of transports appeared in the sky, descending with angry roars all the way down onto the pavement.
From them came battalions of heavily armed Craan. But worse than that, there were the tanks.
The Triangle Three had no shields to stop the incoming projectiles. The cockpit exploded, and the Bashar cursed as the shock was felt throughout the ship.
"Bashar, Pilot One is down!"
"Move to Pilot Two. Initiate CIWCMs."
The flak guns of the capital ship began to fill the space around the ship with a screen of lead, smashing the fighters apart and leaving them as scraps of metal.
There was another shock as a ground cannon destroyed the spaceship's back end.
"SIde thrusters! Evasive maneuvers!" Varrott barked. "Launch all cruisers! Prepare the nukes!"
The battlecruisers were largely intact. Of the twenty that had been sent out, only six were gone, though five were split apart. The approaching bomb seemed likely to change this, however.
The fighters and darts were no problem, shot down quickly from the sky and forced to withdraw. But the approaching portion of the Orb sped on, unaffected by the little explosions that hit it from either side.
"Split up! Triangles five, seven, eleven, twelve, to port! Remainder to the moon!"
The ominous looming shape of the engine reached its target destination. With a force of over 100 K-T meteorites, all of the antimatter stored on the ship fused with the metal into pure energy. The detonated engine was only a tenth of all of the antimatter. The rest shot out, and fused with any ship that was too close, dooming the Craan ships.
Remnants of the engine and the Craan ships bombarded the Unification, the Triangle Three and all of the other ships that weren't small enough to dodge. The Orb's weaponry, from the two weaponry bays, was also detonating on the Craan ships. The Ageriulids weren't left unscarred, though. Both sides had lost ships. It was just that the Craan had lost more ships of tactical importance.
The Unification chose this time to release a rain of hellfire upon all of the enemies it could hit.
Hundreds of Reactions were sent to the surface, blasting apart the Craan and using the precise aim to avoid the Ageriulids.
All of the Triangles in range had their insides filled with the clanging of bullets and the shockwaves of bombs.
The name Unification wasn't just about unifying the people in range. It was about having everything as part of the Urahob's.
Ground rockets and Urahob tanks joined the explosions that the Reactions had sent. Bullets pierced armour and zipped between plates. The Urahobs were being worn down, sure. The Craan, though, were wearing away faster.
General Alhtu opened the intercom to the Craan. Miraculously, the cockpit had survived the detonation of the engines. "Are you feeling so sure you're going to win now?" the Urahob said. He turned off the screen. "Egoistic douches," he added, before turning off the microphone. All that was left was the speakers.
On board the shuttle that sped away from the fizzling remnants of the Triangle Three, a Craan Bashar clenched his fist. They entered the hangar bay of a cruiser, and the bay doors closed slowly.
He opened up communications to the ship's commander. "Send an NBC squad."
The door opened, and Varrott stepped out.
"Officer on the deck!" A sergeant shouted, and the Craan outside stood to attention.
"Stand at ease."
The ship's captain approached. "We brought the squad, sir."
"Very good. Take the nuke to the missile bays."
Little bits of Craan battlecruiser made an interesting light show in Ageriul's atmosphere. The remnants would form a dangerous debris field for many years to come.
A few shuttles had survived, but they had been forced to land and been captured by the Urahobs and Irkaputh. All in all, the space battle had been a disaster.
On the ground, things could still work out. The orbital bombardment, while irritating, was not causing the damage that the foe would have liked. The Craan tanks definitely outclassed those of the Urahob, and were spearheading the slow march into the city centre, where building density would prevent bombardment.
Craan troopers shot Urahob out from windows or behind barricades, using missile launchers and machine guns to break down their defenses.
A rocket hit one of the Craan tanks and finally broke it open. The wreck was knocked back slightly and cut off the road, so that the other vehicles were pinned behind.
"Pull back! Take another street!" Shouted the Lebrech, taking a shot at a dive-bombing Irkaputh and then shooting its dying body as it crumpled down onto the ground.
But Urahob tanks blocked that way. The cannons exchanged fire for a few minutes, and though a fair few Urahob tanks were lost, the already damaged Craan vehicles were finished off.
Craan troopers began to use the wreckage as cover, firing their anti-tank weapons and setting up machine gun posts. This position would not be easy to clear.
The Unification was ready to launch the final assault. They had tracked the movement of the leader, and knew exactly which ship they had docked on. It turned to face the enemy, using a specially-modified front end to deflect and block any weaponry. It then rammed the enemy ship, sending it spinning.
Now the fighters came into their own. The enemy was disabled, and vulnerable. They fired rockets at vulnerable areas, and focused fire on the areas for ejecting bombs. The Unification then shot a volley of Darts, which lodged themselves in the ship's metal hull.
The antimatter explosions began.
Beneath the aurora made by raditation from the engine's explosion, and the shower of metal meteors, the Ageriulids closed in. Jets began dropping turrets into the wreckage, minimising the number of safe areas. The Urahob were larger and stronger than the Craan, and the Irkaputh were more agile and could squeeze between the wrecks. One by one, the enemy soldiers fell and the turrets went offline. A group of hoverplanes were sent in to finish off the invaders.
"To all remaining enemy ships, it is almost certain that this battle has been won by Ageriul. Despite our limited spaceflight, our military is strong, and you can't win. One last message: You never said your names, so for all the while we've been destroying your ships, you've been known as the Egoistic Douches, or Eds."
Through the rammed cruiser's radio, but not from it, came a contented laugh.
"People of Ageriul, you have been outwitted! And you have shown remarkable stupidity. Just by changing uniforms and shuttles, our Bashar evaded tracing. We let you fly ten thousand miles to ram our ship without even firing at it because you've doomed yourselves by doing so."
The disintegrating wreck that span in front of the Unification was being ripped open by explosions in its hull. Revealed underneath was a new ship, one with dozens of missile tubes and that was already firing its flak guns.
As ever, the Urahob fighters were ineffective and easily brought down. A barrage of missiles, streaking flame, crashed into the Unification's front shield. Mines were deposited from around the new ship, arming and then homing in on the ship's weak points.
Lebrech Undiron was the last free Craan officer on Ageriul. He had seen hundreds captured or killed, marched away or left to rot on the streets.
His squad were exhausted and many were wounded, hiding inside a house. He himself had a broken arm from getting too close to an explosion, and getting shrapnel in his elbow. The wound still bled.
He looked at his soldiers, and they looked at him.
A white flag stuck out from the window of the building in which they hid. Then, their guns were dropped down onto the pavement from that height- they were surrendering.
The Bashar's cruiser launched one last missile, and then jumped into FTL, heading far away.
The missile's first propulsion stage fired, accelerating it to great speed. Its outermost casing came off and flew away into space.
The plutonium inside its warheads waited for detonation. A detonation that was less than a minute away.
Every weapon in the Uni's hold left to destroy the mines and the enemy ship. Nearly a thousand Darts were launched from the massive battered ship, even more normal bombs, and around five thousand Reactions. Finally learning that fighters weren't helping, the swarm charged off to finish any leftovers.
The explosions centred on a couple of key points, and the enemy was torn apart. The FTLSS Unification positioned itself to land.
A group of Irkapuths entered the building, and perched on the Craan's necks. They slipped the weapons between the neck armour, just in case. The lead Irkaputh motioned for them to exit the building through the front entrance, where they would be treated as prisoners of war.
One day, they might go free, but that was a long time in the future.
The last warhead in the Craan's attack was met by a ship created to decomission enemy bombs. It launched a device which carefully attached itself, and then melted through the casing and destroyed the delicate interior.
The Craan were defeated.
A little while later, a small but elegant ship entered Ageriul's orbit. It transmitted its identity and waited a few minutes for confirmation, then began to descend towards the spaceport.
It landed slowly and then its doors opened, letting a small group of Alxen out onto the ground. The Ageriulan welcoming party was hospitable just as the Zyrothans had said they would be, and the ambassador allowed himself to be escorted to the embassy being built.
Somewhere in space, on board a ship called the Rectangle One, a Bashar took a red cross from the side of the table and then looked over the map. Where he looked, information cards sprang up on the flat screen. One in particular caught his eye, and he placed the cross there.
"No-one beats the Craan twice."