As the enemy fleet jumps in and forms up, a number of events take place on Agamemnon.
First, Stella discovers that Flannery, newly promoted to Lieutenant Junior-Grade, is imitating her in many ways. Stella let’s out a battle cry in the launch bay, inspiring the pilots considerably. Second, Gerst shows up to stand watch at the main reactor with Corbett in tow. He tells Janks that “there ain’t no non-combattants today”. Janks accepts Corbett back for duty. Finally, Vail arrives on the CIC with Jameson and Sims in tow and formally presents Becker with Admiral’s stars. Apparently, Rance had done the leg-work into Star League military law and found precedents for the disconnected promotion. The battle begins with a cutscene.
As the opposing fleets close, a message spreads through the galaxy, from HPG to HPG, broadcast and rebroadcast on every frequency….
“This is colonel Becker of the Agamemnon.
We are at war. If you haven’t yet faced them, know this: Their technology is better than what we have. They never forgot.
Our enemies are the remnants of general Kerensky’s Exodus. It failed, and this is what came.
You may try to negotiate with them, if they are even willing to talk at all. I suspect they are headed to New Samarkand to destroy it. With all the consequences that will have, for all of you. It may be that bending your knees to them will preserve your lives, for now. But you will be little more than slaves. Or you can choose to stand against them. To fight them, to protect what you have, those you love.
If you have ships near New Samarkand, I ask that you send them to aid in the defense. Not just for its own sake, but for yours as well. If New Samarkand falls, it will have grave impact on the rest of the settled worlds.
The Last Legion of the Star League stands at New Samarkand. Will you stand with us?
And to you of the Clans who are listening:
I knew general Kerensky. Two centuries ago, I chose to go into exile with him, as did the crew of the Agamemnon. Through fate’s throw of the dice, we never got to join them.
I see now what general Kerensky’s children have become.
What you are doing is not what he would have wanted. He _chose_ to leave, and with him went almost all of what remained of the Star League Defense Force. By choice. We _chose_ to leave. Because we believed in him. His dream was to return and rebuild, to aid the settled worlds and return them to their former glory.
We will keep general Kerensky’s dream alive.
If you wish to attempt to tear that dream apart, we will stand against you.
We still keep his vision. You can still be his legacy. Cease your attacks on the worlds. Join us instead in returning what was lost, rebuilding what was destroyed, to fulfill general Kerensky’s dream. Honour his spirit and his memory, and help us protect and rebuild the world as he would have wanted it.”
The battle group engaging Agamemnon is centered on a huge battleship, easily twice the mass of Agamemnon, as well as a pair of cruisers, several frigates, a destroyer, two flotillas of Union-class dropships, and several squadrons of fighters. The ensuing battle is pitched and brutal. Briscoe is lost in the first volley, putting Stella in charge of Agamemnon’s squadrons. Normandy uses her maneuverability to slip behind the lines and cause havoc to the smaller warships, and Alabama valiantly tries to prevent one of the cruiser groups from flanking the engagement.
Over the course of the battle, Alabama loses combat effectiveness and jumps clear of the engagement. As Agamemnon is being forced to engage both a heavy cruiser and the Ghost Bear mammoth battleship, a group of smaller warships join the fight, led by the Hard Eight, commanded by Gentleman Roderick Black, who had survived Cerberus because “you obviously underestimate my ability to run like a little girl from danger”. Black’s fleet engages the cruiser and allows Agamemnon to focus on the battleship.
Becker orders a small flotilla of Leopard-class dropships that had been rigged with explosives to advance on the mass driver. They manage to clear a generous percentage of the mass driver’s destroyer screen, but do only minimal damage to the superweaon itself.
Multiple torpedo hits strike both sides of the pitched battle between the battleships, until finally Chief Galliard fires a volley that deals the killing blow to the enemy. The session ends with a cutscene.
Mitch, the Normandy finishes a loop and pulls around the burning hulk of the massive Ghost Bear battleship and your breath catches, your heart sinks.
“Holy…holy shit…. Faro, let’s do a flyby.”
You close in on the Agamemnon, the despair rising as the details get clearer. You switch over to the flight channel.
“Flight, Normandy, fire report, request Actual.”
Kim, on the CIC, Colonel Summerville is still trying to get his arms around the damage control situation, and you’re conferring privately with the fleet captains, Natasha Kerensky is speaking.
“Despite our best efforts, the rimward flank is falling to pieces. I fear that our options are quickly being reduced to ‘lose New Samarkand’ or ‘lose New Samarkand AND the fleet’. If we have any chance of getting out of here, we’re going to need a rear-guard or they’ll tear us to pieces bringing up our transit drives.”
Lieutenant Baker chimes in. “Admiral, I’ve got Vagabond…sorry…Normandy Actual on a flyby with a fire report, he wants you to hear this.”
You set down the receiver. “Alright, let’s have it.”
Mitch’s voice crackles in over the CIC loudspeaker.
“Okay Flight, you’ve got an uncontrolled plasma fire out of the ventral conduit aft of frame seventy-five, and another from the dorsal conduit just forward of frame fifty-three threatening the main reactor and the launch bay fuel reserves. Damn…it looks like you took that nuke in the receiving dock, the primary recovery bay is exposed to space in several places. The flight center and forward particle cannons are completely gone, and it looks like this end of the K-F drive might have been affected in the explosion.”
The CIC has fallen dead silent during the report. All eyes are on you, and yours are locked with Colonel Summerville’s. Something passes between you and his features soften, he smiles sadly and gives the tiniest of nods, then walks over to the comm station, puts a headset on, and starts conversing quietly.
You take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Weps, what’s the status of the forward torpedo tubes?”
Chief Galliard doesn’t miss a beat. “Ma’am, I believe the gun crews are dead but I retain remote control of the weapons and loaders.”
“Very well, transfer fire control of the forward torpedo bays to the Helm. Chief of the Boat, make your heading two-three-nine-karem-four-six, ahead one-eighth.”
“Aye, skipper! Helm, hard to port to two-three-nine, aft thrusters to z-minus-seven, ahead one-eighth.”
You take a long, slow look across the CIC and lock eyes with every soul in turn.
“Secure your stations, clear the bridge.”
You pick up your handset and switch to the ship-wide comms.
“All hands, this is Admiral Becker. Abandon ship. I repeat, all hands, abandon ship.”
Stella, you’re between targets when Colonel Summerville’s voice comes across the fleet-wide channel.
“All players, be advised, Agamemnon is under immediate threat of reactor breach, we’re abandoning ship. We’re about to light up the sky here – use it to start your run out of the well.”
The radio explodes with activity as elements of the fleet attempt to disengage and fire their transit drives.
“Dire Wolf secondaries, move to sector seven and cover the fighter recovery.”
“Belisarius, establish a picket across sector two.”
“Fury S-A-R you have ten minutes to grab as many pods as you can, then get the hell back here.”
One voice comes through on your squadron channel.
“Agamemnon Echo Lead, Kojiwa Flight, we have berths for your squadron, approach from starboard for recovery.”
You squeeze the stick so hard your gloves creak, switch your comms over to the fleet-wide channel, and reply.
“Now listen to me, Kojiwa, you tell Admiral Ling that the last legion of the Star League makes its stand at New Samarkand. We’ll be here when you get back.”
You switch over to the Agamemnon channel.
“Alpha, Charlie, Delta, make sure nobody harasses our escape pods, Bravo…Flannery…we’re the tip of the spear, let’s make sure the old girl gets where she’s goin’.”
“Roger that, Captain.”
You switch back to the fleet channel and start hearing reports….
“Echo Lead, Dire Wolf Blue Squadon, we’re with you.”
“Kojiwa Fox here, what’s left of us anyway, call it, Echo.”
You line up next to Normandy off of Agamemnon’s burning bow and take a deep sigh.
Kim, you’re slowly pacing around the map table in the silent CIC, watching the fleet maneuver and the escape pods trickle away from the ship. Agamemnon feels strange beneath your feet, the vibration of the deckplates isn’t right, the sound of the power plants strained. Once everything appears to be moving the right direction, you climb into the primary helmsman’s seat, ensure you have control of the forward torpedoes and grip the ship’s control yoke for the first time since you woke.
You’re trying to figure out how to maneuver the ship where it needs to go without a pilot in the second seat, when Justin steps down from the engineering station and settles in behind the controls. He flips a few switches and lays his hand on the master throttle between you, giving you a warm smile.
“Your orders, Admiral?”
And in his eyes you remember…everything…. When you first met on Agamemnon’s landing deck. The endless arguments. The tour that changed everything on the run to Earth at the end of the Amaris rebellion. Your shore leave together on Santiago. The days. The nights. Every moment since you first met – and you can see that he remembers too.
You lay your hand over his, fingers entwining over the throttle, blinking back tears.
“All ahead Flank, Mr. Summerville.”
Janks, you had to take the long way around to the nearest bank of escape pods, and you’ve been picking up wounded along the way, using carabiners to chain the unconscious or immobile together in trains to be pulled by your men. Corbett is hooked to Captain Milet, trying to treat her severe plasma burns while Gerst pulls both through the passage.
You reach the escape pods, pile everyone into the nearest, take a second to look around to make sure you’re leaving no one behind, seal the door, and trigger the launch.
After a very brief high-G burst, there’s silence. No klaxons. No sound of explosions. No strained wail of metal. Just the sound of Corbett giving chest compressions to the wounded engineer.
Out the viewport you see Agamemnon burning from a hundred different wounds. You see a swarm of sixty, maybe seventy miscellaneous fighters – mainly Agamemnon’s own Shivas, but dozens of others as well – form up around the Normandy ahead of her.
Then her main engines ignite…and she soars.
You’ve never seen a ship that big move so deftly – it requires a flight crew that’s as intimate with each other as they are with their ship. With her screen of fighters blazing a trail, she loops around the wreck of the mammoth and passes between two heavy cruisers. The fighters raze the weapons along the enemy ships so they can’t fire as Agamemnon deftly threads the needle. You see dozens of tiny starbursts as the fighters are destroyed, and Normandy takes a broadside from a naval particle cannon that sends her spinning off into the void, aflame, but they give far more than they take.
A woman’s voice comes over the civilian rescue channel, raspy, choked-up. “Thank you, Agamemnon.”
It doesn’t take long before the enemy realizes what’s happening. One of the mass driver’s destroyer screen makes a valiant attempt to put itself between Agamemnon and the superweapon, but it’s ravaged by a pair of her heavy torpedoes, and like a flaming sword she barrels right through the remains and plummets into the side of the mass driver.
The superweapon cracks down the middle with secondary explosions occurring all along its length, and begins to break up.
Off in the distance, you see the fleet engage their transit drives and speed away, while the Clan forces immediately begin reconfiguring for a ground assault.
Your escape pod begins to rattle as you enter the atmosphere, becoming one of tens of thousands of falling stars in the skies over New Samarkand.
Thus ends Chapter Two.
“Good luck, and Godspeed, Alabama.” Admiral Kimberly Becker stood, watching as the small speck of light representing Alabama winked out from the screen. Godspeed. An odd turn of phrase, and not one she could remember having used before. But then, she was in a fey mood today. It was tempting to blame her officers; their unexpected gift had left her out of balance.
As she heard the Alabama report that its jump had been successful, she realised what it was. When her crew gave her the admiral’s stars, they also gave her something else, though she doubted if anyone but her had realised it, or would ever think of it. They had made the Agamemnon her own. Until that moment, if only just to herself, it had, in a quiet, subtle way, been rear admiral Tokugawa’s ship. Not so anymore.
She had to admit, the timing had been a blessing. There had been no time for thanks. It gave her a chance to figure out how to respond, to find the right words. But before that, she had a battle to fight. With _her_ ship.
The remaining cruiser was not a serious threat; it was already damaged, and had done little damage to the Agamemnon. Another few torpedoes would finish it off. The huge battleship, however, was another matter entirely. It was huge, twice the size of the Agamemnon, and heavily armed.
A group of smaller warships appeared, either from the planet or from behind it. Kim doubted they were clan ships; they were too small and came from the wrong direction to be reinforcements. And then they erased any doubts she might have had as their leader hailed the Agamemnon.
When she heard the voice, she had to smile. Somehow, that rogue Roderick Black had gotten away before the attack on Hole. She had a few things she wanted to say to his comment about him “running like a little girl from danger”, but it would have to wait until after the battle. And damn it if she would not invite him on board; that much he deserved.
The Agamemnon’s losses had been heavy, but they had managed to take out most of the force attacking them. Still, Cynae was gone, and both Thermopylae and Marathon had taken a beating as well. Wryly, she thought giving the ships the names of the two ships they lost in the misjump more than two centuries ago, might have brought bad luck with it. But then, they had been up against a powerful enemy, and had done an impressive job taking down the enemy ships, so perhaps not. And the Normandy had performed beautifully as well; major Casey was proving that he had been the right choice for her.
The battleship was proving a tougher enemy. Though the Agamemnon was hurting the enemy, she was taking heavy damage as well; Kim did not need to see damage reports to know that. She _felt_ it, as did everyone on the ship. Every time a shot from the leviathan hit, the Agamemnon shook from the impact. She just hoped the Agamemnon’s firepower would be enough, though whether the she would be able to jump, or even fly back to a dock for repairs after the battle, that was another matter entirely. And even if they did succeed taking down the battleship, there was still the mass driver.
The explosive-rigged Leopards had taken out some of the destroyers escorting the planet killer, but the huge ship itself had taken only minor damage. Still, there was no alternative; they had to take out the giant in front of them, and then take out the mass driver. Kim’s remaining Leopards would stay where they were for now; they might be useful later. If there was a later. They were running out of time; the mass driver would most likely be ready to fire in less than twenty minutes. Another five minutes, and she would call them regardless.
After what seemed like an eternity, a series of well placed, and desperate, shots finally tore the enemy ship apart. By then, the Agamemnon was badly wounded; she could feel it shuddering. It felt _wrong_, there was a dissonance in the hum of the ship that was more felt than heard.
On a private channel, Natasha Kerensky spoke the words Kim desperately did not wish to hear. Kerensky was right, though, the fleet had to pull out. But unless the mass driver was stopped, it would be the end of New Samarkand, and the clans would be free to destroy planet after planet. New Samarkand was the key, still. And someone had to keep the enemy occupied until the rest of the ships could jump out.
Then a damage report of the Agamemnon came in from Normandy, over the loudspeaker. The words were damning. She would probably not survive a jump, if she could even make it, and it was only a matter of time before the fires reached the main reactor. The Agamemnon had minutes left to live. And the last details of a final, desperate plan fell into place.
Everyone in the CIC had heard the report, of course. They all knew that it was only a matter of time before the Agamemnon would join the already broken, shattered ships surrounding them. They were all looking at her, but she ignored the others, as her eyes met Summerville’s. He smiled, though looked as if he would rather have wept, nodded very slightly, then, the only person moving in the CIC, turned and walked to the comm station. Only one path left, now.
As soon as she got the torpedo fire control transferred to the bridge and the course had been adjusted, she looked around the CIC again. There were so many things she wanted to say, but they were running out of time. Fast. Instead of speaking, she looked at each of her crew members, hoping they would know what she did not have the time to tell them.
“Secure your stations, clear the bridge.” Shortest damned admiralty in the history of the Star League, she was fairly certain. It had lasted, what, fifteen minutes? Ten? Picking up the handset, setting it for a broadcast to the entire ship, she took a deep breath. Now, more than ever, she needed control, needed her voice to be steady, calm, sure.
“All hands, this is admiral Becker. Abandon ship. I repeat, all hands, abandon ship.” Terrible words that she had never thought she would ever speak.
She wanted to weep then, but did not. Nor did she as she watched the escape pods break away from the Agamemnon, nor as the CIC emptied; not since the days back when they awoke had it been this empty. Back then, the ship had been damaged as well, but not remotely like it was now. Still. It seemed they had come a full circle, she and the Agamemnon. She wondered if this was how rear admiral Tokugawa had felt right before they all went to sleep.
She heard Kojiwa offer her fighters berth. And she heard captain Ives’ response. She wanted to tell captain Ives to get out, to save herself and the remnants of the Agamemnon’s fighter squadrons, but she knew they would be needed one last time. Besides, she very much doubted captain Ives would have obeyed orders anyway; she had not been good at that at the best of times, and this time the captain would have a very good reason not to.
She resisted the temptation to say something. This was captain Ives’ show, and Kim had little doubt that the remaining fighters would perform beyond anything any sane person would expect. They did not need anything from the Agamemnon, not this time, not now.
For the Agamemnon, the fight was almost over, but some, even most, of her crew might still make it out alive. The Alabama was safely away from the battle, and hopefully, the Normandy would get out. And with luck, and the aid of some of the fighters, the escape pods would make it safely to the planet. Though there would be no safety for them, even if Agamemnon succeeded, nor for the fighters, if any survived. But at least if the mass driver was destroyed, they would have a fighting chance.
Switching channels, she sent a few messages of her own, pacing around the map table in the CIC, trying to keep everything in focus, to remember and to shape the final messages. Messages on a low-priority channel, that might well be recorded and not be heard until after the battle was over. And the last plan, one that would, she hoped, turn the Agamemnon into even more of a legend. To make the ship’s death become a symbol, a rallying point, a call to arms.
First a message to Roderick Black. The damn rogue had won her respect, partly because so many of his men had chosen to return to him. That did say quite a lot about him. And he was here, fighting. “Mr. Black, this little girl is done running. This is for Hole, as well as for New Samarkand. Aid my people, if you can.”
A short, private message to admiral Ling; there had never been time to talk to her, not about personal matters. “A mutual friend gave his life to make this possible. Today, he is here, along with everyone else who gave their lives to bring us to this point.”
And then, to Natasha Kerensky: “Your great-great-great-grandfather would have been proud of you.”
Three more messages, two short ones, and then a longer to the Alabama, that was all she had time for before the last escape pods tore away from the burning Agamemnon, and she sat down in the primary helmsman’s seat. Though she knew she had not sat in that seat since she awoke, almost a year ago, it felt right. The controls felt so very familiar under her hands; had she had a few more minutes, she thought she might have teased back more memories of the past. But handling the dying Agamemnon was hard enough, and almost impossible without a second pilot. There would be no more time for memories.
Then Summerville stepped down and slipped into the second seat. “Your orders, admiral?” She wanted to tell him to get out, to save himself while there still was time, but she needed his help in this. And she suspected that if she told him to evacutate, he would disobey the order. Something in his eyes told her he was in this until the end.
He smiled at her, and her past slammed into her mind. She remembered it all. How infuriating she had found him when they first met. The arguments that, some of the times, she had gotten into just for the fun of it. Rear admiral Tokugawa’s lack of comments whenever the two of them argued. The run to Earth. Rear admiral Tokugawa’s face when they told him, after. She had wanted to hit him then, he had actually looked smug, as if he had been waiting for it. The far too short time afterwards.
She almost laughed, then. It is said that life flashes before one’s eyes before one dies, but this was just ridiculous. And cruel; had they remembered earlier, they might have had a few more moments together. But she knew that to be a lie. She would not have allowed it, not in those critical months they had behind them. Not when so much depended on everything being done right.
But at least they remembered, both of them; she could see from the look in his eyes that he did too. No words were needed. So, instead, just the order. The last one. It was not needed either; they both knew. Still.
Surrounding them were dozens and dozens of fighters. Not just the Agamemnon’s remaining Shivas either. Both the Kojiwa and the Dire Wolf had sent fighters as well. They had to know that it was likely that most of them would not survive; even should they get through the final battle, the Dire Wolf and the Kojiwa were preparing to jump out, and if the fighters were to escort the Agamemnon, they risked being left behind. But then, they all knew the stakes, and the price.
Here, the war might well be decided. If the Agamemnon failed, the war would be lost. If she succeeded, they might still win. And so there was one more thing she had to do, the final piece of her plan.
So much of the ship was burning, broken, but some cameras still remained. Enough, she hoped, to do what was needed. One channel to the Alabama, one broadcast through the system, and hopefully beyond. Two feeds so far; audio and a list of the names of everyone who had died in Agamemnon’s service, even the ones who never awoke. The list would not be complete; the ones who died today would not be on it. But Alabama had the full crew list, and could fill it out, eventually. She hoped.
The engines fired, and the Agamemnon plunged through the enemy forces, the fighters surrounding her taking out enemy weapons to prevent them from firing. Light after light after light blinked out on her screen; the fighters were torn apart around her, and still, they kept going. Still, they kept fighting. Still, they kept dying.
Kim and Justin flew. The ship had become a part of them, and they a part of the ship. Despite the Agamemnon’s injuries, she obeyed the controls as if she too had a consciousness of her own, as if she too wanted this last, greatly needed victory.
Someone, a woman: “Thank you, Agamemnon.” She sounded as if she was crying. Kim was not, though she wanted to.
She hoped the cameras got it all; the fighters dying to protect the Agamemnon’s last flight, as she flew towards her target. This was what people needed to see, Kojiwa’s, Dire Wolf’s and Agamemnon’s fighters, fighting together as the Agamemnon sped towards her doom.
Now. Less than a minute out. She spoke, hoping enough cameras still worked to have the effect she wanted. Hoping she could keep her voice steady.
“This is admiral Becker of the Agamemnon.
“To those of you who served on the Agamemnon, or fought at her side; admiral Ling, Natasha Kerensky, Roderick Black, my crew; the Last Legion of the Star League, thank you. It has been a privilege and an honour.
“This is Agamemnon’s final request to every faction and force of the Inner Sphere:
“Remember general Kerensky’s dream. Not the perverted nightmare of the Clans, but his original dream, to protect and rebuild. Remember it. Cherish it. Honour it. Believe in it. Make it yours. Make it come true.
A destroyer tried to put itself between the mass driver and the Agamemnon. Almost contemptously, Kim fired, and two torpedoes ripped the ship apart. The Agamemnon plunged through the wreckage, and drove straight into the side of the mass driver.
Moments before impact, she turned her head and looked at Justin. A quick smile, again no time for words, but they were not needed anyway, the look in their eyes said it all. And in the end, it was all they had.
Shortest damned admiralty in the history of the Star League. But it had been worth it.
The world ended.