The Kadeshi Crusade
A Homeworld Fanfiction
Originally posted May 15, 2001
Chapter 13 – The Cannon
“All battle stations!” Zha ordered. “All recon fighters regroup to the Mule at once! Maintain cloaked running for all fighters. Do no engage unless ordered.”
Everyone was focused on the screens. The Allied forces were intent in getting even, and they have sent the Kuun-Laan escorted an array of Kushan and Taiidan capital ships. Behind the great walls of capital ships were X formations of fighters and walls of corvettes. Under any other circumstance, Zha would be excited to see the Somtaaw Explorer ship, the Kuun-Laan, known throughout the Galaxy as the Beast Slayer. This was the ship that killed the Beast and with that act, avenged for her the death of her father. But other circumstances were overriding that joy.
“The Siege Cannon is powering up,” said one of the officers in the bridge. The energy signature of the Siege Cannon was like a beacon for all the energy scanners.
“What is their target?” Seejuk asked one of the tactical officers.
“We got the coordinates,” he replied, and displayed them on screen. There was a cluster of needleships.
“Sensor zoom in the area, now!” Seejuk ordered.
Seejuk was wide eyed as he saw the image in the screen. “There it is!” he shouted. A huge Needleship dominated the screen like a massive sea animal, and smaller Needleships surrounded the big animal like its cubs.
“The Khar-toba sister ship!” Seejuk said. “Our communications tap have indeed confirmed that this ship is the flagship of the Crusade. Now the Siege Cannon is aimed at it. Yes, justice is going to be done, right smack in the face of the Kadeshi. This time, they’re going to take it the head!”
Zha did not match Seejuk’s exuberance. Her face wore a frown of great concern. Her expression changed to that of utter horror.
“NO! NO!” Zha shouted. The Other, the Kadeshi—they are not the Beast. They cannot be fought like that monster.
“Why?” Seejuk asked.
“Scan the Needleship energy signatures. We need to warn the Alliance. I can sense it, those are not real ships!” Zha stood up and shouted.
Seejuk performed the deep energy scans. When it ended, his face shared the same utter horror. “I could not believe it. I cannot find the Khar-toba energy signature. These are not typical energy signatures….”
Seejuk was badly interrupted by an ensign’s excited voice. “Sir! The Kuun Laan has fired the Siege Cannon!”
Seejuk slapped his forehead. “…these are the energy signatures of a huge holographic generator…Mimics on a capital and mothership scale!”
Zha let out a deep breath of tension and sank down on her seat. She nodded her head.
“Energy ball Impact on target in three….two…one…Impact!” the ensign reported. There was a flash in the screen as a brilliant light exploded in a ring spreading in all directions.
Seejuk was running scans. “There is insufficient debris to substantiate not even a single major capital ship!”
Zha stood up, alarmed. The comlinks were full of the voices of Kushans and Taiidans shouting of victory, confident they have surprised then wiped out the enemy in a single blast. But the voices were not the real reason why she stood up.
Zha could sense her, that Other. She is there somewhere. As Zha could sense her, the Other could sense the enemy ahead, ready to spring her own trap. A voice seemingly silent, has picked up in the background, growing into a song.
Zha shouted to the sensors officer. “Scan point Alpha Three, point Beta 67, point Omega 45!” The officer did not hesistate. Seejuk just stared at her incredulously.
The scans were off to the opposite ends of the map. There was nothing but clouds and asteroid debris.
“Magnify!” Zha ordered. They can see nothing. Then the asteroids started to change shape.
“By the blood of Sajuuk, the Kadeshi has copied cloak before and now they have copied mimic technology,” Seejuk said, hands busy on his tactical console. The shapes were turning into Needleships, Pods and Multibeamers. The song has picked up in tempo, and has turned into its full glory. The cries of Allied victory in turn, grew into a hushed silence.
“Hyperspace Inhibitors are active! Hyperspace Inhibitors are active!” the ensign shouted.
“How are our forces,” Zha asked?
Seejuk replied, “We are still cloaked. Our mimic and cloak fighters have almost finished regrouping.”
“Maintain cloaked running,” Zha ordered. “Anyone who breaks our cover and joins the battle without my orders I will have his or her head in my table!” Silently she prayed that the discipline of her forces would prevent them from being betrayed to the energy scanners.
As the Needleships emerged from the clouds, lines of ionic trails streaked the darkness of the cosmos from one end of sight to the other—the visual signature of massive waves of fanatic Swarmers heading for the kill. For many a pilot, the sight was sure to bring prayer.
The song in the comlinks was both terrifying and magnificently haunting. They can hear the individual voices of Kadeshi pilots in what must be prayer, their voices joining in chorus with the song.
The voices of the Kushans and Taiidans, once jubilent in victory, have become the voices of those who have accepted a fate of death. The order was given to all pilots of the strike craft. They will fight to the end.
“The Kuun Laan siege cannon is powering up again…” said the ensign. Then suddenly he interrupted himself. “We have another siege cannon signature!”
“By the blood of Sajuuk, pinpoint and magnify!” Seejuk ordered. Scans immediately ran to where the second siege cannon signature was detected, and the screens was suddenly filled with a massive long Needleship that dwarfed the other Needleships around it.
“It’s got the right signature! The Khar’toba sister ship!” Seejuk said.
There she is, Zha thought as she stared at the screen. The Other. The One who also fared the stars, who can hear its melodies and sing its songs. The One was like herself. The One who was also her enemy. Her thoughts was interrupted.
“The Kadeshi has fired their Siege Cannon,” the ensign shouted. “Sir, there is no way the Kuun Laan can avoid the blast.”
“Damn!” Seejuk pounded on the console. “If we lose the Kuun-Laan, the Crusade will take Hiigara!”
The ensign was frozen on his screen “Five Seconds to Impact!….Four…Three….Two…One…Impact!”
There was a brilliant fireball where the Kuun-Laan was. The wave front expanded, rocking the major capital ships, destroyed rows of fighters, corvettes and frigates.
“Damn again. By the hammer of Sajuuk, that siege cannon was even more powerful than what the Kuun-Laan had!” Seejuk’s expresssion of horror turned to relief, as new data from his scanner flooded his screens.
“The Kuun-Laan is still alive! Dammit, that is a tough ship!” Seejuk exclaimed, and then making a short sincere prayer to the gods for letting the ship live.
“But she is heavily damaged,” he added. “She has lost many of her modules, and her siege cannon as well. She is hanging on. She is requesting assistance and reinforcements. She needs to escape. She got a few thousand valuable personnel on board. We cannot afford to lose the Kuun-Laan, and if we do, so will Hiigara’s fate. If she escapes, she can regroup and repair to fight another battle. It cannot end here.”
The ensign interrupted them again. “Enemy siege cannon is beginning to recharge. We have sighted a secondary wave of Probe Bombs and Pod Bombs heading to the Kuun-Laan. They will finish her off!”
Seejuk turned around and watched the icy glare of Zha’s eyes. He did not say anything and she didn’t either. But he knew what was on her mind, and she knew what he was going to ask.
“It has finally come to this, Zha.” Seejuk said. “The Mule is a ship carrying the banner of the Turanic Raiders. It is not obligated to help the Kushans or the Alliance. It is up to you.”
Zha’s eyes was teary. In her eyes, Seejuk felt that she had accepted her own fate. She said, “Seejuk. Your people helped me and this ship in a time of need despite that your people hated the Raiders, hated what a Lord carrier did in your Homeworld Wars, hated what a carrier like this stood for. If it were not for you and the Kushans, this great ship would not be here. I would not be here. I owe this to you. That ship over there, the one you call the Kuun-Laan, is the one we all call the Beast-Slayer. That ship avenged the death of my father from the Beast and finally gave him his peace. I owe that to my father. The Mule, this Lord carrier, this was my father’s ship. He would only want it this way.”
Zha stared at the wanting eyes of her officers in the bridge. “I will put all your lives at risk here. I need to know if all of you are behind me.”
“My brother died when the Crusade attacked the Merak outpost,” one of the officers said. “I’m with you all the way.” He saluted with his fist, and all the others joined him in a rhythm.
She turned to the ensign. “Set an intercept course to the Kadeshi flagship. Maintain cloak., and when you are in firing range, the Mule and all frigates will open fire. Target the siege cannon and take it out. “
Zha loosened the buttons in her shirt. “All pilots, report to your fighters and corvettes. I want every strike ship out on my mark.”
She turned to Seejuk. “Seejuk, you will take command of this ship and the frigates. You know what to do. Take out that cannon and get out, keep as many of the crew and the frigates alive.”
Seejuk stared at her. “What in the sands of Kharak are you planning to do?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Zha said. “I’m going to get my pilot’s coveralls. The Mule and the frigates are not going to stop that siege cannon in time. We need to send a strike force to take it out. I’m going to lead that strike force!”
Seejuk looked at her bewildered. “You are not serious!”
“Yes I am,” she said, “and we don’t have much time before the cannon fires again. I will be okay. I promise.”
Seejuk raised both his hands. He gave up, he can’t argue with her. He didn’t have much time either. “Go now,” he said, “and by the god Sajuuk’s name, you better come back.”
Seejuk quickly regained his position in the tactical console. “Maximum speed,” he ordered. “I want the max out of this bucket of bolts!”
Zha zipped up her flight suit, helmet in hand, her custom Triikor-Fury ready and sitting on the launch rails. She was rolling her fists, a motion to make every fighter launch. The vibration in the Mule’s hangers told her that the carrier was at maximum speed, but as long as her course was straight, they can launch fighters. Rows of fighters and corvettes were being launched ahead of her. The atmosphere was intoxicated with excitement.
G forces pushed her back against the seat as the rail launched her fighter into space. The strike force was waiting, an odd assortment of Kushan, Taiidan and Turanic ships. They should not have waited. There was not even time to make nice neat wall formations, only loose broad formations. She quickly set her Fury on course to the Kadeshi flagship, and the strike force formed behind her. Behind the backs was the Mule, hauling her engines to the maximum, with Ion array and former Kadeshi Multibeam frigates close behind.
“All corvettes, form into Alpha wing. All bombers and interceptors form into Beta wing. All scouts form into Delta wing, all Defenders form into Gamma wing.” Zha ordered. “We will hit our target in two waves. Beta force will hit them first as they are faster, followed by Alpha. There will be plenty of Swarmers trying to stop us so Delta will cover Beta and Gamma will cover Alpha. We don’t have much time before that cannon goes. Our target is the swelling between the Khar-toba ship structure in the Needleship and the forward circular structure. Damage the cannon port on the top of the forward circular structure. Let’s go!”
G forces pushed her back again as the Fury boosted, and she can see one, two, three, then the entire force lit up their boosters. Ion trails fell behind them. There was a distraction in the moment. She can feel the Other’s presence getting stronger, and she knew the Other would feel her too. The haunting music filled the comlinks, now with shouts and the cries of death as the Kadeshi Swarmers engaged the latest Taiidan and Kushan interceptors in a dogfight to the death.
“This is Seejuk, are you there, Zha?” Seejuk’s voice was in her comlink. “Yes, I’m here,” she replied.
Seejuk continued. “I’ve contacted the main fleet. The defenses from the frigates, destroyers and cruisers surrounding the Kuun-Laan are engaging the pod and probe bombs. Enemy multibeamers and pods are coming their way next so they will have their hands full. I’ve asked that the main fleet to send you some assistance and help you take out their siege cannon. It’s bigger than the Kuun-Laan and got more punch but it looks like it will take a longer time to recharge. How long we don’t know. I only know we don’t have time to waste.”
“Affirmative, Seejuk. Good job,” Zha said. Clouds rushed past her cockpit.
The massive Needleship appeared before her. “Target is on sight. Heading into attack vector. Warning tone indicates we have been detected, and Swarmers will soon be on my back. Wish me luck. Zha, out.”
“Alright, Beta force,” Zha said from her cockpit, “let’s hit them. Delta cover us!” Her Fury rolled and banked towards the Needleship. Another Fury followed her, then a Bandit, then a Kaark-Warhawk, then more Bandits and the rest of the force. Further away, Arrows and Fiirkan-Raptors of Delta force met the Swarmers in their own dance of death.
The Other’s presence was even stronger now, stronger than she has ever felt. The Other was inside that flagship. Her presence and her songs were energizing, and she must be galvanizing the Kadeshi. Zha cannot let the Other distract her. She must focus on destroying the siege cannon. The Needleship was immense. She never thought that anyone could build ships as big as these. The cannon’s housing was on sight and she pressed the trigger. The Fury’s dual rail guns blasted away at their targets. She fired and fired, hoping that her shots would get through the skin and damage what was underneath.
She rolled and looped for another strafing pass. The second and third interceptors unloaded their guns at the target. As she headed for next firing pass, the bomber wave hit their targets with plasma launchers.
“Yahoo!” Zha shouted in her comlink. Corvettes of Alpha wing was on visual range and has begun their attack run. The Defenders of Gamma wing have joined the Scouts trying to tackle down the Swarmers. Energy cannons and mass drivers from corvettes smashed at their targets in a rain of fire. Then a spectacular volley of missiles from the Brigands hit the cannon enclosure.
Defensive fire from the Needleships was fierce. Zha could see some of her own strike craft being hit. One or two have tumbled out of control and crashed into the Needleship.
Seejuk’s voice came on from the comlink. “The hits from your attacks are causing the power levels in the cannon to fluctuate. Good job. This may cause some delay for them to fire. The bad news is that the power levels continue to rise, and they can still fire before we can reach our firing position. I got a new plan and I’m downloading them to all strike craft. We need to hit the sensor receivers of the Needleship here and here. Make them blind.”
“Got it,” Zha affirmed. She rolled her Fury and aimed her railguns at the antenna that protrude from upper structure of the Needleship. She blasted away, and the other strike ships followed her.
“It’s working, they can’t seem to fix on the Kuun-laan,” Seejuk said.
Aboard the Mule, Seejuk watched the screens tensely. Kadeshi Needleships, cruisers and frigates were on a death grip match against the Kushan and Taiidani major ships. He could not tell who is winning. The battles were so chaotic. There seemed to be a dogfight with a Swarmer in every square inch of space.
Beam Acolytes from the Kuun-Laan have hit the Kadeshi flagship, and a wave of Avengers and Thunderbolt heavy corvettes were close behind them. They joined Zha’s strike wave trying to disable the siege cannon.
“Reaching firing position,” the ensign said.
“All frigates into wall formation,” Seejuk ordered. “All ion beam cannons, set your targets. Warning to all Mule strike force. Bombardment will soon commence.”
“We are in firing position,” the ensign said.
“De-cloak and open fire,” Seejuk ordered. “To all frigates, decloak and fire at will.” The petals around the Mule’s main ion cannon opened, and a beam shot out from it into the siege cannon section of the Kadeshi flagship. As the generators dropped their cloak, the captured Multibeamers rolled and opened fire at the cannon section. The Assassin and Dagger Ion Array frigates de-cloaked, their array panels unfolded and beams shot out into the flagship.
As the Mule fired, Seejuk watched the screens as Kadeshi warhips turned to face the Mule and her frigate fleet. Ion beams pounded and pounded at the swollen structure in the Needleship.
“Scanners are indicating that the siege cannon is taking damage,” said the ensign, excited at his discovery.
“It’s working, sir!” He raised his fist in joy.
Seejuk was happily shaking his fist too. But his joy was short lived, as the Mule shook violently. Two Kadeshi Multibeamers appeared out of the darkness and raked the carrier with its beams. Screens were showing the enemy frigates, Swarmers and Pods, responding to the defense of the flagship, were surrounding the Mule and her task force. Beam and Assault Swarmers blasted the Mule and her frigates with beams and large caliber cannon fire, as Beam Acolytes and Attack Bombers pummeled the Kadeshi flagship in a tit for tat exchange.
His heart pounded. “Strike force! The Siege Cannon is damaged, I repeat, the Siege Cannon is damaged. But we are talking punishment and we cannot take this much longer. We need defense!” Seejuk desperately warned. “Get those Swarmers and Frigs off our backs, and I think we can kill the Flagship.”
“Got you,” Zha said, banking her fighter to strafe at a Kadeshi Multibeamer. The strike force turned their attention at the frigates and Swarmers firing at the Mule, destroying an Assault Pod and some Swarmers.
Seejuk could see that the flagship is on flames from the concentrated attacks. But it was one tough ship. His frigates kept firing at the flagship, but they are taking casualties from the Kadeshi frigates. Sooner or later the Mule or the Kadeshi flagship will blow. It’s only a matter of time who will stay alive long enough to kill the other.
The ensign interrupted him again. “Sir, the hyperspace inhibitors have lifted! Hyperspace jump gates appearing!”
“What!” Seejuk exclaimed in utter surprise. In his screens, a huge hyperspace gate appeared and the Kadeshi flagship slipped through it.
Seejuk didn’t know what to feel. He seemed to win a tactical victory but the flagship got away. The Kadeshi frigates were still there, blowing holes at the Mule, and if he does not get out soon, the Mule would be space dust.
“Ensign! Hyperspace Jump! Anywhere, just get us out of here. To all frigates, hyperspace! Jump before the inhibitors activate again!” Seejuk shouted at the top of his voice.
The jumpgate appeared and the Mule slipped through it. Her frigates joined in the hyperspace jump. They materialized near the position they had originally used to stalk and observe the Kadeshi fleet.
“Did you see that, all of you? The enemy ran! We saved the Kuun-laan. We saved all their sorry ass.” It was Zha’s happy voice in the comlink. The strike force could not hyperspace and was still heavily engaged.
Then there was a scream. It was the same voice. It was Zha’s voice.
A sick feeling came into Seejuk’s stomach. “Zha! Are you there? Answer me!”
Zha’s Fury was tumbling out of control. In one brief moment of joy, she lost her concentration and a Swarmer nailed her fighter. She was struggling to remain control, then another Kadeshi ship loomed, a frigate, a Pod. The bottom of the Pod’s appeared like mechanical claws. The mechanism was the tell tale sign of a modified Fuel Pod, a Kadeshi Grappler, or Salvage Frigate.
The engines could no longer ignite, and static filled the comlinks. Zha screamed and screamed as the Grappler seized her crippled fighter under a holding field. The screams stopped and there was only silence.
Seejuk’s voice was in the comlink. “Zha. Are you there? Please respond. What is your position? Please Zha, answer me. Answer please. Oh by the Gods of Kharak…”
But there was no answer.