It was an idea born from time-tested tactics and private conversations while the main planners and generals conferred. Each representative had brought, in some capacity, their best minds to the quorum, allowing for the most expansive planning within the circle. It had been General Antilles that first raised the notion of the Rebel’s classic “hit and hype” operations, which would at least force their Imperial foe to raise the alert in places other than where the Joint Fleet planned to strike. And while the larger operation matured in the squabbles and egos of the leaders, their trusted few began the initial stages; forming Task Force Flashburn.
It was a quick and dirty assembly of ships with a single mission; take down the Imperial Trade Consortium at Valius IX and wipe out as much of the defending support as possible. This would force the Star Destroyer Hate’s Hammer to move further away from the Prash’guthali sector and hopefully, reduce the number losses the main force would sacrifice.
Unfortunately, as the Fleet rallied behind its newly unified banner, there wasn’t much each side was readily able to commit in just thirty-six hours. The U.S.S. Diamante, having barely escaped the Utopia Planetia raid, led Starfleet’s banner. But the small Saber-class scout only had one partner in its colors, the older Miranda-class Khartoum.
The Klingons fared no better, with only one legacy K’tinga-class battlecruiser and three small B’rel-class Birds-of-Prey for the call. Though while the machines were often outclassed, their crews sung the songs of battle as heartily as any other warriors.
The New Republic summoned the most to Flashburn. One Nebulon-B frigate formed the center of the fleet, along with two CR90 fast-attack corvettes to maul opposing fighters, one GR-75 transport to haul the fuel and supplies everyone would need, as well as plunder anything that was of use. To cover them all, one squadron of A-wing interceptors shielded two lumbering Y-wing bomber squadrons.
And risking more than the rest of the group combined, the Cardassians had sent one of their few Galor-class cruisers to the call, which was still more than the Romulans pledged. But it would have to be enough. In five days’ time, Flashburn had a laundry list of appearances to make and Imperial war efforts to vaporize. At the end, everyone left would rejoin the Fleet at the heart of it all, and hopefully with resounding success.
The Trade Consortium itself shined above the icy blue gemstone that was Valius IX, with freighters of all sizes and trades coming to and fro. It’s main line of defense was an old Carrack-class light frigate and maybe two squadrons of TIE fighters, provided all of them were operational and on alert. These would be the first targets. Once those were burning in space, the bombers and Birds of Prey could dance between the hubs of the Consortium and melt whatever suited their fancy. The cruisers and battleships would dismantle the entire complex from one end to the other. By consensus calculations, the moment their approach was detected, Flashburn had at most ten minutes of play time before the Star Destroyer would appear and burn them all out of the stars. That didn’t leave much time for fancy tactics, so it had been decided to strike as a combined force.
As expected, the Imperial alarms began to scream barely a second before the entire Task Force emerged from light speeds. In a stroke of thankful luck, the Imperial frigate was moored and powered down while its crew lazed about the station and only four TIEs patrolled the incoming traffic. Diamante and the Birds of Prey immediately leapt ahead of the pack, with the A-wings screaming forward in pairs to wipe out any defensive cannon fire. Torpedo hit after torpedo hit liquefied the unshielded Carrack’s bridge and spine, while the interceptors danced effortlessly around panicked sentries. One of the CR90s also surged into the fray, shredding the TIEs as they came around. A few of the merchantmen dared to fire back as well, which only served as marking them as dead men for the Klingons and Cardassians.
“Diamante to Task Force. All defenses are down and the trade ships are fleeing or have surrendered. Focus fire on the trade platforms, and signal our transport to move to Docking Bay Theta-One-Seven. Looks like there’s some goodies there for the taking.” The scout reported as it came around to face parts of the burning station, cutting through vital points with ruby lightning.
“Coronation copies. All fighters, form up and stay on alert. Any freighter that wants safe passage out of here comes with us. Hustle up, people. We’ve got about four minutes left to make our exit!”
As much as it pained them, Klingon honor did not permit them to fire at the helpless, even if they flew the enemy flag. But that didn’t stop them from weaving between the frightened merchants like daggers and popping a few more disruptor blasts over the bows of those running the wrong way. The Galor-class Talnash swooped in to take equal advantage of the chaos, beaming away anything that wasn’t nailed down or claimed, which would be welcomed by the Cardassian efforts.
Khartoum picked up the signal first. “Alert! Inbound subspace wave! Looks like a larger cruiser heading in, bearing two-six-six by one-three-eight, at our starboard plane!”
Immediately, everyone who was in or around the station rose away from the devastation to reform the group as their new challenge thundered in with cannons blazing. Thankfully, it was not Hate’s Hammer, but even the older Victory-class Star Destroyer packed equal firepower and Starfighters to the Task force. The more mobile starships and fighters scattered to make their individual runs, while the larger battlecruisers and frigates met it head-on. One of the Birds-of-Prey was snapped in half almost instantly as its attack path began.
Diamante put her belly to the Destroyer and fired as fast as it could, emptying its torpedoes into the larger ship’s belly. All around, the newly launched TIE fighters chased after the Y-wings, with one full squadron breaking away and carving a path of fire along the Cardassians’ bow. Try as it might, the Galor-class cruiser only picked off a third of the Imperial fighters before one of its engines detonated, shearing off the accompanying wing and leaving it easy prey for the Destroyer to pick apart.
Coronation kept its corvettes in close, Khartoum and the Klingon cruiser folding into the pack to defend. Turbolasers and disruptions matched slice for cut and pound for tear as the two sides battered away at each other. One of them had to give eventually, and the moment the Destroyer’s shields collapsed, the Diamante and the last Bird-of-Prey dove in from above and shattered the bridgetower of the Destroyer. The Imperial’s engines fluttered and winced before finally dying out.
And through all that, the collective countdown had been lost in the fray. Yet Hate’s Hammer never appeared, even as the Task Force escaped with their victory. And while bloodwine and whiskey were shared among the conquerors, report of their mission and losses still worried those on the front.
Flashburn still had a lot of mission left, and the fighter production factory that was their next target was not so easily destroyed.
A pairing to go along with the master battle plan, because a feint has been a time-honored military strategy for centuries.
At least, when it works.
I hope you all enjoy.