VRDF The Comstar Invasion

 

Around the yellow gem that was its sun, the blue-green sphere called New Normandy swung through space. The Precentor watched carefully, both out the window of his Magellan jumpship and on the displays. Everything seemed normal around the capital of the Veiled Republic; dropships were transiting between the zenith station and planet, carrying on commerce, unaware that his fleet was poised for invasion only light-seconds away. The pirate point was a calculated risk; the Magellan's advanced sensors made it practical to strike from this far out, beyond the range of easy detection. The jumpships had only limited windows for transit, but their location would not be immediately obvious either.

The Precentor looked at his aides and nodded. The order was given.

Shuttles zipped between the three jumpships, the Magellan and two Invaders, as the commanders returned to their units. Aboard the ships was a full level IV division of the Com Guards, the most advanced military force in the Inner Sphere. And one at a time, the dropships' drives flared to life as they launched, beginning the invasion. The
Veiled Republic would learn the price of defiance, that the followers of Blake were the true heirs to the Star League's legacy.

Silently, the glow of the dropships' drives dwindled against the glow of the planet below. The Precentor watched, listening to the communications as the fighter screen was launched. The Republic was advanced, to be sure, but they were merely a small Periphery nation. What could they possibly do against...

The thought was interrupted by the scream of alarms from the KF drive core. The Magellan shook like a toy in a dog's jaws as a shockwave of heat and displaced spacetime, the point-blank effects of a riskily-close jump, slammed across the ComStar fleet. The engineering warnings were followed seconds later by scanners sounding warnings. The Precentor's eyes went to the canopy, and he nearly rubbed his eyes at what he saw.

The ship was an impossibility. A cylindrical hull over a kilometer long, studded with dropships and bristling with gigantic weapons. A warship, a Potemkin troop cruiser. Such a vessel had not been seen by the Inner Sphere since the Exodus. And on its side, painted as big as a dropship, Battlemechs, was the logo of the
Veiled Republic.

The Precentor started to give an order, but the words weren't out of his mouth before two things happened simultaneously. One was another wave of close-in jump signature, as one of the Invaders, the one leaped out. The other was the brightest light that the Precentor had ever seen, bright as the Blessed Light, burning his eyes and hurling him from his command chair with a tremendous impact that rang through the whole ship.

There were several moments of confusion, of shouting and screaming and alarms and jostling about, around the Precentor. He struggled to regain control of the bridge with his voice; he could see nothing but moving flares of light and darkness, and he groped about to pull himself back into his seat. As he finally managed to shout his way back into control of the situation, he realized that the warship's capital lasers had savaged the Magellan. Heavy damage from stem to stern; the KF drive was out, its conductive ring snapped by a level of firepower that nothing was designed to face. The hull was holed amidships, putting hard vaccuum between the fore and aft sections. Those trapped aft had no way out, as the air slowly continued to leak from the battered engineering section.

Slowly, other status reports were coming in as well. The dropships were being set upon by fighters; fast Tomahawk interceptors were tying up the ComStar fighter screen, allowing bigger Gotha and Ironsides attack craft to slip through and wreak havoc. The Precentor tried to remain calm, asking for other status reports, trying to get information audibly that he normally could have seen for himself. One of his aides was keeping a reassuring hand on his arm, but it wasn't very reassuring at all. The other Invader was gone; it had taken a full broadside from the Potemkin. The Precentor felt a chill. Survivors? None...the Invader was GONE. And now, the warship was maneuvering, launching its own dropships and shuttles.

After a long, deep pause, like a Pope in his final days, the Precentor gave his last orders. Repel boarders, and scuttle the ship. Stunned, the loyal ComStar crew hesitated, and then began to respond. The task would not be easy, as most of the scuttle charges were located amidships and aft, in the demolished sections. The backup reactor was still flickering, along with the ship's power; overloading it was an option, and so a party of crewmen moved aft, their vacc suits sealed.

The Precentor could only listen as his loyal aide described the dropship that swooped gracefully by the bridge. He heard and felt impacts, as the shuttles made contact.

Aft, the ComStar crewmen felt them too, and readied their weapons. The Veiled Republic's soldiers were coming in through the breached sections. The ComStar crewmen took up positions in the passageways, forming a firing line of laser pistols and carbines as a clanking sound came against the sealed door to the airless aft section.

There was a long pause, and then an explosion. There was a blast inward, and then a pulling rush of air outward screaming through the wrecked hatch. The crewmen, though they had braced themselves, were still battered about, and in a panic they quickly reassembled themselves. Several of them opened fire, expecting a wave of invaders. But no one came through the hatch. Slowly, they ceased fire, confused by the odd pace of the events. Around them, the overtaxed life support system slowly repressurized the ship; apparently something had been sealed off farther aft.

Then an armored arm swung through the hatch, a machinegun on the end of it spitting fire. Tracers scythed through the ComStar soldiers as they fell back in surprise, returning fire at the figures that now came through the hatch.

They were like miniature Mechs, these troopers in armor; four of them were on point, with more conventional marines behind. Like the warship, they spoke of a bygone era, like nothing that ComStar had ever expected to face again. Leering from their pauldrons was a dire symbol, a horse's skull with glowing eyes. And in a moment of horrified detail, the ComStar crewmen realized that the glow WASN'T just a trick of the light.

Laser bolts ricocheted off the armored troopers as they advanced with guns blazing, driving the crew before them. One crewman hurled a grenade, and one of the troopers smothered it; there was a muffled BOOM that lifted the trooper off the deck and slammed him into the bulkhead. Staccato blasts from the marines' combat shotguns, lethal in the close passages, drove the crew back. And as they fell back through another hatch, the ComStar crew watched in horror as the trooper who had smothered the grenade slowly got back up.

The Precentor was still sitting numbly on the bridge, listening to the reports from both within and without, when the knock came on the bridge hatch. The Veiled Republic's soldiers had been advancing through the ship, even as the Republic's fighters were mauling the dropships. Less than half the ComStar fleet had made planetfall. Hundreds of Com Guards had died without even the blessing of defending themselves, and now their brethren on the ground were faring little better. The LZ had been taken under artillery fire, and the dead were literally piling up around the dropships' ramps. It had been a trap, an elaborate failure.

The Precentor heard his crew moving to defend the bridge, but he stopped them. He shook his head, wishing one last time to see.

"Let them in."

The crew looked at their leader, stunned.

He sensed their hesitation, and looked at them with bleeding eyes. His boon had been denied.

"It is over."

There was another long moment of hesitation, and the man nearest the hatch finally hit the switch. It rolled up to reveal one of the armored troopers, his gun at the ready. He and the ComStar crewman looked at each other for a long moment, and then around the bridge at all the other shocked faces and limply held weapons.

The trooper simply nodded, and stepped into the bridge, taking the crewman's gun and pointing him to his seat. Other troopers and marines followed him, taking up positions around the bridge. The Precentor heard the footsteps, the quiet words exchanged as the Veiled Republic's soldiers gave orders and communicated to their ship. There was no exultation, no final massacre. There was no need for either. He felt a hand and a foriegn presence, one of the Republic's marines. He looked with blind eyes, and heard the heard the man's voice calling for a medic as he dropped his head to his chest.

It was over.