Near Planetary orbit Centaurus IV
Lt Colonel Mike ‘Cujo’ Conigliaro led his six-fighter squadron, a mix of Samurai SL26 and V14 Corsairs, called Mastiff Group, in a near-space patrol over the planet. When news of the battle out near Centaurus VI came in with the warning some of the enemy ships had jumped again, he’d thought over the prospects of them retreating and immediately threw out the notion. This was a dedicated effort at the system and the Blakist forces had burned too much power and resources to give up now.
Fanatics rarely gave up easy unless the chips were absolutely down. And the veteran pilot was certain their effort wasn’t over. Selling out mercs happened all the time and while possible, there was far too many of their hirelings fighting here to leave hanging. Not with the monster case of ass they had with the Phoenix Lancers.
“Look alive, people… I expect stupid here shortly…” He transmitted to his squadron. Scanning his sensors, the warnings of an inbound transition to real space began to sound. “Aaaand speak of the devil, and he shall appear….”
Appearing some five hundred kilometers from orbit, the newly appeared ships were a Star Lord and a Chimeisho, of all things. Shortly after they arrived, all eight dropships carried by the transport Jumpships separated. three Union class and an Overlord mech carrier, started burning for the planet, disgorging their handful of fighters as a screen. A pair of Leopard CV fighter carriers joined them and also kicked their fighters out into space while the last two dropships, a Hercules, judging by the ThreatMatrix, and a Triumph, headed out after the dedicated battlemech haulers.
Quickly counting the incoming enemy fighters, Cujo called back to Lancer Command. “Doghouse, Mastiff One … Blakist Assault Group inbound. Eight Dropships- six mech or troop carriers and two fighter carriers. I count three full squadrons aerospace assets. Requesting reinforcements…”
[Mastiff One, Doghouse; we copy multiple threats inbound and system sensors confirm counts. Buccaneer Squadron is being directed to your location. ETA zero seven minutes.]
Cujo looked at what was coming and at his HUD chrono. “Mastiff copies zero seven minutes…. Tell them to step it up please.”
[Mastiff, Doghouse; Will do… will vector assets as able. SLS Socket is also responding- unknown ETA.]
“Mastiff One receive…” Clicking the squadron net, he called out. “Ok Mastiff, battle spread and let’s get ‘em. Help’s coming but it will take a few…”
As the rest of the squadron acknowledged, Cujo quickly pondered how to hold the inbound fighters off long enough for that backup to show up. This was going to suck…
[Cujo, Doc,] Captain Janice (Doc) Holiday called to him. [we sure we wanna be bunched? Lots of Indians over there…] Doc was an experienced pilot, a veteran of the early Jihad scrapes prior to coming to the Lancers. She knew her business and would have been the lead for this patrol if he hadn’t jumped on it when the attacks started.
“Doc, Cujo; was just thinking that…” He replied quickly as the range closed. “Fluid two?”
[I think that might be better… how much time we gotta burn?] She asked.
“At least six minutes… yeah lets do it,” a pause. “Mastiff, Cujo. Fluid twos… and make ‘em work for it.”
Doc and her usual wingman, Lieutenant Charlie (Ticket) Wilder, slid off to the right of the group, adding space for maneuvering and presenting a smaller target for massed fire. The other two members of the patrol. Lieutenants Bruce (Joker) Wilder and Kev (Swordsman) Knight slid left as if a mirror of Doc and Ticket. This left Cujo and the squadron rookie pilot, Lieutenant Evan (Axe) Ibanez, in the center. The odds were stacked against Mastiff… but all they had to do was be difficult to take out. The longer they avoided being picked off, the better the odds.
Didn’t mean they weren’t going to shoot back though.
As the two forces closed, both sides began to fire weapons at each other. The Blakist fighters, a mix of Free Worlds League Shiva, Capellan TR12 Transit and Lyran Lucifer fighters, bored in looking to knock the Lancer craft from their way. About four craft went after each lancer pair and the Blakist pilots worked at targeting the defenders at range.
Energy weapon and missile fire streaked across the rapidly closing gap between the sides and neither group landed very much of anything. But that rapidly changed as the range closed to dogfight ranges. As the space furball developed, the un-engaged Blakist craft took up station around the fight, darting in to harass Lancer fighters as opportunity presented. They knew too many of them in the scrum would almost surely lead to friendly fire or collisions….
It was a tactic that worked, as there were far too many enemies to keep track of. The first of the Lancers to fall was Joker. As he moved to avoid a barrage of missiles fired at him, he strayed into the sights of a Lucifer- its large lasers and long-range missiles hammering his engine and wrecking it. Tumbling from the damage, the pilot’s cockpit separated from his stricken craft. Joker prayed his beacon would get him found… and that the Blakist pilots weren’t thinking of scragging life pods.
His wingman, Swordsman, managed to clip a Transit, blowing it to hell and gone as his Corsair’s lasers literally ripped through the control surfaces of his target. This earned him the attention of a Shiva, which forced him away from the main scrum and into the sights of the overwatching fighters. He would not last long as two pounced on him like a cat a mouse. He too would join his wingman as his cockpit separated from his now dead fighter.
Doc and Ticket, long time partners, worked the Fluid Formation as if they were born to it, and anything that tried for them earned some serious damage from the two pilots. Between them, all four of the initially detailed enemies fell to their efforts but earned them more to face. Neither were unscathed… but their odds of remaining in this fight diminished with each passing minute. They knew it… but given what was at stake, neither one was going to suggest they run.
Cujo’s skills were tested like no other time in his life. Kicking his SL26 around, he judiciously fired his weapons to keep his opponents worried even as he worked his controls on defense like a madman. As he dodged and weaved, he not for the first time in his life questioned his choices of career; but this was absolutely the first time he questioned his sanity in even thinking they could slow these bastards down. If he was going to go though, at least he knew he’d gotten two of the four that had gone for him and Axe.
Axe, for her part, was flying way out of her skill level. Rookie luck, blind squirrel moment or sheer Hand of God involvement, the inexperienced pilot managed to dodge everything thrown her way. At one point, when Cujo had been tailed by a Shiva, Axe had gone danger close to the pursuing fighter with a wicked pass, the guns of her Corsair shredding the cockpit area of the heavy fighter trying to kill him.
She paid for it when a Lucifer perforated her tail bad enough to cause her engines to lose thrust. [Cujo…]
Whipping his craft around, Cujo chased off the Lucifer even as he avoided a flight of LRMs. “Got you…” he answered then tripped the squadron channel. “All Mastiffs… back off as you can!” Eyeing the HUD chrono, he wondered where the hell the backup was even as he marveled that they had managed to survive almost eight minutes in this mess….
No one answered him but they obviously got the message as the surviving members of the flight broke off as best as they could. It was now a race for the planet with the enemy pursuing them as if they were hounds chasing a fox.
[Mastiff Flight, SLS Socket… Cavalry has arrived.]
It was at this point that the SLS Socket showed up with a micro jump of her own bringing the Vincent class Corvette into the fray. As she fully transitioned in, the Wolverine Ahab and Lightning fighters she carried began launching en-masse and streaking to help the beleaguered Mastiff Squadron.
[Mastiff, Buccaneer One; sorry we’re late- Had to wait for a big gun…]
Coming from the other direction, Buccaneer Squadron was at full military power as they raced to support their brothers and sisters. Not far behind them was two of the Lancer Avengers, the aerodyne dropships geared for anti-fighter operations.
The Blakist fighters paused their pursuit as the two new forces began to enter the fray. Falling back, they became the hunted as the defender reinforcements took up the fight….
Cujo exulted in his cockpit as he watched Buccaneer streak past his hammered squadron to engage the Blakist fighters chasing them. The odds have been changed in the other direction as the sixteen fresh fighters supported by the assault dropships went hunting.