Battle of MoriaEdit
It was now a month and a half since the fall of Tarsonis, and three and a half months since the Zerg were first spotted live on Air Los Andares. Confederate military communications frequencies had steadily increased, in line with what Ariel said were their growing fleet strengths. The Sons of Korhal had quickly consolidated its control over various space pirate bands operating in the sector and renamed itself the Terran Dominion under Mengsk's banner. Catching the Confederates off guard and proclaiming its goal the eventual unity of all humanity against the Zerg, the Dominion had asserted control over Brontes, Dylar IV, Halcyon, and Proudwater with many of the resident military willingly breaking away from the now clearly decadent and collapsing Confederacy. It had arisen to become the premier human governmental entity in Koprulu, with Mengsk crowned emperor of what he had decreed was a necessary dictatorship in the face of a much greater evil.
The new base of Travincal had developed as well. Three large, hemispherical mining complexes had been fully built, greatly facilitating resource gathering compared to mining by teams of SCV's. Large residential complexes had been built, holding far more than just the standard supply depot components, providing each person with considerable free space - much more than could be provided on the formerly cramped Dropships. No barracks had been built, and the first one had been dismantled; in its place were several factories that were turning out the new remote-controlled Wraiths by the hour. By far the most space-occupying structures were the starports, mostly "parking lots" where the numerous starships could land for refueling and maintenance but also with starship factories of their own, constantly assembling additional Hyperion-class battlecruisers. What had once been a field of construction sites had by now become a nearly complete military town, black and white with Neosteel and metal. Many resource packages had been sent to the battlecruisers every day to fuel their own production facilities, with the result that the fleet was shining new and more numerous, more robust than ever before.
In geostationary orbit over Korhal IV, the metallic-gray Harbinger Fleet drifted in sphere formation, ready to depart at a moment's notice. The Wraith wings had been bolstered, and four of the new Harbinger-class carriers were ready to embark on their maiden voyage. Not far from them, a division of the golden Protoss Expeditionary Force also lay silently at rest.
"Admiral," reported the adjutant, "we have intercepted a Morian distress call. The Moria's Chain Home has recently picked up slipstream vectors approaching their planet, ETA twenty minutes. An attack by the Dominion seems imminent unless the Morians stand down. They are not expecting anyone to be able to come to their aid in time, however."
Daniel immediately knew what was up: Emperor Mengsk wanted to assert his complete authority over the region and the best way to do that was to break the Umojan-Morian Combine. Now, there were two things that Daniel could do at this point: he could decide to stay put, and let Mengsk gradually collect all of humanity under his solidified banner, which would do much good in fighting off the Zerg at one point or another; or he could intervene and maybe convince both sides that they could and had to work together despite not being under the same leadership. He opted for the latter.
"Adjutant, send messages ordering our ships to prepare for combat. Set our journey coordinates for Moria, high orbit, and blink us there immediately. We are going to intervene."
Moments later, the window to hyperspace opened up before them and swept through the spherical fleet, shifting them out from their reality into a totally different one. And then the portal closed off, leaving behind no trace of the human fleet.
On board the carrier Pride of Aiur, Ariel picked up the Harbinger Fleet's blink drive signature with alarm. According to the observers, the fleet progressing toward Moria is significantly larger than Daniel's fleet. He will need backup if he hopes to save Moria, she thought. Simultaneously, the other Protoss in the vicinity had concurred via telepathic communication with one another. A circular window to hyperspace opened up before the carrier, and brought most of the fleet in the direction of Moria.
"Warning: Dominion fleet's ETA is five minutes. Suggest posting all battle stations to code red. Admiral, we've suddenly picked up a new presence in the area," excitedly reported an adjutant aboard the Endymion-class battlecruiser the Kel.
"Does it matter?" came the reply.
Admiral Johnson had the air of a defeated man. He had worked diligently for twenty years climbing the military ladder and had been admiral for only a few short weeks. And now he was about to lose it all, everything his life's work had been aimed at, in the space of mere minutes. He sat lopsidedly in the admiral's seat aboard a bridge with men feeling just as dejected and anxious. He and his Morian Home Fleet weren't going to go down without a fight, though just how much a difference that would make was indisputably small. Moria and Umoja had much smaller initial populations than and had never been as aggressively expansionist as Tarsonis. That meant that over the course of decades the two smaller states became much weaker than the Confederacy. Through treaties, tributes and alliance with each other, the Umojan-Morian Combine had staved off an inevitable defeat.
And now Johnson would be the one remembered as losing the war that sealed Moria's fate, as the Dominion's forces breached the outer edge of the Morian star system and closed in swiftly. All the planet's fifty million people were probably waiting with their breaths held...
"Sir, I think so. A human fleet has warped in through a method we know not about. They badge themselves the Harbinger Fleet. Initial scans indicate they have fifteen battlecruisers, 37 assault frigates and four of a new capital ship class whose role seems to be that of a carrier."
"Ask Chain Home if they had picked up any vectors of entry for such a fleet."
"Sir, I have already done that. The fleet seems to have slipped past our long-range warp travel detectors."
"Open up a link with the new fleet. I want to hear them out at least."
If they turn out to be friends and can travel faster than Chain Home can detect warp travelers, then maybe they could bring in more reinforcements, and we'd stand a fighting chance. Upon realizing this, the admiral suddenly became much more vivacious as adrenaline pumped through his body once again. He eagerly turned to the new portrait of Daniel to await the good news. "Admiral, you've come bearing good news, I presume?" he asked with a smile that covered up how worried he felt just below the surface.
Daniel remained tranquil. "Admiral Johnson. This is Admiral Travincal. Our fleet is ready to join yours in battle against the Dominion."
Johnson was relieved. "Thank goodness! It's about time! Err... not to be condescending but your fleet is kind of small."
"Oh... um, good point. This is all I have, actually," Daniel replied nonchalantly.
"Damn it!" roared the admiral in dismay, falling over his seat and onto the floor. The man was clearly distressed. "Then you better have some awfully good weapons. The fleet we're going up against is twice our size."
It was Daniel's turn to widen his eyes in surprise. "Twice-? We received your distress call a few minutes ago, but you didn't tell us there were that many enemies headed our way!"
"Oh, don't tell me you aren't prepared for this! We have two minutes left!"
"Well, if it's any consolation, we have the ability to warp you out of here. We can get you to Korhal in four minutes, tops."
Ordinarily such shockingly fast transportation speed would have made anyone's jaw drop, and it did for Daniel. But Johnson was in no mood for that. Fast fleet movement could do little to win this particular battle, despite Daniel's earlier exploits against the six separate but far smaller fleets, and they all knew it. And Daniel's fleet simply didn't have the firepower it needed to withstand the Dominion fleet that Johnson suggested was on its way. The Morian Home Fleet had 80 Endymion-class battlecruisers, 270 Nighthawk-class support frigates, and 4000 Banshee-class starfighters. Even compared to that, the Harbinger Fleet was nearly negligible.
For the next two minutes Daniel pondered what strategies he could use against the enemies, while Admiral Johnson continued to feel like a man doomed to defeat. The solemn officials aboard the Hyperion's bridge looked at the hologram table, which displayed Daniel's light blue blips alongside Johnson's dark blue blips. Sarlena silently stared at the populated, brownish world they were currently in high orbit over.
"Daniel, the Dominion fleet has arrived, leaving slipstream at fifty kilometers from our location. Both sides are holding fire. The Norad IV hailing the Kel."
The portrait of the balding General Duke reappeared, this time with even more medallions attached to his suit than when Daniel had last seen a transmission from him. By contrast, Daniel had none, because there was no one to give him any. He stated in a gruff, egotistical voice, "This is General Duke of the Dominion Alpha Fleet. Surrender your ships to my control or you WILL be destroyed."
"Join the conversation." Soon a three-way channel had been established between all three flagships: Daniel's Hyperion, Johnson's Kel, and Duke's repaired-yet-again Norad II. "Hi there, Edmund! Remember me? The one who saved your sorry ass back on Antiga?" Daniel smirked.
That took Edmund by surprise. "The bloody hell are you doing here?"
"What's it look like? Allying with the Umojan-Morian Combine to kick your sorry ass."
The general burst into laughter. "Ha, you want to bully me around? Why don't you take a good look at what you're up against? I strongly advise you to surrender before my men kill you." Daniel whirled around to look at the hologram. A host of brown blips representing the Dominion had appeared, and were deployed in claw formation. As Johnson had said, this new fleet was more than twice the size of the Home Fleet.
"Don't forget who I am. If you continue to strike an aggressive pose against the Combine, you will be sorry."
"Yes, well you may have tricks up your sleeve, it won't be enough to take down my Alpha Fleet, considering it's fifteen times yours. For all your smarts you seem to have forgotten that stratagems keep your fleet from shrinking, but they don't grow your fleet like being the right hand man of an emperor does." Edmund chuckled.
"Don't give me that crap. Last time I fought a major battle my fleet ended up swallowing fleets many times it size."
"Well then, we shall see who comes out on top, yes? Closing time, Daniel."
Daniel turned away from the view-screen and shouted, "OPEN FIRE!"
The next moment all Hell broke loose.
From the Dominion side, the ten Hyperions coalesced swirling reddish energies on the brow of their ships, before firing their Yamato Guns at the Combine's vessels. Instantly, ten Endymion-class battlecruisers erupted and shattered into thousands of pieces of space debris, glowing blue-white before the pitch dark backdrop of space. The battlecruisers then exchanged endless volleys of turbolasers, etching burning craters into each others' meters-thick hulls. Missiles filled up space with their trails of flaming nahqadah as they streaked toward their targets. Countless starfighters of both Wraith and Banshee designation engaged in a dogfight that encompassed the three fleets, the Wraiths' lasers and Apollo missiles tearing into their enemies as the Banshee's own rockets did likewise. The Nighthawk frigates left a trail of automatically firing turbolaser gun platforms in their wake as they rushed to cover blown-apart ship hulls with spare reactive armor plates. From Daniel's Harbinger-class carriers, hundreds upon hundreds of Wraiths took flight. Viking-class craft that had been attached to the surfaces of the Endymions fired a few blasts before opening their wings to take flight of their own accord, firing all the while. Halo rockets and missiles detonated endlessly across the battlefield. Every second hundreds of new explosions caused plumes of fiery air to billow into the void. Whole wings of starfighters of both sides were mercilessly shredded alongside battlecruisers whose hulls had been punctured with immense gaping holes. Shrapnel and blood droplets floated aimlessly through space, forcefully torn away from the rest of themselves.
Aboard the Hyperion, Daniel ordered the adjutant, "Have our forces focus fire on their flagship!"
"Yes sir! Squadron A, focus your fire on the Norad II!" The order was given out, and a full third of Daniel's forces unleashed their volleys at the Norad II. Burst lasers did little damage to the vessel. Turbolasers lanced across the targeted battlecruiser's hull, but merely succeeded in scratching it like using an eraser to smudge a hole into paper. Wherever the lasers struck, part of the plating vaporized, forming a dense cloud of plastic particles. No beam from the barrage managed to get through. Whatever it was that the ship was plated with, it was proving incredibly resilient to enemy fire. Elsewhere in the battlefield, laser beams were ineffective against the enemy vessels. "Admiral, our ship commanders are reporting minimal damage being done by beam weapons and are converting to using only missiles."
Damn it! And my strategy this past month was to focus on laser production at the expense of kinetic weaponry. "Use our missiles, then!"
As a handful of missiles impaled, a massive gap formed along the ceiling of the ship. A tokamak within gave out, and suddenly the ship was converted to a blindingly brilliant topaz fireball.
"Sir, General Duke is hailing us--"
"What-? He isn't dead yet? Onscreen!" That moment his ship was rocked by several missiles impacting, throwing him off balance.
"Ship hull integrity at 80 percent and holding!"
The portrait of the general showed up on the viewscreen. He was smiling very wickedly, or so Daniel thought. "So that was your trick? Attack the flagship? Pooh! As if I'd be stupid enough to Tell you which ship I'm on. Go figure."
At that moment Daniel realized what was going on. Duke wasn't even with this fleet. He was back home, directing the battle from afar via ansible.
Daniel turned to look at the hologram and found the status of the battle dismaying. Daniel had been pursuing a conservative strategy, keeping his vessels within a sphere of ships that was the Combine's fleet, and so had suffered few casualties. The Combine's vessels, however, had suffered two losses for every one that the Dominion took, and were losing ships and starfighters at a rapid pace.
"Adjutant, hail admiral Johnson."
"Admiral! What's your backup plan? We need a backup plan!" the man said the moment the link was established.
"Wait up, I do have a plan. You are determined to save Moria, yes?"
"Then prepare your ships for warp transit. You only need to give us temporary control of your engines and gravitic drives."
"Wait a minute - we're retreating? This IS Moria; there's nowhere to retreat!"
"Well you'll just have to wait to fight another day, won't you?"
"Fine. Adjutant, do as the admiral said. Done."
"Hold on. We're going to get you out of here." Daniel sent a telepathic signal to the blinking drive on board. Immediately a shimmering violet window to hyperspace opened up into a circle. Then suddenly it collapsed, dissipating entirely. The fleet had lost its ability to blink out of harm's way. And harm was coming its way. One minute into the battle and the Combine had lost nearly a third of its vessels already.
"What happened?" Johnson demanded.
"NOTHING! NOTHING HAPPENED!!!"
"IS THAT GOOD OR BAD!?!"
"WHAT DO YOU THINK!?!"
"Oh damn it! Then we shall fight to the end!"
<Ariel, wherever you are, now might be a good time to show yourself,> Daniel thought desperately as another explosion rocked his ship.
"Ship hull integrity at 60 percent and holding! We have minor breaches to starboard! Admiral, General Duke is hailing us and demanding us surrender control of our ships to him."
"Ignore him!" An Endymion battlecruiser focused its main laser turret array at an enemy Valkyrie and unleashed its barrage. The bolts of brilliant red energy slashed at the frigate en masse but stalled across its incredibly resistant hull plating. Next to the Hyperion, the Flannum's Legacy detonated in a blinding fireball as enemy lasers struck into the ship.
"Admiral, we have multiple contacts with the Protoss Expeditionary Fleet!"