The LCS-08

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The LCS-08 (aka The Washington-class) is a newer American capital ship brought into service following the tactical and technological advances of the Forth Age. LCS stands for Littoral Combat Ship – a term originally applied to small vessels able to operate closer to shore than most naval assets – denotes the ship’s ability to manoeuvre effectively in vacuum as well as atmosphere.

The Washington is neither as agile as the Ankur or as sturdy as the Bremen; it occupies the ground between these two extremes. It fulfils a variety of roles within the USEF; anything from independent patrols to participating in larger fleet actions alongside Strike Carriers and the like. It is also used to transport VIPs and other assets through the lawless Rim territories – the firepower at its disposal is usually enough to discourage most pirates and raiders and it is quick enough to flee more powerful threats.

The ships firepower consists of two ‘Starsnipe’ flak turrets, a medium-range photonic cannon and a rear mounted warhead launcher. The latter is unusual for the ship’s size – it gives the vessel the ability to engage targets at longer ranges and hidden from line of sight. The downside of the launcher is the limited ammunition; when it is out of missiles it becomes quite useless. This renders it unsuitable for prolonged engagements.

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It is these missiles which tend to give the Washington the edge against their most common foe – the Wun’Tux Clanship. The thick armour of the latter can be difficult to penertrate with photonic cannons; LCS-08s deployed on anti-Wun’Tux operations are equipped with ‘Havok’ armour piercing missiles to balance the scales.

LCS-02s (prototype precursors to the 08) took part in the USEF Fleet Action at Dronta VIII, spearheading the attack on Wun’Tux ships guarding the slave market. They were subsequently able to achieve suborbital altitudes and launch accurate against Wun’Tux armour and fortifications.
In more recent times, the Washington-class has been deployed alongside Taft-class Strike Carriers in extended operations in Wun’Tux territory. Typically the ships are outfitted with longer-ranged, ‘stand off’ missiles and able to discourage or soften up Wun’Tux targets before engaging. In worse case scenarios (e.g. a larger enemy presence than predicted) this stand-off capability can give USEF forces breathing room in which to retreat.

Engineers at Highpoint have successfully modified the base design into distinct combat variants. The LCS-ASW (aka the ‘Rhode Island’ class) is perhaps the most popular. This version swaps the warhead launcher for a launchpad capable of carrying, arming and repairing a shuttle-scale ship. This is most commonly a Vaquero-class gunship; a well armed craft bristling with sensors. This ASW (anti-stealth warfare) variant is designed to detect and defend against stealthy foes; the main ones being the Hirudin. The gunship is able to act as spotter for the LCS but is also more than capable of engaging common interlopers (like Blackfins) independently.

The Battle of Dren Gully

The Battle of Dren Gully was a land engagement of the Pan-Eurasian War. The ‘gully’ was a shallow valley running through the most habitable region of Alpha Centauri¬†V. The Asian Coalition colony was one of the first targets for European Union forces and defending forces were soon beleaguered and under siege. The Coalition contracted operatives from the Widebrim mercenary company to assist their defence.

European Union armour was modern and deadly; the outdated equipment fielded by the Coalition could barely slow it down and were pressed into retreat through the Gully. The Widebrims arrived before the Coalition was fully routed.

At first it seemed like a bad choice; the Widebrims had no armour or equipment capable of breaking through Union armour. What they did have, however, was survivalist skills and a detailed knowledge of desert environments.

Under Widebrim direction, the Coalition military garrison slowed their retreat. Union walkers pursued, eager to finish off their prey. Before they could do so, however, one of the planet’s dust storms swept through the Gully and stalled the European advance.

As the storm settled, Union commanders were inundated with reports of damage and sabotage to the supply bases they had left behind . Attackers had destroyed fuel, ammunition and support equipment and dissapeared as if into thin air before the end of the storm. Half of the Union armour had to turn around to defend their forward operating bases; this left a reduced contigent to advance on Coalition positions.

Thus began a guerilla campaign against the superior forces of the Union. The Widebrims had timed their interventions in synch with storm season; more frequent dust storms hampered the Union’s ability to track their enemy and supply their own forces from space.

The previously imperious Union armour often ran out of fuel or suffered disrepair due to the rasping desert winds. Furthermore, the Widebrim operatives taught the Coalition to move only at night and within the storms. They dug and developed underground bases and boltholes to hide in and generally stymied the Union at every step. Inability to utilise their heavy armour stalled the European advance up Dren Gully; this extra time allowed the Coalition to dig in, prepare traps and develop defences.

The storm season lasted a month. In that time the Union had lost almost half of its armour to disrepair and struggled to fuel the remainder. European scouts at the end of the Gully fell victim to traps and ambushes. Commanders were eager to avoid an embarrassment and the battle settled into a stalemale. It remained that way into the end of the war.

The stalemate on AC V is viewed as a Coalition tactical victory, although most credit goes the the Widebrim operatives. The planet itself was of little importance during the War, but resistance against Union agression strengthened Coalition resolve elsewhere.

Human expansion in the Third Age meant AC V became one of the ‘Core’ worlds; the Coalition were able to attract investment and development to rebuild the ruined infrastructure and mould the world into a headquarters for trade and industry. Dren Gully is preserved as a war memorial and visited by modern day foreign dignitaries and tourists.

H07 Cavalier

H07 Cavalier

Following the surprise attack on Sisca VII, the Blackmane X-MM saw an upsurge in demand. This mechanical, blade-wielding beast was designed for the barely legal gladatorial rings of the Outer Rim and yet had been discovered as an effective anti-Wun’Tux weapon. As Blackmane stock went through the roof, other megacorporations schemed how they might steal a slice of this new revenue. A slew of ideas – some revolutionary, some silly – were created by the various rival corporations.

Since their fatal introduction to the Wun’Tux, humankind had struggled to counter their terrifying Voidwalkers with armour of their own. The USEF relief upon orbital bombardment and air support to destroy them, using ground forces to take out any survivors. The effectiveness of the Blackmane mech on Sisca VII came as a surprise and can be narrowed down to two main factors: 1) the urban battleground on Sisca VII left little room for the Wun’Tux armour to bring their weapons to bear and 2) the bladed-aspect of the X-MM’s weaponry proved very effective at breaching durillium plate. Wun’Tux opponents were not always going to be able to affect the first point; weapon dealers focused on the latter.

SynTec produced a bipedal mech with two blades; wickedly sharp weapons forged from a Titanium and Tantalum mixture. These proved particularly effective in breaching recovered durillium plating. The Tantalum aspect in particular made the blades highly resistant to wear and corrosion.

The main threat from Wun’Tux heavy walkers comes from their ‘shredder’ cannons – futuristic shotgun analogues with the ability to tear through armour at close range. The tight confines of the urban battleground on Sisca VII had meant the X-MM avoided concentrated fire , but this was very much a quirk of one battle. Competitors would not be able to rely on such. SynTec, instead, elected to mount the blades on a repsulor frame. This prototype had obvious advantages; high mobility over all sorted terrain, variable hover height and rapid acceleration to name just three. But the technology was notoriously unreliable and difficult to maintain; even the most optimistic engineer knew the frame would be high maintenance in an actual conflict. Armour had to be light in order to maintain the prototype’s agility – another potentially fatal flaw.

In expert hands, the Cavalier is an agile and destructive mech able to damage, degrade and destroy Wun’Tux armour in short order.

Sisca VII

Sisca VII

Sisca VII is a human colony situated in the Mid-Rim; by the end of the Third Age it had grown into a local hub of trade and commerce; home to the Rimward Stock Exchange and other fledgling institutions. Most people attach the name of the colony to a darker memory; Sisca VII marks one of the ‘safest’ human targets ever raided by the Wun’Tux.

It is unknown whether the timing of the incident was coincidental or pre-planned but a significant Wun’Tux fleet entered the system a few hours before the opening of the Stock Exchange – a project funded and ran by Blackmane Special Services (BSS). The Sisca System was deemed to be in the ‘safe’ zone of the Rim; it was thought any alien aggressors would be detected and intercepted lightyears before getting anywhere near. Given that thinking, the world had only a nominal defence force – it was swept aside by the invading Wun’Tux.

The Wun’Tux fleet numbered 15 ships; nowhere near enough to threaten the planet as a whole but more than adequate to raid the world for thousands of slaves. But, like ants to honey, they dispatched dropships to the main population centre – the capital city New Arvada, home of the Stock Exchange. The city was a dense urban sprawl of buildings, suspended walkways and skyscrapers; not the usual target for marauding Wun’Tux. This architecture slowed the advance of their ground forces but the predominantly civilian population provided little resistance. The only military hardware remaining on planet were four X-MMs brought with the CEO of Blackmane. Originally these mechanised walkers were considered a vanity or a publicity stunt but this didn’t stop their pilots entering the fray.

These walkers were outnumbered 3-to-1. On paper it was a terrible match – the Wun’Tux ‘shredder’ cannons tore through most vehicles like a hot knife through butter. These ‘shredder’ cannons however, were unwieldy and not suited to the tight spaces of inner city New Arvada. The X-MMs were designed as gladiator-mechs and had no problems fighting up-close-and-personal. Out of the 12 Planewalkers¬†that attacked the city, 8 were destroyed outright, 2 were critically damaged and 2 retreated. 1 of 4 X-MMs was destroyed. The Wun’Tux infantry were harder to repel; only when a European Union Rapid Reaction Task Force arrived did the Wun’Tux sound the general retreat.

Damage to the city was significant and over four hundred civilians had been snatched up by the invaders by the time they fled. However: both the damage done and people lost would’ve been a lot worse if not for the brave X-MM pilots. The entire episode was a PR coup for the company, of course, and the surge in demand for X-MMs predictably followed. Not unlike the incident at Freya VII, the incursion into territory previously thought ‘safe’ led to heightened security around these colonies. In a limited act of cooperation, the main human factions devised a string of Early Warning Observation (EWO) outposts covering the Wun’Tux border.

The Ramos-class Cargo Hauler

Ramous-class Cargo Hauler

The Ramos-class Cargo Hauler is a Second Age era transport ship weighing in somewhere between a shuttle and a freighter. It was produced in large numbers to support rapid human expansion to the stars and became known for carrying a wide variety of cargo. The ship lacked bells and whistles when it was new; the large number that remain in service are spartan and dire affairs disliked by their crews. They are, however, cheap to buy and profitable to run.

Ramous-class Cargo Hauler

The Ramos is utilised by a variety of independent operators – from small-time merchants hauling their wares to pirates stowing their loot. The vessel itself is extremely outdated; the FTL drive is inefficient and the sensor suite clumsy. It also manoeuvres poorly and has minimal defensive capabilities. These failings are outweighed by how cheap it is to operate; low running costs mean larger profits. The fact that the ship was produced in such huge numbers during the Second Age means that models can be found – usually in a state of disrepair – on most human colony worlds. Even if no longer spaceworthy, such ships are readily stripped for spare parts and scrap.

Travelling through the Rim is a risk-laden proposition at the best of times; doing so in a Ramos with no escort is deemed near-suicidal. The ships are known to pay for escort themselves or pay a percentage to join a separate convoy. Adventurous or illicit Ramos operators sometimes pilot the ship on low-power with the hope that they will slip under the notice of prying eyes.

Ramous-class Cargo Hauler

Above: A Ramos collects illegally mined minerals from outside of Sisca VII

The Asian Coalition used the ship as a makeshift troop transport during the Pan-Eurasian War; it’s main advantage included the fact that the cargo ramp was covered by forward projected hull plating. Said plating was thick and simple; providing excellent protection against small arms.

EWO Outposts

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EWO Outposts are a rare example of cooperation between the various human factions; they are deployed along and around the Wun’Tux border and are tasked with using cutting edge detection technology to detect small, marauding raiding parties heading towards the Mid Rim and other territory deemed ‘safe’. EWO Outposts are a direct response to the Wun’Tux attack at Sisca VII, a world considered ‘safe’ but taken by surprise with devastating consequences.

Human ships patrolling the border or even just passing through have been known to visit EWO Outposts for fuel and supplies. The Outpost crew, usually starved of interesting events, are happy for the diversion.

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Outposts are constructed in a modular fashion, with three ‘spokes’ connected to a hub. The ‘hub’ contains the control centre, the reactor and the sophisticated sensor suite used to monitor areas of deep space. The spoke areas usually host crew quarters and living areas, but different modules (e.g. hospital environments, repair bays) have been deployed in times and places of need.

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The EWO programme is funded from the various human governments; this funding is augmented by generous contributions from interested megacorporations. The stations are crewed by members of the Border Fleet. In theory, EWO staff should see no combat. They man the Early Warning Observatory systems and advise their control centre of any anomalies. Nevertheless, they are a military installation and trained to defend themselves.

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ISS Jezebel

Blockade Runner

The ISS Jezebel is officially an independent trading ship. In reality she is one of the primo blockade runners throughout the Rimward territories. Her oversized engines combine with the Devil-may-care attitude to form an effective (if blunt) tool.

The ship is crewed by a mix of humans and Curoto. The latter are more naturally at home amongst the cramped spaces inside the ship; the human part of the crew are happy to take on the heavy lifting whilst the Curoto crawl around ventilation ducts.

She is noteworthy for having ran blockades previously deemed insurmountable; most famously against the European Union during the Pan-Eurasian War. This underdog spirit has led to a Robin Hood type mystique about the ship but the reality is much more plain – the Coalition paid more money.

The trick to her effectiveness lies not only in her oversized engines; her captain and crew revel in recklessness and ignore all recognised advice by exiting FTL jumps at full throttle. This manoeuvre can cause massive internal damage to a ship and yet gives a ‘running start’ to any blockade evasion and is incredibly difficult to predict.