Serren is quiet, backwater. People who pass through there are on their way to somewhere else. Afterburners blueprints are purchased, afterburner modules are sold. Organic farming bands about the continents.
Planet III boasted the center of culture for the Serren system, and that was where the Sansha came. The crater in normal space burst in the galactic evening, ejecting countless Battleships with their spiked frigate escorts, teeming with warp inhibitors to lame any defendor who stands against them.
The call went out -confirmed?- -standby- Then MajorJSilva, a major player in the war broadcast the truthiness of the incursion, and from all parts of the known galaxy capsuleers began cascading inward. SYNE, Moira., FCord, all divisions aligned and burned, fleets merging and redistributing as they converged.
Seeing my ship via sensor inputs, I scanned inside and out. I saw nervous crewmen on the bridge in the minutes leading up to our arrival in Serren, a system in our forward view now rocking with war, with mindless machines grinding humans to dust, containing the nightmare of boogeymen who come in the night and take your kids, to the spectre of death, apathetic and random.
"Entering Serren" "Warping to Planet III" "Engaging"
Before me was a massive black fleet, toward the planet on my left I saw the flecks of light that were their nefarious dropships, landing to scoop. A gargantuan carrier, Citizen Ashtur of the Sansha in command, bulked in the center of the violent fury. A trio of Sansha Battleships burst as a squad of capsuleer Drakes concentrated fire. Three other clusters of snipers rained artillery fire on the stolid shields of their command vessels.
I had come in a rush, hastily equiping a lightning-fast Punisher frigate and bringing her to bear. My dual light lasers lanced out at Sansha frigates. I was learning with each engagement, and by now I knew that the warp-scrambling frigates of the Nation needed to be the first to go. A similar command went out on comms in our fleet now bursting at the seams. I helped to down a score of frigates. Battleships tangled, eWar trnasmitted both ways. In Local we caught a secure transmission:
"Dropships 1-200 returning. 34% capacity" Other transmissions indicated 230,000 souls taken, though I missed that one.
It was only seconds later that 200 fireblooms spotted the nearest continents as their kidnapped cargo reached for space. A horde of drones spun about Citizen Ashtur after her command, while a separate flurry swarmed the upcoming dropships. A handful were disabled, some fell to earth and caused more damage, a chosen few were able to be webbed then tractored off, the poor souls inside recovered. Through it all the Carrier and Battleships rained fire, and about me comrades tore asunder while holding the line, while reinforcements rushed gates.
A new squad of stealth bombers led by MajorJSilva uncloaked then, taking the Sansha by surprise and dropping a series of bombs along their line. The dreaded Sansha Nightmares were, on purpose, direct in the path, and several ended up burning in space, a pair colliding without navigation and lighting up the area with incinerated devastation.
I pointed my frigate at the heart of the invasion, Ashtur's massive vessel, chossing a tight 3200 orbit under microwarpdrive as I blasted dual light lasers against it's flaring shields. Other ships joined in, and again the command went out: KILL IT!
Meanwhile a cluster of eWar ships had moved into position about the 3 wormholes, decloaking to blast gravimetric pulses into their funnels. While the science did its work to destabilize their precious links to home, many more capsuleers collapsed under the heavy Sansha fire.
In time those reinforcements arrived. Most of the ascending dropships reached their destination, and it was anguish to watch them tumble through the hole that was locked to us, each vessel a myriad of unique individuals who were about to have their uniqueness literally deleted.
Ashtur, 34% triumphant, angled toward the portal home as the last handful of her defendors either ran or fell. Now it was she alone, burning for the wormhole, comprimised. A universe of pilots focused fire, and very slowly her tank began to lessen.
Running calculations on the fly I saw her ship was only 7k from her wormhole. Orbitting so closely I was the nearest pilot. There were seconds remaining before we lost him, and I broke off and flew a wide arc off right and came back in behind, reactivating my microwarp drive on a collision course. I hoped to bump him off the wormhole, saving us some seconds, but he vanished through the wormhole before I could make a difference.
The computer chimed 3k....1k...40m...2m...and I flew through empty space as her entire vessel warped into itself and vanished through the wormhole. For weeks I would have molecular engineers extracting matter from my hull that had merged through osmosis as for a terrasecond our two ships had occupied the same space (its a given that Ashtur's vessel occupied slightly more). I spun off the trajectory and klaxons went silent, indicating that the Sansha thread had ended. I brought her about and got back on comms. It was 2 minutes before we dropped everything; through some logistical error, alone and unguarded, a superior Slave of the Sansha had traversed the wormhole. It didn't last long as he was lcoked down and bombarded, and a cheer went out on Local when it's fiery wreck lit up the system.
There were victories and losses. Pilots, numbed, went back to their activities, in full knowledge that this was simply a prelude to the universe-rocking raid that would come in 48 hours. Untill then, all we could do was wait, and in idle hours in our cabins, review the personel files of those Serrans who had avoided capture due to our efforts, to read who they were and what they wanted to be when they grew up, to feel we had a hand in that to give the dark days to come a hair more meaning.