A week has passed since the Empire repulsed the Federalist Star Union's attack to retake El Deplorablo. By order of General Ecklen, now acting as the FSU's President de facto, the Federal government was extracted from the state of Fiat Lucs to evade the potential military threat posed by Imperial-occupied territory. With the Federal courts, legislature, and himself placed aboard the commandeered luxury space liner, The Bucephalus, Ecklen has effectively changed the FSU's capitol to being fleet-based.
It is aboard this ship, outside Ecklen's command HQ room, that the highest military and security officers in the Union have gathered to formulate a plan to resolve the El Deplorablo crisis.
From left to right they are;
Cruciphere, the most senior Agent since Plex's disappearance,
General Thermaleis, veteran Tithe special-forces commander and theorist,
General Kurezohn, an old-school hammer & anvil proponent fond of combining fast tanks and mechanized infantry with slow and durable walkers,
General Amlax, a Tithe air-assault specialist,
Fleet Admiral Bellendswood, the head of the Union Navy and the only Brickingrad veteran here besides Ecklen,
and Major General Stukkins, the head of the Air Corps.
These men await outside the HQ for one more senior officer to appear.
"I wonder why he's cutting his timing so close," said Kurezohn.
"He still has nearly two minutes to get here," replied Amlax.
"I don't know how you find time and energy to worry about our most junior member's possible tardiness, brothers," said Thermaleis flatly. "My mind is ate up," he went on, "with how the Union will survive intact at all from this. Against our whole force the 'Empire' has no chance, but in their actual context of ambushing and establishing themselves in one of our cities, with most of our forces engaged far away with the BNP, their threat is exponentially magnified. Already there is growing talk of secession among the nations on the grounds that we in the Federal Government have failed to protect that Pantarox city. Further, Ecklen's seizure of power, for better or worse, has added fuel to that fire among political puritans."
Suddenly the veteran Admiral Bellendswood interjected into the discussion. "We persevered through Septic Springs, we pulled Brickingrad from hell itself, and we will redeem the Federal government in El Deplorablo's reconquest."
"Let us just pray that the numbers of Tithes stays high," said Kurezohn solemnly.
"Ah, Turan, you finally made it," began Amlax, "now we can get on with business."
"Right, inside," added Thermaleis.
All together the officers proceed into Ecklen's HQ.
The officers stand before Ecklen's command booth, finding Agbennfeld and Phanto already there from having debriefed Ecklen on the disaster of the counter-assault. 3-D map stations sit in each back corner, and special command interface stations lie in the other two. Maps of Fiat Lucs the planet are arranged on the back wall and a pair of Red Guards watch over the whole scene.
"Welcome, gentlemen," said Ecklen energetically once his guests had assembled before him, "To the Blue Room."
"I have had this place built from a recreational computer room of the Bucephalus to act as my personal command office, and it is from here that I will reaffirm the Star Union's vitality. From Agbennfeld and Phanto's first-person information I have devised a plan that involves all of you to reverse our country's fortunes. So listen up like you mean it because I've no time to repeat myself.
Ecklen turned first to Cruciphere and said, "You are to work in tandem with Phanto and Options Civic forces across the Union to stabilize the domestic situation by any means necessary. In these extreme circumstances you will be given control of Tithe Ranger forces along with the executive commando forces, Shade and Specter. Phanto's men will be the watchers for trouble, while yours will be the ones to turn over every rock in search of it. Whether it be separatists eager to squirm out of the Union at the first sign of trouble, those who use my taking power as pretense to cause strife, or pro-Imperial elements in the Reddish-Brown population, you will cover them all over. Understood?"
"By my jackboots it will be done, General," said the hunter.
"That reminds me," replied Ecklen, "for the duration of my stay as pseduo-president, I must demand that I be addressed by the title of 'Cromwell.'"
The next to be spoken to was Agbennfeld. "Field Marshal, I'm afraid that with the popular dissent caused by your defeat I cannot allow you another field command at this time," said Ecklen.
"Yes sir," replied the disgraced man with a sigh.
"Fret not!" retorted Ecklen, "your service is not over. You are to go out and rally as many militia forces as can be found. I'm also authorizing you enough funds as required to hire any mercenaries available. Gather them all up and direct them to our main forces near El Deplorablo. With them so amassed our infantry pressure on the city will be overwhelming."
"Stukkins," said the Union leader to his Air Corps head, "I want you to not only round up all available aircraft for the assault, but also to pull all prototype models from testing for combat use."
Stukkins blinked and hesitated before saying, "It will be exciting, sir."
"Assault?" asked Thermaleis, "You must mean on El Deplorablo. Why are four of us Options Military generals summoned here instead of just one? You don't expect four of us to split command of one operation do you?"
"Oh, no," Ecklen said while ignoring Thermaleis' impertinence, "it's true that I do plan only for one of you to lead in the field."
"Who?" Thermaleis spat out.
"Turan, of course," Ecklan stated plainly as he motioned to the general wearing mottled armor in the back.
"What? But of all of us here he's the youngest and least experienced!" Kurezohn protested.
"Exactly," Ecklen replied. The emotion seemed to drain from his voice and turn cold as he explained, "Turan IS the least among you, and that is why I need the rest of you here. I expect whoever is sent to lead from the front, and so risk death. If you die, Turan, it will be a lesser loss to the FSU at large. Does this give you pause, boy?"
Turan's 33 years flashed before his eyes. He was the disgruntled son of a lumber mogul and his father had tried to force him to take over the family business. The man had disowned Turan in his late teens when he refused. Things only got worse when his fiance at the time joined with his father in trying to compel him down a path he willed against, and Turan at that point turned into an unbound and ruthless person. He joined his state's militia forces and by merit and aggression went from getting an officer commission within it, to becoming a Paternite leader of Tithes, to becoming the OM General he was now. He was above all known as a dramatic risk taker, such as when he had personally chucked a satchel of TNT into a comboint hive.
All this the young general recalled in a second, and in his soul he understood that his life had led up to this moment.
"No sir," he said firmly, "it does not."
"Then step forward and take this chromium war dagger, Turan," said Ecklen as he held the blade's handle out. "The priesthood had it commissioned for whoever I appointed this task. Its blade is three sided, as the recognized priesthood has three denominations. They ask that if the Emperor be taken alive, that this knife be driven underneath his chin and into his skull."
"It is an honor!" said Turan with audible joy, "I hope my efforts will not disappoint them, whatever happens."
"You may express such to them yourself, Turan; a representative for each of the three will be attached to your forces."
"Now," began Ecklen as he turned away from Turan to the others, "Amlax, Kurezohn, Thermaleis and Bellendswood; all of you will remain with me here at the Blue Room and act as my staff. At the stations built here you will assist me in coordinating the resources of the Union during this crisis."
Suddenly an alert noise sounds from the command booth. Ecklen smashes a button and a hologram of Air Corps General Mahzyom appears.
"Hello, sir," said the tiny blue figure in a crackling, digitized voice.
"Hello, General. I already received your confirmation that Planetary Assault Fleet Venator was turning around to head for Fiat Lucs. What is the occasion?" Ecklen asked.
"The situation has changed. Shortly after we left the group of other fleets on the BNP frontier, the enemy launched a focused attack. Apparently a blockade running task force made it through and is headed for Fiat Lucs as well. They're not far behind us," reported Mahzyom.
"Is that so?" spat Ecklen rhetorically.
"That is not all either," continued the little specter, "my fleet's picket ships have detected a small, unidentified fleet forming near Fiat Lucs. I asked an OC Void Patrol squadron to investigate and the unknown ships opened fire on them."
Underneath his maroon and white casing, Ecklen was frozen. "Will this be more than we can overcome?" he thought to himself. Yet he knew that fearing failure, entertaining the idea of its likelihood, was the surest way to guarantee that outcome. He was trained to think that way. He had seen it in action. Practiced it. It had to be practiced again now. Orders had to be given.
"Time is now even more of the essence! Officers of the Union, execute your orders!" shouted Ecklen as his subordinates rushed for their stations. Only Turan lingered.
"Through the bottom of his chin, sir," said Turan confidently.
"Drive it deep," replied Ecklen as he afforded himself a smirk beneath his helmet.
Turan leaves to take command of PAF Venator's ground forces, and hopefully retake El Deplorablo.
With his first wave of guests, Ecklen summons the next by smashing a button on his booth.
The head of the Developmental League party, Finn Quinn's, entered the Blue Room. He was followed by the head of Roma Intra Vacuum, Rumaldin. RIV had been 'Dubya' Caesar's party, and had not held the presidency since the end of that great man's term.
Behind the pair of politicians come two more Red Guards watching over them. There is total silence as the group passes Ecklen's booth.
"Greetings gentlemen," Ecklen says to the politicians once they stand between the map displays.
"I know we have been summoned to discuss our party's loyalty," said the DeL leader, a Mr. Domas.
"That's not why I'm here. I asked to be allowed here, unlike you," Rumaldin chimed in.
Ignoring the RIV leader, Ecklen replied, "Indeed, Domas. Go on; make your case why we shouldn't have your party's elites thrown into space."
Domas made a disgusted expression, but after a pause responded, "Because I've already arranged for transparency between my party's records and any internal security forces. If there remain elements of Quinn's sell-out clique, they'll be found. Not only that, I've ordered our party's Wyvern Group to head for El Deplorablo and combine with your reconquest force. The most lethal mercenary band in the Union should be able to make a difference, don't you think?"
"Indeed. Considering all of that, once security forces are done fumigating your party DeL will have gained my trust." Ecklen then turned to Rumaldin and asked, "and your business here was what?"
"I have come," Rumaldin began as he stood straight and projected his voice, "to ask to be handed the arms and armor of my party's greatest leader."
"Granted and dismissed!" Ecklen exclaimed.
"This is all you've sent?" shouted the Imperial lieutenant at the robotic liason, "5 cyborg infantry?"
"Oh don't be silly, lieutenant," began the robot, "they are not infantry for your city, they are my bodyguards."
The lieutenant was visibly taken aback, but the robot continued before she could say anything. "Do not forget that we have also brought many crewbots to man your primitive weapon systems. That should free up plenty of men to bolster your infantry with. Further, my bodyguards have been ordered to setup a special shield generator to protect the city center from cannon fire. That should hold you over until my masters' main cohort arrives, don't you think?"
"Indeed I do."
On Fiat Lucs, near El Deplorablo, General Turan arrives at Planetary Assault Fleet Venator's staging area. Here, the ground forces get organized for the big attack. Turan approaches the force's command staff.
"Greetings, brother General," began the Air Corps commander in the center, "I'm Major General Mahzyom. To my left here is Venator's XO, Colonel Delore. Across him is Lady Lamissa, Venator's Options Diplomatic Proselyte. Now that you've arrived, all ground forces are yours."
This was proper; Mahzyom technically outranked Turan, not to mention that he was older and more experienced. Yet he was of the Air Corps while Turan was Options Military Prime. Thus without an executive order overriding procedures, Turan had sole command of ground troops.
"Would you like a report on Venator's combined ground strength, comrade?" Delore asked of Turan.
Turan had spent the time in transit to Fiat Lucs studying the layout of El Deplorablo and intelligence reports on the enemy. He had not been able to review what troops he would have command over.
Considering this, the general said, "A comprehensive one, Colonel."
Producing a large card-stock sheet, Colonel Delore began to read out exactly what troops the FSU had been able to assemble for operations today.
"Planetary Assault Fleet Venator's ground complement consists of,
Fifteen standard squads of Tithe Infantry,
A squadron of Tithe Saurian Dragoons,
A unit of Tithe Ebon Rangers,
A heavy assault walker company,
A tank company,
A light assault company,
A three-man Air Corps weather commando team,
And a 4-man team of Command Tithes to accompany you in person.
Additionally, we linked up with the survivors of the first attack; Naval Infantry, FSUMC regulars, a RAOTS chapter, and the militia forces of Kaitar and this particular state, Pantarox. Militia troops from the other Fiat Lucs states have also arrived; Durdedotte, Leo Prime and Fiat Lucs itself."
"What are our deployment assets to get the infantry into the city with?" asked Turan.
"Well," Delore said as he scanned his roster, "we have enough orbital drop-packs to deploy six Tithe squads with, enough light transports for five more, and the tank and walker companies are able to carry two each."
"My air fleet also has two transports that can fly in a squad from reserve per trip each," Mahzyom added.
"What else is in the air fleet?" Turan asked again.
Delore began to rattle off another list. "Five air superiority craft, three ground-attackers, three multi-roles, and two light escort fighters."
"You forgot your own fighter, Colonel," Mahzyom reminded his subordinate.
"Oh yes!" Delore said in audible excitement, "I lead the air superiority wing in person."
"You forgot about us!" shouted a man in an officer's uniform as he ran with two men toward Turan's group.
"Marshal Brutalon of the Blood Gorge Society, at your service general!" shouted the stranger cheerily as he grabbed Turan's hand and shook it. Meanwhile his two paramilitaries gave clumsy salutes.
Confused for a moment, Turan eventually said, "pleased to meet you. Are you a mercenary group hired to help today?" He knew they were forces belonging to no government organization, and knew of no other source they could hail from.
"Oh, no!" replied Brutalon, "we're with the Eleutherian Synthesis Party. We are their armed force of concerned citizens, working for the benefit of all our countrymen troubled by enemies foreign and domestic. Our party HQ was in the city, and my leader's last command to me was to take control of the organization. I have decided to use our resources to directly aid in retaking the city. All we ask is to be included in the attacking force."
"You look dressed for show business," said Turan. If what the paramilitary said was true, Turan admired their passion but feared diluting his force with untrained men.
"You judge a book by its cover," replied the Marshal, "we come here from extinguishing many Comboint hives on the beset planet of Der Dunkle Ort. All men with me are combat veterans. True proven men of action!"
"Wait, I have heard of you," Turan said at this; it had jogged his memory. "Yes, in news stories and intelligence reports about that planet. Your group was cited for driving civilian deaths down over ninety percent in your area of operations. I'll be glad to have you aboard."
"Great!" Brutalon shouted through his gas mask. He truly was delighted; his party's forces would not only be remembered for participating in retaking the city, they would be recorded as having done so before either other party's troops came. If they showed at all. There was presently not greater opportunity to heighten the ESP's profile and popularity.
"They are not the only ones 'forgotten about,'" said a man in black and red clothes who stood with two others near Turan's group. They were the combat certified representatives of the three recognized churches empowered to function in the Star Union. From left to right they each spoke for the Electil, Unversalist, and Classicist traditions.
"Our garb speaks for who we are," said the Classicist.
"We have come with a cohort of warriors from our churches to hunt proselytes of the ascendant Cucktian heresy," announced the man of the Electil. "We will not interfere with the campaign at large, but anyone and anything relating to the blasphemy is ours."
"Ecklen has ordered that Cucktianity be driven out of the Union at all costs. So long as you acquiesce to my command, warriors from the churches have a place in this army," Turan responded to the priests.
"And what shall be my place?" asked Lady Lamissa.
Turan considered her question for a moment before saying, "What a great time this is to explain the plan. Thank you Lady Lamissa.
The walker company will attacked the city from the west. Two TI squads will ride them while four militia squads accompany it on foot. Lamissa, those men will need you with them to spur them forward in the assault.
Meanwhile, the tanks will attack from the south. They will carry two TI squads also, and be spaced out to minimize the effect of enemy explosives.
Lastly the light attack company will be held in reserve north of the city to attack once the city becomes vulnerable. After air strikes reduce the enemy's ability to damage it, it will rush into that northern flank.
All else will be held in reserve."
"Eleutheria!" shouted Mahzyom in approval of the plan. Brutalon shouted it next before all others nearby also said it. "Eleutheria!" Soon the gathered soldiers across the staging area could be heard shouting it in a loud, rolling chant. Before a shot was fired, the Imperials in the city were bombarded with the FSU's watchword.
With the plan now in motion, Mahzyom and Delore watch from behind the walker company as the battle begins.
Star Union forces setup per Turan's orders; tanks arrayed in the south, with walkers and infantry in the west.
In a display of contempt for the Empire, the FSU flag is adorned upon the face of the lead walker.
The imperials deploy in much the same way as they had to repel the first attack. Infantry and vehicles spread themselves out around the rail tracks, train station, the mining area and the ice formations. Civilian vehicles, outfitted for combat and manned by the Imperials' cyborg allies, are also present. The Imperials also have infantry concentrated in the south as well, planning to ambush Union vehicles as they enter the city.
The tank company boasts eight tanks supported by a tank destroyer, a heavy Armored Personnel Carrier, and two small Fire Support Vehicles. One infantry squad rides in the APC while another rides the four tanks on the right flank.
A command tank, called a Mighty Mite, leads the tank company in the center of the formation.
A militia squad is assembled between each walker for this first wave. Here on the far right are the men of Leo Prime.
In the years since Brickingrad, when militia troops were more often mere citizens in helmets with a rifle than uniformed professionals, many reforms have been enacted. Even the poorest states, such as Kaitar, now sport enough similarity in their soldiery to tell who they are and whence they came.
This was not a change brought about by any eureka moment. Nay, it was a natural consequence of the escalation of the Star Union's need for war commitment. As the stalemate with the BNP wore on, Tithe numbers depleted, and comboint infestations spread, states found it necessary to massively upgrade their own forces.
Beside Leo Prime's contingent march Pantarox's soldiers, again. While the other survivors of the first, failed assault were granted reprieve from going in on the first wave, the men of Pantarox insisted upon doing just that. This was, after all, their own homeland.
Next are Durdedotte's soldiers, led by a disfigured veteran officer. Hailing from a poorer state, they carry submachine guns and bolt action rifles.
Between the two biggest, heaviest walkers, in the spot of maximum honor as well as risk, march the richest group of militia troops.
They are the men of Fiat Lucs; the state that had housed the Union capitol before Ecklen transitioned the Federal government into being fleet-based. Wearing armor and equipped with assault rifles with grenade launcher or shotgun attachments, as well as heavy support weapons, their accoutrements reflect their homeland's wealth.
As the battle kicks off, Mahzyom identifies the mounted gun at the southeast corner of the city as a high-priority threat to Turan's tanks.
He gives an order for its destruction. "Callsign Thunderstruck," he says on comms to summon an attack craft, "Grid Vermillion 2-1; the orange structure. Knock it out."
"Exiting loitering pattern and inbound now," comes back a reply over radio.
High above the city, Imperial fighters move in to intercept the Federalist ground attackers.
Upon hearing word of the enemy fighter wing, Mahzyom turns to his XO. "Delore," he says, "man your fighter and lead the Air Sup Squadron to the cleansing of the skies."
The Colonel nods and turns to leave.
Minutes later Delore is in the air with his fighter wing. The Colonel coordinates the efforts of the others from the small, highly agile command fighter in the rear.
The two opposing squadrons go at one another head on.
"Whatever happens, kill the huge black one in the center," says the lead imperial pilot to his fellows as the two groups near weapon range.
That huge black fighter, a new model called the Rapier, targets the wing of his Imperial opponent with its set of quad heavy machine guns.
The Imperial craft launches a missile at the imposing Union craft, hoping to blow off weapon systems and possibly damage its wings.
However the Imperial air-to-air missile goes wide while the return volley from its target breaks the jet fighter apart.
As the heavy fighter banks to disengage, the surviving Imperial craft fire upon its wing.
They succeed in blowing the Rapier's right wing apart, sending the aircraft spiraling to the surface.
Destroying the Rapier, however, has meant that the Imperial squadron is setup to be attacked by all other Union aircraft.
"Pick your targets and open fire!" Delore orders to the other fighters as he leads his own target with his machine guns.
The squadron's next heaviest fighter immediately destroys another enemy jet.
Meanwhile the other four FSU fighters open fire with little success.
The only kill scored is the converted civilian jet whose pilot is decapitated.
With both sides' ammunition expended, the dogfight ends.
With the Imperial fighters occupied, an FSU ground attacker goes ahead with an attack run on the mounted cannon. Once it is destroyed the tanks will be able to advance unhindered.
The cannon, which doubled as a flak gun, raises up a shot at its attacker as it comes into range.
The attack jet suffers a direct hit to its cockpit. The pilot is killed instantly.
Turan's instructions to Mahzyom had been that if airstrikes failed to take down the southern turret then the tanks were to be sent in with orders to destroy it themselves. Seeing his bomber shot down, Mahzyom immediately gave such orders.
As the Federalist tanks close in on the town, an Imperial counterpart takes aim at a lead vehicle.
The Imperial cannon fire goes wide and fails to do any damage to the target tank.
The would-be victim tank takes aim to return fire.
The shot misses the Imperial tank but instead detonates on a nearby rooftop.
Nothing on the roof remains after the explosion.
Another tank turns its cannon on infantry in the town.
The second blast sends debris flying but no Imperial troops are killed.
The three remaining Federalist tanks in the front row attack the converted turret right beside the railway.
The first two shells land near the turret's mount trailer rock it hard but fail to destroy it.
The Mighty Mite waits to fire last.
The flak gun trailer is blown open by the heavy tank's energy cannon.
Tank riders cheer on the gun's destruction.
At the other offensive front, the heaviest walker advances ahead of the other units to absorb response fire and unload on defending Imperials.
An improvised Imperial tank obliges the heavy walker and fires on it.
The shot veers off and strikes empty space. The Federalists take no damage.
As the big walker takes aim, the pilot of the improvised tank wonders if it was the best move to charge such an imposing vehicle.
The cannon on the walker's back can be heard from inside the tanks south of the city as it sends explosive death at the Imperial tank.
The walker's shell fails to score a direct hit, but the blast radius is so great it not only manage to shear the turret off the enemy tank, it also kills several Imperial infantry in the forest.
To prepare for the execution of Turan's plan to flood the northeast of the city with light units, the Federalists order the destruction of the cannon-armed transport vehicle.
"Maj'General Mahzyom, can I get your heaviest bomber on the skull-faced APC near the fishing store?" Turan asks over comms.
"Dispatching four HE bombs on the target now," Mahzyom replies. In moments a high speed strike bomber heads screaming at the designated target.
The bombs disarm the transport and scatter the infantry squad that had been loitering around it.
Mahzyom orders his remaining attack craft to keep pounding the northeast quadrant of the city.
The second wave of bombs all miss and fail to deal any damage.
Yet the Federalists are persistent, and keep launching what aircraft remain at the northeastern defenses.
The latest Union attack craft comes into range of the last intact flak gun. It's crewman locks onto the small assault jet and fires.
A direct hit knocks down the attack plane.
Even though the flak gun was still standing, it was now unloaded. Now an assault lander was sent in. Laden with the Marine Regulars, it was an Air Corps prototype lander that was rushed into the field for this operation.
Before landing the pilot turns the craft's frontal machine guns on the flak gun operator.
The gunner's back is set alight as energy bolts slam into it.
After killing the gunner, the transport craft circles around the city and lands from the opposite direction.
As the transport departs, the marines head towards the east rail station while watching the marketplace.
A second transport arrives and descends near the rapier's crash site.
Its hatch opens to release a team of three Air Corps Weather Commandos. Soon they will establish an ad hoc weather station and feed its data to command. With it, the Federalists will be able to better execute their air strikes.
As the special forces approach the crashed Rapier, its hatches open to reveal the live pilot.
No sooner do the weather commandos step off before their transport takes off to pickup more passengers.
The Federalists use their last attack craft in a bid to kill a missile launcher near the Marines' position.
The craft's light laser guns are enough to kill the Imperial rocketeer.
As their first turn comes to a close, the Federalists send in the initial wave of the light company; five speeders carrying two Tithe Infantry squads.
As the Federalist assault is underway the BNP liason approaches the Emperor with good news.
"Yes, gallant ally?" the Emperor asks.
"Our task fleet has succeeded in puncturing into Union space and is headed here. It will arrive soon to reinforce the city," replies the creature.
At the opening of the Imperial response to the Union attack, they dispatch a ground attack craft to bombard the marine squad. Two light FSU fighters move to intercept.
The first fighter swoops in to rake the pilot's back with a burst of energy fire. The shots strike around the pilot's seat and fail to hit their mark.
As the first interceptor banks away from its attack run, the second moves in and repeats the failure. The Imperial plane moves on for it dive bombing.
The plane targets the center of the marine squad with its heavy missiles.
Luckily for the marines, all of them manage to dodge the blast radius.
Another ground attack plane descends on the Union forces, this time headed for Mahzyom's position.
However a Union multi-role fighter moves to interceptor. It aims its pair of twin laser destroyers at the Imperial pilot.
The captured arctic helicopter, sporting a twin heavy machine gun on its dorsal, attacks the walker's back cannon. Its sole weapon proves too feeble to overcome the walker's indomitable armor.
The last Imperial ground attack, the attack shuttle that had heralded the fall of El Deplorablo, swoops past the self-propelled gun behind the walker line. Its dorsal turret aims for the exposed gunner.
Warned by the noise of the attacking shuttle's jet engines, the gunner attempts a dodge by leaping from the gun mount.
The shuttle gunner is too precise, however, and hits the gunner square on while he is in midair.
As the shuttle passes the surface-to-air vehicle on the right of the walker company's flank, it turns and fires a missile at the attack craft.
Striking the center of the shuttle's fuselage, the missile catastrophically destroys the craft. It breaks apart in a spectacular explosion.
Meanwhile in front of the heavy walkers, the captured pizza truck that had earlier lost its cannon attempts a suicide rush at the Federalist infantry. Its driver bungles the crossing of the rail tracks, and the front of the truck is sent skyward.
It lands squarely on its back and in the path of the heaviest assault walkers.
An Overwatch shot of the city and unfolding fight.
The Imperial-controlled drill and buzzsaw roll out to engage the FSU tank company.
Imperial troops in the market place take advantage of the Marines' scattering to dodge the air attack. They get atop the market wall and open up with their assault rifles.
One marine is taken out in the hail of gunfire.
"Reinforce the market!" shouts the Emperor to the squad outside the fort. Before he is even finished yelling they are in motion to engage the marines.
The Emperor swoops down among the mechanized infantry that had been downed by a Federalist air attack.
He dual wields his hand cannons and blasts away with them while screaming, "get up!"
Not only do his shouts fail to raise the dead, the Emperor's slugs all hit the casualties as they return to the ground. A fitting end to the first Imperial turn.
As the Federalists' second turn opens, General Mahzyom coordinates strategy over the radio.
"Amplify pressure on the Light Company and Walker group's axes of attack," he says, "prep the followup waves."
A light bomber raid sees its payload glance off the armored turret of an Imperial support vehicle.
On the opposite end of the walkers' advance an Imperial tank on the railroad track and fires a plasma pulse shot at the heaviest twin-leg as it lumbers into range.
The bolt of plasma severs the walker's right ankle join, causing it to teeter over.
As the fight wages on along the walker line, one of the heavier one takes aim at the other hijacked Imperial truck.
A direct hit from the heavy walker's main gun takes out the armed bus for good.
Federalist armor sustains its advance into the city.
Tanks engage the stolen mining drill and blow off both right wheels.
The marines commence an assault on the market as soon as they recover from the previous turn's airstrike.
Over at the light company's front a fortress cannon lands a shell near a Federalist speeder, killing the starboard passengers.
The transport's AI engages the turret with a dorsal rocket as the surviving passenger joins in with his assault rifle.
The turret is knocked out.
As the light company's second wave arrives it unveils a new top secret Federalist weapons: raptor cavalry. The riders are brand new Saurian Dragoons, Tithe Infantry trained to use light machine guns and lances from atop their beasts.
Tithe special forces, the Ebon rangers, infiltrate the city along the marines' right flank. Between their other committed forces, the Federalists have now completely encircled the city.
Two FSU commandos pass by a crumbled building.
The two stop as they hear what sounds like speech coming from under the rubble.
One of them spots a beach ball lodged into an open gap in the rubble. He kicks it aside to look in.
The same soldier peers in and crawls a short way into the rubble.
As the commando crawls back out he drags a survivor with him! It's one of the teens that was going to leave for the beach when the Imperials attacked.
"Keurite [this squad of commandos' leader] is busy coordinating the attack," says the one carrying the girl. "Jump the chain one rank and radio Turan's staff that we've finally got a survivor."
They sit her behind cover and, seeing no injuries, prepare to rejoin their squad.
Near the rubble, from concealment inside one of the city's buildings, Plex decides it is time for his band of stragglers to rejoin the fight!
"Charge, agents of the Union! All they did a week ago was postpone their death sentences!" he shouts as he charges out the front door.
Meanwhile Khampsun beside him gives out more detailed orders to their black ops troopers. "Hold off on the grenade launchers until we use firearms to knock their soldiers off the wall."
The pair of heroes rake the Imperials left on the walls with gunfire. Now marines (off-camera) nearby won't be exposed to gunfire as they approach the market complex.
Amid the gunbattle at the market, the prototype lander returns with a squad of militia infantry from the state of Nouveux Horizons.
They, too, charge the marketplace. Two of them go down from reacting rifle fire.
The militiamen that make it give deadly return fire.
The wipe out the remaining Imperials near the market walls.
The NH officer excitedly shouts about impending victory as his squad beats back the Empire.
As the combined FSU forces push on the market, a followup wave arrives in the other air transport.
Yet another squad of militia disembark into battle. This time the men hail from Freie Volksstadt, a small constitutional monarchy from Der Dunkle Ort. It is the same world that Nouveux Horizons is on, and where the Eleutherian Synthesis Party has the most support. In the past, prior to the formation of the Star Union, the two states had been frequent enemies. Only this age of great common nemeses could begin to bring them together.
All the soldiers try to maintain some level of spacing to protect from possible explosives as they move forward.
Brandishing epaulets and a reproduction MP-18, the FV officer leads his squad from the front.
The pressure on the city grows more and more intense as the Federalist forces close in. There appears no end in sight to how many waves they launch.
With the radio in his helmet, the Emperor directs the fire of a nearby vehicle...
...Straight onto the light company.
An Imperial support vehicle on the other side of the fort sends a shell at its enemy's transports.
One of the FSU infantry speeders explodes in spectacular fashion.
Meanwhile an Imperial tank lands a shot under one of its Federalist counterparts, damaging the hull and destroying the port-side wheels.
Following up the tank's shot, a crane-carrier modified to carry a super-heavy cannon unleashes its weapon on the FSU tank company.
The heavy cannon shot lands among three vehicles; two tanks and a tank destroyer behind them. The yellow tank on the left is totally knocked out, while the other black one loses wheels. The tank destroyer sees all of its weapons sheared off by the force of the blast.
Despite intense fire, the Imperial-controlled drill and buzzsaw continue the charge on the FSU tanks. The saw reaches one medium tank and wrecks its main gun. The drill, having lost half its wheels, struggles to move at all and falls short of a target.
An Overwatch shot of the city. Near the orange heavy cannon, the infantry that were guarding the tank company's assault vector are withdrawing deeper into the city. They are trying to get into the protective range of the shield generator atop the corner of the market walls. Those by the rail station hold firm, but on the whole the Imperials seem to be attempting to defend all sides of the city simultaneously.
A converted artillery piece manages to get itself into a good firing position on top of a building. Meanwhile Imperial troops guarding the entrance to the fort move to reinforce the devastated squads hit by the FSU airborne and light company forces.
The Imperials will need their artillery to have a chance of halting the wave upon wave of auxillary and militia troops the FSU keeps deploying.
Brutalon and his paramilitaries finally get their chance to show their party's value to the country. As both acting party leader for the Eleutherian Synthesis party and its army, the Blood Gorge Society, he leads his troops into battle in the latest wave of reinforcements behind the walkers.
High above all the action on the ground, the three remaining Imperial fighters initiate a dogfight against an FSU multi-role jet and its two escort fighters.
Two of them make a head-on pass at the attack jet. The FSU aircraft does not return fire as it intends to keep heading to its ground target.
Its evasive maneuvers fail, and its right wing is shot away.
The third Imperial jet engages the escort and causes one to explode midair.
The last remaining FSU fighter gets some measure of revenge as it blows off the canopy and then the tail of the jet that just shot down his wing-man.
As the second turn of the wargame winds down, the Imperials' captured helicopter goes for an attack run on the tank company.
A tithe infantryman, freshly dismounted from a tank, boldly stands and opens up on the helicopter with a light machine gun.
He focuses fire on the enemy aircraft's front right turbine, and under the weight of fire the part explodes!
With three more rotors to keep it aloft the helicopter stays in the air, and returns fire to kill the infantryman. It's a sad way to end the second turn of the wargame.
The Federalists begin their third turn by having their heavy tank fire at the converted ice carrier.
The tank's main gun delivers a devastating blow of strange energy. It explodes the artillery gun off of the hijacked crawler. A few Imperial infantry are taken out with it.
Further down the tank company's front line, more Federalist vehicles keep firing on the drill. Despite concentrated fire it is not knocked out.
The remainder of the tank company fire on the buzzsaw.
The tanks destroy the crew cab's covering, leaving the driver exposed.
Seeing the exposed enemy driver, a Tithe infantry aims for their center of mass with a marksman rifle.
Intense training pays off for the infantryman as he kills the driver in a quick burst of fire.
Shifiting focus to the walker company, one of the lighter examples blasts away with its twin cannon at Imperials garrisoning the rail station.
The pair of shells strikes a support on the station dead-on. Something was wrong with them, as they hit with only the force of a grenade and nothing is demolished or killed.
Looking for some way to contribute to the defense of his new city, the Emperor hooks his power armor to the shield generator provided by his mysterious robot allies. The extra energy enlarges the radius of the shell and bomb blocking shield.
Back at the walker front the Imperial-driven bus, recently disarmed with its rigged cannon shot away, charges at Federalist infantry. One walker fires on it to no effect as it passes by.
As the Imperial bus closes on the Fiat Lucs infantry they open up. First some advanced assault rifles let rip as a bazook and machine gun line up their shots.
The militiamen total the bus.
As the Federalist infantry destroy the hijacked bus, the heaviest walker unleashes its main gun for a second time.
The shot rips the Imperial fire support vehicle apart.
The second light walker engages Imperial infantry positioned between the station and the governor's house.
The cannonfire scatters the Imperial infantry who leap to escape the blast. The small gun truck behind does not back up in time, and has its chassis rocked as the windshield is sheared off by the blast.
A militia medic finally reaches the shot artillery gunner. It's uncertain whether he will be able to actually save the man, though.
After some high intensity, high stakes work on the injured gunner, the medic has him ready for action!