Chapter 15: Escalation

Location: Pukapito Palace

That same time...

They had identified the approaching battlecruiser as the Leviathan, named as such due to it being a Leviathan-class vessel. An outdated model, it had been rendered obsolete by the fielding of the Behemoth-class and those that had supplanted it. Stepping back inside the palace, Elise found that it was a hive of activity, with the Royal Guards suited up in their gleaming silver Heavy Infantry Armour. Its design was based on the CMC-400 Powered Combat Suit fielded by the military, but utilised exclusively by the Royal Guards.

"I want the Beatles ready to launch when I give the signal," King Routhe ordered, "I'll be along shortly."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Captain Veers replied, departing immediately.

"The answer is no, Elise," he said, "You can't come."

"But father..."

"No buts. It's far too dangerous, and I need you here in case I don't return."

Elise opened her mouth to protest, but shut her mouth when she felt a hand place itself upon her shoulder. She glanced back, finding her mother standing behind her, a look of disapproval etched upon her face. She understood what had to be done, but that didn't mean that she approve of her husband putting himself in harm's way.

"This is something that he must do," she stated, kindness in her voice.

Her shoulders slumped as she let out a sigh, realizing that arguing about it was putting everyone in jeopardy.

"Just come home, father...," she muttered.

The King stepped closer, cupping her face within his callused hands and kissing her lovingly on her forehead.

"You have my word."

Watching as her father departed, Elise and Aleena were promptly escorted the emergency shelter by members of the Oculi; an elite unit of the Royal Guard.

Location: The Lennon

Ten minutes later...

Rising out of the drydocks hidden beneath the waters surrounding Pukapito Palace, the Lennon was joined by the Starr, the Harrison, and the McCartney. King Routhe stood on the bridge, eyes focused upon the slow approach of the Leviathan-class battlecruiser.

"Sire, we've got reports that the General Lee has successfully docked," reported one of the crew members on the bridge.

"Excellent. I want shields up and all weapon systems brought online," he instructed, "And get me an open channel to Professor Thorndyke, I wish to speak with him."

While he waited, he watched as the bridge crew went about their assigned duties, musing over why Tatarin would chose to dispatch a single battlecruiser.

"Connection established, Sire."

"Professor Thorndyke, can you read me?" he asked.

"You're coming in clear, Your Majesty."

"Have you managed to make it to your vessel?"

"We have. We we're just prepping the X-Tornado for launch when we discovered a surveillance device," Chuck reported, "I'm trying to remove it as we speak."

"Understood. There's no need to hurry," he reminded, "we'll move to intercept the Leviathan-class before it can get any closer to the city."

"Acknowledged, Your Majesty."

"Helmsman, divert power to the engines, and put us on an intercept course. And somebody pull up schematics of the Leviathan-class."

"Aye aye, Sire," a voice said.

The Terran King felt subtle rumbling of the Lennon increased dramatically, pushing the vessel away from Soleanna. The Starr, Harrison, and McCartney followed suit, falling in behind the lead vessel as it headed in the direction of the Leviathan. Once they had reached the Soleanna Forest Zone, the vessels made a tactical jump to cut off its approach. The Leviathan-class had undergone a weapons retrofit, which had installed Plasma Torpedoes onto the bow. He quickly understood that Tatarin had planned to burn Soleanna to the ground, but he hadn't anticipated that he had access to Gorgon-class battlecruisers. The crew onboard the Leviathan clearly couldn't decide on which vessel the ATA laser batteries were to focus fire on, instead firing at random. Each of the Gorgons activated a Defensive Matrix, thereby mitigating whatever damage the vessel would've sustained.

"Target those ATA laser batteries," King Routhe ordered, "We need to neutralize it, and where are those schematics?"

"Right here, Sire," the ship's Captain declared.

The holo-table came to life, projecting a wireframe image of the Leviathan-class battlecruiser for him to study.

"These old Leviathan-class have a fundamental flaw in their design," the Captain stated, "the vessel's hydraulic ports are located perilously close to the bridge, making it vulnerable to enemy boarding."

"That'll work in our favor," Routhe said, "if we can get our forces onboard, then we could seize control of the vessel."

"What about those convicts?" the Captain asked, "They might be of use to us."

"Perhaps...," he began.

"Sire, I've detected another ship warping in," another crewmember reported.

The wireframe image of Leviathan being projected by the holo-table was quickly replaced with the image of a Super-class battlecruiser.

"IFF identifies the vessel as the DSS Aleksander."

"DuGalle? What in the world is he doing here?" questioned the King.

"Leviathan Commander, this is Vice Admiral Alexei Stukov," a voice stated, his accent betraying his Eastern Europe ancestry, "You are hereby ordered to lower your shields and power down you weapon systems. If you do not comply, then we will be forced to open fire."

"Does the Vice Admiral really believe that they'll just surrender?" the Captain questioned.

"One can hope."

The Leviathan suddenly proceeded forward, intent on colliding with one of the Gorgons had the Aleksander not immediately targeted two the vessel's engines. With the battlecruiser disabled but still airborne, the Aleksander deployed Tac Fighters and a pair of Dropships. It was very likely that Stukov had come to the same idea of sending a boarding party to seize control of the vessel.

"Sire, the Aleksander is hailing us," the communications officer informed.

"Patch him through," he ordered.

Appearing on the screen was a bearded man, dressed in a black and gold military uniform with a cap covering his head.

"Your Majesty," he greeted, "It would appear that you've been keeping secrets."

"Can you really blame me for taking precautions?" he asked.

"I will not look a gift horse in the mouth," the Vice Admiral stated, "we may have need of those Gorgons you've secretly been constructing."

"What the situation in the capital, Vice Admiral?"

"Not good. Humanity First has stationed four battlecruisers over Central City. Tatarin's threatening to destroy the city should we attempt to stage an assault."

"I hope you managed to put together some sort of plan..."

"It's...a work in progress," he admitted.