Chapter Nineteen: It Only Takes a Spark …

Captain Ragesh of the House Refa stood proudly on the bridge of his new ship. The House Refa was a strong and influential family in the Centauri Republic. Some would even go to say, Lord Refa had his eyes on the throne itself. He wouldn't have doubted that for a second. He knew his family patriarch too well and if given half the chance the old coot wouldn't hesitate for a second. If that ever came about, he would benefit hugely from it and he wasn't averse to the idea. But for now, he was quite happy with his new command; this newly refitted ship. It was still the same old Primus class battle cruiser at heart but all else was different. To begin with, she sported a new organic armor layered over the old hull. It looked hideous but tests had proven that it was over four times as effective as the old metallic armor. Furthermore, given enough time, it could regenerate itself to a certain degree. This by itself would be of little use in the heat of a battle; it would mean less time spent at the docks afterwards.

Next was the sensor upgrades. It was supposedly so advanced as to be able to defeat even the legendary Minbari stealth. That was yet to be proven but he had little reason to doubt the words of a First One. After all, they had walked amongst the stars long before the Minbari had even learnt to tame fire.

Finally, there were the new weapons. Gone were the old ion and laser cannons only to be replaced with a new Shadow-derived beam weapon. These devastating beams of raw energy made their previous weapons look like puny flashlights in comparison. They did come with a drawback though; their power consumptions were so high that realistic rates of fire during a battle left a lot to be desired. On the other hand, combined with the new sensor upgrades they wouldn't need to fire it often in the first place. Tests after tests had shown just what they could do.

To top things off, even their fighter complement had been upgraded receiving similar bio-armor and quantum bolt canons. This easily doubled the firepower of each of his ships and extended their power projection capability by a large factor.

All of this was just theory though and Captain Ragesh was itching to test out his new command. Ever since he had been given command he had wanted to take it out for a spin but had to wait until his crew was sufficiently trained with their new toys. The day had finally come. He was leading a small element of the 5th Royal Centauri Navy belonging to the House Refa to test out their new-found capabilities.

The Pak'Ma'Ra were a somewhat peaceful race whose space bordered the Centauri Empire. As part of the League of Non-aligned Worlds they felt quite safe despite their geographical location. They had so far been left alone by the Centauri and felt no reason to be alarmed. That was about to change. Captain Ragesh and his fleet of ten modified Primus' were bearing down on them like dark angels of death.

Showing curiosity more than trepidation, a small fleet Pak'Ma'Ra military ships approached the Centauri fleet and tried to hail them. Their efforts were duly ignored as the Centauri warships opened up with a terrifying broadside. Round after round from the Primus found their mark and opened up the hapless Pak'Ma'Ra warships like sardine tin cans. Horrified the few remaining ships scattered helter-skelter trying vainly to avoid the deadly fire coming from Centauri Primus's bearing down on them. They did not make it far before they joined their brethren as countless pieces of debris floating in the cold emptiness of space.

Meanwhile, the Pak'Ma'Ra defense force had been monitoring this encounter from their Command Center. It was buried several hundred meters deep in the hills surrounding the capital city, where it had been constructed centuries ago to withstand a nuclear war. Now it would have to withstand orbital bombardment from the Centauri. The leaders in charge were pragmatist and knew that the meager forces they had at their disposal would be of no match against the Centauri behemoths. They knew were next in line for the same devestating treatment.

"Dispatch all available ships to intercept the Centauri," he ordered knowing full well the futility of his command. "Contact the league and inform them that we're under attack from the Centauri."

Captain Ragesh was obviously enjoying the events folding out in front of him. As predicted, all his systems were performing to spec and the puny Pak'Ma'Ra defense force was being swept aside with ease. "They're trying to send out a message to the League," his communications officer interrupted his thoughts. Irritated more than anything he ordered, "Block all communication. Destroy everything."

Following his command, the fleet formed up and settled into orbit over Melat. From the surface, they looked like completely harmless specs of light zipping across the sky but looks can be deceptive. Ignoring the sporadic fire put up by some courageous defenders, they proceeded with their orbital bombardment. It would have been easy for them to totally annihilate the Pak'Ma'Ra but they weren't here to completely wipe out Melat; just to do enough damage to let everyone know that the Centauri lion had finally awoken from its long slumber.

For over a thousand years the Minbari people hadn't faced a significant loss in any battles. That was why, they had never considered developing new weapons and tactics. It just wasn't necessary. Their tried and true designs built by long lineage of the Worker Caste had served them so well. However, recent conflicts with the upstart humans had started to change this long held belief.

First it was the treacherous attack on the Drala Fi' by the one dubbed "Starkiller". This, while significant, had been an isolated event. However, the more recent conflicts had proven that these humans were fast learners and that made them extremely dangerous. They had somehow managed to come up with ways to defeat their stealth system, a feat no younger race had ever done and destroy several ships with devastating loss of Minbari lives. That had forced them to halt any further offenses indefinitely until an answer could be found. It had taken several months and it had taken dealings with black marketers to obtain several samples of this confounded weapon. In the end, it had been all worth it. The workers had finally figured out what exactly gave these weapons such devastating effectiveness. Surprisingly, it had been something very simple. Something the Minbari and actually most advanced races had forgotten a long time ago. Those crafty humans were using infrared signature emanating from the Sharlins to track them. Now that this was known, fixing it had been relatively simple; well not really, that would have taken major refitting of all ships but a patch had been found to fool the sensors on those missiles. Computer simulations had predicted their effectiveness but only real combat could really prove it. They were going to get to test it out very soon.