Chapter Twelve

Minbari War Cruiser Takari

In Hyperspace

The soft chiming of the door hailer roused Branmer out of the deep meditation he had allowed himself to descend into. Opening his eyes the priest turned senior warrior caste commander looked over at the entrance to his spacious but at the same time very spartan quarters – having been a member of the religious caste for much of his life he cared little of some of the martial mementoes and status symbols that other senior warriors like that idiot Shakiri preferred. It both helped him focus on the tasks ahead of him and feel more connected to his own distant ancestor who'd faithfully followed Valen in the war against the great darkness a thousand years ago.

"Enter," he called in response to the soft sounding chimes. The door to his chambers opened and his aide Alyt Neroon stepped into the room. "Yes Neroon?"

"Forgive me for disturbing your meditation Shai Alyt but we've crossed into the Jericho System," Neroon replied.

"Very well," Branmer answered getting back to his feet and starting to lead the way out of his chambers into the corridors that at this time were bustling with activity as the crew prepared the Shagotti-class war cruiser for the upcoming battle. There was an added urgency to the preparations for battle these days as well as a real undercurrent of caution in the increasing deployment of damage control crews and security parties to key points throughout the vessel. It was a major departure from the calm confidence that would have resonated through the corridors in the past, a subtle acknowledgement from the crew that they would soon be engaging in a real battle against someone perfectly capable of blowing the ship out from under them and not a live fire exercise against a weaker opponent.

Branmer approved of the changed atmosphere, a change brought on by the sobering casualties the Minbari had taken in the war to date. The reality that they faced a foe who'd earned at very least their respect would hopefully keep his crew from making mistakes which would make the difference between victory and death in the coming battle. And thinking of the coming battle prompted him to ask, "Neroon have the Anla'shok scouts been able to provide anymore information on the strength of the enemy forces present in this system?"

Neroon nodded a grim look appearing on his face. "They have Shai Alyt, at the last count the enemy fleet presence in this system has now risen to a total of one hundred and sixty-five capital warships and nearly fifteen hundred fighters," he replied a note of admiration in his voice for the rangers who'd risked life and limb in small, outdated scoutships to acquire this information knowing that discovery by the Terrans would earn them a swift death by mass accelerator round or plasma bolt if they were lucky or capture and likely brutal interrogation if they weren't.

Before the war had begun he – like most other warriors – had considered the Anla'shok to be an anachronism, a throwback to the desperate days of the war against the darkness a thousand years ago, one that had become a taint on the pride of the warrior caste that was long past due to be wiped away. But as the war had revealed itself to be a far harder challenge against a far more powerful and dangerous adversary than had ever been anticipated his views on the rangers had changed. He had come to see that the role Valen himself had created them for was still as relevant now as it had been a thousand years ago. He had already promised himself that once this war was over – and assuming he survived which was not guaranteed given how powerful the enemy was – he would do everything in his power to ensure the rangers got better funding, fresh manpower and more up to date equipment.

"Impressive," Branmer said bringing Neroon out of his thoughts. "It appears the enemy is presenting us with quite a formidable challenge. Not that I would have expected anything less of them."

"Indeed Shai Alyt."

"What about fixed defences?"

"The latest reports indicate that the enemy have replaced, repaired and upgraded the orbital defence network surrounding New Hibernia. Two new types of satellites have been added to the reinforced network of the laser defence platforms encountered by the Honour's Blade. One of the two is considerably larger than the normal laser satellites though its armaments are at this time unknown. The other is small and appears to be unarmed – however the Anla'shok have noticed that it appears be broadcasting a vortex frequency jamming field that extends thirty-seven thousand kilometres out from planetary orbit, the field appears to be of the correct modulation to disrupt our jump engines. We will not be able to jump out of or into hyperspace while within the boundary of the field."

Branmer blinked in surprise knowing that a vortex frequency jamming field was a very complex piece of technology, requiring considerable knowledge of tachyon physics as well as jump engine technology and design to function correctly. The fact that the Terrans had one was extremely surprising, especially given all the reports that they rarely if every used hyperspace – though as the attack on Na'vel yesterday had shown they did indeed possess the technology to access hyperspace and manipulate it in ways never seen before, ways that could whip the volatile faster than light space into a gravitational maelstrom that even the Vorlons would think at least twice about attempting to cross.

"Curious," he commented with a frown "how does a species that by all accounts doesn't like to use hyperspace develop such a complex piece of technology?"

"The preliminary analysis carried out by the worker caste scientists indicate that the base technology being used in the field isn't Terran," Neroon replied, "the scans indicate that the field has a ninety eight percent probability of being Dilgar in origin it is therefore very likely the Terrans acquired the technology from them after they defeated them. They have obviously since learned how to adjust it and found the right frequency band to use to disrupt our jump engines. Something I'm told would not be difficult to learn with the capture of the Drala Fi."

"No it wouldn't," Branmer agreed knowing from speaking to worker caste friends that while the jump engines of all hyperspace capable species shared many of the same basic characteristics due to the nature of the physics involved there were some slight differences in the frequency of the energy vortices they created. Differences caused by subtle differences in the exact design of the engine and variations in exactly what materials were used in construction. With the defeated, captured Drala Fi – as well as the wrecks of numerous other defeated Minbari warships – to examine it wouldn't exactly have taken a competent technician long to figure out what field modulation to use to disrupt Minbari jump points. He made a mental note to have a word with the worker caste elders after the battle, to see if they could figure out away around the latest surprise that the enemy was throwing at them.

"Still it is most vexing that they have figured it out," he said at last just as they turned the corner leading to the tactical centre. "It will make our task that much harder."

"We do have the advantage of superior numbers, Shai Alyt," Neroon reminded his superior as they entered the tactical centre and passed through the shimmering curtain of the active holographic field. Around them hyperspace glowed and pulsed while silhouetted against the marbled red and black ether were the sleek forms of the hundred and eighty Minbari warships with the majority being Sharlin's all of them primed and ready to engage the enemy in battle. The fleet had come to a dead halt in space with any motion being nothing more than the slight drift that all vessels experienced when in hyperspace.

"Yes but not by much and if this war has taught us anything Neroon it is that the Terrans are an enemy whose powers and capabilities demand our respect. Underestimating them would be a folly of the highest order and will only lead to defeat, dishonour and death."

Neroon nodded in understanding and acceptance of the sentiment. The Terrans had done something that the warrior caste had long thought to be utterly impossible and stop their fleet in its tracks. While they had had some victories against the enemy they'd been handed their share of defeats and even in victory had paid a heavy price in blood. The murderers of Dukhat the enemy may have been but they demanded and had his – and most other warriors – respect.

"I agree," he admitted after a moment before gazing at the fleet arrayed around them. The bulk of the fleet had assumed the standard combat formation favoured by the Minbari, a formation that allowed them to maximise their use of firepower while limiting – as much as possible – the enemies ability to exploit the weaknesses inherent in all Minbari warship design particularly their limited to non-existent flanking weaponry. A weakness that he'd already heard was being looked into addressing by the workers for the next generation of warships along with the revealed fragility of the polycrystalline armour to kinetic attack. Niall fighters buzzed around and ahead of the main body of the fleet ready and eager to engage the enemy.

Hanging back from the main force of a hundred and twenty Sharlin's and Shagotti were the sixty ships of the reserve force. As with the main force they were all composed of Sharlin's led by a single Shagotti with their own fighters in tight escort formation. With them were dozens of Tigara assault transports all of them loaded to bear with ground warriors and equipment to capture the Terran colony – though the fleet would first have to both secure orbit and open up a hole in the jamming field for the ships to jump in as while Tigara's were well armoured they weren't the fastest or most manoeuvrable of Minbari war craft flying them through a raging fleet battle would be downright suicidal as they would be easy targets for enemy gunners.

"Then let us begin," Branmer said softly mentally saying a prayer to the universe for good fortune in the battle to come, before he raised his voice slightly so the comm. would pick it up and relay to the rest of the fleet. "Shai Alyt Branmer to assault fleet; activate jump engines and prepare to move into normal space, reserve force and assault transports activate jump engines but remain in hyperspace until signalled."

"Assault fleet reports ready Shai Alyt," Neroon reported listening to a report from the bridge on a small comm. device in one ear.

"Assault fleet jump," Branmer ordered a moment before a thrum of power sounded through the Takari and the glowing blue funnel of a jump point formed in front of the ship. Without delay the cruiser crossed into the open rip in the fabric of hyperspace crossing the boundary into normal space. All around them the rest of the assault fleet did the same, transiting back into normal space ready to engage the enemy force defending New Hibernia and the hyperspace lane leading deeper into Terran space.

An enemy force that appeared to have been taken by surprise by their appearance as a dozen fighters and one of the small gunships were veering away from them at high speed, while the distant smears and points of the rest of the fleet began moving into formation to meet them.

Branmer didn't even have to give the order.

Emerald green neutron beams and yellow-green fusion beams lanced out from the weapons arrays to the leading Sharlin's ripping into the fleeing fighters and gunship with swift surgical efficiency. The fighters flashed to vapour instantly as the beams tore them apart, the gunship however spun away leaking atmosphere and bodies as its hull was sliced open its shield offering no protection from the close range attack. A second salvo of neutron beams from three separate Sharlin's tore into the slowly disintegrating vessel turning it into a fireball as fuel and ordinance detonated reducing the vessel to a plume of cooling plasma and torn metallic fragments.

"All ships advanced forward at flank speed open fire as soon as you have a target," Branmer ordered calmly even as he held up a hand that caused the holographic display to zoom in on the surprised enemy fleet. Nice to know we can still have some advantages over them, he thought guessing that whatever the sensor system the enemy used to penetrate Minbari stealth was it didn't work in hyperspace. He made a mental note to speak with the workers later maybe it would help the scientists figure out just how a species that'd only been spacefaring for one and a half centuries could defeat a technology that had been thought flawless for centuries.

However he could see that the advantage of surprise was only temporary as the enemy was already reacting with fighters pouring out of the larger enemy ships even as the ships themselves manoeuvred bringing their bows – and the muzzles of their main mass accelerator cannons – to bear on the rapidly advancing Minbari. Mere seconds later the muzzles of the cannons flickered with visible electromagnetic distortions a moment before a storm of solid metal slugs erupted towards them.

"How long till we enter firing range," Branmer asked Neroon as he observed the approaching storm of hyper-accelerated metal, a storm that was approaching so fast that the slugs literally glowed with the slight friction of interplanetary gasses being brushed aside on contact with the projectiles.

"Our cruisers will be in firing range in one minute and thirty seconds Shai Alyt," Neroon replied as the first salvo of enemy fire arrived, most shots seemed to miss the rapidly advancing war cruisers however brilliant explosions and plumes of shattering polycrystalline armour erupted from several cruisers as they took direct strikes. "Our fighters should be engaging the enemy momentarily."

Branmer nodded in understanding before wincing as a second far more accurate volley of enemy fire arrived, pummelling dozens of cruisers with multiple slugs blowing away huge chunks of polycrystalline armour, snapping off weapons mounts and sensor antenna and in some cases causing silvery plumes of venting atmosphere to appear as hulls were breached. A third volley followed right on the heels of the second inflicting yet more punishing damage and causing two Sharlin's to fall out of formation trailing atmosphere and wreckage from multiple hull breaches. Branmer frowned slightly as not for the first time the enemies range advantage showed just how devastating it could be, though he also noticed with a cold shiver that unlike in previous battles where only one in ten mass accelerator shots hit their targets every single shot in the second and third salvos had hit a target. Clearly the enemy had improved the sensors that allowed them to breach the stealth systems presumably from having had ample time now to examine the system on the captured Drala Fi.

Abruptly a deep, rumbling boom filled the air and the Takari shuddered violently under enemy fire. Branmer and Neroon both stumbled, their bodies pulled sideways by the momentary loss of gravitational stability. "Damage," Branmer asked as the ship stabilised.

"Direct hit to our forward dorsal hull," Neroon replied listening to the report on his headset, "forward dorsal weapons array offline, forward armour integrity down by twenty five percent. Minor damage to the main hanger bay, four percent power loss."

Branmer nodded in understanding realising they'd been lucky. Being a Shagotti-class cruiser the Takari had thicker bands of armour than a Sharlin did as well as a slightly stronger gravimetric defence field, both of which had certainly contributed to the light damage the hit had caused them. Most Sharlin's would not have weathered a similar hit as well; certainly damage would be considerably more extensive. He put it out of his mind and returned his full attention to the holographic display as the Minbari fleet crossed an invisible line in space. They opened fire immediately lashing out at the enemy with dense javelins of green fire.

Battle was joined.

Emerald green neutron beams and yellow-green beams of fusion density plasma lanced out from the weapons arrays of the assembled Minbari war cruisers. The intense streams of destructive power seared the vacuum of space as they reached out towards and made contact with the first line of the Fourth Fleet assigned to the defence of Jericho and the New Hibernia colony. Several frigates crumpled and exploded their weaker kinetic barriers and thinly armoured hulls offering no real protection against the powerful Minbari weapons which simply sliced them apart like toys. Destroyers fared only slightly better as while their more powerful barriers diffused and refracted some of the power of the beams as they passed through enough got through to boil away great tracts of armour and scorch and render the hull causing four ships to fall out of formation trailing debris and venting atmosphere from the breaches ripped in their hulls.

However the energy weapon assault went both ways. Dense bolts of superheated plasma encased in mass effect fields erupted from multiple pulse cannon arrays accompanied by another vicious barrage of mass accelerator slugs from the main cannons. Minbari warships shuddered in torment as the fast moving plasma bolts cut into thick polycrystalline armour, boiling away the material one layer at time. Other bolts hit weapons arrays triggering small explosions as the by nature volatile arrays reacted negatively to being subjected to the assaults, sensor antenna and communications arrays also took hits as to the surprise and concern of the Minbari every single bolt sliced into a target courtesy of the new targeting VI developed for the Alliance military by the Quarians.

Mass accelerator rounds followed, blowing away chunks of armour and ripping off parts of drive and weapons fins sending Minbari ships reeling and allowing additional streams of plasma to cut into exposed sections of grey hull metal beneath the blue of the crystalline armour. Within moments a Sharlin exploded as plasma rounds exploding deep inside its compromised hull ruptured the containment fields on the artificial quantum singularity that powered the vessel causing it to blink out of existence releasing all of its pent up power in a single cataclysmic burst of energy. Two other Sharlin's – hulls riddled with holes that made them look like bizarrely shaped and coloured pieces of Swiss cheese – fell out of formation leaking atmosphere, debris and bodies of dead and dying crew members from the multiple molten-edged hull breaches.

Despite the heavy pummelling their vanguard was taking the Minbari fleet advanced with single minded determination their own weapons blazing as they lashed back at there tormentors the power they were able to hit them with growing as the range closed meaning their beams suffered less attenuation due to the distance they had to travel before encountering both the passive and active defences of the Terran ships. Ships on both sides fell out of formation with heavy damage as the two fleets relentlessly blasted away at each other like tanks at twenty paces.

Between the warships fighters clashed in their own brutal dogfights as Minbari Nialls attempted to get in range to strafe the defence platforms and satellites over New Hibernia while also fighting hard to keep the Terran Scorpions from getting close enough to the Sharlin's and Shagotti's to volley disruptor missiles into the hulls as bitter past experience had taught the Minbari well that only a handful of the weapons was all it took to send a cruiser and everyone onboard to their deaths as the spatial distortion producing warheads ripped the ship apart.

All in all the battle could to an uneducated observer be seen to be descending into a total free for all space brawl between two very well matched opponents. But they would have been wrong, despite the massive amounts of damage and destruction being inflicted upon both sides the two forces kept their formations tight and ordered as they engaged each other in the biggest battle of the war to date. Slowly though the tide of battle began to shift into the favour of the Minbari as there extremely powerful beam weapons overwhelmed most of the smaller Terran ships in minutes and began inflicting damage upon the larger but fewer in number heavy ships as more ships were able to concentrate fire upon a single opponent.

Planetary Defence Command

New Hibernia

General Richard 'Firestorm' Franklin frowned as he studied the hologram of the battle in space floating above the main situation table in the operations centre of the planetary defence command bunker buried beneath Argyle the capital - and only – city on the New Hibernia colony. Though he was no admiral he could tell that the battle in orbit was not going well for his people. The Minbari were striking at them with a fleet composed entirely of dreadnoughts and the difference in effective firepower at closer ranges was showing as ship after ship was destroyed.

That wasn't to say however the Minbari were getting everything there own way. The Minbari ships lack of any real barriers beyond a relatively low power gravimetric defence field was working against them as it did with most other races in the Orion Arm. Plasma bolts and mass accelerator rounds from the navy ships – designed as they were with the latest generations of kinetic barriers in mind – were smashing into unprotected armoured hulls, shattering armour and ripping deep into the ships with a great deal of ease. The improved targeting VI developed by the Quarians was also helping ensuring that literally every shot counted for something. In the five or six minutes that had passed since the Minbari had entered firing range nearly a third of their ships had been destroyed or been reduced to shattered air bleeding wrecks but with fanatical determination the boneheads kept pushing steadily overwhelming the space based defences while being seemingly headless of their own savage losses.

"General," a young lieutenant called from one of the consoles, "the outer edge of the Minbari fleet have entered the effective engagement range of the defence platforms. The beta group platforms report clear firing lanes for the Minbari ships currently fighting their way towards the dreadnoughts Shasta and the Augustine."

A faint predatory grin appeared on Richard's face at the report. With the Minbari coming into the effective engagement range of the Charybdis-class planetary defence platforms towed here from Beta Durani over the last few months he now had a chance to take some of the pressure off the hard fighting navy. And in the process show the Minbari why the Charybdis-class was one of the most feared unmanned defence platforms in the known galaxy second only to the Asari Athame-class defence platforms.

"Excellent," he said, "have the beta group platforms lock on target."

"Aye sir," the marine answered hands dancing across his console relaying the order to the four platforms of beta group. Within moments he received a response from the specialised Virtual Intelligences controlling each destroyer-sized platform. "Platforms confirm firing solutions general. Antimatter charge launchers active and fully charged."


The moment they received the firing command from the defence command centre on the ground the VI's controlling each Charybdis platform initiated final targeting solutions confirming there weapons locks on three Sharlin's and a Shagotti. In nanoseconds the firing solutions were confirmed and the VI's initiated the firing sequence of the oversized mass accelerator cannon that made up the bulk of the platform a cannon designed not to fire solid metal slugs like most mass accelerators but to fire something quite different. Something far more dangerous and destructive, so dangerous in fact that so far no one had ever been insane enough to try and mount it onboard a starship.

Into the breach of each platform main cannon slid a slender cone-shaped silver projectile embossed with warning symbols. Each projectile was a very complex piece of engineering featuring its own inbuilt power source and safety systems, all of which was designed to contain the most volatile substance in creation. Suspended in the centre of each projectile by a powerful mass effect field was a small lump of antimatter sufficient to cause quite a sizeable explosion when it was allowed to interact with the normal matter around it.

As soon as each projectile was secure in the pre-fire chamber powerful solenoids lining the mass accelerator spun up forming a powerful magnetic field which immediately began attracting the projectile towards them. Before it could make contact with the first coil it shut off accelerating the projectile towards the next in the sequence and so on accelerating the projectile to .06 percent of light speed as it shot down the barrel. Emerging from the barrel accompanied by a powerful flash of electromagnetic static the rounds shot towards the four oblivious Minbari ships that were just beginning to exchange shots with the Fourth Fleet's two dreadnoughts.

In seconds each projectile crossed the distance and slammed into the sides of the four targeted vessels the impact activating the warheads. Mass effect fields snapped off allowing matter and antimatter to meet, within each projectile a massive sphere of pure, rampaging energy and hard radiation burst into existence. The specifically shaped walls of the chamber boiled and melted away but lasted just long enough for the dense material to carry out its final purpose, to direct the massive energy release into a single focused spear of purest destruction. Spears that instantly sliced into the Minbari warships like the galaxies biggest blowtorches. Polycrystalline armour, hull metal, support framework and the bodies of crew members flashed to vapour instantly as the jets tore through the ships incinerating them from the inside out.

For a moment out of time the four gutted Minbari warships hung in space and seemed to glow illuminated from within by the deadly force of the blasts. Then all four vanished simultaneously in massive explosions that reduced the once proud and mighty ships to plumes of highly energised but rapidly dissipating plasma.

Tactical Centre

Minbari War Cruiser Takari

Shai Alyt Branmer gaped in shock as four of his ships went up simultaneously in massive explosions the result of a hit each by somekind of fast moving projectile that had come from four of the dozen large new platforms orbiting New Hibernia. The sheer violence of the blasts stunned him momentarily speechless as he had never seen anything like it in his life before.

"What in Valen's name was that," he demanded after a moment whirling to look at an equally stunned Neroon.

Neroon gulped slightly before going pale as he listened to the report coming in from the bridge. "Antimatter detonation," he said, "those projectiles were somekind of antimatter charges, somehow the Terrans have found away to focus the explosive power of antimatter. Compress it into a stream of destruction that nothing we know of could possibly survive. Its similar to our own antimatter cannons but an order of magnitude stronger, each blast was according to our sensors equal to a sixty-four megaton detonation."

"In Valen's name," Branmer breathed they'd known that the Terrans did have antimatter technology of course, they used it to propel their warships through space after all and had used antimatter missiles and torpedoes during the devastating attack on the Na'vel Yards. But this was different this was on a whole other scale of power. After a moment he mentally shook himself, pushing aside the shock with a great deal of effort and focusing on responding to this latest threat thrown at them by the enemy. A threat that was clearly devastating as another pair of Sharlin's vanished in massive explosions as two of the platforms fired again swatting the normally mighty warships from the sky like they were little more than toys, proving that the platforms were a threat that had to be dealt with a.s.a.p.

He quickly studied the raging battle around them, noticing the positions of all the Minbari ships in relation to both the hard fighting but being steadily overwhelmed Terran forces and the defence platforms. He also noticed that some Niall's had gotten through to begin strafing the platforms though he was honestly not surprised to see the familiar blue energy barriers appear around the larger platforms attenuating the Niall's neutron beam fire to the point where it was to all intents and purposes useless against the armoured structures. Small defensive cannons on the platforms immediately began firing laser pulses back in retaliation burning six Niall's from the sky in moments.

Fortunately he had options to help them. "Shai Alyt Branmer to Niall squadrons engaging the defence platforms break off your attack and concentrate fire on the jamming satellites," he ordered, "cruiser group move to engage the defence platforms."

The results of his orders were apparent immediately as the Niall squadrons strafing the defence platforms veered off and instead began firing at the satellites producing the vortex frequency jamming field. Neutron beams from the fighters slicing through the thinly armoured satellites with ease sending three to their doom in moments. Once enough of those satellites were taken out he would be able to call in his reserve forces and finish the first phase of the battle to take Jericho from the enemy. A phase that had already proven costly with over a third of his forces already destroyed or disabled, the fact that they had destroyed more than half the enemy fleet in return was little comfort given the scale of the losses the attack fleet was taking. Tens of thousands of Minbari were dead, injured or dying and the battle was still far from concluded.

"Shai Alyt," Neroon said drawing his attention, he glanced over at his aide to see Neroon pointing at a section of the holographic field. Branmer followed his direction and smiled slightly when he saw the enemy fleet was breaking, Terran warships beginning to pull away from the engagement with his ships weapons continuing to blaze as they began a fighting retreat.

"Excellent," he replied stumbling as the dull boom of another direct hit against the side of the Takari rattled through the ship causing a momentary fluctuation in the artificial gravity field. He steadied himself before addressing the fleet, "cruiser groups five and six join group four in concentrating fire upon the orbital defence grid, all surviving Niall squadrons move to engage the jamming and laser satellites. All other ships concentrate on driving the enemy fleet away from the planet."

Planetary Defence Command

A Few Minutes Earlier

"General," a communications rating called across the situation room, "Admiral Yu reports his forces are down to forty percent strength. He's requesting permission to withdraw the fleet before they're all destroyed."

"Granted they can't do anymore good up there," Richard Franklin replied scowling at the main hologram. The Fourth Fleet had done its best, fought incredibly hard against the Minbari but the enemy assault was just too strong for them to realistically have a chance of turning the enemy back on their own as the power of the Minbari fleet was just too great, far greater than had ever been planned for. But then until today nobody had expected the Minbari to send an assault fleet composed entirely of dreadnoughts.

"What's the status of the defence grid," he asked after a moment of observing the battered and bruised remains of the fleet begin breaking off, still firing upon the Minbari determined to inflict as much damage on the invading force as possible even as they withdrew from battle.

"Sensors indicate that three separate groups of Minbari dreadnoughts are manoeuvring towards the defence platforms and are beginning to paint them with targeting scans, the rest appear to be attempting to push the remains of the Fourth Fleet away from orbit," another officer reported. "Minbari fighters appear to be focusing all their attention of the vortex frequency and laser satellites in grids Beta Three through Delta Nine. They appear to be intent on opening a considerable hole in the jamming field."

"Probably to jump assault transports in," Richard mused aloud as that is what he would have done in the Minbari commanders position, keep his assault transports in the relative safety of hyperspace until the last possible moment then jump them into orbit. "Very well have all anti-aircraft positions go to full alert. All marine units are also to prepare to repel a ground assault. All defence platforms target the Minbari dreadnoughts and open fire, take as many of them down as possible."

"Aye sir."

As the level of activity in the situation room increased Richard turned his full attention back to the hologram. The last of the surviving Fourth Fleet ships was flickering into translight leaving him and the army of marines that had assembled to protect this planet alone save for the orbiting defence platforms and satellites. Platforms that were now firing with everything they had at the encroaching Minbari warships sending a dozen to their doom in antimatter firestorms in as many shots. Meanwhile the laser satellites also fired intense beams of energy seeking out cracked and shattered armour on multiple dreadnoughts to begin burning into the hull or targeting the trailing edges of the fins that were such an intrinsic part of the gravity based propulsion systems used by the Minbari. Several more of the enemy vessels fell out of formation bleeding burning air and wreckage as the heavy lasers sliced into and through wounded hulls.

It was the last hurrah of the orbital defences.

No sooner than the last ship fell out of formation to drift helplessly than the rest of the Minbari fleet opened up on the defence grid – each ship firing at any and all platforms and satellites that within the range of their weapons systems. Richard watched as the icons representing the orbital defences flashed red on masse before blinking out as the immense firepower washed over them like a tsunami breaking upon the shore, tearing them from the sky in a blaze that to anyone standing on the surface would have been clearly visible.

"All defence platforms and satellites facing the Minbari fleet destroyed sir," an officer reported needlessly. "One of the larger Minbari dreadnoughts is sending a tachyon transmission. Jump points forming."

"I see them," Richard confirmed as the icons representing opening jump vortices appeared in orbit and began disgorging more Minbari ships. Sixty of whom were additional dreadnoughts all of whom were clustered around two dozen large transports. Assault transports they have to be, he thought as the new arrivals spread out, the dreadnoughts and their attendant fighters breaking their tight formation and joining up with the main assault force. The transports however began slowly moving, heading straight towards the planet confirming that they were what Richard had thought them to be, assault transports that from their size would be packed with at least a divisions worth of soldiers and their attendant vehicles and support weapons.

Analysis VI's cut in projecting the Minbari entry angle and determining the optimum landing site for the Minbari if they wanted to take the colonial capital as quickly as possible. Though they knew next to nothing about the ground combat capabilities of the Minbari the VI's projected that the most likely place for the Minbari to land was a wide stretch of grassland thirty-seven kilometres south east of the city suburbs. Aside from a few isolated homesteads – which had long since been evacuated of their inhabitants – there was little on the grass covered plane as most of the development of New Hibernia so far had been focused in and around the capital city and the massive freshwater lake that bordered the cities western side.

Fortunately the plane was well within range of anti-aircraft batteries that had been deployed in key locations in the area immediately around New Glasgow, so he and his entire marine division would be able to give the Minbari an appropriately warm reception. "Communications instruct anti-aircraft batteries to target the incoming transports," he ordered. "Fire as soon as they're within range and inform marine rapid reaction units to prepare to sortie to intercept any Minbari that manage to land."

"Aye sir."

Richard allowed a small, grim smile to grace his normally impassive face as the hologram showed the Minbari transports had entered the atmosphere and were as predicted by the VI's on a path to land in the middle of the plane. In a few more moments the Minbari craft would come within the engagement range of the first of the anti-aircraft batteries.

The second phase of the battle for New Hibernia and with it the Jericho System was about to begin.

Authors Note: Sorry there has been such a huge delay with this fic people, I had major writers block with it which I've only recently managed to break. I hope everyone liked the battle in orbit though I apologise if it comes across as a bit brief and glossed over as I didn't really want to write a blow by blow account of the fighting as that would have rapidly become boring. Next chapter we'll see the one and only ground battle of the Terran-Minbari War I just hope I can do the capabilities of both sides justice when I come to writing it all out.