Secret Space Station, Location Unknown, Deep Space somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy…
A shadowy man in a black cloak walked past two hulking Mecusite Sentinels to one in the middle. The man pressed a gloved hand and entered a large, circular room with a ring of twenty holoprojectors, plus one in the middle. The man pressed a gloved hand against a control panel near the door and eighteen of the holoprojectors flickered to life, each depicting the image of a young girl.
"Why have you come here?" The stoic, black-haired girl occupying the center holoprojector inquired.
"This station… is a terminal to reach us," said a slim blond in the back who was wearing sci-fi armor. "You did not come here by accident, Director. What do you want?"
The Director smiled broadly under the hood of his cloak. "Matters have come up within the Hegemony, Nova- matters that I cannot entrust the Mecusite Council or the Hegemons with. That is why I need someone more… impartial. Why I need to reawaken the Warbird Council."
"Only those who know the true nature of the Warbirds can use them," A blonde girl to the Director's right warned. "Do you?"
"Of course, Philia," The Director gestured deferentially to the girl who just spoke. "Secret Code Omega-Hope-Titan-Cat-4706."
The center girl raised one eyebrow and looked to the others. One by one, the eighteen girls nodded curtly.
The center girl looked back at the Director. "We… accept your challenge. The Warbirds… are yours to command."
"Thank you… Mukuro."
Two days later, on board the Mecuse-class Command Ship Julius Caesar, flagship of the Mecusite Second Fleet, approaching Earth, Sol System, Milky Way Galaxy…
Gazing out the viewport of the command bridge, Admiral Ayumi Shinozaki watched the meager United Nations fleet orbiting the planet with a mixture of satisfaction and anticipation.
"It looks like the internecine conflict between the Global Liberation Front, World Defense Army, the Neutralists, the Resistance, Ultimate Despair, and the Future Foundation continues to hamper their efforts to planetary defense," Admiral Shinozaki remarked to her subordinate, Captain Gabi Braun.
"We're detecting eight United Nations warships- one Halcyon-class Light Cruiser, UNSC Halcyon, two Hillsborough-class Destroyers: UNSC Hillsborough and UNSC Heracles, and five Charon-class Light Frigates: UNSC Arabia, Vostok, Aegis Fate, Algolis, and Chioglossa. In addition, there is one armed orbital station, the Tiara." Captain Braun reported excitedly. "This is just too easy."
Alarms blared across the bridge of the UNSC Halcyon as Admiral Dan Willis rushed out of his quarters. "What the hell is going on?"
"Sir, we have an… unidentified fleet approaching our orbit! Twenty ships, heavily-armed!"
"Damn it, how- " The Admiral froze, blood running cold as he saw the dreaded, familiar silhouettes and insignias. "The Mecusites? Why, how- " He gulped, regaining his composure. "Contact all ships: power up all weapons and bring Archer missiles to bear! Launch fighters, screening positions! Target the winged ship leading the formation and hail it! Demand what its intentions are! Give it thirty seconds or we open fire!"
"Attention unidentified vessels! This is the United Nations cruiser UNSC Halcyon and the United Nations Combined Flotilla 110! You are violating Earth space! Please state your intentions or we will open fire!" Dan's comm officer shouted into the radio.
An image depicting a young, blue-haired girl emerged on the transmission screen. She looked no more than seventeen and was dressed in a fancy officer uniform. Admiral Dan Willis was no expert on Mecusite ranks, but the style and insignia of the uniform resembled a mixture of Admiral uniforms from several countries.
"This is Admiral Ayumi Shinozaki of the Mecuse-class command ship Julius Caesar. As flag officer of the Mecusite Second Fleet, I have been ordered to destroy your forces, and to follow up with a bombardment of major Earth cities. Prepare to die. Goodbye." The transmission cut off, and the Mecusite ships unleashed a hail of turbolasers, missiles, and torpedoes.
"Return fire!" Admiral Willis screamed, before turning to his comm officer. "Call for reinforcements now! Get UNSC headquarters, tell them what's going down! And call the Mecusite Council and their Representative at the UN- we need to know what's going on! Are we at war?"
Admiral Shinozaki twirled a finger through her blue hair as if in boredom and ordered, "All ships: launch fighters to engage enemy fighters. Adam Smith, Flotilla 2-2 is to engage Hillsborough, Arabia, and Vostok. George Washington, Flotilla 2-3 is to engage Heracles, Aegis Fate, and Algolis. Winston Churchill, Flotilla 2-4 is to engage Tiara station and Chioglossa. Alfredo Strossner, Flotilla 2-5 is to cover the transports and bombers headed planetside.
"What about us?" Captain Braun piped up eagerly, her eyes sparkling.
"Flotilla 2-1 is to hold position and focus on engaging the Halcyon." Done relaying orders to her subordinates, Ayumi clasped her hands behind her back and began to take in the brilliant, terrible flashes of battle through the large viewport on the bridge. "Now let's see if this is interesting after all…"
Another explosion rocked the Halcyon and Admiral Willis gritted his teeth. "Damage report!"
"They've taken out the Archer missiles, sir!" The Chief Engineer warned. "We can't hold out much longer! The primary shield generator is going to give!"
"Weapons, did our MAC round hit?"
"The enemy flagship appears damaged, sir, but it's still in much better shape than we are! It'll take another fifteen minutes to reload the MAC!"
"Comms, where are our reinforcements?"
"Flotilla 211 is on its way, sir, but not in another thirty minutes, with the Super MAC Cairo in tow! But Heracles, Hillsborough, Arabia, and Vostok are already gone, and Chioglossa is dead in space!"
Admiral Willis closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, tears running down his face. There was no way to win against these odds. "Full retreat! Retreat!"
Admiral Shinozaki turned to Captain Braun. "What are our losses? The damage to Caesar has been contained. UN MAC guns pack quite a punch, but not enough to take down a Mecuse-class, and the recharge is slow. But the Kerensky is destroyed- Ford is picking up survivors now. Smith reports that Pinochet in Flotilla 2-2 has suffered major damage, and Washington is reporting the same for Mussolini in Flotilla 2-3. Flotilla 2-4 is facing heavy resistance from the enemy station Tiara- Churchill reports the cruiser Tusk has been lost and Cornwallis is dead in space. Churchill is taking a beating itself. Heavy fighter losses, but nothing we can't replace. Bombers and transports are en route with no losses."
"What about the enemy?"
"The UN has lost both destroyers and two frigates, with a third frigate- the Chioglossa- dead in space. We've diverted a transport to board it. Halcyon and the two remaining frigates, Aegis Fate and Algolis are in full retreat! Looks like they're abandoning the Tiara."
"Hmmm… they're putting up more of a fight than usual," Ayumi noted. "But our losses are… acceptable." Then she scratched her chin as if in deep thought and muttered, "But what do you get out of this, Director?"
"Admiral, Smith and Washington are requesting orders, ma'am. Are they to continue rescue and salvage operations?"
"Order Flotilla 2-2 to join 2-4 in engaging the Tiara, Captain. I want that station crippled. Flotilla 2-3 will oversee rescue operations, while we- Flotilla 2-1- will pursue the remaining UN vessels."
Admiral Dan Willis looked back nervously at the three pursuing Mecusite warships. He was thankful the enemy forces had split up, but he was no closer to knowing the truth. According to UN High Command, the Mecusite Council and their representative at the UN denied involvement and suggested it might be the work of rogue Mecusites.
"Admiral, Combined Flotilla 211 and the Cairo will be in position in ten minutes!"
"Very well," Admiral Willis narrowed his eyes. "Now we fight. All ships, reverse thrusters and maintain position! All ships, fire MACs and all remaining missile batteries!"
The UN crews watched with anticipation as the fire pounded the three enemy ships, and one of the enemy cruisers blossomed in a brilliant fireball.
But as the smoke dispersed, many of their smiles faded, as the Mecusite command ship and remaining cruiser seemed to have only suffered limited damage.
As a fusillade of enemy fire streaked back toward them, Admiral Willis relayed across the ship, "Brace for impact!"
"Admiral," Captain Braun remarked. "Yammamoto appears a total loss, but Ford appears mostly intact. We're engaging the UNSC now. They can't hold out long. In addition, Flotilla 2-2 and 2-4 have destroyed Tiara station, at the cost of losing Ben-Gurion and Pilsudski. They're mopping up the Longsword fighters now."
Admiral Shinozaki smiled grimly as she watched the UNSC Aegis Fate and Algolis being torn apart. Meanwhile, explosions rocked the Halcyon, while Pelican transports and Longsword fighters erupted in smaller explosions.
"Admiral! We're detecting a disturbance, an anomaly!" Caesar's sensors officer warned the two flag officers. "A Slipspace disturbance!"
Admiral Shinozaki's head snapped up. "A trap- "
"Ma'am, UN Flotilla emerging from Slipspace- five Cruisers, 2 Frigates… and… a Super MAC gun!"
"Wh- What?" Captain Braun stammered, then regained her composure. "It takes time for it to sync with the ground stations- "
"So we retreat!" Admiral Shinozaki appeared alarmed for the first time. "We're outnumbered and- "
Missiles, torpedoes, lasers, and worst of all, Thanix cannon-fire rained down on the Mecusite ships, and the cruiser Henry Ford was shorn asunder.
"SOS, this is the Second Fleet flagship Julius Caesar!" Ayumi sent a distress call on Mecusite channels, while the crew boosted their engines at top speed and fired every weapon in their arsenal. "We are under attack from a UN flotilla of five cruisers- "
An explosion erupting from the breached reactor of the Caesar, destroyed the shield generators, shredded most of the turbolaser batteries, and vaporized the missile silos.
"Shit- " Captain Braun exclaimed, as the bridge broke away and tumbled through space like a piece of ejected debris.
Seconds later, a Thanix cannon ripped a huge gouge through the severed bridge, slaughtering all the crewmembers inside, including Admiral Ayumi Shinozaki and Captain Gabi Braun.
36.7 light-years away on Mecusite-controlled Arcturus Station, Arcturus System…
A messenger raced into the Station's command center, wildly waving a datapad. "Is Grand General Ikusaba here?"
"Yes?" The black-haired Mecusite Grand General turned in her cold, intimidating manner. "What is it?"
"Ma'am, the Mecusite Second Fleet has suffered heavy losses and are retreating to Jupiter! Captain Sirohart of the Adam Smith reports eight vessels lost, including the command flagship, Julius Caesar, and two are seriously damaged, though they managed to capture one damaged enemy frigate. Admiral Ayumi Shinozaki and Captain Gabi Braun are presumed dead."
Mukuro Ikusaba closed her eyes quietly for a moment, as she heard about her friends. "What are the enemy losses?"
The UNSC lost two destroyers, five frigates- including the one we captured- and one space station. A light cruiser was heavily damaged. Not ideal, considering the superior position we were supposed to be in."
"No, it is not," Mukuro replied flatly as she opened her eyes. "Did the ground invasion force make it?"
"Yes, Flotilla 2-4 confirmed a successful landing."
"What's the UNSC response to the orbital battle?"
"The UNSC is on full alert now- they've mobilized nine fleets to protect Earth, and with several Super MACs in orbit, we can't even approach the planet to reinforce."
"I see. Well, our hands are tied. With the Conference coming up, we cannot disobey the Director and move any of the Defense Fleets from Arcturus to Earth. And we can't use the Attack Fleets around Jupiter and Saturn without endangering the shipyards there, which will be the prime target of any major UN counterattack. The shipyards are just too valuable to lose. So everything rides on the ground force now."