Battle of Lakfakalle
This article contains major Spoilers!
The Battle of Lakfakalle was the battle fought by Four Nations Alliance against the Humankind Empire of Abh in a drive to occupy the capital or destroy much of the Laburec high command. Following Operation Snow Crystal, Federation forces invaded the Kryb Kingdom and seized the key sord which both cut off Admiral Kotoponi and permitted the Alliance's incursion into the Abriel system.
Prelude to Battle
Admiral Spoor at some time had either been commanding the Sotoryuru Naval Base or been given time following Operation Hunter handling alternative assignments within the Empire that did not see her often at the front-line. She was given a decree that in the event of any emergency, she keep the trainees, reserves, and regular forces prepared to be reorganized.
Admiral Kotoponi had been the operational front line Commander-in-Chief for quite some time after Operation Hunter, Dusanyu now the only officer outranking her. Her operations during Twin Thorns had been successful enough to warrant a coordination of a new operation against Hania with her still in this key position. The Abh Empire had not suffered a major engagement since the Battles of Mairal and Elkon Gates and more so, had not yet been decisively defeated at any point during the war.
Abh Military Intelligence, either still bearing the same weakness since the start of the war, or becoming complaisant, had not taken many reports from the units at the front nor investigated enemy political and military movements seriously. With astonishingly few sources in Alliance organizations, they found themselves feeding the same assurances of victory to the entire Laburec command, which may have pressed Ramaj to implement Plan No. 3 of Operation Snow Crystal, expecting an easy political and military victory with virtually no resistance.
The Alarm is Raised
Neither Dusanyu or Ramaj discovered the push of the Alliance into Kryb until enemy units had routed or destroyed Kotoponi's rear and what few survivors remained managed to make contact with Lakfakalle. By this time, it would be perhaps hours before enemy units would start pouring directly into system Abriel. The empire faced a military and political crisis, with several nobles, former emperors, empresses, and the three principle members of the line of succession all about to be trapped in one system.
With the emergency upon them, Operation Phoenix was activated as enemies were already engaging some of the Home Fleet Reserve, not yet reorganized into the 1st to 6th Fleets. Orders were dispatched to Spoor to activate her 7th Fleet and attempt a rescue of the capital. Hecto-Commander Lafiel was given command of the Gaftonosh Dourado and ordered to transport the memorial stone pillars. No one knew if the enemy yet intended to destroy the capital and its cultural heritage, so every precaution was taken.
With the enemy encroaching rapidly, the battle itself now hinged on a mix of luck and coordination. Empress Ramaj intended to rally her Imperial Guard and make a last stand to buy time for Prince Dusanyu to complete the evacuation. Whether or not the enemy would offer terms of surrender, her force was prepared to fight to the last man. Dusanyu had his own problems in logistics and unit cohesion to deal with. The 1st to 6th Fleets were less fleets and more heavily armed refugee columns as civilian and auxiliary ships were inextricably mixed in.
Ramaj set out to command her guard and had a few options before her depending on the enemy's intentions. If they sought to capture and hold her hostage, she could offer an enticing target and attempt to delay with frivolous negotiations. A second option was to fight a delaying action, keeping herself to the rear of the action, and attempting to break away and flee with Dusanyu. The final option was to fight down to the last ship, causing as many enemy casualties as possible, and potentially bogging down the enemy column with the extra mass of her fleet which she intended to destroy; trading lives of the life of the Empire.
Planar Space Battle
There was no hope of repulsing the enemy assault strictly in Plane Space. Ramaj and Dusanyu organized tactics refined since the 2nd Battle of Aptic to construct a first line of defense which would peel away and skirmish with the enemy, gradually retreating line by line into system Abriel. The expectation was that with the activation of Operation Phoenix, fleets would rally and organize forces to effectively blunt the Alliance's advance until the Laburec was compelled to retreat into normal space; potentially holding until units outside of system Abriel attacked the enemy in the rear.
The Alliance's advance this time occurred far more rapidly, with the Military Appraisal Council having learned their lessons from Aptic; to commit to the offensive and engage at point-blank range rather than shell the enemy from a distance. The Alliance planned to physically force the Abh into retreat. Rather than buying the hoped for hours, the Home Reserve Fleet; now re-organized into the fleets for Phoenix, could only buy minutes. For the first time, Abh units began to loose cohesion in wholesale and withdraw to their main lines of defense in regular space.
Ramaj had indeed set a trap in regular space, but the progression of battle did not go well. These interior Empire units were generally not veterans, or had not seen significant combat for quite some time. This issue would impact the desperate activation of Admiral Spoor's 7th Fleet Phoenix. When she received her orders she had to begin assembling a fleet not of veterans or well trained units like in her commands of the 1st Fleet, but of trainees, reservists, or troops on leave at Sotoryuru. As an expert commander; however, Spoor's 7th fleet made rapid transit to attempt to relieve the capital.
Normal Space Battle
In anticipation of a breakthrough, Ramaj and Dusanyu had established a defense-in-depth which included 8 heavy mobile fortresses. Taking from their lessons in Aptic, they mimicked Bebaus's tactic of the rings of defense at the sword where the enemy would penetrate regular space. They would attempt to bombard the enemy into submission and whatever units broke through would be swarmed or assaulted by the interior squadrons.
The Alliance fleet anticipating a tough breakthrough utilized a relatively ancient tactic, "grab them by the belt buckle"; which they would engage the enemy at point blank range, turning a space battle into a virtual melee. This would disrupt the rings of defense by preventing effective fire support of the rear rings. This bore its own risks and the Military Appraisal Council anticipated that even if the defenders outnumbered them, punching out of a choke point would be preferable than to be encircled and destroyed once more.
Multiple issues mounted now. The Alliance ships had not been significantly slowed by either resistance or debris within their bubbles and began pouring into regular space. Also, these ships had conserved more ammunition this time for a regular space incursion. The evacuation had not yet been completed and with a new tactical crisis, Ramaj hurried to the front with her final orders. Dusnayu was to take the 1st to 6th Fleets out, and ignore the fighting as much as possible. She would take her elite Imperial Guard and make her stand against the enemy at the point of entry.
Committing to the Last
The 1st to 6th Fleets began to peel off and leave the battle to the guard. Dusanyu managed to organize a column of ships, with the 1st Fleet in the lead preparing to take whatever refugees and cultural heritage they could ferry safely away from the capital. The enemy met far more determined defense with Ramaj at the head of the guard. With their efforts, the breakthrough was minimized despite a growing body count. With no intention of surrender, she began to utilize all of her last cards to inflict damage to the enemy. Her eight fortresses were ordered to suicide attack the enemy column and try to drive them right back into Plane Space; the hope was to reform the choke point and make one last effort to save Lakfakalle.
The tactic succeeded, and with devastating effect, the Alliance's tactic of engaging as close as possible backfired for a moment. As the fortresses rammed and later deployed self-destruct, they inflicted horrific damage, upward of 1 in 10 Alliance personnel at arms were killed by this action. Hania's attack elements had been reduced to a mere 2 cruisers, which were compelled to retreat and try to rejoin their comrades at Kryb.
Ramaj's Last Stand, Lakfakalle is Abandoned
Several key members of nobility remain and attempt to help with the evacuation. Empress Ramaj has ferried her fleet out into Plane Space once more and her Guard will make their stand there. Several manors and sections of the capital have taken direct fire, including Manor Febdash, where Atosuryua Sruf is killed. Given the rout suffered earlier in the battle, there are serious doubts about how long Ramaj's force will hold out or even if the enemy would give any quarter.
Preservation of as much data and cultural heritage now stands as one of many objectives during the evacuation. Hecto-Commander Lafiel is one personally tasked to preserve the memorial stone pillars, which bear the names of all persons who have given their lives in service to the Empire. This, combined with Dusanyu's mammoth endeavor of moving civilians mixed in with his fleets manages to succeed. Soon though, the enemy begins pouring in once more through the sord into Abriel star system. By this time though, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Fleets Phoenix had escaped with the 4th, 5th, and 6th trailing. No word, no ship, and no status came from the Guard. Their last stand had succeeded, how ever horrifying it may be that now the capital was about to be completely relinquished to the enemy.
The battle was nearly over, and no reason remained to attempt to halt the enemy. Abriel Dusanyu made a mad dash towards Sotoryuru. His fleets and the civilians began taking fire. The Alliance only had a handful of ships able to catch up and harass him during the retreat. As forced moved to occupy the capital, Dusanyu's trailing fleets managed to fight their way through the trace enemy elements ahead. He escaped with his force relatively intact, having soaked only light casualties during the evacuation phase of the battle.
This operation, despite the early setback after the kamikaze assault by the eight mobile fortresses, had been a critical tactical Alliance victory. It may not be known whether or not the Alliance had the intention of targeting political officers and civilians as Spoor had somewhat done following the Battle of Sufagnoff. The alternative objective potentially of the alliance was to capture several Abh VIPs, the Empress if they were lucky, and compel the Empire to negotiate a favorable peace.
Empress Ramaj had no intention of surrender or negotiation, and both Abh and Alliance sources document well the stand she took with her fleet, laying down her life as the third Empress or Emperor to be killed in the line of duty. In addition, two former sovereigns had been killed; Abriel Lameimar and Abriel Dusuum.
Strategically, while the Abh Empire had been bloodied, the Alliance had only gained a minor advantage in terms of initiative. The Alliance now had a handful of difficult options ahead, first to consolidate their force and enforce an occupation of Lakfakalle, thus preparing for a siege. Second, to attempt to pursue as rapidly as possible to try to destroy Dusanyu's force in piecemeal. Third, abandon the capital and simply begin waging total war behind Abh lines and force the Empire to continue to answer their attacks; refusing to surrender the initiative.
Dusanyu commanding 6 lightly damaged fleets, but mixed in with civilian and political convoys could not hope to turn around and put the capital under attack or attempt to bottle the enemy up within system Abriel. He'd need Spoor's 7th Fleet to prevent further loss of life.
The key impact of this battle revealed that Abh military intelligence desperately needed reform. In one stroke, the War now teetered on the brink completely reversing Abh victory within 24 hours. Additionally, the failure to investigate or advise the Empress fully against Invasion Plan No. 3 resulted in her death and several Abh political officers.
Finally, the Alliance now had a huge morale boost, an Alliance fleet operating in the Abh rear, and an Abh fleet surrounded by Hania forces. This would serve as the impetuous to launch new offensives to attempt to retake territories the Alliance lost during Operations Twin Thorns and Snow Crystal.