|The following information refers to the Solaris universe and is therefore not canon for the FreeSpace continuity.|
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Solaris - Mission 8: Escalation
Description: Hope dies as the Longview manages a hard-fought victory. An Alban Naval Intelligence agent makes contact.
Created: September 24th, 2018
Released: June 9th, 2019
Alban Naval Intelligence is a powerful branch of His Majesty's Navy, though much of their operations carry a shroud of secrecy. Ross is contacted by "Red Abbey", an ANI intel officer in Morik who has been monitoring the situation. ANI's primary goal in Federation space was to track a Federation weapons project, code-named Solaris. It is believed that the weapon used in Morik was an offshoot of Federation data, stolen by Admiral Romanowska from a Federation base in Mira. Red Abbey also shares intel on the entire Federation defensive line, implying that Morik wasn't the only system that's fallen to the Combine. Ross is recruited to help bring the data cache to ANI.
Lancaster's hopes of reinforcements crumble with the arrival of the FNS Osiris, Rear Admiral Mirelle Colvin's fleet carrier. Colvin was the commander of a powerful task group sent to garrison the border systems of Shen Kuo and Bast. If she had arrived alone, then it is likely the task group was lost. The Osiris is being pursued by the dreadnought CS Vindicator, and Romanowska has also deployed the battlecruiser Veritas and cruiser Insolent to trap the carrier. Lancaster gives the order for Longview to move out and assist.
Ross and McKearney are assigned Phantom advanced fighters, equipped with a similar cloaking system used on Combine stealth fighters. They also carry a bank of heavy cannons, making them ideal for setting up ambushes on capital ship turrets. However, they aren't as nimble as the Hunters and rely more heavily on their cloaks to escape dogfights.
The player loadout is locked to Phantom stealth fighters with one bank of Maxims and one bank of Gattlers. However, this is one of the most versatile loadouts the player will receive in Solaris, especially given the presence of the cloaking device. Activating the cloak in battle instantly makes the player stealthy, which is useful if the player comes under heavy fire. Though classed as a fighter, think of the Phantom as a stealth striker with half the cannon capacity dedicated to the Maxim antifighter cannon instead.
As Alpha wing launch from Longview, the Osiris is visible ahead sandwiched between the Vindicator to the rear and the Veritas/Insolent group ahead. The Insolent has already launched a wing of interceptors and strikers to attack the carrier. FNS Osiris has spent her fighter strength in the retreat - it is up to the Longview pilots to protect the carrier. Admiral Colvin authorises the use of nuclear weapons in this engagement and readies a pair of bombers to attack the battlecruiser Veritas.
The interceptors are probably the greatest threat to Colvin's bombers, but the fighter screen should keep them distracted long enough for Pi wing made up of two B-34 "Hammerhead" heavy bombers armed with Aurora nuclear missiles. If both bombers survive to release their payload, the missile swarm saturates the defenses of the battlecruiser, destroying her outright. McKearney curses the ship, vowing "That's for the Artemis."
The way forward is clear, but Colvin has no intention of running. She orders a strike on the dorsal point defense turrets of the dreadnought Vindicator while Osiris prepares a nuclear missile salvo. Ross and McKearney are best suited for this and cloak up to begin their attack run.
The point defenses are highlighted to aid targeting, but the player should be careful when attacking them. Due to proximity to the heavy mass cannons and nuclear launcher, attack angles can be limited with the player likely needing to slow down to aim. Judicious use of the cloak while setting up firing positions is recommended. As the Vindicator moves into missile range she launches Eos missiles, which need intercepting as a priority.
When the CIWS turrets are destroyed, Osiris launches her own salvo of nuclear missiles. It is possible for the Insolent to still be in the field, positioned between the Osiris and Vindicator. If still intact, her ventral point defense cannons can easily shoot down the Aurora missiles. Even if this happens, the Osiris can still launch another pair of nuclear bombers at the dreadnought, which are enough to bring the ship down. However, the extra time means the Vindicator will enter mass driver range, with the Osiris sustaining heavy damage from the dreadnought's main guns. If the player takes too long taking out the CIWS turrets, Colvin ends up authorising the Aurora and bomber launches to take their chances.
With the destruction of the Vindicator the Insolent retreats and the area is clear. Colvin gets a force assessment from Lancaster, and determines that there are insufficient forces to hold the front line. The Combine fleets bypassed Morik, hitting Shen Kuo and Bast with full force and overwhelming the Federation garrison forces. Lancaster gives the coordinates of a hidden staging area, but the Osiris is limping - her hyperspace impeller was damaged during the engagement. Lancaster calls in a repair transport but restoring the impeller will take time. Osiris is vulnerable.
Ross and McKearney are exhausted. They've barely had enough time to process the loss of the Artemis before being pushed into one crisis after another. The cocktail is holding them together, but only just. Still, McKearney wouldn't have it any other way - she recalls the dreariness of flying on HMS Prince of Cambria back home. Commonwealth dreadnoughts seem impressive, until you actually serve on one. Ross feels the same - he wanted to see some actual combat after years in a backwater station. That being said, this was more than he expected. McKearney replies this was more than anyone expected.
The Imperatrix arrives soon after - Romanowska wants to finish off Osiris personally. Longview's wings spring to action as Romanowska launches nuclear attacks on Osiris. A wing of Retaliator bombers launch with a heavy fighter escort, but Ross and McKearney are able to get into position under cloak to ambush them.
Osiris engineers repair the hyperdrive and the carrier retreats to hyperspace. Lancaster recalls all fighter patrols and prepares Longview to jump. The mission is successful.
Notable ships present
- FNS Osiris - Hyperion-class fleet carrier
- FNS Longview - Independence-class carrier
- CS Imperatrix - Executrix-class carrier
- CS Vindicator - Invictus-class dreadnought
- CS Veritas - Archon-class battlecruiser
- CS Insolent - Praetor-class cruiser
- Federation victory.
- Destruction of Vindicator dreadnought.
- There is a bonus objective for keeping the Osiris hull above 75% in the initial engagement with the dreadnought.
- Though the player flies a stealth fighter in this mission, Escalation doesn't fit the criteria of a "stealth" mission in the classic FreeSpace 2 sense. Like the Ainsarii in Blue Planet, the Phantom is a hard-hitting assassin that uses stealth to set up attacks and vanish.
- Firing cannons is an efficient way to decloak once the player has positioned themselves.
- Solaris is revealed to be the code name for the Federation's weapons project. It's unknown whether this is also the name for the Combine's weapon used in Morik.