Her Finest Hour

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The following information has not been confirmed by Volition
and is therefore not canon for the FreeSpace universe.


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MISSION 21
ACT 3, MISSION 05

Fighter squadron: Falcata Wing, Fedayeen

Description: Facing an opportunity to retake Neptune, Laporte must lead the Third Fleet in an attack against the GTD Carthage battlegroup.


Background

After making peace with her choices at the Kostadin Cell habitat, Laporte starts thinking about Admiral Steele. He is ruthless and brilliant, but his cunning is also a weakness; he lays very intricate traps with razor-thin margins for error, and his subordinates do not necessarily share his insight into the Big Picture or his strategies. Thus, they do not have the same level of confidence in them that he does. If pushed at the right spot, his plans will collapse.

Laporte and Thorn share the same conclusion at his vulnerability: Rear Admiral Anita Lopez, commander of the GTD Carthage. Steele's use of her battlegroup in the trap at Saturn that killed the Wargods eliminated almost all of her air wing's fighters, destroyed most of her cruiser escorts, critically damaged her ship, and, worst of all for her, killed thousands of personnel who had been under her command for years. In the wake of this, Lopez must be harboring doubts about her superior's choice of tactics. Being a professional, however, she will follow orders despite her doubts unless stressed to the extreme. In addition, she will not fall for a second attempt to exploit her tendency to protect those under her command. To get her to break with Steele's plans will require planning and opportunity.

Conveniently, that opportunity has arrived. In order to avoid strategic overextension during his buildup for the invasion of Earth, Steele is pulling his forces out of Neptune, concentrating them at Jupiter. The Carthage and her battlegroup has been tasked with covering the evacuation and ordering the destruction of their installation once the evacuation is complete. Doubtless she has orders to blow the station and pull out if she can't hold off the attackers; however, with sufficient pressure, she might decide to ignore those orders and stay until the evacuation is finished.

Mission-killing the Carthage battlegroup, even while it's understrength, will require a fleet action. The Fedayeen has convinced Admiral Calder of Third Fleet to undertake the operation, but he wants Laporte as his tactical liaison. This is agreed to, and Laporte, breveted to the rank of Captain, is placed in tactical command of Third Fleet's assets in the attack. That attack is now underway; Admiral Calder has committed all of his fleet's assets, save for the UED Toutatis herself, to the field. The frigate Serenity, the cruisers Segura and Tripoli, and the AWACS ship Anansi have committed to close action, and are taking heavy losses; meanwhile, the Carthage with her Mjolnir-class RBCs and the artillery frigates Vikrant and Toreador have begun an artillery duel.

The key asset in this battle will be the Toutatis air wing, held in reserve by Admiral Calder for the final attack run on the Carthage; however, he will not release the fighters until he has confidence they won't be shredded immediately by the enemy. To this end, Laporte, Falcata wing, and the rest of Third Fleet must build eliminate Tev assets before calling in the final strike. There is a time limit; the Carthage will finish the evacuation and jump away in 13 minutes.

During the final strike, the Carthage must be disabled, or she will jump away after taking heavy damage. Mission-killing the Carthage, either through destruction or capture, is the priority; dealing with all other ships are secondary. Once the Carthage is dealt with, transports with UEF marines will board the station. The Hammer of Light has disabled the station's self-destruct charges and given the marines a nerve gas that will corrode Tev suit seals and render the defenders unconscious or dead. With the defenders decimated, the marines will secure the station for Third Fleet's use in harrassing the Delta Serpentis subspace node.

Walkthrough

This mission has two phases:

  1. Destroy or disable enough Tev assets to gain reinforcement points, and
  2. Use the reinforcements to attack the Carthage and her battlegroup.

The artillery frigates can be switched between free fire and target designation mode; use the 1 key to switch between modes, and the 2 key to designate targets while in target designation mode. You can designate more than one target at a time, and the frigates will target them as the opportunity arises. There are some assets, like the AWACS ships, that they won't be able to target.

When you're ready to commit to attacking the Carthage, you can select Declare The Attack from the Reinforcements menu to release the fighters to you and begin the second phase of the mission; after Phase 2 begins, you gain no more reinforcement points, and you can select fighter wings to jump in using the Reinforcements menu as normal.

Your HUD will show the status of the artillery frigates, the estimated departure time of the Carthage, how many reinforcement points you have, and how many units are on station.

Gaining Reinforcements

To gain reinforcement points, you must make conditions favorable for a fighter strike on the Carthage. The following are the things you can do to make that happen:

  • Destroy the two Mjolnirs flanking the Carthage. (2 points each)
    • This will also give the artillery frigates the upper hand in the artillery duel.
  • Destroy or disarm the corvettes Iolanthe, Deianira, and Radhanite. (4 points each)
  • Scan one of the subsystems (except Navigation) on the Iolanthe and Deianira to upload a virus that will disable their weapons. (2 points each)
  • Destroy the minelayers McAuliffe and Gallant. (3 points each)
    • Destroying the minelayers will keep them from deploying more sentry guns, making torpedo runs more effective.
  • Ensure the escape of the UEFg Serenity. (2 points)
  • Destroy the radar dishes on the Carthage. (no points)
    • This will degrade the AI class of the sentry net.
  • Destroy the various other subsystems on the Carthage. (1 point each)
    • Sensors, Weapons, Comms, and Navigation are the subsystems you need to hit.
  • Destroy the four tankers the Radhanite is protecting. (1 point each)
  • Upload a virus into the sentry net by scanning the Sensors, Weapons, and Communications subsystems on Neptune HQ. (6 points)
    • This will cause most sentries to self-destruct.
  • Destroy or disable the radomes of the AWACS ships Beholder and Shrievality. (5 points each)
    • This will allow the stealth ships to move freely around the battle space, as well as allow the artillery frigates to bring their main guns to bear on the enemy.
  • Destroy Pisces wing of Aurora fighters. (no points)
    • This will allow the stealth ships to move freely around the battle space.

Being within 2000 meters of the AWACS or in the line of sight of Pisces will cause you to lose your stealth. In addition, firing a weapon will break your stealth in any circumstance until you have ceased fire for five seconds. Breaking stealth near a warship is a quick way to get killed, especially if the sentry net is still fully functional.

One way to play this out: Have Falcata wing cover the Serenity while slaving the artillery and having them take out the Radhanite, the tankers, and the minelayers. Once the Serenity is safe, have Falcata banzai the AWACS assets, including Pisces wing. After the enemy's eyes are poked out, go and infect the corvettes while assigning Falcata to destroy the Mjolnirs. After you infect the corvettes, burn over to the station to take down the sentry net; if Falcata's finished with the Mjolnirs, send them to deal with the radar dishes on the Carthage. Once the sentry net is down, set your artillery to free fire, pull back yourself Falcata to the frigates, and call in the final strike; you should have 30-40 points available, with about five minutes on the clock.

Carthage Delenda Est (redux)

Once you declare the attack, you will have the option to call in strikecraft to attack the Carthage by using the Reinforcements menu; this works much the same as it did during the strike on the GTCv Medea in Aristeia, except now you have the entire Toutatis air wing to choose from. Here are the strike elements you can choose from:

  • Rho Interceptors (1 point)
    • Good for TARCAP (strike wing escort) and light anti-subsystem work.
  • Kappa/Lambda Anti-Turret (2 wings, 2 points each)
    • What it says on the tin. Also good for disabling the Carthage.
  • Nu Gunships (3 points)
    • Versatile heavy fighters armed with bombs, good for long range disabling and anti capital work.
  • Chi/Phi Strike Bombers (2 wings, 5 points each)
  • Xi Saturation Gunships (3 points)
    • Same as Nu, but armed with Warhammers instead. Good for disabling and point defense saturation.
  • Balisong Stealth (4 points)
    • Another Fedayeen wing of the ships you're flying right now. Good for stealth missions.
  • Tau Gunboats (5 points)
    • Good for anti-capital strikes, but vulnerable to beam fire.

Don't forget to utilize the artillery frigates as well, if you still have them.

The primary goal is to first disable, then mission-kill the Carthage; dealing with other ships is secondary. Casualties will count in this and future missions, so take care with your strike wings; kill turrets on the ships first, then send in the heavy stuff to finish them off. If needed, make sure the skies are clear of enemy fighters and pull back (or pull out) damaged strike wings. If you stalled for too long, you may get an option to call in the Toutatis. If you wish to do so, make sure the Carthage is disabled.

When the Carthage drops below 10% or so, Admiral Lopez will surrender. You can either accept her surrender...or not. If you do, the Carthage stays behind while the corvettes (if they're still alive) jump out; if you don't, you commence fire until all ships are destroyed. Either way, attention quickly moves toward the station, which is refusing to surrender. Laporte decides to move the capture teams aboard and have them use the HoL nerve gas on the station personnel. After some dialogue, you can either jump away or catch a bit more chatter as the transports dock and start the capture operation.

Notes

  • The emblem on the UEFg Serenity is the same as the one on Malcolm Reynolds' ship Serenity in the movie "Serenity", set in the Firefly universe.
  • One of the cargo containers near Neptune Station has "cutlery (spoons)" as its cargo. This is a reference to Vassago's Dirge, which had secret, collectible spoons in almost every mission.

Gallery

Total number of forces

Forces involved
Belligerents
Ships
Strikecraft
  • 10 UEF Ainsarii
    • Falcata 1
      • Laporte
    • Falcata 2
      • Kovacs
    • Falcata 3
      • Falconer
    • Falcata 4
      • Vidaura
    • Balisong (6) (*)
  • 12 UEF Uriel
    • Saturation Xi (6) (*)
    • Gunship Nu (6) (*)
  • 6 UEF Izra'il
    • Omega Anti-Turret (6) (*)
  • 8 UEB Durga
    • Strike Chi (4) (*)
    • Strike Phi (4) (*)
  • 18 UEF Kentauroi
    • Intercept Rho (9) (*)
    • Anti-Turret Kappa (6) (*)
    • Anti-Turret Lambda (3) (*)
Casualties

($) Destroyed prior to mission start
(#) Departed prior to mission start
(*) May not appear in mission

Veteran Comments

Read the Veteran Comments policy before editing this section.


The whole mission is an optimization sandbox, set besides the shores of big blue Neptune. For veterans, it becomes a tightrope walk of execution against the clock. The challenge is deciding the execution order leading to the climax: the massive Toutatis air wing warp-in. What's the fastest, most thorough, or most spaceframe-thrifty way?


The tools become familiar toys. You must abuse the Ainsarii's glide mode. At the start, hit max burners, then glide to close the distance to the Mjolnirs. Shrike is better than the Grimler due to the extreme range. Just equip the ammo pack and abuse your support ship while softening the Carthage's starboard side. For a one-hit dual-Shrike knockout of the AWACS domes, you must launch them at least 60 degrees above their horizontal. A top down snipe is best, but the positioning moves you far from the slow support ship.


The ultimate metric is the number of the air wing spaceframes lost. Call in just enough, not all. Once disabled, order them to depart, while the artillery whittles down the Carthage. However, you won't have time/missiles to disarm the Carthage's port-side Big Green Beams (closer to Neptune HQ station). So Custos gunboats will be battered by them, and they cannot depart!


When starting out, losing 20-30 spaceframes is expected on Medium difficulty. A veteran can lose less than 10 spaceframes on a good run (darn right it was an Excellent command performance!). By then, 10+ lost is a sign of error. You've called in too much, or you have not defanged the Carthage belly/destroyed the 2 Deimos. The holy grail is zero spaceframes lost, if luck helps you in distracting the Tev fighters.


For giggles, see how low you can fail. Try to get the UED Toutatis to jump in (to save your sorry butt), and then get it destroyed.