Part 18: The Lonely Wanderer
Here's our assault crew. One of the transports is going to be dedicated to civvy units, i.e. a couple of colony ships, rebuilders and engineers. We'll also pick up some cloaker starships along the way. Those should allow us to establish a foothold once we capture the planet. In addition we're taking along a hacker, as our intel suggests that we'll need to hack the AI's firewalls to prevent them from destroying the beacon outright.
The remaining nine transports are for 1,800 ships worth of firepower.
As the transports enter the staging area they notice the cookie monster has come calling. Luckily they're cloaked and hence safe, but he appears to be on his way to Savkaeal. All ships on Savkaeal are told to retreat and the intra-galactic warp gates shut down to prevent any unfortunate losses.
Location: Nomad One
Transports have arrived at Nomad One but run into a tachyon sentinel which decloaks them. Under fire one pops and spills out its load of ships. Looks like the battle is on.
The fleet is bouncing around Nomad One, taking out guardpost clusters. Drone spawners are keeping well away from enemy ships and heading towards the edge of the gravity well, where the civilian vessels are sitting under cloaker cover.
As the last of the guardposts go down we've lost about 600 ships and a 7,000 ship laser gatling reprisal is hitting Miknei. The botnet has that one covered. The hacker hops out of the transport and starts a beacon hack going, at a cost of 100 HaP. We need to defend this position for five minutes, but we're well out of supply so won't be able to build a turret beach-head.
With just under four minutes remaining on the hack the unfortunate but inevitable occurs and Special Forces ships start streaming into the planet. However there's an interesting quirk here - special forces don't move in a coherent fleet. Instead each ship advances according to its own speed, which means they tend to trickle into a planet. For instance the riot control ships are the latest to arrive, but we've already fought some faster fighters which got here first.
The wormhole links on the nomad planet have just updated we're floating further and further away from friendly space. However this also breaks the routing of the remaining special forces, who were previously coming via Varslovral. So now the rest of the special forces have to find another way here, allowing us to defeat them in detail.
Oh and we were also kind of lucky that these two new, unscouted planets don't have raid engines or anything on them.
Special forces have been dealt with, but it looks like the AI is getting antsy and is starting to send hacking response waves to Nomad One. The fighters shouldn't be a problem, but the snipers are somewhat worrisome with their infinite range. Especially if the AI gets the bright idea of tachyon blasting the planet...
I just had to write that, didn't I. Literally, I thought of the worst thing that could happen and three seconds after I unpaused the game they did it. Luckily the snipers don't seem too interested in the hacker and are rapidly dispersed.
Two minutes left on the hack. Given the heavy losses among our regular fleet ships a second tranche of assault transports has arrived with reinforcements, along with the champion and his sidekicks. One of the transports also has a few dozen scouts so we can see what's on these new planets next to us. One has a dire guardian lair, one a fab, but nothing we need to be immediately worried about.
The 2,500 cloaked ship reprisal to Durxuha, however? That's probably something to be worried about. You can't shoot what you can't see, and the Mil II command station only has 20,000 tachyon range. Seeing as eyebots can shoot through forcefields, that's not really enough to kill all 2,500 of them before they do some real damage. Still, with the botty on hand...
Location: Nomad One
Hacking is complete on Nomad One, and the fleet gleefully wipe out the munitions boosting command station. Then the post-hacking response hits, apparently at almost the exact same time as the remaining special forces work out how to get to us. That screenshot has almost 2,000 ships on the planet, along with another 4,500 in carriers. Our fleet is going to melt against that.
Assault transports to the rescue. Everyone is told to get in, lay low, and wait for the AI to go away again. But even with some quick microing we take absolutely devastating losses.
I think we escaped with a total of less than 150 combat capable ships. We've gone from 180,000 spare energy right back up to 600,000. Including the reinforcement wave half way through, this means that we've lost about 2,600 ships. Thankfully most of them died to the fleet blob only after the command station went down, so we didn't trigger reprisal level two or three. Reprisal levels are quadratic, so reprisal 2 is 2^2 (4x as large) and reprisal 3 2^3 (8 times as large). Given that reprisal level one alone is 8,000 laser gatlings...
As the last enemy ship leaves the planet, constructors galaxy wide are paused and our command station comes online. We need defences here, stat. We have no idea where a new wormhole is going to spawn when the planet moves on, and a real dearth of forcefields at the moment.
Well, isn't that something. Looks like we've just found a way to take out one of the AI homeworlds without having to deal with those pesky core guardposts, or CPA posts, or raid engines crash a freakin' planet into it!
Next time, on AI War: Not crashing a freakin' planet into it!