Part 31: Exodus
We're back on the Aquitane, so the old hangar/menu screen is back. I know this is minor but I really like the little touches.
The command briefing from Admiral Petrarch is not all good news. Yes, you've been given command of the 70th Blue Lions, one of the elite squadrons on board Aquitane, but the rest of the news is pretty grim:
Command Briefing for Exodus Video / Mirror (21,155KB)
Command Briefing for Exodus Audio / Mirror (3149KB)
Petrarch also officially unveils and unlocks for access (though we've already had a chance to use them) the Erinyes heavy fighter, the UD-8 Kayser main gun, and the GTM-11 Infyrno. (Somewhat strangely, the Infyrno was also introduced during the briefing for Endgame, but here it's more "officially" unveiled, though I'm at a loss as to why it is twice.)
Welcome back to the Aquitaine. Because of your outstanding service to the Alliance, the GTVA has granted you command of your own elite fighter squadron, the 70th Blue Lions. This is quite an honor, pilot. You'll receive all your briefings directly from quarterdeck.
As squadron leader of the Blue Lions, you will be granted the highest priority in ship and weapon selection, but choose your ordnance carefully. Review the techroom database if you have any questions.
Nine Sathanas juggernauts have now entered the Capella system, and Intelligence has sighted even more in the nebula, converging on the jump node to Terran-Vasudan space.
We are on the threshold of a new apocalypse. Though the juggernauts have not engaged our warships, they have set course for the Capella star. We can only speculate about their intentions, but this development cannot bode well for the Alliance.
Allied Command is committed to evacuating all non-essential personnel. A contingency plan is in the works to hold the Shivans here, in Capella, and prevent the expansion of the Shivan incursion to other systems of the GTVA.
The 70th Blue Lions will provide the fighter cover needed to get our convoys out of the system. Millions of lives are at stake here, pilot. And if we fail, all our worlds and systems will be in jeopardy.
Exodus Briefing Video / Mirror (9140KB)
Exodus Briefing Audio / Mirror (1513.5KB)
(Side note. The 53rd? Hammerheads! I remember those guys.)
As we speak, convoys of transports, freighters, and medical ships are heading for the jump nodes to Vega and Epsilon Pegasi. The evacuation of civilian personnel proceeds on schedule, but the enemy offensive has intensified. We have blockaded the Gamma Draconis node, though Shivan forces are swarming into the system.
The 53rd will relieve the 309th at the Gamma Draconis node, and we'll deploy the 19th to hold down the fort at 3rd Fleet Headquarters as we evacuate non-essential personnel. Command needs a closer look at the Juggernauts, so we'll be sending in the 91st. 70th Blue Lions will be sortied to the Epsilon Pegasi node.
Blue Lions, your mission is to escort a four-ship convoy to Epsilon Pegasi. The group consists of civilian transports Lambda 1 and 2, GTFr Sulla, and the medical ship GTM Vesalius. All have minimal armaments and vulnerable hull plating. GVCv Nebtuu leads the escort.
At 1415 hours, the Shivan corvette Abraxis and a wing of Manticore fighters attacked the convoy. The Nebtuu called for assistance, so you're going in. Theta wing will stand by to reinforce your position. Call them in at your discretion. Good luck, pilots. The people of Capella are counting on you.
Although it wasn't noted in the briefing, the second SOC loop unlocked the GTF Ares heavy assault fighter. The Ares is pretty much tailor-made for the last few missions of the Freespace 2 campaign; I'll be using it over the Erinyes in this mission and I'll explain why - secondary capacity. The Erinyes, at maximum loadout, carries eleven Trebuchet missiles. The Ares carries twenty-four, and although the eight guns of the Erinyes are nice, the Ares has six and with Kaysers that's arguably a boon, since it lets you fire longer before running your caapcitors out. Furthermore, when faced with a mass bomber assault, engaging at five kilometers with Trebuchets is critical if you want to intercept them before they blow your convoy apart with mass Cyclops fire, and the Erinyes simply doesn't have the payload to do it. I like the Erinyes, don't get me wrong, but the Ares is by far my favorite ship in the game short of the SF Mara, which is sort of cheating as a choice.
The Ares is basically a Hercules Mark III - the visual similarities are striking, but the Ares is tougher, has stronger shields, carries more secondary weapons, has six instead of four primary guns, and is only a touch slower. It handles like a brick though, even worse than the Herc II. Dogfighting against Dragons? Not ideal. Destroying wave upon wave of Nahema or Seraphim bombers? Ideal. I'll give you one guess as to what we'll be facing in the next mission. Hint: I've loaded myself and my wingmen out with full UD-8 and Trebuchet loadouts.
Command: Alpha wing, you have your orders. Prioritize enemy bombers!
The mission starts with the Nebtuu facing off against the Shivan corvette. I help out by putting a pair of Trebuchets into the chin beam gun of the Moloch corvette, then start following orders and hitting bombers. You get about sixteen seconds to take out the main gun of the Abraxis, though it's not required per se, it's reccomended - the Nebtuu has pretty low hull strength and could fall before it wipes out the Moloch.
The Nebtuu runs her forward beam guns in short, slashing bursts, firing over and over to quickly take down the Abraxis.
Nebtuu: We have destroyed the Abraxis, but the Shivans will not relent!
Alpha 2: Maintain your escort of the transports. The 70th Blue Lions are here to assist.
(Sidenote: The two triggers for the Nebtuu's line and then Alpha 2's line, are, respectively "Hey we are almost dead" and "Oh so sorry to hear that." Someone was having a little fun naming these.)
By the time the Nebtuu takes out the Abraxis, I've already destroyed the first wave of Nahema bombers, only to see a wing of Seraphim bombers - Virgo - jump in very close to the Nebtuu.
Now I know I've shown you guys Seraphim before but one thing you have to remember is they are ASTONISHINGLY hard to kill. Dual Trebuchets will hurt them but not kill them; these guys have 1600 shield points and 500 hull points; for comparison the Ursa, the toughest bomber in the GTVA arsenal, has similar hull but only 50% of the shields. Seraphims also mount an absurd number of frontal guns - eleven - as well as 4 secondary payload bays. They are, to say the least, difficult to kill quickly.
I bring this up because these three bombers immediately aim and fire their main guns at the corvette, battering it with over thirty guns, and then even as I desperately kill one of them with a point-blank Trebuchet shot into a weak spot in their shields I opened with my Kaysers, the remaining two bombers fire a total of four Cyclops torpedoes right into the Nebtuu.
Despite everything, the Nebtuu takes four shots - in its already damaged state, the hammerblow of four simultaneous impacts cracks the corvette apart and it blows up in our faces.
Nebtuu: We die for nothing if we do not win the day. Avenge us!
Command: Alpha, the Nebtuu is gone. All allied warships are currently engaged. You're on your own out there.
Three Ares fighters against a lot of pissed off Shivans. If it were anyone but the 70th Blue Lions, this'd be unfair.
Our convoy to protect consists of the Sulla, a Triton transport, two Argo transports, Lambdas 1 and 2, and a GTM Hippocrates medical ship, the Vesalius. The medical ship is actually pretty clever - the design (a giant flying picture frame, basically) means individual sections can be quarantined quickly in case of medical problems on-board. Even better, it has an anti-fighter beam (just one, alas) stuck somewhere on the hull - it's not going to stand up to any real punishment (or any punishment at all really) but it'll give a couple nasty pokes in the eye before it goes down.
This is part of our convoy - you can see me flying in the middle of the Hippocrates, one of the Argo transports behind it (the perspective looks odd; it's not clipping through, trust me - it's behind the Hippocrates). The Sulla is a few hundred meters to the front of the convoy and this picture is taken from (more or less) the perspective of the last Argo transport looking to its left.
The Shivans are sending constant waves of Nahema bombers and Manticore fighters at you. Then they decide to cap it off with a Cain-class cruiser, its main gun aimed directly at your convoy (Where have we seen this mechanic used before? :p ).
Now here's the tricky thing, and why I love that the Ares is a Trebuchet missile boat. If you rush towards the Gibborim - it is after all eight kilometers away - the Nahemas and Manticores will trash your convoy. If you ignore the Gibborim, its beam gun will trash your convoy. The trick is to do both at once.
Paired Trebuchets at range will smack down a Nahema; what you should do is concentrate on killing as many Nahemas and Manticores as possible while watching the distance indicator to the Gibborim. Watch out for another sneak play by a wing of Seraphim bombers - this time you can intercept the shots at the very last second. Remember way back, you know, like a month and a half ago, when I praised the B key for targeting bombs and bombers? Yeah.
When you and the convoy get within five kilometers of the Gibborim, lock on a pair of Trebuchets to the front beam gun and take it out. Rearm and keep hitting it if need be (you may have to pause to smack down a bomber wing again) and then take out its rear-mounted antifighter beam. Basically, Trebuchets give you the range advantage on everything else in this scenario, so you can exploit that to maximum effect and not have to call in for reinforcements. Still, you're trying to juggle disarming and destroying a Shivan cruiser, repeated and constant Shivan bomber assault, and repeated Manticore fighter support. It's not exactly easy, but once you take out the Gibborim, you've definitely passed the hump of the mission. Take out the remaining Shivans, rearm when you can (I had to do at least one rearm under fire; don't worry, the rearm ships are tough and probably won't explode) and during any lulls, even if you've only shot two missiles.
Once you've pulled the Gibborim's fangs, it's easy pickings for you and your wingmen. Pound it into scrap.
After that, it's pretty simple. Although the Shivans continue to send in bomber and fighter wings, they don't swarm you and the intervals are pretty long - it's really a matter of watching your convoy float towards the node and jump out in sequence; the Sulla first, Lambda 1, then Lambda 2, and lastly the Vesalius.
That's it. Command orders us home - all three ships in my wing, I might add, present and accounted for. The Ares is tougher than you are!
Oh and I got a Meritorious Unit Commendation.