"Skunks are now entering maximum engagement range of the outer shell," reported the First Fortress Operations Officer. The operations centre of Her Majesty's Fortress 2786 was usually a pretty relaxed place, by Federal Navy standards. Not much happened in the Neu Norwegen-system. The most exciting things in the last months had been a division of Ships of the Line passing through and the arrival of Light Cruiser Division No. 603 for the final exam phase of the Navy's Cruiser Course.

But in the past few days, ever since the arrival of the unidentified ships, what had once been a relatively relaxed assignment at the outer edges of Federation territory had transformed into a very interesting situation.

"Keep monitoring them 1FEO," said the Commandant and looked at his screen. His hands flew over the keyboard. A second later he was connected with the radio room. "Here commandant, any kind of response yet?"

"Nothing," answered the Communications Officer. The Commandant closed the connection and turned to the tactical map display. He watched as seven yellow squares, unidentified contacts, moved through the outer shell of the orbital defense network, towards the twelve orbital fortress of which his was one.

He did not worry about the strength of the outer defense or the fortresses themselves. Each of them was as heavily armed as half a squadron of Ships of the Line, with more armour and larger magazine capacity. The outer defenses were mostly missile pods, carrying long and medium range anti-ship missiles. Nothing short of a small fleet could penetrate these defenses.

"Signal from the Titan. She is moving to meet the skunks," interrupted the 1FEO. He acknowledged it with a nod. On the display, he could now see the Titan maneuvering in its relatively fixed station-keeping position near Neu Akershus' primary space port. The Ship of the Line had arrived together with Light Cruiser Division No. 603, and had been scheduled to leave New Akershus in a few days to meet the cruisers in a mock engagement.

The Titan's massive engines began their work. In short intervals coilguns propelled small pellets of frozen fuel into the void, followed by a laser igniting them. The plasma pushed against the magnetic fields generated at the ship's aft, propelling the two million ton vessel forwards. Slowly the acceleration increased, until it reached two gee. She slid away from the port and towards the skunks.

She did not come far, only just leaving orbit, before energy beams ripped into her sides. Her armour held, its thick layers designed to withstand substantial beatings, though it began to glow in a bright yellow in some places. She returned fire without waiting. Beams of focused gamma-rays quickly covered the distance between herself and her attackers. Her first target, a ship not much larger than a typical Federal Navy destroyer, was physically pushed as the energy transfer from the gamma-ray lasers blew up the outer layers of her armour. It took less than a second before the beams had gone through the armour entirely, and the ship was soon left as nothing more than an empty hull, drifting in the void.

Now, the fortresses reacted, firing their own energy-artillery. The Titan's gamma-ray beams were joined by those of the fortresses. High-energy beams were flying back and forth, cutting through armour at both sides. Missiles left their tubes, firing their drives and accelerating at forces high enough to rip most living beings apart.

The automated outer defenses triggered, firing their own missiles, sending a swarm coming from all sides.

The whole affair was over in only a few minutes, the unknown vessels being ripped apart by nuclear shaped-charges and beam guns, while returning fire of their own. At the end, eleven fortresses were standing, with over a thousand missiles less in their magazines, and the seven enemy ships nought by molten droplets and atoms. The Titan did not fare much better, having been split in three under the combined onslaught of the enemy vessels and their own missiles. Some of her over a thousand strong crew had managed to escape, but most had been lost to the coldness of space and heat of high-energy particles.

"Send out the boats to gather survivors from the Titan," ordered the Admiral, Neu Norwegen System Defense Fleet. "And send a message to the Commander-in-Chief of IV Naval Defense District. Neu Norwegen is under attack and we need immediate reinforcements."

His staff officers got to work, while the Admiral watched the strategic display in the flag operations centre onboard HM F 2786. Opposite to the Commandant's tactical display showing only the planet and its orbit, the Admiral's display showed him the entire system, with the exception of New Norway B and its lone orbiting planet. The red dwarf was not relevant for this, and while the Navy had some sensor platforms in that far away part of the system, nothing of relevance had happened there for over twenty years.

He watched a stream of civilian vessels, mostly unaware of what had happened, travelling back and forth between the stellar bridge transfer point near New Norway A and the orbit of New Akershus. He turned to his Staff Operations Officer.

"We need to get these people out of here, ASAP."

"More skunks incoming, twenty-four of them. ETA is eight days," said the 1FEO.

"Anything about their size?"

"Six of them have Albert-sized signatures, no Bernhard or Cäsar amongst them," he said, referring to the names given to the enemy vessels that had been destroyed not so long ago. "Computer has designed twelve of them as David and six as Emil. David appears around half the size of a 4004. Double an 4003."

"That is… unfortunate," said the Commandant. The Titan had been a Class 4003 Ship of the Line. "Inform the Admiral."

The twenty-four vessels had been arranged into a typical combat formation. Davids, by now classified as Ships of the Line, had formed a double-stacked wall of battle, with two lines of six above one another, presenting their broadsides. The Emils had taken positions before and behind the wall, in groups of three each, while the Alberts had taken screening positions above and below.

It did not take long for the first missiles to start flying. First from the outer defense shell, then from the fortresses. Then the enemy began to fire as well, missiles the size of the intercontinental missiles of old left broadside-mounted launchers towards their targets, their fortresses. Their superior drives meant they would reach their targets before the fortresses' missiles would.

Alberts began to fulfil their purpose, intercepting the outer shell's missiles with point-defence guns and anti-missile missiles, but they could not get all of them. Some exploded, filling space with short-lived suns, sending spears of plasma at their targets, ripping into the armour of Alberts and Emils, one claimed the first casualty of the engagement, an Albert.

Now some of the outer shell's satellites entered beam range and came under fire by the particle beam guns of Davids and Emils, destroying them almost instantly.

The swarm of enemy missiles had now passed the fortresses' swarm, and held steadily towards their targets, which began to launch anti-missile missiles and decoys to throw the swarm off.

Suddenly, the incoming swarm was flooded with electromagnetic radiation, overloading sensors and destroying hardware, as a countermeasure missile detonated in the middle of the swarm. Most of the fortresses' own swarm was hit as well, and was now drifting through space as useless hulks without eyes.

The wall of battle now began to close the distance to enter effective particle beam range with the fortresses. The missiles had proven too easily disabled, or distracted. As they flew, they cut a wide corridor through the outer shell, destroying missile satellites where they detected them. But the relentless stream of missiles did not stop. Another Albert and an Emil were lost. As the number of point-defence guns decreased the hit-chance for these missiles increased.

When they finally entered particle beam range they had lost another Emil and a David, bringing them down to nineteen ships. The remaining vessels fired their particle-artillery, ripping and tearing at the armour of the closest fortress. They themselves were not unharmed, gamma-ray beams cutting into their own armour, leaving it glowing a deep red at some places and a bright yellow or white at others.

The first fortress fell soon, ripped apart by anti-ship guns, releasing its crew of over two thousand souls into the cold vacuum of space. Its guns continued firing for a few seconds, before falling silent. The enemy moved on, leaving the glowing hulk surrounded by corpses alone.

It did not take long for the next fortress to fall, though the enemy took more casualties, losing all their Alberts, two Emils and two Davids. Now only nine Davids and two Emils remained. They continued their onslaught and another fortress fell. It took another David and Emil before they turned away, and began to disengage.

So, this is no intricate character study, nor does it have any message or a theme.

No romance.

Only battle. Because battle is fun.

Thanks for reading!