Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Subspace energy pulsed and dissipated into space around the 'valley' of space-time curvature caused by a massive object transitioning back into Real Space. For a few seconds, the S-Radiation continued to bleed from the wound in the fabric of space before the brilliant flash of blue-shifted visible light erupted from the tear and sent forth the mighty silhouette of an enormous warship. As the S-radiation receded, the form was soaked with visible light radiated from Old Bastion's Star: the distinctive form of an Endeavour-type hull clearly marked in Aquarian Terran Imperial States colours; the battlecruiser Fire of Eridonia had arrived in Old Bastion's Star.
She did not come alone. Moments later, more ruptures in real-space blossomed around the newly arrived warship, each pulsing with S-radiation as the first, each bellowing forth the silhouette of yet more warships; an Imperial Fleet had arrived. Task Force Dominant, of the Aquarian Imperial Navy, Angel Sector Fleet's 1st Core Fleet had arrived, almost without any prior warning, on the doorstep of the Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet's home system of Old Bastion's Star; bypassing the EPF Garrison force at Bastion's Gate entirely.
The Fire of Eridonia's captain, Rear Admiral Ahlbor Jernik, also known as the Butcher of Corona from merely the cycle before, was perhaps the most infamous and notorious Imperial Captains known to the EPF, a man filled with such passionate hatred for their rebellion that it drove his every thought - requesting, personally, that his Force be assigned to lead the attack on the rebels' home world. A request that was ultimately accepted, perhaps not by coincidence or by some twisted turn of fate, but simply the way it was meant to be.
The Battle of Corona marked the return of hope to the people of the EPF, the first major strategic victory over the might of the Aquarian Imperial war machine, despite all odds. It was a defeat that Jernik took personally; Fire of Eridonia was tasked with escorting the Nobilis Historia during the EPF's daring attack to capture her. While the Fire of Eridonia is largely recognised as the warship that took down the legendary Pathfinder during the ensuing battle, it was not without the embarrassing loss of a Dreadnought, and succession of a core world from the Imperial States - a mistake that Jernik sought to remedy personally.
Jernik had suspected for some time that there was more to the loss of the Historia than what met the eye; indeed, influence from the very forces that bind the Imperial States from the top had been keen to watch as Ronin Kociero and his small team of Sempers infiltrated and captured the warship, perhaps even willing it to happen. It wasn't his place to question, but all would become clear in the ensuing year, just another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was the Director's plan for humanity.
The opportunity to eliminate the rebellion once and for all would present itself in a twist of fate that the powers that be would call 'sensibility', but the enemy would know as betrayal. Ronin Kociero's daughter, Amiori, had opened her eyes to the Director's vision and it would seem that for a moment, however brief, their thoughts aligned. Perhaps it was a trail of breadcrumbs left for her since the early days, or perhaps she did see the true prerequisites of humanity's long term survival in Aquarius. Regardless, she had struck a deal with the 'devil'.
The Imperial Naval Intelligence Bureau had received the precise locations of Old Bastion's Star - the home system of the Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet once thought impregnable, from the very daughter of the man who swore to defend it with every ounce of his soul. Amiori Kociero had only been in their fold for few cycles, but her prestigious position as daughter of the legendary Ronin Kociero had afforded her significant trust and respect, to which she used to betray them. Betrayal, though, wasn't a word the Director used, but instead more to the notion of saviour.
Regardless of morality, the deal had been struck and the Imperial Navy began gearing up for an assault on the frozen world of Bastion; where a fledgling EPF colony had sprung up during the early 45th century, largely hiding under the shadow of the Imperial States some few parsecs north of the Angel Hook Nebula. Due to the strong gravimetric properties of the radioactive clouds of particulate matter in the Angel Hook Nebula; conventional FTL transition using the Jump Drive Array fitted to Imperial Warships was unable to transition through the nebularic fields themselves; instead, a small funnel of open space joined Old Bastion's Star to the Angel Reach via a system known to the EPF as Hook's Gate. This system was believed, by the EPF Naval command, to be the only viable access route into the hidden cove within which Old Bastion's Star resided.
As such, the EPF had positioned most of its remaining cruisers after the Battle of Corona in Hook's Gate, alongside a fairly significant weapons platform installation with FTL-denial systems developed and deployed by the Pathfinder, and operated by her C-AI, CoRE, personally. Such systems included the new countermeasure for the SPARTAN missile system that proved instrumental in securing the EPF victory in the Battle of Corona. The system of Old Bastion's Star itself remained somewhat sparse; no major installations or artificial satellites except for a remote listening post orbiting the dwarf star, and of course, the EPF's major colony infrastructure on the surface of the frigid, remote ice world, Bastion; home to some hundred thousand people living under the shadow of the Imperial States.
Utilising breakthroughs in Jump Drive technology, along with extremely precise co-ordinate data for Old Bastion's Star's position relative to Aquarius, the Imperial Navy was able to execute a fleet-scale fixed point, blind-jump directly into the system, bypassing the EPF garrison in Hook's Gate, entirely. The assault would be known as Operation Ultima, and it would be part of a series of direct offensives on the rebel-held systems of the Angel's Hook by elements of three of the main Core Fleets of the Imperial Navy - something of a show of force, but also to ensure complete dismantlement of the insurrection with no chance of failure.
The Imperial Navy Angel Sector Fleet's 1st Core Fleet (1CF) allocated four primary Task forces to Operation Ultima; Task Force Dominant, Excalibur, Broadsword and Claymore. Each consisting of a Battlecruiser of the ED-class along with an ARK-class support cruiser, HY-class fleet carrier, multiple RV-class Fleet cruisers, an RV2M missile cruiser and at least one escort contingent of SP-class destroyers. The Tempest Sector and Home Sector Fleets would also allocate a further three Task Forces each, of similar strength to Hook's Gate - where the Imperial Navy intended to prevent the EPF Fleet stationed there from returning to Old Bastion's Star when the 1CF began their attack.
It was to be the largest Imperial Naval offensive in the history of ATIS; with nearly thirty percent of active warships in service with the Imperial Navy deployed, a monumental operation aimed to decisively crush the rebellion after the strategic loss of Corona. Imperial commanders believed that the Coronian Government would surrender almost immediately after they learn of the fall of Old Bastion's Star, and that there would be no EPF reinforcements to protect them, as such, several Task Forces from the Home Sector Fleet of the Imperial Navy began amassing in Eridonia, to retake Corona once news spread to the inner systems of the EPF's defeat in the Angel Hook nebula.