For the first salvo in the war to save humanity, the assault on Uhban was almost laughable. The AI defenses were nearly non-existent, and the alarm post triggering was mitigated by our military's extermination of the defending ships. Some hardware was lost, but nothing that couldn't be easily recovered. A Colony Ship was sent in to establish a Mark II Economic Command Station and give our resource flows the boost they'd need to support the Bomber and Plasma Siege Starships I'd decided to build to counter the AI's use of Leech and Plasma Siege Starships.
Before Uhban was secured, the second assault was begun. The Black Hole Machine on Zasic not only prevents travel through the system by anything larger than a scout craft, but makes retreat from an assault impossible. This not only means forces can be trapped and destroyed, but that, should "something else" happen elsewhere, the forces committed to the attack can't respond. With several forcefields in the system, including one guarding a Command Station Shield Guard Post, surplus bombers from ongoing production were dumped with impunity into Zasic. The fight took longer than Uhban, but the weight of our force prevailed.
As construction began on a second Mark II Economic Command Station, intent on improving the economy further as well as capturing Zasic's Black Hole Machine, the AIs' first counterstroke appeared: An incoming attack wave, guided by the AI Warp Gates, slingshotted straight to my front door, of several hundred Fighters. Rudimentary turret defenses were prepared, and production began adding in Parasites and Mark II Fighters and Bombers. The wave was dispatched with little trouble, and the collected weight of military might, including a pair of Bomber Starships, crashed into Wepmu. While the Bombers and Bomber Starships dispatched the heavy Starships with little problem, the remainder of the forces systematically cleansed the system of hostiles with efficiency.
Not feeling that we had the military strength to yet take Panquila, the fresh-from battle forces continue on to Ticrex. Scouts had revealed them, but for the first time, our forces engaged the massive AI Guardians in battle, and find that identifying and exploiting their weakness proves vital. With Ticrex under our control, we decide it's finally time to take the Mark III planet of Panquila.
Newly-accumulated research goes into the creation of Mobile Repair Stations, to give the fleet a bit more staying power. While the first MRS builds, the fleet is sent to Panquila; its Black Hole Machine makes this a risky maneuver, but the technological advantage must be countered by both tactics and numbers. The fast and durable Bomber Starships are sent on a certainly-suicidal but vital mission to target the system's Ion Cannon, followed by the Missile Guard Posts, followed by the Command Station Shield Guard Posts. The fleet ships and Plasma Siege Starships remain near the entrance wormhole, breaking formation to target Guardians and dangerous hostiles.
"Sir!" comes the voice of one of my science officers. I've been so involved in battles across four systems that I've barely noticed the goings on of the command deck. I shoot her a look to continue without delay.
"We believe," she continues, without wasting time on formalities, "one of our Science Labs can intercept the command and control signals between the AI Command Station and the Advanced Research Ship in Panquila. If nothing else, we can see what data is being held there. Best case scenario, we can use a modified Science Lab to selectively extract data."
I give her a nod, and tell her to order one of our functioning Science Labs into the system. In my pre-cryo life, I didn't have much use for eggheads, but I've found them to be quite useful in this new age. I know there's a slim chance of finding a combat ship design that, like our Scouts, is immune to the effects of those cursed Gravity Drills. But a slim chance is better than none, and I relish the possibility of such an edge.
The military forces are taking losses in Panquila, but holding their own, especially with the MRS now on station above the wormhole. As the Science Lab arrives in system, a hoot of joy goes up from the segment of the command deck where the eggheads work. I stare at them intently, and notice three ship schematic readouts. "Laser Gatling," says the first, a cheap but numerous design that's little more than a laser gun with an engine. "Space Tank," says the second, an ancient design that's slow but with a heavy hitting attack and heavy armor. The third is what created the excitement. "Raptor." An impossibly-fast design with a light attack. And immunity to Gravity Effects.
"We can hack the Advanced Research Ship," the science officer says, voice trembling with excitement. I like that the eggheads of this era understand that research that doesn't help our effort is wasted. I wonder if that's a product of our desperate situation. I express slight concern at this idea, however. We're trying to minimize the ire of the AI; hacking it seems to run counter to our stated goals. Her response is that it's not without risk, but the first hack should be fairly benign.
As the hack began, I realize we've badly underestimated the AIs response. Zombie ships--including the strangely-awkward but frieghteningly dangerous Zombie Zombie Guardian--begin flooding from numerous parts of the Panquila system, and the fleet is nearly overwhelmed. Reinforcements, constructed on the homework to replace losses, are scrambled, stabilizing the situation. "10 minutes," the lead egghead tells me, and I cringe.
What followed was an incredibly intense 10 minutes. The fleet struggled against the waves upon waves of zombie ships, knowing the whole while that should they be overwhelmed, that mass of zombies would be heading straight to the homeworld. Huge bursts of tachyon particles disabled the cloaking on the makeshift Science Lab being used to hack the Advanced Research Ship, forcing the fleet to scramble to remain close to it for protection. Zombie Guardians emerged to wreck havoc.
But the worst was the Mark II Raid Starship. Emerging from the chaos, it made a beeline to the homeworld, killing other command stations along its path. Only through the luck that a significant fleet was on station, as the continued replenishment took place, saved our Home Command Station. Fires and sparks and smoke filled the command deck, and my science officer would never see the fruits of our dangerous labor, killed by an exploding power conduit. Why no one in the future has heard of a circuit breaker, I'll never know.
As we picked up the pieces and saw the fleet holding its own, if only barely, another wave of enemy bombers was detected, inbound to our command station on Uhban. Static defenses were ordered to be created; I didn't have the ships to reinforce the fleet in Panquila and defend Uhban at the same time. Those defenses would crash our economy completely, but there was no other choice.
The end came suddenly. The Bomber wave had been blunted by a massive wall of turrets and a skeleton fleet of Fighters. The battle against hacking-spawned zombies had settled into an ebb and flow between the two groups. An unfamiliar egghead shouted something that I couldn't understand, aside from the fact that whatever hacking efforts they'd attempted had been successful. I ordered the fleet to immediately destroy Panquila's Command Station, and sent a Colony Ship to replace it with one of our own--and much needed--Economic Command Stations. As the Advanced Research Ship came under our control, I have a smile and a nod to where the corpse of the science officer lay, covered in a black medical blanket. We'd gotten her Raptors.
Galaxy View, complete with economy in shambles thanks to the Raid Starship and ill-timed wave!
I'd thought of doing an ARS hack, but the responses to the thread helped remind me. Since it's still a fairly new mechanic (to me, anyway), it's still not in my "standard operating procedure" to bring a cheapo Science Lab to take a look at an ARS before blowing the system to kingdom come.
I actually ended up having to savescum the hacking attempt the first time, since I didn't realize--or forgot--that it has to be "enemy" controlled, not "neutral." Oops.
I badly underestimated the intensity of the zombie waves for the first hack. I was under the mistaken impression that they'd be soft as a pillow, and that certainly was not the case. That being said, I wouldn't change a thing about them: The 10 minutes of game time were WONDERFUL, with an intensity that makes me want to keep coming back. And it drives home a subtle warning: It's only going to get worse if you try this again, so be prepared!