The siege of Laconia Had begun
— Naomi Tiamat's Wrath, chapter 42

The siege of Laconia was a weeks long battle between the underground and Laconian Imperial Navy in the Laconia system.

Events[edit | edit source]

Prelude[edit | edit source]

After the Slow zone devastation event and the symbolic destruction of the Tempest the Laconian Empire was struggling to maintain its control of the Interstellar human community with insufficient ships to guard more than a couple of hundred gates. Naomi Nagata had taken command of the Underground and launched an offensive, considering the moment ripe for a concerted strike against the protomolecule construction platforms used by the Laconian government to produce their advanced ships. This was the first case of the underground switching from guerilla warfare tactics to open warfare, amassing over four hundred ships for the offensive, including three Donnager-class battleships.

Critically the Slow Zone had been kept clear of Laconian repeaters and sensors, made easy by the fact that those were static targets. This cut off communications across the empire in an unprecedented way, preventing any warning from reaching the Laconian homeworld in time. This also helped the underground in a less obvious but vital way by drawing the Laconian fleet thin over hundreds of systems. Even before the destruction of Medina, and later the Tempest, the Laconian Empire had not been able to effectively control all their systems. With the latest events a critical loss of trust in the Empire's ability to enforce their policies had set in. Using this, Naomi calculated that sabotage efforts and other activities of the resistance would result in Laconian efforts to crush the Underground as soon as possible. By starting actions in hundred of systems, the Laconian fleet was forced to stretch their forces to the breaking point. A majority of the Laconian forces was now deployed over hundreds of systems without the possibility to reach them from the homeworld - and vice versa.

First Wave[edit | edit source]

The invasion began with the Rocinante leading the first battlegroup, consisting of five ships, through the Laconia gate. These ships were the Roci, the Gathering Storm, the Quinn, the Cassius, and the Prince of the Face, then followed by many more groups of ships that broke off in different directions across the Laconia system.

Naomi's plan was to bait the Voice of the Whirlwind and as many other Laconian ships as possible away from Laconia's orbit. To do this the underground's ships traversed all over the system moving in close to the Laconian defenses to lure enemy ships away from the planet. If enemy ships gave chase the Underground fleet scattered and then retreated without a fight..

Lesson one: You can't rely on reinforcements[edit | edit source]

Having finished an assignment in the Arcadia system the Laconian Pulsar-class destroyer Mammatus was returning through the Laconia gate when it was suddenly hit with massive jamming from multiple sources. Half a dozen ships positioned just outside the ring gate flooded the Mammatus with radio and light. It took fewer than three seconds for the ship to reset, but by then five torpedoes-already launched and waiting for a target - were slamming into the ship. Informed by months of analysis of the captured Pulsar-class Gathering Storm the strikes were devastating. The Mammatus lost maneuvering thrusters along her port side and six PDC emplacements. Worse, it began venting atmosphere. Its counterstrike was late and weakened. The enemy PDCs took out the torpedoes as soon as they were launched. The destroyer attempted to flee but was in an uncontrolled spin and was finished off by five more torpedoes and PDC fire.

The battle continued with the underground fleet maneuvering across the system to draw off Laconian ships. The three Donnager-class ships moved towards the transfer Station near the system's gas giant as if preparing for a full engagement then breaking off and scattering whilst a dozen smaller ships moved sunward. This was a first attempt to draw the Whirlwind away, but failed as the battlecruiser stayed at Laconia whilst destroyers chased the Rocinante and its battlegroup up to as far as the gas giant before retreating.

Lesson two: We have thirteen hundred systems to resupply us. You have one.[edit | edit source]

The cargo ship Bhikaji Cama entered the Laconia system with its two holds filled with torpedoes, PDCs, and water. Two groups of ships, eight in one and fourteen in the other, fired long-range torpedoes at the transfer station. The missiles burned hard, then went ballistic. Slightly fewer than three hundred warheads screamed towards the transfer station all timed to arrive within seconds of each other. Flying ballistic they were easy to target and concordantly all missiles were taken out by the transfer station's PDCs and long-range missiles from the Whirlwind. The twenty-two ships then moved to the Bhikaji Cama where they received supplies in form of torpedoes and water and PDC rounds, all clearly visible to any enemy telescopes.

A week and a half into the campaign, the Verity Close - the sister ship to the Bhikaji Cama - entered through Laconia's gate and moved towards the opposite edge of the system, opening its hold to resupply more ships.

Naomi realized that the Laconian forces would follow the Gathering Storm wherever it would go within the system. She, therefore, ordered the ship to break off from the attack battlegroup to draw attention away from them. The Gathering Storm then moved to accompany the battleship Armstrong.

The third lesson: Playing defense means being endlessly ground down. Someday something will get through[edit | edit source]

Once the underground fleet had surrounded Laconia from every angle throughout the system the barrage began. Instead of the transfer station the planet was now the target of continuous long-range bombardments. The ships began firing long-range missiles, rocks (which were both cheap and deadly), nukes, accelerated titanium rods and holds filled with gravel into intersecting orbits. Some moved fast, some moved slow and would take months to reach Laconia. This was a deliberate message showing how long the underground was prepared to draw out this fight. While none of these projectiles were targeted at major population centers, there was no way for the Laconian Imperial Navy to know this. The Laconians would be forced to defend everything. The barrage continued for the most part until the end of the campaign with constant rock interception and torpedo after torpedo for Laconia to shoot down.

The final lesson: Its safe to chase after us. Its how you'll win. And that was a lie[edit | edit source]

While the Voice of the Whirlwind remained in place over Laconia, guarding the gravity well, destroyers ranged farther and farther. When the enemy came too near the underground fleet would scatter. Not all ships escaped. The Tucumcari, a rockhopper retrofitted for anti-piracy duties was hit by a torpedo through its drive cone and turned into a ball of fire. The Nang Kwak, a private security company stealth ship two generations out of date, failed to dodge a line of PDC fire. Disabled, it attempted to surrender but was destroyed by the Laconian ships regardless. A handful of other ships in the underground fleet were destroyed. Despite having many chances to lure out and destroy Laconian destroyers, the underground choose not to. This was a deliberate plan to make the Laconians feel confident in being safe to chase after their enemy and every underground ship was given instructions to abide by this.

The Donnager-class battleship Bellerophon was used as a decoy to draw the Laconian fleet away from the weapons platforms. It faked an engine failure while traversing away from Laconia, towards the Verity Close. The ship appeared malfunctioning to the Laconia Home fleet. Nearly a third of the underground ships, including their strongest asset, the Storm, moved to support this malfunctioning battleship. The Laconian forces, including the Voice of the Whirlwind, thinking that this was a chance to destroy a large number of resistance forces, moved at high burn to intercept this group. Several other battle groups were deployed towards Laconia drawing the remaining destroyers away.

When the Whirlwind moved away from Laconia the rebels seized the opportunity to strike at the planet, now only defended by the planetary defense grid. A small battlegroup of four ships led by the Rocinante had been hiding near the Laconian star's corona to avoid detection until all enemy ships were so far away from Laconia, that they could not return in time without killing their passengers.

The attack battlegroup moved at high-G towards Laconia to engage before the Whirlwind could return. Planetary defenses saw them and fired torpedoes which were all destroyed by the combined PDC fire of the four ships. The Whirlwind, realizing Laconia wasn't protected, had been urgently recalled and started a breaking burn. Naomi Nagata ordered all underground ships outside of her own battlegroup to withdraw from the system towards the Laconia gate.

The battlegroup moved in closer and came under railgun fire forcing them into evasive maneuvers. While returning fire and closing the distance, the group received an out of date encryption code from the planet surface. This code belonged to Amos Burton, who they had previously feared dead. The four ships pressed closer, with the Cassius peeling off for its assigned defense grid targets, followed shortly after by the Prince of the Face. The Cassius was hit and destroyed by a railgun round. Rocinante, then ignoring the defense platforms, targeted the orbital construction platforms. Quinn reported some PDC damage to its machine shop, but was still operational. Naomi Nagata ordered them to provide cover for the Rocinante whilst it made its attack. The Rocinante's railgun fired, aiming at the orbital platforms. It was a hit, and the alien station thrashed, and then collapsed in on itself.

The Rocinante then targeted the defense platforms. The final defense platform was destroyed by a combination of a railgun round off the Quinn and torpedoes off the Rocinante. The Rocinante was peppered by debris, but not seriously damaged. The Prince of the Face cleared the bend of the planet and was able again to tightbeam Rocinante . Alex, onboard the Roci, fired at the second platform, resulting in a spectacular explosion of antimatter. During this, the Prince destroyed the surface railguns with their remaining torpedoes. Naomi Nagata ordered the Quinn and Prince of the Face to burn for the Laconia gate immediately whilst the Rocinante attempted to evac the individual who set Amos Burton's distress call.

Amos's evacuation code was sent from Teresa Duarte who had broken Holden out of captivity and was attempting to flee Laconia. When the two reached their rendezvous, they were confronted by Teresa's handler and security. Out of nowhere Amos appeared and killed the three Laconians. Soon after, the group is evacuated by the Rocinante, whose crew knew not who the new passenger with a dog was.

While leaving Laconia the Rocinante was caught by the Whirlwind. When the Whirlwind hails the Rocinante, to the surprise of both the Rocinante crew and the Laconians, Teresa gets on the comm and declares she is working on a mission straight from her father - with the rebels. The Whirlwind lets the gunship go. The Rocinante is able to return to the gate with little difficulties. The Laconians then shot ten missiles at the Rocinante, which were easily destroyed by the Rocinante's PDCs.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The battle was a major victory for the resistance and a possibly catastrophic defeat for the Laconian empire. Destroying the construction platforms also removed Laconia's significant tech advantage, which they had used to conquer their empire in the first place. Despite still having the strongest fleet, the Laconian Empire was based mostly on the idea of Laconian invincibility, as well as their control of the Slow Zone chokepoint. Even before the Slow Zone was devastated, the Empire was stretched thin, relying on local rulers for the most part. The success of the siege leaves the empire in a dangerous position: while still possessing a large and powerful navy, they are not able to replenish their losses in ships and are no longer able to control all systems under their flag. Their control of the Interstellar human community is slipping. The earlier destruction of Medina Station had removed the chokehold Laconia had over the gate network, and the fleet was simply not large enough to maintain control of all of the human systems. Most importantly, the myth of Laconian invincibility had been lost.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • This was likely the largest (space) battle and single greatest interstellar campaign of history as it spanned across the entire Laconia system instead of a concentrated area, possibly rivaled by the Consolidated Fleet Offensive during the war against the Free Navy. If the distraction campaign throughout the empire is included, the campaign required concerted actions in, easily, hundreds of systems.
  • Despite the high loss of ships, the fatality count amongst the underground was relatively low. It seems likely that most of the ships they commanded were sparsely crewed.

References

  1. The Expanse Novel Tiamat's Wrath - Chapter 41: Naomi
  2. The Expanse Novel Tiamat's Wrath - Chapter 49: Naomi
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