Battle of Lerma
The battle of Lerma began as a joint Alliance/Foundation training exercise, wherein the Gudersnipe 4th, 11th, and 19th fleets joined with over 400 Alliance battle groups as well as thousands of warships from member worlds. In total, close to 50,000 ships were involved in the exercise, the largest of its kind.
The goal of the exercise was to practice large-scale fleet operations and test communications and organizational software recently written for such purposes. Exercises involving as many as 35,000 ships had previously been carried out, and the logistics of coordinating that many vessels had proved to be next to impossible.
A task-force, headed up by the Foundation, included scientists, strategists, programmers, and captains from over 1,000 different space-navies, all working together to develop a system for coordinating so many ships.
The Lerma excercise was supposed to be the first large-scale test run. As such, the bulk of Alliance ships were not even equipped with missile and torpedo ordnance.
The Lerma System
The Lerma System was chosen for its unique collection of stellar phenomena. Three star systems in fairly close proximity around a nebula. The nebula would provide a valuable blind spot to disrupt standard ship-to-ship communications. Lerma was also uninhabited, containing no Charlie-type planets. Being largely devoid of life, the system was ideal for conduction munitions tests.
In addition to the 50,000 active-duty ships, over 2,000 derelicts, dummy ships, and other large-scale targets had been brought in for live-fire testing.
The Lerma System consisted of three main-sequence stars with between .3 and .6 light years between them, roughly forming a scalene triangle around a thick nebula. All of the stars had planets ranging from small rocky worlds to gas giants. Ships were dispersed throughout the region, conducting running operations.
A running operation meant each ship was on high-alert, carrying out various drills while simulating combat conditions. All ships were organized into various task forces and given different navigational objectives, the ultimate goal being to keep the ships running at maximum efficiency for as long as possible.
At random, vessels would be declared "destroyed" and ordered to retreat from the combat area. There, they would re-group with other vessels and rejoin the simulated melée as part of a new task force.
This maneuver lasted for six and a half days before all ships were ordered to stand down, planning a three-day rest period before the next operation. Less than six hours after the initial stand-down order, the Kamian Succession Wars began.
Lerma was located in a largely uninhabited region of the galaxy, near the unofficial Kamian buffer zone, but firmly inside Alliance territory. No communication had been made with the Kamian Empire in over 1400 years, so the Kamians (loosely considered members of the Alliance) were not invited to the exercise.
Roughly six hours after the running operation ended, the first Kamian ships appeared on long-range scans. They were originally believed to be a fleet of Runarin ships, and little attempt was made to contact them.
The command ships for the operation were .6 light years from the initial assualt, and due to communications time-delay, did not learn of the new sensor contacts until the battle was underway. Nearly nine hours between initial contact and threat identification--considered fast, by most standards, though not fast enough.
When the Kamians attacked, they initially struck a large contingent (seven thousand coalition ships organized into a fleet) who thought it was another drill. Of the seven thousand ships, the majority of them did not even have real weapons to fight back. They were massacred, with all hands on board, before the command ships even learned of the attack.
The second encounter began five hours after detection, two hours after command learned of the attack. A task force of three thousand Foundation starships organized into numerous battle groups, responding to the distress signals, arrived. The captains had mostly assumed this was another drill, but unlike the Alliance and coalition spacecraft, the Foundation ships were armed to the teeth.
The entire task force was again massacred, but relayed vital information back to the command ships. An organized counter-offensive began.