Manassas Heavy Cruiser
|Class||Manassas Heavy Cruiser|
|In service since||2780|
|In service until||destroyed in or shortly after 3058; see text|
Equipped with an advanced experimental jump drive, the SLS Manassas is at the center of the MechWarrior (RPG) adventure Living Legends which is set in 3058. The Manassas is invariably destroyed during or shortly after the conclusion of the adventure.
Originally an Aegis -class heavy cruiser that was modified into a one-of-a-kind vessel, the Manassas is recognized as a distinct ship class unto its own even though only one single such ship ever existed. This article thus covers both the individual ship and the Manassas Heavy Cruiser ship class as a whole.
Despite its prominent status, the vessel itself, its capabilities and its spectacular history—a misjump that held the ship in jump stasis for 274 years until it rematerialized—remain largely unknown within the BattleTech universe, in part due to a deliberate cover-up.
Originally a first-generation ("block I") Aegis-class heavy cruiser, after its upgrade the Manassas did not quite look like any Clan or Star League WarShip class ComStar had on record as of 3058. It "vaguely" resembled an Aegis-class vessel as depicted in Technical Readout: 2750, with a noticeable bulge in the mid-ships section and modified radiator vanes. Internally, the arrangement of the ship's corridors and decks was modified, hinting at a larger than normal K-F drive core.
Although the hull was described as "old", the Manassas had been upgraded with top-of-the-line facilities with the latest technologies (as of 2784), including the recreation areas and the jump drive; it is noted to be designed for long, isolated flights. Most importantly, the Manassas was fitted with the prototype of an advanced jump drive that allowed the vessel jumps of up to 40 lightyears, 10 more than the usual 30 lightyears range limit of jump drives. This was achieved through a special booster system strengthening the K-F field before it reached the drive core.
A detailed description of the Manassas, including deck plans, is featured on pp. 58-64 of the Living Legends adventure module.
One of the WarShips to join Aleksandr Kerensky's Operation Exodus in 2784, the Manassas was assigned to rear-guard duty under the command of Captain James Cromwell to scout for pursuers of the Exodus fleet. Upon jumping to its prearranged rendezvous point in the Schwartz system after determining that no pursuit was forthcoming, the Manassas suffered a misjump stranding it in an unspecified system some 35 lightyears off-target where they spent six months planetside, jury-rigging repairs to the K-F drive to the best of their abilities.
- (Note that since a WarShip cannot land, the Manassas itself would have remained in orbit or elsewhere within the system. Only the four Confederate-class DropShips which the Manassas carried on its last mission could have touched down on the planet. Also, it is unclear if the planet was actually habitable, or if it was only used to benefit from its gravity for crew comfort or repair work on the surface).
With the provisionally repaired jump drive, the Manassas and her four DropShips made a second attempt to jump to Schwartz. Because of a technical flaw, the K-F drive controller did not detect in time that the jump would be a misjump, and did not abort the jump. As a result, the Manassas misjumped again. This time, they arrived at their intended destination, but the ship did not rematerialize at the destination until the year 3058, after nearly three centuries in jump stasis, a fact of which the crew, who did not sense a delay, was initially unaware.
In the Schwartz system, the Manassas encountered and hailed the Lioness, a York-class destroyer from the Clan Smoke Jaguar Naval Reserve. Puzzled by the SLDF vessel's appearance and considering James Cromwell a war criminal according to Clan historical records, the Lioness ordered the Manassas to stand by and later prepared to board her.
This was witnessed by a team of ComStar Explorer Corps operatives working in conjunction with the JumpShip Persephone, who had been on an intelligence gathering mission to Schwartz and had been monitoring the radio traffic. They warned the Manassas and directed her to a rendezvous in the nearby Roxborough system. There, James Cromwell, upon learning of the situation, decided to return to Schwartz, fight the Lioness and claim the planet to rule over it. However, it turned out he had underestimated the power of the Lioness. By the time a shuttle from the Persephone arrived at the battle site, the Manassas seemed to have no operating guns left and her hull was marred by laser scorch marks, with most of her aerospace fighter screen destroyed. Elementals from Clan Smoke Jaguar boarded the ship and seized it.
In this situation, the ComStar team—by now aware of the experimental jump drive—decided they had no chance to reclaim the ship, but could not allow its potentially revolutionary technology to fall into Clan Smoke Jaguar's hands either. They attempted to sabotage the vessel, with the help of some of the Manassas' officers.
- It is unclear if or to what extent the sabotage mission succeeded. The Manassas did not survive intact in any case: The adventure module establishes that even if the sabotage attempt fails, the ship's ramshackle, jury-rigged drive will explode eventually because of its poor condition "when a Clan technician [does] something wrong to it." This implicitly rules out the previously mentioned possibility that the experimental jump drive could theoretically be reverse engineered. The module also explains that because of the precarious political situation in the Inner Sphere at the time and the sensitive nature of the experimental drive, only few (deeply buried) records were kept during its development in the Star League era and these may even have been erased due to the mistaken belief that the Manassas was lost in a misjump, marking the technology unsafe.
The crew of the Manassas was sent to Schwartz as "surplus laborers" (effectively slaves) by Clan Smoke Jaguar, with the suggestion that the ComStar team might attempt to rescue them. Captain Cromwell was detained to be tried as a war criminal. Some officers from the Manassas may have escaped with the ComStar team, but if that was the case, it is indicated ComStar would have taken them into "protective custody" and kept them in a gilded cage forthwith. Overall, their fate (including that of Captain Cromwell) is unknown, and nothing was ever heard from them again. The entire affair was apparently covered up successfully.
- According to comments by Mike Miller and CGL freelancer Kit deSummersville in this thread on the BattleTech Forum, it was planned to revisit the Manassas storyline in passing in Jihad Hot Spots: 3072. A sidebar would have mentioned one of the crew members doing a book tour. However, this was changed for Dr. Deirdre Nakamura (of BattleTech: The Animated Series fame) in the eventual publication, found in a sidebar on p. 113.
- Manassas Heavy Cruiser
- Living Legends, p. 18
- Living Legends, p. 53
- Living Legends, p. 21 ("Observations Table")
- Living Legends, p. 20 ("Questioning Rabe Table")
- Living Legends, p. 37
- Living Legends, p. 43
- Implied in the "Drive Damage Table" on p. 38 showing possible results for the sabotage attempt
- Living Legends, p. 27