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A note from neo Koh

Update 30/12/19 - Did a quick edit of the grammar on the chapter

Second I/C (Second in-charge) Marine Corporal James "007" Bone was at the mess with the rest his Section Two mates having dinner when XO announced the Condition Two alert. Due to his name being similar to a classic 2d movie character, everyone nicknamed him as "Double-0-7". He dropped his mess tray as he and his section mates rushed out of the mess hall towards their berth where their equipment was stored. He pushed his way past several confused crew members as they stood in the way, wondering what's happening. Luckily for the Marines, they have been conditioned to respond rapidly by constant training and drills.

As he reached the Marine's berth, he found most of the platoon gearing up. "Come on! Load up!" Platoon Staff Sergeant Pike yelled at everyone in the hatch, miraculously already suited up in full battle gear.

Damn. Did he sleep in that gear? James popped open his locker and started to suit up. First was the environmental wear which allowed him to survive in space or any biochemical environments, followed by his chest plate armor and munitions harness. Lastly, he donned his fully enclosed HS3 "smart" helmet and checked his readouts in the heads up display. All green, no leaks from the suit. Good. He grabbed his personal weapon, an M7A1 pulse rifle that fires 6.5 mm cased telescoped ammunition and queued up at the armory to collect his ammunition.

"Check your ammo! Make sure it's not Armor Piercing! We don't want you jugheads to put a hole through the hull and suck us all out into space!" SSGT Pike roared in his standard loud voice.

He grabbed ten 50 round magazines, ensured they are not AP rounds and started slotting the mags into his ammo pouches.

"Hey, Corp!" Pvt first class Mills called out. "What's the scuttle bug? Did we get scum here? And no AP rounds? How are we gonna do shit with these pussy rounds?"

He held up the mag which contained 50 ceramic frangible rounds. This type of ammunition was used to prevent shots accidentally penetrating the hull of the ship or sensitive locations like the reactor or engine. The bullet fractures into tiny pieces upon contact with metal but against soft tissue, it will penetrate and fragment inside.

"Do you want to put a bullet into the reactor and blow us all to space dust?" James retorted. "Just shoot at the mouth cavity!"

Deep inside, James was worried too. Ceramic rounds just gave those Scum, as the Marines like to call the Swarm, bruises. The AP rounds will penetrate easier on less armored parts of the Swarm warrior drones but in an old spaceship without internal armored bulkheads, AP rounds were a disaster just waiting to happen. "Alright! Section Two, you pigs form up! By the numbers! NOW!" he shouted.

Throughout the ship, crewmembers milled in confusion and were yelled at by their supervisors to get to their action stations. As time went on, department heads reported back to the bridge their level of readiness and XO Ford's face grew darker and darker. They have traveled from Sol to Rammas, passing by two systems along the way for a total of two weeks. He deeply regretted being engrossed with paperwork instead of running more drills. He’d thought that nothing will happen behind the lines and he will just serve his term onboard before going over to command his own ship! He glanced at the captain as he thought.

Captain Blake sat on his command chair without saying anything, but his fingers tapped on his armrest constantly. He was excited about the chance of a fight. He spent over two months in the hospital, another two months in rehab getting used to his new prosthetic leg and an additional month doing psych-evaluation before returning to the Fleet, followed by another two more months bound as a desk jockey before he was given command of this ship.

The Fleet was sending out all their newest ships to the frontline to hold back the Swarm, while mothballed ships like the UNS Singapore were taken out, given an upgrade of their drives and systems and turned into auxiliary ships. At the time he was thankful to receive command of a ship again but soon the excitement and joy died down as he got stuck babysitting new graduates and the children of important ministers behind the lines.

"Captain, the five contacts will be within effective main gun range in 53 mikes." 2nd Lt Randy reported. Despite his calm report, he was actually afraid inside. My dad said this was a very safe deployment. There will be nothing to do, no chance of the enemy. His father was a senior minister on Earth and pulled some strings allowing him to be posted to UNS Singapore when the Council passed a bill that all able men and women within the age of 18 to 35 had to serve in the military.

"XO, set the ship to Condition One and prepare for combat." Captain Blake intoned. He looked at the tactical screen readout displaying the contact’s course and frowned. If only I had some shipkiller missiles, I could start engaging them now, he thought. The 155 mm rail guns were simple electromagnetic cannons that just shoot out projectiles that reach 290km/s.

In a planetary atmosphere, rail guns dominate the battlefield as long as there is a line of sight. But in space, moving objects were easier to be tracked and dodged. The longer the distance the easier it is to calculate its impact point, thus the effective range of rail guns was shorter than lasers as lasers travel at the speed of light. This means he has to engage within 5,000 km, while ship killer missiles can be fired at targets over three times further!

For this battle, he had to get to practically knife fighting range for ship combat. Suddenly he caught himself, I should not prioritise combat. His crew was too inexperienced. He only had a few of the old hands from his previous ship on board. He looked at the tactical board and started to make calculations in his head. If he turned the ship around now to the jump point out of this system, with the speed the enemy was closing in at, the ship would have to hold out for 15 mins at least before they can escape. Too bad he did not have any missiles. He sighed again. If he did the chances of survival would have been higher.

"Navigator, plot a course back towards the jump point, flank speed. Get us out of here." Blake commanded. "XO, ensure all stations are operational."

"Aye Captain." Commander Ford started to message all the department heads, chasing them for readiness reports. Each station's readiness slowly started to flicker from red and yellow to green. After several minutes, he finally reported all boards showing green and gave a relieved sigh.

"XO, after this we need to drill more. If we survive." Captain Blake gave a bleak smile to his XO.

"Yes, sir. That is for sure," replied Ford. He looked at the blinking red dots on the main tactical screen approaching slowly. "Five versus one. How did they get here? This is a dead system, other than the Ecythn jump point there shouldn't be any other way in, Fleet has surveyed this system thoroughly."

"I have no idea either. I’ve been running up and down this sector for almost a year. This is the first time this has happened, Could the Swarm have developed some kind of unknown drive that Fleet Intelligence doesn't know about." Captain Blake stood and stretched his back.

He looked at the timer on the screen and said, "There should still be over 30 minutes before they have range on us. How about some coffee and food?"

"Yes sir, I shall order some up from the galley." Ford said, "I think everyone should have something hot in their bellies too."

"Sir, course calculated, time to the Ecythn jump point will take us 40 mins, but we will be within the enemy range for roughly 20 mins before we can jump." the navigator reported.

Captain Blake nodded. Not bad, plus or minus a few minutes from my own calculations. "Do it."

"Pilot, bring us about, follow the new route." ordered the XO.

"Aye aye. Changing course. Flank speed aye!" intoned the pilot.

Hope this old lady can hold out for 15 to 20 mins of combat. Blake thought to himself.

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A note from neo Koh

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neo Koh

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