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USD: ~Nine weeks since awakening

Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf, L4 Lagrange Point, nearby Federation Heavy Cruiser wreckage in Debris Cloud #32


 

Nameless’s voice suddenly popping into Alex’s ears was sweet, sweet relief.

[Informative: Independent Nanite ShipCore present in Asteroid Facility. Designation A-3123Y. Receiving allied telemetry and sensor data. A detailed system map is now available.]

[Warning: A-3123Y maintains communication via High Band.]

“Can’t we ask them to quiet down… although by now I’m not sure it matters.”

[Concurrence: Position compromised.]

[Notice: A-3123Y reports no available comm laser or low band communication devices.]

Why!? Alex wanted to punch the stupid asteroid. Did it have no sense of stealth? Then again, she should have expected that somewhat from Nameless’s choice of ship paint.

The main holo display suddenly zoomed out and red lights began to light up on the local map. Then an alarm and klaxon began to blare all over the ship, the words repeated on Alex’s overlay.

|GENERAL QUARTERS|

|THIS IS NOT A DRILL|

|ACTION STATIONS|

“Fuck. Nameless?”

[Informative: Numerous drive signatures of various power levels detected. Numbers continue to rise. Current count 12 cruiser, 13 destroyer, 56 frigate, and 88 gunship signatures detected. An undeterminable number of smaller signatures approximating fighter or drone size are causing sensor interference in some areas.]

[Notice: A-3123Y reports hostile Federation drone fleet has gone active. Asteroid Base is preparing for combat. It recommends immediate rendezvous.]

“Nameless… That is a lot of ships. I am thinking we should consider cutting and running. I am not sure on how strong the power balance here is. If we help A-3123Y, would we really stand a chance?”

[Correlative: Approximate tonnage of sides heavily favors our forces. Estimated long-range weapon weight is equivalent. Estimated close-range weapon weight favors hostile forces based on increasing number of fighter/drone signatures.]

“And…?”

[Correlative: The combat rating is equivalent. With current assumptions, estimated chance of victory is 53% with ten percentage points of possible error.]

Alex stood up and rubbed her nose. This was terrible.

“I’m going to CIC. Wrap up all operations immediately and set course for A-3123Y. Fastest rendezvous. We’ll decide to stay or run when we have more information.”

Alex exited Engineering and headed to Elis’s room. Popping the door open she looked inside to find Elis already having put on the skinsuit Alex had given her. The EVA helmet was under an arm.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

Alex thought for a moment, “There is a large, automated Federation fleet headed toward us. Over one hundred ships.”

A surprised look appeared on Elis’s face, before turning into one of blank resignation.

“Alright.”

No doubt she expected they were all going to die.

Alex swallowed; it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. No matter what they did, they were in major danger. She glanced at the wall of the bunkroom. The crew quarters were relatively exposed and unarmored, and Alex made a decision.

“Come with me to CIC, it’s the safest spot on the ship, and it isn’t like there is anyone else to sit there with me.”

[Warning: Granting prisoner access to CIC is a security risk.]

Alex ignored the warning and encouraged Elis to follow her. The two made their way to CIC.

As they made it to the ship’s heart, Alex could hear the Linear drive light off. She almost lost her balance as the ship lurched under her feet slightly. Elis bumped into Alex’s back slightly and the other girl reached out to put a hand on Alex’s shoulder to help steady her.

A concerned look appeared on Elis’s face, “Are we under attack already?”

[Informative: Adjusted for excess mass, transit nominal. No further turbulence from standard operation expected.]

“The linear drive just lit off. Computer had to make a few adjustments for all the modifications.”

They continued toward CIC, but something felt different to Alex and it took her a second to pin the cause of the sensation down. She had become used to the ship’s hums and sounds, and this was the first time she heard the main drive activate. It added a low resonance hum to her chest.

“That’s a bit wacky.”

“What?”

“The linear drive; it sounds weird.”

“They are all like that, you get used to it.”

Finding her seat in the captain’s chair Alex flipped the main console online. Elis sat down at the communication officer’s seat, but rather than face the screens she rotated to face Alex.

“Elis, put on the earpiece. You can hear Nameless that way and stay up to date.”

[Warning: Allowing prisoner to ShipComm is a security risk.]

“Yeah, Alex. It is right, it isn’t a great idea. Want me to take it off?”

“No. I’m not asking you to help or do anything, but you are in the same boat we are, and in your position, I would absolutely hate not knowing what was going on.”

“Alright. Nice lighting by the way, I don’t think it is navy standard.” Elis was referring to the lights Alex had added to the chair.

Alex giggled, “I thought it needed a bit of extra color. I was thinking of doing the whole room.”

[Informative: Tentative count of hostile forces completed. 14 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 58 frigates, 99 gunships, 4098 fighter/drones detected. Hostile force is spread across all local debris clouds and is set to make rendezvous 2.9Mkm from A-3123Y. ETA: 4 hours.]

[Notice: Local Debris cloud drone forces are currently incoming directly. Requesting permission to open fire on hostile drones as they enter into weapons range.]

“Don’t waste missiles or railgun ammo on small or single drones. PDCs only.”

[Affirmative: Low density of hostile drones indicates PDC-L as optimal weapon choice.]

Alex could see on the monitor that most drones were headed to A-3123Y, and several had already been incinerated by the asteroid’s lasers.

[Informative: Rendezvous with A-3123Y, ETA: 12 minutes.]

“Ok, can you update the combat rating and our chances when we arrive?”

[Affirmative.]

Alex settled in to wait.

“You’re sure they are all automated systems? That’s a lot of ships.”

[Inconclusive: It is impossible to fully determine if hostile fleet contains biological or AI direction. No nanite signal detected on any approaching ships.]

Alex turned to look at Elis who provided some information.

“It is possible. While the fleet didn’t have any Nanite AIs there were plenty of automated systems and ships controlled by computer. There weren’t many ships that were fully automated, but a few of the carriers and their escorts specialized in them. Looking at the numbers it seems there are only a few left. Nothing we had would be capable of self-direction.”

Alex looked back at the plot. This was only a few? Just exactly how large had the Federation fleet been?

Thinking of her time studying the debris fields, a realization hit her. There must have been thousands of ships involved in the battle.

These were just remnants, echoes haunting a long-finished battle.

“Nameless, I would like to transmit to the oncoming ships over high band. Might as well try talking anyway. There could be a chance.”

[Affirmative: High band channel open. Transmit when ready.]

Alex took a breath first, “Incoming Federation ships, this is… Alex, Captain of… Shrike H3-42812. Please cut your acceleration and stand-off. We do not wish for conflict.”

[Notice: Numerous incoming requests for Federation command authentication.]

|Authentication Required|

|Admiralty Authorization Challenge|

|YT8342FFFF|

Before Alex could even ask, the request blinked away to be replaced by a single red flashing line.

|Challenge timeout|

“I don’t think they want to talk.”

[Notice: Negotiations always had a low chance of success. The cost of transmitting was negligible, so no loss has occurred.]

It didn’t feel that way to Alex.

“How long?”

[Informative: ETA on Hostile Fleet entering maximum missile range: 42 minutes.]

This was torture, Alex had to consciously loosen her muscles up. She had to decide, whether they should flee and try to avoid detection and abandon the station, or fight.

“Did you figure out anything about our odds?”

[Notice: Force strength remains at parity.]

“If we run, what are our chances of getting away undetected?”

[Correlative: Federation detection technology capable of maintaining lock on known signals. While possible to lose lock by positioning behind large orbital bodies, hostile fleet fast elements possess superior acceleration.]

Did loading all the extra mass kill them? If she dumped everything out the airlock, would they be able to escape? Alex checked her monitor on the estimated maximum acceleration on the HKs and frigates and shook her head. They would have to fight whatever remained of those, regardless of what they did, they were simply much faster.

At least we won’t have ammunition problems Alex told herself. “Alright, I’m confirming, we will stay and fight with A-3123Y. Can we position the asteroid base between us and the enemy? It has much heavier armor.”

[Notice: A-3123Y confirms and accepts our assistance. It has transmitted multiple positions on the flanks of the action and requested we supplement PDC coverage of certain areas. Full combat telemetry has been shared and A-3123Y reports ready to follow your orders.]

“Wait, it is putting me in charge? Why, it has way more firepower.”

[Informative: Avatar’s command authority is higher.]

That didn’t explain why to Alex, just that it was. She grumbled, “Can we estimate their point defense strength? What’s our chance to saturate their defenses at maximum range? If we can kill most of them before they get in close weapon range…”

Alex looked at the loadout of A-3123Y. It had an impressive amount of missile silos, but the thing she noticed was a lack of any EW drone pods. Considering what she had learned earlier about how important those were she felt concern.

“Did you consider the lack of the asteroid base’s EW suite? If we coordinate our launches, we might be able to improve things for our first salvo.”

[Correlation: Improvement of missile profile possible.]

Alex felt a bit of hope return.

“It is not likely the automated ships have their own EW drones. Those are usually operator monitored.”

Alex looked to Elis and gave her a smile, “Thanks!”

It was good news.

A plan began to form in Alex’s mind, now she just had to put up with the torturous waiting.

 

USD: ~Nine weeks since awakening, 7.5 hours since hostile contacts detected

Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf, L4 Lagrange Point, Debris Field #32, nearby A-3123Y


 

[Notice: Hostile Fleet has crossed estimated maximum missile range line.]

Alex had been keeping track as well, nodding at the information.

“The automated ships aren’t very sophisticated; they probably will open fire as soon as all of them cross the threshold.”

Alex glanced at Elis, thankful for the little tidbits of information that had been shared.

[Interrogative: A-3123Y requests permission to launch missiles.]

“No. Don’t launch them yet. Wait for my order.”

Elis was proved to be right a few seconds later, and the combat display on the main monitor turned a red hue. Red lines from clusters of the enemy ships began to be drawn toward the asteroid base and Shrike. The drones had concentrated their salvo together in one large wave of missiles that would all arrive at nearly the same time. That was the only way a fleet could hope to saturate the point defenses of a fortress like A-3123Y.

[Notice: Incoming missile volley, Designating Vampires 1. ETA: 4 minutes 32 seconds.]

Alex watched the clock tick down. Seconds turned into minutes.

[Notice: Second launch detected. Designating Vampires 2—Vampire 1 ETA: 1 minute, 22 seconds—Vampire 2 ETA: 3 minutes 48 seconds.]

The hostile fleet was burning hard and fast, and Alex realized they were not going to be matching velocities, instead they were accelerating. That would get their close weapons in range quicker, but then they would pass by and take some time before they could turn around. If they needed a second pass, that was. The battle might be over in one quick exchange.

[Warning: A-3123Y is repeatedly asking for clearance to fire.]

That was something Nameless did to her when he was emotional as well, Alex thought.

“As soon as the missiles clear 1ls, open fire with lasers. Schedule return volley for 30 seconds before first Vampire arrival, launch everything we have together with A-3123Y, including the EW drones. After that launch at fastest salvo interval. Keep the torpedoes and standard missiles linked, even if we must lower the ROF on the standards. We need weight of fire.”

Alex had held fire back as long as possible. The closer range would improve the missiles' accuracy and ability to maneuver, and with the addition of the EW drones she wanted to make their first volley count as much as possible.

[Affirmative: Orders confirmed. A-3123Y confirms.]

Alex stared at the screen as weapons came online.

Thousands of hostile missiles streaked inwards in a large wave that had spread out. As soon as they reached the 1ls line, they all gyroed straight for their target. Lances of light flashed out, and missiles began to explode as the high-powered rays slammed into them.

The Shrike hummed louder as the reactor’s power output neared its maximum. A sudden worry that Nameless had added the extra lasers without considering how much they would tax the powerplant was misguided as its output settled at a hot 97% of capacity. That was way too close to operating margin for her though, and she would have words with the computer later. If there was a later.

[Notice: Vampires 1, ETA: 30 seconds. Return Missile Salvo activating.]

Hundreds of laser emplacements on the asteroid fortress spewed out their defensive fire with wild abandon. As the incoming death drew closer, large mass drivers whirled and aimed huge scatter shots of steel bearings in a shotgun attempt to intercept the missiles. PDC-Ks suddenly lit up in the last ten seconds, and Alex could hear the thrum of them sound through the ship.

Most of Vampires 1 had been targeted at A-3123Y, so the Shrike’s accuracy was slightly degraded, but not by much. The cloud of thousands had been cut down to a few hundreds, then dozens, until the ETA clock reached zero.

Four missiles made it through the net, all detonating just before impact with the asteroid, casting a cataclysmic wave of radiation into the area. The Shrike’s power systems diverted power to the D-field immediately to absorb it even from the distance they had parked at. Huge molten red divots on the asteroid’s surface emitted an angry, pained hue as the main screen switched to optical. Alex held her breath.

[Notice: A-3123Y reports 89% operational, and requests we move to cover blind spots created by loss of surface PDC mounts. Vampires 2, ETA: 2 minutes, 26 seconds.]

Repair bots on the asteroid sprung to life as they rushed to emplacements near the explosions that had been damaged and rendered non-operational but had avoided the deadliest zone of damage. Alex watched the plot; they would take another missile volley before their reply reached the Federation drone fleet. That was the price for improving their accuracy. She hoped it was worth it.

The seconds ticked down. The loud grating sound of hydraulic autoloaders echoed throughout the entire ship as PDC-Ks reloaded their boxes and the missile and torpedo tubes were refilled. One missile loader jammed, and a dozen repair bots immediately took charge, manually loading the missile.

The second wave of enemy missiles entered laser range just as the Shrike and Asteroid base let off another salvo. It was less than the first as some silos on the base had been destroyed, and the lack of EW drones would mean it was flying in naked.

Alex watched the plot, the missiles had all focused on the asteroid base again. She hoped that the EW drones proved that ignoring the Shrike had been a mistake on the enemy’s part.

[Notice: First Salvo entering final acquisition phase.]

Unlike the enemy who only had two targets, the enemy fleet provided a huge number of vessels to choose from. The missiles were all equipped with their own targeting suites which were being enhanced by the close connection to the asteroid base and Shrike.

Just as the friendly missiles crossed the laser range threshold the EW drones began to do their magic. Two of the drones split into a hundred dozen smaller emitters, multiplying nearby missiles into dozens of sensor ghosts. One drone suddenly exploded in a directional burst of energy, designed to blind enemy sensors, and the remaining five began to emit a mind-boggling amount of communication spam and sensor garbage.

Alex’s attention wavered between the attack on the enemy and the incoming missiles now entering PDC-K range. She swallowed, heart threatening to pound out of her chest as the critical seconds counted down.

A wall of steel kinetics erupted from both sides in an attempt to push away the deadly incoming charges. The Shrike did its best with its additional firepower, focusing all its efforts in an attempt to cover the blind spot created by the first enemy salvo. Despite its best attempt, almost two dozen missiles threaded the needle to impact in the same area.

The Shrike shook violently as the energy systems shrieked in protest as the D-field emitters stressed themselves to deflect the incoming radiation from the relatively nearby detonations.

The missiles had impacted directly into the previous molten wounds, and the effect was devastating.

As much as the asteroid base was a fortress, most of its mass was from being a giant rock. A split appeared, and then another explosion deep inside pried an entire section of the asteroid loose, sending it careening away. The chunk was so massive that the section was still operational, weapon emplacements on it were still showing as green and redundant magazines and powerplants kept the systems running.

Alex tore her eyes away from the damage to examine the enemy fleet and felt her heart lift. It had not escaped damage, either.

The EW drones had shepherded their charges past the enemy laser fire relatively intact, and despite the best efforts of the enemy's close range weapon systems, hundreds of missiles had made it through the net.

Some missiles had been forced to target the same ship, and wasted their charges on already dead vessels, but a large chunk of the enemy fleet had been evaporated in a near simultaneous wall of explosions.

[Notice: Vampires 3 launch detected, ETA: 1 minute 54 seconds, estimated density 56% of Vampires 1, 2.]

[Warning: Large energy spike detected in A-3123Y ShipCore module. Unknown energy detected. Communication inoperative. Combat telemetry still active, all asteroid base combat systems slaved to our control.]

[Interrogative: Second Salvo prepared; however, several missile silos are in repair status and are coming back online intermittently, fire now or delay?]

“Fire now, save the ones that come back online for the next salvo.”

Alex swallowed, her throat going dry; she had hoped that they would be able to claw out ahead far enough in the missile exchange to make up for the heavier weight of firepower the enemy fleet had at close range. They had eliminated almost 50% of the hostile fleet’s weight of fire, but that had been concentrated mostly on the heavier cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. The numerous Hunter Killers and drone swarm was relatively unharmed and was going to be devastating once they closed to railgun range.

Watching the enemy fleet’s path diverge into two separate groups, she realized that the drones had separated from the fleet. They were going for a rendezvous, and their massive thrust-weight ratio allowed them to drain their relative velocity to zero even at this late stage.

“Nameless, prepare all our drones for boarding action,” Alex called out, barely suppressing her fears.

[Notice: Elevated Avatar vital signs indicate distress. Recommend visit to Medbay for testing after current engagement.]

“Screw you Nameless!”

[Informative: Profanity directed at this unit is not efficient use of Avatar’s limited processing capabilities.]

Elis, who had been quietly watching from her seat the entire time finally spoke, “It’s pretty normal for vitals to be elevated in combat situations, I don’t think she needs a Medbay visit.”

“Thank you Elis! Nameless do something useful, get those missile silos working again, and figure out what is wrong with A-3123Y!”

[Affirmative.]

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I just can't hold this back anymore. Enjoy!


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Erios909

  • West Virginia, USA
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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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