USD: ~15 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, 5 minutes after lighting off the main drives
Location: IND Tears of Fire, Half-burn toward out-system
“They are bracketing us.” Elis pointed out.
Alex nodded, she had watched as the ships chasing them had spread apart slightly, the destroyer still bee-lining straight for them while the three frigates curved away slightly forming a triangular bracket. It was the right thing if they had been running the Tears down and her acceleration was what they thought it was. No matter how she tried to evade at their current speed, at least two of them would get close enough to hit them hard with close range weapons now.
Alex felt more than a little sorry for them. She acknowledged that she had kicked the nest as it was due to her impatience.
“Next time we will fly back.”
A confused look appeared on Elis’s face, “What?”
“Nothing, never mind.”
She didn’t really want to kill them, although they seemed to her to be exactly the type of low-life scum that wouldn’t hesitate to rob or kill if they had the power to do so. She was sure there was at least one good person aboard those ships who didn’t deserve to die. That wouldn’t have been enough to stay her hand, but it would have made her feel at least a little guilty.
No, it was Nameless’s revelation that those ships had been moored at or around the station for as long as they had been collecting data. That hinted to her they might have connections with people on the station, or in the system. People who would be very angry and want to come after her if she blew them all up. So, she had modified the plan, there was only one small detail that could be a problem.
“Nameless, can you look over these calculations, and see if this is possible?”
A few seconds ticked, before Nameless answered.
[Notice: While the calculations are sound and course of action seems possible, this appears to be a serious waste of limited ShipCore resources that will have little to no effect.]
“So, it’s possible.”
[Notice: These resources are not renewable under current circumstances. Wasting them is not advised.]
“It is a little pricey, yes. But I think it will have a devastating effect.”
[Informative: That is highly unlikely, analysis concludes a 99% chance for no major or critical damage to be dealt.]
Alex smiled, “Perfect! Thank you, Nameless!”
Elis frowned, “What are you planning?”
Alex happily transferred her data pad contents to Elis’s screen.
It took the marine a few moments of study to understand what she was reading, and then an incredulous look appeared on her face.
“Seriously? You know this isn’t a game, right?”
“Don’t worry, I will let you off when we get to the station.”
A slight frown creased Elis’s face and she shook her head slightly.
[Informative: Hostile task group has entered maximum missile range.]
“Ok, its show time.” Alex blanked the extra screens and put the tactical screen on the largest monitor in the CIC.
She waited. Then waited more.
“Nameless, they are in missile range? They haven’t fired anything?”
[Affirmative: No missile launch detected, however IND Iron Horse has multiple signatures dispersing from ship.]
“Wait, what? Things are coming out of it? Are they deploying drones or… dumping cargo?”
[Notice: No analysis of high enough confidence is available.]
A second later they got their answer.
[Warning: Missile launch detected! Vampires 1, designated, 20 count, light missile acceleration profile, ETA: 2:34]
“Nameless, you said that destroyer probably only had 4 tubes!”
It was Elis who figured it out first, a bit of respect in her voice, “They cold dropped them. They didn’t fire them out of the tubes but dumped them out of cargo. Then remotely fired them all at once.”
Alex felt her mind racing, “Holy shit, that’s genius.”
If they had done that with A-3123Y, even if it had just doubled the weight of their first volley, they would have won. She bit her lip in frustration at the sour thought.
She didn’t have time to admire the hostile squadron’s commander.
“Nameless, prepare to go full active. Even with their trick, they don’t have enough saturation to get through, and if those little ships had missiles, they would have fired with the first salvo. It’s time to throw off our disguise.”
[Notice: EM analysis of hostile missiles suggest a non-standard guidance package.]
[Conclusion: Vampires 1 are being ‘wire’ guided by High Band or Laser telemetry from hostile forces. Recommend deploying EW drones and chaff cluster countermeasures.]
Alex looked at the clock. They had time.
[Notice: Deploying EW drones and smart chaff.]
There was a sudden thrunk that echoed through the ship as the drone pod launcher went to work flinging the EW drones into space. A second launch with a much faster tempo indicated the chaff clusters were firing.
“What settings are you using?”
[Informative: EW drones with High Band interference profile. Chaff clusters to wide area dispersal. Analysis report concludes hostile EW suite is of marginal efficiency and comm lasers are likely to be of poor strength.]
This was her first time seeing the chaff clusters go into action. Normally it was used defensively when hostile lasers were being used as anti-ship weapons. The scattered reflective material would degrade a laser’s performance tremendously. The main issue was that it also could create a blind spot in the ship’s sensors, and it would degrade PDC-L fire.
Nameless wasn’t using it in that role here though, he was sending out a massive wave of the canisters to drop a cloud right on top of the hostile missiles’ projected courses. If his ‘analysis’ was correct, the jamming and the clouds would temporarily kill whatever connection to the missiles they were using.
Alex watched as the missiles closed the shrinking distance between the Tears and the hostile task group. At the halfway point the EW drones began to spit out their noise and the smart chaff canisters detonated themselves into rapidly expanding clouds.
[Notice: Confirmation of missile guidance loss. Missiles are on ballistic trajectory.]
“Nice one, Nameless. Once the missiles cross the 0.5 ls mark, can you target and take them out with a single volley from the triple Ls?”
[Affirmative: Utilizing independent barrels on 12cm PDC-L in simultaneous area defense role.]
“Good. Go ahead and blow the camouflage plating. Light them up with all our actives as well.”
[Informative: Overuse of active sensors is a waste of reactor output.]
“Just do it.”
[Confirmation: Exterior plating jettison complete. All independent weapon sensors are full active.]
[Warning: Exterior plating jettison failure on bow plate #3, four bow AMLS tubes are jammed.]
Alex cursed under her breath before replying, “Well, that’s a good reason not to do this all the time. Thankfully, we weren’t planning to fire any missiles today.”
Standing up Alex reached out to open the ship’s tactical controls on the main screen and then highlighted the railguns, then poked the four incoming ships.
“Nameless, independent targeting, one LRPSGSM round per target if you please, as per our earlier conversation!”
Elis did her best not to roll her eyes, “You realize you could have just told it that, instead of standing up?”
“Shush, you are ruining my dramatic flair moment.”
USD: ~15 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, during combat with IND Tears of Fire
Location: IND Iron Horse, Intercept course: IND Tears of Fire
Captain Thraker had watched the chase with all the stoicism required of his position. The bracket had slowly and quietly spread apart to lock in their quarry’s fate. He did not know who the sailors on the Tears of Fire were, but he saluted them in their brave attempt to escape and give no hint of what their mission might have been or what flag they belonged to.
It was honorable sailors like them that paid the price for their sovereignty’s foolishness.
Thraker watched the lines on the tactical screen come closer together, and finally when they crossed over their maximum missile range line, he gave the order he had decided upon, despite its ruinous cost.
“Cold launch MK41, full bow magazine, Target: IND Tears of Fire.”
His XO and the tactical crew looked at him a bit shocked. He wasn’t surprised, each precious missile cost a fortune, and the company was not flush with cash. Wasting them would be the height of foolishness.
“Do not make me repeat myself. Hit them with everything we have.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
Thraker watched as the tactical team called through the ShipComm to give orders to the loaders in the missile bay. The cold launch was an old war tactic last used almost forty years prior in the company’s last major fleet engagement, when they had fought the Ertans with the Sollies at 81 Draconis.
The tactic had been used by both fleets then, to ruinous effect for all the personnel involved, a mutual annihilation that was only merciful by how quickly it had been over as the beleaguered remains of both sides had called a truce to search for life pods.
The junior tactical officer looked up from his console, “Captain, missile crews report cold launch ready, waiting fire order.”
“Very good. You are cleared to fire.”
The lieutenant pressed a button on the console and called down to the missile bay where there would be one guidance seaman per missile in the dark, adding human guidance and preventing any missile from being spooked by decoys.
“Cold Launch MK41, Full Bow Magazine, Action Clear.”
A second later the other tactical officer called out, “Birds away. ETA: 2:35”
The CIC held a tense silence as the missiles tracked toward their target. Thraker ignored a few glances shot towards him. He knew what they were thinking, that he had finally lost his nerve, flushing an entire ship’s magazine at one ship.
He squeezed the arm rest of his chair. But that girl of a captain had unnerved him. He had replayed the Tears of Fire’s transmission twice, and he couldn’t figure out why, other than she looked much too young for her position, and he hated the idea that reckless youth had doomed the other ship to destruction.
“Popup! Hostile launch detected, 4—8 slow movers, designating Bandits 2-9.”
Thraker stroked his beard. They were deploying defense drones. They were a Ertan design that had been pushed to improve PDC for single ships, so their launch made sense, but the reason the tech had not caught on was due to how poorly they performed in real combat.
“Designate Bandits 2-9 low priority, focus on Bandit 1,” Thraker ordered.
Time slowly moved forward, and crewmen fidgeted nervously while Thraker tapped the arm of his chair.
Suddenly the officer at the sensor console was yelling, “Spike! Spike! Spike! Bloody shit!”
“Sir! Missile Control reports telemetry loss, all birds!”
“What?” Thraker glared at the plot in mild disbelief that all missiles were now on a dead ballistic course.
“Severe signal degradation, and comm lasers are blocked! EM analysis shows billions of reflective particles spreading out."
Thraker’s gaze ripped over to SIGINT, a startled Emmet turning to face him.
“Captain! Something blew off Bandit 1’s hull and it's lit up like an Ertan Turkey! 43 active radars, it’s giving the computer fits!”
“It’s a nannie!” a frightened crewmen shouted, before an angry officer walloped him, “None of that!”
Thraker considered for a moment. It wouldn’t have been out of place for a nannie ship to have that many radars, but the man’s ravings were hysteria. There was no conceivable notion for a nannie ship to be in 92 Pegasi.
Larger cruisers and battleships only carried three to four high-powered arrays, so 43 was a ridiculous number. And while no one mounted that many active radars on a ship because they were extremely power hungry and nearly the most expensive component of a warship, an idea started to form in Thraker’s head.
Eyes narrowing, Thraker stared at the plot, suddenly seeing the fleeing ship’s game. Had the Ertans arrived in this far away backwater to test out new, advanced weapons in action? His stomach turned, if that was the case, that ship was more than capable, and would likely turn around and hunt them down to make sure there was no one to report the specifics of the engagement.
“Hostile laser emissions from Bandit 1! Uhh… Simultaneous laser strike on all twenty birds, confirmed destroyed. A… at .7ls!
Thraker’s knuckles turned white as he checked their closing distance, and he cursed as he realized that the entire squadron was already in the Tears of Fire’s close combat range, as ridiculous as that might seem.
This game was over, and he knew what he needed to do to try and salvage something from the situation. “Comms, priority packet to the squadron: Bugout, Bugout, Bugout.”
As the startled comm operator turned to send the message a beleaguered SIGINT officer called out, “VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE! Railgun!”
Thraker ripped his attention back to the plot, they were still well over .6ls from the Tears, well outside of railgun range, unless…
Time suddenly stopped as Thraker’s mind went into overdrive, finally realizing what about the young female captain had triggered his caution. Her uniform was one he had not seen in over 80 years. A Federation Captain’s jacket, minus the fruit salad of medals that usually adorned them. A further revelation flashed through his mind: that her apparent youth was likely because she was a rejuvie, like him, who could have been on ice all this time.
They weren’t facing a modified Ertan ship or a ship from any other living faction. It was a bonafide Federation warship, and not one like his that had been run roughshod and abused over eight decades of inferior replacement parts and refitting.
If the railguns were shooting Federation smart munitions, then they had been in the Tear’s firing range since before they entered missile range!
Thraker slammed a yellow key on the left hand of his chair, the lighting across the ship switching from white and red to a vivid amber as klaxons across the ship began to wail the collision alarm.
“Brace for impact!”
He was proud of his men, who did not question the order, instead doing their best to strap themselves in or grab hold of whatever sturdy thing presented itself to them nearby.
A railgun shell at .6ls would have taken less than ten seconds to arrive, had it really been that short of time?
Suddenly the ship lurched underneath him, an utterly loud screech of metal cutting vibrating through the ship as the railgun shell dug a divot in the weary armor.
Thraker’s heart pounded in his chest, shock at the fact that the railgun round had missed at such close range. The smart shells had been one of the deadliest medium range weapons the Federation had ever developed, reshaping the way fleet combat had been conducted at the time. Until the collapse.
“Damage report! Crews report visual outer hull breach, but the armor held! Rachel, Silver, and Shark reporting minor damage but no casualties!”
The officer paused, listening to his earpiece and then shock covered his face and he turned to pull the boarding alarm. A recorded voice blasted an announcement across the ship, “Prepare to repel boarders! Prepare to repel boarders! This is not a drill!”
Seaman rushed to the weapons lockers to have the small company of ship marines distribute rifles and other firearms.
“Captain! Unknown object entered through the breach, it’s powered and… putting on main screen now!”
Captain Thraker watched as the visual flipped to a helmet mounted camera, and the sailor pointed toward the middle of the hull.
“Seaman, zoom in and hold still!” The comm officer ordered.
As the visual panned in, Thraker’s blood turned cold. The railgun round hadn’t been a near miss.
The smart munition was slowly thrusting its way through the ship, and then it stopped at one of the larger compartments, then pushed itself toward the inner hull, thumping against it with a resounding clang that the Captain could hear in time with the video. The projectile bounced off, then powered up and banged against the inner compartment a second time.
“Captain, High Band transmission from the IND Tears of Fire!”
Thraker’s kidneys ached from the adrenaline of the preceding few moments, and he waved at the comm officer with a grimace, “On screen.”
The same young face greeted him with an infuriating smirk, her CIC was still empty except for one enlisted marine sitting at the comm console. A half eaten MRE packet sat on her console in a seeming disregard for discipline. Their ship wasn’t even on combat alert. “IND Iron Horse, I recommend you stand down, cease pursuit and modify your course as instructed. Failure to comply means I will put the next round in your CIC with a 100-kiloton charge.”
Thraker had to grip his chair to keep his arm from shaking. He didn’t know whether to curse or scream, instead he let out a laugh. The absolute cheek of this girl!