Damage reports had started to come in. The XO, Viktor Taran, was in charge of sifting through and prioritizing what needed to be repaired right now. Anything of critical value that could affect the ongoing confrontation, she would be informed. She fought the battle, the XO fought the ship.
“Captain – the hangar deck is reporting two additional launch tubes are down and maneuvering thrusters on the port side are degraded. Neither can be repaired for several days.” The status formed in her mind. There was no need to speak when one was clipped into the ship AI whose one function of many was to sort and pass on messages mentally. Clipping was the term.
“Thank you XO” Reyna Hevn coolly replied. Internally her anxiety increased. The loss of launch tubes seriously degraded the Accipiter’s ability to respond with her only real weapons – her fighters and bombers. The thruster loss was almost as serious considering they were currently in the midst of an asteroid field.
The Shaltari Jade class frigate was also out there hiding. Both combatants were wounded making each paradoxically more dangerous yet more vulnerable. The Shaltari would normally have an edge in both scanner range and signature reduction, but the asteroid field helped to level the odds. Now both sides appeared to be hiding in the clutter waiting for the other to make a mistake. Or for reinforcements to arrive.
Four hours earlier…
The PHR carrier frigate Accipiter was on patrol near a secondary trade route. Individual ships had begun disappearing a few weeks ago, this implied pirates were probably at work. While the supplies that did not arrive were a nuisance if left unabated it would slowly erode PHR readiness in this sector. For a simple anti-pirate patrol, an Andromeda class carrier would be more than a match for any pirate encountered.
Reyna had them currently following a lone bulk container ship. Rigged for silent running she was only a few light minutes out if anything were to occur. The ship was under Alert 2 condition – close action weapons were manned, and a full flight of bombers would be in vacuum in under a minute.
“Weapons fire detected” her navigator, Andrea Almgren, stated, her business-like tone detected even through the clipping. “Appears to be two separate ships firing particle beams”
Particle weapons! Reyna frowned. Particle weapons played havoc on even capital ships. Armor was useless against them. While their damage was not higher than most other weapons the after effects caused systems to short out, scrambled electronics and in extreme cases could even cause a ship to “go dead” in the middle of an engagement.
For pirates to have a particle weapon was rare but not unheard of. To have two was nigh impossible. That meant Shaltari. She prayed they were both frigates, if she encountered a cruiser the best they could do would be turn and run to alert heavier PHR units.
Rolling the data over in her mind of the attack that was underway a plan formed. While they could not detect the ships at this range – another indication these were Shaltari – the beam tracks helped pinpoint the attackers. Both were in formation with the same heading.
Clipping to her CFC (Carrier Flight Commander), Kornet Ansgar, she felt the mind-link connect. “Two possible Shaltari frigates. Launch bombers. Follow the route I am sending you and with luck we can catch them tail on. If the flight encounters anything heavier than a frigate launch on the smaller ship if possible then high-G burn back here so we can make a run for it.” Her CFC echoed a short affirmative.
Four minutes passed as the dot representing her bombers, Nova element, in both her clipped screen and physical back-up screen crawled to the combat area. Meanwhile her frigate maneuvered at an angle to bring them closer and “below” the suspected heading of the enemy. This was done slower than normal by using thrusters versus the maneuvering engines to maintain the Accipiter’s silent running status – the continued firing of the enemy indicated they had not detected the launch.
Her earpiece crackled into life, as voice communications were required over long distances. “Nova Prime to Nest. Two Shaltari Jade frigates detect – Nova element has not been detected. Lining up attack run on the trailing frigate”
Shortly after the transmission, two triangles popped into being on the combat screens. Positioning data relayed from Nova element caused the AI to revise the previous combat parameters with more accurate data. The last item in the update showed the launch track of torpedoes. The dot of the freighter blinked out at almost the same time.
Reyna’s practiced eye showed a near perfect attack. The enemy had been caught from behind with evasive maneuvers started too late. The AI displayed four torpedo impacts. Her crew was professional – no cheer went up when the Shaltari frigate’s triangle disappeared from screen. Instead, stoic commands of ship business – maneuvering, readiness statuses, flight recovery and rearm chatter – were all she heard when she went down a layer in the clipping stream.
A slight smile of pride touched her lips. Issuing additional orders, she prepared the Accipiter to intercept the remaining frigate.
One hour ago…
Reyna evaluated her errors. Even though she knew the other frigate was aware the Accipiter was out there, she grudgingly gave credit to the enemy captain. Even rigged at silent running, the Shaltari somehow detected her.
They had barely rearmed and launched the bombers again when the AI alerted them to a fast moving inbound contact. The Jade caught them broadside, fully within the extremely narrow forward arc of their particle beam. Normally a broadside attack on a PHR vessel spelled certain doom for the attacker – except when the PHR vessel was an Andromeda class frigate whose broadsides were composed of only close action weapons.
The particle beam had raked them from stern to bow. They had sustained light damage as the armor absorbed the brunt of the hit. However, as feared the particle effect had played havoc on a number of systems.
The only stroke of luck were the bombers had not yet left the vicinity of the Accipiter. They were able to engage the enemy combatant. Unfortunately, the Jade was prepared this time – only two torpedoes impacted with the loss of half the flight to Shaltari point defense weapons. As they passed within close action range, the Shaltari had raised shields that shrugged off the Accipiter drone swarm.
The AI projected damage to the Shaltari was between 40 – 50% of structural capacity. Damage to the Accipiter was approximately 35%. However, Reyna realized they were still outgunned. The Shaltari had shields, which could mitigate enough damage to allow the Jade to survive the next encounter. This would most likely leave her ship and crew an expanding debris field.
Sensors easily kept a lock on the Jade as it ran with shields up. The Accipiter in pursuit was slowly catching up indicating that the Shaltari had damaged engines. If the engines were undamaged, the enemy frigate should have easily outrun them.
Clipping in Andrea came to the fore. “Sir, projections indicate the enemy is headed for a small asteroid field.”
Sending back an affirmative Reyna exercised the captain’s prerogative bypassing her XO to talk to Chief Remi, the senior hangar chief. “Chief – status on the bombers?”
“We have two rearming now. One was so badly shot up I combat loss it. My crews are working as fast as they can to reconfigure four fighters to bombers – I estimate another 20 minutes. The real problem is we are down to four launch bays. The damaged ones are unrepairable at this time.”
“Thank you Chief.” Severing the link Reyna began to plan the next phase of the battle.
Once both sides had entered the asteroid field a brief but vicious fight had occurred. The Shaltari went dark again ambushing them as they entered the field. Reyna realized too late that the other captain drew them in by keeping his shields up as bait. The particle beam this time punched through the armor destroying the port side thrusters while damaging other systems. This included two additional launch bays.
Just before the ambush, the Jade had activated shields. Between the clutter of the field and active shields, only one torpedo hit with minimal damage. In return, she had lost more bombers. Her last four now hung close to the Accipiter awaiting a target.
Hiding behind an asteroid, she went through her options. She well knew that barring several direct hits from the bombers that the next combat would probably seal their fate. The Shaltari had gone silent again but was close enough that whoever moved first would easily be detected by the other. As such, she knew approximately where her opponent was as surely as he did her.
In consultation with her XO and CFC, a plan began to form in her mind. Making a decision, she quickly issued her orders. The others were surprised at the unorthodox strategy and started to point out the flaws. Quickly cutting them off she replied, “The command has been issued. Carry them out”
Orders were quickly transmitted to ship personnel. Once ready status was indicated by all departments Reyna spoke one word, “Execute”.
The Accipiter leaped from her cover as the main engines engaged at full power. Using her starboard thrusters she began a circling pattern using as much of the asteroids for cover as possible. The course included vector changes and rolling the ship towards the last known enemy position to make her difficult to target. The bombers stayed behind.
Within moments, an energy spike was detected as the Shaltari began to move. While not exactly where she had plotted her adversary to be it was close enough. The AI began to plot the projected course of the Shaltari ship as its movement track firmed up.
Quick calculations showed her plan might work!
Issuing rapid orders the bombers began to move on an attack vector. Turning the ship bow on the Accipiter headed for the Jade. Requesting information from the screen in her mind, she began picking targets for the bombers and drone operators. A delicate balance of time on target combined with the hope that the enemy would not take evasive action was paramount.
A brief burst of static on the physical screens indicated a near miss from the particle weapon. Then a second. The small profile of the bow combined with evasive maneuvers were making it difficult for the Shaltari to lock-on. This would not last long as the distance was rapidly closing.
The lines, dots and triangle converged as she hoped. Opening the AI for ship wide clipping she screamed, “BRACE! Drones fire when unmasked”. Simultaneously she verbally issued orders to her bombers to attack.
The Accipiter violently rolled as her thrusters kicked in. As her broadside swung into view facing the Shaltari her drones attacked nearby asteroids, fracturing them. On screen, her bombers destroyed larger asteroids with their torpedos.
Physics then took over. The majority of the shattered debris flew towards the Shaltari from two directions – bow on and from their port side. Caught off guard the enemy did not change course until it was too late.
The debris hit the Jade at a high fraction of C. The shields were quickly overwhelmed and collapsed. Even the smallest of pebbles punched through the hull and out the other side. The Shaltari ship shuddered, tumbling while throwing parts of itself into the void. In less than a minute, the uncontrolled ship impacted an asteroid shattering into unrecognizable parts.
Reyna detected a palpable wave of relief come through the clipping. Congratulations came through from her XO, CFC and other senior officers. Orders were issued to recover the bombers, secure from stations, and head towards a repair ship.
Unbuckling from her seat she also removed the AI cable from her clip port. Sweeping her eyes over the bridge crew, she gave a brief nod of approval before heading out to personally thank her crew. Walking down the virtually pristine main corridor she was pleased to see some smudges on the wall and barely detectable grime in the corners.
Stories set in the Dropverse.
2 posts • Page 1 of 1
Great tie in with the previous with the ending!
“We're like the Forums little pitbull. You'll beat it, mistreat it, and once in a while we'll escape to attack somebody.”
Location: The Netherlands, Europe
Location: The Netherlands, Europe