Damage Control – Part 1
The senior officers of the PHR frigate class carrier the Accipiter were enjoying their weekly dinner together. Part relaxation and part business Captain Reyna Hevn made time in her schedule. The meal helped to bond her senior staff both professionally and personally. The meal was a chance to blow off steam not meant for crew’s ears, make and redeem favors between departments, cut through red tape, and just unwind amongst peers.
Even when on the line Reyna insisted on these meals. Once they all gathered in the captain’s office off the bridge, standing and eating from concentrated fleet rations just prior to entering battle. That five-minute meal though hurried provided a small respite in the tension. The captain had forbidden any talk of ships business instead asking about her officer’s families, the latest entertainment vids, and before sending them out even cracked an off color joke involving the breeding habits of Shaltari with Scourge.
This dinner was not like that one. The conversation was friendly with all officers in casual uniforms or even civilian clothes. Per captain’s orders all access to the ships AI was blocked to be overridden only by a Tier I alert.
The chance of that happening approached the probability of zero. After a fairly uneventful patrol as a picket for the PHR fleet at Aluminia they were recalled back to the home world. Spending a month in dock for refit and much needed repairs the Accipiter was now on patrol along the shipping routes of two outlying PHR colonies.
The dishes were cleared with all retiring to the anteroom. A bottle of aged Apelsin brandy was being decanted when a slight tremor could be felt from the deck. This was followed by a major shock that kicked the ship to the right almost knocking everyone off their feet. All the officers looked at each other in surprise, eyes wide, as the Tier I alert came through the Clip from the ship AI.
“Alert! Alert! Breach detected port side. Port side levels three thru five. Level four aft machine space 1 and aft machine space 3 fully vented. Main control conduit severed. Port side drone control intermittent. Non-essential functions destroyed or degraded: 17. Clip drops: 23.”
As the lights flickered and dimmed the officers led by Reyna dashed out of the officer’s mess. All ran at full speed to their duty stations, information flooded their minds as the AI directed relevant data to the correct recipient. Even here the damage was severe as the AI and its connection to the Clip was sluggish, almost hesitant in delivering data. In the empty anteroom a stain slowly spread as the brandy spilled forth from a dropped, forgotten bottle.
Dashing onto the bridge Reyna barked out orders and queries. The chair was hastily vacated by the duty watch officer Sub-Lieutenant Kim Ahage. Speaking quickly Kim issued her report to her captain.
“Ma’am we did not deviate from the set patrol schedule. The sensors detected a Scourge mine just before impact. I attempted to dodge the mine with hard burn to starboard. After impact I initiated an emergency stop and an overlay scan of all sensors out to 10 km. Drones are on standby for mine intercept if more are detected.”
“Excellent decisions Lieutenant. A letter of exemplary conduct will be attached to your file. If we live through this”, Reyna stated in a calm voice. “Now take your station.”
Dropping into the Clip she tried to connect to her XO, Viktor Taran. However, she received only static with an infrequent connection pulse. Turning her head, she saw Viktor wearing a slim command holographic head set as she reached for hers. Viktor’s voice boomed through the ship.
“All hands – ship wide Clip has been compromised. Switch to hard back-ups and localized Clip nodes. Section commands assume local control.”
Turning to his captain their eyes met. Hers quizzical for answers while his were hard with the truth.
“It is bad Captain. We got hit with an active seek scald mine meant for a cruiser class. If not for Lt. Ahage’s quick thinking on the hard burn we would have been cored and split. As it is the glancing blow has taken out our fold drive and all maneuver engines. Both generators are down and the auxiliary is behind hard vacuum and twisted metal.”
“The scald severed the main AI/Clip conduit as you know. Of greater concern is it appears our spine is severely compromised if not broken. Since our main communication trunk line is along the spine our ship wide communication is down. The AI is re-routing through local nodes but they are not meant for the cascade overload of communications.”
“We have 23 confirmed dead. Damage control schematic uploaded to your hard screen.”
Tightening her lips Reyna muttered “By the Sphere”. Bringing the holo-screen into focus she saw fully a third of the Accipiter was red. Another third amber. One small blessing was the entire forward third to include the hangar bays were green. While the Captain and her XO had bonded these last few months the true meaning of trust now came to the fore.
“XO – fight the ship while I handle my duties. Do what is required – you have my full authority. Don’t let us vent. Send out a Tier I distress call before you leave.”
Stabbing at the little used touch screen Viktor quickly set the auto distress beacon. With a quick salute he then left the bridge to head to the damaged sections.
Settling back in her chair Reyna noted that Lt. Ahage was sitting in the navigator seat until her primary navigator got to the bridge. All of her hard screens were up and active while her holographic head set encircled her as a silver diadem. Manual control sticks had been deployed, her hands resting lightly on them ready to respond to her captain’s directions.
“Lt Ahage – can you plot a course out of here? Back down the course we entered on?”
“I could Captain but I have no maneuvering engines.”
“Do we have reaction mass?”
Kim first looked surprised, then a smile spread across her face as she glanced at a screen. “Yes, ma’am we do!”
“Then back us out”
Gripping the controls (one for lateral the other for vertical axis control) and locking her feet into the longitudinal axis pedals Kim started the ship moving. The Accipiter, with a heavy groan and shudder, began the slow, delicate task of backing down her track.
As Viktor proceeded deeper into the ship he encountered increasingly severe damage, the injured, and a crew in full damage repair mode. He noted with satisfaction the unique look of nanite repair packs, self-repair breach seals and even the ancient but effective shoring techniques. As the ship began to move he felt an unusual roll as the Accipiter flexed around her broken back.
His first order of business with the ship apparently stable for the time being was to make sure her port side drones were active. Whoever laid these mines so deep in Republic territory may still be around. In any event the drones could be used to intercept additional mines that may be encountered.
Viktor initially feared that the port drone control center had been breached. However, as he drew closer information ticked up in front of his eye. Communication was nigh impossible still but it appeared that he could make it to the center even with the damage. The last few feet to the center involved crawling under a partially collapsed bulkhead.
Entering the drone center, he was assaulted by a smoke, emergency lights, and the smell of singed flesh. A flash fire had erupted when power feedback exploded one of the three control panels. One crewman was in the corner under sedation with most of his clothes burned off. The other crew, including drone chief Rikard Tergo, though wounded and burned were feverishly working on the other control panels.
“Status!” barked Viktor.
Jumping in surprise Rikard looked up at his XO from under a panel. “Trying to fix these fused control nodes. The drones received a lot of feedback energy and a few have begun to detonate. So far we managed to ground some of them but a lot are still on overload.”
“Can you guarantee you can ground the others before they detonate? If they go, they will most probably kill this ship.”
Rikard wrinkled his brow then looked up. “No sir – I cannot guarantee it.”
Viktor did not hesitate, “Scuttle them. All of them. We cannot take the chance. Then get yourself and crew to medical.”
“But sir, that would leave the port side defenseless if….”, but Rikard trailed off as Viktor fixed him with a steely glare. “Yes, sir!”
As Viktor shimmied under the bulkhead he could feel rippling waves of vibrations as the Mosquito drones were launched into the void. One problem down he thought as he hurried to fix the next problem – power.
Corridors that had just been on internal batteries were now on the actinic light of self-contained emergency lights. The AI was shutting down non-essential areas to keep life support and power to combat systems active. This was of concern as that meant the internal batteries were at less than 50 percent. He had to get the auxiliary generator running assuming it was not knocked out in the blast.
Viktor began a fast jog.
Reyna’s prime navigator never appeared on the bridge. Without the Clip she could not even verify if he was alive or dead. Mentally shrugging that she could do nothing about it her attention returned to Kim.
“Status Lt. Ahage?”
Her brow furrowed she answered in the tone of one whose concentration is 90 percent on a task and 10 percent on the answer. She continued to work all three manual controls as one – her motions small, concentrated and precise.
“She is very sluggish Captain. Her flexing makes turning difficult as it is severely throwing off her lateral pitch. Also the continued venting is irregular but just enough to continue to push us off course by a degree or two.”
“Can you compensate?”
“I have been ma’am but I have to be careful. Too much compensation and I will be setting us up for a whip saw motion. That may tear the ship in half as the flexing widens any cracking in the hull.”
“You are doing a fine job Lieutenant, keep it up.”
Not taking her eyes off her screens Kim simply grunted an assent.
“CONTACT! Enemy contact Captain! Scourge Hunter-Killer corvette class!” one of the scan techs stated.
Normally a single corvette would run from even a frigate, but the current situation was not normal. On her hard screen the corvette was obviously pacing her, most likely checking the Accipiter over before deciding what to do.
Attempting to contact her hangar was met with static from the hard communications set. The Clip was still out – an almost visual grey fog was met when she tried once again to drop down. Musing that even though her port drone’s functionality was questionable they provided a visual deterrence at least.
It was then that the status indicator of the ship along with the vibrations announced the scuttling of the entire port side drone clusters. It took only moments for the Scourge ship to determine the drones were on a ballistic path to eternity versus set for defensive operations.
An icy finality briefly flushed over Reyna. The Hunter-Killer performed a hard burn and roll to bring them on course to attack from their left side. With the Accipiter crippled as she was Reyna had to decide between being burned down by the Scourge, or attempt a hard roll to bring the starboard drones to bear tearing the ship apart in the process.
Taking a deep breath Reyna stated without the slightest quaver, “Lieutenant Ahage….”
End Part 1
Stories set in the Dropverse.
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