Forty missiles closed on them, a minute out. The point defense system activated, tracking them and preparing to fire, but there were only four turrets left functional. Could four turrets take out forty missiles when seven had failed to get them all?
“Incoming! Uh, more missiles? What? Approaching fast!” said Cian as he spotted a bunch of new signals zipping toward them on the radar.
Vanna looked at the signals and their source. “Hallelujah! Those are Aegis AMMs! Top notch anti-missile missiles! From the patrol fleet! They must have fired them when the engagement first began, to screen us!” she said, laughing and smiling in relief.
“Whoa. There must be a hundred of them! They’re tiny!” said Cian.
“Specialized, military grade AMMs. They have an itty bitty warhead, just enough to take out the missile. Most of it’s maneuvering, fuel, and sensors. We have a chance now, those things have their own sensors, independent targeting, and a distributed point defense computer. Adjusting our point defense to ignore them.” said Vanna, tapping at the console.
Within seconds, before the gauss turrets even had a chance to open fire, the forty missiles were destroyed. Dozens of the AMMs adjusted course to follow the Equinox, forming a loose screen around the ship.
Cian and Vanna whooped in joy.
Just then, a signal broke through the jamming. “… immediately. I repeat, this is Captain Bradley of the Redstone Republic to unknown cruiser, cease all hostile action immediately. Failure to comply will be met with deadly force.”
A gruff voice that sounded familiar came back after a moment, “This is none of your business. I’m hunting a bounty. You will step aside or I will consider you part of the target.”
“Is that… that guy from the mall? Dumbo or whatever?” said Vanna.
Cian thought for a moment. “Gumbo? It sure sounds like him. He said there was a bounty on me. How did he track us?”
Captain Bradley’s voice came through again, “Peacekeeper bounties are not valid here. You are threatening an officer of the Redstone Republic. Cease hostile action immediately. If there is a valid Coalition or Republic bounty, you will be credited with the capture. To both vessels, you are hereby ordered to dock at Spriggan Station. We will sort it out there.”
“This isn’t Republic territory, you have no jurisdiction here. Stay out of it or die. This is your only warning.” came the reply from Gumbo.
“We are operating under joint military efforts with Spriggan Station as part of the mutual defense plan with the Coalition of the Far Reaches. If you continue hostile action, you will be considered an enemy agent. You will be destroyed. Stand down.”
The cruiser launched another volley of missiles.
Cian got on the radio, sending a tight beam at the approaching patrol fleet. “This is Captain Kemp aboard the LT Equinox to Captain Bradley. Thank you for your timely assist, you saved our lives. Setting course for Spriggan station as instructed. Good fortune to you, I look forward to thanking you in person on the station.”
A tight beamed reply came back shortly, “Captain Bradley to Captain Kemp. Just doing our job, sir. Get those medical supplies to the station and we’ll share a drink after we sort this mess out. God speed.”
“Well, this should be interesting. A light cruiser versus a destroyer and two frigates.” said Vanna.
“Who has the upper hand? Three versus one, but that cruiser looks a good bit bigger.” asked Cian.
“Mmm, pretty even matchup. Ton for ton, the cruiser is heavier and more heavily armed. But the patrol fleet is more maneuverable, and they have the Aegis AMMs to counter the cruiser’s missiles. We should be able to escape regardless, we can focus on burning outta here while they worry about maneuvering. Losing the port engine will slow us down, but they should take battle damage too.” said Vanna.
“Can you fix the engine?” asked Cian.
“Gonna have to rebuild it, but that aint a job I can do while we’re burning the other engine. Too hot. Take a while too, not something I can pull off while we’re in a chase.” said Vanna.
“Ah. Okay.” said Cian.
The missiles were intercepted again, spending most of the remaining AMMs. But then another set of Aegis AMMs came up on the radar.
“Glad to see they aren’t being skimpy with ‘em. I hope that means they have plenty for the fight ahead.” said Vanna as she maneuvered around another volley of railgun fire.
The cruiser fired a 5th volley of missiles at them. The AMMs immediately maneuvered to intercept them.
“Can’t they see we have these things screening us?” asked Cian.
“Prolly not. We didn’t detect them ‘til they were right on top of us. They’re tiny and aren’t emitting much heat.” said Vanna.
The patrol fleet was passing them, maneuvering to intercept and engage the cruiser. They fired their own volley of missiles at the cruiser – two from each frigate and eight from the destroyer. The cruiser returned fire, sending their next volley of missiles at the patrol destroyer.
“Looks like we’re out of it for now.” said Vanna, lifting the visor on her helmet.
Cian lifted his visor too. “Anything we can do to help?”
“Mmm, no. This ship is rigged as a blockade runner or smuggler. The only military hardware we got is the defense system and some mil spec engine upgrades, we don’t have anything offensive. If we were right between ‘em we could shoot down some missiles, but that would get us blown up and kinda defeat the whole point of the patrol fleet flyin’ in to save us. Our gauss turrets wouldn’t even penetrate the cruiser’s armor.” said Vanna.
“Yeah, I figured that. Feels bad to sit here and let them fight for us.” said Cian.
“That’s what being a civilian is. Even if we ain’t seeing it, the military’s fightin’ for us all the time. Lotta good folk die for us keeping the Pa’Ran back. The Republic is good people, too. Better than the Peacekeepers.” said Vanna.
“Why were you fighting for the Peacekeepers then?” asked Cian.
Vanna shrugged, “More work. Peacekeeper space has a lot more pirates. ‘specially once the humans showed up. The Redstone Republic does a better job patrolling. I still got a Republic bounty hunter license, but I ain’t used it in years.”
The cruiser’s point defense system engaged, small pulsed lasers tracking and firing at the incoming missiles. The light wasn’t in the visible spectrum, but their sensors detected the emissions. It quickly took down eleven of the missiles that the patrol fleet had fired. The last one impacted the shield, but didn’t seem to do much.
The patrol fleet dodged the cruiser’s railgun fire and their AMMs easily took down the incoming missile volley.
The two fleets were closing fast. The patrol fleet was maneuvering to pull in behind the cruiser, but the cruiser was working to keep them in view of its front-mounted railguns.
As they closed, the cruiser fired another volley of missiles. The cruiser fired a different kind of missile this time, and shortly after firing they seemed to explode and the sensors lost track of them. The AMMs didn’t even have a chance to lock onto them. Seconds later, something pelted the patrol fleet. One of the frigates lost shielding, and the shielding on the destroyer flickered.
“What was that?!” asked Cian.
“Shield breakers’d be my guess. Short range and poor tracking, but they send a shotgun blast of pellets at your target. Don’t do much to mil spec armor, but all the concentrated high speed impacts will short out even the best shields. Good thing we didn’t get close enough for those, our armor’s weak enough that we woulda taken on a few leaks.” said Vanna.
The patrol fleet closed, whipping around and managing to get behind the cruiser. The muzzle flash was visible from the Equinox as they pelted the cruiser from behind with rotary chaingun fire. They fired another volley at the cruiser from close range.
At this range, the cruiser’s point defense couldn’t shoot down all the incoming missiles. Four of the patrol fleet’s missiles hit the cruiser’s shields, sending ripples across it – but it held.
The cruiser responded with eight smaller railgun turrets, two mounted above and below the engines and four more mounted in the same way at the middle of the ship – two on top and two below. The destroyer’s shield flickered from a few impacts, but the agile frigates dodged all the fire.
Suddenly the cruiser lit up like a beacon on the sensors. Its own engines flickered out and its shield dropped.
“What was that?” asked Cian.
“Electromagnetic pulse I think?” said Vanna.
The patrol fleet seemed unfazed by the EMP, using the moment to pelt the cruiser with chaingun fire. Its armor buckled in a few spots, but there was no sign of depressurization.
Another volley of missiles launched from the cruiser. Half of them were a new type of missile, flying out and spinning in an unpredictable corkscrew pattern. The other half exploded, sending the same shotgun blast of kinetics as the last volley.
“Uh oh. Those are Peacekeeper missiles.” said Vanna as the missiles swirled and split, ten targeting each of the two frigates.
The blast from the shield breakers pelted the frigates. One had only just got their shields back – its shields failed almost immediately and it took a beating from the kinetics. The other nearly weathered the barrage without failing, but its shields flickered out too.
The Peacekeeper missiles swarmed and swirled, homing in on the two unshielded frigates.
The frigates turned and burned to make some distance as the destroyer maneuvered in between them. The destroyer ate the small railgun fire as it moved to get in between them. It’s point defense turrets took down some of the missiles, but they deftly flew past and went straight for the frigates.
“Where’s the AMMs?” asked Cian.
“Oh hell. The EMP. AMMs aren’t shielded. It took out the whole swarm.” said Vanna.
One of the frigates turned, firing their chainguns at the approaching missiles. The other fired its afterburners, relying on its point defense turrets and picking up more speed. Neither worked.
Four of the missiles made it past the chaingun fire, spinning past and coming back to slam right into the engines of the first frigate. The other frigate spun and swirled, but couldn’t lose them – three missiles slammed into it. Both frigates were dead in space.
The cruiser began to turn.
Cian and Vanna sat watching in heavy silence as the cruiser slowly maneuvered toward the crippled frigates.
The destroyer moved in between them and fired another volley of missiles. Several hit the cruiser broadside on the starboard side. One of them penetrated a launch tube and triggered a missile, causing a large explosion and several smaller secondary explosions as systems overloaded. A jet of air exiting the vessel showed a significant breach, but it didn’t slow down.
The cruiser’s nose lined up with the first frigate. All four massive railguns were charged.
The destroyer moved in front of it.
Two railguns fired, slamming into the destroyer’s shields. The slugs were deflected to the side, losing most of their momentum. The shields held, but the impact sent the destroyer careening to the side.
A third railgun fired.
The massive slug hit the frigate dead-on and tore a huge hole through the center. The weakened hull broke in two, the jet of air from depressurization pushing the two pieces of the ship apart.
The cruiser continued its spin. Seconds later it had lined up with the second frigate. The fourth railgun fired.
The destroyer tried to get in between them again, but it was moments too late.
The slug passed mere meters from the destroyer and went straight through the rear of the frigate, ripping a massive hole in the hull. A secondary explosion triggered seconds later, pelting the destroyer and cruiser with debris. The frigate was gone.
A large chunk of the frigate impacted the destroyer, taking down its already weakened shield and pelting its hull with smaller debris.
Cian winced, “How many crew does a frigate carry?”
Vanna sat in silence for a moment before replying, “Uh, it’s mostly automated, but… ‘bout twenty five or thirty? Destroyer prolly has twice that. More if they’re carrying marines for boarding.”
“Damn.” said Cian.
“Yeah.” said Vanna.
The destroyer maneuvered around the cruiser, pelting the already damaged starboard side with chaingun fire. It was targeting the missile tubes.
The cruiser’s railgun turrets continued to pelt the destroyer. It was neglecting attempts at dodging in order to focus fire on the cruiser, but the damage was adding up as the armor began to buckle in places.
Another volley of missiles fired from the port side as the cruiser tried in vain to roll away from the destroyer. All of the launch tubes on the starboard side had been disabled or damaged enough that the cruiser didn’t risk reloading them, but the port side’s twenty missiles fired and looped around the ship to target the destroyer.
AMMs engaged the volley, destroying it before it even got close to the destroyer – it had launched more at some point, but the Equinox’s sensors didn’t detect it.
The destroyer gave up firing at the weakened starboard side and maneuvered in close beneath the ship to escape fire from the four top turrets. It began firing at the four lower railgun turrets. The chaingun fire impacted small localized shields over the turrets.
The destroyer launched its missiles. Only five fired – the other three launchers must have been lost to railgun fire. One missile was intercepted by defensive laser fire, but four hit the turret – two took out the shield, and the other two slammed into both sides of it. After the explosion faded, all that remained of the turret was a smoking hole.
The cruiser’s three remaining lower turrets continued to pelt the destroyer as it switched targets to the other midship turret and began firing everything it had at it – the front mounted chainguns were joined by its array of small gauss turrets.
A tense thirty seconds passed as the destroyer pelted the second turret and ate slugs from three railguns. It was spinning and maneuvering enough to avoid losing its guns, but sticking so close kept it from really dodging any of the incoming fire. Finally, the shields on the turret failed and the chainguns tore through it. It repeated the move with one of the rear turrets, disabling it and leaving only one railgun turret on the bottom side of the cruiser.
Another volley of twenty missiles fired from the cruiser’s port side. They shot off ahead of the cruiser for a second, turned, and exploded.
The destroyer hadn’t moved from the cruiser’s belly, focusing fire on the remaining rear turret.
The shotgun blast from the missiles pelted the cruiser and destroyer alike. With the destroyer facing the rear of the cruiser, most of the blast impacted the engines. One of its main engines sputtered out.
The cruiser’s engines lit up again, the first time since the earlier EMP. They were on at full burn, slowly pulling the cruiser away from the destroyer and back in the direction of the Equinox.
The destroyer’s remaining engine went to full and it engaged its secondary engines and thrusters, trying in vain to keep up. It was slowly losing ground. Its guns finished off the final bottom turret, but it was soon exposed to fire from the top turrets gain. It fired another volley of five missiles, taking out one of the top turrets and damaging a second.
The other three guns on the Cruiser tore into it, causing a section of the destroyer’s hull to crumple and depressurize.
The cruiser continued to pull away, its main engines at full burn.
The destroyer finished off the damaged top turret, leaving two, then switched to firing at the engines. They too were independently shielded. It didn’t even manage to take out the shields before a lucky railgun round tore into one of its starboard launchers, triggering a missile that was in the middle of reloading. An explosion ripped through the side of the ship, taking out the two remaining launchers on that side and causing several smaller secondary explosions along the starboard side. It began to fall behind further as its remaining main engine flickered.
The cruiser fired another volley of missiles. This time it was the standard nukes, and AMMs took down most of them. The remaining few were targeted and destroyed by gauss fire.
“How many missiles does that thing have?” commented Cian.
The Equinox was still burning as hot as its damaged engines would take and had been the whole fight, but the cruiser was getting close to to matching its speed.
The destroyer fired another three missiles, but only one made it through the cruiser’s pulsed lasers. Sustained fire finished off a third top turret, and it focused on the final one. At this range it was able to dodge the incoming railgun fire, but it was nearly out of chaingun range.
The cruiser began dodging chaingun fire as it was able to maneuver enough to avoid it at the greater range.
The destroyer managed to take down the shield around the final turret and finished it off with a well-placed missile. It then switched to the engines again and started trying to take out the shields, but it was quickly losing the chase.
The cruiser didn’t bother firing more missiles. It left the crippled destroyer behind and went after Cian and Vanna aboard the Equinox.
“Damn. It’s gainin’ on us fast. No way we make it to Spriggan before it intercepts us.” said Vanna. She tapped at her console and reviewed some readings.
Cian pulled up their trajectories. The cruiser would intercept them way before Spriggan station.
“Mmmm, I think they lost jump drives during the fight. That spot where their ordnance blew knocked out the area where the jump drive should be on a Jongleur class.” said Vanna.
“Okay. How does that help us?” asked Cian.
Vanna worked furiously, tapping away at her console and flipping between views faster than Cian could keep track of. After a few minutes, she focused her screen on a nearby gas giant and plotted a trajectory around it. “We might make it.” she said.
“What? Will that work? That’s leading us to the edge of the system.” said Cian as he reviewed the course.
“Yep. We jump. Leads somewhere in the Wastes, but that’s better than the alternative. We don’t have to land on the planet, we can find a nice asteroid and lay low for a bit and patch the engine up. We got spare engine coils on board.” explained Vanna.
“Okay. That might work. Can we pull off this maneuver with only one engine, though?” asked Cian.
“Eh, prolly sixty ‘cent chance we make it.” said Vanna.
“What about the other forty percent?” asked Cian.
“Mmm, we hit at the wrong angle and burn up in the atmosphere, the ship can’t take the strain and we burn up in the atmosphere, we miss the mark and go out at the wrong angle and get caught, or we slow down too much and get caught. Better than waitin’ to let that cruiser shove some missiles up our arse.” said Vanna.
“Point. Okay, lets do it.” said Cian.
Cian helped Vanna finish charting the course and the Equinox turned and burned to adjust their trajectory toward the gas giant. They were going to skim it and use the gravity to turn back toward the edge of the system. With luck, they would pick up just enough speed to beat the cruiser there.
The cruiser matched their course. Ten minutes later, the cruiser started adjusting their course to a different trajectory.
“What are they doing?” asked Cian.
Vanna brought up a model of their new flight path and overlaid their own projected path over it. “Uhh… I think they see what we’re doing. They’re putting themselves on our path outta here. We’ll be going faster, but we’ll buzz right past them. Long enough for a missile lock.” said Vanna.
“Crap. Can we take a missile volley?” asked Cian.
“Maybe? It’s still our best chance. One volley’s better than a dozen if they catch us.” said Vanna.
“True. You got this? I’m gonna take a look at our point defense system.” said Cian
“Alright. I tried cycling ‘em, but you might have more luck.” said Vanna.
Cian deactivated the point defense system and six of the turrets folded back into the ship. Four of them were marked as functional, one was marked “Jammed,” and the other was marked “Out of Ammo.” The two that didn’t deactivate were marked in red. One showed “Communication Failure” and the other “Mechanical Failure.”
He used the ship’s sensors to scan them. The one labeled “Communication Failure” was gone. It had been blown clean off the ship. The “Mechanical Failure” one was still there, but looked heavily damaged. The “Out of Ammo” one had a fist-sized hole next to it, which penetrated into the ammo storage. The pellets had been flung out into space. That left the one marked as “Jammed.”
“I’m gonna go take a closer look at this one.” said Cian as he unbuckled his harness. He grabbed his tablet and linked it to the ship’s computer.
“Sure. You do you, Captain. You ain’t gonna be able to do anything with ‘em from inside though.” said Vanna.
Cian opened the door to the bridge and pushed himself through. Maneuvering in zero G was going to take some getting used to. He brought up his ship’s status on his tablet as he drifted, heading toward the turret that was flashing yellow and marked “Jammed.”
He found the closest part of the ship to the turret and removed a panel. There was still a layer of hull between him and the inner workings of the gauss turret. He pulled up the turret and tried to cycle the reload, but it still said “Jammed.”
He put his hand against the inner hull through the panel and reached out with his power instinctively, a shimmery mist leaving his hand and sinking into the hull. After a few minutes he had a sense of the turret on the other side. A chunk of debris was wedged into the reloading mechanism, but it otherwise didn’t look damaged. He had already used up a quarter of his Willpower, and hadn’t even done anything.
Cian pushed at the piece, but it wouldn’t move. He focused and pushed harder, and it finally began to budge. It took half of his remaining Willpower, but he was finally able to pull the chunk of debris out of the mechanism. Immediately, the gauss turret cycled and began reloading.
“Yes!” shouted Cian. His head swam and he drifted back against the opposite wall, feeling a bit light headed.
His nanite levels had dropped below 20% again! He could still sense the turret, maybe he had left his nanites in there? He put his hand back on the inner hull and tried to reverse what he had done.
Slowly, his sense inside the hull diminished as his nanite levels increased again. It took a few more minutes of intense focus before his levels had reached 54% again. He checked his status.
|Name: Cian Kemp
|Total Experience: 104125/105000
Traits: Iron Will
Character Points: 5
That had taken a lot out of him, but he did it! Now they had five turrets instead of four. He headed back toward the bridge.
Vanna looked his way and spoke when he entered, “How’d you do that? Never heard of someone un-jammin’ a turret through three inches of hull.”
Cian smirked. “Oh, you know. Just something I picked up when I was a galactic spy.”
Vanna laughed. “Oh, you’re gonna throw that one back at me are ya? How you know I wasn’t a galactic spy? Seriously though, how’d you do it?”
“Yeah, yeah. I used my powers to feel in there and pull the debris out of it. Nanites I guess?” said Cian.
“More of your Weaveborn bull, then. Glad it’s workin’ for us this time.” said Vanna.
“What do you mean ‘this time’ huh? My Weaveborn ‘bull’ has saved both of our lives a number of times.” said Cian.
“True, but it’s also got us chased ‘cross two systems and headin’ into the Wastes. Get buckled in, we’re almost there.” said Vanna. She buckled her harness and sealed her flight helmet again.
Cian sat back down and put his tablet away, then strapped back into his harness and pressurized his helmet. “Right. Let’s do this.”