Hangar Bay, TCS Cyclops
Liam Haricot looked up from his card game, confused, as Klaxons began sounding.
"All hands, man battlestations. All hands, man battlestations," the PA blared. "VF-32, scramble!"
Haricot, Quentin, and the two other pilots threw their cards down- Quentin cursed, she had just been dealt a rather good hand- and raced to their Vipers. All four had been in their pressure suits when the scramble order was given, allowing for takeoff in potentially as little as five minutes. Each reached their assigned fighter in under thirty seconds, finding their crew chiefs directing hangar bay personnel in arming and fueling the Vipers.
Haricot took 2489, his personal Viper, scrambling up the boarding ladder and pulling his helmet on. As the Weapons personnel drew away, he flipped the battery switch, providing a momentary surge of current that jump-started the Viper's reactor. The main LCD came to life, though DRADIS was disabled inside the hangar to avoid any unnecessary radiation exposure for the ground crew. Haricot allowed the rector and NERVA engines to spool up before closing the canopy. He flipped the LCD to the 'WEAPONS' page, checking his ordnance status. The left KEW was loaded with 389 rounds of 30-millimeter HEI, while the right gun was loaded with 374 of the same. The dorsal gun wasn't armed at all, a relatively common practice that saved time. Each missile bay was loaded with four JAVELIN anti-fighter missiles.
control here. You are Blue Six Flight. 2489, Blue 61 and downwards by grade. Launch immediately. An unidentified capital ship, possibly of Valushan origin, just jumped in to the system. We picked it up on DRADIS, and it is refusing to answer our hails. You are to intercept and make contact."
"Blue 61 copies," Haricot said, firing the Viper's thrusters and starting it rolling to the launch point. The three other fighters came up almost simultaneously, hangar personnel ducking out of the designated taxi paths. Once the Vipers reached the hangar edge, JBD jet blast deflectors coming up on their hydraulics to deflect NERVA exhaust away from the hangar crews.
"Blue 6 Flight, prepare for launch on my mark," Haricot began. "Three, two, one, mark." He shoved the Mk. VII's throttle to the firewall, burning through a large portion of the fighter's fuel with a large initial burn. The Cyclops
had already oriented itself such that the hangar doors faced towards the unidentified contact, minimizing the delta-V expenditure required of fighters. Although the Gunstar did not possess built-in launch tubes like dedicated carriers, it could still give its pilots a leg up.
The four-Viper flight launched clear, each fighter firing its engines for several seconds more before coasting.
"Listen up, Blue 6. We've got a large warship on the edge of the system. Keep it tight, and hit the music." By 'music', Haricot was referring to the sophisticated electronic-countermeasures systems integrated into the Viper's avionics suite. He flipped several configuration switches, adjusting the ECM to match ELINT data the Cyclops
had datalinked to Blue 6.
"Blue 6 Flight, this is Indra
Tac Ops. Be advised we've got two full carrier groups inbound to that thing. One of our Asps ran some scans, and...ah...we thought it was about the size of a carrier and at long range. As it turns out, it's ten times that size and at one-tenth the range."
. Blue 61 standing by for instructions," Haricot said. The
Indra's on our side.
Our side. Might as well play along...this could be fun
"Aye, Blue 61. Hold at range 142 for CAP, engage any fighters coming off that beast.
"It's confirmed hostile?"
"They tried to lock weapons on our Asp and one of our FACs that went too close. We think it's hurting, it's full of holes and the EM spectrum looks like nothing you've ever seen before. Plus it's displaying similarities to the Valushans we routed last week."
"That's good enough for me. What's the ETA on those carrier groups?"
"Blue 61 copies. Blue 6 Flight, hold formation. Retroactive burn to stat by range 142 from target. Target magnitude ten point two-five zero-zero."
"Damn, sir. That's one big sucker," Blue 64, a Gemenon native, said in awe.
"Comm discipline," Haricot snapped, watching the DRADIS/Blue Force Tracker fusion display on the LCD's MAIN page. The Indra
carrier battle groups were closing with the ship at flank speed. Each group was composed of its focal point, the carrier, four Main Battle Gunstars, two Heavy Gunstars, six Escort Strikestars, and two Fast Attack (Missile) squadrons, for a total of two dozen surface combatants, four dozen light missile carriers, and six escort carriers in addition to the larger formations. Based on text messages pinging back and forth across the fleet, electronic warfare measures being undertaken were almost completely suppressing the ship's damaged arrays. Any targeting it did would be at significantly reduced efficacy.
Haricot watched as the carriers' icons ceased thrust one by one, turning one side and then the other towards the Valushan ship. Icons representing a total of forty carrier-based Viper squadrons began appearing as the fighters were fired from their carriers' launch tubes. Most of the Vipers were of the newer Mark VII variety, but eleven squadrons flew Mark IIs, at least one of which flew the old
Mk. IIA. Two squadrons of Mk. VIIE electronic-warfare Vipers were also being launched.
Messages being sent from the tactical operations centers on the two supercarriers were calling to cripple the ship through precise application of force. The agreed-upon solution was to engage its weapons systems with anti-shipping missiles, hopefully forcing a surrender as the ship's offensive and defensive capabilities were gradually crippled. The expected next wave of ten Asp squadrons would deliver the ultimate load of several hundred missiles if the ship's crew's fighting spirit survived a significant portion of the Tauron fleet.
The text messages became more frantic and misspellings more common as the frontline ships began engaging. Voice communication ceased, replaced by secure data-bursts of text, freeing bandwith and creating a thoroughly spooky environment where the only sounds were the hiss
of Haricot's suit environmental control system and the barely-audible background thrum of the reactor.
RED 7 FLIGHT FIRE HARPOON FIRE FIRE FIRE
BLUE 4 GET ON THOSE TORPEDOES
GS PROIOXIS FIRE DECKS 3 4 5 INITIATING FIRE SUPPRESSION ALL WEAPONS CEASE FIRE
ASP 9 FLIGHT TARGET PLASMA CANNONS FIRE HARPOONS
SS AMPHICTYONIS REACTOR CRITICAL
A bright light flared in the distance, its blinding intensity reduced by the dual layers of the Viper's canopy and Haricot's own helmet. Several capital ships had blinked off the radar.
"Blue 6 flight, torpedoes inbound! Engage!" the major shouted suddenly as Valushan torpedoes were acquired by the Viper's DRADIS system. An IRST would have been nice, but you took what you could get...
Haricot fired off four JAVELIN missiles, destroying three torpedoes. Blue 6 engaged and destroyed eleven of the weapons, but they were far from the last. The strikestar Euryale
exploded in a storm of debris. Even in its weakened state, the Valushans were dealing damage. Three squadrons of Vipers had been destroyed, with a reasonable pilot survival rate- but still far from the current 90% in the Mordi-Ki theater.
60% TARGET WEAPONS SYSTEMS NEUTRALIZED, a text message flashed across the LCD. Haricot fired off a quick message to the Cyclops
regarding ammunition levels on the keyboard located just below the LCD before something struck the Viper's dorsal fin, starting the fighter into a spin. Haricot rapidly pulled back on the attitude-control sidestick, counteracting the spin, but an alarm was still blaring. No joke the dorsal gun's offline
, he thought. I must have hit some debris or something
One of the escort carriers reported taking a torpedo hit, and that it had a serious fire in one of the hangar pods. It couldn't be voided because of the eighty-odd personnel in the pod.
"Blue 61 took some debris, I'm still in this," Haricot said. "Another torpedo flight coming in, stay sharp."
ASP 3 FLIGHT DECOY RELEASE
A disabled fast-attack craft drifted by at an alarmingly high relative speed, venting atmosphere and shedding debris. An old-model Viper launched clear of its tiny hangar just before a decent-sized explosion tore part of the armed liner's belly out.
GS EUCLEIA AMMUNITION COMPARTMENT FIRE INI-
* * *
Onboard the bridge of the Gunstar Georgia
, Captain Noah Williams was urging the head of a damage-control party to prioritize restoring power to a damaged ammunition elevator. The staccato braaaaaaap
of the Georgia
's guns had dimmed as one quarter of its double automatic KEW turrets fell silent, their magazines dry. Not that it sounded any different- or at all, for that matter- outside the tiny pocket of atmosphere that was the Gunstar's hull.To be continued...