PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 11 of 28 )
: Surprise, Surprise
"Man is the cruelest animal."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
"And now there is merely
silence, silence, silence saying all we did not
- William Rose Benet
TCS Endeavour; Recovery
Just after rendezvous in Nephele
The recovery deck was alive with life as the Emerald Eagles came in for their landing. The noise was incredible. Something that seemed almost contradictory since they were so close to the void of space. The only thing keeping them apart, being the force field on either side of the deck. Two Marine officers walked down the one side of the deck, above the din of the recovery teams and the fighter craft could be heard the exclamation of one of them.
"Again?! Do you realize this is the third or fourth time we've had our fucking orders changed?! We haven't seen real combat yet on this tub!" Major Serge "Orion" Cayouette complained to his Commanding Officer. The annoyed major followed his CO, as he walked around the recovery deck. The sounds of air wrenches and heavy machinery flooded the bay as the two walked towards the latest fighters they were going to be flying. Orion was about 5'10" and had a brown crew cut, pretty much the same as everyone else in his squad. He looked up at his CO and waited for some sort of response.
"Well?!" he insisted. Lieutenant Colonel David "Renegade" Pattenden slowly turned to face his ticked off XO. The features of his face were stone set as he slowly turned away and continued to walk to the fighters.
"Major, I came here to check the new fighters for the squadron, and to get some peace and quiet..." he trailed off. Just then a loud clang resounded on the deck as a fighter fell from the magnetic clamps that would take it to the storage deck.
"You call this peace and quiet?" Orion asked incredulously.
"It is compared to you."
"Oh, real funny there, Pattenden," he responded, putting his hands on his hips. "'Your mama,' why don't you just say? But, seriously, what about - "
"Major, I didn't come here to discuss our current assignment. Besides, you knew about this change several jumps ago. We've rendezvoused with the task force now, why are you just suddenly bringing this up?" the Colonel asked.
"I just wanna know if were gonna be able to see some combat."
"Have you looked out a viewport lately? We're surrounded by fleet vessels, from both Confed and UBW. This is the biggest fleet ever to be assembled! What do ya think we're goin' to be doin'?"
"Yeah, I guess. It's just getting frustrating, Dave."
"Tell me about it. Don't worry, Serge, this one's gonna be different."
"I hope you're right, because I don't wanna stay on a tub where I can't get any flight time in, and-"
"Major, you're dismissed. Go get a TS talk from the chaplain!" Despite himself, the major laughed. He walked back to the airlock and off the recovery deck.
Pattenden looked up at what his squadron would be flying. The F-110A Wasp, the ship certainly wasn't a looker but it was the ultimate interceptor fighter currently in service. With a booster pack that could take you out to meet the enemy before it got anywhere close to the carrier, and the new SWARMER missile load-out, it was a fighter to be feared. Pattenden admired the speed, agility and power of this fighter. The squeal of static and feedback from the PA system brought him out of reverie.
"Attention. Would all fighter and bomber squadron CO's report to Briefing Room 1. All squadron COs to the briefing room." Another day full of beauro-crap, thought Pattenden as he turned and marched out of the recovery deck.
Briefing ROom (after the jump into Tyr, Feb 2, 2681)
Renegade was the first one to the briefing room. He pushed the button that announced his presence to the man inside. After a few seconds he was greeted with a voice beckoning him in. Pattenden came in and saluted the Colonel.
"Ah, Colonel, come in. Take a seat." He motioned to one of the many chairs facing his desk. Pattenden just stood there. Taylor's face changed a bit. He turned and decided to ask the question he wanted to.
"What have you done? What's with the gaps in your service record?"
"I am not at liberty to discuss this," Pattenden replied quietly.
"Lieutenant Colonel, I am ordering you to tell me why I should trust you with a squadron of my pilots. I see no proof that you have command experience, or that you have ever flown a fighter before you've arrived on this carrier.
"You know I'm under orders. It's classified, and you tried to pull this out of me before."
Taylor turned bright red as he tried to control his anger. Taylor knew that Lieutenant Colonel Pattenden had a history in the black ops, he just wanted to know what he had done during that time, because his record showed close to no fighter combat experience, and very little experience in command. Yet, very respected officers hailed him as being one of the best. He decided, however, to let it drop for now as Commander Garrison of the Black Dragons Squadron came into the room. He came in and saluted Taylor, who returned the salute.
"What's up, boss?" he asked as he sat down in one of the seats that Taylor waved him to.
"We've got a situation, you've obviously been told about the course change and how the Third Fleet has now rendezvoused with a joint Confed/UBW task force to take out an as yet unidentified enemy. What you don't know is the size, and what kind of fighters you're up against. I'll fill you in when everyone gets here," Taylor said as he sat down in his chair at the head of the table. The next five minutes saw the remaining squadron Commanding Officers converging on the briefing room. Once they were all there he began his brief.
"Okay," he started while passing out data-pads to everyone, "here's the information that has been released to us thus far. We have estimated numbers of capships, types of capships, and number of estimated fighters. We also have limited fighter specs that will be thrown into the Sims. So please brush up on that."
He paused for a moment before he continued. "The fact that the enemy has an estimated 3,000 fighters has put us on the defensive by sheer numbers! This task force's complete fighter support equals approximately 750. We have maybe a quarter of what they have, people. From what we have, the bugs caught the Saratoga with their pants down. They struck fast, and struck hard. Let's not let that happen to us. You've got the specs there in your hands - they're sketchy, as you can imagine - so I'm not gonna bore you by telling them to you again. We need every pilot and fighter in top shape. I want testing and performance reports on my desk by oh-eight-hundred tomorrow. Furthermore, we will be pushing harder rotations for the ready room to keep everyone frosty. I want this to go smooth and by the numbers."
"Now, we jumped into this system an hour ago and recon reported back no immediate hostiles. Still, recon data from the other carriers isn't available yet. Vampires from the Yorktown are doing a deep recon sweep right now. I want the Hornets in the ready room in 20 mikes in case the Vampires find something. Next shift sees the Falcons in there... you know the rotation schedule. Read over all the info in those packets and get back to me on any and all questions about the new enemy. That's it for now. Are there any questions now?" he looked around.
"How close are we to the confrontation?" Commander Garrison, the CO of the Endeavour's space superiority squadron asked. Taylor turned to him.
"That last jump put us in Tyr. All we know is that this force wiped out the TCS Saratoga in the Tartarus System, and that the colonies in the Dakota System have been destroyed without provocation. They seem to be moving our way, as far as we know, there could be bugs in this system. As I said, we're waiting on data from the Vampires. Next Question."
"Not that it's my place to second guess anyone, but..."
"Go ahead, pilot."
"Well, is it possible that they could have released some long distance scouts out this far? Cloaked vessels perhaps?" Pattenden asked.
"Possible, yet unlikely. From what we know - albeit it's not much - the enemy doesn't use cloaking technology. Do not, however, take that as that they don't already have it and can use it at any time. Next question." The room fell silent as the CO's looked at each other and their Wing Commander.
"All right then. Our task is to hold a defensive position and if the bugs are here, we use our fighters to perform hit-and-run strikes on the alien fleet. We'll be underway in 5 mikes. So, be ready to be called for a scramble at any point. This is the first time this ship has seen any real combat, so I don't want any of you people getting cocky out there. Just do your jobs. Dis-missed!" The CO's shot up to attention and saluted in unison. He returned it and they filled out of the briefing room.
TCS Endeavour; Ready ROom, Feb 3, 0010 ST
The last of the Marine fighter squadron came through the door and got into their flight gear. Captain Kali "Invictus" Flipprei was sitting at one of the tables in his custom flight suit. He was one of the few Firekkans in Confed, and he was proud about it. He sat there watching 1st Lieutenant Russell "Red Dog" NuKirk do card tricks with - appropriately - a pack of trick cards. Flipprei watched as the younger pilot did a trick and kept his eye on the card in question, and when NuKirk thought he had done the trick right and made Flipprei's card disappear, the bird picked it out of the other pilots sleeve.
"How did you keep track of it?" NuKirk demanded.
"A little trick called, 'Watch-the-Card.'" He smiled. Well, he did what passed for a smile, his beak didn't allow him to actually smile like humans did. He turned as Pattenden walked up.
"Uh oh. NuKirk's at it again." He pointed to the Lieutenant.
"Give it up, you can't fool the bird," Pattenden said allowing a small smile.
"I know I can. One of these tricks will do it."
"Yeah, sure. You hold on to that dream." Lieutenant Kenneth "Kamikaze" Woo came walking up. As soon as he saw NuKirk with the cards let out a sigh.
"Aw, not again!" he exclaimed. That got the attention of Lieutenant Mike "Hotshot" Ford, who came over to investigate. He started to laugh when he saw NuKirk deal another trick.
"Laugh all you want, but I'll be the one laughing when I finally trick this guy." He said to the people standing over him. Pattenden walked over to the senior table where he sat down and put his feet up. He leaned back in his chair and thought how easy it would be until they actually made contact with the enemy with the task force.
"Cake walk," he stated before all hell broke lose.
TCS Clarke; Bridge 0015 ST
"Conn, tactical... I have an unidentified bogey entering the edge of our sensors range."
"Tactical, conn. Can you get a classification on that bogey?" Captain Anthony Kleigger called back to the person on sensors. The TCS Clarke was at the forefront of Battle Group Aurora, and was leading the way to the next nav point. It was another three hours from the next nav point when they got within sensor contact with the bogey.
"Conn, tactical. Cannot identify at this range."
"Keep trying, I need to report this back to the Endeavour ASAP," he told the officer. The lieutenant flipped a switch and tried to get a better resolution on the bogey.
"Tactical, conn. It is previously unidentified but, hold on, I'm getting somethin' now." Then, not a second later, the officer on tactical cursed.
"Conn, scanners. We've got a torpedo armed and on course one-three-niner! Right for us!"
"Holy shit!" exclaimed the Captain as he turned to face the officer on communications. The lieutenant had already opened a ship-wide channel on the PA.
"Battle stations! Battle stations! Incoming torpedo! Turrets may open fire at will! This is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill!" He flipped of the communication from his chair and pointed at the comm officer.
"Send a tight-beam to the 'Dev tell them we have been attacked by hostiles, strength unknown. We have been torpedoed from out of sensor range. Do it - send it now!" The officer's fingers flew over the controls, and in a few seconds confirmed the transmission.
Tyr System, Deep Space, 0020 ST
A one meter long tube of tungsten sped towards the TCS Clarke. After a few seconds it armed and continued to fly towards the Magellan-class frigate. Suddenly stormfire tracers started pouring from the frigate towards the small tube. The torpedo was gaining speed as the turret fire increased and lanced out towards the destroyer of lives. The turret gunners on-board the TCS Clarke tried desperately to destroy the oncoming warhead. One tracer finally struck the nose of the torpedo, exploding just a little too close for comfort to the Clarke. The sensors of the Clarke still showed nothing else, as the Nephilim destroyer got its first look at the Clarke.
TCS Endeavour; Ready Room 0020 ST
"Launch Interceptors! Repeat, launch interceptors! The TCS Clarke is under attack by hostiles. Launch is a go!" One technician was looking at the ready room door as it erupted with marine fighter pilots. They ran to their fighters and climbed up the movable stairs and up into the cockpit. Renegade was one of the firsts into their fighters. As he started the pre-flight and strapped on his helmet he turned on the comm.
"This is Lambda One, need update!"
"Nav data has been loaded into your on board computers. The TCS Clarke was almost torpedoed by a capital ship or bomber from out of their sensor range, she reports that the torpedo has been destroyed but she also reports no contact yet with the hostiles."
"Thank you, tower. Lambda Lead ready." Just as he said it the magnetic claw picked up his Wasp and moved it to the drop launcher and inserted his fighter into the slot.
"Roger that, watch your six, Renegade... fighter's shields down... launch!"
"Aye, sir." The catapult grabbed hold of his fighter and pushed him back in his seat. Seconds later he was surrounded by space, and eternal blackness he flipped on the shields and they started to generate. He started on course as his wingmen fell into position behind him. As soon as they were all there, they set their throttles to full and sped towards the Clarke.
"Lambda Flight, prepare to engage booster packs. Do not, I repeat, do not eject the empty pod when you're done. We don't have time for a pick up."
"You got it."
"Good, engage booster pack on my mark, three, two, one... Mark!" Yet again Lambda flight was pushed into the back of their seats as the rocket booster ignited and sent the small fighters screaming towards the TCS Clarke. It took them less then a minute before they had surrounded the Clarke and waited for an update from the scanner personnel on board. Soon the comm crackled into life.
"Lambda Lead, this is Captain Kleigger of the Clarke, our scanners still have no capship or fighters in our scanner range, we do not know if they are still here. We are feeding the reverse course of the torpedo to your computers now. Approach with caution."
"Thank you, TCS Clarke, setting course." Renegade switched the comms back to fighter only.
"'Approach with caution,' no shit," Kamikaze said into the comm.
"Okay, people, I want radio silence from here out, charge your mass drivers, and make your first shot count. Remember to check your targets, this is a civilian sector. Everyone understood?" Renegade said into the comm in a stony, calm voice.
"Aye, sir!" came the reply. Renegade lit the booster-pack again and used the rest of the fuel to speed towards what was surely an enemy ship. When the booster pack ran out, they continued on course. Suddenly several dozen dots appeared on their HUD screens. They registered as gray for awhile before they turned a blood red color.
"Holy shit!" Hotshot said into the comm, breaking radio silence. The rest of the team agreed whole-heartedly. Renegade sent back a tight-beam transmission to the Clarke.
"This is Lambda Lead, requesting back-up. We've found your bug problem. We're gonna need big help. I have approximately two dozen fighter craft, and two capships, all unidentified. Someone get some craft out here quick." He broke off communication with the capship and looked out towards the veritable swarm of fighters.
"Orders, sir?" Invictus came back over the comm line, his helmet bobbing slightly in the video window. Renegade looked out into the darkness. Something wasn't right, he couldn't put his finger on it, but something didn't seem to fit.
"Hold positions here. Let them come to us... and keep the fucking radio silence!" He had only 12 fighters out here. That was half of what the enemy had, and they still didn't know how good their piloting was. Into the lion's den, was what Renegade thought as the first missile lock alarm went off.
TCS Clarke; Bridge
"Contact! I have twenty, no, twenty-four, repeat, twenty-four contacts closing in fast. Scanning their configuration now... their profile matches data on the Nephilim! We have enemy contact!"
"Radio that to the 'Dev now!" Kleigger said. He flipped his ship wide comms on again, "Remain at battle stations. This could get rough."
"Engine is performing at 100%, weapons at 100%, shields at 100%," his tactical officer called from his station.
"Good. Arm the torpedo tubes, those fighters have to be coming from somewhere!" the tactical officer quickly hit a few switches and the people at the torpedo tubes quickly loaded them and sealed the tubes. Let's see where you are, ya little bastard! Kleigger thought, he turned to the person on con.
"Forward full, lets find ourselves a capship, shall we?"
TCS Endeavour; Bridge
Captain Robert Griffen clenched his fist as he got the report. He had received reports from the Yorktown's Vampires that the bugs were in this system several hours ago. He had expected contact with the enemy. What he hadn't expected was that it was going to happen this fast.
"Battle stations, battle stations! Battle Group under attack!" he broadcast ship wide. "Get some more fighters out there!" he said to the carrier's wing commander. Taylor jumped from his seat and rushed out of the bridge. He ran to his office, where he too made an announcement.
"Scramble the Dragons! Scramble!" Immediately the Space Superiority fighter pilots jumped to their feet and ran to the ready room to get their flight gear. As soon as they had changed they ran out on to the flight deck and started to mount their fighters, the new and powerful Panther. As the first of the Dragons were launched, the Hornets engaged the enemy, the Dragons could see explosions and laser fire being exchanged in the far distance.
"Holy shit! They're comin' too fast!" Kamikaze yelled as five fighters blasted past his Wasp, scorching his armor on their way by.
Renegade went into a roll as two enemy fighters fell in behind him. The enemy opened up his comm frequency and blurted out something indistinguishable as it and its wingman opened fire on the Terran pilot. Renegade put more power to his back shields as he tried to maneuver out of the way. He pulled a tight loop, and lost one of the fighters as Orion opened fire at it. The other one stayed on his tail and kept firing until it started to eat into the shields. The Terran pilot reversed engines, and as the fighter kept going forward opened up with a volley of mass driver fire.
"Why is it that everyone whines about them coming in too fast?!" Invictus asked, gritting his beak as he pulled a perfect Shelton Slide maneuver, and destroyed another enemy fighter.
"Keep it to yourself, people," Renegade said calmly pulling behind another fighter. One second later his missile lock warning went off again. He quickly looked down at the display board while also hitting the afterburner. The display showed 3 missiles, all locked on him. This is not goin' be pretty, he thought as he quickly turned around to face the on coming missiles, he turned away before reaching them, and laid out a string of decoys. He pulled in behind another fighter and started to pelt it with mass driver fire. The ship in front of him seemed oblivious to the fact until it started eating into its armor. At which point, it was too late. The ship exploded into a thousand fragments as Renegade rolled through the debris.
"Clarke, we could use some back-up," Renegade said into the comm as a bead of sweat slowly fell down his forehead, and down his nose.
"Don't worry Lambda-One, we're already here..." Two missiles seemed to come out of nowhere and impacted squarely on one of the fighters that was trailing Renegade.
"Glad you could make it, Iceman." Renegade smiled. His face dropped again as his missile lock warning went off yet again. He swerved away, and lit the afterburner again. He thanked the gods of engineering that Confed finally made some fighters with good fuel use.
"Sorry, but the invitation got lost in the mail," Iceman replied as he changed targets. Soon, the area was full of activity, as both sides vied for control of the space around them.
It would end one way or the other. On of the Terran pilots looked down at the paper taped to his cockpit. The word "Kn'thrak" was scrawled in Kilrathi. The pilot pulled his eyes back to the action and smiled evilly.
"I'm just gonna make sure... that I'm on the winning side."