PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 21 of 28 )
: Precious Cargo
TCS Los Angeles
Patrol Transit, Tyr System
2681.035 (4th Feb 2681)
The crew of the TCS Los Angeles was getting tired of keeping up with the regulations and uniform codes. The last three days had been very quiet, especially on a ship like the Angeles. Most of the crew had thought that forming the 1st Torpedo Squadron would give them a piece of the action, but it hadn't quite happened like that. Standard patrols were the same exact thing they had been before the "war" with the Nephilim started.
To make things worse though, the crew now had to comply with all Confed rules and regulations, since Admiral Mark Kitaen had taken the opportunity to grab a fast ride to Tyr. The First's final objectives was classified, but it no doubt had something to do with the Navy SEALs who had come aboard with the Admiral.
The captain's quarters was a single cramped and claustrophobic room. (This was the only single accommodation on board. Everyone else had to share cabins.) A corner desk, a computer terminal, a bed, and several framed 2D images filled the cramped space. Attached to the walls were a small locker stall, and a few shelves that Alex Crisologo had put to good use.
Fleet Admiral Kitaen took the extra seat beside Alex's desk chair. A veteran of the First Kilrathi War, Mark Kitaen had started off as a Navy fighter pilot. He had been a young hot shot ensign with the callsign "Backlash," assigned to the TCS Wolfhound near the start of the Kilrathi War. 38 years of distinguished service later, Admiral Kitaen had declined to accept a position onto the Joint Chiefs. Just why, Alex wasn't sure.
Admiral Kitaen had taken over as an intelligence liaison to the Combined Confed/Border Worlds Task Force. He had placed a lot of trust in the PTs; and it isn't everyday a PT Boat transports an Admiral.
Kitaen was about same height as Alex, six feet even. His dark navy blue officer's uniform was heavily decorated, complete with ribbons, patches, and a fighter pilot's silver wings. Age had finally caught up to Mark. The short military regulations haircut was now completely white, and a few wrinkles had started to form in the usual places.
"How long have you been in service, Alex?" Kitaen's voice was almost reminiscent.
"About fourteen years, sir," Alex answered.
"Please, call me Mark. I've been reading your file. Only 36 years old, and in command of your own warship squadron. Great job. I never got around to fleet command, after being a Navy flyer for so long. I took up intelligence after all the losses we suffered at the Battle of Terra, to find a final solution to end the war."
"Becoming a fighter pilot was one of my dreams," Alex replied. "I failed the eye exam, more's the pity. Being a fighter pilot is the best job there is. Rocketing through the stars, in full control of everything around you. You live, fight, and could die in the seat of your cockpit, but you control everything around you. Capship combat cannot be compared to being in a fighter. It's almost like a duel, a sword fight. You see your opponent up close, you out-maneuver him, out-smart him, and claim victory with a kill."
"You've been watching too many holo-vids. There is no real honor code in star fighters. You fight to win, Alex. You never forget the screams of your friends, as they burn in their cockpits, unable to eject. You hear them in your nightmares every night. You see them get blown away from your wing, while you are flying to save yourself from the same fate. Your emotions come in second when your life is in danger."
"I'm sorry, I always dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. I guess I never thought about the reality of it."
Alex sat back in his chair; he tugged his Navy BDUs, which was the standard uniform of PT Boat crews. There was a Special Forces Trident patch on his arm, the Navy SEALs insignia with the letters SBS. The Special Boat Squadron consisted three PT Boats selected to be the delivery system for SEAL missions.
"I've noticed your crew is looking a little restless. Is it because I'm on board?" Kitaen asked.
"Maybe it's the SEALs, my Marines are having fits about it. Especially when Major Cristobal happens to be Force Recon."
"I know about the inter-service rivalry. The Space Force thinks they own every damn fighter in the fleet, and they aren't really willing to share with the Navy pilots."
"You have a point, Mark. I'll ask the Marines to lay low for a bit." The two shared a laugh as the intercom rang.
"Commander, we are approaching the Helespont jump point. Something's weird also, sir," Stephanie announced thorough the intercom. Stephanie's voice sounded worried.
"What's weird?" Alex asked and stood up from his seat. "Let's head to the bridge, sir."
Patrol 3, Tyr System
Lt. Commander Erwin Chatsworth gazed into the viewscreen. His ship was rigged for silent running as they drifted very close to an asteroid field. The crew was very much on edge, since the shield generators were turned off, and the danger of collision was rising.
"Are the sensor readings the same ?"
"What the hell is that?" one of the Marines uttered under his breath. Chatsworth turned his attention to the Marine.
"What do you see, Sanders?"
"Over there, by the blue planet. See it?"
He pointed towards a moving object, with tiny pinpricks of green light. Chatsworth ordered the helm to zoom in and enhance. The computer screen highlighted the area and zoomed in, enhancing every shot. Zooming in still closer, the computer IDed the ship. Nephilim, Moray, scout fighter.
"Good eyes, Sanders. Helm hold your position. Send the signal to the LA."
The helmsman nodded and beamed a millisecond burst transmission, too faint for the Moray to pickup. A prerecorded text message that Lt. Cmdr. Crisologo had thought up was sent as a short-range undetectable signal burst.
Bridge, TCS Los Angeles
<< Confirmed ID, Helespont Jump point, engage or stay hidden? -TCS SF>>
"We can't read what's on the other side of the jump point."
"Alex, I think it's a convoy," Kitaen replied. "We've had reports of convoys trailing Nephilim forces, and the Nephilim fleet in this system will need supplies. If it was a battle group, you'd expect them to come through with a lot more firepower."
Alex turned to Steph. "Send message: engage and destroy at your discretion."
"Aye, aye, sir," Stephanie concurred as signal was beamed to the San Francisco.
Six of the twelve torpedo boats pulled into formation, cruising at full velocity. The PT Boats cruised just outside the maximum sensor range of the Nephilim.
TCS San Francisco
"What's the word?" Commander Chatsworth waited on edge as two Nephilim corvettes appeared on radar, followed by a transport hauler.
"Engage and destroy. Signal 8 thru 12?" the helmsman suggested. The kid had been barely out of high school when he joined the Navy. Now he was taking helm and suggesting tactics.
"We'll wait for the whole bunch to come through. Send burst to 8 thru 12."
<<We have the go for an engage and destroy, but wait for the whole convoy to enter.>>
Nine tense minutes passed as several fighters began to swarm around the eight massive Transport Ships that jumped in. This wasn't even a part of the agenda. The plan had been to arrive at Tyr VII and patrol the surrounding area, before assisting in the evacuation with the small detachments of Marines on board the Boats. Too bad they were late. They had been held up by little skirmishes and diversions that lead to a screwed up timetable. Lt. Commander Chatsworth began to wonder about the reputation the 1st Torpedo Squadron was going to get.
There were two more bright flashes as several more fighters jumped into this system. The distance between the convoy and the hidden torpedo boats was closing fast as the Nephilim headed directly to the Asteroid Field.
Another minute passed with the distance ticking down. 4,890 klicks and closing. This was beginning to worry the second half of the Squadron, as they waited lifeless, adrift in the swirl of spinning rock, unshielded and powered down. The convoy cruised at a steady speed closer to the Asteroid Field.
Wait a second.
They were redirecting their course, six no ten Morays and Manta fighters were diverting their course to engage something. One of the corvettes also separated from the convoy.
Son of a Bitch.
Lt. Commander Crisologo was making enough noise to make the dead hear. The TCS San Francisco's sensors began to pick up the first half of the Torpedo Squadron as it came in from the Convoy's far port side. A few more minutes passed as the Convoy slowed it's velocity, yet stayed on it's original course, now only with three Morays and the remaining corvette as escorts.
The active sensor burst by the Los Angeles suggested that it was forcefully looking for the enemy, but hadn't detected them yet. Chatsworth wasn't clear if this was a brilliant move or just plain stupidity, but he placed his faith on the Commander.
"Open a channel," Chatsworth ordered. "Engage."
His one word was received joyously as the six silent torpedo boats rumbled to life. The bright blue glow of their engines lit up the darkness around them. Spheres of energy surrounded the tiny warships with protective layers of shielding. The second half squadron of PT Boats emerged from the asteroid field, accelerating to max velocity. They would be in weapons range within 15 seconds.
El Paso, PT-45
"41 and 42, take out the corvette. 44 and 45, 46, and I will start our attack run on the Transports. Take out any fighters that get in your way," Chatsworth's image said from the comm screen, as First Lieutenant Sheehan ordered the launching of several IFFs.
"What's the distance, Erik?"
"Two kilometers. I have a wavy lock, but it'll track."
The IFFs leaped from the bottom of the Torpedo Boat. A barrage of six IFF missiles were fired from three of the torpedo boats, only seconds apart, each missile tracking one of the three engaging fighters.
The green glow of the Morays' engines streaked across the starry sky as the highly maneuverable fighters turned to intercept the torpedo boats. A spread of decoys was dropped as they pulled loops and other evasion maneuvers. The missiles streaked harmlessly past as the three Morays afterburned closer to the torpedo boats.
"We have weapons lock," the weapons chief announced on the El Paso.
One of the Morays opened with a repeated burst from its maser cannons, strafing the shields of the El Paso. Maneuvering bursts positioned the El Paso perfectly as the Heavy Mass Driver Cannons unleashed their first barrage of fire. The massive bolts of energy surged in a rapid-fire succession, pulsating with tremendous power.
The first bolt clipped the Moray's shields, the second one hit right on the impact site, weakening the shields even more. The stricken green organic fighter was given no relief as more shots tore through its shields. The rippling energy shields gave way, and energy exploded onto the hardened shell armor. The continuous burst of Mass Driver rounds tore through the fighter's defenses, igniting the organic ship. The fireball consumed the fighter as several more rounds ripped the burning hulk apart.
TCS El Segundo, PT-42
The TCS El Segundo went evasive almost immediately as it engaged the corvette. Bolts of energy crisscrossed through the stellar void. Shields began to ripple with violent energy when more energy bolts met their intended target.
Chief Owens rushed through the main corridor with a large toolkit held in his right hand. The violent shaking caused by every impact had dislodged the primary fire control system. The secondary systems weren't that responsive either, so the Chief went right to work. He stopped running in the cramped corridor. One more inch and he would have knocked his head on a bulkhead. The chief tore out the blue metal wall panel and immediately dove into the wires and circuitry.
"Uh Chief, is the targeting system ?"
"No! Fire the torpedoes damnit!" Owens shouted hunched over, with half of his body in the tangled mess.
The Commander didn't even need to authorize it before the torpedoes leaped from the Multiple Warhead Launchers. The gray metal torpedoes rocketed forward, setting their course into the path of the corvette. The trajectory of the torpedo lit up as the bolts of energy were now focused on them.
The count was stated out loud as a young female voice gauged the distance.
"Six . Torpedo one is down! Four Three Two They hit it! Damn!"
"Full barrage! Fire the next set of torpedoes!" the Commander of the Segundo demanded.
The internal sound of the Heavy Mass Drivers echoed through the corridor as a muffled "WHOOMPH," repeated every half second as the PT fired a full barrage of Heavy Mass Driver rounds. Since the cannons couldn't aim, the Segundo adjusted its course, heading right towards the corvette. The Nephilim ship's shields were rippling with explosions as the hail of Mass Drivers raked across the upper half of the corvette.
"The next set is ready to launch it's a hit! The Reno scored a torpedo hit! Scratch one corvette!" the excited feminine voice shouted.
TCS Los Angeles,
"Are you sure about this, Admiral? You know you are a fleet admiral, right?"
"Don't worry about it, no one knows I'm on your ship. Just worry about the bugs," the Admiral answered with a grin. "Damn, these things have a hell of a lot of maneuverability for a boat."
"Steph, show some tricks for the Admiral." The girl only smiled and pulled a high G maneuver that was felt on the bridge. "All units, break and attack."
Ten fighters closed in on the six PT boats, four Morays and six heavier Mantas, with a corvettes trailing closely behind. This was a complete intercept engagement. By the time the convoy was attacked by the other six PTs, the diverted escorts were already too far away to go back.
The Nephilim fighters were individually no real threat to a PT Boat, but collectively, they can do some serious damage. Swarming in loose formation, the Bug fighters unloaded a wave of missiles onto a torpedo boat, the Santa Monica. Compared to the fighters, the torpedo boat lumbered like a pregnant yak. It pulled a hard right rolling a bit before launching several decoys from its two main launchers. Three of the five missiles impacted across the belly of the TCS Santa Monica.
"Oh shit! All units, engage the fighters! Cover the Santa Monica!" Crisologo demanded. The area lit up with IFF missiles as all six boats unleashed their payload. Curving a bright path through the dark void, the IFF missiles headed towards the concentration of fighters.
Three of the faster Morays began to strafe the already weakened Santa Monica, easily ripping through its damaged shields. The fighters' guns tore through each protective layer of armor. The Monica's underside was now clearly spraying sparks as a breech was punched through. Small explosions began to erupt from the ship as it cruised faster.
The IFFs swooped into the swarm, grazing the maneuverable organic fighters. An impact, the sudden explosion vaporized the shields and knocked the Manta into a spin. The alien fighter hit the afterburners desperately, only to fly into the sights of the TCS Los Angeles. The Heavy Mass Drivers ripped it, sending fragments of the exploding fighter in several different directions.
"The corvette's launching torpedoes!" The commander of the TCS La Jolla shouted on the Main Comm channel.
"What? Oh fuck, I lost track of them!" Alex turned his head in their direction.
"Handle the fighters! La Jolla, engage the corvette!"
The La Jolla unleashed two more IFFs as it turned towards the corvette. The streams of the Torpedo Boat's Quad Particle cannon snaked across the night sky as it lashed at the fighters, hitting their shields and chinking bits of their armor.
The Santa Monica desperately began to twist around to face the torpedoes dead on. Unleashing a hail of Mass Driver Rounds, the bolts of massive energy struck a Moray as if flew into the boat's path. The Heavy Mass Driver Bombardment overwhelmed the Moray. The right half was completely sheared off, drifting, spinning, and spraying sparks for a second before both parts detonated.
The massive guns now focused on the torpedoes coming in at high speeds. Eight more seconds until impact. The area of the fight began to fill with crisscrossing beams of energy. One by one, the energy bolts vaporized the torpedoes. The corvette was now in gun range as it exchanged blows with the Los Angeles and the Sacramento.
The La Jolla sped over the Santa Monica, as its quad turret sprayed a continuous stream of particle bursts. The barrage of energy raked across the dark sky as it showered over a Manta. The organic fighter's shields flared and overloaded as the heavy volley came down. Pulling a high G evasive the fighter leaped out of harm's way only to find itself a target of a hunting IFF missile.
The missile's sensor package instantly locked on, as the last of its propellant burned up, producing an extreme rate of speed. The missile's trail of exhaust was cut as the propellant burned itself empty, only to find its target. The missile's warhead detonated on contact, cleaving through the shields and shattering the fighter.
Two of the remaining fighters kept strafing the Santa Monica. Flashes began to erupt as the stricken Santa Monica dragged on, drifting to one side. Mangled armor dangled from the hull, with the breech disrupting the emergency force fields. First stage alert was sent. The Abandon Ship call for a dying ship.
A small explosion rocked the ship, and a flat cylinder shaped life-pod was ejected from the torpedo boat. The small narrow thing was launched as the ship's engines were pushing at max. The alert beacon onboard the tiny life pod alerted everything around it, even the enemy fighters.
The La Jolla was the first to react as the Santa Monica was enveloped with internal explosions. "Get the hell away from the Santa Monica, the self destruct is armed!"
The five remaining Torpedo Boats watched as the battered ship's engines erupted, launching itself forward to its doom. Sensors read that it was going at 934 KPS, straight at the corvette.
The bridge lights on board the TCS La Jolla were flickering as they took several direct hits, parting shots from the corvette. The engineering chief and the rest of the crew were spread across the ship, patching up holes and repairing wiring. Even the Marines were pitching in, hell, it was their boat, too.
"How many more seconds?" First Lt. William Friend answered.
"Three two one destruct."
The immediate flash would have blinded the bridge crew if it wasn't for the view screen countermeasures. The light died down as the Santa Monica was vaporized in the explosion. Only a shockwave of energy could be seen, engulfing the corvette and ripping it apart, along with the remaining fighters that were foolish enough to follow a self destructing ship.
"Damn so that's how it goes down," Lt. Friend whispered to the crew, watching the drifting hulk of the corvette burn with a red glow.
Bridge, TCS Los Angeles
Admiral Kitaen sat back in his seat, somewhat surprised at the power of the torpedo boats. "These suckers have that kind of self-destruct capability?"
"Thank the eggheads who designed her, Admiral."
"I'll be sure to give them a talk," Kitaen answered as signal burst connection was established between the El Paso and the Los Angeles.
"Commander, convoy eliminated," Lt. Commander Chatsworth reported. "We also lost the Santa Cruz, all though the crew is alive and well. The escape pod works, but they didn't have enough time to detonate the self-destruct.
"Damn, two PTs down. Okay, Erwin, join up at the third nav point."
"Right away." The image flicked of as the first half of the squadron prepared to leave the battlefield.
"Life Boat Santa Monica, dock with the La Jolla," Crisologo ordered. "Las Vegas, stick around for escort. The rest of you head out to the Tyr VII."
"You're short two boats, Commander," Admiral Kitaen informed Crisologo.
"We can last, sir," he replied. "PT Boats aren't much, but they sure as hell can kick ass."