PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 22 of 28 )
: Uncle Willie’s Bugfix
VALLEY FORGE BATTLE GROUP
114TH WHITE HOPES (CAP WING)
F/A-105 Tigershark 101 [ CAP
15,000 klicks ahead of TCS Valley Forge
The Tyr System, Downing Quadrant, Vega Sector
FEB 4 2681/2681.035; 1616 Hours (CST)
The mother creature shall avenge me? You guys all heard that shit, right? Okay, just what the fuck is that supposed to mean? Anybody... ?"
Captain Dan T. Burdock, callsign "Uncle Willie," age 29, grunted under his breath at 2nd Lt. Ted "Buffer" Snugbellys question over the comm of his F/A-105A Tigershark.
Lately Dan had felt that he had been asked too much of. Indeed, he need not even ask for a command when he re-enlisted with the Space Force. Not at all. With just two years of active service (besides the Naval SF Academy on Hilthros) back in 2673, he never had a command and never wanted a command. With the exception of a one day command during the Black Lance affair (he became a CO the day he had been shot down), that is, but even that was not wanted. Ever since then he planned to stick with his decision to turn his back on the Confederation and its Space Force, his decision to be responsible for nothing else and nobody other than himself.
The situation he had gotten into was anything but pleasant for his squadron. His squadron had become a stranger in the Forges fighter wing, a kind-of maverick andat worst -- a "civilian" (it had been just four days ago that Burdocks commission had been reactivated) with him as their new CO. Though the squadron had fairly recently been formed and, despite its young, hot-headed, admittedly mostly inexperienced members who were eager for fame, it already acted pretty much as one should. Now that he finally had got through to them and they fully accepted him as their CO, they had another problem. They were the rookies on board the Forge and, nevertheless, they did good during the pirate chase -- the info received on the hostile alien species known only by its codename, "Nephilim" (from the Hebrew legends of the "gods in the earth"), and the first two days in Tyr meant heavy pressure for his pilots. Some of them had acted up during their missions, had to break off, and were promptly sent to see the ship shrink. Others had reported sick right from the start while others were taken from the duty roster because of "abuse of brain stimulating substances."
Currently the 114th "White Hopes" were considered the bad guys -- or at least the black sheep squadron -- and a spot for laughter in the 71st FW. He already had been called to the WC twice. Between Colonel Trebek and him existed an icy relationship, and it seemed that Trebek had not liked him from the start. Burdock still wondered why, but he wouldnt let it get to him.
Anyway, he needed to do something about it. He needed to reestablish the White Hope as a flawless squadron, equal to the others. At least. He had to do his part to prove their reliability and their capability. The question was... how?
Well, for starters they had been put on CAP.
"Major Ulyssus Grant to TCS Valley Forge!" spoke a stern, collected voice from the F-106A Piranha squadrons CO over the comm. "We are engaged. Request reinforcement!"
"Copy," came the Russian-accented voice of Natasha Trebek. "This is Colonel Trebek. How bad is it?"
"They got Stuka Kotlorz; we got two of them. Theres still four Morays and three of those Mantas out there."
"Hang in there, Major. Major Cardoso will be there in about 20 minutes with a wing of his Panthers."
"Thanks. Well... do our best to still be there by then. Grant out."
This is the chance Ive been waiting for. Gotta use it, Burdock thought. Major "Flyboy" Grant was a master of understatement. The situation was probably a lot worse than he cared to report. That was a given. There was no way he could hold out for another twenty minutes.
"I will be with you in less than ten minutes, Grant," Burdock promised. To Trebek he said, "Let me fix this. You know this is our only chance."
Without waiting for her response he transmitted to his wingmen, "Lollapalooza" Pinto, "2Pack" Dukovski, and "Yeti" Ridgely the already-calculated new course and had them light the afterburners of their Tigersharks. During their rush he instructed his wing, encouraging and motivating italmost hypnotizing itlike the captain of a football team might: "We can do it! We will fix it!" were some of his more frequent and perhaps comical battle sayings. It was a thing he was not fully aware of himself. It was by appealing to the pure will and the reflexes of his men that he was instinctively doing the only right thing.
They would feel no fear, have no concerns, not hesitate. The pilots would function like machines and were trained well enough to handle the situation with ease.
TCS Valley Forge; Bridge
2009 Hours (CST)
On the bridge, things had become relaxed. The blanket of tension had been lifted since the triumphant return of the Forges squadrons. With the Captain off the bridge, the crew could have the respite they all earned.
Lieutenant Amy St. Germain was leaned over Ensign Jed Wrights nav console. "So youre saying... it wasnt just a one night thing to you?"
"Thats right," Ensign Wright said, either mad at her or doing a good job of pretending like he was. "Thing is, Im told it was otherwise to you."
"Really?" Lieutenant St. Germain spoke. "And who might this surely all-knowing source be?"
Wright forced a grin. "I dont reveal my sources."
"That a fact?"
"I see. Well..." Lieutenant St. Germain leaned in closer then, slowly, deliberately seductively as she met his suspicion-laden eyes. "What if I told you... it wasnt?"
On the other side of the bridge, Ensign Matt Turner knelt next to Lieutenant Erin Ishiis defense console. The woman seemed to be ignoring him, acting busy by running through several system routines.
"Dinner," Turner bluntly stated -- not a suggestion -- in her ear. "Tonight. What do you say?"
"Hey, I say what I already said... Ill think about it."
"Oh, cmon..." Turner grunted. "Whats to think about? Yknow... we meet at 2200 Hours, get a bite to eat, and talk. You got some kinda schedule pl -- "
The lift doors opened and the ever-mysterious Captain Eldon Vandermann made his unexpected entrance. Arms folded behind his back, walking forth in proper military fashion as always, he made his way to his command chair, then stopped.
He ran his gaze over the bridge crew, all of them now silent, watching and waiting to see what the Captain would say or do next. Vandermann smiled tersely. "You have done well," he said at last. "All of you. First The Guild and now the Bugs... and were still holding our own." He looked to the comm officer. "Lt. St. Germain..."
"Y-yes, sir?" Lieutenant St. Germain spoke, doing a fairly good job of making her hurried return to her console seem in stride.
"Inform the pilots and crew that effective immediately there are to be certain... liberties."
East-West Transport Industries
In orbit over Nephele II
The Nephele System, Downing Quadrant, Epsilon Sector
2681.036; 1250 Hours (CST)
"You are not alone, hon," Sandra whispered as she looked out of the viewport into the vast, dark emptiness that was space. Somewhere in the direction she gazed was the jump point to Tyr; on the other side of the ship was the desert planet Nephele II, the glare of Nephele Prime filling the chamber.
The two sister ships of East-West Industries transport divisions newest long-distance transports, the "Seven Seas" and the "Two Clouds Above Nine," (East-West did not follow any theme or rule when naming their ships), currently evacuating the outer systems bases and star posts, had just jumped out of the system, heading for Alcor. With the exception of Nephele II, the system was emptied of civilians. At present, Nephele II would still take some dozens of hours to get completely evacuated. Confed and the UBW had gladly accepted the offer of East-West Transport, Inc. to help in evacuation of the system, as was expected. The co-operation had even been widely covered by TNC and other media, as it was thought to mobilize private companies in assisting the frantic efforts to deal with the major threat hanging over the sector and parts of Vega. Besides, East-West owed Confed. Without their orders the business would not have prospered nearly as well as it had. While East-West Industries could not compare itself with Tanfen regarding size, for instance, it was a lean, strong, and an overall healthy corporation with a sharp focus on niche markets for its three backbones that would always be in demand: trade, transport, and technology.
"Now I know how John Tan must feel... Christ..." Colin Burdock rasped under his breath. He turned. "Hey, Sandra, dont just sit there and admire the bloody scenery." His tone suggested more of a friendly nature to his otherwise harsh words. "Have the three transports William wanted sent from 3rd Fleet HQ in Torgo arrived yet?"
"ETA in five hours, I believe," Sandra replied shortly after a sigh. "I have been thinking of Dan. Do you think hell be okay?"
"Big brother? Sure he is! Hey, hes there and Im not, which only means that hes out there getting all the fun alone. Ill have to have a word with him as soon as I see that selfish son of a bitch!" Colin joked, scoffing at the thought of Dan. "Seriously... believe me, he is all right. I can feel it. Hes my brother, isnt he?" He let a sigh. "But lets get back to work. Theres still gonna be lots of sand running through the hourglass before we can call this a day."
"Youre right," Sandra said. "Ah, have you been able to convince these stubborn monks to leave their farm?"
"Monks?" Colin cocked an eyebrow. "What monks?"
"Oh, this group of monastic Zen Buddhists, I mean. Those who say that now that they finally got their neighbors farm to grow the crop their former neighbor had desperately tried to grow before he left... they say they cant go. They claim to be safe because of their peaceful nature and their living with it in harmony."
"Those who insist on that say their former neighbor was Commodore Christopher Blair. Im assuming you know who Im talking about...?"
Mr. Heart-of-the-Tiger-Maverick himself. "Of course I know. They are probably even right. Naturally, that is, though only with their claim of Blair being their neighbor. I do recall hearing he bought a farm and settled down on Neph II after the war with the Cats... before the black sheep of the family, Todd Marshall, showed up with news of his reactivation."
"I heard he grew up there," Sandra said. "After his mom and pop were killed in the Peron Massacre. Way back."
"Well, the rest is bullshit of course. Under no circumstances they are to stay here."
"But their c -- "
"Under no circumstances they are to say here," he repeated, firmly. "I learned from Dans Asiatic hobbies how to deal with them. Ill take care of it." Colin Burdock was a little bit worried. The combined UBW/Confed fleet would fall back out of Tyr in exactly two days. Though they were well ahead of the schedule enough to know that the Aliens were a ways off, the very next system was not necessarily a very pleasant thought. He was concerned not so much for himself -- he had been a fighter pilot and was used to such feelings -- but he was in charge of East-West UBW activities. With this he was the head of the operation now that his brother had decided to fight in the Space Force again.
What the hag has gotten into Dan? he asked himself.
TCS Valley Forge; Flight
Wing Rec Room
1419 Hours (CST)
"... bugs are fixed... bugfix, hmmm?" It was "Feuerhexe" who carefully placed her drink on the table. She let herself plop onto the stool next to Captain Dan Burdock. He had seen her standing at the bar with "Yeti" Ridgely previously, apparently celebrating something. Burdock searched her glassy eyes, as she focused on his.
Burdock stirred, his concentration jolted to the present. "Um, sorry... ?"
"Yep, zaths wha I thought. Youre daydreaming, m sweet." She spoke slowly as she tried to bring the words correctly beyond her lips. "Yeti just told me your punch on the bugs yesterday."
"Well, sir! Captain Bugfix, sir! Or buggy boy, as I prefer to say. I boldly do assume this seat heres free." Said and done. "2Pack" Dukovski, done with his second shot of Captain Morgans Original Spiced Rum, then continued, "To what do we drink here? To our COs new callsign? It was about time, Id say. God damn, it was embarrassing! Every time youd say which squad you were in there was a smile, if not a laugh, on everybodys face saying I know the Silly Uncle Willies squad. Oooch, that was kinda hard. Wasnt it, Willie?"
"Well, I guess it really seems I got a new callsign since yesterday," Burdock admitted to 2Pack. "I can only wonder who the hell came up with this one."
"Jee, I wonder... you practically summoned it up yourself, Dan. May I?" With that, 1st Lieutenant Isabella "Lollapalooza" Pinto joined the party.
"Hows that?" Burdock asked, unsure, though he had a suspicion.
"Since you were shouting nothing else than These bugsre fixed! Yes! We gotem! We fixedem! There bugs really are fixed! after we finished the last of those insects," Lollapalooza explained.
Right, Dan Burdock remembered.
He was so enthusiastic afterwards. They had rescued Flyboys "Mosquitoes" squadron. It was a success, no doubts about it. It likewise meant that their name was washed clean again, just as white in their name might suggest -- "White Hope." He had it hammered into their heads that they must not fail, and fail they had not. He was proud of them -- his squadron; his first. For once, he was proud of himself, too. As most times the joy came with a tear, as it had with the death of Pavel "Stuka" Kotlorz. By the time they got there they still found themselves facing four Morays, one heavily damaged, and 3 Mantas. Basically... seven bad guys against six good guys. Major Grant, however, had to eject moments later. They heard later how the CO of the 722nd "Mosquitoes" Piranha recon squadron had been swearing badly in his life pod. The Morays did not represent equal opponents for them, whereas the Mantas offered a significant challenge. Nevertheless, Lollapalooza alone eventually got two of them; Dukovski the remaining.
"Yeah, yeah, you White Hopes just go on and on about how youre the greatest bunch of hot shot fighter jocks since the Heart of the motherfuckin Tiger. We lost our XO out there saving your asses -- and your egos." Major Alan "The Orchin Man" (formerly "Wolf") Cardoso, over in the 397th Aztecs Panther Squadron corner of the flight wing rec room, was speaking of Captain Paul "Recon" Masterson.
"Sorry, Major. No disrespect meant... only celebrating the victory." Dan "Bugfix" Burdock furrowed his brow. "We... lost one, too. Pavel Stuka Kotlorz. He was one of the Mosquitoes..." Dan swallowed before finishing, "One of the Mosquitoes we were supposed to protect."
That didnt seem to win any points with Cardoso, who seemed a bit on the drunk side. "Look, you want to have your nice party -- celebrate your big victory?" Major Cardoso took a hard swig of his bottle of cinnamon Gold Schläger. His throat must have been on fire, but he handled his liquor like a wanton alcoholic. "Fine. Just dont forget the ones that fucking died to give you that victory."
The now-Captain Hishori "Dragoon" Nawazaki, the Aztecs new XO, nodded. "Remember their sacrifice, and continue their battle. That is all we can do to honor their memory. But honor it we must. Live and learn... die and forget." Captain Nawazaki raised his oversized shotglass of black velvet. "A toast... to our dead brethren."
"Ill... Ill drink to that," Burdock said, holding his glass up.
The rest of the White Hopes did the same.
Major Cardoso was the last, his angry gaze still fixed on Burdock. Finally he raised his bottle, his emotions visibly easing back. "To our dead brethren."
After a moment of respective silence, the room and its melting pot of the squadrons of the 71st Fighter Wingthe Mosquitoes, Steel Gunners, White Hopes, Fire Balls, Aztecs, and Lancersgave their toast.
At this point the Midway data they had all received, which had since been fed into the sims, proved to be quite gappy. The Mantas were more heavily armed that the Midway data had stated. Also, their maximum pitch rate was about 15 rad/sec greater than the Tigersharks, putting it 10 rad/sec more than the Midway data had listed them. It seemed insignificant on the surface, but in a hand of a skilled alien pilot, it could prove to matter quite a bit. In general, the Manta pilots indeed appeared to belong to the latter.
So they were off duty, something that was not expected to happen again so soon. Captain Vandermann had relaxed a great deal after the pirate chase. There were rumors the whole operation had been led from someone elses desk in HQ. The good news, though, was Vandermann had loosened the strict alcohol ban, even turning a blind eye to it now that they were on a combat mission as long as duty did not suffer. Colonel Trebek, the WC, had formally expressed her congratulations to Burdock for his success. Was there some ice melting?
"Rejoice in the victory of today, but prepare for the conflict of tomorrow, for life is an eternal struggle," Vandermann had chimed earlier, in one of his weird and ever changing moods. Something from the Third Cat Codex, he said. Sounded good.
Hot and cold it always was with the Captain.
It was as if someone had taken a weight off their chests during that meeting. Both felt quite relieved thereafter. Was the melting of ice on the carrier getting contagious?
Intell, for one, had pounced on the freshly gained data and promised to load them up into the sims ASAP. TCIS, TCIB, and even CIAI had no news on the Nephilim, just what they knew from VDU imagery from their comm chatter and spectral analysis of their destroyed organic vessels. Supposedly the aliens were an arthropod, crustacean/insectoid-like race with a head, a thorax, abdomen, two antennae, probably two or three pairs of thoracic legs and even some pairs of thoracic wings. Who knew? They were, after all, bugs.
Actually, we know nothing, Burdock had to sum it up in his head. This is new to us, only comparable to the first few years of the original Kilrathi War... damn if that doesnt seem an eternity ago. It was a time when we were at the greatest risk... when Confed was in the dark, only able to wait for the enemy to make its move. Move, countermove, move, countermove. How could we hope to win if we did not know how -- how can we win now, in the same situation? We can only hope that the Nephilim know this little about us, too. That they will underestimate us just as the Cats did...
For the first time they were not going to put things through the test. The Tyr Campaign was only solving the purpose of delaying the Nephilim advance to get the system evacuated and the reserve forces pulled to Nifelheim. While the UBWs Battle Group Valkyrie was evacuating Tyr VII, the 8th Confed Cruiser Squadron, the 15th Confed Destroyer Squadron, the 6th UBW Corvette Squadron, along with the 1st Confed Torpedo Boat Squadron were troubling the Nephilim fleet with hit-and-run tactics, trying to weaken and slow down the aliens. The TCS Los Angeles doing its patrol and a UBW/Tanfen Corp alliance having troubles of its own, the three Concordia-class carriers TCS Yorktown, TCS Bunker Hill, and the TCS Valley Forge formed a second line of defense to safeguard the systems evacuation. They were set to maintain a passive role, utilizing only their fighter wings, striking only when the opportunity for the arbitrary nice and clean kill arose. They were much too valuable to risk at the early stage of the operation as a whole it was at present.
It would be a long mission yet, and the unpaved road to victory was far longer ahead than it was behind.