PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 25 of 28 )
“ Into Harm’s Way ”
Cabin, BWS Defiance
0726 Hours, 03 Feb 2681 (2681.034)
SHIT!!!" Riviera yelled, jumping -- almost literally -- out of bed, thankful he didn't remove his jumpsuit before lying down for a nap.
"Status report!" Riviera called out as he nearly leaps into the command chair, not even waiting for or acknowledging a startled rating belatedly yelling, "Commodore on the bridge!"
"Enemy has split their forces to engage us early, sir. Three corvettes, and one destroyer have come about and are closing on us. Remaining four corvettes and two destroyers staying with the cruiser, and continuing towards the inner system."
"Officer of the Deck, put me on the 1MC, pronto, and patch me through to the escorts."
"Aye, sir," the XO replied, nodding to the comms station watchstander, the Comm Officer just entering the bridge on his way to his battle stations position at Communications. "1MC active, working on contacting escorts."
"This is the Commodore. Looks like the bad guys got impatient. Brace for emergency deceleration in thirty seconds. That is all." To the Captain then: "You heard me, Jason. Thirty seconds on my mark. MARK! Balls to the wall breaking, thrusters and scoops. The second we get down to launching speed, I want that flight deck barren! Magnum launch, post haste."
"Sir, I have the escorts on laser link."
"Aye, Comms. Task Force Abbey, change of plans. Petrov, stay behind. Halsey, Jones, Niven, engage the enemy. You will be assisted by the Defiance's Vindicators and Jaguars, and the Intruders will be flying CAP for the Defiance and the Petrov. Good luck, and godspeed. Riviera out."
"All hands, brace for deceleration!" the Captain shouted into the microphone three seconds before the scoops used to fuel the voracious powerplant snapped open. "Full reverse thrusters!"
The Captain's order was followed a split second later by the roar of the braking thrusters, the entire ship shuddering as it rapidly decelerated, it and the Petrov braking for all they were worth. Meanwhile, the other three corvettes shot past the carrier before opening their own scoops, relying on friction alone to brake. Not having to slow to launch fighters as the CVE did meant the three charging corvettes needn't decelerate as quickly.
"Sir, I'm getting a massive energy surge from the Jo..."
The sensor monitor's words were cut off as a blinding flash lit the bridge, emanating from the viewscreen as it was monitoring the advancing corvettes, the flash seemingly focusing on the BWS Jones.
"Weps, gimme a rundown on weapon status."
"Roger, Capt..." The weps was interrupted by a violent shudder as a horrendous blast echoed through the ship, a fraction of a second before night came to the ship. Three seconds later, the dim red emergency lamps began to glow, casting an eerie glow in the compartment, equipment floating loose as ship's gravity failed.
"Eng, what the hell was that!? ENGINEERING!" the Captain yelled, stabbing the 1MC button. He uttered a low guttural growl, whispering what to a Russian would be a mortal insult. "Tail!" he snapped out in anger. "Go back there and see what's up!"
"Roger, sir!" The rear turret gunner leapt from his seat, only to be knocked about in zero-g as the decompression sirens wail.
"Seal the hatches!" the Weps yelled, and the emergency airtight hatches slam shut, sealing the command cabin off.
"MY GOD! The rear end of the Jones is gone!"
"Madre de Dios," Riviera whispered, barely believing the scene shown by the viewscreen. The last 18 meters of the BWS Jones was missing, replaced by a ragged hole as debris trailed behind the mortally wounded vessel. Riviera snapped out of his shock and whipped his head about to turn towards Comms. "Comms! Get me the Jones, like yesterday!"
"Already working on it, sir!" was the reply from the Comms station operator, her fingers flying over the controls of the sophisticated communications rig of the Defiance. "Got it, but signal is weak. Think they're on batteries, sir."
"So be it," the Commodore mutters. Aloud, he speaks into the microphone. "BWS Jones, do you read me?"
"Barely," a faint voice said from the speakers. "Engineering is gone, sir! We're on batteries and maneuvering thrusters only. We can't stop or do anything more than minor course changes, and our only sensors are of the eyeball variety."
"What the hell happened, Jones?!"
"We've no idea, sir. First indication of a problem was after we know shit's coming down on us like an avalanche. Umm, pardon the language, sir."
"Jones, I think that if there's a time for obscenity, now would be it. Hold on," Riviera said as TF Abbey's Intelligence Officer approached the Commodore, clearing his throat to announce his presence. "Yeah, Mr. Hamner?"
After reaching for the communications station to mute the sound, Lt. Timothy Hamner whispered to Riviera, "there was a rumor of a planned Mandarin event, but not the what or when, and nothing solid enough to investigate."
"Well I'd say that rumor looks pretty damned solid to me, and that ain't no 'event!'" Riviera hissed. Those bastards! he thought darkly. Planting a bomb on one of my ships! If I find the fucker he's dead. First things first, though.
Before anyone could continue, the Master Chief Electronics Technician operating the ship's sensors spoke up. "Umm, Sir, I think you should see this. Like now."
"Yeah, Senior?" the Commodore asked as he walks over. Riviera, having served with the ETCM before, knew from experience that "like now" indicated something important, above and beyond normal priorities.
"Sir, right now the Jones is on an intercept vector with the Hydra. Neither seem to be changing course."
"Jones, we read you as pointing at that cruiser," Riviera radioed to the Jones after consulting with the sensor readouts. "Is that correct?"
"It is," came the faint scratchy reply, barely audible through the static. "We're not in this fight like we should be, sir, but I do not intend to leave this world without getting at least one lick in. Besides, a lot of our battery bank was lost in the explosion. Only enough life support for a few hours, and even less with communications active. Space suits would buy another 90 minutes, and nothing more."
"Understood, Jones. May God be with you all. Yes, even your resident atheist. Riviera out." After the short-range radio falls dead, the Commodore turned to Captain Bernard. "Send a message to the Valeria, Captain, explaining the events. If nothing else, the word will survive if we don't. Those boys' families deserve more than just a 'we regret to inform you' message, but for now that's all we've time for."
"Okay, boys and girls, in case you hadn't heard we've got a shitstorm heading our way," Col. Jack Reese announced to the Defiance's flight wing, a discordant chorus of groans being the collective reply.
"Death Adder Squadron," referring to the Intruder squadron, "You're tasked with point defense of the Defiance and Petrov, and are designated Charlie Wing." Keep those dumb jarheads close, he thought to himself. The Marine squad was formed and trained for the specific purpose of providing air cover for ground forces, after the nearly disastrous Circe campaign against Confed-backed insurgents in 2673. Unfortunately for the colonel, however, their training focused primarily on ground support, at the expense of more common fighter tasks.
"Puma Squadron," the Jaguar squadron, "you're Alpha Wing, and will be providing cover for the Niven and Halsey, along with Bravo Wing, our resident masochists in the Vindicators." A relatively quiet chuckle rolled through the Ready Room. That Reese was no fan of the Vindicator was no secret.
"Now keep in mind they may have some fighters, so don't get complacent because you don't see a carrier there. Good news, they likely won't be expecting our fighters. The speed we're moving, this ship'll read like a corvette on sensors. You 'Vin drivers thump on the Barracudas from behind them with guns while Alpha skins the destroyer of its turrets; conserve those torps for the DDs, we ain't getting resupplied till we get back to the fleet. In any case, what little Intell we have says their corvettes can only fire their guns in the forward arc, so staying behind them should keep you safe."
"After destroying the intercept force, you are to return to the carrier for a quick reload and refuel, then head out to the remainder of the bug force to join up with our corvettes. The Halseys will be feinting an engagement of the main body while we play with the forward group. After we join up, we hopefully will have their attention, and will lead them on a merry goose chase through the outer planets of this system for a few more days while Battle Group Valkyrie evacs the civvies, after which we turn around and kick them in the chops. Further instructions will be given in flight, after the situation has been assessed. Dis-MISSED!"
"Well, if you're interested in getting religion, Levay, now is the time," Commander Popov noted with grim humor.
"Thanks, but I'll pass," the starboard gunner commented.
Popov nodded, rising from his seat, turning towards the aft end of the compartment where a painting of the ship's namesake was hung on the aft bulkhead. "Well," he murmured to no one in particular, "you get your wish, Admiral."
"Oh, nothing. Just a quote associated with Admiral John Paul Jones -- you know, the guy this ship is named after? 'I do not wish to be associated with a slow ship, for I intend to go into harm's way.' As I said, he gets his wish."
the Nephilim ships
"You know the drill, ladies and gentlemen. Let's get to work."
As if one collective mind, the squadrons broke into their individual wings, following instructions given via a tight-beam laser link from the Defiance, relaying Reese's instructions to maintain radio silence.
"Goofball here. I see five Squids coming up from the destroyer, and it looks like they're heading for our 'vettes."
"Roger that, Goofball. Wizardess, Nightwing, Shotgun, and Zippy, you hear that?"
"We're listening to the same freq you are, Caesar. We heard," comes the reply from Wizardess, the only pilot of the Defiance's wing with experience from the First Kilrathi War.
"Just checking to see if you're awake, grandma Wiz."
"Oh, I'm awake. And still got better legs than you, Caesar."
"The rest of you ain't half-bad either. Mission first, though," he responded with a chuckle.
"Yessir," she said, grinning as she selects IFF missiles while her targeting computer locks on to the closest Squid. She flipped the comm selector to communicate with her wingmen and the corvettes on a separate channel. "Stand by to salvo missiles. On five, four, three, two, one, MISSILE AWAY!"
Twelve missiles, two from each fighter, and two from each corvette, fired in unison, lancing into the heart of the advancing Nephilim squadron and eliminating all but one of the attackers outright, allowing the capships to continue on to their main objective, after the combined tachyon fire of all six ships quickly vaporized the survivor.
"Fighters eliminated," the Halsey announced on the general frequency. "Continuing as planned, so don't dawdle with the first group, Defiance wing."
"Roger that, Bull. Two down, two to go," he announced as two of the corvettes went up in a bright flash, falling to the tachyon fire of six Vindicators, leavened with a missile or two.
Fortunately for the Vindicator pilots, thanks to makeshift 2x1 missile racks used to replace one of each of the fighters' three torpedo hardpoints, their missile loadout was equivalent to that of the Jaguar. In theory. Difficulties induced by the jury-rigged nature of the equipment made practice somewhat less rosy, though still better than before the modifications.
Misfires aside, the remaining Barracuda and the Orca shared the fate of the first two Barracudas a few moments later as the two fighter squadrons swarmed over them. The unexpected fighter support caught the Nephs with their pants down.
"C'mon, baby, don't keep me waiting," the Weps mumbled as the targeting brackets slowly closed on the image of the nearer Orca, indicating the torpedoes' sensors decoding the phase shielding of the target. Through more than a bit of legerdemain, all of the corvettes were armed with torpedoes from the first Terran-Kilrathi War, with quadruple the striking power of post-war torpedoes. Unfortunately, though, the older torpedoes also had older sensors and programming, meaning it took longer to examine the phase of the alien shields.
"Torpedoes away!!!" Warheads raced away from the corvettes, and turned one of the destroyers into flaming debris.
A blindingly bright flash lit up the darkness as the mortally wounded BWS Jones rammed the cruiser, whose last-moment attempt to avoid the charging corvette was too little, too late. The cruiser skipper did not expect anyone to be that suicidal.
"Requiescat in pace," the Captain whispered, saying a prayer for the crew and their families.
"Skipper, the fighters have returned to the Defiance to top off their missiles and gas tanks. Oh fuck... Captain, new hostile bearing three-two-nine relative, closing fast. Looks like another Orca. Wait, multiple new hostiles. Preliminary count is one Orca, and five Mantas."
"Radio, notify the the rest of the task force," the Captain ordered.
A minute later, both corvettes were ordered to regroup at the primary gathering nav point Task Force Abbey was scheduled to regroup once the CVE had caught up.
"Weps, break off engagement. Nav, set course for Fallback point Golf, best possible speed."
"Aye, sir," both replied, neither happy about it.
Two Days later
1628 Hours, 05 Feb 2681 (2681.036)
"Captain, I think it's time to stop with this 'follow the leader' crap, and shove our foot so far down their throat we'll be kicking their asses from inside."
Over the previous two days, fighters had been making around-the-clock sorties against the force behind them, taunting the bug ships onwards as they whittled away all of the supporting fighters, as well as taking out two of the Barracudas and defanging the destroyers some. That was for the loss of ten fighters, a third of their flight wing.
"Sound battle stations, and tell the boys and girls of Abbey to do their thing," he ordered.
"Torpedoes away!" both corvette captains reported nearly simultaneously, following shortly after Col. Reese reported the destruction of not only the last Barracuda, but the bridges of both destroyers.
"Colonel Reese, I think the Halseys have got things under control. Bring your boys home, except for Charlie Wing. I'd rather not be caught with my pants down."
"Aye, sir," Reese replied, the tone one of resigned acceptance.
As the Commodore was about to comment on the WC's tone, the Halsey, then the Niven, both called in. "Impact. The quarterbacks are all TOAST!" Massive explosions confirm the demise of the destroyers."
"Confirm that, Halsey. Stand by, Niven."
"Confirmed, Defiance. All their ships are dead. Rejoining the group now.
"Roger that, Halsey. Good work to all, Riviera out."
"Sir, I think we can handle the details for the cruise to the rendezvous point."
Riviera chuckled. "Is that a hint, Captain? Taken, in any case. Wake me when we get there." With that, the Commodore headed out the door, and the bridge crew made preparations for the rendezvous with the Fleet.