PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 6 of 28 )
ď Into Harmís Way
0023 Hours; 27 Jan 2681
Did you hear about Tartarus, Jesus?"
"Yes I did, sir. Quite frankly, it gives me all kinds of willies. An entire carrier battle group dusted in the blink of an eye."
"Then you'll love this," Vice Admiral Daniel Robertson said wryly. "Your boys get to play with that same group of hostiles, along with Battle Group Valkyrie, Confed's Third Fleet, plus assorted other groups. Congratulations, you just got booted up to the majors."
"You're joking, right?" Upon seeing Robertson's face, Captain Jesus Riviera's own face turned pale. "You're not joking, are you?"
"Jesus, I wish to your namesake I was joking. I'm not, though. You, along with all of the 6th Corvette Squadron are hereby ordered to proceed to the Nephele System at all possible speed. You will link up with the BWS Defiance, one of the newly refitted Tarawa-type CVEs, at Loki IV, where she's undergoing some minor repairs. When you get there, you will transfer your flag from the Bull to the Defiance, and Billy Donovan will take over for you on the Bull. From there you'll take Task Force Abbey - that's your group's name, by the way - and join up with the combined UBW and Confed fleet, under Admiral Erin Hanton. Do you know her?"
"Yeah, she was my CO for a bit when I was the Weps aboard the Kiev, before I got RIFed after the first war. We didn't get along too well, but then that could be because I was even more of an arrogant prick than I've been accused of recently," Riviera said deadpan.
"Well, here's something to cushion the blow a bit." The Admiral reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a small jewelry box.
"What, you proposing to me, sir?"
In spite of himself, Robertson chuckled a bit. "You ain't no big-titted blonde with legs up to the sky. No, this is something better," he says, tossing the box to Jesus. "You can open that, you know," Robertson suggests after a few minutes of Riviera staring at it.
Riviera did so, revealing a pair of commodore's stars. "Sir, if this is some kind of joke..."
"Calm down, Jesus. Those're real." In an officious voice, as if reading a citation, he said, "Captain Jesus Carlos Riviera is hereby granted the rank of Commodore for the duration of this crisis, and beyond if he survives. Furthermore, he is to be placed in charge of the Sixth Corvette Squadron, subject to the survival of said squadron." Robertson extends a hand to Riviera. "Congratulations," he says in his normal booming bass voice, "Commodore Riviera."
Jesus just sits in the chair across from the Admiral's desk, staring at the insignia.
"Jesus!" Robertson bellows, snapping Riviera out of his wandering thoughts.
"Oh, sorry, sir. It's just that I've been gunning for the stars for like 9 years now. Kinda a big thing to get it on the eve of my death," he concluded dryly as he shook the Admiral's hand.
"I know, sir. All these things hitting at once is a bit overwhelming, that's all."
"Well get used to it. It's only going to get worse, even without the current problems."
Riviera raised an eyebrow. "'Current problems' being the hostiles, or the budget?"
2332 Hours; 28 Jan 2681
"Approaching the Loki jump point, boss." Like many Border Worlders, Senior Chief Electronics Tech Richard Silusson wasn't much on protocol. Luckily for him, though, neither was Captain William "Wild Bill" Donovan, a very distant relative of the "Wild Bill" Donovan that founded the OSS in the old United States of America. Donovan looked up from where he was lounging in the pilot's seat as the autopilot controlled the ship.
"Roger that, Silly. Send a message to the squadron: all ahead one third." No need to blitz the jump point, Donovan thought, having been in Krueger's force when rushing to defend Terra in '68, losing several good friends from the ships that didn't make the final jump to Sol System.
"Yessir," Silusson replied tersely, sending the message. He never really liked the nickname "Silly," which of course guaranteed it would stay with the poor senior chief for many years to come. "All the king's horses are now all ahead one third."
"Let's hope we have a better track record than Humpty-Dumpty, huh? Anyhow, tell them to form up tight. We're jumping in formation."
"Roger," Silussson relayed the order. A minute later, "Everyone's acknowledged, and is awaiting the command."
"Okay then, jumping line astern, ten second intervals, on the jump officer's mark." Donovan turned to the co-pilot, who in this case happened to be Commodore Riviera. "Ready when you are sir. You've the jump controls."
Without any further comment beyond "Mark," Riviera activated the jump drive, and the four Halseys vanished into the blinding blue-white maw of the jump point one after the other.
In orbit around Loki IV
2337 Hours; 28 Jan 2681
"Captain, the Halsey task force just came into sensor range, flying an intercept course for us from the Torgo jump point. ETA twenty-one minutes at their current speed."
"Which is, Sensors?"
"Two hundred sixty-five, sir. Their heat signature is doing a pretty fair impression of an F2 star. I'd guess they've been running at nearly top speed since they left Silenos, or almost since then."
"Sounds about right for Wild Bill, actually. Guess the Commodore is napping or something. Anyhow, get everyone up and orderly. I think Commodore Riviera will be wanting his flagship a bit cleaner, repairs or not."
Task Force Abbey
Loki System, near the Nephele jump point
1827 Hours; 29 Jan 2681
"Bring Task Force Abbey to all stop."
"Roger, Commodore. Communications, relay the message. All ships come to all stop. Helmsman, All stop." After hearing the confirmations, Captain Bernard nods in approval.
"Sir, all ships of Task Force Abbey report all stop."
"Roger that, Comms. Commodore, Task Force Abbey is at all stop."
The Commodore shook his head a bit at Bernard's stiff formality, but recognized it for the nervousness everyone in the task force was probably feeling, having known the Defiance's captain since the Black Lance Incident. "Pass the word to all ships. Jumping line astern, twenty second intervals. Halsey, then Jones, then Defiance, then Niven, then Petrov. Commence launching our CAP as soon as we're clear of the jump point. Let's at least pretend we can fly things Confed's way, shall we?" With a short quiet laugh, Riviera glanced about the bridge, and upon seeing all is right slipped over to his seat, strapping in for the jump.
Task Force Abbey
1918 Hours; 29 Jan 2681
"Looks like we're early to the party, gentlemen. Sensors, give me a readout on who's here."
"Aye, sir. So far it looks like our only company is the First Confed Torpedo Boat Squadron, consisting of twelve Los Angeles-class torpedo boats. The destroyer groups aren't too far behind us, judging by their last status report."
After The Jump Into The Tyr system
2034 Hours; 2 Feb 2681
"Okay, lady and gentlemen, here's the game plan," the suddenly aged face of Commodore Riviera said via laser link to the ships of Task Force Abbey. "The Confed destroyers are already running a strike on the Nephilim, and now it's our turn. We haul ass around the far side of Tyr VI, and slingshot towards this second group of bugs with scoops closed, coming up their asses at roughly... Nav!" he called to the Defiance's navigator. "Approximate velocity after the slingshot!"
"Four thousand-odd klicks a second, sir!" The bridge crew had already gotten a taste of what it's like to dawdle with their replies to the Commodore. The taste was a bitter one, to say the least.
"Okay, 'four thousand-odd klicks a second.' Once we close within 35,000 km, the Defiance will open its scoops, and get ready for one hellatious case of whiplash. At 30,000, the Defiance should be somewhat close to business speed, where we'll launch fighters, Intruders providing CAP for the Defiance while the rest of the fighters support you guys, getting in their own licks where possible. The rest of the group will open ramscoops at 25,000 kilometers, using thrusters as well as scoops to brake." The corvettes, being of sturdier construction, can take the punishment of active deceleration that a CVE couldn't hope to handle and remain battleworthy.
"If you can get kills, that's all fine and dandy. However, remember our primary goal is to be bait for those three destroyers and seven corvettes that seem to be providing cover for that cruiser. If Intell is right," his voice making it clear what he thought of that, "they've only capship masers on the escorts, but no capship missiles or torps. That's a bit of comfort, albeit a small one. Each Orca, as Confed is calling them, has 14 maser turrets, plus six missile turrets, each missile turret carrying an unknown number of what Confed believes to be the alien equivalent of our ImRec. "
"Yeah, yeah," he said abruptly as Captain Ryan, the captain of the BWS Niven, opened her mouth to speak. "I know you all have that info already. I also know that it's vital that I pound it into your thick-ass 'fuck you sir' skulls that we can't afford to go charging in and play John Wayne or "Maniac" Marshall. We are outnumbered, outgunned, and out of time for hot-shot hero hotdogging. We fight smart, or we all die needlessly. I don't know about you, but I want my death, when it happens, to mean something. Something like saving a lot of civvie asses in this system at the least. Now, do I have your un-fucking-questioning understanding?!"
"Yes, sir!" all four corvette captains yelled, nearly in unison. They, too, have had the bitter taste associated with crossing Jesus Riviera.
"Good. Riviera out."
"Tell me something, Dan. is being an asshole a requirement for gaining commodore's stars?" LCDR Theresa Ryan asked her Electronics Officer, Master Chief Electronics Technician Daniel Winters.
"Beats me, Terri. I'm just here to push electrons," he said noncommittally in his deep rumbling bass voice, not wanting to speak ill of the Commodore. "You are aware he has family on Tyr and Nephele, aren't you? With relations in the way of the bug steamroller, I'd be mighty irritable myself. One bad move, and that's all she wrote for the Riviera family tree."
"Umm, no, I wasn't aware of that," she muttered. "Yeah, that would get my hackles up too. I'll keep that in mind, Dan. And thanks for the heads-up before your CO made a complete ass of herself."
"Yeah, it's more than enough for her to have a nice ass," chimed in Gunner's Mate First Class Frederick Donaldson.
"Try thinking above your waist line at least once in a while Fred," Ryan replied, rolling her eyes.
"Yeah," GM2 Jerry Thompson quipped. "With y'r pecker so small, it's amazin' ya manage to walk upright while thinkin' with your dick."
Ryan cleared her throat. "That will be enough of that, gentlemen," she said quietly, the tone making it very clear she wasn't inclined to take any lip in reply. "Leave your sparkling repartee in the mess, and keep your mind on your tasks. Quite unlike our esteemed Commodore, I'm not looking to die, whether or not it has meaning."
She reaches for the IC controls and rang up the engine room. "Jeff, what's the word on the horses back there? We ready to rock when it comes to kicking alien carapace?"
"Affirmative, Terri. Give me the word, and you've got a whole lotta horsepower pulling this sleigh."
"Good to hear, Jeff. I'll give you a hearty 'yippy-kay-yay mother fucker' when it's time. Just make sure things don't break before then, especially the retros. Smacking into a bug at several thousand klicks a second doesn't particularly appeal to me, you know?"
First Lieutenant Jeff Tsu, the ship's co-pilot and Engineering Officer, laughed. "Me neither, Terri. I'll keep them purring for you. Tsu out." Tsu returned to his work on the injectors for the matter/antimatter reactor.
In the vicinity of Tyr VI
0639 Hours; 3 Feb 2681
"Status report, everyone. Any debilitating breakdowns from the slingshot?" As the corvette skippers all reported no damage, Riviera nodded. "Very well, then. You've got the numbers we're using. Riviera out." He turns to Captain Bernard. "And us, Captain Bernard?"
"Just peachy, sir. Couple of broken plates from where someone didn't secure the cabinet, but that's about it."
Riviera uttered a brief hollow laugh. "Jas..." he began, but interrupted himself. Calling the captain of a warship by his first name would be poor protocol, at the least. "Captain, I think some broken plates are the least of our problems right now. You have the bridge. I'm going to hit my cabin. Notify me five minutes before we start braking."
"Aye, sir, I have the bridge, five minutes warning."
Riviera sunk onto the bed, still in the working uniform he's used since becoming the captain of the Halsey. "Lord," he says to no one in particular, "Why me? Why this?"
A knock at the door broke Riviera's train of thought. "Enter!" Yeah, like I need distractions.
"Care for some company, Commodore?" The young ebon face of the Defiance's Chief Medical Officer, framed by wayward tresses of long curly black hair, stuck around the edge of the door, just above a hand with a bottle of Jim Beam and two shot glasses. "Like one Mister Beam?"
"Sarah, you know we're on alert status."
"Sir, with all due respect, right now you look like shit. One shot won't get you sloshed, but may help calm your nerves. Frankly, I'm not all that sure you're up for this battle. Not in your current state, anyhow."
"Okay, Sarah, I yield. C'mon in, and close the door behind you."
The CMO nodded as she stepped in, closing the door as requested while Riviera sat upright on his bed. She sat down at his desk and poured two doubles, handing one of the glasses to the Commodore. "Bottom's up, hon," Sarah grinned, and downed the shot quickly.
"My, not much for propriety, are you?" Riviera asked humorously.
"Nope. Why waste time with social mores when one can be downing a good drink? Besides, as you noted, we are on alert status, and will be engaging the bugs pre - "
"Yeah, bugs. They kinda look insectoid, you know. Anyhow, since we're going to be engaging the bugs within the next while, it's not a good idea to waste time. Like you're doing now," she added, pointing briefly to his untouched double.
"Point taken, Doctor Winchester." With that, Riviera lifted his glass and drank from it slowly, letting out a soft satisfied sigh between sips as the amber liquid slipped down his throat. "I must tell you, Sarah, you really know how to pick them. And if half of what I've heard is true, remind me to not get into a drinking contest with you. This latino's liver ain't up to the task."
"I'd bet that latino lover would be, though," she said softly, a hint of a wicked grin on her face.
Riviera's generally happy appearance disappeared suddenly. "Commander Winchester, may I remind you that not only do I outrank you by a couple of degrees, but I am also quite happily married, and will remain so as long as we don't let the bugs get the evacuees. I thank you for the booze, but you should be getting back to your duties." Although the words were of suggestion, the tone was decidedly not.
"Yes, you're right," she replied, liquid hydrogen in her voice as she stood. Winchester picked up the empty glass and the bottle and took them with her, the door closing quietly behind.
GONG GONG GONG
"BATTLE STATIONS, BATTLE STATIONS. ALL HANDS, MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! EMERGENCY DECELERATION IN FOUR MINUTES. ALL HANDS, MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS!"
"Shit!" Riviera yelled jumping -- almost literally -- out of bed. He was thankful he didn't remove his "poopysuit" (as the baggy coveralls were generally referred to) before lying down for a nap.
BWS Defiance; Bridge
"Status report!" Riviera called out as he nearly leapt into the command chair.
"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 remaining with the cruiser."
"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: "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."
BWS Halsey, BWS Jones, BWS Niven, BWS Petrov
"Oh shit!" all four captains called out at almost the exact same time, reacting similarly swiftly by slamming their hands down on the battle stations alarms.
To say all hell was breaking loose would be an understatement of astronomical proportions.