[SHORT STORY] Gap on the shield - pt2

Many, many lightyears away, over a heavy weapons depot in space, onboard a Tycoon class battleship, J.o.e.l the roboticist was finishing up his latest mech, a shining, stubby Durand. Although people rarely asked him to build exosuits, it was his favorite part of the job. He crafted every mech by hand, assembling the printed parts with - as far as he knew - love. He felt pride looking up at the massive assembled machines, even though they weren’t much taller than him. He felt this way now as well, when he climbed out from under the mech, having finished replacing the battery.

  • Do take good care of her, officer - he said, looking at the security officer standing in the mech bay.
  • I will, I will, thank you… We just… you know… needed to ensure that all our weapons are in working condition, and well… we needed to test the ion rifle…
  • I see. Well, at least you didn’t test it on me - J.o.e.l said, chuckling.
  • Yes! Anyhow, I’ll take it back to the Armory then. Thanks again - he said, starting to climb back in the mech. However, before he could finish, the XO’s voice crackled from the announcer:
  • Attention! All crew, stop whatever you are doing, and report to the briefing room! I repeat, all crew report to the briefing room!
  • Huh - J.o.e.l wondered - When was the last time we used that place?
  • Dunno. Must be something important now

And important it was. When the two of them arrived, they could see the rest of the crew shuffling into the room. Everyone was surprised by an actual briefing taking place, which showed by the first lines of seats being all taken. People were still moving about and arguing over chairs loudly when J.o.e.l managed to sit down, wondering what all this could be about. He did not need to wait long for the answer, as the Captain stood up on the podium, cleared his throat, and began talking:

  • Allright crew, seems it’s time to earn our paycheck. We are done taking supplies from the arms depot, however, we are not going to be heading out just yet - he paused for a second, allowing the audience a moment to question just what exactly could keep them here - Some pirates are headed right for this station, with their goals being obvious. However, it seems they did not expect us to be waiting for them. So we, and two more frigates arriving just now, will set a trap for them, and greet them when they arrive. What else? - he asked, looking over to the XO for help

J.o.e.l was quite worried by this. Not that they couldn’t leave yet, it hardly mattered where they end up fighting the enemies of the Federation. Neither that they had to fight pirates, they were hardly the worst enemies the ship could face. But exactly because of this did he wonder, just what kind of pirates are these that they require three full warships to stop them.

  • Ah yes! - the Captain continued - Intel reports that these pirates have a quite sizable fighter escort, so I want everyone not assigned elsewhere during combat to be either in a Gauss gun, or help with a Gauss gun. Any questions? Perfect. Briefing over.

As the captain of the NSV Light Brigade was finishing his briefing, the NSV Rise at Dawn, a Hammerhead class frigate, had just exited Bluespace, and moved to form up next to the larger warship. Between the two flew the other Hammerhead, the NSV Zhuge Liang, moving to flank the larger warship from it’s left side. These three would be the first major obstacle to stand against the pirates, and their combined might would be enough to stop them. At least Kit - or Advisor Shepherd, as she was known to the crew - hoped. The pirates had beaten anything they have met until now, but it is true that this would be the first time they faced multiple enemy vessels. Or, at least the first time Kit and Ardata - and humanity as a whole - knew of. Only God knows where they came from, and who were the first enemies they met.

Kit was deep in thought when the ships formed up, and began to report in to each other. When all three of them were in position, the captain turned to Kit for some advice:

  • Ambassador, anything you’d like to transmit to the ships?
  • Yes, thank you - she said, stepping over to the comms console - So, crew, as we speak, a fleet of unknown allegiance is approaching. They are utilizing numerous old ships. That is why we think they are most likely some new pirate faction, which found an old scrapyard or stellar graveyard, and is now running wild. I ask you to not get overly ambitious, however, this will be the first time they will face an organized and numerous enemy force. We also suspect that this fleet of small vessels is based off of some carrier ship, so be wary about it and its capabilities. I ask you, if it is possible, to try and not totally destroy at least this carrier, for study. That is all, thank you.

She finished, stepping back from the console, letting the officers do what they do best while she stared at the DRADIS screen, waiting for anything to show up. Currently only the three signatures of the NT ships were visible, with the larger signature of the station behind them. Suddenly, incredible anxiety took over her: what if they were wrong? What if the pirates weren’t headed here? They clearly weren’t using the normal hyperlanes, but their trajectory did lead here. At least, logically. But who knows what logic these people followed. Maybe they turned in the last moment, moving somewhere else. But even if they did come here, who knows if they wouldn’t just jump away at the sight of the ships. Who says that they will stay and fight? Maybe they will go on, and ravage the whole Sector, forcing the Federation into a massive goose-chase. She wondered if the crewmen on the bridge thought the same as well, and she missed her sweet-sweet office more than ever.

She did not have to wait long. Suddenly, on the other end of the system, new signatures started showing up, one after another. And as one appeared, its engines immediately flared up, and it sped towards the NT fleet, giving a fast and furious face to the radar blip. And soon more and more joined, charging straight into battle. Kit was amazed at their courage. Although numerous, they could hardly harm the thick armor of the warships. That is if they even got near enough, as most were turned back when the Gauss guns started firing or the fighters started chasing them. They were quite nimble however, which meant that as they ran off, annoyingly few of them were shot down. They were regrouping just outside the range of their guns. The white and blue warships fired up their thrusters, and started closing the distance. As they were closing in, out of the blue, a massive vessel exited Bluespace. It was the pirate’s carrier, but it did not look like a warship. It did not have any guns - at least no visible ones - nor a runway. It was long, tall and slim, with a pointy end at the front. It looked almost like a bird’s beak. Its windows were covered up, except a few ones which released even more small craft.

  • Ready weapons! You may fire when ready - Captain Waves gave the order
  • Captain - the bridge officer shouted - new DRADIS signal detected, right behind us! It has a friendly IFF signal. They are hailing the enemy carrier.
  • What? What are they saying?
  • I do not know sir. It’s all encrypted with Draconian codes.
  • Those damn lizards! Advisor, with all due respect, what the shit is this?
  • Well - she said, debating how many state secrets she can share - we did theorize that maybe the pirates stole the ships from the lizards.
  • Well if you ask me, they seem to be on way too friendly terms for having stolen their ships.

While they spoke, the small shuttle and the pirate carrier continued to exchange hails, while the rest of the fleet held back, seemingly waiting for them to end the chatter. And end it they did, when suddenly all the small craft attacked right at the shuttle. The shuttle maxed out its thruster, and with a harrowing turn, headed straight for the hangar of the Rise at Dawn. The guns of the ship opened up, firing into the cloud of pirate vessels. This time however, it did not seem to scare them off, and the shuttle made it inside the hangar. As the security team headed there to capture whoever was inside, Kit also slipped out after them.

All the while the crew was gathered in the Weapons Bay, eagerly awaiting the combat to begin again. The munitions techs were handling the bigger guns, while the rest of the crew loaded and fired the Torpedo tubes and the Gauss guns. J.o.e.l too, was standing under one of those massive machines of death when he was called over the radio.

  • Roboticist to robotics, fast! - came the shout. J.o.e.l quickly looked at the supervising muni tech, and with a reassuring nod, he ran off to his workshop.

There he found a security officer with the two exosuits he recently handed off to them.

  • Allright, listen, I need your help quick - the seccie said - the Captain said that we did not have enough point defense, so we needed to make do with what we have. When he said this, the Warden had this idea that we could put some lethal weapons on these things, and we could go out on the hull and shoot at the enemies. Can we do that?
  • Well it sounds suicidal enough, so let’s try it! - he said, turning to the fabricator, ready to queue up the new parts
  • “It sounds suicidal enough” what would be too suicidal, I have to wonder.
  • Well, unlike you, I do have multiple replacement bodies.
  • Don’t act so smug - he said, grabbing a wrench to attach the massive laser cannon to the left arm of the mech - You should know best that even those can’t always save you.
  • They can’t. But I can still be smug about it to you existential dread sausage.

They swiftly finished arming up the exosuits. Both of them got new AC 2 machine guns on their shoulders, with the Durand also getting a missile rack, and the Gygax getting an ion rifle. Fully loaded and charged, they were a beauty to behold, stomping on the hallways. J.o.e.l and Stan - for that was the name of the seccie - made their way into the hangar bay, and walked up onto the fighters’ elevator. As the elevator climbed up, they checked their air tanks and toggled the internal atmosphere system.
The elevator reached the flight deck, and as the massive reinforced doors opened, the two of them could finally see their enemies. Like a beehive swarming a bear that dared to try and take their honey, the small vessels were swarming the gigantic Tycoon class warship, its PDC being too weak to ward them off. Some were flying just above the deck, throwing down explosives, while others were firing their autocannons at the windows of the ship from their open doors. As Stan took their first step with the Gygax, its heavy thumps reverberating in the cockpit, he raised his AC 2 and fired back. The shots peppered the side of the ship, until one of them hit the engine straight on, detonating it, and sending it crashing into the flight deck. J.o.e.l followed after him, moving next to him with the sturdier Durand. He raised the missile rack on his right arm, locked onto three targets and sent two missiles after each. Four of them hit their targets, destroying two more ships, while the last two were somehow evaded and shot down.

After their element of surprise was gone, the two mechs became prime targets for the attackers, being slower than the fighters zooming above, and easier to damage than the armored anti-aircraft guns. Soon more and more of them were circling around them like vultures, firing above and around them. Their shots barely scraped the hull of the Light Brigade, however the exosuits weren’t so tough. J.o.e.l stepped in front of Stan with the Durand, and maximized it’s shields.

  • We can take cover by the NACs! - Stan shouted in the radio - Come on, let’s go!

He overloaded the Gygax’s leg actuators, and took off in the lighter mech, his shoulder gun firing everywhere. J.o.e.l turned after him, and darted after him. He turned off the mech’s magnets, and took long strides to catch up. Even as with every jump he risked flying off the ship into space, or hitting his head on something flying by, but he knew he couldn’t make it. His long pacing made him feel powerless, it seemed as if the safety of the NACs was getting farther and farther with every moment. He knew exactly how heavy the mechsuit was, yet he was certain that it somehow gained weight, even with the lower gravity. Stan had already reached cover and turned back, resting his ion cannon in his other hand, disabling enemy ships while his machine gun fired wildly. Yet J.o.e.l knew, it would not be enough.

When he touched down after a jump, he raised his right foot to jump again, but as he did, he lost his balance and fell on his back with a horrendous sound that echoed in his cockpit. Looking out he could see that they suddenly started accelerating. He tried getting up, but he was like a turtle in that suit. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t stand up. All he could do was roll on his back left and right. Just as he was certain that he would meet his untimely end here, something right above him detonated. And suddenly, another explosion next to it. A white flash of light, a friendly fighter came from who knows where, and, flying only a few meters above the hull, destroyed the enemy and disappeared. Close after it came another flash of light, another fighter, that chased after whatever the first one missed. And yet despite their efforts, the enemy seemed unending. As J.o.e.l breathed a sigh of relief, he suddenly heard all of the radio chatter in his headset, telling of breaches and asking for engineers.

He struggled back onto his feet, and with renewed spirit - or whatever he had in his positronic brain - sprinted towards the titanic artillery cannons. There he turned his back against the wall and raised his arm, but as he pulled the trigger, the ground shook beneath him when the NACs fired behind him.

Indeed, looking past them, he could see the attacker’s carrier getting bigger and bigger as the NT ships were moving in to engage it. As he looked closely, he could see, like a long arm, something extending from the bottom of the carrier. To his horror, it looked like a massive gun, and it started lighting up blue. He was no munitions tech, but he could imagine that it meant no good. He couldn’t tear his gaze away as the cannon turned and fired on the ship to his left.

But where he expected an incredible explosion, there was only space. Right where the ship was a second ago, now the space was empty, with the bright blue shot of what seemed to be a massive ion cannon going straight through it. Only after a moment did it reach his mind: the NSV Zhuge Liang made a jump in the last second, escaping into a system next door. Seems they anticipated something like this.

The crews of the remaining NT warships wasted no time, and fired back on the enemy carrier while the mech pilots got back into the fray gunning down the attack craft. One shell hit the ion cannon head on, destroying it and seemingly depowering the rest of the ship. Another shot took care of their engines, turning the already battered ship into a drifting hulk. Soon an incoming hail crackled into the headsets of every crewman on board, with the captain of the enemy announcing their surrender.

  • So ambassador, could you explain what you were doing out there? - Kit asked. To her surprise, he was one of the crew on board the shuttle that attempted to communicate with the pirates, and was now under arrest, sitting in the detective’s office right in front of her.
  • I could, yess… yesss… - he was seemingly still in shock after their ship got fired on. He looked straight into her eye, judging her for a second before starting his tale - When I told you that we sscrapped all the leftover shipsss from the civil wars, I… well, I did not tell the whole truth. Before you ssay anything, we did scrap all the shipsss we could to build a new fleet, asss per Federation doctrine.
  • However?
  • However, not all fleetss and flotillass were accounted for when the final peace treatiesss were signed. We presumed that they were either destroyed in battle, sscrapped by their ownersss, or hidden away for some insane revenge plot. And indeed, not even a year after the treaty, rebellions sprung up with old fleets. These were of course swiftly put down.
  • Ambassador, I know this. What I don’t know is why you are still blabbering about instead of just telling me who they were.
  • Allright, allright. During the civil war, we received info about one of the clans building some gigantic warship. It seemed like a last-ditch effort to turn the tide of the war. It failed, obviously. But when the war ended, and people started looking for it, and it could not be found. Despite, you know, that a ship of such size would not be easy to hide.
  • A size approximately the same size as… I dont know, the carrier we are facing today?
  • Your intelligence is only rivaled by your beauty, Miss Taniss.
  • Oh ambassador, you flatter me - she replied, rolling her eyes - but I like warm blooded guys. So get on with it!
  • So yessss, we didn’t find the sship, but we found it’sss sschematics. Turnsss out, it wass not a war ship, but a colony sship! Their plan wass to escape from the lost war, and they sset out into deep sspace, never planning to return. Asss far as we knew.
  • But they did return.
  • They did. They - for sssome reason - decided to ditch their escape plan, and return with a vengeance. If you assk me, some radical elementsss took over leadership onboard, and turned them around. When I hailed them, I tried to get them to surrender, told them of the Federation and the Empire’s advancesss together, but I was unable to persuade them, even asss I begged them to stop this brothers’ war.
  • I imagine - she replied - And when I’ll look at these schematics, where will I find a massive ion cannon on a colony ship?
  • Yeees - he said, scratching his head - I don’t know either. But the sship was quite remarkable, as you’ll sssee if-
  • When - she cut in quickly
  • When you look at those schematicsss. It is not impossssible that they could build and power ssuch a weapon with the ship’s reactor. Now Miss Tanisss, after all I have told you and the incredible performance of your shipsss, all that remains is to capture these rebelsss and hand them over to the Draconian Empire to face jussstice.
  • Good idea ambassador, but I think the Federation’s courtrooms are close by. Moreover, we may well try them there too if we already are going there for a trial?
  • May I ask whose trial that is?
  • Yours, ambassador.

I appear to have sadly made an error in the text. Around the middle of it, exactly here:

Kit was deep in thought when the ships formed up, and began to report in to each other. When all three of them were in position, the captain turned to Kit for some advice:
Ambassador, anything you’d like to transmit to the ships?
Yes, thank you - she said, stepping over to the comms console -

Instead of ambassador, it should have been advisor, as that was the title Kit was using aboard the ships

Guess this is what I get for writing this in small blocks at 2 am