I Have Full Confidence…

RINS King Feranza
Cloak Nebula
deWulf Corporate Democracy

The Ibizan expeditionary force cut through the thin nebula like a pod of blunt whales, their bulbous hulls mirrored by their drive fields as they cruised through the last system before Dave’s World and their assigned rally point. The earlier systems had been almost routine, passing the occasional convoy or freighter as they ran a least-time route from jump point to jump point. But this nebula, the Cloak Nebula, was different.

Here they had caught up with the bulk of the deWulf fleet. Dozens of warships in a serrated, three dimensional shoal. The Ibizan ships, for all their bulkiness, could at least claim to be carving through the thin interstellar medium. The deWulf fleet however, it plowed. The formation of drive fields sent wakes of nebular dust scattering everywhere, their bows glowing as whatever dust couldn’t get out of the way was converted to energy by the outer edge of the field. And at the core of the formation was the reason for its slowness, and why the Ibizan fleet had not only caught up to it, but was even now leaving it in its wake; seven massive dreadnoughts, mobile stations in all but name. Even for deWulf ships they were angular, slab-sided walls of armour and point defense mounts. Their real weapons buried deep in the core, extending out to an articulated clam shell hatch at the tip of the bow.

The slow speed of travel had meant there was plenty of time to train, as well. Schools of gunboats and fighter craft swam in the soft blue haze of the nebula, practicing mock strike and defense tactics again and again and again. Like clockwork squadrons would launch, wheeling off away from the fleet and collecting just out of sensor range, only to plunge in on converging vectors, trying to catch their target unawares. The day’s stake was a few cases of beer for the victor, but the unspoken truth was that in a few weeks time the reward would be living to see another day.

Admiral Bahram had helped out, now and again, as his formation had passed by on the perimeter of the deWulf formation. True, that kind of assistance was technically a violation of the exercise parameters, but just as much they knew that one manufactured advantages however they could. Victory and survival were two sides of the same metric, and by the time his Ibizan expeditionary force had passed out of comm range, he had accumulated more than a few favors, and enough offers for drinks to keep most of the crew acceptably relaxed when they arrived at Egon Gruzelier Memorial Highport next week.


Low Orbit
Dave’s World
deWulf Corporate Democracy

It was barely a week’s cruise from the approaching deWulf fleet to Dave’s World and the rally point. Fully half the deWulf fleet was riding in high orbit along with the Ibizan formation, supply and repair ships tending to the fleet’s needs. Orbiting lower and to spinward of Dave’s World was both Egon Gruzelier Memorial Highport, and Tecklen Yards, the deWulf Navy Shipyard. Most of the Expeditionary Force’s crew was off-duty at the Highport, spending what spare pay they had and enjoying the sights and sounds of a new and exotic port of call.

But for commanding officers, there were new and fresh duties to be done. Admiral Bahram felt his shuttle rest into the docking buffers with a muffled clunk. His ships were here, but they had sortied somewhat incompletely. Delays in manufacturing had left the battle cruisers King Feranza, King Tibeza, King Orbetello and Queen Preveza all equipped with inadequate combat sensor suites. The needed upgrades had followed behind them, then passed them somewhere in the Grumman system before being unloaded here to be installed. The crews had done what they could, but absent the physical sensor arrays and the computing power that backed them, there was nothing they could do.

“Ah, welcome to Tecklen Yards, Admiral Bahram!” In some ways the deWulf Navy was very much similar to their Ibizan allies, especially when it came to informality of address. There had been no impressive gathering of lower ranking officers, no piping or ceremony. Just a few uniformed officers in an irregular clump waiting for the shuttle doors to open and the passengers to off-board.

“I do apologize for the delays, but as you’ve seen, we’re working on a few last minute navy contracts. Two warships, as well as most of the strike compliment for the rest of the fleet. We’ve had to readjust our schedules a fair amount for you.”

PackHunter Kloss was a shorter, more rotund Fenren, though not due to a lack of energy. Bahram had reviewed his file while he was en-route, and while lacking in details it provided enough to work with. Served in a supply position during the First Contact War, then managed a Weaver-Class mobile repair ship during the Binary War. Family pressures had him move off shipboard duty to a base command, was assigned to bring the Tecklen Yards back up to standard once they had been liberated. Extended family, mostly on Fenris, but some had moved here after the liberation.

“I trust you still have enough yard space to do the work we need? Kobetsky won’t be happy hearing that her promises aren’t being kept.”

“Of course! We’ve made sure to keep some yard space clear for your own work. We’ll have to cycle your ships through in series instead of parallel, I’m afraid, but we can still stick to the agreed schedule. My yard chief-” a hand waved to a slightly less ornamented, and far thinner Fenren to his side “has already inspected and unloaded your equipment in preparation for the work. We expect each refit to take about a week or so, give or take. Less, if you can promise some additional support from the ship’s crews.”

“Support?”

The yard chief spoke up.

“Yes, we’re not as familiar with Ibizan standards compared to deWulf spec. If your crews can provide some additional support, like helping prep the compartments on-board, connecting systems, doing some of the final fitting-out, that would speed the installation work considerably.”

Bahram looked over to the yard chief “I’m sure we can arrange something. What is the schedule going to be?”

The yard chief pulled out a tablet, tabbing over to his working copy “Day one is getting the ship into the gantry; hull anchored, cleaning the plating, confirming where we need to cut. Day two we open the hard patches and get the equipment unsealed for  installation, do final tests to confirm everything still works. Installation is on day three, with power and data lines being run, decking welded, that sort of thing. Day four is low power systems tests and troubleshooting to ensure that everything is connected right, and then day five we seal up the hull and install the external emitter panels before cutting you loose.”

“Full power tests?”

“That’s on your own captains. We’ve kept the polar orbits clear; you should have clear sight lines for full power tests. Call that day six. If there’s anything that needs rework, you can come alongside the maintenance dock on the port side spaceward. We’ll keep that gantry clear for you.”

Admiral Bahram turned to look out from the window of the shuttle lounge. A pair of corporate freighters orbited close to the yards. Two containers anchored to the side made it look like the bulkier had a tumor, a trio of small repair boats cutting away at the hull just forward of the drive emitters.

“I’m surprised you can keep any yard space clear right now.”

“The corps have been pressing for their refit and repair privileges hard as of late. That time of year again, but it’s a bit worse than we expected.” Bahram looked at the yard chief, not understanding the connection. “Most civilian yards still aren’t big enough to service the newer FT5’s and 6s that they’ve put into service these last few years, and they need the navy yards to get the maintenance done. Providing yard space is part of the Navy budget. This time around we can at least extract a few Kett from priority fees.” Even in wartime the deWulf navy kept an eye on the bottom line.

“Will it impact my own refits?”

“Not a chance, Admiral. I delay the corps, I’ll have some middle management yelling at me and scuffing my carpet. I delay you, and I’ll have PackMaster Kobetsky melting my desk into slag.

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