… You die tired

dWS Hassen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer
Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovereignty Capital World
Elysium Star System
Two days after 3rd Elysium

Hunter Skory watched as the comm cut out abruptly, leaving him looking at the blank screen. Leaning back in his command chair, he thumbed through his comm menu before settling on his executive officer.

“Godeke, I need a conference call with the rest of the scouts. They have two minutes. If Hacklander is sleeping, tell him I don’t care if he’s naked, I need him here.”

“Understood Hunter, I’ll make it happen.”

That same thumb waited for Godeke to end the call before shifting around, tabbing the display back to the system navigational menu. His eyes focused on the geometry of the problem, figures of cruising speeds and sensor ranges spinning as he considered options. Redline the drives early and get on station sooner, but risk a burnout and potentially being unable to escape if contact is made. Only move at cruise, and you keep the engine capacity when you need to run but potentially miss the quarry. His eyes centred on Amsos, the outermost planet and the edge of the Kuiper belt. That was the problem. He could get everyone on station quickly enough, but someone could run from there to the jump point to Scylla and potentially escape. If they were at Tegesa, they’d be out and gone no matter what, so no reason to burn the drives for an impossibility.

The comm pinged. The call was starting. A few quick motions linked Skory into the call with a pleasant chime.

“Thank you all for making it to this meeting. I’m going to dispense with the usual preamble and get to the point. Flag has ID’d a concerning signal from the planet and we’re going to check out the local hotspots to make sure nobody’s holding a party without us.”

Hunter Hacklander looked like he had just woken up. He was already nodding in agreement as he pulled his skinsuit out of his locker. “On a scale of one to ten, how poishit is this assignment?” Hacklander was most politely described as a ‘character’, and if he’d been a normal line officer there was no way he could have made it up to Hunter. But good scout officers were rare enough that they often got to write their own tickets, and that rarity meant they could get away with a lot. Of course, their job often put them out on the edge of any fleet formation, and their lifespan in combat was best described as ‘technically present’.

“Call it a three at best, Hacklander. Flag’s worried enough about it that we’re explicitly authorized to redline our engines if we feel it necessary.”

Hacklander paused a moment. “If they’re going to let us run full throttle, then this is officially a poishit-free op.”

“What’s the orders, alpha?”  Zilmer cut in before Hacklander could derail it further. “You wouldn’t have called us together like this without orders”

Skory snorted at the informal title. He was proud he climbed his way up from a Trainee Sensor Operator, but this just wasn’t the time. “Orders are simple. We’re looking for anything that’s running an Elysian drive signature. If you can, close to ID strength and numbers. As soon as you get a contact, bounce a message up to flag; don’t wait. Once you get something, keep transmitting updates. Better for flag to get too much information than not enough. If you get in trouble, redline your drives and run like hell.”

“Where are we going?” Kaarst looked like he was chewing on a rotten lemon as he digested the orders.

Aufklarer is to head to the Piraeus warp point. Hare is to sweep Xioch while heading out to Psaro before heading to the Grant warp point. Spion, you’re heading to the Grant warp point first, then out-system to Amsos. I’ll head to Orous, then Tegesa before doubling back to the Scylla warp point. Try to eyeball as much of the asteroid belt as you can while you’re passing through, but don’t loiter. We need eyes on the warp points soonest.”

“Why not rush to Piraeus?”

“It’s the most out of the way warp point right now; they can’t reach it without cutting across the inner system or taking a very long trip through the outer system. If they’re there, then they’ll have jumped out already. If they’re headed that way, then you’ll be there before they are. Frankly, I’m worried about the Scylla warp point. Orous and Tegesa are right there, and if they’re out there, then we won’t see them before they jump out.”

Skorey looked at his fellow scout commanders. “I want you all moving in the next ten minutes. I don’t care if your navigators have to eyeball the course; you can plot course correction later.”

“And if we do find someone out there?”

“Like I said Hacklander, close and identify. And if they start gunning for you, redline your drives and don’t stop till you see the fleet.”

————————————————————————
D+1
Aufklarer has departed on least-time course to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare en route to Psaro, conducting a close pass of Xioch and several asteroid colonies on the way. No contacts detected.
Spion en route to Grant warp point, skirting Elysium’s star and scanning several more asteroid colonies. No contacts detected.
Hassen has departed to Orous, scanning additional asteroid colonies. No contacts detected.

D+2
Auflkarer sill en-route to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare has swept Psaro & moons. No contacts. En route to Grant warp point.
Spion has departed Grant warp point upon arrival of Hare, en route to Amsos. No contacts detected.
Hassen has arrived at Orous, swept local moons. No contacts detected. En route to Tegesa.

D+3
Auflkarer sill en-route to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare on station at Grant warp point. No contacts detected.
Spion en-route to Amsos.  No contacts detected.
Hassen has passed Scylla warp point.  No contacts detected. Continuing on course to Tegesa.

D+4
Auflkarer sill en-route to Piraeus warp point. No contacts detected.
Hare on station at Grant warp point. No contacts detected.
Spion en-route to Amsos.  No contacts detected.
Hassen at Tegesa. Both moons clean. No cont-

————————————————————————
dWS Hassen
Hare-Class Reconnaissance Destroyer

“CIC, sensors. We have a possible contact at three-zero-three tac zero-one-zero.”

“Confirmed, sensors. We see it on our board. Are you able to clean it up some?”

“Negative, CIC. It’s right on the edge of our detection threshold. It’s definitely a drive signature, but if it’s several, they’re all washed together.”

Hunter Skorey stepped into the CIC, the hatch clanging loudly behind. “We have a contact?”

“Standby, sensors. Yes Sir.” Godeke continued “We’ve picked up an intermittent signal. Not quite a least-time course from Amsos. Not sure if it’s for Tegesa or the Scylla warp point, but those’re close enough together.”

Skorey growled “Damn. If we can see them then they can see us. Still, let’s see if we can shake them some. Shields?”

“Shield systems are charged, but not engaged.”

“Very well. Engineering; rig the ship for low detection. Helm, bring us to heading two-seven-zero. Comms, send off a contact report. Append everything that we know-“

“That isn’t much, Sir.”

“More than nothing. Comms, make sure you keep feeding updates down to flag as we get them. Standing order.”

A chorus of acknowledgements filled the CIC as the ship rolled into the turn on her new course. Cutting across the contact’s course would let Hassen close the range enough to get positive IDs, but at the risk of being identified and attacked in turn. Such were the dangers of stalking a hostile fleet, especially one equipped with small craft. Ideally the new course would let them cut just close enough to get some positive IDs but without closing so far as to be identified in turn. It was risky, but that was the dance that recon ships had to do, and Skorey had no doubts that his crew would do their utmost, even to the end.

————————————————————————

dWS Hans Zollner
Director Mk4-Class Heavy Cruiser

Close orbit around Attica, Elysian Sovergenty Capital World

“Incoming signal from Hassen, Sir.”

Junior PackMaster Phelan leaned forward from his chair at the edge of the holographic command table. He’d abandoned his usual seat, displacing a sensor operator to be right at “the big picture”. By the time he was looking at Hassen’s location, the contact report and probable vector was already extending in a single crimson line.  The command ship’s own analysts were already processing the data, a dotted line extending behind it and pointing right at the ice planet Amsos.

“So that’s where they were. Staging that far out-system was risky. All the warp points are farther in-system.”

“They were probably planning to make a run through the Piraeus warp point” Chimed in Hunter Mache. “That would let them punch right into our New Colony Region, and they’ve got to know there’s nothing there that could hope to stop them.”

“But with the orbital alignment being what it is, they’d have to drive right past us to get there.”

“Looks like orbital mechanics screwed both of us then.”

Phelan snorted when he heard that. “I think they’re going to find that we got the better end to the deal.” His paw reached out and opened a communications channel. “Comms, this is Flag. Inform Panfilov that it’s his moment to shine. Ready a strike. Full deck. Flag will append vector and coordinates shortly.” He cut the channel as comms acknowledged the order.

“A full strike, sir? We don’t know if this is their fleet or not. Or even if it’s everything.”

“If there’s another fleet behind them, we can engage with the battle line. But right now Panfilov’s strike is the only thing that can engage them before they jump through that warp point. So, either we launch now and cut them, or let them get away and we give them a stern chase. And that’s assuming we manage to track them.”

Phelan looked at the display as a broad cone projected out onto the starscape, indicating possible course headings. As more and more detail trickled in from Hassen the cone continued to shrink, slowly focusing in on the Scylla warp point.

“Flag, Comms. Panfilov reports strike launching and forming up.”

“Comms, this is flag.” Phelan exhaled. “Tell him ‘good hunting’.”

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