Lasers at 10 light seconds…


dWS Hans Zollner
Director Mk4-Class Heavy Cruiser
Deep Space, Scylla Star System

“I hate combat ops in nebulae.”

“Any reason why?”

“We can’t bring our shield systems online, our sensors are barely operational, and if we actually get into combat it’s going to be plasma cannons at ten paces. So take your pick.”

The deWulf fleet was still running full throttle through the nebula, chasing down where they thought the Elysians were going. While there were three warp points they could have run for, there was only one that led back into deWulf space. So the deWulf charged down a least-time course for that warp point. In truth the Elysians could have gone for any of the three, but sometimes all you could do was place your bets and take your chances.

“Sir, incoming signal from Spion.”

“Well, maybe they’ve got something. Pull them up.”

“This is Hunter Hacklander on Spion. We might have something.”

“Might?”

“This nebula’s pumping out a lot of interference all across the EM bands. If you have complaints, file them with management.”

Scout commanders always were a breed apart. Even flag officers didn’t phase them.

“Understood. What do you have?”

“We’ve detected an intermittent signal ahead of us. It’s fading in and out and we’re having to run a lot of processing to even isolate it, but it looks like a drive field. Might be Elysian, but we’re not sure. Give us another ten minutes and we should know for sure.”

“Estimated course?”

“Their course is zero zero zero mark zero zero two. Might as well be ours.”

Phelan looked over at Mache “We have any civilian traffic out here?”

“Negative. Ever since the State of Threat all corp traffic cleared out from here. It’s not a direct link to anywhere, and the Corporate Council tagged the system as a no transit zone. Even EisenRucke stated that they’d void classification of anyone operating in-system. So, if they’re one of ours, they’re going to get everything they deserve.”

“Well. If EisenRucke’s willing to pull spaceworthy certificates, That’s reassu-“

“Status change!” Hunter Hacklander cut into the conversation “Just detected an EM spike from the contact ahead. Running it through the..”

Another voice called out over the comms; a bit distant but still clearly heard over the link. “Got it! Sensor pulses from a Rhodia-class sensor emitter; Evaluating the contact as an Elysian warship. Detecting more point sources… estimate-“

Phelan waved a hand to Hunter Mache to cut the transmission.

“Well, that answers who they are. Signal all ships: Combat Stations.”

————————————————————————

“Sir, Panfilov is launching small craft but…”

The chime of an incoming comm request pinged from the command holotable. Mache looked down at the request. “It’s Panfilov.”

“Nice to see someone’s keeping flag informed. Put him on.”

The command table flickered as the image feed of a Sintillan officer in a deWulf-cut skinsuit appeared. “Combat ranges are minimal here, PackHunter. And with the speed of the Elysian ships in combat, our warships will not catch them.”

Junior PackHunter Phelan nodded “Agreed. But why are putting your gunboats out first? Fighters should be screening them en-route to the Elysian carriers.”

Panfilov replied “Ordinarily, yes. But a fully laden gunboat cannot catch an Elysian carrier at a full run. Fighters can. That means our striking arm must be the fighters, and so we must instead use our gunboats to blunt the enemy attack.”

“You know they’ll get mauled.”

“Badly damaged, yes. But I am not leaving the gunboats fully uncovered.”

The holotank shifted, showing the command feed from Panfilov’s command carrier. Ghost images of gunboats stacked up in a wall ahead of the fleet, backed by a third of the remaining fighters.

“The gunboats will either take the initial blows, or cripple some of the enemy’s strike-“

“That we haven’t even seen yet.” Hunter Mache interjected.

“If they aren’t launching, then they are fools and we will kill them in their hangars. No, they will be launching. But yes, once their strike meets the gunboat screen, the fighters will roll in finish off their own strike. Meanwhile-“

The holotank shifted again, showing the other two thirds of the fighters chasing after the Elysian warships, their blips intersecting with the Elysian sensor contacts “the remaining fighters will close in and wipe out their carriers. Fortunately, most of their carriers are entirely defenseless. We of course know nothing about their larger carrier class, but even if it has some defenses, we will have enough fighters to overwhelm it. The only challenge is if any combat ships remained.”

“And if any did?”

The Sintillan bobbed his eyestalks in a rather convincing imitation of a shrug. “Then the fighters will harass and attempt to cripple and slow down the combat ships first. The losses will be… undesirable, but without their small craft, their carriers are useless. Even if they do escape, where could they go?”

Hunter Mache growled “Hidden colony, secret supply dump, a concealed fleet staging point somewhere else in the nebula.”

“Point taken. Well, we’ll just have to make sure that we kill them all, won’t we?”

————————————————————————
ESW Screaming Vengeance
Elysian Imperial Strike Force

“Contacts, dead aft!”

Peres turned to look at the communications Pinion as they passed along a message from the sensor boat that was accompanying what was left of the strike force.

“How many? What kind?” Peres clamped his beak tight to smother another insult. “I need more information than that!”

“Standby sir… Kastri reports at least twenty contacts, more probables. They’re classing them as deWulf ships.”

“What? How?”

“Standby… drive fields appear to be unstable.”

The Elysian Strike Commander bristled. “They were running their engines full out. Must have lost some ships running that hard.”

“Not enough of them though.” Peres watched as the command holotank slowly populated with more and more contacts, all of them slowly gaining on them. “Still. They’re just as blind as we are. Do we know which ship is their own sensor boat?”

“They don’t have many destroyer hulls…” The strike commander thought out loud “we should be able to work it out from there. And without it, they’ll be even more blind than we are.”

“Exactly. Launch our gunboats. And don’t hold a reserve back this time. We’re going to need every gunboat.”

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