-Crew Logs: Ensign Ed Scofield
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Life on a transport ship has got to be about the worst existence in the galaxy. I hitched a ride on the USN Auxilium from the Tarantis system back to Liberty Station. If these massive things even have warp, it is barely warp 1. So the trip seemed to take longer than it actually did.
I’m used to living inside a tin can with recycled air. I grew up on Neodymium Station just outside the asteroid belt in Tarantis. Those stations are huge compared to the transport ships. These transports are geared for cargo and apparently that doesn’t mean they consider human cargo other than to make sure the food replicators are working. I think I’d rather be in solitary on some penal colony because I’d have more space to myself than I did on the trip back to Elysium.
Well, you get what you can afford when you don’t have your own ship. Someday I’m going get one of those rebuilt Arvonian fighters from the scrappers. They roam the fringes of the neutral zones picking up hunks of spacecraft and try to put them back together. Guys like me in the USN are making sure supply is booming. Every time I see a ship disappear off my console, I think a piece of that could be mine. I’ve heard of some guys tricking their ships out with crazy warp drives from the bigger ships and are hitting like warp 6 for short bursts. I don’t know how they even fit a warp drive that big in one of these things.
Well, once I fill my obligation to the USN and get some experience with combat I might join one of these professional military corporations (PMC) like the BlackKnights or Guardian Angels. Rumor has it they get paid ridiculous amounts of money to defend the rich and famous. There was a Guardian Angel at the party in the low G sector with the LazLeague following Samantha Ogawa around. If there was a human that could pass for a Torgoth, it would have been this guy. I swear if he flexed too much he would have ripped through his incredibly expensive suit.
I’m sure its not always red carpet parties and fast cars. I’m smart enough to know I’m sure these guys are in the convoys protecting corporate assets and VIP’s that don’t ever show up on the gossip vid channels. Still, I don’t think I’d mind getting to wear a suit and sunglasses and the paycheck that goes with it.
A nuke jockey has got to dream! Someday, that will be me...
Who am I kidding? Can you see me as a Guardian Angel? One of these days I’ll tell you about my experience in boot camp. There is a reason I ended up on the flight deck, even if its in the weapons pod.
Sheesh, listen to me. I haven’t even started on the mission.
Where do I begin? When I got back to the ship, in the briefing room, the captain informed us that much of the fleet had headed to Tarantis. He was pretty vague about what they were off doing, but the news has been full of information about Humanity First. I can’t prove there is any sort of connection since they are usually making noise here in Elysium. To take that many ships seems like a major show of force for someone.
We didn’t expect much to happen. We were going to be patrolling a fairly well defended section of the border. To give you an idea of how little happens out here, there are 7 bases. So this is not a backwater border region, it is fairly populated. There are some pretty dense asteroid belts and a ring of mines so thick you they show up on the scanner like a bright blinking festivus ring of lights around the stations. So I’m thinking, what could possibly go wrong…
Several of our regular crew members had been taken with the rest of the fleet, so we had two new crew members that had never been on the USN Liberator before. We had a pilot fresh out of academy and an engineer who had flown with a different Captain, but was at least familiar with our type of ship, the light cruiser. Our normal pilot took over the science duties since he was more familiar than “newbie” was with our sensors and ship capabilities. Out Captain would be stationed at Command & Control, so our Lieutenant Commander would be in charge as well.
Just we we were starting to settle into a routine our science office came over comms that he had picked up multiple objects entering our sector. There isn’t any scheduled merchant or military traffic on the calendar. That by itself isn’t abnormal as we have the quite a few space whales and bio mechs which pass through this section on a regular basis.
They were out of my weapons sensor range so I couldn’t get much of a handle on what was coming in. I had lost my access to the Captain’s map so I was flying blind and still working on getting some kind of access to the long range scanners when Science came over comms, “Multiple TAK ships on inbound attack vector for DS6 and DS7.” At almost the same time, Lt. Commander chimes in with, “Battlestations.”
The Lt. Commander quickly started giving some basic instructions on how he wanted engineering to manage the ship in a hostile situation. “When weapons indicates we are within firing range and he is engaging with beams, I want those beams pumped up to 300% with as much cooling as you can give them. I also want you to boost forward shields and hold them there as long as you can.”
The orders just kept coming over the comms, “Come about to heading 140 warp 1.” He also had orders for me, “Prepare to engage, attack plan Delta 2. Load an Echo 2” Which to me means, we’re going to head in guns blazing and drop some mines on our way out. We approached the fleet a little too cautiously I think. Normally we charge right in and swap paint with the TAK. Our new pilot was being much more conservative and tried to stay outside of their beam arc’s. It made the battle take longer as he maneuvered around but it was effective at keeping the enemy on their toes.
We had made several passes through the armada and dropped all of our mines, but we were still busy teaching the Kraliens they don’t own this little section of the cosmos when we suddenly got orders to chart a course for DS2 at the fastest possible warp.
Now that isn’t the kind of order we get regularly. I mean seriously putting the pedal to the metal. I could hear the engineering guys complaining about the over heating and I could swear I heard the engineer say, “I’m telling ya’ Captain, I’m given her all we’ve got and she can’t take no more!” Which made me laugh, because I swear I heard that in one of my Terran History lessons.
Well, while we were spanking the Kralians, a Torgoth ship had managed to find a path through the mine field and was headed to DS2. Fortunately it wasn’t a whole fleet, and we were able to get there in pretty good time. We remodeled the Torgoth ship with some extra ventilation and took a break at DS2 to refuel and pick up torpedoes.
The Kraliens were regrouping down by DS7 but the Lt. Commander had picked up a “Space Monster” on the long range scanners. We took the narrow path through the mine field the Torgoth had cleared. The orders came down to give maximum power to the rear shields. It was pretty clear we were going to try and pull off a maneuver called “Monster Baiting.”
I’ve never seen a space monster up close, so I’m not really sure what they look like. On my sensor screen they just look like a big O. I’ve read up enough about them to know you can not win a fight with these things. They seem to have an ability to soak up whatever we throw at them without suffering any significant damage.
I watched my display and watched the indicators for our ship and the space monster get closer together. “Shields Up!” shouted the Lt. Commander. I punched the button and watched as the shield indicators blinked to life. The engineer was shouting at the Damage Control teams to get to the rear of the ship as he worked to push as much energy as he could without damaging any crucial parts of the ship.
“Brace for impact” came over the radio a moment before I saw the icon indicating the space monster leap at the ship. The impact would have knocked me out of my control pod if I hadn’t been buckled in. The consoles blurred and flickered but came back online.
The engineer looked up, “Shields 92% and holding, Sir.” The Lt. Commander turned to the helm and hollered over the noise of the sparking electronics, “Set course toward the fleet in sector C3. Engage Warp 1, but don’t let him get too far away from the ship.”
The monster hit us again, and again, and again. “Drop to impulse, we’re going to lose him” said the Lt. Commander. I watched the monster leap across my screen, and again they blurred as we took another strike to the rear shields. The enemy fleet was finally within range of my sensors. There were so many ships, it was just a red streak across my screen.
“Hold course, divert all energy and cooling to the rear shields. We’re almost there,” he exclaimed. “Turn to heading 220 on my mark…”
We all held on to our consoles as the ship shook under the assault. Just as I thought the shields were going to fail, I saw the monster change course. It was moving so fast my sensors couldn’t keep up with the motion.
“Turn now, engage warp 2! Drop energy to shields and divert all available resources to the engines.” signed the Lt. Commander.
On my screen I could see the monster engaging the enemy fleet. I watched as their fighters deployed off the carriers and swarmed around the monster, but I could see right away this was going to be a losing battle for the TAK forces. One ship after another disappeared off my console, lost to the relentless assault.
A small number of ships broke away from the main battle group and headed away from the carnage. They weren’t heading back to TAK territory though.
“Plot an intercept course and load up an Omega 3.” came across the comm channel. I picked an EMP and loaded it in torpedo tube 1 and put a nuke in tube 2. I watched the status bar as the auto-loaders worked deep in the ship. They were sluggish as so much energy had been pulled away to the engines but eventually my status lights blinked on. “Omega 3 ready,” I reported.
As we approached the ships I noticed we were running low in energy after the battle. I clicked on my comm channel, “Sir, energy levels 30%.”
“Convert all homings and target the center of the ships. Fire when you have weapons lock,” he commanded.
I drained the energy from the homing torpedoes and worked on a firing solution. “Shields up, Omega 3 away,” I reported. The torpedoes appear as tiny red dots on my console. They almost seem sinister in their motion as they acquire their target and adjust course. Their guidance systems accurately navigate their way to the ship I had targeted and the red dots disappeared off my screen. The EMP hit and the nearest ships shields failed. The nuke hit a moment later. The targeted ship vanished from my screen and many of the nearest ships suffered heavy damage.
“Engage!” ordered the Lt. Commander.
The Liberator surged forward and the engineering crews scrambled to adjust the systems to maximize weapons and shields. I could hear the the Comms officer in the background asking, begging, almost pleading with the TAK forces to surrender. The responses he was getting back made it clear this was not an accidental incursion.
We plowed through the small fleet of ships and taking out as many beam emitters as I could identify. “Load Echo 2”, ordered the Lt. Commander. We turned about and swept back through and as the ships turned to engage, we dropped the mines out the back of the ship. Before they could even identify what we had done, the mines engaged and ripped holes through the ships.
“Again!” barked the Lt. Commander.
We boosted maneuverability and I loaded the mines as fast as I could. “Echo 2 ready,” I confirmed. The fleet was in total disarray at this point and we weren’t receiving much return fire.
As we cleared the fleet and were preparing to turn, we ran out of energy. “Ugh, energy levels 0% sir”, I embarrassingly reported. There was an audible sigh from the Lt. Commander. I couldn’t believe how he took it in stride. No yelling, no throwing of small objects, no curses about my mother.
We all just sat there for a moment, floating aimlessly through space...
“Engineering, turn all power off to everything but life support and maneuvering. Helm, get us pointed at DS2. Engineering, once we have a heading, take all power from maneuvering and get as much energy as you can to thrusters. If you can get anything out of the warp engines, we’ll use anything you’ve got.” said the Lt. Commander.
The ship was starting to gain some momentum when the crew finally started to relax. The tension that had built up over the last several hours of near constant combat began to subside. The ship was in a fixed trajectory and moving at a snails pace so the crew started to joke and talk with each other, since there wasn’t anything to do.
The bridge consoles were still on but we had no juice to long range sensors. Science and Communications were basically offline. So I was really caught off guard when a proximity sensor blinked on my weapons console. A single Arvonian fighter from the first fleet we had engaged was aimlessly looking for somewhere to land. We had destroyed the carrier it had launched from and it was headed in the general direction of the second fleet. I’m sure it had no idea they had already been under attack and that a space monster was methodically ripping everything in its reach to pieces.
I flagged down the Lt. Commander and pointed at my screen. He quickly snapped, “Full stop! Power down any unnecessary electronics and everyone shut the hell up. Maybe he hasn’t noticed us yet.”
The ship fell silent and we all watched my screen as the fighter flew erratically across the screen. It seemed to pause for a moment and just when we thought it was going to pass on by, it began to change course and headed in our direction.
The Lt. Commander let out a minor expletive. “We don’t have enough power for beams or shields. What have we got left in the magazines,” he asked?
“We’ve got one nuke left, Sir”, I pointed out.
“You better load it up” he said.
“Torpedoes not responding,” I reported.
“Crap, Engineering get as much energy as you can into the torpedoes”, he said.
My status indicators started to move, but it was at an excruciatingly slow pace. I watched the progress of the fighter across my screen and compared it to the torpedo status indicators and quickly did a rough calculation and figured we were going to be cutting it really close.
“Fire as soon as that torpedo is ready!” said Lt. Commander.
I locked in a firing solution and loaded the coordinates into the targeting computers on board the torpedo. At least if we took a hit and lost power to the navigation computers, it would be able to guide itself to the target. We don’t normally have time to program a sequence into the tropedo and just let the ship guide them in, but in this case, we had plenty of time.
We were just outside of the weapons arc for the fighter when the “Launch” button lit up. I pushed it so hard I broke a fingernail. The force of the torpedo leaving our motionless ship caused it to start spinning out of our original trajectory. “Torpedo Away!” I said with way too much enthusiasm.
The nuclear torpedo connected with the tiny little fighter and blossomed into a momentary star. It blinded the forward view screen for a moment and the ship lighting flickered and brightened from the EMP. Having never been that close to the blast from one of our torpedoes before, I had a new respect for the weapons designers and felt a little tinge of guilt because of how many ships I’d unleashed these on.
“Target neutralized,” I reported over the radio.
The sigh of relief could probably have been heard outside the ship. I swear we had all been collectively holding our breath but having just had such a close call, no one really felt like celebrating. One of the newest and best ships in the USN fleet was almost destroyed by one of the smallest fighters in the TAK.
“Engineering, get some juice back into maneuvering and thrusters. Helm, get us back on course, and lets get back to DS2.” sighed the Lt. Commander.
The rest of the trip back to DS2 was fairly uneventful. We overshot the docking bay since we didn’t have any juice in maneuvering and couldn’t slow down enough for the tractor beams to pull us in. Once we corrected course, the recharging and reloading went fairly quickly. The long slow trip gave the damage control teams plenty of time to fix all the subsystems so by the time we left dock, we were almost as good as when we started this mission.
We set course and headed back to the remaining ships in TAK force that had fled from the space monster. Long range sensors showed the monster had decimated the bulk of the original attacking forces and was occupying a sector that was safely out of range of any USN assets. The ships we had been engaging before we ran out of power were still disorganized and hadn’t come up with an attack or retreat plan.
It was almost too easy after having destroyed their shields and done significant damage with repeated mining runs. We didn’t encounter any significant resistance but since no one voluntarily surrendered we were left with no other options.
As we were headed back to DS7 to recharge and resume our original patrol mission, we passed a ConMin ship, the USFP Excide. What was a Consolidating Minerals mining ship from Tarantis doing this far from home? I know ConMin would mine minerals from any hunk of rock they could get control of, but the Excide is not an interplanetary ship. They just don’t spend money on FTL drives for ships that large so this ship has been on the move for a long long time. I’ll have to remember to ask my mom about that next time I see her.
We didn’t encounter any additional TAK forces the rest of the mission and we spent most of the time ferrying various hunks of machinery back and forth between the stations.
It will be nice to get back to Elysium base. I’m getting used to the food and I’ve got tickets to the Laz League match between the Tarantis Promethium Station “Flames” vs the Elysium Deocculum “Steganos”.
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