Amaranth following Mozart, System J163743
Planet I, Star System J100640 – Location: UNKNOWN
The orange sunlight of the system glinted off Amaranth‘s hull as Erbo waited at the “rally point.” One by one, other Ralpha Dogs pilots cruised into high orbit around the planet with him…Selenalore in Mozart, Cassius flying the CSS Katana, and Cain Jacobi in the Halcyon. His survey of the detectable anomalies in the star system was complete; now it remained only to have a look.
The previous night, they had all (save Cain, who had been busy elsewhere) explored System J163743, taking on Sleeper frigates and cruisers. The three encounters had yielded much in the way of loot and salvage, all of it unrecognizable by the standards of known space…and all of it valuable. That star system, according to an intelligence database Erbo had acquired, had been designated as “minimal threat”; the one they were currently in was rated as “minimal-to-moderate” on the threat scale.
The week before, in another wormhole system, they had tried to take down the Sleepers, only to be confronted with a battleship-sized vessel that made short work of two battlecruisers. Erbo, who had had a Myrmidon shot out from under him, wasn’t anxious to repeat the experience. But they were better prepared now, with intelligence, equipment and skill.
A style not seen for a thousand generations.
The fleet warped, first, to the wormholes present in this system. One of course, led back where they had come from; of the others, one led into high-security space in the Genesis region, and the other led to another unknown star system cataloged as “dangerous.” Erbo noted these on his chart of the region, then, at Cain’s suggestion, the fleet warped to the two asteroid belts in the system.
As they dropped out of warp, Erbo could hear an audible gasp over the communications net.
“Would you look at these rocks!” said Cain, who hadn’t personally seen one of these belts before. Erbo grinned, noting the presence of a number of rare ores, including the “ABC” group of the rarest three, arkonor, bistot, and crokite. He hoped they’d have the time for a mining run later.
In the second belt, they found they were not alone. Five Sleeper frigates awaited unwary visitors, and Erbo suddenly realized that Amaranth was uncloaked, and could not cloak because the other ships were too close–and he was being targeted!
“Bugging out!” he yelled over the com, triggering warp drive to get back to the wormhole entrance. He succeeded, though not before being hit with a pair of hefty volleys, blowing through his shields and scorching off some of the armor plate. Behind him, he could hear the sounds of battle coordination over the com channel, as the three battlecruisers began taking down the frigates.
Erbo raced back to the station where they’d opened an office, getting Amaranth repaired and jumping in a battlecruiser of his own, Cydonia Mensae, but, by the time he could get back to J100640 and the asteroid belt, the battle was over, and even the wrecks had mostly been salvaged by Selena. Now, though, she and Cassius were eager for real combat.
“Ralpha Dogs, listen up,” said Erbo. “We’re heading for a perimeter outpost. Give me a Go-NoGo for warp. Selena!”
“Go!” reported Selena.
“And I’m Go. Stand by for warp.”
He activated the fleet warp, and the Ralpha Dogs streaked towards the ancient site. Was it his imagination, or did he hear an unearthly scream over the com systems?
Beautiful but deadly.
The guardians on duty included two cruisers and a pair of heavy sentry guns. The guns targeted Erbo as he quickly designated them on the tactical display. “Gun Alpha is primary. Gun Alpha is primary.”
The ships opened fire, and the space was soon alive with railgun slugs, laser beams, and flying missiles. Nimble drones, Hammerheads and Valkyries, flew forth from Erbo’s and Selena’s ships to do battle. The gun exploded…and then a new blip appeared on the threat display.
A big, fat blip.
“Sleeper battleship!” he called. “Bug out!”
“We can take him!” called Cassius.
“I’m hurt!” reported Selena.
“Bug out!” repeated Erbo, as his own shields and armor were quickly assaulted by the battleship’s mighty weapons. He and Selena managed to reach warp, returning to the “rally point.” A short time later, Cassius and Cain joined them.
“I got most of the escorts,” reported Cain. “As soon as we’re ready, we can take out that battleship.”
“We’ve got to try,” said Erbo, keeping an eye on his shield levels and capacitor. He knew Selena would be doing the same. Cassius reported his own shields charged back to 100% long before his display reported even as high as 90%.
Finally, after what seemed an agonizing wait, they went back. The battleship was still there.
Four targeting computers locked onto it. Four ships opened fire.
The Sleeper vessel seemed confused, switching back and forth between targets. Erbo moved closer to Selena, using his remote armor repair system to support her armor tank, as weapons continued to fire and the damage indicators on the Sleeper crept upward.
“He’s in structure, he’s in structure!” called Erbo. “Stay with him! Stay with him!”
Finally, the combined onslaught of laser beams, rail guns, Havoc and Thunderbolt missiles, and ten T2 drones was just too much for the battleship. It exploded in a shower of sparks.
“Battleship DOWN!” called Erbo, as jubilant war cries echoed across the com circuit. The remaining two cruiser-sized escorts and sentry gun held out for awhile before they, too, fell, and Erbo was finally able to sound the all-clear.
. . .
There was good luck to be had in the next two encounters as well. Cain had to drop out of the fleet and head for base, pleading fatigue, but the other three continued the fight, destroying a second battleship in the next area.
In the third, just as one battleship was destroyed, a second appeared on the scene. The three had to withdraw to the rally point and regroup again. CSS Katana had sustained armor damage that round, so Erbo gave it a boost with the remote repper to get it back to 100%.
When Erbo finally called a halt to the operation so the three of them could sleep, they had cleared three areas and destroyed a total of four battleships, along with an untold number of cruisers and frigates. And he was sure the loot and salvage from this operation would prove just as valuable as that from the previous night, if not more so.
“Well done, everyone!” he called over the com channel.
Cydonia Mensae slid into dock, and he made sure everything was taken care of–loot unloaded, drones repaired, ammunition and cap charges topped off–before finding Selena and heading back to their quarters.