Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, 'Star Citizen', 'Squadron 42', 'Cloud Imperium Games', and 'Roberts Space Industries' are property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp ("RSI"). All rights in content, including places, characters, concepts, and ships produced and created by RSI relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.
//// 1948 Hours Ship Time, February 05, 2938, Elysium System, Vulture Jump Point ////
On the edge of the Elysium system, six degrees above the solar plane, an anomaly quietly warped spacetime. It wasn’t the only one of it’s kind; not even in Elysium. Unlike the others, this one had been silent for months. Only a single remote observation platform, designation CHI-44, kept watch on this link between stars.
The anomaly shuddered and awoke. Swift, violent, and then once more, silent. A single ship, no larger than a frigate, had come to be; torn out of space and time and placed here. A scattered wave of electromagnetic radiation washed over CHI-44, and it too roused. The enemy approached, but they would not do so unnoticed.
It’s fusion reactor came to life, followed by advanced optics and a database containing all known spacebourne enemies of mankind. It prepared a burst transmission directed at Elysium IV; a warning, a call to arms. A light flashed as electronic signals pulsed through the system, making their way to the long range communication array. A twenty-thousand credit directional radio antenna began broadcasting.
CHI-44 was designed to look out, not in, and so was unaware of the literal wrench in the works, let slip by an on-site mechanic months past and nesting in the radio array, warping it’s transmission into unreadable, diffuse static.
The ship stirred, a beast suddenly aware of its prey, and the black was lit by red. A thin line of coherent light briefly connected the two machines drifting in space. Still blaring it’s silent clarion call, CHI-44 died.
A spreading cloud of debris was the only message it left.
//// 0822 Hours Ship Time, February 06, 2938, Elysium, Aboard The Idris-Class Frigate Servitor ////
Captain Rikataw’s clear tenor pierced Stephus’ daydreaming, bringing him back to the frigate’s bridge. Turning to look at the XO, the hard-faced Lieutenant Commander Breson gave him a nod. With a few swift keystrokes Stephus brings up a model of the Servitor’s course, though he could have judged it just as well. “Thirteen minutes and fifty seconds until zero-velocity rendezvous with the jump point, Skipper.”
“Thank you, nav.” The captain sat in silence for a few moments before sighing heavily. Her irritated tone is completely at odds with the polite and pleasant one she had used up to that point. “Exec, how long has it been since anyone has given the Vulture point a flyby?”
Breson shifts slightly in his seat, poring over his station, though he too did not need it. “That would be one hundred and thirty seven days ago, Earth standard, Skipper.” Every soul aboard the bridge held their breath, though the captain had not previously been prone to fits of rage. She was the best most of them had served under, had kept her head through everything they had done, but she was prone to fits of tongue lashing when they deserved it. And by the end of one, they knew they deserved it. No one wanted to see what would happen if she was actually angry.
Taking her silence as an invitation to elaborate, the XO continued. “However, they have installed a remote reconnaissance platform to keep an eye on the point, and configured it to transmit if something comes through, along with size and classification.”
Commander Sensa Rikataw cupped her face with a hand. “Oh, excellent. And how long has it been since this platform did a routine comms check?”
The XO coughed, looking aside. “The local militia did not, uh, didn’t give it the programming for that, Captain.”
“Wonderful.” Rikataw, leaning back in her captain’s chair, glared daggers at the pair of militia cutters off their port and starboard bow, visible through the massive windows that dominated the bridge. “Just. Wonderful. Exec, be sure that all of this is included in our preliminary report.”
Stephus almost felt sorry for them, for a moment. Almost. There was a limit to how far one’s sympathy extended to people who would put an entire system of colonies at risk, though. No wonder the local commander had been so nervous when the Servitor made port call.
Captain Rikataw keyed her comm station, patching herself directly into the ship’s PA and encrypted radio network. “All hands, this is your captain speaking. Ready for a long-term stay on board while SciOps procures mass transit readings from the jump point. Local attachments, you will stand by and provide additional security as needed. That is all.”
Stephus could imagine the chorus of groans throughout the ship, but the captain’s sly grin soon had him sporting his own. The Servitor’s not-quite-spacious accommodations were still comfortable, and everyone aboard got hot chow; nothing similar could be said about the austere Avengers being fielded by the militia forces. And while it may not be quite fair to take out their frustrations on the lower-ranking militiamen, maybe they would bitch enough to influence the local leadership.
Low chuckles and sideways glances were cut off as their radar officer, Lieutenant Orlovsky, overlaid an image onto the bridge windows. She quickly launched into an explanation of the amorphous shape on screen. “Captain, I’ve got a radar signature near the jump point. Dimensions are approximately three hundred kilometers square. Readings suggest a low density dust cloud or small debris field. Velocity, relative to the jump point, is negligible.”
The captain immediately sat up straight, her face becoming the professional mask that they’d all come to associate with serious business. “Nav, do we have any records of a dust cloud on the jump point?”
Stephus was already three pages deep in cartographer’s logs when she addressed him. “No Skipper, there shouldn’t be anything but a few loose tools. No mention of comets or other celestials passing by, either.”
Fingernail tapping an armrest slowly, Rikataw took several moments before she spoke. When she did, she was confident and sure; a captain in command. “Helm, take us in slow. Nav, plot me a few good escape options. Exec, you may do the honors.” Her voice remained the same, but her eyes had a sparkle to them as she said the last.
“Aye aye, Captain!” Stephus thought it was almost comical how out of place the XO’s energetic response was, coming out of that grim, unreadable face. The XO lifted a small panel at his station and depressed the physical button therein. He kept it down, speaking into the PA system even as the bridge switched over to combat power and klaxons began clamoring. “All hands to battle stations! This is not a drill! I repeat, all hands to battle stations!”
Stephus watched him hold the battle alarm for a slow count of fifteen, as by-the-books as ever. Although, the grin Breson sported afterward was anything but. Also a little creepy, he thought. Not that he would ever say it to the exec’s face.
Lieutenant Commander Breson glared at the room after hurriedly wiping the stupid grin off his face. Nobody looked at him, but he could sense the mood. “What? It’s traditional!”
None but the captain dared to laugh.
//// 0834 Hours Ship Time, February 06, 2938, Elysium, Aboard The Idris-Class Frigate Servitor ////
The threat of impending combat hits everyone in a different way. Captain Rikataw was relaxed yet wary in her command chair, at once at rest and ready to spring into action. Lt Commander Breson was grim-faced as usual, but his eagerness was visible in the tapping of suit gloves on his armrest. Orlovsky stared at her sensor console, bored expression making it clear she didn’t expect anything to come of it. Cadet Davis was tense, straight-backed and stiff-necked, though that was probably because it was the helmsman’s first real assignment.
Stephus sat at his own console, plugging away at viable escape routes whilst nervously walking a pen across the knuckles of his free hand. This wasn’t his first general alert, but he had yet to see combat and it still made him nervous. The fact that this was likely to be nothing but a precautionary measure didn’t do anything to calm him down.
“Tacops, how long until our hornets are ready for launch?” The captain cut through the tense air on the bridge with practised ease, as steady as any other drill.
Screen displaying wireframes of the ship's compliment of four hornets, Tactical Operations Officer Hendel gave her his best estimate. "Less than thirty seconds, skipper. Would you like me to give them the okay?"
Giving the thought a bit of contemplation, Captain Rikataw nods. "Yes, as soon as we reach combat speed. Have them form a screen and guide us in."
Stephus flipped through various readouts at his station, settling on a map generated by Servitor's onboard sensor suite. Less than a minute until they dropped into combat speed, about eighty kilometers from the beginning of the cloud; almost two hundred and fifty from the point. It would be a long, slow journey in.
Orlovsky suddenly overlayed another radar map over the bridge pane, a small amorphous area highlighted in red. "Skipper, I've got an odd reading here, near the point. Right about the center of the cloud; the object's radar return is fluctuating wildly."
Captain Rikataw eyed the readings with interest. "Good spot, Orlovsky. What do you think it is?"
After a moment of deliberation she responded, hesitant at first but gaining confidence as she spoke. "Well, I've never quite seen a reading of this sort, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say it's a ship, sub-corvette class. Maybe an internal explosion created the debris field and set her spinning, which would explain her radar return. Perhaps a ship attempted to make the jump from Vulture, but something slipped and she suffered a catastrophic systems failure."
Stephus watched the Captain nod in approval as Orlovsky delivered her report. She started to answer, but was cut short by the heavy vibration of the ship's hangar doors opening. Only a moment later, four hornets screamed into space, forming a wedge and taking up position several kilometers ahead of the Servitor.
Cadet Davis cut in briefly, informing the bridge that they were now cruising at combat speed.
"Thank you, helm. Orlovsky, do you have a reading on anything that could be the remote observation platform?"
"That's a negative, skipper. It's heavily stealthed, so I doubt I could find it as long as it's reactor is shut down. This dust cloud is highly radar absorbant, and it's making it difficult to get a good return on anything. I've got sensor ghosts everywhere."
"Do the best you can with what you have. Helm, take us to the point. Tacops, have the cutters and our utility ship readied for search and rescue. Maybe someone is still alive on that vessel, but don't drop your guard."
A chorus of affirmations followed, and the Captain relaxed back into her seat, grinning ever so slightly as she watched her crew get to work.
The ship slipped into the cloud, sensors fuzzing as they were surrounded by bits of paint and plating. Stephus wrestled with a sudden bout of claustrophobia as the light from Elysium’s sun dimmed and his display slowly filled with static.
//// 0852 Hours Ship Time, February 06, 2938, Elysium, Aboard The Idris-Class Frigate Servitor ////
Stephus mentally thanked his vaccsuit's air conditioner while simultaneously cursing the way it’s faceplate kept him from wiping away the sweat running into his eyes. Stinging though they were, he kept them fixed on the Servitor's sensor readout; with the ship nearly blind, even seconds of warning could save lives.
His efforts were hampered by the dust cloud itself; varying densities and their constantly shifting angle occasionally creating radar returns large enough to be a warship or weapons platform. The fact that these sensor ghosts constantly appeared and disappeared served only to further fray the nerves of the crew.
Three false alarms had already been called and everyone on the bridge was high-strung, even the Captain, normally unfazeable as she was. She shifted in her seat, eyes always on the move, as if she could spot an approaching hostile through the bridge windows.
The tense silence was broken without warning as a field of thermal signatures came to life in an arc ahead of them. Lieutenant Orlovsky immediately sprung into action, calling out targets as she identified them.
"Captain! Twenty-six small caliber guided munitions at fourteen klicks! Time to impact, thirty-two seconds!"
Rikataw's focus snapped to Servitor's Gunnery Officer as she shouted, "Guns-!"
She needn’t have bothered; his hands were already flying over the keyboard, calculating ranges and issuing orders through his station. “On it, skipper!”
All eyes fixed on the bridge window, where thirteen red triangles had been superimposed to show the locations of each launch platform. Twenty-six red arrows glittered menacingly as they slid slowly across the display, two originating from each triangle. Completely in her element, the Captain issued a flurry of commands. “Helm, bring us forty-five degrees to port! Sensors, I want classifications on those targets ASAP! Tacops, bring our hornets in close! Guns, priorities on point defense! Engineering, shift power from avionics to shields, and boost starboard and forward arcs!”
Even as she did, the black was set alight as the Servitor’s ship-to-ship batteries opened fire. Normally tightly focused to cut through the hull of capital ships, the dust in the path of the laser scattered the beam ever so slightly before being vaporized. At thirteen thousand one hundred meters, diffraction had increased the size of the impact point from one-point-seven centimeters to over twenty meters. And while the energy-per-centimeter had reduced so that it could not melt even the thin plating the warheads fielded, the sensitive optics in the nose of each were a different story.
Photoreceptors burned out and suddenly without lock, missiles veered off wildly in an attempt to reacquire a target they could no longer see. Their efforts were in vain; each was eventually cut short as fuel reserves emptied and automatic detonation processes took over.
A few scattered cheers filled the bridge even as Orlovsky groaned in dismay. The markers that had designated each hostile were now gone, their thermal signatures washed out by the superheated gas left in the wake of each of the Servitor’s shots.
Seconds passed, and yet they did not reappear. Servitor 1-1 through 1-4 burned back to the frigate, racing to get into formation around the vessel. At sixty-three hundred meters and closing, a vanduul scythe erupted from the vapor trail and took 1-1 from the side. Three bursts of maser fire were all it took to reduce his ship to wreckage, but the crew of the Servitor breathed a collective sigh of relief when they saw the icon for a safely ejected pilot. There was no time to organize a pickup; six more fighters, leading edges glowing dull red, emerged to engage their hornets, having used the incandescent gas as thermal masking.
With no option but to stand and fight, pilots 1-2, 1-3 and 1-4 were engaged in a battle they had little chance of winning. Captain Rikataw opened a line to their militia escort. "Dragon 201 and 203, I am attaching you to our fighter wing. Comms freq is 06323. Assist them immediately."
A pair of acknowledgments followed as the avengers broke formation, moving to engage the vanduul swarming the fighter wing. Stephus watched them go with trepidation. With all of their small craft engaged out of range of the Servitor's ASA batteries, each group was in a dangerous position, and would remain that way for the minutes it would take the frigate to reach them.
"Guns, ready shrapnel missiles with proximity fuses. Send them through our blind spots." Mindful of the remaining fighters, the Captain wasn't about to let them pull the same trick twice.
"Aye, skipper," came the man's measured response, orders already sent to the ship's missile crew. Each battery was pre-loaded with a variety of warheads, and the programmable fuse aboard each took only as long to prepare as the man on station could navigate its menu. Within five seconds the first two birds were in space, and two more followed four seconds later.
They sailed into the dark, soon lost to sensors as they entered the superheated cloud.
The XSP-07 Xyphos warhead, designed by Klaus and Werner, filled a very small niche in the UEE Navy's armament. Fighter defense aboard large craft is generally handled by dedicated ASA batteries, but the loss of the UEE cruiser Basilica after an emergency reactor shutdown has made clear the need for additional redundant defenses.
Weighing in at a little over ninety kilograms, the Xyphos is designed to fit most missile delivery systems the Navy fields. The warhead consists of eleven kilograms of explosive propellant packed behind eighty one-kilogram shaped charge munitions. Upon detonation, the explosion propels the munitions at over six hundred meters per second in a forty-five degree arc in front of the missile. Each of the eighty shaped charges then detonates, shaping and expelling a copper penetrator at an additional one thousand six hundred meters per second, creating a deadly cone of shrapnel well-suited to tearing (relatively) lightly armored targets apart.
Four of these missiles were now speeding ahead inside the massive blind spot that the Servitor's anti-ship batteries had created. They had split into pairs, each sharing telemetry data with it's partner. With thermal sensors completely useless, they relied on a short-range active radar system and advanced optical sensors to find their prey.
Eleven seconds into flight, the first pair sailed silently past their targets, neither noticing the passing.
Three seconds later, the second set made contact.
Only one of the warheads actually saw it's target; the data link between them allowed the pair to delegate orientations so as to cover the largest area. Each missile spun in place before detonating, releasing a swarm of one hundred and sixty projectiles traveling at over two kilometers a second.
The first vanduul did not even have a chance to react as eight copper penetrators slammed into him, tearing his ship into so much mangled debris. The second, traveling closely on his wing, was impacted by two, losing only the entire right side of his spacecraft and seventy percent of his armament.
As the dual explosions reshaped the superheated cloud and sent small pieces of fighter craft flying in all directions, the XO shook a fist in triumph. Captain Rikataw gave the gunnery officer a grin as well. "Good kill, Guns. Now get our ASA batteries up; the rest will be too close for missiles."
Although almost certainly already done, he responded with an enthusiastic, "Aye aye, Skipper!"
Lieutentant Handel suddenly called out in a panic, "Captain-!"
Immediately turning to the combat display over the bridge windows, she searched for the problem. Her eyes widened as she realized what was missing; the beacon for the ejected pilot of Servitor 1-1 had fallen silent.
Hendel continued, voice laden with shock. "They... They just..."
Stephus found his hands curled tightly into fists, though he had not done so consciously. Killing an ejected pilot was something that just was not done. It was tantamount to killing a prisoner of war.
Hard as steel, Rikataw's clear tenor rang out over the bridge net. "Guns, prepare both missile batteries for ship-to-ship. Target the vessel on the point and go to full rapid fire. Don't stop firing until it's dust or our ammo stores run dry."
The man nodded, not wasting the time to reply before issuing orders through the gunners net.
Stephus flinched as the deck vibrated and two volleys of six missiles began their flight.
The next forty seconds passed slowly, broken only by the steady thump of the Servitor's missile batteries as they flung millions of credits worth of munitions into the void. The frigate made its way to the hornets currently fighting for their lives, agonizingly slowly. The Avengers made contact, ripping a Scythe to pieces in their opening volley and evening out the battle.
At that moment the second group of Vanduul broke from cover, less than a kilometer from the Servitor. Orlovsky didn't even have time to call targets before they launched a volley of rockets right into the frigate's teeth. ASA batteries screamed death, making short work of one fighter.
Aboard the bridge, chaos reigned. Engineering shouted reports as shield emitters failed and cell banks drained. Sensors detailed enemy positions as the wing of hostile small craft came around for another pass. All of this was interrupted by the wailing of an emergency klaxon as the debris from the first wrecked Scythe slammed into the Servitor's shields, burning out three more shield emitters and bringing her front arc to under forty percent capacity.
The Captain slammed a button and the alarm fell silent, replaced by the calm but intense voice of command. "Engineering, reroute thruster power to shields! Overload the bow arc! Give me-"
She was unable to complete her command as a piercing whine filled the bridge. Shields at zero percent. For one moment, every eye looked forward. They watched as a Scythe, missing it's blade wing and most of its weapons, cleared the two dozen meters between shield standoff and the bridge window.
For Stephus, everything seemed to slow down. He saw the fighter hit the bridge window. Advanced metamaterials bulged and cracked before giving way before the undeniable assault. For an instant, shattered pieces of meta-glass erupted around the Scythe, a shining arc of knives glittering under the ruby emergency lighting. And then the bridge decompressed. Something hit him, and everything went black.
Stephus woke in a fog. For several moments he couldn't figure out where he was, even as he stared at the broken bridge. The silence was complete, save for some indecipherable hissing over his suit comm.
He stared first at the shattered bridge window, tracing the line of devastation through a pile of broken and sparking electronics, only vaguely registering it as the helm. He passed over the mangled body of TacOps without comprehending, looked past the XO's station which had been swept aside by the storm of destruction. He tried to turn, but something held him back. Pain rippled from his abdomen and tore him out of his fog; he screamed. His blood went cold as he saw it; a two foot shard of steel embedded in the backrest of his crash seat. It had almost cut him in half, and the suit's sealing resin had bonded to it and the chair, locking him in place.
He heard a gasp over comms. A hissing sound accompanied the voice that followed. "Who... was that?" Another gasp, pain and shock and fear rolled into one desperate sound. "Nav? Can... can you hear me?"
Stephus almost wept with relief. The Captain was alive. If anyone could pull them out of this, it was her. "Yeah, Skip, I can hear you! What can I do? My terminal is de-"
The Skipper interrupted him in a relieved but no less urgent tone. "Wait on that, Nav. Can you re... Reach your seal kit?"
The reality of the situation came crashing down on him as the source of the hissing became apparent. He tried to look at her and see how bad it was, but the shard that mated him to the seat wouldn't allow it. He slapped a hand over his sealing kit, almost forgetting to depressurize it in his haste.
"Yes Captain, I have it!" Even to himself, his voice was shrill and edged with panic.
"Calm down, Nav. I nee... Need you to toss me two large seals. Can you do... Do that?" Rickataw's tenor, calm and even, helped pull him out of hysteria.
Stephus took a deep breath but lost it halfway as a tremor rolled through the ship, jostling his wound. "I don't think I can, Captain. I'm pinned. I can't see you." A moment later, "I'll try."
Turning as far as the suit would allow, strikingly aware of the piece of cold metal almost bisecting him, he pulled a seal from his kit and tried to judge the throw. "H-here!"
He let go, and he heard her let out a ragged gasp, followed by a relieved sigh. "I got it. Give me a moment."
Stephus pulled the last large seal from his kit and waited. The hissing that came from his comm suddenly howled, then dropped, quieter than it had been at first. "Captain?!"
"It's okay. I was using the grips... on my gloves to seal it. Can you throw... Another one?"
"Alright. Here it comes!" Stephus knew before it left his fingers that the throw had been off. He heard her strain for it, then swear. She didn’t say anything after that. Both of them knew each kit only came with two large seals.
Dread formed a pit in his stomach even as he steeled himself for what he'd have to do. He slapped the release on his combat webbing, then placed both hands on the steel plate lodged in his seat. And him. The Captain must have been able to see him, because she chose that moment to speak. “Nav, what are you doing? Stop!”
He twisted and pushed against the shard, screaming as the metal wedge dragged across the ugly wound and ignited fresh agony, but the resin refused to give. He slumped as sweat ran down his face, mixing with the blood from where he’d bitten through his lip.
“Nav- Corusare, stop! You’ll kill yourself!” Captain Rickataw’s voice was pleading, something he’d never heard from her. It didn’t fit, and he didn’t answer. He fixed his grip on the shard.
A captain took care of her crew. But the crew took care of their Captain.
When Stephus opened his eyes, all was quiet. The silence filled him with unease, but he couldn’t remember why that was. He didn’t know how long he’d been out, but the acrid taste of bile and a harsh burning in his throat told him that he’d vomited, likely more than once. The suit had ejected most of it out of his helmet, but the tiny air scrubbers couldn’t hope to deal with the vile stench.
A flashing red motif at the bottom of his display caught his attention. He had to fight through the haze encroaching on his mind to read it.
Resin Reserves Empty. Pharmaceutical Reserves Empty. Oxygen Reserves 14%. Blood Pressure Low. Seek Medical Attention.
As he struggled to process what that meant, his gaze wandered down the length of his suit, stopping at the mass of translucent resin hanging on to a large rent in his abdomen. He felt like vomiting again. When he realized the pale tubes he’d been staring at were his own viscera, caught in the seal as they were sucked out of his suit, he did.
Once he’d stopped dry-heaving and the suit flushed his visor again, he resolved not to look down and instead focused on his surroundings. It was several moments before he recognized the bridge, torn apart as it was.
He could see vibrant beams of light from the bow of the ship, no longer separate from the bridge by the massive floor-to-ceiling window. ASA batteries turned in sync, hurling death at something he couldn’t quite see. Where the port-most battery was supposed to be there was only a ruin of metal, trailing wisps of hydraulic fluid as the Servitor maneuvered.
His gaze traveled onward, locking on to his own chair. A jagged slab of plating was embedded into the back, and his hand felt for the wound in his side. With a start, everything came back to him. He needed to help the skipper. He scrambled to stand, searching for Captain Rickataw amidst the destroyed command room.
Her command chair was still bolted to the deck, but stood askew from the impact of whatever had shattered her console. His breath caught when he saw the damage it had caused.
Parts of the console housing had ripped into her like shrapnel. The front of her suit was covered in blood-tinged sealing resin that had bonded her seal kit and combat webbing, locking her in place. Her left leg was crushed against the deck by the same piece of ship that had neatly severed her right. One arm lay limp at her side, while the other was clamped over a large cut in the neck of her suit, gecko grips creating an imperfect seal beside a freshly applied suit patch. Bits of resin marred the edge of the tear, but there hadn’t been enough left in her reserves to create an airtight seal.
But the worst of it was the stillness. Her visor was smeared with blood that her suit hadn’t been able to flush, and he couldn’t tell if she was breathing.
Stephus finally leapt into action as he scooped up the large patch that he’d thrown and applied it to Rickataw’s suit. He had to pry her hand off the rent, and he could feel a small amount of atmosphere leave the suit, along with a mist of blood that spattered his chest.
It was too much. He felt like panicking. He wanted to scream and cry, let someone else take over. But there wasn’t anyone else, so he didn’t. He felt bile rise in his throat as he synced his wristcom to hers and read off her vitals.
Resin Reserves Empty. Pharmaceutical Reserves Empty. Oxygen Reserves Critical. Blood Pressure Critical. Respiration Rate Critical. Heart Rate Low. Seek Medical Attention IMMEDIATELY.
She was alive. She wasn’t breathing, and she might still bleed out, but she was alive. Stephus fumbled for his oxygen transfer line and shunted what was left of his reserves to her suit. He started to run to the back of the room where the first aid station was kept, but had to stop and stare at the ruin of the Vanduul Scythe, half it’s hull protruding from the starboard section of the bridge. The smashed cockpit and splatter of yellowish ichor made him reasonably sure the pilot wasn’t going to interfere. The bridge aid station had become detached from it’s mooring, but was still whole. Stephus vented the atmosphere, then hastily pried the door open. He refilled some of his oxygen off of the station’s reserves, snatched a crash kit and dashed back to the captain.
As he knelt beside the skipper’s unconscious form, he could tell by the exaggerated rise and fall of her chest that the suit was attempting to resuscitate her. He lined the crash kit up with one of her pharmaceutical ports and set it to lifesaving mode. Within seconds, the module had synced with her suit’s diagnostics and had begun administering aid.
Stephus slumped to the floor as he finished. He knew there was a cocktail of combat stims running through his veins, but all he wanted to do was curl up into a ball and succumb to the fatigue clawing at his mind. Instead, he stood and walked along the bridge to check on the rest of the crew.
Tactical Operations, deceased.
He tried not to think of their names as he checked the corpses.
Helm… Stephus fought a rising urge to vomit when he saw what was left of him. It had only been a month since he had been promoted off the helm.
Sensors, deceased. Something had broken her visor; her face was bloated and purple from burst capillaries, eyes bulging obscenely, halfway out of their sockets.
Stephus found himself reaching out to touch her, but he stopped, dropping his hand after a long moment. With one last glance, he moved on.
Guns, dec… Wait, he was alive. Wounded, but stable. Stephus made sure that he had enough oxygen, then popped his retrieval beacon.
Sheepishly, he flipped his own retrieval beacon on. That should have been his first move, to let someone know that there were survivors on the bridge. After some deliberation, he made his way to the captain and turned hers on as well. He took a moment to take her readings. Still critical, but stable, for now. She was breathing again, and assuming she could get to the medbay in another hour, she would probably live.
Stephus spent the next few minutes searching for the XO. His console had been right in the path of the Scythe. There were pieces of it lying all over the bridge, but there wasn’t any blood. While he searched, he tried to reach the other sections of the ship on his comm.
Static. Every channel was coming up blank. Worried, Stephus looked out the hole in the bow just in time to catch an Avenger flash by, trailing smoke. A Scythe swooped in mere seconds after, maser fire lighting the bridge like a strobe, an F7 hot on it’s tail. Chainguns blazed lines of fire at the vanduul vessel, and a missile detached from the Hornet’s rack to take up the chase as well. The fighters left his view before he could see the impact. He switched over to the small craft frequency and was immediately assaulted with battle traffic.
“201, 1-3, bogey is off your tail. Recommend disengage and check your damage, over.”
“1-3, 201, thanks for the assist. Recommendation noted and dismissed. Request you fall on my wing, engaging bogey 4.”
“ Roger, wilco.”
“1-4, 1-2, target 4 and 6 are bugging out. Can I have this dance?”
“ You got it, 6 is all yours. I’ll be your chaperone for today. Have her home by ten.”
“Shouldn’t take that long. Bird away… Shit, bad lock. Going to guns.”
Stephus stood at the edge of the shattered window, watching the ships as they traded fire. He’d listened in on the fighter’s traffic before, and he’d always disapproved of how… flippant they were. They were jokers and pranksters, too caught up in the thrill of flying for their own good. But there was a hardness to it this time. These men knew they were ending lives, taking vengeance for their own dead. They laughed, but he didn’t think they found any real humor in it. The flight team was the bane of the ship, but the crew had always put up with their games, and now he knew why.
He silently but fervently wished them luck as they dealt death and doled out violent retribution.
His reverie was interrupted by a feeling of pressure on his back and a whistling of atmosphere on his helmet. He turned, coming face to face with the ship’s marine complement as they stepped onto the bridge. One of them shined a flashlight at Stephus. Over proximity comms a clear female voice rang out, calm and in control.
“Hello? Are you alright?”
//// Epilogue/After Action Report ////
This is a short explanation of a few of the things I did not detail very well in the story. All of this is made up on the spot by myself, and should not be considered canon in any way.
The following document requires Security Clearance 8 or higher. If you do not have the required clearance, cease reading and inform your NAVSEC officer. If found on an unsecured terminal, delete file and inform your NAVSEC officer.
CHI-44: A Lachesis-class reconnaissance platform, designed to be placed in orbit or in space to passively collect information. It has a nearly undetectable tight beam laser communications array effective out to a few light-seconds, and a high-fidelity long-burst radio antenna for longer range transmissions, used only in emergencies as it requires the platform to power up its reactor which usually results in discovery.
The reason it created a cloud of radar-hampering dust instead of being blown away by the Vanduul ship is a fail safe measure. The platform is designed to, upon tampering or receiving critical damage, open up it’s fusion bottle. This releases the plasma built up in the reactor, with two effects; one, it ruins most components of the platform, making it impossible to recover any useful information from what remains. Second, the heat wave from the plasma reacts explosively with the radar-absorbent paint, creating a dust cloud that makes it nearly impossible to find any of the pieces which may remain after the fusion bottle is opened.
Other nations that have had these dust clouds suddenly appear in their systems may suspect the UEE of espionage, but as the UEE has never officially released the design for the Lachesis and any parts that are eventually recovered are too badly mangled to identify, such accusations cannot be made public.
Type-78 Vanduul Frigate: The ship encountered by the Servitor on the Vulture jump point has been matched up with a frigate-class vessel only lately seen in Vanduul conflicts. As there was almost no wreckage to recover after it’s destruction, the identification was done via radar signature using the Servitor’s black box (Hyperlink to raw data).
Very little is known about this ship. It has nothing in the way of ship-to-ship armament, relying instead on the flight of thirteen small craft it fields. It is theorized that the ship has powerful C&C capabilities, as the fighters it can field display a notably increased capacity for teamwork and situational awareness when compared to fleets without Type-78 frigates. It relies heavily on a stealth system (The mechanics of which have yet to be determined; see main file for Type-78), signature manipulation, and advanced ECM package to avoid becoming the target of attack.
The ship’s ECM package is of particular note, as it has proved nearly 100% effective in defeating guided munitions across all spectrums. Direct fire often proves to be a difficult task, as it’s stealth system extends well into the visible light spectrum. As such, the recommended method of engaging these targets is to liberally blanket the target area with high-yield nuclear warheads (A tactic known as a ‘sunwall’, the same used by the Servitor once her missile crews had realized the nature of the vessel). Unfortunately, the necessity of using these tactics means that we have yet to uncover any meaningful insight into how the Type-78 operates. Capture of one of these vessels is a high-priority task.
Results of the Battle of Vulture Point: (See enclosed document for raw data)
Hostile: One Type-78 frigate destroyed, twelve ‘Scythe’ small craft destroyed. Estimated 45-100 Vanduul dead, 0 POWs. One ‘Scythe’ small craft recovered in semi-operable condition.
UEE Navy: One ‘Idris’ frigate heavily damaged (See report: Servitor Combat Damage Assessment), one F7A ‘Hornet’ small craft destroyed, two F7A ‘Hornet’ small craft damaged. 19 dead, 6 wounded, 0 POWs.
Elysium Militia: One Lachesis Reconnaissance Platform destroyed, one ‘Avenger’ small craft destroyed, one ‘Avenger’ small craft damaged. 1 dead, 0 wounded, 0 POWs.
The motivations of the Vanduul force which initiated contact with Elysium Patrol 72 have yet to be conclusively determined. Initial survey of the wreckage failed to turn up any identifying symbology or markings, which is in and of itself an oddity. Preliminary analysis points toward a small raiding party looking for targets of opportunity.
UEE Naval Intelligence has investigated the contents of the Servitor’s black box and found Captain Rickataw to be well-reasoned in her decisions and her crew faultless in their actions.
The loss of life in this battle has been ruled negligence on the part of CMDR William Jackson (R), Elysium Militia System Defense Commander. We recommend an immediate follow-up investigation auditing CMDR Jackson’s actions to determine if charges should be pressed.
ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE FOLLOWS
RADM JASON BERKELY, NAVINT, COMMANDING
17th NAVAL INTELLIGENCE SUPPORT GROUP
FORT HINE, TERRA, 19554