Forty three percent alcohol by volume in this bottle. Well – was in this bottle. Not so much now. I need to stash a replacement back into the Jefferies tube on the Valiant. Cheers, Greybeard!
Forty three percent casualties in damage control teams. Hell of a butcher’s bill to send upstairs to the skipper. Of those, three dead, two with life altering long term treatment needs and the rest needing various degrees of medical and psychiatric care before they are fit for duty.
Kaplan did well though. Skinny thing but when I went to check on the Primary Beams coolant distribution, there she was dragging chunky little Polano out of the starboard discharge turret through a cloud of leaking coolant. He was out cold, but she was holding a mask with a broken strap over his face while dragging him one-handed out of the duct. She flashed a look at me over her own mask as I helped lift him up out of the well behind the transducer. No worries this time, just fierce determination behind the sweat. Thanks to her he’ll probably be fine. They should be able to treat the inhalation, though recovery might take a while. Lungs are delicate things.
Three more shiny black coffins that the rest of the bridge crew hardly ever see. They all had families too.
But that’s not the real reason for the uisghe.
The shift started well. Lt. Thantos was awarded a Duty Officer ribbon, Ens. Morlock was awarded the Bronze Star for efficiency and all around zeal. Dante Zelreich was promoted to Lt. Cdr. The crew of the defunct battlecruiser Hydra were assigned to the scout TSN Valiant. The whole assembly of officers were upbeat at the positive news.
I was assigned as Engineer aboard TSN Hawk which was given an independent mission based in current Intel to deploy Cougar Comms Relays by stealth to monitor events in the Cronus system and report back to TSN Central Command for processing. The mission was assigned a very high priority.
The initial transitions to the Forward Base in Cronus went almost without incident apart from a single pirate arrow, and a little fleet of three other pirates, upon whom standard sentencing was executed.
The first Relay was deployed without incident because there was plenty of nebula cover both at the site and on the approach. One Kralien fleet never saw us and the other lost track of us once we entered the nebula. The second deployment went similarly though energy reserves were low and it was nerve wracking to keep the ship stationary while the techs commissioned the relay when we really wanted to be engaged in fuel collection.
The third sector was much more of a problem. There was no nebula close to the very centre of the sector which would have been ideal, and worse there was significant Hegemony presence. Some of them caught a whiff of us as we transited in and started blundering about vaguely in our direction. TSN Hawk managed to slide through the fragment of nebula, collecting energy as she loitered, wait for a fleet to vacate the area and make the deployment. But then it became evident that not only were the enemy between us and the route home, but they were also very likely to stumble on the relay.
We engaged the lead elements before they could get too close, following up an initial major strike in close action with primary beams. They were taken aback by our sudden appearance out of the nebula clouds. We were keen to keep moving and eliminate as many as possible from combat before they could regenerate shields or coordinate attacks on us. We destroyed some weakened from the initial assault and three vessels surrendered either at our first beam strike or as we approached. Eager to suppress enemy fire, our alert weapons officer immediately switched targets.
Pausing, we reported back to TSN Central Command on the deployments and engagements. The good news was that the three relays were operating well from excellent positions and a fourth would not be needed.
Then came the harsh and uncompromising order to destroy all vessels in the immediate vicinity of the final relay. The only ones remaining were the three damaged and surrendered vessels limping through the nebula, out of contact with the other fleets in the sector. There was silence on the bridge. The order was confirmed to include all enemy vessels in whatever status.
To my eternal shame, I was not the first to question that order. The captain’s voice was soft but firm when he repeated it. My eyes were locked on that far left slider on the Engineering panel. It was all the way down, no energy routed to primary beams. I had gone into energy conservation mode as soon as the engagement had clearly ended.
I thought of the damage control teams on those limping ships of war, the eye-watering clouds of coolant, the throat-searing smoke from the arcing high-tension cables of the shattered machinery, the foul taste of burnt dust. I could imagine the warnings on firmly sealed hatchways holding back the cold silence of ruptured bulkheads beyond.
“They all have families too” is the only fragment I remember from the bridge conversation. It bit twice as hard because we had said that earlier of our own DC crews. And then it reluctantly came to me. The thought slithered across the frozen fractal landscape of my compassion for the surrendered enemy. Not their families but ours. If word of the relays got out before they did their job, how many of our ships would pay the price? How many more DC crew would be carried through a docking bay, how many of their children, parents, brothers, sisters, lovers would feel not only the pain of their loss, but maybe lose the protection of the USFP?
And yet, if I condoned this, if I moved that slider up while the Science officer confirmed the target shield frequencies, the Comms officer ignored their hails, Helm brought us within range and the Weapons officer unleashed our arsenal, would I become someone who did not deserve to be part of the USFP?
In the end, silently, we decided that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few and we closed with the first of the three. Its golden icon winked out. The next closest stayed gold, but the third immediately turned an accusatory crimson as her sister’s death cry flashed across the intervening void.
When they were gone we collected fuel and then sprinted through the nearest two enemy fleets leaving them each one of our last pair of mines and then we let them chase us out of the sector. Mission accomplished.
I wish I was a religious man. Maybe the chaplain would have words. Or at least a psychiatry degree. They may yet remand me for counseling. In the meantime I will consult with Brother Lagavulin here.
I smell smoke and my throat burns.
Personal log, continued.
ONI decrypted the transmissions from the relays. Dragged us into a classified briefing. Can’t talk about it. Couldn’t even mention it except the mission that used it is now complete.
Ran a couple of simulations sitting at the weapons console while the SIGINT was turned into an operational plan. What makes people think Engineering is complicated? Weapons is complex on steroids. Completely missed an opportunity to target beams because I was still struggling to load torps and loading mines instead. More practice needed.
It is now well known that we struck into Cronus system sectors II and IV and caught Grand Alliance forces while they were mustering behind a massive minefield interwoven into local stellar terrain. Successfully took out all but one of the new command and control relays they had deployed and did significant damage to the gathering fleets. Could not find another command ship rumoured to be in the area. Diplomatically hoping this is a move in the right direction as far as the Hjorden are concerned.
There was a bizarre incident where anomalies spawned multiple Space Monsters. Is this some development of Caltron jump gate technology?
End personal log.