Good news: the Hegemony incursion seems to be crumbling. They have made no headway since we started retaking stations and striking hard at their invasion fleets.
Bad News: starched collar time. Full dress uniform to honour the fallen. Funeral ceremonies scheduled for today. It feels strange to be wearing full fig. This is the first time since I was promoted and now that naked expanse of cloth has not only that lonely Ensign’s pin but also the commendation for the performance of the Hawk and the Phoenix. How much more is covered on the uniforms in those coffins?
Orders for the day were basically to shakedown updated ships’ systems in simulation to check out the latest security patches that should close the loopholes the pirate hackers have been using. Then spit and polish for the ceremonies and finally we go out to finish the job those brave souls started, not only by physically deterring general Monteurgh’s forces but also by concluding a diplomatic mission that should eliminate their original cause for hope that this could succeed.
The ceremony was incredibly moving. As a cadet of course I attended some funeral honours, so I knew the forms. But having carried out damage control crewmen who didn’t make it, or hadn’t made it, or worse whose last sight was my face, added a weight to the proceedings that I had never imagined. We went aboard with quiet decorum. At the end of the previous shift we had polished everything aboard within an inch of its life. Everything smelled of nanocleaner, lubricant and fresh pressed cloth.
The hospital ship TSAF Nightingale floated soberly at a little distance in the black, clearly visible from the station. Her every riding light was ablaze. No one should miss her or her precious cargo. Gently our flagship TSN Raven eased out of dock and edged forward at a fraction of impulse. Phoenix and Hawk followed her. Phoenix had a little trouble taking up her station, all of us precisely in line astern at one thousand intervals. Lightly Hunter slid into her place bringing up the rear.
There was a moment of quiet and then the first coffin was launched with a barely discernable flash from Nightingale’s care. The casket’s transponder appeared clearly and precisely on the tactical plot followed by another and another and another. The spectre of the beyond crawled up my spine, raised the hair on the back of my neck and softened my eyes as the skirl of the bagpipes came over the ‘com. As the lead coffin came abreast of the flagship, the division’s nacelles started to glow softly and, as one, all four ships fell into company with them, proceeding slowly downrange toward the sensor buoy that marked the limit of the station’s roads. One by one the division’s senior officers came on the com and spoke on behalf of the fallen, famous words from ancient wars, poetry born from the depths of aching loss and fierce pride. My eyes glittered.
As Raven drew near the buoy she launched a torpedo into the void ahead of the procession where it burst, briefly illuminating the way ahead. Then, as if turning away her head in grief, she came about a precise forty five degrees and separated from the last journey continuing behind her shoulder. Phoenix, Hawk and Hunter each followed her course exactly, launching and turning in the same spot. The last coffin passed the buoy, the order was given and the division’s ships returned to base in silence.
The simulation earlier in the day went well. The new patch caused no issues. Bridge coordination was good. I tried out some new settings that always had at least a little boost to the front shield while we were in close range of the enemy, regardles of what the rest of the bridge might request (barring a direct order from the Captain) and it seemed to me that it made a significant difference. The front shield was permanently trickle charging and so even when fully depleted it would start to come back immediately and blunt the next attack. Worth experimenting more with that.
Now time to put away the finery and collect the farm they paid for.
The mission was complicated. We formed up to escort the ACL Adams, a diplomatic vessel carrying an ambassador to parlay with the N’tari to see if we could drive a wedge into the gap of their increasing dissatisfaction with the pirate alliance. TSN Hunter scouted the rendezvous point and signalled all clear and the meeting went ahead, safeguarded by the Weapon rescued last shift tractored in by TSN Phoenix.
Hunter returned to scouting the sector until a large Kralien fleet attempted to assault the negotiations. Hunter played her usual decoying and delaying role to make the job easier for the other TSN vessels. We could not join in because our torpedo tube was offline. No amount of rebooting or reconnecting or rerouting would solve the problem. The weapons console received false ordnance inventory and was unable to load, unload or fire.
This caused us more grief than usual because it meant our engagement options were even more limited than usual. Also, as the only, really light ship, we were decoying so many drones that it became very difficult to lure enemy vessels out of position while staying out of the way of the drones but inside enemy weapons lock range to keep their interest. This limited the helmsman’s options, sometimes he was reduced to scraping them off with close manoeuvres around asteroids, but also made him so focussed on that task that some of the skipper’s attempts to manoeuvre for other purposes led to missed opportunities. Ens. Aposine and.our skipper, Cdr. Jemel had quite a discussion during debrief to see how that could change in future. I might get to use my preset for boosting impulse so that we can reverse away fast enough to nail drones as we fire by reduction.
The N’tari negotiations concluded successfully with an agreement to discontinue the alliance in return for a new Homeworld and protection for N’tari assets in the meantime.
The division docked at Shanari station and prepared for major fleet assaults expected as a final throw of the dice by General Monteurgh, when we returned to sector VI to take back our stations and destroy the enemy command ships. I finally found out what was causing our torpedo malfunction. There was a an EMP torp loaded. We unloaded it the hard way by hand. A short while ago there was an edict to load nuclear torpedoes the other way up and a bunch of “this way up” stickers were issued to put on the former bottom of those torps. A batch of our torps had been labelled with these stupid metallic mylar beauties. But whichever wit slapped this one on, managed to do it part way over the printed antenna for the wireless control system and all data transmissions were being garbled.
Finally we launched, and went looking for enemy command vessels.
I heard later that other ships carried marine complements and deployed them successfully to retake stations. My bunkspace, sanity and personal hygiene are all extremely happy to have been out of that market. Hunter, tasked with her usual scouting mission, was successful in locating two extremely overpowered enemy command ships. Our main role then was to lead their escorts a merry song and dance, leaving them open for our cruisers to engage, which they did successfully. It will be quite some time before this particular enemy can put together a force to give us more grief, especially since we captured a life pod which was immediately taken into Security Services custody.
The other great success contributing to this victory was the Super-carrier Atlantia whose wings of Allard-class fighters kept the enemy tied down. She sure knows how to make an entrance and an exit, since she creates her own jump-gate each time. It always sets our alarms off.