UNSC CAPTAINS LOG – SARAH KEYS CH.15
United Naval Space Corps
“Well that’s a load of horse shit. We can hardly keep the core worlds happy. If it wasn’t for the Sol system being a heritage site, the entire governing system would collapse. That’s why the UNSC is trying to break the galaxy up and create local governments.”
“Well it’s just a rumor. You know how the rumor mill works.”
“Yeah… It always spouts shit that is the furthest from the truth. At least three quarters of the Insurrectionists leaders are pacifists who believe these bizarre conspiracy theories.”
“Well granted be it’s hard to tell what’s true and false without seeing it for yourself.”
“And if you can’t see it because it doesn’t exist? Are you still supposed to believe it?”
“Hahaha! I get your point. But seriously you should hear some of the conspiracy theories. The UNSC possess an energy weapon capable of vaporizing a planet? Or perfectly invisible ships? My favorite is the UNSC has people who can read minds! Or that the UNSC keeps a breeding farm in Sigmas 12 filled with drugged up women.”
“Well… False, false, true, and false.”
Moser startles at my answers.
“Don’t tell me you where believing some of those theory’s where you? An energy weapon that can vaporize planets? Nope. Only our rail guns can split a planet in two. There is no such thing as an invisible ship, but it is easy enough to hide in plain sight if you know what you are doing… and shockingly the ONI do have a few people who can read minds… They just don’t get out much.”
“I would have never thought…”
“As for the breeding farm? Why in the hell would they need to keep a breeding farm?”
“People believe its to breed more soldiers.”
“It’s too cost prohibitive. The costs involved in raising a child to a usable age for soldier work is expensive. It’s easier to let the citizens take on those costs and responsibilities. Plus, with the populations of some of the inner planets, it’s easier to recruit.”
“Hah. Passing the expenses to the citizens?”
“Can you imagine the public relations scandal that would cause? Not to mention that it would be inhumane.”
“I don’t think the UNSC would ever be able to recruit any one if that conspiracy was true. Just like we would run out of civilian contractors if we kept losing them during battles.”
“Hence why I am here?”
“Exactly. You just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. Of course, we will need to come back to them when the fighting dies down a little bit to make repairs and restock the magazines.”
“Just don’t forget them.”
“Oh, I won’t… Captain Moser? I hear by transfer my civilian crew to the Princess Emerald and Princess Winter.”
“Yes Mam!” Moser snaps a salute as the last of the civilian crew files into the Emerald.
“Your doing me a great favor here. And I’ll owe you one.”
“No worries Captain. Just keep the space lanes safe for me.” Moser reply’s as he waves good bye, the sealing hatches for the air lock sealing shut, and the transfer tube slinking its way back into the Emeralds hold.
Without delay I make my way back to the bridge and take my position at the captain’s helm as the fighter pilots return their craft to their respective hangars.
“We clear?” I ask the bridge crew.
“Alpha and Bravo team are stowed away. Both Princesses have broken off and are making due-route to the nearest port. Slip space calculations have been made and we are ready for launch.”
“Roger that. Warm up the tachyon drives and prepare crew for warp tunneling.”
“Roger! Drives are warmed!”
“Initiate slip space jump followed by a warp tunnel!”
“Roger!” The helmsman shouts back, engaging the slip space drive causing a rip in space to form in front of ourselves. Before the ship could even pass through the rift, the tachyon drives are engaged, launching the ship forward through the rift on a wave of tachyon particles.
The moment the ship punches through the slip space rupture a massive lurching feeling assaults everyone on the ship, causing some of the crew to collapse.
“That’s one hell of a slip space entry captain.”
“We hit that faster than I thought we would. I look like our FTL drives are stronger than they look. Once everyone is standing again, sound general quarters. We are going to hit the field swinging.”
“Copy that Captain, Ill get the coms ready to accept the targeting data from the Night Panther.”
“You read my mind lieutenant?” I smirk at my communications officer. “Weapons make sure the magazines are loaded to the brim. We are going to need every shot we have got to make this count. Nav, drop us right where I showed you. The closer you can get us, the more likely we will make it back to port with our feet on the decks.”
I dismissed my crew with a short salute that was reciprocated as I turned to my father. His face green from the nausea caused by the violent slip space journey. “Well Keys? Where do you want to sit during the battle? I don’t really have a need for you on the bridge in the middle of the battle.”
“Ill sit in forward fire control if that’s ok with you?”
“That’s not the wisest location for a person to sit if they value their life… But I’ll leave the decision up to you, though feel free to ride out the battle in your bunk or in the officers mess.”
“Will consider Captain.” Father replies with a short crisp salute, his face looking a little less green as he starts to make his way off the bridge.
“He is nothing like he was before this trip…” Mia exclaims unannounced from behind me, causing me to jump out of my seat.
“Craps Mia! Why do you have to sneak up behind me all the time?” I scold her.
“Guah… Entertainment aside, your right about father… He has changed quite a bit. Though I don’t know if that’s just part of his personality being able to quickly adapt to these situations, or if he has changed that much. And are these changes permanent?”
“Might be both…”
“What scares me is what happens when we get home? How is my mom and sister going to react to the changed man that left home with his daughter?” I ponder the implications of returning home. How would mother would react to this side of her husband’s personality? I know that when we left, she was still not a supporter of the Space Corps, and probably won’t be for a long time.
“Your father is really good at this… Will he choose to continue working for us?”
“That would just piss mother off. If he decided to work aboard a ship? I think the years apart on deployment would break them up. His best bet would be to work in the ship yard either above Earth, Reach, or Jericho.” A simple nine to five job in the control room of a station or shipyard would be the best place for him, allowing him to be home with the rest of the family.
“And your sister?”
“I’ll see if I can pull in a favor for her and get her transferred to a cruise ship. Something that won’t be out of port for months to years at a time.” About time I let my grudge go against my sister and do something nice for her.
Mia and I continued to sit at the helm and converse about our plans for our future while I worked on the battle plans.
After twenty minutes of slip space we had arrived at the scene of battle. Right before releasing the slip space I sound the general quarters alarm, requesting all hands to their battle stations. Flipping through the cameras located in each of the stations, I check the readiness of each of the fire control stations and gun emplacements.
Scanning over the forward fire control feed, I see my father hard at work organizing the flow of munitions into the magazine areas. Each of the magazine bunkers now overflowing with armor piercing rounds, with stacks of them being stacked in the hallways and in nearby bunk rooms.
“All hands prepare for slip space departure and immediate engagement in battle!” I give a once over of the securement of the crew on the bridge and start my count down. “Three! Two! One! MARK!”
On my mark the ship drops from its warp drive and exits the slip space tunnel with a massive crash.
Our timely entrance in the battle places us square in the middle of the heat of everything. Bolts of plasma streak across the empty space all around us, and the bright flashes of railguns launching their slugs twinkle in the night like camera flash bulbs.
Without so much as a word from me the heavy cannons start locking onto targets and blasting away at their designated targets, they received from fire control. The magazines automatically feeding ammunition into the barrel as fast as the capacitors can recharge.
Taking up the controls of the ship I spin us around to my designated target. In the distance I can barely make out the silhouette of the light dreadnaught Nautilus. The massive ship is only visible because of its bulk, though it isn’t the largest ship on the battlefield.
Pointing the Invictus towards my target, I push the throttles to full ahead and slip my AR glasses over my head, bringing up an interactive display of friend or foe tags.
“Redistribute shields to seventy-five twenty-five fore shields! Keep the cannons hot! Prepare short jump!”
Calling out commands, I select the warp drive controls and engage the drive for a short light minute jump. With a shudder we skip into, then drop out of warp right next to the enemy. Using the retro thrusters, I adjust my aim and pull the trigger. A massive bang echoes through the ship as the MAC cannons embedded in the spine of the ship launch their multi ton slug into the side of the enemy ship.
“Captain! I know this isn’t a good time to bring this up, but the scans show that we are outnumbered two to one across the entire battlefield.” The electronic warfare specialist brings up the battle report as I pull the trigger a second time, discharging another round from a different barrel. Quickly I jockey our ship around, trying to break the lock their point defense has on our shields. While point defense weapons wont break through our shield alone, concentrated fire could bring them down.
“Though Captain, I have noticed in some of the reports from the prowlers that the insurrectionist ships seem to be more knowledgeable than before. Somehow they know where our weakest ships are and are trying to break through our defensive lines.” I pull the trigger again discharging another barrel while watching the other two charge back up.
“Thank you Garner, you think it’s a hack or a leak?” I jockey the ship as I am talking, slamming the fourth shot into the main thrusters.
“It’s too difficult to tell right now.”
“Whats your gut telling you?” I continue jockeying the Invictus around the now disabled Nautilus, trying to line up a shot with the first two shots while the cannon charged.
“My gut? I think its telling me that we have a mole. I’m just not sure where to start looking.”
“Well I don’t need to tell you to start where you usually do? Get inside their heads… and hack the living shit out of them. Though I wouldn’t start with these poor fools.”
“No Captain. I’m working on hacking—”
“Shields full forward!!” I yell as I pull the trigger again, firing the now charged first barrel. The shot slamming home in the flanks of the dreadnaught exactly where the first two slammed home, overwhelming the titanium battle plate and punching a hole straight through to the reactor.
The resulting shot breaking containment on the matter storage containers, making the reactor quickly run away and go super critical. The shockwave hits us bow on, slamming into the ship like a massive fly swatter.
“Sorry for interrupting you, but you all right Garner?”
“Yes mam. I’m all right. As I was saying I am already on hacking their capitol fleet.”
“Good. Let me know if you get anything useful. Engineering, what’s our status?”
“Reactors are green, seems like you haven’t yet been able to push them past their rated capacity yet so that will be enjoyable when the time comes… Our shields are almost maxed out though, no more picking fights with dreadnaughts for the rest of the fight or until I can get our shields to cool.”
“Just for reference, how close where we?”
“We had about five percent left… and we lost one of the capacitors on the port side.”
“I’ll keep that in mind the next time we have someone shooting at us Fowler. For now, lower the shields output to speed up the cooling. We are beating a fast retreat.” As if on que I thumb the launch key and slam the Invictus back into warp, this time dropping behind a destroyer. As soon as we settled from warp, I pulled the trigger twice in rapid succession, firing off two of the three recharged cannons.
The first round slams into an invisible barrier, letting off a shower of sparks as the projectile is melted and deflected off the ships shields. The second-round slams into the same spot, with the shields falling before it can fully rip away and deflect the heavy projectile. The solid depleted uranium core strips free of its titanium cocoon and punches straight through the heart of the destroyer, missing the reactor.
“Forward fire control, slag them a bit with the ionic cannons. Make sure their systems never come back up” I call over the intercom.
“Roger that. Slagging them now.” Reply’s a familiar voice.
“Thank you, Keys.”
Quickly going through the target lists I map up a hit and run list of targets, skipping the Invictus through the battlefield.
“Sir, Keys from Forward fire control is requesting to launch an interdiction torpedo.”
“Message details that it would stop the enemy from using hit and run tactics. It would also bring down their FTL network.”
“All right, program the IFF indicators then clear the launch.” I clear the launch, wondering if the interdiction torpedo could actually handle the mass of all of the nearby ships in the system.
“Copy that Captain. Torpedo away!”
“All hands prepare for hit and run! Engineering give me all the warp drive has! All fire control stations, if you are not taking out fighters or other point defense craft, focus fire on designated target!”
Finally, its time to really shine and make this battlefield home. Sounding the general quarters alarm again, I punch the ship into warp only to drop out after a few seconds. A quick double pull of the mag cannon triggers ensures that the destroyer we jumped on top of doesn’t survive to shoot another day. Another quick jump places our entire laser battery through their shields and cleaves the enemy ship in two, allowing the mag cannon to recharge.
One more light ship after that and I set my eyes on another target. The Laser batteries heatsinks glowing from the heavy use, I turn my ships barrels towards an enemy battleship. Thumbing the selector switch, I pull the trigger just as we leave warp, giving the four simultaneous rounds a small boost in speed.
“It’s sort of like shooting fish in a barrel Captain.” Father calls over the radio.
“That it is Keys… What are you doing at the fire control helm?”
“Chief Stannard had to step outside for a moment to help repair one of the turrets. He left me in charge for the time being. I seem to be getting a hang of this.”
“Well, just make sure you are ready to fire on my que’s.” We chat while viewing the wreckage of the battleship that used to be in front of us.
Without any further pause I punch the ship back into warp and skip to the other side of the battlefield, continuing my path of destruction, taking advantage of the light and quick nature of the design of a fast attack battleship.
The battle took us all of three hours before I started to get reports of munitions shortages. The first shortages came in from the point defence stations. Next was the rear fire control and flank fire control stations. Soon all that was left was the forward fire control, my laser batteries, and the minimal munitions left in the mag cannon magazines.
Two more battleships fell before I decided calling the battle.
“Invictus Key’s to Command, we are going to need to skip out for a little bit. Munitions are running low and we have lost half of our laser coolers.”
“Negative Keys. No ship is permitted to leave the battlefield at this time.”
“Copy that Command. I am forwarding our kill reports now. I’ll be relegating the Invictus to the reserve line while we pull munitions from the storage spaces.”
“Key’s, I will be expecting a comprehensive report from you. Running out of munitions so soon in the battle is unacceptable. Report to the reserve line and stay there until further notice. Command out.” The transmission is suddenly cut, ending the call.
“Well that could have gone better. How long will it take to get us back into fighting condition?”
“Thirty minutes for a few shield capacitor swap outs. Thankfully there is not much in terms to hull damage.”
“Captain, an hour to restock the magazines to standard capacity… two sets of lasers will require some slip time though. And while we are mostly stationary, I suggest having a few techs perform a spacewalk and inspect the mag cannon barrels.”
“Will do. Schedule the spacewalks and let me know when they enter the barrels. I’ll close the outer shields in case we need to move.”
“I need a few EW torpedoes launched and I can keep fighting while we are in down time.”
“Granted.” I permit without hesitation.
“The reactor will also require about an hour to cool. Thankfully no damage to the core yet.”
“Copy that. Reduce load as necessary to cool the reactor. Move ship to the back of the reserve line.”
I lean back in my chair and try to think through the battle that we have been picking our way through and ponder commands displeasure at our early success and early withdrawal from the battle. I knew the commander of this unit was a bit of a traditionalist who kept his ships at a distance while lobbing ballistic projectiles, torpedoes and Missiles at the enemy. Perhaps the thought of two ships coming along side and dueling it out in a broad side attack is something new to him…
I move my way to my quarters and start sifting through battle damage reports. Estimating the size of the damage to the laser weaponry grid. Half way through reading the action report my door chimes announcing the presence of someone. Opening the door from my seat I am surprised to find my father, his uniform damp in sweat.
“Mr. Keys, it’s a pleasant surprise to see you at this time.”
“Yes Captain. I brought a detailed report from the forward fire control station.”
“At ease then. Go ahead and upload it to my terminal and let’s take a look.” I gesture to my desk terminal for my father to take a seat.
“This is the after-action report on the damages that where done to the laser-heatsinks I was in control of during the battle.” Father keys up a drone video footage of the heatsink, the metal making up the exterior of the heatsink visibly melted and deformed.
“You said this was one of the lasers you were in control of?”
“Yes. I melted it trying to pull too many amperes through the laser lenses about our third from last ship.” I carefully review the data as he explains. The data showing the heat getting out of control after a particularly tricky shot, placing the beam of the laser through a shuttle bay door and rupturing the entire bottom of the ship as fuel and smaller munitions cook off.
“I am surprised the chief let you take control of the guns?”