Episode 2: A New Offensive
“You have a very resourceful sister, and a family that is basically crazy!”, Captain Ivanov greeted me with these words as soon as I boarded his ship. His remark left me perplexed. “Come now my friend, we have much to discuss.”
The starship was very peculiar. Named the King’s Crown, it had a large assortment of modifications. I helped with providing these changes and thus had to study the original plans. Originally a Starlance Assault class starship, weaponry and power generation changes were made. Weapon damage output was increased at the cost of rate of fire. Meanwhile its own defenses and engines were modified for speed and resistance. I used a lot of what I learned to make adjustments to my own ship. This vessel has mixed use hangar bays. They can store a small amount of star fighters but they are mostly used for cargo. There is also a smaller assault fighter, which is the ship I encountered the first time I met Ivanov.
James and I arrived at a meeting room. I guessed Ivanov’s next question and thus started our conversation.
“Ivanov, this is James Collins, brother to your doctor and a very good friend of mine.”, I had briefed James on the way back about a few things and the fact that Ivanov was a pirate. He was reluctant to meet him at first but I assured him that Ivanov is an honorable man. “James had been trapped in the sector I was researching.”
“Ah, I see. What of your mission, what did you find?”
“All the data I could extract from the ship is stored in this data pack. We should have your technicians inspect its contents.”
“Good, that will take some time, so while that happens you should see this”, Ivanov showed me a strange looking device. After a short inspection I noticed it was a highly disguised data pack. “I took the liberty of verifying its contents. I confirmed the young lady’s identity, it is your sister with a message to you.”
“You watched it?!”
“Hey, I have to keep an eye on my interests. You are my friend and I felt it was necessary.”
“Nevermind, can I see it now?”
I connected the data pack to a nearby monitor and saw Dana’s face appear on the screen. A wave of relief washed over me. She explained some of the events that had transpired while I was away. Her survival depended on the sacrifice of many of her own friends in the colony and a number of soldiers that worked for the CLF. The message was about a month old and she used a complex network of messengers to send it my way. As she expressed herself, I had become an elusive man, and in the eyes of Starlance, a dangerous renegade. My exploits and raids on Starlance became well known, even Dana spoke of some of them. This was also the reason for her message. It was time to prepare for a far more destructive blow to Starlance. Dana revealed that Starlance was preparing to launch two new Supremacy class cruisers. The Centauri Liberation Front and a number of pirate factions were now willing to unite their strength to ensure that freedom was attained once more. A plan was being created for the purpose of crippling Starlance. Her last words were for me to stand ready and that I would soon be needed.
“And that is it, your sister said to prepare and we will do so”, said Ivanov as soon as the message ended. “You should go rest for a moment, maybe talk to your friends. I will be on the bridge preparing a new task for you. Mara should be arriving soon as well, join us at the bridge once you’re done here.”
“Good then.”, I looked toward James, “Let’s go find Crystal, she should be on a break now.”
The internal corridor of the ship had been stripped of the usual paneling used to cover the supply pipes and other systems. Only a few remained in place to protect more critical circuitry. This gave it a very crude look, a stark contrast to the sophisticated and sleek look of Starlance ships. James looked around and winced as we made our way to the mess hall.
“You should groom a bit by the way, she might not recognize…”, I was cut off by Crystal as she jumped from her seat and hugged James.
“James! I’m so glad you’re alive!”, she said and then released him, taking a few steps back.
“I’m very glad to see you too Crystal. Is everything ok here? Are they treating you well?”, James said, concerned she works for pirates and mercenaries.
“Oh I’m fine. We have had a lot of work. Supplies are almost always low and I’ve seen some, well, interesting injuries to say the least, but they have always treated me with respect. Not that I wouldn’t give anyone a sound thrashing if they disrespected me”
“Whoa, that bad eh?”
“Yeah, anyway, you should do something about that long hair and this beard. Adrian can give you what you need as well as the details of our next steps. Get going, I have to go back to work”, she turned and sat back down to finish her food.
“This is almost like back at Starlance. How is this ship running so smoothly?”, James asked, turning to me.
“I’ll give you all the details you need later. For now, go do as your sister suggested, you look more like a pirate than any of us”. After his meeting with Crystal he seemed far more energetic and hopeful. I showed him the place he would be staying at.
After leaving James I made my way to the bridge. There, Mara and Ivanov were waiting.
“So you have finally decided to join us. I would have called ahead, but your little reunion seemed important”, Ivanov said.
I replied, “Finding an old comrade alive is indeed important. You should know that by now. Every ally we find is important for the coming battles”
“Yes, yes, I will not question you. What rank were you again?”
“Buzz off Ivanov, I am no longer a Starlance grunt as before”, the remark irked me the wrong way.
“It’s actually kind of funny how these guys have influenced you. You’ve grown beyond that shy little man”, Mara said with a big grin on her face, “Let’s get to work though, we have our hands full right now. We have to start making our moves against Starlance”
“Of course, I’ll let you old soldiers begin”, Ivanov said as he sat at his chair while we moved up to the holographic projection table.
“As you well know Starlance has a tight grip on the systems. Their heavy handed approach has made them enemies within the colonies, despite many of them pledging their allegiance. We have no hope that Earth or the Sol System will interfere. For months we heard nothing from them, so I don’t think they’re coming. It’s up to us. Our tactics have so far revolved in poking holes in their defenses. That is, until their Supremacy class cruisers are moved to engage. At that moment we scramble away before we get destroyed. In the year that has passed since the battle at Proxima Centauri One we have discovered that they have only made small improvements to their weaponry. Meanwhile we have continued our search for a way to thwart those powerful ships”, Mara explained in her debrief. “Adrian, the data you brought from the Proxima Eclipse helps a little in understanding how much power those energy cannons can unleash. Sadly, a lot of that data is also a year old, which means we can’t rely on it too much. The engineers and technicians are still analyzing the data though, so there is still a chance to find something that could help us”
I continued, “In the meantime I have a number of targets that I have taken interest in. I am not exactly sure what the capabilities of what remains of the Liberation Front are, but these targets are important if we want to truly strike a blow to Starlance. The first is Centauri Starlance Four. This base and its accompanying space dock are the main launch point and repair center of Starlance in Proxima Centauri. Hitting that station will weaken their response time to threats to their other stations in Alpha Centauri”
“What is the next point of interest?”, asked Ivanov.
“You can’t be serious”, Mara said, her expression changing to a more serious one. “Last time you were there you nearly died along with James.
“It’ll be very different this time. I’ve been spending time researching the old activation protocols and control systems of the weapons there. I found something we overlooked before. Hidden deep within the minefield is a cache. Whatever it contains could help us fight Starlance”
“Are there any other targets? I admire your courage Adrian, but you shouldn’t risk everything on a hunch. Besides, we need you for the coming conflict”, I knew Mara was worried, but I felt that it was important to do this.
“Sector Epsilon is also a key test area for Starlance. Stopping them from using it will force them to find alternatives closer to their own territory. They will not want to risk experimental weapons near any of their other stations or fleets”
“Well, I don’t care how you proceed, but you’d better come back in one piece. You still owe me for that stunt a few months ago”, Ivanov was referring to a brief stint where I nearly faced off against one of the Supremacy Cruisers. If it wasn’t for his diversion Starlance would have caught me.
“There you have it”, I looked at Mara with a slight smirk.
“Oh whatever. I’ll see if I can arrange a meeting with the leaders of the Centauri Liberation Front. Like the captain said, you’d better get here in one piece”
“I’ll do my best”, I said, and then left the bridge to get to my ship.
I arrived at my base in half an hour. All the stealth tech I had to acquire to have a little peace was worth it. I also had a nearby Starlance listening post that I hacked into. With it I was almost always up to date with information. That is, until they entered the area and restored the satellite’s systems. In order to avoid any suspicions on my whereabouts I planted jamming devices and programming bugs in many other similar satellites. At the very least, it keeps their technicians busy.