Episode 4: Mounting Rescues
Another return to sector Epsilon. This time, I was not alone. Mara was with me, flying her own starfighter. In the distance we saw a battle raging on. Engines set to max, it would take just a few minutes to intercept. We caught the enemy by surprise. Two of the Starlance fighters were quickly torn apart by our cannons. The ensuing dogfight kept the attention on us instead of the transport ships. One of them was heavily damaged and could only adjust its course using maneuvering thrusters. Once we dealt with the remaining fighters the challenge became dealing with the damaged transport before more enemies arrived.
“Damaged transport, what is your status? Can you make the jump?”, Mara asked.
“This is transport Tau one, we only have maneuvering thrusters left. Energy shields have been mostly depleted. Suggest we move over to transport Tau two.”
“Damn, that is going to make this very difficult.”, moving passengers from one transport to the other will make them both vulnerable. Leaving the scientists stuck in a failing ship won’t do though. “Mara, sensors are detecting enemy fighters on their way. If I intercept them I can buy you some time”
“I trust you can take them, but if any slip away we’re gonna have our hands full.”
“I’ll make sure none of them make it to you.”
“Then get going. Keep me posted.”
The transports initiated a docking procedure. A sideways tunnel extended from both to allow the people to move through it. It would take quite a while for them to finish so I would have to be thorough when fighting the Starlance fighters. Targeting systems marked five bogies on their way to the transports. I set an intercept course with them. There were also five more that had launched from the damaged research station. If I didn’t deal with the first five quickly, it would be a hairy fight against all of them. So I centered myself and prepared for another difficult battle.
As soon as I engaged the fighters I spent no time in using the arsenal on the Star Shadow. A rocket destroyed one ship, a blast from the plasma cannon destroyed another. Now they were weary of the weaponry so I had to be more careful lining the shots. The remaining enemies were mostly evading, but also slowly moving closer to the transports. Meanwhile, Mara sent coded progress reports, they would be done soon. As I received one of those reports, a fighter tried to break off and make a run at the transports. My ship was much faster and I was able to destroy them before they went any further. Sadly, the other ships that had launched were now very close and the battle was starting to get too close to the transports.
In a moment of panic one of the transport pilots disengaged the evacuation tunnel. Three scientists died when they were pulled into the vacuum of space. Mara was angered, but the pilot explained that there was no time left. In the distance, a ship jumped into the system. It was one of the Starlance Supremacy ships. Before we could do anything they were already launching dozens of fighters. I counted at least four or five squadrons.
“This is getting really bad, really quick. Transport Tau two, I have sent coordinates of a rendezvous point. Get to it now! Go!”, Mara wanted to avoid any more casualties.
“We can hold these fighters off for a while longer, just go!”, I screamed at the pilot of transport Tau two.
The pilot of transport Tau one changed course toward the Starlance cruiser, ultimately it would serve as a distraction. In the midst of this chaos a transmission from Ivanov arrived. We are needed elsewhere to reinforce a similar operation. This one was to help rescue none other than Captain Villanova.
“Adrian, go help Ivanov. I can cover the transport to the jump point”
“Acknowledged, stay safe Mara”, I maneuvered around the fighters and destroyed two more. Just as the next squadron neared, I turned away at full speed. The destination coordinates were hidden away in Ivanov’s transmission. I reached the jump point quickly and made the jump. On the other side, I arrived into a veritable melee. It looked like various factions were fighting in this area. Scans indicated that there were at least three unique groups. Analysis of the area identified it as the edge of the Centauri systems. One of the ships is part of an expedition from the Sirius system. Then I saw a number of fighter craft and Ivanov’s ship.
“What took you? Get over here and help us clean this mess. Two battleships should be at the edge of your sensor range. Assist with the enemy fighters harassing our squad and then deal with those ships, are we clear?”
“Got it. You mentioned something about Villanova?”
“Ah yes, we found her while rescuing one of our own. She was very helpful in the escape, so we brought her with us. I believe she stole one of the Starlance fighters”
“That is not surprising. She is a great pilot, I once had the honor of destroying her. In a simulation, of course”
“Hah! I would expect no less. Now get going, this gets more expensive by the minute!”
Ivanov always accounted for the costs he would incur in every attack. I always found a way to more than compensate. This time, it would be those battleships that would cover this expense. Some outcasts established their own bounties on Starlance ships. We used battle logs and ship records as proof that the enemy ships were destroyed.
I entered the fray. Again I was engaged against fighters of Starlance. My previous captain’s movements were easy to identify, but still I issued a warning to all Starlance fighters. She was surprised to hear my voice and answered back.
“Adrian? What an incredible surprise. I will send you my ship’s information. Update your targeting systems and let’s take care of these rookies.”
“With pleasure ma’am.”
The opposing fighters were no match to our combined tactics. We decimated the Starlance squadron in a few minutes.
“Stay the course towards the Crown. Ivanov will be happy to have you.”
“I spoke with him not too long ago, you’re keeping some interesting company these days Adrian.”
“These are… unique times. We can catch up after I’m done here.”
“Looking forward to it, Villanova out.”
The familiarity of talking with her was a breath of fresh air. Captain Villanova commanded great respect and was honorable to the end. Her defiance of Starlance no doubt fed my father’s anger. No time to reminisce though, the two battleships were moving closer to the King’s Crown and I was ready to intercept. Ivanov sent me a data burst that mentioned the ships didn’t have any more fighter squadrons since they had to scramble to try and stop the escape. This would make my job a lot easier. I had the ship schematics on the Star Shadow’s database. All I had to do now was strike the right points and they would be overwhelmed and destroyed. For this kind of task I had to use everything in my arsenal. A volley of missiles, fully charged plasma shots and steady damage to their shields by way of the main laser cannons. The battleships weren’t completely defenseless. Hull mounted turrets fired, and often missed. Those are intended more to fight larger targets. Still, some were actually manned, and those posed a bit more of a threat. One of the battleships pressed forward even when I had dealt some heavy damage. The other one started its retreat. Those weren’t so reckless, they knew they were outmatched. No choice left but to destroy the pursuing battleship. After a few minutes it was gone. A plasma shot to the area where its main reactor lies caused a chain of explosions that tore the battleship apart. Further ahead of them the King’s Crown made its jump to safety.
The expedition ship from Sirius had sustained some damage, so I offered some assistance. They were mostly caught in the crossfire of the early battle. With some of my help they were able to fix their jump drive. Apparently most of the other systems are unaware of this war in the centauri systems.The grateful scientists mentioned they would convey the information I gave them to the Sirius System senate. Anything that could help destabilize Starlance was welcome.
On my flight towards the jump point I was lost in thought. This was indeed a war. Despite not being openly declared by any of the parts. Starlance regarded us as a nuisance. A few rebellious pirates and outlaw organizations. The truth is, the Liberation Front and most of the people fighting simply wanted to return to their colonies. They wanted the freedom to do more with their lives. A choice beyond Starlance. I admit that the hidden ambitions of high command, or of my father, were not so easy to see. To reach this point, and to see so much loss of life was heartbreaking. Despite feeling terribly about it, my resolve could not break. Father would have to face justice someday. For endangering civilians and subjecting colonies to their oppressive rule.