Fourth Chapter WIP for 'Invisible Enemy'
Continuation from Chapter 3.
Everything written is subject to change, even the names. Also may be some continuity or plot changes from the previous chapter. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook.
HFSS Sword of Damocles
Being inside an N-Hull inside of N-Space was weird. Everything felt dampened or depressed. Lights and colors were dimmer. Sounds muffled. The usual thrum of Damocles ventilation and systems were muted as though you were underwater, and the pounding of blood in your ears receded to a dull pulse. All the senses were affected in N-Space, Reed thought. He hated this place, and these damned subspacers reveled in it.
He listened to the Sensor shack crew making jokes and laughing over some bawdy joke, and Reed didn’t like it. Not that subspacers didn’t have discipline. They did their duty same as any fleet sailor. But to Reed, who’d come from the main Hegemony Fleet, did not like subspacers. Reed pondered the why behind that distaste for the hundredth time. Why didn’t he like them? He thought if he’d became one of them, he’d understand them more. He’d see the difference between real spacers and subspacers was just inter-service rivalry. In some sense, Reed was right, but he couldn’t get over his dislike nor put his finger on what it was, this intense dislike. Kenga was one of them. She’d grown up in the Subspace Service and served on a four previous vessels before the war broke out and she’d reported to the Sword of Damocles, a vessel built for the war and was still an effective fighting unit years later. Reed wondered if his dislike of Kenga was because she was a subspacer or other qualities he found lacking. She seemed personable enough though she was always stiff an official with Reed. She shared none of her personal life, even after he’d been aboard the Damocles for a month. In the Fleet, it never took him long to warm up to the crew, but often there were many Hegemony loyalists eager to show their worth to the aristocracy. He hadn’t found that here in the subspace fleet. There were loyalists, but this crew answered to one authority, and that was Kenga. Kenga served the Hegemony by following orders, but she didn’t seem to care she was reaching or doing so to a higher cause. She treated her position as a duty and not an honor, but Reed didn’t have the difficulty of other men within the Fleet who gained rank through merit and success. It wasn't the first time Reed had run into such headwinds. It was all the Federation--the Confederation now--could do to hold back the tide when the Hegemony took hold. Now they were locked in this ridiculous war - a civil war, wasting resources better spent expanding humanity under Hegemonic rule.
Reed had done well at the New Academy and had prepared himself for the Subspace Service program by volunteering for this billet and mission. He'd gone to Subspace Basic and had a good handle on tactics. Yet he realized when the departed Newer York that he'd made a grave error, or worse still, had annoyed a Hegemony official. This mission was not what the Admiralty briefed him before patrol departure. He looked over at Kenga. Her eyes were closed, and if not for the slight furrow in her brow, would be mistaken for being asleep. She gripped the drink bulb and held it close to her side, and that was one secret Reed knew: Kenga was dying. His job was to ensure she succeeded in her last mission. Only Reed wasn't sure.
“XO,” Kenga said, not opening her eyes. “Status of Tubes One and Two?”
“Tube One decoy ready. Tube Two mine ready.”
“Activate Tube One,” she said.
Reed sent the commands. Their decoy activated, generating its own subspace field and the subsequent tachyon emissions matched that of their own hull. It had been a long term project of the Subspace Admiralty to counter the Confederation ASDIN system, which had advanced in the intervening years since the war began. The outer tube doors opened, and the device eased out of the tube under its own power. “Decoy clear,” he reported once the device was far enough from own ship.
Kenga opened her eyes. “Shift to real space.”
A klaxon went off though no one shifted in their spaces. The Sensor shack became quiet and alert. Damocles returned to normal space and left the depths of infinite N-Space ocean behind.
“All right, XO, let’s execute the next maneuver,” Kenga said.
The gravitic drive came up to full power and there was a lurch of vertigo as the ship rotated in space, reversing direction. “Launching Tube Two,” Reed reported as the mine swam out under drifting away from the ship. Once it cleared, the ship began heavy thrust.
“Ship detect,” Sensor reported. “At three five seven relative, declination point four.”
They were close enough to the Jovian to use its gravity now. The Damocles bled speed following its own previous track.
“Alter course to conform to the enemy ship’s track,” Kenga ordered.
Kenga was crazy, but subspacers weren’t the most sane people. He altered course. What should be a high G deceleration was just a normal gravity push with the gravitic drive.
“Classification, Anvil class corvette,” Sensors reported. “No change in course.”
“Still following the decoy,” Reed reported with some satisfaction.
“It could be a ruse. All war is deception.”
“Launch detected!” Sensors reported, shifting up an octave in urgency.
Reed’s fingers few over the controls. The sensors locked onto the torpedoes rocketing toward them. His fingers hovered over the countermeasure buttons.
“Hold countermeasures,” Kenga said. She tapped her comm panel. “Weapons, ready to fire. Lock onto corvette. Target main engine compartment.”
“Five seconds,” Reed said. He was sweating. His heart rate shot through the roof. “Countermeasures?”
“No,” Kenga said, locking eyes on Reed. His fingers edged toward the controls. Lieutenant Jin, the navigator, grabbed Reed’s wrist, but there was no pressure.
The torpedoes passed close to the ship and continued on their flight path.
Reed pulled his hand from the navigator’s grip. He realized too late what Kenga had done. She’d brought the Damocles inside the launch range of the torpedoes. They hadn’t begun their search nor had they activated their sensors or explosives.
“Conn, Sensors, seeing a drone launch,” Sensors reported.
“Conn, weapons, ready to fire. Targeting port side of engine blister.”
“Weapons, conn, aye,” Kenga replied. She watched the drone on the screen.
“Should we destroy it?” Reed asked.
Kenga looked at him with that smugness. It annoyed Reed more that it was the same airs he put on though it was because of his aristocracy.
Reed locked onto the drone with one of the laser cannons available to him. The proximity alarm warbled.
“Shoot,” Kenga said.
The screen pulsed as the laser lanced through the drone. A moment later there was a faint tinkling of debris along the hull from the drone.
“Weapons, shoot when we hit CPA.” Kenga stared at Reed with an inscrutable look. Reed felt his neck grow hot again. The proximity alarm warbled again as they passing in close. They weren’t close enough to activate the corvette’s close in weapons systems, but if Kenga was right, they weren’t even looked in their direction.
“One plasma shot,” Weapons reported, and the screen lit up as they hit the corvette. “Direct hit, minor damage.”
“XO, bring us around. The decoy should make its course change now, but we need time to get the N-Hull recharged,” Kenga said. “Where’s that other damn corvette?”
“Sir,” Reed said, trying to hold back his anger. “Why haven’t we torpedoed the corvette? And why didn’t we fire that instead of the ring?”
“Not everything we do should be to kill,” Kenga replied. “Damaging the port engine won’t disable her, but it will throw them off. If they discover the ruse, it will be too late.”
“This is a war, captain.”
“Don’t make the mistake of equating war with death. War is politics by other means, but not the only means. Many of the Confederation Fleet are former Federation officers, men and women we’ve served with. How many Federation Fleet officers do you know?”
“Only the Hegemony, the true Federation.”
Kenga didn’t reply to that, but drank from her bulb.
Reed pressed a little harder. “We shouldn’t pull our punches. They will remain a thorn in our side.”
“Perhaps you should learn more about how to fight someone above your weight class, Commander Reed,” Kenga replied.
Reed ground his teeth. He could take Kenga. She was older, more experienced, and training in hand-to-hand combat. Reed was none of these things though he trained in handguns and riot gear. He had the weight advantage, but that meant little to Kenga; she had nothing to lose. It was unseemly to question the ship’s captain in front of the crew, he realized. Damocles trusted Kenga. As their newest officer and not a subspacer, they did not trust him. He shook his head and studied the fusion display. The corvette was behind them. It had changed course, but was veering back towards its original track. “Orders, sir?”
“Maintain deceleration for one hour, then reverse course and resume. We’ll have the corvette ahead of us. Then we can decide. The mission comes first.”
“Aye, sir,” Reed replied. They would make short work of the Confederation vessel yet. Kenga was holding back. Why? It wasn’t any sense of obligation to former Federation officers, was it? That seemed incongruous with Kenga’s death wish. Maybe he did have something to offer the crew of the Damocles after all.