Seventh Chapter WIP for 'Invisible Enemy'
Continuation from Chapter 6.
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.
Captain Rogers walked out of his cabin and stopped by Sensors.
“Stream has faded, sir,” Basan reported with a sour expression. Rogers had stayed on course towards the shipyard as he was convinced that it was the real target of the N-boat’s attack. They may be even close enough to determine that the Skeletor was there, which would be too high value to pass up.
“What do you have on gravimetric?” Rogers asked.
“Definitely have something affecting nearby space, but unable to get a fix.”
“Gravimetric isn’t good on small objects only if they are within a reasonable range.” He clapped a hand on Basan’s shoulder. “It tells me she’s out there still. Probably behind us. Keep an active search on torpedo launches. I want to fire a volley back at them the instant they do.”
“Yes, sir,” Basan replied. “I’m feeding data to Weps per your standing order. Do you think we’ll catch her, sir?”
“We’ll take a beating, but if we can get the drop on her with the Betties, we might,” Rogers said, hoping he sounded more confident than he did. He looked at the other operators in Sensors, men and women immersed beneath headgear to scan their systems. He climbed down to the bridge and passed Kowan who remained vigilant in her crash couch.
“I got the report from Sensors, XO,” Rogers said. Kowan nodded in acknowledgement.
Rogers knew he’d missed something critical. There were daily intelligence reports that the Hegemony were testing tachyon decoys. It was well understood that N-boats in N-Space emitted tachyons through their hull. It had been known before things fell apart and N-boats were used to scout new sectors of space undetected. The tricky part was detecting those tachyons, and the ASDIN was the first steps in that direction. It worked, but it was sensitive and tricky to operate. Still, with the Fleet headed out to engage the Hegemony in Eagle Nebula, Venger and Skeletor had been given the first of the ASDIN units. The Hegemony expected this. Rogers cursed himself and his overconfidence, but he hadn’t risen to the bait. He’d given himself too much of a reputation with his daring raid on Tau Ceti Supply Depot. The N-boat captain didn’t know, but his crew did. They depended on his judgment and now he put them in a precarious position.
“Status of the Betties?”
“Nominal,” Kowan reported.
“All right, they will make the first volley.”
“We have enough countermeasures to keep the torpedoes from striking. We’re out of emcon now and so we’ll know the instant they launch. As soon as they realize their other quarry is in the shipyard, they will attack and drop into N-Space.” Rogers tapped his comm panel as he sat into his chair. His bulb was warm even through his suit hand.
“Weapons,” Brenda Shand responded to the call.
“Weps, prep three fish volley; two real space, one Betty. Fire in serial, not in parallel—real, Betty, real. He may cotton onto the Betty and drop back into real space. They we’ll have him and he might not be ready.”
“And if he stays in N-Space? Second Betty to respond?”
“I’ll make the changes now, sir,” Shand said, and Rogers could almost hear the smile in her voice. Gods his crew were a bloodthirsty lot sometimes.
“Very well,” he cut the connection and turned to Powell, who was watching the fusion display. He was frowning.
“Waste of fish, you think, Nav?” Rogers asked.
Powell looked startled and glanced at Kowan who gave him no defense. His shoulders slumped. “Just think we didn’t have him that first time.”
“No, we didn’t, but unless the torpedo orbits decay into the sun, they’re recoverable. We have plenty of fish on board. We made him flinch.”
“That’s true, sir,” Powell looked nonplussed.
“What is it?”
Powell sighed. “Sir, the Betties aren’t tested. They’re slow and will tip our hand. Wouldn’t it be better to fire one of them first?”
“As you’ve said, the Betties are slow. I want to make sure they make the shift into N-Space. That’s where the Betty will catch him.”
“Why not fire both Betties? He’ll make the shift even if the first is slow, but either Betty will get him if he’s in real space or N-Space.”
“But you’ve said they’re untested. The real space torpedoes are, which is why I’m sending one as a trigger and the third as insurance. Let’s see how it works out, eh, Nav?”
Powell nodded. He seemed dubious. Powell had been a weapons officer before, and Rogers put himself in his shoes. Although he was taking an enormous risk, he had to do something without Hollis’ Skeletor at his side to shake down this intruder. Thinking about his sister ship, he called radio.
“Radio, captain, anything from the Skeletor?” he asked, not expecting anything.
“Received acknowledgment via tight beam. Receiving PERSFOR message for you now, sir.”
Rogers pulled up his inbox and read the message. It was from Jack Hollis.
Have received message. Will put to space with a single main engine to harass the enemy. My ships systems are otherwise top notch. Sorry I can’t play the bait, but I can meet the enemy at the shipyard’s doorstep in one standard day. Orbital defenses are prepared to meet the enemy. Good hunting. Jack.
He archived the message. So no help from Jack. Rogers didn’t expect that much, but he was hopeful Skeletor would be en route to meet Venger. It was going to be ship-to-ship after all. The ship’s alarm blared.
“Torpedo launch, bearing port one seven five declination negative point four!” Sensors reported.
“Weapon sequence,” Weps reported. “Shoot Tube One, Three, Two.”
Venger cut thrust, spun a high G turn, fired a torpedo sequence through the spin, and accelerated hard away from the incoming torpedoes on a reciprocal heading.
“Ten seconds,” Kowan grunted as the acceleration pushed them hard into their couches. “Countermeasures!”
Rogers’ vision blurred as he watched the incoming torpedo passed by the outbound torpedo, green lines crossing red. A blanket of countermeasures putting out spectrum wall between them and the torpedo.
“Volley Two!” Kowan said as the decoy/homing countermeasures shot from the ship. The close aboard alarm blared.
The ship rocked and bounced, spinning. The pilot fought to counter the attack.
“Torpedo explosion close aboard,” Kowan announced.
“Lost track, second weapon,” Basan reported over the PA. The countermeasures would do that, throwing out a burst of sensor signal to blanket own ship, but had the detrimental effect of detection difficult.
Rogers grabbed the thrust control and overrode it to maximum thrust.
“Volley Three!” Kowan said and launched the second decoy countermeasure pack. More alarms blared as the countermeasure launch failed. “Countermeasure fail!” Kowan announced on the ship’s circuit.
Another explosion rocked the ship, and it spun out of control. Rogers’ suit extended its helmet and squeezed hard against the G forces being exerted. “Hull breach… Hull breach… Hull breach…,” the ship’s system reported as he blacked out, falling away from the echoing alarms in his head.