Eleventh Chapter WIP for 'Invisible Enemy'
Continuation from Chapter 10.
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.
Rogers’ comm panel buzzed. “Captain.”
“Basan, sir. I have something on spectrum. It's intermittent, but follows the pattern of cosmic debris. Automated systems filtered, but it's in the range and vicinity of the sub, sir.”
Rogers punched up Basan’s display. He examined the time scale and saw the model fit a tumbling asteroid. “It's small…” Rogers began and then switched the spectral data to inspect the material. It showed typical material, iron, copper… there was a trace of a graphene ally. Something not common to asteroids. He sat back and considered. It could be man-made space debris from decades of human space travel within Rigel B. Though it was just too coincidental. He had thrust. “Good work, Basan. I think you got her. Feed data to fire control and navigation.” He switched to Maneuvering. “Maneuvering, Captain, status of emergency repair? I need thrust.”
“You have half thrust on starboard main with thruster compensation. Repairs can complete under normal G.”
“Very well,” Rogers almost turned to Kowan, but she was gone, banished to Auxiliary Bridge. “Pilot ahead full, steer closing trajectory.”
“Aye, sir.” The thrust alarm blared and the comfortable 1 G return. Venger righted herself and turned to close range. Both ship's were headed in system, but their reacting maneuvers put them on diverging directions, but now the range would close. If she was playing dead, she'd see them coming—corvettes were not stealthy. If she was crippled, so much the better.
“Weapons, conn, once we’re on an intercept, you'll have thrust control for rail gun. Status of torpedo load out?”
“Conn, Weapons, two standard fish loaded in Tubes One and Two. No time to load standard or Betty in Tube Three.”
“Very well.” He switched to the PA. “This is the captain. We're closing range. Our nose is bloodied, but we have the advantage. We're closing inside Weapons ring range. Standby for a long fight. That is all.”
He watched the display as Basan regained control and zoomed in on the data. After their maneuver, Weps would have a solution with the rail gun and could lob high velocity ammunition to target. The tumble of the object became defined after a few revolutions. Subs were advanced vessels - before N-Space capability came along, they were stealth vessels, recipients of the latest technology in preventing detection. In peacetime, they were excellent exploration vessels when the assumption that there was other life in the universe. As the decades wore on and each world yielded no life beyond plant and small animals that mission declined. When the war broke out, their technology was in high demand. The subspace fleet ended up on the wrong side of the fight, in Rogers’ opinion. The Confederation had a few subs, but none were N-Space capable. With the Betties, they had a means to address and invisible and untouchable threat. Not that they knew subs had tachyon countermeasures, the Betties were already behind the technological curve. They had more than the Betties though and this firefight might give them a chance to use them.
Rogers brought his thoughts back to the track. He brought up the fusion display and checked the trajectory. His display blinked as Weps took control. The ship’s acceleration change chimed, and thrust went to zero and the ship rotated to lead the target through space and time. The ship's computer chimed. “Firing rail gun…. Firing… firing.” With each word, the ship shuddered as it imparted velocity to itself and the departing slug. The ship fired, and the chime came back and the pilot resumed a closing course as Weps evaluation the attack.
The aspect of the object changed in revolution, but still moved in the same general direction. They reached the closest point of approach.
“Weapons response to slugs,” Basan reported and Rogers saw the bloom of laser and close in weapons on the display. They were still outside effective ring range.
“Pilot, continue to close and give us a matching course. We don't want to do a high speed flyby.”
“Doing my best, sir,” the pilot replied.
The ship was struck by a few blasts that did little at this range.
“Fifteen minutes to ring range,” Weps reported.
“Lost contact,” Sensors reported after a minute. Rogers hated the long moments of wait. The sub was there. They'd sorted out whatever problems that gave them an advantage. Optics and spectral scanned the location, looking for the invisible sub against a black void. He rubbed his chin. Forward crews were ready. Should he deploy another salvo of torpedoes? He checked the countermeasure queue. There was enough for a few rounds. He wanted to curse Hollis for his timidity, but he knew its futility.
“Full sweep on tridar,” Rogers told Sensors. “Maximum power.” It was a poor chance of return, but if the sweep was focused, they might get a return. The closed range to the subs reckoned position.
“Weapons, conn, give them another slug volley.”
“Conn, weapons, aye,” Weps replied and the ship went through another cycle of alarm, pause, turn, fire slugs, return to course and burn.<
“Fire in auxiliary! Evacuating auxiliary!” The emergency report came through the PA.
“Lost of primary power. Switching to secondary port standby,” Weps replied.
The ship reacted to its routines as any well trained ship does. Auxiliary was evacuated of oxygen which put out the fire. Aboard ship, there was nowhere to evacuate spaces already sealed without affecting the rest of the ship. Suited up, it was easy to respond by suiting up and flushing the space with argon. After the fire was out, they had to find out the cause and determine what could be repaired. Rogers kept an ear on the reports. It focused his attention to the enemy. He had to be able fight the ship, no matter the degradations that occurred.
“Sensors, conn, flag them and update ship location.” Rogers tapped the forward anti-torpedo weapons, flagged two of four, and held them for close-in launch. They were small weapons with a short range, but were only effective if there were no countermeasures already deployed. They were in a closing situation, so spectrum emissions would not be ideal. He marked them to launch at extreme ranges set by the sensor tracking system.
“Conn, Sensors, aye. Ship is trailing original position, updating.”
“Weps, hold fire until torpedoes countered, then fire another volley.”
The sensor array lit up in alarm and Rogers fired the anti-torpedoes. Sensors and optics watched the torpedoes evade the small incoming weapon. The first evaded well, crossing its counterparts’ path before exploding in a bloom of light. Then the second torpedo also evaded, but has range differentiation that bought it a few seconds, enough time to gain Venger on its own systems. Venger's forward weapon ring whirred and rattled with close in weapons fire. The torpedo, evading weapons fire, was caught by the anti-torpedo.
Rogers gripped the console as the ship spun to sling more slugs at the sub. When things settled down, he took stock of sensors and tested his performance.
“No hit, third volley.”
Rogers frowned. With their spread, they should've at least made one concerted strike. What had happened? Had they been given the slip again? He thumbed the comm panel. “Sensors, what's on ASDIN?”
“Conn, Sensors, ASDIN is offline, sir. We lost it in the shift in auxiliary power. Restarting.”
“Pilot, intercept solution. Based on last data.” This was not good. What was she doing now? Was she in N-Space? He hoped the ASDIN wasn't down for the count. It was well tested gear, but as the old saying goes, inspection ready unto does not pass combat.
It was this last thought in his mind as a mine punched through the hull, rupturing two compartments. One of them was the bridge.