The cry resounded through the ship, carried throughout Lyssa’s Fury by the ship’s tannoy. The internal lighting flashed to danger red and the crew sprang into action.
Captain Galweigh finished sealing his survival suit’s helmet, gloved hands falling away from the Erracom brand on the lock. The suit connected to the local digisphere and raw data flowed past his iris before his timer flashed into being. Less than a minute. That was good.
Less good was the sight of his EW officer still struggling to slip into his. Clumsy, shaking fingers dropped a helmet and it took Junior Lieutenant Quince two and a half minutes before he had finally finished, his suit’s lock snapping shut.
“Quince, that took you too long.” Galweigh had to fight to keep the disappointment out of his voice, discipline was lax since the extinction, and Quince was just one of a new wave of officers who hadn’t the benefit of a war college to educate them. Galweigh had nothing but the best in mind for his EW officer. He had seen the aftermath of combat enough times to know that the difference between a dead man and a living one could be measured in the time it took for a missile to impact a target.
Which was just over a minute at maximum engagement range.
“Yes, Captain. Sorry, sir.”
Captain Galweigh turned his attention to the battle display that dominated the centre of the bridge. A single blip at the centre showed their position, relative to that of the hostile vessel, still half an hour outside their engagement range.
“Helm, flank speed.”
“Flank speed, aye.”
The glowing miniature star that marked the position of Galweigh’s ship in the cosmos, grew brighter, flaring sharply as the fusion drives increased their output.
Lyssa’s Fury was coming for her prey.
“Missile launch. Four incoming,” said Quince, “Request launch auth for two.”
“Authorised.” Captain Galweigh grimaced, it seemed their foe had a better engagement range. He forwarded launch authority to Quince. Two missiles spat out of the ship’s dorsal length, fusion cores exploding into life as they accelerated to near light speeds.
Quince hesitated as the four missiles closed in, then launched another two after his first defensive salvo. At near light speeds, targeting become a brutal contest between each AI guiding the missiles. Lyssa’s first missiles detonated successfully, their warheads scattering an expanding cloud of shrapnel into the path of the inbound missiles. One was caught, ripped in two by the cloud, the other three weaved through the cloud and met the second wave.
The second pair of defensive missiles closed in. The battle display showed one veer sharply off target, detonating harmlessly, caught by the enemy’s jammers and spoofers. The last missile caught one of the three with its submunitions, nicking the fusion drive. The damaged missile entered a spin then detonated, catching one of its remaining two allies.
That left one.
It powered closer, entering Lyssa’s last engagement bubble, too fast now to be stopped by missiles. The turrets that studded Galweigh’ ship leapt into action, bringing their guns to bear. Nearspace was filled with a blizzard of light as laser arrays fired streams of energy in bursts designed to knock out or dazzle the incoming projectile.
And still it dodged, correcting one final time before impact.
Captain Galweigh sighed and leant forward as the lighting reverted to normal throughout the ship, “Junior Lieutenant Quince, if that had been a real missile, we would all be dead now. So, where do you think you went wrong?”
Quince swallowed, “Sir, I … don’t know.”
“That much was evident. It’s not enough to commit missiles to defense or attack. It is also not enough to simply run blanket jams. You should have examined the hostile ships acceleration and mass. Our sensors are more than sufficient. A local query would have returned 98.7% probability that the vessel was an Iso destroyer. The Iso mostly used visible spectrum for their guidance systems. That means programming dazzlers and requesting an All-Stop from Helm.”
“But sir, how was I to know?” The former Hades citizen asked.
Captain Galweigh shook his head, frustrated with his officer’s apparent lack of understanding.
“You are aboard a Navy vessel, a repository of data on all of mankind’s fleets and forces. You have a local digisphere access. You had ample opportunities to determine the nature of your enemy.”
Captain Galweigh let his face sink into his palms, “The Navy has neither the patience nor resources to waste on fools, but nor does the Navy have the luxury of choice. You are my only EW officer, and so you will drill until Argus Panoptes himself would consider himself blind beside you.”
Captain Galweigh sighed, it hadn’t always been like this. Once, a battlecruiser command like his would have commanded respect. Now he was stuck nursing sphere-junkies and unqualified men who couldn’t make it on Hades. He said the only words he could.
“Run the simulation again.”
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- Short Stories
- April 25, 2018