Starcorp 2: Hostile Acquisitions

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CHAPTER 21: Basestar Goliath

Captain Marc Larsen was the commanding officer of Basestar Goliath. When ADM Chaffin gave the order to pursue the DPG09 War-Machine into null-space, he was already preparing for the time-jump. CAPT Larsen knew that they could not let the Orion Basestar get away. The mission objective outlined by the WDF02 Board of Directors was known to all the officers of the fleet. CAPT Larsen was ready to pursue the DPG09 War-Machine the instant it jumped into null-space, and he needed nothing more than a greenlight from his immediate superior to commence his pursuit.

“I think we’ve got something,” the helm officer declared over his intercom with an inflection of surprise.

CAPT Larsen was surprised as well. He was expecting a dozen minutes to pass before detecting anything that was registering in the basestar’s sensors. The Goliath was in null-space for less than 20 seconds when the sensors began registering a faint magnetic signature. This meant that they were close enough to the same temporal field frequency as another spaceship to sense its presence, but this did not tell them if it was friend or foe. Visual identification was nonexistent in null-space. The two spaceships needed to merge their temporal fields and exchange data to learn the identity of the other.

“Don’t let it get away,” CAPT Larsen instructed an instant after hearing the helm officer’s report.

CAPT Larsen knew that his helm officer was trying to merge with the temporal field around this magnetic signature without any direction from him. His words were just an encouragement for him to do his best.

“There’s no chance of that,” the helm officer reported without thinking. “The reading on the time spectrum is high—very high. It’s still inside the Sol System.”

Height and depth, and high and low, were words used to indicate when a spaceship was moving forward or back in time. Spaceships that were low on the time dilation spectrum were moving back in time. The lower they were, the faster they were moving back in time and the further ahead of lightspeed they were effectively traveling in real-space. Spaceships that were high on the time dilation spectrum were moving forward in time. The higher they were, the faster they were moving forward in time and the further back from lightspeed they were effectively traveling in real-space.

“And the signature is strange,” the helm officer continued after a pause to study something that was confusing him. “It’s almost reading like a pulse.”

“Helm,” CAPT Larsen called through his microphone. “Where’s this signal headed?”

“It doesn’t appear to be headed anywhere, Admiral,” the helm officer reported back. “I estimate that we’re moving two-thirds slower than lightspeed in real-space, and it appears to be following the curvature of the star system.”

This report confused CAPT Larsen. When the DPG09 Fleet jumped into null-space, he thought that it was trying to get away. To do this, it should be moving back in time while moving away from the star system. This report from his helm officer told CAPT Larsen that this DPG09 spaceship they were tracking was moving forward in time while slowly moving forward in real-space. It gradually dawned on him that the DPG09 Fleet was not trying to get away. His mind began entertaining the idea that they were tracking a solo battlestar, but this quickly made no sense to him. Battlestars are far smaller than a basestar and should be the last thing their sensors detect. It was also illogical for a battlestar to stray off on its own. A single battlestar with its small compliment of starfighters would be easy prey for a basestar.

“I’m detecting two more magnetic signatures,” the helm officer nearly yelled into his headphone. “And they’re moving toward us.”

This report startled CAPT Larsen into rethinking the idea that they were tracking battlestars, and that they might be amplifying their magnetic signatures somehow. This seemed to be the only answer that explained why they were detecting them ahead of the Orion Basestar.

“We’re in sync with the first signature,” the operations officer yelled out with surprise in his voice. “It’s a battlestar size spaceship,” the helm officer continued his report after a pause to discern the data on his computer monitor. “And, Captain, it just merged into our temporal field.”

A virtual alarm went off inside CAPT Larsen’s head. He did not know what was happening, but he now knew that it was deliberate. His mind quickly turned to options to counter this inexplicable threat. While his brain was doing this, helm began announcing a new report.

“Two more spaceships have just merged with us,” the operations called out with greater surprise in his voice. “We’re linked with three battlestar size spaceships and sensors are registering another magnetic signature nearby.”

“Turn away!” CAPT Larsen yelled out behind the sudden realization that they were in a trap.

“We’re egressing!” The helm officer shouted over the tail end of CAPT Larsen’s command.

CAPT Larsen stopped to look at the monitors with wide-eyed amazement. The static he would have expected to see while the basestar was in null-space was now showing the rotating star-speckled backdrop of real-space.

“We’re tumbling,” the helm officer reported as a matter of function. “Activating stabilizing thrusters.”

It was clear to CAPT Larsen what had happened. He anticipated this event an instant before it happened. The multiple spaceships that merged with them in null-space shorted out the temporal field by initiating their sensor field projectors. This act caused them all to breach null-space as a single event and explode apart into separate segments of that event in that same instant.

“What’s our speed?” CAPT Larsen called out with a sudden awareness of the ramifications of what just happened.

“We’re at zero point one-four LS,” the helm officer reported back.

“Battle stations!” CAPT Larsen yelled out without hesitation. “All available power to main thrusters. Launch a starfighter wing.”

The call to battle stations had numerous automatic effects. One of these effects was that the extension of the sensor field to combat-range. The launching of the starfighter wing, and the activation of the main thrusters were commands that were not automatic with a call to battle stations. Both needed their own verbal commands to be initiated, and each needed specification to the extent of application.

An instant after these commands rang out, the capsule lit up with lights and activity. The crew of the command capsule began speaking instructions into their headphones to individuals in other capsules. Throughout the basestar, robots were preparing the spaceship and the starfighters for combat. Each robot was being operated by a crewman in a space capsule.

“What orders should I give to the starfighter pilots?” The starfighter command officer yelled out.

“Defend the basestar,” CAPT Larsen roared back as though he was telling his starfighter command officer the obvious.

CAPT Larsen came to a quick understanding of his situation when the Goliath came tumbling out of null-space. He suspected that it was three DPG09 Battlestars that shorted out Goliath’s temporal field. And he knew this act divided out the average null-space ingress speed of all four spaceships into equal portions for each. This meant that Goliath’s egress speed out of null-space would be one-quarter of the average speed of all four spaceships. By CAPT Larsen’s estimation Goliath was more than twelve hours away from reaching time-jump speed. The snare had been triggered.

“Admiral, the sensor field is registering three battlestar size spaceships,” the operations officer called out.

“What are they doing?” Larsen questioned as he examined the sensor feed.

The data from Goliath’s sensor field showed the three battlestars were too far out to fire on the Goliath with any hope of hitting it, and they were too far away from each other to produce overlapping fire.

“They appear to be shadowing us,” the operations officer reported. “They’re thrusting along the same general trajectory and at the same speed. All three are just inside our sensor field.”

“Bruzzano,” CAPT Larsen snapped at his starfighter command officer. “Detach a Group of starfighters and send them after those battlestars.”

Because the new robotic docking bays held twice as many starfighters, ADM Chaffin subdivided the Force into Division, Wing, Group and Squadron. A Group consisted of 125 starfighters. A Wing was twice this number and a Division was four times larger than a group, and Squadrons were 1/5th the size of a Group or 25 starfighters, generally. CAPT Larsen was confident that 125 starfighters was more than enough to destroy three battlestars, but this calculus changed five minutes later.

“Sensors registering two more battlestars entering our sensor field from four-o’clock low-low,” the operation officer reported in a burst. “Sensors are also detecting multiple energy bursts, nine so far.”

“Bruzzano, launch another starfighter wing and send a group after those battlestars on our four-o’clock. Com, transmit an encoded situation report to Colossus.”

It was CAPT Larsen’s thinking that one of those energy bursts belonged to Colossus. He also considered the possibility that Colossus was navigating the same type of situation that the Goliath was in now, but this thought did not worry him. He believed this tactic of the DPG09 War-Machine was effective in that it took them out of their battle plan, but he did not see it as a winning strategy. He did not believe these few battlestars and their tiny compliments of starfighters had any chance of destroying his basestar. And he was sure that any engagement by the DPG09 Basestar Orion would lead to its own destruction. Fifteen minutes later his belief was reinforced with positive news.

“We’ve destroyed one of their battlestars,” the senior combat information center officer reported with enthusiasm.

“Confirmed,” Commander Bruzzano supported a couple seconds behind. “Scratch one enemy battlestar and seven starfighters. Two of our starfighters were lost in the battle. The second detached wing is now engaging the two enemy battlestars and fifteen enemy starfighters on our four o’clock low-low.”

Over the next several minutes the confidence of the crew inside CAPT Larsen’s command and control capsule grew as the tally of enemy kills piled up. This feeling of invincibility held over the next 30 minutes even as twelve enemy battlestars moved into Goliath’s sensor field at separate times and from different directions. Except for CAPT Larsen, all were happy that the battle was going their way.

After another 30 minutes of battle, a total of five DPG09 battlestars were destroyed or out of action, and a total of 37 DPG09 starfighters were similarly so disposed. The crew of Goliath’s command and control capsule were ecstatic. They were reducing DPG09 starfighters at a rate of 9 to 1, a DPG09 battlestar was being destroyed every eight minutes and their own basestar had yet to be fired upon. Among the crew, the feeling that they were winning this battle continued to endure even after a coded transmission from Colossus verified that it too was being shadowed by nine battlestars. The crew was buoyed by the fact that the DPG09 battlestars were achieving no military victories there. CAPT Larsen took special note of ADM Chaffin’s order that the Goliath get back up to jump speed quickly.

“Commander, should I launch another wing of starfighters?” CDR Bruzzano queried after a long hesitation to do so.

“No,” CAPT Larsen grumbled out with a shake of his head.

“Sir, with another wing out there we can destroy this enemy battlegroup in no time,” CDR Bruzzano disputed emphatically.

“Negative,” CAPT Larsen admonished in a voice loaded with resolve.

CDR Bruzzano took this answer as the final word on the subject and looked away in dismay. He did not know that CAPT Larsen was pondering a growing concern, where is Basestar Orion? And more importantly, where are its starfighters? He had first entertained the thought that the DPG09 basestar jumped out of the system, and that ADM McCall was using his battlestars to shield its escape. This was the thinking that his crew had latched onto, but CAPT Larsen had a growing fear that this was not true. It began to make greater sense in his mind that Basestar Orion was hiding nearby in the black of space, and its starfighters were coming. With every passing minute this idea made increasingly more sense. ADM Kenneth McCall was sacrificing his pawns to buy time to position his bishops and knights.

“Captain,” CDR Bruzzano called out with a startled inflection and then suddenly stopped short.

CAPT Larsen looked to his starfighter command officer and then followed his gaze up to the holographic monitor. It was clear to see that the remaining eight of the DPG09 battlestars had adjusted the angle of their main thrusters so that it put them on an intercept trajectory with Goliath.

“They’re coming,” CAPT Larsen exclaimed with a hint of worry in his voice.

“It’s suicide,” CDR Bruzzano countered with emphasis. “They’ll all be destroyed before they get halfway here.”

Up until that moment, the DPG09 battlestars were struggling to survive out along the perimeter of Basestar Goliath’s sensor field. The odds against them surviving for long deep inside the glare of Goliath’s sensors was great. The sudden turn onto a trajectory toward Goliath was sure to bring the eight battlestars into the teeth of Goliath’s starfighter reserve. There would be no need for CAPT Larsen to hold half of his starfighters back to protect the basestar. The battlestars are coming to them. CAPT Larsen’s command capsule crew was thrilled by the sight of this assault. Their fixation on it was the reason why CAPT Larsen was first to see the new threats charging into Goliath’s sensor field.

“Launch all starfighters!” CAPT Larsen screamed out across the space capsule.

CDR Bruzzano hesitated just long enough to be amazed by the sight of a large formation of starfighters supported by 13 battlestars. The formation was piercing into the Goliath’s sensor field from 11 o’clock low-low, and it was on an intercept trajectory with Goliath. After his moment of astonishment, CDR Bruzzano relayed CAPT Larsen’s orders into the starfighter intercom mouthpiece.

“Where did they come from?” CDR Bruzzano questioned in a voice of soft amazement.

“Orion,” CAPT Larsen answered with a word. “Reduce power to thrusters by half. Divert all available power to the DED,” he continued a moment later in a loud and commanding voice.

CAPT Larsen knew that the starfighter screen would not be enough to shield Goliath from this attack. The DPG09 starfighters were too numerous and approaching too fast for his own starfighter screen to keep them all out of range. There was also the problem of one-quarter of his starfighter force being dispersed to the outer regions of Goliath’s sensor field and the fact that the DPG09 starfighters were approaching from the front. The closing speed of the DPG09 starfighters was doubled by this angle of attack. It was obvious to everyone in the capsule that the basestar would have to use its onboard armaments to fend off the DPG09 starfighters. In CAPT Larsen’s mind this was the main event.

“Bruzzano,” CAPT Larsen called out to his starfighter command officer. “Tell your starfighters to take out those battlestars.”

“Roger that, Captain,” CDR Bruzzano concurred without thinking.

The entire crew in Goliath’s command and control space capsule shared the same expectation about how this assault was going to playout. Sixty to eighty percent of the DPG09 starfighters were expected to make it through Goliath’s starfighter screen, but only five to ten-percent were expected to come out on a trajectory that would enable them to pass within lethal-range of the basestar. None of the DPG09 battlestars were expected to survive. This thinking was based on the understanding that they were to be too big and clumsy. Unlike starfighters, they were not expected to dodge and dance their way through the coming torrent of fire.

“Adjust trajectory 15 degrees up 30 degrees right,” CAPT Larsen called out the instant the two starfighter forces began firing at each other.

A few seconds later, Basestar Goliath’s main thrusters shut down. The maneuvering thrusters activated a second later and the gigantic vessel began a gradual adjusting of its attitude. When the maneuvering stopped, the main thrusters restarted. As this was happening, the DPG09 assault force and Goliath’s starfighter screen were in the beginning moments of their engagement. The two starfighter forces were crisscrossing at a point that was halfway between the basestar and the outer edge of its sensor field. A stream of 500 DPG09 starfighters and 15 battlestars mushroomed into a force of 823 WDF02 starfighters that were converging from multiple directions. On the 3D graphic monitor in Goliath’s command and control space capsule it looked like a stream of hundreds of yellow microdots on one side and a glob of blue microdots on the other spilling into and through the midst of each other from opposite directions. As they zigzagged through each other’s ranks, dozens of microdots began flashing red and then winking out from the screen across a span of a few seconds. On the far sides, the dots came out of this intersection as a mist of microdots flying out in all directions. The entire event lasted just under 30 seconds.

“Captain, the computer has a new count of 417 starfighters and 8 battlestars, but only 59 are on trajectories that will bring them dangerously close to us.”

This report from the CIC officer surprised CAPT Larsen, and he quickly reacted to it.

“Eight!” CAPT Larsen exclaimed with a mixture of surprise and anger in his voice. “How many of those battlestars are on intercept trajectories?”

“Three,” the CIC officer reported without hesitation.

“How the hell did that happen?” CAPT Larsen yelled out as an exclamation.

CDR Bruzzano was the only person in the capsule who could answer his question, but he was actively communicating with subordinate officers in neighboring capsules. These other officers were tracking and directing Goliath’s starfighter force. CAPT Larsen’s inadvertent outburst would had been ignored were he not in the middle of gathering that very information. After a pause to collect the last bit of data that he was hearing through his earphones, CDR Bruzzano began reciting what he had just heard.

“They used a combination of smoke screens and fighter protection to get through our starfighter screen.”

This report did not make sense to CAPT Larsen. A smoke screen in space was just a burst of static on a sensor field monitor created by a nuclear detonation. The static obscured objects within its intense and massive radiation orb for several seconds. They were commonly used by starfighters to get out from under the targeting of directed energy weapons and excessive numbers of railgun streams. It was always used as a tactical device to provide momentary reprieves from the view of an enemy’s targeting system. How it could be used to protect a battlestar from dozens of railgun streams over a prolonged period was not clear to CAPT Larsen. However, it was not a question to be entertained at that moment. The DPG09 starfighters and battlestars were seconds away from firing their weapons at Goliath. The 3D monitor had CAPT Larsen’s full attention. It was clear by what he was seeing in the display that all the DPG09 starfighters were turning onto trajectories that brought them closes to Goliath as they fell by. It was also clear that most would fall by at distances far to great to make them credible threats to his basestar.

“Shut down main thrusters,” CAPT Larsen commanded in a snap. “Bring the DED online. Divert all available power to weapon systems.”

Goliath was far too massive and cumbersome to evade the coming attack. CAPT Larsen knew that he had to repel this assault with the basestar’s weapon systems. Given the relatively small number of starfighters that were going to pass within lethal-range of his basestar, he felt secure in its capability to fend them off. What he did not know was how well the basestar would cope with the three battlestars that were on trajectories that cut through its lethal-range zone. Popular theory said they were not supposed to get this close, subsequently there were no computer models on the potential outcome of this engagement. What CAPT Larsen did know was that battlestars were exceedingly less nimble and several thousand times larger than the starfighters, and that they were capable of massive amounts of defensive fire.

“Incoming, 11 o’clock high-high!”

“Incoming, 11 o’clock low!”

“Incoming, 10 o’clock high!”

“Incoming, 12 o’clock bottom!”

The command capsule crew began calling out the areas of incoming railgun warheads as they saw them. These were Hail-Mary efforts by DPG09 forces that were outside the combat zone and on trajectories that would not get closer than where they were at that moment. CAPT Larsen gave next to no attention to them. He knew the crew was just reporting what was not being displayed on the main monitor. The omission did not mean they were not being tracked, targeted and destroyed by the Directed Energy Defense System when needed. It was just information CAPT Larsen might need to consider if he decided to alter the basestars trajectory. The real threat to Goliath came several seconds later.

“I have a count of 28 starfighters and 2 battlestars approaching the egg beneath our left rear quarter and another 23 starfighters and 1 battlestar crossing through the top of the egg,” CDR Bruzzano reported without looking up from his screen.

“Direct all railguns onto targets approaching the egg and fire at will,” CAPT Larsen hollered out in haste.

CDR Bruzzano gave a resounding, “firing railguns now,” a couple of seconds after hearing CAPT Larsen’s order.

Goliath’s computer carried out the instruction it was given without error. The closes railguns to a target approaching the egg began rifling out warheads towards it in rapid succession. A moment later these targets began firing back.

“Incoming fire!” Bruzzano yelled out. “I have targets entering the egg.”

The egg was a colloquialism given to an area around a spaceship in battle because of its resemblance to an egg in the holographic monitor. The distance of this area out from Basestar Goliath was based on the flight time of a railgun projectile at a set speed. Relatively speaking, the basestar was a microscopic speck in the center of the rounded bottom of the egg. Where the egg elongated at the top was the direction that the basestar was falling toward. The top of the egg had a greater range because projectiles fired from enemy vessels in this area were on a head-on collision course with its target. The target and the projectile were falling toward each other. Because of this, the closing speeds are faster than from any other direction. A projectile fired toward the basestar through the bottom of the egg had a shorter range because the target is falling away from the projectile. This situation slowed the closing speed. The interior of the egg had three layers, combat zone, close-range and lethal-range.

The outer area of the egg was the combat zone. Any spacecraft entering that area was considered a threat, but a single spacecraft was considered a minor threat. The flight time to the target of a railgun projectile at that distance was between fifteen to eight seconds. In the combat zone, it would take several dozen starfighters grouped together firing in rapid succession at the same section of a basestar to overburden its defense system.

Halfway in from the outer perimeter of the combat zone and the warship was the threshold for close-range. Any spacecraft entering that area was considered a major threat, but ten or less of these spacecrafts was considered a manageable threat. The flight time to the target of a railgun projectile at that distance was between seven to four seconds. Within the close-range zone, it would take a dozen starfighters grouped together firing in rapid succession at the same section of a basestar to overburden its defense system.

Halfway in from close-range was the threshold for lethal-range. Any spacecraft inside this zone was at point blank range, and one starfighter was enough to be considered an unmanageable threat. The flight time to the target of a railgun projectile at that distance was between three to zero seconds. Within lethal-range a single starfighter firing in rapid succession was enough to overburden the defense system of a basestar. All basestar commanders knew that it was vital to destroy starfighters before they moved to within lethal-range. What was not known was how close a battlestar had to get to be too close to a basestar.

Goliath’s onboard computer began sounding the alarm to evade 48 seconds into this engagement. This was the warning that CAPT Larsen and the crew of Goliath dreaded to hear. The message meant that the basestar’s defensive system was being overwhelmed and that evasion was the only option left. It also meant that the basestar’s targeting computer would be rendered nearly useless by defensive movements. The Goliath was two seconds into a yaw maneuver when CAPT Larsen’s greatest fear occurred.

“We’re hit!” A command capsule officer shouted.

“Losing control of helm!” The helm officer shouted.

“We’re hit again!” Another command capsule officer shouted.

“Multiple hits! Goliath is tumbling!” A third command capsule officer shouted.

“All ships functions are off line!” The helm officer shouted.

“Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Abandon ship!” CAPT Marc Larsen shouted into his headphone.

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