CHAPTER 23: Basestar Orion
“We have real-space,” the helm officer Basestar Orion called out through his headset microphone.
ADM Kenneth McCall’s query resonated in the headphones of his command capsule crew. An instant after he spoke, the senior Combat Information Center officer (CIC) reported that the Orion was not enveloped by a sensor field and that there was no sight or sound of another spaceship in the immediate expanse of space. This was the report that ADM McCall wanted to hear. WDF02’s pursuit of DPG09 into null-space was more than anticipated; it was hoped for. The success of his plan to win this war was dependent upon it.
ADM McCall knew that he would likely not win in a head-on battle with the WDF02 War-Machine. Because of this belief, he made it his plan to keep the Orion out of the fight for as long as possible. His starfighters and battlestars were to engage with the WDF02 space forces. A crucial part of this plan was the need to exit from null-space undetected. ADM McCall knew that if Basestars Colossus or Goliath located the Orion in null-space, they would follow or drag it into real-space. By slipping out of null-space undetected ADM McCall was able to conceal his battlestar in the black of real-space.
Keeping the two WDF02 basestars in the same, relatively, small area of space was another crucial part of ADM McCall’s plan. After leading the two WDF02 basestars into null-space, ADM McCall used electromagnetic pulses to lure them toward his battlestars and to stop them from wandering too far afield in time and space. This was the riskiest part of the plan. ADM McCall could not be sure that Colossus and Goliath would go for this bait. In null-space, the magnetic signature of a basestar and an electromagnetic pulse had decidedly different idiosyncrasies. The only thing that this part of the plan had going for it was the fact that any magnetic signature in null-space had to be from a spaceship. What was working against this part of the plan was time.
Initiating electromagnetic pulses in null-space was thought to be the equivalent of ringing a hand bell inside a three-dimensional maze 100 yards cubed with thickly padded walls, ceilings and floors. The sound was sure not to travel far, and the direction it was traveling from was sure to be tricky to determine. Basestar Orion did not have an unlimited amount of time to wait for Colossus and Goliath to take the bait, and it had no way of knowing that they did take the bait. What the crew of the Orion did know was that the longer they stayed in null-space the greater the likelihood they would be detected. It was for these reasons that a set time of 83 seconds was given for all of DPG09’s warships to return to real-space. Colossus and Goliath had to be found and latched onto by one or more of ADM McCall’s battlestars within that time. If one or both got away, then the trap would be partially or fully inoperable.
ADM McCall’s plan had the misfortune of never have been tried before. No one had ever thought to try and signal their location in the infinity of null-time and space, but this disinterest made it attractive to ADM McCall. The calculation that powerful electromagnetic pulses would register in the sensors of most spaceships across a large spectrum of time dilations within an area half as large as the Sol star system was without dispute. The worry for ADM McCall was the question, how will Colossus and Goliath react?
“What’s our time shift?” ADM McCall queried into his headset.
“We are one-eighth of a parsec and ten days, two hours and 33 minutes from where we were prior to the jump,” the communication officer reported back through ADM McCall’s earphones.
This was very good news in ADM McCall’s ears. It was his plan that the time-jumps of his fleet should be ten days long in real-time. To hit this real-space time span, an 83 seconds null-space jump was calculated for a set point on the time dilation spectrum. It was estimated that this calculation was accurate within several hundred milliseconds either way. A plus or minus of five hours was factored in to his ten-day plan to give it its best chance for success. Despite these calculations and estimations, there was still a 50/50 probability of a hit or miss. This report from the communications officer told him that the Orion was where it needed to be in time and space. Now ADM McCall could do nothing but hope that the other members of his fleet were the same.
“We’ve just passed through an energy burst,” the senior CIC officer announced.
There was a moment of silence behind this report. ADM McCall and CAPT Smith were waiting on the analysis to follow.
“The energy burst has a time-jump signature,” the CIC officer continued after a pause. “Localizing area of origin now.”
It took nearly a minute for the CIC officer come back with an area of origin. Over that span of time, seven more time-jump bursts washed over Orion. The following five minutes produced an additional twelve energy bursts that washed over the Orion. At the end of that time, ADM McCall got the report that he was most eager to hear.
“Incoming audio message, Admiral,” the communications officer announced through his microphone. “It’s from the Kalomo.”
“Let’s hear it,” ADM McCall impatiently returned.
The communications officer wasted no time in directing the transmission into the headsets of the entire command capsule crew.
“This is the Kalomo plus three, we have wrangled Basestar Colossus out of null-space. Be advised, Battlestars Kalomo, Camden, Millau, and Pavnar, are engaged with WDF02 Basestar Colossus in real-space.”
“Get me a fix on that transmission,” ADM McCall commanded to his team of CIC officers.
The response to that command was already in the works and was reported to ADM McCall a few seconds later. The location of the Kalomo put it at a distance that would take Orion’s starfighters roughly 180 minutes to travel.
“Shall I launch the starfighters,” CAPT Smith quickly queried.
“No. Not yet,” ADM McCall pondered out as he studied the 3D graphic monitor at the center of the capsule.
ADM McCall knew that every minute he delayed the launch of his starfighters added another minute to their transit to the Colossus, but it was a sacrifice he felt he needed to make. Reports of more energy bursts in the near expanse continued to come in. It was still possible for Goliath to egress from null-space closer to Orion. It took a couple of minutes of waiting to find out.
“This is Battlestar Patinkin plus two, we are engaged with Basestar Goliath. I repeat, the Patinkin, the Albaneto and the Sheridan are engaged with Basestar Goliath.”
“How long to starfighter intercept,” ADM McCall commenced to demand before the message completed.
“Between 90 and 100 minutes if we launch now, Admiral,” a CIC officer reported back without delay.
“Captain Smith,” ADM McCall addressed without delay. “Launch all starfighters to the Patinkin at best possible speed. Their orders are to engage and destroy Basestar Goliath.”
Within a handful of seconds after this order was given, Basestar Orion began using its maneuvering thrusters to adjust its attitude as it fell through space. The main engines were silent as it did this. A dozen seconds later, the maneuvering stopped and the two large docking bay doors of the basestar began sliding open. The dim lighting within the docking bay appeared in the black of space like sliding doors fixed into the fabric of the universe. Halfway into the opening, two streams of starfighters began spewing out of Orion. Magnetic repulsion was used to accelerate the starfighters far quicker than their engines could. It took just under a quarter of a minute for 500 starfighters to be rifled out the basestar like projectiles from a railgun. The starfighters engines were off so that all available energy in the spacecrafts could be used to sustain their structural integrities and cockpit zero-gravity bubbles. When the last starfighter was gone from the basestar, the docking bay doors reversed direction and began closing before they had finished fully opening. When all was done, Basestar Orion went back to its dark silent fall through the black of space.
Inside Basestar Orion, all eyes and ears were attentive to the sights and sounds in the space around it. ADM McCall had no intention of involving his basestar in the two battles happening in the near expanse of space. To help facilitate his plan, their sensor field was extended to the minimum safe distance. The main engines were off so that their glow would not give away the basestar’s location. For the next three hours, Basestar Orion and its crew were silent spectators to the two battles being waged in the far expanse. At the end of this time, the first audio transmission directed at Basestar Orion came in.
“This is Commander Masamune, senior commander of the Orion Starfighter Force, reporting to Basestar Orion. Basestar Goliath is destroyed. I repeat, WDF02 Basestar Goliath is destroyed. Losses have reduced my force to 341 starfighters. Nineteen battlestars were destroyed or put out of action in the battle. Nine battlestars are serviceable. Eight battlestars are in route to support the Kalomo battlegroup. Battlestar Casius is onsite here collecting survivors. All enemy starfighters have left the vicinity and appear to be on trajectories for the Colossus. Local space is secure. This is Commander Masamune reporting that the 341 starfighters under my command are ready for pickup. Weapons stores are low. Pickup, refit and transportation to the Kalomo Battlegroup needed ASAP.”
A few minutes after receiving this transmission, Basestar Orion was in null-space and on course to rendezvous with its far-flung starfighter force. The Orion had no need for additional acceleration. The basestar sustained its time-jump-speed when it last egressed from null-space. It was a deliberate act for just this occasion. Retrieving its starfighters and time-jumping them to the next battlefront expeditiously was an essential part of ADM McCall’s plan. He slowed the basestar only as much as needed and instructed his starfighter force to race up to him. Because of his forethought, the collection of starfighters took just under one hour to complete. When this was finished, the Orion began thrusting up for another time-jump. Fifteen minutes later, the Orion was in null-space.
Basestar Orion egressed just outside the sensor field of Colossus after four seconds in null-space, 20 minutes in real-space time. The energy burst produced by the egress exposed its presence, but it was the speed and trajectory of the basestar that kept it out of harms way for the moment. The eight battlestars that participated in the destruction of the Goliath were still accelerating up to jump speed and were not expected to arrive to this location for another two hours.
The Orion entered the vicinity on a trajectory that had it falling out ahead of the Colossus. The speed of its fall had it moving faster than the Colossus by a quarter more speed. The battle between the Kalomo Battlegroup and the Colossus was over. Only one battlestar, the Fitzroy, remained intact, and it was keeping its distance far outside of Colossus’ sensor field. Basestar Orion was still rearming starfighters when it propelled 268 of them at the Colossus. It took another 27 minutes to complete the rearming of the remaining 73 starfighters and then propel them toward the Colossus. Across the whole of this time, the Orion maintained a moderate decelerating thrust. The purpose of this gradual slowing was to keep the DPG09 starfighters close enough for a short transit to Colossus and to keep the WDF02 starfighters far away from Basestar Orion.
When all the starfighters were away and free to do battle, the Orion turned from the conflict and ignited its main engines to full thrust. Gradually the basestar began to expand the distance between itself and the battle waging at its rear. All that could be seen of the battle on a video monitor was a thousand of dots of light that continuously winked on and off every few seconds. In ten-minutes time it took double the magnification to maintain the same image of the battle. As the Orion continued to fall away, ADM McCall watched and listened as 345 DPG09 starfighters and Battlestar Fitzroy harried WDF02 Basestar Colossus.