Starcorp 2: Hostile Acquisitions

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CHAPTER 24: The Last Engagement

“Real-space, Admiral,” Captain Paul Hoffman reported through his headphone.

CAPT Paul Hoffman was the commanding officer of Basestar Colossus. It was his job to carry out the orders of his commanding officer when it involved the operations of Basestar Colossus. The commanding officer of the WDF02 War-Machine was ADM Craig Chaffin. CAPT Hoffman was situated in his escape pod in the command and control capsule of Basestar Colossus. ADM Chaffin was situated in the neighboring escape pod five feet to the left.

“What’s out there, Castellano?” ADM Chaffin questioned an instant behind CAPT Hoffman’s report.

“No sensor field, no local chatter. We’re in the clear, Admiral,” Lieutenant Castellano, the communication officer, answered back through the inter-space capsule intercom.

“Nielsen, report,” ADM Chaffin commanded without a moment’s thought.

“Goliath is on our six, approximately 6 minutes back and holding,” the operations team senior officer began reporting. “Scanning for DPG09 now.”

Commander Gerard Nielsen was in-charge of the combat information CIC crewmen in the capsule who scanned and processed information about the basestar’s surroundings.

“Shall I extend the sensor field?” CAPT Hoffman queried ADM Chaffin.

“Negative,” ADM Chaffin retorted. “Hold on the sensor field. CIC, find me that war-machine.”

“Got it,” CDR Nielsen called out an instant behind ADM Chaffin’s command. “Eleven o’clock low and moving away, seven-degrees left and expanding, two-degrees down and falling.”

“Distance?” ADM Chaffin quickly questioned.

“Zero point zero-zero-two parsecs,” CDR Nielsen promptly answered.

“Speed?” ADM Chaffin asked an instant later.

“Between zero point four-five and point five LS.”

“Extend sensor field to combat distance. Perry, put us on an intercept course. Communications, connect my station to an external transmitter.”

ADM Chaffin knew that there was no need to engage their thrusters. Colossus and Goliath were already moving far faster than the DPG09 Fleet. Convinced that there was nothing more to do or know, he used the next ten minutes to transmit his ultimatum to DPG09. ADM Chaffin chose to hold transmitting until after he verified his surroundings were secure and that he knew the location of DPG09. The first few minutes out of a time-jump were the most precarious for any spaceship. The information they had about the location they were jumping into was never exact about the size, distance and speed of objects in the vicinity. Only an impression of real-space was perceptible to the sensors in null-space. Large celestial bodies were easy to perceive, but asteroids and spaceships left faint signatures. Careful study was needed to detect these signatures. After gathering this faint information, ADM Chaffin arranged his reentry to real space so that the DPG09 War-Machine was ahead of his basestars.

Well known to starcorp spaceship captains was the tactic of timing their exits from null-space so that they were indistinguishable as two separate egresses. Doing this required multiple spaceships to coordinate their egresses in time and location so that they were simultaneous. If done to perfection, the maneuver had the virtue of hiding the presence of a second spaceship. ADM Chaffin had no doubt that DPG09 detected their time-jump entry, but he also knew that they could not be sure if the jump represented just one of his basestars or both. He expected ADM McCall to worry about a possible second time-jump entry into his vicinity. ADM Chaffin’s calculation was that the DPG09 fleet would keep a large portion of its fleet in reserve during his initial attack. And ADM Chaffin also knew that his deception had a limited lifespan. Therefore, he planned to launch his attack as soon as both basestars were at a convenient proximity to the Orion.

“Admiral,” CAPT Hoffman called out with alarm in his voice and with shock and alarm. “The DPG09 Fleet jumped. The entire fleet just did a time-jump.”

“What the hell…” the ADM called out and then stopped in mid-sentence.

ADM Chaffin took a second to consider the situation before reacting with haste.

“Make preparations for a time-jump,” ADM Chaffin screamed out to his command capsule crew as he activated his ship-to-ship intercom. “Goliath, Jump! Jump! Jump! Find the Orion. Don’t let it get away.”

It took the Colossus and the Goliath just over 15 seconds to shut down their sensor fields and energize their temporal field projectors. There was no need for acceleration, they were already moving well past the minimum speed needed to generate a time-jump bubble. Through a blinding burst of light and a powerful explosion of energy, the Colossus and the Goliath commenced their search for Basestar Orion in the void of null-space.

ADM Chaffin had no idea where the DPG09 Fleet was going or what it was trying to do, but that information was unnecessary. His orders were specific. The Starcorp WDF02 Board of Directors knew they had to do more than just fend off DPG09. It was decided by the Board that any war-machine entering the Sol System with the intention of waging war had to be destroyed to financially cripple its financiers, to prevent its return at a future date and to discourage others from challenging Starcorp WDF02’s contractual hold on the Sol System.

“We’re in null-space, Admiral,” LT Perry reported through his headset microphone.

“CIC, what have you got?” ADM Chaffin questioned with confused impatience.

ADM Chaffin’s question rightly assumed that his team of combat information officers were already searching for the Orion. He also assumed that the magnetic sensors of the Colossus would detect the Orion as soon as they entered null-space. But the immediate response he expected did not come.

“Nielsen, report.” ADM Chaffin commanded.

“Nothing is where it’s supposed to be, Admiral,” CDR Nielsen reported. “It’s as if they disappeared.”

“I’ve got something,” Lieutenant Butler called out before CDR Nielsen finished speaking.

CDR Nielsen immediately turn of his attention to new activity on his computer monitor.

“Is it the Orion?” ADM Chaffin question with impatience.

“It’s high,” CDR Nielsen announced, perplexed. “And there’s something weird about the signal.”

“Weird how?” ADM Chaffin demanded.

“The signal seems to be fluttering or pulsing somehow,” CDR Nielsen fumbled out.

“Multiple signatures,” LT Butler called out in a hurry.

ADM Chaffin instantly concluded that the weird signature was connected to the multiple contacts.

“It has to be them,” ADM Chaffin blurted. “Captain, follow those readings.”

Captain Hoffman relayed that command to LT Perry without a second’s delay.

“Admiral, these signals are very high,” CDR Nielsen advised while he continued to study his computer monitor with a confused expression. “They’re not running.”

ADM Chaffin did not know what to say or how to react to CDR Nielsen’s conclusion. In his mind, pursuing the DPG09 war-machine was not an option. He had to catch the Orion, but the thought that the DPG09 War-Machine was working a strategy gave him cause to question his actions.

“Admiral,” Captain Hoffman exclaimed into ADM Chaffin’s thoughts. “We’re being approached—multiple signatures.”

“Roger that,” CDR Nielsen spoke up with a hint of excitement in his speech. “Seven distinct magnetic signatures, and there are more in the distance.”

“Does one of the signatures belong to the Orion?” ADM Chaffin questioned with urgency.

“Impossible to tell in null-space,” CDR Nielsen returned.

“Is one of the signatures larger than the others?” ADM Chaffin roared.

“Some of the signatures are farther away than others, Admiral,” CDR Nielsen spoke in a strident voice. “We can’t make that determination.”

“We have sync with one of the sensor contacts,” LT Butler yelled out.

ADM Chaffin was now aware that these sensor contacts were moving toward Colossus and not away. He also told him that one of the sensor contacts was inside their temporal time dilation bubble. That was the only way the computer could be sure that their temporal fields were in sync. ADM Chaffin paused to ponder what ADM McCall hoped to accomplish by sending his battlestars at him in null-space. Weapons are useless. Spaceships traversed the void of null-space as little more than energized shadows. They were impervious to physical harm. This realization brought him to the thought that ADM McCall might be planning to sacrifice two of his battlestars to knock Colossus and Goliath out of null-space. That idea was supported by the expectation that Orion was trying to get away.

“The sensor contact has merged into our temporal field,” LT Butler reported through the capsule’s intercom.

ADM Chaffin was about to order his helmsman to move away from the contact when he heard the last report. He now knew that their escape was impossible. By shutting down its temporal field, the sensor contact became a fixture inside Colossus’ time-jump bubble. The DPG09 battlestar was coming along for the ride no matter what he did, and ADM Chaffin was momentarily stunned by this realization.

“Two more sensor contacts are in sync,” LT Butler urgently spoke. “One of the contacts has just merged—both contacts are now merged with us, and another contact has just synced.”

“Admiral!” CAPT Hoffman called in alarm. “Orders?”

ADM Chaffin was disoriented by the speed of its developing event. Only a few seconds had passed from its inception. As the situation quickly progressed, his options seemed to dwindle. He knew there was no escape from the trap that was about to trigger around him, so he decided to trip it himself.

“A fourth contact has merged with us and I’m counting at least three more approaching,” LT Butler rattled out as fast as he could.

“Shut down the temporal projector! Shut it down now!”

LT Perry heard ADM Chaffin’s order resound in the capsule and initiated it without waiting for a relay from CAPT Hoffman. Two seconds later, the static on the external video monitors was replaced with a rotating view of the star speckled black of real-space. The helmsman promptly reported that the computer automatically activated the maneuvering thrusters stabilizing the basestar.

“Speed?” CAPT Hoffman yelled out for a report.

“Zero point zero-two-eight LS,” LT Perry quickly returned.

CAPT Hoffman extrapolated from Perry’s report that Colossus was close to 20 hours away from jump speed. He devoted no time to thinking about what had to be done. With the press of a touch screen button, CAPT Hoffman adjusted his headphone for a ship wide address.

“Battle stations,” CAPT Hoffman blared into his mouthpiece. “CIC, report.”

“Detecting multiple time-jump event energy bursts—eight so far,” CDR Nielsen announced in a rush. “Strong readings, they’re definitely local. The count is now 13—all local.”

ADM Chaffin pressed the touch screen button for Commander Rick Chapman on his intercom display.

“Chapman, launch a division of starfighters,” ADM Chaffin commanded into his microphone. “Nothing gets into our combat zone.”

“Roger that,” came CDR Chapman’s reply.

Without a second’s delay, ADM Chaffin switched his intercom connection to CAPT Hoffman.

“Captain, I want us back up to jump speed ASAP.”

No sooner had ADM Chaffin finished his last order did a hurried report from a CIC team member commence.

“Battlestar, seven o’clock high—just entering our sensor field.”

“Second battlestar,” another CIC officer began reporting. “Entering sensor field at one o’clock low, low.”

Sending starfighters out to the edge of Colossus’ sensor field was not a smart strategy in ADM Chaffin’s mind. He thought this was especially true given the number of battlestars he suspected was out there. By was his calculation, the size of the starfighter force he would need to send out to destroy each battlestar would severely weaken Colossus’ fighter screen. Waiting for the battlestars to come closer seemed a better plan. He knew the battlestars and their starfighter escorts were no threat to Colossus at half the distance out from where they were now. It was also his calculation that time was not on DPG09′s side. Colossus’ main engines were at full thrust and gaining speed with every passing second. ADM Chaffin was confident that the DPG09 War-Machine could not spring its trap on him a second time, and it was his goal to get Colossus back above jump speed as fast as possible.

Colossus was thirty minutes into its race to get back up to time-jump speed when a transmission from Basestar Goliath came in. The transmission was a situation report that detailed its location in space and time, its trajectory, its speed and the DPG09 forces confronting it. After hearing the report, ADM Chaffin understood the extent and the goal of this trap. Getting back up to jump speed became doubly important in ADM Chaffin’s mind. In his thinking it was critical that Colossus reunite with Goliath. He knew that the loss of Goliath would severely weaken his command.

“Castellano, open an encoded outside channel,” ADM Chaffin ordered moments after hearing the report from Goliath.

Seconds after giving that order, ADM Chaffin transmitted his message ordering CAPT Larsen of the Goliath to fend off his attackers as needed and to prioritize the task of getting back up to jump speed quickly. Sending this message was important to ADM Chaffin because he knew Goliath was far closer to jump speed than Colossus. He also wanted CAPT Larsen to understand the urgency. The last thing he wanted Goliath to do was waste time pursuing a bunch of stray battlestars. Recombining his force and going after the Orion was the battle plan that ADM Chaffin was determined to execute just as soon as he got his basestars out of these traps.

“What’s our speed?” ADM Chaffin barked.

“Zero point zero-three-seven LS,” LT Perry reported.

Three quarters of an hour had passed since ADM Chaffin last asked that question. By now, four updated reports from the Goliath told him that the DPG09 battlestars were aggressively pursuing it. That behavior was decidedly different from the way the DPG09 battlestars around Colossus were conducting themselves. The battlestars around Colossus seemed content to just shadow the basestar from afar. ADM Chaffin suspected this dichotomy had everything to do with the missing starfighters of WDF02 Basestar Orion. He had no doubt that Orion was lurking nearby in the black of space, but he was not sure which of his two basestars would be the first to be engaged by Orion’s large force of starfighters. Several minutes later, he got his answer.

“Admiral,” LT Castellano called out with alarm in his voice. “The Goliath is reporting that it’s under attack by a large force of starfighters and battlestars.”

The capsule went silent in response to this report. There was no movement as all waited for a response from ADM Chaffin, but he gave none. ADM Chaffin knew there was no response or action he could take. The Goliath was on its own and the Colossus needed to concentrate on its own situation. After several seconds of silence, CAPT Hoffman ordered his crew to attend to their stations. Several minutes later, LT Castellano transmitted a new report through the capsule’s intercom system.

“Goliath reports 417 starfighters and eight battlestars have made it through its fighter screen. Most are on trajectories wide of Goliath’s combat zone.”

Once again, ADM Chaffin gave no response. The following silence lasted just long enough for the crew to comprehend that there would be no reply. The crew went back to the work of tracking the threats around them and positioning their starfighters to engage potential attacks. Work continued until Castellano called out another report.

“The Goliath is engaging with its onboard weapons to repel 28 starfighters and three battlestars that have breached its combat perimeter.”

The command capsule crew of Basestar Colossus stopped long enough to listen to the report, then went back to the work at hand. They were all eager to hear ADM Chaffin’s thoughts on the battle with Goliath, but by now they were accustomed to his stoic silence. Half of the crew in the capsule were ill placed to see the Admiral and note his pondering as he stared into space. ADM Chaffin knew there was nothing to look at or study as he waited for the outcome of Goliath’s battle with the Orion starfighters. Twelve minutes had passed when LT Castellano broke into the capsule’s intercom and began to speak with a tremor in his voice.

“Admiral, we’ve just received a message from the commanding officer of Basestar Goliath’s 2nd Wing 1st Division Starfighter Force.”

ADM Chaffin heard the dread in LT Castellano’s voice and surmised that a message from a Goliath wing commander would not be good news. He feared to hear what the wing commander had to say. For the first time, he seriously entertained the possibility that his command might end in failure and the thought terrified him. After taking a deep composing breath, ADM Chaffin acknowledge the statement from LT Castellano with the words, “let’s hear it.”

With a press of a touch screen button, LT Castellano started the playback of the recorded message through half a dozen speakers around the capsule.

“This is Lieutenant Commander Brent Hayward, Basestar Goliath Wing Commander, 2nd Wing 1st Division Starfighter Force speaking to Basestar Colossus. Be advised, WDF02 Basestar Goliath has been destroyed. I repeat, WDF02 Basestar Goliath has been destroyed. The surviving members of Basestar Goliath’s starfighter force—779 strong—are in route to your location—ETA 13 hours—requesting orders and assistance if possible. I repeat, WDF02 Basestar Goliath has been destroyed. The surviving 779 members of Basestar Goliath’s starfighter force are in route to your location. Our ETA is 13 hours—requesting orders and assistance. This is Lieutenant Commander Brent Hayward, out.”

The occupants of Basestar Colossus’ command capsule fell into a stunned silence. Dozens of nervous eyes searched the room for a pair of eyes that were less nervous than their own. CAPT Hoffman looked across to ADM Chaffin and held his gaze as he waited for a response. After a long pause, ADM Chaffin activated his microphone.

“Castellano, send a message to Lieutenant Commander Hayward that he and his command are to rally to me at his best possible speed. And advise him that we can give no assistance at this time.”

After LT Castellano acknowledged the order, ADM Chaffin turned his attention to CAPT Hoffman.

“Captain, ready your basestar for battle.”

This was a warning and not a command. ADM Chaffin knew that the Orion and its starfighters were coming for the Colossus and that they were coming at their best possible speed. It made perfect sense that ADM McCall would want to get to the Colossus while it was below jump speed. By ADM Chaffin’s estimation, he was 15 to 16 hours out from a time-jump and six to eight hours out from an engagement with Orion and its starfighters. At that he thoughtfully weighed the pluses and minuses of fight or flight.

ADM Chaffin knew that the 779 starfighters of the Goliath were not going to arrive in time to help Colossus in the initial battle with the Orion’s starfighters. He also knew that Colossus could not hide and wait with 19 DPG09 battlestars shadowing it. ADM Chaffin knew his options were simple: do nothing and stay the course or destroy those 19 battlestars and their starfighter escorts. The latter had the risk of significantly weakening Colossus’ starfighter force. The former guaranteed that the Colossus would do battle with those same 19 battlestars and their escorts while simultaneously fending off the Orion’s starfighters. It took ADM Chaffin less than a minute to decide on a course of action.

“Captain, reduce sensor field by 40% and direct the excess power to the main engines. Commander Konoval, launch all starfighters. Destroy those battlestars and their escorts. Defending the Colossus and destroying those vessels are one and the same. Do you understand?”

“Roger that, Admiral,” CDR Konoval returned without hesitation.

CDR Oleg Konoval was the commanding officer of the Colossus starfighter force and had been impatiently waiting for permission to go after these battlestars and their escorts. Why this needed to be done was not a thought he entertained. He had the forces to overwhelm the DPG09 battlestars and their support starfighters, and it galled him that they were shadowing the Colossus. His first stream of commands was all lined up in CDR Konoval’s thoughts and he began blaring them out an instant after he acknowledged the order from the Admiral. Thirty minutes later, all 19 DPG09 battlestars were fighting to survive.

“Konoval, report,” ADM Chaffin beckoned impatiently.

Ninety minutes had passed since the start of fighting between the starfighters of Basestar Colossus and the DPG09 battlestars that were shadowing it. This was ADM Chaffin’s seventh request for a progress report. He paid no attention to the casualties incurred in these engagements. His only concern was the tally of battlestars destroyed. The slow pace of the battle was making him increasingly uneasy.

“Four battlestars have been destroyed,” CDR Konoval reported back to ADM Chaffin.

“That’s what you said ten minutes ago,” ADM Chaffin argued.

CDR Konoval was annoyed by the rebuke. He thought that the act of directing the battle would be easier if ADM Chaffin would just stop demanding updates on his progress.

“The battlestars are deliberately staying outside of our sensor field,” CDR Konoval explained with a hint of exasperation in his voice. “They have a situational awareness advantage over our starfighters out there. We’re losing five starfighters to every one of theirs.”

“I don’t care about starfighters, Commander,” ADM Chaffin fumed. “Getting rid of the starfighters will be easy after you destroy the battlestars.”

CDR Konoval was concerned for his starfighter pilots. ADM Chaffin’s declaration that he did not care about the starfighters brought his temper to the fore.

“With all due respect, Admiral,” CDR Konoval growled into his microphone. “We could lose half our starfighter force pursuing those battlestars outside of our sensor field. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“The DPG09 battlestars have star-drives,” CAPT Hoffman quickly interceded, diffusing the quarrel. “When activated, even at minimum power, they will register in null-space. They’re beacons for the Orion and its escort of battlestars. Right now, we need to hide, and we can’t do that with those battlestars shadowing us.”

That explanation instantly made sense to CDR Konoval, but he still took a moment to be amazed by its logic. The Orion was sure to collect its force of starfighters and then use its star-drive to ferry them to the Colossus. By doing that, the Orion and its docking bay full of starfighters were sure to arrive long before the Goliath’s starfighters. Hiding would likely delay the coming battle long enough for the 779 starfighters from the Goliath to come to their aid.

“Concentrate on the battlestars,” ADM Chaffin insisted with finality.

“Yes sir,” CDR Konoval concurred without a hint of resistance.

ADM Chaffin was anticipating that the starfighter escorts of the battlestars would eventually run out of ammunition. Docking the starfighters to a battlestar in the middle of combat was thought to be impractical, and attempting it was sure to be dangerous for the battlestar and the starfighter. By ADM Chaffin’s calculation, pressing the attack on the battlestars would ultimately deplete the starfighters weapon stores. The crew of the Colossus was five hours into the battle when they began to see visible evidence of the Admiral’s calculations.

“DPG09 starfighter loses are increasing,” CDR Konoval blurted out through the command capsule’s speakers. “I think they’re running out of ammunition.”

“Where are we with the battlestars?” ADM Chaffin questioned in a commanding tone.

“They’re down to five battlestars,” CDR Konoval quickly returned with an inflection of satisfaction.

“I need those battlestars destroyed,” ADM Chaffin roared back through the capsule speakers. “You’ve got one hour, Commander. Get it done!”

It was ADM Chaffin’s estimation that the Orion could arrive in another hour at the earliest, but he expected its arrival within the next two to three hours. Nonetheless, he preferred not to take a risk on his expectation. Pushing his starfighter force commander to hurry with the destruction of the battlestars shadowing them was the only thing he could do to try to eliminate the risk. Repeated inquiries and pushing over the next hour brought ADM Chaffin and his command to the precipice of his goal.

“Admiral, they’re down to one battlestar and a handful of starfighters,” CDR Konoval declared somberly. “They’re far out from us, but they still won’t leave.”

“They’re trying to stay within visual range,” CAPT Hoffman responded.

“I know, but it’s useless,” CDR Konoval returned with a shake of his head. “I have 200 starfighters pursuing them. They won’t last another ten minutes.”

ADM Chaffin had no other comment to input. He was waiting for the moment when he could change the trajectory of the Colossus, pull its sensor field back to minimum range and then shut down the main engines. He knew every passing minute would greatly expand the area of space that the Colossus could hide in. After 20 minutes, the Orion basestar’s chances of egressing from null-space close enough to detect the Colossus with magnetic sensors would be astronomical. Visually detecting the basestar would be their only option and doing that would be tantamount to discerning a black marble atop a barge full of coal. In ADM Chaffin’s mind, he was about thirty minutes away from escaping the trap he had stumbled into.

“Energy burst!” A CIC team crewman yelled out.

ADM Chaffin, startled by the report, quickly turned his attention to the 3D monitor at the center of the capsule.

“It’s definitely a time-jump event and it’s close,” the CIC crewman continued.

“Where is it?” CAPT Hoffman called out as he searched the monitor.

“It originated off our seven o’clock high,” the CIC crewman answered. “I’m still trying to fix its location.”

“What’s our starfighter status?” ADM Chaffin questioned his starfighter commanding officer.

“We have 667 starfighters,” CDR Konoval recited from memory. “About 300 of them are scattered out past our sensor field.

“Pull all starfighters back to defensive stations around Colossus,” ADM Chaffin commanded with a hint of desperation in his voice. “Extend sensor field out to combat distance.”

It was nearly ten minutes later when CIC found a visual of Basestar Orion. It was far outside of Colossus’ sensor field, and there was no glow of thrusters to highlight its location. It was only by the reflection of starlight that it was optically captured.

“It’s moving fast,” a CIC crewman reported. “I estimate that it’s falling at four times our speed, and it looks to be on a trajectory that’s going to cut across ours.”

By now, the Colossus was moving through space at 0.132 of light speed and accelerating. ADM Chaffin gave no thought to changing the trajectory of the Colossus at that moment. He knew the drastic course correction needed to effectively elude the coming crisscross would produce a significant reduction in their speed, and that was the last thing he wanted to happen. It was this preference that set his mind to the task of winning the battle to come.

Basestar Orion’s speed was the only advantage it had over Colossus. ADM Chaffin expected the Orion to be moving too fast for his own starfighters to intercept it. By his calculation, that was both bad and good news. The bad news was that the Orion was invulnerable to attack by the starfighters of the Colossus because of its speed. The good news was that the massive sensor field of the Orion would not be a factor in the coming engagement. CIC estimated that Orion’s sensor field would be in play for little more than a minute—the same amount of time calculated for it to wash over the Colossus. The minimal presence of Orion’s sensor field meant that the charge of its starfighters would have to be done by dead reckoning. Blind steering would stay in effect until the starfighters were close enough to envelope the Colossus with their own tiny sensor fields. ADM Chaffin calculated the prolonged blindness of the DPG09 starfighters greatly enhanced Colossus’ chance of surviving the coming attack, battle and war.

ADM Chaffin counted on diminishing returns for his salvation. The initial attack of the DPG09 starfighters was going to be costly for them, and he had no doubt that all future attacks, if any, would have a decreased chance for success. The only thing that could increase their chance for success would be if Basestar Orion slowed to fix its sensor field over the battle space, so ADM Chaffin surmised that ADM McCall would never do that because that would make Orion a target, forcing a significant portion of its smaller starfighter force to defend it. ADM Chaffin concluded that the starfighter force attacking the Colossus was doomed to get smaller and smaller with each new engagement. And with each attempt the arrival time of Goliath’s 779 starfighters would be closer.

The big concern of ADM Chaffin now was that the additional DPG09 battlestars were sure to arrive before the Goliath starfighters. So, it was imperative to him that Colossus get back up to jump speed, and this it was sure to do if it survived this initial attack of the Orion starfighters. By ADM Chaffin’s assessment, the coming engagement would be the most crucial battle and the defining moment of this war. He had no doubt that the 779 starfighters of the Goliath would shift this battle decidedly in his favor. They just needed to survive the first attack—seven minutes later the battle started.

“Sensor field,” CDR Nielsen called out. “The Orion has eyes on us.”

No one in the capsule was surprised to hear that Orion’s sensor field enveloped them first. Unlike the Colossus, the DPG09 basestar was falling through space with its thruster engines off. The difference gave the Orion a larger reservoir of power to apply to its sensor field projector.

“Sensor contact,” a CIC team crewman called out. “Speed zero point three seven LS. It’s “definitely” the Orion. It’s crossing in front of us and it will fall off our screens in 50 seconds at my mark…Mark.”

ADM Chaffin took in this report in silent indifference. The Orion basestar was a future target, not the immediate threat. The report that ADM Chaffin was waiting to hear came several seconds later.

“Starfighters!”

ADM Chaffin ignored the report. Instead, he quickly put on his 3D helmet so he could see what the CIC crewmen were looking at. With a point and a few gestures of his hands, he isolated and zoomed in on a graphic display of the Orion. He could see digital representations of starfighters spewing out from the basestar. He could see the computer tally of their numbers rapidly going up. When the last starfighter left the basestar the tally stopped on a number that CDR Nielsen called out.

“Three-hundred and forty-one… They’re on an intercept trajectory along a broad front.”

This made perfect sense to ADM Chaffin. The sphere of Orion’s sensor field was doomed to fall away from the engagement long before the starfighters moved into the combat zone of Colossus, forcing the DPG09 starfighters to fly in blind. Subsequently, ADM McCall had no choice but to spread his starfighters out into a net large enough to catch the Colossus no matter what alterations it made in its trajectory. In ADM Chaffin’s mind, this action was tactically wise and militarily weak. He knew that a thick concentration of starfighters charging toward the Colossus was DPG09’s only chance for success. This thin screen of starfighters is just what ADM Chaffin wanted to see.

“Orion’s sensor field has passed,” CDR Nielsen reported through the intercom. “Visual tracking shows the basestar continuing to fall away on the same trajectory.”

“Enemy starfighters eleven minutes out from our combat zone,” CDR Nielsen announced through the capsule’s intercom.

“Castellano,” ADM Chaffin called out through the intercom. “Connect me to all starfighters.”

LT Castellano acknowledged the order with a quick “copy” as he executed it with a few taps to his touch screen.

“You’re connected, Admiral,” LT Castellano reported a second later.

ADM Chaffin took a moment to organize his thoughts, and then he activated his headset microphone.

“This is Admiral Chaffin. Three hundred and forty-one starfighters of the Orion Basestar are coming toward us. Their goal is to destroy Colossus, but they will fail. They will fail because we outnumber them in starfighters two to one. They will fail because we can see more and further than they can. Colossus will survive this engagement, but we need to do more than survive. We must take advantage of this opportunity. Every enemy starfighter that you do not destroy in this engagement will form up with another group of battlestars that I believe are coming. Time is not on our side, but it’s not on theirs either. Seven-hundred and seventy-nine starfighters of the Goliath are on their way to us. The enemy must attack now while Colossus is still below jump speed. This is their do or die moment and our chance to inflict a crippling blow that will end any hope they have of winning this war. Starfighter pilots of WDF02 Basestar Colossus, this is your moment. This is the engagement that wins the war. Do your worst. Admiral Chaffin, over and out.”

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