Monday, August 30, 2010

Chapter 7 Part Two "Checkmate"

I was awaken by one of the men I recognized from Tasha’s lab. He pulled a large metal sheet off of me and was saying something I couldn’t quite understand. My body was a mess, but somehow I managed to stand with the short Caldari mans help. As soon as I stood though, the room started to spin and I doubled over vomiting on the floor in front of me.

I gave an embarrassed smile to the little man and tried to focus on the hanger around me. The far wall where the raiders had been streaming from was gone. It was replaced by piles of twisted metal. The rubble was burning, charring the buckled wall a deep black. It looked like several of our men were scouring the piles looking for anyone still alive.

I followed the little man back toward the pilots briefing room. His mouth was moving all the way there, but I couldn’t hear a word of it. Once we got there I found a chair and slid into it. There wasn’t one part of my body that wasn’t hurt. I don’t think I have ever had my ass this thoroughly kicked. But I was still alive so I guess that was something.

Looking up I noticed the man was still standing next to me. He started to talk again and I tried really hard to focus on what he was saying. “…then of course it blew up,” was all I managed to make out. I shook my head one more time and pulled him closer to me.

“What the fuck happened?” I was only able to make it a whisper. At least it seemed like a whisper to me.

“That is what I have been explaining over and over. Jaxel and I rigged a heavy missile and launched it in the hanger to kill the raiders.” He seemed quite pleased with himself and I was too hurt to get up and kick him in the face so I let him keep smiling. Was he fucking insane? God I hurt all over. Some of my ribs felt broken and my hands had what looked like second degree burns. At this point I wanted to get up, go get podded, and let these crazy people die.

I got up and limped back outside to look at the damage. I guess it could have been worse. My barricade was still in place about 500 meters from the far wall. The doors that the raiders were using were completely gone now. That only left the door to the lower level that needed to be defended. That wasn’t even going to matter as soon as we started the next part of Rod’s plan. Okay, the crazy scientist had managed to do something good.

My communicator vibrated inside my upper pocket. I jumped in response, burnt hands fumbling with my zipper. I pulled it out and put it against my ear hoping I would be able to hear it. Rod’s voice blared out of the speaker and the room spun a little as I yanked the damn thing away from my head. The message was simple; we were to initiate the second part the plan.

Perfect. That meant that it was time to get everyone out of here. I limped across the hanger to my Manacore. I was pretty excited about getting in my pod and not feeling any pain. I looked over the hull from a distance but didn’t do a full walk around. The thing was brand new anyway, what could go wrong? I never keep a ship long enough for it to need a detailed preflight inspection.

In the distance I could see the twenty shuttles lined up ready to launch. Some of the engineers figured out a way to link the shuttles together so only a few pods were needed to fly all of them. Three men were in charge of seventeen shuttles and their precious cargo. I always thought you could fit a lot into a cargo hold of a shuttle. But my experience was based on sneaking small items in and out of places I didn’t want to be noticed. Turns out you really have to work hard to get a large amount of people into the hold.

I nodded at Paul, one of the shuttle pilots, and then stepped up into my pod. It was cocked on, so most of the checklist was already complete. I opted to attach the three bio-interface circuits first instead of the neuro-interface so I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed with the pods output to finish plugging in. After that was done I slid my head back into the headrest and reached back plugging in the neuro-interface.

As soon as the interface made the connection reality shifted. My body was a distant memory, replaced by the low throb of energy flowing through my circuits. The entire cargo compartment filled my consciousness and I could see each person and ship. Data slipped through my processors telling me the status of our systems, negative threat warnings, and that my body was damaged. I pulled myself to the front of my mind enough to be in control but not have to feel my injuries too much.

With a thought I activated the loading sequence. The pod sealed itself as it was lifted to the top of the stealth bomber. As it was placed in its housing, connecting it to the ship, reality shifted again. The overwhelming power of the capacitor coursed through me. Not small like the one in the pod, but huge to power a covert ops ship. The ship was me, I was the ship.

The systems reached out for more data about our surroundings but they were blocked by the massive walls of the station. It made us angry. We like to be able to see. I struggled for control but it was like fighting with someone who knew every move you were going to make. It was dangerous flying a pod when you were tired or injured. There was always a fight for control and you had to be ready for it. I relaxed, trying to feel my body. Finally, I could feel the burns and the bruises. It hurt but it made me aware enough to yank control back from the pod.

The ships were ready. Now we were waiting for the signal to begin the assault. I am always glad when it is time for action. No turning back now. Either we would get everyone out of here or we wouldn’t, but at least we were doing something. I hated the wait.

At least I didn’t have to worry about Tasha anymore. I hugged her and told her I would meet her soon then sent her out in her pod. One of our scouts podded her as she left the station so I could be sure the raiders didn’t get her. It was a good feeling to be ready to fight and only have to worry about myself now.

After a short wait, Rod broadcast across the fleet communications frequency. In front of me two massive Ammar battle ships exited the docking bay. The Apocalypse and Armageddon were heavily armored and ready to take a pounding from the enemy ships. The pilots were two of the relic hunters that stayed behind to help. Neither had spent a lot of time training for this kind of combat but both had amazing battleship and defense skills. They were defiantly best suited for taking the punishment for as long as possible.

“Okay Lakasha, the exit is clear.”

It was my turn next. I sent the command to power up the warp drive and initiated the exit sequence. Power coursed through all of the systems getting them ready for combat as the ship accelerated out of the docking bay. I shot into space and activated my microwarp drive.

Sensor readings flooded my mind. The Blood Rader frigates littered the exit. The two battle ships were now ten kilometers off blowing the hell out of everything nearby with smart bombs. There were so many raiders swarming that it was hard to tell if we had hurt them too bad or not. But the exit was clear so I transmitted the signal to send out the three.

The Avatars remained in position about 300 kilometers off the station. The fleet of battleships maintained their defensive positions nearby protecting the gigantic structures. Maybe I had managed to shake him up a bit. That was good because we needed to keep the exit clear long enough for the shuttles to make their jump.

I interfaced with the targeting control and estimated a fire solution at the speed of thought. Once the data streamed through my mind I sent the command to the fire control and the ship shook with the thunk of a shrapnel bomb leaving the launcher. It sailed out 30 kilometers and detonated ripping into the hulls of every frigate in a 15 kilometer radius of the explosion. Small explosions lit up space as the group of Raiders who were guarding the exit corridor burst into flames.

The targeting tone was already screaming in my head as multiple Raiders converged on my position. I calculated the jump vector and sighed as the energy from the capacitor slammed into my warp drive for the short jump. In flight I gave Omir a little wave in local with no response. However, as I came out of warp 200 kilometers off the station about 40 frigates altered their course away from the station to converge on my ship.

“Oh, for me Omier, you shouldn’t have,” I said laughing over local as I banked hard right and activated the microwarp drive. I lined up on the first Avatar about 300 kilometers away and accelerated out as fast as I could before any of the frigates could get in targeting range. I didn’t have the shields to fight and the only thing I was armed with was a bomb launcher. There was no way could I deal with them. I was fit for speed and covert ops badassery.

I checked on the status of the other ships as I pulled farther away from my pursuers. The three shuttles made the jump to their safes and the two battleships were moving closer to the station. So far so good. I reached out again noting that three of the enemy interceptors were closing in on me fast. I needed to get good separation if we were going to pull this off.

I focused my concentration on the capacitor and the microwarp drive. I gave the command and shoved all the extra power the shielding could take into the thrusters. The extra energy burned into the circuits and I could feel the heat shields groan and begin to expand. I probably had thirty seconds before I needed to pull back power or risk losing the drive.

At 225 kilometers the interceptors were almost in targeting range. I pushed all the extra power I had into the drive. The ship shuddered and the master heat warning alarm sounded. At 210 kilometers the decision to shut down the dive was made for me as targeting alarms when off in my head.

I cutoff power to the drive and activated my cloak before the interceptors got a solid lock. Pushing over the nose I rolled the ship right and pulled hard into a split-S pointing my ship in the direction I came from. Once the interceptors shot by at an absurd speed I pulled left to arc back toward the Titan. The other ships finally made it to my last known location and spread out in a search pattern to find me.

I quickly checked back on the tactical situation at the station. The battleships were holding their own now that only about a quarter of the ships were left at the station. Between the 40 that chased me and the ones that left in pursuit of the shuttles, they might have a chance at keeping the exit clear long enough for the shuttles to jump. If everything went as planned though, that wouldn’t even be an issue.

“You ready to play Omier?”

“I am going to feast on your blood.”

“Fuck you.”

I worked the ship around the arc maintaining 200 kilometers from the first Titan. When the closest ship to me was 150 kilometers away I sent the command over fleet to begin the hot drop procedures. My overview lit up as three cynos dropped into local. Aligning the ship back to the station safe I dropped my cloak and lit a covert ops cyno.

Every sensor in the ship sent warnings streaming into my brain. I set priority to the overview and watched as a majority of the ships on the station jumped into warp tracking toward the cynos in local. The ships that originally had been looking for me changed their vector back to intercept.

As soon as the enemy ships warped, the rest of the shuttles undocked. The way the rigging worked was the navigation computer on each of the tied ships had to get the coordinates and jump command from the corresponding linked pod. Then each ship had to align, power up, and jump. The whole process was going to take about 45 seconds. It was going to take about 40 seconds for the enemy ships to get to each of those cyno shuttles, blow them to hell, then jump back. It was going to be close.

I held my position as the raiders closed. At 20 seconds two of the cynos dropped from my overview. The shuttles pulled away from the station, flanked by the two battle ships now providing protection. At 25 seconds I extinguished the cyno, and engaged my warp engines hurling me back to the station as enemy targeting computers locked my bomber. In warp I engaged the cloak.

My safe brought me out at 50 kilometers from the undock. The two battleships were in bad shape. The Apocalypse had fire venting from its engines and the Armageddon was listing to the right as it tried to maintain position. Skill alone had to be holding them together at this point. The final cyno flickered out on the overview which told me that all of the hostile ships would be inbound at any moment. This was confirmed when Omier’s laugh sounded across local.

At 35 seconds a Raider Apocalypse warped to 5 kilometers off of our battleships and launched its drones. Our wounded Apocalypse blew apart as a linked beam of light chewed into its structure. The Armageddon engaged the enemy and the space around the two ships seemed to burn. The fight didn’t last long though, ending the same as the first.

Multiple ships blinked back into my overview inbound to the station. I realigned my ship to warp to the rally point and waited. I sat there and watched as the warrior drones tore into each of the shuttles. I changed my overview setting and observed as each shuttle exploded sending piles of biomass streaming into space.

After the last shuttle exploded, I jumped to the rally point. Once there, I waited to see who was left. Two pods and one of the cyno shuttles were all that showed up. We silently aligned to the gate and jumped. Omier blabbed something across local but I decided not to respond. The fight was over and it was time to go home.

There were five enemy frigates on the gate when I came out of warp at five kilometers off. Targeting tones went off immediately. I commanded capacitor into the micorwarp drive and ran for the gate. Two lucky shots tore into my structure and the bomber exploded in space around me. I made the gate in my pod and jumped into the next system.

As soon as I came out of the wormhole I jumped to my 200 kilometer safe and waited to see what other ships made it though. Everyone made it and we aligned and continued to the next system. Once we got there we jumped to my deep safe and waited.

After about fifteen minutes the Raider Apocalypse that had destroyed the shuttles jumped to 5 kilometers off my port side.

“Evening Rod. How is the cargo?”

“Doing fine. Packed in tight back there but everyone is safe”

I let out a breath it felt like I had been holding for hours. It was a good plan, but one with lots of opportunity for disaster. Before we undocked, Harrier had taken his men down into the station where the employees had seen the raiders enter. He infiltrated the docked battleship and killed the crew. Then all of the civilians were loaded into the cargo compartment while Rod and a few others who had been around back in the day piloted the battleship.

The guys who stayed behind defending the hanger had stuffed the dead into the shuttle’s cargo holds. Then the rest was all distraction. It could have failed a million different ways, but it had worked.

“Paul is going to scout for you in his shuttle. Now if you don’t mind I would like to take the quick way home.”

“Not a problem Lakasha, it has been a pleasure.”

Targeting warnings went off in my pod. I took a deep breath and relaxed for a second, relived that this ordeal was over. Tasha never made it easy on me that was for sure. Now it was time to get back to Vit and make a new plan. I had a date with Geklov.

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