Resolution

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DervMan
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Resolution

Post by DervMan » Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:11 pm

I don't want to think about how long it's taken to get Resolution in its current state.

This is the third part of the Hamilton series of short stories. I guess, it's designed to be read after Exeter and Hiverspace.

Feedback - especially if you didn't like it - is welcome!
Last edited by DervMan on Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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DervMan
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Re: Resolution

Post by DervMan » Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:16 pm

Sword of the Stars
-Resolution-

SFS Southampton 003 re-emerged into real space half way between the second and third planets in the Dorasi system. The blast shield for the bridge viewfinder started to retract up into the armour plating, bathing the bridge crew in the amber glow from the red giant star. The ship was pointing towards the third planet, glowing emerald green against the backdrop of black space.

“Sensors are back on line, sir.” Tactical Officer Wynters reported calmly after a moment, her profile silhouetted by the light the viewfinder setting her copper hair alight. “Adjusting for the orbit, sir.”

“On screen.” Captain Hamilton ordered. He adjusted the viewfinder then switched to show the sensor display. A single pulsing green dot in the centre was joined by the graphical representation of a nearby asteroid field as the sensor array updated.

“Very little on scope, sir.” Wynters confirmed. The SolForce Cruiser was now pointing roughly toward the third planet, accelerating to an orbit speed of the star. There was no Birmingham Refinery.

“Hmm.” The Captain leant back in the command chair, his console flashing between green and purple. He pushed a button. “Engineering. What’s the reactor status?”

“All needles in the green, Captain, reactors now at six percent.” The Engineering Officer reported over the intercom system. “Fuel reserve down to thirty percent. We have inadequate range to reach any other system via Nodespace sir.”

“Noted, Engineering; thank you.” Captain Hamilton pushed another button on the command console. “Officer Wynters, go active with the sensors.” He ordered tersely. “We may as well have a good look around. We’re not going anywhere.”

“Aye aye sir, going active.” The Tactical Officer pushed a couple of buttons on her console and the viewfinder refreshed to show a myriad new contacts, mostly asteroids.

“Sir, we are receiving a subspace transmission.” The Communications Officer reported. “Showing as a low priority dossier.”

“Very good.” The Captain looked down at the console. The subspace communications array had been damaged during the last battle; its data transmission rate was very low. Promising to read the document later, he turned to his console.

“Sir I am also picking up a residual trail of drive particles.” Officer Wynters said interrupting his thoughts.

“Already?” Hamilton exclaimed with a slight raised brow. “We must be sitting right on top of it for the particle sniffer to spot it.”

“Yes sir. Showing on screen now.” After a moment the viewfinder updated to show a faint green trail that led to a parallel Node Point. “Something left the system via Node Space-”

“Sir, I have another data signal. The header priority shows code five. Text only.” The Communications Officer interrupted. “The signal is weak, sir, data transmission is sluggish.”

“Patch it through to this console.” The Captain said, leaning forward in his command chair.

“Aye aye sir.” The Communications Officer pushed another button on her console. The Captain’s console illuminated and the screen slowly filled with green text.

The Captain looked at his console for a moment in silence.

“Helm, set course for position seven three four, one niner niner relative to this Node Point.” Hamilton said, breaking the silence. “Manoeuvring thrusters only: take it dead slow.”

“Aye aye sir.” The ensign replied. “Course laid in, dead slow. Bringing us in quietly.”
The Cruiser started turning, the third planet sweeping out of view. “Sir?” Officer Wynters whispered, leaning forwards at her station. It was not in her nature to question the Captain.

“It’s a series of birthdays. The other Southampton is still in the system.” The Captain turned to face his Tactical Officer. “She must be hidden.”

“Hidden, sir? How can you hide something that big in an empty system?” Wynters questioned. The Southampton’s advanced sensor array covered many millions of cubic kilometres of essentially nothing.

“Where’d you hide a Destroyer or a hidden bug, Wynters?” The Captain allowed himself a sly smile.

“You find a big rock, sir. Or you use asteroid dust, or... Sir, I take your point.” Wynters returned to her console, her face illuminated by its green and purple glow. “These crates are not exactly designed for stealth, sir.”

“Precisely that.” The Captain replied. “So I daresay she won’t be too hard to find. Helm, time to destination?” Hamilton said, giving Wynters another smile.

“Eighteen minutes at current velocity, sir.” The ensign replied. “Running quietly, sir.”

“Officer Wynters, re-calibrate the sensors to differentiate between the different iron-nickel ores.” Captain Hamilton ordered.

“Aye aye, sir.” Wynters’ hands pressed several buttons on her console. “Reprogramming complete.” She reported, turning to face the Captain for a moment. After catching his glance, Wynters returned to her console and continued her duties.

“Very good.” The Captain said in a matter of fact voice.

“Sir, the data signal has cleaned up. The source must be close.” Communications reported.

“That’s interesting Captain.” Officer Wynters said. “The data signal appears to be being relayed to us via a debris field.” She pushed another button on her console, “Communications, can you provide a precise bearing to the source of the primary signal?”

“Working. There are many signal echoes; it will take some time to complete the process.” The Officer turned back to the console. “That’s unusual.” She said. “I have detected burst of static in a SolForce frequency. There appears to be no radio transmission behind the static.”

“Sensors are clean, Captain.” Wynters added. “There’s nothing else out there.”

“That we can detect. Balfour, where are you? I don’t like this.” Hamilton replied, checking his console again. “Sometimes we need to listen for nothing.”

“There it goes again, sir.” Communications said. “They’re broadcasting burst transmissions. It’s old Morse code.”

“On speaker.” Hamilton said, listening to the bursts of white noise. “R, e, s, space, m, y, space, k - Communications, have you the rest of the transmission?”

“Yes sir. In Morse, it’s w, h, e.” The SolForce officer tapped the console once more. “In full it reads, “where’s my kipper,” sir.” She said, bemused.

“Balfour.” The Captain said grinning to himself. “She must be close.”

“Sir, I believe the signal is being relayed via several points.” Wynters reported. “TacCom is unable to determine a source. It could be a trap.” She added with a note of caution.

“Helm, time to asteroid interception?”

“Fourteen minutes, thirty seconds sir.”

“Shall I return a signal, Captain?” The Communications Officer asked, his hand poised over the console.

“I’m sure she can see us, there’s no point.” Hamilton replied. He pushed a button on his console and the viewfinder changed to show the outside again.

“Sir, I’ve analysed the constitution of the target asteroid. The mass spectrometer does show an unusually high percentage of water. Hmm. Wait one.” Officer Wynters pointed to the viewfinder. “There, sir. We have them.”

“Tactical, you have good eyes.” Hamilton said. Better than his, at any rate.

“Not exactly sir.” Wynters broke into a smile. “She’s inside the asteroid. And she’s not entirely intact.”

“Inside?”

“Yes sir. If I may?” Officer Wynters changed the main viewfinder to show a magnified image of the asteroid. “The asteroid has an unusual shape with a near-hollow interior. TacCom’s interpretation of the mass spectrometer readings assumed the asteroid is whole. That lowers the assumed density and increases the calculated ratio of ice to rock.” She sounded pleased with herself.

“The Node Ring is missing.” The Captain remarked, studying his console. “That’s why she’s still here, then.” Hamilton pushed his fingertip onto the console screen, highlighting the sensor image of the Southampton.

“I am only detecting the SolForce data transmission, sir.” The Communications Officer said. “There is no IFF beacon.”

“It could still be a trap then. Good job we are not at a state of war I suppose.” Hamilton smiled to himself. SolForce war time policy was that any ship not responding with the correct IFF would be destroyed. “Tactical, what condition is the ship in?” Hamilton asked.

“Scanning sir.” Wynters” console display changed. “They’re in a bad way. Apart from the Node ring, their power infrastructure has been damaged. The ship’s suffered several hull breaches. One reactor is cold, the second is at idle.” The left most side of the viewfinder changed to show a schematic of the damaged Southampton. “The hull appears to have been punched through here, here and here.” Three sections glowed bright blue for a moment. “I believe they ran her aground, sir.”

“Deliberately, Tactical?” The Captain asked.

“Yes sir.” Officer Wynters paused for a moment. “It’s what I would recommend. The best way to hide.”

“Key points of the ship.” Captain Hamilton said, rubbing his chin. “Do they have life support?”

“Partial, sir.” Wynters changed the viewfinder again. “The section from the bridge to the shuttle bays is still pressurised. What’s left of further aft has no life support.”

“Sir, we are one minute from the asteroid.” Helm reported. “Starting the deceleration burn momentarily.”

“One of the reactor cores has been blown clear.” Officer Wynters continued, concentrating on her screen. “It looks like a deliberate jettison. Perhaps they blew a hostile boarding party into space.”

“Okay Officer, I buy it.” The Captain pushed a button on his console. After a moment he spoke into the comlink, “Quartermaster, prepare a shuttle.”

“Captain, may I recommend a complement of marines?” Officer Wynters looked up from her console. “We know some bugs are vacuum-hardened.” Officer Wynters pushed another button on her console, highlighting the damaged areas of the hull on the viewfinder. “It’s possible that-”

“Possible. Officer Wynters; you specialised in boarding actions at the academy. You lead the away team.” Hamilton said. “And Wynters, be careful.”


-


Twenty minutes and a relatively bumpy shuttle ride later, Officer Wynters and a small squad of SolForce Marines prepared to leave their craft and board the Southampton.

“Hatch secure sir.” The lead marine slapped the release panel with his palm and the door unlocked with a hiss. The marine reached for the handle and pulled it across, the servos of the powered armour suit whining in protest.

The shuttle bay was partially illuminated by roof and wall-mounted spotlights. The lead two marines cautiously stepped out of the shuttle, weapon-mounted torches illuminating the bay. The spotlights picked out the debris on the floor of the bay and one of the damaged shuttles. Two more marines dropped out of the shuttle and circled around to the front.

“Not very inviting are they?” Officer Wynters said into the comlink. “Then again probably just as cautious as we are.”

“Power out to the door.” Major McQueen’s clipped tones called over the radio.

“Rightio.” Wynters muttered, ignoring the Major’s gruff attitude. “Can you patch into the ship’s communications network.” She asked.

“Yes sir.” One of the marines stepped forward and attached a datapad to the console next to the door. It flickered yellow and blue as the marine operated the device. “There are security warnings in force, Major. The ship requires Officer Wynters’ authorisation.”

“Wynters?” The Major said quietly. The Tactical Officer stepped forwards to the datapad. She pushed a button then switched her comlink to broadcast mode.

“Officer Wynters, authorisation code three seven six alpha theta, two.” She spoke quietly. The door console beeped twice before the lock clicked. The handle started turning as somebody the other side opened the door.

“Marines!” The Major ordered, holding his fist up in the air, and then opened his fingers. Individual marines scattered, their cue lights switched off. Moments later the door opened.

“Officer Wynters I presume?” A helmet head peered into the shuttle bay. “Welcome onboard Southampton 002, sir.”


-


SFS Southampton 002’s bridge was lit by just the red emergency lights. Several consoles were dark, those remaining in use flashed various reds and purples. Captain Balfour was stooped over the helm console, her arm resting on the back of the chair. A technician was working under the console. She straightened up and turned around to welcome Officer Wynters.

“Welcome onboard Officer. Glad you made it back.” Captain Balfour said to Officer Wynters. The two shook hands. “Looks like 003 is in slightly better shape than 002.” She motioned towards one of the working consoles showing the tactical evaluation of SFS Southampton 003.

“Yes sir.” Officer Wynters looked at the rest of bridge. The hull next to the Tactical station was badly dented, the metal torn and split. Where the post should have been, there stood a mass of twisted metal and wires.

“Hiver mass driver round. He is in a coma.” Balfour said quietly, pre-empting Officer Wynters’ questions. “He’ll pull through. We lost nineteen with a further twelve walking wounded.” She continued, her voice hollow. “Plango silenti etc laxus.” The Captain said in Latin, mourn the dead later.

“Yes sir.” Wynters reached for the TacCom console and pushed the power button, putting the loss of life out of her mind. “Sir, I have a short range transmitter.” She offered the unit.

“Very good.” Captain Balfour reached across and took the device, then pushing the transmit button, was immediately connected with 003”s Communications Officer. After a moment, the transmitted projected a holographic image of 003’s bridge.

“Welcome back Captain.” Balfour said to the other SolForce Cruiser. “Congratulations.”

“Your kipper.” Hamilton said dryly. “What’s your status?”

“She’s dead in the water.” Captain Balfour said. “We were hit by the Hivers.” Balfour eased into the command chair, seeming to be in some discomfort. “They bounced us. Sensors, weapons, most of communications and navigation are down. We dropped a reactor during a firefight. We’ve vented all of our chemical fuel to space. Oh and did I mention we seem to have lost our Node ring.” She gave Hamilton a humourless smile.

“You were boarded?” He asked in a carefully measured tone. The holograph shimmered for a moment.

“Yes.” Balfour looked straight at Hamilton’s image. “I took some difficult decisions.” She said quietly. “That’s how we lost the reactor.”

“You’re alive and full of the fuel we need to get back to SolForce space.” Captain Hamilton said after a long pause. “Captain, I propose we start buddy tanking and shipping personnel across from 002 to 003. I need you two back onboard as soon as possible. I am putting the ship on Zulu Five alert."

“Yes.” Balfour agreed. “I will start evacuation procedures and commence the resupply operation.” Her finger hovered over the end transmission button. “Payback will be a bitch.” She said, then stabbed at the console. The holograph vanished. “No Captain likes to hitch a ride back home.” Balfour said quietly to Wynters. “I hope you don’t know that feeling one day.”

Wynters nodded silently.


-


Forty minutes later, Captain Balfour and Officer Wynters took the shuttle from Southampton 002 across to Southampton 003. 002’s hanger was now a hive of activity. Technicians from both ships staggered past in their space suits, carrying various instruments and items of equipment. Here and there were a few Marines wearing powered suits, their faces grave as they watched. Most crews were jumpy when working under Zulu Five conditions - the ship ready to leave in five minutes.

Southampton 002's Quartermaster stopped and saluted his Captain as Balfour stepped past. She returned the salute.

“Have the crew performed a visual inspection of 003's hull?” Captain Balfour asked Officer Wynters as she climbed onboard the shuttle. SFS Southampton 003 was a short distance from 002, side on, showing some of her many battle scars.

“No, sir.” Wynters said, pulling the restraining strap down from over her shoulder and locking it into place. “TacCom has performed several sensor sweeps.” One of the Marines slammed the shuttle hatch closed from the outside and the pilot started the take off procedure.

"The cockroaches will sometimes hide a surprise in their mass driver rounds." Balfour spat. “Pilot. I’d like to inspect Southampton 003 as we approach.” She stepped up onto the flight deck and started strapping herself in behind the copilot station.

“Yes sir.” He responded. The shuttle slipped out of 002’s broken hanger desk then passed over the two fuel lines that had recently been connected between both Cruisers. It followed their route across to SFS Southampton 003, travelling much slower than usual.

“Does this crate have infrared?” Balfour asked.

“No sir.” The pilot replied. “Although we can datalink from ‘002.”

“Hmm.” Captain Balfour reached across for the console next to her seat. The shuttle was approaching the bridge, gliding relatively up as the reaction nozzles corrected its trajectory. Southampton 003’s hull was scarred with battle damage. “Pilot, take the far side of the ship, bring us around the stern to the hanger bay.”

“Yes sir. She took two missiles aft, sir, but the warheads did not activate upon impact. They’re still inside the ship.” The shuttle started rolling to keep the hull in view.

“Those are still mass driver impact marks, soldier.” The Captain remarked. The shuttle glided up over SFS Southampton 003’s nose. Looking up, Captain Balfour could see that the bridge canopy and armour plating had taken quite a beating.

“Yes sir.” The pilot’s voice was distorted over the comlink. The shuttle passed over the side of bridge to drift down the body.

“Pilot, hold position here if you will.” Captain Balfour ordered. “Can you point the nose back towards the bridge. I want to take another look.” She unbuckled her restraining straps and climbed into the flightdeck.

“What is it, sir?” Officer Wynters asked.

“There’s something suspicious about those two impact marks, Officer.” Balfour replied. “I thought I saw something. Wynters, can you patch into 002’s sensors and run a short range infrared scan on this sector.” The shuttle had repositioned and was inching along the fuselage, just a few metres from the bridge. “Easy pilot.” The Captain said, reaching for the console in front of her. “Take me past that gouge if you will.” She said, pointing towards one of the splintered armour plates above the bridge. The high density polysilicate armour sandwich layers had protected the relatively soft ship hull. “Does this thing have spotlights?” She asked, peering into the damaged section.

“Scan results, sir. Oh, my.” Wynters reported. She pushed a button on the console and the screen in front of Captain Balfour flicked to show the sensor results.

“No spotlights, sir.” The pilot replied, “But maybe -” Captain Balfour held up her hand to silence him.

“This is Captain Balfour. Patch me through to Captain Hamilton.” She said into her headset, one hand tapping into the console. “Hamilton, Balfour. Shall we save the pleasantries for later; I believe 003 has live rounds buried in the bridge armour plating.” Captain Balfour looked across as the pilot. “Hold position here.” She ordered.

“We have two Hiver warheads lodged in the rear of the ship.” Captain Hamilton replied.

“A common Hiver trick is to fire control rounds at SolForce ships to use as a crude proximity fuse. I have patched into 002’s sensors. There are at least three active Hiver shells lodged in the hull.” She pushed another two buttons on the screen, relaying the information across via the datalink to 003’s TacCom. “Are you getting this?” She asked, referring to the sensor detail.

“Yes.” Hamilton said after a delay. “How do we lose them?” He said quietly, his voice edged with agitation.

“On a proper warship we’d jettison the armour.” Balfour replied, her voice stark against the background static. “Can’t do that with the Southampton. That polysilicate alloy is integrated into the ship.” She explained. “We will have to take other precautions.”

There was no response and white noise filled the comlink.

“Balfour!” Hamilton said, his voice raised. “Pilot; activate Zulu Five. Get that shuttle onboard immediately.” The high pitched proximity alert noise could be heard through the comlink. “This is not a drill.” Hamilton confirmed.

The comlink line went dead.


-


It took just one minute to get the shuttle into 003’s hanger desk. Officer Wynters and Captain Balfour stepped past the technicians moving equipment from the shuttle. As they reached the airlock between the hanger bay and the rest of the ship, the shuttle bobbed up and started backing out towards the large hanger door.


-


“Balfour, Wynters. Welcome onboard.” Captain Hamilton said as they stepped onto the bridge. “Warships, still some distance out, with some unusual sensor readings. Captain, I would appreciate your insight.”

“What have we?” Captain Balfour took a position next to communications, immediately in front of the Tactical station. She adjusted the console and tapped her access code into the computer.

“An undetermined number of contacts.” Hamilton reported. “Sensors show that one is a Cruiser class Hive ship. The others are unidentified. We have weapons fire. They appear to be shooting at one another.”

"Tactical, give me the sensor view on the main viewfinder." Captain Balfour ordered. She pushed another couple of buttons on her console. "Where did the targets come from?"

"There's a lot of jamming interference, sir." Officer Wynters reported. "Sensor resolution is impaired." After a moment the viewfinder updated to show the sensor display.

After a moment, the Hiver contact disappeared.

"Tactical?"

"TacCom shows a violent decompression. Showing debris, some secondary decompression." Wynters' voice tailed off. "Looks like the Hiver was providing the jamming, sir. I now have four bogeys with no interference."

"Tactical, how is the evacuation going?" Captain Hamilton asked.

"The final shuttle is leaving 002 momentarily, sir." The viewfinder updated to to show four targets, now flashing red and purple to show their interception course. "Bogeys coming about."

"Engineering, what's our reactor status?" Captain Hamilton ordered. "Navigation, time to drive charge? What's our fuel status?"

"Forty seconds sir. We are six minutes from the Node Point."

“Flying scrap, sir.” Officer Wynters stole a glance at the outline of the Captain, difficult to see in the dim red bridge lighting. "J-Type."

“Helm, plot a course to the Nodepoint. Navigation, lock in the Nodespace path.” Hamilton’s orders were confirmed. “Tactical, where is that shuttle?” He asked.

“Shuttle onboard sir.” Wynters replied. “The bay doors are closing now.” She was looking down at her console, monitoring the instruments.

“Cut the lines; helm, get us out of here!” Hamilton barked. "Full burn."

“Lead bogey on an interception course, time to projected ballistics weapons range, one minute, forty seconds.” Officer Wynters said quickly. “TacCom shows limited weaponry, sir, but the readings are confusing. TacCom reports two Hiver Gauss Cannon turrets on the snout and two or three SolForce laser turrets on the drive. I have nothing but biological signatures between the two.” She looked at Captain Hamilton. “Two, three are configured in a similar way. Four looks different, TacCom is showing a massive energy signature. This may be an opportunity for a closer look, sir?”

The display updated, showing the Southampton changing course. The icon for the fourth ship stopped flashing.

“I've no desire to tangle with whatever took on that Hiver ship. Helm, what’s our ETA on the Node Point?”

“We will be at the Nodepoint in two minutes, sir.” Helm added, the usual even voice now raised in pitch.

“Tactical, is the lead target within Jackknife range?” Hamilton asked gripping the arm of his command chair.

“Yes sir.” Wynters reported.

“Fire one and two, guide to the target.” The Captain ordered. The J-Type had shot first in previous encounters. There was no desire to have the same mistake again. “Navigation, stand by to abort jump.” The first missile streaked away from the launcher, followed by the second. Two white dots appeared on the tactical overlay, accelerating towards the target.

“Tracking sir.” Wynters muttered, closely studying her console.

“Music, sir.” Weapons said, reporting the detection of electronic counter measures. “They’re herfing the missile warheads!” The ensign said quickly in a raised voice. The first white dot disappeared from the viewfinder display.

“Continuous missile lock, sir." Officer Wynters reported. "They're shooting, sir." Three blue dots appeared on the sensor screen, accelerating towards the Southampton. "That's three incoming, sir. In range of Goalkeeper in a few seconds."

"There’s no point in continuing this engagement. Weapons; stow the missile launcher. Navigation, commit to Nodespace.” Captain Hamilton ordered. The Goalkeeper point defence system had started firing upon the first incoming missile.

“Belay that order, Ensign.” Captain Balfour ordered. “Captain, launch a JackKnife at Southampton 002. She’s still dumping fuel. A close-enough detonation should be enough to disrupt their sensors to stop them from shooting at us. Then we drop into Nodespace.”

"We will be within weapons range in fifteen seconds, sir." Officer Wynters reported.

“Do it. Weapons, fire two JackKnife at SFS Southampton 002. Cut the guidance once they’re clear of the ship.”

“Firing tubes three and four, aye aye sir.” Weapons confirmed. The mid-ship missile launchers released their deadly cargo and two new white dots appeared on the sensor display. “Cutting guidance now.” The dots changed colour to yellow.

“Sir, I recommend we cut the chemical burn. We are approaching the Node Point.” The Navigation Officer said. SolForce protocol called for ships to slip into Nodespace under no acceleration as provided by the drive.

“Incoming weapons fire, sir.” Tactical reported. “Minor laser bolt damage to the Nodedrive.”

“Detonation in five, four, three, two and mark.” Said the Ensign at the Weapons station.

“Brace for impact, people.” Moments later, the SFS Southampton 003 blinked into Nodespace.


-


Four hours later, Captains Hamilton and Balfour were taking coffee in the Captain’s Ready Room. The Cruiser had successfully entered Nodespace a fraction of a second before the shockwave from the detonation of Southampton 002, escaping from the J-Type with minimal damage.

“Gillian, you know orders forbid me discussing this.” Captain Hamilton said distantly as he stared out the small plexiglass porthole into the strange, bluey white luminescence outside. Nodespace had an almost hypnotic influence on many observers.

“Yes, yes.” Captain Balfour sighed as she sucked at her gel pouch. “Except, my crew are aware that we bugged out in a big hurry. They know it was not because of the Hivers, so tell me more.”

“I’m in the same position.” Captain Hamilton dropped the gel pack on the desk. “Officially, I can’t help you there.”

“But you can tell me what happened the last time you encountered these ships.” Balfour said. “Will, I don’t need to remind you that SolForce guidelines forbid watching Nodespace transit.” She didn’t add that this was because many people suffered from nervous breakdowns after prolonged exposure to Nodespace.

Hamilton raised his brow and inspecting the back of his hand. “What makes you think I’ve had this encounter before?” He said lazily looking back into the room. The porthole shutter whirred shut.

“From your present reception, Will.” Balfour stated taking a seat at the table. “I’m not really a people person, but I know you well enough. And I have read some of the file.”

There was a long pause as Hamilton considered Balfour and her request. He took another drink and asked her, “Did you hear of the Junction incident?” He said slowly and deliberately.

“The loss of the first Bristol class Destroyer on a training mission? Yes, more notorious because of the rumours that it was destroyed by an unknown enemy able to access Nodespace.”

“They’re not rumours.” Captain Hamilton he said quietly and met Captain Balfour’s eyes. “Gillian, I cannot tell you much. Their ships were constructed from what appeared to be wreckage. Former SolForce and Hiver ships and all types of weapons, too. Sensors, drive, armour - I don’t have any information. This was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. But now we've seen it again.”

“Renegade Humans? A new contact?”

“A new contact, a new species, one with access to Nodespace. The ship we encountered did not have a Node Ring.” Hamilton reached into a drawer set into the desk and retrieved a pair of reading glasses.

“It also didn’t emerge at the Node Point.” Balfour observed, turning away from the shuttered porthole.

“I am not permitted to discuss the junction incident. You know how it is.” Hamilton said. “But I can certainly discuss the ship we’ve just encountered.” He paused to rub his brow. “Officer Wynters will analyse its acceleration in due course, but we both saw how those ships had far greater acceleration than the Southampton. They demonstrated an unusual defence mechanism.” Hamilton said, peering over his glasses at the younger Captain.

“The directed high energy pulse.” Captain Balfour looked at Captain Hamilton again. “Will, I didn’t know you needed reading glasses.”

“I’ve spent too long in Nodespace.” He said. “It gives me a headache after a few weeks.” He said with a smile. “It’s getting worse. I’m not as young as I used to be.” He gave a dry, humourless laugh. “Our sensors classify the point defence weapon as a wide-band, high energy radio frequency beam.” Back on topic. "In order to produce the kind of energy needed to disable our missiles...” His voice tailed off andshe leant back. “Not much different to our laser point defence systems I would imagine.”

“Except in order of magnitude of the energy required."

"It's been a long time since my days at University, but I estimate that the power consumption of a HERF powerful enough to destroy the Jackknife missile is somewhere around fourteen times the requirement of our own laser point defence.” Captain Hamilton handed Balfour the datapad.

“I’m not sure where you’re going with this, Will.” She said studying the image from the infrared camera of the lead J-Type ship.

“Nodespace without the Node Ring, high energy radio frequency point defence: their power generation technologies must be significantly more advanced than ours.” Hamilton took the datapad from Balfour and tossed it into his desk drawer with a noisy clatter. "They're not the first more advanced species we've come across, either."


-


Officer Wynters knocked on the Captain’s ready room door.

“Come in.” Hamilton called.

Pushing through the door Officer Wynters entered the room with a purposeful stride. “Sir, I have the damage reports.”

“Very good Officer Wynters.” Captain Hamilton said, sitting opposite Captain Balfour, the two Captains relaxed but in deep discussion. “Won’t you join us?”

“Yes sir. Captain.” Wynters looked to Balfour for a moment. The Captain’s desk was a mess of scattered papers and datapad chips. The console showed a SolForce command briefing. Wynters’ wide green eyes scanned the screens taking in the words first contact with species Liir.

“At ease Officer.” Hamilton said with a wave of his hand. “How bad is it?”

“Most sections report some degradation, sir. The most serious issues are reactor two’s power fluctuations and Chef is complaining about needing to ration.” Wynters said with a glance upward. She handed Captain Hamilton another datapad.

“The power fluctuations are getting worse.” He commented and Wynters nodded in agreement.

“Yes sir. The power infrastructure is deteriorating. Engineering report that they are working the problem. The Southampton’s power grid network is not very robust. She has very little power line redundancy. We expect some minor system problems.”

“If I may?” Captain Balfour interrupted. She reached for the datapad and looked at the information for a moment. “The Southampton class is not be as hardened as a proper warship, Officer Wynters, but she should not be experiencing such difficulties. Is it possible to display the ships infrastructure?” She asked.

“Yes sir.” Wynters said, reaching down to swipe the console screen to operate the ready room holographic projector. After a moment a simplified diagram of the Cruiser appeared above the table.

“Now show me the Hiver mass driver rounds.” The hologram updated to show each Hiver round in red. “There. Those rounds have the ability to feed of our power infrastructure. Re-route the power conduits here to here.” Captain Balfour pointed to the section containing two Hiver leach rounds.

“Yes sir.” Wynters said mentally checking the process. "That will involve disabling weapons, lateral control and part of the sensor grid, sir."

“Providing we don’t encounter any more bugs, that ought not be a problem.” Balfour continued, glancing across at Hamilton. “She's your ship, Captain."

"Best not take any chances.” Hamilton confirmed. "Make it so."

“We should be clear of the Hive now, sir.” Officer Wynters said glancing between both commanding officers. “They can’t intercept us in Nodespace.”


-


Captains Hamilton and Balfour were sat opposite one another with the conference monitor between them. When the conference started a moment after Zulu ten hundred hours, the monitor flickered first to the SolForce logo. After a moment, showed the familiar image of Admiral Hensilwood, designated chairperson of the meeting. Hensilwood introduced the other Admirals around the conference table along with the four warships also partaking in the call.

“The purpose of this conference call is to discuss the tactical option of using a fleet of elderly warships to aid the Queen’s Dominion.” Admiral Kane started.

“Personally, I don’t see how allowing a small group of antiquated ships to form a strikeforce and then putting them under the command of a now friendly Hiver force is going to help.” Admiral Brook pulled a face as he pronounced his words. The discussion quickly descended into an argument until the Admiral Hensilwood raised his voice over the squabbling SolForce Officers.

Captain Hamilton looked across the ready room desk over the subspace connection to meets Captain Balfour’s curious expression and shook his head.

“Gentleman! This petty bickering will not solve anything.” Admiral Hensilwood said, rapping his knuckles onto the table surface. The microphone picked up the knocking sound very clearly. “The working party must stick to the brief.” He continued.

“We simply don’t have the resources to field a large battle group at this stage.” Rear Admiral Norris said quietly. Norris was one of the most experienced officers around the bench and at seventy two, was just three years from retirement. “The fleet regen to Fusion is already a year behind schedule. The diplomatic efforts to the southern end of the galaxy will continue to tie up forty percent of the fleet for the foreseeable future. We don’t have the resource to build a new fleet. And I don’t see the bugs buyin’ our oldest ships with a fresh coat of paint as military aid.”

“I do see his point.” Balfour whispered to Captain Hamilton, briefly muting the transmission.

“It isn’t the ship designs but how they’re used.” Admiral Kane said sharply. The bench fell silent and Hamilton nodded across to Balfour. “We must act. We cannot ignore the request. They’ll discuss the J-alien for the next two months.” Kane paused for a moment to recompose herself, pushing a stray strand of hair away from her face. “I agree with Rear Admiral Norris in that our ships can’t go toe to toe against the Motherless Sons. This operation is not about a direct confrontation. The Queen’s Dominion are confident we can be placed in a position to interfere with the enemy's scouting efforts and slow down their progress. We’ll be striking at their eyes and ears.” Admiral Kane pushed her datapad and the screen behind her changed again, showing an intelligence photograph of a long range Hiver patrol fleet. “When their exploration fleets arrive at a new system, we’ll prevent them from establishing the Gateship.” She continued. “The Queen will deal with the heavier Hiver warships.”

“Kane, what are the prospects for intelligence gathering?” Admiral Hensilwood asked, changing the subject.

“Very good sir. The Queen’s Dominion have been more than helpful, but SolForce takes pride on first hand information gathering. In order for us to strike we must first establish the weak spots.”

“You would have Balfour lead this fleet with Hamilton as the deep space scouting specialist?” Admiral Brook said, viewing the datapad with fringed annoyance and disdain.

“Balfour has pulled some of the gutsiest moves I’ve ever seen on the battlefield.” Admiral Kane replied. “She’s the right choice for the job. And I am sure you will agree that Captain Hamilton is one of our most experienced deep space Scouters.”

Captain Balfour was intently watching the monitor, already planning.

“We don’t need to decide for at least another ten days.” Admiral Hensilwood said, placing both arms on the table. “Hamilton and Balfour won’t be back in a civilised system for this time.”

“The Queen’s request for military aid cannot be ignored until then.” Kane countered impatiently tapping her finger against the glass table top. “I would remind the Council that Hamilton’s Cruiser is partaking in this conference via subspace transmission.” She nodded towards her nearest camera. “The Hivers asked for are warships and military aid. Sooner or later the Motherless Sons will send an assault fleet to one of our colonies. Will the Council consider supporting the Queen then?” She pushed herself back in the chair and looked at the other four senior SolForce officers in sequence. “We don’t have many friends in the galaxy.”

“It seems to me, if the Hivers want warships and we have highly experienced Captains, the conclusion is logical. But perhaps a promotion is on the cards?” Brook raised his eyebrows. “Commodore Balfour would be the logical choice. I support Admiral Kane’s recommendation.” He looked across at Kane.

“Congratulations sir.” Captain Hamilton said to Balfour, checking that the microphone was muted.

“It isn’t exactly a promotion just yet.” Balfour replied. “And I don’t want a promotion for some political reason, I would rather one on my own merit.” She paused. “I’d rather have my chance at a little payback too, but I will take whatever I can.”

“This looks like the opportunity for both of us.” Hamilton agreed pushing the mute button.


-


SFS Southampton 003 emerged from Nodespace almost an hour behind schedule. After the sensors powered up and the IFF transponder had updated, Captain Hamilton started the approach to Tau Ceti’s orbiting port by ordering the Helm to adjust the orbit of the ship to match the dock.

“Take us in, dead slow.” Captain Hamilton ordered. “Tactical, issue the compromised ship warning. Lets take a look at the system again.” Officer Wynters confirmed the order and pushed several buttons on her console. The bridge armour slowly started retracting up from the bridge canopy. Moments later, the orbiting dock control responded.

“Southampton 003, Control. We have you on scope. Please state the nature of your damage.” The operator at control said.

“Control, ah, it’s good to be back.” Officer Wynters said. “The hull is carrying at least four Hiver leach rounds.”

“Roger that 003. Maintain current position and await further instructions.” Control said slowly.

“Helm, all stop. Maintain our position.” Wynters confirmed to the crew. Along the hull the reaction jets triggered in sequence, slewing the ship’s nose towards the giant blue star at the centre of Tau Ceti.

Captain Hamilton found himself smiling in the cool blue glow from the star. “We’ll wait for a visual inspection.” He muttered. “What else is in sensor range?”

“TacCom has positively identified seven other ships with our short range sensors, sir. Five are transports or support ships, two are Newark class Cruisers.” Wynters’ voice remained professional. “There are dozens more undetermined contacts on the long range scope. We have no access to the Datalink.” She said, frowning.

“Southampton 003, Control. Come to course zero three zero, one zero niner, slow. Stand by for visual inspection.” This was a male voice from control, unfriendly and unfamiliar sounding. After a moment the operator requested a comlink frequency change.

“Control, Southampton 003. Roger that. Changing course and frequencies.” Wynters responded. The ensign at Helm adjusted the Cruisers’ attitude. “They’re bringing us closer to the Newarks.” She looked across to Captain Hamilton. “Does it seem a little quiet, sir?”

“A little.” Hamilton replied. Tau Ceti was the busiest SolForce system, the military and civilian headquarters for the empire. “We are locked out of the datalink so much of the non-combat ships won’t show up on sensors.”

Sure enough, the two Newark class Cruisers adjusted their course to intercept the Southampton. One Newark remained at the edge of the Jackknife missile launch envelope and the second moved closer to the Southampton. As the Newark approached the Southampton, three large and very bright spotlamps were activated and pointed towards the damaged SolForce ship. In addition to the spotlamps, the Newark was also pointing its sophisticated holographic imaging laser sensor array at the Southampton in order to closely examine the damaged sections. The operation was completed in radio silence, taking nearly twenty standard Earth minutes.

“Southampton 003, Control.” It was the same unfriendly male voice. “Visual inspection completed. Change course to two zero zero, three five five. Report to orbiting dock Sigma Delta Control when you have the ball. You are cleared to half power. Prepare for crew evacuation.”

“Roger that Control.” Wynters replied.

“Glad to have you back, Southampton.” The control operator’s tones warmed. “SFS Newark 147 tells me you’ve seen some action.”

“Right you are control.” Officer Wynters said quietly. “Helm, change course. Communications, start the evacuation procedure.” Then, turning to Captain Hamilton, Wynters said. “Sir, we have been cleared to the orbiting dock holding area.”

“Very good.” Hamilton said. As Officer Wynters directed Helm to the orbiting dock, Captain Balfour looked across to Captain Hamilton from the side of the bridge and smiled.

“It looks like we’ll both be getting a lift home after all.” She said, pulling a console towards her. “The two Newarks are still within Jackknife range. The Hiver leach rounds will have them spooked.”

“Southampton 003, Control.” Answered a female voice from Sigma Delta. “We have you on scope and have dispatched three Spalding class transports. Evacuate all non-essential crew to the transports.”

“Control, Southampton. Can you confirm necessary duties?” Officer Wynters asked.

“Southampton, you are required to dock at Sigma Delta under your own power.” The lady replied after a moment.

“Perhaps not, Captain.” Hamilton said to Balfour. “They don’t want to tow us in.”

“Hmm.” Balfour replied. “It’s a good opportunity to assess the girl’s power infrastructure.” She smiled. “And there’s the issue of Captains’ pride, too.”


-


Each Spalding class transport docked with Southampton 003 in turn to transfer the majority of the crew, all under the cover of the two Newark Class Cruisers. Once the third and final Spalding was clear of the Southampton, Delta Sigma Control gave clearance for the Cruiser to approach the dock.

Captain Balfour had insisted the crew bring the Southampton Cruiser into the dry dock without using the docking mode of the flight control computer. Balfour’s concern was that the Hiver leach rounds could perhaps detect the use of such a system and detonate. She had also insisted on remaining on the bridge monitoring the four rounds embedded into the fuselage.

“Four hundred metres, sir.” The ensign at Helm reported to Officer Wynters. The final half kilometre was always the most critical. From the bridge, the Delta Sigma dock extended beyond the edge of the viewfinder to the right. Their target dry dock was the final unit at the edge of the facility.

“Drop closing velocity to two metres per second.” Wynters ordered. The Pulsed Fission drives had already been decoupled and the Cruiser was approaching using just the reaction jets.

“Aye aye sir, velocity dropping to two metres per second.” On the nose and fuselage, forward facing reaction jets fired in a pre-determined pattern to reduce the rate of closure between the Cruiser and the dry dock.

“Helm, could you bring the ship into dry dock without the sensors?” Captain Balfour asked. “Correction, without any system.”

“Sir, that’s not something we-”

“I understand ensign; it’s not in the manual. But can you do it?” Balfour warned momentarily looking across to Captain Hamilton. “How many times have you docked a Cruiser?”

“Too many to count, sir.” Helm responded. “Sir, I believe I can.” He said with renewed confidence.

“Good, do it.” Balfour stabbed at two buttons on her console, shutting down the active and then passive sensors. “If I were a Hiver engineer, I’d speculate that approaching a large, metallic object would be a reasonable time to detonate the warhead. I’d rather they didn’t know about it.” The ensign looked to Captain Hamilton, who gave the rating the smallest of nod of agreement.

“As much as I understand why you’re still alive, Captain I’m amazed you’re still in one piece.” Hamilton said to Balfour rocking back on his heels he folded his arms across his chest.

SFS Southampton glided into the dock and stopped a few inches short of the SolForce docking tube. The docking technicians used the magnetic tow to align the ship with the connection, which extended to connect to the airlock.

“No umbilical connection, sir.” Officer Wynters confirmed standing at her post. “She’s secure in the dock.”

“Good to be back.” Captain Balfour said standing. “Well done Ensign.” She leant forward to look at the nametag on the uniform. “Ensign Judd. Good flying.”

“Leave the drives idling.” Hamilton ordered staring across the command deck. “And give the evacuation signal. I’ll be the last to leave.”


-


Just three hours later, the two Captains were waiting in Admiral Kane’s reception on Tau Ceti prime.

“Have I mentioned how I hate mission debriefs.” Captain Balfour grumbled over the gel pack of caffeine-free coffee. “There’s a lot less to talk about when you’ve not returned a ship.”

“Not something you are used to?” Hamilton teased. “I’ve never encountered Hiver leach rounds before. We could very easily have triggered their warheads. Thank you for your help.”

“It was nothing.” Balfour said, putting the gel pack down. “We’ll know in a few days when the spooks have tinkered with the rounds.” The communicator beeped on the front desk and the young ensign answered it without speaking.

“The Admiral will see you now.” The ensign said then immediately returned to her console. The two Captains stood and walked to the imposing wooden doors to the Admiral’s office.

“Captains.” The Admiral said, looking up from the desk. “Come in. This won’t take long. Please sit down.”

“Sir.” Hamilton said as he and Balfour stepped forwards and immediately took the chairs opposite the stood Admiral.

“Sorry for the quick transfer to Tau Ceti prime.” The Admiral said. “This is something of an informal debriefing. It’s been busy since your departure. You are both aware of the plan to provide the Queen’s Dominion with military aid.” Each Captain nodded. “Fact of the matter is that SolForce is going on the offensive. I daresay you will be expecting this.” The Admiral reached forward and placed a golden Commodore crest in front of the two Captains. “You two are SolForce’s best. Gillian, in view of the nature of the mission, SolForce is promoting you to Commodore with immediate responsibility for the battlegroup.” The Admiral reached down and retrieved another Commodore crest. “Will, as you know, few deep space Scouts earn their fleet command wings and we’ve some interesting opportunities elsewhere in the galaxy. Still, SolForce has changed the original fleet composition to broaden the intelligence gathering abilities. In light of this development, I want you to take responsibility for the scouting contingent of the Hiver assault fleet.”

Captain Hamilton looked down at the crest for a long moment before reaching for it. “Thank you Admiral.” He said quietly thinking the Admiral’s speech sounded both well rehearsed and hollow.

“Now whilst I’d love to congratulate you both, we have other Hiver related business.” Admiral Kane pushed a button on her console and dimmed the room lights. “SolForce has received a probe from one of our Scouts patrolling at Menmouth. SFS Bristol 009 encountered an advance scouting force of Motherless Sons.” Hain’s ship, Hamilton realised. A holographic image of the sector appeared above the Admiral’s desk, highlighting the position of Menmouth.

“This is not unexpected.” Balfour said. “We have been tracking advance Hiver fleets heading to many systems including Menmouth.”

“The enemy fleet arrived a week earlier than expected. The Hivers” behaviour was unusual to say the least. None of this is anything other than slightly interesting aside for the interference from the J-type alien.” Kane retrieved two datapads from under the desk and pushed them towards the two now Commodores. “This contains images and sensor readings from the Bristol.” Each Captain took a datapad and activated it with their thumb. “Fleet command is preparing your briefings in three days time.”

“We can’t track the J-alien ships through Nodespace.” Balfour said breaking the uneasy silence.

“We figured out a way to find their scouts.” Hamilton agreed thinking of Officer Wynters’ sensor polarisation that would allow the ship to listen for a lack of electromagnetic emissions. “What of the Bristol?”

“We have received a subspace signal sent moments before the ship should have reached Nodespace. I’m afraid we won’t know if she made it or not for another few days. Of all our deep space Scouts, Hain will bring the ship back in one piece.”

“With that sort of infrastructure, Dosadi is in range of relatively small Hiver fleets.” Hamilton said, thinking aloud.

“Now SolForce faces two threats.” The Admiral said.

The three SolForce Officers sat in silence for a moment. “Admiral, that doesn’t inspire much confidence.” Hamilton said searching Admiral Kanes’ face for any clues.

“We have new friends. They’re just too far at the moment.”

“Friends?” Balfour repeated.

“The Liir.” The Admiral confirmed. She sighed at the blank looks on the two senior officers’ faces she added. “You have been keeping up with SolForce updates, I presume?”

“Our subspace communicator was damaged, sir.” Hamilton remembered reading about the Liir species, a new and friendly first contact many light years from the Hivers.

“The Liir need not concern you for now. I will personally keep you updated as to Captain Hain’s ship.” Admiral Kane pushed a button and the holographic display dimmed then vanished. “I am sure you have many duties to attend. You are dismissed gentleman.”


-


“Hell of a way to get back to Tau Ceti Prime.” Commodore Balfour said as they strolled along the walkway that led to the main shuttle bay.

“A promotion, a new mission and new buddies in the galaxy?” Hamilton replied. “Or is this a case of keeping our friends close and our enemies closer?”

“All of it.” Balfour looked across at Hamilton. “This is an awful big chance to take with two and a half thousand souls.”

“The fleet has grown since the last briefing on the matter.” They passed by the first observation port, looking upon dozens of technicians in off-white spacesuits scurrying around the main spar of a new SolForce warship. “She was right, almost half of the fleet is already missing.” Hamilton muttered under his breath.

“It’s grown by just four warships and six support ships. Twenty eight ships against the Motherless Sons and whatever the J-type sends our way. I don’t fancy the odds.”

“The J-types appear to be doing precisely what we are about to do.” Hamilton observed.

“You might be right.” Balfour stopped. “We’ve not seen any major J-type warships.”

“Not that we know of. Did you read the report on the new species?”

“The Liir?” Balfour replied. “Just the first few pages. Figured I’d not have to shoot at them so I didn’t need to bother.” She said with a shrug.

“It would seem we have a little light reading for shore leave then. Eh, Commodore?”
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Commodore
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Re: Resolution

Post by Commodore » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:34 pm

Sory I took so long to repaly . My sistre died two week a go and I have just got back to reading the bords agan. I read this part and I thout it was grate. I hope you will be ritetting moor I do injoy reading your story keep up the grate work . your fan

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DervMan
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Re: Resolution

Post by DervMan » Mon Nov 02, 2009 7:05 am

Oh!

I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Puts a little piece of fiction into perspective. :(
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The_Unificator
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Re: Resolution

Post by The_Unificator » Fri Aug 10, 2012 4:49 pm

awesome derv!!! i love it :D ¿you will post more chapters?
An Argentinian SolForce Captain awaiting new orders

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DervMan
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Re: Resolution

Post by DervMan » Fri Aug 10, 2012 5:07 pm

Thanks! With a little persuasion I'd be up for writing more...
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Re: Resolution

Post by The_Unificator » Fri Aug 10, 2012 5:14 pm

DervMan wrote:Thanks! With a little persuasion I'd be up for writing more...


you have all my support derv :D , also if you want i can help you to write it
An Argentinian SolForce Captain awaiting new orders

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