Chapter 24 – Ambush

You don’t know?!

«The Drakkars just arrived,» Major Hackett calmly replied, «the Colonel and Krick are working out a plan as we speak. Just sit tight for now.»

Mote scowled, but ultimately had no better response. He then turned his attention to the space outside — and the fleet of Drakkar ships that had just appeared outside the shipyard’s shield bubble and began firing on it. The energy shields lit up brilliantly as blasts of laser fire exploded across them, generating a veritable wall of gold and white light along one side of the shipyard that was bright enough to bathe all of the ships contained within in dim light. Mote had only just finished dropping off Mark and the Black Suns on Genesis, and had been preparing to return to flying around the yard and remotely activating ships… but now he sat tense and ready, prepared to maneuver Raenaros in battle whenever necessary. …Though I’ve only had one opportunity to use it in a fight, and that was Dead Space, which is in no way representative of regular space, so who knows how well I could actually handle a fight.

Mote’s thoughts turned to whether or not he would even need to engage in battle; the shield bubble was of Aldredian construction, after all, so the shield could be hardier than any other energy shield he was aware of. As such, he had no idea if the Drakkars would be able to break through it in a timely manner — so he decided to ask the person he considered most likely to know.

Is Kate there? Mote questioned over the comms.

«She is,» Hackett answered, «but she’s—»

The loud clang of something impacting a metal surface and a loud swear in the background interrupted the Major. A moment later, another voice joined the connection.

«The hell do you want, dumbass?» Kate snarled.

Mote recoiled, startled by her sudden appearance on the line. …If you’re busy, I don’t want to bother you—

«Just spit it out! You never ask for me if you don’t want something.»

Alright, then. Do you know how long we have until the Drakkars break through the shipyard’s shields?

«We could have half an hour, or we could have two weeks. There’s no fucking way to know without access to the actual fucking shield capacitors.»

If it’s just a voltage check, then I can fly to one of the emitters and investigate.

«And risk frying them with your supercharged electricity? No fucking way!»

I don’t have to manipulate electricity to sense voltage.

«No, but I know you don’t regularly check shield capacitors, so even if you checked now, your entirely subjective reading would still be unreliable as fuck. It isn’t a simple fucking ‘voltage check’ anyways, and even if it was, we still don’t actually know what the fucking failure threshold for those emitters is!»

Alright, fine. So there’s really no way to know?

«Not without direct access to the capacitors, which I just fucking said.»

«Can you at least estimate, based on the size of the emitters?» Hackett questioned.

«Hell no!» Kate responded. «There’s too many other factors. How long have they been around, how good were the Aldredas at miniaturization, how are those emitters getting power, and at what rate. If those emitters were based on SERRCom tech, then sure! I could tell you with incredible fucking confidence that we had about five more fucking minutes! But this is Aldredian tech, which should be old and decrepit, but it clearly isn’t, so who fucking knows what’s going on with it!»

Then we can only assume that they won’t hold for long, Mote commented. And with that in mind, have you managed to activate any more of the Dreadnought’s systems?

«No. The moment you waltzed out, it was like a fucking brick wall popped up! Hell, even when you were sitting in that damned chair, only a small number of the ship’s systems activated. I’m not even sure that the ship is entirely intact!»

What systems did activate?

«Life support, obviously, though that was before you sat your ass down. Otherwise, none of the ones that matter. No weapons, no shields, no navigation. We actually do have access to the Subspace Drive, but it’s fucking useless if we can’t turn on the fucking sublight engines. Which is what I’ve been doing this whole fucking time, trying to turn this shit on!»

Mote tentatively turned his attention back to the shipyard shield for a moment. The Drakkars remained relentless with their laser fire, but only toward a single face of the icosahedral shield bubble, creating a massive glowing fuzzy triangle of light in space. It was a surreal sight, but Mote knew the danger behind the tactic — by focusing their fire on only one of the shield faces, the Drakkars intended to punch through a single set of shield emitters instead of trying to take them all down. Such a tactic worked even on smaller spacecraft, as multiple shield emitters are necessary to generate large shields and emitters are usually paired with a single capacitor. Overload a single emitter, and the portion of the shield it was responsible for collapses. On spacecraft, emitters could be designed to overlap so that the failure of one or two wouldn’t expose the craft to weapons fire, but the massive size of the shipyard shield bubble — combined with the measly twelve shield emitters — meant that there was little room for redundancy. If only one emitter went down, then the Drakkars would be free to charge in.

…Well we need some kind of plan, Mote muttered. There has to be something we can do about this. Can the Genesis take on the Drakkars?

«The Genesis can only go up against maybe two Drakkar Battleships on its own,» Kate replied. «Maybe even three on the best day in its fucking life, but any more than that is a terrible fucking idea. And based on what I’m hearing, there’s way more than three fucking Battleships out there!»

So we can’t fight them, then. But we can’t just leave this yard to the Drakkars, either. Damn it, what do we do…

Hackett responded promptly. «Sounds like Saito and Krick want to scuttle the Aldredian ships.»

«They fucking what?!» Kate exploded, «we find all of this super-advanced alien tech, and they want to fucking destroy it?!»

I don’t like it, either, Mote said, but we can’t let the Drakkars get their hands on this. If we can’t escape with the tech, then our only other option is to destroy it.

«But…!»

My only concern is how. There are dozens of ships in this shipyard, one of them a Dreadnought! The Genesis doesn’t have the time or the resources to thoroughly scuttle everything, so what are Saito and Krick planning?

«I’m not sure,» the Major commented. «I only overheard part of the Colonel’s conversation.»

«It’s still a fucking stupid idea!» Kate insisted. «Listen, this Dreadnought seems to have subsystems that would allow it to remotely control all, or at least most, of the other ships in the yard. If I can just get that system activated, then we could fight the Drakkars off!»

«Is that true?»

«Of course it’s fucking true! Why the hell would I lie?!»

It’s a good idea, Mote replied, but I don’t know if it’s practical. We don’t know how much time we have until that shield fails, and if you’re still on the Dreadnought when the Drakkars break through, then—

Ear-piercing alerts cut off Mote’s speech as dozens of red X’s filled his HUD in the direction of the Drakkar fleet. Mote reflexively activated Raenaros’s shields and threw the vectoring engines into full throttle, managing to spin the Corvette around just in time to evade two Drakkar fighters as they rocketed past.

What the hell?! Mote exclaimed, Drakkar fighters?!

«Fighters?!» Kate echoed incredulously, «where the hell did they come from? Did the Drakkars already break the shield?!»

No, the shield’s still there! But I’ve got my hands full now. Damn it! Cutting connection, Emerson out!

Without waiting for confirmation from either Kate or Hackett, Mote shut down the communication line and focused the entirety of his attention on the battle before him. Over a hundred Drakkar fighters were zipping around the shipyard, firing on dormant ships and Genesis alike; Mote could see the Battlecruiser opening her fighter bays in preparation for retaliation, but between having such short notice, being outnumbered with interceptor-class fighters two-to-one, and also the looming possibility of needing to beat a hasty retreat, the actual number of fighters Genesis could launch was rather limited. Not to mention the inevitable casualties in a head-to-head massive dogfight… well, then. Looks like it’s time to see what this Corvette can really do!

Mote immediately threw Raenaros into full acceleration in pursuit of the Drakkar fighters. Several of the fighters turned to attack him as he did so, peppering the Corvette’s shields with laser blasts, but Mote simply ignored the attacks as he spun the ship around and spooled up the Chaos Cannons. Now that the ship was in regular space, she no longer siphoned energy off of Mote to power the cannons — and they fully charged in as little as a second before firing off two beams of energy, intercepting and obliterating two of the Drakkar fighters from multiple kilometers away. Now this is more like it, Mote muttered to himself, but he didn’t have much time to revel in the Corvette’s power. Genesis was launching fighters, but the Drakkars had quickly determined that Mote was the largest threat, and the bulk of the enemy forces were beginning to converge on him.

Raenaros’s vectoring engines yawed and pitched hard as Mote maneuvered the Corvette away from Genesis and the nearby Aldredian ships. Drakkar laser fire promptly fell upon him with great frequency, continuously draining the shields of power — though Mote couldn’t be quite sure by how much, given that he couldn’t read his HUD. Nevertheless, he focused on accelerating toward the far side of the shipyard from the Drakkar fleet, occasionally snapping the vectoring engines in random directions in an attempt to throw off his pursuers. Once he was around twenty kilometers from the edge of the shipyard shield, he pitched Raenaros a full ninety degrees upward and shot off perpendicular to the chasing Drakkar fighters — and then he spun the ship around to face his pursuers, allowing his momentum to continue carrying him upward as he opened fire on the Drakkars. One fighter, two fighters, four; Mote managed to tag six fighters before they began swarming him at incredibly close range. He attempted to track the fighters, throwing Raenaros into wild spins to orient her Chaos Cannons toward the enemy and fire upon them, but the large number of ‘X’s swarming his HUD and the mobility of the Drakkar fighters made them difficult to track. Mote simply began firing his weapons wildly, hoping to score at least some hits among the swarm, but when that didn’t work he stabilized the Corvette and fired all engines at full throttle toward the Dreadnought in the center of the yard, hoping to at least outrun the Drakkars. Damn it, I guess I’m not the only one who was held back by Dead Space, huh? If only the Corvette’s weapons didn’t both face the front of the ship… did the Aldredas never hear of omnidirectional targeting systems?!

A text box appeared on Mote’s HUD, flashing briefly before pointing toward the back of the ship. Moments later, a brief flash of light appeared on Raenaros’s tail, followed by the sudden appearance of a third Chaos Cannon. Mote stared at the weapon bemusedly, allowing the Drakkar fighters to land a few more laser shots before snapping his attention back to the fight. I don’t know what the hell that was, but now isn’t the time to question it! He immediately opened fire with the new cannon on the fighters that pursued him, sniping two and prompting the rest to scatter — just as a volley of missiles shot past Raenaros and destroyed another five Drakkar fighters. Without wasting a second, Mote spun Raenaros around to face the Drakkar fighters and joined the incoming SERRCom fighters to fire another volley, this time managing to wipe out another seven Drakkars.

Mote began preparing for another volley, but a quick chirping sound brought his attention to the fact that he was rapidly approaching the Aldredian Dreadnought. He quickly spun Raenaros around and fired the engines downward, rapidly accelerating and allowing the Corvette to shoot by under the massive ship. Mote then pitched the Corvette’s vectoring engines to direct the ship up and around the Dreadnought; a few Drakkar fighters managed to follow him, constantly trailing him with their lasers as Mote began maneuvering closely to the Dreadnought’s hull and firing back with Raenaros’s new rear-mounted Chaos Cannon. The Drakkars managed to trail behind Mote closely enough that the Chaos Cannon had a difficult time tracking them, but he still managed to down one of the fighters right as it passed him, generating a cone of debris hurtling through space. He attempted to shake off the remaining fighters that followed him by firing the vectoring engines in random directions — and when the Corvette passed over the top of the Dreadnought, Mote pitched and rolled hard to direct Raenaros down the far side of the massive ship, yet the Drakkar fighters remained closely on his tail.

Shit Mote glanced at a pair of symbols on his HUD; every time Raenaros’s shield took a hit, the symbols would change, so Mote assumed that they were an indicator of the shield charge. Now if only I could read it! Damn it. There has to be something else on here to counter fighters at close range, right? What am I missing? …Wait… He briefly thought back to the debriefing after the Dead Space mission, when Kirstin had brought up the Corvette’s other features — one of which was supposedly a system for channeling a Chaotic’s power.

As Raenaros continued around the Dreadnought, Mote began focusing on the channeling system. He wasn’t quite sure how it worked, so began by streaming a low level of electricity into the conduits — at which point the conduits all over the Corvette lit up brightly, throwing off continuous sparks along the hull. The sensation was an odd one; it felt to Mote like he was simply dousing himself with electricity, but he could tell that his actual body remained sparkless. It was the Corvette that carried the charge Mote was raising, and a few moments later, it was the Corvette that fired off an incredible lightning strike, instantly nailing one of the Drakkar fighters following behind him and obliterating it. Two more strikes later, Mote no longer had Drakkar fighters on his tail.

Well that’s interesting. It almost felt like the ship itself was my body for a moment… I wonder if this is the true purpose for the neural dive control system. …Anyways, where the hell are the rest of the fighters—? Mote cut himself off as Raenaros rounded the Dreadnought’s hull, returning to the point where he had first encountered the SERRCom fighters — and where there was now an incredible swarm of Drakkar and SERRCom fightercraft alike, each vying for control of space as the SERRCom fighters tried to make distance and the Drakkar fighters tried to close it. The sight was even more confusing to Mote, as his HUD marked each fighter with an ‘X’; red for Drakkars, and yellow for SERRCom, such that all he could see was a swarm of ‘X’s. Why yellow? That’s hardly a friendly color. Maybe it’s just because the Corvette can’t recognize SERRCom IFF — but either way, now’s my chance. Focus on the reds…

As Mote directed Raenaros down at the furball and began charging both the Chaos Cannons and the Chaotic Conduits, he noticed the third cannon on the rear of the craft melt into the hull, and then reappear on the bow of the ship a moment later. The hell? How did… is that a nanite system? Some kind of on-the-fly object fabrication? It’s certainly in line with the nanite repair system, I suppose. I’ll have to get Kate to look at that later, but for now…! With but a thought, he shifted the engines into full throttle, rocketing down at the fighter swarm and opening fire with all three Chaos Cannons, aiming carefully to not hit SERRCom fightercraft as he fired through the furball in chase of the Drakkars. One, three, eight fighters destroyed — by the time Raenaros was a mere kilometer out from the dogfighting, the Drakkar fighter force had been reduced to under half of their initial numbers. Mote promptly disengaged the Chaos Cannons and kept a careful eye on the red ‘X’s on his HUD, and then shoved a massive amount of electricity through the Chaotic Conduits the moment Raenaros entered the furball. Immediately, dozens of lightning bolts shot out in all directions, zapping the surrounding Drakkar fighters and popping them where they flew. The resulting debris tumbled through space, showering any remaining fighters with pieces of smoldering supersonic fightercraft fragments as Raenaros exited the swarm as quickly as she entered. Mote quickly spun the ship around and applied the thrusters to slow the Corvette to a stop, prepared to continue fighting, but the remaining eight Drakkar fighters were quickly dispatched by the SERRCom fighters.

Alright! Mote muttered to himself triumphantly. Chaos Cannons for mid-range, and lightning blasts for short-range. All I’m really missing is a true long range option… He then thought about the third Chaos Cannon on the bow of the Corvette, just as it melted back into the ship. What the hell was that about? That can’t have been here all along, could it? Surely Kate or Kirstin would’ve picked up on some kind of on-the-spot fabrication system… it really does seem as though the Dreadnought made some upgrades to the ship when I docked up…

His thoughts were interrupted as his communicator began beeping. He quickly activated it, stating aloud, Lieutenant Emerson here.

«You’re still fuckin’ alive! Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,» came Captain Krick’s response. «I hear that you were stealing all the goddamn kills from my pilots!»

Mote scowled; leave it to Krick to find a negative spin for his accomplishments. Would you rather I left them to die, sir?

«God damn, relax! Just because I don’t like you doesn’t mean I can’t at least acknowledge skill when I fucking see it! Luck, too.»

Mote’s scowl softened into a confused expression. …Right. Uh, sir, how did those fighters get inside the shield in the first place?

«The fuckers beamed inside. Apparently they figured out how to defeat the goddamn beam jammer that the shipyard had, or the shipyard’s jammer shut down at some point after we entered, I’m not sure. We had to activate our own goddamned jamming system to stop any more fighters, but it means I can’t beam you back aboard, either. Which is why I contacted you! Get your ass back here, we’re heading out!»

What? We’re just leaving?

«Of fucking course we are. We can’t protect this shityard from the Drakkars! And we can’t risk waiting around either, since we have no goddamn idea how much shield strength those old-ass emitters have left. Only option is to obliterate the yard and get the hell out.»

How? The Genesis can’t have enough ammo to destroy everything…

«Chaos Cannons don’t need ammunition, dumbass! But you’re right, to some extent. That’s why we’re going to use a motherfucking Drive Bomb!»

Mote frowned uneasily at the mention of the weapon. “Drive Bombs” weren’t bombs in the conventional sense; rather, it was a crude term for re-purposing a Subspace Drive into an incredibly effective weapon. While not familiar with the specifics, Mote at least knew that Drive Bombs entailed launching a Subspace Drive into Subspace — where it achieves incredible faster than light speeds — and then reintroducing that same Drive into real space, without properly decelerating to sublight speeds. The result was a spectacular release of energy that utterly annihilated the Drive and anything else within several thousand kilometers. This concept was not incredibly difficult to pull off as long as you knew the basic construction of the Drive in question — which lead to Subspace Drives being heavily regulated, and highly illegal for civilians to possess — but it was also fairly expensive, as Subspace Drives were far from cheap. Furthermore, Genesis only had one Subspace Drive, and sacrificing it in the middle of Drakkar territory was tantamount to suicide. If Krick wanted to use a Drive Bomb, then where would he even get his Drive?

«We’re going to pull a Drive from one of the Aldredian ships,» Krick commented, correctly interpreting Mote’s silence as confusion over his plan. «Your little buddy over on the Dreadnought found the ship’s goddamn registry, so she should be able to locate the ship’s Drive and drag it out.»

Do we even know how Aldredian Drives work, sir?

«That’s what Lieutenant Faulkner and Researcher MacTavish are here for. It’s their goddamn job to figure that shit out!»

Respectfully, sir, Kate had a plan to take control of the Dreadnought. If she’s able to do that, then we might be able to use the entire Aldredian fleet against the Drakkars.

«Well wouldn’t that be fan-fucking-tastic. Except we don’t have that kind of time! If she can figure out how to make these trash heaps dance, then by all fucking means, I’d be more than happy to see it. But if it doesn’t happen in the next half hour, then I’m bombing this place into fucking subatomic particles! My job is to spite the Drakkars, not fucking lose to them, or hand them god damned Aldredian artifacts on a silver platter!»

…Understood, sir. Should I go pick up CSF-1, then? If the beam jammers are active?

«I’ve already sent a retrieval craft. I’ll tell them that you’re… wait… shit!»

What? What is it?

«You better get your goddamn ass in gear, Lieutenant!» Krick growled over the comms, «there’s a goddamned communications jamming field around the bridge of the Dreadnought. We can’t fucking contact CSF-1!»

 

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