2948-06-02 – Tales from the Service: A Pirate’s Gamble
Our friend Captain Kirke-Moore has caused quite a few minor and major stirs since being brought onto Admiral Zahariev’s staff, but perhaps this is the most spectacular. Though the Navy has redacted both the date and location, it has confirmed that Kirke-Moore masterminded a successful raid on an Incarnation logistics base in the Coreward Frontier some time in the last two weeks.
The senior officer in charge of this raid was authorized by Naval Intelligence to give her account, even though it was far from praising Kirke-Moore. Though successful in causing (if reports are to be believed) massive damage to supply and refit installations at the target system, the raiding force suffered significant casualties in the process. According to the accounts we have been allowed to see, Kirke-Moore underestimated the strength of defending forces considerably – still, surprise and speed seem to have carried the day.
Captain Angelica Haydee scowled at the tactical display the way she couldn’t scowl at the old man standing behind her. He almost certainly recognized her displeasure, but to express it to his face would be insubordinate, and she didn’t want insubordination to mark what might be the last minutes of her career and her life.
“Any change in aspect on those cruisers?” Bozsi Kirke-Moore, cool and detached as always, seemed all the more deliberately provocative for his refusal to acknowledge the distress his orders had caused his subordinate. Officially, the shriveled old pirate was only an adviser, but every officer aboard Katrina Mehrab knew the sortie was his mission, and the squadron was effectively under his command the moment it left Maribel.
“Negative, Mr. Kirke-Moore.” Lieutenant Nyazik replied, salving his captain’s ego slightly by refusing to give the pirate an un-earned title. “Still no course changes or launches, and their screens are still at minimum.”
“Just as I thought.” Though her back was turned to him, Angelica could hear the smug satisfaction on Kirke-Moore's face. “Let them pass. We’re not here for blood.”
The trio of Incarnation cruisers slid across the display at an unhurried pace, though most of the command center staff had ceased holding their breath. It would be hours before they passed out of the star’s grav shadow and activated their star drives, but if Kirke-Moore and Naval Intelligence were correct about their acceleration profiles, they would be out of range to intervene in less than fifteen minutes.
It made Angelica feel only marginally better about the pirate’s insane scheme that Kirke-Moore let the enemy ships widen the gap almost ten minutes after the estimated safety range. Long after the command center’s own timer had hit zero, and according to a timing known only to him, Kirke-Moore cleared his throat to still the murmured conversations all around him. “Initiate the maneuver, Captain Haydee.”
The maneuver was insanity, but Angelica knew it was her duty. “Drive to maximum. Helm, assume pre-computed course.”
The murmur of Mehrab’s drive rose in pitch and intensity as the ship wheeled about in space, shedding the carefully crafted shroud of asteroid-mimicking smart-cloth which had been carefully spun around a potato-shaped section of hard vaccuum and starship hulls. The squadron’s trio of fast destroyers and half-dozen assault frigates burst through the disintegrating cowl a moment later, their higher acceleration carrying them forward into a loose vee-formation, ends extended toward the planet ahead. Though uninhabitable, the nameless, metal-rich planet had become an Incarnation forward base, and three sprawling, frail orbital structures lit up its lifeless, airless sky.
Mehrab and its attendants, though bristling with weapons, were thin-skinned, long-legged designs, no match for three Tyrant heavy cruisers in a fair fight. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for the hastily-maneuvering enemy ships, there would be no such fair fight. The operation had been envisioned by a pirate, and it was a work of craven piracy as well as open lunacy. The squadron would rush in, smash everything it could reach in a single slingshot orbit, then erupt out of the inner system in a different direction with a velocity advantage that even three swift Tyrants could not overcome.
“They’ve seen us. Cruisers have redlined their drives.” Nyazik sounded concerned, and Angelica felt perverse hope that the pirate’s estimates and intelligence were wrong. Fortunately for everyone involved, a quick glance at the display dispelled her of this notion.
“They’re too late.” Kirke-Moore strode forward and pointed into the display. “We’re only concerned with the local-space defenses.”
“Light launches from one of the platforms. Looks like a few wings of Coronachs.”
Angelica counted the symbols, and then doubled the count. “Nothing we can’t handle there. Vector in Commander Ibrahim’s gunships and warm up the light railguns. Any sign of heavy emplacements?”
“Negative, Captain, but we won’t know for sure until we get closer.”
“Keep looking. We have safe abort for the next twenty minutes.” Every fiber of her tactical sense told Angelica that the “raid” was running into a trap. Any Confederated outpost so large and expensive would be defended far too heavily to be threatened by a reinforced scouting squadron.
“We won’t need it, Captain.” Kirke-Moore's confidence remained infuriating. He had won the approval of Admiral Zahariev for the gamble mostly by promising to participate himself – Angelica hated for the ruffian to be right, even if it meant going home in one piece. “After all, we aren’t where we are supposed to be.”
"That’s exactly why this has to be suicide, Bozsi.” Angelica pointed to one of the station platforms, trying to keep her voice calm. “That installation alone looks like it can refit three of their cruisers at once. This is a hell of a lot of hardware to leave undefended.”
“Exactly, Captain Haydee. Exactly.”
Angelica frowned, but fell silent as the time to weapons range plummeted. There was nothing more to say – Kirke-Moore would not call an abort. Either the platforms were armed to the teeth, or they weren’t - and in a little more than half an hour, the squadron would find out.