2949-01-12 – Tales from the Service: The Tinker’s Tyrant
Mavuto Hintzen passed the time by solving geometric puzzles on his one active display. It was all he could do until Nate showed his face, but when the enemy did show up, he planned to make them regret it.
Mavuto had been at Adimari Valis, where a gallant scratch force of mercenaries and fleet auxiliaries had held off an Incarnation fleet, albeit not for long. He’d seen the enemy’s cruisers wheeling in precise formation, stabbing at the tangled squadrons of antiquated mercenary ships which stood before them and then coyly withdrawing like a buncg of Heraklean dawngliders toying with already-maimed prey.
He’d watched those brave mercs die by the hundreds through the viewpanels of the creaking freighter on which he’d booked passage off the doomed world, and he’d seen in their deaths something incredible – he'd seen a chink in the seemingly-impenetrable armor of the mighty Incarnation fleet.
Since the day Mavuto and his family had arrived at Maribel, the focal point for refugees streaming in from the borders of the Coreward Frontier, he’d worked hard to get where he was now, sitting at the helm of a heavily modified light hauler at the edge of the Berkant system. Finding the resources he needed to realize his vision in the refugee-choked system hadn’t been easy, and learning enough about starship systems to implement his crude diagrams in metal and plastic had been a challenge all its own. He dared not let anyone help too much, lest they see what he was doing – not even his fifteen-year-old son Adaan, who knew the most, could quite grasp what he was helping his father build. They would know soon enough – or he would take the secret to his grave.
That the Incarnation would come to Berkant once more was not in doubt. The residents of the green world knew it too – with several minor colonies nearby stormed by the invaders, a stream of private haulers carried Berkant settlers toward the safety of Maribel and Håkøya in anticipation of an evacuation order which had not yet come.
Mavuto had placed himself far from this stream to avoid notice, picking the spot he thought the enemy most likely to appear and putting his ship into its most invisible state. There he’d waited for five days, with only the display and its puzzles as his companion – even the ship’s voice assistant software had been shut down to conserve power. The machinery he’d installed in the ship’s hold would give him one chance to exploit the nearly invisible weakness built into the Incarnation’s ships – one chance he could only use if he got close enough.
As he switched from one puzzle to the next, Mavuto saw the gravitic sensor readout in the corner of the screen tremble and immediately dismissed his idle games. He’d tuned the system so that it would only register an incoming star-drive large enough to be his prey – the Incarnation’s Tyrant-type cruisers. Confederated Navy heavy cruisers would trip the sensor as well, but the Navy wasn’t about to dispatch heavy cruisers to doomed Berkant – they were still scheming ways to rescue the poisonous barrens of Margaux from the enemy, leaving the refugee stream at Berkant guarded by a few mercenary-operated carrier conversions wholly unprepared to fight even a single Tyrant. What would stop a lone Incarnation ship from sweeping up dozens of the ponderous liners and haulers plodding toward the safety of the jump limit? Once they had, what could stop that ship from leaving, carrying thousands of prisoners into captivity, or into worse?
The sensor indicator trembled again, and this time the tremble built into a wavering cascade of data before settling back down. Though he was without the aid of a visual plot, Mavuto had no trouble reading the data stream when he played the disturbance back at one-quarter speed. His prey had arrived – and it had arrived close enough that he was almost on top of it.
Flipping the switches haphazardly installed into his pilot’s station back at Maribel, Mavuto started warming up the apparatus, then cautiously woke the hauler’s bow camera cluster and instructed it to scan nearby space. The sinister, wedge-shaped void where the Tyrant’s hull occluded the stars appeared right away. Gingerly touching the controls for the custom-built ion thrusters he’d installed, Mavuto nudged his little hauler forward. The Tyrant would probably sit still for a few hours, watching the flow of traffic and optimizing the course it would follow through the system. If it charged in right away, he was out of luck.
Fortunately, Incarnation captains lacked the individual flexibility to be so rash, even if that rashness was the correct move to make. The Tyrant’s gravitic drive remained silent in the minutes after its star-drive jump as its sensors drank in everything they could about the system’s vulnerabilities. Even if any of these implements had been turned outward, they likely would not have seen Mavuto’s hand-altered hauler moving in – he too occluded stars, but far fewer.
The great shadow of the cruiser loomed larger, and still there was no sign he’d been seen. Easing off the ion thrusters, Mavuto checked the indicator lights on his armrest and flipped a few more switches. He was almost close enough – it was time to see the gap in the Incarnation’s armor once more, and this time, to bury a blade in it.
Mavuto Hintzen sent in some rather sensational claims about his ability to disable an entire Tyrant cruiser with a weapon that could fit in the hold of a small, short-range hauler. The interesting thing about these claims is not that he sent them – tall tales are quite standard fare for the inbox which supplies material for this text feed, and much time is spent sifting through obvious falsehoods to get to plausible accounts.
The interesting thing about Mr. Hintzen’s account is that it was censored in my inbox by Naval Intelligence before I could even read it. Suspecting this too was a trick, I contacted a few people in the Maribel Naval Intelligence unit, and discovered that the sections redacted were in fact legitimately redacted by intelligence agents. They would not speak about the supposed weapon (whose details were among those things hidden from even me) described in the account, nor of whether it was as successful as the account claimed.
All I can say is that Mr. Hintzen is not dead, so his account of testing the weapon against an enemy vessel near Berkant can be one of three things: a fabrication (in which case, why the censorship?) an account of failure (in which case, how did he escape?) or an account of success.
[N.T.B. - My bet's on that this is a fabrication, but the account comes too close to describing an actual weapon that's in the works that N.I. doesn't want Nate knowing about. Possibly the man did see something strange in the contested space over Adimari Valis - but we'll probably only know what caused N.I. to clamp down on this story after whatever's being cooked up in Naval research installations sees the light of day.]