Story #4 in the "Real Life EVN" series
_This is the sixth story written for my "Real Life EVN" series, all the events in this story are inspired by in game events in the Nerse Primus system. The other stories in the series are as follows:
1. "So Much For Impartiality"
2. "My First Rescue"
3. "The Maiden Voyage of the Indigo Star"
4. "Good Intentions Lead To Bad Consequences"
5. "A Trap"
6. "There & Back Again, An IDA Frigate's Tale" (will be receiving a rewrite a bit later to fix various story and grammar issues)
7. "Reunion" (very tentative title, will be released after the rewrite of There & Back Again, and after I find something in game to write about :p) _
Part I: The Rebellion?
Our jump into the Nerse Primus system signaled the end to a long month of hurried travel. I had managed to arrange a series of time critical deliveries hoping from system to system all over Federations space, with our final delivery scheduled to be unloaded on Georgia in about 12 hours. The shipment dash was very lucrative, but very stressful. If I got my way, which I would I am the captain after all, we'd be spending the next couple of weeks in the peaceful orbit of Mars doing a whole lot of nothing.
"I'm getting an alert from Nesre Primus traffic control. It sounds like Rebellion ships have been spotted in the system again. They advise all traffic to come to a stop and until the traffic lanes are clear" Sam reported, snapping me out of my daydream.
"Our lane is clear!" I heard Lavender mumble from her station at the front of the bridge.
"Can we see them anywhere? I don't want to stop if we don't have to." I asked
"If they're out there I don't see them.. wait... what's that? Oh, I think the fighting is going on on the distant side of New Babylon, I just picked up a couple of missiles coming into view." Sam reported.
"Ok, Sam advise traffic control that we have a deadline to meet and that we are not stopping for some fire fight on the other side of the system." I told him.
Sam argued with the person on the other end of the com line for a few moments then said, "They don't like it, but our lane is clear so they aren't going to stop us."
"Can you imagine," Lavender mused as she turned he chair to face the rest of us, "breaking away from the government and firing on the ships that keep the pirates and Aurorans at bay. How can they live with themselves knowing that they are putting everyone in danger?" she asked thoughtfully with a scowl on her face.
"I actually tried to look up what they said their reasons were one time," Russell answered, "It was tough to find much of anything that told 'their side of the story', what I did find seemed to suggest that they think the Federation government has been taken over from the inside, that its no longer a democracy. With the way there seems to be no info from their point of view maybe they are right." he suggested.
"Or maybe they are what they seem to be," I said, "a well organized terrorist group. Its not hard to imagine the same people who we see shooting at Federation warships are actually doing the things that they are blamed for in the news. I'm not ready to pass judgement on them here and now..." both Sam and Lavender chuckled at my reference to one of my bigger blunders of judgement a few years back, "but until I see real proof to the contrary I have to side with the Federation's story. You don't see Rebellion ships patrolling for pirates or Aurorans after all.
"Speaking of Rebel ships one just came into view, it looks like its making a run for the hypergate, there's a Patrol Boat right behind it." Sam broke in
"Can we get a picture Sam?" I asked
"Nope, its way too far out, I could bring it up on the tactical display..." he offered.
"Nah, not worth it. We dock in less than an hour, I'm going to go get something to eat. Try not to blow up the ship while I'm gone."
"But its so much fun!" I heard Lavender call as I exited the bridge. Heck, knowing her she'd probably skim by an asteroid where I could see it out a window here in a few minutes just to startle me. Good times.
Part II: A Situation
We unloaded our cargo and passengers to the Georgia orbital station in what must have been a record time. I was so impressed with how well the crew preformed I decided to do something special for them. It took some doing, but I managed to book an system exit flight plan that would take us right by the Nerse Primus hypergate. Even I had only gotten an up close look at a hypergate once or twice, and I was sure most of the crew had only seen them in holovids. This would be a real treat for them, and for me as well. Two days later as we passed by the massive structure I made sure to let the crew know that they were free to get to a port side window to take a look. The view was impressive, and we even got the special treat of seeing a massive Leviathan approach the gate. The gate's leaf like structures slowly moved further apart in order to create an artificial wormhole large enough for the Leviathan to pass through safely. A good ten minutes later energy surged through the gate and it slowly but smoothly opened. The resulting vortex of real space and hyperspace combined with the lightning that arced off the gate was breathtaking. It seemed impossible that in just a few minutes the massive freighter would emerge somewhere that would take us at least six days to reach using our hyperspace engines. Just as the Leviathan vanished into the gate Sam called out in alarm,
"Uh oh, we have a situation here. A pirate formation just jumped in! They're nearly within our weapons range. I'm reading a Manticore, a Starbridge, and a Valkyrie."
Quickly I started calling out orders, "Sam, try and contact Spacedock IV, let them know about the pirates before we get our com channels jammed. Russell, bring our weapons online and be ready to target the first pirate ship that comes in range. Lavender, start moving us away then in 30 seconds give me a full power burn."
All three acknowledged my orders and went to work while I brought the rest of the ship to battle stations. A few seconds later the shrill acceleration alarms sounded throughout the ship, and we began our run from the pirates.
"The com is being jammed now, but I did get through to the Spacedock," Sam notified me, but then he continued, "it looks like the pirates have taken an interest in us, all three ships are coming about."
"Incoming missiles from all three ships, the Valkyrie is nearly in range, I'm opening fire with the missile turrets now." Russell said just as Sam finished. I activated the holodisplay in the center of the bridge, and put up a tactical display and a couple camera views of the enemy ships. The Valkyrie was taking a mild beating from our three rocket turrets but it smoothly dodged out of line and started firing its own volley of unguided rockets.
"Lavender, evasive maneuvers! Try to get us clear of those rockets!" I instructed.
Slowly the Indigo Star pitched downward and moved out of the line of fire, only three or four missiles hit our shields. As the Valkyrie passed overhead a wave of missiles and blaster fire slammed into it, and it smartly moved out of range. But then I saw we had made a big mistake, our maneuver had cut our forward speed, and brought us right into the sights of the pirate Manticore. The entire ship lurched and the main lights dimmed as we were struck by first one, then two EMP torpedos and a stream of smaller IR guided missiles.
"Shields are down! Brace for impact, the Manticore has us in range of its Ion Cannons." Russell warned even as he switched our fire from the now retreating Starbridge to the larger pirate ship. A flow of blue energy leapt from node to node around the Manticore's spinning cargo section and then a beam lanced out towards the camera view I was watching from. The image instantly disintegrated into static and I could hear, and feel, a deep cutting sound from the Indigo Star's engineering section. The sound increased, stopped, and restarted twice more and then everything went dark except the dim red emergency lights. The sudden silence was broken my Shelton's voice, coming over my communicator. That wasn't a good sign, internal ship communications must have been down.
"Ragashingo, we're dead in space," he started clearly agitated. "The Manticore cut clean into the reactor cooling lines, I had to shut it down it or we'd all be dead. We're trying to get emergency power from the hyperspace batteries but the power grid is burned out all over the ship." my engineer reported. The battle was over it seemed, and we had lost. Somehow the lack of the familiar noises of the Indigo Star's engines and the slight hum of the shields reinforced that fact. The silence was just as terrifying as any sound I'd ever heard.
"Look, I think I can see the Starbridge" Lavender called out to the rest of us. She was standing right next to the large window at the front of the bridge. She pointed down and at an extreme angle I could just barely see the nose of the sleek ship. Seconds later the silence was pierced by the low rumbling sound of a ship to ship docking. They were going to board us!
Part III: Boarding Action
The pirate's first move seemed to be to try and take the forward "crew section" of the Indigo Star. While I was busy gathering crew members, and watching over the distribution of weapons the enemy Valkyrie returned and docked with the starboard docking port opposite the Starbridge. My defensive plan centered around protecting the bridge, as long as we controlled the bridge we controlled the ship. I sent a small team of five, lead by Russell, to wait in the lower cargo bay for the pirates to board. After picking off a few enemies his team would fall back, and up, to the next deck where a larger defense team of nine waited. If that team was overrun they would also fall back, and gain another 14 men. This would continue up to deck five where we would make our last stand defending the bridge. With the two smaller ships I figured the pirates could field anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five attackers. I had 50 defenders at my disposal in this section of the ship, with another 30 or so waiting 90 meters away in the engineering section. The wild card was the Manticore, if we were lucky it would only have a crew slightly larger than that of the full compliment of the Indigo Star. If we weren't they might be able to swarm us with two or three times the men I had. That was a scary thought, and to make matters worse I had no idea where the Manticore even was.
The pirate's attack started slowly. Russell reported that they were being very cautious, and moving with a high level of organization. I guess I should have expected that from people who did this kind of thing for a living. Their entrance to the small lower cargo bay was preempted by the deployment of several smoke grenades, and at least some of the pirates had low light or IR headgear. Russell's team was spotted almost immediately in the dark cargo bay, and they were forced to retreat without firing a shot. Pirates 1, Defenders 0.
The next round went a bit more in our favor, but not much. Since the crew elevator was offline with the main power grid down the pirates were forced to scale the maintenance ladders built into the walls and floors. A single pirate knocked the access hatch in the floor open and with well time precision four small smoke grenades landed in a near circle around the hatch obscuring the view of the fire team I had posted there. After only ten minutes of fighting Russell again radioed that he was forced to fall back. His expanded team preformed well, but the pirate's better equipment again proved to be the difference. They could see through their own smoke while my men were forced to fire back at targets they couldn't see. As Russell started his climb up to deck three where I waited he noted that he thought his team managed to wound two, or maybe three pirates, but that his team had taken five causalities in return. Pirates 2, Defenders 0.
Russell's team climbed out of the access space on the floor of deck three a couple minutes later. He found me and we discussed our strategy. We couldn't let them set up their smoke screen again, or even our combined team of 23 would be quickly defeated. We were losing decks far far too quickly. A couple of the men came up with some great ideas that we rushed to put into motion. A cook suggested that we cover the floor with left over grease, cooking oil, and food. The oil and food would hinder the pirate's footing, and the grease could be shot causing a brief fire. Another crew member suggested we pull some of the heavier furniture out of the crew quarters on this deck and pile it around the access hatch to limit the pirate's movements. By the time the pirates started their attack we had our surprises ready for them. The pirates again started with smoke grenades, but when they started to climb onto the deck they quickly found they had nowhere to go. We opened up on them from three directions at once. Between the slippery deck, the burning grease, and the pirate's limited movement options we managed to hold them where they were. After a couple more attempts the pirates retreated to the lower decks. When the smoke cleared we counted two more of our men wounded, but we had killed nine of the boarders. Pirates 2, Defenders 1.
I figured with their first defeat the pirates would have to regroup, and they would probably bring reinforcements over from their Manticore. While we waited we collected the fallen pirate's weapons, and luckily scored a pair of IR goggles. I spread my men out a bit, posting them at areas of the ship with large fields of view, two to the rear facing officer's lounge, two to the forward facing main crew lounge, and a couple to the view points on the top and bottom of the cargo spine. Back in engineering Shelton sent teams out with welding torches to weld as many of the access hatches and airlocks shut as we could manage. It had been nearly an hour since the pirates first entered my ship, with the distance we were from the Federation Spacedock help would still be two hours away at best. We had to hold that long, probably longer, and it wasn't going to be easy. Just as we got the last of the access hatches welded the woman covering the officer's lounge reported in. The Manticore had come back into view and was lining up with the upper docking port of the engineering section.
The fight for the Indigo Star started again in ernest about fifteen minutes later. We held the pirates below us in place without too much trouble. They simply didn't have the manpower to burn through our welds and hold off our cautious counter attacks at the same time. The battle for engineering however was a very different story. There was no way we could hold the large force that came over from the Manticore. They quickly had more than fifty men swarming the rear of the ship and Shelton and his team had to retreat. We managed to bog the larger force down for nearly twenty minutes as they fought their way along the narrow corridors of the cargo spine, but now we had our backs against the wall. Pirates 3, Defenders 1.
When their attack stopped moving forward at the last choke point on our side of the cargo spine I figured they had stopped to regroup again, but then I got a message from Lavender.
"Ragashingo, the Valkyrie just undocked and left, and it left in a hurry." she said with a hint of confusion in her voice.
"I'll be right there." I replied.
A minute later I stood with her beside the large bridge window. Sure enough the nose of the Valkyrie was nowhere to be seen. Just as I shifted my gaze to the Starbridge still docked on the opposite port I felt a light shudder pass through my ship. The Starbridge had undocked! They must have given up. The Starbridge move away from us, but from out of nowhere three small shapes, blazing bright electric blue, appeared. They quickly caught up to the Starbridge and attacked it with bright yellow beam weapons. After a few passes by the blue fighters the Starbridge exploded.
"But... you never see three Vell-os Darts... unless..." I whispered numbly to myself as my mind tried to warn me of what was about to happen, "...unless. Oh hell. We've got to get out of here, NOW!" I said as I dragged Lavender off the bridge. As we exited the bridge I yelled for everyone to get to the escape pods. I ripped my communicator off my belt and set it to broadcast on all frequencies with no encryption and yelled, "All hands abandon ship, abandon ship now. We have a Javelin coming in and if it kills that Manticore while its sill on top of us we'll be just as dead!"
I ran to one of the upward leading access hatches built into the corridor wall and helped Lavender and a few other crew members into the tight ladder space. I glanced back to see Russell doing the same on the opposite wall, he turned, gave me a solemn wave, and ducked into the opening. As I exited the crawl space onto the next deck I heard and felt what I feared. The entire ship shook as the Javelin tore into the Manticore. Strangely I found myself hoping the Manticore would hold out just a few moments longer, buying us the time we needed to sprint to the escape pod hatch on the other end of the corridor.
Suddenly the horrible sound of screeching metal rushed closer and closer towards us and then in an instant the deck above our heads was split open by the end of a swirling beam of blue-white energy. We were knocked across the corridor towards the escape pod. When I opened my eyes to stand I saw that everything was covered in a thin layer of ice, and I noticed that the air around me was bitterly cold. We scrambled into the escape pod, but someone was missing. Back along the far wall Lavender was sprawled in a heap. I rushed to drag her to the pod, and with the help of someone else I got her ice covered body aboard. She wasn't awake.
Someone, I'm not even sure who, had wisely decided that we needed to get out of there and launched the escape pod. As we moved clear I stared back at the Indigo Star. Above the engineering section drifted the burning remains of what had once been a Manticore, in fact there were large pieces of it scattered all around my ship. The Indigo Star itself had a huge flaming gash along the top of its crew section and the engineering section wasn't much better off. It appeared to have been pierced in multiple places, and it too was on fire. My ship, and who knows how many lives, was gone. If only I hadn't taken such an unusual route out of the system none of it would have happened. I closed my eyes and must have passed out.
Some time later a Federation Patrol Boat intercepted our escape pod and scooped it into its small cargo bay. We were let out of the cramped pod and given a medical checkup, most of us had minor frostbite but were otherwise fine. One crew member had a broken shoulder but would be ok though he might need surgery later. Lavender however had to be put on life support, and before too long she had fallen into a coma. When we got back to Spacedock IV I made sure my two injured crew members got safely to the station's medical facilities and the I went in search of the rest of my crew. Over the next few hours other ships brought escape pods from the Indigo Star to the station. By the time the day was over everyone who had made it off the IDA Frigate had arrived. Out of 82 crew members only 24 had survived.
Part IV: Rebuilding
For the next week I kept myself busy tying up all sorts of loose ends I had never even thought about before. Who ever considers that they might have to authorize the sale of their destroyed ship to an orbital scrapyard, or pay for a hazard crew to clean up the slowly expanding cloud of debris left from a battle? I spent the rest of my time helping various crew members contact their families or book passage out of the Nerse Primus system. For them my ship had been home, and with it gone they had to start their lives over. By the time the week was over my crew had shrunken from 24 to eight. Sam, Shelton, Russell, and Nathan all stayed with me as did the four crew members who I had gotten to my escape pod. Finally the question of what to do next came up. For me there was only one answer. Buy a new IDA Frigate and start over. Nobody gave my decision a second thought, and when I asked my crew for suggestions for the new ship's name every single one answered "Indigo Star" without hesitation.
The process of purchasing the new ship and hiring a new crew went fairly smoothly. Despite all the cost with disposing of the first Indigo Star I still had nearly five million Credits in the bank. Two months of hard work later the new Indigo Star was ready to depart. It was amazing how similar this new ship was to my first one, and yet how at the same time in ways I couldn't really describe I could feel that the ship was different. There were other changes too, I was still getting to know my new crew a process that would take some time. With Lavender still in a coma on Earth Nathan had inherited the pilot's chair, that was going to take a long time to get used to. I had changed too. Instead of playing up the first departure of my new ship I just ordered Nathan to take us out and left the bridge. I was sure my joy of being in command of an impressive ship would return to me someday, but that day was not today. All I could think about for now was the men I had lost and the one person I was leaving behind.