What Might Have Been (Part 8)

Clan Snow Raven Warship Storm Crow
Nadir Jump Point
Near Periphery
2 February, 3006

“Battlestations!” Star Commander Arianna Shu barked out an order she had never expected to issue at this point in her career as the unthinkable happened. In an uninhabited system, nearly thirty light-years from any object of strategic or human significance except for the weak M-class star at the system’s heart, another vessel was materialising less than a thousand kilometers off Storm Crow‘s bow.

Klaxons sounded as her order was put into effect and one of the veteran technicians who manned Storm Crow‘s night shift began speaking calmly over the massive vessel’s Public Address System “All hands man your battle stations. This is not a drill. Repeat: This is not a drill. All hands…”

Arianna had been left in command of Storm Crow‘s bridge precisely because such a situation was vanishingly unlikely. Senior officers had better things to do — such as paperwork — than sit idly on the bridge for days at a time, and it was thought that such a watch was the perfect opportunity for a junior naval oficer to get a taste of command. Storm Crow had had many such watches, punctuated only by drills, since leaving the Homeworlds six months ago. Dispatched by Khan Magnus McKenna in anticipation of the acceptance of his plan to assess the condition of abandoned Star League bases in the near Periphery, Storm Crow was only now approaching its first objective, an antique automated supply yard and drydock.

Had they been followed or their itenerary leaked? Was this an attempt by a lesser Clan to destroy or capture the Sovetskii Soyuz-Class Heavy Cruiser far from support? Taken alone, there were no shortage of hostile vessels that could be expected to overpower Storm Crow herself.

“Based on long-range transit, bogey is expected to be a Merchant-class or similar Jumpship. We cannot rule out a Warship.” That was the report from the sensors section, that last bit undoubtedly meant to remind the rookie commander that she should be cautious. I know that, but what is the right move? If it were a Merchant, keeping her distance until it could be confirmed would be seen as overly timid. If it were a heavier warship, closing with the vessel, still known only as a heat contact since it had yet to fully resolve in the system, could be disasterous, even fatal.

The worst thing a Clan Warrior could appear to be was timid. Brave and dead was considerably better.

“Give me maximum thrust. Close to optimum weapons range and ready for action.”

It was only moments later that Star Admiral Robert McKenna entered the bridge, beating his juniors by luck or foresight.

“Captain on the bridge!” Arianna snapped to her feet in the one and a half gravities of a Warship under acceleration and saluted, moving to one of the bridge tactical stations.

“At ease! Report!” the Star Admiral barked as he took his place at the heart of the bridge and switched on his tactal monitors.

“One Bogey, confirmed Merchant-Class Jumpship with two Dropships. Astrometry guesses those as Union and Fury classes. Range is eight-two-five kilometers and closing.”

“Identify us to the unidentified vessels. My compliments to their Captains and crew and I demand their immediate and unconditional surrender. I will not ask again.”

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