Updated: Jun 24, 2021
Old Bastion's Star system, Angel Hook Nebula, Aquarius Cluster, 4410 A.D
Ronin pushed forward gently on the control column as the Pathfinder's Helium-Fusion Plasma Drives flared up; the mighty primary drive stack igniting into the darkness of space as the secondary, lateral thrust vectoring drives along her hull blasted helium plasma into the vacuum of space. Pathfinder was a heavy ship, somewhat sluggish to respond to the manual control, but if you handled her just right; she was a remarkably nimble ship, and in the hands of Ronin Kociero, the two million ton battlecruiser had been known to pull off manoeuvres that would have snapped a lesser vessel of similar mass in half.
The controls responded as expected as the warship moved forward into a slow advance, keeping pace with the Eridonia's Hope; who had begun circling around the rest of the fleet.
"Patch me into Fleet-Com." The captain ordered, gesturing to CoRE's holoform as he pulled the control column gently back into the idle position; Pathfinder slowly coming to a halt as her forward thrust vectoring drives flared up; providing the necessary counter inertia.
CoRE's holoform nodded, re-materialising beside the captain on the central command platform. "Fleet-Com is live."
Ronin adjusted his ear piece slightly, before clearing his throat and making a gesture at the holographic display that had manifested over the control console in front of him.
"Good morning, Knights of the Old Federation." He spoke, a comedic tone to his voice. "This is your captain speaking, of course it is me. Who else is mad enough to lead a fleet of pre-fall rust bucket relics into a heavily protected Imperial Navy outpost in search of some top-secret intelligence that may, or may not even be present there?" He laughed, taking a short pause to realise what he was actually planning.
"On a serious tone, Fleet, this is Ronin on Pathfinder. We are all all systems go. We will now assign Task Groups, so hope you do not pull the short straw and get to accompany us into the gates of hell!"
Ronin paused, interacting with the console at his station. Several displays emerged with tactical readouts and infographics of fleet topology and various other co-ordination data synchronised with the warship's Battle-net. Icons representing the four ships, Pathfinder, Eridonia's Hope, Winter Blossom and Imerivm appeared together, under of which the readout stated "Group Alpha". A further half a dozen EPF Vengeance-class heavy cruisers formed groups Beta and Gamma, consisting of three warships each.
"Groups synchronised with Battle-net." He announced on the Fleet-Com network, turning his head to look at CoRE's holoform. "Pathfinder has priority channel on Fleet-Com, so keep this frequency clear. No chitter chatter." He smiled, looking back to the Pathfinder's attendant fleet which had assembled in a neat line-abreast formation about three kilometres off the battlecruiser's bow.
"Hope here, reporting all systems green. She's holding together nicely, Captain. We've got your back!" Captain Grovikeh's voice replied over the Fleet-com, as Eridonia's Hope's status switched to green. Shortly after, the captains of the other vessels gave their confirmations, it was time to begin the party.
"Okay. Pathfinder is taking point. Staggered jump to synchronised co-ordinates. Let's get it done, Fleet". Ronin flicked a physical switch on the control dashboard to disable live fleet-com; the holographic display switching to a navigational readout of the battlecruiser's helm control as he placed his hand atop of the control column; pushing it most of the way toward the forward position; the mighty roar of the warship's primary drives sending shudders throughout the command deck as Pathfinder engaged a hard-burn into deep space ahead of the fleet in preparation for a long-distance FTL Subspace transition.
Moments later, Eridonia's Hope followed suit, along with Winter Blossom and the support ship Imerivm, following the Pathfinder in a neat line as the EPF's heavy cruisers engaged their own drives to do the same.
The first act in a series of crucial events that would shape the future of Aquarius would now begin.
The system of Angel Lumen was mostly quiet. Civilian shipping was light, mostly long-distance super-freighters moving heavy exports between the Imperial Colony on Helia and the outer system of Angel A21B, where local shipping companies took over on its final journey to the core system of Corona, through Korol on the famous "Angel Straight" shipping route. The occasional outlaw would try their luck on the outskirts of the system, but most of the experienced raiders operating out in the Angel Reach had learned the hard way since the Imperial take over in 4404 A.D, that it was generally unwise to provoke the Imperial Security forces garrisoned in the system.
Angel Lumen remained a key navigation system and jump staging point on the Angel Straight route, its central location between the Great Crimson Barrier Nebula and the mighty Angel Nebula meant that almost all terran star ships, including advanced military warships, had to exit subspace in the system to recharge their Jump Drive Arrays before making the next jump to Angel A21-B and into Aquarian space. As such, the Aquarian Imperial Navy ensured a strong presence in the system, using its strategic location to scrutinise any and all cargo entering and exiting the heavily protected Core Systems. In order to support the Navy's sizable operations in the region, Angel Lumen hosts a major naval installation with a direct link to Imperial Naval Command on Lorentis; part of ATIS's advanced QEC-network for essentially untraceable, uncrackable, instantaneous transmission of data to and from the Core Systems.
It was for this reason that Peregrine Outpost, named after the ancient earth bird of prey, was so heavily defended; potential aggressors could compromise the QEC-network and potentially gain access to the otherwise uncrackable Imperial Data Grid that underpinned all ATIS military operations in the entire cluster.
The QEC-network was the primary reason why the Eridonia Free People's Fleet had almost no success in intercepting Imperial Navy communications regarding fleet movements or other strategically important information; Quantum Entanglement Communication could only be accessed with the matching pair of generated Quantum States; those of which would be frequently re-generated from random noise deep within the outpost's mainframe core. Local communications were vulnerable to espionage, as CoRE was well aware, but the intelligence gathered by EPF "listening" operations was of very little region-wide strategic value.
For that, the EPF would need a functioning QEC-network Access Key. Not just a leftover fragment, but a fully operational, unsuspected access key to the network - such a device would be the holy grail of strategic importance for the fledgling group of freedom fighters, allowing them to stay one step ahead of the vastly more numerous and more powerful Aquarian Imperial Navy.