Angel A18 system, Angel Reach, Aquarius Cluster, 4410 A.D
The distinctive blue-shifted outbursts of subspace energy of a high-mass FTL transition crackled and pulsed into space on the outskirts of the Angel A18 system, in the Angel Reach. Within moments, several new signatures would have lit up on any nearby Space Density Distortion scanners; though there were unlikely any nearby to detect it.
Pathfinder exited subspace first, the almighty flash of her custom-tuned JDA sending arcs of energy streaking forward along her rapidly emerging contours as the one and a half kilometre long warship slipped from the void into real space, rapidly de-accelerating as her lateral impulse thrusters flared up to counter exit inertia and bring the mighty vessel from her initial drift to a static positon. She was soon followed by the pre-fall legacy Endeavour-class battlecruiser Eridonia's Hope, who exited a mere half a dozen kilometres off the Pathfinder's starboard side. Winter Blossom and Imerivm followed suit, transiting subspace in a co-ordinated formation another half dozen clicks from the stern of the two battlecruisers.
Group Alpha had arrived at the EPF's Staging point in Angel A18; from there they would co-ordinate the first open attack on an ATIS Installation in the history of the fledgling rebellion, marking the beginning of the open war with Aquarius's new draconian Imperial regime that grew from the ashes of the once-valued Old Federation. Groups Beta and Gamma; two formations of three of the EPF's aging pre-fall Series 2 Vengeance-class heavy cruisers arrived shortly after, flanking Group Alpha on each side.
"Pathfinder to fleet, FTL transition successful. That was smooth riding." Ronin spoke into the Fleet-com, adjusting his ear piece slightly while scrutinising the sensory output on the broad-spectrum array; neatly displayed upon his control dashboard, along with a larger version visualised on the bridge observation window's heads up display, visible to all bridge staff. "Maintain holding pattern until further notice. We have to run a few checks before we jump half-blind into Imperial space. Fleet Tac-Com is synchronised - Pathfinder is hosting the party, Ronin out"
The captain took himself off Fleet-Com for a moment, looking to the Pathfinder's Navigation officer - a tall woman by the name of Iva Serris - a Semperternalis, like the Captain and most of his crew. Iva had served with Ronin since the Old Days and was almost a wife to the man, though he knew she didn't see eye to eye with CoRE - the ship's C-AI, and Ronin's synthetic "brother" of sorts.
"Navigation, Iva - I'm not seeing anything obvious but run a broad-spectrum sweep on S-D-D and M-LAD-AR, but keep it below obvious thresholds." he ordered, looking over to CoRE's holoform of whom was looking over the navigation officer's shoulder.
"She has a knack for it, call it an 'organic' talent of sorts." he smirked, "Besides, I need you to re-run the calculations on those jump vectors. There are only two things in this life that scare the shit out of me - the main gun on Time's Long March, and jumping blind into enemy space without verified exit co-ordinates." He chuckled, looking back to his dashboard - interacting briefly with the holodisplay - moving some data points together triggering a control mechanism which gave a confirmatory chime.
"And I'm not so sure of the second one". He added, reminiscing of the many times he and Captain Alexander had blind jumped half way across the goddamn galaxy those many years ago in the Old Days.
Iva smiled smugly, glancing round the AI's manifestation and giving a passive-aggressive shrug. Though a woman of few words, she was highly talented at data analytics; not entirely because of the myriad of cognitive augmentations installed in her cerebral cortex over centuries of bio-genetic enhancement serving with the most elusive warship in Aquarius, but genuine talent - something Ronin appreciated. Seeing 'order' in random noise, reading raw MLADAR outputs and filtering them with an obnoxious signal-to-noise ratio in a way almost matching CoRE's automated subroutines. Of course, CoRE maintained the Pathfinder's Adaptive Harmonics System, so much of the heavy lifting was done automatically by the C-AI's mainframe in fractions of seconds as the raw sensory data poured in from the vessel's broad-spectrum scanners, but it was nice to at least double-check the results.
"I have completed the simulation of the escape victory eight-hundred twenty-seven times with a margin of error no greater than one percent. I conclude that while hard-jumping from Angel A18 to Angel Lumen with the current data is well outside of what I would consider 'normal safe tolerances' for a guided jump, it is still well below the threshold of what I would consider 'suicide'." The AI replied, re-materialising next to the captain.
"It'll do." Ronin responded, rubbing his brow; the thought of the 'Knights of the Old Federation' and chivalry falling away to reveal the cold reality of the implications of a direct attack on an Imperial Navy installation. "Run a re-validation of the cryptography of Fleet-Com local radio communications - I don't want eavesdroppers even out here in the middle of the arse end of nowhere. Then patch me back to Fleet Com, no point in sitting around out here".
CoRE's holoform nodded, as the captain brushed his neatly-kept hair behind his ears and placed his finger on the manual control of the communicator in his ear.
"Fleet, this is Pathfinder. We're ready to go. I do not do motivational speeches so I will keep this concise - I know each and every one of you will do what is required of you to support the successful outcome of this operation. The very existence of the Free People's Fleet depends on your actions within the next solar cycle. We have been through so much and we have seen so much, lost so much, and we hope for so much. Now it is time to act".
"You all know what you need to do, but for clarity's sake I will go over the tactical appraisal of our task one more time before we set off this cascade of events.
Group Alpha on battlenet, consisting of Pathfinder, Eridonia's Hope, Winter Blossom and Imerivm, will lead the opening stage of the operation. Alpha will transition from subspace approximately two hundred clicks below the target designation: Salmon. This is a close jump, our exit signatures will be immediately visible to the enemy.
Salmon is a not-well-disclosed post-fall Arctic-class Naval Support Platform. It is being used by the Aquarian Imperial Navy as a munitions and starship fuel supply base. It is not on any of the civilian starmaps and the Navy doesn't expect us to know its precise location. Our contacts in the ISAR resistance provided this intelligence and I expect us to show them EPF professionalism when we deal with it.
Salmon is a key strategic target in Angel Lumen. According to the same ISAR reports, the Imperial Navy is resupplying their fast cruisers there on their way to Helia and Angel-Crimson Delta, where the resistance is barely clinging on. So I consider this a sort of triple-advantage opportunity: we will lead an attack on Salmon and neutralise it as a viable point of resupply for the Imperial Navy. In doing so, we direct the enemy's attention to this highly strategic target and, hopefully, succeed in making the Imperials believe it was the target of the entire affair.
That is, of course, a rather elaborate ruse. Our real target is the target designation: Peregrine; Cossack-class Naval Outpost in Deep space, free orbit around Angel Lumen - more or less the Navy's command centre in the entire system. It is unlikely the imperials expect an attack, but a direct offensive on Peregrine is not something I am willing to risk. As you know from the previous briefings: Peregrine Station hosts the Imperial Navy's QEC-network link to their Naval Command on Lorentis. Long story short, we need to infiltrate the station and secure a carbon-copy of the Quantum State Key, giving us unfettered access to all ATIS long-distance communications on the secure QEC-network to and from Lorentis.
In other words, it's a strategic gold mine. That is our target here. Salmon's destruction will not only serve as a diversion, however, it will also assist our friends in the ISAR resistance and perhaps buy them a few cycles of relief from the Navy's operations in Angel Crimson-Delta. It will also weaken the Navy's grip on the region somewhat, which is never a bad thing.
Based on my experience with the Imperial Navy's response tactics, a sizable force will likely be dispatched to Salmon immediately upon our detection. Intelligence is extremely limited on the defensive elements already garrisoned there, but I am not expecting more than a few destroyers or at most, a fast cruiser - nothing we can't handle. However, when the attack gets under way, the Imperials will call for assistance - Peregrine's command will likely divert a good portion of the defensive garrison there to Salmon - taking our bait, and opening Peregrine up for a covert insertion. Pathfinder's away team will handle that bit, your job is to give the Imperials a taste of Old Federation naval action near designation Salmon.
That is all.
I am counting on both an element of surprise and your professionalism to allow us to succeed in our task today. We fight for the Old Federation - we are true Terrans.
Punch in your assigned exit vectors and form up. It's time to act."
Ronin flicked the Fleet-Com to manually disengaged on the dashboard and stood from the command chair, facing CoRE's holoform behind him; offering his hand to the ghost-like manifestation
"To the Old Days, Brother. Just wish Alexander could be here to bail us out if this goes horribly wrong." He said, 'shaking' the AI's hand.
"Yes, that would be useful indeed. To the Old Days, Ronin. Now I think we have a job to do, don't you?" CoRE replied, de-materialising as the Pathfinder's bridge lights dimmed to a subtle red-tint and the subspace drive began spooling up with a tremendous, thundering low-frequency hum vibrating across the command deck.
"But I think we can handle this one ourselves."