Updated: Jun 24, 2021
A brilliant blueshift of light caused by rapidly decreasing distance between the target star and the Pathfinder during the subspace transition, illuminated the command bridge; energetic flashes of visible light and ultraviolet radiation flashed and pulsed across the deck, most of which was blocked by the warship's physical protective shielding over the observation window, however it was often advised to enter subspace with observation blast shields retracted. Ronin preferred to bask in the peaceful lightshow produced by a two-million mass ton lump of metal and nanopolymer alloy hurtling towards a distance star at an order of magnitude greater than relativity would normally permit; of course, exploiting the Subspace Principle allowed one to 'bend' the rules a bit. Regardless, the Old Man was old enough to simply not care about Subspace Sickness anymore, he had done it countless times and his crew had too.
It was starkly peaceful, the lights. The flickering of blue shifting energy increasing in frequency until the Pathfinder's Proximity Destination alarms sounded as CoRE adjusted the phasic 'velocity' through the 5th axis of dimensional travel, the Void, bringing the vessel closer, and slower, to her destination.
Angel Lumen. A smallish red-hued, low temperature star occupying an area of space almost directly in the crossing between the Angel Nebula and the Great Crimson Barrier Nebula. The Angel Reach, as it was known; a key access corridor to central Aquarius and G-North, towards the other species of the Six Trade Alliance, in the Deep Red, Taran and Sector Rim Nebulas, some two-hundred parsecs beyond the Crimson Barrier's vast expanse.
"Exit in thirty seconds." CoRE's synthetic voice broke the somewhat peaceful ambience of the metallic groaning of super-structural stress, and the low-pitched hum of magneto field stabilisers. "I have compensated for stellar drift by approximately three percent, our exit trajectory is now aligned within a ten-percent margin of error of the two-hundred kilometre specified distance to the designated target. I estimate we will exit approximately one hundred ninety two thousand clicks G-South of the target, at X nine-nine-four, Y two seven zero, Z zero zero three, with a bearing of two-ninety. In-system drift and dropping to hypercruise bearing three-ten will allow us to arrive within the designated zone within a few minutes of exit."
Ronin simply nodded as he placed his hands on the Pathfinder's control column, bracing himself for full manual helm control as the warship transitioned into real space.
"Ten seconds." CoRE announced, his holoform manifesting behind the Captain's chair, observing the brilliant pulses of subspace light beyond the observation window as Angel Lumen's distinctive orange-red hue began to break through the Void.
The thunderous clap of super-heated plasma bursting outwards into real space from the rapid collision of the phasic subspace bubble and the underlying fabric of space, rumbled throughout the deck. Loose fittings on the thousand-year old battlecruiser vibrated and rattled as she rapidly de-accelerated from relative FTL speeds to a hyper cruise approximately ten thousand kilometres per second, bearing down on a large micro asteroid field of particulate matter that, according to the ISAR resistance intel, harboured the AT Salmon; an Aquarian Imperial Navy Arctic-class Naval Platform - hidden from prying eyes by the electromagnetically reflective properties of the field surrounding her.
"We have entered Hypercruise. Adjusting velocity by sixty percent. Stabilised at four-thousand klicks per second. Trajectory aligned with target." CoRE announced again, reporting data from Pathfinder's Hypercruise-Navigation system, which had taken over as the warships punched out of subspace - into a direct high-realspace velocity cruise directly to the target. Such a manoeuvre would give the Pathfinder and her fleet very little time to prepare, but the same would apply to the enemy. The Battle-net system, managed by CoRE and the Pathfinder's highly capable Electronic Warfare System would be co-ordinating and micromanaging the entire fleet formation's course and trajectory, relative to each other, as they approached the station.
Ronin remained silent, instead he nodded again in acknowledgement as he prepared himself for CoRE to announce a switch to full manual helm control, at which point the captain would be fully in control of the two-million ton battlecruiser, traveling at relative velocity in excess of a thousand kilometres per second, rapidly approaching the two-hundred kilometre zone they had set around AT-Salmon as part of their co-ordinated attack.
The Heads Up display on Pathfinder's Bridge observation window highlighted the target zone with a small red circle with a curved line - representing the Pathfinder's current trajectory, leading up to it, along the line were notches indicating relative distance, of which were rapidly expanding in distance from each other as the warship cruised thousand kilometres per second towards the destination; the particulate field of matter around the supposed location for AT Salmon getting larger and larger until it almost filled the entire observation window.
"Hope confirms successful transition. Blossom confirms successful transition." CoRE announced, as Pathfinder closed in on her target. "Imerivm confirms successful transition. She is holding back bearing two-eighty and stabilised at two-thousand kilometres as requested" the C-AI added.
Ronin had been silent since exiting subspace, the Old Man was deep in thought as to how this would unfold, given the importance of their move, it could mean the end of the Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet, or it could allow them to confront the Aquarian Empire for the first time since its emergence twenty years ago.
"Understood." The captain spoke, his course voice focused on the task at hand. "Begin phase one."
"Helm is yours, Captain." CoRE announced as Pathfinder dropped to a few hundred kilometres a second at the critical distance of a thousand klicks from the target zone. At this point, Imperial long-range scanners would have easily already detected the fleet's mass signatures and almost certainly have alerted the local response fleet over CS Peregrine to mobilise - just as they had hoped.
The captain pushed gently forward on the column - Pathfinder's dorsal lateral thrusters ignited, sending super-heated blue-tinted helium plasma into hundred-metre long plumes, forcing the bow of the battlecruiser down, slightly below the mapped trajectory displayed on the heads up.
"I'm taking us in lower, adjust A-H-S and Battlenet to have Hope come in a few degrees below the agreed trajectory. Blossom is to de-accelerate as planned, linking up with C-C-Bs as we reach our original trajectory." The captain ordered, interacting with the holographic control console in front of him: data points shifting around as he used a hand to 'swipe' them into place, creating a new guidance trajectory bar for manual helm control according to his new requirements.
CoRE knew the captain well, although the AI's simulated trajectory was the closest thing to a perfect 'interception' of the static zone given their current heading and velocity, he knew Ronin would want to make some last-moment alterations as he 'got the feel' for the angle at which the Pathfinder's axial armament - a mighty quad-linked Siege Magnetic Rail Stabilised Fusion Impulse Mass Driver with an individual bore diameter of over a metre, and a full barrel length almost seventy percent of the one and a half kilometre long battlecruiser's entire size. The captain intended to start the action with a 'hard shot' from the Pathfinder's Main armament - 'hard shot' referring to a discharge of the main gun during a hard burn or cruise, often at close range for maximum damage in the shortest possible time.
"SDD reports high-mass signature. The particulate field is no longer masking their signatures." CoRE exclaimed as proximity unknown contact alarm tones sounded across the command deck; highly disciplined bridge staff simply focusing on their control consoles, strapped in as the alarms changed pitch. "M-LADAR established. Confirmation on target, Arctic-class Platform. I am also detecting several other high-mass signatures in the immediate vicinity, captain." CoRE announced, shifting his hologram's attention to the observation window as he 'walked' over to the Captain's command chair.
"What are we dealing with?" Ronin asked, looking up at he HUD, before glancing back down to his own personal SDD/M-LADAR readout.
"There are three Cruiser-mass signatures docked with the station complex. A fourth sub-cruiser mass signature and two frigate-mass signatures are close by, within approximately twenty kilometres. I am not detecting movement on the larger signatures, it would appear they are not getting under way." CoRE reported; enlarging the somewhat electromagnetically noisy display of the MLADAR detection at around eight-hundred kilometres, moments before optical sensors would establish visual contact.
As the Pathfinder cruised closer, Ronin gently retracted the ship's throttle level, adjusting it down to deaccelerate the warship to a stable cruise of approximately a hundred kilometres a second, then fifty, then around ten; at which point it would be time to start the operation a proper.
"Captain. Confirmed identifiers on two Series One Revolution-class Fleet Cruisers and an Ark-class support ship, docked with the Salmon. A single Sleipnir-class Heavy Destroyer and two Eel-class Assault frigates are active in space, likely the vanguard." CoRE announced again as optical sensors began to identify what they were up against.
"Prepare Axial firing solution. Set H-V and Inert, solid state. Give me direct manual control, as usual, if you would, CoRE". Ronin ordered, as a second control stick unfolded from the command console in front of him; this one was smaller, a single column with a large, shielded trigger on the top side, just above the newly unfolded column was another shielded trigger, surrounded by yellow and black warning stripes, with the words "MASTER ARM" illuminated just above it.
CoRE nodded in acknowledgement as the captain flicked the shield open and punched the MASTER ARM switch; which set off a distinctive warning tone on the deck.
"MASTER ARM ENGAGED". The ship's board computer announced. "ALL HANDS TO BATTLESTATIONS".
At this point, Pathfinder was a mere five-hundred kilometres from the target and its defence fleet, there was absolutely no doubt they had detected the approaching ships, but the cruisers remained docked, silent. Ronin took a moment to think, the ISAR resistance's intel was spot on, and apparently the Imperial Navy had absolutely no idea they were coming. Time to make a lasting impression on Angel Lumen's Imperial defence forces with regards to how they remember the Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet's first direct confrontation of the draconian government. The Imperial Navy had rarely faced organised, extremely well-equipped opposition utilising heavy warships, most of the conflicts in the region were with stragglers and resistance from the Tigersharks cartels, who had already been decimated and routed by the pre-imperial era UAS Federal Navy, some hundred years before the formation of the Aquarian Terran Imperial States. The EFPF was the first time Freedom and Liberty in the name of Old Terran Values had the firepower to back up the ideology and really kick start this resistance in earnest.
"Captain. We have visual contact with Hope and Blossom. They are converging on our position. Hostile signitures of cruiser-mass are still stationary, however the smaller contacts are getting under way - it is safe to say they know we are here." CoRE reported, as the MLADAR and optical sensors on the bridge's HUD showed the SP-class destroyer flanked by two frigates moving, adjusting their course to align with the Pathfinder's .
"What do they think they are going to do? Ask us nicely to stop?" Ronin remarked, gripping the main gun targeting controls tightly, adjusting the Pathfinder's course, almost subconsciously, to align with the station complex.
"I do not believe the Imperials are that polite, Captain." CoRE replied, "We are approaching the deadzone before we can change course effectively for a new firing solution, Ronin." he added, noticing the Pathfinder's distance was now at merely two hundred kilometres from the station and its attendant fleet.
The Heads Up Display showed two circles; a red one highlighting the station complex, and a smaller, green one moving slowly around it. The smaller circle indicated the Pathfinder's main gun firing trajectory, estimated by the ship's targeting computer. Normally, this action would be performed automatically by the computer, or by CoRE, but Ronin 'felt' it was necessary that a human begin was the first to pull the trigger starting off a conflict that was entirely about humanity. Freedom, of course, was something that every man, woman and child deserved as a basic right. Something the EFPF would fight for every last breath they took.
That, and Ronin had a 'knack' for pulling off 'blind shots' that CoRE could neither confirm nor deny were based more on 'luck' than anything else, but there was no denying that the captain was a masterful marksman when wielding one of the most powerful mobile, space-borne projectile weapon systems in human history - something he had proven time and time again, and something that the AI still didn't understand. Humans will just be humans, he thought.
The atmosphere on the bridge was tense as Ronin squinted at the HUD; the station complex was now in full visual view, approaching rapidly as the Pathfinder hard-burned at just under ten kilometres a second towards it. The distance readout next to the navigation guidance bars changing so rapidly it was difficult to read.
"One fifty kilometres." CoRE Announced.
"One hundred kilometres."
"Seventy five kilometres. Captain, we are now unable to alter course for firing solution alterations. I sincerely hope you know what you are doi-"
Before the AI could finish his statement uninterrupted, Ronin squeezed hard on the trigger as the two circles roughly aligned; the smaller green circle was slightly down and to the left of the main target - Ronin's trajectory wasn't aiming for the station itself.
The almighty roar of the Pathfinder's supercapacitor array feeding the spinal armament shook the deck as the automatic firing solution engaged, locking the targeting circle in position - it began to rotate as the words "LIVE FIRE" flashed above it.
It wasn't long before the ship's deck jerked slightly, a strong upward movement as the bridge-tower's shock-absorbers took the brunt of the forces created by the rapid expansion of exhaust gases and plasma, tearing into space from the bow of the battlecruiser; a brilliant flash of green tinted ionised plasma arcing outwards from the protruding barrel of the warship towards the station complex, traveling the barely fifty kilometre distance in fractions of a second.
Eridonia's Hope and Winter Blossom, already in a tight formation with the Pathfinder, engaged their own weapon systems and synchronised their Battlenets and Adaptive Harmonics Systems as the two battlecruisers and light cruiser deaccelerated to impulse speeds a mere thirty kilometres from Salmon, essentially knife-fight range, close enough that there would be no way the two docked Fleet Cruisers could get underway quick enough to turn their powerful SPARTAN missile systems onto the EFPF.
Groups Gamma and Beta arrived shortly after, at approximately two hundred kilometres as per the original designation, the half dozen Heavy Cruisers would provide the cavalry and occupy the inevitable Imperial Navy response from CS Peregrine, while the Pathfinder would slip off to recover what they had come to the system for - the ATIS QEC-Network Quantum State Key.