(37) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (140-1123)

This file has yet to be fully edited...

This file has yet to be fully linked...

140-1123 : Tussinian / Trin's Veil / Spinward Marches

   It's a little after 9:10, and the crew is still discussing the boarding party.  Sir Misha believes Santanocheev is not on board the courier, but once they are there they can find out where he really is.  Edward "Shark" Teeth, however, believes he is there.
    The boarding party will consist of Teri, Robert, and Sir Misha.  Kalida will lock in the target for Helia to fire -- the larian is a decent gunner in her own right -- and also go in the party.
    Nightshade is carrying ample numbers of battledress as well as associated weapons.  There are probably also weapons among the items that were originally in the armory, although if so they have not yet identified them.
    Shark would like at least one communications person taken alive, but he insists that all the bodies must be identifiable.  He adds that they do not expect to be facing much battledress.  There may be one or two people on duty who are, but most will not be.
    Kalida says that while she knows they want people alive, the more holes they put in the ship, the less they'll have to deal with.  While they haven't identified the ship completely yet, it's around 400 tons and should be easy enough to damage.  She expects maybe a dozen crew members at most, possibly five or six if it's just a courier.
    Shark says that they do not want to hit communications.  If Santanocheev is on board, he'll be at communications or the bridge.  If they take out the ship's power right away, unless they have auxiliary power, they won't be able to communicate back to the fleet.  Either way, as soon as it stops transmitting -- or calls for help -- someone will react.
    Helia estimates the response time of the fleet would be about 20 minutes.
    Shark then asks her if it was a trap and they fired nuclear missiles to carpet bomb them, how long would it be?  It would, of course, be significantly less.  They could be in laser range in ten minutes, which does not give the boarding party long to do their work.
    That changes plans.  Kalida will need to be on board Nightshade in case they need to run interference against incoming ships.  Her place on the team will be taken by Shark.
    Robert asks a little nervously if they'll be taking a grav craft over to the courier, or just jump out?
    Sir Misha suggests dropping the boarding party off under stealth before they open fire.  If there's terrain cover at a suitable distance, they can hide until Nightshade has finished their fire sequence.
    Then comes the question of how many holes to put into the ship.  More holes will reduce risks to the boarding party, but will run a higher risk of damaging communications gear or not allowing bodies to be identified.
    Kalida says that Nightshade's laser is a point defense weapon, and designed for multiple shots.  Whether all those hits penetrate or not will depend on what she hits and where.  They'll need several shots to be sure of disabling Engineering.
    The boarding party will have at most 20 minutes, and at least 10 minutes.  Nightshade can provide some cover, but the boarding party will still need to be very quick.
    Kalida's first target will be Engineering.  After that, other areas that might get personnel out of the way, but not the critical areas they'll want to preserve.
    Shark points out that on that ship, they'll be done with breakfast by now.  All the important personnel should be at their stations.
    The terrain is fairly uneven.  There is substantial ground cover that will allow the boarding party to take cover from debris, and yet make a short sprint on the built-in grav capabilities of the battle dress.  Given the route that the ship will have to take to get there, it will be about half an hour before they are in position.  On the way, they can try to get more information on the courier.

    About 15 minutes out from the courier, Callisto says she's identified the ship.  It's a ubiquitous Gazelle class close escort.  If it's being used in a communcations role, it's probably been de-armed somewhat and the space used for communications gear.  She brings up the details and standard deck plan on the main holodisplay for everyone to examine.
    Shark reflects that Santanocheev is surely getting suspicious since he won't have seen Nightshade do anything for a while.  He asks Baron Bridgehead what space he'd need to run a fleet battle.  The Bridge clearly isn't big enough.  Shark himself suggests either the Ward Room or the Officer's Lounge.
    Bridgehead says that if he were calling the modifications to this ship, he'd put the tactical operations in the Ward Room and the equipment to back it up in the Cargo Hold right underneath it.  They could run a conduit through the fuel tankage between the two decks to connect the two areas.  It would be a very easy modification.  He'd also fill the particle accelerator barbette with specialized comm equipment.  That would put everything right there in that one section of ship.
    Shark and Kalida select their targets.  She'll take out a lot of the rear 2/3 of the ship, and scatter a few shots along the forward corridor from the Officer's Lounge.  Clearly the Bridge is not where he'll be as it simply isn't big enough, so they should be able to take that out too.

    About ten minutes out, Callisto indicates that the courier's gig is parked beside the ship off the starboard bow.  It too is running and operational.  Kalida adds that to her list of targets.  It should only take one shot to disable, as opposed to the close escort which will need two shots in the same place to guarantee a hull breach.

    At 09:40, Nightshade takes up position about 200m out from the courier on its starboard quarter.  There's a convenient crater wall that will provide good cover for the boarding party while they wait.

    Sir Misha, Shark, Teri, and Robert, all in battledress, exit from the cargo lift onto the surface.  They will maintain radio silence even after the shooting starts.  As Sir Misha points out, while they'll know about the laser fire, they won't know there's a boarding party coming in.
    Kalida believes she can get about a dozen shots off in a minute.  She tells the boarding party to wait two minutes after she starts firing, and then move in.
    The boarding party should be able to reach the ship in about 20 seconds.

    Helia takes off, leading the boarding party behind.
    Shark, with his forward observer experience, notices that the turrets on their target are not equipped with weaponry.  They appear to be fixed and welded in place, although the same size and shape as the original turrets.  The ship appears to be unarmed.  The gig is running hot, and he can see at least one person moving around, not seated in the pilot's chair.  He can't see the bridge on the close escort from here.

    At 9:45, Helia moves them into position to start shooting.  They're about 400m above the courier, point-blank range but where Kalida can target both the main ship and the gig.
    Callisto reports that the maneuver drive on the main ship is not warmed up.  She shows that there are two people on the bridge, not strapped in.  They occasionally leave the bridge and come back.  The ship does not appear to be in any state of readiness.
    Helia drops stealth.
    Just as Kalida is about to fire, Calliso says that the crew seem to have noticed them.  They're looking up and pointing at Nightshade that's suddenly appeared less than half a kilometer away above them.
    It's 9:45 when Kalida and starts shooting.  In sparkly pink she rapidly stabs at the ship below.
    First target is a double-tap right behind the bridge.  There's a hull breach, the ship's atmosphere venting.  With no door to the bridge, that's venting the bridge too.
    The gig is not moving, but Kalida stabs that next just in case, aiming for the aft section.  Hull breach, power off.  The gig is disabled.
    Next two shots are a little further back from where she fired the last two, in the corridor between staterooms 30 and 31.  One nailed it, but the other splashed harmlessly on the ground to port.  A third shot at that target makes a small breach in the hull.
    It takes three shots to breach the hull in the forward end of the Officer's Lounge.
    Fuel is now venting as well as atmosphere, mostly from the forward breach.
    Moving back to engineering, she targets the port nacelle, blasting the forward end of it, smashing through both deck levels.  She follows that up with the starboard nacelle, wrecking the second maneuver drive unit.
    Next two shots hit Avionics directly in front of the Bridge, breaching the hull there too.
    There is now movement in the Bridge, two people.  So next she puts two shots at the Bridge, but it's a small target and she's hit Avionics again, probably taking out the bulkhead between it and the Bridge.  Another two shots strike home, breaching the Bridge canopy.
    Callisto reports that the ship's Jump Drive is warming up.
    Shark has been watching carefully, assessing the damage and making sure no-one is leaving the ship.
    Then the Jump Drive is Kalida's next target.  She gets a hull breach, but Callisto reports it's still running.  So Kalida shoots down through the hole directly into the Jump Drive itself.  This time secondary explosions erupt from Engineering.  It's blown a large hole in the starboard side, ripping the starboard nacelle aside.  Atmosphere blew out of the hole.
    Callisto says power is low on the ship, fuel venting everywhere, and no signs of movement.
    Kalida has two shots to spare, but ceases fire because she's met her goals.

Deck Plans Showing Damage
(All players)

    Shark makes one more look for movement, and sees none.  The lower deck is mostly intact, he notes.  Several sections of the ship will probably have air, he guesses.  He can't see the damage on the port side, but otherwise he has a pretty good idea of the state of the ship.
    At 9:48, the boarding party activates the grav units, takes off and sprints to the ship.

    Nightshade has dropped back into stealth and moved up.  So far there's been no response from the fleets above them, not that they can pick up anyway.  Below on the moon, the courier's fuel venting is visibly decreasing.

    Teri takes point, Sir Misha behind her, with Shark assigned to keep Robert alive.  Teri swings up over the ship, heading for the hole in the Officer's Lounge.
    The top of the hull is a mess.  Teri leads them down through the hull breach with Sir Misha behind her.  From above, the bulkhead to the aft of the Officer's Lounge appears intact.  Teri drops in facing forward, and takes a step to give cover for her Captain to come in behind her.  She asks for permission to clear the forward section, but Sir Misha directs her to open the aft bulkhead while he watches forward.  There are no signs of movement in the forward corridor.
    The ship still has a little power.  The grav plates are running about 0.5g, and there is some lighting.
    The iris valves are locked.  Teri slaps a charge on the port one, and blows open a path to the Galley.  She dives through the venting atmosphere, Sir Misha behind her.
    The galley door at the far side has been blown open, and they can see into the room beyond.  Sir Misha spots some movement, someone moving out of the way perhaps in battledress.  He tells Teri, and she pulls back.
    Sir Misha looks around the corner.  He spots something, and instinctively pulls back quickly as a hail of automatic fire sprays the doorway.
    Shark asks Sir Misha if he wants him to come in.  He agrees, and Shark and Robert come through into the Officer's Lounge.  Robert gets stuck on the hole edge.  The integrity of the battledress isn't compromised, but he needs Shark's help to get free.
    Back in the Galley, clearing the threat is Teri's job.  Sir Misha wants the head intact, but doesn't care otherwise.  She fires her FGMP-15 into the room, and follows it up.  Automatic fire knocks her backwards against the wall, and she fires again aiming low.  Another large explosion in the corner of the room.  She runs forward, and reports, "Room clear.  One unarmed, one casualty."
    The casualty is clearly the one with no legs on the floor.  The other person is up towards the other iris to the Officer's Lounge, in battledress.  Teri is covering him with the FMGP.
    Robert is now free and into the Officer's Lounge with Shark.  When Sir Misha reports the room is clear, they move forward.  Shark remains at the blown iris covering the forward end of the ship.
    Sir Misha opens a channel to the person in the Ward Room corridor.  He asks him his duties on the ship.  The person's face is not visible through the faceplate, and doesn't answer.  Sir Misha says to Teri, "Take out his legs."
    Teri moves to fire again, and at this the prisoner screams "No! No! Stop!"
    Sir Misha snaps again, "What's your job?"
    "I'm a communications officer!" says the person.  Shark says it's an older man's voice.
    Sir Misha calls Shark to take over care of the prisoner.  "He's all yours," he says to Shark, and moves to open the hatch on the floor.
    "I'm surrendering!" says the communications person, "Don't shoot!"
    This room contains a lot of burnt furniture and smashed equipment.  The port side of the room is fairly intact.  There's holodisplay equipment.  This indeed looks like the terminal and user interface end of the command center.  There's nothing here that Robert is interested in except as a last resort -- what he wants will be on the deck below.
    Shark calls to Teri asking if there's a way to disable the man's battledress from the outside, perhaps an off switch?  She replies there is none, but she says you can disable the built-in weaponry.
    Sir Misha opens the hatch on the bottom of the inter-deck tube, and asks Teri to open the hatch a the bottom.
    Teri places her charges.  She says the bulkhead should protect the cargo hold area, and she is told she is free to lay waste below.
    Shark meanwhile has told the prisoner to kneel down in the corner at the end of the corner, facing away from the Sick Bay door.  Shark then opens the door.  There is no-one in there.  He wants to ask Robert to check it out, but of course Robert doesn't understand Galanglic and they're not talking to the ship to translate.
    Robert hears the grunts and sees the chimp gesturing into the Sick Bay, and he goes over to do just that while Shark covers the prisoner.  Robert looks over the room, but it looks like a regular Imperial Sick Bay.
    Teri blows the hatch.  It explodes downwards, and she follows that up with three FGMP bursts into the room below.  As she fires the third shot, she drops through.  Sir Misha follows close behind, Teri instinctively moving out of his way.
    As Sir Misha lands, Teri takes a hail of automatic fire.  She's spun round and knocked against the wall.  There's one body in here in the port aft corner, and one person in the passage forward who's returning fire.  Teri's knocked back up against the hatch to Engineering, not in a position to fire.
    Sir Misha opens fire with his automatic shotgun.  It knocks the enemy off his feet and back into the corridor, as Teri recovers and points her FGMP at the threat.  Sir Misha's command display reports that Teri is slightly injured, but it won't slow her down.
    The man Sir Misha shot has dropped his weapon and is surrendering.  Sir Misha asks him his duties on this ship, and he replies that he's just a soldier.  "Kill him, Teri," says Sir Misha.
    Teri fires two FGMP shots right in his face while Sir Misha finds the Cargo Hold is locked.  He tells her quietly to keep the head intact next time.

    Meanwhile, Shark knows that the prisoner's battledress will not let him die if he injures him.  Since he can't take him with him right now -- although he's the person they want to interrogate -- he has to incapacitate him.  He tells him to stand up and come with him.  The prisoner is still desperately saying that he'll do whatever Shark wants, as Shark blows his left leg off at the knee.  The man crumples to the floor, no doubt medicated by his suit.
    Shark motions to Robert to stay with the injured people here, and tells Sir Misha that he's going forward -- they have to clear the ship in case Santanocheev is on board.
    Shark moves on through the galley and to the forward corridor.  This whole section has been damaged severely by Kalida's shots, and there's no need to open doors here because the walls have enough holes.

    Back down on the lower deck, Sir Misha tells Teri to open the Cargo Hold.  He then goes back up through the hole, and gestures to Robert to follow him down as soon as Teri reports it's open.
    Robert and Sir Misha drop back down.
    The Cargo Hold is full of electronic equipment.  Sir Misha points to it and lets Robert do whatever he wants with it.
    Robert identifies this as tactical equipment, all top-end Imperial tech.
    Teri is ordered to clear Engineering while Sir Misha covers the way forward.  She opens the hatch and moves in.

    On the upper deck, Shark has been working his way forward.  He particularly wants to check the Computer Room, right behind the bridge.  On the way there, he sees four bodies, but none in the Captain's Stateroom.  They are not in vaccsuits, and their Imperial Navy uniform identifies them as a Captain and junior officers.  The Computer Room is a mess, that hole area having been blasted from the laser.  There are two bodies in vaccsuits on the Bridge, and Shark can see forward through the breached bulkhead into the Avionics area, which is empty.
    He reports back to Sir Misha, who agrees with his suggestion of coming down through the forward iris valve to the lower deck, working his way backwards from there.
    Shark drops into the lower level through the valves into atmosphere.  The room is full of equipment , but it's empty of people.  He looks around quickly for stuff that doesn't have labels.  There's nothing at first glance, and he opens the maintenance hatch to reveal an empty corridor.

    Teri reports two bodies in Engineering, neither in vaccsuit.

    Robert starts working with the equipment, which is still powered on.  It's slow going in battledress, but he gets into the system.  This is a full tactical unit.  Obviously it doesn't have the processing power of a capship, but it's a specialized tactical system.  Communications includes meson communicator systems located in what would be the barbettes.  It's in simultaneous communication with six similar ships in the fleet above.

    It's been about ten minutes, 09:58 now.  Kalida reports that ships are on the move.

    He starts work to wreck their comm system, offsetting the encryption keys so it breaks synch.  He propagates it as far as he can.  He knows it's successful when the comm system of the fleet to which this ship is attached goes down completely at 10:03.  He relays this information back to Nightshade, telling them what he's found and what he's done.  He pipes all the information he can find -- tactical, orders, encryption and so on.  He discovers that encryption is handled by a non-standard black box installed on the ship.  He quickly locates it to the communications gear in the nose.

    The ships headed this way from the fleet are still coming.  They're about 15 minutes out, about 5 minutes to laser range.  It's a group of four cruisers.

    Shark quietly and carefully works his way back along the lower deck.  The doors to the rooms either side are closed.  He opens the door to room 3 and sees someone in a vaccsuit, telling him not to shoot.  It's a middle-aged man in the insignia of a regular crew man, but he can see the face well enough that it's not Santanocheev.
    Shark makes him open room 4, but there's nobody in there.  He checks with Sir Misha, who says to being him along.
    Sir Misha has sent Teri to the upper deck of Engineering.  She reports that it's a mess up there, and there's no-one around.
    Sir Misha opens the iris valve to room 7, venting atmosphere, and see no-one there.
    Shark has worked his way back to 5 and 6, making the crewman open the doors.  5 is empty, but there's another crewman -- a woman in vaccsuit this time -- surrendering.  Shark tells the Captain that the area is clear, and there are two crew.  They agree that those two can help carry the bodies upstairs.

    Now that Robert's broken radio silence, Kalida tells Sir Misha that there's four cruisers on their way.

    Shark counts the crew, and announces it's plausible that they've found everyone when they take into account at least one person in the gig.  He leaves the two captives with Sir Misha, and goes forward to check the hatch in the floor of the bow.  He opens it and looks into the ventral barbette.  It's full of equipment, with no-one in there.
    Robert says he's going to get the converter box, while dumping the ship's information up to Nightshade.
    Shark tells him it's clear in the bow and goes back to the upper deck, and back to the Ward Room.  He checks the dorsal barbette, which doesn't have anyone in it.  He passes the two incapacitated battledress crewmen down to Shark.

    Teri has cleared Engineering -- including the airlocks and the nacelles -- and is assigned to protect Robert as he checks the equipment, going forward with him.
    Robert searches the room, already knowing from the ship's systems where the box should be located.  He finds it easily.  It's a sealed unit, a dark brown metal box about the size of an attache case.  When he says so, Shark points it it's remarkably similar to the bomb that took out Third Eye's jump drive.  Robert carefully hooks it up to an alternate power source so he can take it back to Nightshade with uninterrupted power.  He says he's got what he needs, and he'd like to leave now.

    Sir Misha checks the two bodies in the lower room.  One is clearly not Santanocheev, and they take tissue samples from the body that Teri blew the head off.  He says that they'll be bringing all the survivors with them.

    The cruisers are getting closer to laser range, but have slowed their approach.  That gives an extra five minutes, which should be just enough to pick up the crew provided everything goes right.  That's good, because the expander's rate of fire isn't enough to take out all four before they have a chance to fire on the grounded courier.

    The boarding party has ten minutes to get out.  Teri blows the ventral gig access hatch, and they get the prisoners safely out onto the moon's surface.  The two conscious crewmen are cooperating fully.
    Shark rushes over to the gig and searches it quickly.  There are three bodies in it, none in vaccsuits, none Santanocheev.  He returns to the others.

    Helia swoops down to the surface and drops into position in stealth model, right in front of the boarding party.  The prisoners are shocked by the sudden appearance of the ship, but are sharply kept moving.
    The cargo lift raises, and Helia zooms them away from the site as quickly as Nightshade can manage it.
    Teri isn't reporting to Sick Bay unless ordered.  She and Shark cover the prisoners, reflecting that the ship does not have anything resembling a Brig.  Shark muses that perhaps Mich will have to build one, or some sort of holding capability at least.  They could always use low berths for the time.

    It's 10:20.  The boarding operation has completed successfully, and they're about an hour away from the mainworld.  The four cruisers continue on to the courier's location, closing carefully.  Fleet communications are still down, it seems, with no-one acting at all coordinated.  They're using signalling lasers as rudimentary communications.  Obviously they can't tell about any of the other fleets, but this one at least is effectively disabled, with no access to tactical information either.  And if tactical direction was coming from this fleet, it's gone too.
    Shark wonders with a laugh if there's a gnome in the brown suitcase typing to gnomes in the other ships.  Each ship has a gnome in a box, and that's how they're doing the encryption.  Robert plans to feed his recorded communications through the box and see how it works.
    It was at 08:50 that Sir Misha had said they needed an hour.  Just a hair after 10:00 is when the comm systems went down.