The United Planets Exploration Vessel Jeremiah Owens
95 After Unity, 250 LY From Nearest UP Base.
The Owens was an old ship. It had been built just before the Brushfire war with Jupiter that had united Sol. It was old and blocky. It’s ether spindle well worn with laser sanding and semi-outdated spells. The Owens was created before mankind realized that older naval designs were unnecessary, and lacked the sleek sophistication like the newer ships. It had power fluctuation issues and lacked an AI. Not that any of the Arcturus Dyson infolifes would have agreed to serving on such an old ship.
After this trip, one last survey mission and exploratory mission, it was due for decommission.
Because of it’s age, it had been relegated to milk runs. Teaching OTS and Boot Camp graduates with cortical implants and gene therapies barely healed and spells still freshly flash baked in their brains. Maneuvers. Colonization surveys. Senior Officers rarely served on the Owens more than six months before they were transferred to a sleek little cruiser with plenty of fire power and some interesting assignments.
Kelsey Black knew this. She also knew the reason she was going on her third year as Senior Science officer was because of her own stupidity.
She had got caught with an Admiral’s daughter. Said Admiral was a homophobe, and ranked higher in the curious societal bullshit that encompassed human politics.
Because of this she was essentially given a desk in a dead end job with 0-3 Pay.
When the Owens was decommissioned in six months she would probably be sent to some low rung academy to teach the basics of runic diagrams or some equally trite bullshit.
This run was a colonization survey.
Check the data against the probe, run soil samples and check for ley line viability and spots for ether spire injection.
The initial probe reported a single moon, and a sun located roughly 1AU from the planet. Temperate climate and decent bodies of water with an equal mix of freshwater and salt. If the planet met the expectations set forth by the probe they would place markers for prospective prefabs and launch a com sat and beacon for the wave of colony ships that was sure to follow.
She finished looking over the report. She wished the probe had included topography or any sort of map, but then it would be less of an assignment and easier on the little shits.
She opened her eyes and the report was replaced with her standard AR displaying time, what extranets she was connected to and her newsfeed.
That was when the psionic equivalent of a knock brushed against her brain, the other long timer, an Elementrian somehow on permanent loan from his home galaxy, some ill attempt at unwanted diplomacy, nonetheless Kelsey appreciated him. Reg was a psyker, and that was useful when conducting shipwide experiments.
She answered the knock.
“Kels, I thought you’d want to know we’ve got twenty-five minutes until arrival at Pax 18. Captain Baxter is requesting your presence.”
“Okay, thanks Reg.”
In twenty minutes she was sitting at her station on the bridge. The view screens showed the purple blue of hyperspace. This was the farthest anyone from earth had been with intent to settle. Draco was the closest star-base with any sort of fleet. They were making history by their very presence.
“Approaching hyperspace exit vector,” She heard Jensen, the nav chief say over the ship wide telepathic mesh. He was typing steadily away at his work station.
He could have handled everything through his implant. But Jensen had this hands on thing going on. Hyperspace travel was one of those mixtures of mortal tech and artificing, and sometimes the projections were wrong or the spell went awry. Without an AI or Genius Locci, they had to rely on human calculations for entrance and exit vectors.
The Captain, Baxter Owens, a descendant a few generations removed from the namesake of the ship sat in the command chair.
The bridge was deep in bowels of the ship, surrounded by dozens of plates of warded tritanium mix that composed ship armor. Civilian ships still had the front facing, “it’s important, let’s shoot it”, setup. Military ships relied on long range sensors, far-seeing spells, and holodisplays to receive visuals.
“Set us to arrival alerts, enable all defenses,” Baxter said, and a two tone klaxon began sounding. His apparent age looked to be mid-forties. A couple of resleeves, once during the unification war, another in a brushfire war on the frontier. Kelsey knew he was at least twice that, and was serving on the Owens by choice for a few quiet years before a pension and a condo on a beach planet kicked in.
The purple blue faded away into real-time space and then Pax-18 appeared. A few second later and images started appearing.
Kelsey called up her AR display and short range scans began filtering through.
“Tactical, Launch mapping and atmospheric probes.” The tac sergeant gave a nod and the launched dozens of probes the size of beach balls bristling with cameras and spells that would map and probe the atmosphere.
Some would go to the surface and began a scan for larger fauna that could pose a threat to the rookies. Other would check atmo toxicitiy and half a dozen different variables.
The Owens was settled into a geosynchronous orbit and they began a waiting game. This gave the rookies enough time to put on their combat gear and enough time for their chessmen escorts to activate.
It took a half an hour for the rookie squad to assemble their gear, suit up in the EVAs and disembark from the Owens.
They had launched and were roughly half way to the planet’s surface when alarms on the ships began’s tactical began popping up.
“Sir, a ship is emerging from hyperspace!” Tactical thought. The ship appearing on the view screen was sleek and black and sharp. It looked like the carapace of some deadly black bug.
“It appears to be the length of a cruiser. No know configurations match. Attempting hailing, all bands, all means,” Then the signals half the probes were lost.
“Activate weapons, focus power on PDLs. Redirect the drones we’re using for surveys as a defensive screen. Arm our missiles.” The weapons the Owens could bring to bear were at least four gens removed from current specs. They had teeth, but they were dull.
“Aye sir,” The tactical sergeant had a sheen of sweat on his face. His hands were shaking slightly. Kelsey was nervous too.
“Advise for cortical backups ship wide. Tell the marines to prepare for boarding actions. Then send a microburst message to Draco. Tell them we have a case Utah-Charlie,” The captain said over the psynet.
A holodisplay sprang to life. Lights that were flashing red dimmed and klaxons stopped. The crew knew battle was imminent.
“Engineering. This is your captain. Cut all unnecessary power and route power to shields and weapons. Recall that shuttle,” Owens said.
“We’re receiving hails from the shuttle. All hands aboard. ETA to return 5 minutes. The enemy ship has launched six fighter analogues.. Trajectory indicates they’re heading for the shuttle.”
“Aim tubes 1-6, fire at will at enemy fighters.”
That was when the ship rocked with enemy fire.
“We’ve been hit by enemy fire. Shields are at seventy percent and holding. They’re using some of contained plasma. We’re reading no magical signals from the ship.
The missiles the Owens fired were actually spells contained within a shell of titanium-mythril. The spell was that of disintegration and implosion fueled by a few grains of antimatter. One of these was enough to punch a hole through an unshielded ship and begin eating away at it’s hide. Six of these hit their mark, and six fighters were destroyed.
Then the other ship opened fire with three beams at once that impacted with the Owens.
The Owens’ hexagonal shaped ship conforming Aegis shield fell, and a fourth beam shot from the opposing enemy and hit the Owens.
The ship rocked and alarms blared.
Baxter saw his tac chief wave his hand in the air, dismissing alerts and warnings. He dismissed his own. Hull integrity alerts, damage warnings. A dozen different notifications the cortical stacks had been activated and successfully backed up the presence of his crew members. A fire in the meat synth-lab. His damage control teams were already being dispatched.
“Eta until shuttle recovery?”
“Two more minutes,” The comm sarge said.
“Divert power from food production and see if we can get our Aegis back up,” He sent a mental message to Artificing.
“ Defensive Lodestone arrays A2 through A5 are gone. I’m down those warders. No Eta on Aegis renewal,” Artificing’s psy-liason reported. Well that was fucking wonderful.
“Re-route them through the primary array. You have my auth.”
The ship rocked again. Another two notifications of cortical backups, and notifications of a hull breach.
“We’ve been hit by some sort of missile, no detonation. It’s on Deck six. We’ve established an emergency containment field around it.”
Exactly midship. Hell, he was probably facing the hole.
“Fire APs,” A lance of anti-proton beams, a purely technological weapon, fired from the sides, four beams impacted with the enemy’s shields and they fell.
“Missiles away,” Their last ten missiles, fired. The enemies point defense field activated and the missiles, assisted by the danger avoidance spells, dodged. Then the ship vanished from all sensors.
“What the fuck was that?” A cloaking spell, or even a shield would wouldn’t stop missiles like that.
“We’ve lost all readings on the enemy ship. It’s as if it disappeared,” Then their ship was rocked hard.
“Deck 1, subsections A B E have been hit. Our weapons have been reduced to fifty percent. Long Range comms are down. The shuttle has been surrounded by some sort of gravitational field. It’s moving toward the enemy ship. Sir, that hit the ether spindle. We’ve lost Primary Lodestones 1-3. We’re fighting to keep power to the ship on those sections,” Artificing reported.
“Close em off, put them on auxiliary,”
“We’re having trouble retrieving them, what ever field they’re trapped in has negated our portal spells.”
“A fucking tractor beam?”
“They’re cooridates are to dicey to get a freeform portal lock. “ Comms reported.
“We have no way to break the field. Sir. We need to retreat. We have three hundred aboard this ship and there’s only twelve on that shuttle. We can jump to Draco, rally a fleet and be back here inside a week,”
Reluctantly Baxter nodded. He sent the psionic message for all hands to secure themselves and to prepare for an emergency jump.
They activated cloaking spells, activated their ftl and limped away in a flash of blue-flared slipstream.