Chapter 6: Pirates

Copyright© 2017 by Hunter Johnson

The alarm in Jason’s ear began to blare loudly. He dragged himself out of bed but was quickly fully awake.

“Alert pirate warning, imminent attack in seventeen minutes, report to weapons console on the bridge. This is not a simulation or an exercise.” Jason looked at his watch. It was 3 AM.

Jason stood in the battle dresser, as it put him in his combat armor and helmet. Someone must have communicated where they were heading, must have accessed the navigation plan, and communicated the details to some unknown enemy. Jason stopped himself. He didn’t have time to think these issues through now. He knew he needed to get to the bridge quickly.

He stretched quickly before he called out to Ship, “Transport to bridge.”

He found himself dressed in boots, armor, and helmet a few feet from his combat workstation. Stan placed a large mug of coffee in front of him.

“You will need to fight them Jason. I don’t know what to do. This isn’t a drill, we do have pirates attacking the ship. We came out of hyperspace, not quite where I had predicted, and began reorienting ourselves, the ships manifested themselves on our sensors. They began moving towards us and assumed a battle formation. Ship identified them as of Mob origin.

The battleship had several battle command positions. Jason preferred the bridge where he had a battle command workstation and could readily talk to Stan. It was used when the ship was undertaking small engagements. When an admiral or general commanded the ship and a ground force, they used the large planning and conference room next to the bridge, called command central; where a whole team of admirals and generals would command a fleet and planetary offensives or defenses, particularly when the battleship was acting as a flagship. There were multiple small nearby rooms suitable for smaller groups to work in support of the main group. There was a reserve area in weapons control. The bridge was buried deep in the ship and was well protected by armor. The bridge had thirty consoles for a much larger bridge crew but only he and Stan were present at their workstations. Stan kept the lights slightly dimmed to reduce glare and make it easier to see controls, instruments, and holograms.

Jason thanked Stan for the coffee before strapping himself into his place.

“There are seven ships out there and Ship is behaving abnormally, she’s slow thinking and is reacting sluggishly. She’s struggling to perform as usual,” summarized Stan sounding panicked and distressed. “Jason, I don’t have training for this, I piloted cargo ships before this assignment.”

“Don’t worry Stan, I’ve never commanded a battle on a ship either. There’s no one other than you and me and we just have to do our best and take Ship’s function into consideration. Jason briefly looked around the luxuriously equipped bridge. He saw the ship control holograms were working. Stan was running the ship manually and those controls were operating normally as far as he could see. That was reassuring. Sensors provided information in 3D, allowing Jason and Stan to see what was happening in space right around the ship. A second hologram provided him with weapons information and his weapons controls. He could change his view, enlarge it or shrink it, or even change perspective as needed on any hologram. He could readily focus on particular points as he wished.

He rapidly zeroed in on 7 circles the sensors had identified as likely pirates. He asked the Ship AI for percentage likelihood of them being hostile. Ship projected 99 percent over each circle identified. Jason knew that Ship could identify most ships in the galaxy.

“Jason those ships are of Mob origin.”

Ship sounded unusual with her voice slow and slurred.

He looked at his console and called up his checklist. Jason used a detailed checklist of commands to prepare ships or even fleets for combat as a result of having done many simulations. He learned to go through his routine checklist regardless of the circumstances. It came up next to his weapons systems as the hologram split and enlarged sideways.

“Time to missile launch and time to first weapon in range.”

“You’ve no available missiles and only 4 long-range trans-dim plasma charges. Your weapons are depleted. Alert: your plasma cannon will be in range in seven minutes, countdown commencing please establish priority targets,” said Ship slowly and laboriously even slurring her words.

He was in serious trouble. A ship of this size would usually have ten thousand long-range missiles, forty or fifty-thousand short-range anti-missile missiles, and thousands of loads for the medium and short-range defensive cannon. It had just under a thousand heavy cannon and could fire these continuously under normal circumstances. He should have been able to make mincemeat of the attacking ships.

Jason thought back. Over the last year he had done many simulations, perhaps even thousands, but this was incomprehensible. The normal ship armament included long-range multi-dimensional shield penetrating ship killers that traveled great distances at much faster than light speed to medium and short-range defensive anti-missile and anti-fighter weapons. He had plasma cannon with trans light speed capacity and the capacity to penetrate shields by shifting through multiple dimensions. He had shield damaging cannon and missiles that would expose a ship to missiles and cannon fire if enemy had superior shields.

Jason felt his fear rising fast. He needed to keep to the routine checklist. It had saved him during several simulations.

“Load and launch fighters with available anti-ship missiles and boarding pods to immobilize and board the destroyer in the rear, while remaining fighters engage pirate frigates to destroy. Visible enemy consists of one destroyer and six frigates origin, The Mob. The priority is to capture the destroyer, personnel, and computers.”

Usually a battleship of this size had up to ten thousand fighters and thousands of gunships. As far as he knew there were no fighters on board. He had not met any fighter pilots and he believed that he had toured the entire ship other than empty accommodation areas.

He recalled visiting the remarkable engineering facility. The engineers showed him they could build a fighter in a day. He neglected to ask why they weren’t doing it. AIs with their drones could repair even the most damaged fighter in hours. Ship repair abilities were astounding.

He had more pressing problems to think about than the wonders of engineering. He had his routine to follow before they were boarded and captured.

These pirates would do with them as they wished. The enemy whoever they were, had led them into a trap and sabotaged their weapons.

Jason fought to remain in control of his growing panic. His mind raced to consider what he could do. He had plenty of cannon which he had seen on his tours of the ship, but no ammunition. They loaded the ship with ammunition at port or they collected the constituents in space and built it out of elementary particles using dark matter and dark energy.

He had no missiles. Someone had done a real job on the ship. They were a sitting duck and a fat prize for the pirates. He knew who had sent them and why, but first he had to think of a way of defending the ship. He desperately thought of what else he could do.

“Fighter Command confirms one-hundred-forty fighters, and five gunships preparing for launch with trans-dimensional missiles, boarding equipment with special forces marines, Colonel Phoebe Harris reporting, Sir. I apologize for the delay, Sir, but we had no warning of an impending attack until we heard the alarms, and no further information was received. We have tapped into the ship systems and will be able to follow the course of the action and all communication from now on.”

Jason saw them show up on his panel of assets. The gunships were much bigger than the fighters, were nimble, and had significant firepower. The gunships carried the Marines to board the destroyer and augmented the fighter strength. The fighters and gunships were not quite enough to deal with the enemy on their own. Four shots with his heavy cannon could do real damage but he needed computer-assisted aiming at a distance. Ship was not up to the job. He racked his brain. He could try and re-arm the weapons.

“Ship open collectors for weapon rearming.”

“Collectors opening, the current position has rich potential,” said Ship slowly and laboriously, but sounding pleased.

He fought down panic and some emerging nausea.

The combat simulator had prepared Jason to use anything at his disposal. The ship had particle and energy collectors that were assembled in loaders to arm the cannon. He thought about his other choices. He couldn’t rely on Ship for his defense.

“Ship how many communications probes do you have.”

“Twenty-four are available for remote emergency communication.”

“Ship transfer control for guidance of probes to the simulation and battle computer that I call Patton.

Ship prepare to launch thirteen communications probes and confirm you are to transfer aiming control for missiles and cannon to Patton. Patton target two of the probes per frigate one at the power plant and the other at the bridge, and one aimed at the power plant on the destroyer. I want the Marines to board the destroyer.”

“Acknowledged preparing for firing and will launch in two-four point three seconds.”

“Ship I want you to transfer battle control to Patton for cannon.”

“Confirmed,” said Ship slurring her words.

“Assuming control of weapons and missiles, I confirm I don’t have ship guidance control. Missile launch in twelve-seconds, two missiles will launch every four seconds,” said Patton, the simulation and battle AI with whom Jason had spent many hours and who had been delighted when Jason offered to change his identification designation from JJXC486-739-123224499 to Patton and was even more pleased when Jason explained the origin of the name.

“Open communication with Col. Phoebe Harris.”

“Communication confirmed”

“Colonel, we are dealing with seven pirate ships. I’m targeting the six frigates with two missiles each aimed at power and control. I’ll target one at the destroyer to knock out its power. Please disable and board the destroyer. I’d like you to capture and return the captain for interrogation.

“I expect them to launch small boarding pods from the destroyer. That should be no threat despite the fact that I’ve no short-range antimissile capability nor defenses against the pods. Confirm.”

“I acknowledge your orders. We launch in forty-five seconds. We’ll destroy the first six ships, disable, and board the destroyer. I’m aware of the ship vulnerabilities and will act accordingly. We’ll return with prisoners. We’ll launch our own cyberwarfare and communications probes. We’ll attempt to intercept missiles and pods.”

“Ship, start replacing all missiles when the threat is eliminated. Ensure full load for weapons. I want us prepared well for the future.”

Jason saw extensive supplies in storage areas for the replicators when he was in engineering. The engineers had enough material to replace anything on the ship. They had mining drones and small freighters that supported them. They mined mineral and metal rich asteroids while waiting for Jason on earth.

“Patton, coordinate with the pilots and Marines and ensure a full communications block on the pirate ships. Intercept all communications and decrypt everything that you possibly can along the way,” commanded Jason.

Jason kept a watch for enemy missiles and pods. He brooded and mulled over the trap. What had happened confirmed for him that there must be several active saboteurs busy on the ship. Someone had planned this in great detail and they had done the ship some considerable damage. He felt very angry and frustrated with his inability to find the saboteurs. He thought they must be laughing their heads off in their miserable hiding places as this scenario was evolving.

He asked himself why he had embarked on this spine chilling quest. It was just a different version of being in the jungles of Vietnam, again; but here, he knew less of the enemy, and too little of what was going on.

Saboteurs had ensured the ship didn’t load munitions or disposed of their missiles, or perhaps even hid them from the system. There was further evidence of sabotage to be seen by the absence of warnings on his holograms. He had not seen the Marines and fighters on his asset screen until they took some action. Warnings to Ship, Stan, and Jason about depleted missile and weapons levels didn’t occur.

“Ship, where were the Marines and pilots located?

“Jason, for reasons that I can’t explain my internal sensors have not picked up the fighters nor any personnel that might be related to them. I can’t see any marines and their support people. This is unusual and inexplicable. I’m very puzzled and quite concerned. I’ve also noticed that my combat efficiency is at twenty-three percent,” said Ship, “and I feel fogged and slow.”

“Patton, please let the probes go trans-dimensional through the shields and impact within the ship. Launch when able and control dimensional shifts to avoid their shields.”

“Weapons control please send personnel to missile storage magazines, and check availability of missiles.”

“Sir, on our consoles you’ve a full complement of missiles, but I’ll do as you ask.

Jason could only fire weapons if they were shown on his screen.

“Weapons control from your console engage antimissile systems. Nothing shows on my screen.

Target medium range missiles to boarding pods.”

“Sir, someone is jamming our consoles I’ve lost control. I’m rebooting the computer and AI. We’ll be down for four minutes.”

Jason had the gravest concerns about the real availability of the fighters. He would believe it when he saw them. He was barely keeping his anxiety in control. He could hear his heart beating and his chest was tight. He rolled his shoulders and moved his head in a circle. He stretched his arms upward and backward to try and relieve some of the tension.

He knew that he had enough weaponry excluding the communications probes to take out or damage all the ships, and destroyers only carried small boarding pods. Jason looked at his weapons console and confirmed that the ship had no defense against missiles. Medium range plasma dark energy rail cannon and defensive missiles were necessary to disable heavily armored Boarding pods. Cannon relied on the collector systems for dark matter, energy and miscellaneous other particles and radiation, but someone switched off the collectors or perhaps the sensors were wrong. Now he had switched the collectors on but it was probably too late for this fight. Why had he not met the fighter pilots?

Next on his checklist were the ship’s marines.

“Marines, prepare positions in case of boarding. Assume enemy will use boarding pods. Inform me of assets available and placement. Respond.”

“All Marines are deploying to defensive positions. This is Col Malone, Sir, confirming four thousand Marines excluding boarding parties. Combat drones and two marine gunships will deploy defensively around the hull. Fifty Marines will defend the bridge area, two hundred to engineering, and a thousand to prearranged positions around the ship. The balance will be in reserve staging areas until we know boarding locations. All officers aboard the ship you are only to change positions with a Marine escort. Short-range anti-boarding munitions have been placed on defensive drones close to the hull.”

Now that was very interesting thought Jason. It sounds promising. His doubts returned with a vengeance. Perhaps I’m flummoxed with no weapons and hallucinatory Marines and pilots.

“Communications drone satellites away, targeting two to each ship, final ship destroyer single missile. Launching tubes for fighters activated. Sensors note dense fields of dark matter and energy spread around us. Collectors are active. I estimate one full charge available for heavy trans-dimensional Cannon will be available in 7.2 minutes or twenty per minute will be available for medium range antimissile systems. Separation noted of probable large boarding pods from the pirate destroyer.”

Jason looked at his console. These were large heavily armored boarding pods of a type carried by heavy cruisers. The destroyer now looked smaller. The pods were far too big for a destroyer. He strongly suspected that there were other ships in the vicinity or if they were lucky, other ships had transported the pods, and left them at the ambush location, attached to the destroyer for support.

“Boarding pods confirmed of Mob origin, with shield penetration and hull penetration ability. Estimated time to hull impact 12 minutes. Fighters and two gunships have also launched from ships forty in number establishing defensive positions around boarding pods. Hull defenses deployed. Estimate defensive capacity 90% exhausted, regeneration reactor capacity ninety seven percent reduced. Do you wish me to direct collection to Hull defenses medium range cannon or to heavy cannon?”

“Concentrate ninety percent of the collection to the hull defenses and ten percent on medium range cannon.”

Hull defenses were his priority. He wanted to maximize his defenses against the pods. One minute of collection at the current rate would increase hull defenses by six percent. He would have five medium cannon shots in seven minutes as well.

In front of him Jason saw a large explosion towards the rear of the first pirate ship.

“Precise impact on first pirate frigate and now the second frigate.” He saw a second explosion on the first ship in the rear area in front of the engines.

“All power has failed on ship number one.”

Jason saw five fighters leave the battleship, rapidly followed by two more, then a further five, followed by a large gunship with boarding grapples and cannon. Within seconds he saw further squadrons of fighters, seventy-five in number, leave the ship with two further boarding gunships. This was no one-sided battle with all the advantages to the pirates.

Jason felt an enormous sense of relief. At least they could fight back. He was determined to do everything he could to frustrate the attackers.

Four further communications satellites impacted on two more pirate frigates. The first he could see on his weapons panel had lost all power, but the second suffered damage and veered to the side. This left three frigates and the destroyer.

“Missile warning; three medium anti-ship missiles heading in our direction; origin the destroyer.

“Targeting missiles, ship defenses engaged.”

Jason saw two fighters change direction to intercept a missile, each.

By this time Jason could see one hundred and forty fighters, two gunships, and three large boarding shuttles. The missiles moved in an erratic pattern to avoid interception.

They were Jason’s favorite target in simulations. He had studied the erratic patterns of these missiles and could predict their computer directed pseudo-random movement reasonably well. The computer could lock on to the missiles for long enough to hit the missiles thirty percent of the time, but it reduced his rate of fire and the chances of his success. He could do better. His shoulders were tense and he rotated them in anticipation of him taking aim. The fighters took out two missiles, but the third was in a rapid acceleration phase and closing on the shield. It was very slowly transitioning dimension. It was an ideal time to hit it as it stopped evasive maneuvers. He had the missile in his sights. His first burst of fire missed. His time was running out. It was almost invisible. He continued to fire and it exploded microseconds before impact.

“Two further ships taken out, both have lost engines and power. Our fighters are attacking the last frigate.”

He saw one fighter blink out just before the frigate ceased firing.

The last target was the destroyer. He saw a cloud of defensive missiles leave the destroyer as the fighters moved into range. It then lost all power. He saw his fighters effectively and efficiently disable the destroyer’s fighters. Many pilots were powerful telepaths and they used their power to disable their opposition.

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