Alien Relations: Part XIII

October 2942
Pirate Asteroid Base 'Haven'
Unknown System

Matthius could only watch from afar as the 'Haruspex' drifted. Attempts to hail the vessel were unmatched. He stood for a few seconds watching, racking his brain. Two of the cutlasses had already docked with the 'Haruspex' and were beginning to pull it into the asteroid belt. The other trio of ships had slunk back into the asteroid belt's safety and lay in wait.

"Alright people." Matthius' instincts took charge. "We've got to move and quickly." He pressed harder against the command console with his hands, leaning into the table. "Soothsayer, signal back to the Unity. We need it to jump to our location immediately. We also need the special forces team prepared and ready to go on the double. Have Disciple Photeus join the team, they're going to need his expertise on this one." He pushed off from the table shifting from a leaning position into a full stand. "Tatiana, I'm sorry to do this to you but we need to go after the 'Haruspex' and provide bait." The Scry captain's face soured. "Soothsayer, you remain here and provide jump coordinates to the Unity. Alpha wing, I want you to move into position behind the Scry and stay masked behind her."

The quartet: a pair of super hornets and accompanying bulldogs, pushed into position just behind the larger Carrack. As per his instructions the XSO fleet began moving towards the lifeless Aquila. Radio silence ensued.

Matthius stood, watching as the readout showed their range: 125 meters and closing. Seeing the movement of the larger ship didn't seem to scare off the two cutlasses as they continued working on the downed constellation. 115 the system read. Matthius looked to Tatiana. "Prepare for evasive maneuvers on my order." He then flicked the channel to Alpha wing.

Holding tight, Matthius watched as the meters counted down. 105... 104... As soon as the first pirate ship powered up and began it's attack run, he initiated his plan. "Now Alpha Wing." He flicked the switch off. "Tatiana, evasive maneuvers."

"You heard the Preceptor!" Tatiana barked. "Evasive Maneuvers Tatiana Alpha Tango Three". Her crew worked in unison, maneuvering the ship up and out of its current position. It had helped that they knew the attack was coming. The predefined course allowed the Scry to shift up and right to avoid the brunt of the two Gladiators salvos. The Cutlass, caught completely off guard by the four fighters was taking the brunt of the assault. Both Super Hornets fired into it, then pressed into the asteroid field to engage the Gladiators. The Bulldogs stood their ground and began to tear apart the Cutlass. On board, her captain Gustav Skytte knew that this day was likely his last.

Juliana watched with a lump in her stomach as the unexpected hornet duo shifted from Gustav's cutlass to her Gladiator. She could tell from the drifting pieces that the Cutlass wasn't long for this world and she didn't want to follow his fate.

Shifting the Gladiator around, she pulled it back behind the asteroid for cover. As the two hornets crossed in front, expecting a chase, she fired a full salvo into the lead hornet. It's pilot lost complete control from the barrage and slammed into another asteroid rippling into thousands of pieces. The second pilot, recognizing the maneuver shifted the hornet up then shifting the body backwards began drifting away from Juliana. Upside down to the foe, Karen Shoemake looked Juliana in the eyes as she began to spew chaingun fire into the Gladiator.

Gustav cursed at his crew, his ship, and the unexpected ploy by the opposing forces. They had effectively pulled the same stunt he'd used against the Aquila by decoying with the Carrack. Gustav wasn't going down without a fight though. "Haven station, initiate crossbow defense system and prepare the powder keg. NOW!" He screamed into the comms.

In response to the request, Haven station complied. Several asteroids housing a mish mash of ballistic weapons, dubbed the crossbow defense system, began to spew lead at the invading Carrack and bulldogs. The two hornets were within the asteroid field making it impossible to target.

The bridge shook and rattled as gunfire from a new source began pouring into the hardened steel cover plates. Matthius, took a second to thank an unseen force that Tatiana had shifted and went into defense mode in time. One of the two bulldogs wasn't so lucky as it was caught completely off guard by the attack.

Searching the readouts, Matthius could tell that some of the asteroids apparently had been rigged with wireless gun turrets.

"We're a sitting duck Preceptor." Tatiana protested.

"Alpha wing, pull out. Pronto!" He reluctantly ordered. "As soon as they get behind us, shift back to the jump point.

Juliana nearly closed her eyes as the opposing hornet tore through her shields. Red lights lit up across the readouts and she knew her Gladiator was no match for the hornet in a dogfight. In a bold move, she pushed her machine into a full burst of speed right at the hornet's cockpit. The ramming attempt was almost successful, but the hornet pilot was just too skilled for such a maneuver. Shifting to one side, it took minor damage from Juliana on one wing and an asteroid on the other. Desperation kicked in, Juliana rushed past, then headed directly for the asteroid hangar bay dodging asteroids along the way. 'At least I have home field advantage' she thought.

Barely taking time to watch the sensors, she was surprised to see the hornet had not followed as she zoomed into the bay.

Every urge in her body was to chase down and finish off the Gladiator but Karen knew Matthius would not have ordered the retreat if without a good reason. As such, she headed directly towards the Carrack. Along the way, she could see one bulldog already making for the jump point. In her path was just the wounded Cutlass. The Carrack was taking gunfire from somewhere, but she couldn't detect any other ships or make out the locations of the guns.

"Preceptor said pull out..." She said to herself as she increased speed and lined up the wounded cutlass. "...but he didn't say anything about holding fire!" She unloaded everything she had left into the crippled ship. Gustav's cutlass exploded as ballistic fire hit the power plant's exposed shielding. Pieces flew everywhere and cleared a path through the asteroid field for the Super Hornet. Pushing the afterburner, she made way towards the jump point.

Lexi stood watching the monitors in the command center. Gustav, her husband, was blown to pieces and the signal was lost. Eyanosa watched in silence as she could tell he was saddened. Lexi however, had no feeling at all. In a way, this freed her and now Lexi knew what she must do. As she began leaving the command center, one of the techs blurt. "Shi..." He couldn't finish the profanity.

Eyanosa saw the reading too. Something had just jumped in system and this time it was big enough that they instantly saw the readings. "Child." He grabbed Lexi just below her shoulder and gently pushed towards the door. "We must go."

The Scry and surviving members of alpha team had reached a safe distance when the Celestial Unity appeared on their sensors. 'Thank God' Matthius thought to himself, fearful he had just blurted it out. No one seemed to notice and more than a few faces showed relief.

"Unity it's good to see you." Matthius spoke over the general comms channel.

"You as well Preceptor." Saskia replied. "I've brought friends." About that time, Matthius could see the redeemer 'Renewal' peek around the other side of the Idris. A trio of Gladius were also exiting the ship in a patrol pattern.

"Ok, I've got a plan. We need to get the Renewal into position." Matthius began. "Alpha wing, dock with the Unity, repair and rearm."