Signs of Life

Signs of Life by Jokine

The Thrasher Class Destroyer shuddered slightly as the warp core hummed to life. The physical reverberations spread throughout every corner of the ship in a soothing pulse. She was alive.

“Captain, I finally got this thing breathing” the comm growled. “Three days of struggle and I finally came out on top.” Captain Jokine couldn’t tell whether the roughly hewn voice of his engineer Taltor was implying a sexual jest or not. While he was generally a quiet man, Taltor had a weakness for sexual jokes. Jokine let any implications die uncommented.

“Glad to hear, give everything a double check and report back.” Jokine leaned back in his Chalen Leather chair. Chalen were a lizard-like race that dwelt almost soley in the Hek system; the chair had cost Jokine several hundred thousand Isk to have reupholstered. He shifted around to a more comfortable position and scanned over the elaborate holo display that hovered less than a meter away. A few minutes earlier, all of the status messages that showed a glaring red “System Not Functional” were returning to a far more comforting green “System Normal”. He watched as the shields slowly returned to green indicating a full charge.Three days wasted because of some damn Serpentis, Jokine thought.

The MDF Vomisa had jumped into the Cloud Ring Region nearly 18 days earlier in hopes of catching up with the main Minmatar Defense Force fleet. They sped through the region, eventually entering system 8R-RTB. As was Jokine’s habit, he warped the ship to the closest planet and held at 116 Km giving himself a chance to survey the system. The directional scanner lit up with vague hits until he managed to narrow the search parameters.

Bingo, he thought as the holo scrolled through a specific list of ships in space. 12 total. What the hell? These are all wrecks… There must have been one helluva fight out here.

“Taltor, make sure you’ve got the overdrives and webbers warmed up, we may need them”. A grunt was the only acknowledgement Jokine received. Looking back over the list of broken hulls on the d-scan, he noticed something encouraging: they were all frigates. Hopefully that’s a positive thing. He hesitated a moment, with his hand smoothing the scarred skin under his facial tattoos, before engaging the warp drive. The ship responded with a slightly higher pitched hum before slipping off into warp speed.

The trip to Belt V only took a few seconds despite its 12 AU distance from the unnamed planet they’d been orbiting. Upon arrival, Jokine instinctively hit the d-scan, watching the hits light up. Nothing had changed since he pinpointed the location full of wrecks, no new wrecks and no trace of what had occurred.

Jokine fingered the voice comm to the engineering bay, “Lets move up close to one of those wrecks and see if we can’t salvage the data core. Whatever happened, it wasn’t long ago, ship fluids are showing on scan.”

“Copy that, keeping guns hot.” Taltor sounded slightly uncomfortable, letting a slight sigh slip.

The slender ship slid through the cold void, sending sunlight scrambling off of its polished hull. It moved like death itself through a throng of deceased worshipers while quietly humming a dirge to all who would listen. Invisible fingers pulled one of the wrecks close in embrace, hulls nearly touching. That should do it, Jokine thought, disengaging both the sublight drives and tractor beam.

“Taltor, head up to the pod when you get a chance. I want a second opinion on this data core. It seems pretty clear, but see if I missed something.”

“Heading up now.”

Taltor had to duck his nearly 2 meter frame when entering the pod, possibly contributing to why he hardly entered the pod. He sat heavily in the comparatively more plain synthleath chair next to Jokine’s.

What do we have cap?” His voice betraying a slight annoyance at being called to the pod.

“Seems the belt saw some miners in frigates, or rather saw the pop. Looks like three Serpentis cruisers showed up and had these guys scattering; some got away, most didn’t.”

Taltor stroked his three-day old scruff, deep in analysis of the scrolling flow of data. Several minutes past before his voice broke into a rasp, “Something isn’t right. Those frigates should have been able to align and warp away before the first salvos were fired. No.. Something doesn’ feel right…”

The ships quiet hum filled their ears again as they racked their minds for a reason so many ships failed to escape.

Scrams. The idea seemed so obvious that Jokine felt slightly embarrassed. “I think the Serpentis ships were running scrams. It’s the only possible reason.” Taltor’s vocal cords rumbled without his mouth forming words.

“Alright, I think we’ve seen en…”

Screeching interrupted him as the holo display lit up red. “Ah shit, head back to engineering, we got company.” Taltor’s quick response indicated that he was all to happy to head back a more natural environment. Ok, ok. How do we look… all set. Barrage ammo loaded in the guns, Nos ready to be hit, MWD idling, webber waiting for target.

“You down there yet?”

“Yes. Overdrives are ready to roll.”

Jokine a deep breath and turned the targeting computer. The display showed 3 Cruiser sized Serpentis ships. The computer estimated their distance at 63 Km. Good, just out of range. Time to burn in. He jabbed the contact that initialized the microwarp drive and watched as the speed rose to well over 1300 M/s. The distance closed quickly, reminding him of the mythical Origin game “Who’s Chicken”.

Within seconds, the Vomisa had entered within the cruisers’ missile lock range. “Get ready for some  action” Jokine commed as he saw assault missiles enter the holo displays. “I always am.” the suddenly mischievous sounding voice said. Again with the innuendos… Jokine could only chuckle to himself. He glanced at the capacitor monitor, it stayed level, barely showing that any strain was being placed on the small ship’s power generator. The distance estimator had spun down to 20 Km and falling quickly.

“Get ready for some heavy cap drain, I’m gonna be turn on all modules. See if you can optimize the cap.” No reply, good that means he’s busy. Jokine quickly targeted all three cruisers while instructing the nav computer to orbit the first Serpentis ship at 6,000 meters and at half MWD maximum speed.  The ship bucked slightly from the proximity explosions of the missiles, but stayed on course easily.

With his eyes scanning over the mass of data flowing in, Jokine motioned for the 125mm Autocannon’s to begin tracking and firing at optimal. A moment later, the chatter of the turrets began a conversation all its own, spitting violent language at the cruiser. The Barrage ammunition splashed over the cruiser shield, causing a ripple of energy to expand around the ship. Once he was sure that the Serp ship was starting to shield repair, he hit the Nosferatu module and prepared to watch for the shield to drop consistently, a sure sign the cap was drained.

Taltor’s voice crashed the comm as the ship bucked violently after a direct hit, “Are you freakin’ asleep up there?”

“Pipe down and give here a little more juice, we’re fine.” Jokine rolled his eyes and focused once more on the bluish sheen covering the primaried cruiser. A moment later the sheen was gone and projectiles starting slashing into the thick armor plating. “We’re through the first one’s shield, starting in on the armor now”. He glanced over at the cap display and was satisfied by its current level. The AC’s were tearing right through the armor and the enemy began smoking. “I think we’re in business, he’s starting to bleed hull now.”

“Just keep your focus on them, ok” Taltor bit back at him.

A few seconds later, the Serpentis cruiser exploded into a ball of blue, red, and green gas as the projectiles reached its unstable warp core. Jokine immediately turned his attention to the next ship. Ac’s and Nos. Check. Get within optimal. Check. How are shields… holding alright, good good. The freshly targeted cruiser wasn’t handling the fire being placed on it very well indicated by its noticeable lack of return fire. The enemy ship’s bluish haze disappeared far quicker than the previous target’s did and Jokine smiled as he saw his slugs slamming against the ships armor. He waved his hand for the Nos module to disengage. No sense wasting cap…

A slight chirping caught Jokine’s attention; the shields were quickly evaporating. What that hell? We aren’t getting hit are we?

“Tal, we’re losing shields like crazy, any idea what from?” Jokine tried his best to hide his alarm.

“You scan for lasers? You remember that they don’t carry quite the thunderous impact of AC’s right?” The voice sounded chiding, like a teacher speaking to a student.

“I must have missed it on scan. Hit the shield rep and see if we can’t tank this thing a bit.”

The chirping quieted as the rate of shield decline slowed, but it didn’t stop. Jokine did some quick calculating and decided to make a drastic change in a few moments. Just have to wait for this ship to pop… There she goes…

“Tal, go ahead and overload the top rack for me.”

The reply was incredulous, “Are you crazy? With a laser putting such thermal energy on us, you want to add to it by overloading?”

“Just trust me, we’ll be fine. Overload now.”

Jokine felt a concussive kick as the AC’s output doubled, unleashing a strong torrent of alloyed rage at the cruiser. The cruiser’s shield held for several seconds under the doubled barrage and then collapsed. As a near constant stream of fire rained out from the Vomisa, Jokine monitored the heat levels and began to sweat a little as the temperatures rose.

“It’s getting awful warm down here!” The comm growled.

“Just another minute or so, he’s almost down.”

“If we be goin like this, I’m gonna have a mess to clean up. I got crazy sparks down here.” Taltor always reverted to local speak when he became stressed. He was apparently very stressed.

Jokine sighed as the final ship illuminated the viewing screen in bright light from its end.

“Alright, power everything down. Let’s cool off.” Jokine frowned when he ran a status report. Tal’s gonna say “I told you so”. I have damage to the AC’s as well as the warp core. Oh boy, he is not going to be happy about this. Maybe we can limp to station. “Tal, lemme know how long you think til we can move.”

“Grrrumph! We ain’t moving for a while cap. The warp core needs completely repolished and realigned and I don’t even want to think about the mangled mess of guns we have. At the very least, I’m saying one, maybe two days.” Taltor made no effort to hide his frustration at his captain’s apparent stupidity. Jokine wasn’t offended, not really. He knew that overloading for so long was a mistake, especially against lasers, but his choices were limited and in the end he chose a lesser evil certainly.

“…Captain…Captain…CAPTAIN!” Jokine jerked with a start. Apparently the beauty of a complete display had lulled him to recall yet again the events of the last few days.

“I hear ya Tal, let’s get goin. Maybe the fleet isn’t out of the region yet.”

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