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Captain Woo Sang-Ji parked his ship, Nanjin, between the Broadsword and the United Front of Arirang cruiser Yeong-ung. Captain Myung had been throwing his weight around and acting as if was in command of both convoys, which was annoying enough. Now it looked like Myung was going to commandeer the Broadsword.
“Prepare a message for Captain Myung of the Yeong-ung.” Captain Woo ordered his Coms officer, as he thought about it. “I protest your attempt to commandeer the Broadsword, this is something that we should both be deciding. I could easily take your action as hostile towards the Confederation of Segye if it were not for the truce and the aliens. I propose that Broadsword become the command vessel for both convoys, both you and I should take joint command.”
He gave the signal to send it and awaited an answer. During this time the Scan officer announced that the Komar had just entered normal space and was coming towards them.
“Commander Pan of the Komar is hailing, sir.”
“Let's hear his report.” Captain Woo said and soon Commander Pan appeared on the small screen next to the Captain. “I can see you Commander, what is your report?”
Then he saw that Pan looked disheveled and his eyes were wide. “Captain, the Alphix system has been attacked by the aliens, there were more ships than we could count. Some of those were huge. I am sending the intel we collected, we can't go to Alphix, the aliens are too strong.”
Woo sat down and grabbed the armrests on his chair. His hands were shaking. Nearly every officer and politician or anyone who could afford had evacuated their families to Alphix. He pulled up the images the Komar had brought back with a shaking hand.
“My God!” he said, he had never seen so many ships in one image. Space around and between both of the twin worlds was cluttered with them. He zoomed in the images and to his horror, they looked to be bombarding the planets.
“Hail the Yeong-ung.” he ordered, his breathing a bit raspy “I want to talk with Captain Myung now, right now!”
Soon the Captain appeared on his monitor, they were adversaries. They had been, he corrected himself, but as of now they were on the same side.
“Captain Myung, I am sending you the intel from the Komar. It's grim. I'm still in a state of shock myself.” he said sending it to the Yeong-ung. He watched as Myung and his Commander looked through the report and images. The shock and horror on their faces was the same as himself. He knew they felt sick inside as he did.
“The idea of using Broadsword as a joint flagship has merit.” Myung finally said, looking like he had a bad case of ulcers. “Why don't you send your engineers to join ours in patching it back together, it will speed up the work quite a bit.”
“Agreed.” Captain Woo answered “Time is of the essence. We must also find a new destination for these refugees.”
Myung nodded “And one more thing, we need manned fighters, our weapons are not up to the task.”
“I don't have the capability...”
Myung held up a hand “We do. Remember that from this point on, we are one fleet, one people.”
Both Captains agreed and engineers on shuttles from both ships made the trip to Broadsword, the Perry was parked nearby, fabricating the new hull plating. It was a bit more involved than patching up a half-dozen holes in the ship, there were all sorts of sub-systems that ran through those holed areas.
Bodies had also been collected and placed into a large fabricated cylinder, engines taken off of torpedoes were added to this. A quick ceremony was conducted where both Captains gave prayers and remembrances for the dead crew and then the cylinder was launched.
It would take a fifty years of drifting for the cylinder to be influenced by the gravity of a nearby brown dwarf star after the engines died. It would take hundreds of years before their bodies were pulled into a planet or stars gravity well and burned up.
New assignments were given out as soon as the Broadsword was deemed in working order, a new emblem was painted on the sides, one that took elements from both nations on Zenith. This emblem was then added to the military vessels of both sides and their crews were slightly mixed to make this reality. The Broadsword would have a crew made up of people from both sides, the two Captains would be sharing power.
This meant that Commander Harry Nelson was now the senior officer on the Yeong-ung. He made it clear that he wanted four fighters parked in his bay as well, no sense in the Broadsword carrying all of the eggs. Of course that would have to wait until they had enough eggs.
Broadsword Starboard Hangar
Lieutenant Stacey Drew stepped off of the shuttle she had piloted along with eight others, at least some of them were Marines. It was the same hangar bay she had been to a few days earlier but now it was alive, and abuzz with activity. “It doesn't feel like the same ship.” she told herself, then noticed she had said it out loud.
They took the lift to deck two and were escorted to a chamber with more than four dozen seats facing a main stage area. It was a much bigger version of the ready and debriefing room from the Yeong-ung. She was surprised to see a man in a CS uniform on the stage with Colonel Maxim nearby, then she noticed that some of the others entering the room were wearing CS uniforms.
“You have all been called here because you are pilots with the right qualifications, some of you even flew fighters before they were replaced by unmanned drones.” the CS officer said “Right now, the alien threat has shown us that our weapons and drones are useless against them. We need manned fighters, we all know what four lightly armed shuttles did not too long ago, that is what we need from you.”
The UFA officer then spoke “We are building fighters modeled after the basic Daggers as fast as we can, once we have enough we can think about more advanced ships. The aliens could return at any time and we need to be prepared for them, wherever we are.”
The recruited pilots looked at each other and whispering broke out.
“Aren't we going to the Alphix system?” One of the female CS pilots asked.
“I don't think so Lydia.” he answered “The Alphix system is under the full control of the alien forces. It does not look good, they were bombarding the planets.”
A shocked gasp ran across the whole room. All of them had family members and friends evacuated to there. There were some tears and hugging for a moment. Their hopes seemed lost.
“We are now one convoy, one fleet. We have to work together, live together and fight together, we won't give up until we have found a place that can be a new home for these refugees and for us.” the UFA officer told them “The aliens could not have taken over or destroyed all the colony worlds, there are just too many.”
Broadsword – starboard hangar
The first Daggers were being delivered and all of the pilots were down to see them. They might be from an old and outdated design but it was enough to defend the fleet, they were sure. Fast and agile they carried much stronger weapons than the shuttles had.
Stacey put a hand on it. Somewhere in the middle of this nightmare one of her dreams was coming true and she felt a little guilty about it. The Broadsword now had sixteen Daggers, eight in each of the two big hangars.
“I heard we were getting new uniforms.” the CS pilot Lydia said.
Stacey nodded “We're going to be divided into wings too. With sixteen I guess that might be only two wings for now.”
“When did CS pilots start carrying sidearms?” Stacey asked when she saw the gun on Lydia's hip “Have you already picked up one of our traditions?”
Lydia smiled “Yes, nothing wrong with that, I think, or those.”
She followed where Lydia had glanced and saw the male UFA Marine pilots. They had on tight gray shirts and they all looked very buff underneath. Then she looked back at Lydia “Slow down, they were your enemy a few days ago.”
“Okay, we are going to need a CAG and some ground crews.” Stacey shouted and turned in a circle “Who is in charge around here any way? I want to fly!”
She bumped into someone and looked up into the face of Colonel Maurice Maxim.
“I'm sorry, Colonel, sir!” she said trying to look composed. He just smiled and then shouted “All right, I want my pilots gathered around!”
Soon the sixteen or so pilots were standing there and listening intently. These were just from this hangar, the other would also have a bunch of pilots without fighters.
“Here is how it is going to go down.” he told them “I want every one of you to go through twenty scenarios in the simulators, I want to see who the best pilots are there before I decide who gets to fly the real ones first. I will also decide who the wing leaders are when I see you fly for real. Then we will do this in shifts, two or more to a bird until we get more delivered.”
She heard Lydia whisper “He's hot.”
“As for the ground crews, we are short on those too. We are looking through the civilians on all the ships to find anyone with experience. I am sure we'll find enough to make do, but more will have to be trained too.” he told them “It's a bit impromptu but this is the situation as it stands. Now who is going to be the first in the simulators?”
The pilots all ran to the lifts.
Broadsword Captain's office
“Are we planning to take turns being in charge?” Captain Myung asked as he set a mug of coffee in front of his CS counterpart and sat across the table from him.
“I don't know yet.” Captain Woo admitted “We'll have to hammer out some arrangement.”
“I think the nearest planet besides Alphix and our world is Polaris.” Myung said “I have already plotted the course. It will take us about ten jumps, if your... I mean the ships from the CS can keep up with the rest.”
“They can.” Captain Woo said “We already did for 2 jumps. Now that the Broadsword is functional, I think we need to start immediately, no sense in waiting around.”
“Polaris it is.” Woo said “You can take the first shift.”
Broadsword – bridge
“Captain on the bridge.” the Yeoman announced as Captain Myung entered and looked around, his seat was near the center of a much larger bridge than his old one. Here he was not standing right in front of open view ports with a small main screen between his pilot and navigator.
“All shuttles and crews accounted for.” the Watch officer reported “Everyone secure.”
The Coms officer reported in too, “All ships have the coordinates and ready for jump, sir.”
“All right everybody. We jump in thirty-five seconds, tell all ships to synchronize.” he ordered sitting in the command chair, it had more monitors and bells and whistles than his had on the Yeong-ung. It was a much larger ship, even larger than the cruise liner than was hauling refugees.
The first jump would take the fleet nearly a light year closer to Polaris. He felt the slight vibration that always came a few seconds before the jump and then, bang, they were somewhere else. It took a second for the sensors to calibrate and collect returns.
“Jump successful!” the female Ops officer said and there smiles all around. That first jump in a “new” ship always came with some stress. “We'll be able to jump again in fifteen minutes.”
The next jump would take them near but not into the Alphix system as they bypass it, Captain Myung made sure that all the military vessels were preparing for anything while they were there.
Captain Woo found him in the corridor “The engineers have upped the power output on all the plasma lasers. Did you know that this ship had half its turrets turned off, on purpose?”
Myung shook his head “They were on a science mission, it was peace time for them. Someone over there thought it was a good idea. I don't see their reasoning, but I damned sure not going to follow suit.”
They walked through the corridor side by side and there was still room for the crew to stand aside and let them pass. It was just a bigger vessel all around.
“As long as we don't stay in the next area any longer than we really need to, I doubt there should be too much of a problem. All of the civilian ships have shown us they are quite capable of keeping up.” Captain Woo said.
Captain Myung was back on the bridge for the next jump. All the ships had successfully completed the jump and reported no problems.
“Start setting up the next jump.” he ordered “The faster we leave the better.”
The Scanner officer spoke up “I have sensor contacts exiting the system at one-fifth. They look like civilian vessels, but they aren't broadcasting on any frequency.”
Myung thought about it. Civilian ships escaping the alien slaughter would definitely not want to send out any signals. If these were indeed civilian ships they needed to be rescued, not left out here for the aliens to find.
“Hold on the next jump, prep everything and hold.” he ordered, he opened an intercom channel from the right seat console “CAG Maxim, we need full radio and sensor silence, can you send out an escort for possible refugee ships right now?”
Broadsword - starboard hangar
Four of the Daggers were lined up for launch, fully prepped for takeoff.
Maxim spoke into the radio “Okay. Everything is ready, Gold Flight. On your mark Gold Leader!”
Lieutenant Stacey Drew gave him a thumbs up and answered “This is Gold Leader, launch!”
Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! They launched their Daggers out of the hangar through launch tubes, airlock doors slamming shut immediately after the fighters went through. They then turned in formation towards the possible refugee ships.
Lydia was on her left and a Marine named Douglas on her right, she knew that behind and above her was another Marine called Harrison. They would stay in this formation until they reached the bogeys, if they were refugee ships they would escort them back to the convoy.
It would be done in silence.
After a long while her passive sensors detected something and she turned toward where it indicated to find a line of about fifteen vessels. Upon closer inspection they looked like civilian ships of many types, so she steered toward the one in the lead position.
Taking up a position two kilometers off the bow of the lead ship she used a low-power transmitter to try and raise them.
“This is Gold Leader to convoy lead ship, can you hear me?”
“This is Williams of the Sonnet, we got away from the aliens, can you help us?”
“You need to follow me!” she said “Follow me to the fleet. Can all of your vessels make a hyper jump?”
Williams was breaking up in static a bit but she heard “Negative. There are a few back there are little more than habitat modules.”
“Roger, follow us, no more radios or active sensors!”
“I hear you.”
They got back to the fleet. She reported in by typed message that a few of the ships were incapable of jumping. Gold Flight was ordered to provide cover while the passengers on those ships were transferred to other vessels.
She saw shuttles moving between some of the ships and a small one entering the hangar on the cruiser Linus. It was already carrying a lot of refugees although still a military vessel. Finally Gold Flight was ordered back to the ship and she was the last to land.
As she climbed out of the cockpit she saw a ground crew surround her fighter and start inspecting it, connecting the umbilical hoses and everything else. She started to move toward the lift for the debrief when someone tapped her shoulder.
She was a little surprised to see Harold there, in a ground crew uniform. The helmet made his chubby face look even funnier.
“What are you doing here?” she asked “You got a job here?”
“Yeah.” he told her “They're still short-handed but who is better with computers than me?”
“I'll talk to you later, get back to work.” she said and got into the lift with the other pilots of Gold Flight.
“We make a great team.” Stacey told them
Lydia bumped against Douglas a little too familiarly but he smiled.