New York System, Sirius Sector
Planet Pittsburgh to Fort Bush Tradelane.
LSF Escort Theta Two, Steve Blunt
Escorting food, oxygen and medical supplies to Fort Bush.

'Trade lane disruption detected,' announced the monotonous flight computer, and the dancing golden streaks of energy that surrounded our ships dissipated, crackled and died and we were unceremoniously thrown out of the lane at high speed. I fought with the controls to stay in formation with the lead cargo ship. Almost immediately, my scanner wailed as it picked up multiple contacts.

'We got a Rogue Wolfpack closing fast, all fighter wings, break and engage and keep them away from the freighters.' commanded Evans on the encrypted channel.
'Argh shit, here we go again,' muttered Gibbons, as we broke with the cargo ships and moved in a loose row formation at attack speed, charging at the incoming Bloodhound ships. Rogues, not too smart when it came to simple space combat tactics, but they made up for it in numbers. Not to mention, they were fearless, or worse, jacked up on Cardamine. Four LSF Patriot light fighters against twelve Bloodhound ships would be a close fight.

They were out of range for energy weapons but I still had my full payload of missiles. I targeted the lead fighter and soon had good tone, and I loosed two Wind stalker missiles in quick succession.

The entire group of Rogues started popping flares, but I knew they were useless in a head to head clash. The pair of missiles flew straight and true, uncorrupted by the countermeasures, the first one dropping the shields and the next ploughing through the hull and detonating violently. The eleven remaining Rogues rolled and swerved around the flaming debris, their shields sputtering as they were peppered with shrapnel.

'Point fire on my target when they get in range,' said Evans in a strained voice as the close-knit rabble of ships ahead of us grew bigger and bigger by the second. This was a common tactic as it almost guaranteed a kill on the first pass. As I synced his targeting computer with mine, I couldn't help but wonder if the Rogues would ever figure out that it was illogical to bunch up on a charge as it prevented them from bringing all their fire power to bear.

At that moment they entered gun range, both we and the enemy opened fire at the same time. A storm of superheated plasma filled my view, both coming and going, splashing on my shields, draining them rapidly. I saw my fire ravage the dedicated target and he didn't last long, our compiled fire power stripping his shields within seconds and he suffered so much hull damage that his ship literally flew apart, each component a ball of flame.

I ceased fire and pushed forward on the stick to avoid a head-on collision with the Rogues, flicking the mine drop toggle several times. I heard the rhythmic thunk, thunk, thunk as my ship jettisoned a trio of homing Razor mines in my wake. My fighter shuddered as a hapless Rogue pilot flew straight into them, blowing him into an uncontrollable tumble. I glanced at my shield status, and they were holding at 54%.

I whipped around, searching for the unwitting pilot who had fallen victim to the mines, and found him hopelessly trying to recover from the shockwave that had sent him into a flat spin, his hull belching thick black smoke. I pounced and with an extended burst from my guns, I reduced him to a spinning, flaming wreck.

'Incoming missile,' sounded the flight computer, and I hammered the CM button and banked high and right to get clear. The missile warning icon disappeared and I felt the slight shockwave as one of my CM's was obliterated by the heat seeking projectile. My shields continued to dwindle as I took fire from someone on my tail. I killed my engines, my momentum still carrying me forward, and pushed the stick over then burned my thrusters, shooting straight down and away from my pursuer. I saw an LSF Patriot fighter enveloped in flames as it vented atmosphere. It flew erratically, spiraling out of control, death rolling as the pilot, a new guy fresh from West Point, fought to get the ship under control.

I fired my thrusters and sped to the failing ship, swerving to shake the aim of any Rogue ship who might be tracking me at that moment.
'God damn it, Simmons, eject! Your engines are going super critical! Eject!' I roared across the channel. He needed no further prompting, and a coffin like object blasted away from the wreck using a primitive booster a moment before the Patriot erupted. I flared and opened my cargo bay doors and guided the life pod in using my tractor beam. I hurriedly shut the doors and moved to rejoin the fray.

All hell was breaking loose, plasma and exhaust trails criss-crossed against the backdrop of the New York system, countermeasures burned bright for a moment then puffed into nothingness, homing mines ambled along, flaming debris shot this way and that, shields flared as ships fought with each other, entwined in deadly aerial acrobatics, each trying to get the better of their opponent. I glanced at my shields, which were slowly recharging at 12%, then my targeting computer, which indicated that there were still five Rogues about.

'I've got a Rogue all over my fucking ass, someone get down here and nail that sucker!'

I levelled out and found myself on the tail of a Rogue that was chasing down Gibbons' ship. I copped some flak from his rear turret as he poured fire on his prey. I lined him up and unloaded my guns on him. He broke his attack on Gibbons immediately, dodging left, and I followed, hard on his tail, trying to get a good angle, all the while red laser fire peppered my shields and streaked past me as his rear turret continued to unload.

This guy was good, and I fought to get a clean shot at him as he zig zagged, dived, dodged, rolled and slid, using every move in the book. I got good tone, and loosed a Wind stalker, but the rear turret targeted the missile and blew it up in front of me. I would have to take him down with my guns. Furiously, we dueled, ignoring the rest of the fight, twisting and winding through the smoke and flames, he was doing everything he could to shake me, but I held doggedly on, scoring only a few minor hits on this Rogue Ace.

I finally got a good burst in when I pre-empted his move and he dived right into my sights and into my fire, hounding him and spattering his shields down to 7% when I was suddenly strafed from the rear, and my shields quickly failed and I started to suffer hull damage.

'Blunt, get out of there! You've got fighters all over your tail!' someone yelled over the channel.

I swore, fired my thrusters and pulled up, abandoning my pursuit for now, and leaving the remainder of my Razor mines hidden in the white vapor trail my engines left. A second later a Rogue winked off my targeting computer, and I searched for my prey, the Ace, once more.

He and two others had just left gun range and were charging their Cruise Engines, heading into the Pittsburgh Debris field. After all that, the son of a bitch was running! I hastily got good tone and fired a Wasp cruise disruptor missile, but they popped a series of CMs and my ordnance went wide. I didn't bother going after them, they were well out of range and we would never catch them in the shifting maze of twisted metal and discarded machinery. I banked sharply, switching to the last remaining target only to see it get blown out of the sky by a Wind stalker missile from Evans as it too tried to flee.

'All fighter wings check in.' He said, slightly out of breath.
'Simmons is in my cargo hold, he had to bail out. My shields are down, my weapons overheating; my hull took a couple of hits...' I said as I ran a system diagnostic, 'nothing out of the usual, sir.'
'One of those Rogue punks clipped me with a Slingshot when my shields were down. I lost my port wing.. got the bastard though. I have hull integrity, but I lost two of my guns, and my CMs and thrusters are not responding.' Said Gibbons, clearly pissed off.

'Alright, form up on the cargo ships. The Trade Lane has stabilized and we're bugging out before they regroup.'
'
Roger that, forming up,' I said, mentally exhausted, and we left the scene of death, oily exhaust trails, flaming wrecks and molten metal and components to drift in space, becoming a part of the Pittsburgh debris field.