"Alarm!" The cry rang across the bridge of the Resolve like a panicked shout. Immediately sirens began to wail across the entire ship and crew started desperately dashing to their various battle stations.
"Enemy cruiser has jumped in, MC90 class. Fifty degrees to port horizontal plane positive seventy degrees vertical plane." This was bad news, very bad news. The MC90 class was a brand new type of ship, brimming with some of the best technology the New Republic had to offer and whilst she was not the largest class in the skies, not only was she still bigger than the Resolve, she also packed an awful big punch for her size and readily outgunned the aged Imperial war horse.
"Turn fifty five degrees to port, nose up five degrees, full speed ahead!" Ordered the Commander, standing calmly on the walk way of the bridge as his crew scuttled about in the pits beneath him. "Range?" The commander asked.
"Five hundred kilometres and closing sir!" Came the reply from somewhere down below.
"Time until seventy five kilometres?" Asked the Commander again in level tones.
"At current relative speeds six minutes!" The voices from bellow were starting to seem a little anxious. This was the first time many of them had gone up against a new Republic Warship, up until now this mission had only involved attack vulnerable civilian and industrial convoys. Now they were going up against a superior ship crewed by men who were presumably more experienced than most of the crew of the Resolve. Still the Commander remained undeterred and his calm demeanour was keeping the men's fear in check. Other experienced officers around the ship were doing much the same with their junior crew also. The Commander knew that this was the best opportunity that they had to escape not just this system but the entire sector and be free to hunt elsewhere in the New Republic. The Commander also felt little respect for the majority of the New Republic fleet. There was no denying that their ships were better than ever and that they had some of the best small scale task forces and small craft formations in the galaxy, Rouge Squadron being the most infamous. But he doubted the quality of most of their senior and middle grade officers. Many had never had any formal training and were thus going purely by experience, most of which was gained fighting a guerrilla style war against the Galactic Empire. Furthermore the new staff graduating out of the academies set up by the New Republic were being taught by lecturers who had never done it before and were teaching the students how to deal with a situation entirely alien to them, fighting large scale conventional fights and keeping galactic order. Add to this the fact that the Empire had not left behind any useful instructions, manuals or data which the New Republic could use to train their people and the New Republic was faced with an almost insurmountable challenge in training its officers. As a result of all of this the Commander was cautiously confident. Perhaps prematurely.
Reaching for his internal communicator the Commander spoke directly to the torpedo room where Talon had been making his inspection mere minutes earlier.
"Torpedo room, load MG1 F torpedoes. Gauge for maximum speed, range seventy five kilometres." Then adding in a slightly less clipped manner. "We are making one shot, just forward of her engine ports. Don't miss….Bridge Out." Talon gave a silent and solemn nod, he understood the seriousness of his task and began the automated loading sequence for all four torpedo tubes. The MG1 F torpedo was a godsend for little ships like this. Expensive to produce but well worth the cost they were designed to allow ships like the Resolve to punch above their weight. Modified from the standard MG1 A torpedo from the clone war the MG1 F had a higher yield and a faster speed, but crucially it projected a particle field distorter just before impact. This counteracted fully intact particle shielding which could deflect physical weapons such as torpedoes. But with a maximum range of one hundred kilometres you had to get close to the enemy in order to deploy them, surprise was essential.
Talon watched the first salvo of torpedoes load before turning to his targeting computer. The target had been designated but it was up to him to set the torpedoes speed, course and spread. Talon was permanently checking and re checking the enemies speed and course. They had been caught off guard so for the moment they were not moving much but that could change at any moment and throw his targeting calculations off entirely. His stomach began to feel strangely heavy as he saw the enemy cruiser turn on the spot and start to present one of her flanks, clearly preparing to fire a broadside. On the plus side this meant that they were making the target area easier to hit but it also meant that the Resolve was going to get rocked by enemy fire.
But there was another problem, wave after wave of enemy star fighters were starting to pour out from the ship. These had been the true strength of the Rebellion and now they were tearing towards a weak and vulnerable vessel. Their sheer number threatened to overwhelm the Resolve's defences and cripple the vessel before it got close enough to fire her torpedoes.
"All available guns fire on the enemy fighters!" Ordered the Commander. He had not been anticipating fighting an MC90, or any vessel with on board fighters, this could be a problem. Was the New Republic really so powerful it had ships of this size to spare hunting down simple convoy raiders? No matter the fight was here and the Commander had resolved to win it. The guns of the Resolve opened up, lighting up the blackness of space with bolts of green laser fire. The Resolve was firing too early for its guns to be truly effective and not all of the laser canons and batteries were appropriate for anti-fighter roles but if they stood even a vague chance of taking a fighter or two out of the sky at this range they were shots worth making.
The Resolve was shuddering under the strain her engine was suddenly being put under and even down in the bowels of the ship you could hear metal creek and strain under the force of the high speed course corrections. It was as if she were about to tear herself in half simply by moving let alone by being fired upon.
"Distance to target?" Asked the Commander.
"Two hundred kilometres." Came the reply "Seventy Five seconds until optimum firing range." Seventy five seconds, not long. But long enough to die. Those fighters were just getting closer and closer all the time and doing a very good job of evading the Resolve's turbo laser batteries. They were almost close enough to open fire now and had taken hardly any casualties. The Commander narrowed his eyes, mentally bracing for the impact but refused to change course. The guns had destroyed a few X wings but the majority were slipping through the net even as the enemy ships entered optimal turbo battery range. Then, well then the X wings got their turn. The impact from their lasers caused the Resolve to judder slightly and minor damage was caused to the hull of the aged vessel but nothing to cause any real concern.
The problem was what happened just a few seconds later. Smaller torpedoes launched by the X wings impacted at various points all along the length and breadth of the ship. The Resolve's shields were still intact but their aged and poor state of repair allowed a few torpedoes to get through. Most impacted on non-vital systems but still caused the ship to rock alarmingly. One torpedo however, crashed straight into the deck above the torpedo room.
The impact sent machines toppling in the torpedo room, a pneumatic pressure pipe snapped spraying oil into the chamber. Torpedo's shook free from their cradles and started to roll across the floor. One rolled right towards the loading machine terminal, smashing into it with such force as to rip one side of it away and tear the delicate cables within. Automatic loading was now impossible. Thankfully those torpedoes already loaded were unaffected but there was now little chance of being able to fire a second salvo.
"Secure those torpedoes!" Cried Talon, still at the targeting computer ensuring his shots would not stray. "If those go up we will lose the entire forward section!" His junior crew started dashing around, desperately trying to catch the runaway munitions but the oil spilling out onto the floor made the task much more difficult as they continuously lost their footing. It might have looked funny, the way they staggered and slipped around, but due to the danger it was far from amusing. But still Talon stayed at his post checking his calculations and the firing mechanisms time and time again. Flicking a switch he opened up the internal communication network. "Torpedo room to bridge. Torpedo room to bridge. We have sustained minor structural damage and the loading mechanism computer has been destroyed. We are now capable of manual loading only."
"Understood." Came the Commanders reply over the inter com. "I am dispatching repair crews. Confirm you are still able to fire the first salvo."
"Confirmed sir, we have four torpedoes loaded and ready to fire. Launch mechanisms are unaffected by the blast."
"Very good, bridge out."
The X wings meanwhile, were crawling all over the ship like ants, hugging the hull of the ship in their highly effective trench running tactics to try and limit the number being picked off by turbo lasers and whilst a few were getting shot out of the sky most were surviving and getting dangerously close to the Resolve's shield generators. The weak shields of the Resolve could do little against the guns of an MC90, one or two broadsides was all they could take before they would lose shields. But that would be enough if their plan worked but they could not afford to lose their shields now. The enemy ship was still turning to present her guns, not yet in an optimum firing position whilst the Resolve tore towards it, aiming to pass just underneath.
"Divert power from all non-essential systems to the tracking mechanisms of the turbo lasers and point defence guns." Ordered the Commander, not a hint of worry in his voice, only grim determination. Down in the pits bellow his order was carried out and the Resolve's laser turrets started turning faster, better able to track the X wings. This resulted in more X wings being brought down and making it far harder for the X wings to get a decent run on the shield generators but still it was not enough. All it took was one lucky X wing pilot, one sloppy gunner or one over worked and poorly maintained turret to rupture a plasma feed and they would be doomed.
"Sir!" Came the voice of the second in command, Lieutenant Commander Jar, from the back of the bridge. "Engine room reports heat levels have exceeded safe operating parameters in the second and third heat control chambers. The aged heat sinks are failing too early!" The Commander just shook his head at this news and said in level tones.
"Ignore it, stay the course. Do not despatch repair crews yet. We must keep uncommitted repair crews back to maintain weapon and shield systems should they fail. Is the hyper drive system affected?"
"Negative sir!" Came the reply. "Only sub light engines are straining." The Commander gave a solemn nod at this but stayed silent whilst the second in command did his best to mitigate the overheating engines. "Engine room, try and divert the strain to the first heat chamber, the syncs there are new!"
"Thirty seconds to firing range!" Yelled a voice down from the pits, his nerves starting to waver under the stress of this critical moment.
"Enemy vessel has presented her flank." Came another voice from down below.
"All hands brace for enemy fire." Announced the Commander over a ship wide announcement. At that moment an X wing, damaged by turbo laser fire, span out of control and cartwheeled down toward the forward section of the Resolve, hitting the ship hard and detonating its engine and remaining torpedoes just above the Resolve's already weakened torpedo room. The explosion was near deafening for those inside. Talon found himself thrown to the ground with his ears ringing as bulkheads warped and bent above him. His vision became blurry and his sight was no longer keeping up with the tuning of his head. He was dimly aware of screams somewhere in the background. One of the crew men was trapped beneath a great slab of metal that had once been part of the ceiling, his legs crushed and pulped by the colossal weight. There was a secondary explosion somewhere up above which sent sparks flying all across the room. The emergency lighting failed and for a moment the room was thrown into darkness. That was until the oil caught fire from the sparks and suddenly the room was filed with dull flickering flames which rose all the time. Talon struggled to his feet his head still feeling heavy just in time to see one of his crew men run past him in a panic. Acting on instinct Talon snapped out an arm and caught the crew man by his sleeve.
"Stay your ground crewman! Get the emergency extinguisher from the corner and put out that fire! The same applies to all of you!" Even now with flames dancing around highly volatile munitions piled high in this room Talon refused to leave or allow any of his men to do so. He would not succumb to fear, he would not succumb to circumstance. He would fire those torpedoes. The fire continued to lick higher and smoke started filling the chamber. Reaching beneath him Talon pulled an emergency respirator from the base of the targeting computer and placed it over his mouth. Unfortunately as the fire spread it reached the man trapped by the debris and slowly started to engulf him. His low cries of pain from his crushed legs escalated into frantic wails of agony as he flailed desperately, trying with all his might to put out the flames. Trying, and failing. But perhaps even worse was the fact that the fire spread to the cables connecting the targeting computer to the launch mechanisms. The intense heat melted the protective covering and warped the cables. A red light lit up above the torpedo tubes indicating that they were no longer ready to fire. Talon was not about to accept this.
Dashing forward, dodging in-between the rising flames Talon made his way to the manual over ride system and flicked the switch. A small section of what seemed to be the outer hull peeled back revealing a small, heavily reinforced window onto space. Inlaid into the glass was a set of metal cross hairs with sliding scales on the side to adjust for range and the vertical alterations in the targets course and a horizontal scale to allow for compensation for the speed of the enemy ship. Placing his hand on a wheel to his left Talon started furiously turning it to make the final alteration of the torpedo's course. With no computer to tell him Talon had to do the math himself and guess the range to the enemy vessel.
"Five…four…three." His eyes had narrowed now and he was deaf to the world around him, the fire, the screams, the threat of the overheating munitions behind him. None of this existed now. All that there was, was him and the target. "Two…one…fire!" Pulling hard on a crank by his feet a single loud alarm buzz sounded in the room as all four loaded torpedoes flew from the ship in a narrow spread heading straight towards their target. His job done there was no longer any need to stay in this flaming death trap of a room. "Evacuate the torpedo room!" He cried at the top of his voice and his crew men were all too happy to obey. All bar one instantly dashed out. The one who remained was extinguishing his trapped colleague. Jumping over Talon managed to slide the rubble off of the trapped man allowing him to be dragged to safety. The man was a mess, his legs were truly useless and bleeding heavily. Much of his face was hideously burnt, doubtless permanently disfigured and some of his clothes had begun to melt into his flesh with the heat. But he was alive, just. "Get this man to medical!" He barked at two of his junior crew man who began to drag the injured man away. Talon however, sealed the torpedo room and then remotely opened up both the firing hatches and the loading hatches of all the torpedo tubes, opening the room to the vacuum of space. He was hoping to suck out all of the air and thus put out the fire, time would tell if this plan worked.
Meanwhile, on the Bridge.
"Torpedoes away sir! They are on target!" Came a voice from down below in the pits. There was a little cheer from the younger crew but the older men stayed quiet. They knew victory was far from certain, they still had the fighters crawling all over them and the enemy cruiser could return fire at any moment.
"Nose down twenty degrees. Emergency speed ahead. Steer hard to port. Navigation officer, plot a course to the Chandrila system. Start hyper drive engines." Order the Commander, his voice devoid of the excitement which had infected the rest of the crew, they had to get out of here fast and could not wait to see if the torpedoes were successful before preparing to leave. The sudden course alteration would also make them more difficult to hit but that did not stop the enemy trying.
"Enemy broadside incoming!" Yelled another voice from down below. A hail of red laser bolts poured from the side of the enemy cruiser putting the fire power of the Resolve to shame, some were clearly going to miss but a great many seemed poised to impact along the length of the Resolve and there was nothing she could do to get out of the way. All across the ship men were bracing against walls ready for the impact, even Talon had placed himself in a door way to shelter from any falling debris. But the Commander did not flinch. He simply stayed standing by the main view windows, hands clenched firmly behind his back. The shots hit the Resolve like a hammer, the entire ship swayed under the force, her engines barely able to compensate. Throughout the ship you could hear booming as the laser bolts punched through the weaker areas of the shields and tore into the fragile vessel. The commander could see pillars of flame and leaking gas erupt along his ship. But none of them were particularly large and vital systems were largely unaffected.
"Shields at thirty two percent!" Cried a worried voice from bellow. "Living quarters section one, twelve and sixty three are reporting hull breaches. All contact with forward storage chamber has been lost sir." There was nothing the Commander could do other than continue with the plan and so he remained silent.
"Torpedo one impact!" Cried a jubilant gunnery officer from bellow. "Torpedo two impact!...Torpedo three impact!….Torpedo four impact!" Whilst this was good news the Commander noted that his crew's mood seemed to swing far too readily with the tide of battle, he would have to impress on them the importance of keeping a level head and not allowing the fortune of battle to affect you. Looking out at the New Republic vessel the Commander inspected the damage. It was exactly as he had planned. The lines between the engines and the exhaust ports had been ruptured in numerous places. Cutting power to all but the weakest of manoeuvring thrusters. More over a combination of fuel, weapon plasma and other highly volatile substances was pouring from the enemy ship. No one in their right mind would dare fire through that. If they did it would ignite and the explosion would spread back to the New Republic ship, tearing it apart from the inside. However, the Resolve was also very close to the gas cloud and would also be caught in the explosion. They were using the gas as a shield, praying the cruiser was not stupid enough to fire on them.
But things did not go according to plan, the cruiser may have ceased fire but the X wings carried on, either unaware of the gas cloud or unaware of the consequences of igniting it. A stray laser bolt passed gently into the mist and the world seemed to stop for a moment. What followed was a brilliant white explosion, made all the more eerie and powerful due to its silence in the empty void of space. Looking directly into the heart of it would cause a man to go blind and even the stubborn Commander was forced to shield his eyes. The explosion rippled up into the enemy cruiser. Igniting the fuel reserves and detonating the engine, causing a chain reaction of explosions through the inside of the ship. Great pillars of flame erupted along its huge length and vast sections of the hull snapped off and began to drift slowly apart. Until one huge secondary explosion propelled the vast chunks of what remained of the ship away from one another at colossal speed. The explosion itself hit the Resolve as well. For a moment the view ports were bathed in white fire.
"Shields have failed!" Came a cry from down below. The fire poured in from the hull breaches along the Resolve but were thankfully prevented from spreading due to the fact the rooms were already sealed. But the raw heat of the blast started to fry some of the electronic systems in the Resolve, one or two small munitions dumps even exploded. Thankfully the main armoury remained intact. The Resolve was truly mangled but it was still flying. That was until a huge cartwheeling section of the MC90 cruiser collided with monumental force into the back of the Resolve. In an instant half of her engine ports were ripped away and the others lost power and her own fuel began pouring into space. "We have lost all engine power!" Came that same voice from bellow. "We can no longer resist the gravitational pull of the planet!"
The world out of the view ports started to slide sideways alarmingly and the entire ship was rattling and rumbling, in grave danger of shaking itself apart.
"Sir!" Came a cry from the Lieutenant Commander. "Were going down!"