Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Eridonia's Hope's main battery swiveled into position, the automated loading bays filling the three primary magazines per battery with a the requested ammunition, before riding a mechanised conveyor through a reinforced blast shield and into the turret itself, clanking into place beneath each of the 31-inch Mass Drivers.
"Main battery is ready, Captain". Ellie reported, displaying green-lit indicators on the HUD displayed cross-section of each emplacement. "We are ready to engage. Awaiting Master Arm Confirmation".
Marcus paused a moment, he had to think. His actions in dealing with this situation could decide the fate of the entire Aquarius cluster forever, and potentially dictate relations, or lackthereof, with an alien species. Not one to make a rash decision, Captain Raiko gestured to the AI to wait a moment, running his hand along his brow, the 79-year old Phoenix War Veteran weighed up the options.
"Tactical assessment. The Federal Navy had lost contact with a deep-space surveillance platform in the fringes of known space. Naval Intelligence had very little solid information as to the circumstances. Command was either witholding information or they are genuinely in the dark here. Eridonia's Hope made contact with an unknown formation of mass signitures in the proximity of the last known co-ordinates of the platform. The signitures appear to be artifical, and on an intercept trajectory with the Group and haven't declared themselves via any form of communication, I have no other way of interpreting this other than apparent hostility."
"Cut drives. Hunter Group, maintain synchronisation, we are coming to a stop. It's clear we've been detected but we have yet to recieve any communication." The captain paused again, looking around the bridge; concerned officers and bridge-staff returningh his gaze, awaiting his next orders.
"Prepare for armed action." He ordered, opening a protective casing on the arm of his command chair, revealing a switch under which the words "MASTER ARM" were clearly inscribed. The captain flipped the switch into the engaged position. Immediately after, the ship's board computer let out a warning tone.
"Master Arm On. Master Arm On" the computer's verbose announcer declared, as the cruiser's HUD flashed to a red colour and multiple read-outs across the bridge let out their own tones as bridge crew rushed to prepare the warship for combat.
"Ellie, track the closes signiture and put that firing solution into effect. No discharge until my direct order, understood? Need a bit of human instinct on this one before we start a war." Marcus spoke firmly, squinting at the visual indicators, a series of small highlighted red boxes following the real-time position of the approaching signitures, on the combat heads up display before him.
"Understood, Captain." Ellie acknowledged, his holoform dematerialising from the command deck as to keep the area clear.
The one and a half kilometre long battlecruiser slowed to a stop as her drives entered idle, her lateral and axial thrusters flaring up to counter the enormous inertia as the ship-board computer made fine adjustments to her course as per the combat manouver routines. Escorting Hammerheads maintained their distance at the flanks of the warship, still in direct synchronisation with her Combat Adaptive Harmonics System.
"Direct power to our primary repulsor shield, give me fine control instead of handing over to the AHS, I like to set it manually..." Raiko ordered, interacting with the console in front of him, swiping objects in the holodisplay around a cross-section of the Eridonia's Hope's primary shield topology.
Since the cruiser was facing the unknown contacts, the captain placed capacitor charge priority on the forward modulators, strengthening her forward repulsor shields, at the expense of the rear or flanks. A standard practise, often controlled by the ship-board computer or AI, to maximise shielding efficiency and reduce power usage by diverting power to repulsor zones under direct threat.
Veteran Captains, especially from the stand-off battles with CEG-era warships in the Phoenix Campaign, often prefered to do this themselves, prefering their own gut instinct or experience than the ship-board computer. However in combat, the CAHS is usually enabled to provide a tighter response to developing threats in co-ordination with other vessels and a large number of battlefield variables. The captain, of course, can advise the system or override it entirely at any time.
"Of course, Captain." Ellie replied.
Eridonia's Hope's forward repulsor field flared a bright blue, as the tetramatrix energy crystals formed tighter bonds, before settling to almost invisible.
"Visual Range. We are a thousand klicks from the closest object" Ellie declared, as the captain looked up to the observation window. "The distance closed quickly, they are acellerating parallel to the debris field. It would appear they are mimmicking our own manouver."
Two small objects appeared on the visual display, still too far to make out any distinct features of shape, but they were rapidly closing on the Task Group. It would not be long before their true nature was revealed.
"Amplify that image. Focused Optics, hundred-times." Marcus demanded.
There was a moment of silence on the bridge as the AI performed the action. The once blob-like dot took shape into a form that Marcus had never seen before, in his five decades of service. This was no CEG-era warship. This was alien.
"What in the Pathfinder's name is that thing?" The captain exclaimed, turning to face the sensor staff, who looked equally confused from the readouts.
"Ellie, data. I want data, show me everything you have. What in Kociero's name are we dealing with?"
"I do not know. No matching signitures in the Naval database, this is in alignment with our prior analysis. The object is alien. We are within effective Mass Driver range, captain. Awaiting your orders".
There wasn't long to react, before two more objects emerged from behind the first, followed by another half a dozen, all moving in an eerie, intelligent, formation. Before the crew's disbelief could be vocalised energy readings on the Short Range Sensor Array lit up, sending warning alarms across the command deck.
"Energy Spike detected. Fore, eight-hundred klicks." The ship-board computer exclaimed. Marcus squinted momentarily before his eyes opened fully.
Two large pulses of light, with a green-ish hue arced from the first object with alarming speed, pulsating and growing brighter every second as they made their way towards the terran warship.
"Prepare for impact!" Marcus shouted, strapping himself into the command chair as the two pulses arced straight towards the cruiser's bow, almost blinding the observation window. The first pulse impacted on the forward repulsor; releasing a huge shockwave as the repulsor field flared up blue, in stark contrast to the alien green energy. The blast subsided as alarm tones sounded on the bridge.
"Foreward Repulsor at forty percent." the ship-board computer exclaimed as the frontal arc of the cruiser's shielding diagnostic cross-section flashed orange indicating a loss of integrity.
"Goddamnit we're under attack, Ellie, weapons free. I repeat: Weapons free. Target the lead object, foredeck battery, salvo, concussion." Marcus shouted, as the AI followed the orders.
The Endeavour-class battlecruiser's two foredeck turrets, already tracking the alien objects, locked into place as their triple barrel mass drivers elevated to track the incoming ships. The immense stopping power of the warship's main battery filled the captain with a sense of confidence that they could respond with deadly affect.