Updated: May 2
"Captain, we only have one chance. That chance is now: unless we turn away the Imperial Fleet, we will be forced to withdraw. Coron will be defenceless." CoRE announced firmly, his holoform manifesting characteristically by the Old Man's side as Pathfinder took a direct hit from a medium-range Hornet missile; fragmentation warheads splintering on her colossal nanopolymer armour plates - doing superficial damage to the battlecruiser, but shaking the deck nonetheless as impact alarms chimed from the ship-board computer.
The Old Man frowned as he looked up the C-AI's holoform. He had been hunched over the War-Map for a few minutes, going through countless possible options the heavily outnumbered rebels had against a division-size Imperial Fleet. He paused a moment, looking back to the holographic table projection, which flickered in and out as Pathfinder's hull took yet another beating, this time disrupting her electronic capacitor grid.
"We have no choice." He spoke, his voice perhaps even more course than usual. "We go on Amiori's data. If it holds, we might be able to disable the dreadnought at the spearhead of that Fleet. Without it, the Imperial Forces will likely withdraw to regroup, giving us enough time to re-evaluate our defensive options". He paused again, this time taking a step back from the war map table.
"Captain. I reiterate that my calculations have concluded that the success rate of an electronic warfare attack on the Nobilis Historia is less than 1%. I do not advise this cours-"
"It's not zero." The Old Man interrupted. "Do you still not trust her, CoRE?"
"I find that statistical approaches to such situations provide significantly more long-term survivability for the Pathfinder, our Fleet and our lives." CoRE replied; devoid of any emotional 'tones' in his voice.
A very faint smile formed on the Old Man's face as he cricked his neck; standing around for hours while Pathfinder played cat and mouse with Imperial tactical SPARTAN missiles and long-range IMPAC fire gave him a cramp. He didn't have to say anything for CoRE to get the hint, returning the smiling gesture before bringing up a tactical, long-range display of the Nobilis Historia; an advanced Pattern-3 Retribution-class Dreadnought; leading a force of aobut two dozen cruisers and half a dozen battlecruisers; forming the bulk of the Imperial Navy's fleet to subjugate Corona.
"Yes, Captain. I 'forgot' about 'human gut instincts'. I apologise, how would you like to proceed into the Jaws of Hell?" The C-AI replied, he was obviously sarcastic but his tone carried a hint of light-heartedness. They both knew he'd follow the Captain into the Jaws of Hell... and back out, without any hesitation - just like the old days.
Ronin smiled and nodded, acknowledging CoRE's remark, before gesturing to the tactical map that the C-AI had brought up on the war-map table. "Amiori's data suggests Historia has a hidden back-door in her tactical battlenet and A-H-S network." He said, pointing to the dreadnought's 3D representation on the holographic projection.
The Pathfinder's deck shook violently again, this time the impact tones raised in volume and several red warning lights flicked on. The Captain corrected his posture, appearing completely un-phased, rolled his eyes and looked to CoRE's hologram; which stood perfectly still as the deck shook violently; breaking the 'realism' usually provided by holograms.
"I'll be brief, because I don't think we have much time." The Captain said, brushing some debris from his jet-black trench coat. "We need to get within a couple hundred klicks from the Historia in order for this to have any chance of succeeding. According to Amiori, the back-door is installed on short-range frequencies using high-grade encryption with a Quantum State Key for authentication".
"I suppose this is where my services are required?" CoRE replied, as the deck shook again. The pair had been in so many battles and Pathfinder had pulled through so much fire that neither of them were too concerned with the continual impacts on her main armour belts; the IMPAC blasts almost entirely bypassing her powerful CTM shields.
Ronin nodded. "I need you to plug into the battlenet and probe a series of channels on the system until you get a bite. Amiori has provided the necessary signature for her back door." The Captain paused as he produced a small data-tablet from the inside his coat; from the myriad equipment harnesses and pockets that carried the various gadgets and equipment he took with him everywhere. Flipping the tablet with one hand, catching it again with precision, he gestured to an officer on the Pathfinder's bridge, who approached the captain and took the data-tablet.
"And you are absolutely sure with your 'human instinct' that this data can be trusted?" CoRE asked curiously, his holographic head moving to track the officer who inserted the tablet into a terminal on one of the bridge consoles.
"Amiori wouldn't betray us. Seems like a hundred lifetimes ago we were fighting together at the end of it all. Yet it seems like just yesterday." He said, frowning slightly as he reminisced of past events during the Fall of the UTN, some four hundred earth years ago. "No." he added, "She's with us. Besides, do you see a better option?"
"Valid point." The AI responded bluntly. "I am decoding the data now. This might take a few moments."
The Captain simply nodded as he climbed the command podium, taking a seat in the Pathfinder's command chair; which rotated to face the interface and the panoramic bridge window before it; particle ram impacts flaring up on the warship's prow as she cruised towards the Imperial Fleet; her Point Defence Systems letting off periodic pulses into space to intercept tactical SPARTAN missiles from the constant barrage. A pair of Heritage-class frigates cruised along her port side, visible from the bridge; one of which was trailing smoke and debris as they zig-zagged to avoid fragmentation bursts from anti-ship missiles and kinetic battery fire.
"Decode complete, Captain". CoRE announced, materialising next to the Captain's chair. "However, we are approaching the range upon which my electronic interference routine will no longer disrupt the Imperial Fleet's long-range weapons sufficiently to prevent us from being reduced into a rapidly expanding cloud of vaporised Nano polymers and broken dreams."
"Noted." The Old Man replied, gripping the control column. "Engage Hypercruise. Helm is mine."
"This is becoming something of a habit, Ronin." The AI replied concerningly.
"Force of habit." the Captain smirked as the Pathfinder's shipboard computer announced the Hypercruise engine charging sequence; the distinctive low frequency harmonic rumble of supercapacitors charging vibrating the deck; her mighty cruise drives ready to take the legendary battlecruiser into the gaping Jaws of Hell once again.