"Breaching!" Kasake shouted, glancing round to the rest of Dragon Team; who took crouched in their mechanical suits; which were capable of resisting most of the blast without direct cover.
Flipping the protective cap on the detonator, Kasake pressed the trigger; a high pitched whine sounded for a second or so before the Fusion Impulse Charges detonated - the charges were optimised for low-radius, high-pressure detonation, designed to crack open hardened bulkheads' locking mechanisms or at least damage them sufficiently so they could be manually opened.
The blasts shuddered the deck, releasing green-tinted flashes of high intensity light; which subsided in a fraction a second revealing a darkened, slightly concave dent in the lower portion of the bulkhead. The large locking mechanism released a mechanical grown and spluttered sparks on the deck before the lower section forcefully released about an inch or so, clanking as the actuator mechanism failed, revealing the room behind the bulkhead terminal.
The Old Man didn't even flinch as he trained his carbine on the opening; a Bulkhead breach wasn't a subtle event, so it was likely any personnel in the next room would be alerted to their presence if they weren't already. Kasake and Dragon Team's marines followed suit; the exo-clad soldiers taking up flanking positions on either side of the damaged bulkhead instinctively, as Ronin gestured with one hand for Kasake to move up while he covered him.
Moving up to the bulkhead, Kasake and Ronin peered through; there was no movement as the debris from the shockwave cleared, revealing another access corridor; this time it was a very long hallway with a relatively low ceiling with various lengths of pipework and hardened cables encapsulated part way in exposed ducting. The terminal at the other end of the corridor was another Category C bulkhead, but this time it was dimly lit with emergency red hazard lights, signalling the compartment ahead was in lockdown. Surveying the hallway carefully, Ronin looked to Kasake; who was crouched next to him also looking through the gap as Dragon Team's marines prepared themselves for a 'breach and clear' manoeuvre.
"Passage looks clear." Ronin spoke quietly, looking back to the hallway, squinting at the far end - to the other bulkhead terminal. "Far side's in lock-down, guess they're expecting us." he added, as Kasake brought up the basic tactical map on his visor's heads up display using data Amiori had provided based on old but still potentially relevant plans of the massive dreadnought's interior deck layout.
"According to the data we have, the main hangar access here leads to several engineering compartments on port and starboard side of the foredeck. Layout doesn't seem to have changed too much so, based on triangulating our location, this corridor leads to the starboard maintenance compartment, B Section, Deck zero-one." Kasake spoke, remaining a quieter tone as the soldiers planned their next move.
Ronin analysed the same layout on his headset's own holographic display. The maintenance decks had access to almost all sections of the ship, but were often depressurised and not built for a full dozen-strong team of exo-clad boarding marines weighing nearly half a mass ton each.
"Right." Ronin replied, zooming the map out to reveal the location of the primary access tramway - the elevator shaft that was used to transfer personnel and equipment between the primary compartments. "Maintenance shafts are a no-go for Dragon; the fuel nacelle feeders for the drive array are linked to the shaft-network for safety overflow reasons. Long story short, you'll get a face full of drive plasma if the Imperials decide to write off this cycle's maintenance accident logs." The Captain added, looking to Kasake, being greeted only by his reflection in the commander's helmet visor.
"Main Elevator?" The Commander replied, gesturing with his head; as there was no way to see his face's expression through the visor. "Dragon can get to the reactor access bay from there, rustle some feathers while you hit the maintenance shaft and go straight to the command deck as planned?"
"Could do. They'll expect that, however, so you'd be up against heavy resistance. Depends if you wanna spend the next couple hours routing 'Crimsons through the internal skunkworks of an imperial dreadnought." The Captain replied, looking down to his Carbine; upon which a small holodisplay below the combat optics displayed the number of cartridges remaining in the magazine. It read '70-4'; which meant the Captain had 70 rounds in the current magazine and 4 full magazines in his linked armoured trenchcoat's ready harness.
Only a couple of minutes had passed since breaching the bulkhead, yet the Captain was already feeling the immense pressure for time upon his shoulders; the Pathfinder could still out there, and time was of the essence.
"But since I'm not seeing another option, it'll have to do". The Captain looked back to Kasake, who had pushed his hand through the gap in the damaged bulkhead to release the emergency lock from the internal section of the terminal; which was completely jammed as he tugged at it a few times before pulling his arm back.
"Shit, it's jammed, I guess it's the old fashioned way, then. I'll be a gentleman to my glorious captain leader!" He said as the two men rose to their feet, looking to Ronin who's exposed cheeks gave the appearance that the man was smiling under his rebreather, as he gestured with his open hand at the bulkhead as if to say 'what are you waiting for?'
Placing his armoured boot on the lower section he gestured to a couple of Dragon Team's marines; who were ready as always on the flanks of bulkhead. The marines slung their weapons on their back-holsters, linked with magneto clips, and placed their boots on the damaged bulkhead; the toe-caps of their armour slightly within the gap between the upper and lower sections.
Kasake simply nodded as all three exo-clad marines pushed down on the lower bulkhead section, which creaked and groaned with metallic stress and the sound of metal on metal scraping as it slowly receded into the lower port; enlargening the gap just enough so that Ronin could crawl under it.
The Captain pushed the retractable, telescopic stock of his MX9M carbine into the closed position, which neatly folded away; making the weapon conveniently small as he slung it over his shoulder and strapped it into his harness, taking a knee to inspect the gap the marines had opened.
"Captain." The commander exclaimed, getting Ronin's attention, as the captain looked up to the 7 and a half-foot armoured soldier standing over him. "Good Luck."
Ronin nodded as he lowered himself to the deck to crawl through the gap, rolling over to his back; his harness and holstered carbine scraping along the deck plating. After clearing the gap, he gripped the exposed upper section of the bulkhead and pulled himself up with force, instinctively pulling his carbine from the harness and doing a brief sweep of the corridor before slinging it over his shoulder, clenching his free hand into a fist and thumping the damaged bulkhead three times.
"Like old days." He shouted, gripping his weapon with both hands.
"Like old days!" Kasake shouted in reply, hitting the bulkhead with his armoured fist in response, his suit-modulated voice was audible through the gap in the bulkhead, but also crackled over the Captain's headset on the local communication system.
Time to go, Old Man. The Captain thought. Time to do what is needed, again. Time to end the final chapter in your journey, perhaps. The Captain frowned as he slowly advanced along the dimly lit access corridor towards the sealed Category C bulkhead; there was no way to penetrate that as Dragon only carried one set of breaching charges and the hallway behind it was likely in vacuum - explosive compression would be disastrous if they normalised the atmosphere without a controlled pressurisation. Lucky for the Captain, on this side of the access terminal, there was likely an exposed system access port, and probably a full squad of Imperial marines waiting in ambush for the Old Man, alone.
"We have our mission. Let's get to it, Marines!" Commander Kasake shouted to his squad as they nodded and took up positions beside the commander. "They won't be expecting a direct hit on the elevator, I doubt they were even expecting a full team of Sempers, so let's hit them with their pants down, where it hurts and give the Old Man some breathing room!"
The marines raised their weapons in a brief combat salute, checking their ammunition reserves and adjusting their combat optics interlink with their visors' heads up displays.
"Internal layout plans suggest the primary A type bulkhead on the central side of this terminal leads directly to the central elevator interchange." The commander re-iterated the plan, as the marines viewed the 3D topographical layout of the decks around their position on their visors heads up displays. "Our objective is simple, Dragon, we override that A type and provoke an imperial response to the central interchange. As far as they are concerned, the Captain is still with us, so they'll check their targets - that'll give us a brief tactical advantage that I expect each and every one of you to exploit with a slug to the brain, understand? Take no prisoners, Imperial soldiers make no quarter for our people, we will not give them any in return!"
"Aye, Commander!" Dragon team acknowledged, their replied almost perfectly synchronised as the squad moved towards the A- type bulkhead in the centre of the hangar's access terminal. The bulkhead that they had breached earlier was one of two secondary access corridors to maintenance compartments running down the spine of the ship on the port and starboard sides, respectively. It was standard boarding procedure to use indirect approaches to strategically important compartments as to confuse and disrupt the enemy, but since the two corridors had no ancillary terminals to pressurised compartments; simply a one-way access port to the unpressurised maintenance shafts; Dragon team had no choice but to assault the A-type bulkhead leading to the main elevator interchange, and straight into what was likely the bulk of the Imperial Marine Corps' counter-boarding forces.
The Commander knew the risks. He knew his men and women would fight valiantly, and they would put up one hell of a fight, but he also knew that there was no way the small team of a dozen marines, even clad in the most advanced exo-armour available to the EPF, could hold out against a regiment-sized Imperial Crimson Marine Special Forces unit, almost certainly present on this warship to protect the Dreadnought's Fleet Commander and their executive staff.
The marines hastily approached to the type A bulkhead's command station; a small room off to one side of the large, open plan room. Typically, on Old Federation warships there would be an NCO and a couple of security officers present here to supervise personnel and materiel transfer between compartments, but this deck was devoid of any crew - save for the pair of technicians present on the flight deck as Sidewinder pulled up; who promptly fled into personnel bays before the corvette touched down. Of course, there was that officer that the Captain had neutralised as they disembarked, and likely still another executive officer in the area; overseeing the hangar operations. However, they had almost certainly moved to another more secure compartment as Dragon eliminated the first response counter-boarding troops in the hangar, with help from Sidewinder's heavy firepower.
Dragon remained silent as took his foregrip hand off his weapon for a few seconds in order to gesture forward, pointing to the command station; the weapon still perfectly trained on the opening; his servo-augmented grip easily handing the MX9 Carbine with just one hand.
Dragon Team moved in on the Commander's order, advancing ahead of him; their weapons shouldered and trained on potential points where threats could hide; each marine instinctively sweeping the room with his weapon as the squad slowly advanced, covering all directions. Upon reaching the command station, Kasake surveyed the lightweight access door as Dragon Team took up defensive positions on the walls either side, with a couple marines kneeled, training their weapons on the way upon which they had just come, in case they were flanked.
Kasake inspected the door's control terminal. Standard type, military-grade biometric processor with ship-board security interlink. Not a particularly easy security system to bypass, that is, if the ship-board security system was functional. Given the Historia's system reboot after CoRE's opening exploitation of the backdoor Amirori had provided, it was likely the shipboard security system was offline. In fact, depending on how successful the back door was - and if Pathfinder had survived long enough for CoRE to deliver the entire electronic payload, there was a very good change Historia was simply sat in space as Imperial engineers and technicians scrambled to restore functionality to her highly advanced, automated systems.
It was ironic, almost, that the very future of naval warfare could be its undoing, when a simple non commissioned officer with a biometric key could stop this bypass in thirty seconds from the other side of this Category A; and Kasake knew full-well that you don't simply 'breach' a Cat A, not unless you somehow managed to bring a heavy main battle tank into the terminal. Pushing aside some interesting thoughts about tank-assisted breaching operations, the Commander gripped the door's control console and crouched, his suit's servo-actuators whirring as he did so. Taking a quick look under the console, he concluded it could be isolated from the backup system with a localised denial of service attack.
"Listen up, Dragon, we're gonna rip this console; take up defensive positions and prepare for contact." The commander ordered, slinging his carbine over his shoulder and unclipping a small device from his armour's utility belt; an electronic warfare module which linked his suit's powerful biomatrix processor with external interfaces. Slotting the device into the interface on the console, he flipped up a small holodisplay on the device; with a status read out.
"Complex biometric certificates, sub-data pooling.. Second, third... fourth layer encryption with two-way verification implemented on all protocols... Huh." he muttered to himself, watching diagnostic data flood the holodisplay in front of him, an element of surprise in his voice; almost as if he was somewhat impressed by the basic security systems on the Imperial Dreadnought.
It wasn't long before the program running on his suit's biomatrix processor completed its routines; a confirmatory tone chimed, and the holo display flashed with a green border, the words "BREACH SUCCESSFUL" pulsing in the middle. Kasake didn't waste time in flipping the display back down, disconnecting the device; which he re-attached to his armour's waist harness. Re-equipping his MX9 Carbine in one hand; holding the gun barrel-up over his shoulder, the Commander clenched his fist and slammed it down on the manual override switch atop the console; upon which the A-type bulkhead's terminal flicked from red-tinted "locked" status lights to "standby" amber colour, followed by the interface chiming indicating it was ready to disengage.
Dragon Team's marines didn't need to be told to stack up on either side of the bulkhead; the elite Semper boarding squad knew the standard bulkhead entry drill; taking up positions on either side of the dozen or so metre wide terminal, marines up front crouching with their weapons firmly trained on the opening, marines behind them standing ready to provide cover.
Commander Kasake firmly gripped his carbine with both hands as he shouldered it, moving to a crouch just behind the control terminal; there was sufficient room in the 'inset' part of the corridor to conceal the massive battlesuit-clad soldier, which provided reasonable cover should they face heavy resistance going forward.
"Get ready!" he shouted, repeatedly gesturing to the bulkhead; Semper Marines on either side nodded as they clutched their weapons; fingers on the triggers.
The Bulkhead's au