Updated: May 2
Pathfinder's initial shot found its mark right where the Captain was targeting: one of the docked RT-class cruisers. The Fusion-Slipstream Rail Cannon integrated within the Pathfinder's spinal armament was capable of propelling a several-ton solid-state rod of compacted tritanium-tungsten at speeds approaching a very high percentage that of the speed of light itself. The exact capabilities of the FSRC weren't exactly well known - even among the ranks of the EPF, but the destructive potential was soon made clear for the Imperial Garrison at AT-Salmon to see.
The initial impactor over-penetrated the target vessel with significant force; in a process known to naval captains as 'Apple-Coring'; the projectile entered the hull of the RV-class cruiser slightly towards the stern-midships, on the ventral side. The process of overpenetration was instantaneous as the projectile exited the dorsal side, about twenty metres ahead of the dorsal A-type turret battery, blasting super-heated debris and twisted hull panels into space as it did so.
The projectile had de-accelerated significantly and shifted of course somewhat; hurtling into space at a still extremely high velocity. Casual observation of the impact would have suggested that the Pathfinder's opening shot had caused minimal damage to the Imperial cruiser; despite the dorsal A-type battery having an impromptu barrel shortening, and a rather neat, red-hot hole punched through the central superstructure approximately thirty metres in diameter, the vessel was still largely intact.
"Effect on Target." CoRE announced as proximity alarms reached their highest frequency on the deck; prompting the Captain to pull back hard on the control column, while lowering the manual throttle of the Pathfinder's enormous engine array.
The battlecruiser passed gracefully under the station complex a few seconds later, at a distance of around a hundred metres; so close that the gravitational interaction of the several million ton warship and the station itself caused significant vibrations on both structures' decks - anyone free-standing on the Imperial naval platform under the ventral side would have likely been knocked off their feet by the 'dusting' of pathfinder's gravimetric field and subsequent reactive drive wake.
"Would that be something you would call 'a close shave', Captain?" CoRE's holoform remarked; standing completely unaffected by the gravitational shockwaves that shook the command deck, members of the crew physically present bracing themselves in their strapped-in positions.
"We've had closer." Ronin replied calmly, tilting his head to one side, before glancing over to the AI. "First Cruiser is K-O, I'd like to see Sasha top that."
"Hope reports they are weapons hot." CoRE responded as Pathfinder altered course, entering a one-eighty degree turn to face the Station complex again; she had pulled away from the rest of Group Alpha moments before.
Eridonia's Hope's approach was largely the same as Pathfinder's, the Endeavour-S2 class Battlecruiser discharged her spinal Magnetically Assisted Fusion Impulse Mass Driver with a firing solution for effect on the second RV-class cruiser docked with the platform; only a few minutes had passed before Pathfinder had pulled ahead, it was likely that the crew of the second cruiser were fully aware of the situation and rushing to get the warship underway to form something of a defence. However, as per the EPF's battleplan, Hope 's main armament hit too early for any defensive action by the RV-class; although a much older and lower velocity Mass Driver based on FIMD technology, the ten-metre diametre Siege Cannon still easily penetrated the relatively light mid-deck armour of the RV-class cruiser; without any active shields it had no issue penetrating the superstructure and escaping on the dorsal side with a plume of explosive material and debris.
Within moments, the subsystems of the cruiser fell silent as she lost power, lurching slightly in her berth, only held in place by the now significantly stressed docking clamps. Within a few minutes, both Fleet Cruisers had been neutralised with precision weapons fire intended to disable the warship with minimal loss of life - part of the EPF code when fighting their own people, simply blinded by Imperial lies, much like Ronin's Daughter, Amirori, was.
"Hope reports solid effect on target, Captain." CoRE declared, materialising behind the Captain's chair again, highlighting a optical and MLADAR scope of the two stricken cruisers a few hundred kilometres ahead of the Pathfinder as the battlecruiser completed her turn, in preparation for another pass.
"Both high-priority targets confirmed fully disabled." The AI added again.
"Fleet-Com to Blossom; remain in a holding pattern and jam the imperial electromagnetic communication systems. Keep distance." The Captain ordered, gesturing to CoRE to update the Battle-net, while he scrutinised the sensory read out on his command chair as the Pathfinder's manual targeting crosshair lined up with the station once more.
"Gamma and Beta are free to engage. Repeat: Groups Gamma and Beta are free to engage. We have a job to do." Ronin ordered, bringing up the in-system navigation map for Angel Lumen. "Plot Hypercruise for target Peregrine; let's get what we came for. Signal to the rest of the fleet: if we do not return within our allotted window- they are to withdraw from the system immediately." The Captain looked firmly at the AI's hologram standing before him.
"Miss Grovikeh will not want to withdraw without us, but I need you to make it very clear that this is an order. If we are stricken, the Peoples' Fleet must not lose its only other Battlecruiser. Understood?" Ronin spoke as he rotated the command chair to face the AI directly.
"Understood, Captain. I have updated the battle-net. Hypercruise course has been plotted. Did you want to make any final amendments or shall we wrap this up in time for 'tea', as you say?" The AI replied as he automatically updated the bridge heads up display with the relevant information on the next target, the Imperial Navy command station and regional headquarters, Cossack-class Outpost Peregrine.
The captain thought for a moment, looking forward beyond the Pathfinder's vast bridge observation windows at the half-dozen pre-fall Vengeance-class heavy cruisers that made up the entire Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet, began a fast approach to AT Salmon, approximately a five hundred kilometres ahead. The station's vanguard, a single SP-class heavy destroyer and two Eel-class Assault frigates had already gotten underway, as weapons discharged as the two sides exchanged fire; the rather outnumbered and out-gunned Imperial defence forces taking a beating as their shields flared up from the close-range mass driver fire from the main batteries of groups Gamma and Beta.
"Captain?" CoRE asked again, after a slight pause of around twenty seconds.
"No adjustments, let's go." Ronin ordered, returning the command chair to the forward position and locking in. "Engage hypercruise".
It wouldn't be long before Peregrine's response fleet arrived at Salmon in light of the rebels' attack, at which point groups Gamma and Beta would be tested in open combat against a superior enemy force for the first time since the formation of the EPF. The Old Man knew they would lose people, good people. He knew they would return from this operation mourning the losses of those who would inevitably lay down their lives to allow the first steps of the fight for freedom in Aquarius to happen. The Old Man had lost countless people as a result of the consequences of his actions over the millennia. He had seen so many people die, he didn't remember them all. He couldn't, but the feeling of responsibility on his shoulders was never so great, that it was now. No time to think, Old Man. No time to question your actions or leadership. It is only time to get what we came for.
Pathfinder's lateral thrusters flared up as the battlecruiser altered course to align with the co-ordinates of the target. Within a few moments came the mighty flash of blue-tinted fusion-plasma exploding kilometres out into space in a vast jet behind the warship; propelling her at hundreds of kilometres per second towards AT-Peregrine, and into the gates of Hell.