BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

HOTPOINT

Wolf Pack (Part XVI)
Monday, March 1, 2004

Final part of the Wolf Pack Sequence


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 5531    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.

The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind

* * *

IAV Cruiser Agamemnon – Near Virginia – 2512AD

The main design criteria for the new Unification Class Cruisers had been to make them intimidating and they had certainly achieved that aim. They were huge vessels larger than most space-stations and by the standards of the day extremely heavily armed.

You have to say “for the standards of the day” because strangely they were no match militarily for the smaller Capital Ships that had participated in the war a decade earlier. Those purpose built machines had been built with lethality in mind not aesthetics and were squat, compact built around massed weapons batteries and ludicrously heavy armour. Many of those older ships were mothballed back in the core just in case hostilities were resumed but they just did not strike the right note when it came to patrolling Alliance space.

If you wanted intimidation send a brightly lit floating city that could be easily seen in orbit from the ground that’ll let the remaining Independent wúnéug de rén know who is in charge.

The Captain of the Agamemnon was astonished that fleet-command would order her to pursue a couple of aging transport ships but orders were orders and despite the ridiculous cost to the taxpayer involved in doing so she was not in hot pursuit with a squadron of long-range fighters out ahead ready for interception.

Given the mass that needed to be got moving even the huge engines on the cruiser were also seriously underpowered compared with the fast deadly battle-cruisers of yesteryear but they could still get the multi-million ton machine moving at a respectable rate and there was no change of the bulky Trance Class outrunning her, even the Firefly that appeared to be attached would have no hope of outrunning the fighters if the renegades decided to abandon the larger vessel.

No doubt about it, thought Captain Reeves, this was going to be one of the easiest missions the Agamemnon had ever participated in.

A smile was forming on her face just when Engine Number Two exploded and blew a fairly large hole in the back of the Cruiser. The shockwave running through the ship not only changed her expression it nearly knocked her off her feet into the bargain.

‘What the hell was that’ she screamed across the bridge dropping into her command chair and strapping herself down in case the artificial gravity failed.

‘Damage Control Computer reports Kinetic Energy Weapon hit on Engine Two, most likely a 250millimetre Railgun projectile. Computer has automatically shut down the other engines and has lowered blast doors over the exhausts’

‘Where in the nine hells did that come from?’ Reeve asked.

‘Trying to ascertain that now’

‘Power up all batteries and scramble all gunship squadrons I want a fighter screen out there now’

The Tactical Officer turned from his console ‘I’m getting an intermittent blip that has just appeared on the scope. From the quality of the echo and the fact it got so close before I spotted the thing it’s stealthed’

‘If it just got us it must be point blank’

‘Negative Captain backtracking the weapons trajectory it was fired from several thousand kilometres away’

‘Why wasn’t I told we were painted by radar or a targeting laser?’

‘We weren’t. The projectile must have been fired optically. We’re quite easy to see from a distance’

‘You’re trying to tell me that somebody sighted optically from thousands of kilometres away and put a Railgun round up our engine exhaust?’ Reeves said ‘We must be several klicks away from were we were when it fired’

‘They must have led the target. Hell of a piece of mathematics to work that out considering we’re still accelerating too. It was an even better aim than you think by the way it went in at an angle so it punched through the plasma intakes at the rear of engine two which is why it blew up’

‘Casualties?’

‘Minimal. Internal bulkheads held’

‘Thank god’ breathed the Captain ‘Why didn’t we see the Railgun round coming on Radar?’

‘We did but too late. It must have been stealthed too. You only have to dip the round in RAM paint to reduce the echo significantly and it isn’t that big’

‘Have you got a lock on the attacking vessel?’

‘Targeting lock proving difficult for all systems but I can give rough bearing and heading… tiānna you’re not going to believe this Captain’

‘What?’

‘It’s pulling better than 100 gees of acceleration judging by this’

‘That’s impossible. Inertial suppressors overload at half that. The rest of the acceleration that gets past would kill the crew’

‘That’s what it’s doing Captain. It’ll be past us in a flash. There’s no way our gunships will be able to catch up. Maybe it’s an improved Suppressor system?’

‘Must be, what’s its heading?’

‘It plots straight towards our Interceptor Squadron following the Transports. She’ll be outside effective range for our Particle Beam Cannon’

‘Māde. Fire our Railgun batteries along its flightpath and pray for a hit and tell the Squadron they’ve got company coming faster than they can believe’

The Captain gritted her teeth. With one Engine down she’d never catch the renegades and how was she to know how many more hostile vessels mounting military hardware were out there, best to divert all reactor power to the weaponry and prepare for battle just in case. ‘Communications raise Fleet-Command, give them our report and ask them if they maybe forgot to tell us something’

* * *

Wash looked puzzled and pointed to the Radar ‘Cruiser has stopped accelerating just going on inertia now’ he said ‘That’s pretty weird’

‘What about the fighters’ Mal asked.

‘Still coming… but they’re changing formation’ Wash looked at the radio ‘receiving a tight-beam hail’

‘From the Cruiser?’

‘Negative from Shadow’

‘Put it on’

Wash flicked a switch and the AI Ships adopted voice came through the loud speaker ‘I just dealt with the Cruiser I’ll be all over the fighters in a couple of minutes’ it said simply.

‘You did what?’ Mal asked incredulously.

‘I put a Railgun round up the number two engine and it seemed to do the trick. I thought it would’ The AI reported ‘Good thing too because I didn’t want to try and mix it up with a Unification Class and I would have been compelled to try’

Wash grinned ‘or, through inaction, allow a member of the crew to come to harm’ he said ‘we’ve got ourselves a Guardian Angel’

‘How the hell did you stop something that size?’

‘Wasn’t as hard as you’d think’ stated the AI ‘Couldn’t have done it if it had been running under battle conditions but it wasn’t so I hobbled the big bitch’ it said ‘I’ll take out the fighters then move into formation for escort duty. Shadow signing off’

Mal looked to Wash ‘I still don’t trust that thing but it looks like it’ll sure be handy to have around’

* * *

The AI warship pulsed its engines randomly to through off targeting computers and used thrusters to slightly change its course periodically and as a result the veritable storm of Railgun fire coming from the Cruiser never got anywhere near it. It was still pulling a hundred gees and would soon be upon the fighters despite the huge lead they had on the AI. The ship used standard Inertial Suppressors to reduce its effective mass and allow high-gee manoeuvres and its current acceleration really would have killed any human pilot but it took a hell of a lot more to damage a solid-state computer.

In space the prototype warship could out accelerate any human piloted vessel. In atmosphere it could deploy front canards and thrust vectoring to pull dog-fighting moves that no human could match.

The Military AI’s of two hundred years before had laid waste to much of Earth-That-Was. Shadow was several generations in advance of that. As the Fighters came into range the AI plotted its firing patterns. Determined the most likely actions of its opponents, then ran some chaos theory calculations to allow for human unpredictability. It ran the numbers again ten times to verify the data then began to open up its weapons bays and power its armament.

This entire process took about a twentieth of a second because the AI couldn’t be bothered to devote too much effort to it.

* * *

As soon as the internal bays opened and the energy signatures of powered up weaponry began to spike on sensors the Interceptor Squadron got a sudden glimpse of what was following them as their combat computers determined the armament of their mysterious adversary.

The pilots had just about enough time to register serious concern just before their computers reported they had been painted by targeting radar that had effortlessly burnt through their ECM Jamming and that all that weaponry they had just scanned was locking on to them.

The majority opinion of the Alliance pilots could be summed up in the final words of the Squadron Leader ‘wode tìan’

* * *

You cannot dogfight in space, at least not once you get going up to a decent velocity. Rapid course changes are simply not possible thanks to inertia. If you spend a hour accelerating in a certain direction you’d have to spend another hour with the drive pointed 180 degrees to your initial course to stop again.

Battles in space therefore usually take the form of ships hurtling past each other at high speeds and you usually only get one chance to hit each other unless you find yourself at the same place going the same heading at the same velocity.

Shadow was going considerably faster than the fighters when it overtook them and would have to decelerate fast once it destroyed them in order to match speed with Serenity/Granite Gorge. A human pilot would have found it nigh-on impossible to time the firing properly to engage given the speed differentials which is why all military vessels have combat computers which do the actual firing. The pilot just selects the target and leaves the machine to do the hard stuff.

Unfortunately for the Fighters their computers were no match for the AI it simply outthought the hell out of them.

The main armament on the AI warship was the Railgun that was actually a tube that ran from the nose all the way to the rear of the ship right down the central axis so firing it didn’t knock the ship off course. This armament was primarily used against vessels at shorter ranges so they couldn’t dodge or else at relatively immobile targets like lumbering transports or space-stations.

Secondary armament was a large Particle-Beam Cannon mounted on a retractable turret that lowered into place underneath the ship when required but which was usually kept internally to reduce Radar Signature. For close-in work there were four forward firing lasers in the wing roots plus two 30mm chainguns mounted in the nose just above the Railgun.

Add in the dozens of missiles held in the internal bays and the EMP nukes she was carrying Shadow was not something you would want to mess with.

There were six fighters in the squadron when Shadow shot through the middle of them firing a pattern of Laser, Particle Beam and Railgun fire.

In the movies space battles are spectacular, in reality not so much. There is no sound of course but you also can’t see lasers in transit either as there is nothing for them to light up. You can only see them in atmosphere because they light up the air, and especially the dust or smoke, they are passing through.

Railgun rounds move too fast to see and although Particle Beam Weapons can be slightly impressive they don’t really inflict the kind of dramatic damage you’d expect mainly just burning through the hull.

However when any one of these weapons manages to breach the containment on a charged Fusion Reactor that does result in a spectacular display.

Shadow was showing off, it was a by-product of his personality. He went for reactor kills. Because the Lasers were forward firing Shadow had cut the drive and aimed by rotating the entire ship which was of course still heading in the right direction by inertia.

In the space of fourteen seconds half a dozen Fighters flared into the black momentarily brighter than a thousand suns then they faded into nothingness. Of the fighters three had managed to get a lock and engage the warship with laser fire before being destroyed whilst another two had launched missiles.

Shadow jammed the guidance systems on the missiles so they came nowhere near him and there were three slightly warm spots on his armoured hull where the incoming laser beams had rested for a while before the fighters firing them exploded. It would take such relatively underpowered weapons a long time to burn through his hull especially as directly underneath the surprisingly resilient coating of RAM was a layer of heat superconductor then one of artificial diamond.

The AI scanned the area for additional threats then rotated to decelerate and match speeds with the vessels he had just saved.

Now far behind the scene of battle the Captain of the IAV Agamemnon had seen the nuclear flares, asked for a list of the pilots and prepared to start writing letters to their families.

* * *

Serenity/Granite Gorge – On the Outer Edge of the Rim – 2520AD

Mal looked out at the stars from the Bridge on Granite Gorge. It had been three weeks since their run in with the Alliance Cruiser and they hadn’t encountered any vessels since. They were now running with the engines off to save fuel hurtling at an enormous velocity into the Deep Black beyond the outermost colonies.

River appeared next to him ‘When you stare into an abyss the abyss also stares into you’ she said.

Mal turned to look at River ‘I find the black kinda comforting to be honest’ he told her ‘Never been this far out into it before though’

River considered for a second ‘Wolves on Earth-That-Was would often have huge hunting ranges. Perhaps we’re just following our instincts and expanding our territory’ she said with a thoughtful expression on her face.

Mal smiled at her and went back to looking out at the stars ‘Just wondering what’s out there’ he said.

‘In the early days of sailing ships on Earth-That-Was, before everywhere had been explored, unknown areas would sometimes bare the legend “Here be Dragons” on them’ she said.

‘Dragon’s you say? Well you never can tell can you?’

River looked out herself ‘If we find Dragon’s we’ll slay them’ she said.

‘If we’re going into that business maybe I should take up that suggestion from Steve just before we got Granite that we paint the Cross of Saint George on the hull’ Mal said.

‘Couldn’t hurt’ River said.

‘Inara says my swordsmanship is getting better too’

‘Perhaps it’s your destiny to slay Dragon’s then’ River said ‘big fire-breathing ones with forked tongues and scaly skin’

‘Can you see me as a knight in shining armour?’

‘Well if not shining perhaps only slightly rusty armour’ River replied and winked at him ‘I’m heading for Dinner it’ll be ready soon’ she said turning and leaving the bridge.

‘I’ll be along presently’ Mal called after her and went back to stargazing. Here be Dragons he thought.

On the way back to Serenity, and with no one else about to see, Mal practised his fencing with an imaginary sword. You never know what you might run into out here he thought.

The story continues in Here Be Dragons Part I

COMMENTS

Monday, March 1, 2004 9:58 AM

ARTSHIPS


Loved how it worked-out. All curious, now, how the next series will go.

Monday, March 1, 2004 1:12 PM

AMDOBELL


This was a lovely series,I really liked the ending and wow, did I *adore* the super-smart and cocky A-I ship. That is one serious piece of hardware to have on your side and three cheer that it is on the side of our heroes! *Xiexie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, March 1, 2004 5:31 PM

MALSDOXY


'It would take such relatively underpowered weapons a long time to burn through his hull especially as directly underneath the surprisingly resilient coating of RAM was a layer of heat superconductor then one of artificial diamond.'
That is just so shiny, just like this series...Loved the 'battle' but can we really call it that if it took less than a minute ?

Thank you, Hotpoint

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 11:19 AM

LANDRY


I'm lumping "Death or Glory" in with "Wolfpack" and giving the whole thing a 10. I loved all of the characters. I really liked where you went with it. I did want to bring up a couple of things, though. It seemed like Inara didn't get a whole lot of face time. The story was very battle-centric sometimes and I wondered if that had anything to do with it? Was it a conscious choice or did she just sort of get lost in the shuffle?

Splendid writing. I loved reading every word of it. Now hurry up with "Here Be Dragons" already. ;)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004 12:11 PM

HOTPOINT


To 'AMDOBELL' - If you like my Fics half as much as I enjoy reading yours I'd be honoured (and very surprised) I'm glad you like Shadow

To 'Landry' - I'll hold my hands up to the 'battle-centric' nature of my stuff but to be honest I'm better at that than I would be writing the angsty or romantic stuff that seems to make up a lot of Firefly Fiction. Not that I don't like that stuff too I just can't write it

Hadn't realised Inara was being sidelined. I'll have to do something about that

To 'artships' - Hopefully I'll keep that curiosity peaked

To 'MalsDoxy' - Glad you liked the "shiny" tech-speak. I just have an image in my head of Shadow as a seriously mean piece of machinery and like to flesh out just why that is

Plenty more of the AI to come. There's something about a ship with a personality that appeals

Sunday, September 19, 2004 9:37 PM

CASTIRONJACK


Good stuff, Hotpoint. Reading the end first (HTbD) let me wonder how it all came together, and I see how and it was very good.

Still waiting on the conclusion to that one...

Keep flyin'


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