CT Tucanae: Day 2. Kurtz is burning
Arantilae main flight operation bay was a complete and absolute chaos. About a third of the pads were occupied by wrecks that would likely never take off again. Grendel was at the repair shop. She had acquitted herself well over the last day of intense space battles and had bagged a few dozen imperial crafts, including 2 imperial navy cutters, but she was badly needing heavy maintenance and better crafts were getting ready by now. And the gods knew we needed them.
The initial strikes yesterday hadn’t been sufficient to establish dominance over Kurtz. An additional Interdictor had dropped in a nearby orbit with its attending task force and had been able to ferry a solid imperial security cadre to the station. The boys had been unable to carry supplies to their initial strike force except on an intermittent basis and the troops were in a bad position. Furballs were still happening around the outpost on a continuous basis. And the Monarchy and their imperial masters were getting more assertive.
I had been flying CAP for Arantilae itself when Grendel got mauled earlier today. That special operation Fer-de-Lance pilot sure knew what he was doing. I wonder whether the boys picked his pod or if the imperials managed to do it. It’s a small miracle that I didn’t need one myself and that Grendel managed to keep functioning long enough for me to crash-land my newly open air convertible starship on the nearby Coriolis’ landing pads.
I was just grabbing a can of e-synk, a local energy drink, while Gustavo was readying the Condor for loading on the ‘vette, Gaudrork was in the hangar bays nursing a bad burn on the shoulder and working with the technical crew to get his Cutter ready. We were getting the big guns out ASAP now, and in any cases, his Krait phantom needed serious repair work – It was unclear when the burning and mangled wreck he had managed to land this morning would fly again. If ever.
After the last two intense days, the initial confidence and élan was now replaced by the hectic energy of a slowly rising desperation. We all knew that time was not playing in our favor. The Empire’s resources were for all practical matters infinite. Unless we raised the cost, in material, lives and politics quickly, they would just steamroll the Boys. And Raven Covert Services with them. We were giving everything we had to the fight, but it was far from clear that it was enough.
Minotaur, my corvette would be ready to fly by the very end of the day. Gaudrork was fighting hard to get his Cutter war-ready for tomorrow. That meant that I would fly the next few strike packages Solo while he was directing the work. I gazed through the bay window at Muninn’s powerful and sleek profile on launch pad 39. She was just waiting for me, ready. The Fer-de-Lance was packing much more firepower than Grendel. Its 22MW plasma accelerator and forward burst laser bank could take down anything in the system. That sight brought back some calm and confidence. Today would be the last day of many a pilot, but not mine.
Below decks, most of my combat fleet was getting onlined as quickly as the overworked technical staff could manage. Ellen would not see this war, we had stopped working on her overhaul as there was no chance to complete it in time and packaged her and her parts in standard containers in the case that we would need to evac Arantilae.
However, Lidya Litvyiak, my FAS, and Durandal, my Vulture, were at the last stages of flight clearing. I would be able to alternate between them and Muninn as required if any of the crafts got waylaid the way Grendel had been this morning. Which would happen. This was war.
Comms came online in the mess room. “Castle Flight to launch pads. Castle flight to launch pads. Five minutes to Castle wave one launch”. I put down the can and started to walk toward Munnin, adjusting my helmet. I would be flying with it for now. Grendel’s blown canopy this morning had given me too much of a scare. Actually, the cannon round that ripped it open zipped by about 18 inches from my face was even worse. Bloody terrifying.
They had pretty good pilots on the other side too.