First Jump with this crew

No jump sickness reported on entering so we should not have done a miss jump on entry to jump space, which is good. I’m going to do a total ship check over, less the drives and power plant while in jump. Not quite as good as doing a normal space systems test but the best I can do. For all I know we are going to come out in “Republic” space on exit. Won’t that be fun.

Lt. Urdar managed to do a jump dim on entry. This is not a Vilani designed ship, so there isn’t a simple command to do that. Got to figure out how he did that. I’m not going to ask, that would be cheating.

Shake down cruise? Well, sort of.

A patrol cruiser from the naval base arrived to act as a relief in place. We were given orders to return to the naval base for new loaded out.

A way larger than normal group of yard apes were waiting for us when we docked. At least I assumed it was larger than normal, having never docked at a navy base before. Both Bosum Higgs and Lt. Urdar looked a bit stunned by the size of the shore party, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was larger than normal.

They removed all our missiles. Replaced them with 200 smart missiles and 100 nukes.

Nukes.

Scout ships don’t carry nukes. We do now it seems.

While I was dealing with this little detail, I was given an order packet from the Scout base.

Once the load out was complete, move to jump point Zulu, then jump for Ake (Foreven 3238) verify status of previous IISS survey [D5356AA-8]. If post jump system analysis of ship’s systems showed major issues I was to return to base, otherwise to proceed at my own choice of next planet fall on the primary mission.

Given Ake status as a Imperial client state, little change in the survey is expected. Low gravity world, fairly dry, breathable, if thin, air. Near terminal nutcase in charge. Port, such as it goes, is Imperial, going with their client status. Don’t think I’ going to allow shore leave, for starters with a law level of 10, the odds of NOT having at least one crewman arrested is as near as damn all is nil. While not the wild unknown, it’s not Imperial space, exactly, which makes it technically an operational jump, not a “crew and ship effectiveness evaluation cruise” to use the formal term for shake down cruise.

I decided to treat Ake as world where first contact would not be needed but a full survey was needed, to test out all ship systems.

As a closing note, we were to consider Imperial designed military craft not transmitting Imperial code 4 or Darrian code 3 as “hostile” and to take action as need to protect ship. As of this time there were no Imperial naval ships in the Urnian sub-sector, but there was at least 2 Darrian tasks forces operating there. Darrian vessels were to be considered as Imperial for all reasons having to do with intelligence or classified material.

Very strange news coming from HQ

Seems that the fighters recovered, while “down to the last rivet details” were MK XXXLV fighters, they had no marking. None. Not even serial numbers on parts that should have serial numbers. While not all the bodies were recovered, it seems that of the ones found each team was a set of clones, and the basic clone stock from each group was a related as brothers and sisters, (the group that attacked the Decatur was female) Jump tracking of their exit vectors has them going Spinward, with what appears to be a jump 4 power level. So, there is some one cloning both imperial fighters and, it seems their pilots, out in Foreven. I’m starting to understand why they are sending a FS-II not just a normal FS on this cruise.

Seems the shake down cruise is being held here

Just got a joint messaged from Scout base and the Navy.  Stay more or less in place, deploy all surviving drones as a wide area sensor net and await further orders.  Lt. Urdar, surprisingly, offered to lead most of the crew and marines on a point by point examination of the ships systems that can be tested while powered up, but not under way.  I asked him isn’t that traditionally the bosom’s job.  His reply surprised me given his Vilani back ground

“Can’t be slaves to tradition, plus I think that Mr. Higgs, the Lance and Pack Lord Ghaekelig all have some ideas that they want to kick around with you about our load out, which, frankly I have no clue about.  I do, on the other hand have a great deal of knowledge about engineering matters, having spent 8 long years in the engineer department on the  INS Havok, first as a mate, then as a 2nd engineer.  I had hopped that getting an Imperial commission would get me out of there, but no, I stayed.  At least I spent 6 years out ranking the petty officers there.  Several of them learned that sending the baron’s son off to clean the grease pit’s wasn’t a funny any more.  Before you ask, yes, I have taken the title.  It’s a hereditary title based on a great 4 time grand father finding some new way to make widgets of some sort at twentieth of their original cost.  Some sort of widget that the Army and Marines seemed to think was important then.  I don’t know what it is or even if they still use them, I just know I get 50,000 credits a year, more or less, as my fee simple, and I’m a peer of the Imperium.  I’ve been to the moot twice.  Not going again, if I can help it.  And no, I do NOT want to be called by my honors, not even in fun.  So, can I be off finding the grease and shorted wires?  I’d also like to do an EVA and check that laser hit, make sure the armor wasn’t degraded.”

Warrant Higgs and I looked at him as if he had just grown an extra head. This was not at all what we had expected out of him.  That was more back ground info than I had expected from him.
You have my full permission to do so Mr. Urdar, that seems very Scout of you. We’ll make a scout of you yet.He smiled, tipped his hat, then left the bridge, bellowing for Warrant Gahagan.

All this would wait until ordered to return to base of when the power plant ran out of fuel, which ever came first, but with a fission plant that might take a while.  For now we wait.

Don’t like this

The skip sent me out on SAR in the surveyor, I took along 2 of the marines just in case. Took several hours but the R was “Recovery” not “Rescue”. No survivors, however it looks like 4 of them took poison instead of waiting around to be rescued. In one case that made sort of sense in that his fighter had lost life support, but the other 3 still had full life support and at least 2 weeks fuel for it, plus they had fast drug, which means they had literally years of life support options. Methinks that some mind control is at work here.

Well that was a different.

We watched the 8 tracks coming in, with ever precise tracking information. As expected they were fighters.  Not as expected they seemed to bog standard Imperial Light Fighters, Mk CCCLV class. While the Three five five isn’t terminally cutting edge for fighters, it’s still in common use by imperial forces, and very very few are being sold to out side of solid allies.  The fact their transponders are IDing them as ‘Republic Space Force Interceptor Flight 1077″ is equally odd.  The only republic in the the sector is Republic of Edan, and they I know don’t have CCCLV class fighters, the Imperium having lost that arms deal the to the Zhodani.

“Guns, once they enter effect missile envelope, let them have it. Use l-s-l-s please.”

“Could you say last in something other than scout please Superior pack leader?”

“Look, Shoot, Look, Shoot, Don’t volley your next set of birds until you have seen what the first did. We don’t have enough on board to just play at being a missile boat.”

“Understood. Only bite again after you see where the prey is bleeding. A wise battle tactic. Estimated time is 35 minute to enter effective envelope. Will show them our teeth ot them then Superior pack leader.”

Got to tell him to not call me that, but I suspect that’s a waste of time. If he gets in his head that I’m not the pack leader, things could get if not ugly, weird. This is not my first cruise with a Vargr crew mate, it is however, the first with a whole, if small, Vargr pack. Might be the first for the IISS as a whole.  At least he agreed to my tactics, even, as I suspect, he would have just fired off volley after volley if given a chance.

At about 15 minutes to engagement range Mr. Urdar reports

 "Vector change, 2 separating from main group, appear to be on vector towards the drones."

Great.  Just what I wanted to hear. Time to make a tactical call and earn those big credits –  “Guns keep missile track on main group, we will deal with the leakers as we can.  We can lose drones, that’s their job being a decoy“.  Wonder what the tactics teacher at Scout Pilot Academy would have said about that.  “You find your self out numbered by units that can, under optimal happenstances blow you out of space and you didn’t jump?  Are you crazed or what?”  He was of the “Scouts don’t fight, we scout” school of thought, vs the much more offensive “Scouts only fight a little bit, normally just we bug out”  Well the Merry isn’t your normal Imperial Scout ship either.

“I understand Pack Leader, ignore the hunters on the false trail until we have shown the pack at large our fangs”

Is he going to translate every tactic I pass to him into a Vargr fighting adage?  Could be worse, at least he’s doing it in Anglic, not just barking at me.  At least I know he knows what I’m thinking when he does that.  Might not be a bad idea.  Got to think about that.

Watching the count down clock, at 0:30 before the magic effective range count down mark “Guns, get some at zero”. A single bark, which might have been an exited “Aye” can back.  At T minus 0:15 Mr. Urdar made a tiny vector adjustment, then grunted and smiled as the birds left the tubes. I’ve never been on a ship that fired a full 6 round volley at one time.  I would have thought I would have felt something, but if grav plates can make our 4G wobbles not affect us, they can deal with a little light recoil. Heard them launch, but only until they cleared the tubes,  nothing after, of course.  More like hearing a cannon fire on a planet than rockets being fired. Makes sense, once their exhaust gas was not hitting the tube the vacuum of space wouldn’t let us hear them any more.

Birds away and flying true.  9 minutes til vector closing. Tell the Lt. that his roll allowed for perfect straight vectors for both turrets.“.

Thank you guns

We wait.  We wait some more.  At 4 til closing the boogies do a star burst separation.  Pack leader Elig must have thought of that, or we got lucky and each bird had picked it’s own target because our cluster followed the vector changes like they knew it was going to happen.  The howl from the turrets tells me they planned that.  Good to know that the “blast it until it stops moving” reputation of Vargr gunners didn’t seem to be the case here. The computer tracking board went from a 3 way screen to an 8 way screen as Urdar made some adjustments. On vector close, 2 boogies just stop showing on the screens, and 2 took off on random vectors, like there was no one alive at the controls. The other two just kept coming. “Guns, One turret on each of the leakers, they are getting with in range, and I’d rather not take any hits.”  I get an “Aye/bark” in return.

While the turrets slewed to the their new attack vectors the hostile fighters returned fire with their pulse lasers, just with in their range. One of the drones dropped off the scope, one shot went high and wide on us, and one hit, but the armor took the damage.

While a light fighter might, if lucky, survive having a solitary missile attack it, having a  full triple turret, either missile or beam laser aimed at it in effective range, with highly trained crews, is not really something that they can be expected to survive. They didn’t.

"Out jump signature, from  location of the mother-ships"

Humph. What the hell was that? To far away from Zhodani, Vargr or Aslan space to be any of them, didn’t seem like Sword World Confederation tactics and I would bet money that wasn’t Droyn. Hiver and K’Kree were out of the question, based on ship size in the case of K’Kree and sheer range to their space in both cases.

All hands, report and stand down, Mr. Higgs, take the surveyor out for SAR please.

Never say you are bored on a stake out.

Skip, it’s been 5 hours, I’ve got an idea to both keep us sharp and give some training.

What you got boats?

Both of the special training troops are boat rated, and did well enough in my little sim I ran on them that I’d let them fly. Let’s load up the whole scout squad in the surveyors, launch it and go into what passes for scarred rabbit mode for them. Have the Lewis go into rolling stealth, the drones go in to hide and evade mode, have the pack try and get firing solutions on the drones and the boat under manual control. To make life interesting, the surveyors will need to stay with in .5% of it’s starting position with regards to it’s initial location post launch with us. That’s going to cause turret masking every now and then.

So, the scouts are rabbits and the Vargr are the hunters? How are we going to avoid possible friendly fire?” “Disable launch/fire from you station it’s the yellow flashing button. Push it until it turns green.” I clicked the button.

I’ll run the points. Right now scoring will be based off seconds not in sights for the scouts, good firing solutions for the guns.

Well make it so boats“.

A series of commands were issues, and once the surveyors had cleared the Merry, emissions went stealth, and random darting around in place started. Grav plates made it where you didn’t really notice, but we were no longer just holding in place.

Dr. Darst had visited all the people that were not in uniforms that included a medical read out and issued an arm band version, early in the waiting period.

After about a half hour into the “game” I got a private buzz from med bay”Sr. Scout, is there a reason why all the gun crews as well as they away scouts would be having higher than normal heart rate and respiration rates?

Well, they are taking pot shots at each other. No live ammo, but using the ranging lasers and local control on the missiles, as if they were launched.

Well that would explain it. Thank you, please warn me next time so I don’t start looking up what to give a hyper Vargr that doesn’t knock them out or make them high. I don’t think we have any thing that does that, by the way, and I’d just a soon not have high Vargr on the ship

Well, crap.  “Find one, and when we RTB get oh, 12 doses
So, we were playing “shoot the pirates when all 3 sensor officers, who were not playing the game (Mr. Urdar running the ships eyes, and the scouts not running drones on the surveyor running theirs (muttering about non stable platform) and the on board scouts using their sensors.

 

Jump foot print, 4 light seconds 800 dt class, military grade drive.”  About ten seconds later “Beta and Zulu reporting same in their scan zones.”

A minute later “Multiple 10 dt craft launched.  8 on vector our postion.  Zero/Zero at current 6G acceleration 149 minutes.

‘Surveyor, back off 20,000 km, go dark, set drones for active and have them start a circle based on our position off set by 1/4 light second. Guns you have local control, release current tracks, go to weapons free.  Laser turret one, configure for point defense. Get some Gun Pack

Battle stations, I say again, battle stations

Oh, joy

This is not what I had in mind when I said I wanted an early shake down cruise.  This is not my idea.  For starters it’s 3 hours earlier than the launch window I requested.  For seconds, it’s the wrong side of the planet to jump to Jinx and for third I got a message, from the Imperial Navy of all things, to “scan and report, engage targets of appropriate size, evade others.  Weapons free.”  That means any thing not transmitting imperial or Darrian id codes that I think is small enough to shoot at eats lasers and/or missiles.

Boats, would you be as so kind as to prep the surveyor for personal transports?

Lance Sergeant Hester, please have the away team report to the boat bay, assist, if needed Mr. Higgs, and stand ready for launch. You may stand by in the surveyor or in the bay at your option.

Medical stand down, but stay put.

Guns, stand down one turret of each type, slave to active turret.  Rotate gunners on the half hour.  We are at weapons free, however wait for my command.

Engineering, prep for non linear maneuver.  After than make sure the J-drive can take a crash jump.

Helm, plot alternate jump to 876-574.

Scouts, launch a triplet of drones,  give me a triangle deployment about a half light second out.

I got my reports back then I changed over to all hands, “Crew, despite what you might think, this is for real, not the start of the shake down, so let’s stay collected.  For all I know this might be a Navy drill that we got tagged for being a mixed crew.

After about an hour,  scouts reported in.

All hands, now we wait and see why we are here.

What the hell?

06:30 Ship and high port time.  Slightly after dusk down station time.

This is not a drill Emergency all hands on deck, this is not a drill.

Stations start reporting in, not it’s like we have a lot of stations to report.

Mr. Urdar reports “Flight Ready“.  Well, duh, we are all three on the bridge when Skip Pushed The Button, but still at least Mr. Urdar had punched up the flight computer and had the manual system on standby.  I had the scanners up and running, seeing a lot of planet and a lot of navy, who’s IFF was showing “systems down”, other than the 2 ready destroyers  which showed “about to launch”, with  target points Beta or Zulu depending on which tin can.  That with us going to Alpha that’s pretty much a full system scanning deployment.

I assume that the howls in the back ground from guns was  two of the gunners deciding on who got what turret, probably Ghaekelig’d brothers Elevg and Avlig.  Pack Leader Ghaekelig barked and reported “All ready all guns Superior Pack Leader“.  Superior Pack Leader being what they call the skip.  L’Sgt Leigh is “Combat Pack Leader”.  Skip and the L’Sgt seem amused by this.  I’ve heard at least one Marine call her “Pack Leader” and I don’t think he was being ironic.  Hard to tell with Marines, they always sound either dead serious or drunk.  He wasn’t drunk.  Skip has made if very clear he is either “Sr. Scout or Skip”,  the IISS don’t have ranks.

Med Bay ready”.  Given that she sleeps in the “private” part of the med bay that shouldn’t be too hard.  I did notice that the intercom light for that one came from the bay half of the stateroom, not her personal half.  She was at least in the right spot.  You can’t reach that button unless you are behind the treatment table.  Good design that, give the IISS credit there.  In the original Navy type ‘T’ design they were about 30cm apart.

This was quickly followed by the Marines reporting, “A team ready for boarding action, B team ready for anti boarding and all ready for under way“. As per naval, but not scout tradition, the Engineering crew did not give a verbal report, but all the tell-tells, lit up green other than the jump, given that we were with in 100 diamaters of a large object.  This the planet we’re orbiting.  “Need to speak to them about that” mutters the skip Udar just grunts, I turn my head and tell him to save his breath “Eng’s never say squat unless their shit has gone to shit.  Trust them lights, Skip”

Mr.  Urdar, set course for point Alpha, launch when cleared.”  The skip must be taking voice lessons from the Vargr, that almost sounded like a bark.

Something must be up, because Scout Flight Control came back with in 30 seconds “Meriwether Lewis, you a cleared for launch.  Get some”  Naval command followed in about 15 seconds, “Decatur and Henderson, clear to launch. find and report”

Get some?  Find and report?  Ah, those are a combat comments.  What the bloody hell is going on? Is this really not a drill?

“Once clear station, Full thrust Mr. Urdar”

And the shake down cruise, if that is what this is, starts.