"Those FSL bastards again!" he growled.
"PDL's online! Inform the rest of the battlegroup as to our location. We're going to attack. Helmsman, bring us about, and lay in an intercept. Pour on 1.5 G's. 1st officer, what's the intercept on those high V's?"
"We're looking at twenty, thirty seconds, tops. PDL's are up. They'll be in range in fifteen."
Evharsen scratched his chin, nodding fiercely. Though they'd managed to surprise the Warspite and her battlegroup twice before in the last week, the FSL was pushing its luck·
"Range in ten.." Warned the 1st officer.
"Get me triangulation on those inbounds. Find out where they came from. Weapons, prep missiles."
"Range in six.."
Belatedly, the Attack alarm sounded, the mournful electronic wail reverberating through the Warspite's hull. Airtight doors slammed into place all along the battleship.
"Sir, Battleship Vallaneva reports being closest to our position, she is moving to support. Also, destroyers Grafield and Sentinel XIV are closing. Estimated ETA is three minutes max burn."
"One to range·.Range!!"
Evharsen watched the Tac display as the tiny white blobs that indicated incoming missiles inched closer to the graphic of his ship.
One, two, three of the tiny lights winked out. A slight pause, then four, Evharsen held his breath. -Blik- Five. That was it. They were all gone.
A ragged cheer erupted around the cramped bridge.
Evharsen shouted over it. "Get me some targets and do it now! Let's not give them another chance to take a pot shot at us!"
Immediately the crew quieted down and got back to business. Evharsen felt pride swell up in his chest. Such a fine crew. At the same time, he felt a tiny tendril of doubt brushing at the back of his mind. Something was wrong·
"Captain! We have identification and lock on three vessels."
Evharsen nodded vaguely. His sense of unease growing. Something most definitely was not right here.
"The ships have been Idee'd as the Azrael, Sumner IV and the Vigilant. All FSL ships of the line."
Evharsen blinked. Azrael. Vigilant. Sumner IV. It was all so familiar. Then it struck him. This was the battle. The battle in which Warspite had been taken from him.
He was reliving the past. The men around him, his first officer, the rest of the bridge crew. Most of them were dead now, their fragile bodies surrendered to the freezing cold and hard vacuum of deep space.
"Captain, We have firing solutions on the Azrael and Sumner. We're still working on the Vigilant."
Evharsen swallowed hard. What should he do?
"Captain, shall we fire?·.Captain?"
"Sir, Shall we fire? We have launching solutions and the missiles are in range."
"I don't know·"
"Captain? Are you all right?
"Yes, I'm fine, I·"
"Are you sure? You were talking in your sleep. You sounded pretty upset."
It was Swanson, talking to him. The Captain opened his eyes slowly, and found himself at his desk, wedged into his compartment on board Gravlaw.
"I'm sorry for waking you, but you said you wanted the cargo manifest right away."
Evharsen shook his head, blinking. "No, that's quite all right. Must have dozed off after writing the accident report. Good work. Go ahead and take some downtime."
Swanson nodded, turned, and left the room.
Sighing, Evharsen picked up the Digipad with the cargo manifest on it. He slowly looked through the list of items onboard. What he was hoping to find was something that could expliain the nonresponseveness of the engine to the commands of the Nav station. The best explanation was that something among the cargo suddenly generated enough electromagnetic disturbance to corrupt the Nav signals. The list contained mostly components and farm equipment. Nothing of interest. On impulse, he scrolled to the bottom of the list.
His eyes shot wide. He blinked,
and then reread the last few items...
"Holy mother of god...."
The Digipad dropped from his shaking fingers....
<<Look at Cargo manifest>>
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