Updated 10.4.1998

Action at Röt Hafen

Röt Hafen Chapter 1

by Carlos Lourenco

Return to Bri's Science Fiction Collection


I fought this battle last Sunday. It forms the basis of some fiction I'm writing and can be released as stand alone so here it is. enjoy!

Aboard the KRS Moltke flagship of KS II/14
Röt Hafen (LTT 1583) system
6 July, 2184

The dark compartment that passed as the bridge for the NSL Battlecruiser Moltke was abnormally quiet. The overhead lighting was dimmed, which accentuated the eerie green and red lights projecting onto the faces of the bridge crew as they peered intently into their screens. There was only the barely perceptible hum of the ships main drive.

Julius Markmann wriggled against his seat frame in a futile attempt to scratch an itch in the small of his back. Verdammte Vacc suits, he thought. They weren't really necessary for fleet exercises such as t his one, but you train as you fight, and he had no one to blame but himself.  Markmann was commander of Kampfstaffel II/14. They were part of the famous Kriegsmarine Kampfgruppe 14. His ships were currently assisting in a test of the new Mk IX cloaking system enhancement developed by Spiegel Industries. One of his destroyers, the Kohl, was out there in the darkness, cloaked with the new technology, and Markmann was having a damned hard time finding it. His staffel of 5 ships were spread out in a combat search pattern, looking for the Kohl, which they knew to be some where in the general vicinity. Out in between the Kohl and II/14 sat the Spiege l-owned scientific vessel Gussman. Its ultra-sophisticated sensors monitor ed the exercise. For four hours, they had searched, but found nothing.

"You see Herr Hauptmann, Spiegel Industries once again demon strates its superiority in electronics design." Markmann cringed at the voice b ehind him. Damn Ross. The civilian technical liaison from Spiegel, stood gloating around the bridge. That arrogant bastard had been annoying the hell out of everyone on the ship for the past week. OkRF (OberkommadoK riegsRaumFlotte) had put a top priority into testing and rushing this system into service. Why they had to come all the way out to Röt Hafen top do the test as oppo sed to closer to Neu Salzburg was beyond him. Markmann had been ordered to give full cooperation to Ross and his cronies, and Ross had misconstrued that mandate in his head to convince himself that he was running this sta ffel.  They had butted heads a number of times over the past week. Despite his knowledge of the great potential the Mark IX cloaker had, at times Markmann found himself wishing Spiegel would fail. He guessed that what it came down to was that Markmann didn't like anyone infringing upon his command.

"Herr Hauptman! Von Zeiten is picking up vague distur bances bearing 075 range estimated at 2 light seconds." The Comm chief held his hand to his headset as if to better hear the incoming transmission from the destroyer.  "Contact is designated as Delta 01."

"Post it." An amber blip appeared in the holotank. Beside it was the scant information they had on it. The blip was well outside the exercise area, in fact behind the Gussman. What the hell was Peters doing out there? "Reorient, the staffel along a heading that will intercept the bogie."

Ross, grinned and checked his personal datapad.  He knew that the Kohl was nowhere in that area. These fools were so frustrated at their inability to uncover the hidden destroyer that they were grasping at straws. Well, he wouldn't say anything yet. He was enjoying Markmann's frustration too much to intercede now.

KS II/14 sped across the empty vacuum for 30 minutes. Contact Delta 01 was intermittent but remained along their bearing none the less.     That confirmed in Markmann's mind that he was onto Kohl. Their c ourse would take them past the Gussman shortly.

"Hauptman!' cried the sensor chief. "Reading three more like-disturbances all in line with Delta 01. Posting them now." Markmann watched as three more amber dots appeared in the holotank.  It appeared to be a forma tion in line. Markmann frowned.

"Herr Ross, what the hell is this? Does the Mark IX allow for deception mode ECM while cloaked? I don't remember reading or being bri efed about this."

Ross himself was confused.  "No Hauptman. That is not a feature in the Mark IX. Perhaps your sensors are malfunctioning, nicht war?"

"Absolutely not," replied the sensor chief a little too qu ickly. "I ran a diagnostic before I reported the new contacts."

"New contacts have also been confirmed by the other ships," added the communications officer.

Markmann turned to Ross. "Well Ross, what kind of scheisse t his?"

"Hauptman! " Markmann looked back at the holotank in time to see the icon for the Gussamn flare up and wink out. "The Guss man has just exploded."

"How? What caused that?"

"Oh my God!" Shouted Ross. "What have you done? Opened fire on our ship?"

"Shut the hell up." Markmann fixed Ross with a glare.

"Negative, no ships fired". Confirmed sensors and communic ations.

"Hauptman, contacts firming up. Bogies now confirmed as ships, mass equals destroyer size. Unable to determine type, however they have definitely unmasked. Bearing 015 at just over 1 light second. Speed point 6, bearing down upon us. No visual as of yet. Perhaps by the time we close to half a light second."

"Sound action stations, no drill." Luckily they were already at Action Stations-Drill, so it only took moments to power up for combat. "Put the staffel into formation green two. And get me some data on those contacts!"

"Matching signatures with database."

"Who are they? FSE?"

"Signatures do not conform to any known human vessels."

Markmann's mind was racing. No known human vessels. Hmm. Suddenly he felt a shiver of cold. That means they must be...

"Kra'Vak, Herr Hauptman. Closest match in our database is with Kra'Vak."

Markmann mulled over his options. What were they doing here? Obviously a raid against the colony. Could they have known what he was doing here? What they were testing? He made some quick decisions.

"Leutnant Braun, send an emergency message to the colony. Inform them that we've encountered what appears to be a Kra'Vak raiding party. Append all sensor log data to the message and keep the dump open. Warn the two system corvettes."

"Jawohl, Herr Hauptman."

"Herr Ross, where exactly is the Kohl?" There was no answer. He turned and looked at the civilian. The tall thin severe lookin g administrator had turned ashen white and was trembling, his eyes transfix ed on the four red blips in the holotank. "Herr Ross! What is the position of the Kohl?"

Ross muttered something, his eyes wild with fear at the thought of impending real combat. Markmann jumped from his seat and landed an open handed slap to the side of Ross' head. It sent the man sprawling to the deck. The rest of the crew pretended to study their consoles and not notice. Ross let out a short yelp and held the side of his head.

"Goddammit snap out of it man! I need to know where the Kohl is NOW!"

Ross' eyes cleared and he looked at the pad. He punched something in and held it up to Markmann. "It, it is somewhere inside of these coordinates Herr Hauptman. It could have moved slightly but it's here."

Markmann scooped up the datapad, looked it over and tossed it over to Braun, who barely glanced up in time to catch it. "Braun, I want you to send a narrow beam secure transmission in that direction. Tell the Kohl they are not to decloak under any circumstances unless I order it. Remind them not to acknowledge. Quickly."

"Captain?" Asked Kreps, the XO.

"They are just one little destroyer. My guess is that they pro bably can't swing the engagement one way or the other, but if they stay cloaked we'll accomplish several things. They may be able to surprise the Kra'Vak at an opportune time in the battle. Second, we'll see if the cloaking tec hnology works against them. And third," he looked intently to Kreps, "If somethin g happens to the staffel they'll be able to report back to fleet vital inte lligence. I just hope they get the message before."

"Message sent", reported Braun.

"Open up a voice channel to the rest of the Staffel."

"Channel open."

"This is Captain Markmann. As you are aware we have encountered what appears to be four Kra'Vak vessels headed in system. We must not let these creatures into the colony.  Two hundred thousand citizens are counting on you. We must buy some time.  Ensure that you gather as much data on these aliens as possible and dump it back to the colony. They will get it back to headquarters. What we learn and do here today could make a vital difference in the future. Do your duty. Markmann, out."

"Range passing through one half light second Hauptman."

"Visual?"

"I'm working the enhancement filters. They're very difficult to spot. There!"

One of the alien vessels appeared on the main viewing screen. The dark blue was very difficult to pick out of the backdrop of space.  It was shaped like a U with the ends very pointy and shimmering purple. There were no running lights discernable.

"Is this a type in our database?"

"Negative Hauptmann. Computer classifies it as a destroyer-mass vessel. Still not getting much electronic or radiation emissions, though they've obviously turned off their cloaking."

Markmann studied the enemy formation. They came at them in line abreast with a slight stagger in their line along the X- and Z-axis. He scratched at his beard.  Markmann commanded a staffel of six ships. Minus the Kohl, that left him with three destroyers, The Balck, Mölders and Von Zeiten, one escort cruiser, the Altenstadt, and his ship, the Moltke. Under normal circumstances a powerful little force, but against these unknown ships he wasn't sure what to suspect. On his own datapad he studied some pertinent information that tactical had dug up on the mysterious Kra'Vak.

Unlike most human ships which carried and assortment of beams, lasers, pulse torpedoes and missiles, (as well as defensive screens), the Kra'Vak, relied on rail gun or mass driver technology. At first it was believed to be a crude weapon but the velocities they were hauling their projectiles could punch through most ships. Also it made defensive screen generators useless against them. In this respect the NSL tended to stand up better against the Kra'Vak because they were heavily armored. On the downside, the Kra'Vak railgun could only fire them through one arc, which the humans had discovered tended to be through the front arc. He'd have take advantage of any flank vulnerability they had.

"Put us into pattern green five."

"Green five.  Jawohl. Transmitting."

II/14 approached the enemy in roughly a w shaped formation with the three destroyers three hundred kilometers out ahead in line abreast with both cruisers following. Now both flank destroyers peeled off left (Balck) and right (Von Zeiten). Markmann wanted to spread out his formation and overlap the enemy on both sides, per chance take advantage of their flank weakness.

"I want a five-minute burn from the staffel, cruisers at 100%, destroyers at 50%. I want to hit engagement range at optimal speed. All ships be prepared to open fire at maximum range."

"Jawohl Hauptman, said the helmsman. "Commencing acceleration in five four three two one mark." Markmann felt himself pushed back into his seat until the ships internal dampers could compensate for the acceleration as the sped increased by an additional 30,000 KPH. On the holotank he watched his W -shaped formation spread out as both flanking destroyers swung wide.

"Estimate maximum engagement range in three minutes."

"Thank you, tactical. Order all ships to fire at will when they hit max range."

Only now, as the moments ticked down to engagement, did Markmann find himself with a moment to contemplate that they had gone from peaceful exe rcise to battle in the space of fifteen minutes. He shook his head. Suddenly a flush wave of anger passed over him as he thought of the destroyed G ussman. There had been no warning. In what little they had learned about the Kra'Vak, it was clear they had little consideration for other sentient beings. They killed at will and the fringe worlds had been thrown into a panic despite the limited number of incidents. Now they were here, deep into NSL space. What was that all about?

"Engagement range in thirty seconds, Herr Hauptman."

"Designate nominal point, Number One."

"Nominal point designated and transmitted to the staffel," replied the XO. The nominal Point was an imaginary point between both fleets, which would serve as a navigational reference for maneuver while the engagement lasted. It would help the commander judge relative velocities, courses and maneuvers as he fought his staffel. A bright pink xyz-axis cross disp layed in the holotank. If he chose he could display his forces within a 3d grid should he choose.

"Tactical have targets been distributed equally?"

"Yes Sir. We're going for Delta 02, it's slightly ahead of the others."

"Very well."

"All crew members assume pRötective posture three and lock down shock frames", ordered the XO. All crewmembers that could would be secure in shock frames to pRötect them against battle damage and the event of loss of internal gravity. In pRötective posture three vaccsuits were worn with gloves and helmets on, though face shields could remain open.

"Range to target passing through thirty-six thousand kilometer s," reported sensors. "No change in enemy course, speed or emissions posture.

"Engagement in five, four, three, two, one, firing now!"
Moltke's six heavy particle beams stabbed out into the vast emptiness at a target no human eye could see. The other ships in the staffel responded. There was no return fire.

"Results?"

"Unable to determine. Estimate two hits on Delta 02, but we can't assess damage.

"Weapons recharged."

"Independent firing all batteries. Concentrate on Delta 02 aga in."

"Jawohl Herr Hauptman, firing." Markmann could sense the sligh t vibration in the deck as his batteries opened fire again.

"Another hit on Delta 02!" The weapons officer was grinning.

"Damage?"

"Unable to assess."

"Looks like the enemy is opening fire!" The defensive system officer controlled the point and area defense batteries aboard the ship. However he knew the projectiles hurled by the alien rail guns would be coming in too fast for him to do anything about. In the holotank and blue dot winked out to gray.

"The Mölders is hit! The Von Zeiten is hit! Looks like they concentrated all their fire on her."

"What? At this range? Damage report." The Kra'Vak had opened fire at thirty thousand kilometers. The database estimated their railgun max effective range at 20,000.

"Commence spoofing."

"Evasive pattern Y initiated."

"That will degrade firing solution Herr Hauptman," pointed out the weapons officer.

"Deal with it."

"No comms with Mölders. All systems off the air. She's tumbling out of control and streaming atmosphere. Looks like she's dead."

Damn. Markmann leaned forward against his shock frame. The Kra'Vak's railgun systems made him sit up and take notice.

"Mölders hit by another salve, she's broken in two ."

"Firing85.another hit against Delta 02."

"Concentrate against Delta 01."

"Enemy firing." This time the Kra'Vak battle line opened up with all ships, dispersing their fire amongst the two cruisers, ignoring the lighter destroyers. Markmann felt his ship shudder and he heard a lou d bang.

"Bridge this is damage control.  We took a number of hits on our starboard side; decks two and three breached near bulkheads five and eleven respectively. We're getting teams there now."

"Systems?"

"Nominal."

"Firing Hauptman. Target is delta 01."

The two groups of ships raced towards each other at a combined speed of 130,000 KPH. As they drew closer the Kra'vak railguns became dea dlier as the penetrator shells found their mark with greater accuracy and veloc ity. The Humans continued to return fire but were unable to ascertain the exte nt of damage they were inflicting.

"Three minutes until zero barrrier, Hauptman." In the holotank s another blue dot went to gray. That was the von Zeiten on the form ations right flank.  The Moltke shuddered again from the impact of more penetrators.

"Hauptman, FTL drive off line! There was an edge of panic in the young engineer's voice. No faster than light drive meant no escape.

"Delta 01 is streaming atmosphere."

"Bridge, this is damage control. I've got two parties working on the FTL drive."

"Get it done," replied the XO. "Without it we're stuck. "

"Alien ships decelerating and turning."

Markman realized that the Kra'Vak were attempting to decelerate and change heading so they would be pointing into his ships blind rear aspect as they sped by.

"Helm maximum deceleration come about to bearing 090!" He knew that the Moltke's slower speed could be an advantage here as she screeched to a sliding turn in an attempt to avoid exposing her flank to the Kra'Vak. If he played things right, he'd be up their asses.

"Jawohl, Herr Hauptman."

"Tactical, I want the Balck to decelerate but pass on the opposite side of delta 04. We'll sandwich her."

"Jawohl, Herr Hauptman, transmitting."

"Distress signal from the Altenstadt, engine room destroyed, have her batteries down and crew killed. They're...another hit against them!" The Altenstadt exploded in an expanding ball of gas. Markmann felt a pang of sadness in his heart as he thought of all the sorrow that would fall upon the families back at their home port, on Nue Salzburg, once the news of this engagement reached home. It was clear now that escape was their only option. The next few minutes would determine whether they lived or died.

Markmann studied the holotank carefully as he watched approach ing fleets meld together and skid to stops and turns like some horrible auto accident on the autobahn. His heart was in his throat as he watched the range LEDs spin down until he realized that they were going to make it. The Alien commander had turned his entire fleet. All except one which had turned in the opposite direction as a precaution and was going to end up facing directly towards the Moltke! The enemy commander found thre e of his four ships with their asses exposed towards his ship. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.

"Weapons, I want half the batteries concentrating on delta 04, right up the ass. The other half on Delta 03. I want Balck concent rating on 03. Helm bring us to max acceleration."

"Bridge this is engineering, we've gotten the FTL drive back online." There was a chorus of excited shouts at the good news.

"Firing now." Three of Moltke's heavy particle accelera tor batteries stabbed out at the near point blank range of 700 kilometers and hit the one Kra'Vak ship which was a threat to them, Delta 03.  Mark man watched in satisfaction as the beams all hit squarely and one of the rail booms, which formed one arm of the U, broke off from the alien ship. A second hit from the Balck finished her off and she erupted in flam es as exploding gasses vented from the stricken vessel. The bridge crew was too intent on their jobs to cheer. Moltke's second salvo stabbed out into the rear drive field of Delta 04, scoring at least one solid hit.

All eyes were on Balck as she maneuvered past delta four raking the Kra'Vak's ship unpRötected flank with beam fire. Suddenly the damaged alien belched a cloud of projectiles, (or so it appeared), and the Balck's unarmored hull was riddled with penetrators, tearing through systems, bulkheads and flesh at close range. The ships fusion cor e was penetrated and for a split second the rear end of the destroyer shot beams of energy out of the riddled hull until the weakened rear structure gave away and the entire ship was consumed in an expanding fusion explosi on. All hands were lost.

"What kind of weapon was that?" Asked the XO.

"Unknown, Sir. It's not in our database. They definitely fired it out of their flank and it wasn't a railgun. It was almost like a huge shotgun.

"God."

"We're still dumping back to the colony?"

"Yes Sir."

"Helm roll us 180 degrees. Let's keep our undamaged side towar ds them."

Now it fell to a desperate race between the Moltke's straining engines and the turning ability of the Kra'Vak ships. Moltke's eng ines shuddered as they attempted to accelerate the battle cruiser out of harms way. Hits punched into the battlecruiser's armored flank. Her batteries stabbing out at the unpRötected rear and flanks of her adversaries. Perha ps they would escape. However the Kra'Vak frantically spun their ships aroun d, much faster than Markman had suspected they could. Another series of hits shook his ship. Markmann was shaken violently yet held in place by his shockframe. He reached up and closed his visor.

"Main batteries two and four our down. Port PDAF and ADAF batt eries destroyed.  We've lost one damage control party."

"Keep firing!" Markman watched in horror as the aliens spun and brought their guns to bear. At this close range they couldn't miss. He watched as they belched another cloud of deadly short-ranged projectil es towards his ship.  There was a series of explosion that wracked the bridge as the penetrators tore through and Markman stared in horror at his helmsman as he realized the boy was now missing his head. The arms twitched gRötesquely as if the body was still trying to work the controls and get the ship out of harms way. Markmann felt a sickening lurch as the gravity damper fluctuated off line for a split second and violent acceler ation from the dying Moltke attempted to crush him in his seat. Then the damper s kicked in again.

"Oh my god! Herr Hauptmann!" Markmann stared at the communicat ions chief who was looking at him and pointing in anguish. Markmann looked dow n a saw his boot hanging by a few tattered threads of flesh. That meant his Vacc suit's integrity was broken, which explained his groggy feeling my foot my foot my ship! Markmann leaned his head back, as another salvo raked his ship and the bridge exploded into a bright glare.
 

by Carlos Lourenco

The story continues in Callout

NSL Cruiser by Carlos Lourenco
Picture courtesy of Carlos Lourenco.

 


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