Updated 1.19.1999

"Meine Herren, Adler Tag......"

Röt Hafen Chapter 7

copyright 1998 by Carlos Lourenco

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KRS Freidrich
Task Group 2

With the Bismarck and the Markgraf out of action, the Kra'Vak turned their attention to the next big ship in line, the Freidrich. The smaller Kra'Vak cruisers packed a serious punch against the hull of the super-dreadnought, and it's armor was quickly shot away by the massed fire from half a dozen ships. While the crewed toiled at their stations, the incessant thumping of rail hits came rapidly as hail hitting a roof. The first internal damage alarms bleeped plaintively.

The Freidrich was by no means helpless in this fight. Her pulse torpedo launcher spat globs of highly concentrated plasma. One of the first short-range shots smashed center mass into an enemy cruiser, sloughing away it's armor and venting all three decks out to space. Six type-A 60mm primary beams sliced out at her tormentors. Rather than concentrating her beams on one ship at a time, Kapitän Morder split each salvo against two ships. He felt it wiser to cripple two ships at a time than destroy just one.

As continuous hits pummeled the Freidrich, Morder grew worried. He felt each one in the seat of his pants, and was a seasoned enough commander to judge the relative damage of each before the calls came in from the damage control parties, (DCP). He ordered the DCPs to concentrate on keeping the ship's weapons on-line, over repairing maneuverability or life support system. Morder understood that the longer Freidrich continued to return fire, even with one battery, the longer the enemy would concentrate on his ship. Thus , in turn, it meant that the rest of the kampfgruppe was free to engage the enemy with relativly minor damage to themselves.

The worst damage hit came when a heavy armature penetrated through to engineering and tore out the coolant control assembly for the power core. Safety protocols in a situation such as this called for the automatic shut down of the power core, in order to prevent a catastrophic explosion. They'd already witnessed one Kra'Vak ship suffer this fate. However, shutting down the power core meant no weapons or maneuvering ability, and Morder ordered all safety protocols removed in to keep his ship in the fight.

This presented a serious problem to Chief Petty Officer Alex Krieger. The same round that had destroyed the coolant control assembly had also killed Commander Beeson, the chief engineer and Leutnant Mack, his assistant. Command of engineering now devolved to Krieger. After extinguishing the fire and evacuating casualties, engineering had been sealed off from the rest of the ship. Halon gas, smoke, beeping alarms and flashing red emergency lighting all accentuated the dire nature of the engineering crews predicament. Radiation levels were rising at an alarming rate and soon their specially shielded vacc-suits would do them no good. Krieger was venting liquid nitrogen in to the transfer cell in order to keep it from overheating, but that was a very temporary measure. Given his estimation of the situation, the power corer was going to have to be dumped, sooner rather than later. He was trying to explain this to the Captain.

"Herr Kapitän, we cannot contain the heat fluctuation for much longer. In less than five minutes, it will begin spiking critical. At any moment after that it could explode."

"As long as we have one beam battery functioning, we will not dump the power core! We are drawing all of the attention upon ourselves. That's giving the rest of the fleet a free hand. We must stay in the fight. You figure out how to keep us operational. That's an order!"

"Jawohl, Herr Kapitän." Krieger stared at the intercom in disgust. Morder had passed a death sentence on the engineering staff, at least.  

On the bridge, Morder worried about keeping in the fight. His summary readout showed the fluctuating power core's performance. Not good. But then again, nothing on the Freidrich was in particularly good shape at the moment. Only two beam batteries and the pulse torpedo launcher were still functioning. Two of the four sub-light engines were destroyed. Lateral maneuvering was at 50% capacity. One third of the crew was dead or wounded. Still, he considered dumping the power core the next worst thing to surrender.

"Herr Kapitän, transmission coming through from the task force commander."

"Put it through on my viewer."

"Sorry, Sir. The datalink is down, I have voice only."

"Put it through!"

"Freidrich, this is Admiral Bellamy. With whom am I speaking?"

"Kapitän zur raum Morder, Herr Admiral."

"Captain, what is the situation on your ship? You look in a sorry state."

"We've suffered severe damage but I still have two batteries operation. We are drawing all enemy fire upon us."

"I see that but ..........wer core?" There was another hit and two panels blew open above the helmsman's head, spraying the area with sparks and arcing electricity. The navigator hit the reset on the power relay to shut down the live power to the damaged area then activated the halon extinguishers in that section of the bridge. Morder shut the face plate on his vaccsuit and switched the comms over to his helmet.

"I'm sorry, Sir. We just took another hit on the bridge. Can you repeat that last message?"

"I said, what is the state of your power core? My scanners show that you're in trouble. ....reading dangerous radiation spikes. Why haven't you dumped it yet?"

"Herr Admiral I will not dump the core as long as I have operational weapons. We're still attracting all the fire from the Kra'Vak!"

"Dammit man! Your destruction will serve us no purpose. We need to think past this fight. We're going to need that ship once this battle is over. You are ordered to dump the power core at once and get out of the fight. Look to your crew and ship."

"Herr Admiral, I must protest this decision! We can still serve a function..."

"No you can't! The battle is won. The Kra'Vak are breaking as we speak. Task Group One is bringing her main batteries to bear now. Dump the core and get out of there. I will brook no more discussion on this matter. Dump your core. Bellamy, out."

"Verrdammt!" The surviving bridge crew was looking at him for guidance. He shrugged in is suit. "Engineering, bridge. Dump the core!"  

The survivors in Engineering received the news with relief. Already they had received enough radiation exposure to require hospitalization and anti-rad treatment once the battle was over. "Preparing to dump the core." Said Krieger. He called up the emergency core release screen on the power systems Multi-function display (MFD). And ran down the lock release checklist. Once completed a warning message blinked on the screen: Cleared for Core Release

Another explosion rocked the ship. Krieger stared down at the MFD and saw a new warning, flashing: Core release inhibited

He stared in panic. What had happened? He called up the systems damage display and quickly spotted the problem. They had taken a hit, which had gone through the twenty meter long ejection shaft. He dispatched a repair bot into the area and fifteen seconds later was looking at a video image of shaft. The power core sat on four guide rails. one of them had been severed and bent out of shape by the Kra'Vak hit. The rail had been cut two meters below the power core chamber hatch. That would prevent its ejection.

"Damn!" With the rail bent up like that there would be no way to dump the core. It would take a heavy duty laser cutter to slice it free. The repair bot was not equipped for that function. Someone was going to have to go down there and do the cutting. With the proximity to the core it was a death sentence. However, given their imminent destruction, Krieger didn't see much of a choice. He ran into his small office and grabbed the laser cutter out of his tool kit. He glanced up at his desk and was transfixed momentarily by a framed picture of his wife and daughter. For a moment he froze, staring at it. The flashing red emergency lighting and myriad or warning alarms rescinded into the background for a moment. Krieger reached out, grabbed the picture, kissed his family, then set it back down gingerly on the desk. As he ran out, two of his staff, Binger and Florzak, were waiting for him.

"We're going with you chief."

"No you are not. There's no room for both of you in the shaft anyway. "

"But you're going to have to cut away the whole rail not just the broken section, or the core might get caught up halfway out."

Krieger thought for a second. "Good point. Florzak. Grab another cutter and come with me. Binger.. Pull up the schematics for the core ejection sequence. I need you to disable the safety device that's preventing us from ejecting it. Once that's done, wait here by the console for my word to punch it clear. Understood?"

"I understand."

Krieger slapped him on the shoulder. "Good. Now get moving!" Florzak followed him to the lower engineering deck and into the repair bot launch-caddy. "We'll need to get in here one at a time. Then open the outer door and crawl down to the shaft repair access port. I'll go first."

"All right!"

Krieger crawled into the tight space then called over the comms for Binger to open the hatch. Using his helmet lights for guidance, he crawled to the tube to the second hatch, which opened automatically into the ejection shaft. He was now weightless. Krieger pushed himself to the far wall and surveyed the damage. A Kra'Vak penetrator had burst through one wall, tearing out the guide rail and punched through the opposite side of the shaft. Florzak was right, they would need to cut away both pieces. He felt an arm on his shoulder and turned to see his assiatant floating beside him carrying his own laser cutter.

"Florzak, I want you to work on the lower half of the rail. There are three attaching points. Cut them all loose. I'll work on the top half. Go ahead and get going." Krieger looked up to the top of the shaft and could see the hatch to the core itself was glowing red from heat. Radiation would be murderous.

"Binger, can you hear me?"

A staticky voice replied. "Barely, I think we're getting major interference from the core. The shielding is nearly gone."

"How are things coming up there?"

"Still working on it."

"Open the outer shaft door."

"Wait one."

Below him the hatch slid open. He could see stars out in space as well as a glow from some gas the Freidrich was venting. Florzak was working on a rail joint with his laser cutter. Krieger sighed and pushed himself up to the top of the shaft. As he got closer the static in his earpieces grew in intensity. He landed beside the damaged section of rail. A red LED in his suit flashed warning him of lethal radiation exposure. He ignored it as he activated the cutter and slowly drew the beam across the first fitting, which held the rail in place. The temperature rose in his suit and he was sweating profusely. He felt nauseated and several times he had to close his eyes and fight the dizzying feeling. He knew it was the radiation, destroying him. He focused single-mindedly on the joint until it was cut through. Krieger nearly cut his hand off also, as his reactions slowed. He pulled himself hand over hand to the last connector and it seemed like hours before he could bring the cutter up and activate it. He could feel something wet flowing from his nose and into his mouth. Red globules of blood floated before his eyes. His insides ached as he concentrated on cutting the last few inches of the metal fitting. A stronger wave of nausea swept over him and he vomited in his suit. He felt the fitting snap and he pushed off with his legs, floating to the opposite wall of the shaft. Through the mess in his helmet he could see the cutter in one hand, still on, and the last piece of rail in another. Static roared in his ears. He rotated over slowly and could see Florzak below him pushing his way up. The big man grabbed him and dragged him down the shaft. At the opening were his wife and daughter. What are they doing out here without vacc suits? They were waving at him and motioning him down...  

Binder completed by the bypass to the safety circuit. "Chief! Chief! Everything is ready up here." He saw another spike rising from the core. This one was the worst yet. It showed no sign of dissipating. "Chief?" Florzak?"

Through heavy static Florzak replied. "Yes. I'm here. The rail is cut free. I'm trying to get the Chief out of the shaft!"

"I can't wait. It's going to go!" Binder ejected the power core. Florzak and Krieger could not get out in time, which was just as well, since both had already absorbed enough radiation to kill them. The core shot out from the shaft and exploded less than a kilometer from the Freidrich. But the great ship was safe for the time being.

RNS Hornet
Task Group 1

Another Kra'Vak super-dreadnought exploded in the holo-plot. It was followed into oblivion by two cruisers.

Several minutes later, they detected FTL drives warming up on several of the Kra'Vak ships. It was a race to see if Bellamy could get there in time to intercept the enemy escape. As KG1 entered range, the battlecruisers and escort cruisers opened up with beam and pulse torpedo firing. Two Kra'Vak ships in final FTL preparations exploded. Still, several escaped and Bellamy cursed their good fortune.

Left on the plot were 5 cruisers and 3 Super-dreadnoughts. TF Gold was in good shape except for the TG3, the Markgraf, the Bismarck, and several of Stasny's destroyers. None of Hauser's ships had even been targeted much to Bellamy's relief. They were valuable far beyond their mass. The Dreadnought Freidrich was heavily damaged, and had been forced to eject her damage power core to avert a catastrophic explosion.

As the battle wore down, the remaining three Kra'Vak Super-dreadnoughts were destroyed by massed beam fire. Fighters and the destroyers arrived to finish off the remaining cruisers. Only on escaped. The rest were destroyed. One Kra'Vak ship was left in the area, it was drifting helplessly without power, engines or weapons. Bellamy seized on an idea.

"I want that ship. Have the Orion heave to and board her. We must capture that ship!"

"Aye, Sir."

"Sir, what if she self distructs?"

"It's a chance we have to take. This is a golden opportunity to get a look at the inside of one of those ships. Make it happen, Captain."

"Yes, Sir."

"Sir, we have a problem?"

"What's that?" When the Kra'Vak dreadnoughts were killed it left their remaining fighters attack. They've massed together and are making an attack against the Freidrich. In her state she could blow at any minute!" "Order all ships in the vicinity to cover her!"

"They already are sir. Two fighter squadrons are in the area also. Both escort cruisers have closed up beside her and are using PDS to defend."

Everyone in the CIC watched the desperate struggle as the helpless Freidrich absorbed several more hits. However every ship in range was filling the space around her with PDS fire. The desperate schwab fighters risked the PDS fire to hunt down the last of the enemy fighters. Disaster had been averted. That was a courageous attack by the Kra'Vak. He'd give them that.

RNS Orion
Task Group 1

Sergeant Peter Stoker, Royal Marines, slaved his multifunction heads up display to one of the Hood's external monitors. Centered in the display hung the shattered hulk of the Kra'Vak cruiser. On any other day, he would find that a comforting sight, but today he was sitting in a boarding pod, with 5 other marines as it sped towards the ship. Six hundred meters distant, a second pod was on a similar course.

"Six-Two this is Hood. We've got good data on the target. She's pretty roughed up. Weapons are inactive. Engines are shut down. It looks like their bridge, or what we think is their bridge, has vented to space. Power core is operating but I'm reading intermittent radiation spikes through the roof. I'll mark it on your HUD so steer clear of there. There is power aboard the ship and we're reading a dozen life-signs of various strengths. So stay sharp."

"Roger, Hood. What about our initial entry point?"

"Same location as before. We'll put you down beside that huge rent in the port side of the ship. It's center mass which will facilitate your grapple since she spinning badly."

"Good copy."

"We've got a damage control party following right behind you. They'll wait for you to secure the ship."

Or blow up, thought Stoker. He called up the latest information on his HUD and downloaded it to the squad. "You boys get that?"

"Right-o boss."

"Good."

As the pod approached the stricken ship it matched rotation with its target. Inside, six power armor -suited marines waited tensely for touch down. There was a loud clank as the pod made contact with the cruiser's hull. This was followed by a hissing noise as the heterodyne laser cut and blew a breach into the alien ship. Sensor readouts informed Stoker that there was no atmosphere in this portion of this ship. He activated the floor hatch and a hole opened wide enough for one trooper at a time to jump through. Stoker went through first, and experienced the unsettling affect of switching internal gravity orientations from the pod to the alien ship. Gravity was light, less than .5 standard. He surmised that this ship was on emergency power. Stoker moved left and took up a position far enough down the hall to allow the others to enter. Behind him, the hallway opened up into space. There was no light but an eerie purple glow. The ship had UV track lighting recessed into the floor. Probably emergency lighting.

Once everyone was aboard, he signaled the squad to follow. Activating his image-enhancers, he observed the strange alien architecture. The floors were coated with an odd rubbery substance. Perhaps it was an anti-skid material. The walls were slightly rounded and had an odd speckled granular pattern to them. They passed two consoles where an odd purplish light shimmering from teardrop shaped readouts. The hallway ended in a secure bulkhead. A quick scan of the hatch controls told Stoker nothing about how to operated it.

"Hey Diggs, have a look at this."

With two men watching their rear, Diggs, the squad's EWIS man (Electronic Warfare/Info Systems) passed a cylindrical device over alien controls. "Well, it's the door opening mechanism alright. I can see the power relays and servos. It's different than human technology but still operating on the same basic principles. Looks like you just pass a finger over these depressions to operate them."

"Can you open it?"

"Wait one." Diggs removed the device and manipulated some of the controls. Nothing happened. Hmm, sorry boss. No can do. They must have some sort of security protocol in place. It'll take me a while to crack it."

"Fuck it, then, There's no time. Stand back. Harvey get in there and do your bit."

"Right-o." A second marine replaced Diggs at the door and removed a special gun-shaped dispenser from his utility belt. Using it in a similar fashion to a caulking gun, he moved the muzzle just inside the hatch frame and dispensed a thick explosive paste in an oval bead. In moments it had hardened. He inserted several small spikes into bead of explosive at regular intervals. "Okay Blokes how about stepping back a bit."

The squad backed down the hall ten meters. "Ready?"

"Fire in the hole!" There was a flash and vibration. They heard the explosion as the shock waves were transmitted through the floor into their suits. As soon as the hatch blew open, Stoker led the squad through the breach. It was another dark hallway. Suddenly, there were several flashes, and over the squad radio he heard a grunt. The marines returned fire on the solitary space-suited Kra'Vak. He was tossed back against a wall but still pointed his weapon at them. Stoker recalled that the Kra'Vak had redundant body organs in their torso. "Aim for his head!" The alien's head exploded under the fire of five marines. Stoker noticed Harvey's life-sign readouts go from green to yellow. They rushed to the body and kicked away the rifle then secured the corridor. He and Diggs run past the dead Kra'Vak to an intersection and peered down both ends. Empty. By the time Stoker had set security, two of the other marines were by Harvey's side. Operating the suit's med controls from an external panel, they assessed his situation. One slapped a vacc-seal patch over two holes in Harvey's chest plate.

"How is he?"

"Not good boss. He's alive, but barely. We need to get him back."

"OK. Stan. Bring him back to the pod and set it for automatic return. Then launch it."

"What about us, then? How o we get back?"

"Don't be daft. We stay here and finish the job. Now pull your finger out and get him in the boat before he croaks."

"Roger."

"Six-two, six-one, over."

"Go ahead Sir."

"How's Harvey."

"Not good. One of the buggers caught us as we breached a bulkhead. He caught one through the chest. We're evacing him back to Repulse in the pod."  

"Roger. Be advised we set down successfully on the other side of that rent in the hull and have already run across the power core. Radiation levels are high so we went down a deck and are making our way across the ship. Nothing but dead Kra'Vak so far. There's one section that still has atmosphere but we can't find a way in without venting the whole thing out to space."

"So? What's your point, Sir?"

"My point is that that compartment is the best chance for taking some of these creatures alive."

"Well I'll be buggered, now we're on a mercy mission? I thought we were here to capture the ship."

"Oh for Christ's sake don't be wet, Peter. I want you to continue circling forward until we've secured the rest of the ship, then I'll call in the damage control party. We'll get them to seal of a section of this gangway. Then we'll go in. You copy?"

"Roger."

"Right, then. On your bike."

"Cor, the skipper's gone daft." Remarked Devins. "I thought he hated these bloody things?"

"You'll hate me if you don't get your bollucks up here on point."

"Right, Sarge."

The T-intersection only offered one option for the squad. To their right, heavy damage had resulted in a hull breach. There was a power conduit arcing some form of energy into the hallway. They could see a Kra'Vak had been fused partially into the wall by the incredible heat. Another lay torn in two beside him. On the other side of the arc they could see space. "Guess we're not going this way. "

They moved off down the hall to the left, weapons at the ready. Two compartments were checked along the way and one dead Kra'Vak found. The hallway ended in a tube, which went to decks above and below. Perhaps it was an elevator lift but it was inoperable. There were two poles that ran along each side. Diggs observed the device. "It's an elevator. I bet it functions like a rail gun. A magnetic charge is run along each pole and propels the base up or down."

"Well, fuck it. It's not working. Up or down Sergeant?" Asked Devins.

"Up."

Devins secured his weapon, grasped both poles and using his power-assisted armored exoskeleton, and hauled himself up. The tube ran ten meters to the next level. Before reaching the upper deck he jammed a leg into a box-like component which jutted out of the wall and grabbed his weapon. Peering over the top, he saw the hallway was clear. "Looks like the hallway curved off to the right. Lots of damage. A few bodies. Should I continue?"

"Yeah, haul yourself up there and secure the area. We're coming up."

One by one, they ascended the tube to the upper level. A circular hallway was wider here than on the lower deck. Ribbed joints curved up into the dim lit ceiling. It all lookedÉalien. Stoker signaled Devins forward. Twenty meters ahead they came to a hatch, which was sealed shut.

"Diggs. Any atmosphere on the other side?"

He scanned the bulkhead. "None."

"Movement?"

"None?"

"Okay, let's blow it."

"I've got Harvey's kit." Stan placed the breaching charge on the door and waved everyone back. The squad was alert for another ambush. They put their backs against the bulkhead and Stan blew the hatch. Devins hooked left through the door and Stoker right. They were in a large circular room full of instrumentation and control panels. Even in the low light they could see that the room was blackened by fire. A small one-meter hole was blown in the roof. Stoker could see stars. Dead Kra'Vak were strewn about the compartment. In the center of the room was a single seat, which Stoker surmised was he commander. A panel or console had been ripped from its moorings and had been thrown into the command seat, resulting in a gruesome death for the alien.

"Six-one, this is six-two."

"Go ahead."

"We're on the upper deck. We found the bridge. Or at least I'm pretty sure it's the bridge. Looks like it took a direct hit. Lots of carnage."

"Right. And we've been on to what looks like main engineering. Pretty ugly down here too. This might explain why they didn't blow the ship. Bridge hit, engineering hit. The power core venting radiation. Systems down. These blokes were knackered right good."

"Hey Sarge, we got a live one here!"

"Wait one, Sir."

Diggs and Devins were standing besides one of the forward consoles pointing their weapons. A space suited Kra'Vak was slumped over his station. Diggs was scanning him with a sensor. "He's aliveÉbarely."

"Is he conscious?"

"How the fuck should I know I'm not a xenobiologist!

"At ease. OK. Carefully secure his arms and legs with cuffs." While Stan and Stoker covered the alien with their weapons, Devins and Diggs pulled the creature off his seat and stretched it out on the deck. They bound its arms and legs together using flexi-steel cuffs.

"Six-One, this is Six-Two."

"Go ahead."

"We have a live one on the bridge. It appears to be damaged. We've got it secured."

"Excellent. Don't fuck with it any more than you have to. I'm going to call in the damage control party and get this ship stabilized."

"Roger." At least the follow up party was coming. He would need to continue his search. "Stan. You and Devins stay here and watch that thing. Keep your bloody hands off it. The rest of you, with me." After the others left, Devins reached down and poked the alien in the back to see if he could elicit a response."

"Ahh, for fuck's, don't be daft. Stoker said not to play with that thing and there you go poking it."

"Stan, I want to make sure its not faking us."

"Give your brain a rest, mate. That bruiser would have already reached up and kicked you in the bollocks if it could have. Now get away from it."

"Oh, sod it."


Go to Adler Tag, chapter 7 of Röt Hafen

 


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