Welcome to Hek
Nestled in a barren asteroid deep in Minmatar space, a forward observation facility was being deployed. Construction and assembly were complete and two Bestower class industrial ships unloaded the last of the computers and staff for the facility. As scientists and military personnel set up their communications and scanning equipment a small fleet of Amarrian warships floated nearby, ever watchful for unwelcome guests.
They were not legally welcome here, and everyone present was acutely aware of the possibility of a military reprisal should they be found. The combat fleet was relatively small, consisting of six ships. Four frigates patrolled out at range, two Executioners darting from asteroid to asteroid, and two Punishers with heavier guns and armour running a wide orbit of the facility a little closer in. Each ship was crewed by eight to ten loyal Amarrians, and broadcast no names save for simply a number.
Hanging back with the Punishers, captain Orsus commanded a Harbinger class battlecruiser designed and fitted for close combat. He tugged absently at the sleeve of his pressed uniform. Two crew on his bridge were dedicated to monitoring the directional scanners for any signs of enemy movements while the facility was powered up. They sat hunched over screens, tapping at controls as they monitored anything and everything passing nearby.
The operation as a whole was looked after by Admiral Wessen; a well regarded man in the Imperial navy. In his long career he’d proved himself experienced and level headed. He watched over the entire project from an Armageddon class battleship hovering just over the facility. Armed with heavy pulse lasers, it would destroy any interlopers that made it through the net of frigates.
Comms crackled slightly as captain Orsus reported in, “Long range scans show no large groups of ships.”
The admiral nodded, signaling for a single beep to be sent back as confirmation. He stood at ease on his bridge, watching three screens that reported facility installation progress, directional scans from his own ship, and an overview display of all ships within visual range. Silvery eyes darted from the screens to his crew and back.
This operation was on it’s own; a small team of volunteers hiding an observation post deep in tribal territory. If they could remain hidden this facility could report back warnings when the Republic sent out raiding fleets, giving good Amarrian personnel more time to prepare, or evacuate. Countless lives would be saved when they succeeded. If they failed they would be condemned by Amarr, as renegades.
Comms crackled again, “We’ve got one frigate milling about just inside our long range scans. No signs of hostility yet.”
Admiral Wessen glanced at his own directional scan, noting the frigate at range. It wasn’t broadcasting it’s registration number like a military vessel should, but then neither was his own fleet at the moment. “Keep an eye out. If it’s a scout there will be a buildup soon.”
The admiral regarded the output of the directional scan, noting the signature radius. He tapped a button, transmitting to the fleet. The transmission would be heard by all the ships crews, “We’re almost done here. You’ve all conducted yourselves admirably. Now, more than ever I need you all to be ready for action. Be vigilant, and with the Empress’ blessing we’ll be safely out of here soon.”
The admiral turned off his transmission and regarded one of the lieutenants on the bridge. “Make sure the drones are ready to fly. Light drones take priority. We’ve got a Rifter being nosy nearby.”
* * *
Aboard the Harbinger, captain Orsus received a tactical readout on a standard Republic Rifter class frigate. “Look lively, gents. Admiral figures the sig radius indicates our mystery frig is a Rifter. There’s no non-combat application for that hull, so we may have a fight coming.”
He tapped a few controls, checking readouts for weapons, propulsion, armour, and electronic warfare. All systems indicated that they were functioning and ready. As he looked up to the main screen, his tactical officer spoke up, “Frigate sized signature closing fast.”
The captain nodded, “Broadcast it’s trajectory to Executioner one and two. Punishers one and two convene on the Executioners.” He tapped comms, reporting back to the admiral. “One signature incoming. Executioners and Punishers are on the intercept.”
A single beep returned as an affirmative.
Off in the distance, a slight trail of orange from the frigates engines could be seen. A rusty blotch on the dark starry sky, twisting and turning to charge at one of the Executioners, leaving it’s orange tail behind in a tight curve. The other Executioner was closing in fast behind it. The Punishers were running on afterburners to get within range, and would only be a few seconds behind. Threads of light pulsed and swept over the tribal’s frigate as the Executioners opened fire.
One of the communications officers spoke up, “Captain, Executioner two reports contact with enemy vessel. It appears to be a Rifter class hull, but they report that it looks non-standard.”
The captain nodded, watching the display. His answer was quick, slightly agitated by the unwanted contact. “Just gun it down before reinforcements can warp to it’s position.”
On screen, the captain was answered by a blue explosion as a warp drive failed catastrophically. He smiled slightly to himself. Directional scans were still showing no reinforcements building up within sensor range. He looked down at the tactical uplink and his elation evaporated.
[Executioner 2: Destroyed]
Punishers one and two had engaged and the pulsing threads of light sweeping across the little rusty frigate came more furiously. Another blue explosion lit up the display.
[Executioner 1: Destroyed]
The captain glowered at the display. “Navigations, set orbit on that Rifter at twenty nine klicks. Send instructions to the Punishers to Web and focus fire. Be advised: target is very dangerous.” He tapped at his controls, grouping all his pulse lasers together. “Tactical, get me lock and be ready to fire.”
[Punisher 1: Destroyed]
“Engineering, spin up the afterburners. Tactical, get hardeners up.” Captain Orsus watched the screen intently, tugging absently at his sleeve as he watched two tails of fire from the frigates dancing in and out of each other’s range.
[Punisher 2: Destroyed]
“Gods, what have they fitted onto that thing?”
* * *
Aboard the battleship, bridge crew called out updates from their posts. The Admiral watched the data as it scrolled by. All four frigates down. Too quick. They went down too quick… An update from tactical caught his attention.
His tactical officer was an odd character, who insisted that battles had a tempo and a melody. One finger was tapping out a quick beat on his display. “Sig looks like a Rifter, but the serial number is all wrong. Ship’s registered as a private owned.” The young man swayed slightly at his station, still tapping on the edge of the console. “Passing the serial to you, sir.”
The admiral looked down at the serial number being passed to him, and a cold chill ran up his spine. He hit the comms button, harder than he’d meant to. “Orsus pull back, do not engage!”
A glance at the screen told him it was too late. The little frigate was orbiting the Harbinger already . Drone wreckage was drifting away from the orbit path, already neutralized. The battlecruiser had a webber on the frigate, but it wasn’t enough. The little war machine was speeding under the turrets, firing back a nearly constant stream of heavy metal slugs. Fleet status reports indicated the Harbinger’s shields were gone, and armour was going fast.
“Navigation, align to the first celestial object you spot. Engineering, we need the warp drives spun up. Now!” The admiral clenched his fist. Hesitation was new to him, but he knew that thousands of good Amarrian lives rested in his hands. “Tactical get me a lock on that frigate and open fire as soon as you get a clean shot.”
Captain Orsus’ voice came back over comms, “…Never seen anything like it! Chewing through us like it was a goddamned battlecruiser itself! Admiral, open fire. Take this fucker down while it’s at range!”
The gunnery officer blinked, looking back at the admiral, shaking his head and gesturing two fingers bouncing off his hand.
Wessen nodded, “Orsus, it’s too close. We can’t shoot at it without hitting you.”
Communications were breaking up; crackling badly, as damaged gear tried to transmit, “…fucking egger!” A loud burst of static made the bridge crew flinch. “…done for. Kill it while you c-…”
A great blue explosion filled the screen. Tactical reported the frigate already closing fast. Gunnery didn’t wait for the command. The great pulse batteries opened fire, raking beams of light across where the Harbinger had been only moments before. Pulsing light glanced off the little craft as it sped towards them.
The admiral sent orders to the facility to evacuate. Orders were barked at the bridge crew; no time for niceties. “Drones. Keep five out at all times. That thing is going to rip them apart, so don’t fuck about.”
The frigate’s shields were gone. Armour was only down to 90%.
He looked down again at the file he’d pulled from the serial number. He’d never seen a Wolf before. Assault frigates so advanced that it took a demigod to keep them in line. He could hear tactical swearing under his breath as he tried to keep drones in space. They were dying as fast as the Armageddon could deploy them. Three left… They couldn’t leave yet. The facility needed more time to evacuate. Two. They needed to stall this monster until the staff could get clear. One! Wessen sat down in his chair, bracing as the first rockets hit the shields, filling the ship with loud electric popping noises as they detonated.
The shields were holding. He’s reloading to penetration ammo. That’s why it’s quiet. He sighed, leaning back in the chair. “Gunnery, keep firing. Don’t trust the tracking computers’ calculations, it’ll never keep up. Sweep across the target manually. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
The first volley of autocannon fire on the shields caused a loud electric hum. The crew knew the sound, though this was sharper, higher tempo than they were used to; smaller guns, firing much faster.
One of the Bestowers was nearly away, all staff on board. The equipment was being abandoned, along with the second industrial.
The admiral glanced at ship status, and noted how quickly the shields were falling under the near constant volleys. “Engineering, we’re going to need to move on short notice. How’s our alignment?”
* * *
Deep in the bowels of the ship, a scruffy engineering officer put a hand to a large button on the wall next to a speaker. “Alignment’s fine, but the warp drive is offline. We’ve got a disruptor on us.”
The electric hum gave out with a loud screech as the shields failed, followed by deafening drumming as rounds starting punching into armour. Officer Marreck gave a nonchalant look to the crew clustered around him, trying to look calm despite the danger. No need to cause panic just yet.
The captain’s voice came back from the wall panel, sounding like it was coming from a tin can. “Understood. See if you can bodge something.”
The officer took his hand from the transmit button. “Oh yea, bodge something. I’ll just duct tape the warp bubble back together…” He looked back to his team. “Get your zero atmosphere suits on, folks. We might have a breach soon.”
As the team scrambled to don protective suits, he walked back towards the center of engineering. The drumming gunfire was drowning out even the great warp drive as it desperately tried to solidify a warp bubble for the ship. The engineering bays were separated into sections with blast doors between them.
Crew scrambled for their hazard suits as volleys of gunfire pounded on the armour, making the chamber resonate and echo. Marreck strode back to his post at the warp drive’s main panel. Maybe if we change the frequency we can buy a short warp… His ears were ringing from the drumming of autocannons on armour. Spotting movement nearby he looked up to see a young recruit sitting with his back to the wall, rocking gently. The boy’s eyes were red-rimmed with tears, his hands pressed over his ears.
Marreck finished inputting his commands, then walked over to the boy. A warm hand on the shoulder, and words lost to the incessant noise.
In the powergrid chamber beside them, three red streaks shot through the wall and across the room as the first rounds penetrated to structure. A rocket followed close, blowing a gaping hole in the hull of the ship. Crew were thrown off their feet away from the wall, molten alloys splashing across them, burning through clothes, hazard suits, and skin. Before they could stand the escaping atmosphere sucked them violently out with it into the freezing darkness.
Blast doors sealed off the section, as the damage control attempted to fill the gap with expanding foam. The engineering officer just stared at the closed door, The pounding on the hull drowned everything else out. He knew it wasn’t possible, but he swore he’d heard the crewmen screaming.
Another series of loud bangs from the main drive compartment on the other side snapped Marreck’s attention over. A loud shrieking hiss that could be heard over the drumming told him that it was penetrating rounds, but no blowout. The blast doors slammed shut anyways, trapping crew inside while the ship desperately tried to plug holes with expanding foam. He prayed they had their gas masks on. The fumes were toxic.
As he looked up at the arching ceiling over the warp drive, he saw the sparks as a trail of autocannon rounds tore through the hull, and into the containment shielding. One warning flashed before the next volley tore through it. He had only enough time to kneel and hold the crying boy close before engineering was filled with a heat that purged all life from the great chamber.
* * *
Outside the great battleship, a lone frigate orbited it close, and fast. As a volley breached the hull, hitting the main drive, the great battleship’s guns sputtered and went dark. A moment later the whole ship tore itself apart in a giant blue blast that hurled munged framework far and wide.
The little Wolf turned without a moment’s hesitation to the observation facility, reloaded it’s guns and opened fire.