Petty Officer Isabelle MacAllen activated the Spruance’s dorsal autosystems. A rather significant portion of the vessel’s circuitry suddenly came to life as the battle computer drew power from the vessel’s main reactor assembly and activated the cruiser’s defensive weaponry. What Isabelle didn’t know was the communications system she had just verified was using the Perseus command net to activate autosystems in all the other vessels at the same time. Formerly quiescent circuitry, processors, battle software and weapons aboard six other vessels responded. Isabelle watched it all happen on the main viewscreen in a series of attractive overlays around the edges of the display.
“What’s happening?” she asked, confused by what she was seeing.
“You just told the ship to get out its big club and go hit the bad guys with it.”
A brilliant flash of light filled the Spruance bridge. Then another. And then a third. The angry white bursts of weapons fire reflected from the face and eyes of Petty Officer MacAllen as she sat motionless at the pilot’s station, watching in open-mouthed awe as the Task Force’s datalinked battle computers she had just ordered to open fire launched a defensive strike at the incoming enemy formation.
From aboard the nearby destroyer Constellation, the scene was no less impressive. Spruance’s main batteries thundered away, firing in skillfully echeloned sequence. Thousands of miles distant, the first wave of proximity bursts shook the enemy formation to its core. Ten megaton blasts slammed battle screens and disrupted communications. Moments later, the Sarn battlecruiser Venom opened up with its rapid-fire disruptor batteries as it broke range.
Spruance shook like it had been caught in an avalanche.
“Fasten your shock harness, Isabelle.”
Aboard the Constellation, Lieutenant Commander Ray Flynn had been issuing orders quickly and efficiently since the first detonation, and now he was about to answer the Sarn fleet’s challenge with everything his fairly substantial vessel had to offer.
“We have three full spreads of wide-spectrum weapons standing by!” shouted Tactical Officer Ria Cooper from her multi-level advanced combat station. Around her glowed curved displays featuring sliding status updates on all twelve of her vessel’s missile batteries. As the prototype and namesake for its class, the DSS Constellation was the most “broken in” of Skywatch’s missile fleet. Its weapons systems had been studied, improved and optimized to the point where her engineering staff, tactical officers and crew knew more about space missile combat than any other group of 100 people in the known universe.
Constellation was the only Perseus vessel with the “globe” configuration and design for its tactical station. The operator was surrounded by displays which were fixed on a freely rotating frame which allowed them to “spin” around the operator. This only operated in two dimensions, of course, as upsetting a bridge officer’s sense of which way is “up” had been tried and failed several times. The configuration itself was spherical, with the tactical officer seated on a magnetically suspended shock frame and able to read displays below floor level, at eye level and above as well.
What this configuration did make possible was the hyper-efficient control of all of Constellation’s missile batteries and most importantly, their timing. There was simply no such thing as an idle weapon aboard the Constellation. If a rack was capable of firing, it had already fired. If it needed to reload, it was already reloading. If the scanner systems were tracking missiles and one or more detonated, they were replaced by fresh warheads within fractions of a second of the firing order.
Then came the spectrum. DSS Constellation had always been capable of configuring missile tracking systems to do just about anything their technology was capable of and several things it was officially incapable of. She could fire track-on-motion, track-on-signature, track-on-radiation, track-on-signal and track-on-targeting warheads. She could set her weapons to go dormant for several minutes and then wake up and attack again. She could configure missiles to track on each other so they couldn’t be jammed. Missiles could be set to attack from as many approach vectors as there were weapons to fill them. There were rumors her tactical section once programmed a missile barrage to look as if it had malfunctioned, turned around in space and began attacking its own ship, only to have it turn back on the enemy at a most inconvenient moment.
Constellation was also capable of conducting positively lethal planetary bombardments with its “Ironwing” class ultra-dense kinetic warbirds. These were essentially 1000-ton nano-particle constructed iron molecule lattices formed into shapes that could be fired from a Constellation class missile rack and equipped with a short-duration anti-orbital rocket. They were rated to impact a planet with Earth-like gravity at roughly 1% of light speed and even without a warhead could cause an impact detonation in the 1000 megaton range.
The Perseus missile ship’s opposite number was the Battle Frigate Ajax, which was able to defend against enemy missiles with very nearly the same deadly efficiency as the larger destroyer. The two vessels operating in concert were like a veteran quarterback and wide receiver. In fact, more than a few of the Perseus crew members referred to the two ships colloquially as “Law and Order.”
“Confirm incoming sequence telemetry with Spruance.”
“Aye. We have active missile slots one through sixty. Spruance is cycling weapons autosystems aboard Revenge, Exeter and Minstrel.”
“Very well. Lock autosystems response codes in echelon order and stand by for a firing solution. Signals, open a hailing frequency to the lead Sarn vessel and engage automatic translation and records computers.” Commander Flynn settled back in his large and intimidating-looking command chair and waited for the inbound signals to clear up the image on the Constellation bridge main viewer.
“We have a bearings match and waveform lock on the battlecruiser, sir.”
“Hailing frequency open, captain and you are patched in.”
“Attention unidentified vessel. This is Lieutenant Commander Raymond Flynn of the Skywatch Destroyer Constellation. We have you under our weapons. You are ordered to surrender your vessel and prepare to be boarded.”
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