2952-04-10 – Tales from the Service: The Computer's Score 

As I indicated last week, Hari Moser and Brighton Blue did in fact find the Incarnation force they had been looking for. No significant battle came of it that I am aware – the alert was raised here at Sagittarius Gate for several days around the time of these events, but no attack happened. Ashkelon has not been out of the system for some time, so either the Incarnation force was not intending to attack us here, or their commander did not press his attack after having surprise stripped from it. 

Almost the moment Brighton Blue completed its jump into the K7820841 system, the room-scale holo-display surrounding Hari Moser began to light up with blinking orange motes. These, he knew only too well, represented probable starships picked up by passive sensors, but yet to be positively identified. Within a minute, there were more than thirty of them around the nameless, planet-less star. 

Fortunately, most of these were far from the cluster of green motes ahead of him, representing his own formation, which had just arrived at the system’s outskirts. The bogeys were concentrated on the far side of the star system, where they were easy to see, with the red dwarf’s radiation reflecting off their hulls. Unless there were more stationed on the near side, where the ship’s telescopes would have a harder time finding them, Blue and its formation would have plenty of time to have a look around and charge their star drive capacitors before enemy forces could converge on them. 

Hari didn’t think there would be many, if any, ships on the near side of the star. Based on the locations of the orange pips he could see, they were set up to be least visible to an intruder coming into the system from the Sagittarius Gate direction, and best positioned to pounce on any vessel from that direction that started moving in-system before it noticed them. Blue had come from the opposite direction, having already been hunting for sightings of the enemy force for some weeks. 

“We’ve got them.” Hari gestured to the scattered orange motes. The computer would come up with a positive ID on at least one of them shortly, proving that this was the Incarnation force setting up for an attack on the Seventh Fleet base. “Lieutenant Peters, how long until we can jump out again?” 

“About five hours, Captain." Peters, at one of the terminals around the command compartment’s outer wall, helpfully added a timer high up in the display area over Hari’s head. 

While this was not enough time for large vessels to reach them, it was enough time for well positioned strike pickets to converge and attack. “All ships, maintain battle stations. Expect sporadic strike-level attacks with little warning.” 

At his words, the green indicators for his ships flashed pale blue, then, from the center of the cluster outwards, returned to their original color, representing the receipt of his orders. They had gone to battle stations just prior to making the jump, and though no officer or crew spacer aboard any vessel in the formation would relish five hours at their alert stations, it couldn’t be helped. Strike craft were too small to pick up with the ship’s telescopes until they were very close, and there was no way to predict where the pickets were stationed when Hari’s force arrived. 

“Amazing.” Commander Harridge, the ship’s first officer, was on the bridge, but the comms system carried his incredulity down to the command center as if he was just behind Hari. “How did you guess they’d be here, Skipper?” 

“It wasn’t exactly a guess.” Hari hoped this enigmatic answer would satisfy Harridge for the moment. During a battle alert, chatter on the comms channels was heavily discouraged. 

“Bogey identity confirmed.” Bridgit’s voice sounded almost smug, if smugness was possible out of a computer program. One of the blinking orange motes stopped blinking and turned red. “Incarnation heavy cruiser, I-3 type. Shall I mark all these unknowns as provisional hostiles?” 

Hari nodded. “Do it. But continue to identify each target. The more data we can collect, the better.” 

“Aye.” This time the computer voice was snappy and professional as usual. 

“Looks like... about twenty-five Tyrants, sir.” If Peters was afraid, he didn’t look or sound like it. “Enough to make real trouble in the Gate if the battle line isn’t home.” 

“Let’s hope they’re home, then.” Hari scowled. “When we get clear from here, they’ll have to either retreat or rush their attack.” He didn’t see the sense in pointing out that the Incarnation commander they were dealing with was a clear risk-taker, and would most likely rush the attack. That wasn’t his problem, or Peters’s - they just needed to get as much data as they could back to the forward relay station as quick as could be managed. 

“Gravitic signatures lighting up.” Bridgit announced. Three dotted red arcs swept through the air in front of Hari to show the courses of several of the enemy ships. A moment later, another one joined them. The red arcs didn’t at first converge on his formation, but each was already creeping toward the cluster of green. “None of these vessels are in position to intercept us within five hours, assuming the known range of I-type cruiser drive performance.” 

“Helm, give us a withdrawal course. Bridgit, keep an eye on the chasers and look for anomalous acceleration profiles.” Hari glanced up at the timer. His crews might be busy shortly fending off strike raids, but Bridgit’s automation systems could not be distracted.