Epistolary Experiment (27/30)

“First, know yourself; and know your enemy, second. This is the first principle of victorious war.”

The Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord,
Xian Anandonos

“It also doesn’t hurt to know what your enemy knows about yourself.”

Adm. Inesmír Muetry-ith-Muetry, in conversation


Netharn (Idrine Margin) System
CS Unconquerable Self
Coreward Fleet Yards & Logistics Division

“What’s our readiness status, Captain?”

“Excellent, Admiral. These yard dogs know their stuff. Special weapons package SPLITSHANK RIPPER has been loaded to all ships in the task force. I have the tactical departments setting up dedicated weapons queues for it now. Electromagnetic screen generators have been compiled and are installed in the free module spaces of all ships. They’re undergoing final proving tests right now.”

“And the extra radiation cladding?” The Admiral nodded at a nearby projection, displaying a dozen foot-long bulldozers scraping busily at the surface of a nearby asteroid.

“Running about 7% behind. Bagging the regolith is going to schedule, but they had some trouble getting the nets adapted to the hulls of the frigate screen. We should still be aweigh-ready by the foredawn watch.”

“Very good. Keep me informed.”


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“The Republic task force has entered the system, Admiral,” the tactical officer reported. “From the Karmál gate, as expected. My best read is… thirty to forty of the plane, same again of screen, in staggered-scramble formation, with the megastructure in the middle.” She leaned over her board and adjusted the focus controls again. “I can’t get a clearer count than that, though. All this rad-hash is ruining the sensor resolution.”

“Very well, Cymnéä. Pass the word to the AKVs at the tarvic generator: scramble and attack on closest approach. Remind them that kills are secondary; their highest priority is to pass us target data.”


signal from flag: we are go at closest approach, target ailék.

all wings report in

weasel weasel weasel

shrike shrike shrike

scorpion scorpion

declamp and puffball. ready thrust packs, ears only.

guidance lock, no growler.

weasel wing, arm and attack screen from system acme; shrike wing, arm and attack screen from system nadir; scorpion wing, punch through and heat up the sweatbox. flank speed, backfire closure.

report scan data to flag soonest via tangle.

count is running.

flash-backup

hold knives to eyeball range; light the fires; stove-top hop; go go go

– from the thought-record of AKV Oriel-2-2-1


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“AKVs are running.”

“When will they be within the Republic task force’s threat range?”

“Estimate three-two minutes, sir.”

“Set the maneuver clock: in three-two minutes, fleet is to cease acceleration and skew-flip, but is not to start deceleration yet. Let them think we’re satisfied with our closing rate and are going for a zero/zero after the AKVs have chewed on them some more. Pass the word to tactical: as we maneuver, fire SPLITSHANK RIPPER as you bear, per uploaded fire plan.”


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
VNS President Siroshin
Bridge

“Target Alpha just cut acceleration. Aspect change on target, looks like the beginning of a skew-turn.”

“Very well, Mr. Kadesh. Helm, maintain course and acceleration. If they want a passing engagement, we’ll oblige –“

“Contacts, contacts! We show multiple inbound missiles, groupings three, estimate over six hundred inbounds, range one-eighty-thousand, heading two-six-five mark three-two.”

“Signal to all ships: shift immediately to defensive globe formation. Stand by point defense. Mr. Kadesh, get me profiles on those missiles –“

(The sensor report of an electromagnetic spike accompanying the aspect change scrolled off the screen, unnoticed.)


Loaders clanked, switches closed, stacked accumulators discharged with an electrical hiss, drive coils spat lightning, and the SPLITSHANK RIPPER slug left the axial mass driver of Eädne’s Helm at a leisurely 1% of light speed; enough for multiple kilotons of impact should it directly hit its target, but nothing that would do exceptional damage to a starship designed for war, such as President Siroshin.

But it was not targeted directly at President Siroshin.

Minutes after being fired, the slug, fired retrograde, dropped into the ergosphere of the Eye of Night, that portion of space-time distorted by the spinning black hole in such a way as to drag all material objects along with it. Shortly thereafter, the SPLITSHANK RIPPER charge built into the slug fulfilled its designers’ intentions, and blew cleanly in two.

The larger part, no longer needed, fell away into the event horizon.

The smaller, a mere grain by comparison, in obedience to conservation of momentum, was hurled out of the ergosphere at high relativistic speed.

As were the smaller fragments of the other 119 slugs fired simultaneously.


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
VNS President Siroshin
Bridge

“Incoming! INCOMING! Gamma blueshift—“


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“The package has been delivered. Flash is… okay, surviving AKVs are getting their sensors back on line. We have – splash fifty-seven, sixty-nine casualties. Twelve still under command, all screen. The megastructure looks battered, but appears intact and not at immediate risk of sympathetic detonation.”

“Very good. Make signal to senior surviving officer, Republic task force:

“‘This is Grand Admiral Inesmír Muetry, commanding CS Eädne’s Helm and all other Imperial forces in this system. Your forces, in my estimation, are no longer capable of sustaining battle, and therefore, to prevent an unnecessary effusion of blood, I wish to offer you the opportunity for honorable surrender.’

“‘You will immediately shut down all offensive systems. You may proceed, as a group, up to one light-minute from the megastructure you have been transporting for your own safety along with any survivors you may pick up, and will there heave to and prepare to be boarded.’

“‘Otherwise, be advised that my fleet will range upon you in seven-six minutes, and will commence firing for effect at that time. Muetry, clear.’”


“One braced for the wildfire will miss the serpent at their feet; one checking their boots for scorpions cannot run from the flame.”

The Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord,
Xian Anandonos

“I knew what they were expecting of us. The cunning-mind stratagem, the feints-within-feints, all the deceptive devices that they believe transsophonts are known for – and which Fleet Admiral Daphnotarthius gave them over and again in the Borderline campaign. One simple act of misdirection? They were bound to misinterpret it entirely.”

– Grand Admiral Inesmír Muetry-ith-Muetry,
ICIN interview after the Battle of Eye-of-Night

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