The Rhino heeled over hard, and for a moment the bridge rested evenly on the horzion along with the ventral engines, just before the gyronav computer screamed a warning and the correctional thrusters kicked in, righting the ship as it came about to its new heading. Nose to nose with a three-spot of Angel frigates.
Captain Tinkari, nuzzled in his pod, never felt a thing, but he smiled as he spared a brief thought for those members of the crew who possessed something less than a cast-iron constitution. “Forty two kilometers and closing,” came the boring dispassionate voice. Almost within range of his drones, but he didn’t want to scare them off. He was already pushing it by facing them, but hopefully it would just incite them that much more. “Twenty four kilometers…” the voice droned on. Damn, they were closing fast. Apparently they hand out microwarp drives to just anyone these days, Acer thought acidly. He moved faster within the thought-assisted cocoon, and less than a second later, his sensor booster module kicked on, echoing eerily in his ears, while the rising decibels of machinery told him that the damage control systems were active.
A few moments later, the first Angel reached its range, and ugly looking thing of bladelike appendenges. With the screen zoomed, Acer could make out the faint twinkly of spent cannisters ejecting from the low-tech autocannons. A moment more, and he almost thought he could feel the impact on his shields. No doubt a few of the newer crew were a little nervous at this point, but the veterans and officers had been ratting with him before, and they knew the game.
The first Angel passed at high speed, perhaps feeling the thrill of battle, and the second was just aligning his own guns when the stasis web clawed out at him. The engines burned brighter for a moment, before throttling down to a safer limit. If the bridge crew had had optic multipliers, they would have been able to see the drone bay doors open on the starboard side of the Vexor-class cruiser’s dorsal hump. The honor today would belong to Gold Squadron.
The five Warrior-class drones moved briskly to the slowed frigate, pounding it with their own cannons. It took a moment longer than it should have, but the frigate still popped in short order. Acer held his calm as he toggled the comms to the drone control room and spoke what he hoped was an encouraging word to the pilots sitting there behind their screens.
The third Angel did not have time to pull up, but had left his own speed boosters on, and the moments delay nearly cost the Rhino. The webber finally caught up with the frigate, just inside its maximum range, and the ship heeled over once more, hard, as Acer desperately tried to keep the target pinned down. It didn’t work. The hull complained, especially weighted down as it was by the presence of the extra 400mm plates. Rolled Tungsten or not, they were heavy.
Not that it mattered much anyway. The webber had hooked the Angel for the precious few seconds needed to let Gold Squadron catch up to it and blow it from the sky. The third Angel was obviously not thinking clearly. “Must be new,” Acer thought to himself briefly, trying to put out of his mind that he had only been doing this a few short months himself. The Rhino’s one concession to long range combat whirred to face the frigate, and a moment later the dual-mounted railgun thumped to life, its charged ammo gouging at the fleeing pirates shields before it passed beyond optimal range. They must have thought they were clear, as it looped over, seeking and easily achieving a steady orbit thiry five kilometers out. As the first artillery shell crashed into his shields, Acer realized that they were going to try to play cat and mouse with him. Unfortunately for them, Acer’s tactics had a secondary benefit. He knew drones well, and so did his crew. Well enough to have modified the electronics to allow Gold Squadron to roam that far…and further. The afterburner clicked in as Acer charged after the frigate, hoping to cut its angles down, but it would be a moot point. A moment later the arcing lines of debris on his viewer told him the rest of the story.
He switched comms again to the bridge, and told his XO to take over for the salvaging and recovery. The XO gave a salute and sharp affirmative before he pivoted and begin barking orders. He knew this part would be boring to a pod pilot, and that Captain Tinkari would prefer to review the combat footage, or check the markets out. But that just meant it was his time to shine. The ship began orbiting the wrecks, the salvager operating under his command, while the crew loaded the haul with the assistence of the low power retension beams. As usual, it took less time than he would have liked for it too, but he smiled none the less. There were, after all, many more belts in this system, and the day, such as it is in space, was still young.