Part 5: Mystery of the Trinity
Long story short, we may be able to use the technology behind this mysterious portal to open our own portals to many currently unreachable systems, Sol included.
With the Gamma Draconis system secure, a task force of Terran and Vasudan scientists is now examining the subspace portal. At this point, the scientists have ruled out the possibility the device is of Shivan origin.
Dr. Mina Hargrove, leader of the research team, has issued a report of its preliminary findings. An excerpt of this report follows.
"The subspace portal is unlike and Shivan construction we have yet encountered. Though Shivans demonstrate considerable diversity as a species, all Shivan technology possesses certain distinctive properties. None is present in the subspace device, which means we must look elsewhere for the portal's origin. We do know that the device is very, very old, on the order of sevral thousand years."
The Field generated by the interlocking Movement of the Portal's components creates a subspace vortex, connecting one part of the universe to another. Dr. Hargrove theorizes that whoever built this device may have used it to stabilize a jump node on the verge of collapse.
If Dr. Hargrove is correct, this technology is a trememdous discovery.
By constructing our own portal, we might be able to reopen the Sol jump node in Delta Serpentis. Since the destruction of the Lucifer caused the node to collapse thirty-two years ago, Earth has remained isolated from the GTVA.
We might also be able to stabilize subspace nodes that are currently too volatile for travel, thus creating routes to systems previously unexplored.
Our military operation will focus on what lies on the other side of the subspace portal. We must determine where the node leads and the extend of the Shivan presence there. Above all, we must prevent the Shivans from returning to Gamma Draconis.
Because the portal will remain active while the research team studies the technology, our systems are vulnerable to attack. Allied command has deemed this an acceptable risk given the potential benefits.
Our mission is going to involve reconnaissance of what is on the other side of the portal.
Mission 5: Mystery of the Trinity
The briefing is as follows;
Sadly, this means no aspect-locking missiles. We're stuck with Rockeyes and Tempests for now.
At 1540 hours, the GTD Aquitaine entered the subspace portal in Gamma Draconis and jumped to our current position. We have entered a nebula, a vast and dense ionized field, and possibly the remnant of a supernova. We have traveled farther than any Terrans in the history of subspace travel.
The nebula has severely limited the Aquitaine's long-range sensors. We are deploying our fighter wings to explore the immediate vicinity and determine the extent of the enemy presence. Each fighter squadron will deploy a fight of four wings.
Alpha, Zeta, Iota, and Kappa will patrol a series of waypoints. Zeta wing will lead this sortie, so follow Zeta 1 and do not stray. Be advised the nebula could interfere with your on-board systems. The Ionized field will compromise your sensors, even within combat range.
We start in the fighter bay of the GTD Aquitaine.
I should have changed the HUD colors to something more visible, but I forgot. I'll do that for future missions in the nebula.
Aquitaine: "Iota wing, you are cleared to take off."
Aquitaine: "Kappa wing, you have clearance."
Aquitaine: "Zeta wing, go."
Aquitaine: "Alpha wing, go."
With that, I fire up my engines and take off.
This mission is fairly plain. Most of it is flying around the nebula and listening to dialog. Just imagine this for a while;
Command: "Alpha, form up on Zeta. Follow Zeta 1's lead to the waypoints."
I target Zeta 1 and match speeds.
Zeta 1: "Okay, Alpha. Target my fighter and try to keep up. Boost your engine power and be ready to hit your burners, because we're gonna get through this one fast and clean."
Zeta 1 is a liar because he doesn't go very fast at all during this and I'll never need to boost engine power (though I do anyway, because these guns don't require much energy, so I remove some power from weapons and split it between engines and shields) or use my burners.
Command: "Good luck, pilots. Keep a tight formation, and look out for each other. Let's all get home alive."
We fly for about half a minute, all contemplating what exactly might be found in this nebula, and reflecting on the fact that we are the first Terrans to ever explore this area of space. Alpha 2 is the first to break the radio silence.
Alpha 2: "How are we supposed to get a visual confirmation? I can't see a thing in this mess."
Zeta 2: "Rather be fighting the NTF if you ask me. I never signed on for hunting Shivans."
Zeta 3: "Don't kid yourself. We're the ones being hunted, pilot."
Alpha 2: "Command should shut down that portal and send the Aquitaine back to Deneb. We've got no business being out here."
Zeta 3: "If Command needs your opinion, they'll promote you to Admiral. Now shut up and focus."
Unrest spreads among the pilots, but we've already begun, there's no turning around now. I wonder if Zeta 3 was right about us being the ones who are being hunted?
Command: "All flights report in."
Iota 1: "This is Iota 1. Sensors are picking up zilch, Command. We're flying blind out here."
Alpha 2: "Alpha 2 here. Nothing to report."
Zeta 1: "This is Zeta 1. All clear."
Radio silence resumes. Nothing interesting happening, I guess.
Wait a minute, didn't we have another w---
Command: "Kappa wing, what's your status? Over."
More radio silence. This doesn't look good.
Command: "Kappa wing, this is Allied Command. Please respond."
Silence again. What the hell is going on out here?
Command: "Iota wing, investigate Kappa's last waypoint. The ionized field is interfering with our transmission."
Further silence. We continue flying to our designated waypoints. Along the way, a flashing red blip appears on the radar.
Zeta 1: "I'm picking up something on sensors. I can't get a lock!"
I boost forward to get a closer look, but nothing is visible in this nebula. Eventually, a few tiny black shapes become visible through the fog.
Zeta 2: "Hostile targets confirmed! A wing of Manticores closing in fast!"
Command: "Pilots, destroy those fighters, and stay alert. Watch for a flaking maneuver."
Zeta 1: "No problem, Command. We'll take 'em down."
Only seconds later, laser blasts are screaming past my cockpit. I get a warning telling me that there's an incoming warhead, and I finally get visual confirmation.
It's a wing of three Manticores, designated Leo. I manage to get behind Leo 3, but these things are nearly twice as fast as our Hercs. I do my best to keep up and lay on the afterburners. Rockeyes still work in the field, though they're a little slow. I eventually score a hit on Leo 3 that demolishes his shields and lays waste to his hull, which gives me a chance to move in for the kill. Blast after blast from my Subachi and Prometheus pound in to his hull before he finally swoops around and I lose him. Diverting full power to my engines, I turn sharply downwards and to the left, just in time to catch him with one last blast that sends him screaming in to oblivion.
By the time I get back to the rest of Zeta wing, they've destroyed Leo 1 and 2.
Zeta 1: "All bandits are down, Command. Area secure."
Command: "Resume your patrol, pilots."
Zeta 1: "There's got to be a base or destroyer in this nebula somewhere. Those fighters couldn't survive out here on their own."
Alpha 2: "This nebula could be ten or twenty light years in diameter. Finding a single ship would be impossible."
Zeta 3: "Unless the Shivans fund us first."
Zeta 3 must be the most un-optimistic pilot in the entire GTVA.
Alpha 2: "Do we have a status update on Kappa wing?"
Zeta 2: "Negative. No word from Kappa yet. We'll find out in debriefing."
Zeta 1: "Hostile indicators on radar!"
Four more Manticores appear out of the fog, designated Aries. I manage to pull behind Aries 2 and stay within 60 meters. Two rockeyes smash in to his hull and my lasers finish the job. Aries 1 is next, but he's a tricky devil. He nearly smashes in to my cockpit while zooming by at 126 meters per second. I divert power from weapons in to engines and lay on the boosters behind him, until I start taking shots from behind.
Alpha 3 tries to save me. He boosts over towards me, but Aries 1 intercepts him and lays in a few good blasts.
Alpha 3: "Hull integrity falling! Get me outta here, Command!"
Alpha 3: "Nooooooo!!!"
We've lost Alpha 3.
I launch half my payload of Rockeyes at the sucker who did it and his hull is turned in to swiss cheese. Zeta 1 manages to take the bandit off my back and he's subsequently destroyed.
Zeta 1: "Okay, let's get back on patrol. Alpha, follow my lead."
We follow the waypoints again for a while.
Zeta 1: "Hold on, I've got a visual on something big. A cruiser or corvette."
Great, what is it now?
Command: "Do you recognize the configuration? Is it a Rakshasa or a Cain?"
Zeta 1: "Negative, Command. It's... a Terran cruiser! Fenris class!"
So much for being the first Terrans to explore the nebula. Wait, I thought Command said we are the first?
Command: "There's no allied ship authorized in your vicinity. Hail them, pilot."
Zeta 1: "This is Zeta wing of the 107th Ravens, GTD Aquitaine. Please identify yourself."
Trinity: "This is Captain Arthur Roemig of the GTC Trinity. We have sustained heavy damage, and our jump drive is inoperative. We need immediate assistance."
Command: "Your designation is incorrect, Roemig. Your ship defected to the NTF ten days ago. You have been stripped of your rank and citizenship in the GTVA. Surrender the Trinity or be destroyed."
Trinity: "As captain of the NTC Trinity, I surrender, on the condition that you get us the hell out of here!"
Command: "What's your status?"
Trinity: "We repelled a Shivan attack, but engines sustained critical damage. I powered down non-essential systems so the Shivans wouldn't detect us. We've been drifting ever since."
At this time, I finally get within visual range of the Trinity.
Command: "What's your assessment of the damage?"
Trinity: "Some components were destroyed in the attack, but my chief engineer thinks a field repair is possible."
Command: "We'll send a damage control team with the necessary components. Transmit your diagnostics."
Trinity: "Transmitting now."
Command: "What were you doing out here, Roemig?"
Trinity: "As a prisoner of war, my rights are protected under the BEta Aquilae Convention. I will answer no questions, Command."
Alpha 2: "I thought Rebels didn't recognize BETAC."
Command: "No, but we do, pilot. Damage control has been deployed. They should be arriving momentarily."
A ship warps in. it's too small to be seen though the nebula.
Discovery: "Discovery here. Initiated docking procedure. Watch our backs, little friends."
Alpha 2: "Heads up, enemy wing closing in!"
Three Manticores, designated Virgo. Virgo 2 comes straight after me. I shake him off my tail quickly and cut my engines as he flies past. I speed up to get within range and let loose some of my rockeyes.
Virgo 3 is already destroyed by this point, and Virgo 1 goes the same way before I can get within range.
Discovery: "Prepare to be boarded, Trinity."
Trinity: "Trinity standing by."
Discovery: "Docking point secure. Okay, Roemig, we're taking you and your crew in to custody. Follow the drill and no one gets hurt."
Zeta 1: "More hostiles incoming!"
A wing of four Basilisks, designated Aquarius. They provide little trouble, as my wingmates destroy them before I get much of the action.
Command: "Can you bring anti-fighter turrets on line?"
Trinity: "Negative. We need all power on engines."
Trinity: "You need to buy us more time, Pilots!"
Command: "Incoming jump signature, hostile configuration!"
A wing of six Dragons, designated Cancer, jumps in. They scream by faster than any other ship we've battled thus far.
Our Hercs stand no chance against the Shivan Dragons. The trinity is destroyed within mere seconds.
Command: "We've lost the Trinity! All wings return to base, we're aborting this mission!"
Zeta 3: "Zeta wing here, we're bugging out!"
I decide to do the same.
You confronted an overwhelming Shivan force in a hostile environment. Under these circumstances, there was nothing you or anyone else could have done to save the Trinity and our boarding party. You were lucky to survive the sortie, pilot.
We have heard nothing from Kappa wing since they vanished from our sensors. Unfortunately, we must presume the worst. They will be listed MIA unless we find evidence to the contrary. Our search parties have found no trace of these fighters.
The presence of the Trinity depens the enigma of the NTF's secret agenda. What was the trinity doing out here, and was does Bosch know about the subspace portal?
All patrols have uncovered an extensive Shivan force in the nebula. Command will deploy more warships through the subspace portal to assist with our mission of exploration and containment. Iota and Epsilon wings encountered two Shivan cruisers near our current location. When our reinforcements arrive, we will move against them.