"Target's on the scope," reported Smith.
"Anything else?" asked Douglas.
"My scope is clear," reported Ivanova, she looked at Douglas warily. He caught on to her suspicions almost immediately.
"Well, if it's a trap, we'll just have to spring it," Douglas mused. "Straight in, Mr Smith!"
Smith opened the throttle to full and then hit the thrusters' override. Douglas had explained to Lennier and Ivanova that LDS doesn't work when close to a stellar body. Ark Royal began to shake as the Thrusters were opened to full power. The crew were pressed back into their chairs as the gravity compensator's fought to keep up. All of a sudden, Smith hit a key and the shaking stopped as the burn finished.
The plan was to approach from a distance, line up with the Jammer and then accelerate to certain speed. Smith was to then turn off the engines and the ship would power down apart from basic life support, passive scanners and the release mechanism for their newly acquired projectiles. The idea was that the ship would look like some kind of drifting asteroid or other stellar debris on the scanner. So when they got close, they make a few course corrections, release the projectiles and then get away as quickly as possible.
It was one of those surreal moments of peace that always happens before a battle. Lennier was staring intently at the screen, monitoring the passive sensors. Douglas was looking above his console looking out of the viewport. Smith was visibly relaxing, stretching out and putting his hands behind his head, while Clanwellin was so nervous his foot was tapping the floor involuntary.
Nobody said a word, while the clock slowly counted down. She checked her readouts herself, no contacts apart from the Jammer.
"Damn!" whispered Smith.
Even his quiet voice made her jump.
"Problem?" asked Douglas.
"I'm too good sir," replied Smith.
"Meaning that we're on a collision course with that thing?" Douglas guessed.
"They might take action against an object that's going to hit them," said Ivanova.
"They will take action." replied Douglas. "Feed power to the lateral and ventricle thrusters, Mr Lennier. We're going to need some evasive manoeuvring ability."
"As soon as we use that, they'll know were not an asteroid," replied Lennier.
"I know," Douglas said with a grimace. "Let's see how much time this gives us."
"I am picking up interference from the star," reported Lennier. "It could be camouflaging our approach."
"Let's hope so." replied Ivanova. "I wouldn't want to be blown to bits because we were doing a bad impression of a rock."
The clock counted down.
"Sir, we're loosing the sensors." reported Smith.
"Well, we'll have to eyeball it in."
"Forgive me, Susan but I have to ask," Lennier was looking at her with curiosity. "When did the EA start to integrate Vorlon technology into their ships?"
"That's supposed to be classified Lennier, but heck, it doesn't matter now. The Warlock was always the prototype; both the ISA and the EA are in a race to integrate the Vorlon big guns into their ships. We were testing the new technologies in this system when the Black Stars hit."
"ETA, two minutes." remarked Smith.
"Ok. When is the optimal firing position?" asked Douglas.
"1 minute, thirty seconds." Ivanova paused. "Mark."
"Lennier, get ready for a full power up once the projectiles are released. All power to engines, take it from life support if necessary."
"Aye Aye, Captain."
Douglas couldn't help but smile.
"I'm picking up three maybe four Black Stars on patrol around the Jammer," said Ivanova
There was a tense silence.
"They're not reacting."
"Mr Clanwellin, monitor those ships. I want to know if they break patrol. Leave the targeting to Ivanova."
"Aye Aye Sir!" The younger man looked glad just to be involved.
"1 Minute to release." reported Smith
They could see the Jammer quite clearly as it began to grow in size at an alarming rate.
Ivanova's thumb hovered over the release button. She was trying not to shake.
It's just another firing solution, she thought, trying to calm herself. You've done this kind thing of thing hundreds of times before.
So you've released dumb fires to hit a target at this velocity before? She questioned herself. You've never done anything like this before. You're kidding yourself!
Oh Lord, She thought. I'd better be right about this.
"Let them go!" ordered Douglas. "Lennier, All power to engines! Smith, Miss that Station!"
Ark Royal shuddered as the projectiles were left free. Her breaking thrusters fired to let them fly ahead. She then pitched until she was standing on her tail and then fired her engines at full thrust. She was still flying straight at the Jammer, it was all she could do to try and avoid it. The crew held of for dear life as the entire ship shook with the effort.
"Ten seconds to impact." reported Lennier.
"Us or the projectiles?" asked Douglas
"Nothing more I can do Captain," Smith replied. "My foot's to the floor here!"
"They've spotted us." shouted Clanwellin over the noise. "All four Black Stars are moving to intercept."
Douglas looked at the tactical view, the station looked huge. The four blips representing the Black Stars had changed profile and were pursuing.
"Ready for a mine drop." He ordered.
"How many?" asked Ivanova.
"All of them!"
"Impact in four," Smith began to count down.
"Two Projectiles have hit, two missed!" reported Ivanova.
Nothing happened, the Jammer passed underneath Ark Royal without touching it.
"No Boom?" asked Ivanova.
"No Boom!" said Douglas "We must have missed by metres. Full Ahead Mr Smith. Mr Lennier; even spread of power. Ivanova; release mines on my mark."
He could see on the tactical display that the Black Stars were in a straight pursuit, not far behind Ark Royal. He smiled with grim satisfaction.
"Release full spread."
The remaining mines left the rear of the ship and straight into the path of the pursuers. There was a series of explosions.
"We got two of them, but the other two evaded," reported Clanwellin.
"Damn, they've learnt their lesson and put a crew on those ships." observed Douglas. "What's the status of the Jammer?"
"I'm reading significant damage," Ivanova stared at the readouts; she noticed a light came on with Garibaldi's communicator.
"But it's not been enough; the jamming field is still up." Lennier confirmed.
Douglas summed up the situation perfectly.
Delenn looked out of the main viewport of the Agamemnon. It reminded her of the Battle of the Line. She was perfectly safe, just a spectator to the spectacle. The different fighters danced round each other, their vapour trails leaving glowing lines, which were deceptive, it was easy to forget that they people trying to survive.
A Centari fighter passed close to the viewport. It exploded. Delenn stood back shocked. Even after all they had been through, it was still a shock to see a life so violently ended. She looked around to see a T-fighter flying in a straight line, she could see the cockpit on fire and the pilot was still alive, burning to death in the coldness of space. A Minbari fighter ended the pilot's suffering. Her vision blurred, she didn't care who was being shot down. Minbari, Human or Centari, they were all victims of this hand from the shadows.
"It's a terrible sight," said Clay "Reminds me of the line."
"Yes," said Delenn "Another pointless war, more loss of good people. It never seems to end."
"It's ironic that you married Sheridan," said Clay. "His task force was supposed to rendezvous with ours during the Battle of the Line but never showed. We thought they'd been lost."
Delenn looked at him, "He's never mentioned it."
"Odd," said Clay. "He was there at every evacuation meeting before the battle."
"He's never held anything back about the Minbari war before. Not even about the Black Star."
Unlike you, she reminded herself guiltily.
"Damn, I was just thinking that there might be away to end this without me having to issue a GO17."
"There are passwords and codes that we were given to him which he should remember; they could be used to stop this."
"He wouldn't have forgotten something like that." Delenn stated.
"Then he might have been made to. Psi Corp could have removed those memories."
"So we're back to a GO17." Delenn looked at Clay with sympathy. "If there's anything I can do?"
"It's ironic that a Minbari should offer to help," Clay smiled. "However, there could be something."
He handed her a piece of paper, "If you tell him this phrase, it should remove any blocks the telepaths will have left. It was a generic phrase used by the Psi-Corp at the time."
"I see," said Delenn. "But it all depends on this jamming being removed."
It was that point that Mr. Garibaldi's communicator came to life.
"Delenn? This is Ivanova, can you read me?"
"Susan?" The voice came through the communicator.
"Thank God!" Ivanova shouted, as Ark Royal was thrown about in a series of evasive manoeuvres.
"Clanwellin, Take over gunnery. Let the captain speak to Delenn," ordered Douglas.
"Aye Aye Sir!" Clanwellin and Ivanova swapped seats.
"Delenn, we're at spacial co-ordinates 25, 46, 99. We've found the Jammer. Ark Royal has succeeded in damaging it but we can't destroy it. It's massive. We're under attack by two Black Stars even as I speak," She paused for breath. "Can you get a strike force together?"
"Not unless we can stop the battle going on here." Delenn admitted, "I've only got the Agamemnon and the Dreadnought on side here."
"Delenn, the commonwealth capital ships are beginning to move into a firing position." Clay's voice came over the link.
"Target the first Black Star," ordered Douglas. "And fire a salvo of missiles. Clay is that you?"
"Any chance you could use the alternative means of communication?"
"I've already tried that but you know the rules, all telepathic shields go up."
"Missiles Away," called Clanwellin.
"The Bottom LDA is overloading!" reported Lennier.
"Lennier?" The shock in Delenn's voice was evident, even over the communication.
"There's no time to explain," replied Ivanova. "We need assistance."
"One Black Star Down, the other one is going to ram." called Clanwellin.
"Fire PBC, rapid fire!" ordered Douglas.
Ark Royal pitched over to face the oncoming Black Star, the forward facing PBC fired again and again, hitting the opponent head on. The ship crumpled and then exploded. However, a chunk of debris flew straight through Ark royal's wing. The ship was put into an uncontrollable roll, throwing everybody from their seats.
"Susan?" the communicator sounded concerned.
The artificial gravity caught up with the situation and Ivanova clambered back into the seat.
"We're OK." She confirmed.
"Status?" asked Douglas.
"One of the shield generators has gone. All weapons and the jump drive has been disabled." reported Lennier.
Douglas looked over the status on his own console. He looked up at Smith and just for a second they locked eyes. Smith nodded. He looked across at Lennier, who also nodded.
"Right, Clanwellin. Ivanova; get up to the secondary bridge on the life boat. See if you patch the weapon systems to the gunnery station there," Douglas ordered.
He keyed for ship wide broadcast. "All hands, report to the left pasty for repair duties."
Clanwellin and Ivanova left the bridge, she could see the other crew members clamber clambering towards the residential section.
"Pasty?" Ivanova asked Clanwellin.
"Our nickname for the lifeboats," Clanwellin explained, "We have two, each with its own bridge and life support for over a month. They look like a cheese pasty when launched you see."
They arrived at the bridge; it was even more cramped than the primary bridge. There was only one console. All of a sudden there was a lurch and the sound of small explosions.
"Have we been hit?" asked Ivanova as they took place at the console.
Clanwellin frowned as he looked at the display.
"No, we've been launched!"
They could see the Ark Royal drop away from the life boat and fire her main engines. It turned back towards the Jammer. A horrible realisation formed in Ivanova's stomach.
"Oh no!" she whispered.
"They're not." Clanwellin was in denial.
"Not again!" Ivanova's voice broke, "This isn't fair."
I'm sorry Susan, She could feel Douglas' voice in her head. We'll have to take a rain check on that drink.
Because it's gone to be done. How many are dying in that battle now?
I know, she paused. It's just so unfair. Marcus, Davidson, the Warlock and now you.
Make sure Clanwellin doesn't do anything daft. If it's any consolation, I think it would have been great! Douglas sent, echoing Kelly's last words.
They could see Ark Royal accelerate towards the Jammer, getting smaller and smaller until they could no longer make it out against the Jammer. There was a flash and the Jammer vanished from view. The Lifeboat was tossed about in the shockwave that followed.
"Susan, you did it!" Delenn's voice was exuberant from the communicator, "The jamming has cleared."
"The Ark Royal did it." She replied quietly.
"Susan?" There was confusion on the other end of the communicator, "Is everybody all right?"
"No," she was on the border of tears, "Just pick us up when you can Delenn."