Ivanova looked out of the view port. She could see the jump gate floating ahead of the ship in the ink black of space. These gates were the cornerstones of interstellar civilisation. They enabled cargo ships and passenger vessels to fly between systems without the use of expensive jump engines.
It was a very old jump gate, carbon dated over 20000 years old, one of the oldest earth had discovered. Extra-planetary Expeditions had concluded that the civilisation that had built it had died out. Ivanova had seen some of the markings on it and thought they looked Vorlon in origin, but she wasn't an expert in them.
This particular jump gate had been hammered. There were blast marks all over the structure. That the structure was still intact was due to the fact that these were gates were built to last. There was no use in attacking and disabling these devices because they were of too much use.
There was only one reason to disable a jump gate and that was invasion. The only thing that Ivanova though was strange was there was nothing in this sector worth fighting for. That was one of the reasons the Warlock always tested here. There was normally no traffic here to be worth anybody's time. In fact the only thing that seemed to have any value was this ship.
"Mr. Davidson. "
Her second came to stand next to the command Chair.
"As of this moment I'm putting the ship on yellow alert. Put all weapon crews on stand by and arm the marines,"
He looked supprised at this, but acknowledged it.
"Also, Davidson, ask the chief engineer and his deputy to come to my office."
"I have a few questions to ask them. If there are any contacts, bring the ship to red alert, but do not fire unless fired on. You have the conn."
"Ma'am." That had shocked him.
"I've got a gut feeling here, "she whispered to him, "and I hope to god I'm wrong."
He nodded and took up her position in the command chair once she got up to leave.
The two men were standing to attention when she entered her office. She didn't know why but her stomach felt as if it was tying itself into knots. She'd looked over the report about the coolant failure and it seemed satisfactory but she could help the feeling that the coolant failure and this hit on the jump gate might be connected.
Ivanova liked chief engineer Brook. He ran the engine room with efficiency. He would give you the straight facts if you needed them. He was one of those 'say what he likes and likes what he damn well says' kind of people, but always knew when to draw the line with the chain of command. For him, to be arguing with Davidson meant that it must have been important.
However, there was always something about his Deputy that she didn't like. Chapman was his name and he was an obnoxious character. He'd been on the opposite side of the war to her, but is demeanour was shifty. She found she could not always trust what he said, always seemed to be making excuses about what was wrong and never took responsibility for himself.
"Gyro Failures!", she said while walking round to behind her desk, "I want you opinions about it."
The communication screen changed the operational status to yellow alert.
"All hands. Yellow Alert. Repeat All Hands. Yellow Alert"
All Brook did was raise his eyebrows. Chapman seemed to flinch. Ivanova reached into her desk for her firearm. Regulations stipulated that when a yellow alert or greater was called, all line officers were to carry firearms. Brook and Chapman were engineering officers, not line officers. She put the PGG into her holster and armed the weapon.
"What are the possibilities of sabotage?" She asked.
No sooner than she'd said it, she felt something brush her mind. She'd only that kind of feeling when her mother used to try and find out whether she lying. Someone had just tried to scan her. She reached for her firearm when Chapman jumped at her, knocking the gun from her hand and clasping a hand round her throat.
Brook grabbed Chapman, trying to break his grip.
"What are you doing man?" he was shouting.
Ivanova began to see spots before her eyes. Chapman looked like a man possessed, his eyes were wide open, he was gritting his teeth and there seemed to be drool coming from the side of his mouth. She couldn't break that iron grip and knew that she would pass out if she couldn't do something pretty quickly.
Brook gave up trying to break the grip and went for the gun on the floor instead. Chapman kicked at him, knocking him to the other side of the floor. That was the break she needed, his grip eased when he kicked. She pulled back and out of his hands. Chapman turned his attention back to her but it was too late. She punched him and then when he fell back a bit, let loose with a kick to the head. He fell to the floor.
Brook recovered from and picked up the gun.
"Chapman, you're under arrest." He said point the gun at him
Chapman got up and threw himself at Ivanova. There was a PCG Shot.
"Alert! PGG fired in the Captain's Office." The computer announced.
Chapman was in a crumpled heap on the floor. Ivanova staggered back.
"Security and Medic to the Captain's Office." She said into her link.
He turned her attention to the shaking engineer, "Brook, you all right?"
"No." he said as he lowered the gun, "First time I've fired one of those things."
He put the gun down on the desk and looked at Chapman's body. The shot had been fatal.
"I've served with him for two years. He's been acting strangely since he we both were assigned from the Achilles."
"Captain." That was Davidson's voice from outside the Office.
Ivanova opened the door. The Medic rushed to Chapman. Davidson took in the scene and grimaced. He had authority here. It was his call to make a judgement when the Captain was involved in a situation like this. If he wasn't loyal to Ivanova, then he could use this as an opportunity to take command, and there wouldn't be a thing she could do according to regulations.
"Computer, replay camera CO1" he ordered.
Davidson watched the pictures unfold and at the end of the sequence he nodded.
"Well, that's seems straight forward Captain." He said, "Why did you reach for your gun though? "
"I heard his voice in my head." She said, it was close enough to the truth.
Davidson looked down at Chapman. "Telepathic eh?"
He pointed at a security guard. "You take the body down to sickbay and ask the doctor to prepare for an autopsy." He turned his attention back to Ivanova.
"Ma'am we await your orders."
Davidson had just stood by her. He walked over and handed her the PGG. She looked at Brook and her first Officer.
"Brook, get yourself down to medical, make sure you're alright and then get back to Engineering. Davidson…."
Ivanova's link bleeped.
"Ma'am, we have four contacts approaching, high speed."
"Red Alert." She ordered, "Brook, get to medical. Stat."
Everybody spilled out of the office.
Ivanova and Davidsonarrived on the bridge, out of breath from the quick sprint. The tactical displays showed four incoming ships on an attack vector which the computer identified them as White Stars. There was no cover and Warlock normally wouldn't be able to take four white stars on at once.
"Estimated time till they're in range is two minutes." said the gunnery officer.
"Let me look at the formation."
The holographic display showed the four incoming ships. They were not approaching in standard Ranger fashion and they were the wrong colour. A white star is normally blue, these were darker, almost black. In fact, she didn't think that they were rangers on board at all because she knew it would be a sight of honour if they didn't get an approach exactly right. They were far too close together. She labelled them in the display A to D left to right in the display.
"Are they here to help?" Davidson asked.
"No, that's not a standard White Star formation." She replied, "I don't think they're on our side. Batteries one and two fix on target B, Batteries three and four fix on target C. Helm, flank speed. Rear weapons fire at Target C when you see it."
"Something amusing Mr Davidson?"
"Just appreciating the irony of you facing these ships ma'am."
"Well, if it makes you feel better, I appreciate it as well, but I'll appreciate it better, once this is over."
"Communications, send this code." She reeled off some numbers.
"One minute to range."
"Captain, no response."
"Wait for my order to fire."
She could feel the Warlock begin to move under her feet as the engines came up to full strength. She could feel the whole bridge crew tense, as the counter counted down. The enhanced displays showed the various states, and distance, of the enemy. If they were ranger's they would have known that abort code. Just because she was no longer on B5, she still kept up to speed on that organisation was up to.
"Energy Spike." The call came from navigation.
"Hold fire." ordered Ivanova, "They're firing too early."
There was no way that Warlock could take all of them by itself. She knew she would have to launch her fighters just to distract one or maybe two of those ships. It's just that the pilots were so inexperienced.
"Prepare to launch both squadrons, on my mark. They're target is Bogie D."
All four White Stars unleashed a withering barrage of light towards the Warlock.
"Interceptor batteries fire." She ordered.
The front of the Warlock exploded with light as the interceptors hit all the incoming missiles. The beam weapons from all of White Stars went wide. Ivanova felt herself smile.
"Nope, these guys are not rangers. " She said. "All batteries fire and launch fighters. Helm, follow Bogie B."
The Warlock's main guns opened up. The new plasma weapons fired, electric blue streams of light, missing Bogie C, but laying into bogie B. The hit White Star buckled, it's left wing giving way with a bright yellow flash. It started to spin. The fighters began to stream out of the front of the Warlock. She didn't expect them to do any damage but if one of the enemies could be distracted, that would be one less to worry about.
"Rear weapons firing at Bogie C. Front weapons recharging. Online in 5 Seconds" reported the Gunner, " Minor damage on C"
Damn, thought Ivanova. I didn't want that to happen. Still One down, three to go.
That was the problem with fighting a white star, if you hit it and disabled, or destroyed it, with one hit then that was it. If you only hit it lightly, it's organic hull compound re-adjusted itself to defend against the weapons that you'd hit it with. Thus your next salvo you do even less damage than before.
"Recalibrate All forward weapons to a different frequency." She ordered.
"Captain, that will take thirty seconds." replied Davidson
"Do It. Otherwise our weapons are no good. Gunnery, lock a magnetic pulse on Bogie B and bring it in close to us. Helm bring us about 180."
A bright white blue beam lanced out from the front of her ship and attached itself onto the badly damaged White Star. As the Warlock began to turn, the damaged ship was pulled in front of the docking bay and pulled in. It was held there, as the warlock completed it's turn and held out in front like a battering ram.
The other white stars had completed a quick turn and were already on their way back. They had turned a lot faster. One seemed to break off as the star fury and thunderbolt squadrons hit it. The other two fired again hitting the captured White Star and complete vaporised it. However, that left the Warlock unscathed. The two ships flew straight passed.
"Rear batteries Fire." Ordered Ivanova, "helm 180 yaw now."
The rear batteries hit another glancing blow against Bogie C, but did no visible damage. This was turning into a jousting match. Each set of opponents turning they're metal horse around and returning for another strike.
They'll just wear us down that way. She thought
"Weapon's Recalibrated." Reported Davidson.
"Lock Forward Weapons on Bogie C, Rear Weapons Lock on Bogie A."
The warlock completed her manoeuvre, to see the two other ships bearing down on her. They all fired simultaneously. Target C crumpled under the weight of firepower and blew itself apart. However, the Warlock shook under the many impacts. The lights dimmed as the power systems re-routed themselves. Bogie A passed the ship incredibly close as the rear batteries opened up hitting it in the Engines. It was hit amidships and in the port engine blowing itself off.
"That's two. What's the status of our Squadrons?"
"They report a number of passes but no real damage as yet. "
"Captain, Engineering here, We've lost main power. We can give you manoeuvring thrusters and weapons or Main Engines. " Brooks voice was urgent, "Can't give you it all captain."
"Weapons and Manoeuvre Mr Brook." She replied, " Lock weapons on remaining ships and fire."
The warlock's weapons fired in all directions. The spinning White Star expanded in a ball of light and then vanished. The remaining White Star seemed to be hit quite badly but turned away from its pursers and headed straight for the Warlock.
"I want that ship blown out of the sky now." She shouted.
There was a devastating volley of fire from the fighter squadrons and small hit followed small hit. But still the ship kept on coming. The Warlock fired a couple of its main batteries, clipping it. Then the fighters fired again. The White Star blew apart, showering the Warlock with a large amount of wreckage.
In retrospect, it seemed obvious to Ivanova. The white star's hull would have been readjusting to the Warlock's weapons, making it vulnerable to the fighter's armaments. The Warlock's lights dimmed.
"Damage Report." She asked.
"Engineering here. We've lost main power and we've got about ten minutes before we loose Auxiliary power. We've going to loose gravity, weapons and life support. "
"If we suit up. Can you fix it? "
"I could probably get life support back in a couple of hours." Brook replied
"Thank you. Mr Brook." She said, "Mr Davidson. I want emergency decompression procedure. Ship wide now."
"Aye, Ma'am. You first captain. " Replied Davidson, "I insist."
She was just about to head to the Suit Locker, when the speaker's blared out.
"We've just lost Coolant, the Reactor is overlo…" it cut off.
Ivanova felt her self being lifted up into the air. Davidson had just picked her up and thrown her in the bridge life pod. As she was recovering from that she heard the clunk of two items being thrown in as well and the sound of the life pod door closing. She staggered to her feet to see the door finally close and then was thrown back by the sudden acceleration of pod.
Thirty Seconds later the pods engines stopped firing. She felt the G-force lesson and she clambered her way to the viewport. She could see the warlock as a small dot in the distance. There were small lights that Ivanova guessed must be other escape pods or they could be shipboard fires. There was a sudden flash of light as the Warlock exploded.
Ivanova screamed in denial, as her ship was no more.