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Hot Seat - A Reyna Hevn Story (Chapter 1)

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Hot Seat - A Reyna Hevn Story (Chapter 1)

PostMon Mar 13, 2017 10:38 pm

Setareh Reyna Hevn walked across the hangar to her Star Athena fighter. Ducking under the wing, she handed her helmet to Tech-II Remi, the assigned maintenance chief for Reyna’s dual. With quick, efficient movements the pre-flight check was completed visually and electronically thru an exterior clip port. Glancing at her dual, Ostovar Kornet Ansgar, they exchanged horizontal hand chops to signal full readiness.

Walking towards the boarding ladder Reyna allowed her gloved fingers to trace the graceful lines of the fighter. The Athena model was modular as most PHR systems. The Star Athena was the space version of the normal atmospheric version. Most modifications were hidden as they were electronic or software related. The most obvious difference was the power pack – specialized engines, a reaction mass tank, and the uncapping of thruster ports marked this as a predator of space.

Climbing in she settled into the currently rigid and uncomfortable seat. Toggling the main power brought the fighter alive. As if waking up the bird shuddered during engine spin-up while the cockpit lit up as screens became active. All was accompanied by the familiar background noises of chimes, beeps, chuckles and the soft words of the onboard AI.

Once the AI confirmed the aircraft was combat ready Reyna accessed the clip port. Touching a spot below her left mastoid connected her wirelessly to the AI. Instantly screens and telltale lights changed to adhere to her control preferences. Even the seat morphed into a firm yet comfortable cradle around her body. Taking the helmet from Remi she locked it into place causing small screens to appear along the top and sides of the visor.

Reyna patiently waited until her dual was also brought into launch position. A quick mental command ran the engines up to 110% power, confirmed weapon safeties off, and provided a final check of critical systems. The AI calmly stated “Optimal” for each check followed by the launch count.

At zero the fighter leaped forward down the short launch tube under AI control. Clearing the hull of the Andromeda-class escort carrier she banked towards the strike carriers heading from high orbit to atmosphere. Her squadrons assignment was to escort the strike carriers until they entered atmosphere where the carrier protection became atmospheric Athena’s mission.

Reyna did not have to look to confirm her dual was on her wing. If Kornet was not within a certain distance the AI would have informed her. Glancing to the side of her visor she let her eyes drag the long range scanner overlay onto the visor. So far everything was clear with all the makings of a clean drop, thank the Sphere.

As they formed up around the carrier they were escorting she murmured an “On station” to the query of the flight commander. Passing into low-orbit they mirrored the movement of the strike carrier as it evaded a piece of debris. “Just a few more minutes” Reyna mused before the atmospheric hand-off occurred.

A sharp chime sounded in her helmet. She picked up the movement at the same time as the AI stated “Ionosphere- Upwell- Matrix Negative Eleven”. Something had been hiding in the space/atmosphere interface – a dangerous maneuver if not an atmospheric capable craft. Upwell meant the contact was moving up into space while the Matrix told her whatever was coming was below her front right quarter.

Her coms exploded as the covering ships in high orbit began to maneuver to better target the inbound enemy. Her long range overlay updated as the superior scanners of the covering ships identified the inbounds. UCM Toulon frigate’s – three of them- not normally a significant threat except they planned the ambush well Reyna grudgingly admitted. Silent running while ionosphere skimming coupled with an incompetent PHR commander who did not see the need to send heavier ships into low orbit. This had the hallmarks of a massacre.

The flight commander’s voice issued orders in a clipped tone. The flight readjusted into a defensive formation as the strike carriers looped around heading towards the Toulon’s at speed. While the overall PHR commander was inept, the commander of the strike package was not. Realizing they could not outrun the guns of a Toulon their best hope of survival was to advance to close action range.

Reyna and her dual were now in constant communication. Targeting priorities, sectors of fire, and screening patterns to protect their charge were constantly updated. Swiping aside the long-range overlay she replaced it with the tactical one. To her surprise one of the Toulon’s was not only damaged but radiating an energy spike.

She quickly realized it must have hit atmosphere during the ionosphere skim! Friction damaged the ship while simultaneously heating it up. The increased heat absorbed by the hull now caused the ships signature to bloom. A fact not lost on the PHR ships in high orbit that chose that moment to fire.

With disgust, Reyna realized the commander ordered all ships to fire on the wounded UCM frigate as it was an easy target. Instead of spreading the fire in the hopes of crippling another of the enemy the damaged Toulon disintegrated under three times the firepower needed for its destruction. Now it was the Toulon’s turn.

Bright flashes winked from their main guns. Agonizing seconds passed until the first of the mass driver rounds began to impact one of the strike carriers. The targeted carrier buckled as immense holes appeared along its side. Crippled it began a slow descent towards the planet and a fiery death as its engines failed.

Ripping her eyes from the carriers destruction Reyna gripped her controls as they came within close action range. The commander of the strike carriers was not inept as the three remaining carriers opened fire on the lead frigate. The only chance of survival was to destroy by mass fire another of the enemy ships.

A swarm of mosquito drones surrounded the closest frigate. While point defense systems destroyed many of them, multiple hits landed. The frigate appeared badly damaged with one main gun mangled, but the other swung towards one carrier. The rear Toulon also took a few hits from the PHR fleet which had begun to drop into low orbit.

“Now here it comes” Reyna muttered.

The UCM frigates main guns all trained on the lead carrier, Reyna’s carrier, scoring only two hits. Air vented from the breach but the carrier still appeared combat capable. The close action weapons then all fired in an attempt to finish her off.

An orange ripple appeared on the Toulon’s sides as they both launched a salvo of Barracuda missiles. The AI discriminated the missiles that would miss from those that would not. The carrier’s defense system quickly shredded the inbound missiles but enough remained to present a threat. Reyna's flight moved to intercept the remainder as the carrier defense systems began to reload.

Coordinated movements, a deadly and desperate ballet of fire from the escort fighters, began to take its toll on the inbound missiles. However, in the end four of the deadly weapons broke through the screen. With grim determination, Reyna flipped her fighter around ignoring the query from her dual. Giving the AI a command override she pushed her engines to the red or 122% of combat power.

The first two missiles were shot down in quick order. The third took precious time to get within range – a range so close that her missed shots were sparking off the carrier sides in the distance. She maintained her speed while sending a continuous stream of fire at the remaining Barracuda. This created a cacophony of tones and urgent AI warnings – weapons overheating, an engine pushed beyond maximum on the edge of explosion, and collision as her windscreen filled with the side of the carrier.

Tens of meters from the carrier she splashed the final missile. This was instantly followed by the mental command of eject. Her cockpit separated from the Star Athena as its onboard thruster sent her in the opposite direction of the last known threat – the collision. She was still facing the carrier when milliseconds after her eject command the fighter was destroyed on impact.

She thanked the Sphere for the technology allowing mental commands. The time required to have physically moved her hands from the controls to a mechanical eject system would have been her death.

Kornet’s calm voice came through her com system. Her beacon was being received with a recovery ship being launched to retrieve her. Looking over her shoulder she could just make out the last Toulon breaking apart under the weight of PHR broadsides. Com chatter indicated the strike carriers were now being passed to atmospheric control forces.

“About time – their problem now” she stated.

All characters and settings are copyright Michael Buonagurio. No use of any character or setting is authorized. All rights reserved ©2020.

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