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Strategos (A Great Captain Roberts Tale!!)

Chapter 23 - The Maypole (part One)

"Mister Samuel, adjust our course again, toward the gas giant. I want a slingshot course, go up to one-point-two-five gravities for the next forty minutes."

"Forty minutes?"

"I want him to think he can catch up…and I don't want my crew to be exhausted while he's thinking it."

"Mooning them?" Larry scoffed.

"It worked, right?" She settled into her couch. "As long as they're wound up. They'll make bad decisions or dumb ones, either works for me…besides, we have to keep this guy stressed for three days without giving him the decisive engagement he wants."

It's simplicity itself-the harder their opponent was burning to catch up, the harder he'll have to burn to keep up with her course changes.

{Get the enemy to do STUPID things? That's our strategy?} Desmond noted.

Yeah, Desmond, get them to do dumb things, like burning up lots of fuel and time at high gravity, only to slip their fingers a few times while staying tantalizingly out of reach. "Exhausted crew don't do their jobs well," she muttered aloud.

"Incoming message from the…

…Evanescent Captain." David was letting his main prisoner stew while the prize crew were boarding their captured jumpship.

"What format?" he asked his Comms officer. Lynn Hatumoko was an Outworlds native, one of the few 'staff officers' aboard who weren't Clan born, though she passed the examinations for HPG training and her second shift alternate was a Tech Caste whose 'second place' position had more to do with lacking a gift for languages than lacking technical expertise.

"HPG, compressed text and files…they're in trouble, sir."

"My station," Foster said, bringing the flat render display out of its position in the arm-rest of the Commander's Couch.

Trouble? Oh yeah…

"Savashri…Well, we know who owns it. Recall our marines and secure for movement orders. Engineering, are we charged up on the battery installation?"


"Okay, we are one jump from Johnson, and one of our brother vessels is in a bad situation and outmatched. The opponent in particular also out matches us in terms of raw firepower," he explained. "We are going to render aid and backup to the Evanescent. I want all duty sections ready and secure for combat in six hours time. Helm, start plotting the jump, we're going to angle for the L1 between the Johnson Colony, and that damn gas giant it orbits, but I want three other solutions ready before the end of the hour, to position us at the best location to actually be useful in assisting our brother vessel."

"How are we going to do this one, Sir?"

David leaned back, "In pressure suits, running zero bars, we'll be able to tank up again after the fight, but I expect we will take fire, and I am not inclined to die from it."

"Aye, sir. What about the prisoner?"

"Transfer her to the Prize ship under guard, I'm not going to haul someone who's of no immediate use to me into combat, and I don't want the bitch trying to escape. We will let the Watch officer at NorthSun deal with her tribunal and punishment…and send her over in a beach ball."

"Aye, sir."

He began reviewing the strategic posture and the system charts for Johnson, paying close attention to Roberts' effective 'non plan'.

At least the girl writes coherent reports. "Well… Kappa is due in three days, out there we do not want them bumping into an Essex II that is fully mission capable. That helps there…" he started working on his own battle plan.

So she is planning to wear them out and stress them with evasions, we can certainly exploit that… "Send back to Evanescent, let them know our intent, request updates."

"Aye, Sir."

He had the beginnings of an idea of his own, based on her intended game of chicken in the gas-giant's shadow. Emerge at the right point and they won't see us until it's too late. Foster began a slow smile he hadn't had in decades.

This was going to be fun.

"Incoming signal from…

…OWS Illusive, Captain!" Lori announced.

Amanda sighed, they'd just spent forty minutes at one and a quarter Gs. "What's the word?"

"Six hours from timestamp and they intend to be in the system, they're requesting updates on our situation and the disposition of the enemy vessel."

"Do it. Every thirty minutes until they're go, or we're too busy to talk. We'll shift to five minute updates in the last half hour before they're due to jump."

"Aye, Skipper. Sending update now."

"It would be so cool if we had a big picture window like the ships in the holodramas do," Amanda commented.

"It would be a hole in the armor." Larry quipped.

"Yeah, but we're diving for close-orbit on a gas giant, that's gotta be a spectacular view," she said.

"Accel's steady, you've got boots, the enemy isn't in missile or cannon range yet…" he suggested. "Feel like taking a walk, Ma'am?"

"Who'll mind the store?"

"Sam can handle it, let's go take in the sights." he said with a crooked grin.

"Yah, let's."

Bart had a damn…

…prime mover truck on his chest. "Status?" he demanded.

"They are still on a parabolic burn for the gas giant, maybe going for the Lagrange at the closest moon?"

"Could be…" he struggled to breathe and regretted not spending more time flying fighter missions. "Time to intercept?"

"Six Hours, thirteen minutes at present vector and acceleration to turnover, we'll have to start braking thrust if you want clean targeting solutions."

"Okay… kee..keep it…updated." ****** this hurt. "CAG coordinate with Helm… I want fighters to shorten that distance! Be ready to load and launch during turnover!"

They took the very Nose service lock...

…leading to a docking plate that, under one gee thrust, was a platform. Amanda hadn't really been ON that platform since she took the Evanescent out of the drydock the first time, and never while under thrust.

"Look up," Larry said, and she looked up.

The grand vista was filled with the looming face of the gas giant, banded with storm systems bigger than worlds, and wild combinations of brilliant color. It looked almost like they were diving into it.


"Yeah, I always love a good pink sky." Larry said. "Sometimes I just wonder what we're doing, never coming out to really look at the sky like this. It puts things into a kind of perspective. One you don't get from a screen."

"It's…beautiful," She agreed.

"Majestic," he asserted.

She could barely see the flicker of the gas giant's ring, in profile.

She enjoyed the view for a moment, then another…

A moment of the cosmic perspective.

All our struggles seem so small…

{Amanda, those struggles are immediate. We have six hours to prepare for the enemy's interception based on HIS acceleration and ours.}

"Desmond, don't be a spoilsport." she muttered, then sighed, "Time to go back to work."

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