It is time for our attack. Arrax abruptly sat upright on his meditation bed. He could still feel his regenerative hum reverberating through his body. His meditation period was over, and he felt more refreshed than he had in many meditation periods. It was as if once he had made the decision to attack, all of his worries had been lifted from him.
He spun out of bed and floated to the floor. Once he was low enough to gain positive positional control, he leaned forward and sped through his silently opening door. He had one more strand of the web to weave; one more ploy that he hoped would further deceive the Seltorians and lure them into combat.
Moments later, the bridge doors opened as he sped through them. He moved to his command chair, smoothly sliding in as his prime officer, Commander 1st Dal Xitrin, slid out of it. The officer was an old friend of Arrax's. They had served with each other for thirty years.
Arrax listened as Xitrin gave him a standard briefing that confirmed that the FCR and the two supply patrol boats had left the fleet as ordered to resupply their cargo holds. The remaining Fi-Con had gone with them, to pick up spare fighters. Xitrin then verified that the DNS group was fully combat ready, and reported that Major Zira had confirmed the approximate position of the Seltorian area control ship group. All was set. Arrax flicked the switch that connected him to engineering.
"Commander 2nd Tarann, we need to make the Seltorians believe we are someone we are not. Reduce warp generated so that our signature will match that of a CWV please."
"Yes, Commodore. I will also balance power requirements throughout the ship. It will be a strain on environmental conditions for the crew, though."
"It should not be for long, Tarann. As soon as the traitors get close enough, we'll bring full power back up and watch them try to run." Arrax flicked the intercom switch off and settled back to wait for the trap to spring.
Sand among the Stars turned to look at the sensor officer. The lieutenant was practically buzzing with excitement.
"Go ahead, Lieutenant."
"I have found the target. Long range sensors show a group of four ships. The two largest warp signatures are consistent with that of a Tholian war cruiser class ship. The two smaller ones are corvette class."
"So, do we have the Swarm Master and its escorts within our grasp? Or is it really the Guardian?" He shrugged his shoulders, antennae bobbing gently with the motion. "It does not matter. We will be victorious either way. Now is the time to rend and crush them. Helm, plot an intercept course. Communications, order the hangar bay to start launching the fighters, all of them. When we get to within strike range, I want to be able to destroy the Tholians with one quick and decisive blow before any possible reinforcements can arrive."
Sand among the Stars pulled an antenna down and rubbed it gently. The time for planning was over. Now was the time for action.
"Commodore, we are approaching the point where the Seltorian will be able to detect our true size, despite our lowered warp signature."
Arrax bobbed up and down slightly in acknowledgement. Then he turned his attention back to the tactical situation. If it were not for their superior sensors, he thought, I would play this game a little longer, the better to draw them into the web. But let us see if we have played it long enough.
"Tarann, bring the engines to full power." He switched the intercom off after the engineering officer had acknowledged his order, then turned to the rest of his bridge crew and began issuing a stream of orders. The approach phase of the battle had begun.
"Communications, send an order to our escorts. Target the lead escort destroyer and begin firing phasers. Weapons, target the same ship and fire all phasers that are in range." He flicked his intercom switch to another preset position. "Launch Control, release two gunboats from their mech-links and have them take up station below us. Also launch two more fighters for patrol." No need to launch more than that at this time.
He leaned back in his chair to wait, point firmly grounded. The next move is up to them.
A sudden burst of clicks and taps pulled Sand among the Stars out of his reverie.
"Confirm your report." He waited while the Sage consulted the panel that controlled his sensors. The Sage turned to his commander, antenna trembling with excitement.
"It is true, Flight Admiral. The enemy warship has just increased power! The ship is indeed the space control ship as you suspected! It has just released two gunboats."
Sand among the Stars forced himself to remain calm, despite the feeling of unease - and excitement - that suddenly gripped him. It is easier to think about harvesting the sandspider than actually harvesting it.
His years of experience prevailed and he pushed the uneasiness away. They were facing one of the pygmy dreadnoughts that were the biggest ships the Tholians of this galaxy could manufacture. While formidable, they were not nearly as fearsome as the dreadnoughts the Tholians had brought against his race in the Home Galaxy. Those were "real" dreadnoughts and those dreadnoughts were defeated by our might.
He began to issue orders. Even though his ACS was no match for the enemy dreadnought, his total force actually outgunned the opposing fleet at this range. He also did not need his special sensors at this range, so he was free to fire the heavy phasers of his flagship without fear of blinding them. But once they got closer, he would need the sensors to help control drones as his fighters and Zerhaks tried to overwhelm the enemy defenses. Undoubtedly, he would have to launch his multi-role shuttle to help control drones also. That would also enable each of his ships to launch shuttles configured as drone launch platforms. Orders to prepare those had been given hours ago.
A few seconds later, he saw the enemy ships open fire, milliseconds before his group did. As expected, because of the distance, most of the weapons missed, but enough of his fleet's weapons hit the enemy corvette that he could see the forward shield sparkle with the results of their fire.
It is going to be a glorious day.
Arrax brightened in anticipation. The Seltorians had taken the bait, as he suspected they would. They are so predictable. Their hate, no doubt driven by the shame of their treason, made them predictable.
Xitrin focused on the range. If he ordered the gunboats to launch too early, they would be vulnerable to damage during the approach phase. If he waited too long, they might not be able to accelerate to attack speed in time to make a difference. But he had done this before. Finally, he judged the range was correct. He opened his intercom.
The hangar bay was a hive of activity. Oceans of the Moon could not help but be amazed at how smoothly everything was running. The combat patrol had already been beefed up from two fighters to four, and now the rest of the strike fighters were launching from one end of the hangar. It was the first time he had observed an all-out effort by the carrier, at least that he remembered. He smiled to himself. It had probably happened while he was a Ram, and his mind had been on other things at the time. He looked around again, marveling at how so many things could be going on at one time without an accident happening.
Karlos Ghunterian watched as the rest of his squadron popped out of the bowels of the Seltorian carrier. He had been on combat patrol with three other Z-YCs when the launch order had been issued. Now it seemed to take an interminable amount of time for the rest of his squadron to launch. Finally they all were out and began forming up on his wing. As they finished forming up, the last Zerhak popped out of the ACS and the Z-HBs formed up behind his squadron of fighters.
The four Seltorians worked at a frenetic pace. Two of them were Sages, and each Sage was assisted by an Expert. They worked directly for the ship's weapons officer, and were stationed in the weapons compartment. They would be some of the busiest Seltorians in this battle, and spent their duty days in constant combat drills to hone their speed and accuracy. Their clicks and chirps filled the air of the compartment as they did their duty.
Firnx was tense. The flotilla had lost their commander in the raid against the picket. Because Firnx was an experienced commander, he had been promoted from his Fi-Con to command the flotilla. They had been ordered to keep themselves between Guardian and the enemy, the better to help defend it from the massive swarm of drones the Seltorians were sure to launch.