“Captain,” W’Tan spoke up levelly from the auxiliary command console while Barducci relayed the orders to fire up the subluminal engines and swiped the heading data across to San Genevieve.
“Commander?” Skelliglyph said in a theatrically indulgent tone.
“What are you doing?”
“Well we’re not ramming the ship, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Çrom said, as the A-Mod 400 surged forward. “We’d splatter ourselves all over the main Chrys hull, and obviously a modular ramming another modular is a no-win so we can’t go for that section.”
“The Black Honey Wings is hailing us again,” Segunda said, only his sheer, towering Molranity keeping the panic from his voice. “And their mini-whorl guns are ready to … oh. Stand by.”
Three of the four flounders went into the gun ports and exploded flatly, crippling the guns but doing no major structural damage. The fourth missed its mark but detonated on the hull nearby, skewing the Godfire cannon’s trajectory. The gun fired three rounds of deadly grey fire as the modular swept in, each one grazing the hull but not actually impacting. Then they were past the point at which either the damaged gun or the bulky starship could adjust to continue firing.
“Not bad, Brutan,” Skell complimented him. “Maybe I should have asked you to fire that toffee.”
The A-Mod 400 tore through the skeletal suppressor array like … well, similes weren’t really necessary. She tore through like an armoured modular flying through a relatively fragile series of composite support struts and field dampening emitter cables. That is to say, very easily indeed. If the Black Honey Wings‘s suppressor had been built in the normal way it would have been massive, a heavily-armoured dome capable of suppressing relative fields across half a solar system. A chief tool of AstroCorps and many official planetary authorities, the relative suppressor was a central and therefore usually-heavily-defended part of any police operation. Take it out, and you moved the battlefield out of subluminal crawl and into soft-space.
This suppressor, however, had been built in an oh-so-sneaky fold-out, fold-in manner, without any shielding, almost certainly because it was not an officially-sanctioned piece of equipment.
The elements of stealth and surprise came at the expense of durability. The Black Honey Wings‘s countermeasures and conventional guns would have been quite capable of taking out any ordnance fired in that direction short of Godfire, so technically the array was satisfactorily protected. The sensors around the rim of the suppressor dome would probably have even detected a salvo of lights-out flounder warheads. But none of these defences were any use against an impactor the size of a modular.
The larger ship nevertheless hammered at the A-Mod 400 furiously for the few seconds she was accelerating, the weaponry scorching her hull plates and even making a few holes in non-key areas of the upper decks. Barducci left it to his team to assign ables and drones to those damaged areas. They knew what to do. This wasn’t, as he’d told Captain Dool, their first rodeo.
At least this time they were ramming something fragile.
All he cared about at that point were the casualty reports as the ship took fire, and they seemed clear. No major damage, no injuries. They crashed out through the far side of the wrecked suppressor in a spray of shards and cables, one of their catcher arms getting exposed by a lucky shot and then torn out by an even luckier snag as they ripped merrily through the huge, delicate umbrella. Still, impact countermeasures were easily replaced and the arms were multiply-redundant.
They decelerated on the far side of the Black Honey Wings and Drago was already firing, fully-lit flounders and concussion mines this time, as well as bringing their own pair of big guns, Pater and Mater, out and ready. He noted with approval that Dool had ordered the four ports on this side of his ship open as well, probably while the A-Mod 400 was demolishing his suppressor. However – and also very much to the Noro’s credit – he was not firing them. The A-Mod 400 had not arced up her relative engines, and was clearly not preparing to flee. And she would still lose a face-to-face battle with the larger ship.
Well, Drago thought, as he surgically crippled the second bank of mini-whorl guns, call it a seventy-thirty chance, in their favour. The bent stretch of the Black Honey Wings‘s main hull, not to mention the modular grafted to the far end, still had numerous mini-whorl batteries capable of firing on them, and no way for him to even try to take them out until they opened.
Still, the A-Mod 400 wasn’t preparing to vanish into the grey, and so Dool’s evidently keen tactical mind had recognised that there was more going on here than he’d originally assumed. He was not about to wantonly destroy the little modular, and so Drago returned the courtesy by only doing minor superficial damage to the open ports. Immediate danger neutralised, and nothing that couldn’t be repaired … although the array was totalled.
He also fired a final round of charges back at the pulse mine he’d dropped on their way through the centre of the suppressor. The charges set off the pulse with a bright flash. Although there was no external sign, the mine would have taken out the main relative torus on the Chrys stem, since the fat ring just happened to surround the fixture from which the suppressor had unfolded. So unless they had a beefed-up engine in the modular at the other end of the starship, there was no way the secondary relative field could cover the entire vessel. The Black Honey Wings was dependent on the main drive for that.
Also quite easily-repaired, but for the moment their positions had neatly reversed – A-Mod 400 parked and ready, Black Honey Wings becalmed.
“Right,” Skelliglyph said pleasantly, “where were we?”
“Minor hull damage, one of the catchers got ripped out, Pater and Mater are online and the relative drive is operational,” Drago reported. “Enemy vessel has not activated any more mini-whorl guns and her primary relative drive is offline. Suppressor has been neutralised and the four open gun ports on this side, along with three on the far side, have been crippled. No other structural damage.”
“The Black Honey Wings is hailing us,” Segunda reminded everyone.
“Mister Segunda, please transmit our official AstroCorps mandate, mission tags and ident,” Skell ordered. “I did give the man a promise.”