Episode 12

OWAS Vanguard, Florence Class Cruiser, Briefing Room

Fisher arrived to the Vanguard just in time. The directions on her glas were not the easiest to follow on the disorganized space station. She met the Admiral shortly after coming on board and accompanied him to the officers briefing. It was the standard affair, a few welcomes to new officers and duty assignments. Fisher learned that not only was she the new wing commander, but that she was the Vanguards first wing commander and it was her duty to review flight wing personnel records and establish her command. She was left longing for the cramped cockpit of the M50 scout she had been flying around. Little was said or told her about the equipment she had to work with, and questions about the hardware her wing would be flying we only answered with a large proud smile and “just wait and see”. After about ten minutes the briefing was over and the officers dismissed to their stations.

“Commander Fisher, one moment please” It was the Admiral using his typical official sounding tone of voice, although his face wore a smile.

“Yes, sir?” Fisher replied simply, unsure of what the Admiral was going to say.

“I must attend to getting us underway and organizing the fleet. I know you have a big task, but I trust that you will accomplish it. I would like to see us run a couple training missions en route to the jump point. Include yourself in the flying; you need to stay fresh and to bond with your crew. You are Dismissed.” The Admiral smiled and nodded his head approvingly and turned and marched hurriedly to the bridge. Fisher, now feeling the weight of her responsibilities settling onto her, went into the hallway and made her way to the hanger deck. As she walked the hallways of the cruiser she felt slight movement as the ship made way under power and the dampeners compensated. A gentle rumble was heard from the massive engines to the aft of the ship as they throttled up. There was no turning back. Her heart was pounding.

Fisher paused briefly before entering the hanger. Was she going to face a pile of rusted up pieces of flying debris with old used up pilots? Or worse, new, just learned to fly rookie pilots? She shook her head, regained composure, and strode through the door.

“Commander on deck!” A voice was heard. Soon others repeated the voice and the whole deck was standing at attention. Fisher looked around and saw the crew in clean uniforms and flight suits, largely grouped in the middle of the hanger. It was apparent most of her support staff was green, but some of the pilots looked like they may have experience. Many of them looked confused, as if they were waiting for orders but had none. Then, as she looked around the hanger, it was her turn to become stunned silent.

The ships! The beautiful ships! All of them brand new production, armed and ready to fly, and painted in the standard OWA scheme. Fisher took stock of what she had; Sixteen in total, fairly varied in types. There were two Gladiator fighter-bombers, two civilian Hornets configured to be near military spec, four Avengers configured for space combat roles, four 325a fighters with centerline mass drivers, and four M50’s configured for point defense. She thought it to be a flexible and effective mix of fighting craft. Fisher decided that she would fly one of the Hornets. She didn’t want to weaken any of the 4 ship flights, nor weaken the bombers, so she figured in a Hornet she could coordinate the fight and allow the rest of the wing to be most effective in their duties. Plus most of her training and flying experience was in a Hornet. As she was looking around, she became aware that the crew was waiting for instructions and still at attention. The only noise was the rumble of the engines echoing through the hull.

“At ease, everyone. Please, never stop working just because I enter the hanger. In combat a pause could be deadly. If I need everyone at attention I will let you know when the time comes. I am Commander Fisher, your wing commander. I look forward to working with each of you, and wish we had more time to get to know each other, but know that each of you will play an important role in the coming days. We are going to launch our first mission in thirty minutes. Right now I need all crew chiefs and flight operations commanders in the briefing room. In fifteen minutes I want all pilots ready to fly and in the briefing room for assignment and briefings. Dismissed!” Fisher spoke confidently although inside she was afraid. She was afraid of letting down the young men and women before her that have their very lives entrusted upon her. She watched in silence for a moment as the crew left hurriedly to attend to their duties.

***Thirty minutes later***

Fisher sat in the cockpit of her Hornet and watched the other flights take off. The cruisers flight deck was small and the arrangement of the craft on the deck slowed maneuvering for launch. They were averaging thirty seconds per launch. She wanted to get that time down to no more than five seconds, or that Vanguard would be a sitting duck. She made a note on her glas to meet with the flight operations commander after this flight and rearrange the deck for faster servicing and launch of craft. Although the biggest problem that the Florence class cruiser has is that it cannot launch and recover fighters at the same time as both take off and launches occur through the same single hanger door on the fore end of the ship. This was one of the reasons the UEE no longer uses this class of cruiser.

The fleet was starting to form up while en route to the jump point. Based on the initial reporting numbers, they were expecting the fleet to be headed by the Vanguard, with two destroyers, three frigates, six corvettes, four Constellations in space superiority configurations, four Starfarer tankers, and a total of fifty fighters between all of the ships. Not exactly a major fleet compared to what the UEE can amass, but it is all the OWA can spare and still protect their planets as well.

After nearly ten minutes it was Fisher’s turn to launch with just her and her wingman remaining in the hanger. She keyed the radio “Foxtrot flight, full scramble launch, full burn out of the hanger, stay on me.” She gave her systems a brief glance and moved the throttle forward to full afterburner position. The fighter accelerated out of the hanger with a loud roar. As the ship broke the atmosphere of the ship and went out into open space, suddenly everything quieted down and became smooth. She smiled as she verified that her wingman was still on her wing. She keyed the radio again “Foxtrot 1-1 to all flights, proceed with training orders. RTB in 30 minutes for debrief. Good luck”. 

The End

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