***Twelve Hours Later, Bridge of OWAS Vanguard, Halcyon System***
“Sir, all fighter wings are onboard and ready for us to make the jump to Elysium” Fisher dryly provided the status report to the Admiral. She was starting to feel apprehensive about this next jump, as if a thousand butterflies were fluttering in her stomach.
“Thank you Commander. You have done a good job getting everyone ready in a short time, and your decision to intercept that probe may prove crucial in the coming hours.” Admiral McKenzie, saw the look of doubt on Commander Fisher’s face. He knew the praise would mean little right now, she is likely still likely in relative shock regarding the events of the last couple weeks. Going from an Imperial combat pilot to seeing innocents slaughtered, followed by becoming a renegade, then covert scout, and now a fighter wing commander, is such a nearly unfathomable challenge for anyone. Yet she has adapted and performed exceedingly well. “What is the word from the M50 scouts you sent to Elysium?”
“They reported a lot of radio traffic and that the UEES Artemis is now parked at a space service dock. They believe it is getting a retrofit external reactor to allow the ship to fly under its own power to return to Earth. Their scans also showed the UEES Centurion parked in orbit nearby with its thrusters being serviced. It likely over stressed them towing the Artemis through the jump point.” Fisher paused briefly to collect her thoughts, before she could resume the Admiral questioned her more.
“Any word from the OWAS Helios? Any word regarding the crew that escape the Artemis? I would like to strangle that son of….” The Admirals eyes narrowed as he thought of the disobedient and arrogant commander of that Idris corvette. Before finishing his thought he was interrupted by Fisher.
“Sir, intel from the probe we captured indicates that his foolishness might actually be to our benefit. Franklin and O’Brian have convinced him to go along with a plan that will severely delay both Shaw and Malachi and may raise the morale of those who lost friends and family on the freighter Shaw destroyed. Of course, the destruction of the Artemis may upset the Empire, but there might be some opportunity here to expose the corruption inside of the Empire and get them to focus within instead of looking to come after the Alliance. We do know that their simultaneous jump went smoothly and that they headed towards the asteroid belt after their jump. Our scouts indicated that a pair of fighters is en-route to the asteroid belt to investigate what they believe to be a single large ship. According to the plans uploaded to the probe, the Helios will break from the asteroid belt about the time we jump in system. Based on some jump point activity on the far jump point we believe the Empire has a reinforcement fleet in system, but we did not want to risk detection so limited scans to long range sensors only.” Fisher was feeling the weight of her new command now. There very well could be a fleet action between the Alliance and the Empire in a matter of hours and at the same time an Idris corvette and a small group of fighters will be making an attempt to engage a carrier and a destroyer, and on that corvette was O’Brian. She patted her side pocket where she started carrying a picture of him. Her thoughts started to wonder off to her infatuation with this man she has barely even met when the Admiral noticing the pause spoke up.
“Very well Commander. We are jumping in ten minutes. Have all flight crews ready to launch and their flight plans uploaded to their craft by then. The fleet is going to move under three-quarter power to a high orbit around Elysium III. You are clear to engage only to protect the fleet and the Helios. No offensive actions. You are dismissed. Good luck and God-speed.” The Admiral gave Fisher a smile and then saluted. Fisher returned the salute and marched away towards the flight deck. As Fisher departed Admiral McKenzie turned towards the bridge window and stared off into space, deep in thought. In just a few hours the fates of more than just this fleet would be decided, but the fates of entire worlds could be decided. Would these worlds retain their independence and liberty? Or would they end up subjected to the overbearing and overreaching government of taxation and false freedom that was the United Empire of Earth?