Ismaly had been waiting, watching the Shepherd callsign as they sat just out of range. Four M50's had just launched, she ignored them, focusing on the red symbols on her radar. They were evenly matched, at least in terms of hardware; Ismaly had no trust or faith in her two wingmen. She didn't know them at all, but from the brief moments she'd spent with them they seemed unsure of themselves, weak and timid personalities that coasted through the Academy on intellect alone; not a speck of true skill.
A female voice crackled over the comms, “What're you waiting for?”
It was Shepherd Bravo's lead. Sarah “Flack” Deans, a veteran and skilled pilot. If Ismaly weren't so arrogant, she might have actually been afraid. “Waiting on you.” She said, her voice stern and proud.
Sarah smiled, she could almost feel the misplaced self-assuredness in her opponents voice. “Good luck.” She said, closing the channel and opening comms with her wingmen. “Gemini, Dirk pick your targets, leave the Princess for me.”
With their acknowledgement, Sarah throttled forward slightly and then manually burned port thrusters to start into a drift, always training her weapons on her prey.
Ismaly keyed her mic. “Try not to get tagged too quickly, I'll need time to deal with her cronies. Just remember, wait for them to fire first. Let them burn some energy, if you can actually hit them their shields will be weaker after firing a volley.” Her wingmen didn't reply, but they did lock targets as Ismaly's display showed her. She reversed and punched ventral thrusters to come into a high angle of attack, putting Flack's wingmen between the two of them.
“Clever.” Sarah thought, adjusting her thrust to get a clear line of site.
No one had fired a single shot yet, space was still and silent as the Hornets postured, circling each other like rabid dogs.
Several hundred kilometers away, Mathew's flight caught the first glimpse of the M50's. Their flight paths were perpendicular to that of the couriers, an ideal angle of attack.
“They don't expect to be fired on.” Mathew said, “So don't open up until all our weapon systems are in range. I want this to be quick and painless. Report when you're in range.”
Mathew watched as the blips on his radar became visible specks through the canopy. Their engines, a dull blue hue. They didn't break, they didn't even come over comms, they simply continued on their path. “Don't shoot the messenger.” Mathew said out loud.
“What?” Jon asked, unsure of what he heard over comms.
Mathew shook his head. “Nothing. On my mark ... light 'em up.”
Bolts showered from the three Hornets as they came down on the unsuspecting M50's. Red and blue particle beams slicing through the shields to impact on to the M50's hull, leaving dark soot as they dissipated into a cloud of sparks. Mathew watched as the holographic representation of his missiles flew toward their targets, penetrating the damaged shields to explode on the hull; though no missiles were actually fired from his weapons bay.
The power levels of the weapons had been severely lowered for simulation, but the vibrations in the cockpit and the sight of weapons fire still felt very real as they watched the low yield simulation shielding of the M50's collapse, followed by their engines flickering out to the muted glow of hot metal. The two craft drifted helplessly through space, never having seen the attack coming.