An act of pure recklessness gave Constellation just enough of turn radius to avoid the targeting computers of the slashing little vessel chasing her. Flynn’s ship had only done part of her job, and now that she was out of her carefully balanced position just below the firing horizon of her ground targets, the missile destroyer was serving as a fine target for enemies on the ground and in space.
However, being so close to the atmosphere did give Flynn’s ship some advantages, and the captain made use of one of those advantages as he skipped back across the atmosphere towards a polar orbit. Constellation’s electronic warfare systems did a better-than-average job of lighting up what parts of the available magnetic field could be ionized, and did an even better job of energizing what was left. The storm of visible light, electromagnetic interference and radio noise was just enough to get the heavier ship some distance.
“Weapons fire!” Flynn’s tactical officer did his best not to snarl in response to the swift barrage of energy fire that scattered high over his ship’s evasive course.
“Prep countermeasures!” Flynn barked. “Helm, reverse your turn. Two one mark five. Six zero flank port-side high-energy dive!”
The captain was taking full advantage of the fact Constellation, despite her firepower, was still a destroyer, and could still cut and thrust with agile little opponents if called upon. The missile escort fell out of her course and rocketed into Bayone Three’s exosphere. Her unidentified opponent raced over the magnetic perimeter, banking inwards and trying to close the angle before Flynn could make a run for deep space.
“Spin up starboard kinetics ten through fifteen! Prep targeting systems to go active on my mark!” Constellation’s bridge crew worked furiously to aim their ship’s sprint missiles before they came roaring out of the planet’s magnetic interference envelope. By now they had lost active contact with Aztec Two One, but the tactical officer had a pretty good idea where the smaller attacker was headed.
Constellation screamed out of the exosphere, and her electronic warfare systems burned through the planet’s magnetic interference along her lateral starboard weapons array. Aztec Two One was out of position, but not by much. Flynn saw his chance.
“Hard a-larboard! Forty degree roll! Fire as she bears!”
The destroyer twisted to port, throwing all power to engines as her drive field glowed white. Wave after wave of deadly kinetic missiles slashed out of her quarter launchers and howled through space. Aztec Two One performed an almost supernatural diving spin to avoid the first barrage and came up on Constellation just as her reinforced ventral shields went active. Two of the sprint birds’ warheads popped off across the smaller ship’s engine cowling as it pounded Constellation with short range energy fire. A third impact tore the port armor off the little ship’s leading edge. The destroyer absorbed three solid impacts before swerving out of the smaller ship’s firing envelope. Flynn’s enemy began trailing plasma. It banked away, avoiding five more of Constellation’s birds with an overbled deceleration maneuver. A few moments later, Flynn’s tactical section concluded the vessel was disengaging.
“Never got enough of a clean shot,” Flynn muttered.
“I think it’s likely they’ll be back, sir. We’re going to want to be ready.”
Raising hell in a planet’s magnetic field was a lot like pouring chocolate sauce on the tablecloth. You made your mark, but it was going to be a while before you can have guests over for casserole night again. Try as he might, during the entire engagement, Constellation’s tactical officer was unable to get even a two point lock on their pursuer.
“Sarn–?” Flynn asked.
“Unknown, sir. If I had to guess, I’d say Yersian.”
“Another Yersian ship in orbit?” Flynn asked rhetorically. “Wonder if they brought more riflecutters...”
“We can break orbit and backtrack them from a high approach,” Flynn’s pilot offered.
“That would be a good plan, pilot, as long as I was sure there were no other ships on approach with them. Yersians seem to have no problem operating solo, but bouncing around near the atmosphere like this just hems in all my best tricks.”
“We’re not prepped for this, and if we pop up on the wrong angle, we’re going to get carved up by those Cecrops ground units,” the tactical officer added.
“Keep us in that polar vortex and below Komanov’s horizon,” Flynn ordered. “Play dead, dammit.” The captain got up and moved towards the deck one lifts. His officers could tell he was not satisfied with the missed opportunity, and he was even less satisfied with the fact he couldn’t operate effectively without more firepower.