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[FT] The Long Journey Home (AAR) Part 3/6

From: Beth Fulton <beth.fulton@m...>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 10:18:58 +1000
Subject: [FT] The Long Journey Home (AAR) Part 3/6


	Now Marie was carrying Intendant Zidane back to Earth, back to
inevitable inquiries and diplomatic negotiations. A unified alliance was
his idea and now he had to save it, again. That was why Marie had agreed
the assignment. She knew Zidane had to meld the whole sorry lot back
together before they lost the arse of their trousers and the Kra'Vak
capitalised upon their disunity all the way to Earth. She also knew it
wouldn't be easy. The FSE and ESU were still nominally allies and the
Solar War had never officially ended. She expected reprisals to occur at
anytime. Furthermore, the 'Intersentient Offensive' couldn't spare many
vessels, not even to save the political will which had set it in motion.
The taskforce she'd chosen for the job was an unusual mix, but she knew
each of the Captains well, they were all experienced and sharp, more
importantly she knew she could trust them. Sforza, the son of a close
friend, commanded the Ibiza class frigate, VFE Ribas, while his elder
brother was in charge of a Milan class escort cruiser, the VFE Veneto.
Hernando Pizzarro captained the Suffren class light cruiser VFE Gravina,
had been her third officer on her first command. Her nephew Collot
commanded the Trieste class heavy destroyer VFE De La Vega and the
carrier VFE Clemenceau was headed by her cherished mentor Louis
The ships were all of older classes, classes she had fought beside many
times during the course of her career. She was not as enamoured as
with the new monster ships being commissioned by the L'Astromarine, in
opinion they were overrated and yet to prove themselves. She knew
claimed they had corrected the weaknesses which had lead to two of the
gargantuan Jeanne D'Arcs being destroyed by the NSL at Neu Bremen, yet
still distrusted the neoteric designs and much preferred their
the Picasso CVAs and Chirac DNs, which were long tested and didn't call
undue attention to themselves.
	The taskforce was currently sub-lighting across the edge of the
system, making good time to their next jump point. The Gravina, De La
and Ribas were out in front, the Clemenceau was keeping pace to the
Richelieu's starboard and the Veneto was to the rear. Marie had them
running under high alert. Until recently this system had been under NAC
control, now it nominally belonged to the NARC, yet another of those NAC
breakaway groups - Marie was often at a loss to understand how the NAC
survived at all, with colonies erratically dropping in and out of the
confederation. Nevertheless the NAC remained an power of awesome
and even though Marie did not expect to see any official RNS activity
this system's isolated aspect seemed to make it a tempting site for an
opportunistic, or retaliatory, strike by an infant power keen to appease
its parent state.

	As the ships cleared the debris cloud that marked the rim of the
Marie was called to the bridge, her officers had detected a number of
emission signatures heading their way. They were on a bearing of 60
to them and if they were warships they could potentially be within
range in less than 15 minutes. 
"Nerais, whose are they?" Marie inquired, lowering herself into her
her gut tightening. Though she was prepared for action and was not shy
what may be to come, right now she had to be cautious, get some idea of
what they were facing. She had anticipated a strike from some
human quarter, but before she reacted she had to be sure she hadn't
actually stumbled upon a Kra'Vak incursion. Words spoken and orders
to abate one situation would only inflame the other. After thirty-two
of military service, seventeen years of command and a million years of
evolution Marie instinctively knew that to remove uncertainty was to
"Can't say which power, but they're definitely human Admiral" came the
sensor officer Armand Nerais' studied reply as he turned to Marie,
subconsciously supporting his statement with a nod of his head.
"Good, I want to know when they sneeze." Marie shot back. Her
easing, an uncertainty removed.
	Marie instructed her communications officer to put out a wide
band hail
stating their identities and current UNSC mission. Whoever those
belonged to, she wanted them to know what they were facing, she didn't
to leave any room for misunderstandings. Marie realised that the
that these FSE ships currently flew under the UNSC flag may just stay a
potential attacker's hand, though behind these clinical thoughts a
cynical, war hardened voice warned that it probably wouldn't.
	Suddenly the sensor boards lit up as if they were a part of some
earthbound fairground attraction. "Admiral, they've gone active." Nerais
calmly stated as he shifted round to focus his attention on some more
detailed readings.
"Fire control?" Marie asked with icy calm.
"Yes, Admiral. I'd say they're attempting a targeting solution."
"Hail them again. Make it VERY clear what our mission is and who we've
on board. Helm roll so they can see our silhouette, I don't want them
claiming they thought we were Kra'Vak at the end of all this." Marie
such a manoeuvre would increase the chance of a targeting lock on them.
its edge like that her Richelieu would have an even bigger sensor return
than those blasted NSL monstrosities with those huge fins of theirs.
However the NSL's heavy armour meant they could face down the results of
weapons lock with some confidence, a luxury she didn't share. She knew
was putting her ship in danger, but she was obliged to remove every
opportunity for doubt. She had to make sure who ever attacked her
claim that they'd made a mistake. Then as they were in some surreal
the air was split by a series of klaxons and staccato reports.
"They're not responding to the hails Admiral."
"They've increased speed and are powering up."
"They have weapons lock Admiral."

>>>>>> CONTINUED IN PART 4 >>>>>>>

Elizabeth Fulton
c/o CSIRO Division of Marine Research
GPO Box 1538
Phone (03) 6232 5018 International +61 3 6232 5018
Fax (03) 6232 5199 International +61 3 6232 5199


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