Subsubsection: 18 February 2018 (You call it the Apocalypse…) Up Subsection: HMS Javelin Subsubsection: 8 April 2018 (Big Lump of Evidence) 

4 March 2018 (And the Gnat Won’t Even Notice)

As part of the joint border task force arrangement, Morrish (after an intensive Russian course) is to visit aboard a Novaya Europan ship. The actual transfer is done aboard a civilian liner, so that nobody’s sending military ships through the Fletcher-Glushko jump point, but he’s taken off and welcomed aboard Bespokoyniy, a warship which looks not all that unlike Javelin in outline.
He’s welcomed by Senior Lieutenant Faussone, the “morale officer”, who happily explains that yes, this is an Administrative Police operation – at least the Administrative Police are paying for the VKF to put a ship out here, though the nearest member of that force is actually on the planet.
It’s slightly more cramped and with lower headroom than aboard Javelin, though learning to duck doesn’t take long. Captain-Lieutenant Kakuvkina is in charge, and gives him only a few seconds; he also meets Senior Lieutenant Lejeune (Gunnery), Senior Lieutenant Vadimov (Helm), and Junior Lieutenants Ibañez (Sensors), Davidov (Navigation) and Sobachnikov (EW and informatics, which seems to be a combined post). They’re definitely keeping up the federation idea, with Novaya Europan patches above country flags on the uniforms, but the vast majority of the country flags are Russian, and that’s the ship’s language.
There’s a series of engraved plates in the Mess, depicting other ships of this name – starting with wet-navy destroyers – which may be old enough to be original. Morrish realises what’s striking him as being wrong: the synthetic air smells just a little bit different from what the RN environmental systems put out.
There’s a pill dispenser at the Mess entrance - labelled with a serial number, but Morrish’s hosts explain that this is for sobriety pills, in case of emergency calls to duty. The RN has these available, of course, but generally you have to see the medics to get them.
Several of the enlisted men are proudly showing bruises, rather than having them covered over or quick-healed. Also, everyone’s wearing a striped vest under their uniforms, such that it can be seen.
Morrish chats with Lejeune and Vadimov, all of them trying to get more information than they give.
There’s a crash couch for Morrish on the bridge; the day-to-day business of the ship is very much as it is for Javelin, stopping and inspecting merchantmen. Once he’s settled in a bit, they invite him to come along and observe some inspections; and there are some differences. Looking over the Inevitable Triumph of the Collective, the inspection is very confrontational; the off-shift crew get involved as well as the Kospyekhi (Marines), and Morrish gets the feeling there’s some degree of competition and deal-making to get on this duty.
It also looks somewhat ritualised: a crewman goes into a berthing compartment and finds the Illicit Thing, which is in the standard place where Illicit Things are hidden, and is duly confiscated – and this ends the search of that compartment. The searches of the holds seem to be more genuine.
There’s also a captured pirate ship turned over from Fletcher, sent over with a passage crew; Kvantum Packet will be sent back to the yards to be cleaned up and sold to a new owner. The pirates may fall down the ladder on their way to the cells, but they do get turned over to civil justice on the planet rather than shot on the spot; Morrish keeps a close eye on the civil police, but he reckons that while they may be trying to look good for the visitor, they’re not simply putting on an act.
The senior enlisted seem to have substantial responsibilities, perhaps more than in the RN – though they also seem to have quite a few who’ve found their niche and stayed there.
A small privately-owned merchant, Sophia i Yekaterina, comes through from Lyulka with a minor antimatter irregularity, running on emergency life support. An engineering party is put aboard to see what can be done, while the five merchant crew come aboard Bespokoyniy. Everyone’s mildly suspicious, and Morrish is quite certain, that these people look remarkably at ease aboard a warship (perhaps they’re ex-military themselves); and they’re asking a lot of questions of their enlisted guides, not just the routine stuff but details of shifts and changeover times.
Vadimov gets the sergeant-at-arms to keep an eye on them, and alerts the captain; isolating them at this point would be a bit obvious, but she encourages the engineering crew to expedite repairs. Morrish chats with the visitors, who talk about the antimatter flow control failure during the jump; their engineer’s in sickbay. Their cargo is computers and components from the core sectors, and they’re planning to haul food around the local area for a bit – assuming they can get the repairs done.
The injured engineer is in need of a full system flush; it’s nothing that can’t be cured aboard ship, but with this technology that’s true of most injuries that aren’t immediately fatal.
Lejeune and Vadimov decide that being a little further away from the merchant might not be a bad idea; they conspire with the chief engineer to suggest this as a safety measure.
Another merchant, Bagration Bridge, is coming out of the system towards the Lyulka jump point; as a boarding party is being readied to go out, the sensors light up and Ibañez calls “neitriniy, neitriniy”. The merchant disintegrates, and a stack of six familiar-looking Dymka corvettes emerges from the wreckage, accelerating in different directions.
Bespokoyniy goes to battle stations. Morrish, working by something ancestral more than a conscious decision, calls on the nearest michman to “secure these men”.
Vadimov lines up on the cluster of ships before it can disperse effectively, and Lejeune fires a spread of laser-head missiles. There are some hits, knocking out a forward laser on one ship and an ECM emitter on the other.
The “merchant crew” are reacting quickly and fighting hand-to-hand. Morrish grabs one of them, and throws him into a bulkhead; he then uses his shocked victim as a club to strike another of them. The enemy really need to win quickly, before the crew get themselves in order, and it’s not happening; after about ten seconds of scuffle they’re subdued, with only minor wounds to the crew.
Vadimov goes in for a quick pass; Lejeune engages with the spinal laser and knocks out the enemy spinal weapon, also crippling the ship. The enemy fire is starting to become effective, and Bespokoyniy’s spinal laser is knocked out. Morrish makes his way through the ship to the bridge.
Vadimov continues with a close pass, and Lejeune fires a spread of antimatter missiles set for proximity detonation. As the hash clears, there are two enemy still fighting (one of them with reduced ECM), but Vadimov evades their fire and comes in for a close pass on the damaged one, Lejeune knocking out another laser with a missile.
The other survivor goes for a close pass, Vadimov manages to avoid the initial laser fire, but Lejeune misses with the tertiary battery. The next set of enemy fire is not all avoided, and things suddenly become very bright in Bespokoyniy’s control room. Vadimov and Lejeune are not hit, and Morrish’s suit keeps him alive, but Kakuvkina is not moving. Morrish goes to apply first aid, and realises there’s too much of her gone for resuscitation. The first officer is Faussone, and he seems to be in shock. The bridge is open to space, but the stunned reaction of the bridge crew is a more immediate problem.
Taking his career in his hands, Morrish takes command and starts issuing orders to damage control, helm and gunnery. The last opponent looks as if it’s trying to ram, but Vadimov is able to evade this, and a pair of proximity-fused antimatter missiles deal with him. Things quiet down.
Faussone carefully ignores Morrish and starts issuing orders for post-combat routine. Vadimov and Lejeune feel reasonably sure that this enemy are not pirates: they’re far too dedicated to victory, even at the cost of their own lives. The marines (“Kospyekh”, “Cosmic Infantry Soldiers,” or to Royal Marines “Posers”) are sent to recover the crew of the surviving crippled Dymka.
The pair who are recovered want “freedom for the border worlds” but pick up goods on the side. “Piracy-financed revolutionaries” seems to be the summary. Bespokoyniy’s electronic warfare officer reckons that the Dymkas’ EW systems were being used with their default patterns. Those are good, but experienced EW people know countermeasures. It suggests the revolutionaries had limited experience in operating their ships, that they were flying by the book rather than on the basis of experience and professionalism. That’s consistent with their performance, since they ought to have been able to take Bespokoyniy if they did it right. A better distraction would have helped, the one they had being a bit obvious. However, whoever was backing them won’t be getting a detailed report to refine their doctrine.
Examining the ship debris, the corvettes were nano-fabbed in the usual way, but there’s a definite lack of serial numbers. It looks as if someone has stolen the plans and run them through their own fabricator. That’s a significant task in its own right, needing big fabricators and shipyard facilities to assemble the craft.
When asked, Morrish says that this kind of attack with a bunch of corvettes hidden within a merchant hull that’s shattered to launch the attack has been seen in British space, but the distraction on board Bespokoyniy is new. They were operating as if they’d read the book, but not done simulator time, as if they lacked a proper academy training and the infrastructure to go with the hardware they were using. They may lack a senior naval officer to train them properly.
They didn’t use antimatter warheads, but their corvettes were armed exclusively with lasers. The correct tactics with that model are to swarm a larger ship, and they were able to start from fairly close.
The distraction party gave themselves away by being a little too comfortable aboard a warship. They need to be questioned carefully, but since Bespokoyniy does not have an expert interogator, they are separated for the journey back to the planet, and State Security are informed.
Morrish gets an interview with the morale officer, who is the acting captain, once Bespokoyniy is underway back to Glushko IV, to make a full and formal appology. Faussone’s response is “It’s what any officer should do!” although his body language is more along the lines of “I hope I never see you again, and we can all put this behind us.” Morrish is grateful, and mentally doubts that avoiding each other will be hard.
The liaison rotation will be ending early, since Bespokoyniy will not be active for a while. Morrish is given one of the blue-and-white striped vests (“Telnyashka”, which are a long-standing tradition of the Russian Navy), and is very pleased, since it’s a significant mark of acceptance. He leaves them his hat, since it is distinctive. Reports are written.
 Subsubsection: 18 February 2018 (You call it the Apocalypse…) Up Subsection: HMS Javelin Subsubsection: 8 April 2018 (Big Lump of Evidence)