“What’s the situation?” Ophelia asked. She and Lucy arrived on the Bridge where Kat, Leon and Yuri were on duty.
“We are being approached by two large ships,” Yuri answered. “They have deployed fighters, a dozen in total. Their weapons are fully armed.”
“No demands or communications,” Kat stated. “I tried hailing them, but they wouldn’t respond. No identifying markings of any kind.”
“So, we kill the pirate bastards,” Leon said.
“They will be within weapons range in two minutes, fifteen seconds,” Yuri stated.
“All right,” Ophelia said. “Kat, Leon, grab Farah and Allison and sortie. Lucy, take the weapons. I’ll do the flying. Yuri, keep monitoring and apprising us of any possible openings and of the situation out in space.” Ophelia slid into her chair and activated the intercom. “Paul, the fighters are preparing to launch. Be ready for the possibility of wounded. Grace, I want you to keep our shields and weapons working. If we take enough hits that you need help, call and we’ll send Yuri.”
“Keep in close formation out there,” Kat said. “We’re outnumbered three to one. Our best shot is to work as a team and hit them too hard and fast for them to respond properly.”
“Outnumbered and with no one to rely on but each other,” Allison said. “Yeah, sounds like a typical Cerberus mission.”
“We’ll manage like we always do,” Leon said.
“Like always,” Farah echoed.
The Healer, Nebula, Wyvern & Simurgh launched. quickly taking formation and going to meet the opposing fighters.
The fighter battle was more difficult than they’d anticipated. Allison managed to bring one down early on, but the remaining eleven quickly consolidated their forces. The Cerberus’ fighters were forced to pull away to avoid getting trapped in. The enemy fighters responded by splitting in two and trying to catch them in a pincer movement.
The Cerberus wasn’t faring much better. Every time Lucy got some hits off of one of the enemy ships, the second made its move, covering its comrade while its shields got repaired and forcing the Cerberus away.
“These guys are good, for a bunch of pirates,” Ophelia muttered.
“I’m not sure they are pirates,” Lucy stated. “Their movements are too coordinated. Plus, there’s nothing for a pirate to gain by destroying us. They’d try and cripple us to claim everything of value, including the Cerberus. These guys are shooting to kill. Sharply turn left.”
“I saw it,” Ophelia said. “So, who do you think they are?”
“The ship designs seem to be Alliance,” Lucy stated. “Possibly Special Forces.”
“What motives would the Alliance have to try and destroy us?” Yuri inquired.
Lucy shook her head. “Revenge for the experimental weapon we destroyed, possibly. Possibly a surgical strike against an akumillian ship with a crew of former Alliance operative. Possibly part of a larger campaign striking akumillian ships indiscriminately. I’ll figure it out if their records survive this.”
“Nice to see you’re confident in our chances,” Ophelia said.
“I know this crew. And their plan won’t work if we can bring the fighters against them,” Lucy said. “Act like you’re strategically withdrawing to get them to follow you… here.” She sent the coordinates to Ophelia. “If I’m right, they’ll guess what you’re trying to do and be hesitant to follow. That’ll be our opening.”
“What is the contingency plan in the event that they call your bluff?” Yuri asked.
“I’ll think of something,” Lucy answered.
“Not to alarm anyone,” Allison said. “But they’re coming really close to catching us.”
“We need to stand and fight!” Leon declared.
“We need a plan,” Kat corrected.
“You got one, Oh Fearless Squad Leader?” Allison asked.
“Not yet,” Kat admitted. “For now, keep firing and retreating. If we can take a few more of them out of the fight, we may turn it around.”
“They are hesitating,” Yuri reported.
“Good, they know my reputation,” Lucy said. “Sweetheart, buzz past the fighters, very quickly and then turn about and return to catch these guys pursuing us.”
“Just don’t miss,” Ophelia said. “Here we go!”
The Cerberus moved at close to top speed, strafing by one of the clusters of enemy fighters. Lucy opened fire as they moved, decimating their ranks. The Cerberus moved back to face the larger threats.
The Cerberus fighters wasted no time. They moved into the decimated enemy half, finishing them off.
“Five to go,” Kat said. “Let’s light them up!”
“Is it prudent to allow Allison and the others to engage the larger ships?” Yuri asked. “Will they not be vulnerable?”
“Possibly,” Lucy said. “But we’ll mitigate the risk by having them go after a weakened one. Once they’re done, we’ll unload on one of these guys. When its partner moves to get in our way, they’ll strike at the weakened one.”
“They’d also have to be s good of shots as Lucy to easily hit a small fighter,” Ophelia said. “Not bloody likely.”
“Captain!” Yuri’s voice was raised. “One of our fighters has been hit. It is… the Nebula.”
“Ophelia,” Kat’s voice came in. “I’m towing the Nebula back. I think Allison’s hurt.”
“I’m on my way to the bay,” Paul’s voice said.
“Yuri, take over on weapons,” Lucy ordered. “Lay some strong covering fire. We’ll need to be still for a short period while we receive the Nebula. I’ll go down and assist Paul.”
“I understand,” Yuri stated. She grabbed Lucy’s arm and looked her directly in the eyes. “Allison will be repaired?”
“We’ll do everything we can for her,” Lucy answered.