Running the Shadows: Chapter Two, First Fight
“This isn't right,” said the red-haired young woman, her hands on her hips. “It's not --”
“Mind your place, Cadet.” Their instructor said quickly, then turned a slight smile on the young woman. “You'll have your chance to speak.”
Annika had heard a lot about Captain Keldorn Firecam from the other cadets; he seemed to be on object of respect among them. He could be harsh when the situation demanded, but he was even-handed, and compassionate. Which was more then she could say for the strange small gnome who tried to instruct her in computer engineering. Imoen was right, he was totally insane. She had gotten lost after the first few moments, but he hadn't seemed to notice, prattling on with technical terms that she didn't understand, all the while halfway underneath what looked like a monstrous ball of wiring, computer memory, and fibre-cable. At least it hadn't blown up.
The other cadet snapped her mouth shut in the middle of her comment. “Yes sir.”
Curious, Annika leaned in to study the holographic battle display, that sat, frozen for the moment, in the centre of the room, with four cadets surrounding it. They had gathered the various cadets into groups of four, and this was to simply determine how each of them would react, to various tactical situations, how they thought when it came to strategy. It was mock battles, run solely from three central control rooms. Each team of Cadets was expected to run their mock fleet as best they could. The fictional scenario, a planet that was under blockade by a rival terrorist force, seemed to have struck a nerve with the red-headed cadet..
Opposite Annika, the last cadet in their group of four, who she suspected was several years older then herself, stared into the hologram. His brown eyes scanned the ships quickly, and he would occasionally reach up and touch one of the ships, expanding it so he could see crew compliment, weaponry, armour, and other statistics.
Imoen simply stared at the hologram, her brown eyes glancing from one ship to the next.. “Wicked.” She finally announced, tilting her head to stare at it some more. “This is so neat! It's way better then the cheap holo-signs, huh?”
Trying to focus and actually think, Annika nodded. “I suppose,” she said absently, taking a cue from the brown-haired boy, and reaching up to touch a frozen blue dot that symbolized one of their teams ships. It expanded into a wire-frame diagram of the ship, showing a small ship with twin laser beams. Notes underneath claimed it as a Wraith-class scoutship, with a four-person crew, a laser comm system, and advanced sensor beams. Not what she wanted.
“Arn't you listening, Anni?” Imoen asked, breaking off mid word. Annika just nodded, reaching out to touch another ship.
The brown haired boy looked up at her through the hologram. “They've put us in a Delta formation.” He pointed up to a bunch of blue dots that looked fine to her mind. “I don't think we can actually fight through the rebel lines.” He pointed to the mass of red dots that circled the planet, a number of small fighter-ships, and laser mines. “We've got to draw some of their ships out, otherwise we'll be taking concentrated fire from the mines.” She frowned at him, confused. “Don't you know anything?” he asked, “those are Empire mines. They communicate back and forth, and ten or twenty of them pick the same target.” He mimed an explosion with his hands.
“Hey! Look!” The red-head blurted out,. “The sim's started!” She sat back into her chair, staring at the blue dots that surrounded her head. “Uh . . .”
Imoen, who was still staring at the holo, started. “They communicate?”
All three of them turned toward her. “What?” The boy asked.
“The mines,” Imoen said. “They communicate? How?”
He scrunched up his face. “Through a high-frequency pulse-radio setup.” Annika had half been hoping he wouldn't know.
“Can't we just jam them?” Imoen asked, with the air of someone asking the obvious. She was obviously proud of herself.
“No,” he said, staring at her. “They shift frequencies.”
Annika stared at the sim, the mess of moving dots. There was a cluster of red dots moving toward a cluster of blue. She touched one of the red dots, and it came up as a picket-ship and a handful of one-man fighters.
“What are you -- “ the boy began. Ignoring him, she touched some of the blue dots, and sent some of their own ships forward. “Good.” He said. “Intercept them before they reach the command ship. He touched a dot that was a unit of the one-man fighters, and sent it to intercept.
Imoen, however, was not deterred. “But can't we jam all frequencies?”
“We'd be jamming ourselves.” The boy said with scorn, hand hovering over a second group of fighters.
“Well, we have to get rid of the mines somehow,” said the red-head, frowning at the holo. “There are people down there, we can't let the terrorists keep the barricade up much longer.” Imoen was now investigating the specifics of a small corvette. Annika glanced at the knot of blue and red fighters. No problems there, the blue dots were rapidly outnumbering the red.
“It's just a sim,” the boy said, “no one's really there. Remember?” He uttered the last as if speaking to a young child.
The red-head stiffened up, her indignation plain. “Hey! I --”
“Got it!” Cried Imoen. Annika jerked her hand out of the holo.
“Got what?” she asked. The boy rolled his eyes. Imoen just gave them both a lop-sided grin and started issuing orders to a group of scoutships that had so far stood apart from the battle.
Running the Shadows: Chapter Two. First Fight
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