Commander Lilian Shawcross needed to pace, and she didn't have the room.
Like all of the Diomedes corvettes, the Roma was a ship of compromises. They had been born out of the ashes of a decimated fleet, in the aftermath of a brutal war, during a time when the philosophies and motivators of war were changing. The GTVA didn't know what to do about the Shivans. They could barely hold their disintegrating power structure together. Forged in the early days of the fleet refits, a half dozen melded and counterproductive design ideologies catering to a dozen demands posed by what remained of the Brass resulted in a chimera of a vessel.
Her design brief had called for a rapid strike vessel with staying power able to operate in deep space and co-ordinated fleet actions. Thick armour, but overstuffed and febrile guts. Her guns and lancers put too much demand on her underspecced heatsinks, so when the lancers opened up, the ship glowed like a minor planet in a sunbeam. She had legs too - the drive motivator was for a ship half her tonnage again,but also ran hot. Her reactors could probably perform fusion on mud bricks, but were finicky Vasudan designs and Vasudan engine techs were a privilege, not a right. To make matters worse, she was pregnant too. A full squadron hung like old Earth bats through her sole cavernous space.
Something had to give somewhere. The Roma, a Block 1 original, was a product of a military industrial complex which was desperate to defend itself, bereft of ideas and terrified of the dark. With her stuffed, overdesigned guts, the Roma gave ground in the only place she could.
The outfitters had done their best with the CO's quarters, given the space. The shelves were tidy, the bed was high quality. They even found space for the traditional hard spirit cabinet, but what she didn't have was space. After five years, Shawcross didn't mind so much most of the time. IRF deployments were six months in, three months out, and life was always interesting aboard an IRF Diomedes. Either the Zoners kept you busy, or the ship herself did. The Roma had been mostly tamed long ago in the way all Diomedes crews eventually had to, given the sheer design spread of the various Blocks and refits. As one of the oldest, and an active participant in the Pacification campaigns, she'd earned herself a few battlescars and her share of honour.
Some days though, she was a Block 1 Diomedes operating a month beyond the Petrarch, in semi mapped space with no military grade traffic oversight systems. Today was one of those days.
It wasn't the done thing for a Commander to show concern in front of the crew, but with the Roma being her usual overstuffed self, the only place Shawcross could vent her concern was in the privacy of her cabin. There wasn;t enough damned space. She cast another baleful eye to the report on her screen.
Code Black. The first in nearly eight years.
The Red Zones were home to almost two billion people, living outside of the controlled and policed Blue Zones beyond the massively fortified Petrarch nodes. Independent salvagers, pirates, hauliers, freighters, mercenaries and stations making a living selling goods and provisions. Finally, the Red Dippers - morally apathetic GTVA corporations taking advantage of the unregulated environment to engage in what could be charitably described as worker unfriendly business practices. They had spread over a dozen systems or more, sometimes beyond even GTVI's ability to track them. The Brass weren't willing to put up the infrastructure. They had the Sol Gate project ongoing in Delta Serpentis, and who knew how well that was going. Shawcross had heard rumours of odd transmissions from Sol, but nothing concrete, and the Brass were quick to quash rumours. Developing beyond the Petrarches had become political suicide - if we expanded too far, would we encounter the Shivans again?
The GTVA hid inside its walled garden, and left the Red Zones to fend for themselves. The IRF sorted out damaging squabbles, and waved the Silver Zeta for what little good it did, but the IRF mobilised for Code Blacks. No one know how much Shivan tech still remained salvagable, or active. Barely anyone knew how to control Shivtech, and the sole example had been destroyed decades before. Even there, concerning reports about what went on within the Hades had spooked GTVI for decades, and the result was an operations status known as Code Black.
She stopped pacing. Enough with the stress. Time to do her job.
"Incomms, XO", she announced, to the stuffy air.
It took a moment for the familiar robotic tones of her XO's vocoder to reply. "Commander."
"Khal. Get the Major, his guest, Hill and our acting CAG to Conference at 13:00 VST. As of now we are operating at Condition Black."
There was another a longer pause. Gears were turning. "I understand. XO, out."
A flick of a wrist brought up what passed for a system map of their operations theatre. Scattered settlements nested in ruined planetary belts. Major corp presence in the closely nested dense material field. Solar collectors sun side. A lot of mining operations - it was an old star, in the wake of an old supernova. Heavy export traffic. No habitable planets. A workers hell. Six days to get across the system safely. Three if they winged it. Not advisable in a system filled with dense debris belts around an old flare star. Could end up becoming heavy elements to fuse in its waning core. Fortunately, they had a few leads to work with.
Unfortunately, the nearest IRF reinforcements were two weeks away. If they had a genuine Code Black, it could vanish into nothingness in some corporate lab and sit there being inert, or it could become an outbreak and threaten the Petrarch. No one really knew, because they were working with hypotheticals.
A Block 1 Diomedes, her attendant patrol cruiser, a Rapid Jump Ship, 12 fighters against an entire system full of civilians on a Code Black.
Her pilots were going to have to roll the hardest sixes of their lives.
Doing two things atm. One - I'll parse through and organise these stories into their own thread which will be fun - I enjoy writing, and I enjoy editing my old writing to make it more interesting. Secondly, I'm writing a campaign based on the last few stories here, involving the aforementioned Code Black incident. Planning 8 missions. Minimal mod requirements, mostly renamed Blue Planet elements with the remnants of some of the game design I originally planned for Ephesus. As much as I enjoyed writing new mechanics and so on, I'm intending to prove to myself I can deliver a minimalist, stylish experience focusing on tightly scripted missions, and to actually complete something for a change.
It follows the 425th Iron Divers, the GTCv Roma and the GTPC Capellan Melody as they battle to confiscate and destroy highly dangerous Shivan technological contraband far from help.