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"Set speed to three quarters."
My mechanical ears picked up the captain's command and I increased the thrust. The ship's velocity slowly picked up. Around me the other ships that made up the battlegroup increased speed as well.
The 23rd Battlegroup, Forge Fleet, a.k.a. "Death From Afar" Squadron or "The D-FAS 23rd", was a unique formation in the Forge Fleet. It was comprised of 6 brand new Rokh BB-A class battleships with powerful 425mm railguns; 3 newly upgraded Ferox BC-D battlecruisers with the 6 pairings of 250mm railguns; 4 upgraded Moa CC-F cruisers with 5 pairings of 125mm railguns; 6 Merlin FF-C frigates for point defense; 2 Condor FI-A "Raptor" interceptors; and 1 Heron FC-B "Buzzard" covert ops frigate that we never saw except in port. We were a long range engagement battlegroup, warping into a combat zone at 100-150 kilometers from the targets and raining hybrid charge death upon them, warping out before we could be engaged ourselves. However, should an enemy get close enough to fight us, the antimatter firepower from the battleships and battlecruisers combined with the cruisers and frigates was more than enough to make all but the toughest enemy reconsider.
We weren't the first "sniper" battlegroup, but we were vastly outnumbered by the more traditional battlegroups based on Raven battleships and Ferox BCG-B battlecruisers with the missile launchers. As such the crew members of those groups tended to treat us with derision at every opportunity, and in turn we worked harder to prove our own superiority.
I was the pod pilot of one of the Ferox ships in the formation. I had spent my eight months in a Merlin frigate getting hands on experience on being a pod pilot in the navy. My captain was hard but fair and I learned quickly the difference of my prow from my keel as they say, and soon I was advancing through the ranks. My responsibilities of controlling the ship were monitored less and less by the bridge crew and my reliance on their oversight diminished as my confidence and ability grew. When I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander I spent a four month tour on a Moa CC-E cruiser as part of a squadron doing patrols in Lonetrek region. After a successful raid on a Guristas base in which I was responsible for 16 confirmed kills and 5 probables, I received a promotion to Commander and assignment to the SSN Iceheart Ferox battlecruiser which I was flying now.
The bridge crew on my ship was mostly made up of new young officers out of the academy getting their first taste of combat by watching and learning as I piloted the ship, or older officers nearing retirement getting in one last mission. At my rank I controlled all of the ship systems and they didn't have to do much except in emergencies. The captain was a seasoned old battleaxe named Morisain who was very comfortable providing the odd instruction and letting me do all the hard work like calculating transversal and targeting hostiles while maintaining battlegroup formation and following the Admiral's broadcasts from the flagship which was one of the other battlecruisers (back then, Rokhs didn't have the command deck that some carry now).
Not all hybrid trained pod pilots in the navy end up on the fast track to Rokh battleships. My friend Jace also spent two tours in a Merlin frigate but excelled at the high speed maneuvering tactics and was promoted into the advanced frigate program. He spent a tour in an advanced Condor variant, a FI-A "Raptor" interceptor, and more recently upon his own promotion to the rank of Commander he was assigned a Merlin FA-B "Harpy" frigate and is serving in the 47th Battlegroup Forge Fleet, a.k.a. "The Dark Tigers" Squadron which specializes in close range combat using hybrid blaster weaponry, a concept even more rare than the railgun vessels in the Navy.
Today our battlegroup was one of four preparing to destroy a hidden smuggler's stargate under construction in the Osaa system. If allowed to be completed it could be responsible for the transport of thousands of tons of narcotics and illegal weapons into the State from lawless space. The pirates knew they were outgunned and that the partially finished gate was a lost cause so they were scrambling to retreat with as much materiel and manpower as possible. Our job was to stop them.