After viewing the most recent contract, Wild Jim had some questions about its validity. First, why would the Crysolis attack a space station in an admittedly strategic location, when their attacks thus far had only involved taking mineral-rich worlds held by intelligent races like the Missec? Well, that, and when the Shengli activated its Interociter.
In addition, Jim noted that the Combine admiral in charge of this operation, Tans Owana, was noted in the Mohilar War for his ends-justify-the-means philosophy. Jim himself had processed a materials-diversion request from Owana which supported a somewhat questionable military objective, but left a defenseless balla colony without the means to gather and process food in a hostile environment, effectively sentencing them to starve.
Fortunately, the crew had upgraded the Earwig into a capable fighting machine; when the ship emerged from translight into a chaotic combat zone, they had a fraction of a second to respond to the mines at the corridor’s event horizon. Thinking fast, Vedeg managed to overwhelm the mines’ friend-or-foe sensors, causing the mines to draw in on and detonate upon one another while the Earwig flew through the center of the ring of explosions.
Deadbeef ran algorithms to label the dozens of sensor pings out on the battlefield: The crysolis fielded two enormous Geoshe-class warships in addition to swarms of Sharden scouts; the Combine group was led by the supercarrier McMillen, several cruisers and a destroyer group which included the CS Brian Hudd and the CS Noomi Grant. Irregular ships, like the Earwig and the Egggobbler, also fought on the side of the Combine for the defense of the Bleed, and, presumably, a paycheck. Gudun’s Wild Wild West was engaged with a Sharden, and Vedeg recognized the Baloney Factor 7, a Laser ship featuring Tutit, a tavak with whom he recalled an embarrassing history.
Deadbeef contacted Owana’s battlefleet VI for a situational analysis: the VI assigned the Earwig a specific Sharden to target, advising the crew to withdraw if damaged or overwhelmed, and to reestablish contact if they eliminated their target. Seeking more information, Deadbeef managed to push through the VI to a sentient contact, cybe Specialist Attributor aboard the McMillen. Vedeg spoke with Attributor, and with some wit, managed to pull from Attributor that the crysolis had appeared after the Noomi Grant fired a directed energy beam. Vedeg moved the Earwig to engage the targeted Sharden, while Deadbeef downloaded the McMillen’s sensor data from the Noomi Grant’s energy beam, discovering that it matched that of the interociter.
Their ship bristling in glistening modifications, the Earwig crew made short work of the Sharden, while Wild Jim studied the pattern of the battle as a whole. He quickly ascertained that the Geoshe were punching a hole in Combine formations to allow Sharden scouts access to a single group of destroyers: the Combine in turn appeared to be aware of this motivation, and continually reformed to protect the destroyers. Both the crysolis and Combine fleets appeared to be maneuvering around the Noomi Grant.
The crew began discussing their role in the continuing battle when Wild Jim’s sensor sweeps revealed a nearby translight corridor about to open: a detailed scan revealed that another wave of crysolis ships would soon burst forth and overwhelm the Combine’s flank. Deadbeef located a nearby cosmic string, and with Vedeg’s careful maneuvering and the ship’s repulsors, the crew managed to guide the string onto the corridor’s opening, effectively “barring” it for a time.