June 13th, 2307 SET. Planet 2244 FB0 Engagement Zone.
Immediate threat detected, four Stead-class fighters, one o’clock low, Rainbow’s automated target system flashed on the HUD. Rainbow flicked a few switches and pulled her fighter into a tight roll, putting the enemy fighters directly into her sights. She flicked another switch that highlighted the enemy fighters in her view screen and sent the information to the rest of her squadron, “Four tangos at my twelve, follow me in. Don’t let them past us!”
“Roger that, we got yer’ back!” Applejack’s voice boomed through the headset. Rainbow just clicked her response and then sped forward.
The enemies were rather oblivious to the five incoming fighters since they were focused on dodging the Midnight Dream’s deadly barrage. Rainbow’s targeting system tracked the nearest two, only to have one wiped away by the gunning crew. The other three had turned to retreat after seeing their comrade fall, but Rainbow had no intention of letting them escape. She hovered her craft’s targeting piper over the nearest fighter for a split seconded before unleashing her own deadly stream of blue lasers. The lethal light collided with the right wing of the fighter, tearing it to shreds. The pilot had panicked and had thrown the fighter into an uncontrollable roll. A final volley put the ship down.
Warning: New threats detected Angel-class bombers with attack vectors set on Midnight Dream. Tagged as high priority targets. Rainbow stared at the screen and almost spat with disapproval. Lucky bastards, she aimed the thought at the two retreating fighters that were now out of range. She sent the message to the other four ships under her command and pulled the squadron into a loop that had them under the belly of the Midnight Dream. Rainbow’s HUD had three deep red arrows pointing to the left, pinging the inbound bombers. “Pick your target and go, stick to your wingpony,” she said through her headset. The four fighters split off from behind her and went after their target. She had set her eyes on the middle bomber and allowed it to fly directly into her sights. More blue death leapt from the two cannons on the tip of her wings, slamming into the canopy. The bomber’s gunner didn’t have time to focus his gun on her, the ship burst into flames which were quickly extinguished by the oxygen-void space. She eyed her HUD again and the other two bombers were both removed from sight. No immediate threats detected.
Rainbow let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and she felt her heart pounding in her chest. She looked around and pulled up her squadron’s vital signs. Other than elevated heart rates much like her own, nothing was out of place. “Form up, everyone okay?”
“Skips and I are a’okay!” Applejack cheered. Two of the other pilots had checked in okay as well.
“Uh, Commander? This is Sticks, uh... Tin and I are alright, but our ship took some heat from that bomber,” came an unsure voice.
“What’s wrong, pilot?” Asked Rainbow.
“I’m getting some resistance in the stick; she doesn’t want to turn much.”
“Bring it home then, a crippled pony is a dead one. Let the techs’ have a look at it.”
“Yes ma’am, sorry about this.”
“No need pilot, we’re all okay for now. Mark that up as a victory,” Rainbow added, trying to offer her support.
“Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am!” The pony yelled excitedly about hearing of the small victory. Rainbow watched out the side of the canopy as the fighter flew back up into the belly of the ship. Okay, they’re safe... Rainbow thought coolly. She looked down at her radar to try and get a grasp on what was going on. While at close range, her radar was working properly, anything out past ten. km was a blur. Somethings jamming us. Rainbow looked around her through the canopy. Off in the distance she could see capital ships slugging it out while the smaller craft would move to pick off the fighters.
“Rainbow? What’s goin’ on?” Applejack asked.
“I have no idea, my radar isn’t working,” Rainbow replied fretfully. She pinged her comm unit, opening up a link to the Midnight Dream. “Midnight Dream, this is Bolt, what’s going on?”
At first there was static but then the Captain’s deep voice pierced the noise, “Bolt, this is Midnight Dream. We’ve got no idea what is going on, radar and radio are out. We can only penetrate the static a short range, they’re jamming us.”
I’m aware of that, “Captain, what are our orders?” Rainbow was getting impatient, she wanted to fight.
A pause in the conversation was filled with static before she heard the Captain’s voice once more, “We need to move closer to the fleet. If anything large decides to come after us, well, let’s just say we wouldn’t be here for very long.”
“Roger,” Rainbow replied. She keyed over to the inter-squadron channel, “Cottonball, Sweets, gimme’ a sit rep, how you guys holding up?”
Cottonball was first to reply, “We’re all good on our end, got some burn marks but nothing serious.”
“Bubs and Wings took a shot hard to the engines. They’re alive but had to go back to the Dream,” replied a nervous Sweet Tart. Rainbow heard the tension in her voice.
“Sweets, they’re alive, it’s all we can ask for, now pull your squadron together. We’re gonna’ escort the Dream to the rest of the New Equestrian fleet. Form up around her and we’ll take this nice and easy,” Rainbow said as soothingly as she could, which wasn’t much based on the fact that they were in a live combat zone. The three squadrons pulled up close to the Midnight Dream; trying to get as close to her protective lasers as possible.
While Rainbow’s radar wouldn’t work past a short range, she should see the carnage from this distance. The two large fleets were mixed in with each other, turning the combat zone into a free-for-all. She watched an SS destroyer lash out at three Pegasi frigates, only to be swarmed by the frigates’ defenders and mauled by the frigates’ primary weapons. Three pulse cannons fired at the destroyer, each shot dealing more damage than the last. The third shot made the ship explode into tiny fragments, leaving twisted metal where a large ship was not moments ago. In revenge, one of the newer SS capital ships lumbered out of the heat of battle long enough to fire one of its pulse rounds at the three frigates. The shot tore through the hull of one of the ships. The capital ship fired a barrage of missiles at the stricken ship, putting it out for good. The other two frigates had fired their main weapons and had retreated towards friendlier space. While one shot missed completely, the other smashed into the thick hull of the enemy ship, but too little effect. The ship turned back to the fray to trade blows with another challenger. This is chaos!
A large green light appeared behind the NESC fleet as three more ships had appeared out of slipspace. Rainbow’s heart leapt for joy when she saw what they were. Three Luna-class super carriers had just entered the battle. The Luna-class carrier was the biggest ship in the NESC arsenal. It boasted twelve hangar bays, each capable of holding three squadrons of lancer wings each, an astonishing 108 fighters per carrier. The three carriers were quick to display such power as over 300 fighters departed from their monstrous escort and quickly and powerfully disappeared into the raging struggle. Almost as soon as the wall of fighters hit the cluster of ships, explosions could be seen. To complement the Luna carrier’s fighter bays, it also had a single docking bay in the belly, large enough to hold a destroyer. Its purpose was to act as a mobile docking bay for repairs and refitting. The carrier’s weapons were what put the ship over all of the rest. Armed with the latest weaponry, the super carriers were armed with a dual rail cannons, each one capable of launching four-hundred ton projectiles at speeds of twenty km per second. The carrier furthest to the right was quick to demonstrate this power as an enemy frigate had ventured too close to the trio and was split clean in two. Armed with twenty missile bays and a staggering one hundred and twenty point-defense laser turrets scattered across the ship, it was believed that there was nothing that could go head to head with a Luna-class super carrier. Being so big and powerful however, was expensive. There were only six of them in existence, and three of them were always stationed at Solstice. She assumed that three that had just jumped in-system belonged to the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th fleets.
At the sight of the super carriers, a large portion of the SS fleet had begun to move away. Four of the SS capital ships had decided to challenge the new threats. Out for glory, eh? Good luck boys, you’ll need it, Rainbow thought with a smirk on her face. She knew that the design for the Luna carriers was a closely guarded secret and, other than knowing what weapons they boasted, Rainbow guess that the SS had no information on the carriers’ armor. The four enemy ships all opened up at once on the nearest carrier. The gargantuan ship took each blow, not moving or retaliating. Rainbow watched one of the shots from the four capital ships hit the armor, but then bounced off. While the other three managed to land successfully, they were rewarded with nothing but burn marks. The carrier remained immobile for a moment, as if daring them to strike again. The SS ships responded with a heavy volley of missiles, but to no avail. The point defense lasers picked each one off before they got remotely close to hitting the carrier. The carrier turned slightly and unleashed its fury. The dual rounds from the rail cannon smashed into the nearest ship, tearing a hole from one end to the other. It sat there, motionless and lifeless. At the sight of their fallen comrade, the three remaining ships opened up with all they had, but achieved near nothing. The magical armor of the carrier deflected or absorbed most of the energy rounds and the defense turrets destroyed nearly every single missile. While some managed to get through the screen of lasers, they dealt little damage. The carrier turned slightly again and lost two more shots into the next capital ship, except this time the ship erupted into fire and shrapnel. The last two had turned and retreated, but not before taking heat from other NESC ships in the local area.
After witnessing the events unfold, the Midnight Dream and her defenders had almost reached the safe zone near the carriers. They were about a hundred kilometers away when a large swarm of SS fighters engaged them. Rainbow had been so lost in the events that had just occurred that she hadn’t noticed her HUD warn her about the incoming pilots. It was after the alarm sounded did she realize what was happening. “Rainbow, let’s go!” Applejack’s voice buzzed in her ear.
Rainbow shook her head to clear the distractions in her mind and turned to fight. Her targeting system registered twenty enemy fighters. Twenty trained pilots against thirteen somewhat trained pilots and their escort frigate, here we go! Rainbow threw her fighter into a tight roll and found herself trailing two fighters. She let the targeting system track the fighter nearest to her and let the lasers fly. They sliced up the side of the enemy fighter, cutting power to one of the engines. She fired another stream of lasers, ending the ship for good. The other had begun to loop and roll, trying to get away from the ace pilot behind it. Gonna’ have to do better than that! Rainbow waited a moment before unloading on the fighter. The ship looped itself right into the stream of death, exploding on the spot.
Then her ship’s damage alert start wailing. She felt the ship rattle from damage and she quickly spun her head to see what was chasing her. Two fighters had her number and were dead set on getting revenge for their fallen members. Rainbow looped and dodged but she could not shake her pursuers. “Uh... little help!” Rainbow yelled out of desperation.
“Don’t worry Rainbow Dash! I got your back!” Sounded a young feminine voice. The voice sounded familiar to Rainbow, but she couldn’t tell from where. On her short range radar, she watched as a green dot appeared behind the two red ones chasing her. She turned her head to watch with her own eyes; a single ship drop in behind the two enemies. The red laser fire shot forward from the two cannons in the nose of the Stead-class fighter and tore one of the pursuers to pieces. The other quickly rolled out of the way, but the colonist pilot had no issues keeping up with it. The red light winked out on the radar and in its place was the green dot.
“Thanks pilot,” Rainbow panted, letting the fear leave her body. The radar indicated that the ship had belonged to a pony with the callsign of “Crush.” The friendly ship pulled up close to Rainbow and held the formation tight. “I owe you one Crush.”
“Don’t worry about it!” The young voice said. “Looks like we won the battle.”
Rainbow checked her HUD. The enemy fighters that had attacked them not moments ago had their numbers whittled down from twenty to seven in mere minutes. They had turned tail and ran; another victory for Rainbow and her pilots. She had also noted that not a single colonist had been shot down. Two more had to retreat into the Midnight Dream, but there had yet to be casualties. Rainbow let out a sigh of relief when she had seen that statistic. She cast a glance back out across the larger battlefield ahead of her. The two sides had broken off from each other and had fallen back to regroup. Seeing this forced another sigh from Rainbow. Her pilots wouldn’t have to be involved with something like that yet. The radio crackled to life, “Bolt, this is Midnight Dream. All threats have either been neutralized or have retreated, you are clear for docking.”
“Roger that, Sir,” Rainbow replied. She relayed the order to the three squadrons. “All fighters are cleared for docking. Good work everypony, you all fought hard and well, and that's all I could have asked for! I’ll see you on board, and remember this; first rounds of cider is on me!” A chorus of cheers erupted from the radio, and this drew a smile on Rainbow’s face. “Crush, follow me in. I’m gonna’ see to your drink personally.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Replied the enthused voice.
As Rainbow crawled out of her cockpit, she pulled the helmet off and took in a deep breath of air. She flung the helmet into her chair in the ship and trotted down the ladder. She was looking forward to getting out of her flight suit to stretch her wings, but not before meeting this Crush. The fighter that Crush had been piloting had sat down next to her and the canopy sprung open. The first pony down the ladder was the navigator, who quickly shot Rainbow a salute before heading do the flight crew’s deck. The pilot jumped out of the pilot with her helmet still on. The young pony hit the deck and held a salute. With the pony’s helmet still polarized, Rainbow couldn’t see through the visor. “Take your helmet off, then salute me,” Rainbow said with a smirk.
“Yes ma’am, sorry ma’am.” The pony reached up and twisted the helmet off. The mare's purple mane fell out and standing in front of a shocked and horrified Rainbow, dressed in a flight suit, stood Scootaloo.
As the two factions began to retreat from the battle to lick their wounds, a single ship that held its position on the edge of the battlefield refused to budge in either direction. It might be worth noting that this ship did not have the markings of the NESC nor the SS. She bore a different symbol than the Sun of the Equestrians and the Void of the Shadows. It was an eagle, its talons clutched around a weapon. Its hull was painted a dark blue color, not like that of the capital ships of the NESC; it was a darker blue, almost black. Its design was nothing like that of Pony design. Its design was not like the two-pronged ships of the ponies either. It was shaped more like an elongated triangle instead with no clear display of energy weapons. The ship had very few lights on it, excluding the engines, and the flashing bay doors that were slowly retrieving its compliment of small craft. The most disturbing fact about this ship, however, was its inability to be picked up on radar while still being able to function. For any stealth ship in the pony arsenal, it required a stealth generator along with cloaking and even then it would have to remain motionless. But this ship moved slightly, slowly drifting to retrieve its tiny offspring. Its darkness against the blackness of sky also put it out of view of all but the keenest sighted ponies, and even then they would have had to have been looking for it. The ship had picked up the last of its small vessels and turned away, disappearing as silently as it came, flashing out-system with only a blink of light.