After two days of contra grav FTL travel, the entire crew of His Majesty's Ship Wolfhound was sick of their special passenger. The Wolfhound had been the first ship available and now it was carrying New Coventry's ambassador to the system of Xanadu to negotiate with the government in power there. Unfortunately, the Wolfhound was a hunter class destroyer and had no space for passengers. As a result, the Executive officer was berthing with the ship’s fighter units second in command, and the ambassador was given the executive officers quarters. While the executive officers cabin was small, it was one of only two private cabins on the ship and while small, like all the quarters on the ship including the captain's quarters, it was a luxury. This did not stop the ambassador from constantly complaining about the cramped quarters and the food and other amenities on the ship. The captain ended up having to deal with him far to often and even though she was of an exalted birth, did not complain about her conditions. The ship was finally approaching its destination and in slightly less than four hours their passenger would disembark and hopefully be well rid of.

Standing beside her command chair and watching the bridge crew studiously go through their duties, was the captain of the ship, Lieutenant Commander Terry Cindy Mayfair. Even though the crew was still trying to figure out their new captain, she could see that they were doing their job quite well. The Captain was very tall, had a stunningly attractive figure and she was quite attractive herself. Blond Hair tied in a severe bun, deep blue eyes, and pale skin completed the image. Like many people around the Three Galaxies, she had been receiving anti-aging treatments most of her life and she looked extremely young, maybe around nineteen or twenty. Many of the crew could see her as being on a recruiting poster or as an actress playing a military character, but could not see her as a real officer. The captain knew that many of her crew had the potential of being distrustful because the general consensus was to wonder how someone so attractive had received her rank. A second factor would also be in the way of her harmonizing with her crew. She was the second child of the King and Queen of New Coventry and no one knew how that status would effect her relations with the crew. Unfortunately, the ambassador was immune to the effects of her high rank and would not stop bothering her. While she understood her crew's problems with her, she planned to change their caution and come up with a good working relationship with them. At this time, with the Wolfhound just out of the shipyard, it was her first command and she had only been commanding officer for six weeks. The first four weeks of this had been in the shipyard and they had only been training in space for the last two weeks. While her berthing was actually smaller than the space she had as senior gunnery officer on the Consortium Warshield class cruiser 'Fury', this was her ship and she planned to make everything work. She had originally joined the Consortium Armed Forces Navy and had graduated top of her class at age twenty after having initially joined at age sixteen. The Fury had been her only ship since stepping on board as an ensign and she had served in various positions in gunnery until two Kreeghor Smashers posing as pirates had engaged the ship. While the Fury survived the incident, Lieutenant Mayfair had been badly injured and was taken from the ship to recover. She lost an arm that had to be replaced by a cloned limb and she also had to have her ears replaced with cybernetics. After recovering from the injuries, she had been trying to get a position as executive officer but the Prime Minister of New Coventry had asked her to join the New Coventry military. She came home out of a sense of duty and had been raised from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander and was given command of the HMS Wolfhound.

New Coventry had been settled for centuries, but it was on the Fringe of Consortium of Civilized Worlds Space, and was located near the Trans-Galactic Empire's borders. Because of this, New Coventry always had a large military for a single planet, but rumblings were being heard from spies across the border that problems would become more seriously over the next few years, and about eight years previously this caused the government to decide to increase the size of the military drastically. Several orbital defense fortresses were under construction at this time with the first one finally nearing completion. Two large shipyards had been completed and were designed to be able to construct ships up to the size of heavy cruisers or light fleet carriers. Fitting out facilities for ships of different sizes as well as manufacturing facilities for fighters and other military equipment were also completed or nearing completion. Right now their forces were far below desired levels due to the simple time that it takes to build shipyards, but plans had already been completed for when the fleet was up to its desired size. Then they would not only construct civilian ships, they would also sell military hardware to other Consortium members. At present time, New Coventry's mobile forces consisted of HMS Black Prince, a Warshield class cruiser, HMS Ark Royal which was a merchant ship converted to be used as an escort carrier, and about a dozen Hunter class destroyers. There were a heavy cruiser and a light fleet carrier currently under construction, but it would be at least four months until either would be able to enter service. It was planned that the ship sizes would be increased and production would speed up over the next few years. An additional plan was to purchase more Hunters as smaller ships to support the Cruisers and Carriers. New Coventry had worked on a way to improve Hunter class destroyers and the Wolfhound was one of the first Hunter class destroyers to be refitted. Special software had been added that allowed for singly fired capital missiles to be linked together. This gave the ship the ability to fire volleys that were much more likely to get through the other ships point defense. The capital missile launchers might have been considered cruise missile launchers during the distant days of waterborne navies. Along with the improvement in missile fire control, the ship had received new heavy particle beams, which represented a large increase in efficiency when compared to the heavy particle beams that they replaced. The new cannons were slightly larger and this could be clearly seen externally because the covers protecting the cannons extended out further on the side particle beam mounts. Along with these modifications, the ships had a general replacement of worn out systems and a upgrading of out of date systems. As a result, the Wolfhound, even though she was both surplus Consortium equipment and almost three hundred years old, was one of the most dangerous fighting ships her size serving in the Three Galaxies, and she fit her name quite well. Like all New Coventry military ships, the Wolfhound was painted a grey that was so dark it was almost black and blended quickly with the black of space. New Coventry actually considered the Hunters to be frigates, and painted on the hull in lighter grey, the Wolfhound bore "FF-104."

Because of the potential problems with the Kreeghor and their Trans-Galactic Empire, New Coventry was negotiating with her neighbors in- and outside of Consortium space. One of these was known as Xanadu, and was actually outside of Consortium space and was ruled independently. It was located in between Consortium claimed space and Kreeghor claimed space, and if New Coventry could work out alliances with Xanadu, the treaties could be mutually beneficial. New Coventry leaders were hoping for a mutual defense treaty, but would settle for Xanadu just preventing the Kreeghor from using Xanadu space to get into Consortium space and the New Coventry system. The people who had settled Xanadu had come from another universe when their colony ship was rifted very close to where the Xanadu home system was located. They had found the planet with only a tiny number of other inhabitants and had negotiated with them to settle the planet. Xanadu had some very unusual examples of technology, including vehicles than could transform between fighter and giant robot. In spite of his love of comforts and habit of becoming annoying, Ambassador Michael Smithson was a really good ambassador and knew how to talk to other diplomats, statesmen, and other political figures. He also knew how to find the buried bodies and, more importantly, the proper time to threaten to exhume them. To back him up, Princess Terry Cindy Mayfair could also act as an ambassador and might even have the advantage when talking to military members because she was a serving military officer and the ambassador had never been in the military.

The final four hours had passed far too slowly. The ambassador came up to the bridge twice. Once to complain that the showers were communal, and once to ask when the ship would get to the Xanadu system. It should have been simple just to ask the ships computer from his cabins terminal. The HMS Wolfhound was re-entering normal space after having traveled 215 light years. The ship appeared just outside of the major effects of the gravity well produced by the yellow dwarf star that was Xanadu systems sun. The ships Sensors cleared within less than a second and it became apparent that something was wrong. The ships that were supposed to be in patrol patterns were not there and the engine signatures of all visible ships seemed to be racing in an intercept course. Tracking towards the intercept course were four ships that were the size of Packmaster class carriers. The deceleration of those ships would bring them to a stop next to the main station in the Xanadu system, but the ships did not carry a recognized identification signal. Missiles were being fired from several of the Xanadu ships, but the drive signatures of the missiles were disappearing when they hit unusual fields around the invading ships. Most of the missiles exploded in anti-matter fire but some just fizzled. A Xanadu ship that seemed to be the size of a heavy cruiser tried to make an attack run to get within energy range but a beam came from one of the attacking ship and the Xanadu ship exploded in the fire of collapsing fusion reactors. The energy emissions coming from both the dying missiles and the destroyed cruiser were similar enough to consider that both the weapon system and the field of the invaders worked by the same principles. Two more ships were destroyed in the same way as the Heavy Cruiser and it appeared as if the ships mounted two of those incredible weapons per side. The ships did not radiate any signatures that would have indicated them having conventional shields as well, but their defenses were deadly enough.

As Terry watched the two latest ships being destroyed, her face tightened and she decided that they would do what they could. She quietly warned the bridge. "I cannot let this happen and I plan to help the Xanadu forces in any way I can". She then stated "Lieutenant Hummel, put us at General Quarters" and the executive office pulled the lever to sound general quarters. A loud alarm could be heard through the entire ship. Captain Mayfair activated her chair com and stated "The is the Captain speaking, This is not a drill, Xanadu system is under attack by four unknown hostile ships and I plan to give whatever aid I can to Xanadu's forces." she quickly closed the internal communication channel. New Coventry used standard CAF jumpsuits as emergency suits in case the ship was damaged and de-pressured, and she quickly got into her suit, which was fitted into a space underneath her command chair. Other crewmembers around her were getting into their jumpsuits as well. Because the ship was not entering combat yet, she placed her helmet beside her in a rack designed for the helmet on the side of her chair. She did lock herself into the safety harness built into her chair and also attached her neural links into the control linkages built into her chair. This gave her instant access to all of the ships data. She looked at the rest of her bridge crew and saw that they were almost ready as well. She asked Petty Officer Launhardt, who was the ships sensor operator during general quarters, "Karen, Can you see anything unusual?"

Captain Mayfair had been very impressed by the female Petty Officers performance in the past and was not disappointed this time either. Petty Officer Launhardt answered within a few moments: "Captain, this data is garbled and my sensors are far beyond the range that I can still get firm data, but I am getting Neutrino emissions from the shields as missiles hit them and from the dying ships. They look like those you get from normal radioactive decay but they are in much larger amounts then they would be normally. It is as if the decay rate has been increase about a million fold. I might be able to be a bit firmer in my conclusions if it was not for the massive bursts of neutrinos from the fusion and anti-matter explosions. Also, I am picking up some general data feeds being sent from some News ships that seem to be trying to get near the combat!" the last with a look on her face like the News People were crazy and she continued "The attacking ships appear to be of a standard merchant hull design and, except for the added weapon systems, the ships do not appear to have been refitted."

Terry captain answered with a smile and said, "Thank you, I have met some very good sensor operators, both enlisted and officer, but you are one of the best. It looks like pirates to me and I..."

She was cut off when the door to the bridge opened and ambassador Smithson stepped out "Captain Mayfair, what is the meaning of this, I was getting ready for greeting the Xanadu government leaders and now you have an unscheduled drill."

Captain Mayfair turned towards Smithson, who she considered an intruder, and said in a voice that was carefully controlled "Mr. Smithson, this is not a drill. Xanadu forces are under attack and I do not have time to discuss it with you." He paled and looked like he would respond but she continued with "Go back to the quarters assigned to you and get into the emergency space suit provided to you and stay there. I will have no one killed because of you and I have no one I can assign to watch you. Now, leave my bridge before I become angry and do something we will both regret." The ambassador looked at her cold expression and paled even more. He muttered something incoherently that might have been an apology. Without gaining any color back, he quickly left the bridge and Terry hoped that the ambassador was smart enough to do what she told him, but she had no time for him beyond that.

She turned back to her bridge crew and said, "I have a plan on how we can help Xanadu's forces beat the attacking forces but it will be very difficult. Petty Officer Tanner, what I need you to do is to a plot an intercept course, but I also want to come from above the star system's orbital paths, and plot an attack vector from off the plane of the planets orbits. As soon as you have the course, I want it executed."

Petty Officer Tanner nodded her head and answered "Yes, Ma'am" and went to work on plotting a new course for the ship as quickly as she could.

Captain Mayfair then turned her attention to ship’s Wolfen Gunnery Petty Officer and said "Petty Officer Artrent, I want the capital missile launchers primary loading queue to be X-Ray laser warheads. I want them programmed for a delayed volley launch and I want all of the fighters reloaded to carry X-ray laser warhead missiles as well. These I also want to be linked in with fire control, so that they will be part of a combined volley including the missiles from the ships launcher. Finally, I know that the missiles do not carry much fire control but I want the beams to be targeted on the upper mounts of whatever that strange weapon is. Refine your data as we get closer and I would like you and Petty Officer Launhardt to work together on this. I also want the missiles to fire their lasers just outside of the shield on those ships so as to give them better fire control to hit their targets. My intention is to open a hole in the weapon systems to allow Xanadu`s ships to get into beam weapon range to destroy the attacking ships. Finally, Turlington," as she looked at the junior crewman "I need to open comm. link with the Xanadu flagship so that I can get the admiral in charge of the Xanadu forces to work with me and not against me!"

The big Wolfen Petty Officer had acknowledged the captains orders and was already working with the sensor operator to get the system to work, but he was concerned because the fact that New Coventry had X-Ray laser warheads had been keep secret from everyone, including the Consortium itself. If Captain Mayfair used the missiles in this engagement, everybody would know that New Coventry had them, and it was thought that only major governments had the x-ray laser warhead missiles. Well, at least they had not stolen the design from the Consortium Navy. Almost a year earlier, New Coventry had been able to capture a crippled Kreeghor Berserker and while the ship itself was unsalvageable, there were some interesting items discovered in the wreckage, including the X-Ray laser missiles. New Coventry had studied them and was able to come up with a slightly improved version of the X-Ray laser warhead missile and the redesign used components available in the Consortium instead of components from the Trans-Galactic Empire.

After several unsuccessful tries, the crewman assigned to communications was finally able to get in contact with the Xanadu flagship. The amount of signals going to the 'Vicksburg', the flagship of the Xanadu forces, was overwhelming. When he finally got through, he tried to get the communications officer on the flagship to get in contact with the admiral, but the Xanadu communications officer stated that the Admiral was occupied. Unsaid but still known by both was that the admiral considered a message from a destroyer captain of a non-allied government not worth his time. The poor crewman pleaded with the officer on the Vicksburg and hoped that he would be able to connect her captain to anyone senior on the flagship. Just before he thought that the Xanadu communications officer would disconnect, the captain of the Xanadu flagship broke in and said he would be willing to talk to the captain of the Wolfhound, although he warned them that it had better be important. The crewman had the message sent to one of the monitors on the command chair and Captain Mayfair was instantly surprised. The image of the Xanadu captain was displayed and he was an older man in his late forties, with sharp but weathered features, and eyes that looked like he had been through a thousand wars. He had brown eyes and brown hair but time had taken its toll and it was sparse with streaks of grey. But his appearance was not what surprised her. What surprised her was that he was in just a standard uniform and was wearing no vacuum survival suit. This meant that a small hole in a bridge bulkhead into space would kill him, and if he was not in a suit to protect him from vacuum, she suspected that none of the bridge crew were in any protective gear either. She stopped in surprise for barely a second and then she addressed the captain without introduction "Captain, I strongly believe I have a solution to the attacking ships and I can explain if you would be willing to give me a few minutes."

He nodded from the monitor and answered, "I hope you truly have a solution because the admiral did not really wanted me wasting my time talking to you, Commander. The only plan right now seems to be an all out assault, and I think that would end up being a mass suicide run and I do not want all the deaths or losses of ships that would result from that. Now, I will give you a few minutes to explain what your plan is." but by his expression, Captain Mayfair could tell that he really did not believe her.

Terry Cindy Mayfair continued as if she did not see his expression "Thank you Captain. To put it simply, the problem is that the shields on the ships stop all of your missiles even though you have thrown enough ordnance at them to turn a battleship into vapor, and all ships that try to get into energy weapon range have been destroyed because that beam weapon outranges all of your energy weapons, and also seems to be able to destroy your ships in one hit. I believe the shield and their beam weapons are based on temporal magic. When anything hits the shield or is hit with the beam weapon, it is effected as if thousands or more years pass all at once causing any system that would fail normally to fail. I believe that the shield either does not effect energy weapons or has a reduced effect on energy weapons because the ships seem to try and quickly eliminate ships that try to get in close. The Wolfhound has a partial load of X-Ray laser warhead capital missiles. The missiles are a stand off style missile and detonate a distance away from the target. The energy and radiation from the detonation is channeled and is used to power ten X-Ray laser emitters just as the missile is consuming itself with a fusion explosion. I can fire ten missiles off as a volley and while the X-Ray beams have fairly simple fire control, my gunner officer and sensor officers", Terry leaving off that they were petty officers, and not commissioned officers, "can get the X-Ray laser beam to target the sources of the temporal beam which will leave a hole in the offensive weaponry on one side of the ships. There are two emitters on each side so I can target one missile on each and we will be able to target two with two missiles."

The Xanadu Captain answered, "I am surprised. I did not expect a useful plan but this plan sounds like it could work. I have read about fusion powered X-Ray laser weaponry although I have never heard of this type of weapons being put in a missile body. Before I bring this to the admiral, I have a question. What do you need for assistance to bring this off, because I know that your destroyer does not have enough firepower to destroy one of those ships fast enough before it can come around and bring another weapon to bear?"

Captain Mayfair answered the question quickly "What I need are two things. First, have your ships continue to threaten the attacking ships from all direction. This will keep them distracted and hopefully keep them from getting creative. Second, when I attack the temporal weapon mounts, I need four heavy cruisers or two battlecruiser to follow me in so that the ships can be blown to scrap before they can change their positions to cover for the weapon mounts that were destroyed. More ships would be better, but would also make them suspicious."

The Xanadu Flagship’s captain sat there with a thoughtful expression and then responded to her requests "That was about what I thought you would ask for. Now, it is my job to convince Admiral Fields that this idea is a good one. I will get back to you as soon as possible" and with that he closed his communication with her.

Slightly over thirty minutes later, the HMS Wolfhound was committed to what was virtually a ride into hell itself. A tiny destroyer was going into the potential fire from four ships that were each the size of a battleship. In order for the Wolfhound to make an intercept with the attacking ships, the little destroyer had to commit to being unable to stop long after she would be within energy weapon range if she did not destroy the entire Temporal beam emplacements. To compensate for this, the Wolfhound started radical maneuvers when she started getting closer. The ship was generally traveling in a corkscrew with small random variations in the actually pattern of the ships maneuvers. The crew brought the signal jamming equipment online and they obscured the position of the tiny ship. These jamming signals were constantly varied and this was designed to prevent homing in and targeting on the jamming itself. Escorting her like four little wolves escorting a larger wolf were her two Black Eagle and two Storm Eagle starfighters. While the fighters were tiny compared to their mother ship, the two Black Eagles almost equaled the amount of capital missiles that the Wolfhound could fire within a 15 second time frame. The Storm Eagles were only in space to provide more targets. Due to the jamming signals of their destroyer, it was possible that a fighter might be mistaken for the Wolfhound and to have one of them take a hit was preferable to their mother ship being hit. While this might have seemed cold-blooded, the simple fact was the loss of a fighter was preferred over the loss of the destroyer.

Admiral Fields seemed to have been even harder for his flagship’s captain to convince then the captain thought but he finally succeeded. Like wolves attacking a much larger bear, most of the warships of the Xanadu forces were harassing the four enemy ships from just outside energy weapon range. The Xanadu helmsmen were being very careful to stay out of range of the deadly temporal beam weapons. Following the Wolfhound at less than half a light second, two Heavy Cruisers and one Battlecruiser were ready to take advantage of any hole in he defenses of the attacking ships if the main weapons were actually destroyed. The Battlecruiser was, as might be expected, Admiral Fields flagship 'Vicksburg' as the admiral had decided that he would be part of any attack to destroy the raiding forces. Lieutenant Commander Mayfair approved of this, although she kept her opinion private. In her opinion, a good officer would never order her juniors to do anything she would not do herself, and that an officers place to lead is from the front.

As the range closed and the Wolfhound was less than two light second from the ships that were her targets, the gravity fields for the internal missile launcher were powered up. The first capitol missile was fired and another missile followed every 2.5 seconds. After six capitol missiles were fired, her escorting Black Eagle starfighters fired their four capitol missiles. As one, all ten of the X-Ray warhead missile's Contra-Grav drives activated and they rapidly accelerated towards their assigned targets. At the speeds the missiles were heading towards their targets, there was no time for the Wolfhound's crew to make any course or targeting adjustments. A small error in the missiles courses caused the first two missiles to strike the temporal field prior to fusion detonation. One of the missiles had a second missile targeted on the same target but the other was the only missile targeted to one of the temporal energy mounts. The remaining eight capitol missiles detonated as they were programmed to do. Nuclear fire powered X-Ray beam emitter a fraction of second before they too were destroyed. Eighty X-Ray laser beams were targeted on seven beam emitters. Many of the beams missed the actual mounts they were being targeted at and struck the hull instead, but enough beams hit them that all seven of the targeted temporal beam mounts were eliminated. This left one mount and the creatures controlling it decided to take their revenge out on the people who had damaged their fleet so badly. As the single beam slashed at the Wolfhound, the destroyer made a random course change that turned a direct hit into a graze. It slashed along the port side of the hull and where it struck, the alloy and composites became brittle and soft as sandstone. It slashed into the systems of the port heavy particle beam and that too was lost. Most of the equipment in the hanger bay on the side that the beam struck was also wrecked as time effects of the beam warped them. Luckily, neither the ships anti-matter reactor or the backup fusion plants were hit and the complete destruction of the Wolfhound was prevented. Even luckier, the captain had the fighter support crews waiting on the mess decks because the galley was better shielded by the hull than the hangars were and the particle beam was not struck in an occupied section. This meant that no one on the ship died. The Wolfhound was singed and hurt badly but was still a fighting force.

Captain Mayfair still sat in her bridge command chair. She ignored the damage control reports for the moment and ordered her Wolfen gunner petty officer to fire the ship’s two remaining heavy particle beams at the mount that had fired at her ship as the final temporal beam mount passed within her own weapons range. The particle beams were fired and cut deep into the hull and they cut the remaining mount in half. Finally, the hole had been opened and her backup forces began closing for the kill. Two of the attacking converted cargo ships were already rotating so that they could bring their surviving mounts to bear on the new threat, and the Wolfhound would have to pass within their range as well. Suddenly particle beams and lasers burned out from the Battlecruiser Flagship Vicksburg and her escorting Heavy Cruisers. The unarmed hulls of the raiders were not constructed to survive heavy weapons fire and suddenly two exploded as their fusion reactor containment systems failed catastrophically. The other two ships simply went dead in space and continued on a drifting course, but no neutrino signatures could be detected. The hull of the Wolfhound was actually lit up from the fusion power plants exploding and without the destroyer's shielding, the crew of the Wolfhound would have contracted severe cases of radiation sickness and the ships external displays went dark to prevent the crew from becoming blind.

As the Destroyer passed from between the formation of scrap and glowing embers, Terry could not help but breathe a sigh of relief. She had survived, her whole crew had survived, the people of Xanadu were no longer threatened, and her ship was repairable. She finally checked her damage control displays to verify that the ship could be repaired, but somehow she already knew. Her crew started shaking their heads as they themselves realized that they were alive. As a group, her bridge crew gave a ragged and nervous cheer that became less ragged and stronger as they continued cheering. A smile came to Captain Mayfair's face because she realized that they had taken a big step in becoming a true team. She let the crew cheer until they got rid of some of their pent up energy and stress. She then addressed them "Good work people, but now it is time to see what we can repair. Several spaces are without air and we are without one of our landing bays. I also would like to inspect those spaces myself."

Just as she was preparing to go down to look at the damages herself, her communication technician waved to get his captains attention "Ma'am, I have a communication signal from the Xanadu Flagship. They specifically requested your attention."

She nodded to him and said to him "Thank you, could you please put the signal on the main display?"

He followed her orders and the tactical target plot that had been displayed was replaced by the image of a man. He wore the shoulder bars of an admiral and the only person he could be was Admiral Fields. His face was less lined than his flagships captain and he looked younger. He had solid steel grey hair but unlike his immediate junior, his hair was still thick. He stood up out of his chair and snapped a smart salute. With his eyes he included both Terry and her bridge crew in the salute. He then said, "Captain Mayfair, It is an honor to meet you personally, and I and all the people of Xanadu system owe both you and your crew a debt of gratitude."

[ Phase World TM, CAF TM, CCW TM, and Kreeghor TM, and Mutants in OrbitTM are trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]
[ Rifts® is a registered trademark owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc.]

By Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).

Story proofread by Mischa Campen (E-Mail Mischa)

Copyright © 2000, Kitsune. All rights reserved.