350 – Fighter
Editor: Thor’s Stone
The supply mothership Dauntless was capable of providing supplies and maintenance to almost all types of combat ships; from small-class ships to large-class battleships or cruisers. It’s regarded as a strategic ship due to its ability to perform these important roles.
It’s also a considerable defensive asset. Its huge number of defensive turrets were able to deal with approaching enemy ships with overwhelming firepower, and its complement of fighters made the Dauntless even more formidable.
Space fighters were quite small. They’re usually half the size of a typical small-class starship, if not smaller. Even so, their overall firepower still rivaled that of a small-class combat starship, and their mobility was many times better.
However, because of their size, it was impossible for them to mount a powerful energy shield emitter, and their armor was also rather thin, so small-class combat starships were a lot more durable. Even with these drawbacks, fighters were still roughly comparable to small-class combat ships combat ability-wise.
The Dauntless was capable of deploying a large number of such fighters. I’m not sure about the exact number though.
“How many fighters got deployed?”
“Umm…… A total of 180 units.”
“That sure is a lot. You think they deployed their entire fighter compliment?”
“They should have kept some to defend the ship, so…… maybe they only deployed half?”
We launched out of the Dauntless earlier, and we were now watching the fighters launch from the Dauntless one after another. It seemed that the Dauntless was equipped with six fighter catapults, or rather, six launch tubes, and the sight of six space fighters being simultaneously shot out from them was an impressive spectacle. It only took less than a minute for the 180 fighters to launch. It was a ridiculous deployment capability.
“Mercenaries only use small-class combat ships, right? Why don’t they use space fighters, My Lord?”
“Basically, it’s a problem of habitability and the lack of the ability to travel between star systems. There’s also the problem of not having enough space to store loot. A fighter’s survival rate is also relatively lower, and you can’t load as much live ammunition such as multi-cannon rounds and seeker missiles onto them compared to combat ships. It would probably work if you employed them in tandem with a mothership like the Black Lotus, but mercenaries still find small-class combat ships easier and more convenient to use.”
“A fighter is mostly limited to a combat role. And since it’s pretty small, its sensors are pretty weak as well.”
『They’re a little lacking for use in mercenary work.』
Elma participated in the conversation through the comms.
When working as a mercenary, you’d have to travel constantly between different star systems, and the interior of your ship basically becomes your home. Even if you hunt down pirates, you won’t be able to earn enough money for all your needs by relying on the bounty rewards alone, so you’d have to collect loot. In some cases, you might get embroiled in an extended battle, so your ship has to be capable of operating and fighting for extended periods. Of course, making it out alive was still the utmost priority, so you need to place emphasis on defense and survivability above all else.
A space fighter was a combat unit meant to be deployed directly into active combat zones.
It lacked the ability to track down and chase after pirates around a star system. Just like Mimi said, fighters were basically employed only in combat roles.
After listening to my and Mimi’s explanations, Kugi displayed a pondering gesture. What’s up? Was she thinking of piloting a fighter in the future or something? It’s certainly possible for us to employ a fighter since there’s enough space in the small hangar of the Black Lotus. But as I was mulling over the feasibility of this idea, we received a transmission from the Dauntless informing us of the start of the operation. It was a text notification and not a voiced transmission. The transmission included the operation start time and the coordinate data of the star system.
“It looks like the operation’s starting.”
『Aye, aye, sir. Don’t get shot down.』
“That’s my line.”
Elma disconnected from the comms. Now then, we better get going as well.
“Mimi, I’ll leave the navigation settings to you.”
“Yes. I’ll also set the arrival time.”
Mimi inputted data into the automatic navigation system in order to so we’ll warp out at the target coordinates exactly when the operation commences.
Because warping out of FTL navigation always gives off a strong energy signature, it was basically impossible to perform a surprise attack without getting detected. Therefore, in the case of large-scale surprise attacks, or rather, assaults like this current operation, the method used is to input the coordinates and warp-out time in advance and warp out all at once near the enemy base’s location then immediately commence the attack.
The tactic of warping out outside of the enemy base’s sensor range and then slowly and stealthily closing in on it can also be employed, but it was decided that today’s operation will be a short decisive battle utilizing superior firepower and numbers, so this tactic didn’t match.
After hearing Mimi and Kugi’s energetic replies, I activated the automatic navigation system. Now then, let’s do this thing.
The lights of the surrounding stars were flowing backward like brilliant arrows. Then, the flow suddenly stopped at the same time as the boom of the warp-out echoed within the ship.
『Dammit! A lot of enemies just warped out from behind us!?』
『Don’t head to the inner sector! You’re gonna get crushed!』
『So what are we supposed to do then huh!? Continue flying around inside the asteroid belt?! We won’t be able to escape at this rate!』
“It looks like it’s going pretty well for now.”
The Restalias and the rest of the ships of the Independent Anti-pirate Mobile Fleet had already begun the bombardment along with Black Lotus. The pirates that managed to survive the initial bombardment began to head deeper into the asteroid belt. It’s going just as planned.
“Commencing data link…… We can practically see everything with this.”
“The recon units of the Dauntless sure are thorough.”
Krishna’s radar indicated the position of each pirate ship moving around the asteroid belt.
When the recon spaceplanes from the Dauntless scouted this area, they also deployed an intelligence-gathering artificial satellite equipped with advanced radar functions. The satellite was activated at the same time as the battle began, and as a result, every move the pirate ships made was now completely visible to us and our allies.
“My Lord, preparations for the activation of the sub-systems are now complete.”
“OK. Let’s get started.”
I activated the weapon systems and piloted Krishna deeper into the asteroid belt.
The Dauntless fighter squadron had already entered the asteroid belt’s depths and had begun to fight it out with the pirates. Were we a bit late to the party?
“Where should we aim for?”
“Right in the middle. Let’s do this.”
I wasn’t that clear about just how powerful the fighter squadron of the Dauntless was, but judging from the radar reactions, it looked like the pirates were being steadily shot down. If we hunted from the sidelines, we wouldn’t be able to get satisfactory results. That’s why it would be better to plunge straight into the middle of the melee and wreak havoc.
I fired up the thrusters, and Krishna accelerated. I quickly navigated between the asteroids floating freely in space.
Kugi suddenly went all quiet. Was she okay? I glanced toward her for a second and found her ears flattened on top of her head as she turned increasingly blue in the face. It also took Mimi some time to get used to high-speed maneuvers inside asteroid belts.
“Enemy contact imminent.”
Krishna rushed out behind an asteroid three times its size and engaged four pirate starships navigating at low speed. I aimed at one of them and fired all four heavy-caliber laser cannons.
The shield of the pirate starship got saturated in an instant, and the part near the center of the ship’s hull exploded. I wasn’t able to down it in one blow huh? The pirates in this place really were a bit better equipped compared to their counterparts active in other systems.
『It’s an enemy! A mercenary ship!』
『Dammit! Crush it!』
Their reaction was surprisingly quick. Three ships excluding the one that took damage fought back using their laser turrets and multi-cannons.
Using the momentum of my initial charge, I slipped through the gap between the asteroids the pirates were using for cover and jumped behind another large asteroid to avoid the attacks. Hm? The shield got grazed a bit, but it looks like this works.
“Kugi, prepare to activate a shield cell.”
Krishna jumped out from behind the asteroid and headed straight for the pirate starships. I quickly fired the four heavy-caliber laser cannons and the two shot-cannons. Of course, getting hit was inevitable because I performed a straightforward charge, but it was preferable to quickly crush the opponent even at the cost of Krishna’s shield taking damage.
『This bastard’s firepower is…… Uwaaaaah!?』
After eating two barrages from the four heavy-caliber laser cannons, one ship exploded, and another one had its cockpit block crushed from taking shot-cannon fire at point blank range.
『Wait, we surr–』
『S-Stop!!! My ship can’t move alrea–』
The last of the three still-mobile ships stopped in its tracks after witnessing the other two get destroyed in succession. I mercilessly destroyed it along with the ship that was rendered immobile by my initial attack. My bad. I really don’t have any mercy for pirates like you guys, and I was competing for kills with the Dauntless fighter squadron as well. I don’t have any time to deal with you guys if you do surrender.
“Let’s go for the next one.”
Since the final ship ceased its attack earlier, there was no need to use up a shield cell. I glanced at Kugi once more to check her condition, and her ears and complexion remained the same as earlier. It looks like it will still take more time for her to get used to all this.