Last Flight of the Warhawk
After the listening post on Himalia went silent, Admiral Gautam dispatched a single Mustang class corvette to investigate. The Warhawk cut a path from Callisto sunward toward the outer moon. The ship and crew of eighteen never detected the three inbound Thunderbolts of Task Group 11.1. The Belter ships had been on ballistic cruise for weeks, silently launching drones to shatter the Himalia observatories, then continuing on at 50kps relative to Jupiter, bound for Callisto and their next targets.
The Belters easily tracked the Warhawk's burn. When it was time, the Thunderbolts released their drone missiles, letting them glide from their launch tubes and adjust course with cold jets and gyroscopes. When they passed just twelve thousand kilometers from the Warhawk, the drones came to life.
The combustion head drones powered up and detonated their fuel loads, each firing a single meter-wide laser beam, punching through hull and bulkheads, drilling burning holes into the ship. Then the cluster drones fired their first stage engines, accelerating at thirty gees and weaving nearly as fast to avoid laser fire. When the first stages burnt out, the warheads separated into seven 350mm missiles arcing just as fast, and soon those also split into seven 100mm rockets that all finally blossomed again into seven 30mm impactors that burst up to two hundred gees in their final seconds of frenzied flight.
The Warhawk's computers and crew reacted gallantly, thrusting in defensive maneuvers, firing off lasers and missiles and guns against the incoming swarm. But each cluster drone, with every stage registering and arcing toward them, had four hundred independent components. And there were ten cluster drones; too many targets. Lasers struck targets; guided rounds chased and intercepted impactors. Empty space filled with the tracks of rockets and silent explosions.
The Warhawk was bleeding. The combustion heads had weakened her. The ship leaked fuel, atmosphere and vaporized armor. The guns and lasers overheated in their struggle to stop the impactors. Two minutes after the first shot, the struggle was over. The Warhawk was a smoldering wreck, tumbling in space. She never detected the Thunderbolts that killed her.
But back on Ganymede, the fireworks did not go unnoticed, and Task Force One went on alert.
--from The Jupiter Campaign , Commander
Simon-Hernando Buckley (ret.), Xanthe ePress, 2530
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