The subspace craft of the Kaiser's Navy, unlike their regular space cousins, based their entire life on never being seen. Their influence was cast by being unseen in the dark corners of space, watching, learning, and waiting. This was no different day. The difference, however, was that the subspace craft still had kinks to work out in their existence in both physical and mental existences. Admirals did not always agree in where and how their assigned groups should be used or if at all. The ministers did not agree on if they should be putting their money further into these devices. The Shipyards in orbit of the industrial worlds of the Hoffnung system argued with uniformed officials on who should exactly see the blueprints of these devices and some even disappeared from their posts after their lunch breaks.
And for U-99, their life support system did not always want to cooperate.
"Nothing like a hot ship for the heated crew." Kapitan Paschwitz said from the forward-left side of the ship's cramped command bridge, hunched over the navigator's table. He gave a sly grin to the Navigator to his left who did not share his enthusiasm. It was almost 29 and a half centigrade and back in the engineering section, the barely dressed and well-overheated engineers worked tirelessly in almost 32 degree heat. Every once in a while, an engineer would walk through the command deck towards the ship's mess galley, and stand in the freezers much to the Cook's dismay. The ship had been like this for a week now, and the ship had been out of port for two. It was not a good day to be a sailor in the U-Korps.
"We're at the right spot," The navigator laboriously lamented as he pointed to a spot on the holographic display, "And willing that they are not horribly behind, there should be a group of ships here, including our quarry."
The Captain shrugged, trying to keep morale high by seeming completely unaffected by the heat. "There is always trouble in paradise. Even when we are illegally squatting in paradise." The Captain walked back towards the "dive" station. Keeping with long out of use tales of submarines on the seas, the control point which worked the drive system keeping them in between the planes of subspace and realspace was almost referred to in naval slang. Everything was working, for now, but the heat was beginning to cause the emissions to leak faster into underspace than normal, which in theory could become detectable at a certain degree in realspace. It did not help the heat either.
"XO, go back to our sensor phones and see what the boy is finding. And while you're at it, go check of Chief and the rest of Engineering." The Captain looked back to meet his executive officer and gave a reassuring smile. He was going to keep the crew busy.
"Aye, skipper. I'll take care of it" he said with a curt nod. The oppressive heat did not seem to effect the XO, at least not beyond the sheen of sweat he shared with everyone else in the bridge. He relinquished his place by the dive station and headed aft, ducking through the low pressure hatchway into the sensor room, where a young crewer was hunched over a control panel, their eyes fixed on a display while they listened intently to sound signals picked up by the sensor array on their bulky headset.
"Anything on the sensors?" he asked as he paused his walk to the heat of the engine room, waiting for a response from the boy at the sensor station. He was concerned about the heat they were radiating, the flaw in their system could be enough to give them away if too much leaked out, and they could only contain and mitigate so much heat before it leaked out or forced them to retire and cool.
Feeling the vibrations of the deck, Schulz opened his eyes and slipped the headphones off, turning around to look at the Oberleutnant. After giving a brief salute, he gestured to the display. "Ah, Oberleutnant. I'm afraid the emissions from the boat are playing hell with our sensors, it's making it a lot harder to find anything at the moment. Indeed, the ship's normal sensors were swamped with 'noise' from the ship's emissions. "I've been trying to filter the junk out, but there's always a risk of accidentally missing a piece of important data, so it's time consuming."
Their thoughts on the matter were cut short by a low rumble followed by a handful of concerned and upset curses from the engineering section, followed by a much louder curse and a loud metallic bang. The ship surged and seemed to list to one side without actually turning. Another bang cut gravity completely before it all seemed to go normal in an instant. A handful of cheers erupted as a grimy, stout, and giant of a man emerged from the aft bulkhead three rooms down.
"Take that you Hoffnunger Wench!" He beat a fist against the wall as the temperature seemed to be ever so slightly cooler just seconds later, "Takes more than a handful of busted coils to fu-" He looked down at the XO and turned slightly pale and stammered. "to uh, wait uh... Dammit I lost it." A shorter, older man, the chief leaned in from his shoulder and pushed him through the door. "Shit's fixed, Ex."
The "noise" began to subside as the vents were sealed so that the drive chambers could normalize in temperature and stop sucking the reactors dry. The ship got audibly quieter as the engines went from a rough rumble to a smooth bassy hum. Off-Watch sailors returned to bed as the on-watch could put their shirts back on. Everything was going back to normal.
Two blips appeared beyond where the could of emissions had previously blocked. The IFF did not identify them outright, but just listed them as "Schiff 1" and "Schiff 2" with speeds matched at 370 Kilometer per second. As the patchwork feed reached the screen, the boy's screen beeped twice. Once for each bogey.
"I'm sorry sir, we're still cooling down, that's as accurate as I'm able to get right now." He said as the distortions on the sensor screen receeded slowly, turning around in his seat to look at Oberleutnant Theismann, pulling one headphone cup off as he did so.
"Right, do the best you can, keep on it, get me an ID on them." he said, giving a reassuring glance to the sensors operator. Then he leaned over and switched on the intercom line between the sensor room and the control room and spoke into the mic pickup. If he had any worry about the two incoming ships, he did not show it outwardly, to those around him Oberleutnant Theismann was as cool and collected as could be.
"Kapitan, sensors has two unknown contacts on an intercept course" he said and repeated the details that Schulz has reported to him just moments ago.
"Action stations! Ready on drive locks!"
Footsteps rattled throughout the ship, men moving from one spot to the other. Back behind the XO and the sensors station, bunks were overturned and clothes hastily put on. Looking forward through the bulkheads, petty officers and junior chiefs looked for signs of what was happening. On the bridge, the Captain was slaved to the scopes, his eyes invisible behind the periscope. "XO! Get up here!" He swung between both of the targets as the sensors fed visual information into the scope, switches being flipped by his fingers to switch between views. He tensed up and pointed towards the helm control.
"Drop our signature another fifteen units, turn our heading 215 by 24. Ahead slow."
Paschwitz didn't wait for the XO to appear, he just assumed he was next to him by now. "Two Taianese patrol frigates, probably sniffing our refuse. If we can jink out of the cloud, they'll never know that we were the ones there." The Captain stood up and offered his scopes to the XO, looking to his right at the readouts on the various consoles on the wall to gauge the boat's situation and standing.
"I'd prefer not to start a war, at least not here."
"Yeah, there they are" He agreed and adjusted the zoom of the periscope, focusing in on one of the small warships. "Hùwèijiàn class if he had to guess" he said, his thick germanic accent butchering the name. The Hùwèijiàn were probably the most common ship in the Taianese navy, so it was an easy guess to make looking at them. He took several images with the periscopes camera and transferred them to U-99's ship visual recognition system to chew on before relinquishing the scope back to the Captain.
Rafe stepped over to a control panel and brought up the known info on the class: 4 drive engines, light armoring, shields, armed with a sizable number of plasma cannons and at least one or two torpedo tubes, if their intel was correct.
Erik licked his lips, which were beginning to chap as he shifted his headphones again, looking intently at the screen as he began to hum a little nothing-song, making a rhythm out of the klaxons and the machinery sounds of U-99. Search, track, lock, scan. His actions fell into a rhythm, his hands moving like dancers performing to a familiar tune as he sent the information up to the bridge.
Paschwitz didn't like being circled, and for a millisecond he considered breaking the radio silence to try and camouflage his boat as a lost freighter that had dropped a communication buoy. Yes, it would allow them to try and fence with the Taianese Captains and at the same time alert the other boats in the sector that they were in trouble, but he had no idea where they were or how far they were from them. His thoughts were interrupted by a flash from one of the boats as their search pattern became erratic. His knuckles tensed up on the handles as he froze in place. The lead boat performed a hard G turn and flipped towards them, burning at near flank speed, leaving the other boat to spin around in the same manner half a second later.
It was a dangerous time now, Paschwitz violently looked towards the console he had just left and then back in his scopes. The two frigates were moving quickly, but their course flanked them from both sides. If they saw them somehow, a broadside from each would surely cave in the stellar hull and vent the ship or worse. He clenched his teeth as he ran numbers through his head. Firing was risky as even if they emerged from underspace in time, they would have to hit the ships head on, whether their tracking heads would activate to adjust or not.
He swallowed hard and took one final look into his scopes before slamming the handles up and releasing the lock holding it in place. He muttered under his breath and yelled. "All ahead flank! Vent the aft tubes! On my order launch a salvo!" He had two torpedoes loaded in the aft tubes, he had to make them count. He didn't have to look back into the scope for their proximity warning to go off. He looked to the XO to say something before the vessel rattled as if getting hit by two waves side by side, and in Erik's ears, the triumphant sound of two frigates making peak velocity and entering FTL jumps.
Paschwitz turned around and barked, "Sensors! Did they jump?!"