As things had started, the crew, now with Zachariah Wood added, secured the ships and made the jump from Pirema to the Rech System.  In jump, the crew continued their various studies as Sir Zimzod reached out to learn gunnery skills from Zach.  Other than their studies and various hobbies, the trip was passed in hopes and with slight expectations the jump would lead to a quiet refueling.  Then a continued trip to the Regina system.  Sadly, that wasn't to be the case.SURPRISE!
On exiting jump, everyone was either working a station or watching the broadcast screens from the ship's lounge.  The sensors began their return to normal, and they were quickly able to see indications the Viper had also arrived as expected.  What was unexpected was a sudden and hard sensor hit on a mass some three hours' flight in-system of their position!  As pandemonium broke out, with everyone asking questions and reacting at once, Scout Radetsky hit the sensor boards and began trying to tighten things up.  He punched his boards as he shared a hurried conversation with Scout Ryddoth.  The two agreed they were obviously visible to whatever was out there so they might as well use active sensors with the hit this close.      The read came back as a 30,000 ton Gionetti Class Cruiser!!!Under the Guns of the INS Tamesha Kargaa
Almost immediately following that, the Horizon was hit by a active scan and hailed from the cruiser, identified as the INS Tamesha Kargaa.  They ordered the new arrivals to identify themselves in a tone that brooked no dispute and was accompanied by active fire control target lock warnings!  All options were considered as the crew frantically tried to decide what to do?  But even if they tried to use the destroyer's weapons, they were massively out-gunned.  And the Horizon was too slow to leave the hulk and run.  Stuck, they decided to turn on the Horizon's transponder and respond as honestly as possible without identifying the destroyer by name.  So the Admiral was brought to the bridge, hoping to convince the cruiser's captain they were the IISS Dawnstar Horizon, returning a damaged naval warship to the Regina system.
Emkir also tried to convince the cruiser they couldn't activate the destroyer's transponder due to battle damage, as he had in the Gileden system.  The cruiser commander identified herself as Lt. Commander Kugumde Kiis Gadagush.  Those familiar with naval rank knew she wasn't senior enough to command a 30,000 dTon cruiser.  She said her ship was part of the Imperial Navy Colonial Fleet of Regina.  Once she identified herself, she demanded to be told the name and "tail numbers" of the destroyer?  As this was happening, Aiden reported his sensor data showed significant damage to the cruiser, and had confirmed that her weapons were hot.
To punctuate that, the Lt. Commander said this part of the Rech system had been classified as an anti-pirate combat zone!  Again, the crew on the Horizon argued how to respond while Zach Wood watched and listened in amazement.  The merchant still had no idea of the identity of the destroyer, and was only learning that as he overheard the arguments.  Finally, they decided to roll the dice, as this ship reported to Regina, and not the Imperial Navy directly.  So the Admiral replied with the Quasar Viper's name and tail numbers.
There was then a long pause as they waited to see the reaction of the cruiser and her commander?  And the pause stretched out longer than expected before Lt. Commander Gadagush ordered the Horizon and Viper to stand to, and prepare to be boarded and inspected.  The cold hard tone of her voice removed any thought of running.  The math said the cruiser's inspectors were likely two hours out if they launched immediately.  But everyone was sure the cruiser's officers had things to discuss first.
Dame Mikah and the Admiral asked Sir Brian if there was any way to disable the transponder, so the cruiser's inspectors would find things looking the way the Admiral said they were?  Sir Brian said he'd have preferred to power up the destroyer and hope to escape, but was forced to accept Dame Mikah's plan.  Brian said he could certainly take care of the transponder, and they prepared to dock with the Viper and carry out the work.  Dame Mikah and Sir Brian crossed over and moved to the avionics space of the Viper to start working as the others cleaned up the Horizon.  On the Horizon, Scout Ryddoth watched the sensors.  An hour later, Ryddoth comm'd Mikah to tell her the cruiser had been closing and launched boats. As this happened, Ms. Vik worked on resetting the Horizon's jump systems.  After two hours, Sir Brian said, "watch this light up" with a gleam in his eyes as he went to throw a switch.  But Dame Mikah quickly stopped him before he could throw it.
Confused, Brian backed off and Mikah demanded to know what would happen when it was thrown?  Brian said it would give them a light show, which Mikah misread to think the destroyer's systems would activate and force them to man the ship and run from the cruiser.  Brian promised Mikah the "light show" would only be the transponder, to which she responded, "If it does anything it's not supposed to, you're dead."  With little concern and some anticipation, Sir Brian threw the switch and stepped back.  As they watched, the box did nothing first, before humming and then starting to develop small glowing spots on its heating surface.  Soon, the box was glowing multiple colors as Sir Brian said, "See?  Holiday!"  But all too soon, something burned out and the box went dead, cooling to an inert mass.  Returning to the Dawnstar Horizon, Sir Brian went aft to work on the jump engines for the last hour before the boats dispatched by the cruiser arrived for the "inspection".
As the ship was hailed at close range by the on-coming inspection boat, everyone but Ryddoth took positions in the lounge with their Idents ready.  On the bridge, before moving to the lounge, Radetsky couldn't help but worry as the approaching "inspectors" ran a course to dock which brought them along the length of the dormant Quasar Viper.  All were unarmed except Sir Zimzod, who had his holstered .45 caliber pistol on his hip.  Scout Ryddoth opened the aft-port dorsal hatch after the boat docked, and was surprised to see a Marine aiming a man-portable fusion gun down the hatch at him!  Dressed in battledress, as expected, the "Alpha load" for inspections was usually a 4mm gauss rifle with mini-stock.  The fusion gun was usually a Bravo load, for battle only.A Visit From The Bad Humor Woman
Not terribly fazed, Ryddoth stepped back to give the Marine space to come down the ramp and "secure" the Horizon's transverse passage followed by his mates.  Efficiently, a full fire team of battledressed marines boarded.  They were followed by a naval officer in sealed combat armor with a snub pistol in the right hand and a note-puter in the left.  The officer's rank read as a Lieutenant, with the last named "Aiixes".  The security marine ordered Ryddoth to lead them into the lounge, where the rest of the crew were waiting.  On entering the lounge, the marines secured the compartment while others in the team made sure no one else was aboard and unaccounted for.  The naval officer then began the task of inserting and checking each Ident in her reader, verifying its data one by one.
Once satisfied of everyone's identity she turned and addressed Scout Ryddoth as the commander of the Dawnstar Horizon.  She asked what they were doing in that region of space as the marines stood watch.  Before they could answer, she also said a second boat of marines were boarding the Viper, to inspect her and verify answers given.  Ryddoth explained that, as the Admiral had said, they were returning that ship to the Regina system when the Lieutenant cut him off sharply.  "We have inspected our records.  We know this ship.  How did you come into possession of her?"  As Ryddoth began to respond, Dame Mikah stepped in and responded partially to her question.  The two women verbally fenced as Dame Mikah tried to hold back what she thought deadly dangerous while the Lieutenant persisted with questions that seemed to shout "I know the answers already!"
Finally, Dame Mikah said they'd been hired to recover a ship for a planetary government.  But when they discovered what the ship was, and the enormity of what that meant, they had broken the contract to bring the ship to Regina.  She said the destroyer had to be returned to Regina or destroyed, to prevent cataclysmic events overtaking the sector.  The Lieutenant paused at that answer, before turning to address one of the battledressed marines saying, "Is that enough for you, Sir?"  The marine initiated the unlock on his helmet and returned the Lieutenant's question with, "That will be fine Lieutenant." before turning to Dame Mikah.  He introduced himself as Imperial Marine Force Commander Havers, commander of the marines aboard the Tamesha Kargaa.
Commander Havers then invited the crew of the Horizon aboard the cruiser, to meet the ship's commander.  An invitation which everyone knew was not optional.  They all boarded the assault boat with the marines and Lieutenant for the trip between ships.  On the way, the crew got a close up look at the cruiser holding them.  They saw significant damage to the starboard dorsal hull of the cruiser as they got up close.  The battle scars ran from the ship's flank clear to her center line, ripping into the cruiser's dorsal mounted spinal gun.  The damage appeared recent and crew were working on field repairs, suggesting a reason why there was a Lt. Commander in charge of the ship.  And why none of her crew had yet used the word "Captain".
Leaving behind the secured Dawnstar Horizon, they docked with and boarded the cruiser to be escorted to her bridge.  As they moved, the smell of ozone, burnt stations and technicians crawling about to restore systems told more of the tale of the INS Tamesha Kargaa.  The burnt and broken remains of the ship's command chair completed the story of her captain with a finality beyond words.  Especially as there were still signs of the blood which had stained some sections.  In the center of the activity, Lt. Commander Gadagush finished giving orders to a handful of her officers before turning and greeting the crew from the Horizon.  There were brief introductions before the Commander led them to her ward room, ordering her steward to bring in drinks for her guests.
As they sat, and the first of the drinks arrived, the Lieutenant Commander addressed the group to tell them about her joining the Regina Colonial fleet.  She said she'd done so not only out of a belief in the Navy, but out of a commitment to serve her Duke.  She looked each meaningfully in the eyes and made sure she expressed clearly that commitment.  That said, she took up the verbal fencing with Dame Mikah over the classified "cargo" of the ship.  Finally, Dame Mikah was pushed into admitting they had searched the Viper for, and failed to find, the warrant.  Mikah went on to say the ship was so politically hot it could potentially depose Duke Norris and throw the sector into civil war.  So they decided it had to be delivered to only Duke Norris' people.
Satisfied for the moment, Commander Gadagush had one more point to make before she turned the conversation to the situation at hand.  Making her mood even more serious, she locked eyes in turn with each of them before continuing.  In her serious tone, she said, "I am not just a servant of the Subsector Navy, I am loyal to my Duke.  Understand that if, by my actions or even my death, I can serve my Duke, I will.  And I will not brook any threat to his work, be it casual or overt."  She then again looked each of the Dawnstar's crew to make sure her point had been received.  Turning more business-like, she then explained that the gas giant the crew of the Horizon had planned to refuel from had acquired a mobile modular starport and cluster of pirate gunboats.  The unspoken result of that would have been them delivering the Viper and Horizon to the pirates if she hadn't intervened.
The Tamesha Kargaa had arrived the system hunting them.  While moving to engage the base and smash its small gunboats, they were surprised by a 20,000 ton Strike Cruiser, that had been hiding in the atmosphere of the gas giant.  It rose out of the clouds and engaged the Kargaa.  They were hit even as they returned fire with all surviving batteries.  The cruisers savaged each other until the Tamesha Kargaa broke off to lick her wounds.  The pirate cruiser had also been badly damaged in the engagement, and retreated back into the sensor-clouding safety of the gas giant's upper atmosphere.  Saying she needed backup to finish off the pirates, the Commander told they crew she was enforcing Imperial Naval edicts and activating the Scouts as well as the Dawnstar Horizon.  She then said she intended to crew the Quasar Viper from her personnel and lead the flotilla in-system.  She planned to use the Horizon's sensors for eyes to locate the enemy cruiser.  For that, she said, she needed a brevet Captain for the destroyer as her eyes settled on Dame Mikah.  With her preference obvious to all, Mikah accepted the appointment and decisions about the Dawnstar's crew and their roles in the coming battle were made.    119 into 120-1112: Preparing for Battle
The next two days were spent in intense activity as the ship's crews were sorted out along with the responsibilities of the Horizon's crew.  It was not a surprising when Scouts Ryddoth and Radetsky would crew the Dawnstar Horizon.  Radetsky drew his position as the best sensor tech in the fleet, and Ryddoth as the scout to whom the ship was assigned.  Ms. Vik was detailed to work with the cruiser's tactical officers, in the ship's CIC, to better understand the starport and prevent any new surprises from that quarter.  Dame Mikah stepped up as brevet Captain of the Viper, and spent the time overseeing repairs to her ship.  Sir Brian, despite his desire to run or hide, was assigned to lead the Viper's engineering division while Sir Zimzod took the Viper's Gunnery Officer's bridge station.
Based on his skills, Zach Wood volunteered to man a gunnery couch but quickly found his offer countered by an order from Dame Mikah.  He was to man the shuttle he'd landed in the Quasar Viper's shuttle bay.  His assignment would be to have the craft ready, in case they had to abandon the destroyer.  Admiral Meshrumiikiim would assume the Viper's command pilot seat.  All of the crew would be in vacc suits or sealed armor, and armed only with side arms when they took their positions.  Until then, they worked to prepare their stations as the flotilla prepared around them.  Soon, the Viper was fully staffed and field repairs were completed on the cruiser.  The Dawnstar Horizon was ready to take point when the fleet moved in.
The night before battle, the Lt. Commander sent a call inviting the Captains of the other ships to join her for drinks aboard the cruiser, each with their most senior officer.  For Ryddoth, that was Scout Radetsky and Dame Mikah selected Sir Brian.  The four spacers joined the Commander and her appointed First Officer in the captain's ward room.  There, they shared dinner and conversation on any subject except the coming battle.  Invariably, as they were all in on the secret, conversation drew around to the recovery of the Quasar Viper and questions about its "cargo".  Given the trust earned, and commitment displayed by the Lieutenant Commander, Mikah decided there was no reason to beat about the bush.  When the Commander started making veiled inquiries about their failed search for the document, Mikah interrupted her.  Coming clean, Mikah bluntly admitted, "We have the warrant", despite her earlier claims.
Immediately, near silence ruled with the only sound being the completely shocked voice of Scout Ryddoth who squeaked, "You have the warrant?!?" stressing the word 'have'.  With surprise displayed on the faces of both Scouts, the Commander realized the knights had played this very carefully and held that most important of secrets very close to the chest indeed!  Swallowing the lump she realized had formed in her own throat at the news, the Commander suggested the document should be transferred to a more safe location aboard the cruiser.  While the Scouts felt this a completely reasonable request, Dame Mikah outright refused, saying the document was in as safe a location as possible.
Still, the Commander persisted, asking if she could at least be told where the document was being kept?  Dame Mikah answered, "It is in one of the secure compartments that are incorporated in Sir Zimzod Egosion's battledress.  It goes everywhere he goes."  Satisfied for the moment that she was getting all she thought she could, the Lt. Commander accepted that.  But she made a mental note to assure Sir Zimzod's safety as much as possible, or the recovery of his body at any rate.  As the evening drew to its close the Commander caught everyone's attention and made it clear to all that fleet command would proceed from her, if need be, to Dame Mikah.  Once that was understood by all, she raised her glass in a toast to victory.  Following that, the captains and first officers were escorted to the boat deck and transported back to their commands for final preparations.    121-1112: Igniting The Dark To Deal Death
At 0700, as the ships checked in and linked sensors and computers between all vessels to a communications network, they were surprised when they began receiving a hail from an incoming small craft!  Holding the flotilla on station, Lt. Commander Gadagush, Dame Mikah and Scout Ryddoth ordered sensor sweeps, wondering what could happen at that last moment?  The sensors detected an incoming shuttle putting out a repeating broadcast saying they were arriving from the starport.  After brief communications, they were told a freighter, outbound for a weeks' time, had been intent on frontier refueling before jumping away.  Instead, they remotely witnessed the battle as the INS Tamesha Kargaa fired a spinal shot at an orbiting archology, destroying nearly twenty percent of it as her lesser batteries engaged a small number of gunships defending it.
As they fled back to the mainworld, their sensors caught a second cruiser rising from the gas giant's atmosphere to engage the first.  Not knowing any details of the engagement, where the forces came from and what the engagement was about, they only cared that the ships were massive, military and trading vessel-shattering salvos.  They needed to be elsewhere.  When they reported in to the very surprised port officials, a team of government officials thought it smart to head out and contact the winners to protect the population.  After Commander Gadagush warned them of the planned action against the pirate fleet and port, the shuttle returned to the mainworld.  Finally, Commander Gadagush ordered the flotilla forward.
Their initial vector brought the flotilla onto an equatorial plane with the planet.  Moving onto the gas giant's orbital plane, Scout Radetsky adjusted the sensors, searching for signs of the damaged strike cruiser.  Halfway in, with all sensors burning, the flotilla picked up the port and two 400 dTon gunships, holding station as a stream of other vessels fled out-system on an opposite vector to their approach.  Writing off the fleeing craft, Gadagush broadcast orders to the ships in-system to surrender or be destroyed, and ordered her forces to advance.  As this continued, one of the gunships spun its vector and left at an increasing speed.  The other held station while its companion apparently ran for it.  Scout Radetsky vowed to keep an extra eye on it in case they tried some sort of flank maneuver.
The flotilla soon began closing to encounter range with the starport, and tactical officers showed Ms. Vik readouts from sensors trained on that facility.  The port, assembled out of mobile storage and engineering modules, was apparently in 'disaster lockdown'.  Much could be read or guessed from the energy flow patterns.  Ms. Vik's knowledge allowed them to zero in on key weak points if the order was given.  Once they were close enough to worry about the port and the gunship, as well as the hidden cruiser, Lieutenant Gadagush decided to make sure the odds stayed in her favor by giving the order.  Lances of fire leapt from the Tamesha Kargaa to strike the port's main power generators.  Power immediately failed in a wave across the station, leaving the desperate and trapped pirates with an hour's battery time, whatever their vacc suits provided and whatever damage control they could effect.
That was apparently too much for the crew of remaining gunship, which soon broadcast that a "change of command" had been effected.  They now asked if they could surrender.  Gadagush ordered marines to man an assault boat.  She ordered the gunboat to advance to the mid-space between the crippled station and flotilla.  They were then to present themselves on the outer hull of the gunship, in vacc suits and unarmed.  At the same time, Gadagush ordered the flotilla to slow and concurred when Ryddoth relayed a request to pull the Horizon back, in case of ruse.  After a brief time, the marines reached the gunship, took the crew into custody and searched the craft, giving the all clear.  Once satisfied, Commander Gadagush answered a query about the prisoner's status by saying, "They had their chance to surrender earlier and failed to take it".
After the marines executed the pirates, Commander Gadagush had them man the boat and rig for combat while the remaining marines and their assault boats returned to the cruiser.  After the marines signaled the gunboat's ready status, Gadagush ordered the Horizon back out front and called all stations to ready for action.  All the crews prepared to move past the port into the gas giant's low orbit.  All eyes were on the sensors, which only showed questionable anomalies in the gas giant's upper atmosphere.  Moving in, the Dawnstar Horizon probed the upper atmosphere, now shadowed by the captured gunboat as a protector.  Everyone was on edge, anticipating the next second to bring battle.  As the ships drove in closer, sensors tagged numerous anomalies that "could be" the enemy cruiser.  At Dame Mikah's prompting, the other captains agreed to launch a wave of missiles in an attempted 'preemptive strike'.  After that, the missile batteries spat a pattern of one or two salvos spread over all the sensor hits.
As the CIC tracked the outbound fire and the ships drove in, Scout Radetsky worked his magic on the sensor panel.  Soon, as the gas giant's atmosphere drew ever closer, the sensors flashed, displaying a tracking box around the ghost of a pattern!  Radetsky called out the contact and tried to confirm the target or lock on as he fed the data fleet-wide.  Not near any of the fired-on anomalies, the scout was fairly certain he had the approximate location of the rogue warship.  Just before the already fired missiles began to blossom into high altitude nuclear blasts, the fleet guns spoke again, spitting missiles at a range too great for laser and fusion fire, if only just.  Then everything was a wash of explosions, radiation and violent atmospheric tumult!
Once more, as missile fire sped downward, the sensors reached out to reacquire anything in the clearing picture following the nuclear blasts.  As the ships closed with the atmosphere, the captains and their crews knew they were "in it".  Any crippling hit would pull the ship into the gas giant without hope of recovery.  The feeling was electric for all the crews as the sensors probed the swirling turbulent upper atmosphere.  Again, the cry "Contact!" came from Radetsky as the sensors again tagged another ghost pattern and the scout leapt on his board to lock and confirm the hit.  And again, the fire order from the captains of the Quasar Viper and Tamesha Kargaa rang out, launching more missiles from their tubes to strike across space.  The light and fury of exploding warheads again washed everything out momentarily as the ships closed enough to fire energy weapons into the atmosphere.  All knew the next sighting would be met with weapons responding at the speed of light, and that street ran both ways.
What every hand in the flotilla knew, the enemy commander also surely knew.  Almost too close to the sensor wash fade came a burst of neutrinos that could herald a ship's power plant burning into full output!  The hiding was over and it was time to dance.  Scouts Radetsky and Ryddoth had no time to react as a sudden spurt of energy turned to thrust and the rogue cruiser began rising into view, firing as she came!  No one had time to scan the pirate's hull for battle scars from the earlier fight as the order "weapons free!" went out flotilla wide.  Quickly as humanly possible, Ryddoth hauled on the yoke of the Horizon, turning her out and applying thrust away from the battle.  Radetsky's fingers flew through the switches to add OMS thrusters to the mix and even looked to shift weight if it would make a difference?  No one was surprised as the pirate split its fire, with the bulk concentrating on the Kargaa.  Some few guns were directed at the Horizon with others at the destroyer.  There were no dispassionate observers, detached from the engagement, to comment as the ether burned with missile thrust, laser burn and fusion conversion.  As hell rained down on, and ripped into, the Pirate cruiser each of the Imperial ships was also a burning universe of disaster unto itself.Death and Victory
In the cockpit of the Dawnstar Horizon Ryddoth and Radetsky were thrown and shaken like dolls in their restraints as the ship shuddered, rocked and shook violently.  Worse yet, in the midst of the violence, all but emergency lighting died as well as every instrument in reach or view!  Added to that, indicators had flashed loss of containment before flaring and dying.  So the ship's interior was opened to the void of space.  Both scouts knew that was a very, very bad thing.  It meant the ship's power plant was off line at the least.  At the worst, it was gone, perhaps with the entire engineering section of the ship!  Strapped into their acceleration couches in their vacc suits, they rode out the rest of the violence before beginning to consider their very few options.
In the CIC of the INS Tamesha Kargaa, the barely controlled feeling of pre-battle "electricity" shifted to the real thing with a suddenness that shocked Ms. Vik.  Feedback leapt from overloaded panels to burn nearby crew at the same time the ship shook and shuddered violently as enemy fire struck.  Any ratings caught moving from hand hold to hand hold on unavoidable tasks either won the battle with physics to hold tight or were thrown.  They became missiles, some impacting other secured personnel or the panels of bridge stations.  It was all Ms. Vik could do to not scream in panic as things began moving so violently she couldn't make sense of the scenes with her own eyes.
Adding to the visual were the sounds of rending metal, explosions somewhere in the ship's internal spaces, screams of pain and fear and the smell of flame, fresh ozone and death.  The overall lighting dimmed suddenly for a moment, into subdued red which flickered on and off again, before coming back solid, joined by various alarms and klaxons.  Despite the hazards, members of the crew wasted no time unstrapping themselves to either aid the wounded, verify the dead or begin damage assessment reports and directing DC teams throughout the ship.  Slightly injured at her post on the bridge, Lieutenant Commander Gadagush barked out orders for all divisions to report on the ship's status and the CIC to report on the status of the enemy ship.
On the bridge of the Quasar Viper, pandemonium ruled as the recently repressurized and repaired bridge hull was breached, and the crew littered with flying shrapnel!  Those quick enough to note it would have seen the loss of computer functions just before the loss of lights.  Across the entire bridge, flares of light and sparks erupted briefly as metallic debris struck control systems and gave birth to electronic flares, just as suddenly killed off by loss of power and atmosphere.  In her command chair, Dame Mikah Kirlim was struck by numerous shards cutting through combat armor and vacc suit as were both her pilots.  On the port side of the bridge, Sir Zimzod caught only a few bits of debris, and was only slightly wounded as his battledress self-sealed and began injecting Zimzod with pain killers.  Looking across the bridge after confirming his status, he saw both Dame Mikah and Admiral Meshrumiikiim were down as well as others.  Reacting immediately, Sir Zimzod sprang to his friend's aid, verifying her suit had sealed around the incising debris and injecting her with coagulants and battlefield response drugs from his med-kit.
He then turned his attention to the Admiral, finding his self-sealing vacc suit working to do its job on the considerably more injured Scout before treating him as well.  But the suit was so damaged, Zimzod had to apply sealing patches to secure the Admiral before injecting him too.  Assured his people were safe for the moment, he looked around assessing the situation before beginning to shout orders over his suit comms.  The Knight's commands were like a whip, cutting through the panic and haze displayed by a number of the survivors on the bridge.  Soon he had some ratings begin moving the unconscious captain, pilot and other wounded to the ship's med-bay.  The rest were either treated and transported or were attempting to take stock of the ship and battle.  Zimzod's demands for information were quickly met with the answers that all ship's systems seemed down and only emergency lighting and evacuation systems seemed functional on the bridge.  Additionally, there was no immediate contact with the rest of the ship beyond a nonsensical babble of voices and screaming on their suit comms.
Despite Sir Brian having been the appointed Second in Command, Zimzod found himself commanding the damaged destroyer.  Eventually, he got the comms traffic calmed except the apparent screams and panic of the civilian, Zachariah Wood.  Without knowledge of the ship's status or the battle situation, Zimzod ordered people to integrate their suit comms.  He soon pieced together that much of the ship was intact, but they had no reports from engineering, and only Zach's screams and pleas for help from the upper boat decks and gunners.  On the plus side, it seemed they weren't drawing more fire at the moment.  Zimzod ordered the officers to handle getting the bridge operational while the ratings were dispatched to pick up crew, spread communications and form damage control teams.  Priority was to reach engineering and find out what the hell happened down there?
Sadly, almost as soon as the ratings left the bridge, a lieutenant reported to Sir Zimzod the ship's computer had been fried when a section of hull bisected the CPU BUS gather.  That alone destroyed the data path allowing the computer to function at all, and guaranteed the Viper wouldn't escape the gas giant's gravity under her own power.  Realizing the damage was likely fatal, Sir Zimzod gave orders to relay any news from engineering to the med-bay until otherwise ordered.  He also ordered everyone to spread the word to prepare to abandon the ship and look for ways to call for rescue.  Then, Zimzod stalked off to see to the condition of Dame Mikah and the other wounded.  Teams reaching the engineering section found little joy there.  Wounded, including the unconscious Sir Brian, were being evacuated from the space with initial reports from available engineers.  It seemed the ship's maneuver drive and power plant had both been "cored"!  So, she had a jump drive, but no power or brain to jump with and no maneuver drive to escape the gas giant's pull.
In the med-bay, Sir Zimzod found Dame Mikah both awake and painfully aware.  When he arrived, she demanded a report and was told the bridge was dead and the ship seemed as dead too.  Teams were trying to get a report from the engineering spaces.  About then, rescue reached what was left of the ship's shuttle bay to find it completely open to space, with little left of the bay or the shuttle.  Luckily for Zach, the one section remaining from the ship's boat was the bridge compartment, which had been somewhat crushed and wedged into a remaining corner of the Viper's structural skeleton!  Stuck in the wreckage, Zach Wood continued to panic as he fought the metal pinning him in place.  The team immediately set to calming him and worked to free him from the wreck.  They were also the first to reliably report on the battle situation to the ship's compliment.
As the scouts on the Dawnstar Horizon took stock of what little they had left, the crew in the remains of the Viper's boat bay reported to their officers and a CIC officer reported to Lt. Commander Gadagush.  Crippling fire had poured down on the pirate cruiser and she was seen to have lost power and fallen, in a starboard roll, as she sank into the atmosphere of the gas giant.  Sensors continued to burn into the winds and interference, tracking the sinking hulk.  On query, there was no possibility the ship could escape should they recover power, given the gravitational forces already in play.  Tracking reported the Dawnstar Horizon had been fired on lightly, but was so small a vessel the entire engineering section of the ship had been destroyed and or ripped off.  Her one grisly blessing had been the marines on the captured gunboat.  Tracking indicated they apparently moved themselves between the pirate cruiser and escaping scout ship, protecting them as the unarmed ship tried to flee.  The gunboat had "ceased to exist", with no chance of survivors, even as it fired all weapons down on its murderer.  The remaining stream of fire killed the Horizon.
Aboard Tamesha Kargaa, sensors couldn't determine the status of the Horizon's crew and there had been no comm traffic from the wreck.  The Quasar Viper seemed to have taken heavy hits to her engineering section as well as some damage to her bridge.  The most significant visual damage was to the upper deck boat bay, which seemed to have been completely devastated, including the shuttle they'd had aboard.  This made sense, because of the number of gunnery hardpoints mounted on that section of the ship's hull.  As she heard that, Ms. Vik had a sinking feeling, knowing the newly arrived Zach Wood had been in that shuttle.  Returning to the moment, Inger heard as the report continued that the Viper was completely without power.  And without assistance, the wreck would fall into the gas giant's atmosphere in several hours.  Still, sensors reported there were survivors, but there had been no contact from the Viper either.Days Of Recovery And Repair
Satisfied the battle was done and her people were looking to the needs of her ship and those aboard, the Commander ordered marines, medics and engineers to the surviving boats.  As this was organized by the rescue and damage control teams, comm traffic from some boosted personal comms units from survivors on the Viper established communications between the wrecked destroyer and the cruiser.  Satisfied everything was in hand, the Commander ordered her crew to position the Kargaa's spinal mount to add some finishing shots to the pirate station.
Commander Gadagush and Captain Dame Kirlim confirmed the Viper had to be abandoned, and agreed it should be allowed to sink into the gas giant if not nudged.  There was no chance of recovering her log, so the crew were ordered to their staterooms to evacuate everyone's gear before abandoning the ship as the wounded were evacuated.  The operation took just under two hours, and during that time a rescue boat was surprised to report contact, via personal comms, with the crew of the Dawnstar Horizon.  They miraculously reported zero casualties!  The wreck was explored and valuables recovered from the ship's locker along with all crew gear from the staterooms before they returned to the cruiser with Ryddoth and Radetsky.
In the end, it was five hours after the initial shot crippled the pirate port that the surviving senior officers were gathered in the commander's ward room to discuss the battle and the aftermath.  This was less Sir Brian and Admiral Meshrumiikiim who remained in the cruiser's med-bay.  Mikah refused to miss the meeting, despite the pains from her wounds.  When Ms. Vik asked if they were going to board the hulk of the station, Commander Gadagush shrugged saying, "It's been five hours now.  If they're not dead yet, they soon will be."  This was a reference to Lt. Commander Gadagush's plans to prevent improper use of the hulk by pushing it into the gas giant's atmosphere.  Gadagush made it clear that she didn't want to risk any of her surviving Marines subduing the dying arcology, or tax her ship's resources taking prisoners.
Everyone from the Horizon was upset at this, but none fuming more than Dame Mikah.  Ms. Vik felt it better to let the knight speak for them all rather than berating this pitiful excuse for a ship's captain for putting her and the rest of the crew at risk of imprisonment, banishment, or execution because she had a sudden lack of stones, or perhaps delusions of grandeur.  If there were those aboard the station who were still alive, due to high tech vacc suits, their final moments would "not be pleasant."  Of course, this point of view ignored the hard military fact that they could spend days chasing pirates with an unknown amount of survival supplies through a facility they didn't know in deadly 'compartment to compartment' fights while the stars only knew if the pirates had another surprise capital ship to call and finish off the Tamesha Kargaa.
As repairs proceeded, tech teams made trips to the Quasar Viper to recover stocks of repair materials and other items before giving that wreck a nudge into the gas giant.  Then, full-scale repairs were put underway and the scouts, knights and Commander discussed their next move.  The wreck of the Dawnstar Horizon was allowed to fall into the gravity well on its own.  The will of the Lt. Commander was adamant on the next move, and she would brook no disagreement.  They would repair the cruiser enough for the jump back to Regina on 123-1112, after most of two days field repairs.  There, they would report in to Naval Command.  She agreed, at Dame Mikah's insistence, that The Office of the Duke be contacted simultaneous to their contact with Regina Naval HQ and that settled all disputes.  After that, the former crew of the Horizon had no official duties or position aboard the cruiser.  They were settled in spare quarters and allowed to volunteer their services according to their skills.  Dame Mikah and Sir Zimzod volunteered to help with ongoing treatment of the wounded.  Mikah's medical skills were greatly appreciated and Zimzod found the need for medical assistants to the doctors and surgeons in demand as well as ward nursing duties.
Zimzod still found time to hang with the gunnery officers and continue pursuing his interest improving his own skills.  Zimzod also managed to have his battledress repaired, but wasn't able to use his less than overt interest in their fusion weapons to end up with one in his kit to keep.  Sir Brian, once able, volunteered to help with engineering tasks but was slowed by his wounds enough that Ms. Vik was able to follow things he would have shot through at his own speed.  Zachariah Wood concentrated on surviving the unfamiliar military environment and using the captain's legal references to prepare his documentation of the loss of the IMS Raining Coins, its shuttle and the cargo.  Scout Radetsky was pressed into service teaching some of the sensor techs from the cruiser's CIC tricks to use with their sensors as the Admiral sat in.  Emkir also found time to hang with and learn from the ship's navigation officer.  Scout Ryddoth volunteered to work with the engineers on repairs but was also granted time to sit in with the ship's computer officer learning all he could.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Survival in the Regina System