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Lahatiel crewed Exiler with just five officers, when the normal complement of a frigate was eleven. When Arioch objected, Lahatiel reminded hym that he returned the vessel to the emperor with just hyz sister as crew.

Erel Barakiel took the ship out into the Eggbeater on a "shakedown" cruise that was really an opportunity for the new crew to work and gel together as a team. And if some Beaters were flushed out of the woodwork along the way so much the better. Two weeks into the deployment Suriel said to Lahatiel, I think I know what this is, sir, but I need a second set of eyes.

Yes, I recognize those numbers, Suriel. Where did they come from? Why is there's no corresponding symbol on your scope?

Sir, one time on the Coercer I was bored and I discovered that commercial signal analyzers are actually much more sensitive than what the SLIP-64 uses, so if I create a dummy symbol out there and hook it, I can open a beamport on that bearing and my store-boughten gear will trigger on stuff that's way out there, long before the SLIP-64 shows a symbol. Just now I took a look out at 210 tack 45 and I got a whiff of something. Fusion motor signature. No doubt there are others nearby on different bearings. I can open more beamports out that way and fish around for more, sir

Actually, I have a better idea. Sar Adnarel, program a torpedo for Launch On Bearing Only and send it on its way: 210 tack 45 and go.

Yes sir, she said, immediately complying with his order. Adnarel's fingers flew over the console and then a thump shook the ship. LOBO away.

There was about an hour of watching with the Big Eye and waiting. Then Hashmal Suriel announced that one of the unknown contacts had lit off their fire-control radars to take shots at Adnarel's torpedo which they discovered, far too late, was almost upon them and in terminal cruise. A little puff of light appeared on the Big Eye briefly, indicating that either Adnarel had scored a hit, or the enemy had somehow detonated the torpedo.

Immediately there was heard frantic shouting back and forth on UHF radio in the clear, indicating the presence of at least two more ships. It also told them Adnarel scored a hit. One of those two remaining ships started slicing and dicing the sky with search radar to find whoever it was that shot it at them, and after a few minutes they had Exiler locked on with what Suriel called "steady rails" which referred to the constant train of radar pulses on one of har scopes. It meant a torpedo was bearing down on them.

Adnarel, warm up your laser and get ready for some incoming rounds. And Barakiel, begin taking evasive maneuvers, I don't want to make it easy for them. Immediately everyone began to be pitched back and forth in their couches as Barakiel made random course changes under high acceleration. Ravmalak Kushiel, belowdecks, monitored the strain on the engines. Sure enough, within ten minutes a rising whine filled the bridge. Suriel had picked up an inbound torpedo and initiated countermeasures.

As sha tried to jam the torpedo with MACKSY, Adnarel spotted the dot moving against the star background on the Big Eye and started putting short, powerful, Q-squelched laser pulses on it, one after the other. The lights on the flight-decked dimmed with each power draw. Somehow, Adnarel never missed and she didn't need any stinking fire control radar, an uncanny fact that astonished even veterans when they saw her do her magic. Every hit took a toll. Pretty soon the dot became a harmless scattered line of tumbling commas that missed the ship by a good 500 meters, flashed by like a set of lightning bolts, then sailed off to infinity on the other side.

That was my first real ship-to-ship tussle, Adnarel said.

Lahatiel beamed at har. You performed like a champ. Everyone did.

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