Harvey Dahl faced Bradfur's queries calmly. He had to rely on the pocket translator hanging from his belt to communicate; the Ovis speech was typified by unintelligible grunts and bleats, and sometimes, even stamping and pawing at the ground, communication with which even the translator occasionally had difficulties. Dahl had been affiliated with the Millenium Falcon, having briefly served with her. As a mercenary, he had agreed to join the Ovis force, which paid him handsomely. Now Bradfur, the Ovis Captain, was questioning him about the MF's battle tendencies. It was known that the Ovis were about to attack the Millenium Falcon's home system; the National Federation of Lifeforms dispensed with that secret, licensing vidfeeds of the battle to the highest bidders, and blacking out access to those near the attack's homeworld if they failed to satisfactorily provide financial support and appropriate homage.
The Ovis were a nomadic tribe, originally coexisting among the Kagan in the coldest steppes of Sibir. Once they realized their dream of expansion through space travel, they crossed the frozen landbridge of Sibir to the debarkation spaceport, skipped through light-years of space and settled, initially, in the arid, sun-filled Arroyo Seco sector, bouncing from planets Reeves to Rosenbloome to Fronetiere. Most recently, they had moved en masse, skipping into a midwestern sector of the galaxy and settling a small system, the Seint Lwi. Covered by matted curly hair, the typical Ovis males had prominently pointed faces and large, curved horns protruding from the skull which curled around their rounded, fuzzy, movable ears.
Bradfur's ears were erect, and perked forward awaiting Dahl's response. "Well," said Dahl laconically, "Ryan likes to sit back and direct his fleet from inside a contained pocket of protective forces. You're aware I used to be part of that protection."
The pocket-sized translator groaned, bleated, clicked and thumped in what Dahl recognized was repeating his words in a reasonable facsimile of the Ovis speech. Bradfur absorbed that information and spoke unintelligibly. The belt translator spoke in mechanical speech, "How strongly is these protective forces?"
Dahl smiled. "Not as strong as when I was there, I'm proud to say." Dahl was still somewhat peeved that the MF wouldn't pay him what he made with the Ovis. The translator buzzed against his leg with the effort to bleat, bump and click his response.
Bradfur cocked his head slightly, ears forward. When the translator stopped bleating, he spoke again, and the translator said, "We can pierce these Captain defenses?"
Dahl smiled. "Yes. But he has tremendous offensive weapons. You'll need to be certain that while you're focusing on his personal protection force, he's not destroying your fleet. You should be afraid. Are you?" His response bleated and thumped from the translator. But he didn't need it to understand Bradfur's answer, which was faithfully echoed by his translator a second later.
"Naaaaa," said Bradfur.
The Millenium Falcon was ready. Tactically, there were only two locations that the Ovis were likely use to skip into their system space. It was a coin flip, but Captain Ryan had picked the one he felt was liable to give them a chance to draw first blood. All the guns were ready. Ryan gazed out into the starfield ahead, hoping he'd picked correctly. Suddenly, there was a shimmer in the space ahead, and the Ovis force appeared. Ryan didn't skip a beat. "39, 11, 88, range, mark. Execute attack Bravo."
It wasn't exactly a turkey shoot, but the MF scored early and often. Once, the Ovis mounted a nearly-successful counter attack, but on a tip, Lieutenant Umenyiora, a veteran recent addition to the MF defensive force from the Golders Greening and Belt of Suns, took the initiative and scored another decisive hit on the Ovis force.
The problem was the collateral damage. First, during initial offensive efforts, Ensign Ewing's craft was smashed and Lieutenant Jackson's powerful force was disabled. On a couple of the Ovis probes, the MF saw several additional forces disabled, including the very experienced Lieutenants Biermann and Weatherspoon. The attrition started to show in the latter half of the battle, as the Ovis forces scored several hits on the MF. Only a late offensive strike to the heart of the Ovis force and late defensive heroics salvaged victory and sent the Ovis back into hyperspace. But the MF crew was banged up, and they'd lost Ewing and Biermann.
"Dammit, Doc, why can't you fix it?" Admiral Smith wasn't mad, but definitely frustrated.
Doc Karas looked at him evenly. "Well Admiral, we can, but it's not going to be done before the end of the campaign." He'd normally have called the Admiral Smitty, but Smith had surprised him in the training room while was treating the young Ensign, Joplo Bartu, for a minor muscle pull. He wasn't casual with the Admiral in front of the crew. Bartu looked from one to the other, wide-eyed.
"But I thought you had those little...nanothingies, that go in and rebuild the damage." The Admiral ran his fingers through his close-cropped silver hair.
Karas sighed. "Nanobots. And we do have them, Admiral, but in a case like Biermann's, there's just too much damage for the nearly molecular-level nanobots to rebuild the tissue fast enough to have him ready within the next few months. Even then, he has to go through some physical therapy to get his brain connected to the new tissue."
Smith ran his fingers through his hair again, a sure sign of frustration. "Okay, Doc. Just make him well." He looked at Bartu. "You did good out there, son. It's next man up. You're going to get some more time in the starfield. Make it count." He turned and walked out of the small clinic off the training room.
Bartu watch him leave and turned his wide-eyed look to the Doc. "Is he angry at me, Mr. Karas?"
"No, son," said Karas grimly. "He's just worried about his crew, and the next assignment. Like he said, it's next man up. You're going to fight the Delphinidae in the Cetacean sector. And you're going short-handed."