Things are tracking along nicely with the end of the world. By this point if you’re dropping in with no background, strongly suggest you start back here . Welcome all TOPCON and Time Eddy visitors–hope that you enjoy your visit!
Fort Riley, Kansas
1000 Local (1100 Eastern)
Putting off their characteristic whine, the last of Jason’s fourteen M-9 Powells settled down off of their hoverfans, the thirty-ton tanks’ bulk raising a puff of dust as it settled down heavily onto the Kansas dirt. Jason turned away from the settling tank back towards main post, now able to hear the rhythmic rumbling of a battalion’s worth of M-1A2SEP main battle moving up from the motorpools to the south.
So hard to believe a force so powerful for this planet is the equivalent of horse and lance for the stars, Jason thought to himself. There was a low whine coming from the east, gradually building to a crescendo. Although I think this is about to be reinforced, he thought.
With a flash, the rises to the east of Fort Riley suddenly became alive with movement as the 6th Shock Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Mecha Division, Terran Expeditionary Corps, crested the intervening terrain in a charge that took Jason’s breath away. Moving at over one hundred miles an hour, seventy-five hovertanks weighing in excess of seventy tons apiece hurtled over the terrain towards Fort Riley. At a silent signal, all seventy-five hovertanks suddenly came to a dead stop. At another signal, the vehicles transformed into bipedal mecha, their main guns becoming the end of their left arm, the missile launchers usually mounted abreast their turrets swiveling to flank the “head” of their cockpit.
“Danger, inbound unidentified…” Jack’s helmet indicator began to intone, the Powell’s internal sensors detecting airborne targets via satellite feed.
The rest of the warning was drowned out by the ear-splitting roar of engines, as over a hundred aircraft thundered overhead from east to west, flying a perfect Vs upon Vs formation. The aircraft, all hailing from the 5th Mecha Dragoons, came in various shapes and sizes. The two most numerous ones were the Sparrowhawk, a mecha that resembled a tailless cranked delta-wing when in fighter mode, and the Kestrel, fighters that bore a marked resemblance to the American F-15 Eagle yet with swept wings. Like their hovertank brethren, the aircraft stopped on a dime without signal, the exhaust of their retro-thrusters visible in the humid Kansas air, then transformed into hovering two-legged war machines that sat at altitude, their engines suddenly silent as they hung on repulsors.
“Sir, let me just state how utterly amazing a moment this is,” his gunner, and longtime Japanimation fan Sergeant Clark Blackwell said. Turning, Jason could see the man standing with tears in his eyes, staring reverentially up at the now descending mecha like they were descending Playboy bunnies.
Too bad he doesn’t know what I do, which is those things are the only thing that can stand on the same battlefield as our soon to be opponents, Jason thought. Which means that it’s a good thing we’re just here for crowd control, and will be on those damn evacuation ships in a jiffy.
As Jason watched, one of the former hovertanks strode towards him. Beside him, Blackwell was almost beside himself in joy, seeing the war machine start to get closer. The mecha stood just over twenty feet tall and twelve feet wide, the seventy tons moving forward with a measured stride. While all mecha could move forward using repulsorlifts and thrusters, both of those systems took about twice the energy as simply utilizing the “musculature circuitry”, yet another good enough translation, in the legs. Unless a mecha had to be somewhere very, very quickly during a fight, it made more sense to divert power to the weaponry systems and shielding, especially in the face of an Orionan ground assault.
The particular mecha in question was a Grizzly, or so Jason’s mind suddenly told him in a flash of cognition that made him a little dizzy. Jack said the mind flash takes a little bit getting used to, he thought. Colored in all black with a gold trim, a roaring stylized lion’s visage in the center of the cockpit canopy, the Grizzly was the command mecha for the “Golden Lions”, the 6th Battalion’s nickname bestowed upon them by their first commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Ajax McCarthy . One of two hovertank types in the CCDF, the Grizzly like its namesake was designed for close-in battles with the Orionan Horde. Just over the horizon, near the turnoff for Manhattan proper, were the Woomera fire-support hovertanks of the 7th Battalion, the “Horsemen”.
As Jason watched, the canopy cleared from its opaque mode to reveal a single figure at the vehicle’s controls, obviously female by the contours of the battle armor. Jason suddenly felt a gust of wind and looked behind and up, watching as the command mecha for the fighters, a Phoenix, descended from above his head and landed just expertly beside the other mecha as it stopped twenty yards short of Jason and Blackwell’s position. The two massive plasma rifles that constituted the Phoenix’s main armament were retracted to their normal positions, the barrels pointed vertically into the sky behind each of the mecha’s shoulders. Man, looks like the Japanimation folks got something right, Jason thought, not knowing that the Phoenix pilot had been the guiding force behind the prototype for the mecha.
“Okay, next to that whole threesome fantasy with Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst, I’m pretty much at a ten,” Blackwell breathed. Jason turned and looked at the man, shaking his head.
“Okay Sergeant Blackwell, I’m going to have Top sedate you if you keep making comments like that,” Jason said. Blackwell looked over at him, and Jason realized he could’ve told the man he would shoot him in both his kneecaps and he wouldn’t have cared. The short, stocky African-American was in rapture, his brown eyes wider than dinner plates.
“Mecha. Women mecha pilots. Multiple types of mecha. Sir, all we need now is some princess that needs rescuing and we are in Blackwell Heaven,” the NCO breathed. Jason suddenly found himself thinking of Elvis groupies back in the Sixties, fully expecting Blackwell to scream and faint in a moment. He turned to say something when the situation suddenly changed.
“You humans and your damsel in distress fantasies,” the walking hovertank boomed from hidden speakers, causing everyone within earshot to jump. “Any female who finds herself in such a situation lacks the intelligence to be good breeding stock—why would you want to share your bloodline with hers?”
The voice coming from the mecha was obviously feminine, and imperious to boot. With a hiss, the canopy opened, whipping from left to right as one complete unit. With an almost feline grace, it’s pilot jumped out, dropping to the ground from a heigh that would have broken most humans’ legs, if not killed them outright. The pilot hit with only a slight flexing of knees, then started striding over to where Jason and Blackwell were standing..
“Holy shit,” Blackwell said as the woman got closer. She was easily six feet tall if not more, with broad, muscular hips that met at a narrow, waspy waist. This waist then broadened back out as it moved up to her full chest and broad shoulders, the entire package moving without the gangly awkwardness of many tall women. Reaching up, the woman touched the sides of her armor, the helmet portion flipping back then sliding into the back portion of the suit between her shoulders. The face revealed was a deep, rich chocolate brown in complexion, the features soft and narrow. If not for the completely sapphire blue eyes, the pilot would look like a beautiful human woman, stunning enough to be a supermodel.
“Okay, I’m going to go see Top now,” Blackwell breathed, captivated by the woman’s beauty.
“Might be a plan,” Jason observed quietly, set back himself. He had once watched a documentary on ancient Egyptian queens like Cleopatra and Nefertiti that had described their beauty as being without description. At the time he had scoffed, refusing to believe any woman could be that beautiful—a comment that had gotten a bucket of ice dumped on him and sent his chances of marital relations dropping so low they made Hell seem like Mount Everest. While Kathy had eventually forgiven him after much flowers and chocolate, he had quietly continued to believe such descriptions were a bit excessive.
Yeah, well, looks like one learns something every day, he thought as the woman walked up to him.
“Jason, close your mouth, you’re drooling,” Jack said as he suddenly came up behind him. Turning to the female pilot, his face grew hard and he brought his arm across his chest in a form of salute.
“Star Colonel Tobarakh, welcome to Earth,” Jack intoned, his voice low and dignified. The pilot returned the salute, ending it with a short bow of her head. Her features softening somewhat, which is to say they downgraded from polite glaciality to cold, she extended her hand towards Jason.
“Greetings Jason Mitchell of Fort Riley,” the pilot said. “My name is Karin Tobarakh of Adjibouti, the planet of Dominion.”
Jason took the pro-offered hand, suddenly surprised by the strength of Karin’s grip and the nascent strength he felt behind it. Sweet Jesus, she could crush my hand if she wanted to, he thought. Jason had once shaken hands with a professional bodybuilder, four time winner of the World’s Strongest Man contest. At the time he had believed that he would never shake hands with another person as powerful. Obviously I was wrong about that one.
“Sir,” Jack said, saluting as the pilot of the figher mecha came up beside the woman and dropped his visor. Jason was shocked to see the features of a human, the man returning the salute.
“Jack, you can stop that shit at anytime,” Eric replied, his voice weary. Turning, he extended his hand and shook Jason’s. “Star Colonel Eric Walthers, formerly of Topeka, Kansas.”
Jason sighed in relief, not realizing he had been holding his breath.
“Yeah, I know, it’s good to see a freakin’ human,” Eric said. “No offense, honey,” he said quickly to the woman. Karin raised one of her narrow eyebrows at Eric, the ghost of a smile crossing her face for the first time.
“I do not recall you complaining about me being a non-human when we coupled last night, Eric Walthers of Earth.”
There was an extremely awkward silence amongst the four individuals, Eric’s skin blushing as much as someone his shade could. Karin looked at all three men, then shook her head.
“You humans are such prudes,” she said in her native tongue, utterly beguiling Jason.
“Dear, it’s not polite to discuss what happens between husband and wife in mixed company, especially when you have just met,” Eric replied softly in the same language. Jason continued to look back and forth between the two of them, the flow of sounds utterly astounding him. In a perverse reversal of the usual order of things, the family members and non-combatants being loaded on the ships had been the first in line for translator chips. Space was unforgiving of mistakes, and all it took was someone not understanding that they were about to open a hatch to kill a shipful of people.
“This man finds me desirable, and I did not need a sensor array to tell that had I but offered his subordinate would have coupled with me right here. Do you not want them to know that you have, and can continue to have, me? Is our coupling not pleasing to you?”
“You know, I don’t think I need a translator to realize someone’s stepped in deep shit,” Jason said bemusedly. Jack snickered, turning away to hide his grin.
“You have a mate, Jason of…Jason?” Karin asked, forcing herself to remember Human custom with names.
“Yes, yes he does,” Jack said quietly. Jason turned and looked at him, then back at Karin.
“Yes, my wife, Amy,” Jason said. There was a flash of recognition in Karin’s eyes, and she looked quickly back and forth between Jason and Jack. Before she could say something potentially embarrassing, Jack held up his hand.
“Yes, my ex-girlfriend,” Jack said. “And yes, I know on your world this would be cause for a blood match to the death. There’s more than it would take to explain, Karin, let’s just leave it at that.”
“After the idiocy of your most prominent world leaders, nothing surprises me anymore,” Karin said with a shrug. “My father provided them with various more efficient power sources, cures for diseases, and weapons technology that was several generations ahead of where you would have been normally at this time.”
“General Connelly has taken care of that problem,” Eric replied fiercely, his eyes lit with barely contained fury.
“I am afraid that their being consumed alive isn’t quite going to cut it,” Jason said, his voice heavy. The enormity of what was going to happen had just started to sink in for him, and he hated himself for being incredibly glad that his and his entire immediate family’s seats on the last ships out of Dodge were guaranteed. Although I’d love to see Mom’s face when the Tectal showed up at her doorstep, Jason thought with a grin. The Tectal were the scouts of the CCDF, tall, elfin featured creatures with generally willowy builds and almost human eyes. While no one could confirm it, according to Jack, most of the humans were reasonably certain the Tectals had been using Earth as a vacation spot off and on for several millennia. Jason broke out of his reverie to see Jack staring at him.
“Thinking about Lucy when the Tectal shows up at the door?” Jack asked with a big grin. Lucy Mitchell was enough of a Middle Earth fan that she had camped out for two days waiting on the first movie to be released.
“You know, Dad’s been dead for two years,” Jason observed. “I think the poor bastard will be lucky if she doesn’t jump his bones right there in the living room.”
“Okay, that’s something most normal folks don’t think about their mother,” Eric said in shock.
“Look, I walked in on my parents when I was ten,” Jason said. “They figured the cat was out of the bag at that point. Made them happy—someone they could tell to take my brothers for a ‘long walk’ when Dad got back from the field.”
Jack whipped his head around in shock.
“So that’s why you were always coming by to get me so we could go to the park when our parents were stationed at Fort Lewis!”
“Uh, dude, it’s no big deal—how do you think they got Sarah? Look’s like Dad got what he paid for with the vasectomy,” Jason said, alluding to the fact military personnel were given free medical care.
There discussion was broken up by the sound of several mecha powering up their weapons, then standing down. All of htem looked up as far overhead, several contrails indicated the path of a squadron of positively outclassed F-15 Eagles.
“Why do military pilots continue to fly when they are assured of evacuation? Did not General Connelly advise this planet of their impending doom just one hour ago?”
“Yes,” Eric said heavily. “Some men are refusing to obey his orders, and are going to defend their families, their homes.”
“They would have more chance of stopping a comet or flying through a star,” Karin said flatly. “They will be killed like…like flies against a windshield.” Karin smiled, turning to Eric. “A good use of your quaint sayings, yes?”
“Yeah, except those flies are our people,” Jason said heavily. “And that windshield is heading for our planet.”
“You humans are technologically backwards, but you do not lack for courage,” Karin said, her voice touching on sadness. “It is unfortunate that your leadership was so poor.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not like the average person knew. There’s a reason they had everyone report to Area 51 prior to shipping out for Barren,” Eric said bitterly. “Some of us involuntarily.”
“Speaking of your involuntary expulsion to somewhere over the rainbow, have you gotten in contact with Jesse?” Jack asked, suddenly remembering the picture that Eric carried in his wallet. Eric gave a short snort.
“What would be the point?” Eric asked, his voice melancholy. “We were all reported dead, remember? I even got to read my own obituary and the eulogy delivered by my best friend. Dumb bastard still owes me the $500 I loaned him for his engagement ring.”
“I suppose you’re going to collect once we get to Barren?”
“No, I’m not. He collided with a Saudi Tornado over Riyadh,” Eric said quietly.
“Why do you not contact her, Eric?” Karin asked.
The low warbling sound of the post tornado siren sounded off in the distance, cutting off the conversation. Almost at the same time, there was the sound of several weapons being powered up all around them, the mecha moving to give each other space to align their weapons down I-70 towards the west. Jason looked as the mecha brought their weapons to bear, then turned back just in time to see Jack, Eric, and Karin all cycle their helmets back over their head, the clear faceshields snapping into place. All three of them had the same look of intense concentration on their face, speaking rapidly into their microphones.
“Jason, REDCON-1!” Jack snapped, a tinge of fear in his voice. “Get your soldiers mounted up and back to the evacuation ships, now!”
“What?! We don’t even have all the family members aboard the vessels yet!”
“Get moving, dammit! You guys cannot stand in this fight!”
Jason cursed at his friend, then ran back towards A-66, his fourteen M-9s already spooling up. Thank God Hitchcock is naturally paranoid, Jason thought. Hopping up on his tank’s front skirt, he felt the Powell shift and lift off the ground. Sliding into his commander’s station, he plugged up his CVC.
“Okay Apache Five, what’s up?” he asked.
“Sir, I have no clue but Hammer 6 just told us to go to REDCON-1,” Hitchcock replied. The battalion commander was a huge sci-fi buff, and since the Powell was a hovertank the new battalion nickname had been too good to pass up. Colonel Donovan had drawn the line at adding the full nickname, citing copyright laws.
“Funny, that’s the second time I’ve heard that. What’s up?”
“It looks like someone kicked off the aliens’ plans early, because apparently all Hell is breaking loose out in space.”
1025 Kansas Time
“Sir, the enemy is advancing!”
“In the immortal words of Star Colonel Walthers, ‘No shit, really’?!” Kwirh growled. “Could I get a coherent report?”
“The enemy fleet is beginning to collapse towards Terra, Star Admiral,” Star Colonel Anastasia “Ice Princess” Zdhanov, Third Fleet’s intelligence chief, intoned from her station. A former Russian spy, Ana was the stereotypical Russian female of that profession-tall, brunette, and beautiful. The last often distracted men from realizing that she had one of the highest IQs ever recorded, usually to someone’s great dismay when she sank a knife in their exposed back. Next to Eric, she had been one of the quickest to grasp the nuances and intricacies of space combat and intergalactic warfare. She had found a niche on Kwirh’s Dominionite dominated staff, accepted quickly due to her cold-blooded military mind and amazing ability to analyze enemy actions.
“I must say, that plan worked all too well,” Kwirh rumbled.
“What exactly did Star Colonel Walthers say in his message?” Ana asked. She had been sleeping when the message had been beamed utilizing usual Orionan protocols.
“He stated that Argnor had begged for his life before he killed him, then described the great joy he found in shoving his energy lance into his loins. Finally, he stated how the Crown Prince’s meat was so tainted, his fighting skills so poor, that it had not even been worth consuming, which was why left it for the Tauran crows to feast upon it.”
“So basically insulting all three of the Orionans’ tenets of bravery, fighting skill, and purity of body. Yep, we’re fighing to the death today,” Ana said, swiveling back around to look at her screen. She self-consciously pulled her skirt down, brushing her bangs from in front of her eyes. Had she been on one of the human-crewed vessels, the movement would have distracted every male on the bridge and probably led to a collision with a solid planetary body. On the bridge of the Huntress, it led to every member of the bridge tightening down their restraints and doublechecking their environmental suits. If the Ice Princess was nervous, things were very bad.
“Sir, the Illustrious reports all fighters deployed, requesting further orders.”
“Tell her and the rest of the carriers to get the hell out of here after launching their fighters,” Kwirh responded. Thank God we finished retrofitting hyperdrives on all of the small craft last month during the Mourning Lull, Kwirh thought. The Orionans had taken six months to bury Argnor, holding a festival of bloodsports, feasting, and combats to determine who would now succeed Krognar. Given the reports of the intensive combats, it was amazing that any of the Orionan nobility had survived to make the journey to Earth. There had been no reports on whom had won the right of succession, the news that the Orionans were beginning their general offensive with an attack on Earth superseding all other news.
“Illustrious acknowledges and wishes us Godspeed.”
“You humans are so quaint with both your naming conventions and your wishes for good luck,” Kwirh said to Ana, shaking his head. “Especially with your continued clinging to theology.”
“We have evidence of our God’s works,” Ana said stiffly. A strictly practicing Eastern Orthodox, she found the Dominionites logical disdain for God disturbing, one of the few downsides to being on the Huntress’s bridge.
“Where is your God now, Ana?” Kwirh asked.
“Almost all religions have a portion of their main tome that deals with the final battle between Good and Evil on Earth,” Ana replied. “Krognar’s visage is close enough to the common perception of Satan that an argument could be made this is the Day of Judgment, and the Orionans are God’s punishment for our sins.”
“Fighters making contact.”
“Well, if this is so, then I hope your God decides to make himself manifest in our favor, and soon.”
“We will see,” Ana replied quietly.
Depictions of fanciful space combat were as numerous as there were sentient cultures. While the swirling, whirling dogfights that were a staple of atmospheric warfare were almost impossible in space due to the crushing influences of inertia at just barely sublight speeds, Confederation inertial dampeners had made things far more closer than they had been ten thousand years ago the last time that the Orionans and CCDF had met. Given the crushing advantage in size and numbers enjoyed by the Orionans, it was only their overwhelming advantage in fighters and technology that allowed the CCDF to contest space against the Orionan Fleet.
For their part, the Orionans had tried various ways to counter this advantage, everything from converting vessels up to cruiser size into massive flak batteries to simply filling the mass drivers aboard their vessels with debris and flinging this like a massive shotgun towards the swarm of CCDF fighters. So far, nothing had consistently worked, especially against the heavily Earth-influenced Third Fleet. It was just accepted that the CCDF small craft were going to get their licks in, but that eventually enough Orionan capital ships would push through as to make things a costly proposition. As Ana regularly pointed out, the Orionans would have made marvelous Russians.
So it was far above Earth, as CCDF pilots flung themselves as the advancing Orionan Fleet with a tremendous fervor. There were numerous examples of bravery that would go undocumented, with a great proportion of these being conducted by the beings whose blue green planet lay at the 3rd Fleet’s back. In the end, the ferocity of the attack turned back a full third of the Orionan Fleet, several destroyers and even a few cruisers exploding from the stinging attentions of the attacking fighters.
But there was only so much the attack aircraft could do. As the range closed, the CCDF battleline began engaging at long range with energy weapons, their superior technology giving the CCDF a full four minutes of uninterrupted fire as the Orionans passed the system’s asteroid belt. With a tremendous explosion, a Gorgon-class battleship was the first capital ship to be destroyed on either side, its foolish captain having underestimated the amount of time it would take to close into Orionan weapons range. With the majority of its power going to weapons instead of shields, the battleship’s hull was suddenly penetrated by a particle projector, the explosion taking a pair of escorting vessels along with it.
Then the Orionans were in extreme range, and the air between the two fleets suddenly came alive with mass driver slugs, plasma bolts, and anti-matter missiles. On their side, the CCDF vessels began vectoring at an angle, employing the standard fleet tactic of cutting across the Orionan noses as they exchanged fire, culling a portion of the Orionan Fleet away on their way out of system.
The problem with standard tactics were that an opponent eventually caught on to them. While Argnor had been the true guiding light for a renaissance of Orionan tactics, his changes had not died with him. To the utter horror of several Third Fleet captains, the far side of the Orionan Fleet curled away from Earth and hurtled towards the rear of the Third Fleet, sloughing from in front of the nine Emperor-class battleships, so named because they were the flagships of the eight greatest noble houses of the Orionan Empire. Only two of them, the Emperor’s own ship and that of the heir, were fully equipped with the massive laser that ran the length of the vessels’ keel. This was a fortunate fact for the CCDF, as the Orionans also moved from in front of the vessels, a departure from usual practice where everything possible was done to protect the Emperor and the Crown Prince.
A moment later, it became blazingly obvious why the way had been cleared from in front of the two battleships. The massive lasers from both ships fired, the azure bolts stabbing out towards the approaching Third Fleet. Fortunately warships moved with a lot more agility than planets, and the human captains of the targeted ships had watched enough anime to know what it meant when lesser vessels cleared a path in front of flagships.
With panicked transmissions starting to come from his companion ships, it was at that moment Kwirh demonstrated why he was widely celebrated as the greatest of the CCDF Admirals. Seeing a golden opportunity to end the war at a stroke, he barked his orders. Utilizing their superior maneuverability gained by virtue of their smaller mass, and in quite a few cases the helpful hand of gravity, the Third Fleet reversed course and charged right down the throat of the onrushing Orionans, straight towards the advancing Empires.
It was brilliant and suicidal at the same time. By charging into the Orionan Fleet, Kwirh limited the arcs of fire of most of the Orionan battleline while simultaneously putting the Emperor at risk. Like a novice chess player suddenly confronted with a looming checkmate, the Orionan Fleet panicked. Desperate to protect their Emperor, all order and formation disappeared.
It was at that moment that Kwirh played his hole card. Raising on a massive plume of Lunar dust at the outer edges of the Orionan Fleet, the Fifth Squadron of the still forming Fourth Fleet rose from the light side of Earth’s moon. Kwirh had slowly infiltrated the ships within the comings and goings of evacuation vessels and resupply ships, their transponders squawking false identity codes as they passed through the Third Fleet. The security had not been for the sake of the Orionans, as there were no spies amongst the CCDF. Instead, Kwirh had determined to stiffen his own fleet with the surprise, a move that seemed almost prescient given the current circumstances.
Under Admiral Arvid Thorsen, the Fifth Squadron was composed almost entirely of the oldest Terran exiles. A former Norse Viking that had been saved from his shipwrecked vessel by the Dominionites over two millennia before, Arvid was one of the oldest Terran exiles. Having sailed into battle under Eric the Red, been resurrected in what he considered to be Valhalla, and done battle amongst the stars for the previous millennia, Arvid had never truly shaken the trappings of his barbarian past. Even now, his seat was covered with the furs of the wild bears of Barren, killed at close range with his traditional sword.
Thorsen’s flagship, the Eviscerator, was the newest of the Emasculator-class battleships. Accompanied by her two slightly older sisters and six Victory class battlecruisers, the Eviscerator quickly closed in mortal combat with the nearest Emperor battleship. With the Emasculators the CCDF had broken from its usual tradition of smaller, more maneuverable vessels. While nowhere near the same bulk as an Emperor, the Emasculators were one and a half times larger than the Revenge-class, the next nearest CCDF battleship. Most of that additional weight went to armament, as demonstrated with great violence to the Orionan Fleet.
While many beings would have attempted to continue their path and attempt to end the war, it was quickly apparent that the CCDF could attempt to kill Krognar or run, but not both. As the Orionan Fleet reeled from the sudden assault, with the evacuation ships starting to lift off from Earth’s dark side, the call was made.
The Huntress shuddered, the impact whipping down her length.
“Shields down to forty-five percent, hull breach decks seven, eight, and nine!”
“Dammit, what was that?” Kwirh growled, turning to look at his sensors operator.
“Sir, we were engaged by the main laser of an Emperor-class battleship, the Star of Argnor from her identification code. It was a glancing blow.”
“Remind me to strangle the Chief of Intelligence when I see her next,” Ana muttered.
Kwirh was about to retort when there was a massive explosion twenty miles off their port bow. Looking, he recognized the bow section of the battleship Revenge tumbling crazily away from the blast.
“That was the main laser from the Heart of Orion,” the sensor operator said, his face as pale as a Dominionite’s ever got. “She was hit dead on.”
“Do we have a clear line to that bastard yet?” Kwirh asked, seeing the Huntress’s viewports start to roll as she was brought around.
“Sir, we cannot…”
“I asked a question, damn you!” Kwirh roared.
“No…yes!” the sensor operator replied, as the battleship Emasculator blasted a pair of Orionan heavy cruisers out of the way. The CCDF capital ship looked like she had been grabbed by a great beast and had pieces torn from her, flames clearly showing through her viewports.
“Ramming…” Kwirh began. He did not get to finish as Emasculator, obviously seeing his plan, chose to steal his thunder. Nimbly avoiding one of her Orionan counterparts, the CCDF battleship hurtled towards Krognar’s flagship.
“Sir, recommend that unless we are going to follow, we go with your original order and get the hell out of here,” Ana said. “I’m willing to die, but I want it to have a purpose.”
The advancing Orionan Fleet had been thrown into disarray, and would take at least three or four hours to reform. Looking at the threat display, Kwirh could see four assault ships arrowing for Earth, having made it through the cordon of the charging Fifth Squadron.
“Computer, losses?” Kwirh asked, even as Huntress’s main batteries flayed an Orionan destroyer starting a missile run.
“Twenty-five percent,” the computer replied. “If we do not disengage the fleet in the next five minutes, the losses will be at least double. The Orionans are beginning to recover.”
Looking up, Kwirh watched the last minutes of the CCDF battleship. While the Heart of Orion’s shields had stopped the smaller ship’s charge cold, they had been sufficiently weakened to allow four of Emasculator’s heavy missiles to shoot through to arrow into the ship’s massive hull. The Emperor’s life threatened, the Orionan Fleet was collapsing back towards the Huntress’s position. The Emasculator erupted in a silent explosion, her fusion engines venting their fury in an explosion that took a pair of destroyers with her.
“Give that bastard our regards, let’s get the hell out of here,” Kwirh barked. “Let General Connelly know he has company inbound, and that we are departing system.”
With a roar conducted through her hull, the Huntress disgorged her battery of twenty-six anti-matter missiles. Each the size of a SLBM on Terra, the missiles had enough warhead power to split an unshielded planet in two. Unfortunately, the Heart was very shielded, not to mention surrounded by a fleet that was willing to die to save their Emperor. Four heavy cruisers and a pair of frigates made the ultimate sacrifice, putting their vessels in between the missiles and their intended target. In the end, only two warheads passed through to explode against the flagship’s armor. To the cheers of the bridge crew, the Heart lurched hard, spewing atmosphere and propulsion fuel as she turned away from the Huntress.
“That’ll teach them to try something new and leave the family jewels uncovered,” Ana muttered grimly. Kwirh turned and looked at her.
“My translator must be reading incorrectly. Did you just say family jewels?” Kwirh asked. “Why do we care about jewelry at a time like this?”
Ana shook her head, looking out the viewport as the Huntress passed low over Luna, her passage stirring the space dust in the Sea of Tranquility. Exhaling, she took one last look at Earth, receding behind them. Turning to her sensors, she could see the first of the evacuation ships starting to take off from Earth’s darkside, away from the Orionan Fleet. The four assault vessels continued to descend towards Earth, pursued by several remaining fighters. There was a last furious exchange of fire, causing one of the assault vessels to begin spinning out of control and head towards the planet’s Southern Hemisphere at an angle that almost guaranteed it would hit the Earth as an uncontrollable mass, not a fully intact ship. Realizing that there was little they could do inside the planet’s atmosphere in their space fighters, the last Third Fleet fighters pulled up and used Earth’s gravity to slingshot past the sun. With several bright flashes, they were gone.
“Jump in five, four, three, two…”
With a bright flash, the Huntress entered hyperspace, the remainder of the Third Fleet jumping out with her. Earth’s final hours had officially begun.