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First Contact Second Wave - Chapter 101 (Vuxten)

[first] [prev] [First Appearance] [Last Appearance] [next]
Space was lit by beam weapons, explosions, flashing lights, bioluminscent fluids, and drive tubes. It was filled with missiles, torpedoes, the equivalent of chaff, masking smoke, and refractory prism mist. Strange creatures tilted finned 'wings' to ride energy currents, cilia vanished into a reddish foam at the base of the creatures as they propelled themselves through space at relativistic speeds through thousands, millions of tiny feet. Ships battle-screens flashed and crackled, armor from the living and the mechanical gouted out as weapons struck home.
All of space was a screaming insane asylum.
But Task Force Ixtik, 32nd Task Force of the 11th Fleet, was winning. Slowly but surely, intercepting and interdicting over 60% of the enemy forces attempting to make planetfall.
Big Slobbery Mo drifted, surround by blood, tissue, and shattered armor, between the asteroid belt and Telkan-2, slowly tumbling toward the star. It no longer oozed blood, was frozen over, and the shell was entirely blasted away across its port side.
But he had not died alone.
Out of forty ships, TF 32 (Ixtik) was down to 28 ships, every one of them damaged. A destroyer still fired every gun it had, but inside was a whirling nightmare of shipboard weaponry and acid and bioplasma spewing horrors. A light cruiser spun end over end, its drives glimmering, but its guns were silent even as the massive carbunkle held tightly to the side, its tendrils inside the vessel even as the crew 'fought the ship' shoulder to shoulder with their Marines. A battleship, the flag ship, still continued on its last course, heading out of the system at .53C, as the battle raged on inside of it. The three huge creatures latched onto the hull were dead, but the enemy had taken a third of the ship before the tide had turned.
The enemy had adapted quickly to overwhelm defenses. They quickly adapted to attack the warsteel hulls of the ships, to crash through the shields, to attack the vessels. They died to do it, but it did not matter. More could be grown, more could be hatched, and every dead vessel was more material for the Swarm.
On board the CSFN Arlargle Rear Admiral Ixeltikak Howell the III had a pistol in his two hands, his armor scarred and pitted, his face shield scratched and smeared, firing the pistols as fast as he could even as his blade arms threw sparks as he clashed blades with one of the charging figures. He parried the two blades and struck into the brain case with his other one even as he fired the last of his pistol's ammo-block down the hallway at an advancing figure.
He kept his bladarms up as he reloaded his pistol.
This is insane! I'm a Naval officer, I'm supposed to be firing at enemies millions of miles away, not actually going through ambloks from my sidearm, he thought to himself. He snapped his bladearms down, puncturing the skull of another one, then brought up his pistol and started firing again. He aimed at the barnacle-like creatures on the walls that extended out fronds and breathed out spoors, trying to fill the interior spaces of his ship with alien atmosphere.
"DCC here, Admiral," came over his datalink, the hissing of the interference less than it had been. It was the computerized voice of a greenie. 941 showed under the icon.
"Go ahead," Howell snapped, his bladearms snapping out to pop the head off of an attacker.
"DCC once again under friendly control. Have repelled borders. Have retaken maintenance spaces. Update forthcoming."
"Thank you, 941, Admiral's compliments to your engineers," Howell answered, parrying a striking tentacle with his pistol, ripping off the arm with one bladearm and piercing the creatures chest with his other one. Howell kept his bladearms razor sharp and the chitin parted like cloth before a razor.
A hatch opened above him as an icon flashed 'friendly' in his vision. A green mantid dropped down on his abdomen, followed by three others. All were in armor, two held micro-rifles, one held a small shield generator, the last had tools. Another greenies shut the hatch and maglocked it.
The greenies climbed up onto Admiral Howell's armored shoulders, activating their maglock boots and bracing themselves. They added their rifle's fire to the fray as the Admiral bellowed out the ancient war cries and charged the Engine Room hatch.
"I'M TOO SEXY FOR MY HEAD!" he roared out in Terran, laying about him with his bladearms, firing his pistol, and kicking away the corpses or crushing the living with his footpads. He burst out into the main engine room and saw the great machines that gave his ship life were covered in a thick layer of some kind of opaque slime that throbbed and pulsed.
"Gunny Kerchek, get that crap off my engines, I don't want any meat in the bread! Engineers, I want power back to the ship, get glit on everything! Everyone else, FIGHT THE SHIP!" Admiral Howell yelled.
The big uplifted gorilla in his power armor moved forward, his two remaining heavy Marines with him, cutting loose with their flame throwers. Howell knew it would damage parts, but that was what the greenies were for.
Over half his crew was dead, almost a full twenty percent of his ship was in enemy hands, but DCC and helm had been regained, power rooms one and three were under his control, and now he'd retaken the engine room.
"WALL BALLS!" his men roared around him.
"DCC, is coms up?" Howell snapped over his link as he watched his men get to work.
"Send message to the fleet: STFB WVW. Monkey shit and glit. Vampire Liberty time," Howell said. Behind him one of the greenies opened fire, shattering a charging sanddollar with legs and claws.
"Roger. Sending. Sent." Coms told him through DCC.
It's not victory. Not yet. But it will be, Howell thought to himself as he watched nearly thirty greenies swarm the engines, a quarter of them carrying micro-flame throwers and one carrying a micro-rocket launcher.
Vuxten held onto the two handles at the back of the big quad-barrel, holding down the butterfly shaped trigger between them with his thumbs, raking the sky with the heavy weapon, his visor flickering as it tried to compensate for the white-cored blue light that was tearing at the sky with the continual sound of thunder that vibrated his body but his armor compensated for.
The flying creature of the left, the size of a large bus, its wings twice as wide as its body, screamed as the energy transfer overloaded its ability to absorb laser light. The laser caused chitin to explode with the sudden heat transfer, then fuse as the laser sliced deeper.
It folded its wings and dropped.
The hover-truck hit a buried Precursor tank wheel and slewed back and forth as Private Fanit tried to get it under control.
Vuxten let off the trigger, gritting his teeth and pulling the weapon to the right, his armor blocking out the scream of the blown gearing being forced to move, Vuxten uncaring about further damage to the weapon's pintle mount.
"Is anyone unslushed?" Vuxten yelled out over the com, panting. The spores in the air were so thick that anything beyond a hundred feet was reduced to hash. Both replies came back in the negative and he gritted his teeth, hitting the trigger again.
"Vuxten, port side!" Fanit called. Vuxten snapped a quick headturn to look and saw that more chitin covered nightmares were charging out of the twisted and malformed woods.
The two chasing had dropped low and were beating their wings to try to gain altitude again so they could swoop down and increase their speed to catch the hovertruck, which was, to use a Terran term, 'running to beat Hell."
Vuxten shifted his feet as he pulled the gun around. He was breathing heavy, covered in sweat, his armor beeping at him as his power levels dropped into amber, but he hit the trigger again, slashing the quad-barrel's fire across the entire line.
They exploded, the energy transfer and thermal shock instantly overwhelming their ability to absorb energy. The first wave was converted into steam, the second wave into shrapnel, but the third through tenth waves kept giving out a scream as they charged the vehicle.
"They brought all the hate!" Private Impon yelled out, standing up in the hole that used to have a roof till the Private had knocked it away with one blow from his power-armor enhanced fist. He added his rifle's firepower to Vuxten's quadbarrel as Vuxten kept slashing back and forth across the mob.
"I've got more than enough to give back," Vuxten yelled back, keeping one eye on his armor's reactor bar. His armor was hot inside and he could swear he could smell scorched fur. "Time?"
"EIGHT MINUTES!" 631 signalled back. "SIX MILES!"
"HAMMER DOWN, FANIT!" Vuxten roared out.
The hovertruck picked up speed, two of the six fans howling in pain as the superlubricant was mixed with bacteria that had managed to get past the seals and was using the heat and pressure to grow and the superlubricant to feed.
They were past the horde and Vuxten yanked at the bars, pulling the weapon back into play.
The two winged nightmares, like an insect has snuck up on a sleeping dragon and mated with it, were frantically beating their wings, trying to gain altitude to catch the truck even as it sped up. Vuxten aimed at the one still gouting bioluminescent fluid from its chest and thumbed the trigger again even as the both opened their mouths and vomited energy wrapped balls of bioplasma at the truck.
Fanit had his armor set to warn him, predict which way to go, and he slammed on the brakes, nearly throwing Impon out, the front skirt of the truck folding as it scraped the ground.
Vuxten missed, thrown backwards and pulling the weapon up.
The two energy balls missed, hitting the ground and exploding, showering the truck with dirt and vegetable debris.
Fanit gunned the engine, slewing to the left even as both creatures snapped their tails forward, spitting out spears of chitin. The heavy crate between Vuxten and the cab shifted, but the mag-straps held it tight. The spears hit the destroyed road as the truck slewed against what had been a shelter for the Overseers to stay out of the rain, shattering it into plastic pieces that rained down as the truck's engines howled.
Vuxten got the aiming circle, no fancy hologram just metal rings inside one another, on the wounded one. He hammered his thumbs down, trying to keep the weapon still as the barrels, slowly rotating, suddenly clattered to full speed and lasers as thick as his arm roared out each barrel in turn. The heat level in Vuxten's armor shot up as the creature screamed, started to bring its wings in, and Vuxten found the spot.
The laser ripped clear through it, steam and liquefied gore spouting out its back as the beam cooked what it didn't explode.
Vuxten let off the trigger, panting, and pulled the weapon around.
His nanoforge was at 80% slush but at 120% heat, he couldn't produce anything, he had alarms across his armor for heat, but that couldn't be helped. He'd ejected his last thermal sink a half hour before.
"help coming" flashed on his icon as he hit the trigger, slashing at the creature's wings. He knew it would drink up the laser at first but he also knew the creature's defense was hard wired, it couldn't stop it.
The creature shrieked in victory and opened its mouth.
Vuxten whipped the barrels over, not letting off the triggers, and caught it right in the mouth. The tissues in the mouth weren't energy absorbent and the creatures skull bulged for a split second, then its eyes blew out in a gout of superheated steam, the head rupturing as boiling brains expanded the chitin beyond the limit and the head came apart.
"STARBOARD! HEAVY BUG!" Impton yelled.
"am here keep fighting" flashed in his vision as he saw that his mantid port was online. He was aware that the little green mantid, the only one of the worker-quad that wasn't busy, running a system's check on his armor.
"overheating building mini-thermal core five seconds" appeared. "hot hot hot"
Vuxten just nodded, panting, he man-handled the weapon to the side, letting the barrels and his armor cool. He wished he could pop his face-plate but he knew he'd just get a lungfull of the spores that his armor's VI was editing out.
The creature was twice the size of the hovertruck and was obviously mad, roaring as it ran.
Don't talk, just do it, went through his mind. Advice from Donaldson. He held down the butterfly trigger, the shockwave of the rapid fire Telkan-made lightning blot combining with the shuddering of the truck and the weapon to rattle his teeth for a second before he locked his jaw again. His armor was red-lining, his reactor overheated and energy output dropping, every system showing red for heat. The air felt like it was searing his lungs as he slashed the creature upwards on the chest as it rushed the truck.
It threw its head back and screamed as Vuxten shifted his grip, putting his shoulders into it, warping the mount, the quadbarrel beam catching it across the throat, the bottom of the jaw where there was only flesh and no overlapping chitin armor plates.
With a BANG the head exploded at the same time that Vuxten's armor flashed "thermal core loaded" and the temperature in his armor started to drop.
"hot hot warm" the greenie flashed. "warm warm"
The core ejected, flashing brightly in the sky. Vuxten's reactor level surged up into mid-green, almost to blue, as the temperature dropped and the resistance decreased across the weird glowing fog between the two halves of the same particle that made up the weird little reactor.
Vuxten muscled the quadbarrel into position.
"HAILSTORM AT TANGO! TEN SECONDS! TWO MINUTE DURATION!" Impton called out, flashing the same message across his visor. "FOUR MINUTES OUT!"
Vuxten was still breathing heavy.
"drink drink drink" the greenie flashed.
Vuxten triggered the drinking tube and sucked water, hoping it wasn't as hot as the tea his broodcarriers had been learning to make. It was cool, well, cool to him, and he could taste the additives. His tongue, which he hadn't even known was all shrivelled up, expanded in his mouth.
He checked his HUD just in time to see the bright lines fall from the heavens, dozens, hundreds of them, and bubbles of red and black that quickly stood on legs of fire as they reached toward the sky like upraised fists. He saw the jungle leap up, then realized what was going to happen.
The jungle, three miles ahead of them, exploded outwards as the shockwave from the artillery storm rippled through the atmosphere. It came at them, a visible distortion in the air, and Fanit gunned the engine then hit the brakes, almost ripping Vuxten's boots from the armored deck of the truck and throwing Fanit against the steering yoke while Impton slammed against the missing roof's frame. A hatch in the bed popped open and a greenie jumped out, losing its grip.
Vuxten managed to snatch the armored little guy out of the air with one hand even as he held onto the quadbarrel with the other.
The vehicle slewed back and forth as gravel, dirt, and plants sprayed from either side of the truck as it slid to a stop. Vuxten pulled the greenie close to his chest.
The shockwave hit, pushing the truck back, but the truck's remaining areodynamics worked and the shockwave was past.
Fanit revved the fans, lifting off, and the greenie tapped Vuxten, who let him go. He dropped back down, lifted the hatch, and disappeared back into the hoverfan maintenance area.
The truck roared into motion as Vuxten kept panting, trying to lower his core temperature. His nanoforge was dropping heat, but it was slow.
The greenie on his back loaded another tiny min-core and the temperature dropped further. The creation engine started to finally deslush. His armor stabbed him in the forearms and vitamins and a lactic-acid breaker flooded into the muscles.
"fix gun" the greenie said, climbing over his shoulders and down his arm.
Vuxten just nodded, knowing his armor would send the greenie and icon. He was panting heavily, every muscle aching. He'd pulled a muscle in his back but he knew there was nothing he could do about it.
"is dicked" the greenie flashed, holding up the cable. The truck bed was vibrating so hard that the little green mantid looked blurry to Vuxten. It pointed at the emergency cable Vuxten had attached to his own armor. "give"
Vuxten pulled it free and handed it to the little engineer, who set to work.
"PORT SIDE!" Impton got out. Vuxten turned, letting go with his left hand.
The horn smashed through the side of the truckbed, slamming into Vuxten's chest before the truck rocked hard, almost throwing Vuxten out.
The Telkan hung onto the gun with one hand, his other hand flashing to his hip to yank his chainsword free before he even saw what had hit the truck. His eyes were blurry from the impact, his chest full of pain, his armor status red across his forward torso. His nanoforge was still at 101% heat and 70% slush. He only needed a two percent drop, that's all, just two percent.
It was wearing pieces of Precursor armor, a great horn on the front, as it moved its head in a motion so the horn made a scooping motion. The truck shot sparks as the starboard side ground against the ground. The whole truck screamed as Vuxten's hand shot to his hip, pulling out his magack pistol as he let go of the handle of the quadbarrel.
"on you fight fight" the mantid flashed, landing on Vuxten's back ,waving the power cord in one hand.
Vuxten jumped off the truck, onto the creature's back, and jammed his chainsword into a gap between the chunks of Precursor plate that would deflect his magack and even his chainsword. Flesh spewed out as he leaned into it, sawing back and forth, his maglocks in his boots holding him to the very plates that the creature had grown around.
The creature scooped its horn again, knocking the quadbarrel free, then yanked its horn free and backed up from the truck.
"GO! GO!" Vuxten yelled as it bucked its head, trying to get at him. Vuxten leveled the pistol, thumbed it to auto, and pressed the firing stud. The pistol went to rapidfire, shooting out nearly twenty darts a second, vibrating in Vuxten's hand as he tried to hit one of its eyes. The chainsword coughed and hung up, the blade freezing up.
The truck slammed down, wobbled for a second, and roared off in a cloud of dust, spores, and churned up dirt and plants. The creature roared and started heading toward the truck but Vuxten yanked the blade up, thumbed the trigger again, and slammed the roaring chainsword back down. It was clattering against bone and Vuxten twisted, knowing he might snap the blade.
"jump jump jump" the engineer flashed.
There was a clunk in the rocket tube on his shoulder and Vuxten ripped the blade free, jumping back and up.
The engineer aimed and fired through his overrides as Vuxten tried to figure out how he was going to land right. The rocket flew out, kicking Vuxten head over heels.
'impact impact impact" flashed as the rocket hit right as Vuxten hit, bounced, hit again, and slid to a stop. He'd hit bad, leaving him gasping.
The little greenie sprinted for Vuxten, limping on his left legs, still holding onto the length of power cable as it ran.
He'd lost his little rifle.
The rocket had hit between two plates and blown clear through the creature. The creature took three more steps, groaned, and vomited up a slurry of blood and tissue. It crashed to the ground as Vuxten got to his feet.
His whole left arm was numb.
The greenie jumped on him, climbing over him, and got back onto the riding studs, sliding its bionic bladearms into place. One was bent and it had to twist it slightly to get it to sit right.
Vuxten used that time to tab a painkiller. He turned and started running after the truck.
The artillery barrage had stopped.
A cloud of dust and vegetation burst out of the jungle and Vuxten's armor ID'd it as the hovertruck. It was a half mile away and coming fast.
"SHIT SHIT SHIT!" Fanit was yelling as the truck got close enough for his com-link to reach Vuxten even through the spore laden air.
The monster that burst out of the jungle was almost the size of a Precursor tank. It lumbered out on eight legs, massive jaws japed open, horns and spikes covering it, bladearms and tentacles on its chest. Its back was scorched and cratered by the artillery strike, the chitin plates twisted and bent.
Vuxten checked his nanoforge. Still slushed, still hot.
"Override the heat, little buddy. Death or glory, either way, that thing's probably gonna kill us," Vuxten said, smiling inside his armor. His left arm was burning pain and it hurt to breathe. The truck was coming fast but Vuxten hustled across to the quadbarrel. "I can't move my arm, can you do anything about it?"
"med override heat override cracked wrench before fear" flashed on his HUD.
"Turn around, get that goddamn beacon to the LZ!" Vuxten snarled into the comlink. "That's a fucking order, Marine."
Use came back to his arm even though the pain stayed as Vuxten bent down and picked up the quadbarrel, ignoring the groaning of his armor's strength enhancement being overloaded. Part of Vuxten was aware that the truck had barely missed him, the backwash of the fans almost blowing the little engineer off of him. The greenie plugged the patch cable into Vuxten's armor then swarmed down his arm to lock it back into the quadbarrel. He lifted it across his chest, turning slightly so he was facing to the side.
The big monster screamed as it kept coming.
Vuxten felt the quadbarrel power up and leveled it, holding the warsteel circles of the sight with his left hand and one of the handles on the back with the right as he pressed the butterfly trigger with his thumb. The battered barrels groaned.
Vuxten kneed the barrels as the greenie climbed over his shoulder and sprayed it with sealant. The barrels clattered and started turning.
Only two of the barrels fired, but it spun, lasers cracking out and striking the big beast across the jaw and face.
Heat bloomed in his armor.
The monster screamed as Vuxten felt more heat flood into his armor and the greenie fired a quick four grenades that hit the creature's back, behind the upraised crest at the back of the head.
Vuxten kept the jerking, jittering beam trained on it as best he could, his teeth clacking together even though he tried to keep his jaws clenched.
The monster ignored the truck as it raced by, precious cargo in the bed.
The closer it got, the easier Vuxten could keep the quadbarrel aimed on it. He raked the front legs, fusing the armor around the knees so great chunks of armor peeled free of the legs, slashing the flesh and leaving deep burns almost to the bones, melting chitin on the face.
The greenie was banging on the rocket launcher.
"stupid stupid tube go straight"
"Give us a death song, little buddy," Vuxten growled out from between clenched teeth as he kept the beam on the monster, which was less than a hundred meters away but still, he'd slowed it down and he'd destroyed the left side eyes.
I'M A HIP HOP SOLDIER! roared out from his speakers as the greenie flashed "TCSF 1183RD MARINE ENGINEERS!" above his head. "WRENCH AND WARSTEEL!"
The words were ancient Terran. He could hear them over the roar of the laser cannon's twin barrels.
"FIRST TELKAN!" Vuxten screamed over the roar of the creature and the cannon. Heat was crushing him, his chest was full of razor blades, and there was agony down his left side.
His podlings, his broodcarriers, his wife was behind him.
And that thing would not get past him as long as he could still see.
It was left than ten feet from him when it opened its mouth and roared then made a choking noise as its throat convulsed.
Vuxten fired his last two grenades as he moved the beam into the mouth. The grenades exploded, sending tissue and burning bioplasma out in a cone. The beam ripped through it, converting it to steam, ripping into the flesh.
The creature flipped out of the cloud, faceplanted into the ground.
Vuxten jumped to the side, throwing himself as hard as he could. He hit on his left side, sliding, and one of the massive claws swung out, slamming into his chest, picking him up even with only a split second contact as the point hit his shoulder pauldron and threw him.
He hit hard, and following training he had done in the rain and in the mud half conscious intoxicated until his head had swam, blindly doing it over and over night after night as Terrans screamed at him and he went home..
His body rolled even as he went semiconscious. The stim jolted him awake, his heart hammering, in mid-bounce, and he hit hard, sliding on his face, still holding onto the cannon. He ignored the pain, the agony, how hard it was to breathe, and he got to his feet and looked toward the clearing.
A bright blue light shined into the sky.
The beacon. Impton and Fanit and the other three greenies had gotten it up in time.
By point three seconds.
He saw his own little greenie floating down on a parachute made of strings of hard light, angling to swoop around Vuxten and land on his back.
"Nicely done, buddy," Vuxten said. He coughed but didn't taste blood, just pain.
The hovertruck came slewing out of the jungle, moving fast, and Vuxten looked up in the sky.
The three massive engines for the shelter below where the beacon shone were coming through the atmosphere. The shockwave of their landing would destroy any remaining enemy.
The truck slowed down and came to a stop, Impton not caring the frame had warped around him, sticking him in place.
"Need a lift, sailor?" Fanit said over the staticy and clicking linkage.
"Brothel, beer, and bed," Vuxten quoted, hefting the quadbarrel. "Give the little guys a chance to fix this thing and let's try to stay out of trouble on the way back," he coughed.
"You all right, Corpora? You sound bad?" Private Fanit asked. "Man, your chest is messed up."
He looked down. The impact of the horn had caught him dead center and his warsteel had flexed to save his life. There was a ripple that looked like four concentric circles. The kicking of the giant creature had slashed his armor from left hip to right shoulder, putting a diagonal line across the circles.
"Medpack is working," Vuxten said. He could feel the weird prickling tickling sensation of medical nanites working in his chest. He climbed up in the back of the truck, planted his boots and maglocked them, and managed to muscle the quadbarrel so it was pointing at the back.
The little greenie jumped on the barrels, going to work, as Fanit threw the truck forward.
This is OUR world. We will not leave silently!
Honey, your little ones can't stay in shelters all their lives.
Sorry, new poster. One of the Telkan Marines hip-firing a quad-barrel at a big monster taken from suit-records.
>sidles up to TELKAN GESTALT
Yo, my man, what if I offered you some premo colony templates in return for the licensing rights for my people to an action figure template of one of those Telkan Marines? My people really want one.
Um, OK.
Wow, desert farming templates? These are neat. Thanks.
Put this up on the war bonds shop annnnnndddd....
diiiid eeeeeeveeeerrythiiiiiiing slooooooow doooooown foooooor aaaaaaaallllll oooooof yoooooou?
We are amused. Our brother has been overloaded by everyone rushing the servers.
This amuses us.
That's what you get.
submitted by Ralts_Bloodthorne to HFY


From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space III: What’s In a Name? (5/12)

From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space III:
What’s In a Name? (5/12)
The USS Leyte Gulf rendezvoused with the fleet destroyer USS Sigourney after emerging from four days in hyperspace. The two fleet star ships were cruising just outside of the Tunguska System which was located somewhere between the Mid-to-Outer Rim of the galaxy. The Tunguska System itself contained six star systems, of which only one had been briefly explored by the Russian Confederation. Almost immediately after joining the USS Sigourney, Admiral Etheridge, Captain Gabriel, Lieutenant Rhamsburg, Gunny Boyer and a few of Admiral Etheridge’s staff officers were shuttled to the fleet destroyer aboard their Helios gunship. The first thing that greeted their eyes as Warrant Officer Dessantes docked the Helios in the destroyer’s hanger bay was the smoking wreck of a Russian SU17 Fire Bear.
“We have the pilot in sick bay,” said the Sigourney’s commanding officer as she greeted the visitors from the USS Leyte Gulf. “My XO and chief intel officer is with him now. Unfortunately, the Russian weapon system’s officer was injured sometime during their escape. We couldn’t save her.”
Captain Jasmin Shakiba, the Iranian born commander of the USS Sigourney, was escorted by two of the destroyer’s Marine security detachment as she led them down a wide p-way to the main medical bay which was located near the hanger bay. “We located the fighter about 36 hours ago as it emerged from hyperspace about 450,000 klicks from our location. The fighter was already damaged even before it jumped into hyperspace and was bleeding oxygen. It’s amazing that it held together. We barely got there in time.”
She led them into the medical bay and back into a secluded room. Two more Marines stood at the door of the room and stepped aside and the doors slid open as they approached. A short, stocky, man in his early-thirties was laying on a comfortable med-bed, a think gauze bandage wrapped around his head. Another Marine was in the room as well as the ship’s tall XO and the ship’s female intelligence officer.
“Admiral on deck!” said Captain Shakiba and the Americans in the room came to attention.
“At ease,” said Etheridge waving his hand with a smile. “Can we just have the commanders and the intelligence officers in the room, please?” Except for Admiral Etheridge, his intel officer, Captains Shakiba and Gabriel, and the Sigourney’s intel officer, the rest of the personnel quickly exited the cramped med bay.
“Admiral Etheridge, this is Senior Lieutenant Ivan Belenko, flight leader of the 6989th Fighter Squadron flying off the Russian patrol carrier Admiral Vladimir Masorin,” said Captain Shakiba.
Admiral Etheridge held up his hands as the Russian fighter pilot attempted to sit up.
“Please, Lieutenant Belenko,” Admiral Etheridge said. “Please be comfortable. I can imagine that you’ve had quite an ordeal. How do you feel?”
“Quite like the luckiest man in the galaxy,” answered the Russian pilot with no humor at all in his voice, having lost every single member of his squadron to the pirate bandits. “The chances of being found after a blind jump into hyperspace is incalculable.”
Lieutenant Belenko allowed himself a slight smile. “Your Russian is outstanding, sir. But I can speak English so that everyone can understand.”
Admiral Etheridge nodded and smiled, speaking English again. “This is my intelligence officer and Captain Samuel Gabriel, one of our fleet Marine officers.” Captain Gabriel nodded at the pilot. “Would it be agreeable to you if they remain in the room?”
“Do I have a choice, Admiral?” said Belenko.
“Of course you do, Lieutenant,” answered Etheridge. “But I believe that we are facing a common threat, one whose operational capabilities have mysteriously increased to a very dangerous level.”
Etheridge nodded. “We will leave you in peace, if you wish, in order to give you time to decide whether or not you’d like to discuss what happened to you. But you don’t have too long to decide. We will be engaging those bandits soon, the ones who destroyed your squadron, and any intelligence we can get on the enemy would be extremely helpful. If you choose not to assist us, which I do understand, we will arrange to rendezvous with your patrol carrier and transfer you back to your comrades.”
“That won’t be necessary, Admiral.” said Belenko. “It is no secret that America’s interest in this sector of space is to take the plasma beam weapons which those bandits have acquired, just as the Russian government wants to do. I will tell you everything that I know, Admiral.”
Admiral Etheridge shot Captain Gabriel a sideways glance. “Thank you Lieutenant,” said Etheridge. “But, if I may be so curious, can I ask why?”
Belenko exhaled heavily. “I have two reasons, Admiral. Naturally, I would prefer that my government retrieve the plasma beam technology first. But if we cannot, I would rather have you Americans find it before the Chinese do. Should the Chinese get their hands on that technology, the balance of power in the populated galaxy would shift inexorably in their favor. Besides,” smirked Belenko, “if you Americans find the technology first, it will eventually find its way into Russian hands. Your American politicians are a particularly money hungry bunch.”
Admiral Etheridge laughed with little humor, nodding in agreement with that inconvenient fact. The trillions of dollars that the opposition party was spending to overthrow President Helania had to come from somewhere. “Yes. Unfortunately that is probably not too far from the truth. What is your other reason for helping us, Lieutenant?”
“Returning me to Russian hands would put you in some jeopardy, as the obvious question which would arise is ‘why are the Americans operating in Russian space?”
Lieutenant Belenko looked away briefly, then returned his gaze to Admiral Etheridge. “In truth, Admiral, I would rather not return to the Russian Confederation. As far as the Russian Fleet and President Vladimir Pellotsi are concerned, I perished along with the rest of my squadron. I would rather let them continue to think that, Admiral.”
Four hours later, Admiral Etheridge and the rest of the entourage were back aboard the USS Leyte Gulf. Admiral Etheridge, Captain Gabriel, his XO Lieutenant Rhamsburg, Captain Bossmarc the CO of the Leyte Gulf, his XO Commander Locksbridge, and several other fleet officers were in the unusually large Tactical Operations Center or TOC (tok) of the exploration vessel looking at a 3D holographic projection of a planet rotating slowly over the projection roundel on the large metal conference table.
Admiral Etheridge sat at the head of the table as he addressed the assembled fleet sailors and Marines. “Let’s go over briefly what we’ve learned from our conversation with Senior Lieutenant Belenko, first with the combat engagement between his squadron and the pirates, followed by the pirate’s target, and most importantly, where the pirates were headed.”
He turned to his intel officer and nodded. She stood up as she spoke, tapping a few keys on a pad built into the conference table. Holographic screens appeared in front of everyone in attendance showing a vid-feed of the combat taken from Belenko’s destroyed aerospace fighter. “Much of the vid-feed was destroyed, I’m afraid,” began the intel officer, “but what survived gives us a good idea of what we are facing.”
The video showed a first person perspective of Belenko’s aerospace fighter during the combat engagement as the Russians struggled to target the pirate attackers. The intel officer magnified the imagery and slowed down the vid-feed as two Russian AA21 Adder missiles streaked towards two of the Skinny-Mogue attackers. In one frame of the vid-feed, the missiles looked to be on course for impact, but in the very next frame, the Skinny-Mogue attackers were at a 90 degree angle 50 meters away from the missiles as they shot harmlessly past. Such an abrupt move would have severely incapacitated any living human if not killed them outright.
There was also audio of the surprised Russian pilots, their words translated automatically to English. The intel officer shifted the camera perspectives on the vid feed, her slender hands deftly tracking a flight of four Skinny Mogue fighters to the rear of the surviving Russian fighters. “Here we have four of the pirate vessels leaving the initial engagement area at a flat trajectory of approximately 4,800 miles an hour. Let me slow down the vid-feed. As you can see here, it takes them approximately less than two seconds to reverse course from their original trajectory and pursue the Russian fighters.”
The rear monitor of Belenko’s fighter showed two of the attackers explode immediately before firing their plasma beam weapon while one explodes a split second after firing. The vid-feed also showed Belenko’s wingman disappear in a blinding flash of white plasma and molten metal. The image suddenly jolts violently, then goes black. “This is where the vid-feed ends. Again, such a maneuver undertaken by the Skinny-Mogues would surely have killed them, but yet they continued to fly and fight.”
“Remotely piloted attackers?” said Captain Bossmarc.
“That’s what we thought at first, sir,” said Captain Gabriel. Although they both wore the rank of ‘captain’ a naval captain was actually three ranks higher than a Marine Corps captain. “But Lieutenant Belenko swears that he saw actual pilots and actual gunners manning those attackers when they did their head-on fly pass with the pirates. He insists that living beings were piloting those Skinny-Mogue attackers.”
Captain Bossmarc nodded. “So the question would be: ‘How did they survive such abrupt and violent maneuvers and why did half of them just suddenly explode when they attempted to fire their plasma beam weapons?”
“I believe we have an answer for the second question, sir,” said the intel officer. “The two drone freighters which the pirates targeted contained, among other things, large stores of power dampener couplings. We usually use them on the thrust and power regulating generators on maneuvering thrusters, but theoretically, they can be modified to regulate power output on beam type weapons.”
“So the Skinny-Mogues had no way to regulate the power output of those weapons, making them just as dangerous to the attacker as it was to the target,” concluded Captain Bossmarc.
“Until now, sir.” said Gabriel. “We know that each freighter that the pirates took carried 350 power dampener couplings. We don’t know the exact number of attackers that the Skinny-Mogues have, but remember it only took sixteen of them to cripple the USS Houston City, and that was without power dampeners installed.”
“That’s why Lieutenant Belenko decided to chase the Skinny-Mogues who were stealing the freighters instead of turning to face his attackers coming from the rear,” continued the intelligence officer. “He was using his long range tracker to trace the attacker’s particular ion bleed from their thrusters to locate where they came from. That tactic, daring though it was, nearly cost him his life.”
“Yes, ideed. In that we are fortunate.” said Admiral Etheridge, pointing to the holographic image of the planet. “Lieutenant Belenko’s long range tracker pointed to this planet, the fifth one of the third star system in the Tunguska sector. We will likely find the answer to Captain Bossmarc’s first question there.” The illuminated data plaque projected underneath the holographic planet read: Planet- HRC 1047F// Class: One point two// Atmosphere: Breathable- No external tanks required// Gravity: 3.79% greater than earth// Name Designation: Benzagu (ben-zha-goo).
Seventeen hours later, the image of Captain Jasmin Shakiba appeared on the main monitor screen in the bridge of the USS Leyte Gulf, transmitting on a high security channel which jumped wavelengths and frequencies a trillion times a second.
“As we discussed, I’ll take the USS Sigourney to the periphery of the third system which you’ll be operating, screening the Leyte Gulf from any Russian or Chinese naval vessels. Hopefully, if any of them get too nosey, we can get them to chase us before we escape using cloakers.”
Captain Bossmarc nodded from his command chair. “Be careful, Jasmin. The Russian fleet presence has doubled in the sector, no doubt looking for their missing squadron as well as the Skinny-Mogues and their beam weapon.”
“Thanks, Dark Stalker,” said Captain Shakiba, using Captain Bossmarc’s unofficial naval call-sign which he earned for his eerie ability to somehow get combatant ships in and out of protected sectors undetected. “We will. I’m going to keep our use of hyperspace jumps to a minimum since US fleet ships leave a distinctive ion signature which I don’t want any hostiles to detect. But if you need any assistance, we’ll come running.”
“Lord willing, that won’t be necessary, Jasmin,” said Captain Bossmarc. “This will hopefully be a relatively quick mission. In and out. The detachment Marines which will be hitting Benzagu are the same ones who survived twice on Willow’s World. They are the best in the galaxy at what they do. If all goes well, we’ll be headed out of this sector in a week to ten days.”
“Very good, Captain Bossmarc,” said Captain Shakiba. “We’ll rendezvous in about a week to ten days. USS Sigourney, out.” The monitor screen went out as Captain Shakiba signed off, replaced by a view of her fleet destroyer changing course and headed towards the designated patrol sector where they would most likely encounter potentially hostile starships like the Russian patrol carrier which they knew to be operating in the area.
Captain Bossmarc hit a comm button on his command chair. “Engine room, begin prepping for the jump into hyperspace. Helm, set our destination coordinates for Benzagu with a deceleration time of 24 hours before we reach low planetary orbit. I want a few hours to do some sensor scans of the planet before we commit our Marines.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” said the helm. “Coordinates are locked.
Captain Bossmarc waited until he got the green light from all of his Divison Officers, or Div-Os (div-ohs) telling him that all personnel and equipment aboard the Leyte Gulf have been secured and ready for the jump into hyperspace. Once all of his Div-Os reported that their sections were set, Captain Bossmarc gave a call to Admiral Etheridge, who was in the TOC. “We’re set to jump into hyperspace, sir.”
“Very good, Captain,” said Etheridge. “Let’s proceed.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” replied Captain Bossmarc and in moments, space seemed to bend around the USS Leyte Gulf as she disappeared, jumping into hyperspace for the seventeen hour trip the planet Benzagu.
submitted by Taxi_Dancer to DrCreepensVault