Here is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my original science fiction novel I’ve been working on for a few years.
He stepped off the elevator and onto the bridge. His bridge.
Like his surviving squad leader, Marcus Vane, had been fast tracked to a massive unprecedented promotion, he too had been given a massive jump. He went from a squad medic to the captain of The Hannibal, one of the sister ships heading the new human fleet for the Galactic Conclave. General Vane had claimed the other ship, The Alexander, as his flagship, and that suited him just fine. He strode out of the elevator and onto the deck of the bridge. A young infantry corporal assigned to bridge security snapped to a brisk attention and announced, “Officer on deck!” The entire bridge stopped doing what they were doing, some mid stride, and snapped a brisk attention and a quick salute.
He stopped his advance, snapped to attention and returned the salute with a gruff “At ease! Continue your duties, don’t let me stop you folks”. The staff immediately continued everything they had been in the process of doing when he had stepped off the elevator. Navigation technicians were talking quickly as they ran through the jump calculations one more time to ensure their accuracy; which he thought, seems a little redundant, as he strode by. Given that the ship was already at light speed, it wouldn’t matter if the calculations were wrong, it’s already too late. They would have to drop out of light speed at a random spot and hope that they didn’t drop out inside a planet or a star, or any number of astronomical debris. He continued walking past the navigation team and strode towards the chair in the center of the bridge. His chair. He strode towards it with a sense of duty but stopped short for the briefest of moments. Don’t hesitate, he told himself, if you hesitate. They’ll hesitate. Sit down! He quickly turned and sat in the captain’s chair. The textured cushion formed to his shape as the servos inside adjusted to his weight. The chairs were made so you didn’t even feel like you were seated so you could sit for longer periods, not that he ever sat in it more than was necessary. Most situations didn’t even really require a captain’s attention. His crew chief and co-captain took care of the day to day tasks, but this was anything but a regular task. They had barely arrived at the Citadel when word had come through of the attack on New Carianas. General Vane dispatched him and his ship to accompany the Carian defence response and to provide any help they could. So he had sounded the general recall and joined the Carian ships as they headed for their homeworld to try and evacuate their population.
He keyed a button on the right arm of the chair to bring up a countdown for their arrival to New Carianas. The large red countdown popped up on the main viewscreen and read 1:30; it’s time, he thought to himself. He tapped the PA command on his wrist computer as his voice boomed through the speakers of his ship. He took a deep breath, and began what he had been rehearsing on the elevator ride up. “Ladies and gentleman, this is the captain, we are t-minus one minute to arrival. Red Alert. All hands to battle stations. We don’t know what we’re walking into here folks, but we will not waiver. I know we’re a new crew, coming from all corners of the galaxy. But we represent the best that humanity has, so it’s time we do our part. I want the medical bay on red alert in case we need to assist some civilians. Defense teams and fighter response, be ready. I have faith in us, folks. I know we can do this. Through blood and sand…”
“WE WILL PREVAIL!” came the echoing response that seemed to vibrate through the heart of the ship itself.
He keyed his authorization code into his wrist computer to unlock the nuclear weapons for the weapons technicians.
He flexed his back and twisted his neck from side to side, he hit the klaxon alarm as the lights dimmed to their battle status red.
0:05… 0:04… 0:03… 0:02… 0:01..
The ship emerged in a flash of light with the Carian home world in sight. The planet was a wash of bright oranges, yellows and greens. Large blue oceans covered the planet with large polar regions in the north and south. He stared at the planet in amazement, like a young kid caught up in the splendor of space travel. “We have ten.. No…40… Captain we have over 85 enemy contacts in a tight pattern hovering over the capital City in a geosynchronous orbit. The Carian fleet has moved to an attack vector and are requesting our support.”
“Follow the attack vector helmsman, how are we looking on our asset retrieval?”
“Captain, the Night Runner has dropped out of light jump and has dispatched the away teams.”
“Thank you, lieutenant Coulo. Weapons, I want you to find me an option for the hydro nukes. If we can get one inside their formation, we could seriously cripple their attack, find me something!”
“Yes, Captain!” came the chorus of replies from the weapons technicians who began scanning the enemy fleet looking for weaknesses.
“Arm our close range defense cannons. Keep the triggers war”, the Captain said as he tapped for readouts of the Drift ships in the formation. He stared at the readouts of the ships looking for anything he could use to identify the flagship. The computer had already classified them into categories: Fighters, Corvettes, and Cruisers. He tapped the holo-display of the fighter. A section of the viewscreen zoomed in to the side of one of the larger cruisers to show the hundreds of fighters. They looked like a swarm of daggers floating around the outsides of the larger ships, like angry wasps around their nest. He tapped the display for the corvette as the image on the viewscreen changed to a more zoomed out view with the enemy ship highlighted by a thin yellow line. The corvette looked like an icicle that had been turned on its side. It was a pointed projectile that tapered to a fine point on the nose. They protected the larger cruiser with 5 on each side, deep recesses in their flanks showed where their weapons were located. Finally he tapped on the display for the cruiser. As the view screen image changed again the large blade-like ship was outlined for his inspection. He counted the weapons ports, totaling 6 per side and noticed the large vertical hangar bay that spewed out fighters by the dozen. “What kind of weaponry are we looking at?” the Captain asked his second in command.
“Sir, their cruiser and corvettes have large recesses in their flanks where energy projectiles are fired from. We aren’t sure what it is, either some type of plasma or ionized energy. Their fighters don’t have any weapons that we can see or scan, sir, I think they’re ballistic fighters…” Lieutenant Dennison answered quickly from her station beside the captain’s chair. The Captain looked over at her with a look of confusion on his face.
“Lieutenant Dennison… did you say their fighters are ballistic?”
“Yes sir. We can’t find any sort of weapons or cockpit where a pilot might sit. Given the nature of the Drift that we’ve been able to study so far, it seems their fighters are drones.”
“Drones, which fly into their target as their means of primary attack?” he continued asking the lieutenant.
“That is my educated guess sir. We’ve run the numbers and if one of those fighters were to hit us, it would have the same effect as one of our STS Rockets.”
The Captain shook his head in disbelief, “Okay then, thank you for the analysis Lieutenant. Let’s make sure none of them hit us then”.
“Yes sir!” came her strong reply as she moved over to talk with the weapons and defense technicians.
“ Sir the away team is on return and they have enemy craft on their tail. Looks to be a squadron of fighters and one unknown Drift class of ship.”
“Put the new ship up on the holo-display please, Lieutenant,” the captain said quietly as he turned towards the large display. A digital rendering of the ship pursuing their away team popped up onto the display and immediately, the captain recognized it. He had seen it once before, during the attack on Beta Earth. It looked like a teardrop flying horizontally through the void. It’s black shimmering hull catching light from all sides making it shimmer with all the colours of the spectrum. This was an attack dropship and it was gaining on their small shuttle making its way through the battlefield back to the Night Runner. “Helm, move us to three point 4 degrees starboard and give me an impulse of 40%. We need to get between the pursuers and the shuttle. Weapons prepare a firing solution as soon as we are in position. We need to drop these things before they close.”
“Yes sir!” came the resounding reply from those on the bridge as the ship began to turn and move forward to provide cover for the shuttle weaving through the battle.
“Sir! Enemy Cruiser is lighting up with a power surge, I think they’re getting ready to fire!” Lt. Robert shouted from her position at the sensor station in front of the captain’s chair.
“Bring shields up to full and angle them towards our target. Let’s hope they hold…”
“Yes sir!” The viewscreen took on a faint shimmer as the shield emitters were adjusted to cover the front of the ship pointed towards their enemy and the craft attempting to overtake their shuttle. He magnified the viewscreen to see the enemy cruiser turn and point toward them. Static electricity began to arc around their hull as the front of their ship glowed with a faint blue light. The glow became more and more intense as the arcing electricity became more and more prevalent. The lightning began to wrap and coalesce towards the front of the ship where two large recesses in the hull were stationed. The recesses began to glow as their weapons charged. Finally, after what felt like minutes, but was really just a few seconds, the enemy ship fired. A large blue streak of substance arced through the void of space towards the Hannibal and the waiting crew. The lightning that had been arcing and blending around the ship followed the projectile as it wound its way towards their ship through the dark space between them. Constant streaks of electricity arced off to dissipate in the emptiness of space as the shot made its way towards his ship.
“Sir, the projectile appears to be composed of some type of metallic core that has been negatively charged to provide an electrical discharge on contact… It has the potential to provide a significant electromagnetic pulse on collision”, Lieutenant Bickats warned from the defense station on the far right of the bridge.
“Understood Lieutenant, prepare our back up reactor to be brought online should this knock us out.”
“Yes sir, the backup reactor is primed and ready. We have begun charging the beam weapon, we’re at 60% charge right now.” The lieutenant replied as he checked his screen for the charge progress.
“Acknowledged lieutenant”, he replied gruffly. He sat in his chair as he watched the enemy’s shot getting closer and closer to his ship. Waiting. Hoping the shields were enough.
“Sir! I have firing solutions on all pursuing craft!” the weapons technician announced.
“Fire at will, Commander”
“Yes Sir!” There were some faint pop sounds as several bastion missiles were loosed from their tubes at the pursuing craft. As the missiles streaked towards their targets the swarm of fighters began to weave and swerve around the dropship in sporadic yet calculated vectors. The enemy fighters would appear to pass within several meters of each other but never touch. As if they were providing a net to catch the incoming missiles prior to contact with the dropship.
“Commander, the fighters are going to intercept the bastions missiles before impact, we need to use our defense cannons to soften them up” he stated quickly as he swiveled his chair to look at the commander.
“On it sir! But they’re at the maximum range of the defense cannons.. we might hit some of our missiles…”
“Sir! The enemy shot is about to overtake the pursuing craft!” Lt. Bickats shouted from his console.
“Understood lieutenant. Defense teams standby” the captain responded, the second half being broadcast through the ship to the waiting security teams. He watched as the shot from the enemy cruiser overtook the pursuing craft, the arcing electricity washing over the hulls of the enemy craft leaving no damage. As the shot got closer and closer the captain noticed something peculiar. He magnified the resolution on the viewscreen and his stomach sank. He could make out four separate projectiles that were travelling as one with the electricity keeping them closer together. As the shot got further and further from the Drift the electricity dissipated more and more. As the shot came within 20km of the ship the electrical charge disappeared completely. And then he saw it. The four pieces of the enemy shot began to slowly separate. Growing further and further apart.
“SIR! The enemy projectile has separated into four sections. Our angled shields will block three of the four but one will impact our hull on decks 15-17 if its trajectory holds true. We don’t have time to re-angle the shields…”
Thinking quickly on his feet he had an idea, “Lieutenant, how many lifeboats are on the starboard side of the ship on Deck 17?”
“There’s 12 life boats docked sir… but why…oh! On it!” the lieutenant replied as he caught on to what the captain was thinking. We can program the trajectory of the lifeboat on an intercept course sir. It should impact 10km from our hull. The trajectory is calculated and uploaded to the lifeboat.”
“Fire the lifeboat lieutenant”, the captain said.
“Firing!” There was a loud whump as the lifeboat streaked out of the hull towards the targeted incoming enemy projectile. He watched the holo-display as the computer tracked everything that was happening. The bastion missiles were about to impact the pursuing craft as the three enemy rounds impacted their shields. The enemy shots impacted their angled shields and spread over the invisible barrier like molten metal as it rapidly cooled against the shields, frozen fast in the cold of space. The impact caused a massive EMP that was largely absorbed by the shields themselves. A few consoles had their screens fizz and crackle but the ship remained largely unharmed.
“Sir! Tracking is blinded by the enemy metal blanket on the shields. We need to drop the shields to unstick the material!”
“Not yet, Commander. Hold fast..” he warned as he watched the bastion missiles streaking towards the enemy pursuing craft. The enemy craft made a dive under the ship and the approaching missiles. As the human weapons tracked their targets and turned to continue their pursuit, they were met by a line of some of the enemy fighters escorting the drop ship. The bastion missiles exploded kilometers away from their intended target which was now under the Hannibal. “Ops!, track the enemy craft!”
“On it Captain! They’ve dove under our bulk and are coming up along the bottom. It looks like they’re trying to find somewhere to land.”
“Weapons, did the lifeboat intercept the round?”
“Tracking now sir, impact in three…two…one… impact!” the technician shouted excitedly from their station before they caught themselves. After a few brief seconds, the technician let out a sigh and said,“Sir, the enemy round tore through the lifeboat and is continuing on its course. Impact with our hull in 15 seconds…”
“Evacuate the sections where impact will occur and power down as many non-essential systems as possible now!” he shouted aggressively.
“ON IT SIR!” was the reply from the bridge crew.
“Defense teams, this is your captain. We have an enemy drop ship looking for a landing area under our belly. Prepare to repel boarders.”
“Impact with the hull in three seconds… two seconds… one second….”
The ship shuddered as the enemy round impacted on decks 16 and 17. The charged projectile detonated on contact burning through the affected sections and into the next decks both above and below as the EMP detonated. The shields and the ship itself lost all power with a shuddering gasp. “Where’s my backup power!?” the captain shouted as he stood up from his seat, the emergency lighting on the bridge giving his fair complexion a weathered look.
“Sir… the enemy EMP knocked out the backup generator. It didn’t fry it but we will need to restart it before we can reinitialize the system. And that can only be done from Engineering.” Lt. Gupta stated as she stood up from the facilities station on the far side of the bridge.
“Alright, we’re going to Engineering. Lieutenant Bickats you have the bridge, do everything you can to get us away from the enemy ships and try to restore power. We will contact you on the radio when we restart the generator.
“Yes sir, Captain Michaels!”
The captain motioned for the security detail assigned to the bridge to follow him and Lt. Gupta as they made their way through the darkened bridge and to the main hallway of the ship. The long hall ran almost the entire length of the ship from stem to stern. The ship itself was the peak of human engineering boosted with some help from the races of the Conclave. It boasted a full complement of new rail guns, bastion missiles, STS rockets, close support cannons and two separate Sciterian beam weapons. The ship was only 800 meters at its longest point and looked like a kleenex box tilted on its side with dozens of antennae and weapons dotting its sides. The bridge resembled a squat tower that sat firmly on the top of the bulky body of the ship and connected to the main body. While not exactly aerodynamic, it wasn’t the most ugly ship it could be. The edges were rounded to provide some semblance of efficiency, but in space, aerodynamics didn’t really mean much; and while the Hannibal could land on a planet with an atmosphere, he would never risk that except for the most dire of circumstances. Emblazoned on the side was the name Hannibal, after the famous ancient Earth military commander who was famous for crossing the Swiss Alps with his army instead of going around. The Alps were pretty much destroyed during the War of Unification, but the history of the region remained a core part of the UE teachings. As he and his entourage exited the bridge and began making their way down the long hall to the maintenance corridor that ran parallel to the main hall, he tapped the radio in his ear, “Sergeant Parks, come in this is Captain Michaels.”
“Yes sir, go ahead” came the curt reply from the security chief for the ship.
“Sergeant, we are dead in the water. Lt. Gupta and I are headed to Engineering to restart the backup generator so we can light jump out of the battlefield. I would like for you to dispatch a security team to accompany us. We know the enemy docked a dropship on the underside of the ship, set your teams to work in pairs and sweep decks 30-20 with extreme prejudice. I know how these things can move and fight and I don’t want any of them on my ship. Understood?”
“Understood sir. I have dispatched Alpha Squad to rendezvous with you on deck four.”
“Thank you Sergeant, good hunting”, Cpt. Michaels said as he tapped the radio twice to cut the connection. “Let’s get a move on, the sooner we are out of here the better”.
Far below the bridge on deck 24 there was a loud thud as a device was attached to the outside of the hull. A perfectly blue circle, roughly two meters in diameter appeared on the wall as the smell of burning metal filled the corridor. Thin smoke plumed up from the edge of light as the hull was cut into from the outside. With a loud clang the circle of ship hull crashed to the ground. Two large creatures stepped through into the darkened corridor. Their large masses bristling with weapons and tendrils as they looked from side to side. Without a word, they went separate ways down the hall, their objective clear; retrieve the data core or scuttle the ship. The hulking creatures moved quickly for their size as they glided across the ship deck in opposite directions. No words were said, but a single thought was shared between them and the billions of others throughout the galaxy, We are the Drift. We are legion, and we will not be stopped.