Monday, September 28, 2009

Tales of a Confederacy: Triumphant Sun. Part One


Nearly a century had passed since the conclusion of the Eradication Wars. A massive series of conflicts that engulfed the galaxy and threatened to rip the very foundations of society apart. Ended only with the loss of the Great Library--a massive collection of knowledge from all races--at the hands of the Confederacy of United Suns, an enigmatic collection of unions bound by the same basic laws.

Now, 82 years after the Great Intervention, war threatens to engulf the galaxy yet again! The Confederacy--having assumed the role of protector of less advanced empires—is now readying the massive Confederate Navy for the task it was given millenia ago, to defend the Confederacy and Her Allies.

Kazimir Miroslav inserted a stylus into his datapad and pushed the rectangular projector screen away from him, he had just signed the contract that made him a trainee in the Confederate Armed Forces-Naval Wing.

“What if I die in a live fire accident?” he thought as a pang of uneasiness shot through him.

But he knew that it was his choice in joining the CAFNW. He could make working tactics and strategies on the fly, he had the wit and empathy to keep morale high. He was charismatic and sharp. He had demonstrated these at some time in his life.

Kazimir had worked as a junior-chef on a luxury cruise liner, the StarWeaver. When its rear capacitor bank malfunctioned, and exploded, it took out one of the backup generators and the FTL core, they were stranded for three days in the heart of a nebula. Three days was dangerous, even more so in a nebula. Everything from wayward comets and asteroids, to raiders and pirates could happen upon a defenseless liner.

There had been a crowd that was about to dissolve into a riot in the ship's gala room. The-then 16 year old-Kazimir had helped the Security Chief position the crowd control crews should the 'shit-hit-the-fan' and then promptly walked onto the stage with a microphone in hand and began cracking joke after joke, preventing the riot from boiling over.

“On vacation,” he had once said “I was eating some grainmeal that goes by the brand name of 'Falsarra Quakers'. An hour later, the house was hit by a tremor!”

The teen had done various routines every day, ranging from jokes to caricature sketching to even playing an instrument and conducting the band. Which was typical for those brought up in highly-artistic Milaslavos clan.

At the end of the third day, an Unyielding class Cruiser, the Sansip had docked with the StarWeaver and was taking on crew while the Oasis class Support Destroyer Medira was repairing the liner.

Kazimir had seen the Sansip and found his calling. He had completed his education and was eligible for work. Now, he was 22 years of age and old enough to be a candidate for enlistment in the CAFNW. Kaz had spent the past 8 years of his life painting and writing to pass the time, and had made a lot of money as a consequence.

The datapad beeped and Kazimir grabbed it, he was notified that CAFNHIGHCOM was sending him a data file. He took the stylus and tapped the accept icon and waited for the download to finish.

Seconds later and the download was complete, an automated decompression algorithm activated and extracted the contents of the file to a private directory; it contained several audiovisual files detailing how the training and screening process would be conducted, virtual tours and specifications on some of the smaller vessels and a small software simulation package. He had read on the forms that if you are accepted, a transport will arrive in a week’s time.

A Week Later

Kazimir’s mother, Laerauna Miroslav hugged her son with tearful eyes, his father, Gerson Mer Miroslav stood beside his mother, his eyes red and puffy. Once the mother and son had broken their embrace, Kazimir shook his father’s hand in farewell, before saluting the war veteran.

“We'll meet again mom,” Kazimir said “I'll promise that. And dad, my medals won't come posthumously.

“Through fire and ice,” Gerson replied “freedom will reign free, son.”

“Come on guys.” Kazimir said, “It’s not like it’s the last time you’ll ever see me again.”

“Kaz,” one of his brothers said “you're an idiot, but you've got what it takes.”

“Same as always, Jared.” He replied with a smile “Keep mom safe.”

“'Course I will.” Jared said, hugging his brother.

The loud thrum of medium-class anti-grav pods was heard outside.

“I guess it’s time for me to go.” Kazimir said “Jera ‘kai!” Farewell

Kazimir took his belongings from his sister’s hands and stepped outside. The day was bright and sunny, the deep blue sky was absent of clouds and far to the north, an aurora danced, complimenting the beautiful sight of Nova Armeston’s twin moons; Charity and Piety. A drab gray military transport contrasted the beautiful sight, it’s paint was chipped and scratched while dents and armor patches covered its abused shell, the mass of metal hovered a foot above the neatly groomed grass lawn of the Miroslav Family Mansion. The frigid winter winds blew on his face and made him shiver.

Kazimir waved goodbye to his family, which returned the favor through the window, he also greeted the gardener a good morning and climbed into the transport. The dimly lit rear of the vehicle was dank and smelled of dried vomit, blood and sweat. The uncomfortable looking plastic seats were chipped and broken. The vehicle had obviously seen some action before being sent to pick them up. Kazimir placed his things in an overhead storage bin and sat down. Ten other people were in the transport, they were silent, and seemed depressed. Kazimir looked at their eyes and saw a lust for vengeance combined with sorrow, they had obviously lost someone to the war. He had seen that look all too many times in his friend's eyes.

The trip to Lookout Point, a military spaceport took only 30 minutes. Freighters and dropships lifted off from numerous gantries and hangars or touched down on black Quicksphalt landing pads. Fighters patrolled the skies, leaving white trails in the serene blue dome.

Kazimir saw a ribbon of Quickspahalt pass through a mobile checkpoint, drab gray Army vehicles squatted along the road, their turrets scanning the area. A soldier in powered armor stopped the transport and pointed a scanner at his eye. The soldier told the driver something and the rear door slid open. He stole an uneasy glance at the checkpoint and looked at the soldier that was motioning for them to come out.

The group flashed their datapads and had their irises scanned. Kaz saw the faint shimmering of a repulsor-field ahead of him, one of the soldiers tapped an icon on his datapad and a small section of shimmer faded. The group advanced into the dome and were briefed by a man in black naval uniform.

A sleek shuttle dropped from the sky before firing its VTOL thrusters and touched the ground lightly with extended landing skids. The shuttle powered down with a fading whine and a door slid open on its sides. A thin Iala ladder extended to the ground, and Kaz followed the group into the shuttle's bay.

In contrast to the dark and smelly interior of the battered transport, this interior was clean, brightly lit and smelled faintly of pine. The seats looked only slightly more comfortable than the ones in the transport. They switched over to a frigate and from there; they were deposited at the Desert Moon Boot Camp on Kerberos; a barren, windswept moon orbiting an equally bleak looking planet.

Training wasn't bad; as long as he avoided pissing the drill officers off, he had it safe. After four months of boot, he was sent off to the Naval Academy on Exa Armeston. There he had a schedule that was a far cry of bootcamp's drab, monotonous routine.

Kazimir yawned as he half-listened to his professor, an old Great War veteran who was getting a little too senile for his own good. He ranted on-and-on about 'The Old Days', when only men held flag positions, when antimatter cannons were common even amongst frigates and other nonsense.

Soon, the trainee found himself setting his datapad to 'record' mode so that he could catch any important information--if there was any--that he could have missed and opened an art suite. Soon, he had drawn a massive battle between Confederate Navy and Oortimi Hegemony warships. He tapped a save icon and closed the suite, deftly avoiding the vet's scanning eyes by fractions of a second.

Kaz looked at the main holoscreen, which now read 'Analyze a historical battle of your choice and write a 30 megabyte report which will be submitted at 2200 Hours Standard Military Time.'

However, the veteran had spotted Kazimir's datapad and commented:

“That's a fancy one these days son,” he said “but in the old days, those were common!”

Kaz pretended to be engrossed in his review of the Battle of Elsima, and soon found himself truly interested in the battle itself. He called up an audiovisual simulation of the battle, noting the maneuvers and tactics that the commanders on both sides used.

He had also noted that technology seemed to have degraded in the past half-millenia since the conclusion of the Eradication Wars.

Soon, he had an essay, several video clips and even a report on things that could have been done to avoid the Pyrrhic victory that the Confederates gained at the cost of several million personnel, the planet and its shipyards and the near loss of Theta, Gamma, Omega, Epsilon and even Alpha fleets. All of this had been submitted 6 hours early, breaking the previous record by 30 minutes.

He had spent the rest of his day drafting the interior of the fabled Notani Varra'gn, a massive warship that existed only in the textbooks and rumor-mills of the Academy.

The day afterwards, he had not only turned the tides of a simulated Battle of Elsima in the Confederacy's favor, but made it turn out a total victory with a loss ratio of 3 Confederate Captial Ships per 11 Oortimi Capital craft. The rest of the day was spent receiving accolades from his instructors and colleagues, as the battle had been broadcasted onto the Academy's holoscreens.

Elsima Orbital Shipyards

1100 Hours, SCMT

SVN-0031 Saa'mer Class Sovereign Boundless Triumph

“Evasive maneuvers!” Kazimir yelled, mentally cursing the AI-Helm for its incompetence “Just motherfucking avoid those fucking suicide AM Haulers!”

He felt the ship tilt as the hundred-kilometer long Sovereign tilted upwards, its shields just grazing the leading edge of the last hauler. A thin white beam of energy lanced from one of her portside turrets and cut the ship's drives in half, crippling it while a graviton beam caught the hauler and chucked it at an approaching Oortimi super-capital ship, bringing its shields down and scorching its black and maroon hull.

“Morev-damnit!” Kazimir hissed as the ship lurched from a strike from three Kinetic destroyers. “Is everyone on this damn bridge deaf and dumb? I've told AI and humanoid alike to keep those damn things from messing with our aim!”

Morev was the Armestonian goddess of the Arts, war included. She was sometimes portrayed as a woman in full combat gear cradling an ancient stringed instrument in her arms.

The fury around him was almost palpable as he viciously tore weapons authorization from the WEPSCOM officers and re-routed it to his command chair. At his command, energy beams annihilated the enemy destroyers with impunity.

“Boarding parties inbound!” the AI-DACON officer yelled.

“Who in Morev's name decided to pull the point defense guns from the 'grid?!” Kaz yelled at the DEFCOM and WEPSCOM officers.

“I- I- I did sir.” one of them stammered “I th- thought the m-main guns would be-be benefit from the extra energy.”

An exact repeat of the last line uttered by the Boundless Triumph's bridge crew before everything dissolved into static. Kazimir's more aggressive maneuvering had apparently spared the ship the damage its non-simulated counterpart fared.

Kazimir slapped his face and reconnected the PD guns to the 'grid after he had executed a hard turn to port, slamming the bloated boarding pods against her silver, maroon and violet hull. The thumping that reverberated through the ship suddenly decreased in intensity.

Kazimir--who had taken control from DEFCOM (Defense Command), WEPSCOM (Weapons Command), CACOM (Combat Air Command) due to their incompetence—was now using his neural command interface to manage the battle that raged around the Trumph.

Explosions peppered the area around her, frigates and smaller vessels were swatted out of the skies by focused point-beam fire as Kazimir lapsed into total sensory-deprivation. The only thing keeping him alive (and in the simulation) was the failsafe built into his NCI.

The trainee was turning the battle in the Confederacy's favor with his thinking 'past the book', as his reasoning was that if it's written down in a book somewhere, someone's already made a counter to it. In the original battle, the Confederates had formed a massive wall of ships firing broadside. Now they circled the enemy or 'jousted', thrusting into the Oortimi formations, flipping over and repeating the maneuver.

He let out a curse that made even the Rear Admiral who was observing the battle flush a deep red. The Oortimi had managed to blow off one of the engine pods of a nearby battlecruiser, sending it flying towards the Triumph in such a way that it threatened to knock her off course... again.

And then she vanished in a flash of light, allowing the rogue engine pod to slam into an Oortimi frigate that had just dropped from slipspace. A flash of light added to the chaos as both were destroyed.

The Triumph reappeared behind the Oortimi formation, inside one of the massive orbital shipyards that orbited Elsima. He heard several disdainful sighs waft from the rest of the fleet as they saw her disappear. Kaz tilted the ship upwards, her bow missing the top of the cavernous bay by just a few centimeters. Now, the ship was upside-down and ready for battle. She righted herself and a blue glow began to form in the split, condensing into a sphere where it ended.

A blue-white beam of energy lanced from the ship, blowing through the blast doors and causing them to shatter outwards like a pane of glass that had been hit by a brick. An Ettmer'va class Dreadnought dipped as the beam approaced, allowing it to continue on into the massive, obelisk-like Oortimi flagship. With a sheer stroke of luck, its shields were already down and the launch bay was open.

The beam's contact point vanished in a brilliant burst of light, the hull buckled, folded and cracked. Radiation suddenly flooded the ship's corridors as the slug-like Oortimi died with agonized screams, blisters forming on their skins. More energy was pumped into the beam, destabilizing the antimatter containment fields near the contact point. The cohesive antimatter beam suddenly widened near the antimatter reaction, causing even more damage to the flagship.

The beam brightened in intensity until it was impossible to look at directly, and then faded. The ruined flagship sat there, a massive hole burnt into its broken hull. It no longer fired, crew and electronics had both died in the attack. And slowly-agonizingly-the ship fell apart, glimmering shards of armor plate broke free as the ship slowly split in half with a tortured groan.

Taking this to heart, the rest of the fleet fired whatever antimatter weapons they had. Space suddenly became not-so-dark and then returned to normal. The attack had caught the enemy off-guard, and they paid dearly for their mistake. Most of their fleet was annihilated in the sudden move, whatever enemies remained were blown apart by concentrated energy weapons fire or jumped out in a bid to save their hides.

A light beeping came from everywhere in the bridge and Kaz suddenly found himself sitting in a water-filled reclining chair, a NCI cable running from the three ports at the base of his head. He checked the chrono. It read 0105 Hours, a timer under it showed that two days had passed since the beginning of the simulation.

Kaz was exhausted and nearly fell over from trying to stand up. In fact, two people already had. Rear Admiral Parker approached him and patted him on the back.

“Nice thinking, son.” he said “The methods you used are out of the box, and your report showed us that we didn't have to do everything by the book. You have the day off-”

Kaz promptly collapsed into unconsciousness at the mention of those words. When Kaz woke up in the medbay, he had on his shoulders the silver crescent moon and stripe of an ensign.

Two of his friends saluted him and Kazimir returned the salute with a wild grin. Suddenly, his bareeda burst into the room, congratulating him for his new rank. One uncorked a bottle of Appelion's Speed--a low-alcohol, but very strong drink—by tapping the mouth on the side of the table.

Kazimir laughed uproariously as he stood up, pointing at the cake Brynna—a childhood friend--was attempting to shove into the door without damaging it. She shot him a glare that could melt cometary ice in deep space and returned to trying to get her burden in.

Cheers erupted in the recovery room as Kazimir tossed his Academy stripes into the waste bin, several of his friends clapped him on the back and punched him on the shoulders.

Kaz took the uncorked Speed and took a hearty swig, and then downed it in two gulps as fire ran his throat and into his stomach.

“Vic,” Kazimir said with a smile “Speed, as much as you can in 30 seconds. No spilling.”

Kaz took another bottle of speed and downed it in two gulps, Victor was downed one with three, and nearly sputtered as a bubble caught in his throat.

Soon, both men were nearly drunk. Vic found himself being tickled by Brynna and attempting to keep his drink in, but alas. Victor spat his Speed out and doubled over in laughter as she doubled her efforts.

“Cheater,” Victor accused “you like Kaz don't you?”

Brynna stole a look at Kazimir, who had a wild grin on his face, which to her mind, complemented his slightly delicate jaw and small-yet-strong nose.

“I don't.” She lied while slapping Victor across the face.

“C'mon,” Victor teased “stop lying.”

“Actually,” Kazimir interrupted “she doesn't-” he paused, making Brynna breath a sigh of relief “not like me. Hells, she kissed me yesterday.” he said to cheers and whoops.

Brynna kicked Kazimir in the shin, unfortunately eliciting more cheers from his friends.

A Month Later

Nor'Taan Qa Asteroid Field
2409 Hours SCMT
CUS FFG/M-1971 Stormbearer Class Missile Frigate Inevitable Retribution

Kazimir hissed a curse as the ship jolted, making him bite his tongue. The Ensign was the Executive Officer of the Inevitable Retribution, making him temporary commander should the commanding officer be absent.

However, Commander Richard had spaced himself after hearing news of his entire family killed while fleeing the Imperial Front, his wife had also slept with three men-supposedly at the same time-in one night. So that made Kazimir the acting CO, as he was qualified for a Heavy Cutter command; the closest to Frigate command.

“More asteroid fragments inbound!” Brynna yelled from her Sensors station.

“Brace for impact!” DACON officer Sara Retton said over the comms.

The ship bucked again as a pair of electromagnetically propelled asteroids slammed into the Retribution's forward hull.

“Weapons free! Weapons free!” Kazimir ordered “The mission's become Fucked up beyond Morev's recognition!”

Point defense guns began tracking any stray object that got close, capacitors warmed up and entered full charge in the ship's main cannons. Missiles were loaded into their tubes with satisfying clunks and armed.

Two Echelon class Frigates entered sensors range bearing the white and black of a pirate clan, Brynna watched kinetic rounds stream from numerous small turrets on their hulls. Particle guns rumbled and the rounds winked off the sensors grid.

Kazimir gave authorization to launch the missiles and a series of roars answered him as missiles left their launch tubes, their AI guiding them towards one of the Echelons. Two exploded as particle bolts filled the space separating the predator from prey. The AI began to move the missiles erratically, lessening the chances of another burst hitting something.

Brynna watched in grim satisfaction as a localized antimatter reaction eradicated one of the pirate's missile pods while a particle lance crackled through space and tore into the enemy ship.
Another barrage of missiles turned the drive assembly into a heap of twisted metal. The pirate ship listed and spun into an asteroid, rending a gash into its starboard side.

The Retribution focused her fire on the other frigate and it vanished in a flash of light, all that remained were twisted lumps of irradiated metal.

Just then, a full Empire Invasion Fleet jumped in and opened fire on the Inevitable Retribution.

- - -

Kazimir awoke to a wiling banshee. Groaning, Kazimir smashed a holographic icon on the chrono, silencing the device. He noticed that the Inevitable Retribution was not a pile of scrap metal as he shook the grogginess away.

“Fuck,” he said “that's almost better than being stuck on patrol duty.”

He stood up and changed into a new set of fatigues before trudging into the corridor, the door behind him sliding shut. The commander walked into the mess hall and fell in line.

Kazimir ordered a sandwich and some coffee before plopping down on an unoccupied table. Suddenly, a woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, freckles and sparkling green eyes walked in front of him. The silver ring of ocular inserts close to her pupils, signifying that they were inactive.

“How's it going Kaz?” she said

“Just fine Brynn,” Kazimir replied “patrol is fucking boring!”

Just then, his datapad pinged. Kazimir took a small silver square and unfolded it into a paper-thin sheet, the side facing him turned black and icons popped up on the surface.

A window opened and displayed a condensed version of the sensor readings. Five contacts were just near the edge of detection range, they were pinging Hostile Identification.

“Shit!” Kazimir cursed “To the bridge.”

- - -

“Fire! Fire!” Kazimir barked as three of the contacts grew closer, manifesting into the needle-like shapes of Imperial frigates. These however, did not match any known ships in the database.

Missiles were tossed out of their tubes and activated, white trails reached for one of the contacts and engulfed it in massive bursts of energy. When the blinding light faded, the enemy frigate could be seen drifting away, snapped like a twig. Large chunks of metal tumbled into space, sunlight glinting harshly as they drifted away from the wreckage.

The other enemies closed in and fired, white-hot bursts of plasma washed over the Retribution's shields. The the crew retaliated by firing her particle guns at full output, the shields on one of the enemy frigates failed. Its nose was snapped off by artificial lightning slamming broadside into the craft.

Atmosphere rushed from the exposed cabins, sucking men into the void where they died horrific deaths.

By then, the Retribution had been too distracted to do anything about the third frigate, which had begun to accelerate towards her.

“They're attempting to ram!” Kazimir said over the comm “Brace for impact!”

The ship shuddered as the sharp point of the enemy frigate found a nick in her armor and stabbed into her innards. Gunners fired at the enemy ship, hoping to dislodge it from its hold. Unfortunately, attempting to do so was futile as there was not enough firepower mounted on her lower surfaces.

“Decompression alert in Deck C-2,” the ship's voice reported “sealing bulkheads now.”

The distant thunks of one-ton slabs of Iala composite slamming into the floor plating could be heard.

“Boarding action in Deck C-1. Initiating counter-ops.”

Several turrets popped out from hatches along the ceiling, walls and floor in the corridors and cabins of C-1 with satisfying clacks.

“Security teams,” Kazimir said “move into defensive positions around corridors Atton and Sestor.”

- - -

The thunder of man-made lightning filled Private Grigori Anatoliy's ears as he fired his particle rifle, making several of the Imperial soldiers dive to the deck in a bid to save their lives. One poked his head up as Grigory stopped firing, then his face vaporized as the squad's sniper-Corporal Lina Pelsat-fired her rifle.

Grigory advanced, his HUD marking the positions of his squadmates. A soldier in powered armor marked 'Pvt. P. Ericson' moved to cover his back, his rifle panning the area. Lina adjusted her rifle and froze, her armor blending into the tree.

The squad's sergeant-Aleksei Somtov-took up a position under Lina's tree and propped his heavy particle gun on the deck.

Grigori's HUD highlighted more enemies charging into the morale area, the soldier tensed and drew a bead on one of them.

Lina spotted an enemy creeping around the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the bar that took up an entire quarter of the morale area. She aimed for a gap in the impassive gray armor and held her breath. Her rifle bucked as she tapped the firing stud.

Grigory frowned as the soldier's torso was blown apart in a shower of gore.

Paashol v'chorte!” Grigori whispered, a smile creeping onto his face “You stole my kill, Lina!”

Yob tvoyu mat!” Lina answered back in surprisingly fluent North-Eastern Armestonian, also barely holding back a snigger.

“What?!” Paul's voice suddenly exploded over the transmission.

Tebya ne ebut,” Grigori said, barely able to contain a laugh.

Ti ne podmakhivai!” Lina continued, now sniggering.

“They mean 'You're not being fucked, so stop wiggling your ass!'.” Somtov interrupted, laughing at Paul's misfortune “Govniuk!”

Paul fell silent.

“Ah anyways,” Somtov continued “let's flush these boarders out!”

“Hoorah!” the squad yelled.

Grigori tossed a grenade into their cover and several of the soldiers ran, the enemy were either tossed around like ragdolls by the grenade or were cut down by Aleksei's 'Lightning Storm of Incomprehensible Recycle-Rate', as he had once described.

The boarder's cover were greeted by a bloody mess that had once been their comrades. And then they themselves were cut down.

- - -

Kazimir keyed the comm and took a breath.

“All personnel,” he said “please evacuate Deck C!”

He waited for a second, and then initiated an emergency roll. The floor tilted slightly, and then leveled out as the anti-grav compensated. Creaks and pops reverberated throughout the ship followed by a loud crack as the enemy ship's nose snapped off.

He opened an external camera and confirmed what he had heard with his eyes, the enemy ship was now without its needle tip and venting atmosphere.

The ship's guns now had a clear firing line, and then the space between the two became bright as particle lances tore into armor and hull.

Explosions rippled outwards from the boarding frigate's hull as armor plates tumbled off into space, burnt and melted from the barrage of man-made lightning. Missiles smashed against its drive assemblies, detaching them from the rest of the ship.

The Retribution fired a single antimatter torpedo. The projectile floated in space for a moment and then its pulse drives flickered on, propelling it at the enemy.

The displays dimmed as a blinding white flash engulfed the enemy frigate and then faded. The ship was split in half along its length, the rear little more than an irradiated skeleton. It was also dead, as gamma, x-ray, infra-red, microwave and electromagnetic radiation short-circuited electronics and killed human and alien alike instantly.

The occasional fire could be seen flickering in the now dark viewports of the enemy ship as it spun into the asteroid field.

Kazimir wiped his forehead in relief, the three threats have been eliminated and the two remaining did not seem to move.

The two red dots spawned several smaller ones.

“I'm detecting more incoming!” Brynna declared “Five 017Gs and three 235Ts backed up by a light Dee-Zero-Fail.”

Thankfully, the Imperials placed too much trust in their thick armor and supposedly superior shields while neglecting and even forgoing the most basic of requirements: Point Defense. Unfortunately, their ships were more heavily armed because of that fact.

“Imperial Sloop, Designation Zero-One-Seven-Gastow. The 017G, like most of what the Imps build is dirt cheap, fast and fucking annoying. While three is nothing to the standard FFG/M-1971 to 1800 class Missile Frigates, five is definitely a problem...or not, as they're flimsy and don't have protection against even the most basic of kinetic attacks.”

“Imperial Cutter, Designation Two-Three-Five-Tanto. The 235Ts are fire support units, they lack defensive guns and still dirt cheap. Its equivalent to an FFG/L-1012, though those 'Assfrigs' have been phased out long ago...”

“Imperial Destroyer, Designation Zero-Zero-Seven-Fasa. They've finally decided to add some PD! Three guns, three fucking guns! With such superior coverage, they're invincible to missile and kinetic bombardment.”

Kazimir remembered details from one of his humor-laced reports on Imperial ships. Brynna obviously did, as her shoulders were shaking in silent laughter. The XO-Sara-quirked an eyebrow at him, as she wasn't from the Exa Armeston Naval Academy.

“Fire missile pods one and two.” Kazimir ordered, a shred of pity directed towards the Imperial fleet.

The Retribution suddenly sprouted dozens of white trails, many ended in missiles tipped with fusion warheads, others were Kinetic Kill warheads and even less carried devastating antimatter warheads.

The trails reached for the Imperial ships like tentacles about to consume their prey.

Kazimir watched with anticipation as the ETA timer ticked down to five seconds, and then the window simply closed.

“Report!” Kazimir barked, a lump forming in his stomach.

“They've got fucking Point Defense!” Brynna cried “We'll have to distract them with sparklers.”

Sparklers were kinetic cannons loaded with special shells. A single round was as big as a man and were crammed with ECM and ECCM equipment, the Retribution carried only one such gun on a spinal mount.

The Inevitable Retribution turned to face the incoming fleet and fired three times. Yellow trails marked the sparklers' passage, as soon as they closed to within five kilometers of the lead ship, they destroyed with impunity.

“Detecting multiple Council energy signatures!” Brynna called, a nervous edge in her voice.

“Council?” Kazimir asked, beads of cold sweat forming on his forehead. “The 'Allied Sentient Council' Council?”

The Allied Sentient Council was a splinter of the Confederacy of United Suns, it had been wiped out in the Eradication Wars by the Oortimi. The only relics left were a couple of shattered planets and massive debris fields and ship graveyards. The rest had been re-assimilated into the Confederacy, or enslaved by the Oortimi.

“Shit.” Kazimir breathed “This is Inevitable to Command. Situation has gone FUBAR, requesting reinforcements. Code: Wisher-Tesma-Fasker, Imps are using ASC tech.”

He pressed the data dump icon and sent the packet along the FTL-Comm network, it would take at least five minutes for the data to reach the nearest outpost 100 light-years away. And then it would take half an hour for the backup to arrive.

- - -

“Fire! Fire!” Kazimir yelled as the ship shook from multiple blasts, her shields weakening.

The Retribution retaliated by firing her particle lances at the nearest sloop, wrecking it after several direct hits. The second sloop fired a plasma lance, draining her shields by nearly a sixteenth.

“Give 'em more!” Brynna yelled into the headsets of the gunnery officers, her voice cracking from the strain.

Kazimir shunted power to the shields and weapons, sacrificing speed and maneuverability in the process.

The offending sloop caught an antimatter missile in the flank, it was consumed by the resulting reaction. All that was left were small shards of irradiated metal that slowly tumbled away.

The ship's shields finally failed under a barrage of plasma. Hull was melted and blackened by the firestorm that followed. Missiles cooked off and exploded in fantastic explosions, sending debris into space.

“Particle Lances One through Five have been lost.” The ship's voice said in an eerily cheery tone “Re-routing excess power.”

The recycle rate of weapons banks all across the port flank nearly doubled as more power flowed into their capacitors.

Another sloop went up in a burst of flame, but not before it fired its weapons into the already-weakened armor of the Engineering section. The ship shivered and shook as its secondary Fusion reactor detonated. Armor plates flew off into space as the Retribution twisted and bent under the force of the explosion.

Men were incinerated by the wave of heat that radiated from the open reactor before it could be contained, others were boiled to death by showers of superheated water as the pipes were heated to near volcanic temperatures.

Lights flickered wildly as power fluctuations coursed throughout the ship, particle guns fizzled out and missiles were not kicked out of their tubes.

Kazimir cursed as a water pipe burst and sent a jet of water at the DACON officer, she died a quick death as her head smashed into the crystalline projector panel of her station.

“Overpressure in water systems.” the ship reported “Rerouting water to emergency tanks.”

The jet quickly died, but the damage had been done. Steaming water puddled around the ruined station. Its display panels were cracked and showed shattered views of the current data.

“This is Battlefleet Guardian.” Fleet Admiral Alexander Petrov's voice filtered through the comm “We are en-route, ETA is at 15 minutes. Hang tight and keep it frosty.”

Kazimir breathed a sigh of relief. They could definitely last 15 minutes.

The ship creaked as a kinetic round slammed into her armor, flattening itself into a crumpled cylinder on the silver hull.

A concentrated barrage of particle fire disabled the shields of a Cutter, allowing an antimatter missile to detonate in close proximity to the vessel. It drifted away, completely irradiated by the blast.

By then, there were only three sloops and one cutter left barring the destroyer that loomed over the battle, it's captain was obviously confident that his forces will be able to handle only a frigate.

The last cutter disappeared in a blinding flash of light, consumed by an antimatter reaction. Debris tumbled into a sloop, disabling it and reducing the number to two.

The last two sloops focused their fire on the Retribution's drive portside drive assembly. She twisted as another shockwave rippled through her hull. It was a miracle that she managed to stay fighting even with the damage she sustained.

Atmosphere was leaking from the many holes in her once pristine hull, the occasional conduit would short-circuit and send a shower of sparks into space. Her port missile pods had been reduced to slag, and her guns were beginning to short and deform from the heat.

She rolled, exposing her relatively fresh starboard side. Particle lances speared through the last sloop as it turned away from the battle. A brilliant explosion consumed the ship, reducing it to slag.

The destroyer bore down upon the nearly-crippled ship, point defense guns picked missiles from space as it fired a full fusillade of kinetic guns.

The Inevitable Retribution shuddered as kinetic rounds dented her armor or pierced into the ship's interior, her spine cracked from the force of a heavy round, weakening her even further.

Missiles surged from the remaining missile pods in a cloud too numerous to count, even the upgraded Imperial Destroyer's point defense could only thin the swarm.

A stray transmission reached the Retribution's comm arrays.

“Fucking bees!” An Imperial officer yelled.

Kazimir sniggered at the reaction even though most of the port half of the ship was open to space in more than two vectors.

Several bright flashes engulfed the destroyer, they were bright enough to make even the nearest star dim in comparison! Imperial shields had one deadly flaw; they were made of matter solidified by powerful electromagnetic forces.

When the light subsided and finally died, the destroyer was merely an irradiated, shattered wreck. Armor plates and equipment tumbled off into space as the rear broke away from the fore with a sorrowful moan. The wreckage slowly drifted behind an asteroid.

The price was high for the Retribution; her hull and spine were fractured, she leaked atmosphere in several places, she was crippled and nearly dead. Nearly half of her crew were dead, introduced to hard vacuum without any protection.

And then several more Imperial ships poured from the asteroid bases.

“We're coming Retribution,” an FTL-Comm transmission reached her receivers “hang tight.”

A dozen points of light formed twenty klicks ahead of the Inevitable Retribution. The points expanded into whirlpools of scintillating blue light, the signature of Confederate jump drives.

Kazimir breathed a sigh of relief as Battlefleet Guardian's flagship-the Starbound-burst from the wormhole in a flash of light.

The Starbound was a recently designed Hellgate Class Assault Cruiser. Her hull bristled with weapons ranging from Particle Point guns to Super-Heavy Particle Lances and Heavy Particle Beam cannons. Her main weapon was a spinal mount Antimatter Burst Beam.

Like all Confederate ships, her fore was separated by a split that ran from her bow to the amidships where the main gun resided. She was 20 kilometers long, 3 kilometers high and five kilometers wide.

Her destroyer and frigate escorts followed suit, bursting from their jumprifts in flashes of light.

Three Hellerkast Class Assault Destroyers and one Kazia Class Missile Destroyer surrounded by their complement of 12 Firesreaper Class Heavy Frigates and three Stormbearer Class Missile Frigates.

Those were in opposition to an Imperial 501V Carrier and its associated battlegroup-which was about twice the size of Guardian-along with the two asteroid stations.

“This is Starbound Actual,” Petrov spoke “your job is done. She's too damaged to fight so I suggest you jump out.”

“Aye sir.” Kazimir answered before tapping the jump icon on his command console.

A jumprift opened ahead of the Inevitable Retribution and engulfed her and then collapsed in a burst of energy.

Kazimir watched warily as he viewed the status of the ship through external cameras as the ineptness of the designers left a DACON readout of the ship out of the command console. Kazimir was pissed-royally pissed-at whoever designed the ship's bridge.

As a result, he could only watch as his ship threatened to fall apart at the very moment they crossed the boundary that separated normalspace from slipspace. The spine creaked, threatening to snap from the strain. A bolt popped and hit him in the back of his head, further increasing his irritation.

Three more bolts popped and a Titanium battleplate crashed to the floor with a resounding crash.

“Decompression alert in Deck-B 5 through 9.” the ship reported, still sounding cheery.

“Decompression alert in Deck-B 1 through 4”

“Power fluctuations in primary fusion core. Modulating output now.”

The entire room was suddenly tinted red as automatic procedures dimmed the lamps in order to save power.

“All Particle Lances have been shut down. Shield Output reduced to 20 Percent. Decompression-” The ship's voice was suddenly cut off.

Kazimir finally slammed his hand down on the silence icon. He tapped a few icons and the ship's jumpdrives shut down with a tired whine. Static ran over Kazimir's spine as the quantum fields enveloping the craft folded away and dissipated.

The ship bucked in protest, several faint cracks and the flickering of lights told Kazimir that power conduits were snapping. A steady series of thumps reverberated through the ship's hull as cabins and hallways decompressed, often explosively.

“We're decompressing.” Kazimir said over the comm in the ages-old Naval tradition of stating the obvious “Board the life pods now.”

Crew immediately abandoned their stations and scrambled for the life pod mounted inside the bridge. As Kazimir was about to tap the icon that launched the life pod, an engineer scrambled into the bridge.

“Captain!” she yelled, panicking “Capp'n! The rest of the area's been sealed off. This is the last life-pod in the deck!”

The Executive Officer regarded her with a cold stare and reached to the icon that sealed her fate to an introduction to the Harshest Mistress. Kazimir suddenly grabbed Sara's wrist, a disapproving scowl on his face.

“Get in.” he said to the engineer, his expression warming.

“Sir,” Sara said “you do realize that this life pod is restricted to bridge crew only.”

“Fuck that.” Kazimir sneered.

The engineer was about to climb into the pod but was pushed out by Sara.

“This is treason, Commander.” Sara said “As of now, you no longer hold any rank Kazimir. And in such situations, the Executive Officer will assume command. Am I right?”

Brynna, Bernard-the sensors officer, Victor-the WEPSCOM officer working alongside Brynna, Alisha-the DEFCOM officer-all nodded 'no'. Scowling at Sara, they helped the engineer in.

“As of now,” Kazimir said, tapping the launch icon “Sara Desmond. You are a Prisoner of War, endangering fellow officers and delaying the launch of a life pod carrying VIPs is an act of treason,” Kazimir paused while the pod shuddered as it left its launch rails “according to Article Five, Section Two and Addendum One of your field manual.”

Victor clamped her arms behind her back, preventing her from moving. Kazimir reached out and forcefully ripped her stripes away from her uniform jacket and placed them in the stunned engineer's hands.

Sara turned white in anger and tried to wrestle away from Victor's grip. He slipped and Sara took the opportunity to kick Kazimir in the chin. Kazimir spat blood and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and calmly pulled his ion pistol out, set it to stun, aimed it at the rogue XO's chest and fired in one fluid motion.

She went limp as an electric charge ran through her body, temporarily disabling her muscles. Kazimir checked his teeth with his datapad and let out an irritated sigh. Brynna tapped his back consolingly.

Victor eagerly shook hands with the catatonic engineer, somehow jolting her from her thoughts.

“Wha-” she said, confused “How? Why?”

“Simply because,” Kazimir said with a smile “simply because a fanatic does not deserve a high place in society.”

The engineer nodded in understanding.

“My name's Ynah Marya Svansip.” she said, sticking her hand out.

“Just call me Kaz,” Kazimir said, shaking her hand “Kaz is just fine. To be honest, I hate formality.”

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