The Doomed Voyage: Part 4

From the logs of Hoplite Sutton Asher: “All hands to battle stations!” Brigadier Martel’s voice boomed over the Odyssey’s intercom. I raced from the mess hall back to the bridge. We were a little over

From the logs of Hoplite Sutton Asher:

“All hands to battle stations!” Brigadier Martel’s voice boomed over the Odyssey’s intercom.

I raced from the mess hall back to the bridge. We were a little over a week out from the moon of the mad scientist Wyndark, but everyone was still on edge over what Kelust Lomax had described. We’d run a few tactical exercises since then, but something in the brigadier’s voice told me this was no drill. Either way, my place was at the tertiary tactical station on the bridge.

Despite my protestations that I didn’t belong anywhere near General Calix Weston. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to confess, especially when confronted with anger and resentment the other crew members held toward our saboteur.

Toward me.

But the general never expressed either anger at our situation, or doubt about any of the crew—at least not in public. He had ordered me to take the bridge position based on my performance in the drills. Certainly, there weren’t many experienced officers left who could claim seniority.

“Keep us on course, Kyber Bronson. We don’t want to fight if we don’t have to.” General Weston stood over the helmswoman, studying the readouts on her display.

I took up the tertiary tactical station and pulled up the sensor readouts. Another ship, that didn’t match anything in the Odyssey’s records, loomed at the edge of the system we’d just entered. It was too far away for a full tactical scan, but the bits and pieces that did come through didn’t look good. Reinforced hull, at least twelve plasma turrets, and what might have been traces of an energy shield. Not to mention the sheer bulk. It could have easily housed 150 troops, maybe more.

If we’d still had the battle frigate, there would have been no contest. But in our little assault craft, a ship like that could mean the end of our journey.

“They’re moving to intercept.” Brigadier Martel called out from the primary tactical station.

“How long?” The general turned to him.

“At this rate, two minutes.”

“Thoughts?”

“I don’t recognize the configuration, they’re probably pirates.”

“Agreed. What are our options?”

“We don’t have the engine power to outrun them. We’ll have to fight.” Kyber Bronson almost snarled.

“Negative.” I checked my display again. “We wouldn’t survive more than two passes against that kind of firepower.”

“Better to go out fighting, than die with our tails tucked between our legs.”

“Enough, both of you!” General Weston barked. “If we can’t run and we can’t fight, what does that leave?”

Surrender.

“We could try and hide in the magnetic field of one of these planetoids.” The man at the secondary tactical station offered.

The kyber shook her head. “Too risky, if their sensors are as advanced as their weapons, we’d have a very limited window to work with.”

“They haven’t made any more aggressive moves than we have. We might be able to negotiate.” Brigadier Martel said.

“You know I hate negotiating from a place of weakness, Zane.” General Weston sighed. “I want a full tactical reading of that ship, if these talks go sour I want more options. Understood?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Very good.” He settled back into the captain’s chair. “Let’s give them a call.”

While the woman manning the communications station broadcast our intent, I turned my focus to the sensor readings. The approaching ship proved difficult to get accurate scans of because it was a crudely assembled hodgepodge of other vessels. I ran a quick assessment of the seams and sent the data over to primary tactical. They were definitely the weakest points in the hull, but that wasn’t saying much.

“Sir, they’re responding.”

“Put it on.” The general shifted his attention to the display beside his chair.

From my angle, I had a pretty good view when the screen shifted to display the face of the other ship’s captain. He was a cyborg, with the entire left side of his face replaced by machinery.

The general nodded to him. “Greetings, what can we do for you, Captain…?”

“Phemus. Captain Phemus.” He narrowed his one human eye. “That’s a short-range little ship you’ve got there. What brings you so far out in it?”

“Just doing a little exploring. Looking for new routes for the larger vessels. Surely you know how it goes?”

“I’ve done my share of ‘exploring.’ Let me save you some time. There’s nothing of value in this sector. So why don’t you call your friends to come pick you up.”

“They’re charging weapons.” Brigadier Martel said.

“There’s no need for that, Captain Phemus. We’ll be on our way and leave you to your business.”

“No, I don’t think so.” The cyborg half-grinned. “You see, my crew just informed me of who you are, General Calix.”

“If you know who I am, you know I won’t go down easily.”

“For what Cantrell’s offering, I’ll take my chances.” The transmission cut out.

The mention of that name stunned me, even as the rest of the crew leapt into action.

“Kyber, evasive maneuvers. Now!”

The inertial dampers struggled to keep up as the Odyssey lurched wildly to one side. Searing bolts of plasma tore through space where we’d been a moment before.

“Return fire.”

Our own turrets launched a volley, peppering the enemy’s hull.

“No damage.” I reported. “They’re out of range. Our plasma shots are cooling too much before they hit.”

“You heard him, Kyber, get us closer.”

“Closer, Sir?”

Another wave of destruction passed, even nearer.

“They aren’t worried about range. If we have a chance of getting out of this, we’ll have to get in close enough to do some damage.”

“Aye, Sir.”

“Asher! Find me their sensor systems.”

“I’m on it.”

The ship rocked and a panel exploded with a shower of sparks.

“Minor hit to one of the power conduits. Nothing we can’t fix if we get out of this in one piece.” Brigadier Martel shouted.

I ran four scans of the enemy ship before I was able to pick up what looked like a sensor nodule along the dorsal hull. “I’ve got it, General.”

“Zane, I want everything we’ve got targeting those sensors. If we can’t out-gun them, we’ve got to blind them.”

The Odyssey shook as another shot hit.

“We’re still too far out.”

“Kyber—”

“I’m doing all I can.”

General Weston grabbed the intercom. “Kelust Casper, I need more heat on the forward turret.”

“Already at capacity, Sir. Any more we risk overloading the whole system.”

“Take the others offline and evacuate the section around the forward gun. Then pour everything we’ve got into it. Let me know when it’s ready.”

“Aye, Sir.”

The general turned to the brigadier. “You hear that Zane, you’ve got one shot, make it count.”

“I’m on it. Hoplite, coordinate your scans with my targeting sensors, we’ll need this to be as precise as it gets.”

“Yes, Sir.” I tied the ship’s primary sensors to the targeting system.

“We’re as ready as we’ll ever be, General.” Kelust Casper called over the intercom.

Another blast tore off a piece of the outer hull and the bridge lights flickered. My screen reported the ship’s structural integrity had dropped to eighty-three percent. If I remembered my training correctly, the vacuum of space would overwhelm the ship if structural integrity dipped below seventy-five.

“Anytime, Zane.”

“Just a minute more….”

I glanced at the damage reports flashing across my display. Structural Integrity was down to seventy-eight percent.

We don’t have a minute.

An explosion shook the Odyssey.

I griped my console to keep from being flung to the deck. More damage reports screamed for attention, but I only had eyes for the sensor readings. “Direct hit! Their sensors are down.”

“Kyber, get us out of here, as fast as she’ll go.”

“Gladly.”

“As soon as we’re out of visual range change course. We don’t know how long until they get those systems back online, but in the meantime I don’t want them to be able to extrapolate our position.”

“Understood.”

“And one more thing.” The general smiled. “You all handled yourselves excellently against extreme resistance. Know that my report will reflect your courage and competence.”

My heart sank down into my boots. I didn’t deserve any praise. I was the one responsible for the whole situation.

Though it hadn’t escaped my notice that the pirate was also familiar with General Anthony Cantrell.

To Be Continued…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *