FORWORD: This was a literature project for school, and after some rewriting. I decided it was worthy enough for the web.
Kazimir pushed the datapad and stylus away. The registration forms were completed and sent to HIGHCOM.
“What if I die in a live fire accident?” he thought as a pang of regret and uneasiness shot through him
But Kazimir knew that he was ‘born’ to join the CUSAF Naval Wing. He could make working tactics and strategies on the fly; he had the wit and empathy to prevent mutiny. He had the charisma to deliver rousing speeches in the midst of battle and to crack jokes to improve morale. He had demonstrated these at some time in his life.
Kazimir had worked as a junior-chef on a luxury cruise liner, the Nebula. 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; a Wilhelm Napollyon Class Command Cruiser responded to its distress call and towed the ship back to its homeport.
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.
Kazimir had fallen in love at the sight of the Cruiser and made up his mind. He was 16 back then, and had completed his education. Now, he was 22 years of age, old enough to legally enlist in any branch of the Armed Forces, save for the Police.
The datapad beeped, Kazimir grabbed the pad and looked at it. A data packet was streaming to him from HIGHCOM, or its pre-Unification acronym; NAVHIGHCOM.
The Unification was a historic event where the people decided whether to unite the Armed Forces save for the Police, under one command.
The package was done downloading and it automatically decompressed; it contained several audio 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 Tene ‘Da McDougal hugged her son with tearful eyes, his father, Gerson Mend ‘Lev McDougal stood beside his mother, his eyes red. Once the mother and son had broken their embrace, Kazimir shook his father’s hand in farewell.
“Lana’re kal shoka.” Kazimir said, May we meet again.
“Tena lo dona ‘ka, monan ‘tel” Gerson replied, Even through fire and pain, we shall meet again!
“Come on guys.” Kazimir said, “It’s not like it’s the last time you’ll ever see me again.”
“It might be.” One of his brothers smirked “You’re an idiot for doing this Kaz. And for that, I respect you.”
“Same as always, Jared.” He replied “Le’ Mattre pona!” Keep mother safe!
“Lenma mora’i.” Jarred said, “forevermore.
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 McDougal Clan’s mansion.
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 too many times before in his friends’ eyes when one of their soldier clansmen was killed.
The trip was short; they were dropped off at a military spaceport, where massive armed freighters lifted off alongside their smaller dropship counterparts. Fighters swarmed in circles in the sky, a Surface to Orbit Cannon (SOC) was aimed upwards, scanning the sky for incoming bogies. A sleek military shuttle landed in front of the group, its VTOL thrusters hazing the air around it. The shuttle powered down with a fading whine, a door slid open on its sides, a ladder extended to the ground, and we stepped into the shuttle. 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.
The group followed the same monotonous schedule of “Wake up at 0400, breakfast until 0430, drills and exercises until 1200, lunch until 1230, more drills and exercises until 2400, and sleep at 2500”, for four months, the class followed that schedule until they selected the best from the class and sent them off to Naval Academy. Those who weren’t chosen had to do another two months of boot, and more if they still failed to live up to expectation. Those who did not meet the standards of the program were booted. Kazimir was sent off to academy in the middle of his third month because of his ‘excellent performance and enthusiasm’ so said the instructor.
Academy was somewhat more entertaining than Boot, the same schedule was still in place, but instead, there was firearms training, live fire exercises and simulations, it was also more boring. Speeches on proper handling of a corvette, monologues on how this class will bring a disgrace to the Naval Force, and so on, so forth.
Kerendesky Asteroid Field
1100 Hours, SCMT (Standard Confederate Military Time)
CUS CVT-2032 A/M “Firestorm” Class Hybrid Missile Assault Corvette
Kazimir twisted the controls, forcing his Corvette into a tight turn, the missile that was gaining on the corvette overshot and exploded on an asteroid. The PD guns mounted on the corvette tracked another incoming missile, shooting it down with particle bolts. A fireball expanded outwards and dissipated, the rear mounted PBPC (Particle Beam Projector Cannon) fired a short burst at a fighter, tearing it into shards of the crystalline metal the alien intruders used.
“Delta-9, this is Alpha-2” Kazimir said, “Requesting backup, do you copy? Over.”
“I copy Alpha-2,” Delta-9 replied “moving fighter squad Omicron to support.”
A squad of Tornado Defense Fighters came screaming down from ‘above’ Kazimir’s Corvette, tearing the enemies that swarmed him apart like a rabid pack of wolves.
“Patricia!” Kazimir called “Have you gotten the capacitor banks fixed yet? I need the turrets on-line now!”
“Not yet Kaz,” Patricia called from the lower deck “With all your bucking and rolling, I can’t get the capacitors inserted correctly.”
Kazimir grunted and waited for a lull in the raging battle, it came and Kazimir flew a wide circle, allowing the mechanic to replace the capacitors.
“Turrets on-line!” a computerized voice called out
Kazimir eagerly jumped the corvette into the fray once again, his gunners happily eating through the swarm of enemy fighters with their particle cannons. Kazimir selected a few targets on an enemy frigate for those operating the missile turrets to destroy, he also activated the dumbfire pods and launched a volley at a cloud of fighters and they scattered like fish and began attacking the lone corvette. A missile streaked into the formation, leaving a white trail of smoke. Its timer ticked to zero and it ejected several sub-munitions, which detonated in orbs of light. The fighter suppression missile vaporized the swarm of hostiles. Anti-Ship missiles streamed from the corvette’s turrets and slammed into the targets Kazimir highlighted. Fireballs blossomed as shards of material were ejected into space. An anti-corvette missile slammed into the Firestorm and detonated, taking out her drive controls. Kazimir slammed into a control panel and a gash on his forehead began bleeding. With the little control he received from the backup thrusters, Kazimir slammed into the exposed core of a damaged alien frigate equivalent. Both vessels vanished in a flash of light and all went black for Kazimir.
The words ‘Game Over’ flashed across his vision before the high score list was displayed. Kazimir growled in frustration because he had not yet beaten his previous record of 720 Fighter kills, 20 Capital kills, and 1 Super-capital kill. The simulation shut down and allowed Kazimir to pull the CSS (Complete Sensory Stimulation) plug from the back of his head. Kazimir stood up from the water-cushioned chair and walked back to his room aboard the frigate ‘Defiant Honor’. He collapsed onto his bed and fell asleep seconds after.
“Damn,” Kazimir cursed as two wires short circuited and sprayed sparks in his face “when will these Aerospace jocks learn to maintain their equipment properly?”
The cavernous launch bay of the battleship was filled with people and spacecraft, three flights of Aerospace fighters from the ASF had hitched a ride on the massive warship. Sure enough, the tension between both wings was palpable. Even though a fellowship lasted in the CUSAF, it was dysfunctional between the Navy and the CUSASF.
Kazimir grabbed the toolkit forced upon him and opened it. Most of the engineers and mechanics were killed in a failed Lupakch boarding attempt. Those who survived were assigned to be advisors, everyone had to pitch in and help repair any damage sustained.
He looked outside the open launch doors, the only thing keeping the atmosphere from escaping were the Atmospheric Containment Shields, the battle over Beta Arlonis still raged on, Lupakch warships dueled with their Confederate equivalents as fighters and corvettes danced in rhythm to the drums of war. Mass drivers thudded overhead, two Hubnester-A tipped AP/HE smashed into the organic, chitin-like hulls of the Lupakch ships. It was a grotesque sight as massive amounts of flesh and bone burned under the plasma projector cannons, muscle and cartilage were ripped and torn apart by particle cannons and mass drivers.
The most horrifying sight of all were those who had been infected by their bio-weapon, which had to be injected directly into the blood stream to be effective, the infected looked like twisted, grotesque remnants of their former selves. huge boils grew along skin, some of them exploding into showers of pus, along some areas, skin melted away, leaving muscle and bone exposed to the elements, in some; the disease also ate away at muscle. They died slowly and painfully, or so they thought. The bodies would stay silent and unmoving, that is until the virus began mutating their bodies; new appendages would sprout, bodies piled upon each other combined into one entity, tentacles would grow and seek out more prey.
Among the bodies, Kazimir saw the mutated remnants of his former friends, his CO, the XO and…”
Kazimir awoke in a cold sweat to a banshee’s wail. He looked nervously around him until he realized that it was just the alarm clock. He ‘smashed’ the holographic icon with his hand and the clock stopped making the horrible noise. He stumbled out of his bed and fumbled with the light’s brightness settings. He adjusted it to a comfortable level and he pulled open the door to the bathroom, he showered with cold water with intermittent bursts of hot. Kazimir brushed his teeth and changed out of his wrinkled fatigues into a new set.
“And I can’t remember why it was so scary.” Kazimir said to himself
Kazimir crept out of his room and into the rear mess hall of the frigate. Two of the petty officers saluted him and Kazimir returned it.
He fell in line and waited his turn, it soon came and he ordered his basic breakfast; a sandwich and a caffeinated drink called ‘Lyr’, the drink was blood red and it was bittersweet with a strong coppery aftertaste, it also had a strong aroma, some of the more entrenched in legend called it ‘Valrya’s Blood’.
Kazimir unfolded his datapad and began reading the daily news while sipping the Lyr. He took a bite out of the sandwich and continued reading. An article caught his eye, “Kazimir McDougal; Next Youngest High-Admiral?” attached to the article was a video file. He streamed it and began playing it.
A reporter held a microphone to his former CO’s mouth, she asked
“Do you think Kazimir McDougal will become the next High-Admiral within 40 years?”
“I think so,” Davleon said “he was sent to Academy in the middle of his third month, promoted to a corvette command six months after that, and a Frigate command a year later. So yes, if he keeps up this pace, he will be the High-Admiral.”
Kazimir smiled inwardly, he stood up and folded his datapad. He placed the cup in a disposal area and the tray inside a recycling machine. He remembered week’s patrol; his sensors officer found a raider hideout buried inside an asteroid.
“Sir, I have strange energy readings coming from that asteroid!” she said
“Very good,” Kazimir replied “find out what it is and if it’s hostile or not!”
“Aye, sir!” the officer returned, “I see several Sloop and Cutter class vessels launching from the asteroid. Designations are unknown.”
“Ensign,” Kazimir ordered, “hail them on all channels!”
A scarred, bearded male appeared on the communications display. He scowled and said
“What do you want?” an angry tone in his voice
“This is Confederate Navy warship FFG-APL 2219 “Defiant Honor”; state your affiliation and designation.”
“We’ll give you designation!” the man said “Kill them.”
With that, the transmission cut off, the tactical display showed the previously orange (for neutral) triangles turn red.
“Sir, they’re powering up weapons and are beginning to close in.”
“Orders, sir?” the WEPSCOM officer asked eagerly
“Fire two warning shots, if they don’t disengage, fire at will!”
The ship vibrated as two particle bolts left their accelerators. The hostiles did not show any signs of surrender. A particle lance tore through the void, dimming the stars for a moment. One of the enemy sloops had its entire aft section torn away, what was left of it exploded in a flash of light. Mass driver rounds impacted on the frigate’s shields, bringing them down by a fraction, ripples spread out from the impact points and distorted her image. A heavy cutter charged towards the larger frigate and an antimatter torpedo vaporized the poor excuse of a combat vessel, another of the weld-together scrap heaps fired particle cannons at the frigate, the immense recoil of the guns tore armor and superstructure apart, the ship limped away from the battle and was pulverized by hardened anti-ship missiles.
Fire streaked across both sides, missiles left white trails of smoke and ended in balls of flame. The lone frigate stood unyielding as enemy fire battered her, her shields broke with repeated ramming attempts, but her men were not. Boarding pods slammed into her hull, piercing her armor and disrupting electronics.
The doors behind Kazimir exploded outwards with a burst of flame and smoke, the smoke cleared and revealed several men in dented armor and tattered clothing, they aimed their equally abused guns at the bridge crew. Kazimir raised his hands in surrender, a small brown object fell from his open hands and Kazimir smirked. Smoke erupted from the object and clouded their vision. They coughed and fired their weapons wildly, hoping to hit someone important. Kazimir grabbed his M62A Semi-Automatic pistol and activated his optical implants, he switched to IR and everything was painted in shades of red and blue. The six blobs at the center of the smokescreen were his targets; he slid under the legs of the lead trooper and activated the small bayonet mounted under the barrel of the gun. A ‘schink’ was heard as the bayonet extended, the smoke began to clear and he pressed the knife to his throat. The smoke cleared and the boarders aimed their guns at Kazimir, who was using the enemy commander as a shield.
“Put them down,” Kazimir said, “There’s no use to shooting your commander, is there?”
As if to emphasize his words, a heavy security team in powered armor thundered into the bridge, training their weapons at the boarders.
“To the brig with you lot.” Kazimir ordered
The security team secured neural dampeners to their necks and hauled them off.
The heavily damaged frigate was driven off, however he had called HIGHCOM and a small fleet was directed towards the hideout, since his frigate was too damaged to fight, he was granted permission to return to base. Thus, they were on their way to the nearest shipyard for repair and refit.
Kazimir broke into a smile when he saw one of his friends from Academy, it faded quickly though, she looked troubled
“Hey Brynna,” Kazimir said, “you look troubled. Care to tell me what’s wrong?
She sighed sadly
“I lost my brother in the capacitor meltdown two days ago.” She said, her voice breaking
Kazimir offered his shoulder; she leant on it and sobbed lightly. A minute later and she seemed okay enough.
“Thanks!” she said
Kazimir walked into the hallway and stared out of the viewport. Ribbons of light stretched out to infinity against a deep blue background, with filaments of a lighter blue crisscrossing the background, it was a beautiful sight. People were few today; the nonessential crew was either fast asleep or in Cryo-storage.
Kazimir looked away from the viewport and walked towards the direction of the bridge. The ruined doors had been replaced easily. As Kazimir approached the doors, they gave a tired creak and lazily slid open with a horrible screech. Kazimir stepped into the bridge and saw that it was in shambles. Half of the main command desk had been damaged in some form, and heavy metal panels had fallen off the ceiling. A few of the other desks were also damaged, sparks leapt from the cracked command panels and holodisplays, and spider web cracks ran through some of the consoles. It was most likely a capacitor explosion, or a fuel cell leak.
Most of the displays on the main command console were shattered. Those left operational were cracked; Kazimir brushed away the shards of crystal with his left hand while his right opened a status report. A diagram of the ship leapt up into the last display on the left. Red showed damage to the ship, blacked out areas meant that that particular piece of the ship was no longer responding. Red and black covered the diagram, most of them followed the normal damage pattern for weapons, but the ship’s diagram was crisscrossed with thin red lines. He compared the report with one before entering slip space. His eyes widened in fear.
‘May He help us all!” he said
First Lieutenant Roye Derten was walking to the hangar bay, he did not notice a small crack forming in the outer wall, the once which prevented the section from depressurizing. It slowly grew larger, air began to hiss out of the crack and into slip space. The lights tuned red and a computerized female voice alerted
“Decompression alert in section Alpha-2” it said “Sealing blast doors, all personnel please evacuate.”
The blast doors began to slide shut, Roye ran towards the doors along with a couple of officers. The doors were about to close and Roye dropped and slid neatly into the next compartment. Another officer attempted to imitate his move, but he was too late. The door slid shut over his waist with a wet ‘crunch’ a muffled scream could be heard before the officer bled out, the last officer was trapped within the compartment and she pounded frantically at the diamond-quartz reinforced glass. The crack grew large enough and the entire wall was torn away from the ship before being spit out into realspace as elementary particles, the officer suffered the same fate.
Kazimir pressed the icon to initiate a shipwide transmission; he spoke in a calm, controlled manner.
“This is the Captain speaking, please evacuate to the nearest life-pod.” He said “Addendum, all technicians, thaw the crew in Cryo. Use a quick sequence, and then get them to a life-pod.”
The doors behind Kazimir slid open and the bridge crew ran into the room. They barreled up the stairs and into the Officer’s life-pod. Kazimir joined them, as WEPSCOM officer was about to tap the icon that signaled the doors to shut, Brynna entered the room and ran up to the platform.
A jolt of static ran up everyone’s spines as the ship dropped out of slip space.
“Please evacuate in another life-pod.” The XO said, “This life-pod is strictly for bridge crew only.”
“But the entire area has been sealed off, and the rest of the pods have launched already.” Brynna explained
“I told you, this is bridge crew only.” She said “Or I will be forced to strip you of your rank. Am I right captain?”
Kazimir wore a scowl; it was not for Brynna though.
“We leave nobody behind.” Kazimir said in a stern tone
“Article-26 Addendum-9 in the Confederate Naval Handbook states that-“ the XO was cut off by Kazimir
“We leave nobody behind. And I mean nobody.”
“Sir, I will be forced to take action and relieve both of you from active duty.” She said as she reached out to press the icon.
Thumps were heard in the distance as compartments decompressed, Kazimir grabbed the XO’s wrist and said
“C’mon Brynna,” he ordered, “get in.”
“This is inexcusable!” the XO said, “The handbook says-“
“Fuck the handbook!” Kazimir cursed “I swear, I will hunt down and kill the person who wrote that stupid rule down.”
“But the hand-“
“Not another word Executive Officer Laera McKaana,” Kazimir said, a dangerous tone creeping into his voice “or I will be forced to demote you to Petty Officer.”
“But, Captain, this is on the verge of Mutiny!” she said as she reached for the icon with her other hand, the thumps were getting closer “And as XO, I can not allow that to happen!”
The WEPSCOM Officer grabbed her by the wrist, his hold adamant.
“The Captain’s right.” He said, “That rule is elitist, and stupid.”
“I know you Viktor,” Laera argued, “you always followed the handbook to the letter.”
“This time,” he said, “it’s different.”
“Hah!” she sneered, “I knew you-“
“Shut the fuck up and sit down,” Kazimir shouted “Executive Officer Laera!”
“You no longer have any authority Kazimir.” She said, “You have been deemed a mutineer, and thus you no longer hold any rank.”
She broke free from Kazimir’s grasp and used her free hand to draw her sidearm, a lightning punch from the WEPSCOM officer knocked her out cold. Kazimir extended his hand to Brynna and the Communications officer pushed the XO out of her seat with a disgusted look on his face. Brynna sat down on the seat the XO once occupied and Kazimir slammed his fist on the icon. The doors slid shut with a whir and just a moment later, the bridge decompressed. The pod shot out of its tube and joined the others in formation.
“Brynna,” Kazimir said, “would you mind stripping her uniform of her rank badges and stripes, including her medals and ribbons. I wouldn’t want to invade the lady, even though she is a bitch.”
Brynna gladly complied; Laera woke up on the cold metal floor minutes later. She hurriedly looked around before realizing where she was.
“Kazimir McDougal,” she said in a clear voice, “I hereby strip you of your rank and honors as deemed by Article-4 Section 1”
Kazimir, as well as Brynna and Viktor broke into smiles.
“I don’t think so.” Viktor said
“Look at your uniform jacket.” Brynna added
Laera looked at her jacket, and her eyes grew wide with horror. Her rank was stripped and her ribbons were gone, so were her medals save for the Phoenix Rising medal, which was awarded to officers injured in combat.
“I forgot about that.” Kazimir said as his hand reached for the medal, she moved backwards in an attempt to save the last of her ‘glory’.
A hand pushed her forward and she turned her head to look, she met the disapproving stares of the Communications Officer, and the DACON officer. Kazimir grabbed the medal and pulled it away with enough force to rip a small part of her jacket off.
“Don’t forget to look at Executive Officer Brynna Derten’s shoulders.” The DACON officer said. Laera fumed with rage, not only was she stripped of her honor and rank, but now a promotion was awarded for a breach in protocol.
“When word of this reaches HIGHCOM-“ she said
“You’ll be discharged while the rest of us get promoted to Destroyer Command.” Kazimir finished “Am I right crew?”
The others nodded, and Laera shot Kazimir a look that could have reduced him to a pile of ashes if looks could kill.
The people in the escape pod watched the frigate disintegrate, its metal plates glistening in the distant starlight, red coolant leaked out of the broken pipes, the fusion core had been shut down automatically when all of the life pods were launched. Laera looked at the floor with a combination of sadness and anger in her eyes. Brynna saw that a bulge was visible in Kazimir’s jacket.
‘What’s that?” she asked
Kazimir smiled sheepishly. He pulled a bottle out of the jacket, its contents sloshed around in its container. The label read ‘Tatianna Blue’, one of the most intoxicating drinks in the galaxy. Kazimir pulled the cork off and sniffed the mouth of the bottle; the aroma was perfect. He poured himself a shotglass and took it all in one mouthful. He held the drink in his mouth for a moment before swallowing it. Fire ran down his throat and mouth, and then dissipated into a cool feeling.
“Anyone else want some?” he asked
Everybody except Laera raised their hands. Kazimir passed the bottle and shotglass around, the bottle was small and only held four shots. Kazimir put the bottle in a small airlock and spaced it.
A static-ridden transmission floated from the comm
“This is Bat- eet ‘Guardian’,” a voice said “a destr- is on route to –p”
“They’re broadcasting from subspace,” the Lynn, the Communications officer reported “that’s why it’s filled with static.” Her fingers dancing over a console, “They’re a day away.”
“We are here today at the christening of a new class of warship.” The news reporter said, “She will change the way we build warships and starships in general.”
The sleek, angular warship floated in space, tethered to its docks by umbilicals and gravity tethers. Its silver hull decorated with maroon, purple and yellow markings. Its weapons were trained ‘upwards’ and ‘downwards’, their turrets blending easily into her form. An atmospheric containment field extended several meters ahead of a walkway.
“She is built not as one, but she is composed of modules that lock together to form a warship.” The reporter explained
The ACF stopped along with the walkway so that the end of the walkway was a meter from her hull, the High-Admiral marched onto it, a bottle of wine in his hand. He reached the end of the walkway and smashed the bottle onto her hull.
“Her name is,” the reporter said “Sol Invictus, Triumphant Sun.”
In the shadows of the dark side of Piety, a slipspace rupture began to form. A pinprick of light expanded into a triangular rupture, it radiated blood red light. Bathing an obelisk shaped warship in it, the light gave the ship a sinister air. More ruptures formed and even more warships slid out of the portals. They slid into formation and lurked towards the unsuspecting planet, Armeston.
Dazzling particle bolts streaked through the void to impact upon the shields of the alien attackers, their shields flared, rippled and sparked but held against the torrent of Confederate fire, plasma projectors were useless against their hulls and fighters were plucked from the void, smaller frigates were batted aside by graviton beam projectors. The same forces exerted upon their smaller cousins tore larger destroyers apart. The Sol Invictus retreated to another dry-dock for her weapons and reactors to be fitted, the meager fusion reactor only provided for meager point defense and short-range jumps.
A day passed aboard the formation of life-pods and the destroyer picked them up, however. Instead of returning to Armeston, she was ordered to drop the crew off at Terrilia, a massive grid of shipyards and scaffolding orbiting, no, encircling the planet at high orbit. When materials were cheap, the shipyards could crank out an entire frigate battalion in over a day. However, resources were scarce and more funding was directed to refitting and upgrading older ships.
All Kazimir got when he asked any high-ranked office aboard the vessel was a cold, measured
Kazimir stopped asking after three tries and waited for the three day hitchhike to end.
The siege slogged on, the mysterious alien vessels kept arriving in waves, Armeston’s defenders were becoming tired, and morale was dropping rapidly. The only thing that kept the siege in check was the three Vanguards and the lone Sovereign in low orbit around the planet. They were the ones that held the massive motherships back, they often traded fire and the often-massive amounts of overkill they delivered destroyed the motherships; however logistics were strained as they were, and they could not risk losing one of the ultra-expensive ships to a rush; so they were constrained to the rear of the battle.
Kazimir walked into the docking tube and he and the bridge crew save for Laera; who was confined to the massive brig of the shipyard were taken away by a moving walkway, they were deposited at a monorail station to be whisked away to the nearest briefing room.
“Approximately three days ago,” the High-Admiral said, “strange alien vessels attacked without warning.”
The holoprojector displayed an image of the obelisk shaped motherships
“These ships attempted to strike at the planet below with some sort of beam cannon.”
The projector began playing a video clip that showed the alien ship charge a beam cannon and fire it at Armeston, as the slow-moving beam lanced towards the planet, the image began to slow down to a pause. A box moved in on a small silhouette near the tip of the beam, the box expanded along with the silhouette to show that it was a Gerson class Battleship
“However, the Gerson Adamal Class Battleship Vaurigard intercepted the beam and sacrificed itself to save the planet”
The beam slammed into the battleship and her shields flared before failing, she detonated as the beam dissipated.
“We have also received rumors of a Valahallaraya Class Titan drifting in the Kharos Asteroid Field in the Terlon Nebula.”
“Your mission is to escort several AIs to the Titan and use them to gain control over the ship.” He continued, “You, that means you Mr. McDougal and your bridge crew will be commanding the Sol Invictus Class Battlecruiser, the Vanguard of her class. Which means you will be given a temporary rank of Fleet Admiral, if you retrieve the Titan, you can keep your rank.”
The tall, lanky High-Admiral stepped off the podium and gave way to a short, plump looking woman in a white lab coat. She stepped onto the platform and cleared her throat.
“I am Science Director Nikita Toilona, I and my team have developed the concept for the Sol Invictus.” She said, “She uses the latest advancements in military technology, she is a Battlecruiser but she has the speed of a frigate and the firepower of a battleship.”
Kazimir whistled in admiration along with some of the other assembled.
“The ship is also modular, allowing her to be easily repaired and upgraded.”
Hushed whispers floated among those assembled, the director waited for them to die down, the director and the podium became hazy and filled with static. With a hiss, the holoprojector died and they disappeared.
“Transmission end.” A computerized voice said
Kazimir looked appreciatively at the 20-kilometer long vessel, her sleek lines hiding her deadly purpose, all Confederate warships were considered pretty. They were usually described as roses, they were beautiful yes. But they also had thorns, and unlike regular roses, gloves would not help.
The crew boarded the ship and were in awe at the amount of technology surrounding them, not even the Alrika Teherdos EW Frigates could rival the amount of sophistication in the ship's systems. The metal that made up the floor seemed to be made up of an opalescent metal, faint fractal patterns and grooves in the metal became visible as Kazimir's sight shifted. The lights above were bright and natural looking, as if a miniature sun shone down upon them. The walls also had intricate designs, perhaps as a way to aesthetically hide visible electronics. The ship was designed to be livable for long voyages. Kazimir took a sort of tram to the bridge; he stepped out of the tram and studied the command console. It wrapped around the command chair, a myriad of displays and holograms displaying various pieces of information. The captain's chair itself was water filled, and mounted beside its armrests were various controls, including a duo of flightsticks.
The rest of the bridge crew looked in awe at the myriad of specialized displays; the WEPSCOM desk had a sensors display and a diagram of the ship displaying weapons and their firing arcs. Like most ships above Cruiser class, there were two WEPSCOM officers, one for the upper decks and another for the lower decks. Likewise, there were four DEFCOM (Defense Command) officers, one for each quarter of the ship. The sensors displays were so complicated that it took an officer working in tandem with an AI to be at full efficiency.
Kazimir sat down and looked at the controls; they reminded him of his days as a Corvette captain. Above him was a bulge in the ceiling, he subconsciously tapped a control, and the bulge slid down to reveal a Tempest autocannon turret. What surprised him was that Tempests were usually used against large concentrations of armor.
The last of the crew had boarded, backup officers, security teams, fighter and corvette crews and lastly, the AI safe keepers and technicians. The repair teams and engineers reported green and the boarding locks disengaged and slid away from the ship, umbilicals that pumped coolant, water, air and lubricant into the ship also slid away. The ship was given a green light and the massive doors behind her slid open. She was bathed in sunlight from the nearby star; Kazimir grabbed the flightsticks and pushed both of them forward. The ship’s drives spooled up and then pushed her out into the void. Kazimir pulled one towards him, and the battlecruiser responded quite easily to the command.
“NAVCOM,” he ordered, “plot a course to the Kharos Asteroid Field.”
“Aye sir!” she responded
A second passed and an icon flashed in the main console, indicating that the ship was ready to jump. Kazimir waited a moment and keyed the comm
“This is the Captain speaking,” he said “we are about to jump.”
Kazimir tapped the icon. At first, nothing happened, and then a second later, a rift opened up in normalspace, it expanded into a whirlpool of light and the ship entered it, the rift collapsed rapidly and closed with a flash of light.
“Brynna,” Kazimir said, “you can have the command console until I return.”
“Yes sir!” came the reply
Kazimir spun the chair around and stood up; he walked out of the bridge and began wandering around. He stumbled into the recreational garden; a few off-duty crewmembers were sitting in the grass, or were planting flowers, fruits and vegetables. As he entered, the officers nearest to him snapped up and delivered a crisp salute, Kazimir returned it and he nodded, indicating that they return to what they were doing. In the center of the garden was a small cluster of tables, Kazimir walked over to them and sat down on a chair, he took his datapad out and unfolded it, he held the stylus and wrote in his rather messy handwriting
Heya, Kaz here. I’m doing fine, I have been temporarily promoted to Fleet Admiral because I am one of the few captains still not stuck in defending Armeston. Rumor’s spread that there’s a Titan drifting somewhere, so I’ve heard. How are my brothers, and how come Sara’s stopped replying to my messages. Is there something wrong?
Your son, Kazimir.”
He tapped the send icon and closed up his datapad, he sat for a moment, breathing in the sweet smell of flowers and fresh soil. Kazimir eyed a rack of tubes hanging on a shelf. A lieutenant entered his vision.
“Lieutenant,” he called “come over here. Yes you.”
The brown haired lieutenant walked over to him
“Yes sir?” she asked
“What are those tubes,” he asked “over there on that rack for?”
“Those are for the flowers sir.”
Kazimir raised an eyebrow
“Those are for presents to your loved ones back home sir.”
“Ah,” he said, “you’re dismissed.”
The lieutenant resumed her work, which was apparently patrolling the garden for troublemakers.
Kazimir saw a disgruntled looking techie forcefully pulling flowers from a patch of dirt. Kazimir sighed and walked over to him. He tapped the techie on the shoulder.
“Get the fuck away!” the techie shouted, throwing a handful of dirt into Kazimir’s face
Kazimir coughed politely and the man finally turned around. The look of anger on his face turned into one of shock and horror upon seeing the rank insignia on Kazimir’s shoulders.
“I- I,” he stammered, “I apologize sir!”
“Apology accepted.” Kazimir replied “Now tell me why you were doing that, Petty Officer-“ Kazimir looked at the name tag on the techie’s orange jumpsuit “Decker.”
“It’s complicated sir,” Decker explained “and I don’t want to waste your time, sir.”
“Actually,” Kazimir countered, “I have a lot of time on my hands. Let’s sit down and talk, shall we?”
The two walked to the chairs and sat down; Kazimir folded his hands over the table, his face neutral.
“I’ve a lot of problems sir.” Decker said, “My brothers and my sister along with my cousins died in the attacks.” His voice began to break “they were on the Battleships Hallon and Talos, the Frigate Teller and the Destroyer Jenner. They’re all the family I had.”
Decker paused to contemplate, Kazimir nodded to show that he was listening.
“And I found out just an hour ago that my girlfriend was cheating.” He said, a tone of anger creeping into his voice.
Decker looked down and pulled a datapad from a pouch on his belt; he unfolded the datapad and handed it to Kazimir. Kazimir took it and saw that there was a picture of Decker and a raven-haired girl sitting on a bench in a park somewhere, the girl had her head on Decker’s shoulder while Decker had a protective arm around her. Kazimir handed it back to Decker, feeling empathy towards the techie.
“I know how you feel, Decker.” Kazimir said after a long pause, “I also lost some of my family in the previous wars and in the attacks. And one of my girlfriends cheated on me.”
Kazimir took a deep breath
“All I have to say is,” Kazimir said “don’t cry over it. Suck it up and move on. Make your girlfriend realize that she was wrong, and give honor to your deceased by fighting in their name.”
Decker looked slightly better
“I’ll tell you what; get a couple days on leave to clear it all up. I suggest you also fix those flowers you ruined. The least you could do is write an apology note.”
Kazimir signed an electronic slip and sent it to the databanks and Decker’s datapad.
“Good luck Decker!” Kazimir said.
Decker stood up, shook Kazimir’s hand and began working on the flowers
“Thanks!” he replied
Kazimir walked towards the ship’s mess hall, taking a detour through the sports hall. Kazimir heard the crack of a bat hitting a ball, and something whizzed over his head, knocking the Admiral’s cap away. As he bent over to pick up both the ball and the hat up, he heard voices behind him.
“You’ve done it now.” One of them warned
“Demoted!” another one teased
Kazimir heard a familiar voice say
“I’m so sorry sir!” she said
“Apology- “ he recognized her face as belonging to his sister “Sarah?”
“Kaz!” she cried, giving her brother a hug
“So this is why you’ve stopped messaging back.” Kazimir said
“Yeah,” she gave a sheepish grin “sorry ‘bout the ball.”
“You were always a klutz, Sar.” Kazimir teased
“Sorry sir.” She said in a mocking tone
“Work on your aim,” Kazimir said “butterfingers!”
A smile broke out on both siblings’ faces, and then they laughed for about a minute before Kazimir wiped his mouth with his hand. He straightened and cleared his throat, taking out his datapad in the process.
“Now since I know you quite well, and this is all just an accident.” Kazimir said in a serious tone, “You’ll get away with just an oral reprimand.”
“Which is?” Sarah asked
“I told you already.” Came the reply
“No you didn’t.” she said, shocked
“I said,” Kazimir replied, “work on your aim, butterfingers!”
Both siblings burst into laughter again. After their fit of laughing, they heard their stomachs rumbled.
“Wanna get something to eat Kaz?” Sarah asked, “Let’s go to the mess!”
“I was headed there anyway.” Kazimir replied, “Let’s go.”
Both of them walked towards the tram and boarded it. They chatted along the ride. Kazimir entered the mess hall first and ordered a cup of Lyr along with a sandwich. A devious smile formed on Sarah’s lips.
“What?” Kazimir asked
“Let’s have a dare.” Sarah said, her smile growing even wider
“You’re on!” Kazimir said eagerly
“The dare is,” she took a deep breath “drink as many cups of Lyr as you can without spilling.”
“Not a drop?” Kazimir asked
“Not a drop.” Sarah answered
“I bet half a million.” Kazimir said a smug look in his face, “I’ll win anyway.”
The two sat on the nearest table. A shocked look formed on Sarah’s face, Kazimir sniggered at it and she frowned.
“Flip a coin.” Kazimir said, pulling a coin from his shoe, “I’m heads, you’re tails and center means someone has to choose for us.”
“Like that’s likely!” Sarah rolled her eyes
The coin was heavy and thick-rimmed. Its surface had been polished to the point of being reflective enough to clearly see your face in it. Likewise, there were no engravings on one end of the coin. Kazimir tossed it into the air in a high arc. It flipped end over end in slow motion, light glinting off its surface. The coin landed neatly on the center of the table, spinning rapidly on its axis. The spinning slowly stopped and the coin remained balanced on its rim.
“Told you so.” Kazimir teased “Ensign! Over here.”
“Yes sir?” the young ensign asked
”Flip this coin.” Kazimir ordered
The coin was flipped and landed heads.
“Good, now spread the word.”
“Kaz! Kaz! Kaz!” the majority of the rabble cheered
The minority cheered for Sarah.
Kazimir downed his 27th cup of Lyr, his hands were visibly shaking and he was having a hard time keeping them steady enough to not spill, halfway through his 28th, he spilled. Sarah spilled on her 19th cup, making Kazimir the winner of the bet. Howls and hoots came from the rabble like a tidal wave.
“H- Ha!” Kazimir shouted, his body shaking very visibly “I- I- win!”
“Damn you!” Sarah said more clearly than her brother did “Now I guess I have to pay up.”
“B- Back at h- hom- e port!” Kazimir stuttered
Kazimir took several minutes to control himself, he stood up and unsteadily walked towards the tram headed to the bridge.
“I have t- to get back to the bridge,” he said “I t- think I’m n- needed.”
“Hm,” she hummed “my rotation there starts in ten. WEPSCOM.”
Both sibling stumbled into the bridge, Kazimir collapsed into his seat while Sarah took measured steps toward her station.
“Heard you’ve been drinking a little too much Lyr.” Brynna smirked “That stuff is bad for you Kaz, diarrhea and crap.”
Kazimir laughed at the pun, McDougals were often left to their shenanigans by higher officers once they had proved themselves, and on one condition ‘Don’t hurt anyone but you.’, and the McDougals gladly followed.
Kazimir wrestled his mind and body back into submission as the effects of Lyr dissipated. He keyed the observation windows and they slid open, revealing the backdrop of slipspace. The fleet following the Invictus floated serenely, their drives pushing them into formation alongside the Battlecruiser. A massive carrier slid past, its drives on full afterburn, and her launch catapults were retracted into her hull.
“Sir!” the Sensors officer reported, “I’m detecting a slip space storm up ahead. I recommend-“
The entire ship shook, the carrier’s slipspace field collapsed and threw her out into normalspace in the from of elementary particles. Electrical arcs danced over the hulls of the other ships before fireballs blossomed over their hulls, they too were sucked back into normalspace.
“NAVCOM!” Kazimir ordered, “Drop us now!”
The officer obeyed without saying a word, her fingers dancing over the console. A second later, they rematerialized in normalspace with a shudder. The lights flickered and the displays fuzzed.
”DACON! (Damage Control)” Kazimir asked, “What happened to us?”
“The FTL Drive is off-line sir,” he reported “we can use our secondary FTL Core to make short jumps, but that’s all we can do.”
“Sir!” the Sensors officer said, “I’m picking up a large object roughly 30,000 kliks away.”
“NAVCOM,” Kazimir ordered, “set course to the unknown object.”
The Battlecruiser’s drives spooled up, she cut through the void with the speed of a frigate.
“Sir!” an officer reported “I’m picking up a large object heading in fast, its Battlecruiser size and its silhouette matches something the Connies would build.”
“Raise shields and charge all weapons,” the station’s commander ordered, “don’t open fire.”
The old, rusted display showing a diagram the station flickered and the image was reset, weapon arcs became red and a transparent sphere surrounded the station.
“Launch a scout drone.” The commander said, scratching his beard
A thump rocked the command center as a drone rocketed away from its launch tube; a display automatically began showing the drone’s camera feed. A small dot in the center of the screen turned out to be a Confederate warship. Which quickly began dominating the screen; she appeared to be slightly damaged, some of her guns were replaced by stumps of twisted metal, a few lights flickered erratically, atmosphere and coolant vented from a hole in the rear of the ship, twisted and broken metal extending out into space. Yet, she was majestic; her silver hull glowed in the sunlight, her lines and angles blending into pleasing shapes. Her turrets seemed to be decorations, not messengers of death.
The station’s commander gasped in awe, it was the first time in a long time since he had last seen a Confederate warship.
“Hail them.” He said after a long pause
“Sir!” the communications officer said, “I’m getting a hail from the unknown, it seems to be using the drone it launched as a relay.”
“Put it on.” Kazimir said
A holographic display flared up and showed a man in his late ages, his hair was streaked with silver and he wore a short beard. From what Kazimir could see from the dim lighting, his hair was blond and he had gray eyes.
“This is Confederate Naval Warship BCR-2298 “Sol Invictus”,” Kazimir said in a loud clear tone “State your designation and affiliation.”
“This is Commander William Turner of the Independent Colony-Shipyard “Haven”.” the man answered “And A tip, if I may captain.”
“It is unwise to jump when the storm is near; she'll tear you apart and spit you back out in the form of individual atoms.”
“I request permission to dock for repairs and supplies,” Kazimir said “the fleet tenders were lost in the storm. And our slipspace drive was destroyed in the transition.”
“Permission granted son.” Turner said
“NAVCOM,” Kazimir ordered, “close in on the station and engage a mooring sequence.”
“Aye sir!” the officer said
Kazimir felt the ship tilt and he was pressed into his seat by the acceleration.
“Your ship is fast, son.” Turner commented
Kazimir nodded and smiled.
“She's also as durable as a battleship.” Kazimir replied
Turner whistled appreciatively
“Hell, I expected a destroyer command when we returned, not a Battlecruiser.” Kazimir smirked, “Have you heard about the raider outpost Guardian Fleet stonked?”
“We found the outpost and took out a few sloops and cutters.” Kazimir said, “We also sent in Guardian.”
“Shouldn't a militia fleet be more suitable for that?” Turner asked, “It's only a raider outpost.”
“Well, if they have enough firepower to heavily damage a frigate.” Kazimir answered, “Then they must have enough firepower to merit a Colonial Defense Fleet.”
“Ah.” Turner said “We've clamped onto her. Extending boarding tubes.”
A small tremor rocked the floor as the boarding tubes snaked towards the docking points on the battlecruiser's hull. We're loading some spare food and schematics for a fabrication module onto your ship.
“Wait,” Kazimir asked “fabrication module?”
“Your ship is modular,” Turner explained “and with some modification, we can add a fabrication module onto your ship.”
“How did you know this ship is modular?” Kazimir asked, he became suspicious
“Sensor scans.” Turner said bluntly
“Sir!” the Sensors officer reported, “I'm picking up jump signatures, they're using Nodeline drives!”
Nodeline drives are slow and energy inefficient, but they have the added benefit of making the ship using them immune to Slipspace storms.
Flashes of light signaled the arrival of several ships.
“Raiders!” Turner shouted, “The food can wait until later.”
The boarding tubes disconnected from the ship as the docking clamps released her. The ship slid away from the station and maneuvered so that her flank was facing towards the raiders.
“Launch Typhon flights A through E using the catapults.” Kazimir ordered, “Arm the Strelka-295 KKMs and use profile Theta.”
KKMs, or Kinetic Kill Missiles had no warheads, only a solid block of metal. They converted into a plasma jet upon impact and an explosive warhead actually lessened the damage output. Profile Theta was a simultaneous launch pattern.
Missiles slid into their tubes as the hangar doors opened to allow the catapults to extend into space. Bombers were loaded onto the catapults and were hurled into space with tremendous force.
“I have three raider Hestia class Destroyer lookalikes escorting a raider Cruiser.” the sensors officer said “No signs of shields.”
Kazimir nodded, a three-dimensional tactical display activated to his right, the angular profiles of the Hestias contrasted the blocky raider Cruiser. Opposite them were the station and the Invictus.
“Fire main weapons on my mark.” Kazimir ordered, he waited for the raiders to close, “Mark!”
Particle bolts left their accelerators with low rumbles, reminiscent to that of a bass guitar. Missiles sped out of their barrels and streaked off into space with several 'whooshes'. The steady thump of the larger caliber mass drivers provided a beat to the Symphony of Death. The smaller particle beams gave a high-pitched whine, while the larger ones had a deeper, sinister sound.
A pair of KKMs caught one of the destroyers; armor was torn and crushed while the force of the missiles pulverized decks and bulkheads. The plasma jet started several fires in her compartments, some of which were quickly put out by the lack of oxygen that soon followed. The same destroyer was buffeted by a stream of mass driver rounds, some ricocheted off her angular hull but the rest tore into her armor and ate into her superstructure. The destroyer returned fire with its own plasma cannons, which dissipated harmlessly on the battlecruiser’s rippling energy shield. One of the Typhon bombers unloaded its compliment of torpedoes onto the flank of the vessel. Some of the torpedoes were shot down by the destroyer’s point defense, other flared out prematurely and those that were left slammed into the destroyer’s hull, detonating in dazzling fireballs.
Particle bolts tore into the cruiser’s hull, melting and tearing armor and bulkheads alike in the process. A Strelka caught the cruiser in the comm array and sent pieces of it flying into the void, the plasma jet ignited a missile rack for one of her missile launchers, secondary explosions began to blossom as a chain-reaction shook the lower decks of the vessel, crew and equipment were sent into the void alongside pieces of its hull. The cruiser however was tough, and like the Halcyon class Cruisers being built in a galaxy seeded by the Confederate’s ancestors, it was incredibly hard to cripple, let alone destroy. The entire lower deck was burnt away, but the cruiser continued to function.
The raiders’ Demeter drones were swarming the Sol Invictus, her point defense struggling to defend the ship. The Demeters had slipped past her shields and were now trying to burn her weapons away, small portions of her hull were beginning to glow red-hot, a plasma bolt entered the barrel of a mass driver and melted it from the inside, the mass driver round was fused to the barrel and the gun was soon shut down.
The second pirate destroyer had her flank torn away by an asteroid riding on a graviton beam as mass driver rounds tore into her command center, an AP/HE round smashed through an armored bulkhead and entered its bridge, destroying it. The decapitated destroyer pitched down as its engines pushed it forward. The wayward destroyer broke up in a cluster of asteroids.
Several torpedoes that had slipped through her point defense and her shields struck the Sol Invictus. Several compartments decompressed and fires spread around their impact points, a small portion of her weapons banks detonated as the quantum capacitors and missiles stored in their racks and mounts detonated. The Battlecruiser listed slightly as lights flickered erratically, atmosphere streaming out of the breaches in her hulls before blast doors slammed down to prevent more from escaping. The Battlecruiser flipped over and turned on its axis, allowing a fresher slab of armor to take the brunt of the assault, but this time her Sectional Shielding System units were focused on the sections most likely to be attacked, meanwhile on the other side of the ship, repair drones were working on placing patches to cover the damaged sections.
The raider cruiser was in for a surprise when the Battlecruiser maneuvered with the agility of a frigate, it along with its remaining compliment of heavily damaged destroyers charged the Invictus, their mass drivers, pulse guns, plasma bolters and particle cannons dissipating harmlessly on her shields. The Battlecruiser begun to maneuver so that her fore was facing towards the cruiser a glow began building up in between her prongs. Several radiators folded outwards, the sections facing towards the enemy vessels were plated with several meters of Hubnester, the radiators gave the impression of bristling fur. The glow reached its climax and erupted into a stream of energy, piercing into the raider cruiser; as the beam worked its way through the ship, the beam began glowing progressively brighter until it was bright enough to completely drown out the stars and turn everything into silhouettes. The beam dissipated and revealed a neat tunnel dug from the fore and straight through the aft, straight through its power core. Several secondary explosions began blossoming throughout the ship as capacitors and munitions detonated. The front half began to break away from the rear and then the rest of the ship broke away from its frame. The destroyer captains began to hesitate, but their decisions were confirmed by the bursts of pure energy that shot from turrets mounted on the Invictus’ fore. The energy bursts tore straight through the CnC compartments of both vessels. Both ships then winked out of existence as the last command relayed to the jump drives was carried out.
“Captain!” a raider said, “I have two Hestias bearing in, they appear to be transmitting our ID codes.”
“Hail them!” came the reply
“They’re not responding,” another raider replied “wait, something’s burnt through their CnC!”
“Disable them and tow them back to base.” The station’s apparent commander said
The remaining compliment on both destroyers had been reduced to babbling wrecks, they spewed mostly incoherent sentences but a few coherent ones were extracted from the less broken crew. Analysis of combat records also confirmed the raiders’ fears. The Confederacy was at war once again.
“That’s one pretty powerful ship you got there!” Turner commented, “Now we have to get her repaired properly.”
Several tugs had been launched and began towing asteroids to the massive ore processors mounted underneath the station; the products were then directed to the fabricator arrays and produced several weapons banks, ammunition, armor plates and other supplies. A fabrication and processing module for the Sol Invictus were also underway. Both repair drones and tugs were swarming the warship, moving weapons into place, disconnecting several sections and modules or feeding asteroids to the massive processors, valuable metals were contributed to the construction of both modules and soon, the projects were done and mounted onto the Battlecruiser. Test run after test run followed, and after considerable improvements to both software and hardware, the Battlecruiser could produce not only Corvettes and strike craft, but also almost anything from scouts to Cruisers.