Monday, November 19, 2012

SPARK of Tyranny - Part 54: Countdown

Climbing down into the AC51, Alex was glad for the sense of the familiar. This was a place where he always felt confident, where he always knew what to do. The cockpit encased him like a second skin, the fighter was an extension of himself. Here, everything made sense.
Alex looked over his controls, booting up systems, checking the gauges. He flipped an indicator switch to signal the ship he was ready to go.  he felt his stomach drop a little as the fighter was released, a thruster burst pushing him away from the carrier. He liked the feeling. Alex couldn’t fight the grin on his face as he grasped the controls, and took the fighter into space.

Behind him, the other five fighters were forming up. In front of him, there was the TSS Shield. Ships of nearly every class and configuration buzzed around the space. What had been an unorganized mob was now looking like a slightly organized mob.
Another squadron came in and formed up behind Alex. That made 18 fighters. If a Kilon ship was in distress, this group would lead a team of infiltrators in to take the ship. All that was left was waiting.
“Alpha Leader, this is Shield Base, do you copy?” Alex heard over his com.
“Shield Base, this is Alpha Leader,” Alex responded. “Go ahead.”
“Our sentry ships report the Kilon Expeditionary Force has just left hyperspace. They are en route to our position now.”
“Roger, is the SPARK with them?”
“White Fleet?”
“Negative also.”
It struck Alex that the Kilons were being cautious. They weren’t a people who rushed into conflict, after all. “Shield Base, give me the Kilon’s strength, approach, vector and ETA,” he said.
The information scrolled across Alex’s HUD. He thought for a minute, and then started to tap some information back into his computer. “Shield Base, I am transferring you some coordinates right now. Send it out to all of our ships, I want a wall of weapons poised to attack, but not until I signal to do so.”
Kapoor jumped on the com. “This is… unusual, sir, what is the plan?”
“It’s a line in the sand. The Expeditionary Force is full of cautious officers. This isn’t their fight, they’ve been drawn into it. We present a strong, unified front here, they may choose to disengage.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Then we tear ‘em to shreds.” Alex could see the human ships forming up. It wasn’t the most precise formation he’d ever seen, but its effect was not to be ignored. What they lacked in true warships, they more than made up for in sheer numbers.
“Alpha Leader, we have a visual on the Kilon ships,” the com crackled.
“Hail the flagship; open a channel for me.”
“Roger that, Alpha Leader.” Alex waited. “We have a channel, Alpha Leader.”
“This Lieutenant Commander Alex Meg├ílos of the Terran Republic. You have violated our sovereignty by entering the Sol System with your warships.” Alex typed into his computer. “Leave now, and you will be unharmed. Remain, and your fleet will be destroyed. You have 30 seconds to comply. Out.” he finished. “Are we clear, Shield Base?”
“Roger, Alpha Leader.”
“Good, counter is running?”
“Twenty seconds left,”
“Good, open me up to our fleet.”
“You are on, Alpha Leader.”
“Listen up, prep all of your weapons. If they do not begin to jump to hyperspace in 15 seconds, I want to open up on them with everything we’ve got.”
Alex switch his com off of the fleet channel and back to his squadron. “Alpha squadron, we’re running a sortie on their flagship, then falling back to the Shield. Form up, on me.”
Alex brought his fighters towards the line. In front of him was the entirety of the Kilon Fleet. It wasn’t as big as he’d feared, but it was till an impressive site. Scores of large capital ships, flanked by hundreds of destroyers and maybe thousands of fighters. They weren’t advancing.
“They have no idea what to do,” Alex thought. “They were expecting a token resistance, and this is throwing them for a loop.”
“10 seconds,” Alex heard over the com.
Alex switched back to the fleet channel. “All ships, advance,” he said. As he approached the line, he could see the thousands of thrusters firing up as the Earth ships moved towards the Kilon fleet.”
“Five seconds”
“Acquire targets,” Alex said.
“Four… three… two… one…”
“Engage, engage, engage!” Alex shouted into his com. “Fire everything!” In an instant, the space between the human defenders and the Kilon fleet was filled with fire. The space erupted with explosions, as the first volley found its targets. The Kilon ships broke out of their formations, trying to get firing patterns on the humans.
The battle instantly turned into chaos. The human ships had been instructed to attack at close range. At that range, with their small size and maneuverability, the Kilon capital ships were finding themselves unable to get a firing pattern on them. And so far, the human ships were holding their own against the Kilon fighters.
Alex guided his own squadron in onto the largest ship in the Kilon fleet. “Alpha squadron, form a line behind me. We’re going in low, strafe the gun ports as they own, we’ll try to crack this nut wide open.”
All capital ships were protected by the best in kinetic shields. The only drawback was that they needed to open small holes in the shield in order to fire.
In the confusion of the opening of the fight, the Kilon flagship’s fighter escort had been drawn off by a group of Drake’s pirates, leaving it wide open to an attack. Alex brought his fighters in just below the line of gun ports running the length of the ship. They were busy trying to pick off ships that were far too fast for guns so big. It only took one lucky shot. Midway down the hull, Alex snuck a few rounds into a firing gun port. He had to spin his fighter away to avoid the explosion as a jet of flames shot out from the ship.
“Alpha Six, drop in the torpedo,” he ordered. Pealing the squadron away, Alex could see one of his fighters fire into now breached hull. Pulling back to the Shield, Alex watched as Kilon flagship listed from the explosions erupting down its port hull. A cheer rippled across the human defenders as one more blast broke the ship in two.
“Yeah!” Alex shouted. But he did not have time to savor the moment. Over his com he had orders coming in.
“Alpha Leader, we have infiltrators moving in on a Kilon dreadnaught, sector  four-six-three, can you provide cover?”
“On it, Shield Base,” Alex answered. He collected his squadron, and flew back into the fray.
Back on Earth, the Bucephalus was still on the ground. “How long, Kwame?” Jade shouted into a hatch.
“Two minutes… three minutes, Jade” Kwame called back. His voice was not filled with confidence.
John climbed up a hatch from the cargo deck, poking his head up to ask, “You know the Kilons are already here, right?”
Jade turned back and shot him a death glare.
“Okay, just wanted to make sure you knew,” John said, quickly disappearing down the ladder.
“Hey!” Jade shouted after him, scrambling to her feet. A passenger poked her head out of the crew quarters. “Not you,” Jade said, and the passenger sheepishly ducked back into her room. “John!” Jade shouted down the ladder.
“Yeah?” John said, looking up at her.
“We need you up here. If there are Kilons, you need to be on the big gun while me and Kwame man the cockpit.”
“On it.” John said, scrambling up the ladder.
“There!” Kwame yelled, climbing out of the hatch. “It’s fixed.”
“Are you sure? Jade asked, jogging to the ladder for the cockpit. “We DO NOT have time for another flameout on takeoff.”
“It is good,” Kwame said, climbing the ladder. “Let’s go.”
Jade leapt into her pilot’s chair when she reached the cockpit. She couldn’t remember ever firing up the ship’s systems so fast before. “Get the combat suite up and running Kwame, no telling what we’ll face when we get into space.”
Kwame wordlessly climbed into the co-pilot’s chair, flipping switches and turning on his systems. The two of them exchanged a relieved glance as Jade slowly lifted the Bucephalus off the ground. “Here we go,” she said.

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