Saturday, November 24, 2012

SPARK of Tyranny - Part 55: Half the Battle


Captain Darlon paced back and forth across the bridge of his ship. After the incident at Miraxix Station he’d been promoted to the command of a capital ship, the Kilon cruiser Narox. It wasn’t just because of his actions in alerting command to the threat against the SPARK; in the recent weeks there had been a considerable loss of command crews to assignments unknown. Across the Kilon Expeditionary Force, officers were being pulled from their commands and reassigned, never to be heard from again.
It was because of this drain of senior officers and the destruction of the fleet’s flagship that recently minted Captain Darlon found himself in command of the attack on Earth. Stopping at the station of an intel officer, he leaned in to get a look for himself.
“Status of the fleet, Commander.” Darlon said. He knew what he was looking at, but he was hoping that he was simply wrong in his assessment.

The commander replied, “We are thinning their numbers, sir, but they’ve managed to capture 17 ships, and destroyed another 72. At this rate, the fleet will lose its ability to sustain the fight in… 94 minutes.”
Darlon pulled himself back up straight, looked himself over, and straightened his uniform. He knew this was a bad idea. Preemptive strikes were not in the nature of the Kilon people, and this fleet was not built with such a strike in mind. excusing himself, Darlon left the bridge and went to his private office.
A withdrawal now would be best for the fleet, and give the Kilons an opportunity for diplomacy, a field in which they excelled. They’d already sacrificed so much by recklessly giving up control of Terran assets in the system; they could still salvage control of the rest of Terran space. But even that might be in doubt now. As the fleet approached earth, reports of open hostilities against Kilon Local Liaisons were coming in from many of the more populous Terran worlds. This gambit may have already cost the Federation more than it was worth.
Darlon’s office contained his own private work station and a separate conference room. Sensors on the ship allowed for an accurate simulation of a window to appear down the length of the room, and Darlon could see with his own eyes the futility of this assault. He looked away, tapping on a control panel on the room’s conference table.
In the middle of the table, a hologram of another Kilon officer popped up. “Captain Darlon,” the officer said, “what is your status?”
“I need to speak to Central Command, now,” Darlon said. His composure never changed, but there was a nearly imperceptible edge in his voice, something that even that officer light-years away could understand. The officer gave a slight nod, and disappeared.

Darlon turned back to the view of the battle. Watching it sickened him. This wasn’t the Kilon way. Force was used to preserve order, and justice. That was what he’d been taught in the Academy. What he saw out this viewport reminded him of something else from the Academy. It looked like the worst days of the Kilon-Redipsilon War, when the Kilon fleet was handed defeat after defeat across the galaxy.
Those defeats were the direct result of not understanding the nature and desires of their opponents. As a Kilon fleet officer, those lessons were drilled into Darlon. And from where he stood, those lessons had been ignored by official who’d put all of this into motion.
The buzz of the hologram on the table drew Darlon’s attention away from the view port. Before him stood not a military officer, or even a government official, but a tall, regal looking Kilon. He was dressed simply, his bright green feathers accomplishing what no fashion designer could. There was something in his eye, something that Darlon couldn’t place. Amusement… mixed with malevolence, Darlon couldn’t be sure.
“The battle does not go well, Captain? Or should I say Admiral? I am not well versed in the protocol of battle promotions,” the Kilon said.
“Who are you? This is a communication for military personnel only,” Darlon replied. The figure was familiar, but at the moment, Darlon could not make the connection.
“Captain, then, it is? Captain Darlon? Yes. My name is Mertomco, and this operation is under my guidance.”
“Mertomco? The Broker? Where is Command? We must abandon this futile course of action!”
“No, no, Captain, your fleet has performed commendably, as it were. You have weakened the considerable defenses of Earth. More so, you’ve raised their hope. Captain, how much did you learn about Earth when you were a cadet? About humans?”
“I learned of their resolve, of how they persevere when facing the gravest of circumstance. I learned enough to know that this operation was a folly!” Darlon said, pounding on the table for emphasis.
“Captain, Captain, mind your temper. It seems you may have learned some of humanity’s less noble traits. Now, you are correct, Captain, humans are a species who fight like demons when faced with great odds against their survival, not unlike the Redipsilons we faced a short time ago. But man can be cowed, can be brought to heal. One must give them a sense of hope, in the face of those odds, and then crush them with overwhelming force. It is a method used by men on other men throughout their own history. It is a method that will work for us, here.”
“You see, there is a fleet on its way to your location, now, as we speak. Captain, I am sending  you reinforcements. They should be arriving, well, now actually.”     
Suddenly another hologram popped up on the table, one of Darlon’s bridge officers. “Sir, we are detecting several warships dropping out of hyperspace.”
“My gift to you, Captain,” Mertomco said.
Darlon raised his hand to the Broker. “Configuration? Identification?”
“Its… er, sir, it’s the White Fleet.”
A third hologram appeared on the table. “Captain Darlon,” it said.
Darlon straightened himself. “Admiral Arct’vox?”
“Yes,” the Admiral said. “I will be assuming command of the attack from here, Captain. You have performed well. Please step out to your bridge, I will be issuing orders to your remaining ships momentarily.”
“Aye,” Darlon said, giving the Admiral a slight nod. The Admiral’s hologram disappeared, as did the bridge officer’s. Mertomco’s remained.
“Captain,” Mertomco said, “this is the start of a new era in Kilon history. You will be recorded in the history of our people as being on the edge of the talon, carving out our dominance in the galaxy. Fight well.” With that, his hologram dissolved into the conference table.
Darlon clicked his beak, straightened his uniform, and returned to the bridge.
Alex slightly lowered the effect of his inertial dampeners on his fighter. He liked to be able to feel the movement of the ship. His training, his expertise, it was all coming back. His joy in flight. And his skill in combat.
“Alpha Leader, we’ve got a pair of Kilon squadrons bearing down on the Shield, sector oh-oh-seven.”
“On it, Shield Base,” Alex replied. “Okay Alpha, let’s move. I count twenty four fast movers… coming about…” Alex pulled his fighter around into a slow barrel roll as he looped back to the Shield. As he completed his maneuver, he opened up with his canons, diving through the Kilon squadron and scattering its attack.
“Alphas Nine, Ten, and Twelve, you’re on clean-up. One, Three, Four and Five, you’re with me, circle back to the Shield.” Alex and his squadron quickly finished off the fighter threat, and he settled into a patrol around the Human flagship.
“Shield Base, how we looking?” he asked.
“Looking good, Alpha Leader. I think a little more of this, and the Kilons will break contact. We’ve got em… wait a minute… Get me a verification on that… is it a malfunction on the sensors?”
“What’s going on, Shield Base?” Alex said.
“Nothing… just… hang on a minute…”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Alex said to himself. “Alpha Squadron, anyone got a visual on anything unusual?”
“Alpha Leader, this is Alpha Six,”
“Go ahead Alpha Six,” Alex said.
“Alpha leader, you might want to get a look at this… Sector ten-nine-four.”
Alex scanned the battle. There were a lot of ships out there, and then he saw it. “Shield Base, are you seeing…”
“Roger, Alpha Leader, we’ve got incoming warships… and it says here, they’re White Fleet? That doesn’t make sense. More Human holdouts? Reinforcements?”
“Oh no… no... no, no,” Alex muttered to himself. “No, Shield base, those are not friendlies.” Alex switched his coms to the fleet channel. “Defender Fleet, regroup, regroup… form up on the Shield… all ships, I repeat form up on the Shield. Incoming ships are hostile; I repeat incoming ships are hostile!”
Across the battle, human ships began to break contact, as the first wave of human fighters came pouring from the White Fleet. Alex watched in horror as dozens of ships exploded, people and debris bouncing off of the hulls of the incoming warships.

But more to his dismay, Alex saw the last thing he wanted to see. The largest ship he’d ever seen. Its gleaming white, impenetrable hull ready to mock any attempts at an attack, The large opening on its bow the instrument of the Earth’s destruction. It was the SPARK, flanked by four dreadnaughts, including the Noble Ascension, the White Fleet’s flagship, the most powerful ship man ever built.
“Alpha Leader, there is a significant number of breaking off from the main attack force… they’re heading for the refugees… I am sending…”
“No, Shield Base, no, belay that order.  It’s a distraction. We have to hold the line here.”
“A distraction? But the refugees, they have little or no defenses… they’re sitting ducks out there.”
“I know, I know… if we split our forces, the Kilons will tear through us, and the Earth… they’ll have secured the space they need for the SPARK to fire. we can’t give them that opportunity.”
“Alpha Leader, the point of all of this was to get as many refugees off of the planet as possible. We knew we couldn’t stop this… Alex?”
Alex muted his com, clenched his fists, and screamed. He couldn’t contain his rage. His homeworld, in flames, he could see it. The only consolation he felt in this moment was that Jade got the Bucephalus into space long before this… they’d have made the jump to hyperspace a long time ago…

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