Two large ships slowly materialized just beyond the atmosphere of the small planet Isolde. The cruisers were large and bulky, with obvious wear and tear exposed on their exterior. They crawled away from the planet, aligning with at least a dozen other ships of identical appearance.
At first, the tiny specks in the distance appeared to be nothing more than smaller stars, or perhaps a distant asteroid field.
But as the specks crept closer, they grew larger.
Without warning, a blockade of ships guarding the planet Isolde unleashed ribbons of bright orange energy. The energy from each craft collided with one another, creating a single orange mass that covered the ships and wrapped around the entire planet.
The shield was impressive and thick, shimmering and writhing around in open space.
But in the distance, the small shapes appeared to be moving toward the blockade at a faster rate. When they fully materialized, it was clear that these were nothing of organic space, but impressive and domineering space ships. They were jet black, with a sleek and glass-like exterior that gave the impression of polished marble. This fleet came in all shapes and sizes, though the craft of them carried on a uniform pattern.
At the front of this imposing fleet was the largest vessel.
It led the way, looming over the blockade menacingly until it slowed to a stop.
For a moment, it appeared as though the two fleets would simply stare at one another, the quiet of space almost peaceful; like the calm before the storm.
But then the mouth of the large black cruiser opened, and out poured dozens of combat ships, spreading out through space and heading straight for the blockade.
Inside the largest ship of the Isolden blockade, the general of the Isolden Royal Fleet stood at the glass, gazing out at the scene that unfolded before him. He observed as the enemy ships blasted away at their shield, the orange energy still holding strong.
The leader of the Isolden Royal Fleet continued to fix his eyes on the enemy, his hands clasped behind his back. “Captain Elias.”
The young captain swallowed, attempting to remain undistracted by scene just beyond the nose of their ship. “The King has requested an update on—”
“Inform the King that our shields are holding against their smaller combat ships, though we have yet to be tested by any true gun power.”
The captain nodded. “Yes, General.”
“And Captain,” he added, finally turning to him. “Send word to our allies.” He paused, turning back to the ship’s glass barrier. “I fear that we may be beyond our means.”
As the young captain began to walk away, a private from the command center called out. “General! The enemy combats are retreating.”
Every Isolden soldier in the command center watched intently as the enemy ships sped away.
A few tense moments passed before two larger cruisers began forcing their way to the front of the fleet. They stopped directly beside one another, beginning to raise large cannon barrels pointed directly at the shield.
“Transfer all auxiliary power to the shield generators,” the General ordered, moving away from the front of the command center and toward the control panels.
The lights in the Isolden vessel dimmed as a low sound emitted from somewhere deep inside the craft. Everyone in the command center watched as beams of red light began to grow inside the barrels of the enemy cannons.
“General, all auxiliary power is now completely transferred to the shield generators.”
The Isolden command center held its breath as two beams of red light shot out of the enemy cannons, slamming into the blockade’s orange shield. The sound could be heard even inside the ship, as a low booming noise shook their walls.
Shockwaves rippled along the orange energy but it held strong, still glowing brightly between the two fleets.
“Contact the captains of all of the cruisers in our fleet. Tell them to transfer their power now.”
A few soldiers began clicking away at buttons and keys, speaking urgently into their headsets.
“If we can just hold them off until help arrives, we may be able to take them,” the general relented, his eyes searching the space in front of him. He watched the two cannon ships remain at the forefront, while two more of the same kind aligned right next to them.
“General,” a private called. “All ships have transferred their power. The shield is now at max energy levels.”
The Isolden General, now confident in their opposition, moved away from the glass and to the control panels. He marched up behind the captain in contact with neighboring planets.
After a moment, he tore off the headpiece and began working some of the controls. Just behind them, the enemy fleet delivered another blow to the shield, now six cannons strong.
“Any word from our allies?” the general inquired, inspecting the logistics from the screen in front of him.
“No, sir. Everything is dead.”
The general nodded sternly. “We can’t hold them off forever.”
Just then, an officer up front called out.
The leader of the Isolden Armed Forces made his way swiftly to the front of the command center, his long, auburn cape trailing after him. Before him, the largest of the enemy vessels was now making its way toward the lined cannons. It flew above them, hovering at a safe distance. Every enemy cannon was now turned to the shield, even ones previously hidden beneath glossy black armour.
Without warning, the enemy ships unleashed a fury of gunfire, each cannon blasting red beams at their shield. But the most impressive was from the largest ship, emitting seven total blasts, the width of the streams of red light almost three times the size of the others.
Slowly, the orange shield in front of the blockade began to dissipate, steadily melting away. The Isolden soldiers inside the ship gasped and the general began calling out orders.
“General! The shield can’t be brought back up!”
He paced up in front of the glass window, watching the enemy ships fall back into line.
“Order all combat ships to engage.”
Several of the soldiers began speaking into their headsets, communicating with the Isolden combat fleet.
The General kept his pacing, watching intently for the next move of the enemy. “Transfer all power away from the shields and to the cannons.”
“Yes, sir,” said a lieutenant. She began working the controls on the panel in the command center as a low humming rang out through the hull.
The General waited only a moment longer, staring down the enemy fleet that seemed to loom eerily before them. The air was silent since their shield’s destruction, but he feared waiting for them to attack first would be a grave mistake.
He turned to the first lieutenant again. “Order the gunships to move into position.” “Yes, General,” she answered, manning the controls and her head set again. After a few moments, she relayed the results to the general. “Gunships are in place.”
He nodded sharply, turning to face the glass. “Good. Now order them all to engage.”
“Order all gunships and fighters to engage,” she repeated into the headset.
The other soldiers in the command centered mimicked her action, and the General watched as part of their fleet shot off in front of them, heading straight at the enemy. But just as they got close enough to attack, the enemy released a bright red shield of their own, blocking the way of any chance to retaliate.
The General furrowed his brow as Isolden fighters blasted into the shield, blowing up instantly, while others turned back to regroup. Their gunships began firing rapidly but to no avail. The enemy shield appeared untouched.
Just as the fighters circled back for another round of attacks, the enemy fleet released their own combat ships, the same ones from before. This time, the blasts hit their targets, taking down Isolden fighters one by one.
Flashes of red and orange exploded in the space between their fleets, ships going down every second. The enemy vessels wove expertly between the gunships and fighters, overwhelming their attack completely until only a few remained.
“Lieutenant, what’s our shield percentage?”
“Only 20%,” she informed him, scanning the screen intently.
He clenched his teeth, realizing that their worst fears had come to fruition. “Keep recharging.” The enemy fleet was now advancing, led by their band of expert combat ships, the rest of their fleet close behind.
They began firing on the blockade all at once and orders began to come from several commanding officers to fire at any approaching vessel.
The Isolden hull shook, lights flashing on and off as the enemy began taking it down. The soldiers and commanding officers scrambled around the command center as the chaos ensued outside. The General was unable to tear his eyes from the scene before him as the blockade began to fall. Two neighboring ships had already been destroyed, but the enemy’s fleet still appeared untouched.
“Impossible,” he whispered.
The stories were true, he realized. There really were red devils out there, with ships as black as night and power unspeakable.
Suddenly, the ship lurched and a loud groan emitted from below as they took on another blast from the enemy. The general grabbed onto the command center’s frame and searched for Captain Elias.
The ship was in complete chaos as the backup generators began to work in overdrive to keep the power on. He grabbed onto the metal walls to steady himself as their ship shook from another blow, the power shutting off and on again.
“We took a hit to the back engines!” someone shouted.
“Our left cannon is out!”
The general called to the lieutenant over the noise. “Lieutenant, what’s our shield percentage?”
“37%,” she told him, her face heavy with fear.
The General peered out the front of the ship again, realizing that all hope was lost. “Transfer the power back to the shield,” he ordered, moving past her as the ship lurched again from another blow, a low booming sound coming from below the command center.
“But sir! The cannons--”
“Do it!” He reiterated, working his way to the back of the command center. “I need to buy us some time.”
Just as he took a few more steps through the hull, trying his best to keep his balance, Captain Elias ran up to him, grabbing onto his shoulders.
“Sir!” he cried, steadying himself. “They’ve scrambled our communications. I can’t keep contact with any of our neighboring planets.”
“Nevermind that,” the General said, just as the shield went up again.
The two commanding officers turned to watch as it blocked enemy attacks, holding strong at the present time.
“It won’t hold for long,” he said, taking the captain by the arm. He walked over to the closest control panel and began working them quickly before he removed a metal card from the slot down below.
“Quickly,” he interrupted, ushering the young Captain out of the command center and down the main corridor. They bumped into the ship’s walls as it shook, wobbling from side to side. The lights above them were still blinking on and off despite the shield still holding.
The General knew that it was only a matter of time.
Finally, the two commanding officers reached the escape pods.
“Sir, what are you doing?”
The general took the metal card and placed it in his captain’s hand. “The battle logs. You must take them.”
“Take them? To where?”
The Isolden General grabbed him by the collar. “Captain Elias, you must listen to me. Take the logs to Urado. They will know how to find you.”
“They?” The captain took the card and grasped it tightly in his hand. “But, sir, what--”
“No,” the general cut him off. “Go. I must stay with the fleet. You--”
A large groan lurched the ship to the side, shaking the floors of the corridor and almost knocking the two of them over.
“This battle is almost over,” he told the Captain, hitting the button that opened up the escape pod doors. “Quickly, before it’s too late.”
The Captain furrowed his brow and stepped back into the pod. He raised his hand sharply, saluting his superior. “It has been an honor, sir.”
The General mimicked the salute, his expression hard but at peace. “Go.” He hit the button, closing the doors.
Just as the Captain was pulling away from the ship in the escape pod, there was a giant blast in the front of the hull, knocking the general to the ground. He could hear the backup generators working in overdrive beneath him. Scrambling to his feet, he fought through the corridor back to the command center.
He could see that the shield was down, their ship now fully exposed.
Several enemy fighters were flying by, delivering smaller blasts. An enemy gunship was slowly making its way towards their vessel, and the general knew that they had reached the end.
He ran over to the control panel, pulling one of the lieutenants away from the screen. “Can we communicate back to homebase?”
The enemy delivered another bout of gunfire, shaking the ship.
The lieutenant began furiously messing with the controls on the panel, listening into her headset as other soldiers in the command center scrambled around in chaos, trying to combat the enemy. She turned quickly to him. “It’s weak, but it’s there.”
The General grabbed the headset from her, and put it to his ear. He gazed out the glass of their vessel just as the enemy gunship moved into place. Its cannon began to charge, the same red beam appearing down the barrel.
The General of the Isolden Royal Fleet looked to both sides of their blockade, most of their ships already destroyed. He took the headset and pressed the microphone close to his mouth. “Inform the King that we are lost. The Kamans have taken Isolde.”
He finished and released the headset, letting it drop to the floor, and faced the gunship head on. In a flash, the enemy cannon fired, connecting with their ship and blasting it into oblivion.
Inside the largest enemy ship, the leader of the Kamans stood facing the glass.
He wore only the color black. The cape covering the tops of his wide shoulders trailed slightly onto the floor and the collar was stiff, extending all the way to his jawline. His tunic was tight and form fitting, as were his pants, which were tucked down into black leather boots.
Gracko Goul was close enough to the glass of the ship that the breath from his nostrils created clouds of fog on its smooth surface. He smiled menacingly at the wreckage of the Isolden fleet, his large black pupils widening against the yellow of his eyes.
As their small combat and gunships began to retreat back into position, Gracko Goul fixed his eyes on a small escape pod floating away from the wreckage. He watched it closely and sneered. “Captain,” he said simply.
In a flash, a much smaller Kaman appeared at his side. “Yes, my Lord.”
“I want a ship to follow that escape pod and bring whoever is on it to me.”
“Of course, my Lord. Is there anything else you need?”
“No,” he said, turning away swiftly. “See that it’s done.”
The Kaman Lord strolled leisurely towards the rest of the commanding officers that were present. They were talking amongst themselves lightly, but stopped as they noticed his presence.
“Lord Goul,” a commander greeted, bowing his head.
The others followed suit, receiving a small gesture of the leader’s hand in return. They too were Kamans, the same as Goul, as was everyone in the fleet. They all had the same bright red skin and yellow eyes, with black hair and pointed teeth.
But Gracko Goul was tall and thick, and stood domineeringly over all of them.
He remained unphased by their greetings, folding his hands behind his back. “Prepare for the invasion,” he said, and without convolution. “And send a few ships to salvage the wreckage of the Isolden fleet. If there are any survivors, eliminate them.”
The commanding officers nodded and departed from his presence without a word.
Goul marched back up to the glass of the ship and stared at the blue planet Isolde. Soon it would become part of Kaman authority. Soon it would be his.
Behind him, a private approached.
“Yes?” Goul asked, not turning away from the scene before him.
“Is there anything else that you need, my Lord?”
Gracko Goul turned to the private swiftly. “Yes. Set up contact with our adversary in the communications room.”
“Of course, my Lord.”
Gracko Goul continued to watch outside of his ship as their invasion vessels flew toward Isolde. This was the twenty-third planet in the Verge that they had invaded and seized control of. With the help of funds from their adversary, the Kamans had not faced an opposition that could contend with them.
“Sir?” the private asked, finally returning. “Your contact is up and ready.”
The Kaman Lord departed the command center and stalked down the corridor to the secluded area. He entered, the screen up and completely loaded. It was dimly lit inside and he sat down in the chair in front of the screen, pressing a button on the panel as the screen clicked on.
“Gracko Goul,” came a voice from the screen. It was muffled electronically to mask their identity.
“Hello friend,” Goul mused, leaning back in his chair.
“I trust your that latest conquest was productive?”
Goul grinned. “Entirely. We are beginning our invasion of the planet right now. As soon as our soldiers seize control of the government, I will of course go down and make my presence known.”
There was a pause and the screen buzzed. “Good, good,” the voice from the screen echoed. “Let me know when you are comfortable on Isolde. Then we will make preparations for our twenty-fourth. And remember, it is imperative that your conquests remain hidden.”
Gracko Goul smiled. “Of course. I will stay in touch.”
There was another pause before the communications went out.