Chapter 2 - Red Glowing Dust
They fired first. All had been dark and still and then a thousand bursts of lights began emanating from each ship. Hundreds of smaller shapes materialized as escort carriers and cruisers disgorged their deadly cargo of fighters and picket ships. We could only watch as first one, then two, and then we lost count how many shots hit the Pride of Aragon and still it kept firing. It wasn’t long before our first fire support request came in.
“Attention, this is Captain Stark of the Sunder. Requesting immediate missile support directed on Confederate vessels Scirroco, Harvester, and Bloodmoon. We have sustained heavy damage to our forward hull and must retire or risk the loss of the ship. Cover our retreat so we can jump to safety.”
Our captain was rapidly given his orders.
“Ensign, open the hatches for battery #4. Crewmen, load the rails from below. Give me a firing solution on the Bloodmoon. Reports indicate they have sustained the most severe damage to their bridge. Let’s see if we can’t wake them up.”
All this was accomplished swiftly and I remembered then how much the training saved my life.
“All missiles armed and ready sir. Solution has been plotted and locked in. Ready to fire.”
The captain squinted at my console and then through the viewing holoscreen in front of me.
“Fire on my count Ensign. Four, three, two, one. Fire!”
For a second, there was nothing. Then a sharp clank and a long whoosh as both of our missiles were ejected out of their rails. They sloped downward before their automatic engine cells kicked in, propelling them at a velocity of Mach 4. They would reach their target, the bridge of the Bloodmoon, in roughly 30 seconds. I heard more noises as hundreds of other missiles took flight and arched across space towards their victims. And for another moment, it was strangely tranquil as vapor trails arced and crisscrossed. And then, the impact. We could feel it as the megatons of explosive detonated causing a shockwave to emanate from the epicenter. Every star ship is powered by a fusion reactor of some size with more being needed proportionately as the ships grew in size. When one of them ruptures and goes into critical, one of two things can happen. The first is the most common. The energy from one of these is enough to completely consume a ship in an energoneutron cloud which would destroy the ship to the atom. The second is exceedingly rare and was in fact just a postulate in some obscure Terran science journals. Depending upon the placement and location of these reactors, some scientists had concluded that a ship could ruptured and split because of the torque of the explosion. It was the latter that occurred. For a second we could only see the results of our missiles blossoming in explosion. Then a blinding flash of turquoise light followed by an even larger shockwave that sent us all off our feet and when we finally got up again, my breath and any words I might have had were absent. The Bloodmoon, or what had formerly been the Bloodmoon, was gone. Through the field of debris I could see its fore and aft halves slowly diving into oblivion as several thousand souls died a swift painful death in the depths of space, that most cruel of killers. We could only look in wonder for a few seconds before we were sent hurtling back into reality as our own ship was hit by a shell.
”Fire control teams to level 3, fire control teams to level 3”, the disembodied voice warbled again. It was a stray shot and did minimal damage but it served to ground in us the realization that we were in war and that people would die.
Our attention was turned elsewhere when we witnessed the horrifying demise of the Athens as its own fusion reactor was compromised and a vermillion cloud of plasma erupted from its belly. Every crewman would have died instantly under that kind of pressure said the Captain. They didn’t feel a thing. Somehow, that did little to comfort me as that could have been me. I had been assigned to the Athens before being transferred to the Kyoto only a week before. I knew some of those men. They were just like me, a stranger in a strange land. Fighting for a place we’d never seen before. It had all become so ugly in my mind.
With the Bloodmoon destroyed, our fleet was able to make short work of the remaining ships on the right flank. My own was responsible for aiding in the destruction of the Harbinger and Warhound. I felt the ship accelerate as we lurched forward. The Captain told us we had them on the run and were ordered to aid in the pursuit.
“Ensign, new target coordinates on your console now!”
I snapped back into my training. The Hunter’s Moon was our intended target. I had just finished laying in the missile course when soft strings of light began appearing around their ship. In the time it took to blink, the ship was there and then it was gone. And with it went the rest of their fleet, leaving behind thousands of bodies floating amidst the plasma rife wreckage of what moments ago had been impervious leviathans of war. We had won. The first major battle of the war was over.
“Well done gentlemen, we gave them a good bloody nose today. You may stand down now.”
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