“Maj.,” Peyton whispered, “Can you hear me?”
Back on the Unity, Peyton’s voice came in loud and clear.
David stepped onto the bridge, and watched a screen to oversee the mission, “Unity here,” he said, “We hear you, Sgt.,”
“Good, how do you want us to proceed?” Peyton asked.
“Carefully,” David said, “Keep a low profile and do not engage anyone unless absolutely necessary.”
“Sensors indicate incoming ships.” Amy said.
“Who?” Capt. asked. His name was Chris Johns.
“It’s the AFU,” comm. replied, “There’s a big one, Goliath, and she’s telling us to surrender.”
“Sound battle alert.” Johns said.
At about that time Tyrant and her fleet were entering the Sol system.
“Earth is heavily fortified with interplanetary defenses,” Zero said, “We’ll have to get past them first, no fleet in sight except ours.”
“No fleet?” Edict curiously asked.
“No UEC capital ships on sensors,” Zero said, “Unless they’re hiding or we just can’t see them.”
“How should we proceed, sir?” Ledder asked.
“Slowly,” Edict said, “I don’t want to run into a trap. Tell our fighters and long-range bombers to take out their defenses. Prax, lock our long-range weapons on as well. I want to provide some cover for our fighters.”
“Aye, sir.” Ledder and Prax said.
Hundreds of fighters launched from their bays as the long-range bombers and Tyrant took aim and fired.
“What’s the status of the Goliath?” Johns asked, “Tell them our answer is no surrender.”
“Done.” comm. said.
“The Goliath is about as big as the Unity, ships included.” Amy added.
“Goddamn, that’s a big ship.” David said.
“Yeah,” Johns said, “Options?”
“The AFU is on the other side of the Zera IV launching troop transports,” Amy said, “We can engage or…”
“Priority message coming from Earth,” comm. interrupted, “Sounds like they’re under attack by a similar fleet. The UEC is ordering us back immediately to protect Earth.”
Johns thought a moment and then said, “Tell the S.S. Saratoga to undock, hide at one of the poles, and pick up the Horsemen. Helm, set course for Earth immediately.”
David couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “You can’t be planning to leave our guys down there!” he exclaimed.
“That’s why I’m leaving a destroyer.” Johns said.
“If that destroyer is discovered, it doesn’t stand a chance, especially against the Goliath - let alone an AFU fleet,” David pointed out.
“Earth is more important,” Johns said. He didn’t like the situation, “We have our orders. Helm, are we ready?”
“Yes, Captain,” helm said, “We can go at any time, and the Saratoga is disconnected and moving into position.”
“Engage the graviton drive.” he said, and just like that, they were gone.
“Those are AFU troop transports,” Peyton said, watching them fly overhead.
“Why would they be here?” Jenny asked.
Just then, they all received an incoming message and accessed it. An image of a woman popped up on their visors, “This is Capt. Ford of the S.S Saratoga,” she calmly said, “The AFU is attacking for some reason. The S.S Unity had to leave to protect Earth. We’ll send the shuttle. I’ve had to update your mission - find out why the AFU is landing on Zera IV and why they’re attacking Earth. If you can see the troop transports I suggest following them. Capt. Ford, signing off.”
“Never mind,” Jenny added.
“Well,” Peyton said, “Let’s follow.” Unable to believe how fast his luck changed. His mission went from a simple pickup to a dangerous recon one.
“At least they’re going the same direction we were,” Samantha said.
Peyton wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. He and the others moved as fast they could. Every time he saw Anthony he wondered, ‘Why isn’t he wearing a suit?’ before remembering in the fact that Anthony was a beta tester and wearing an invisible suit.
“Get down.” Samantha whispered, seeing one of the locals come outside.
“Get down.” Peyton repeated, as he and the others did just that.
It was a female Zeran going outside to get the laundry. Zerans had a small, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from their forehead and legs that seemed to bend backward at the knee compared to humans. She never noticed the Horsemen hiding in the dark. She was gone after a short while, and they moved on.
On the Unity, Johns pondered his next move. He went by a large projection that showed the Earth and its defense’s positions as well as the AFU’s. “Maj., any ideas?” he asked.
David shrugged, “I’m just wondering what I’m going to say to Peyton’s wife, Elizabeth. It was supposed to be a simple mission. Now it’s FUBAR!” (F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition) he said, looking at the projection then, walking towards it, “We have home field advantage. My suggestion is to fully separate the Unity when we arrive and use a Delta formation to, hopefully, draw them in.”
“Also,” Amy said, “Unity is the only thing that might be able to take on that behemoth one-to-one.”
“Delta formation,” Johns said, thinking about it, “Sounds like our best chance, but we’re going to have to turn off some the defenses.”
“It’s only temporary,” David assured, “We can activate them again once we draw them in.”
Johns gave David a dreaded look and said, “You know this is gonna come down to the nitty-gritty - boarding parties and fighting that’s up-close and personal.”
David looked at Johns and whispered, “Even if we win this one, there’s no way we can hold out against the known Universe.”
“Let’s assume for a moment there’s a rational reason the AFU is attacking,” Johns said, “Maybe we can talk to them?”
“You can try,” Amy said, “However, they seem to have already made up their minds with fleets that size.”
“Any reason why they would attack?” David asked.
Amy closed her eyes for a moment, “Searching. Found.” she said.
The Unity arrived in the Sol system with Earth’s defenses taking a beating.
Johns tapped his communicator and ordered, “All hands - battle stations!”
“I guess I better get to my cruiser.” David said, running off the bridge.
“Comm.,” Johns called, “Wait five minutes. Then order the ships to disconnect.”
“Aye, sir.” comm. said.
David stepped off a tram and walked through the airlock. He went straight to his office and sat down to look over tactics. After a few minutes, there was a beep and knock at his door.
“Come.” David said.
A man with a white jumpsuit on and nodes came in, “Maj., my name is Professor Gerry. We have some minor upgrades for you and your men,” he said, “Would you like to come to the lab and see them?”
David nodded, “Something tells me no matter how minor it is. We’ll need it for this war.” he said, getting up to follow Professor (Prof.) Gerry back to the lab.
A male voice then came over the loudspeakers, “This is Capt. Jenneson of the Tiberius, we’ve been ordered to orbit Earth and protect her from there. All ground troops, be on standby. Jenneson, out.”
The fleet disconnected from the Unity and moved into position.
“Sir,” Zero called, “The UEC is approaching and the defenses have gone silent. Their long-range ships are engaging ours.”
“We can’t stay here,” Prax said, “We’ll have to close in to narrow the gap. Then, we can fire our main weapons.”
“I want a view of our positions, Edict said, “Ledder, keep telling them to surrender.”
“Aye, sir,” Ledder said, “Bringing up battle map on imager now.”
Edict studied the imager for several seconds, “If we move in we’ll be surrounded, but I don’t see another way. We’ll have to go through. Tell our ships to concentrate their energy into shields and speed. Order all fighter wings to concentrate on the defenses and provide cover.”
At Zera IV’s northern pole, the Saratoga stayed hidden thanks to all of the electromagnetic interference. Capt. Ford thought of a how to help the Horsemen, “Ops, what’s the fastest shuttle we have onboard?” she asked.
“We have a Magellan II.” ops answered.
“Tactical,” Ford called, “Can we modify our mines to take out Goliath’s engines? I don’t want to worry about her.”
“She’d have to light them up and come after us,” tactical said, “Heat trackers. Easy, I can make it so that when they go in and detonate, the rest will automatically follow.”
“Helm,” she said, “Can we hide in the rings?”
“Sure,” helm nodded, “There’s enough interference - we just need to get there.”
“Ok,” Ford said, “Here’s what we’re going to do. First, we need to modify those mines. Second, we’re going to deploy a Magellan II with our best pilot. Third, we make what appears to be an attack run on Goliath. Then, we run like there’s no tomorrow and hide in those rings; hopefully, the Goliath comes after us.”
After a few minutes and some button touches, tactical looked at Ford, “Mines are ready, Capt.” tactical said.
“Comm., tell the Magellan and take off,” Ford said, “He is to pick up the Horsemen when they’re ready and meet us in the rings so we can get out of here. Helm, use evasive maneuvers to close the distance between us and Goliath. Tactical, fire our apocalypse and kinetic cannons when we’re in range. When and if Goliath chases us, we’ll increase speed and drop the mines. Everyone cross your fingers this works.”
“The mines will be on three-second delay,” tactical said, “This way they won’t track our engines, and they won’t be detected until it’s too late.”
“Magellan is away.” ops reported.
“Let’s do this,” Ford said, “Helm, head for the ring nearest to the Goliath. I want to get close but not too close. That ship will tear us apart if we try to match blows. Tactical, fire when ready.”
“We’ll be in range in just under two minutes,” tactical said, “Fighters incoming.”
“Engage with AFT’s and Flak,” Ford said, “Whatever you do. Don’t stop. Keep going forward.”
The Saratoga fired at the fighters in what looked like a suicidal run towards the Goliath.
“Capt.,” tactical called, “Goliath is moving towards us and we haven’t fired a shot at her yet.”
“Looks like they got something to prove,” Ford said, “Tactical, stick to the plan and make it look good. Helm?”
“So far so good, Capt.,” helm said, “I’m aiming for the ring while getting closer and closer to Goliath.”
“Firing now,” tactical said.
The Saratoga fired its apocalypse and kinetic cannons. Only one of the apocalypse and two kinetic blasts hit. Goliath retaliated by firing her forward gamma cannon. The Saratoga and her crew shook from the impact.
“Shields at twenty percent,” tactical said, “Another hit like that and we’re finished!”
“I think it’s safe to say she’s angry,” helm said, “Goliath is definitely coming for us! The others ships are hanging back.”
Ford tapped her communicator, “Engineering, this is Capt. Ford. Increase power to engines and shields as much as possible.” she said.
“Right away, Capt.!” engineering replied.
“Helm,” Ford called, “Head for the rings as fast as you can. Tactical, can we drop the mines?”
“On your command.” tactical said.
“Drop ’em.” Ford ordered.
The Saratoga released dozens upon dozens of mines. As the Goliath passed, the heat from her engines drew the mines in and detonated.
“Goliath is slowing down.” helm said.
“The mines are detonating inside the engines.” tactical reported.
Ford sat down and breathed a sigh of relief, “It worked,” she said, “Get us to those rings as soon as possible. Now, we wait for the Magellan.”
There was fierce fighting between the UEC and AFU near Earth.
“Let’s try to make this quick.” David said.
“Then let me show you two of them?” Gerry asked.
David nodded, to which Gerry eagerly moved to grab a Myrmidon glove.
“Let me show you this first,” Gerry said, as he put the glove on, “Don’t you hate it when you drop your weapon or something is out of reach?”
David again nodded.
Gerry extended his hand to a tool on his desk and caused it fly into his Myrmidon glove from several feet away. He couldn’t help but smile, “See?” he asked, “It turns you into a Jedi by locking onto an object’s molecules and attracting it.”
“That’s pretty impressive,” David said, “Will it work on biologics?”
Gerry shook his head, “Sorry, only inanimate objects of limited range and size. Here, put it on.”
“Nice.” David said, taking the glove. He closed his eyes briefly and activated his nodes before putting the glove on.
“You might like the next one,” Gerry said, stepping next to a doorway, “Please, step in.”
“Ok,” David said, walking into a big, empty, circular room with Myrmidon boots in the middle, “Now what?”
The door behind David slid close. There was no other way in or out.
“Now you float,” Gerry said, his voice coming through speakers, and true to his word David began floating, “Welcome to our zero-g room. It’s not simulated like a holoroom. You’re actually floating. See the boots? You can’t get them, can you? Use the glove to grab them and put them on.”
No matter what David did, he stayed in place. It wasn’t until he used the glove that he got the boots. He quickly put them on and found himself standing on the ceiling.
“Good,” Gerry said, “They connected to your nodes. Like the glove, use your neural interlink to thrust yourself upright and go to the door. I’ll meet you there. All this stuff is slated to come with the X5 generation, but we can retrofit these into the current generation”
It took several tries but David quickly got the hang of it. The boots used mini thrusters for zero-g movement. He eventually found himself at the door. Just before gravity could be restored, the ship violently shook. David was thrown back and hit his head on the surface of the room, knocking him unconscious.
“Direct hit with the gamma and xenon cannons,” Prax said, “She’s adrift.”
“Adm.,” Ledder called, “We are getting a distress message from Goliath. She too is adrift from a UEC destroyer. Her engines are out and she is requesting our help and spare parts.”
Edict leaned back and wondered, ‘How can a lone destroyer disable the Goliath. What if we fall to the same fate?’, “QM.,” he called, “Set course for the Goliath. Order the rest of the fleet to press on.”
“Sir, we’re leaving the battle?” Prax asked.
“It’s only temporary,” Edict said, “We’ll be back. QM., engage the graviton drive.”