Commander Vaslova gave her orders calmly and succinctly. Others in the midst of the battle seemed frantic and confused.
Understandable, a flicker of thought ran through her brain, considering the damage to the ship and senior officers, badly wounded and off bridge. Sitting in the charred captains chair, Lenor was temporarily in command and doing her best to hold together a reduced, and shaken crew.
"Hard to starboard, helm. Stay on this vector. Tactical, stay frosty. We'll cross their bow this time. They'll be swinging back," she said with impunity. "With their near side blinded, we'll have them. And don't hold back. I want a full broadside. We've still got the four launchers and that'll be enough. Deploy the shield particles in three, two, one, deploy." Tiny missiles shot out of the port side of the ship, then exploded into a combined dark cloud. A nearly opaque, semi permeable cloud of lithium, iron and titanium dust, charged to a specific radioactivity, filled the space between the two ships. The camouflage dust raced towards the enemy battle ship. It would effectively blind the Kilari vessel, while Commander Vaslova's own targeting computers had already been calculated. Lenor Vaslova had the upper hand, this time. "Stay calm, everyone. We've got this battle won," she stated, secretly hoping they did.
"Yes Ma'am," answered tactical and the replacement helmsmen, in unison; The first helms person having been killed.
She waited anxiously for their last maneuver to catch the elusive interplanetary ship. For an hour, the enemy had evaded them in a fierce back and forth battle. Shooting and shifts of advantage had damaged the two. Though badly crippled, both were still lethal.
It was the last Kilari ship left. The rest of the invading force and earth's ships were destroyed. Vaslova's craft was half destroyed. the Tendor, of The Union of Planets fleet, was the last and only ship capable of defending earth, now. This near in to the home world, the Kilari craft could and would destroy terra if not for her intervention. If Lenor did not manage the situation to their advantage, properly and quickly, earth would die. It was up to them and her, in case of point, to kill with extreme prejudice before the Kilari dropped their biologic poisons into earth's atmosphere.
"Fire force field," Vaslova commanded, with a solemn voice. As the shielding drew closer to the Kilari vessel, the cloud between the ships compressed, becoming denser and less visually permeable.
Vaslova spoke to the helmsmen, now. "Steady," she said, coming up out of the command chair and placing a hand on her helmsman's shoulder. "We've got them."
As she had predicted, the enemy ship turned, again, and was now in range. "Fire at will," she said.
Tactical fired at the moment of lock. All hands watched the clocks with anticipation. The protective force field measures they'd sent on ahead, followed closely by the deadly ordinance, tucked discretely behind it, protected and cleared the path to the enemy ship. The accuracy across the kilometers of space was assured.
Physically seeing trails of flame coming out of the dust, as the four torpedo spread neared their ship, the Kilari returned fire with counter measures, trying to prevent contact. But the shields in front of Vaslova's attack held and the Kilari defenses failed. They were shooting erratic and blind until it was too late.
Everyone aboard Tendor, seemed to be counting off the seconds before the torpedoes impacted. The numbers, on the main targeting screens decreased. The silent explosions and subsequent concussions were seen but not heard or felt, from so far away. It caused an uproar in Tendor. The Kilari ship was destroyed.
What remained of the enemy craft -- wasn't much to brag about.
The news spread from the bridge to the crew of the Tender like wild fire. They knew they had gotten their adversary, though Tendor was still in a bad fix. The remaining men and women were desperately trying to minimize further damage, sealing compartments, restoring life support, and putting out fires. The victory gave them the extra incentive, and time, to continue but they were still fighting for their lives.
Lenor Vaslova took no joy in the death of the enemy. She was relieved the tactic had worked, but she was not really a part in the celebration, herself. The ship was still threatened, as was the well being of one-third of the remaining crew, still left alive. Their own debris was scattered both within and without the ship. Shattered machinery systems, decks, plating, and bulkheads and in every space and direction, much of the artificial gravity having failed, they were in constant danger. Fires were still raging in several locations as well as on the nearby enemy remains.
"Keep us from colliding with that debris, helmsman, but stay nearby, where possible," the commander ordered. Dangerously floating, too near her ship for safety's sake, the jagged remains of the battle, in the remains of other dead and floating ships threatened them. In addition, the floating rogue ordnance was a serious worry. Both from the Kilari's ships and theirs. It was going off from time to time on the remaining ship hulls, still, due to the armed devices striking debris. But fires in the remaining structural pieces on their craft was still a huge threat, too.
Below decks, the space burns aboard Tendor began warping and buckling Vaslova's ship into finer bits of wreckage as continued gas explosions, oil and chemical burns reeked havoc in diverse sections of the mighty battle ship. They were extremely hard to control, once started. Though ships company was slowly winning even those battles, the Tendor was still a very dangerous environment. The predicament they were in left little room for celebration for the acting Captain.
Besides looking way better than the Kilari remains, still out there with the main body of twisted framework only several hundred meters away, now, Tendor was just holding on, but not by much. The rest of her fleet was pulverized. Lenor doubted there would be any survivors on the Kilari ship, but it was as large as theirs. There might be pockets of survivors.
After surveying her screens and boards, and slowly seeing things getting under control, Commander Vaslova depressed a button and asked, "Fire control--Bridge. Lieutenant Warren. How many flight capable persons can you spare for a rescue mission?"
There was some pause before the crackle of his voice came across her sputtering headset. "Possibly, five men, Ma'am. We're still trying to get a couple more fires under control before what's left of the magazine blows."
"That has to be your top priority, Lieutenant. But when you can manage it, assign three of them to shuttles. I've already ordered two Marines to each and told them to suit up. Have them search for survivors aboard the Kilari pieces. They're drifting our way and away from us, fast, so hurry if you can. We need to know more about this murderous race."
The Lieutenant acknowledged her command and signed off, Vaslova hearing the background chaos, below decks, in the struggle for the ships existence.
The Kilari had shot their wad and lost, in their latest attempt to destroy the home world. But it was getting costly, their war against humanity. And would get costlier for both sides, very soon, unless something dramatic happened.
The distant terran outposts and spies, in and near the next spiral arm of the galaxy, had reported a huge fleet coming their way. The Kilari had pulled every resource and gathered nearly every ship, intel' and recon' knew of, and had amassed an enormous killing armada. It was sure to test the limited resources of this world and other colonized systems, in their arm of the galaxy.
The Kilari armada, would be here in two years, the tacticians had told the World Union, and through them, the loosely knit, Union of Planets. They expected minimum losses of all their inhabited world populations, terra had colonized, with earth included, of forty to sixty percent. Their military was not exempt, or factored in. It was expected to have greater losses. They feared for the planets in the path of the armada. If not complete annihilation, there would be very few survivors.
The vagueness of the Union of Planets had at last taken the Kilari threat, seriously. Too many years of apathy and attempted diplomacy had failed. They all, for the most part, had began to build war ships at maximum rates, thank God.
Five weeks after the battle, Lenor Vaslova left the planet side pentagon with her own command. Promoted to Captain and decorated by her own former ships captain, she had been acclaimed and emulated for her handling of the battle with the Kilari. From the President of the Union of Planets on down. It had been hard to take.
After her ship was nearly destroyed and her Captain and exec' badly wounded, she had managed the battle almost single handedly; Thus, preserving earth with supreme effort through tenacity, skill, and courage. Somehow, through her leadership and knowledge of maneuvers and their ships capacity to withstand as much damage as it had, and an uncanny sense at creative tactics on her part, Vaslova had won the day. As was said of her, during ceremony, "With a superior ability to overcome severe obstacles in the face of battle," she had triumphed and saved her shipmates and Captains craft.
Capturing a few Kilari for interrogation and study, was just icing on the cake. No one had ever done that before.
Her aide, a petite yet impeccably sensitive and well dressed yeoman whom Lenor relied on in private counsels quite a bit, asked what her plans were for the remaining evening.
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /