The vessel glided unhindered through the asteroid field, weaving softly in and out of danger.
“Nothing as yet, Captaine.”
Telleris remained silent, nodding slightly to show the co-pilot that he had heard him. He scanned the outlines of the larger rocks. They rotated slowly, eerily suspended, split in half with darkness cast by the orange star a billion miles away.
“All units.” He spoke quietly into the headpiece which affirmatively beeped back at him. “Check in all units.”
The replies came swiftly.
“Alpha nothing either,” he replied, “check in in one minute.”
The comms went silent again.
“Maybe they're not here...” The co-pilot ventured.
Telleris kept his silence.
Suddenly a shock wave bombarded their craft, followed swiftly by a scattered illumination of the asteroids to their right.
“Energy spike at three kilometres.”
“Take us on an off course arc to the left.”
“All units.” The headpiece beeped at him. “All units surround the energy spike location, I'm sending you co-ordinates now.”
“Bethera?” Telleris asked, waiting only a moment for a response. He dipped the comms, turning to face the co-pilot. “Do we still have a signal from Bethera?”
“Yes Captaine, maybe the spike is disrupting communication.”
Telleris nodded. “All units.” Beep. “Cetera, check in.”
“Cetera, orders understood Captaine.”
“Confirm on visual, silence otherwise.”
The vessel swept its way around the field, having to take a more erratic path to maintain its course around the army of spinning debris. Another blast echoed around them, strong enough to rumble the nearer asteroids and alter their rotations.
“Careful on approach.” He said to his co-pilot.
As they rounded a rock the size of a small mountain the blast area came into view. A spherical clearing slowly opening up, bordered by angrily glowing red rocks with large chunks taken out.
“All units.” The headpiece beeped. “All units, visual?”
Telleris craned his neck to frown at his co-pilot who raised his eyebrows in response.
“All units.” Beep. “All units check in.”
Warning lights flashed up and warning sounds filled the small cabin.
“Weapons charging nearby.” The co-pilot stated.
“They must be close, home in on the readings.” Telleris ordered as he took control of the craft, gently pulling them back around the way they had come.
A thin trail of light caught Telleris' attention from across the clearing, sharpening his focus. “Shit.” He said, whipping the ship into high energy and fleeing as fast as he could through the deadly obstacle course to find useful sized objects with which they could lose the fast approaching missile.
“It's one of ours Captaine.”
“I've got locks on all units, they're not responding and that's one of our missiles.”
Telleris halted a shiver from shaking his body. “You're sure?”
He swung the ship into a large overhang and hugged the edge of a huge block, ice glistening on the surface. “Are we good?”
“Are we?” Telleris tested, heightening his tone.
“Yes, Captaine!” The co-pilot's hand gripped Telleris' shoulder. “I'm with you, Tel.”
Telleris nodded into the displays, searching calmly for signs of the other ships that, until a minute ago, had been friendly. “Take the rail, chain and nukes. I'll pilot and take disables.” He watched as the power rerouted and balanced itself against the heightening need. “Right.” He said. “Are you ready for involuntary defection?”
“As I'll ever be.”
“Good luck, Kant.”
“Same to you, Captaine.”
Telleris immediately swung the vessel away from the enormous boulder and bolted into the darkness, singeing what little gas and dust there was away in a storm of engine exhaust. Not five seconds later two of their former squadron punched through the edge of the field, racing after the fast escaping lead ship. Flurries of stuttering flashes harshly lit the front ends of both pursuing ships and streaks of missiles shot ahead of them, glowing brightly blue from behind.
“Incoming.” Co-pilot Kantor said.
“Got it...” Telleris veered away from the bee-line to put an angle between themselves, the missiles and the ships behind. “How many nukes?”
“Twenty massive, three stretch-fusion, eight contained.”
“Give them a warning.”
Co-pilot Kantor's finger hesitated briefly above the trigger, thinking about the people who were on the ships behind. They weren't people, they were friends. Friends they saw every day. Kantor shook his head, rising out of dangerous reverie. The trigger confirmed, a timed explosive flung itself out of the rear of their craft. Three seconds passed.
A ripping swept through the cabin, the compressors periodically unable to cope with the intensity of the explosion behind. Their instruments flared in a triangle behind that was unable to see past the blast. A further second and the pursuing ships emerged from the outer edges of the distressed purple blast sphere, their outsides shimmering with an electric blue outline, indicating that their shields were struggling to maintain the integrity of their protection.
“Looks like they really do want us.” Telleris commented, dropping a couple of EMP packages before cranking up the power to the propulsion systems.
“Let's hope the A-D-S (1) is up to it this time...”
“It will be.”
Some chinks of reflected physical projectiles ricocheting off the hull caused both of them to adopt a look of worry. The EMPs had also failed to deter the aggressors.
“It will!” Telleris stated, willing the ship to listen to his confidence.
“Looks like it's Cetera and Ammara behind. Maybe that was the remains of Bethera in the field?”
“Don't think about it.” Telleris hardened his will against what was happening, unwilling to admit inside what he now knew to be true. This moment had been coming, he realised, for a very long time. Flashes of the faces who he knew to be in the ships behind appeared in his vision, obscuring the blinking lights and dials directly in front of him. “Don't think about it.” He repeated under his breath.
An explosion flared just to the side of the ship, forcefully rocking them, nearly pushing them outside of the normal bounds of Gs that it could cope with without being torn apart in the process. Kantor's head smacked against the side of the cabin, causing him to fall unconscious. Not a moment later, projectiles from the explosion buried themselves deep in the hull of the ship; long strands of durable metals that began to wind themselves further in, tearing sweetly. Telleris felt concussed and tried to drag his muddied focus away from that comfortable haze and back into the real, dangerous world that needed immediate attention.
Lights flashed everywhere, screens partly lit, but miraculously no hull breach as yet. He took what little solace he could from that and moved on to return fire, grabbing the systems away from Kantor's console and onto his own. The power redistributed itself and quickly he had the rail gun operative which he ordered to automatically fire at anything that moved. Dull whips of sound floated into the cabin as it periodically cranked up and released its load.
A particularly angry light to his right brought his attention back to the burrowing needles. How was he going to stop them? Is there even a way? He thought. Short of going out there… There is… He thought, gulping as it came into view. An EMP would shut them down. But also us…
More clinks of shrapnel whizzing past the ADS and deflecting off the outer hull to the rear of the ship came to his ears, demanding that action be taken soon no matter what form it took. Not having more time to think, Telleris released all but four of the massive nukes on board, spreading them roughly across a large vertical plane behind, hoping to make the explosion as efficient as possible. They might just try to veer around, if we're really lucky…
At the first reading of high energy threshold being overshot he loosed an EMP and detonated it instantly, plunging the ship into complete and perfect darkness. The ship began to tumble from its correct orientation for the course taken, causing severe vibrations to threaten the ship with catastrophic resonance. Otherwise quiet, a few seconds passed this way before the ship's systems recovered, ramming back into action with a colourful roar.
A moan from Kantor indicated his co-pilot regaining consciousness.
“Kant!” He shouted. “Kant, get it together. Wake up!”
Groggy but clear he responded. “Yes, Captaine.”
Telleris bullied him back into the efficient form that he knew lay just under the surface of the brain trauma that Kantor was likely to have sustained. “Get the chain going, we're not going to outrun them!”
Before Kant had a chance the rail gun landed a direct blow to the forward bow of tactical ship Cetera, who, just having emerged from the upper half of the explosion, split her down the middle. And in a rather uneventful climax, Ammara appeared to be partly disabled from travelling through the vast area of effect nuke. Telleris had hoped that it would simply slow them down, but the final tactical ship in pursuit dropped acceleration and took a wide arc away from them, looking to fall back to the asteroid field.
Both relaxed after a long silence, Telleris taking a deep breath and blowing it out slowly. “Well, that happened.” He said.
“Yep.” Kantor said, nursing his head, looking around for the med-kit and something to stem the blood flowing from just above his temple. “Anything I need to know?”
“Like why what just happened, happened?”
Telleris sighed through his nose. “A few things...”
“Not sure now is the time to be blasé about this, sir.”
“Not sure I'm a 'sir' anymore, Kant.”
1. ADS – Aggressive Diffraction System.
Physical object tracking device that accurately measures incoming velocity and mass of objects approaching desired area of protection (DAP) and directs similar momentum holding physical objects to a location outside of DAP in order to completely negate any threat to DAP.