Around a familiar star, steel tombs crowned a pale planet. Vast clouds of metal alloy vapors orbited Earth like a ghostly halo. These were the dissolved and blasted remnants of three assault carriers that were slaughtered by the Locrix bioships.
Underneath this orbiting graveyard lay a network of orbital defense platforms. Installed centuries ago, these old sentinels were still formidable weapons, and paramount was the INDIA-DFS034-NEW DELHI.
Forged of Therrite crystal-hard ceramics and shrouded beneath powerful force shields, its main plasma cannon could project a cloud of roiling plasma twenty million kilometers deep into space.
The New Delhi's nuclear power plant had remained active since it locked down seven years ago. To the swarm of Locrix swimming in the void between Earth and Mars, the platform still appeared like a lifeless derelict to their senses. In their ignorance, however, a new threat loomed.
Admiral Limbani Ng'ambi strode into the New Delhi's bridge. Bright working lights lit the two curved desk, each set on either side of his padded command chair.
He smiled as he saw that the bridge officers were already in their consoles. He briskly paced across the bridge and eased into the "hot seat," as it was colloquially known by ship commanders.
He took a moment to familiarize himself with the command chair's controls, holographic tactical displays and switches. It had been a while since he directly commandeered a vessel. Captains were usually tasked with such duties, but these, like good soldiers, were quickly running out.
"Eighty-seven of one-hundred-seventeen Locrix acquired within the first kill zone," the senior weapons officer replied, "four million kilometers distant. Plasma cannon charged. Do I have permission to fire?"
"Wait," the Admiral said. "Charge the emergency cannons. Fire two shots and simultaneously destroy all the targets within the first kill zone, so we have time before the ones in the next zone react."
Viewed from space, the New Delhi's plasma cannon suddenly lit up like a solar flare. Down the cannon's shaft, a sea of liquid sun churned in the throes of powerful magnetic f6rces. Boiling plasma lanced forth in a fiery arc that left coruscating heat in its wake.
For two days the New Delhi launched plasma charges into the void. Admiral Ng'ambi watched as the Locrix panicked and raced for them through the void like hungry sharks to their systematic deaths.
They cleared the second kill zone by the third day's evening. In his command seat, the Admiral was accounting a detailed report on the day's kills when an object suddenly appeared on close range radar.
"Identify the target," he ordered the senior navigation officer.
"It doesn't match any known heat signatures of the plague, but I'm reading a transponder." He paused, and curtly summed: "It's a starship, sir. One of ours."
"Is it part of the home fleet?"
"No sir. The home fleet still has a week in subspace."
"Give me brief details of that ship."
"Ulysses-class destroyer. NSC Vidar, coming from the last kill zone."
"Count the targets within that zone."
The officer glanced at his console, blinked with disbelief. "None, sir."
Admiral Ng'ambi furrowed his brows. How could a single destroyer succeed against the Locrix that destroyed three assault carriers, ships well over three times its size?
"Can you tell if there is anyone inside?"
"None. It's a ghost ship, sir."
The Admiral became suspicious. Three hundred Locrix dead. All of them. Ordinarily that was a thing to dream of, but it became a thing of concern when such casualties were mysteriously caused by one small destroyer. Was he wrong to launch an assault against the Locrix so early? The Admiral now felt a strange case of buyer's remorse.
"Track the Vidar's coordinates. Reclassify the target as an enemy unit for now. Tell the Staff Sergeant to wake his men. They're going to conduct a thorough search of that vessel."