Part 24 - The Second Battle of Earth, Part 2Mature

Humanity's timid spears were shattering before the plague. The abyss now extended before them, infinite. On the verge of their final hour, would they stand fast and persevere, or would they falter and submit to the plague?

At the forefront of all of this, Captain Wilkes didn't have a lot of options left. There were confirmed reports of infected soldiers turning into Acolytes aboard the Vidar. There was gunfire occurring throughout the lower decks, and Unit 03 was still fighting her way to the bridge.

Unit 03's genetics made her body resistant to all known forms of human illness and highly adaptive against any pathogen. Captain Wilkes hoped she'd arrive on the bridge soon with the cure...before their latent infections turned them all into Acolytes. The infestation was the least of her problems, however.

Captain Wilkes watched the tactical display as the three evolved Locri advanced on the starships from Chiron. They moved like titan eels on the prowl, each shrouded in an electric cloak.

They were perfectly camouflaged against the Vidar's thermal sensors, indistinct from interstellar space. There had no obvious means of propulsion and registered nothing on detection or radar. The only way to track them was with direct sight on the Vidar's telescope recorders.

The three vessels from Chiron came about and opened fire on the evolved Locri. A plasma cloud raced through the void ...thinned, and broke into crackling-white streams. The electric shroud surrounding each creature absorbed the attack.

Jagged lightning fingers exploded from their protective cloaks and struck the vessels. The electricity distorted their force shields. Their propulsors flickered, trying to relight, then died. This wasn't lightning as humans knew it.

The electricity stripped bare the starships hulls, leaving little more than red hot skeletons in its wake. Paying no farther mind, the three evolved Locrix moved to the remaining home fleet struggling with their lesser kin.

Captain Wilkes manually zoomed out to get a broader view of the battle field on her display. Of the thirty-four vessels that arrived, only a paltry dozen remained. She opened a com link to the vessels and warn them of the new threats, but there was no response. They banked to a wide turn and came about to launch a plasma salvo at the surviving eighteen bioships.

The home fleet had been engaged in this deadly jousting contest for close to twenty minutes and were about to redline. Boiling reactor coolant spilled from their aft decks and emergency vents.

The three evolved Locri, undetectable save for direct sight, swam in behind the home fleet. Lightning zapped the two trailing vessels. Stunned into their charging courses, they overshot their turns and flew clear of the battle, their hulls melting in an electric pyre.

"Ma'am?" A junior nav officer said. "The subspace drive?"

"No," Captain Wilkes said. "Delay that. We're not running."

But to blindly leap into the fray would be madness!

The Vidar was an outdated vessel, inferior to any in the home fleet. If she engaged in their deadly joust, the reactor would quickly redline and the hull snap in half before she did anything helpful.

"Turn us around," she said. "Aft cameras to my screen. Load all our aft gauss cannons and get me firing vectors. We're not going to engage the enemy at close range. We're going to snipe them."

The Vidar turned around to present the majority of her gauss cannons to the battle. Heavy impact rounds left the aft cannons in hot, actinic strobes. Down range, two bioships lost their shells. The home fleet focused their plasma fire on them, but it was hopeless to fight. They couldn't win.

Wounded and trailing behind the fleet, the massive super carrier UESC Nkondo ignited in a blinding flash of lightning and burned down to metal vapor. The evolved Locri sped past the corroded starship, drawing great whorls through the cloud of ionized gas.

The titan eels arced upward relative to the fleet. They overtook the vessels, arrowed downward at range and turned to collide with the fleet head-on. Only five of the remaining eight vessels managed to avoid the collision.

The USS AnasaziLakota and Cherokee were too damaged to change course. They met heads with the three evolved Locrix and stuck to their electric shrouds, burning there.

What remained of the fleet lost cohesion the moment they prematurely dove from their head-on assault. It was like a column of charging infantry suddenly breaking at the last moment, and the lesser Locri didn't waste time.

Acid streams scissored through space, propelled through orifices that focused them into razor thin jets. The acid streams impacted thousands of gallons against millimeter-wide sections of the starships' force shields.

The vessels' shields flared from the impact, spilling the acid into a deadly cloud. The craft bulled through the streams with their own momentum, but the spraying acid held.

Their force shields collapsed two seconds later and their hulls finally buckled under the immense strain. Three starships were hit broadside and gutted amidships, while the two that plowed forward simply flew to pieces.

The Vidar accelerated away from the massacre. Captain Wilkes watched through the aft camera as the lesser Locri saturated the broken vessels with acid until nothing but a grey haze remained.

That was it then. The Second Battle of Earth was finished. The last vessels' of humanity's vast interstellar fleet was gone, and their last chance to stop the plague along with it.

The lesser Locri now flew for the Vidar. Their evolved forms gave chase a moment later, their electric shrouds sparking. At their speed, the swarm would be all over the Vidar in one minute.

There were no colonies left, no resources to build ships, and nowhere left to hide. Captain Wilkes always saw this moment in the back of her mind, and for seven long years refused it would come true.

She'd always imagined a nightmarish terror gripping her heart at this moment. Today, however, she only felt hollow inside and wondered if that was the right thing to feel.

"Initiate the subspace jump. There is nothing left to fight for here."

Captain Wilkes spent the moment the Vidar took to reach faster than light speed alone with her thoughts. Her rushed and desperate plans only served to confirm that humanity could no longer triumph over the plague.

There was still one last resort, however. If successful, the plan would allow them to run and hopefully survive the plague, and then only if they were very lucky.

Across the bridge, leaden footsteps pounded outside the vacuum seal door. The door’s status lights winked rapidly, trying to remain shut, but then the electronics yielded to something greater.

Unit 03 ambled through the door.

Her movements were poorly coordinated yet deliberate. The self-preservation measure hadn't yet completely taken over. Captain Wilkes quickly brought up the holographic keyboard and typed Unit 03's shutdown commands.

The End

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