Chasing FateMature

After a short moment of travel the fighter maneuvered into position on the landing pad of the docking ring which found itself in a slice cut out of the cylindrical shape of the vessel. This horizontal canyon was designed for fighters and bombers to land vertically in relation to the Zerachiel’s usual direction of movement. This chasm also provided some cover to the vessels at their most vulnerable moments as they lay stationary on the docking platforms. Vincent manoeuvered to the designated docking platform on the lower ring which was immense to Vincent due to the fact that it was usually reserved for bombers. He landed a little hard on the pad, due to the high inertia of the ship. The pad began to lower into the ship, stopping for a short moment to allow the airlock to cycle closed above them at which point the vacuum was filled. The lift continued again to drop into the repair and reload bays. The inside of the docking rings resembled a honeycomb to Vincent, the outer wall was simply a shield, like the paper walls of a wasps nest, and inside there was a cylindrical comb; a series of bays that the landing platform would dock to. At this point an automated system would pull the ship from the platform into the bay using a mechanical rail that would attach to the front landing gear of the vessel. In a none combat situation, or in micro gravity situations the fighters and bombers were allowed to pilot their way to the bays manually, but under the stress of deceleration or in combat situations the docking platform would disable all pilot controls unless an emergency in the docking ring disabled this feature. Vincent did not like this lack of control over his vessel, and he despised the ride on the platform as it descended into the ring, passing empty bays as the automated system navigated to their specific destination. The bomber bays, all twenty four of them, were much larger than the fighter bays, fighters being almost a quarter the size.
    A hail came in, *Looks like it’s pretty crazy out there.* said the armorer.
    Vincent looked over the ammunition diagnostic and sent a copy electronically to the armorer’s console. “Did you get my list of goodies.”
    *Sure did Lieutenant, I’ll have it up in two, how’s she running?*
    “Yeah about that, Tesla was supposed to fix the particle flux, but it’s fucked again.”
    *I see that on the diagnostic, Tesla manages fighter bay eighteen, I think he’ll have to replace the whole ring. That’s if you make it back in one piece.*
    “Your encouragement is very touching, thank you.”
    The tone of a general alert rang through the docking bay, *All hands, brace for impact.* Suddenly the Zerachiel began to shudder, and the hull could be heard moving under the stress of the periodic impacts.
    Marcus turned around, “Tell him to take a quick look at the left boom, I think it got peppered.”
    “Hey, scan the left boom, Madman thinks it got hit by debris.”
    *Will do.* The armorer turned to the second keypad in the booth and began tapping the screen to enter the parameters of the scan. After a moment he turned back.*Yeah actually it did, it isn’t too bad though, it’ll hold out. There are a few micro fractures in the carbon plating but you shouldn’t have to worry. Just don’t let your shielding get too low, that’s how debris gets through.*
    “Yeah well, I’m always doing my best to keep my shields at full strength, but when you’re skipping through a minefield at a few million kilometers an hour it isn’t exactly easy.” The fighter shook a bit as the new missile pods were attached. Vincent checked and double checked the clamps to make sure everything was secure. “Is that it?”
    *You have clearance.*
    “Thanks again, we’ll see you when we’re through the field.
    *I hope so. Godspeed*
    Vincent shifted nervously in his seat as the automated system latched onto the fighter and pulled it out of the bay. They panned clockwise along the inside of the docking ring, passing several empty bays before they were pulled upward to one of the main launch pads. The hatch opened and then closed beneath them. The airlock removed the atmosphere from the large transition area and then lifted them into the chasm. Vincent pulled up on the control stick as the thrusters pushed the ship up making it hover comfortably in the steel canyon.
    “Man I don’t think I took off in four g’s since training” said Marcus.
    “It’s going to take us a bit longer to get back to the Squadron, but I’m sure we’ll have things to shoot on our way.” Vincent said as they moved toward the lip of the docking ring.
    “Look out!” Marcus yelled as a mine flashed upward just skimming the hull of the ship. “Jesus Christ those gunners aren’t doing so hot are they.”
    “Lock on to that mine, we’ve gotta go after it.”
    “You’re reading my mind.”   
    The fighter pulled out of the docking ring and accelerated up the ship. Vincent piloted smoothly, flying between the P.B.C. turrets that were targeting distant mines. They quickly passed Alpha docking ring as the mine continued along the ships hull, it’s target unknown to either of them. Vincent continuously attempted to lock onto it but something interfered with the reading of the mine. “Marcus can you get it?”
    “I don’t want to risk hitting the Zerachiel with a particle beam, specially not in the residential sections, I’ll try getting it with some caseless rounds but the targeting is messed, it’ll have to be all me.”
    “Just shoot the damned ball.”
    The fighter continued up the side of the Zerachiel toward the very front of it’s cylindrical mass. They followed it as it maneuvered between the structures of the urban sector that was the fore of the Zerachiel, they passed between the outer towers and followed the mine as it curved around the central tower, spiraling up its curbed walls, narrowly evading the many bridges that connected the intricate structures of the ship. “Marcus, I think it’s going for the bridge.”
    “I’m thinking the same thing.”
    “Get it quick before it does any damage.”
    Marcus frowned with concentration, his grip tightened on the control sticks his arms gliding the target area in full manual. It felt strange for him to dismiss the leading aid as it flickered and moved erratically on his view screen. The turbulence of their speed and the inertia of five g’s pulling him back into his seat caused his aim to shake, for a moment the reticle was exactly where he wanted and he squeezed the trigger. I small burst of gunfire flew toward the target, hitting it but only doing minimal damage. He realigned again and attempted to steady the aim as best he could. “Come on.” he whispered to himself as they both bounced around in the cockpit. He squeezed again, and once again the rounds bounced off and dealt minimal damage. Marcus noticed that a few of the particle beam cannons where attempting to lock onto the mine as well, but they couldn’t pivot far enough as it skimmed only a meter or so above the hull.
    “Come on Marcus you’re killing me, we’re getting awful close here.”
    Marcus did not reply but simply kept on concentrating on his objective. Finally his reticle swayed into that sweet spot once more as he squeezed the triggers.
    The mine ignited and an enormous fireball raced toward the small ship. “!Jesus Chr-” Vincent pulled on both sticks, ripping the ship away from the Zerachiel and the ensuing explosion. The shockwave hit them hard like an ocean wave would toss a paper boat. Vincent struggled against the sticks as the small fighter spiraled out of control, spinning at a high velocity. He grunted as he clenched every muscle. The display at his right turned red and signaled that Marcus had lost consciousness from the force of their spin, and Vincent’s vision became tunneled and blurred. He quickly glanced at the monitor to his right while blood from his nose whipped upward across his cheek and past his eye. The monitor read eight point six g’s and dropping. His vision became darker as he forced against the controls, it seemed hopeless, his mind became numb as if he was just waking up and drowsy, he thought useless and incoherent things and, at some point unknown to him, he lapsed into unconsciousness.

    The captain looked perplexed at the view screen before him. “Sutler, what’s the fighter from bay twenty doing?”
    “I’m not sure sir, they’re-”
    Holman interrupted, “Sir, there’s a mine that disengaged from the firefight with the wings and came directly for the Zerachiel, it made it through the gunners fire and is making it’s way up the hull, we can’t hit it, the guns can’t aim that low.”
    “That’s what he’s doing” said the captain as he watched the symbol on his view screen twist and turn just a few meters from the surface of the hull.
    Sutler turned to the captain once again. “Sir they’re now inside the urban mainframe.”    The captain turned to a view screen on his side and punched a few keys so that it showed the progression of the targeted fighter. “ It’s coming up the Spire. Is it targeting the bridge?” He said a little lower. “Major, I want a full scan on that mine, get as much information from it as you can before the fighter destroys it. I have a feeling this is far from being simply abandoned ordnance from the Protectorate wars.”
    “Yes sir.” Alexus began typing in her console, “Sir it isn’t the same type as most of the other mines we’re engaging, it’s equipped with advanced software...” She looked up at the view screen where the mine was highlighted. “Sir I believe that these particular mines are what’s causing the jamming field, and it’s quite apparent that they’re capable of advanced targeting.”
    “Agreed. I want you to upload this information to the rest of the wings, I want target priority on these mines. I’m guessing the Ehud’s sympathizers in this system added a few of their own toys while they sprinkled the left overs of the Protectorate all over the god damned place.”
    “It’s as good as done sir.”
    Without warning the ship shook violently, a power fluctuation caused the bridge to go dark for a short moment and a bright light could be seen from the small windows encircling the top of the dome. “Damage report.” barked Norman.
    “There’s a class two hull breach on decks fifty nine and sixty of the Spire sir, it’s being contained as we speak. No other damage within the mainframe. Estimated casualties at the moment are fifteen to twenty.”
    “That was too close people, if these things get through we’re as good as dead. Major, make sure you send that priority to the gunners as well. I don’t want any more of those mines getting through.”
    “Yes sir.”
    The captain turned to his left and noticed that the Counselor had lost consciousness. He smiled and turned his gaze back to the front.
    Sutler double checked a reading on her screen and then started. “Sir, Unit four just sent in an auto distress beacon.” She looked up at the screen a moment longer and then continued. “They’re both unconscious.” The monitor beeped and a corner went from red to green. “Wait, the pilot seems to be back up.”
    The captain frowned. “Keep an eye on them, we can’t help them while we’re in the field, but keep me informed of their status.”
    “Yes sir, they seem to be headed back to the front line.”
    “Good.” said Norman

The End

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