Cruiser Stalingrad, in orbit over Esoteria, 1230 hours
Ten thousand kilometres above the glistening sphere of Esoteria, the Armada Assault Cruiser ESCS Stalingrad floated lazily through space, surrounded by squadrons of fighters. One of the most powerful vessels ever created by the Seaportian Confederation, Armada Assault Cruisers, or AACs packed a fearsome punch. With a particle accelerator cannon capable of firing a super compressed bolt of super heated energy particles at the speed of light, twenty plasma turrets, each capable of firing six blasts of burning plasma per minute, forty torpedo launchers, ten ailon turrets and two hundred Hellfire point defence cannons, it could turn a league destroyer to a slab of molten metal with ease. With primary, secondary and emergency shields it could take a great beating, added to the six meters of titanium-coson alloy armour plating. Ironically, the first ship destroyed by the League was an AAC, vaporized by a League battleship in the Jerusalem IV system. Now, with only a little over fifty left, they were quite scarce now.
On the bridge of the Stalingrad, Admiral Scott King stood, looking over the shoulder of a crewman handling the scanners.
“Now son, you say you saw something. What is it you saw?” The crewman stuttered nervously.
“I-I-I don’t know sir. Something emerged from JumpSpace, but it just disappeared off the scanners, gone as soon as it appeared.”
“Well, what are the possibilities?”
“Well sir, it could have been a system glitch, or meteors, those things sometimes get into JumpSpace and tumble out and random points.”
“Yes, but it vanished off the display seconds after we picked it up. And unless the meteors ‘round here are acquiring cloaking devices, we’re going to assume this is a ship. And since it has not hailed us or made any attempt at communication, and only activating some sort of cloaking device and going ghost on us, I’m going to assume it has hostile intentions.” The crewman looked back up at him, doubt in his eyes mixed with nervousness.
“Sir, the patrols have showed that the enemy fleet is not yet at maximum or even minimum attack potential! How could this be a league vessel, if our Intel is correct? Do you actually doubt the accuracy of our recon patrols sir?” At this point the Admiral cut loose on him.
“Yes! Yes I am doubting them! Do you remember Teranus? Intel told us we had another week and a half until the League could attack, and they were all dead in three days! Two hundred ships lost and fifty defence platforms! Not to mention the three million soldiers killed groundside when the League ignited the atmosphere burnt the planet to a glass ball! I have very good reason to doubt our Intel!” With each word the crewman cringed lower and lower, until he was almost on the floor. The bridge had gone quiet, for the rest of the entire bridge crew watching the poor man at the console. The Admiral was not an easy man to please; he had a bit of a reputation for being a drill sergeant worse nightmare. They were still watching this spectacle when Lieutenant Robertson saw a blip on his holographic display out of the corner of his eye. He turned his body the rest of the way, and suddenly identified the blip. He whipped around and blurted out.
“Contact! Inbound fenton torpedo!” The entire crew was immediately alive, their pity fate of the crewman replaced by concern for the fate of their lives. The Admiral saw the target on screen, and was immediately yelling loud enough to hear through the bulkheads.
“Hard to port! Emergency thrusters now!” Every engine on the cruiser immediately blasted exhaust in the commanded direction, and the entire vessel shot with startling speed to the right. A few crewmen fell to the ground, unprepared for this sudden acceleration. But the rest held on and manned their stations.
Outside the mammoth cruiser, the burning blue fentonic torpedo sizzled past the ship. But instead of shooting by, it turned around sharply and homed in onto the AACs massive hull. The crew tried to turn the behemoth ship out of harms way, but it was too late. The brilliant blue round slammed into the unshielded hull and exploded. The ship b uckled as a ten meter hole was blown open in the hull, and several dozen sailors were sucked out into the infinite vacuum of space. Just as the initial explosion started to die away, one hundred meters port of the gaping hole in the ships side, space changed. It rippled and shimmered like a mirage in a desert, and like a fish sliding out of the water emerged the ship.
A league gunship. Fast, manuverable, and Packed with weapons, gunships posed a serious threat despite their lack of heavy shielding and armour. Shaped like a three hundred meter long elongated three sided pyramid, and made solely out of some sort of glossy black material similar in appearance to jet stone, it was easily distinguishable as an affiliate of the death bringing empire that scourged the Confederation. It slid out of its cloaking system not one hundred meters from the damaged ship. Its engines flared a cool blue and darted it forward, right into the still burning hole in the ships armoured flank. Its pointed bow shot forward, and into the gaping wound and lodged there. The ships engines flickered off and the vessel ground to a halt. It stopped moving and then the space in between the crashed bow and burnt edges of the hole popped as a force field blocked the hole off from space. There was a pause as the space pressurized and filled up with oxygen, and then the front of the bow popped open, letting a swarm of Thrals charge into the ship.
Ensign Evens was trained for emergencies, but not this. He was trained to handle fires, hull breaches, basic fist aid, maybe even an occasional firefight. But he was definitely not trained for this. None of the instructors had taught him proper procedure for thirty foot holes being blown in the hull, watching several dozen other crewman get sucked out into space and then getting boarded by a massive Thral force. No one had taught him anything about this. Good thing he was on the other side of the door, the other side of the two inch thick titanium shield which protected him from the vacuum. As he saw though, the vacuum was no longer a problem. Several dozen League warriors boarding the ship however, was a very serious problem. Evens felt fear. He felt his heart stop beating for a moment and freeze cold, like an invisible icy hand had clasped it. He felt the deck shudder as secondary explosions went off throughout the ship. He felt the door shudder as an energy bolt hit it, followed by a second one which blew it open. He tried to turn to run, but his legs were immobile. He tried to scream, but his mouth refused to move. He just stood there, and felt the alien firearm press against his head. He felt slight pressure as the firing mechanism was pulled, and then he felt nothing at all. He didn’t feel the bolt of fire tear through his head, vaporizing his skull and brains. He didn’t feel the viscous alien clawed foot which kicked him aside. And he most certainly didn’t feel his destroyed corpse hit the metal deck with a dull thump.
Up aboard the bridge however, the Admiral and the crew were feeling many different things. Emotions mostly, fear, terror, confusion, fear, bewilderment, fear.
“What the bloody devil just happened? Sitrep now!” the Admiral roared to the bridge crew. There was a brief period of silence, then another voice, human but disembodied, answered him.
“Admiral, we have been just attacked by a league gunship. C1 attack class, three hundred meters in length, primary weapo- His specifications were cut of by the admiral’s voice and upraised hand.
“Don’t give me a technical monologue, give it to me short and sweet.” The ships onboard AI sighed in frustration and continued on.
“We were attacked by a League gunship. They hit out port side with a fentonic torpedo which blasted a roughly ten meter hole in the hull. He sealed it off with a forcefield, pressurized it, and are currently disgorging a large amount of special operations soldiers. The fleet is targeting the gunship, it will be gone momentarily. However before it vaporizes, added to the troops already onboard I estimate we will be facing seven hundred Thral special operations soldiers, lead by a group of soldiers they call members off ‘The Order of the Elite.” The admiral let loose a muttered string of alien curses, and then rubbed his face with his right hands. True to the AIs words, every single warship in system acquired a targeting lock on intruding gunship. Ailon beams, plasma bolts, torpedoes, missiles, lasers, weapons of every kind all locked on and fired. A wall of fire burned toward the gunship which made no move, no attempt to disengage and flee the coming destruction. It just stood there, disgorging the last of its troops before the wave of energy hit it. Its energy shields flared brilliant gold for a split second, and then popped leaving the hull defenceless to the onslaught. It’s jet black hull vaporized in a split second as the heat and burning energy splashed all over it and thoroughly consumed it. As it vaporized, its forcefield also died and the nearest boarding soldiers were suddenly unprotected to the space vacuum. They were sucked out and flew straight into the mass of flame. Their personal over shields flared and overloaded in a microsecond and they too flared like matches.
On the bridge, the Admiral questioned the AI on the invaders intentions though he feared he already knew the truth. The flat voice came back to him in the moment it took for the program to answer the question.
“Sir, the enemy forces are most likely attempting to board and destroy you and this ship. They have succeeded in the boarding and will now make with all due haste for this bridge. The reasons for this assault are to confuse, scatter and demoralize our forces with the death and destruction of their commander and flagship respectively. I can calculate the effect on moral, which prior to now was generally at seventy percent due to the numerous losses in the war up to date, and are now at sixty percent as they know that this planet is doomed to fall. The general moral after such an attack would be at thirty percent, severely compromising their fighting and commanding abilities.” Just as the Admiral feared, a suicide attack to knock out the command and control of the fleet. His thoughts were once again interrupted by the AIs voice. “Sir, due to the nature of this attack I must say that an enemy attack is scheduled to commence very soon. I would advise an immediate course of action. The admiral already knew it, but the facts being spoken right out to him just made it worse. Now he had not only a ship full of league spec ops troops on board, but he had an alien attack and invasion imminent. Fight or flight? That was the question now. If he stayed and fought it out, he and his fleet was sure to die. But they could at least buy some time for the remaining battle platforms to be outfitted for FTL travel and get the remaining soldiers ready for transport. If he fled, his fleet would survive, but several million soldiers and the other battle platforms would be all destroyed. His head almost hurt as he strained, groping for an answer. He clutched his head with his hands, trying to decide which lives would be destroyed by his commands. Below him, he felt a very faint shudder and a very far off explosion. He lifted his head and faced the bridge crew, all deathly silent now.
“All hands, prepare for battle.” The spell broke and a rush of noise flooded in as the bridge crew all started to bring the ships weapons and such online. The Admiral turned to the AI whose avatar was now floating six inches in front of him. “Prepare all our assets for battle.” His voice hardened and his eyes narrowed. “All of them.” The AIs holographic eyes flickered in momentary surprise as his lightning fast brain proceeded and registered what the admiral was requesting of him. The surprise however only lasted for a split second then vanished. He answered in his smooth, emotionless voice.