Thursday, December 20, 2012

War Angel: part eighty-six

The Revenge-class battleships were created with two purposes in mind. The first was to be able to take a beating. The Omegans had spent years pounding on Earth and its defenses, and to the point where ships like the War Angel were introduced, nothing had proved able to withstand the enemy for long. Instead, ships and armor withered and folded, lacking any capability to withstand the alien onslaught.

Purpose number two was, of course, the exact opposite. Humanity had been seeking the chance to truly dish out some punishment in retaliation for the suffering and humiliation they had been suffering. There was the hope of avenging the lost and the dead, and by reverse engineering Omegan technology and making what was hoped would be improvements, the crafts were sent into the fray.

To the surprise of most, it actually worked. On both counts.

Kate triggered all of the War Angel’s cannons, and blasts of energy erupted through the power core of the Kan’Tar. The blazing red bolts of destruction carved through battery containment nodes. They tore holes in reactor feeder lines. Coolant tanks ruptured and spewed liquid through the compartment. As all of this happened, the War Angel hovered in place, lingering to watch the results of her work. It was, Kate thought, a thing of beauty.

“Reactor heat levels rising exponentially…” Richard’s voice was steady. “Getting readings of fires starting beneath us. The batteries are leaking energy everywhere!” He punched up the main viewscreen, and the crew could see tendrils of energy erupting throughout the core area. Blue lightning arced across the compartment, some cascading off of the War Angel’s shields, and when it hit walls, it sliced through.

“Just like we hoped,” Jack whispered. “The hull is vulnerable from this side of it. If you have the right kind of ammo, of course.”

As the crew watched the show, Richard continued monitoring what they were seeing. After a minute passed, they saw a bright orange flash come from the floor. “Whoa!” Richard jerked backward in his chair.

“The reactor?” Sarah asked.

He nodded at Gina, and she put the ship in motion. “Time to go, everybody,” she said quietly. She maneuvered the ship down through the core and toward the energy conduit that led to the engines. “We are in exit pattern. F.A. do you have targeting?”

“Roger that,” Kate replied.

The War Angel sailed ahead, and as they aligned next to the conduit, Kate set three of the cannons to fire directly ahead, carving a path that they hoped would take them through one of the massive engines that propelled the Kan’Tar across space.

Energy flared from behind them as they entered their new path, rocking the ship and jostling it. “Steady as she goes, helm,” Jack said, his voice beginning to wane. “Steady…”

Gina sat rigid in the pilot’s seat, her arms tightly pressed against her console as she focused every bit of concentration on holding the War Angel in the small tunnel that Kate was carving with the cannons. “Steady,” she whispered. The ship continued forward, easing its way through, when suddenly a large explosion came from behind.

A massive CLANG was followed by the sound of grinding metal as the ship bounced off of the left side of the tunnel. Fire and energy swept across the shields, almost smothering it. On the bridge, the crew lost balance, though no one flew out of their seat, something that everyone was immediately grateful for.

“Not my fault,” Gina offered up in an angry tone.

“Acknowledged,” Jack responded. “But we might need to speed up a bit. Kate?”

The ship’s gunner gave a brief grunt. “Urgh. Maybe thirty seconds until we poke through an engine.”

Jack settled back into his chair. “Let’s hope we have ‘em.”

Two more cannon bursts, and suddenly Richard became animated. “I’m reading actual space just dead ahead. We are really close.”

Kate smiled and fired again. The blast tore through the engine housing ahead of them, and suddenly, there it was: open space. Free of the Kan’Tar’s insides, the War Angel was a free ship once more.

“Richard, I need our relative position and a course for Gina. Kate, what’s on tactical?” Jack summoned the last dregs of his energy. “Sarah, get the scoop ready.” He paused. “Talk to me, people!”

Kate’s voice cut through the bustle first. “Trouble! We have four B-class cruisers less than a minute from our position, and they should be reading us right now, too!” She stepped back from tactical. “I’m good, but not that good,” she said. “Sarah?”

“Forty-five seconds to full deployment of the scoop.” She looked at Richard. “If we have a course.”

Not looking up from his screen, Richard barked a reply. “I’m working on it!”

“The cruisers are shifting course and heading our way,” Kate chimed in. “They can fire in about thirty seconds, but at that range we’ll be able to take some hits. They get closer, and…”

Jack coughed. “Pick your targets, just in case you need to buy us time. Gina, full stop.”

All heads on the bridge whipped around to look at Jack. “Jack… Captain… that keeps us dangerously close to the Kan’Tar,” Gina said. “This thing could blow at any time.”

“Level playing field,” Jack told her.

Richard jumped in. “Got it! Gina, sending you course coordinates now. Sarah, prepare to open the scoop.”

“Patience,” Jack interjected. “Sarah, prepare to fire up the scoop on my mark. Kate, where are the bad guys?”

“Looks like they’re trying a flanking maneuver. Fifteen seconds to optimal firing solution for them.”

Jack smiled. “Richard, give me a twelve second countdown.” The engineer popped a countdown clock onto the viewscreen. “Sarah, at zero, get us out of here. Everyone brace yourselves.”

Time seemed to crawl to a snail’s pace for the ten seconds left on the clock. Kate watched as the Omegan cruisers moved into place to surround the War Angel. Gina watched as the navigational computer readied itself to pilot once the scoop was opened. And Richard and Sarah held their breath waiting for zero. When it came, Sarah fired up the tachyon scoop, and the War Angel jumped into FTL mode, leaving the Omegan’s without a target.

Five seconds later, a series of massive explosions tore through the remainder of the Kan’Tar. The release of energy from the ship’s power core and batteries cracked and separated its super-dense hull. As the reactor melted down, further weakening the hull, it took out what batteries and power conduits remained. That left only one thing to happen:

The Omegan flagship ruptured and exploded in a bright ball of blue light. The super-dense hull came apart as the pressure wave ripped through the rail-gun carrier, and as it did, those chunks scattered in a spherical arc. The four ships that had closed in on the War Angel were destroyed by the initial blast; six more ships were dealt mortal wounds by pieces of the Kan’Tar tearing through their own hulls.

Without warning, the alien enemy had just lost twenty percent of its fleet.

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