UCSB Date: 999.389
Tyre Hill, Planet Cersei, Larristen System
“It just doesn’t add up.”
Mikle Tager, pushing a lock of dark hair out of his face, looked up at his old friend Seaver Acknit as he stared into the fire of the small cook stove, the red of the flame the same shade as his close-cropped hair. “What doesn’t?”
Acknit looked out across the darkening foothills; nothing about this made any sense to him. Stress and worry were dirty words to the young specialist. This assignment had him on edge however, even the busiest cycles aboard his parent’s old refueling depot hadn’t gotten him this worked up. “We haven’t made any contact with Geffers in our sector. They have to know we’re here, and all of the other units have encountered resistance.” Acknit let out a yawn he’d stifled for far too long, he couldn’t even remember the last time he’d been able to sneak a nap. “I can’t get any sleep either. The waiting is making me too restless.”
Mikle leaned back and laughed. “Yeah, I noticed that you’d only been getting what, 18 hects of sleep a cycle? That does seem short for you.”
Ignoring his old friend, Acknit looked over to the summit. Work lights signaled the location where the engineering corps had set about clearing and expanding a nearby cliff face for the new Confed base. He hoped it would have more amenities than their trio of dropships and prefab storage sheds afforded them. “What’s the latest word on the base?”
Mikle looked back up the dimming mountainside as well, the small meal he had on his cooker sizzling before him. “No base now. They’re going to bring down one of those big Resrim Assault Landers instead.”
Acknit shrugged and looked over at the rest of their squad. “I bet it’ll be the first time these guys have seen anything that big make an atmo drop. That thing’s the size of a light carrier.”
“Yep,” Mikle replied, sticking a fork into the patty on his cooker. “This is looking about done. Hand me your plate.”
Acknit unfolded his plate and handed it to Mikle. He didn’t like that Mikle insisted on cooking out in the open like this. The precooked meals just needed to be reheated. Still, the spices and tender care Mikle treated the food with helped make it more palatable. “Speaking of drops, any word on our applications to warrant school?”
Mikle scoffed and handed Acknit back his plate. “You know the drill Seaver; two more decles for processing. I still say we should have applied for the academy.” Mikle took a bite of his patty and swallowed as fast as he could, a light in his eyes. “Officers get all the chicks man. Warrants? You have to explain what the Sheol you are.”
Acknit shook his head and watched the distant light of a ship breaking orbit as it descended through the atmosphere. After being a grunt for five annura he just wanted to get back into the cockpit instead of riding in the back of a dropship all over the place. Transferring to the ground forces from maintenance duties hadn’t helped. It wouldn’t even be that bad if they’d gotten some better assignments. He’d expected to have at least seen some action. The thought of that got him pumped, but then there was always the inevitable letdown. The odd lack of contact just didn’t sit right with him.
He shook his head; couldn’t dwell on it. “Officers also get all the responsibility and a lot more work to do that we don’t have to see. I just want to fly again Mikle.”
“Me too Seaver, me too. But hey, in the meantime, I gotta go find a bush to water. I won’t be long.”
Acknit watched Mikle head down the slope until he’d disappeared into the darkness. He took another bite of his food, instantly regretting having let it start to cool. Mikle always took forever to go pee; shy bladder.
Acknit tapped a stud on the forearm of his ACHES. A holographic display appeared showing that his own bladder relief catch had reached half capacity. He’d have to make a trip to the recycler soon to purify the contents into fresh water. Why doesn't Mikle ever do that? He grew up on a freighter, it should be second nature to him.
He decided not to dwell on it and finished his dinner.
A few pulses later the crunching of boots on the rocky soil drew Acknit’s attention. He turned to find their squad leader approaching. “Evening LT, anything you need?”
The young officer looked Acknit over for a moment, disapproval on his face. “Where’s your buddy Mikle?”
“Went to go pee, should be back soon.”
“I see. Well sensor three is on the fritz again. It won’t come back up at all.”
Acknit thought about that for a moment. When they’d set up camp on this hill, they’d installed sensors all around the perimeter. Sensor three kept going out every 1.2 hects, almost on the dot. It tended to only go down for a pulse or two, though there was the time that it had stayed down for ten pulses before restarting. “How long’s it been out this time?”
“Pushing twenty pulses. Golen was going to send up a drone to check it out, but all his birds need time on the recharger now that the sun’s down.”
Acknit shook his head. “I told Golen he was putting them up too long.”
“I agree. Go grab Mikle and check it out. We’ve got a hole in our net now.”
“Yes sir,” Acknit replied and climbed to his feet, exaggerating the movement just enough in the hopes that the sensor would come back online. He picked up his rifle and realized that Mikle had left his behind. He grabbed it as well, drawing another displeased look from his squad leader. Realizing there was no getting out of tracking Mikle down now, he trudged off into the dark and flipped his visor into place. Activating the thermal scan, Mikle’s footprints jumped out at him. Mikle always set his thermals to shed through his feet and keep them warm.
Making his way through the brush in the dying light, he thought about the sensor. He and Mikle had tried to repair it two cycles earlier, but hadn’t been able to find anything wrong with it. A failed sensor on its own wasn’t such a big deal, but every time it went offline the other sensors would bleed power at a prodigious rate. Now that the local sun was going down they risked draining their batteries if the draw went on too long. He pulled up the status of the other sensors; there was no such load this time. Maybe that means that sensor three is dead for good. He pulled up the sensor logs to check on the outages; sure enough each one started 1.2 hects after the last. The duration of the drop always varied, but each one occurred every 1.2 hects. That can’t be a random glitch, can it?
The sound of voices ahead brought Acknit’s attention to rapt focus. The rest of the squad was back at base camp, and he recognized Mikle’s voice for sure, but who are the others?
Acknit slowed his pace and activated his thermal mask; cooling the suit to ambient temperature and dumping his thermal emissions into his heat sinks. He pulled up his thermal hood as well - it made no sense to cool his suit if his head remained a hot spot. He wished he’d worn a helmet instead, at least the hood closes to my visor.
Dropping into a low crouch, Acknit proceeded ahead. The signatures of ten hominid forms lit up his visor. One rifle at the ready and the other at his back, he approached the sources of the voices. The voices cleared as he neared them, but the language sounded unfamiliar. It wasn’t Confed standard, but it was something he’d heard Mikle speak before. Was it a Terran tongue? Mikle had a talent for languages, speaking at least six. He’d once petitioned to go into the intel corps to listen in on GF communications.
A breach in the bushes afforded Acknit a look. He considered contacting the rest of the squad, but he didn’t have any idea if the enemy had jammers or signal interceptors. Instead he held off, creeping to a spot where he could observe the group. The scene matched the thermals. Mikle stood before two four-man GF fire teams and another individual in an officer’s uniform. Acknit couldn’t make out the insignia on the Terran officer’s lapel, but even from this distance he looked out of place with his cousin race, Thals, in the one fire team and reptilian Krad in the other. Geffers!
Acknit had never liked the idea of facing off against Krad. They reminded him too much of a pet lizard he’d had as a child. The creature was cute enough, and liked to stand up on its hind legs to run around the station. Their smooth skin even matched the look of the little reptile’s, and those huge eyes played on his old childhood love of the creature. Were it not for their bulky combat suits he could have sworn that his sweet little geck had grown and stood amongst them.
The whole scene felt surreal. Mikle didn’t appear to be in any distress as the officer spoke with him. Even the soldiers holding him at gunpoint didn't seem overly concerned. Outnumbering the unarmed Mikle the way they did, they had little need to be.
Acknit felt his ‘game face’ fall into place. They didn't count on me! He pulled Mikle's rifle from his back and set it up in the bushes. Syncing his visor with the weapon, he aimed it at the Krad fire team leader then hurried into a new position a dozen metra away. There he took aim on the Thal fire team leader with his weapon.
Taking a deep breath, he surveyed the scene one last time, and fired. Both rifles discharged on his single trigger pull. Acknit leapt aside as the two team leaders fell to the ground, dead. Switching to full auto, Acknit opened fire on the Thal team and raced around the clearing. He downed one more as he ran, and glancing towards Mikle, saw that he was on the run as well, back towards his rifle. Good he figured it out.
The officer scrambled backwards, pulling out his sidearm before he tripped. The shot hit the ground beside Mikle. In his strength augmented Armored Combat Hostile Environment Suit (ACHES) however, he could bound into the trees to retrieve his rifle. “Nice setup buddy! Now let’s take these guys out,” Mikle hollered.
“I’m already up by three.”
“You and your math. You just got a good surprise roll.”
Acknit almost chuckled at that before the last two Thal rushed towards him. He brought his gun up and opened fire. The shots went wide, but they served their purpose and the two Thal fell back towards the officer. Acknit gave chase and as he emerged from the brush found Mikle exchanging fire with the Krad. Two were on the ground, one unmoving. The other crawled away as the survivor bounded back towards a grav-scout hovering nearby.
Acknit shifted his focus back to the Thal. They were in active retreat, heading over to their downed officer and the scout. I can’t let them escape. Ensuring that he loaded it first, Acknit brought his rifle to his shoulder and switched over to the grenade launcher. The reassuring hum of the smart munition reverberated through his suit as he locked it onto the vehicle. A shot rang past his ear. He ignored it, pulled the trigger. The recoil as the miniature missile fired forced Acknit back and a moment later the hovering scout vehicle exploded, engulfed in a ball of plasma.
The blast caught the leading Thal; sent him flying back. The remaining two didn’t stand idly by. Their means of escape destroyed, they laid down covering fire as they moved to rescue the officer. Acknit dove for cover, and looking up, spotted Mikle behind a nearby rock. Static filled his link for a moment. Is someone trying to link in? There must be a jammer.
Acknit held his rifle up and swept the area, the gun camera feeding into his visor. He couldn’t see anything but the faulty sensor, and the three Geffers as they fell back towards it. Bugger me with a spiked truncheon. “Mikle, cover me.”
“Give the word buddy.”
Acknit took a deep breath, picturing the scene behind his cover. His target stood like a beacon in his mind’s eye and he nodded before flashing four fingers to Mikle, who nodded in return. A silent four count later and Mikle bounded to his feet. He twisted about and opened fire, forcing the Geffers aside a beat. Acknit leapt up and fired off a single high-powered burst at the faulty sensor.
The metallic stalk exploded, throwing shrapnel all around. Acknit’s link screamed to life with the voice of his squad leader. “Acknit, Tager, status! Do you copy?”
“We copy, sir!” Acknit replied as both dropped back into cover. “Geffer patrol danger close at our position. Transmitting beacon now. Two fire teams and an unknown officer. Six hostiles down, three including the officer on the run.”
“Copy that, be on you in five pulses. Do not kill that officer. We‘ll want to question him.”
Acknit looked over to Mikle, his old friend’s eyes wide. What’s his deal?
“Your turn to cover me,” Mikle called. “I’m going to try and capture that guy.”
“Are you nuts?”
“No, but just imagine the babes if I can capture a Geffer intel punk.”
Before Acknit could protest Mikle rushed out towards the retreating trio of Geffers, his rifle chattering away in short bursts. Acknit had no choice but to bound after his lifelong friend and squad mate, firing in the air above their enemies to try and get them to take cover. The last thing he expected was for Mikle to throw a grenade at them.
The fragmentation weapon exploded over the Geffer’s heads, raining high-speed shrapnel down upon them. The Krad loosed an otherworldly scream as it fell back clutching at the gashes across its face as the Thal just fell, half his face gone. The officer managed to escape the blast and kept running towards the woods in the distance. Acknit brought his rifle up and took aim. If I can take out his legs…
Before he could finish the thought, multiple rounds tore into the officer and he went stumbling to the ground. Acknit looked over to Mikle but he was already running full tilt towards the man. “What did you do that for? We needed him alive.”
Mikle didn’t answer at first, but slowed for a moment to pump three rounds into the injured Krad before continuing on his way. Mikle skidded to a halt beside the officer and rolled the man over. Even from a distance, Acknit could tell that he was dead. Then Mikle began to rummage through the man’s uniform, tearing into his pockets.
“What are you doing?”
Mikle didn’t respond at first. A moment later he pulled a device from the officer’s side pocket and just stared at it. It looked like a civilian grade macomm, but didn’t feature any visible ports that Acknit could make out. The silicate face of it was a wreck, bits of it raining out as Mikle held it up. “They questioned me. I tried not to tell them anything, but, I was afraid, and they got me to talk. I was just rambling but something might have come out. If command found out…”
Acknit laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, but what do we tell the LT?”
Before Mikle could reply the sound of dirt beneath dozens of boots forced both to turn and look. Their lieutenant stood before them, the rest of the squad behind him as he surveyed the scene. “Damn boys. You two did all this?”
Mikle nodded and jumped to his feet. “Yes, Sir! I’m sorry but I tried to disable the intel officer here and my shots tracked up. He’s dead sir.”
“Any useful intel on him?”
Mikle held up the destroyed datapad. “I’m afraid not sir. This was damaged when I shot him.”
The LT took the device and shook his head. “You can’t be blamed for the enemy using these garbage Pad-I’s, specialist.”
“Yes sir, but what now?”
“Now we clean this mess up and figure out how they were jamming us?”
“Sir,” Acknit called, pointing back towards the destroyed sensor. “I think they somehow managed to rig the sensor against us. Who knows how long they’ve been spying on us. The jamming only dropped when I destroyed it.”
“Damn! With it destroyed we won’t be able to figure out what they did. Still, good thinking. We’ll get all this in for analysis.” The LT made to walk off then stopped. “The commander asked me recently if I had anyone I could recommend for Spec Ops training.” He looked around once again. “After seeing this, I think I can forward him two names. Good luck guys.”
Acknit just stood there dumbfounded. Spec Ops. That means officer training, an academy. But all I wanted to do was fly again.
“Did you hear that? Spec Ops, Officer training, an academy! We’ll get to fly again buddy!” Mikle all but hollered as he grabbed hold of Acknit.
Acknit just stood there, unable to speak. God that’ll be a lot of work. Then he looked back towards where he’d first found Mikle and the Geffers. For a long moment he just stared, remembering the scene. Were any of their guns even drawn on him? They were pointed his way, yeah. He looked at Mikle. He wasn’t even bound up. And the voices I heard. They didn’t sound raised or scared, or did they? Oh, what am I thinking? Mikle’s as loyal to the Confederation as they come, and my best friend. He wouldn’t lie to me. Forcing a smile, he ran back up to his squad as they congratulated them on the successful take down of so many hostiles. Still, something just doesn’t add up.
UCSB Date: 1003.091
Monstero Nach 03, Nimbus System
If there was one thing Blazer had hated back at the academy, it had been the deep range patrol. Doing so on active duty at the edge of Gorvian space had proved no better. Flight crews could be out for almost a full cycle, buzzing about a system in order to look into sensor blind spots. They were long, boring, and a crew couldn’t even sleep through them, so stims were all but required. Then there were the catheters.
Suits had ‘relief systems’ built in, and when the wearer decided that it was time, they activated them. It was never comfortable as the catheters snaked themselves into the wearer’s bladder, less so for solid waste.
Blazer groaned and twisted his neck as he felt the two tubes retract. Why couldn’t I hold it another hect?
It had been a full tridec since the Monstero Nach had arrived in the Nimbus System, riding one of the old-style wake ships to their current home. After their last semester at the academy Blazer had never expected that his first assignment would be so… dull. Nor had he ever imagined that he would dread flying. Back at the academy, he’d jumped at the chance to fly. Now, as the junior squadron aboard their ship, the captain routinely tasked them with long low-priority patrols. The senior squadron of Splicer 2000s would always draw the better missions. They flew escorts for transports or their flotilla, or stood watch in their interceptor’s ready positions aboard the ship.
Time aboard ship hadn’t been much better. Tadeh Qudas would drill them constantly to keep their skills sharp. He’d even taken to setting ambushes for them in random passageways. The UCSBS Mercy being a Shinekian ship was another thing which hadn’t helped matters. The insectoid race kept their environmental settings feeling like a boiler room compared to what he was normally used to. The interior of the ship was almost organic-looking in structure, giving him and the others the impression that they were inside a living creature. The only exceptions to that were the medical bays, hangars, and the passageways connecting those two areas.
“I’ve got a contact! Stand by, lost it!” Arion called out from his seat behind Blazer.
I wonder how this all looks beneath the ‘shroud?’ Blazer glanced over at the nebula their ship called home. A lifetime of looking at enhanced images of nebula had lied to him. The collection of gasses and dust didn’t jump out at him with vibrant colors. The clouds of the Nimbus Nebula were a muted grey with just a hint of red around the young local star at the heart of the system. Every once in a while, a static charge would build up into an arcing bolt of lightning which painted the sky blood red for a moment, but that was all.
“Another big clump forming together?” Blazer asked. They’d chanced down several contacts in their first patrols which had proved to be nothing more than meteoroids or dust clouds drifting into volumes of space where the dust and gas were thinnest.
“Standby, I’m checking the sensor returns with the other WSOs.”
Blazer looked over at his wife Marda’s fighter off to his right. His mind drifted back to when he’d been on maintenance duty at the academy, and they’d taken a Feral bomber out on a check flight. They’d almost consummated their relationship in the open bomb bay of the craft before a sabotaged shield emitter had halted them. What I wouldn’t give to have her in one of those bombers right now.
“Nach Four, Nach Three, were you able to get your med bay duty shifted next cycle?” Blazer called over the link.
“I’ll have to pull a double on One Oh Two, but yes, you?” Marda replied with a hint of a laugh.
“I wouldn’t miss our second anniversary for anything short of an attack.”
“Don’t jinx it.”
“Contact!” Gokhead, Marda’s WSO, called out over the link. “Definite metallic with a strong thermal signature.”
Blazer shifted his attention back to his sensor sphere as a fuzzy blob appeared on it. It fluttered on the edge of their sensor range, deeper into the nebula. “Arion, is that the same contact you saw earlier?”
“Might be. The vector is right. Still can’t get a clear signal, but whatever it is, it’s powered.”
“Copy that. Nach One Zero, keep your flight on course, but be prepared to back us up. Nach Four, Nach Six, stay on me, let’s go have a look.”
Blazer twisted his fighter about on an intercept vector with the contact and fired his engines. Thrusters all across his fighter fired to shift his momentum and he rocketed off with his two wingmen in tow. “Arion can we clean up this signal at all?”
“Only if you want me to go active and alert them to our presence. Other than heat, we’re getting no active emissions.”
Blazer mulled that over for a moment. If this proved to be a bogus intercept finding out before they burned too much fuel would be best. If it were an active enemy craft, the sensor ping could alert them. Contact with Gorvian craft had been sparse since their glut of attacks over four tridecs ago, one of which killed several of their fellow cadets. Analysis of their data recorders from previous missions in-system revealed that they’d missed what might have been Gorvian craft. Blazer needed to be sure what this contact was.
“Lead, Four,” Gokhead called out. “I can tag the contact with a single focused sensor pulse, minimal traceability.”
“Go Four, single pulse. Feed all data to the WSO net.”
The tachyon-based sensors gave a return so fast it seemed to arrive before it had left as the high-powered sensor ping bypassed much of the nebular interference. The fuzzy contact on Blazer’s sensor sphere resolved into four distinct blips plodding their way through the blood-tinged clouds. “Frag me!”
“What the Sheol are those things?” Arion asked.
A blurred image appeared on Blazer’s tactical display. Three distinct elements made up each of the craft, but beyond that, Blazer couldn’t tell much. “Have they reacted to the ping?”
“Shreg! Yes, they’re coming about.”
Out of habit, Blazer looked out at the craft. He couldn’t see them at this range but did notice a definite shift in the dust clouds. “Can you determine the new vector?” A green cone appeared on Blazer’s HUD. It didn’t fill him with confidence. “Transmit that to all fighters,” he ordered before keying the link. “One Zero, Lead. Looks like they might be heading your way. No idea if they have detected you yet. We’ll pursue and attempt to flush them out.”
“Copy that, Lead.”
"All Units, continue scanning! My computer has confirmed that the energy burst was an active scanner pulse," the Gorvian flight leader called out with a feral intensity. Inside its cramped cockpit, the thirty metra tall being scanned the dust-choked nebula around fam. The semi-organic harness webbing held the pilot in place as fae stared out the bulbous egg-shaped cockpit. The fighter’s passive sensors painted a frustratingly incomplete picture.
Their’s was a recon mission into this nebula. They were to root out the Confederation they knew to be here, but not make contact. Now that the Dondicks had detected them, they had no choice but to attack, and leave no survivors. Anger seethed up inside the flight leader and fae lashed out, slamming a fist into the cockpit wall. The action sent fam bouncing about in fas harness, the sickly green shock gel sloshing around and across fas body. The intimate connection the fluid based inertial damping system offered almost let fam feel the fighter’s pain.
“My Liege,” one of fas flight called back. “My sensors detect nothing but the nebular debris.”
“That sensor pulse didn’t generate itself,” the flight leader growled. “They have seen us. If we do not eliminate them and bring trophies of triumph home than we would be better off submitting to the void.”
“Liege,” another pilot called. “I detect thermal traces of three fighters beyond the gas cloud ahead. Profile matches that of Dondick Splicer 5000s. Transmitting data.”
The flight leader examined the sensor profile and growled in approval, tasting the blood of fas prey. It had been far too long since fae’d hunted. “All fighters, power up weapons, let us stain the void with their blood.”
Monstero Nach 010
Every fiber of Zithe’s being screamed at him to stay alert as he drifted past the edge of the nebular dust cloud. His hunting instincts were in full play while he awaited his prey. In his youth, he’d hunted like this many times with the pack. He and his cousins would drive boars and other prey out of the bush so that his father and uncles could strike. Now he would take the role of the alpha predator with Blazer driving out the target. It felt good.
If Zithe had had hair, then the ones on the back of his neck would have stood at rapt attention. They’re here. “Rudjick, full power to shields,” he ordered and keyed the link. “All units, One Zero, here they come.”
“One Zero, Eight, are you sure? Bichard has nothing on sensors,” Chris replied.
“Trust me, they’re coming in now and coming in hot,” Zithe replied and scanned the dust cloud.
“Trust the wolf folks. Instincts beat out tech,” Rudjick laughed.
“Break formation!” Zithe called out as a shock ran up his spine. He pushed hard over on his stick, jamming his throttle forward as a quartet of Gorvian fighters exploded from the cloud of hydrogen coated dust. Zithe got his first good look at the craft as they opened fire. An egg-shaped central fuselage, with a pair of cannons slung beneath, hung between two large cylindrical engines, massive thruster ports covering them. At least twice the size and maybe three times the mass of his fighter, the powerful engines and thrusters made it look at least as maneuverable, maybe more so.
Zithe spun his fighter about to engage the leader and squeezed his trigger. Fiery trails flashed in the darkness as the Plasma Laser (Plaser) rounds ignited the thick gaseous hydrogen that permeated this region of the nebula. He hadn’t expected that but kept up the barrage. A section of the Gorvian fighter broke away and exploded a moment later, dazzling Zithe’s eyes. “What the Sheol?”
“External fuel tank?” Rudjick guessed. “That was one heck of an explosion though. Hydrogen levels here are higher than expected, but oxy levels are non-existent. We’ll get bright flashes but no real booms unless you get too close.”
“Copy that. Lead, One Zero, we have engaged the enemy.”
“Copy One Zero, you have the point. We are en-route,” Blazer replied.
Zithe felt his lip curl in excitement. His fighter groaning around him from the high-G turn, he dropped in behind the lead Gorvian fighter. All the while he had to ignore the protests at the back of his mind. Never attack a prey twice your size without the rest of the pack. He checked the status of his wingmen. They had engaged their own targets. Two of the craft drawing Chris into a classic bait and hook. Have to make this quick.
Zithe poured relativistic plasma into the rear of the fighter before it spun about and brought its cannons to bear on him. Zithe slammed his throttle down, dropping below the Gorvian’s line of fire just as plasma rounds raced over his head. He continued his own assault and watched as armor began to blast away from the craft. No shields. The Gorvian fighter pitched down to keep their guns on Zithe. Zithe slid his fighter aside and switched over to his bio cannons. The organic rounds splashed against the hull of the Gorvian ship. The semi-organic rounds of the Donvarion weapon ate through the metallic casing into the plasma bulb within. In just a few centipulses one of the engines exploded.
The fighter cartwheeled aside as plasma vented into space and Zithe flicked up the safety cover on his missile launcher. Selecting an IR seeker, he fired. The missile vaulted out of its launcher behind him then raced ahead towards the fountain of fire escaping the Gorvian craft.
Zithe didn’t even bother to wait. He vectored away before the missile drove itself home and detonated. The blast sheared the engine free of the cockpit and ruptured the fusion core. The short-lived miniature star that emerged from the blast shattered what remained of the fighter.
Before Zithe could call out to Chris a set of vectors appeared on his HUD. “She’s already bringing them to us,” Rudjick commented.
“Nice,” Zithe growled and followed the course. “How are Mikle and Acknit?”
“Holding their own. Blazer and company are vectoring straight to assist them.”
As if in response, the three fighters of Blazer’s flight burst from the dust cloud. The guns of all three blazed away on the fighter closing on Mikle and Acknit’s tail. The combined assault of the three fighters decimated the craft, shearing its engines free of the cockpit pod.
Zithe shifted his focus back to the task at hand. As Chris brought the two hostiles into view, he opened fire on the trail fighter. His shots went wide as the fighter slid aside then bounded up towards him. Cursing the clever pilot, Zithe slid aside and rolled his fighter. Popping out missiles as he did so, he vectored towards the dust cloud. Plasma rounds pounded his fighter and Zithe pushed down hard on his throttle, tickling his afterburner to kill his previous momentum and escape.
“I’m on him One Zero,” Gavit called out.
Alert lights sprang to life on Zithe’s board as the G-forces crushed him back into his seat. The fighter rocked aside and his roll slowed. Zithe checked his damage display. Half of his left wing registered red and everything outboard of the plaser cannon was black. He didn’t dare to look and pressed on. “Hurry it up Six.”
“Already on him,” Gavit called. A moment later the blasts ceased and the red dot behind Zithe on his sensor sphere disappeared. “Fighter down. You’re clear.”
“Last one’s mine,” Chris called out.
Zithe panted and looked over as Chris attacked her target, pouring fire into the fighter’s shields until they collapsed. The shields failed in a violent burst, burning out relays and breakers throughout the massive craft. The backlash of energy fused the main connections to the power core. A few more blasts raked the back of the fighter, digging great furloughs in the cockpit armor as the fighter drifted away, dead.
Monstero Nach 04
“Marda, pull up alongside. I want to try and get a detailed scan,” Gokhead requested after the engagement had ended.
Marda took a hard look at the disabled Gorvian craft. Despite the damage Chris had done to it, it was still the most intact of any of the quartet. “Are you sure it’s safe? The pilot might still be alive.”
“Just keep clear of an ejection path then. There isn’t anything else that the pilot could do at this point.”
“Ok. Lead, Four, we’re going to move in for a detailed scan.”
“Copy that Four. Don’t get too close.”
Taking a deep breath, Marda pulled her fighter in towards the drifting hulk as Gokhead scanned it. “Let’s just tag it for a retrieval ship,” she suggested as she vectored around the top of the craft.
“They might not get here before it drifts back into the nebula. Then it’s as good as gone, better to get some data now while we’re here.”
Marda flexed her hands on her controls, ready to get out of there in case the pilot was playing dead. Without warning, the clamshell canopy split open and a sickly green glob of shock gel burst forth. Marda slammed down on her throttle but it was too late. The blob slammed into her fighter, sending it tumbling.
Marda fought for control, her craft sluggish in response. As the shock gel cleared she saw why. Staring at her through its silicasteel helmet, the Gorvian pilot clung to the wing of her fighter. To her horror it reached forward, wrapping its massive hand around her canopy. Pulling itself up, it straddled her cockpit like a neigh.
Shock overrode every sense as she locked eyes with the creature. There was murderous intent there as a cruel smirk crossed its twisted features. Memories of what happened to Nobgal Five tridecs earlier triggered a flight response and adrenaline coursed through her system. “Not going to happen,” she yelled and pitched over hard to shake the monster loose. It took all of Marda’s concentration not to look while she twisted her controls back and forth.