Link to Chapter 7
Chapter – 8: The Closed Door
October 11th, 2367 – 3:25 Hours, TGT
Capella was on fire. Throughout the system, wherever there were Allied forces, they were engaged with Shivan forces. Over the last few hours however, the Allies were forced to retreat to the Epsilon Pegasi and Vega jumpnodes. Then came the loss of the Colossus and the successful sealing of the Epsilon Pegasi node by the destruction of the GTD Bastion. Following that, the bulk of the action became focused on an ever shrinking perimeter around the Vega jumpnode.
It was into this inferno that the nebular withdrawal fleet now plunged… headlong. After a pre-approach inspection by Habu and Omega wing found it relatively unguarded, the fleet had entered Gamma Draconis unchallenged. Even the node to Capella had been fairly clear of Shivan activity, but they had encountered some resistance upon entering
that system. A pair of Lilith class cruisers were waiting on the other side of the node and they gave the Maahes a thrashing. Counter strikes from the rest of the ships and fighters kept them off-balance until the fleet jumped, but the damage had been done… the Maahes was no longer combat-worthy.
Command, who was pleased to hear that Phase 2 was successful, ordered the Maahes and Warspite to withdraw from the system with the Pershing running escort, while the Lemnos, Sparta, and Ptah-Nu remained to cover civilian ships at the Vega node.
On the bridge of the Warspite, Lt. Commander Snipes gazed out the observation port at the battle beyond. Ahead, the Pershing and Maahes raced for the node at top speed firing all available weapons at passing enemy fighters. The Warspite trailed the two ships, providing whatever fire support it could. Behind them lay the charred remains of the Ptah-Nu, which had fallen to attacks by Nahema bombers.
Snipes could do nothing but monitor the battle, both visually, on the radar, and over his head-set. Focusing his full attention, Snipes figuratively cut his way through the background of the engagement, until his ears caught the sound of a familiar voice, pierced by the omnipresent sound of weapons fire.
“Alpha Three, keep those bombers off the Herophilus,” called Anderson, “that medical cruiser won’t survive another assault.”
“Alpha leader,” reported Alpha Two, “Lambda wing transports have come under attack from a wing of Seraphim bombers!”
“Alphas Two and Four, move to escort those transports,” ordered Anderson, as she achieved a lock on a Nephilim bomber and fired off a twin-shot of Trebuchet missiles. Her volley slipped through a weakened shield vector and struck the hull, sending the bomber spinning out of control as it broke up. As her Ares class fighters closed to within primary range of the bombers, Alexia continued to snipe off incoming warhead with short pulses of her Maxim cannons mounted in the ship’s twin-bank. As soon as she entered range with the bombers, she switched to the Kaysers in her quad-bank and let loose into her targets.
“We’ve lost Alpha Four!” warned Alpha Two, “Scorpio wing Dragons got him. They’ll be on top of me any second now.”
“Do what you can to dodge their fire, but stay on those bombers,” she replied.
“The Herophilus and her convoy are safe from bombers for the moment,” reported Alpha Three.
“THEY’RE ON ME!” shouted Alpha Two, “I think I can get one more Seraphim before they---,” but his transmission was cut off, as three Dragons blasted through his Erinyes’ weakened aft shields and shredded the armor plating. He managed to get a last couple of Kayser volleys off at the bomber he was chasing before the reactor failed and his ship was blown apart. Fortunately, the Seraphim too suffered a reactor breach and was incinerated.
“He’s gone,” reported Alpha Three, “and I’m still reading two Seraphim and four Dragons.”
“I’ll take Leo One, you take Leo four,” ordered Anderson, “feed it a double twin-volley of Trebs then turn tail and run for the node.”
“That’s it,” said Alpha Three, “I’m out of missiles.”
“That’s what you get for choosing an Erinyes,” replied Anderson, “Make for the node as fast as you can.”
“What about the transports?” asked Alpha Three.
“They’re alright on their own for now,” assured Anderson as the Trebuchets struck home and took out the last remaining bombers, “and we’ve just got those Dragons’ attention. They’ll come after us and leave Lambda wing alone. Besides, the ships near the node can give us Triple-A coverage to clear our tails. Who else is left?”
“We lost Gamma wing more than five minutes ago,” reported Alpha Three, “but they weren’t in good shape to begin with. Theta wing was guarding the Ptah-Nu and she’s gone now, and I’m not reading any friendlies in the area, so I’d guess they’re out too. Beta wing was guarding this convoy before we joined in, so I’d guess they’re lost as well. It looks like we’re the last ones left.”
“There’s a support ship some distance ahead. See if you can outpace the Dragons long enough to replenish your stores,” suggested Anderson, “I’ll try to lead them on to the Lemnos.”
“Thanks, sir,” replied Alpha Three. She diverted extra power to her engines and rushed by Alexia’s Ares class, then after a few seconds turned away and headed for the support ship.
“It’s working,” announced Anderson, “they’re following me and not you.”
As the dragons continued to pursue Alexia’s fighter, the silence was suddenly broken by a frantic message from Command. “We are detecting a massive shockwave emanating from the Capella sun! All units, proceed to the Vega node! You are advised to leave the system immediately!”
Ahead of Alexia, the Pershing, Maahes, and Warspite entered the node and jumped. She then dumped all her power reserves into her engines and fire-walled the throttle.
“This is the Lemnos,” announced the Corvette, “now proceeding to disengage and depart.”
“Capella has gone supernova! Repeat! Capella has gone supernova!” announced Command, his voice reaching a climax, “You must get to the Vega node and engage your jump drive now!”
“Alpha Three,” called Anderson, “forget the support ship! Just get to the node and get the HELL
out while you still can!”
“Too late!” replied the pilot, “I’m already locked in!”
“This is Allied Command, signing off. Godspeed, pilots.”
Alexia’s Ares approached the threshold of the node as threat alarms began sounding from the Dragons still in pursuit, and a distinctive resonance started building up in her fighter’s hull. A quick check through her rear scopes told her why, as the shockwave was coming up on them. Another glance left told her that the Lemnos wasn’t going to make it, as the corvette was still a kilometer from the node. Finally, her fighter entered the node and she punched the jumpdrive. Behind her, ships at extreme distance were shattered like leaves on the wind. Then the blue vortex opened ahead of her and her fighter entered its encompassing safety.
Her fighter emerged from the vortex into the subspace corridor and Alexia breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, as the vortex behind her diminished, the shockwave in normal space passed the jumpnode and a micro-fraction of the energy managed to penetrate through the subspace aperture and struck Alexia’s fighter. Although the more destructive forms of energy failed to enter the node, her fighter was hit with a massive dose of EMP, which overloaded several fault protection systems. Electrical discharged arced through the cockpit and Alexia was subject to severe burns and electrocution. The ordeal lasted only a few seconds, but her fighter was all but crippled.
The severe pain and muscle spasms began to take hold on her, but before passing out, she managed to reroute her fighter’s last remaining energy and control systems to ensure that engines, navigation, subspace drive, and the autopilot would continue to function. Unfortunately, she had to divert most of the energy from the life support systems. Then, with Anderson slumped over in the cockpit, her Ares fighter limped away down the subspace corridor towards Vega.
On the far side of the Vega node, Snipes watched anxiously from the Warspite at the jumpnode to Capella, which was devoid of all activity. The Maahes and Pershing continued on to repair ships nearby, but at Snipes’ urging, the Warspite had held back, waiting for anyone else to come through. Close off the corvette’s starboard side, the Orion class GTD Nereid slowly maneuvered into position, with its destructive cargo ready for remote-detonation… its skeleton crew having abandoned ship a few minutes before.
Snipes was standing right at the viewport, his elbows resting on the windowsill and his hands clasped together in front of his mouth… his eyes barely blinking.
“Nothing yet, sir,” reported the officer manning the radar and sensors. Then a blip sounded and the officer corrected himself, “hold on, I may have something. Confirmed, a ship is about to exit the node. Whatever it is, it’s no bigger than a bomber. Coming through now.”
A small subspace vortex opened within the node, now less than a ship-length ahead of the Nereid. When it closed, sensors were able to track the new arrival.
“I’ve got an Ares class fighter,” reported the officer, “designation, Alpha One.”
“Thank God!” exclaimed Snipes softly, “Open a channel with her.”
“That won’t be possible, sir,” warned the officer, “I’m reading extensive damage to several of the fighter’s systems. The Comm. system looks to be completely gone.”
“Life signs?” asked Snipes, almost not wanting to hear the answer.
“Just one, but it’s very weak,” reported the officer, “The fighter’s still on autopilot; the pilot must be unconscious.”
“Get a support ship out there, fast
,” ordered Snipes, turning back to the Comm. officer, “The Nereid can’t jump until that fighter is clear.”
“Bravo Four is en route,” reported the Comm. officer, “ETA, twenty seconds.”
The Hygeia class swooped down towards the Ares fighter, which was still limping its way towards an eventual collision with the destroyer. Once docked, the support ship overrode the fighter’s onboard systems, disabled the auto-pilot, and pulled it clear.
“Approach to the Capella jumpnode is clear,” announced Command, “now deploying the Nereid.” The old destroyer’s jump engines then powered up for the very last time and she leapt ahead towards the node. The large blue vortex opened in its path and the destroyer plunged into it, never to be seen again.
“This is Bravo Four to Aquitaine,” called the support ship, “have a medical team standing by in the main fighterbay. I’ve got a pilot with severe injuries. Request priority approach clearance.”
“Clearance granted, Bravo Four,” confirmed the X.O.
“The Nereid will take approximately ten minutes to reach the far end of the Capellan jumpnode,” explained Command, “Assuming the destroyer survives the transit into normal space on the far side, we should detect the subspace cataclysm on the nearside of the node at that time.”
Within sixty seconds, Bravo Four and Alpha One were aboard the Aquitaine. Time continued to pass, but Snipes was growing impatient and desperate. “Comm., put me on with the Aquitaine, private headset.” The Comm. officer punched a few keys then handed Snipes a simple headset from a wall panel. “Aquitaine, this is Lt. Commander Snipes, requesting to speak with Admiral Petrarch on a closed channel.”
“Stand by, Commander,” replied the X.O.
“This is Petrarch,” announced the elder officer, “go ahead Lt. Commander.”
“Joe, how’s Alexia?” began Snipes, keeping his voice down and dropping all formality.
“She’s pretty bad, Chris,” replied the Admiral, “they still don’t know if she’s gonna make it. Our medical teams have advised me that the GTM Galen would be better equipped to help her. I’ve got a pod ready to launch as soon as the medical team finishes prepping her for transport.”
“Joe, how soon will Command want me for debriefing?” asked Snipes.
“They’ll have their hands full trying to deal with everything that’s happened,” offered Petrarch, “I think they can spare you for a few hours. I’ll send a pod over to the Warspite to pick you up and take you to the Galen. Keep a watch over her for me too, Chris,” he added, “you’re not the only one who’s heart she’s warmed.”
, sir,” replied Snipes, in a louder voice so that the rest of the Warspite’s bridge crew could hear, “and thank you. Snipes out.” He then removed the headset and handed it back to the Comm. officer.
“Captain Forsythe,” began Snipes, “thank you for your hospitality during all this. I request permission to disembark.”
“Permission granted Lt. Commander,” replied Forsyth, “I look forward to working with you again.” The two men shook hands and saluted, then Snipes promptly left the bridge and headed for the nearest docking port.
[I know that this is shorter than most, but as I have few postings left to add at this time, I thought I'd draw it out a bit. Chapter 9 will be the last I post for a while.]Link to Chapter 9