WHISTLER'S TUNE: PART ONE
2007 02 10
"Ok, you're free to dock. Bay Four please. Stationmaster out." The terse voice went silent.
Captain Toby Whistler turned the AUD-VID off.
"Ok, let her go." he said. "The autopilot'll do the rest."
The Impala slowly creeped into the docking bay. Lieutenant Patrick stretched and yawned.
"No offense, Cappy, but why are we here?" he asked. "We should be at Procne, not some backwater colony like this."
The other crew members turned to him for a reply.
"Later, crewman," Whistler said softly. "I'll explain later."
The airlocks hissed as the Impala hugged the station. Whistler instantly saw men run into the bay, preparing to unload cargo from the ship. He picked up the SHIP-COM.
"All hands, meet me in the auditorium for briefing in five minutes. No one must leave the ship." he said. "Bridge out."
Five minutes later, three hundred personnel were seated in the ship's cramped auditorium/briefing room, talking to each other. The captain stepped up to the podium. Silence ensued. He sighed.
"You all must be wondering why we're here, instead of our normal patrol at Procne...I'll be blunt."
Their eyes glistened with curiosity. They also noticed that the captain seemed tired and burdened. He licked his lips.
"There is no more Procne." he said softly. The silence was overwhelming. He felt claustrophobic. Whistler could sense confusion in their minds.
"There is no more home system." The announcement hung in the quiet air. He felt even more claustrophobic.
"There is no more fleet. The AED was routed, with total casualties of eight billion and rising, from a report by the AED-IC Dawn, currently in orbit over the remains of the system."
"The Procne system was not the only system hit. All other AED systems we're similarily hit, in a concerted attack. None of the orbital garrisons had time to react." He was getting into stride now.
"No survivors were found at any system. Every planet was systematically bombed, then obliterated. All ships were disabled and salvaged, or completely slagged." He sensed that reality was starting to creep into their minds. Shock registered on their faces.
"The higher-up, the Admiral himself, has sent an emergency pulse broadcast to all remaining ships, military or civilian, to meet at this 'backwater colony', and has also sent a galaxy-wide distress call for support and aid. We are to stay here until all ships have rendezvoused at this point, and then we wi-" Alarms suddenly broke the silence. The stationmaster's voice suddenly spoke over the inter-com.
"ALL STATION AND SHIP PERSONNEL, MAN BATTLESTATIONS. RED ALERT. REPEAT, MAN BATTLESTATIONS. LAST REFUGE UNDER ATTACK BY HOSTILE FORCES. STATION UNDER ATTACK BY HOSTILE FORCES. STATION PERSONNEL, PROCEED TO ARMOURIES 'D' AND 'F',PREPARE TO REPEL BOARDERS. MILITARY SHIP PERSONNEL, PROCEED TO YOUR SHIPS AND RENDEZVOUS AT PROJECTED COORDINATES. CIVILIAN SHIP PERSONNEL, MEET AT SECOND SET OF COORDINATES. STATION CONTROL OUT."
The station started to shudder under stress of enemy projectiles. All the crew members in the auditorium immediately broke out of their shock at the news, and turned to Toby for orders. He admired their resilience, but now was not the time for sentiments.
"Yours to command, sir!" Lt. Commander Mahjad said. Every single crewman and woman shouted,
Whistler picked up the reins of command, and a voice amplifier.
"ALRIGHT." His voice thundered in the room. "ALL HANDS MOVE TO YOUR NORMAL STATIONS. SECURE THE SHIP, MAKE SURE SHE'S SEALED TIGHT.
The station rocked from multiple explosions. He felt the thump of station point defense guns return fire. They were getting close. Damn.
"WE'RE PULLING OUT IN THIRTY, TO MEET AT THE CO'ORDS! YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO, PEOPLE! EVERYONE, DUTIES ON THE DOUBLE! MOVE OUT!"
Feet stamped to their positions.
As soon as the Impala went out of the station, hell appeared on the screens. Toby swore. An eighth of Last Refuge's turquoise-and-green surface was already burning, and he could see ships in the distance, friend and foe, duking it out in silence around the entire planet.
It had only been two hours.
"How the hell can they be so fast?" He asked himself.
He didn't want it to end this way. Not like this. It was so quick. In less than a day, the outer perimeter of systems were crushed, and in one day, the inner core AND the homeworld system, Procne. were completely annihilated. This planet was all that was left, unless someone answered their broad-span distress call.
A voice broke his reverie.
"Captain, permission to initiate warp drive?" Mahjad asked. He looked shocked by the speed of the attack.
"Permission granted." he replied. He picked up the SHIPCOM and said, "All hands brace for warp transition. Bridge out."
He felt the warp drive shudder, even though it was five decks away, and the Impala squeezed through the mini-warp formed by the drive. The turquoise-green surface of Last Refuge disappeared from the screen, along with the skirmishes between the orbital garrison and the intruders. Toby sank back in his chair and relaxed. He saw that the invasion force was only medium sized, and before they left he could already see the garrison mopping up the remains. They were lucky this time. The garrison here was suprisingly strong. He looked around and squared up his bridge officers.
Lieutenant Commander Mahjad was his navigation officer. Reliable and diligent, he was the image of military precision and dedication. A military poster boy. Whistler thought he sometimes tried too hard to impress him. He was short and a bit stocky for normal military regulations. He had good reflexes though, and, suprisingly, a fast runner. Mahjad had another navigator under his wing. Their job was making sure the ship didn't bump into anything...unintentionally. Mahjad glanced at him but said nothing.
Lieutenant Patrick was the weapons officer. He was average, nothing special about him. Black hair,normal cut, but with blue eyes. The only surprising trait in him. Some officers who had previously commanded him felt he didn't respect the chain of command, and one particularily nasty CO shaved him down to size and demoted him to lieutenant from first lieutenant. He was trustworthy though. Toby didn't mind his small talk. It kept things from being too dull. Pat had three weapons control tiers under his command; primary, secondary and tertiary.
Primary WEP-COM cared for the "big stick", the "Thermonuclear Mass Router", on the nose of the ship. A nuke was detonated in vacuum, and the ensuing explosion was captured using aerofoam projectors, compressed it to the size of a penny, and hurled it at an enemy ship. Once it hit the ship, the aerofoam field dissipated, and the pent-up energy expanded critically, vapourizing the ship.
Secondary WEP-COM controlled the sixteen torpedo bays on the flanks, top and bottom of the ship, four on each flank, four on the top, and four on the bottom.
Each torpedo packed a punch, but needed to be used en masse to slag a ship.
Tertiary WEP-COM saw to the point-defense guns, half-hidden autocannons on each surface of the ship. There were thirty of them. They slow-fired 100mm vacuum-engineered rounds, and were only used to destroy small to medium fighters. They just annoyed anything larger then that.
Partrick had to manage a lot of tiers, and he had sixty men and women under his command, twenty in each section. Some thought he was too lowly ranked to command such a large group of people. He was oblivious to the captain's scrutiny, and chatted with one of the primary WEP-COM ensigns.
Whistler's engineering officer was First Lieutenant Marisa. She was smart and capable, and was also average in height and weight. She had brown hair and brown eyes. She was perfectly normal. She had a natural knack for command, and that was good, because she had seven tiers of engineering controls under her wing. They were structural, shield, electronics, communications, scanning, propulsion and drive engineering. The names were pretty self-explanatory. Each had ten personnel, so Marisa had seventy ensigns under her command. A mighty task, but she handled it with no problems at all.
She looked up from her screen as if she knew he was thinking about her.
"Something wrong, Captain?" she asked. She looked relaxed, even though battle was approaching.
"No, nothing. Proceed, lieutenant." He felt embarrased, and turned towards his viewscreen. There was still an hour and a half until they exited intergalactic flight.
They had been in transit for nine hours now. The destination was pretty far. He looked up the schematics of the ship, just to kill time.
The Impala was a Shrike-class destroyer, around 1.5 kilometres long, and was built strong. It had a sturdy super-structure, and a formidable arsenal of weapons. It was medium sized, and very maneuverable, in combat and out. Overall, it was an excellent fighting vessel, and the Impala had a full crew of 300. It had seven decks, and the bridge was located on the fourth deck, with the rest of the ship surrounding it, making for good protection of the bridge from attack. Armoured cameras were mounted on regular intervals outside the ship, well-hidden from sight, and it was through these that the bridge crew navigated the ship, and fought enemy ships. Whistler already knew all this, as he had commanded the ship for two years now, with the same crew. He took care of the ship and his crew like they were his children. Toby closed the file. He stood up to stretch his legs.
"Lieutenant Commander Mahjad, you have command of the bridge for now. I'll be around checking on the rest of the ship. Call me when we are about to exit transit."
"Aye, captain." Mahjad replied.
Toby walked off the bridge.
An hour and a half later, happy that his bridge was on par, and working well, he sank back into the captain's chair, and spoke into the SHIPCOM.
"All hands prepare for warp passage exit. Brace. Bridge out."
The Impala jumped once and the deck shook. They had exited successfully. He turned all the ship's cameras on from his post.
"Whoa." he breathed. The rest of the crew stared as well.
The Warsong, the pride of the fallen AED, was Admiral Fargus' flagship. It looked like it had been in battle. Fine laser scars and missile impact craters pock-marked the hull's surface. It was surrounded by dozens of repair crews in EVA suits and repair drones. Also, around three dozen of the mightiest AED ships, the survivors, hovered near the Warsong. The largest ship, the battleship Volengard, was three kilometres long, but the Warsong dwarfed it, a whopping five kilometres long. It was one heck of a threat response fleet, but Toby secretly wondered if they resist such a mighty enemy. The entire battle group was assembled in the middle of nowhere. Stars twinkled, light years away, in the background.
A voice broke his reverie again.
"Captain, the Warsong is hailing us. Priority One channel. Patching to you now." Marisa said. She thanked the communicatons ensign.
Admiral Fargus appeared on the main viewscreen. He had a giant breathing apparatus that looked like a fighter pilot's mask, and a black officer's peaked cap. He wore a black cloak over power armour, and had a silver broadsword and automatic handgun strapped to his belt. He looked intimidating.
"Welcoome to tha' party, Cap'n!" He spoke with a gruff, Scottish-sounding accent.
"We wur joost waitin' fur you! We'll beh pullin' ou' in an hour tae gathar sooplies froom Las' Refooge, then we'll take it tae 'em! Repaers are joost aboot done! Mak' shure yor sheep is raedee fur battle. "
Toby winced and struggled to understand him, and he replied,
"Thank you, Admiral. We will make sure the ship is up to specs." He couldn't think of anything more to say to him. He paused for a second. Fargus spoke quickly.
"Now, now, Cap'n, noo need tae get yur feathurs ruffled! We'll catch thoose basturds with thare pants down, I'll see tae it. Warsong ou'."
The AUD-VID went blank. Toby's face went blank. Admiral Fargus was, by far, THE hardest man to understand on this side of the galaxy. From the looks on his crews' faces, they didn't understand much either.
"Um." he stammered into the SHIPCOM. "...Inspect the ship, make her battle-ready. Bridge out." He spoke to the bridge crew after.
"Lt. Cmdr Mahjad, bring her closer to the battle group. Lt. Patrick, do a weapons check, fix any kinks in the system. I want a report before we leave. First Lt. Marisa,
get your crew to do a diagnostics check on every system. Structure, shields, electronics, scanning, communications, propulsion, drives, everything. Don't pout at me, lieutenant." Marisa sulked at the responsibility. He grinned. "You can do it. I want the report in an hour too." She smiled back and took Patrick with her off the bridge. Mahjad tackled with the controls.
Captain Toby Whistler sank back into his chair and put his feet on the control board.
He stretched and smiled inwardly. In an hour, vengeance would be coming.
TO BE CONTINUED
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