To Live And Die In StarLight

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by William J. Wilson

Location: Near The Moon's L-4 point

“Lieutenant Armel, what do we have left?”

On a normal day, Lieutenant Commander Larssen, Captain of the HCS (High Colonial Ship) Korona, would have not been so urgent in her question.  This day was far from normal; it was day three of a battle between Earth's forces and the High Colonial Rebel fleet.  The largest battle to date in the civil war would now be added to their ship's record – if they survived.

It had been almost six years since the war started. That was when the colonies on Earth's Moon revolted against the Air Tax.  The Governing body of Earth, ruled by their NOPL (New Order of the Promised Land) doctrine, felt that living off of Earth was a transgression against God.  It didn't matter that Earth's hungry billions relied upon colonial support for resources.  The government kept that information hid from the populace, maintaining the image of being the “All-Providing Prophets.” 

NOPL, in its divine wisdom, sent marines to the Moon's largest city, New Kiev, and depopulated it.  740,000 exposed to space the hard way.  The shock of this action sent all of the other worlds in the Sol System – the High Colonies – into revolt.

The revolt didn't go well.  NOPL forces recaptured the inner planets and were moving into the Jovian and Saturnian moons.  The rebellion might have been crushed if it weren't for the wisdom of a former Martian businesswoman-turned-admiral, Katrina Mendoza.  She, along with help from Heinrick's Claim – an extra-solar colony world orbiting the star Sirius – helped to turn the tide of the war in the Rebel's favor.  Her actions led the massive multi-colony fleet to this confrontation: the bulk of their fleet against what NOPL could muster.  They were outnumbered three to one, but they had Admiral Mendoza.

The first two days of the battle, being fought near Trotsky Shipyards – the largest array of shipyards at The Moon's L-4 point – were a grueling display of absolute brutality.  The Earth forces, governed by their NOPL doctrine, would neither give nor accept quarter.  These shipyards were the only yards available to Earth, as no such facilities existed on the planet anymore.  If Earth lost these yards, the planet would no longer be able to continue their aggression against the rebelling High Colonies.  Their fury and tenacity would be unrelenting.

Larssen's ship, the Korona, was a2000 cubic metermissile destroyer.  Her main weaponry were the munitions she could deploy: from small-class anti-frigate missiles to heavy anti-battlecruiser torpedoes.  The only “guns” she had were short-ranged anti-fighter/missile lasers.  Her mission profile was to be in the rear-guard, striking with the long-range missiles.  In battle, however, things never go to plan.  Admiral Mendoza's tactics, however, were superior.  The way she maneuvered the fleet around NOPL forces was like a dancer around a stage.  After three days of near-continuous fighting, pausing only for a few hours to regroup and rearm however the ships could, everyone was bleeding.

The Korona herselfwas bleeding badly.  During the latest engagement with the enemy, she suffered wave after wave of fighter squadrons which her wing fought off desperately.  The Korona was fortuitous in one way by being the only ship in her wing still active in the fight.  How active she was, Captain Larssen was trying to ascertain. 

“Lieutenant Armel, respond!” Larssen repeated.

“Damage reports coming in,” Armel finally responded.  “Missile batteries one through five are out of commission without dry-dock.  Six through eight are being repaired now.  Nine and ten are online.”

“What about propulsion?”

“Plasma thrusters are online, but we lost much of our propellant fuel.  I estimate we have only about 17 thrust-hours left.  Reactor is back online.  Battery cells are still okay.  I do not have the data for Life Support yet.”

“Very well,” Larssen said, resigned, “keep me posted.”

“Aye, Ma'am.”

“Mr. Fry,” Larssen turned her attention to her Weapons Officer, “what do we have in the remaining tubes?”

“We have Mark-2's in Battery Nine, Mark-5's in Battery Ten, Ma'am,” Fry responded.

Larssen visibly showed a glimmer of hope at this news.  Even though they were badly crippled, they were far from spent.

“We also have six remaining Mark-6 missiles and two Mark-10 torpedo loads in the magazine left,” Fry continued.

“Even better!” Larssen exclaimed.  “Fry, prepare the Mark-10's for loading!  Helmsman MacAuley, Plot me a course that will get us in range of the cruisers!”

“Aye aye, Ma'am,” MacAuley replied.  “plotting an intercept course to --”

A white flash appeared at the Two-O'-Clock position on the view screen relative to the ship's bow – towards the region of the flagships. 

“Sensor Ops!” Larssen yelled, “What was that?!”

Sensor Operator Sashti looked back at the Skipper with a pale look on her face.

“Skipper, I believe it was the Gate.”

The Lieutenant Commander balked at the reply.  The Tannhäuser Gate was THE flagship of the Rebel fleet, Admiral Mendoza's personal ship. If that explosion was her battleship…

“Sensors,” Larssen was visibly shaken.  “FULL SCAN!  GIVE ME CONFIRMATION NOW!!”

“Confirmed, Ma'am.  It was the Gate.”

The last attack on her must have hit a munitions magazine.  The ship became a star – for a few moments – then only black.

Larssen stopped straining against her seat straps.  She was not even thinking about the fact that, if the restraints were suddenly released, her legs would've slammed her into the bulkhead in the weightless environment.  She quickly recovered her composure – and her resolve.

“MacAuley,” She ordered, “continue my last order.  Give me a vector!”

“Aye, Ma'am,” MacAuley replied.  “Applying full acceleration!”

The admiral may be dead, but the battle was far from over.

The Korona thrusted forward toward the NOPL core fleet.  Her thrusters were capable of 4-G acceleration and she was using it.  Her remaining missile ports were opened and ready to launch.

“Skipper,” Ensign Fry reported, “Damage Control reports Missile Tubes Six through Eight are online!”

“Excellent!” Larssen exclaimed, “Load Six and Seven with Mark-6's.  Load Eight with remaining Mark-10's!”

“Aye, Ma'am.  Weapons report it will take ten minutes for reload.”

“Good.  In the meantime, Ensign, give me a firing solution.  Give me something to shoot!”

“Aye, Ma'am.  I think I have successfully targeted one of their carriers.  Looks like a 20,000-tonner.  Plotting firing solution now.”

“Helm,” Larssen ordered, “Cut acceleration!  Orient ship for a missile run!”

The Korona cut her thrusters, putting the crew back to micro-gravity.

Ensign Fry worked feverishly at his console.  The readout indicated that he had a strong fix on the carrier's position.  His console reported the Mark-5's ready to fire.

“Skipper,” Fry reported, “I have a firing solution on the carrier.  Mark-5's ready to go.”

“What about the heavies?” Larssen asked.

“Still have about four minutes before load completion.”

“Damn!  This firing solution will not last.  FIRE!”

An array of missiles spit out of the Korona.  They blazed across space in a streak of fire at maximum velocity.  The NOPL carrier – the 20,000 cubic meter Apostle – started to fire its anti-missile batteries.  Half of the missiles were blasted by the laser fire; the other half made it to firing range.  The warheads exploded, the energy from the explosions pumped the generators and fired their coherently-focused X-ray beams at the target microseconds before the explosions consumed them.  The hull of the Apostle ruptured, subsystems being vaporized by the beams.

“Considerable damage to the carrier,” Fry reported to the Skipper, “Her engins are cooling down,[9] [10]  but power is still registering.”

“Do we still have a firing solution?”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

“We have anything left?”

“Not yet, Skipper.  The tubes will take another 10 minutes to reload and we only have the Mark-2's and they might not be able to cause much damage to.... wait... Ma'am, Weapons reports the 6's and 10's are loaded now!”

“FIRE THE 6's!!!!”

The Mark-6 missiles were not X-beam pumpers; their warheads contained high-yield fusion warheads, as did all of the High Colony's missiles above Mark-5.  This time, however, the Apostle's lasers did not fire.  The missiles detonated without interference.

The Apostle flashed in an astounding series of white star-like blazes that almost matched the Gate's magnitude.  Almost.

“Ma'am!” Fry exclaimed.  “The 1st Commandment is in range!”

The 1st Commandment was NOPL's flagship.  Her 35,000cubic meterhull could not be mistaken.  She showed signs of extreme battle damage, like every other ship in the battle, but she was far from out of the fight – just like the Korona.

“Fry, tell me you have the 10's prepared.”

“Yes, Ma'am.  Firing solution being plotted now.”

“Very well, you may fire when ready.”

“Aye, Ma'am.  Solution imminent... correcting... There!  Firing!”

The Mark-10's flew out and traveled to their destination.  Anti-laser fire started to work, then stopped.  NOPL fighters, which originally seemed to be on intercept vectors toward the Rebel fleet, suddenly changed course....

“Sensor Ops, plot the fighters' vector!”

 SO Sashti acknowledged the order and started computing.

“Ma'am,” she replied, “they look like they're going for the missiles!”

And after them they went.  If the fighters couldn't shoot them down, they rammed them with their craft.  None of the missiles managed to reach their target.

“Weapons, RELOAD NOW!!”

The Korona frantically reloaded her Mark-10's, her last load of the heavies.  The Captain of the Korona decided to make a fateful decision.

“Helm,” Larssen ordered, “set a course toward the Commandment, maximum thrust.”

“Ma'am?” the Helmsman asked.

“You heard me, FULL THRUST!  Get us right up the Commandment's nose!”

“Aye, Ma'am,” MacAuley replied.

The Korona thrusted forward.  During the eternity between missile loadings, the ship sped toward her destination.  Remaining fighters vectored in.  Korona's defense lasers came to life.  A NOPL missile frigate launched her ordinance at her, and was pulverized in return by the remaining Mark-2 load.  The Korona made her way toward the Commandment and was right inside the anti-missile laser range when her thrusters were vaporized.

“Captain, this is Engineering, Armel here,” The Engineer's face was on the vidscren.  “We lost power to thrusters.  That last blast lost us our fuel so, even if I can get the thrusters online, the point is moot.”

“Do we have any power at all?”  Larssen asked.

“I have re-routed power to weapons.  You have enough for one shot.”

“That's enough.  Weapons, THE KITCHEN SINK!  EVERYTHING WE'VE GOT!!”

The Korona launched whatever missiles she had.  Her lasers fired as well.  The Commandment started to rupture.  Her reactor, however didn't flash, as it wasn't fission-based; the hull just went dark.

That was for the Admiral, Larssen thought to herself, Katrina, that one was for you...

Lieutenant MacAuley looked at her Skipper.  “Ma'am, we have no power other than the emergency batteries.  What can we do?”

All the eyes of the bridge were on the Captain.  Lieutenant Commander Larssen was about to speak when the Communications Officer, Petty Officer Sweeny, spoke up.

“Skipper,” Sweeny said, “we have an incoming transmission from the Mjölnir.”

The  HSS (Heinrick Space Ship) Mjölnir was a 25,000 cubic meter battlecruiser from Heinrick's Claim.    Her Captain, Commodore Agnetha Trygstad, was one of the first officers of Heinrick's Claim's Navy that spoke in favor of war with Earth to the government.

“Put them on,” Larssen said.

The speaker in Larssen's helmet relayed the transmission:

“To HCS Korona, this is the HSS Mjölnir.  Repeat: this is the HSS Mjölnir.  We are aware of your status.  We are matching vectors and will deploy grappling protocols when in range.  How is your life support?”

“Roger, Mjölnir,” Larssen replied, “Life support holding on battery power.  We have about three and one-half hours left before batteries give out.”

“Understood, Korona, we should be in a rendezvous point within two hours.  Prepare crew for evacuation.”

“Roger, Mjölnir.  Standing by.”

“I do not know what you or your crew are aware of, Captain, but, for the record, the remaining NOPL forces are out of commission.  It looks like the remaining ships shut off their life support systems and killed their crews before they could be boarded and captured.  It's incredible.  We are trying to ascertain the reason for this. 

“Anyways, the battle is over; we have taken the shipyards.  NOPL will have quite a problem now engaging our fleets.  You and your crew served with honor.  When you come on-board, and your crew are taken care of, you will be officially debriefed.  Mjölnir out.”

“Understood.  Thank you.  Korona out.”

Lieutenant Larssen relaxed in her command chair.  The Korona was in no shape to re-pump the atmosphere into the compartments; the crew would have to stay in their spacesuits for the time being until the rescue.  She hoped the Korona could be saved.  If not, she would always remember the ship, and her crew, with pride. 

She didn't know what would lie ahead in the war, as it still seemed to be far from over, but she hoped that nothing else would compare to what they went through over the past three days.  No matter what, she thought to herself, we will meet whatever comes next for us.