TWELVE YEARS AGO. BATTLE CRUISER RESOLUTION IN ORBIT OVER KODOS SEVEN.
Commander Karen Liviana ignored the searing pain from her exposed and burned left shoulder and kept her eyes on the viewing screen in front of her. Her long, disheveled ginger-red hair was partially obstructing her view, but she could see enough. The Alkieh warship Ymdar was unscathed before them. It had fired only seconds before without warning. That unexpected — and cowardly, in Liviana’s opinion — first strike had breached their hull mid-ship, disabled the Resolution’s Jump Drive, and murdered one-third of the six-hundred-and-twenty-member crew. The air was acrid from short-circuited wiring and debris-blocked ventilation ducts. The Captain was being taken to Medical, mortally injured from shrapnel. She didn’t expect him to survive. Without Jump Drive, they couldn’t run. And the rest of the fleet was engaged with their Alkieh counterparts, so the Resolution was on its own. They had to fight. But she knew so little about their enemy’s technology, it made tactical response challenging at best.
“The Captain of the Ymdar is offering us two options, Commander: honorable surrender or honorable death by combat. They have given us five minutes to respond.”
She turned her head to look at the burly man who spoke, Tactical Officer Lieutenant Moses Pinius, at the weapons console behind her.
“How generous,” Liviana said in disgust. “Is the hull polarized now?”
“Yes, Commander, but only at sixty-eight percent effectiveness,” he replied. “However, weapons batteries are fully charged and ready, as are proton warheads.”
“Good,” Liviana said. Then she punched her fist down on the captain’s chair communications panel. “Engineering: Chief, I need a status report.”
The background noises, including the hissing of broken conduits and crackling from damaged machinery, made it difficult to hear Lieutenant Commander Maximillian Flavius. When Liviana asked him to repeat what he said, he responded much louder in his deep, gravelly voice.
“Commander, it’s bad! I can give you full speed now, but no long-range jumps.”
“Whatever you do, you’ll have to do it fast. We’ll have full power for about fifteen more minutes. Then we’re on backup only, and you know what that means.”
She knew. Backup power would only keep life support, lights, and station-keeping thrusters functional. If the enemy still had weapons, they’d be as good as dead.
Then an idea popped into her mind.
“What about micro-jumps?” she asked the engineer. “Can you jump us into the Alkieh vessel?”
There was a long moment’s silence from the Chief Engineer.
“Yes, Commander,” the engineer stressed. “In our current state, we can execute one micro-jump.”
“I need two, Chief: one to get us there and one to get away,” Liviana ordered. “Just do it.”
If they didn’t make two jumps, Liviana knew this was going to be a suicide run. And she owed the crew more than that.
A shorter silence followed.
“Yes, Commander,” the engineer conceded. “I’ll tie in the backups. That will give us enough power for two micro-jumps.”
“Make it happen, Chief,” Liviana added.
She appraised the Alkieh vessel before her on the screen. It had a sleek, almost glistening, turquoise-colored hull. It was smaller than the Resolution. It reminded her of a falcon. But in the Resolution’s current state, the Ymdar was faster and better armed. She couldn’t underestimate them.
“The enemy is waiting for our response to either surrender or fight,” the Commander said with a grim smile. “Let’s give them one. Helm, full speed the way we came.”
“Yes, Commander,” the Helmsman responded. “Heading out of the system at full speed.”
Liviana could feel the movement of the ship. The engines were being pushed beyond their current capacity. The sickly feeling in her stomach confirmed that the stabilizers were straining to compensate. But Liviana knew what the Resolution was capable of.
The Helmsman, Lieutenant Luke Merab, was already impressing her with his evasive maneuvering of the ship, but she knew that couldn’t last. The Ymdar would lock onto them at any second. Any more damage could compromise this whole plan.
“Tactical, I need full hull polarization for the next thirty seconds. Arm four proton warheads. Set them for manual release, five-second detonation delay,” Liviana demanded.
“Yes, Commander,” Plinius replied.
That would give them the best chance of surviving the initial impact, remaining functional to carry out the rest of her plan.
It was a desperate idea, she thought, given the reduction in the Resolution’s propulsion capabilities. What she was considering was beyond foolhardy. Actually, it would be considered insane by other commanders. But it was the only move the enemy couldn’t possibly anticipate or counter.
“As soon as we complete Jump One, drop the warheads!” Liviana shouted. “Engineering, I need that first jump now! Immediate Jump Two on impact!”
The next four seconds were complete chaos.
The familiar sensation of a gradual engine build-up and forward momentum surge was replaced with a savage blink, explosions, and screams. Metal was grinding against metal. Then there was a succession of sounds as the proton warheads exited their deployment tubes: Thunk, Thunk, Thunk, Thunk. By now, they were locked to the Ymdar’s hull. Another blink was followed by a whirlwind of motion, noise, and pain.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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