Author : Scott Summers
At 18:55 Standard, the Breakwater dropped out of superspace above New Tellis and began jettisoning escape pods into the atmosphere. Leaking oxygen and billowing fire, the ship guns rotated on their axis and fired into the empty space overhead. Torpedoes, missiles and railgun shells hurled away from the cruiser, pushing it farther into the planetary gravity well.
Ten seconds after opening gambit, a ripple in the vacuum signaled the arrival of the Talcani cruiser. The ship had intercepted the Breakwater as it went super at the edge of the galaxy. With no place to run, the Breakwater had taken its licks and set a course for the closest defensive system. Jumping into New Tellis orbit was a bold move — one that would lead the Talcani cruiser into the heart of humanity’s presence in the galaxy.
To Commander Mason, it meant one thing: The enemy could not survive this exchange. He watched the enemy cruiser’s engines activate, a sharp burst of ion propulsion meant to correct the ship’s oblong position. It was one of the few advantages they had over the Talcani: for all their advances in weaponry and ship design, they still couldn’t fly worth a damn. They paid dearly for it now as explosions erupted across the cruiser’s backside.
A warning siren sounded from the bridge console.
“Shields!” Mason shouted.
Nearby space wavered before erupting in crystalline blue as Talcani combat beams assaulted the shields. One of the first technologies they had stolen from the enemy still proved their greatest ally in the war that followed.
Mason was beginning to wonder how long the shields would hold when a thick, golden beam — a ray of liquid sunlight — flashed past the bow on a collision course with the enemy cruiser. Planetary defenses. The Talcani pitched to port, still under the Breakwater’s guns, into the blast. Mason watched the cruiser’s portside armor disintegrate.
He had braced for a return volley when the ion thrusters stopped firing.
Mason narrowed his eyes. Talcani never gave up, even in dire straits.
“All crew evacuated, Commander,” someone reported.
“Get to your own pods,” he ordered.
Shadows dashed through the smoke. Mason ignored them. The enemy tactic piqued his curiosity. A warning light on his personal overlay signaled another beam rising from New Tellis.
Suddenly, a soft red glow shimmered around the Talcani cruiser. Mason thought they were prepping for super when he caught the faint outline of a shape.
Realization struck him. Sucking a breath, Mason scrambled for the weapons control panel, punched an override and took aim at the side of the wedge. Missiles and gunfire careened toward the target. The rails hit first, illuminating the shape in full form. Mason swallowed. He had done all he could.
The second golden ray shot past the bow, but instead of shredding the cruiser it split on the wedge. Fragments of the beam sheared the Breakwater’s shield. Metal groaned. Mason felt the hull above him tear away. The force of the vacuum hurled him into silent space, tumbling wildly.
As the cold air crystallized his flesh, Mason was rewarded with a gratifying sight: the missiles impacted at full force, misaligning the wedge, and the remainder of the beam skewered the cruiser through the middle.
His last vision before the vacuum took him was a glimpse of the atmosphere above New Tellis, where two dozen escape pods, glowing like tiny fragments of starlight, made their way toward safety.
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