Author : Adam Levey
The pilot, Simon, surveyed the scene of utter devastation all around him. Spent ordinance drifted in the space between thousands of shredded warships, many the size of mountains, with gaping wounds as big as apartment buildings. Ammunition spilled from storage rooms, detonating as it collided with the debris of human achievement. The mighty fleets had been last-ditch efforts by the great powers to end the war decisively. The fact that each side had decided that their secret weapon would simply be larger versions of things that weren’t working as it was really did say it all.
Scraps of hastily retrofitted merchant ships mingled with the purpose-built destroyers and frigates. Old ships recovered from scrapyards, new ones right out of construction bays. Cutting-edge lasers, missiles, rail guns and projectile weapons as old as the idea of interstellar travel itself all blurred together into a mélange of destruction. Many of the gutted wrecks that haphazardly floated past weren’t even equipped with jump drives, they’d needed to be ‘towed’ by the larger vessels. Towing was an unreliable science; ships had up to a 20% chance of being ripped apart by the strain. Still, jump drives were expensive. The comm-channels were dead, Simon had checked. Not even static. Then again, maybe it was his own equipment that was damaged.
Before this battle, there had been many others. Hundreds, certainly, maybe thousands. Ten times as many skirmishes, acts of sabotage and terrorism. Every weapon in humanity’s arsenal had been utilised, from chemical agents to propaganda. There had been plenty of time, after all; a war that lasts centuries leaves plenty of time for experimentation. Resources had run dry, colonies had been bombed into dust, economies and industry were taxed to breaking point. Technology stagnated, except when it came to military hardware. It provided little benefit though, considering how quickly spies were able to get their hands on new discoveries and prototypes, and by the end industry was so deteriorated that advanced technology was impossible to manufacture.
Simon considered the wreckage all around him. So many civilian ships had been pressed into service…perhaps all of them. Most of the original crews had opted to stay with their beloved vessels. The military’s relief was almost palpable, since it wasn’t like they’d have any chance of providing crews; after a war lasts a century (or two, or three), volunteers become difficult to find.
It was hard to be certain, but it seemed like every fleet had fought to the last. There certainly couldn’t be many survivors. The war was probably going to have to be put on hold for a while. It was likely for the best, everyone could do with a breather. Simon smiled sardonically at this thought. Light flared as damaged reactors went critical, and capital ships were ripped apart, blast doors and engines and shield generators pin-wheeling. There was no sound, except the hiss of air escaping through the cracks in his cockpit canopy.
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