Author : Bob Newbell

Another Ezerfol battle cruiser came in from the inner system and joined the other vessels surrounding the Earth ship. The latter was the UESS Curtis Newton commanded by United Earth Defense Captain Anton Tao. Tao and his crew were wanted by the militaries of both Earth and Ezerfol. The former wanted them for disobeying orders, destroying the Curtis Newton’s hyperwave transponder, and going rogue; the latter for stealing one of the Ezerfol’s most sacred religious relics and somehow destroying 23 starships over seven months that had been scouring the HD 10180 system to retrieve their property.

“I can disable the Earth ship without destroying it,” said the chief weapons officer of the Ezerfol command ship in what to a human would sound like a series of high-pitched screeches.

“No,” replied the captain. “The Artifact has already been sullied by the loathsome touch of alien hands. If we were to damage it ourselves, or even destroy it…”

The captain didn’t need to continue. Simply allowing the religious icon to be stolen in the first place had already placed the fate of the Ezerfol race in the next life in a precarious position. To inflict further indignity on the holy object, it was said, might compromise even making it to the next life. Indeed, the repeated defeat of one ship after another by this one vessel of the technologically inferior human race had been interpreted by more than one religious authority as evidence that the Ezerfol were already under divine censure. Prior to the theft by the Curtis Newton’s crew, every encounter with Earth’s space navy had resulted in a resounding defeat for the humans.

“They are not responding to our hails,” said the communications officer. “Nor am I detecting any attempt by them to contact any other human ship or base by radio, laser, or hyperwave.”

“Captain, the ship seems…dark,” noted the command ship’s executive officer. “There’s no light coming from any of the porthole windows.”

“There!” said the weapons officer. “Their cargo bay doors just opened and something came out! Captain, we have to risk firing on–”

The Ezerfol officer’s recommendation was cut off by the bridge going completely dark. The bridge had viewscreens but no windows. At the same time, the artificial gravity failed. So did life support. It took about 26 hours for all 2,200 Ezerfol on the nine ships to die.

The lights on the Curtis Newton slowly came back up. Even with the few pieces of tech the ship had left safely stowed away in Faraday cages during combat missions, there was always about a day or two of repair work that had to be done by candlelight afterward.

“How long will it take to rig up another EMP bomb, Kelly?” Captain Tao asked his chief engineer.

The woman brushed back her red hair getting a streak of dark grime on her forehead in the process and sighed. “Well, sir, we’ve got enough explosives and a couple of armatures left. But we’re getting low on stator winding. Give me a week and I can have a bomb ready. After the next hit we need to resupply.”

“There’s an Ezerfol supply depot in orbit around this system’s largest gas giant. We’ll hit it next. Take out an important enemy resource and resupply ourselves at the same time. Krishna, how long to get to that planet?”

“Let me find a window facing the right direction and I’ll ask my ‘navigation computer,’ sir,” the officer said with annoyance holding up the antique sextant.

Tao laughed. “To defeat a technologically superior enemy, you have to get primitive.”

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