Author: J. P. Roquard

Dirk blinked in the bright activity of the bridge. Weapons, comms, dispatch, engineering, even the navigation and FTL stations were active. They were not all needed, but nobody wanted to miss the action. A brilliant planetrise unfolded above them all: the crisp green edge of Lexicon-9, glimmering under an alien sun.
“Paradise,” muttered Dirk.
He shook away the images of wonder that planet held, and set his jaw for the task at hand.
Nobody challenged him, but the scurrying crew silently made it clear what they thought; SciCorp should not be strolling across the Captain’s bridge at a time like this.
Captain Helberg, as always, slouched in his chair, his face a mask of boredom. His passiveness incongruous with so much activity and noise. Dirk knew his boredom was a ruse. Nothing happened on the bridge without Captain Helberg noticing. Even now, in the midst of this action, the Captain monitored every station, every decision.
Dirk spoke quickly before he had time to doubt. “Captain, you must stop this.”
Captain Helberg’s voice came slow and easy when it finally came. “Did I summon SciCorp?”
“You must listen to me. My team did not create the RPD just to see it weaponized. Do you under-”
“Are you aware, Professor, that we are executing an active engagement.”
“A tech test is hardly an engag-”
“Entering the bridge without authorization during active engagement is punishable by court-martial.”
“Captain, the RPD was commissioned with the explicit assurance it would only be used for capturing and mining asteroids. SciCorp will not easily forgive this unauthorised usage.”
The Captain became an inscrutable mask. Surrounding officers stared, faces contorted in contempt, or fear, for Dirk. Sweat trickled down Dirk’s back. Perhaps it was a mistake to be so public in his protests? What would time in the brig do to his career?
The Captain smiled, his face lit up as he chuckled. “My dear Professor, have no fear. I assure you, we are not testing any weapons today.”
The air around Dirk deflated. “You’re not?”
“No, we are not. The population of Lexicon-9 have made it abundantly clear they don’t trust us. Testing weapons in low orbit would be a terrible provocation. Who knows how they would react? No. Nobody in the Admiralty would allow such a stupid mistake.”
“Oh,” was all Dirk could manage. His anger dissipated, leaving him impotent and embarrassed, among all these busy people. “That’s good. But what… what is everyone doing? Why were all the RPD units deployed?”
An insistent beeping cut across the bridge. Everyone fell silent.
“Look,” said Captain Helberg.
A single line of fire streaked across the dark side of Lexicon-9: a shooting star, tracing its beautiful arc across the planet’s night side. It winked out, burned to nothing in the atmosphere. A second line of fire appeared. Then another, and another, brighter this time. A dozen lines danced across the planet, burning through the sky.
The biggest one didn’t streak, it hit the atmosphere with a boom. Dirk couldn’t hear it, obviously, but he could see the shockwaves ripple through the stratosphere. The gigantic ball of rock and ice burst apart, the pieces leaving heavenly columns of fire as they fell to the surface.
“My god,” said Dirk. “But… you said….”
“But nothing,” said Captain Helberg. “I said there was no test, Professor. This is not a test. This is our first, and last, strike against Lexicon-9. Congratulations, you will be remembered forever because of this.”
A thousand lines crisscrossed Lexicon-9, and answering back from the surface, the sprouting of a thousand little mushrooms of fire and dust.