The small fleet of ships streaked out of hyperspace, with the Barbados and another ship, EFS Juno out in front, protecting the six transports that trailed close behind. They were a good distance from the planet, but still within visual range, because moving unarmed transports close to a defended enemy planet was suicidal.
Evans called for the Juno to be hailed. The computer beeped, and the face of a woman appeared on the view screen. She was young for a starship captain, in her early thirties, but her rigid posture communicated the experience she had in commanding her ship. "Captain...Radison, is it?" Evans asked.
Pushing her black hair out of her eyes, she replied, "Yes, Admiral, Cassandra Radison. What is it?"
"I have a bad feeling about this," Evans replied. "I need you to move closer to the planet and scan for ships. Be careful, though, I think we're going to have quite a fight on our hands."
"But Admiral Evans," Cassandra replied, annoyed, "if I break formation, the trans ports will be vulnerable. I'm sorry, but I won't endanger three million soldiers just because you have a hunch." Just as she finished speaking, navigator spoke up.
"Admiral, I'm reading a ship coming from behind the ssstar...it looks like...my god, it's a capital ship!"
Evans couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What the hell? Put it up on-screen."
Cassandra's image shrank to a smaller size at the corner of the screen, and a close-up image of the mysterious ship took a prominent position. As it slowly emerged from behind the star, Evans could see its design: a teardrop-shaped bridge, connected to a long hull that looked like the carapice of an insect. Korxian ships don't look like that,Evans thought, Thalan ships do...but it's painted with korxian colors.
As the ship finally passed by the huge green star, it slowly turned and began to advance toword the Barbados. "Hail them," Evans said to his comm officer.
"No response," he said grimly.
"Again, increase priority." Evans replied, sweat trickling down his back.
"Still no response," the comm officer said.
Cassandra spoke next. "Admiral, we've scanned thier ship. It's crewed by Korx...and they're charging thier weapons."
"It's too dangerous here, Cassandra. Escort the transports as far away as you can, then jump to hyperspace."
"With all due respect, Admiral, this is your first time taking on a capital ship. you need all the help..."
Evans cut her off. "With all due respect CAPTAIN, I outrank you, and deliberatly disobeying a higher-ranking officer is a court-marshal offence. You can take your chances with a military court, but remember, I'll be filing the report."
Cassandra was silent for a moment, then gave a heavy sigh. "Understood, I'll escort the transports out of here." She looked at Evans her eyes quizical and sad. Saluting, she said "Good luck," and closed transmission. The Juno turned around and flew towords the transports, which also about-faced and followed it.
Evans turned to Herenedes, the gunnery officer. "Go to tactical alert, I need our cannons ready to fire yesterday, and target that ship." Saluting, Hernendes followed the orders. "We have to keep them away from the transports. Approach them head-on at maximum speed. We're gonna play a little game of Chicken." The Barbados turned and knifed towards the enemy ship as it weapond charged. Suddenly, the three huge cannons on the Korxian ship flashed green and spat out a cloud of glowing projectiles, each the size of a small car.
Someone shouted, "Mass drivers closing, ten seconds!"
"Increase power to forward hull-plating, and target thier bridge!" Evans shouted, as the cloud of glowing metal slammed into his ship. Ther was an enormous crash like a giant hammer slamming against a shield, and the ship shook as if it were in an earthquake. Sparks poured from some computers, and some cremembers were were thrown from thier seats.
"Breaches on Decks B through E, they're reporting casualties, and we're venting atmosphere," said Hernendes.
"Seal emergency bulkheads, and dispatch medical teams." Evans replied.
"Sir, the plasma cannons are online!" Hernendes shouted.
"FIRE, maximum yeild, and target their bridge!" Evans screamed.
There was a flash, and two glowing streams of purple light streamed out of the cannons toword the Korxian ship, striking it and cutting a long swath as the Barbados passed over it. "Turn around and target ther engines!" Evans shouted, already drenched in sweat. The Barbados wheeled around and saw that the enemy ship was making an ascending right turn, leaving a faint white ion trail in its wake. Again, the plasma cannons fired, striking one of the ship's eninges. There was a small explosion, and the debris scattered everywhere, som scratching the hull of the ship it used to be attached to. The enemy ship, still in its turn, fired annother barrage of mass drivers. They slammed into the Barbados, and a muffled explosion could be heard.
"They've taken out our starboard engine, port is at eighty percent." Methesisus, the navigator said.
"Increase power to aft hull plating, and target their weapons!" Evans said, worried. Again, chasing its prey, the Barbados fired its plasma cannons, and they struck one of the mass drivers located at the aft of the ship, which exploded in a brilliant fireball. When the explosion faded, there was a huge hole in the hull of the enemy ship. Air was leaking out of it, as well as smoke.
"Admiral, that last blast took out a lot of theur hull plating, I think I can target thier reactor." Hernendes said, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"Exelent, do it, and as soon as you do, fire so we can finally kill the bastards." Evans said as he gripped his chair's armrests. The enemy ship was no longer in an ascending turn, it was diving away from the Barbados, trailing smoke and debris.
"I've got a lock on thier reactor!" Hernendes shouted.
"FIRE NOW!!" Evans shouted and once more, the two purple streams of energy shot towards the enemy ship. Time seemed to slow as they struck the reactor, igniting a huge explosion in the aft of the ship, which sent the remainder spinning out of control, burning violontly in the vacuum of space. Escape pods shot away from the twisted hulk as it was consumed by small explosions and it tumbled uncontrollably. Finally, the wereckage exploded in an enormous fireball, spewing debris in all directions. A sigh of relief ran through the bridge. Shuddering, Evans turned to Hernendes and said, "Damage report."
"Bow hull plating at ninety percent; stern hull plating at...seventy percent. Starbord engine is beyond repair, port engine at eighty percent; breaches on decks B through E, and..." Hernendes grimaced. "Twenty crewmembers and one Marine dead, sir."
The entire bridge was already quiet, but now it was almost unnaturally silent.
Evans was quiet for a moment. "What about those Korx escape pods?"
"Several were destroyed in the explosion, but I'm getting some life-signs," Hernendes responed.
"Save as many as you can, and have all medical bays standing by and move a detachment of Marines into the launch bay," Evans replied.
Evans looked out into space at the debris of the ruined Korxian ship. How did the Korx get a Thalan ship? he thought. And more important, how did the Thalans develop a capital ship in the first place?