It has been a hundred and forty years since Apollo had launched. On board, her crew sleeping safely in suspension while the ship streaked across the barren, fridgid darkness of space. Back in Sol, Earth had slowly been reaching for the stars. Earth's first jumpgate, capable of reaching several light-years made contact with nearby stars possible, bringing systems like Alpha Centauri and Lelande under the control of Humanity. Colony ships were sent, and new planets populated. This expansion, however was soon to be checked in a terrible way.
Seaman Roberts was terrified.
What the hell was going on? The green ships had appeared out of nowhere and had dropped onto Earths Defenses without warning. The orbital cannons had been brought to action stations and the fleet had been called back from Jupiter, but their defense grid was being overwhelmed by the massive firepower of the alien fleet. Roberts looked up from his engineering console in combat information center on the 15th Spoke Orbital Railgun Platform to see what the lieutenant in charge was thinking. He looked panicked too, dumbstruck by the confused chatter on the command frequency that was being piped through the loudspeakers. It was madness:
A panicked squadron commanders called in:
Sir! They just dropped in inside our formation! Theyre coming out of nowhere!
The gruff, instantly recognizable voice of Admiral Greer came on over the loudspeaker:
Son, I need you to calm down! Regroup and retreat to rally point Alpha!
Roberts looked back at his console. The rapid firing of the stations railgun was quickly redlining the cryogenic plant. The station rumbled as took fire. Every second, its orbit took it closer and closer to the enemy battle group and the fleets kill zone. Roberts watched in horror as status readings for the stations armor began to drop precipitously. The station shook again, and the Lieutenant looked at him, eyes wide for a moment.
Roberts! Give me our status.
Roberts looked at the console, considering.
The gun cant maintain this kind of fire for much longer sir, the rail temperatures have been at the redline for the last twenty minutes, and theyre starting to rise again. Ive tried shifting the cryogenic load, but its not helping.
And the damage report?
Weve lost pressure in the ring modules and everything below bravo deck. ring 1 is still structurally sound, but ring two looks like it was knocked off its hinges. Ive tried to stop its spin, but its just tearing away sections, thats why weve lost pressure down there. Itll stop in the next few minutes, but the RCS system is straining to maintain attitude against the torque. I dont know what to do, sir! Theres too much damage to the plate to begin to describe! I dont understand how its possible! I mean what are they shooting us with, sir?
The lieutenant once again looked blank, shaking his head as the station rumbled again. This time the lights went out for a moment and artificial gravity dropped before emergency lighting came on. Roberts tightened his seatbelt.
What happened!? the lieutenant barked.
All around the CIC, the stations reported dropped connections with the rest of the station. Roberts console was running on battery power now, but it couldnt reach any of the other stations. He tried his radio, but got nothing. Over the yelling from the various consoles about dropped connections, Roberts could hear the command channel, still coming through on the loudspeaker:
God Damnit General, Im doing the best I can! Theyre too many of them and our ships just cant seem to touch them!
Another voice, an older man; scared, but composed and insistent:
You cannot let them maintain orbit, Admiral! That last run just wiped out half of Osirus! In twenty minutes theyll be over Europe! You have got to do something!
Greer came back on again:
The Cruisers are engaged in the kill zone, and the fighters dont have the punch to take out those monsters! Were completely committed! Theres nothing more I can do!
Roberts looked around the CIC. Everyone seemed frozen in panic. The chaos of losing power had been superceded by the shock that the station was dead in the water, and then by the realization that worse was happening all around them.
Admiral! I am asking you to retarget the Orbitals on those ships!
And let more of them slip the kill zone? Thats insanity! Theres nothing more I can do up here!
I dont give a damn whats going on up there! If you dont retarget those orbitals, down here itll be the god-damned apocalypse!
Suddenly a tremendous figure pried open one of the access doors and pulled itself into the room. It was over seven feet tall, and clad in black, reflective metal. He was a man, but like nothing any of the crew had ever seen. He pulled himself purposefully to the radio console and grabbed the headset off of the Lieutenant, opening his shiny, reflective faceplate to speak into the microphone.
Admiral, keep the fleet on station. Reinforcements have arrived.
Greer came back on the radio:
Who the hell is this, and what the hell are you talking about! The whole fleet is engaged!
This is Colonel Singh, UNSMC . Ive got all the reinforcements we need. Will advise. Out.
He tossed the headset back to the Lieutenant, closed his visor, and addressed the whole CIC:
"The railgun just blew. The whole engineering section is gone. I need some volunteers: Who here has had vacuum training?"
Roberts instinctively raised his hand, right before remembering that vacuum and zero-g training made him sick to his stomach.
"Good. You're all coming with me."
NEW NAME FOR THE DREADNOUGHT
The Hard-Boiled Egg
Because she cant be beaten!
(This message has been edited by Captain Pharris (edited 07-30-2004).)