Elder of the Conclave

(a short little scene I wrote while brainstorming a science fiction setting)

The Gorgon Fleet was making another run at the warp gate.

This would be their third run within the last year.

“We have firing solutions locked in on all hostiles,” called the primary fire control officer.

Balur nodded, watching the tracking data on his display, scratching the fur at his neck. His heart was racing. He wasn’t nervous exactly, that would be the wrong word. He wasn’t sure what he was. The Gorgon Fleet was small, and they’d spent too much of their strength on the last two runs at the gate. The local guard fleet was more than enough to take on the human vagrants even at their peak a year ago. They were at barely more than half that strength now. At this point, the first salvo was likely to sink or cripple half of the oncoming ships. After that, it would just be a matter of rounding up and boarding what little remained of the Gorgon Fleet.

This would be their last run at the gate.

These were all their large ones. Their smaller ships hadn’t had the speed to escape Balur’s sailors after the previous run. These were fat, unwieldy Oshev transports, refitted to carry guns and launch torpedoes, but the inside would be lined with hundreds of civilians.

Accelerator rounds wouldn’t discriminate between vagrant soldiers and civilians.

Balur tilted his head to speak to his MP, “Any response to our broadcast?”

“Nothing yet,” it replied.

“Keep trying,” Balur replied. He had hoped to avoid this fight. For the last two weeks he had been broadcasting a compromise, offering the vagrant fleet access to the warp gate if they would simply disarm and submit to an inspection.

They would never consent to that. Everyone knew this, but Balur had dared to hope.

He’d communicated his reservations to Rymus, and the response had been the worst possible one he could imagine.

Not an order to stand down and let the vagrant fleet run the gate, leaving them to raid and pillage wherever they ended up. A horrid thought, but at least it would be somebody else’s problem then.

Nor had they insisted he engage, murdering civilians and pirates alike, just to keep the Gorgon Fleet away from the warp gate.

Instead, Rymus had responded that the decision was his. If he chose to engage, or let them pass, the Conclave would stand by his decision.

“Coming into optimal range now,” fire control updated.

They looked to him, waiting for their order.

“Accelerator fire incoming,” he was informed. Moments later, he could hear the hull of his ship rattle with the impact of small caliber accelerator rounds.

“Torpedos incoming.”

Balur grimaced. At this range, none of those torpedoes would make it through his fleet’s countermeasures. Somebody had panicked and fired too early.

He couldn’t just ignore the launch of a torpedo though; couldn’t let it go unanswered.

It appeared, to Balur, that at least one vagrant captain had made the decision for him.

“Target the ship that just launched. Open fi-” He started, but was cut off by a sudden shifting of gravity, throwing him and rest of the crew into their harnesses with tremendous force.

“New contact!” the sensor AI pushed to all stations, “Behind!”

“Gate activation?” Balur’s political officer asked?

“Negative,” the operator scrambled, racing the sensor AI for a conclusion, “A Verid Citadel just emerged from a space-time tear. It’s pulling the fleet in. Multiple collision detected..”

“Confirmed. The Ormarom reports significant hull breach,” the comms officer called out as the notifications began to fill their displays, “The Dukova, Merovingian, and s’Kaz are sunk. Crews are abandoning.”

“Signal that citadel, get me their commander,” Balur navigated through the distress signals, acutely aware that there were still torpedoes incoming and his fleet might no longer be able to stop them.

“No response,” the comms officer replied a moment later.

“Citadel is moving. Trajectory suggests they’re establishing an orbit around the star,” the sensor AI reported, pushing the projected path to Balur’s display.

“Forget the citadel,” Baldur shouted, “Tell me if we’ve got defensive coverage for the fleet, and what’s the eta on those torpedoes?”

“The space-time tear hasn’t fully closed, commander,” the sensor operator responded, “Most of our ships are still righting themselves.”

“We need that data, sailor,” was all Balur said.

It took a moment to get defensive data from the scattered fleet, but eventually the data was pushed to officers’ displays, “It appears at least two torpedoes are likely to get through…in sixty seconds.”

“Commander,” his MP piped up, “I’ve been monitoring vagrant transmissions as you requested, and ship’s sensors are picking up a lot of transmissions from the Gorgon Fleet… combat coded… looks like they are trying to push new targeting orders to the torpedoes…I don’t think it’s working.”

Balur looked over to the sensor operator, who was still trying to coordinate with fire control to account for the gravitational forces of the space-time tear. Balur pushed the MP’s data to the deputy’s station, asking for confirmation.

“Confirmed,” the deputy sensor operator pushed new data back, “Torpedo is off course, and is failing to adjust to new gravitational forces from the tear.”

Balur looked closely at the trajectory of the torpedo, skewed by the distortion in space-time left by the citadel. It would miss his fleet entirely at this rate, zipping right past them into…

His ship shuddered as point defense systems began firing at every other torpedo, ignoring the one that seemed to pose no threat. “Fire-control! Retarget point defenses! Stop that torpedo!”

He pushed the trajectory to fire control.

He heard a scramble of shouting and clacking of buttons, barking of orders from the senior fire control officer.

He saw the targeting system acquire the torpedo, and the digital trail of accelerator rounds as his ship resume firing, but the point defense systems were having their own trouble accounting for the shifting gravity around the space-time tear.

Balur watched in horror as the salvo failed to connect, the torpedo arced around his hobbled fleet, headed right for the warp gate. It weaved around the fire of the gate’s own point defense systems. Then that area of the screen was consumed in the burst of the torpedos high energy yield as it detonated against the inner ring of the gate. Then his screen was filled with alerts.

“Prepare for-” But once again he was cut off, as the debris from the cascade of explosions around the warp gate hit his ship, ripping the hull to shreds.

 

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