Authors: Claudia Christian,Morgan Grant Buchanan
Tags: #Babylon 5 short story
“We’re almost there, sir,” her Commander, William Berensen said.
“Ten thousand clicks.”
“Any luck contacting them yet?” she asked. Berensen looked to
Lieutenant Lukas Breck, the communications officer.
“White Star 27, come in. This is the Interstellar Alliance Ship,
” Breck said into his console, “we’re responding to your distress signal. Can you read us?” He shook his head a few seconds later.
“Nothing, sir, just the same message on repeat.” Breck tapped his console and the message broadcast around the bridge.
Under attack from an unknown vessel. We’re suffering heavy casualties.
We are in desperate need of reinforcements! We can’t take this kind of
damage for long.
They’d been en route to Proxima III, ordered to protect transports delivering vital supplies to the colony, when the distress call had come through. The signal originated from deep within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a wasteland of floating space rock, far from jumpgates, space stations or shipping lanes. The big question on Ivanova’s mind was the same one troubling every member of
crew—what kind of an assailant had the power to overwhelm a White Star?
“Have we isolated the location of the signal yet?” Ivanova asked.
“The signal is coming from the other side of Pallas, one of the largest asteroids in the belt,” Breck said. “It’s over 600 kilometers in diameter.
We’re going to have to navigate around dozens of smaller rocks to reach the White Star’s position.“
“We don’t have time,” Ivanova said impatiently. “If there’s a fight going on, we need to be in it. Blast the smaller asteroids and drive right through the rubble. The shields can take it. And put out a call for reinforcements to White Stars 12 and 24. Tell them to divert from their journey to Proxima and get here on the double. If this is a trap, let’s make sure we’ve got our bases covered. We don’t want to end up like White Star 27.”
“Two minutes to contact, sir,” Berensen said.
Ivanova looked at the massive asteroid on the view screen. It was large, like a small moon without many surrounding rocks. She nodded approvingly. This was good, fewer places for an enemy to conceal themselves.
“Activate battle stations. I want Star Furies ready to launch the second I give the order,” Ivanova commanded. “White Star 27 is Captain Hurley’s ship and he’s no pushover. Let’s be ready for anything.”
cannons sparked to life, a half dozen missile bay doors opened, shields hummed as they pushed asteroid rubble out of the ship’s path. Ivanova had the crew run through a rapid system check as they approached, ensuring everything was in perfect order. Every system on a destroyer relied on another. All it took in an armed conflict was for one link in the chain to break, one unexpected malfunction or failure, and the whole ship could be lost. When she first became captain of
Ivanova had sensed the crew’s reluctance to carry out the endless drills she made them run.
“We’re warriors,” she’d explained. “The war is over but each day we’re on patrol we don’t know what we’re going to face. A warrior keeps her weapons sharp and at the ready. This ship is our weapon. We’ll keep her in perfect working order and we’ll get better and faster at doing it.
Do any of you want to die because of a malfunctioning missile port or a poorly serviced Star Fury?”
“No, sir!” they’d replied as one.
“Then carry out your drills efficiently and without complaint. Make
me happy and in return I’ll do my best to keep you alive.”
“We’re coming around the asteroid,” Breck said. “The signal is still transmitting. We should see White Star 27 any second.”
“Slow to cruising speed two hundred clicks out,” Ivanova ordered.
“I want visual confirmation before we go rushing in.”
“There she is, sir,” Berensen said.
The view screen filled with the sight of the hybrid human-Minbari vessel. She hung in space like a broken-winged bird—fire raging within her battered and charred body. It both angered and disturbed Susan to see it like this. A White Star was a thing of beauty and power, and more than that—the White Star fleet was the symbol of the Alliance’s strength, the big stick that allowed President Sheridan to walk softly. If one could be brought down with impunity it made the job of keeping the peace that much harder.
“Try and establish contact again. I want to know what hit them,”
“Still no reply, sir,” Breck said after another attempt. “Just the same message.”
“Life signs?” she asked her science officer, Lieutenant Catlyn Tsai.
“Ten survivors. None of them moving,” Tsai said. And then an
instant later: “Sir! Scans reveal her engines are close to critical. Less than ten minutes before she blows.”
Ivanova understood the urgency in her voice. No one wanted to be near a White Star when its gravimetric engine went nova.
“Any potential threats on the scanners?” she asked Tsai.
“No, sir,” Tsai said. “Attackers could be shielding themselves
behind the asteroid but I’m bouncing signals off a dozen smaller rocks in the immediate vicinity and not picking up anything. Situation reads ‘all clear’, sir.”
“We’ve got nine minutes. Let’s get in there and get the survivors out before she blows.”
She tapped the panel on her console and patched a channel
through to Lieutenant Commander Amelia Graydon, the leader of
Wolf Squadron, her elite Star Fury unit.
“Graydon, you’ve got five minutes to get on board that ship and
clear out all ten survivors. Be ready for anything.”
“Just another day at the office, sir,” Graydon said.
Wolf Squadron was the best of the best, personally trained by
her—still, Ivanova couldn’t shake the feeling something was going to go wrong. She wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there but she had a duty to her allies aboard the White Star.
“Split the scanners between the asteroid and a 500 click radius
” she ordered. “Watch for any localized power surges.
If a ship with enough power to generate its own jump point blips into sight, I want a hundred missiles up its butt before it knows what’s hit it. I don’t want any surprises.”
And then all hell broke loose.
The space before them rippled, a quivering black wave that drove fear into Susan Ivanova’s heart. A cloaked Shadow vessel. Impossible. There were no more Shadow vessels. They had left the galaxy for good. The ripple cleared revealing a massive EarthForce destroyer—black skin like a Shadow vessel, spines protruding from the forward and aft hull. Advanced Omega-class—an Earth-made ship integrated with Shadow technology.
This was the first one she’d ever seen with cloaking technology. She thought they’d wiped them all out during the war. She cursed beneath her breath. You could only prepare for potential threats based on best information. How could you prepare for something like this?
“Two more at 6 o’clock, sir!” Tsai called out.
“We’re trapped front and rear by the enemy and aft by the asteroid,”
Berensen said. “Only portside is clear.”
“Damn it!” Ivanova exclaimed. “If we take the only visible line of retreat they’ll target our flank and break through our shields in seconds.”
She turned to Breck. “We need a half-dozen White Stars. Right now!”
Ivanova had fought Advanced Omega-class once before. Then she’d
had a fleet of White Stars at her disposal; she knew she couldn’t take all three on her own.
“Communications are being jammed, Captain,” Breck replied.
No surprise there
, she thought. At least she’d sent for backup.
Another two White Stars would help balance the odds. All she had to do now was survive long enough for them reach her.
Suddenly, the first Omega-class fired its primary beam weapon, not at her ship but right into the heart of the stranded White Star.
“Full power to shields!” Ivanova called as the White Star went
nova. A rapidly expanding ball of intense, bright radiation surged towards them. It only took a split second for the ten survivors and Wolf Squadron to be annihilated.
was thrown sideways, towards the asteroid. The impact hammered their shields, collapsing a third of Titans’ deck under the sudden wave of pressure. Half the systems on the bridge flickered and died, Breck’s console suddenly exploded throwing him back out of his chair.
“Shields at ten percent,” Berensen called. “Rear ships have targeted our jump engines. We can’t open a jumpgate.”
The Shadow tech destroyers were closing in, attempting to trap
them against the asteroid.
“Open fire on the ship in front!” Ivanova commanded. “Everything we’ve got! Don’t give the bastards one single inch.”
burst into action, a hive of activity as missiles, cannons and railguns let loose.
“We’re hammering them,” Berensen said, “but we’re taking heavy
damage to our rear shields. We’ll be dead by the time we break through their defenses.”
“Dammit, use the asteroid!” Ivanova ordered. “If we fly close it’ll give us some cover. Keep targeting the ship in front. I want it out of the game.”
moved in even closer to the asteroid, hugging the rough spherical form. The incoming fire to their tail dropped off as the other
two ships struggled to reposition themselves for a clear shot.
“Deploy remaining Star Fury squadrons. Get them in the face of
the ships behind us. High maneuverability. No direct assault. We need a distraction.”
“Star Furies deployed,” Berensen confirmed.
Ivanova checked the sensor readout on her display. The Omega-
class ships were maneuvering with incredible, intuitive dexterity, much more effectively than any she’d seen during the war. The only ships she’d seen with that kind of ability had been full-size Shadow vessels.
Telepaths. These prototypes don’t just have Shadow tech, they’ve got
telepaths integrated with their systems.
“Fire the engines, full speed ahead. All remaining power to the
particle cannon. Target the cargo bays of the destroyer in front of us.
They’ve got a telepath in deep freeze plugged into each ship. Take out the telepaths and we put the ships out of commission!”
“Taking heavy hits in the exchange of fire. Our shields at five
percent, sir,” Berensen said, “but we’ve almost breached its defenses.”
“Cease fire. All power to engines. Full speed ahead.”
Ivanova knew every inch of her ship, exactly where she could push to get results, and right now her shields were her greatest weapon.
“We’re ramming them, sir?” Berensen asked.
“No, we’re going to cut right through them. Tell the Star Furies to get clear. A hundred click blast radius. Cut engines. All power to shields. Brace for impact,” Ivanova ordered.
hit the Omega-class full force, breaching the black ship’s shields, cutting into its already weakened skeleton. The impact shook
with violent tremors. For the first time in a long time Susan Ivanova prayed.
Please God, let us live. Let this work.
The viewscreen went black, panels on the deck started exploding, a ceiling section caved in. The ship lurched and Ivanova was suddenly
thrown from her chair, her head colliding with the railing in front of her. She struggled to her feet, trying to clear her head. And then the viewscreen cleared and they were facing the vastness of space, free of the enemy ship.
“Full power to engines. Get us clear.”
The explosion that followed nearly knocked her from her feet again.
“We’ve cleared the destroyer’s explosion,” Berensen said, “I’ve got no power reserves though. Primary engines are down. We’re at cruising speed with the gravitic engines until we can conduct repairs.”
“The two destroyers behind us took the brunt of the blast,” Tsai said, “but they’re still functional. They’ll be on us again in under thirty seconds.”
“Get us moving! Full retreat until backup arrives!” Ivanova ordered.
She turned to Tsai. “Run diagnostics. I want to know what’s still functioning.”
Berensen jumped into Lieutenant Breck’s seat and checked the display.
“I’m receiving conflicting information here Captain,” he said. “Just before the attack a localized power surge disrupted our outgoing signal.
The message for reinforcements wasn’t sent.”
“How can that be?” Ivanova replied. “You said ‘localized’? What’s the point of origin?”
“Deck 7, sir.”
“Sir, we’ve got no shields,” Tsai said. “Engines will take two days to repair. We’ve got four functioning missile bays, one heavy railgun and two light pulse cannons operational.”
Another blast shook
“That’s a direct hit, sir.
Ivanova looked around at her command crew. They were beaten
and bloody, but not defeated. Not yet.
“Get the Star Furies back on the destroyers. Target them with any firepower we’ve got left. Buy me time.”
“Time for what?”