The Gathering Storm
The battle was going to Hell at a staggering
Potemkin had managed to pull his forces back to Terra III
with minimal losses – the Ithkul had been more interested
in assembling the remainder of their forces at the star lane.
When they finally attacked, it was with a vengeance. Seven
hours of desperate fighting had ravaged Potemkin’s fleet.
He had lost fourteen battleships, six carriers, and ten trilarian
battlecruisers, along with countless frigates and PD cutters.
His fighter squadrons were down to 70% effectiveness, and
his bombers down to 62%. The Ithkul had even managed to destroy
one of Terra III’s orbital weapons platforms. Potemkin
had made his enemy pay dearly for every ship they destroyed
– nine SuperDestroyers, eleven dreadnaughts, and several
destroyers had been reduced to scrap. But it wasn’t
enough. They were still outnumbered and outgunned, and it
was only getting worse with each passing minute.
The Admiral had kept his fleet from being routed, but nothing
he did could seem to damage the dreadnaught. Every tactic,
trick, and gambit he had tried had failed to so much as scratch
the paint. She just brushed aside everything that he threw
at her and kept coming. For now, Potemkin was just trying
to stay away from it while he picked away at its escorts –
although he had a hard time calling something as large as
a dreadnaught an “escort.”
The Lakul slammed hard to starboard. “Navigator –
evasive maneuvers,” ordered Potemkin. “Signal
our escorts to target that SuperDestroyer! Blow it out of
the water!” His ship rattled again. The lights flickered,
then came back on. His two graviton-beam cruisers opened fire
on the offending SuperDestroyer, forcing it to break off its
attack. “Damage report!” snapped the Admiral.
“Port shield down, dorsal shield weakening. Minor hull
damage, nothing too serious,” answered the Operations
A deep rumble reverberated through the bridge as a flight
of bombers landed to refuel and rearm. Potemkin flicked a
switch on his chair, “Engineering, I need those shields
back up yesterday!”
The reply came back, “We’re working as hard as
we can captain. We’ll have ‘em up in a few minutes.
Potemkin looked at this tactical display. Things were not
looking good. The Ithkul were attempting an enveloping maneuver.
He frowned. The Admiral was quickly running out of options.
He flicked another switch. “Task force three, head for
grid Alpha-12 and hold that position. Everyone else, prepare
to follow them.” Confirmations came in from the various
captains and admirals in the fleet, and the maneuver began.
The Lakul shook again. Two Harvester bombers could be seen
flying away, their ordinance already unloaded. As he watched,
three of his fighters dropped behind the bombers and destroyed
them in flashes of light.
“Damage to engine two!” declared the operations
Potemkin flicked the first switch. “Engineering…”
“We’re on it, captain. Engineering out,”
came the curt response. The Admiral’s brow furrowed.
Perhaps he needed to stop pestering his engineering team…
Admiral Potemkin looked back at his tactical display. Things
were not looking good. The Ithkul had anticipated this maneuver
and were moving to block it. He was running out of options.
Three bright flashes on the viewscreen caught his attention.
All that was left of the three nearest Harvester dreadnaughts
was an expanding cloud of plasma and debris. Potemkin squinted.
Where the Ithkul ships used to be, something new had appeared.
Another fleet was decloaking. Yellow, triangle-shaped ships
became visible, firing at the surprised Harvesters. The Admiral
was shocked. The last people he expected to come to their
aid was the Psilons.
“Admiral, we’re receiving a transmission,”
the comm officer said.
“Put it on-screen.”
The viewscreen changed to show the bridge of a Psilon ship.
The Captain hovered a little bit higher. “This is Ace
Pace of the Psilon Battleship Memory of Mentar. We are here
to assist you. Please pull your fighters and bombers back
from the Ithkul capital ships. Memory of Mentar out.”
The screen switched back to the battle.
Admiral Potemkin paused for a minute, shocked. Then he snapped
into action. “You heard the man – pull our fighters
back. Tell the rest of the fleet to maneuver to grids Beta-7
and 8. Concentrate all fire on that Leviathan!” Potemkin
smiled. He may yet survive the day.
The Psilon task force swooped toward the Ithkul formation,
firing their disrupter beams. The Ithkul were caught off guard
and were struggling to meet this new threat when Potemkin’s
forces struck at the Leviathan. Her shields flared and began
to drain. The Psilons closed the distance between them and
the enemy fleet quickly. Two Psilon ships exploded, along
with five Harvester ships. The Psilons continued on, flying
into the Ithkul formation, triggering their spatial compressor
weapons. The intense gravimetric forces ripped apart two dreadnaughts
and a SuperDestroyer, along with a half-dozen smaller escorts.
The Leviathan returned fire at Potemkin’s fleet. Two
more cruisers exploded, but the Admiral pressed on. Waves
of energy crackled across the Leviathan’s shields. The
Psilons began firing their disrupters on the Leviathan. Potemkin’s
bombers, having just pulled back from the Psilons’ pulsar
attack, fired again and again on the dreaded Leviathan. Her
shields failed. She attempted to turn away from the onslaught,
lashing back with her phasors and proton torpedos. Two more
destroyers and a Psilon battleship exploded. Cracks began
appearing in the Leviathan’s hull, and still she fired
her weapons, like a bear trying to fight off a pack of wolves.
As usually happened, the bear lost. As Potemkin watched, the
Leviathan’s engines cut out. Smaller explosions blew
pieces of her armor off. Finally, she disappeared in a flash
of plasma. A cheer erupted on the bridge of the Lakul. They
had defeated Goliath.
The remaining Ithkul ships, now at a numerical disadvantage,
began to retreat toward the star lane. Potemkin ordered his
fleet to continue to fire as long as they were in range, but
not to pursue. He did not have the forces to stop them, and
most of his ships had sustained severe enough damage that
a pursuit would be costly. Three more enemy ships were destroyed
before they reached safety. He watched as the Harvesters limped
back to the star lane and escaped.
The battle for Terra was over. It had been a victory, but
a costly one. Thousands of good men and women had lost their
lives. But they had not died in vain – Terra was safe,
for now. The battle was won, but the war had just started.
It wasn’t over yet.