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The Gathering Storm

Part Six

Admiral Potemkin fingered the medal pinned to his uniform. The Tritanium Triangle – “For bravery and service to the Confederation above and beyond the call of duty.” It seemed to clash a bit with his drab green uniform – the silver equilateral triangle had a blue gemstone in the middle, and the whole thing was being held in place by a blazing red ribbon – but he would be damned if he was going to take it off.

The past two months had been filled with a flurry of activity. The last Ithkul phasor blast had nearly ripped a quarter of the port hull plating off the Laukl and blown out circuits across the entire ship. It was a miracle that the hyperdrive still worked. They escaped into the star lane, and spent the next five weeks working feverishly to keep their ship from falling apart on them. The flight deck had to be evacuated – it was now exposed to a vacuum. After a five-week journey, they finally reached the Terra system, with life support failing and engines that could barely move the ship. She limped back to spacedock, and spent the next three weeks getting her ready to fight again. They hadn’t even had time to paint the patches – the Lakul looked like an old pair of pants from a particularly rambunctious young boy. But, Potemkin now had command of a much larger task force – eight carriers, including the Lakul, a large compliment of PD frigates, and two cruisers equipped with heavy Graviton beams, and over 300 fighters and bombers.

Traffic both in and out of the Terra system was heavy when Potemkin had arrived and had increased exponentially over the past few weeks. The 2nd, 3rd, and 7th fleets had arrived in-system to augment the system patrol ships, marines transports were waiting to land on whatever planet the Harvesters would attack first, and the exodus of civilians had continued unabated. Three days ago, two Trilarian battle groups entered the system. Potemkin always admired the Trilarian ships – beautiful curves and lines of sight combined to create the illusion that they were swimming through an ocean. Supposedly, more reinforcements were coming, but it did not look like they would arrive in time.

The Ithkul were coming – in force. Over two hundred ships had been detected in the star lane, in all sizes from small frigates and cutters to the monstrous leviathan. Potemkin was worried. The Confederation had sent everything that could make it in time, but it wasn’t going to be enough, even with the Trilarian’s help. And the leadership situation didn’t placate his fears any.

In charge of the fleet was one Fleet Admiral Jonathan Deidre. Potemkin had been a couple of years behind Deidre at the Naval Academy, and thought the Fleet Admiral was somewhat of a dunce. He had managed to get through the Academy near the bottom of his class, and through a series of being in the right place at the right time, had managed to rise through the ranks without doing much of anything on his part. Deidre was in over his head, Potemkin thought. The Fleet Admiral was commanding from his flagship, the CSS Centauri, a Demos-class battleship. It, and everyone else, would be lucky to survive.


“Battle stations!”

The bridge of theLakul was bathed in red light as the ship prepared to go to battle. The gasses around the star lane exit had begun to surge, which could only mean one thing.

The Harvesters had arrived.

Potemkin’s ship began to rumble as his fighters began to launch, joining with the fighters from the rest of his task force. As the Admiral watched his tactical display, hundreds of tiny dots appeared as every ship launched its fighters.

Admiral Potemkin was uncomfortable. Deidre had ordered the fleet too close to the star lane, in his opinion. True, they would get the first shot at the first group of ships that emerged, but they were out of the range of any of their planetary defenses. Most likely the Ithkul would be attacking Terra III, the nearest planet, and the Human/Trilarian fleet would be able to mount a better defense there, with support from orbital weapons platforms and ground-based merculite missile launchers. Out here, they could get quickly overwhelmed.

The first Harvester task force exited the star lane. Ten dreadnaughts were visible, along with a smattering of support vessels. The comm lines opened up. Fleet Admiral Deidre’s voice could be heard.

“Concentrate your direct fire on those PD ships and missiles on the dreadnaughts. We want to make sure as many warheads score hits as possible, so I want that PD screen down now! Open fire!”

Energy beams crackled through space, impacting the outer screen ships. Shields began to flare as the intense forces draining them. Seven Ithkul frigates exploded in the first volley. Missiles began to streak toward their targets, but the Harvesters had a lot of point defense still at their disposal. Flashes started to appear as missiles were detonated short of their targets, and the Harvesters’ beam weapons began firing back, destroying two smaller ships and severely damaging another. Fighters began to engage each other, and more flashes filled Potemkin’s viewscreen as they engaged the Ithkul fighter screen. Missiles began to impact the dreadnoughts, but not nearly enough. They survived the impacts and returned fire with their energy weapons.

Two Trilarian cruisers exploded in a flash of light, along with three more Ithkul destroyers. Energy beams crossed between the two fleets. The harvesters were outgunned – for now – but it was only a matter of time before the rest of the Ithkul fleet would arrive shortly. A second missile barrage exploded one of the dreadnaughts and two cruisers. The Harvester formation began to break apart under the intense pounding they were taking. Potemkin’s bombers reached the enemy task force and began firing…

The star lane suddenly began to surge again. The battle continued unabated as Potemkin held his breath, watching for what would come next…

When the effect subsided, the entire bridge gasped in awe.

The Leviathan had arrived.

The monstrous ship opened fire the second it was out of the star lane. Red beams and green torpedoes lanced through space toward the human/trilarian fleet. Potemkin shielded his eyes as the viewscreen struggled to adjust for the sudden brightness…

When Admiral Potemkin looked back at the viewscreen, all that remained of two human battleships were expanding clouds of debris.

“Admiral!” yelled the Comm officer excitedly, “The Centauri – it’s been destroyed!”

Potemkin looked at his tactical screen. It was true – Fleet Admiral Deidre’s ship no longer appeared on his screen. The Admiral thought for a minute, then got up from his command chair, walked over to the comm station, and pressed a button.

“This is Admiral Willaim M. Potemkin of the CSS Lakul. I am taking command of the fleet. Prepare to retreat to Terra III. Potemkin out.”




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