The Gathering Storm
The signal from the signal buoy radiated outward
through the whirling, chaotic void of hyperspace, toward Regulla,
the system on the other end of the star lane. In only a few
minutes, the equipment manned by a Comm Officer 2nd Class
aboard the carrier Lakul began to chirp excitedly. The Comm
Officer lazily turned his attention from the mug of coffee
he had been drinking and looked at the contents of the message.
45.8 seconds after receiving the message, the coffee mug
crashed to the deck plating.
"Uh, captain... you may want to see this," said
the flustered comm officer, his voice cracking.
"We will stay and fight!" shouted a defiant planetary
"And I am telling you once again, governor, there is
no conceivable way we can repel this attack," insisted
Rear Admiral Potemkin. "We only have three carriers and
a half-dozen Dragonfly-class PD frigates. There is not enough
time to bring any reinforcements in-system, and you have already
told me that your missile bases will not be on-line for two
months! We have less than three weeks until these monsters
descend upon this system. Your people have only been here
for six months, surely they can pack up and go back to Terra.
You have been ordered to do so by President Alexander himself!"
"We will fight them on the ground if we have to,"
stated the governor, losing a bit of his composure.
Potemkin almost laughed at the man's ignorance. "Surely
you have heard the stories about the dreaded Harvesters, governor.
They are the most vicious, efficient killing machines known
to exist. If even half of the stories are true, we would not
be able to hold this planet for very long, not even with a
hardened Bulrathi battleoid army. And you expect to fight
them off with a rag-tag group of border-world militia armed
with laser rifles? You know what the stories say about what
happens when a planet is taken over by these Ithkul. All of
you will die, and for what? We would not lightly order you
to retreat, governor. Rest assured, we will be back."
The governor’s defiance melted away. "Very well,
we will prepare our transports to take us back to Terra, but
I do not think we will have time to move 4 million people
in less than 3 weeks. We only have enough ships to take a
few hundred thousand at most. I will order our factories to
start making as many transports as they can, but I do not
see how everyone can get away!"
"The battleships Iowa and Yamato will be here in six
days," stated the Admiral. "They are old, and their
weapons will barely scrape the paint off of the Ithkul SuperDestroyers.
Even now, they are tossing everything they can afford to take
off out of their airlocks to make room for as many refugees
as they can. With luck, they will be able to hold almost 1
million people between the two. That, coupled with the transports
you are making, may just be enough to get your people out
of harm's way. My task force will attempt to fight a delaying
action if the need arises. Luckily, your planet is almost
at the point in its orbit that is the farthest from the star
lane to Androv, and relatively close to the Terra star lane.
We should be able to delay them for a day, maybe two."
"Very well Admiral. Let us hope it does not come to
that. I must go announce these developments to my people.
Goodbye for now." And with that, the conversation was
Admiral Potemkin sighed. There was a lot of work to do. He
did not expect to survive the coming battle.
Work began on Regulla at a grueling pace. It was decided
early on that everyone must stay and work to build transports
until the last minute. When the Iowa and Yamato arrived, clever
engineers began installing pods on them in order to cheaply
and quickly expand their carrying capacity. By the time they
were finished with them, they could hold over 1.5 million
people together. A small armada of hastily built transports
was assembled in orbit of the planet - often the ships were
little more than metal boxes with a hyperspace engine.
As the fateful day approached when the Ithkul menace would
spring out of the star lane, however, there still wasn't enough
room for everyone to escape. The feverish pitch of construction
kept on, and Admiral Potemkin moved his carrier task force
to intercept the imminent attack.
Admiral Potemkin's task force was waiting. He knew that he
had no chance of actually stopping the Harvester armada with
his tiny contingent of fighters. All he could hope to do is
distract them long enough for the people on Regulla to escape.
His fleet was hiding behind a moon orbiting one of the gas
giants, waiting for the ithkul to come.
On the bridge of the Lakul, it was so quiet that one could
hear an Elerian think. The entire bridge crew was watching
the viewscreen. Fighters were prepped, and ready to fly out
of the hanger at a moment's notice. The point-defense fusion
beams were powered up, waiting to intercept incoming fighters
and missiles. They were ready to fight.
Admiral Potemkin rubbed his temples. It had been too long
since he last slept, but he knew that sleep would not come.
The battle was about to start, and he feared that nothing
would hold back the Harvesters. But he would die trying.
"Captain!" exclaimed the young navigator. "Look!"
The whirling gasses at the exit of the star lane suddenly
heaved, blurring the entire viewscreen. When the effect subsided,
the Admiral was looking down the throat of seven SuperDestroyers.
"Launch fighters!" he ordered. "Prepare to
break orbit. Signal the task force to stand to!"
The Admiral looked again at the viewscreen.
There could be no doubt.
They were coming.