“Capt. Reynolds, sir! We are in position, and are currently orbiting the moon of Veltis-4.”

            Reynolds awoke with a jolt. A cold sweat dotted the captain’s face as he realized what the communications officer had just relayed.

            “Understood Miss Astrid. Relay this message off to CTSN Command, and the CTS Stargazer and CTS Star Finder.

            “Aye aye, Captain.”

            Capt. Reynolds stood up, got out of his bed, and walked towards his desk chair.

            “Computer. Forward view port, on screen.”

            The wide rectangular object on the captain’s desk winked on with a soft hum, and before Capt. Reynolds’ eyes was the moon of Veltis-4. A small grey object dotted with an uncountable number of craters, and the odd prefabricated structure. Those pirates are hiding on this rock, and I just know it.

            Reynolds clicked the computer off, walked out of his quarters, and onto one of the many turbo-lifts of his ship, CTS Lorthos. He then softly thumbed the button for the bridge, a button depicting a large arm chair.

            “Ensign Astrid, has the Stargazer or Star Finder responded?”

            “No sir, unfortunately they have not. I’ll attempt to hail them again shortly sir.”

            Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Barret Nahl sat in the captain’s chair grimacing. He hated the idea of the Lorthos being the only Confederate vessel this deep into Free Space.

            “Right then. Lt. Crowley keep the Lorthos at this heading. Don’t let her drift too close to the planet. Lt. Tai, send another probe to the surface. I want Capt. Reynolds to be able to know precisely where the Jackals are when he gets on the bridge.” LCDR. Nahl smirked, and put an elbow on the armrest of the captain’s chair.

            He was old for his position. At thirty-nine most graduates of the Confederacy of Terran Star Systems Officer Training School were commanders, or, if they were lucky, captains of their own vessels. Nahl squeezed his hands into a fist just thinking about his lethargic advancement in the Confederacy of Terran Star Systems Navy (CTSN.)

            The probe launched from the torpedo tube and the blue glow of the twin ion engines slowly dimmed until they were indistinguishable from the background radiation of the moon.

            “Probe launch successful, Lt. Commander.”

            “Thank you lieutenant. Bring the scans of the probe on screen.”

            The forward view screen changed from the view of the moon to various graphs and charts that depicted the various scans of the probe. What LCDR. Nahl was staring at was the small stagnant “0” underneath the heading “Life forms detected.”

            “I don’t understand!” Nahl yelled as he stood up from the chair and began pacing the bridge. “Where the bloody hell could those bastards be?! Naval Command told us they’d be in this shit show of a sector! We tracked them down to this bloody moon! Where the actual fu-”

            “Lieutenant Commander! I will not accept language of that caliber on my bridge!”

            LCDR. Nahl slowly turned around to see the wrinkled face of Capt. Mal Reynolds stepping off of the turbo lift.

            “Captain on deck.”

             Capt. Reynolds walked down the gentle incline of the bridge until he stood directly in front of his chair. He sat down, and looked at the probe reports on screen. So still no signs of life. They must be hiding.

            “Miss Astrid. Any reports from CTSN, or the other ships in the strike package?”

            “No sir.”

            “Hrm. That is not good indeed. Mr. Tai, any pings off of the sensor buoys?”

            “No sir. The radar is keeping quiet, but frankly we’re too close to the planet, and all the background radiation is interfering with my scans.”

            “I see. Mr. Nahl, what do you recommend?”

            “Sir, I know that it might seem foolish, but I say we stay in this position. We get any closer to the moon, and the Jackals will know we’re coming. If we remain in our position around the planet Veltis-4 we can stay far enough within the solar winds of the primary star of this system to kill any radar, but not too close to fry our scanners, and probes. Furthermore, if we stay here we can wait silently while the Stargazer and Star Finder rendezvous with us.”

            “I see why you parked my vessel where you did. Good job. Miss Astrid get Number One on the bridge ASAP.”

            “Aye aye Captain. Commander Ellis, Capt. Reynolds requires your prese-”

            “Captain! Multiple torpedoes incoming! They’re too close to evade!” barked Lt.Tai.

            “Mr. Elkins, full laser spread now! Miss Astrid! Red alert! Mr. Tai where are the torpedoes coming from?”

            “Sir they appear to be coming from our starboard side. I cannot see the ships.”

            “Damn bastards must be cloaked. Lt. Elkins what are the results?” chimed in Nahl.

            “Sir I can’t hit them all. Brace for impact!”

            The ship rattled as two torpedoes slammed into the starboard side. In two places the hull was breached, but just as the breaches formed metal grids slid into place preventing mass decompression.

            “Damage report Mr. Elkins!”

            “Sir decks 24-27 have two breaches, but the anti-vacuum grids are holding. I don’t have a casualty report yet sir.”

            “Mr. Tai I need some information! Get me something on screen!”

            The screen of probe readouts winked away, and in its place was an image of sixteen JTS 117 Headhunters. The wings of the cruciform ships were painted purple and black to signify the Jackals, and their noses were adorned with various images of skulls. They began a wide banking maneuver in an attempt to get behind the Lorthos where fewer of her defensive flak guns were able to fire.

            “Mr. Elkins, inform the gunners to fire at will, and charge a full laser spread to defeat anymore pesky torpedoes. Pull as much power from the engines to the aft shields as you can.”

            “Sir, I have two frigates off of our starboard decloaking. They appear to be Jackal vessels as well.”

            “Disable, but do not destroy those ships Mr. Elkins! The CTSN will want that cloaking hardware. Charge the starboard ion cannons. Pull power from the rail guns.”

            “Aye aye.”

            The frigates launched a volley of torpedoes towards the starboard bow of the vessel. They sailed through the void on a direct course for the flak cannon batteries, but the torpedoes were quickly met by a barrage of well-aimed laser shots detonating the lot of them.

            “Sir we have confirmed torpedo launch from the Headhunters. We won’t be able to defeat them all.”

            “Brace for impact.”

            A slew of detonations erupted from the aft of the vessel. Dozens of bodies were jettisoned from the ship as the power flickered. The AV Grid lethargically moved into action, but the power outages were affecting the steel grid. As the AVG finally slid into place, the automated fire suppression system kicked on.

            “Dispatch a medical team Miss Astrid, and an engineering crew to patch up as much damage as possible. I want a full casualty report ASAP, and where is Commander Ellis?”

            “Sir, reports are coming in that Commander Ellis was killed in the first torpedo attack. Current estimates put us at forty-seven casualties, and another twenty-two personnel MIA.”

            “Damn,” swore Nahl.

            The Headhunters that were attacking from the port side let loose a salvo of heavy cannon rounds. The rounds pinged off of the retro-steel hull of the flak guns. Another Headhunter detonated in a flash of dull red and orange.

            “Ion cannon preparing to fire.”

            A dull blue beam emitted from the underbelly of the CTS Lorthos and collided with the first frigate. The engines of the vessel quit, and the lights in the ship began to dim.

            “Good effect on target Mr. Elkins. Charge and fire on the second vessel.”

            Another salvo of torpedoes detonated off of the starboard bow as they collided with several dozen thermal laser beams. Eight Headhunters began turning for another pass on the battleship, as a smaller group of six ships began an ineffectual barrage of cannon fire against the flak gun batteries.

            “Sir we have multiple torpedoes incoming off of the prow of the vessel. Recommend we move power to the forward shields.”

            “Mr. Elkins do as you wish, so long as you get my ship out of this in one piece.”

            “Three torpedoes off of our prow sir. They’re too close for the laser grid. Prepare for impact!”

            The torpedoes slammed into their targets. Two of them hit a flak battery, destroying it in a flash of smoke and flame. The other torpedo tore through the hull of the Lorthos, but refrained from detonating until after the AVG closed around the opening created by the torpedo. The ordinance exploded just outside of the bridge, destroying the left most wall of the command center, and peppering the crew inside with hundreds of chunks of searing hot metal.

             LCDR. Barret Nahl came to underneath the turbo-lift to the bridge as the lights of the Lorthos winked back into existence. The smoke filled the bridge, and it was almost unbearable. He crawled low towards the center of the bridge.

            “Elkins! Damage report!” Nahl crawled to Elkins’ computer. He pulled the body of a deck officer off of the COM and looked at the screen. The entire bridge was highlighted in red, as if to put into an image the word “Compromised.” Nahl looked up to the primary view screen. Its cracked face showed the ensuing fight outside the once safe hull of the Lorthos.

            Nahl crawled towards the communications relay. Ensign Astrid was sitting upright in her chair. Nahl stood himself up, and put a hand on the Ensign’s shoulder, but as he did he saw the dozens of jagged metal strips sticking out of her face and neck. The issuing blood coated her uniform forming one massive dark red stain. The assault jacket she wore did nothing to protect her from the shrapnel of the torpedo.

            Nahl collapsed onto the floor. He couldn’t stop staring at the carnage that once was Ensign Felisia Astrid, but instead locked eyes with the hollow globes in Astrid’s head and crawled backwards. Nahl’s head collided with the chair of Lt. William Crowley, the ship’s pilot. He looked up only to see the disembodied waist and legs of the man who once sat in the chair. The bloody hunk of flesh and meat, would have been the lieutenant’s stomach, spouted the occasional globule of semi-coagulated blood onto the control yoke.

            Nahl turned towards the engineering station and saw various disembodied parts that at one point belonged to Lt. Hank Tai.

            “…Mr. Nahl…” croaked a somewhat familiar voice to the right of the Lieutenant Commander. Nahl turned his head and discovered the bloody mess of Capt. Mal Reynolds. Two large jagged hunks of metal impaled the captain to his chair at the stomach. Both of his legs were gone, and the charred bloody hunks of flesh and bone of his knees were the only signs of a continuation of the body. Another jagged piece of shrapnel was sticking out of the captain’s chest, and a fourth out of his neck.

            Nahl crawled towards the rapidly bleeding officer. He kneeled before the captain with his arms outstretched as if asking for some wisdom, advice, or guidance. The captain had none of those to give.

            “…Nahl…you…have…the…bridge…” Capt. Reynolds labored as blood oozed in thick rivulets from the rapidly growing wound in his neck. Every time the captain spoke the jagged hunk of metal slid deeper into his neck.

            Barret Nahl would like to have remembered Capt. Reynolds as a strong leader. He would have liked to be able to tell this story, and when he got to this part, he would have liked to say the once great Capt. Reynolds was courageous in the face of death, he understood the grievousness of his wounds, and so Capt. Reynolds decided to leave this life on his own terms. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

 

Edited by: Zach Iezzi and Renee Luna

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