Scarlet Darkness

Written by Hunter Spencer on . Posted in AE Stories

Captain Hawthorne rested in his bed as the voice of the Unified Space Peace Congress Spokesperson droned on through the speakers of his CommPad. It was ridiculous, in Hawthorne's mind, that anyone could say so much about nothing, especially the particular brand of nothing that the Spokesperson chose to complain about tonight.

A fleet of USPC Dreadnoughts had arrived recently out of warp and were orbiting around Autumn-Six. The spokesperson continued to repeat the same message over and over, and it seamed that, to Hawthorne at least, the only person worried about the fleet was the spokesperson, who rambled on and on about the Dreadnought's armour, and the photon cannons, and how advanced the shielding was.
"...And I reiterate, Chimera's presence in orbit is still of undetermined nature, though I assure you that we will keep you informed of all updates in this startling event..."

Hawthorne logged out of the Commpadand stretched out, thinking about how the Titan he operated years ago would have decimated the dreadnoughts, regardless of their sophisticated shielding.

---

Captain Hawthorne awoke to the smell of smoke and the sound of distant thuds of what he assumed were Photon Cannons decimating Autumn-six's sparse Disruptor Turrets. Hawthorne raced to his bedroom door, swiping his key-card across the pad, only to realize the system was unresponsive.

The Captain quickly cursed his luck while searching for his sidearm, a late-modeled phaser that was discontinued due to the defect in its plasma system which released a small electro-magnetic pulse every time it was fired. Hawthorne located his sidearm, and standing next to the door, fired a shot at the locking mechanism, frying the circuitry while at the same time weakening the lock its self, allowing him to kick open the door.

As Hawthorne ran through the hallways and down the stairs, he kept trying to open the military channel on his CommPad, to no success. Once he reached the bottom floor, Hawthorne gave up and instead keyed up a local map, looking for the nearest military presence he could get to. There was a Disruptor turret about five kilometers away, but Hawthorne assumed that it was just a crater and a few free-floating molecules. Instead, the Captain recognized an old war relic, a shipyard that was classified as a level five structure, nearly ten kilometers out, in the middle of what was once a largely industrial area.

I bet there's a fighter there, maybe a bomber, something I can use to reach the orbital shipyard, thought Hawthorne as he ran onto the street, looking for a vehicle. Suddenly, one transport caught his eye. A dark blue police car, hovering on the side of the curb, apparently abandoned during the panic. He ran up to it, hauled himself into the driver's seat, and tried to recall his years-old driving lessons.

---

PIloting the Hover-car through the debris left from crushed cars and toppled buildings, Captain Hawthorne eventually managed to reach the shipyard, only to find that it was a dilapidated mess of steel and glass.
"Damn It!" he shouted, stepping out of his car and looking around at the surrounding factories and refineries. Hawthorne sighed, and proceeded to climb back into the car, deciding that it might be worth patrolling the Metal Refineries and Robotics Factories in the area, in the event that someone might be around to help him get to the Orbital Shipyard.

Suddenly, Hawthorne heard the tell-tale scream of a scoutship's engine as it passed overhead, watching as it flew some distance away before turning back, and finally resting over top of Hawthorne's position, a scant three meters above the surrounding buildings. A hatch opened up on the button of the ship, and a ladder rolled out. Hawthorne thought the whole thing archaic, though still climbed the ladder, wishing he was as fit and strong as he had been in earlier years.

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Upon reaching the top, he was pulled in by a set of strong, young hands, belonging to a young, twenty-something looking man wearing a
USPC uniform, with the insignia of a colonel on his lapel, and the name tag of Isaac Gerome.
"Sir, th Representative's Office sent me to find you and bring you to Io. They need your service once more."
"Boy, I need to get to the Orbital Shipyard, whatever is happening to Io can wait.", Hawthorne replied as he brushed past Isaac Gerome and sat down in the pilot's seat.
"Sir, the Orbital Shipyards were... removed from the Autumn's orbit during the attack. Chimera apparently isn't looking to occupy us... it seems extermination is the goal. That's why I must get you to Io, to the Remnant." the Colonel insisted.
"Whats the Remnant? Is that where the Representative is now?" Hawthorne asked, turning around to face Colonel Gerome.
"No, Sir, It's a Leviathan."

---

Captain Hawthorne and Colonel Gerome quietly slipped past Chimera patrols and engaged the craft's warp drive once safely out of the atmosphere. Space distorted, and for a moment it seemed like the stars rushed past, before they were in the utter blackness of Warp Space. Gerome suddenly spoke.
"Captain, the Chimera fleet is attacking because of our Representative's recent success at ousting Chimera's Representative from his place as Head Congressman of the Unified Space Peace Congress. He's promised to keep attacking the planet with his remaining eight dreadnoughts until he's killed everyone on the planet. You've got to captain the Remnant and fend off this attack, or the planet may well be doomed."
"Aren't you just a little ball of sparkles and sunshine", Hawthorne said sarcastically, as he disengaged the ship from warp and entered open space, preparing to pilot the last stretch to Io, when suddenly the Klaxons started blaring.
"Enemy Scout Ship one hundred meters and gaining," Gerome said, "Bringing weapon systems online now. Captain, if that ship escapes, the dreadnoughts will aim for Io and the Leviathan will be destroyed before its completed. Get into one of the escape pods. The USPC isn't losing you because of a lucky scout."
"You know how the weapon systems of a Scout ship stack up. Unless you pull a Pauli, you won't do enough damage to stop him."
"That's what I'm going to do, Captain. Now if you would, Kindly get your ass to one of the escape pods!" Gerome yelled angrily, though Hawthorne suspected it was more for show than real anger.

Hawthorne reached the escape pod, and quickly launched from Gerome's scout ship. As he zoomed toward Io, he looked through the porthole in the back of the pod. Gerome's ship disappeared into warp space for a split second, then a violently bright explosion ripped through space, destroying both crafts.

Hawthorne closed his eyes and whispered, "Wolfgang Pauli... I hate you."

---

The escape pod auto-docked with the Station in orbit around Io, and as the hatch hissed open, Hawthorne heard orders flying left and right. As he got out, most people paid him no mind, running back and forth between their stations, in what Hawthorne assumed was the final preparations to bring the Remnant online.

Suddenly, a resounding shout of "Officer On Deck" echoed through the room, and Hawthorne was about to say 'at ease' when he suddenly noticed the pristine white uniform of Admiral Loman, also known as the Representative of Autumn-six.
"Return to your duties" Loman said simply, before turning to Hawthorne and commenting "Its been a long time, Captain Hawthorne. Are you ready to fly again?"
"Yes, Admiral. I assumed I'd be needed somewhere once the attacks started, but I didn't think you'd send a scout ship to personally bring me here." Captain Hawthorne replied calmly.
"You were the only captain with enough experience flying we considered. We modeled the controls after the Titan you piloted when you were in the service, so it should be easy to control. Get aboard, and prepare to launch in one hour." The Admiral said, dismissing him and walking away to his other duties.

---

"Battle stations, start charging the Photon cannons, bring shields online now. Navigation, direct half power to thrusters, be ready to rotate the ship on my command. Life support station, prep airlocks for venting atmosphere on my command."
Hawthorne was finally calm, sitting back in his captain's chair, looking out to the planet and the eight dreadnoughts that were left, that hadn't noticed his presence.
"Navigation, warp as close to the nearest undamaged dreadnought as you can. Battle Stations, prepare to fire as soon as we exit warp." The Captain said, watching as space distorted momentarily, then went back to normal as they exited their extremely short warp-jump.
"Fire!" Hawthorne yelled. The ship shuddered slightly as the cannons discharged their Photon payload. The shimmering mass of photons arced through space, hitting the dreadnoughts shields, quickly overloading them and then lancing through the ship, gutting it through the middle. The dreadnought, however, also fired its weapons.
"Navigation, thrusters! Rotate the ship! Life Support, vent all oxygen outside of the bridge!"

The ship began to rotate, like a bullet spinning in place. The atmosphere vented out of the ship, increasing the rotation. One of the bolts of Photon-energy missed completely, hitting a dreadnoughts approaching the battle, making the shields falter, then fail completely. The second bolt of energy skimmed across the side, diffusing across the shields as the Leviathan rotated, causing minor to the outer hull. Meanwhile, the cannons on the side of the ship facing the second dreadnought fired, lighting it up and turning it into a large mass of molten steel. The five remaining dreadnoughts, including the one injured in the first attack of Autumn-Six, converged on the Remnant.
"Battle Stations, cycle Photon Cannons, launch at one target at a time, starting with the most damaged ship. Navigation, ramming speed at the closest dreadnought." Hawthorne said calmly, hoping his shielding held up against the remaining five ships.

In a flash, the Leviathan and the dreadnoughts all launched their weapons. One at a time, dreadnought shield generators were overcome by the power of the Leviathan superior weapons, until there was one dreadnought left, while at the same time, the Leviathan's shield generators suddenly failed, and a photon bolt hit the giant warship's hull, shaking the Leviathan madly, and melting away a significant part of the Remant's armour.
"Navigation, ram now!" Hawthorne practically screamed, though it was redundant, as the Leviathan was already hitting the last dreadnought dead in the center, severing it into two pieces of free-floating debris.
"Status report!" The Captain asked.
"Battle station reports no remaining hostiles."
"Navigation systems are offline, sir."
"Life Support systems indicate a hull integrity of only 20 percent remaining, Captain."
"Then we've done our job. Good work." Hawthorne said, breathing a relaxed sigh.

---

Epilogue

Captain Hawthorne stood at the Occupation Memorial Shrine, thinking back to how weeks ago, he was able to repulse the Chimera attacking fleet. He thought it was luck, most likely, that he was able to defeat them. Eight-to-one were terrible odds, but he had managed to pull ahead and win the battle, if barely.

Hawthorne looked at his CommPad briefly, watching live footage of the debris collection, and reconstruction efforts taking place. It was amazing to the Captain how much damage was still present, and how much damage had already been repaired.
Hawthorne looked out to Sea, listening to the waves crash against the shore. Hawthorne walked towards the beach, leaving his Commpad behind. While he gazed out into the dark waters, his Commpad started to buzz. A message was on the screen, waiting for Hawthorne's attention.
"A large warp-space signature has been detected by probes on the outer-edge of the solar system. You may want to investigate."


Story sent by Hunter Spencer for the AE Stories event.

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