This Old Turret

Written by Jesse W on . Posted in AE Stories

I was sick and tired of my job. Out here on the edge of the M-galaxy, or Mira as some of the traders call it. This is a black lonely little place and the founder called it wasteland. It’s an asteroid that the oh so glorious leader decided would be a good source of crystals and metal. It is a good source for that but not much else. The sun never rises here. The hours are long and unforgiving here as well. All for the good of the empire as he calls it. Robert Black is the name of our leader. A gloomy and vicious sort of character born on some distant lifeless rock far from here, or if you believe the rumors the son of a vicious pirate from another galaxy. It really doesn’t matter. I was born on a lovely little world he named himself. It was called Unhappy place. It was happier than this miserable rock to be sure. I came for the prospect of working in the crystal mines. I’ve known some people to make a great deal of money if they could handle the working hours. I was sure I could handle it. The computer deemed me physically unworthy for the job, and set me to work on the defenses of the outpost. With death at the push of a button, all you were really required to do was promise to stay awake. I was angry at the idea I wanted to go back home and get my old job back at the spaceports but I had no credits to get back home and I was stuck here.

I was assigned a room, one of the perks for working defenses. It was a disaster of a place that reminded me of a prison cell. Life on the outpost was hard for everyone besides the ones who operated the mines and the various factories located across the place. I had nothing to do but wait for my first day to start, it might have been night, out here time really didn’t mean very much. You went to work when the computer gave you your thirty minute warning to get to work. The red light above my door came on as I was laying in my uncomfortable cot and not wanting to be late I got up and went, followed all of the signs. I was hoping to be in one of the new Ion turrets or something. I had heard much about these from people and how impressive they were supposed to be. I got to see one as I walked by, and they were really impressive, too. I was again disappointed because the computer put me to work on the lowly laser turret. It looked about how I felt, worn out and left behind. It was obsolete already for ages and the popular opinion was to tear it down to save the energy if anyone talked about it at all. Welcome to my new life. The only rule here was to not fall to sleep. The outpost had never been attacked, and was so out of the way nobody likely knew it even existed. I was basically making free money for fifteen hours a day, three days a week. I tried my best to look at the bright side of my situation.

63 turret

My turret partner, her name was Vanex, she had been stuck here for four months before I even got here. Her last partner got a bad case of space madness. He claimed he could see the shapes in the darkness between the stars. Space madness was a common threat out here in the dark. Stare into the endless black for too long and you’ll see anything. We spent the time together talking about the mythical someday, what we would do once we got out of here and other things. It was a good job and the turret became more of a home then the place I had to go back too.

It was a day like any other day. Go to work, initiate the checks and procedures and do a scan once and a while. Our scanners were worthless and if anyone was going to detect a threat, it’d be someone else. Once we could detect it, you’d be minutes away from seeing it. We were in the middle of a conversation when the alarms went off. Something was coming and a base wide alert was called. I looked up into the stars and saw nothing. Maybe it was a drill after all, but they never had one before. Everything was automated as it was the only thing people were needed for was to verify there was an enemy that was coming and it wasn’t just a malfunction of some kind.

The fighters and cruisers from all the other bases began to fly in as well. We were a small organization so our collective defenses were small, we had been attacked only once by some insane guy in a scout ship raving about a cancerous planet he saw on his various voyages across the stars. Our defenses were quickly in place. We may have been few in number but we were well trained, our leader demanded we never stopped training to be the best we could be.

There was a tense silence in the air, an energy you couldn’t ignore. In seconds fighters with strange markings I’d never seen before screamed out of the void and began blasting everything they could, Bombers followed them and there was no reason to think bigger things were not going to show up. Vanex and I decided now would have been a great time to fight back. The other turrets fired and with each blast they were able to cut large swaths of destruction into the enemy force but it just didn’t seem to be enough. Our forces engaged the enemy. Outnumbered, sure but we had skill to make up for it. It wasn’t long before the word got out this was a marauder fleet. No home, they just took what they needed, killed the rest and moved on. This wasn’t personal, it wasn’t even business or war. It was a simple fight to stay alive. Vanex and I never ran out of targets and we fired into the air, making minimal impacts on the enemy. They didn’t even hit us back because we were hardly noticed at all. I suppose small blessings come in weird ways. The battle raged for hours. Many of the mines were being blown up, not by the enemy but by our own people. If we were to lose here they’d gain nothing from us if we could help it.

The fighters of the enemy could not seem to gain any ground. They had been repelled, wave after wave of them. We would not break our lines of defense. Soon, the enemy retreated. We thought we had won the battle, made them decide it wasn’t worth the loss of life they were suffering against us. We celebrated a bit early though as the stars became blotted out as a monster appeared in the sky. A metal beast I only had seen pictures of yet few had ever seen in person. It was the Flagship of the enemy. A Leviathan class destroyer and it had a message, it had come to kill us all. At once all the firepower we had focused on the thing in the sky. The Leviathan mocked us as our fire power only slammed into it’s shields and did nothing to it.

Finally it fired it’s terrible weapon and completely wiped out the Ion turrets with one shot. The explosion was massive and everyone was sure this was the end. Nobody stopped shooting though, not even us. The time it took to fire the main weapon of the Leviathan seemed to be it’s greatest weakness. It took a good five minutes to fire the photon beam again, the other, smaller guns opened up on us. Destructive just the same though. The plasma turrets fired again, but someone must have altered their energy output or wavelength. The bright beams sailed straight through the shields and into the ship itself. We were all shocked that it worked and the hint was taken.

Everyone who could still fight followed the leader if they could do it. Soon the Leviathan was under direct attack and taking heavy damage, later on the shields finally came down. The smaller guns attacked our forces and there were so many that the fighters didn’t stand much of a chance either. When it was all said and done, we’d lost the battle. Our forces were destroyed and we watched the Leviathan begin to land. It was smoking and damaged as well. It was landing towards our one and only fusion plant on the outpost. Nobody had a chance to blow that up yet. Apparently the Leviathan needed to recharge. Vanex and I watched as smaller ships came down to the power plant to complete the process to drain the energy. We had taken heavy damage, but we were largely ignored in the fight. I guess they thought we were destroyed, and by all rights we should have been. We decided we had come too far to lose now. We lowered the laser turret in line with the target. We waited for the men to hook up the lines from the ship. Must have been hoses of some kind. We never saw anything like them before until now. We waited for what seemed like forever. They were done at last. The energy was being drained from our plant and being fed to that monster.

The both of us looked at one another and we pushed the red button at the same time. The target was the fusion plant. We shot the beam into the heart of the plant as a last ditch effort. The attack set off a terrible chain reaction and it traveled up the hoses in lines of blue flame. The reaction was instant. The blue fire hit with the ship’s energy source. The whole thing began to explode out the sides in a systematic order until the whole ship was nothing but a falling inferno crashing to the ground.

Weeks later the Recyclers were coming in to make the most of the debris and the rebuilding was commencing at a steady pace. Life had returned to normal mostly. The loss of life was great for our first taste of real combat. Vanex and I continue to work together. We were not given any medals. No honors. Life was our only prize.

Story sent by Jesse W for the AE Stories event.