Twelfth Chapter WIP for 'Invisible Enemy'
Continuation from Chapter 11.
Everything written is subject to change, even the names. Also may be some continuity or plot changes from the previous chapter. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook.
HFSS Sword of Damocles
Moments passed slow for Reed. He watched the optic display that showed the corvette in a slow tumble. The blast of spectrum coming from the ship meant she wasn't dead. One of Kenga’s torpedoes had struck her. In the last exchange, the two ships opened range. The captain’s comm panel buzzed. “Captain,” he said, finding it easy to say. It had a nice sound to it.
“Conn, Maneuvering. Gravitic reset. Orientation restored. Thrust in fifteen minutes.”
“Very well. Prepare for full thrust when ready.” Reed went through the tactics in his head. Even in real space, the Damocles was invisible unless she was close in. He could get her in close and strike where neither torpedo nor rail gun were effective. Those weapon rings were deadly at that range.
“Incoming slugs,” sensors reported, and the projectiles were lit on the tactical. They'd been fired at half an hour ago, but none of the slugs were close. This time, they looked on target. Reed frowned. Did they have a new tech for sub detection?
“Weapons, orient ownship to avoid.”
“Unable to comply. We will be hit without thrust by two slugs, sir.”
“Then slag them!” Reed said with more emphasis than he meant. He stared at the range ring. The corvette was moving now, her starboard thruster blooming. He slapped the comm panel. “Maneuvering, conn, I need thrust now!”
“You have secondary power, sir!” Came the response.
“Pilot, full secondary!” Reed said.
“Belay that order,” a voice from above said. The ship turned to spiral around the first of the slugs as the weapons team worked. The ship's computer reported laser and blaster fire. Pale faced Kenga, made her way down the ladder. “Belay that order. Weapons, conn, slingshot mines into enemy trajectory. Prepare to shift into N-Space.”
“Sir,” Reed said. “I am in comm—”
“My command pin says you're not.”
“You are unfit for duty. You can barely stand.”
Kenga set her teeth. “Get out of my chair, Commander Reed.”
“I will not.”
Kenga turned away from him. “Weapons.”
“Where’s Tan?” Kenga asked, grabbing the ladder as the ship spun. There was a wrenching bang. Systems chirped, and the lights flickered. It was a glancing blow.
“Sorry, sir. LT Tan is out-hull, clearing the ring.” As if in response, the whir and chugging of the weapon ring began, and it pulsed energy at the incoming slugs. The weapons ring was active again.
“Never mind, status of mines?”
Reed watched with impotent fury as Kenga assumed command and the crew answered to her. Preposterous! He blacked out as the ship whipped around and flung mines into space, black objects as stealthy as the ship herself. Then the ship shuddered, groaning as she was struck. The hull breach alarm blared. Reed got control of himself and activated his command override codes.
“Starboard torpedo room hit!” Damage control reported. “A hard punch. Sealing now. Damage to starboard torpedo loader.”
The bridge was alive with activity. Kenga went to the XO’s couch and brought up her displays. She punched up the system and activated the port torpedo bay. She locked the solution and attempted to launch Tube Two. Nothing happened. The Permission to Fire was revoked. Reed grinned. “I have control.”
“I will not.”
Kenga’s eyes moved, and someone grabbed Reed from the side and hurled him out of the crash couch. His head slammed against something hard. He was dazed for a moment. When his wits came back, he was on the deck and Kenga was in her crash couch, working through her tactical displays.
Before he could react, the ship was under thrust, pressing Reed to the deck and making him feel as though he were being pressed into the floor. The gravitic was at maximum output, and his suit squeezed his extremities to maintain consciousness. He tried to turn his head, but he was pressed to the deck. The control room was full of people grunting against the thrust and flashing lights. Then he heard a report, far away, and the world got dark. No, not dark. They were in N-Space again. The thrust lessened, and he floated free. His suit relaxed. He turned to find Kenga staring at him
“Do I need to confine you to quarters?” she asked.
“You can't lock me up,” Reed replied, his voice thick with drugs his suit gave him to counter the concussion. “I have authority on this vessel.”
“And who will follow you?” Kenga said. Reed looked about the bridge. No friendly face looked upon him. His plans to take over the ship were premature. He knew it, but refused to believe it.
“This is a suicide mission,” Reed said. “She knows it.”
The Cob frowned. “Every mission’s a suicide, sir. You should know that.”
A man fully suited dropped into the bridge and onto Reed. For a moment, Reed thought he'd found someone to aid his cause, but then he saw stars as the gloved hand slammed into his face. His head bounced onto the deck and he was dazed again. The man grabbed the helmet ring of his suit and pulled him up to strike. Reed, dazed, waited for the strike to come, but it didn't. Kenga straddled him and the hand let go. He saw more stars as his head struck the deck.
“No, lieutenant,” Kenga said, her voice a sharp crack in the dull, dim space of the bridge. Reed looked up. The helmet retracted and the bloodshot, angry eyes of Gunnar Tan flared back at him.
“This bastard left me to die. I left Dale out there while he was playing cowboy—” Tan’s shoulders dropped as the emotion of his lost chief and friend was gone. Kenga was sympathetic, but immobile, her hands on his shoulders.
“I made the shift to N-Space, not him. I'm the captain. Gunnar,” she banged her hands on his shoulders to get his attention. “I need you. This mission is continuing.”
“I want to space him.”
“He was defending the ship. He made a mistake. Don't make Dale’s death worse by adding to it.”
Gunnar nodded and spat on Reed. “This is no subspacer. This is a murdering bastard who treats crew like dirt. If that's what the Hegemony is, then I want to fight for the damned enemy.” He turned to Kenga. “I’ll resume my duties, sir.”
Kenga put her hand out to Reed. He took it and stood. “This is not how we treat our officers.”
Reed looked to Tan and back to Kenga, rubbing his jaw. He had to admit, Kenga’s quick thinking had saved them from being destroyed outright. He would have to get over this. She still had command, it seemed. “It never happened. Permission to resume my duties, sir?”
“Permission granted.” Kenga looked around the bridge. “Let's not let our shipmate’s death go unanswered. Weps, reload Tube Two. If the starboard torpedo bay is out of commission, what of the weapons? Sensors, please review if our torpedo struck before we shifted. Keep alert for their new torpedoes. Let's assess our stealth profile.”
LT Tan nodded and climbed the ladder to his station. He hadn't looked back to Reed. The incident was over. Kenga collapsed into her crash couch. The energy she had mustered was spent. Reed made a mistake but had acted. It counted for Kenga, but what of the crew? Tan was no friend. That was for sure. He switched to the tachyon sensors and waited.