Chapter Three – The beginning of the play..

An alarm klaxon blared.  “…nemy forces detected.  Five Damu’khonde Hounds have decloaked.  All teams to condition One.  Enemy forces detected..”

Sarai could see Damu’khonde’s infamous upraised fist on one of the Hounds.  Its running lights now blinking brightly against the backdrop of space.  The activation signal blinked as it past above her and the nose of the Apocolypse, known as “Righteous Fist”.  None of the bombs impacted on the ship, despite how close they appeared to be.  Time seemed to slow down as she saw her father race toward her and her mother’s face showing a strange mixture of fear and confusion.

Then the bombs went off.

Outside, the five explosive waves had hit just off center of the fleet.  Huge waves of nuclear energy burst from slow moving bombs, and went out in a sphere of red and yellow fire.  The first ship it hit was a stationary Navy Omen, which found itself at the near the center of all five explosions.  The shielding, while strong against this particular type of damage, was too weak to hold much back and the multiple orbs of raw nuclear energy easily melted the ship’s armor.  Massive radiation broke down the atoms of every living thing inside the ship at the moment the armor completely failed.  Even the command pod was destroyed before any order could be issued. 

The second ship it hit was an Imperial Navy Slicer, which had moments before activated his Microwarp Drive to close the distance between it and the bombers.  The Microwarp Drive, at the moment of activation, distorts the space around the ship, forcing any incoming energy or mass toward the nexus of the drive, while vastly increasing the ship’s velocity.  Several waves of raw energy flowed from the bombs into the core of the frigate, vaporizing the ship long before the pilot realized what was happening.  Moments later, a second Navy Slicer succumbed for the exact same reason.  The third Slicer barely avoided their fate because the pilot had been on his way out to do a quick patrol of the gates and only recieved a small dose of the explosion.

As the waves of the blast fanned out, the remaining Omens took a beating, but the energy had started to disapate and while much of their golden armor melted, enough of it stayed intact to keep their internal structures safe.  The expanding sphere of energy also hit the Guardians, the fleets’ logistical support, but their design and the skilled pilots knew what to do and the explosive power washed over them easily, inflicting minimal damage.

Much of the raw power of the blast had disapated by the time it reached the “Righteous Fist”, but the direction of the force coinsided with the ship’s undocking thrusters, causing it to lurch violent from the docking area.  The shield easily took the brunt of what energy was left in the blast.  Inside,  the entire observation deck was strown in disarray as the inertial dampeners tried to compensate.  Someone screamed in the kitchen area and the ripping sounds of appliances being forcibly moved promptly cut them off.  Several bottles of fine wine and liquor fell before a wood protection screen slid down and the bartender ran into the main lounge to help strap the passengers in.

The speakers switched to the fleet’s combat comms, “..many did we lose?”, another voice spoke, “Aralis, two of the Slicers blew apart, both pods lost, as well as one of the Omens.  The last Slicer is pretty wounded, but its getting repaired.  The other two Omens suffered major armor damage but the Guardians are repping them as we speak.  The Guardians suffered only shield damage and the Geddons were out of the explosion radius.  We weren’t able to get a lock on any of the bombers before they warped off.”  A sigh was heard over the speakers while the bartender, his name “Arron” on his ID tag, finished strapping Sarai and Tian down.  The observation deck began to change from a lounge-like atmosphere to a virtual command center.  Large screens unfolded from the ceiling, and began showing various tactical representations of the ships outside.  Aralis spoke up again, “Slicer pilot, I need you to check an alternate course of out this low-sec system.  They might be waiting for us at our original exit gate.”

Sarai felt the ship slowly right itself and begin a slow, measured turn off of the station.  A smaller touch viewscreen folded out from Sarai’s chair.  “New course determined.  All ships set new destination as linked in fleet comms.  Prepare for fleet warp.”  Another voice responded, “Aralis, you sure about this?  This path is a long way around, almost 17 jumps.”  Aralis was about ready to answer when one of the other pilots yelled over comms, “Local spike!  We have a red spike!”

Aralis took over, “Check directional!  Let’s get ship types!” 

“Slicer here Sir, Red count is rising, looks like 15 to 20 pilots…. I see Hurricanes, Huginns, a couple of Typhoon class battleships, several Vagabonds.. sir, they are warping to your direction at the station.  There are also additional neutral ships landing on the gate now.”

“Fleet, emergency warp to Biphi gate!  Slicer, you too, and try to get one jump ahead to cover our escape.  Everybody move!”  Sarai could see out the observation window the slow turns of the Armageddons as they began their warp.

“Check, check FC.  The Damu’Khonde fleet has NOT, I repeat, not left gate.  Looks like a few ships decided to be lemmings and warped early.  It looks as if they are being engaged by another enemy fleet.”  A long pause “Confirmed, they are being engaged by some of the local pirate forces.”

An audible grin could be heard from Aralis.  “Belay the warp.  Looks like somebody’s war stumbled onto us.  Prepare for incoming hostiles.  Slicer, warp back here, we might be able to get a bit of payback before we leave.  Everyone make sure to spread out your points and webs.. I want to take out as many as I can before they dock up or cloak.”  The visual boards began showing the battleships no longer moving at full speed toward the nearby gate.  The remaining Omens took up a position between the battleships and possible warp exit points outside the station.

Three red dots showed up on the viewscreen identifying the three Hurricanes that had deftly flew out of subspace.  Each one was given a target moniker by the visual screen: Hurricane A, Hurricane B, Hurricane C.  They had landed far away from a dotted circle surrounding the station.  “FC, this is Slicer.  Going for tackle.”  Sarai noticed a small blue dot moving away from the rest of the blue dots.  She figured that those blue dots representing the fleet they were in.  Two other blue dots, representing the Omens also accelerated toward the Hurricanes as well.  Aralis spoke up, “Omens, make sure they do not get in docking range, our battleships will be following you on the intercept.  Everyone make sure to spread out your webs!  Let’s see if we can take them all down.”   

Looking over at her father, she noticed him intensely checking both the main visual screen and pulling up data on the touchpad mounted to his seat.  His lips were moving, as if somehow he was commanding the fleet.  Her mother, Tian, was in far worse shape.  Although buckled in, she was clearly hunched over as far as her restraints would allow and praying as hard as she could.  Sarai could barely make out the fearful tears coming from her closed eyes.  Things started to slow down now for Sarai.  Having the visual boards certainly help give some sort of dimension to the situation, but it certainly seemed surreal to her. 

The Hurricane pilots, aware of their mistake, were caught between two bad choices.  Either make a run into the mouth of the three awaiting battleships into the safe docking area of the station, or see if they can align and warp out to a nearby celestial body, like a planet or asteroid belt.  They chose the latter, and began aligning toward a nearby planet.  The heavy 720mm Artillery pieces mounted on the Hurricanes roared to life as the ships began to move, easily landing shots on the incoming Omens.  Chucks of armor flew off the Omens with every shot that landed. 

Aralis’ order blared through the comms, “Focus fire on target designated “Hurricane A”.

With that command, the Omens and the battleships responded in turn with purple and while beams of light.  Fired from their Pulse batteries they swiftly penetrated the first Hurricane’s reinforced shields, cutting into the armor beneath it.  The pulse beams from the “Righteous Fist” lit up the now darkened observation deck, giving it a spooky The three Hurricanes were almost aligned when over the comms was heard, “Point, Hurricane A!”  Sarai could see the Omens closing in fast on the Hurricanes, their armor indicators showing large chunks of armor disappearing, only to have it reappear because of the Guardian’s making ranged repairs inflight.  “Point, web, Hurricane B!”  Seconds seem to last forever as the last Omen closed in on the farthest. 

More purple and white rays stabbed out from the battleships, cutting deep into the first Hurricane.  Sarai could see the explosive decompression as the lasers cut the hull in half.  Fascinated, she selected a closer camera view on the wreck of the destroyed Hurricane.  The camera instantly focused on the face of a Minmatar woman, the two sections of the ship seperately tumbling in the background.  Her eyes showing the last flicker of life before the vacuum of space took it.  Her dark skin, the two tattoos (one her cheek, one on her forehead), and most especially the green eyes, the fear in which seemed to see through the distance of space into Sarai’s young soul, all of which burned into Sarai’s mind in an instant.  And just as quickly, the body moved out of the camera’s vision.

Sarai was stirred from her trance, by the Slicer pilot’s yell over comms, “Point, web, Hurricane C!”  “Excellent job, Slicer!”, was Aralis’ response over comms,” Fleet Primary is Hurricane B, Secondary is Hurricane C.  Let’s take these guys down!”  The visual screens showed Warrior II drones from the two remaining Hurricanes trying desperately to take down the Slicer, but the Guardian pilots appeared to be on the ball, and no matter what damage was done, it was repaired quickly after.  More purple and white beams struck out and soon the second Hurricane was leaking atmosphere.  A beam from one of the Armageddons, sliced down the back quarter of the ship designated “Hurricane B”, rupturing the containment of a fusion reactor core.  The subsequent explosion followed through the entire length of the ship, bending the remaining armor plating out like a deformed can.  Escape pods began to be deployed from the command deck, but the only explosive fires flickered through the rest of the dead ship.

The final Hurricane, “Hurricane C”, continued to fire on the closest Omen.. but Sarai could see using the close up camera that escape pods were already being jettisoned despite the ship not being that damaged yet.  However, it soon fell to the barrage of pulse beams and the shields failed rapidly to the onslaught.  The beams sliced through the armor, cutting deep into the superstructure.  Soon, the ship’s own velocity was helping its destruction as large pieces of its inner structure could no longer handle the inertia and just sheared off.  “Hurricane C” then lost velocity and directional control and began to tumble end over end as the nose of the battlecruiser crumpled and bent to the side, due to the force of motion.

“Fleet align to Biphi gate and prepare for fleet warp.  Let’s get out while we still can.”  The remaining blue dots slowly moved toward the Biphi gate.. and then disappeared.  Soon the “Righteous Fist”, followed by the remaining fleet into subspace.  In moments, they landed at the Biphi gate and jumped.  “Slicer.”, Aralis said over comms, “go ahead of us one system, and make sure we aren’t going to get jumped.”  “Aye, sir.” was the response.  A few moments later the Slicer pilot indicated the way was clear and the fleet jumped into the next system and started back toward their destination.

After the third jump in High sec space that the red alarm lights finally went off, and the observation deck reverted back to its lounge arrangement.  Medical teams showed up to assess the health of everyone on the deck.  Aside from a broken leg from a kitchen helper, nothing more than bumps and bruises were to be had.  Sarai had unbuckled herself from her chair and walked to the window that looked out into the vastness of space.

She promptly threw up.