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Excerpt for Elizabeth Skousen Episode 4 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Elizabeth Skousen Episode 4

By Cai Olan

Copyright 2018 Cai Olan



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Next scheduled release is Elizabeth Skousen Supplemental 4 on January 21, 2019 on Smashwords.

Episode 4

Arthit Metharom, the shields officer, was in a room with Dalibor Maly, the commander of the marines on board the Goddard. Their eyes were focused on a screen in front of them. It showed a large muscular alien in orange with four arms fighting a much shorter human male.

The two on the screen were fighting. The alien moved in, slowly, raising two of its arms high up and the other two attempting to grab the human. The human was far faster, parrying the grab attempt with his hands, knocking the lower two arms out of the way while raising his arms up in a fast motion to block the two arms coming down. The alien looked highly bloodied at this point. Then the human threw a pair of punches and the alien fell down.

“Victor!” a voiceover and text on the screen announced, the words hovering over the human.

Dalibor put down the controller he was using, “Has anyone beaten you at this yet?” he asked, surprised as he lost the match.

“Not since we left for Rukast.” Arthit answered in a matter of fact tone.

“How do you do it? That character isn’t even a counter fighter and you still could block and counter everything I tried!” Dalibor continued. “I thought I was good and was getting better, but you don’t even take a scratch!”

Arthit smirked at this, he was still holding his controller. “Marines aren’t used to controllers for the armor. Shields are all about the controls.” Then he paused before adding in a lower tone, “Not that it’s good enough for the colonel.”

“What do you mean?” Dalibor asked, curious.

“She doesn’t trust me with shields that much. They’re always on too long, or not activated in precisely the right way. I keep working on it but the academy and the previous patrol didn’t prepare me for her.” Arthit explained.

“It wasn't your fault.” Dalibor said quickly, though he didn't elaborate before adding, “The colonel loves shields.”

“She doesn’t show it.” Arthit said.

“The colonel did some theoretical research on shield use for several years. No one thought much of it at the time, but at Vanar she managed to show what her research would mean in actual combat. She’s an expert on shields.” Dalibor explained. “You never had to read her work?”

“Not that I remember. Academy had us read quite a few things and the lectures were long so I don’t remember everything we did and didn’t read.” Arthit replied.

“Also saw some stuff suggesting she used to be referred to as Absolute Barrier.” Dalibor said.

Arthit’s eyes widened, “No no no.” he said emphatically. “The colonel can’t be Absolute Barrier! Absolute Barrier was a joke. An unthinking, unfeeling, probably an AI joke. We joked the technicians who weren’t good enough would be sent to work for it.”

“Why do you say that?” Dalibor asked.

“Absolute Barrier insisted shields could last for much longer than they actually do if you were perfe-“ suddenly Arthit stopped speaking. “Actually if Absolute Barrier was a real person they would probably insist on a shield technique similar to the colonel’s.”

--

A couple hours later Lieutenant Colonel Sieger Abraham was in charge of the current patrol of the major space lanes.

“Wilhelm detected, colonel.” Captain Yi announced. “Four light hours out.”

“Any vector?” Abraham asked.

“It looks like it’s leaving. I’ll plot its probable course.” Captain Yi answered.

“Major Novak, set intercept course for the Wilhelm.” Abraham ordered.

“Yes, colonel.” Major Novak agreed.

This continued for the next couple hours, with updates on the position and movement of the Wilhelm as it left the major space lane heading into the Empire.

“Chaff deployed.” Captain Yi announced. “Checking infrared now.” A few seconds later she added, “The chaff is heated and throwing off infrared sensors as well.”

“Not surprised.” Abraham answered. “The last two weeks have seen them running any time we come near and they know how to evade us now. That’s the sixth one we have.” Then there was a pause before he added, “Captain Yi, plot this with the other five we detected as well as their last known vectors.”

“Yes, colonel.” Captain Yi replied before she started entering commands on the sensors console. “It’s ready to bring up to the viewscreen.”

Abraham hit a couple buttons and the plotted courses came up on the viewscreen. There were six spots visible with arrows. “Those arrows look like they’re pointed to a very similar place. It looks like they’re heading to-“ then he paused, looking for the spot where most of the lines intersected. “I believe that’s our Golem.” He said. “It’s pretty consistent. Resume normal patrol for now, this will have to be reported.”

With that the patrol continued.

--

“It appears pretty obvious that most of the Wilhelms in the system are operating out of the Golem.” Abraham reported to Colonel Skousen after the patrol when the Goddard was in orbit above Rukast.

“To the surprise of no one.” the colonel responded flatly. “Also not a surprise they’re running away every time they see us anywhere close to them. Any information on the Loki we saw?”

“It has not been detected since the one time we encountered it, colonel.” Abraham reported.

“We will need some countermeasure to those missiles they used. If they keep being effective against us I assure you they will find a way to modify the Wilhelms and anything else they have to use them as well.” Colonel Skousen continued in her analysis. “I’ll have to ask engineering if they were able to figure anything out. The style of missile used acted much like Imperial missiles, but smaller.”

“The missiles are bothering you?” Abraham asked.

“Among other things.” she answered. “What really concerns me is that potential enriching facility. I’m not convinced it’s the only one. Not only that, but in order to have those facilities they would need not only the funding, but the technical knowledge to set up something like what we saw there, even if it seemed to be poorly done.”

“Colonel, this is starting to feel more like an outright rebellion than well-organized pirates.” Abraham said.

“Not just that, we are not entirely sure who we are against yet and how tied to Rukast they are. We may need to approach the Golem soon to see if closer scans tell us anything useful.” Colonel Skousen answered. “I need to speak with Naumov.” she said to Abraham.

--

Elizabeth braced herself mentally as she went to the holographic conferencing room to call Naumov, grimacing as she did so. Abraham was just outside the room, watching as well. Then she initiated the dialing sequence. Fifteen seconds later she had a reply, “Ah! Good evening! If it isn’t the colonel herself! To what do I owe this pleasure?” Naumov was standing, smiling as he always did.

“What do you know about the Golem?” Elizabeth asked directly.

“I already sent you information on it.” Naumov replied, “Did you think I was holding out on you, keeping something about that thing secret? I already told you they’re probably being paid off by multiple governments down here. You know the technical specifications of a Golem better than I do.” Then Naumov paused before his grin widened, “Or were you interested in a date with one of their shield technicians. That is your thing, isn’t it?”

“I don’t want a date.” Elizabeth said flatly, “But what do you mean by shield technicians? Do they just do maintenance on their shields or did you mean something else?”

“I mean shield technicians, just like the ones you have. Is your main one okay? Are you shopping for a new one? That tremor of his must make the needed precision difficult!” Naumov continued to pry.

“His hand is fine when he’s actually using the controls, shield types are twitchy is all.” Elizabeth said, frowning as she did so. “So you’re telling me the Golem has manual shields just like the Loki and just like what we have?”

“Probably!” Naumov continued with his excited attitude. “Wait wait wait!” he said almost immediately after, cutting off any possible response from Elizabeth. “The big question is where shield techs come from!” Then he smiled, “Well, you see, when two people love each other very mu-“

Naumov was interrupted, “I don’t know who you have a date with this week but can you focus on something other than which woman shot you down for a few seconds.” The tone was angry, and it was from Abraham.

“You’re no fun.” Naumov complained, the smile gone. “That was below the belt.” Then he shook his head, “Fine. That’s a question I had myself. Officially the only source of shield techs is the academy. Unofficially they come from planets the Empire is trying to bring back into the fold. Thing is, they don’t have time to train them up like the academy does due to high demand and little ability to supply them, so they get a two week course, are put on small spacecraft and they figure they’ll learn on the job. Much cheaper than the multi-year training a proper one takes.”

“You act like the Empire trains shield techs sufficiently.” Elizabeth commented.

“Yes, yes, I know, you don’t like how shield techs are trained. We all know.” Naumov countered. “My point being once they get enough experience they get put on the bigger spacecraft, like that Loki you saw. The really experienced ones get planetary shield or space station duty.”

“Do the shield technicians ever come down to Rukast?” Elizabeth asked. “I’d like to see you talk to one and figure out what they know.”

“Do they? I don’t know! It’s not like the Golem volunteers the names of everyone they have working on that thing. I do assure you illicit station shield techs are pretty rare, so if you could get one or two you’d probably hurt them pretty badly.” Naumov explained.

“Obviously they have to open the hangar for the Wilhelms and other vessels.” Elizabeth said next, “Do they open up at any other time?”

“Not that I’ve seen from reports of scans from the planet, but you’re probably causing them a few headaches. You want to learn more you can probably pay them a visit yourself.” Naumov suggested, “It’s not like you will need to worry too much, a few light hours out and they won’t be able to hit you even if they do have a nice long range weapon I don’t know about.”

“Thanks.” Elizabeth said flatly. “Keep an eye on that thing, any progress on that data core from the Wilhelm?”

“Do you know how encryption works?” Naumov asked rhetorically.

“Yes.” Elizabeth interjected quickly.

“It takes time. I thought the encryption would be easy, but it’s Imperial style, which means I’m looking for a password or I’m probably out of luck.” Naumov explained.

“And let me guess, the prisoners aren’t talking to give you that password.” were her next words.

“With the person in charge killed in the first raid I didn’t have much to work with, the others knew nothing about how to access it.” Naumov replied. “I’ll see what I can do. It might be faster to just capture another spacecraft than the password attack will take, because that will be a while if it ever succeeds.” Naumov suggested. “I’ll do what I can.”

“You don’t happen to know where I can find a Wilhelm that will not run away the moment they detect us, do you?” Elizabeth asked, her tone flat.

“I’m sending you reports of everything I know, but recently Sloh decided he needed extra investigative muscle on some mafia types and decided my resources were better spent on that right now.”

“Of course. Let me know when you find anything else useful.” Elizabeth concluded.

After receiving agreement from Naumov she disconnected the holographic conference. “Have I mentioned how much I don’t like him?” she asked Abraham.

“Naumov at least cares about his work.” Abraham replied.

“Thanks for reminding me why I can’t just have him replaced again.” Elizabeth said, frowning as she did so. With that, she left the room and headed back to her office.

--

Several days later the Goddard left Rukast orbit, this time heading towards the Golem. “Our objective is to capture the data core of one of the Golem’s spacecraft and the leader of the spacecraft who will be able to unlock it. Secondary objective is observation of the Golem.” Then a pause before she added, “Captain Yi, if it looks like they’re firing any weapons from the station we need to know immediately.”

“Yes, colonel.” Captain Yi replied, eyes fixated on the sensors and their controls.

“Captain Lagunova, let me know if we receive any transmissions.” was the colonel’s next order, to which she received an affirmative response to as well.

The first four hours were uneventful, consisting of reports and updates. This was broken by Captain Yi. “Have an infrared reading on the Golem.” she reported. “It’s surprisingly intense this far out, even for a space station.”

“Put it up on screen.” Colonel Skousen ordered. Once this was done she looked at it, “This is quite heavy, even for a Golem.” There was one large intense heat source and another that appeared to be within the Golem as well that was about a fourth of the size. The fact the heat signatures from both bled into each other made that difficult to discern. “Send it to engineering, see if Major Nagi can gleam any information from it.”

“Yes, colonel.” Captain Yi replied before switching her comm to get in touch with engineering, “Major Nagi?”

“Yes, what is it?” Major Nagi asked, seeming somewhat annoyed. “Let me guess, you don’t know what something is and need eyes on it.”

“You’re quite perceptive, that’s exactly what I have for you!” Captain Yi responded excitedly. “Anyway, I’m sending you heat signatures from the Golem. We want to know if they mean anything.”

“Of course heat signatures mean something.” Major Nagi commented, “But fine, what is it exactly you’re hoping to find out.”

“The signature is too heavy for a Golem, according to the colonel.” Captain Yi explained.

“Fine, I’ll look into it.” Major Nagi said. With that Captain Yi pressed a few buttons and sent the infrared scans to him.

“Thank you, major!” Captain Yi replied cheerfully. Once that was done and the comm deactivated she reported to the colonel, “They’re sent, he’ll get back to us when he knows something.”

“Captain Yi, any other spacecraft in the area?” the colonel asked.

“Seeing a Wilhelm about two light hours out, but it’s quiet out here so far, colonel.” Captain Yi replied.

“Major Novak, plot an intercept course.” Colonel Skousen ordered.

“Yes colonel.” the pilot acknowledged. Several seconds later he added, “I have one, it will take 130 minutes to be in projectile weapon range if the vessel maintains the last detected trajectory.”

“How close will that put us to the Golem?” was the colonel’s next question.

“Two light hours, assuming nothing about the Wilhelm’s trajectory changes.” Major Novak answered.

“Two light hours is cutting it close.” the colonel mused. “Initiate intercept course for the Wilhelm. We need to capture that thing with its commander intact.”

“Yes, colonel.” was Major Novak’s reply.

Once again the command center resumed its usual activity of periodic updates. This time is was Captain Lagunova who interrupted. “Colonel, incoming message from the Golem. Text only.”

“What does it say?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“It only says, ‘Leave.’” Captain Lagunova replied. “Beyond that there’s nothing. The signal came from the Golem, which is why I made a point to intercept it. I thought it would be a waste and it would be encrypted but it wasn’t.” The comms officer paused, “It was sent on a tight beam transmission, this was sent directly to us.”

“Good to know, captain.” the colonel replied.

“Would you like to reply, colonel?” Captain Lagunova asked next.

“Not yet.” Colonel Skousen answered. “See if they send anything else, especially as we get closer.”

Eventually the Goddard approached the Wilhelm. “Status of weapons, Major Hafner?” the colonel asked.

“Active, ready to fire at your command.” the weapons officer replied.

“Shields, Major Metharom?” was the next check.

“Shields are prepared and at 100%.” the shield officer responded.

Then the colonel activated her comm, “Major Maly.” she began, “Have the marines ready for a quick boarding. Orders are strictly non-lethal, we need the captain alive on this one and we don’t know what they look like.”

“Will begin preparations of suits. Any orders on armaments?” Major Maly responded over the comms.

“Use Ranger suits with a submission loadout.” Colonel Skousen ordered.

“Acknowledged, colonel.” was the major’s affirmative reply.

“Activate comms to the Wilhelm.” was the colonel’s next order.

“Comms are ready, colonel.” Captain Lagunova said.

Then the colonel activated the external comms, “This is the Imperial Spacecraft Goddard. I am Colonel Elizabeth Skousen. You are ordered to surrender and submit to a search immediately. Failure to comply will be met with force.” Then she deactivated them. “Keep approaching, Major Novak. I’m not expecting them to bother replying. See if they’re deploying chaff, Captain Yi.”

“It shouldn’t be a problem if they deploy any, colonel. They’re isolated enough we could still intercept. It’s likely why they haven’t tried it already.” Captain Yi explained.

“Entering reliable projectile weapon range.” Major Hafner reported.

“Proceed until we’re in beam range.” the colonel ordered. “Prepare the main beam for 25% power. Aim for propulsion only.”

“Yes, colonel.” Major Hafner said in acknowledgement.

Several minutes later Captain Lagunova said, “We received a reply. It reads, ‘Nuts.’”

“Any additional meaning to the message?” Colonel Skousen asked.

Major Novak started to chuckle after Captain Lagunova relayed the message. “It’s an old war story. When asked to surrender, that’s what the commander supposedly said. It means they have no intention of surrendering. Strange they have someone who knows that reference on board.”

“In that case,” Colonel Skousen began, “Open fire with beams once in range.”

“That will be in two minutes, colonel.” Major Hafner replied.

“Prioritize propulsion and try not to hit their command center.” Colonel Skousen explained. “The reactor would be too much of a risk.” Then she spoke up, “Major Novak, try and get behind the Wilhelm so we can get shots at the main propulsion systems.”

“Right away, colonel.” Major Novak responded, still smirking a bit after having explained the message.

“Any rear facing weaponry on the Wilhelm?” Colonel Skousen asked next.

“None showing up. They could have something deployable in the cargo bays though.” Captain Yi responded.

The Goddard moved quickly, the thrusters at the side of the spacecraft making it change direction. First the spacecraft merely turned but maintained the same direction it was going. While artificial gravity made the effects inside the Goddard negligible the spacecraft itself was still vulnerable to the difficulties of rapid course changes in space.

Finally the Goddard was behind the Wilhelm. “Firing main beam, 25% power.” Major Hafner announced.

“Don’t fire another shot until we see how it affects them. We only need to slow them enough to conduct a hostile boarding.” Colonel Skousen answered.

“Understood, colonel.” Major Hafner replied.

“Captain Yi, let me know when you register the impact of the attack.” Colonel Skousen ordered.

“Yes, colonel.” Captain Yi said as she looked at her sensor displays. “It appears to have hit the shield. They’re still using universal types for the Wilhelms.”

“Major Hafner, calculate how much power is needed to break the shield plus ten percent, then fire.” the colonel ordered next.

“Yes, colonel.” Major Hafner replied. About half a minute later she responded, “Firing second beam, 48 precent.”

“No surprises from the Wilhelm.” Captain Yi announced. “Nothing coming from the cargo bays.”

“Good.” Colonel Skousen said. “Anything from the Golem?” was her next question.

“Nothing showing up on sensors yet.” Captain Yi confirmed. “Second beam penetrated the shield. Watching the Wilhelm for any reaction.”

“We can’t go too much deeper or else we will risk the reactor. We got lucky last time life support wasn’t taken offline.” Colonel Skousen said.

“They’re still heading to the Golem. We should be able to initiate hostile boarding operations in twenty minutes.” Captain Yi answered.

“Closer than I would like.” the colonel admitted. Then she spoke into her comm, “Major Maly, prepare for a hostile boarding in approximately twenty minutes. This will be a bit rough.”

“Affirmative, colonel.” Major Maly responded over the comm. “We’re down here ready for subdual combat.”

“Wilhelm is moving slightly erratically, leaning ninety degrees.” Captain Yi reported, “Must have hit a propulsion unit on that side.”

“Major Novak, get in position for boarding.” Colonel Skousen ordered.

“Right away, colonel.” Major Novak responded.

“Colonel, do you have a moment?” were the words that came from the colonel’s comm. It was Major Nagi in engineering.

“A bit busy right now.” Colonel Skousen pointed out.

“This might be important. A normal Golem runs sixteen reactors, most of it coordinated towards shields.” Major Nagi explained. “What we figured out down here is this Golem’s running twenty. Don’t know where they found the room for four more reactors but that leaves them a lot of options for shields and additional weaponry, depending on how the reactors are calibrated.”

“We’re in the middle of a boarding operation, major. What’s your point?” Colonel Skousen asked impatiently.

“My point is if we’re within two light hours of the Golem it has enough energy to fire a beam right at us and we’d only have ten minutes warning if we’re lucky.” Major Nagi insisted.

“They would have to convert their shield reactors to power weapons, not to mention a beam weapon which could handle that much power.” Colonel Skousen observed.

“Yes, yes, I know, I know.” Major Nagi continued, “But it’s important to not discount the fact this is likely a modified space station we’re dealing with. If they can power shields and weapons with that many reactors-“

“Keep looking into it, major.” the colonel finally ordered. “I want to know what those reactors are doing, not your guesses.”

“Yes, yes, of course, colonel.” Major Nagi relented.

--

The Goddard was beside the Wilhelm eventually, the space between them no longer measured in astronomical units or even light minutes, but rather meters. “Major Novak, activate the walkway now.” Colonel Skousen ordered with urgency. “Major Maly, once the walkway is extended go in and capture the Wilhelm.”

She received affirmative responses for both and the Goddard’s walkway thrust out violently from the heavy cruiser, hitting the Wilhelm right where its airlock was, slamming past it and creating a direct path into the Wilhelm proper.

Maly’s marines immediately entered the walkway and began rushing the entrance, once again using four teams. The difference between the first time upon entering Rukast and this time was instead of being armed with light rifles, they were instead equipped exclusively with large stunsticks with some marines being assigned plasma cutters. The only difference with these stunsticks from the previous ones is they were far larger and the head of the stick looked more like a morning star than a staff.

The first team rushed for the reactor. Unlike the first time when they met no resistance, this time they met someone wearing an Angel suit armed with a light rifle. The small corridors of the Wilhelm meant they were going through them one by one, forming a line of four. The one at the front took his stunstick and thrust it into the abdomen of the Angel suit wearing person. The stunstick didn’t activate, but it did hit with an impact amplified by the Ranger suit he was wearing. The Angel suit soldier staggered back, leading the marine in front to thrust with the stunstick again. He hit the same place, creating a dent in the Angel suit. Then he thrust for a third time, making the indent larger.

The first team heard sounds of pain coming from the person inside the Angel suit. “Out of the suit.” the first marine ordered, his voice coming out of a speaker where the mouth is covered on the suit. The Angel suit soldier complied, revealing a boy in his late teens. The first marine moved the suit off to the side, walking past it. “Tie him up.” he ordered to the other marines. One of them taking out a zip tie, “Hands behind your back.” was the next order to the boy, another issue met with minimal resistance. “Good.” With that his hands were tied. “Does the reactor room have atmosphere?” he asked.

The boy didn’t say anything. “I said does the reactor room have atmosphere?” This time the marine team leader was louder.

“It’s sealed!” the boy exclaimed, “That’s all I know!”

The first marine said into his comm, “Reactor room is sealed, unknown if it has atmosphere or not. Life support systems are still online.”

The second team of five rushed into the cargo bay, there they were met by a large maze of pallets. They did pick up faint sounds of people moving around, however. “Looks like they’re hiding.” the leader of the second team said over the team’s comms. “Split up into two teams, take opposite sides and flank them. Stay in contact.”

They split up into one group of two and one group of three. The group of three being led by the team’s leader. The ranger suits were the lightest available to Imperial marines, but they weren’t designed for stealth, meaning even as the teams moved, they made noise which could be heard throughout the cargo bay.

--

The third team moved towards habitation. The door was heavy and locked, but not sealed off like the reactor room. The leader of the third team used the heavy stunstick as a battering ram, forcing the door open in short order. With that the third team rushed in. There were only three people in the room, “On the floor, hands behind your back!” the leader of the third team ordered. Faced with five marines in Ranger suits and stunsticks made compliance quick and they were restrained.

--

The fourth team headed towards the Wilhelm’s command center. This door was sealed. Major Maly was heading the fourth team this time. “Get out the plasma cutters, make quick work of this thing.” he ordered. One of the marines began to apply the plasma cutters to the sealed door. While this was done, they could hear several voices inside, the voices sounded like they were coming out of speakers rather than unfiltered.

--

The first group of the second team was moving quickly through the maze of supplies, realizing that their suits were too loud to try and be stealthy they instead went for speed. Upon finding one person, the team leader quickly deployed the stunstick, causing the person to fall to the ground, who was quickly restrained afterwards.

--

“Colonel.” Captain Yi said to Colonel Skousen back on the Goddard. “We have incoming, thirty minutes out. It looks to be a series of small projectiles.”

“It’s like” Major Hafner began as she looked at her smaller display of the space surrounding the Goddard, “A shotgun blast, almost.”

“What’s the size on the shot they’re using?” Colonel Skousen asked next.

“Little early to tell, but six or twelve inches most likely.” Captain Yi answered.

“Of course there had to be a surprise.” the colonel responded.

“Colonel, the shot will almost certainly destroy the Wilhelm when it gets here. Shred it apart. Its shields were universal and collapsed quickly. Even if they recharged it would just collapse again within a couple seconds.” The intervention was from Major Metharom.

“I kn-“ the colonel began, then she paused, “Thank you, major.” Then she got on her comm, “Major Maly, how quickly can you secure the command center of the Wilhelm, we have incoming.”

“I would say about twenty minutes, we’re cutting through right now.” Major Maly answered. “Also they have suits, the orders for non-lethal complicate things a bit.”

“You said they have suits?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“Just like last time, but we won’t just be able to shoot them this time, and the stunsticks will just be like a club against them so it will take some time.” Major Maly explained, the sound of the plasma cutter working in the background.

“Are you absolutely sure they have suits? And can you take the command center while keeping the crew intact?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“Some of them have suits, I can hear that much, but I can’t say everyone.” Major Maly explained.

“We have incoming projectiles, enough to shred that Wilhelm entirely.” the colonel said. “Is there any way you can get control within five minutes?”

“Five minutes? We will still be waiting for the plasma cutters to give access to the command center.” Major Maly said.

“Colonel, if they can get shields online that will keep the atmosphere in, we can then move the Goddard to shield the smaller Wilhelm from the projectiles.” Major Metharom suggested.

“That many projectiles could overload the Goddard’s shields as well.” Colonel Skousen objected. “You would need to program split second precision on each of the shield generators to have a chance of being able to do that and they’re solid projectiles, so point defenses won’t be that useful against this.”

“I have a half hour, right? I can do those calculations.” Major Metharom insisted.

“It’s too risky, failure and the Goddard gets ripped to shreds with everyone on board.” Colonel Skousen objected. “You leave shields up too long, what makes you think you can block everything with the level of precision required, major?”

“We can’t attack the Golem anyway, and it will be at least two hours before they can send something in range that we could shoot at, so allocate the weapons’ power to shields and it should be enough.” Major Metharom continued to insist.

“We’ll be helpless if anything happens while we do that.” Colonel Skousen continued with her objections. Then the colonel paused before she activated her comm. “Major Nagi, prepare to divert the weapons’ reactor’s power and anything else you can give me to shields on my command.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll do that, colonel, it will take fifteen minutes.” Major Nagi answered. “How badly do you want life support and propulsion?”

“We need propulsion and life support still.” the colonel responded. “Proceed with the plan.” Then she switched her comms, “Major Maly, get someone to activate shields once you’re inside, even if there’s fighting still going on. We need them up in ten minutes.”

--

“We can be through by then.” Major Maly responded. “Actually, we’re almost finished now.” Then he announced on the team’s comms, “New objective, distract the command center oppo and reactivate shields.” Then for the marines in general, “Everyone not with me, get yourselves and all the captured off the Wilhelm immediately.”

--

The second team found the second person, who tried to run from the first squad but was intercepted and knocked unconscious by the second squad. They were quickly restrained. “It’s time to leave.” the team’s commander said over the team’s comms. With that they picked up the two unconscious members of the Wilhelm’s crew and started rushing for the Goddard.

--

The third team lead the captured crew members back to the boarding walkway, where they found the first team getting ready to leave as well. This was followed shortly after by the second team and their pair of prisoners.

--

“Go!” Major Maly ordered as the plasma torch created enough weakness in the sealed door it could be breached. The four marines with him stormed the command center.

Once inside, they saw five people in the previously seen Angel suits waiting for them. Three of the marines immediately rushed to melee range with the Angel suits. One rushed for the controls. When the remaining two in Angel suits who were not in melee with one of the marines turned towards the shield console Major Maly rushed in with his stunstick, using it like a morning star against both of them in rapid succession.

In return, the two Angel suit wearers Maly was contending with surrounded him, one behind him and one in front of him. He rapidly plunged his stunstick into the one in front of him, the amplified strength of the Ranger suit being sufficient to knock his first opponent back slightly. Then Maly turned around quickly, planning to do the same to the other one only to see a large pistol designed for armored combat pointed at his head. He ducked quickly, just in time to hear the weapon fire.

“Goddammit!” Maly said, his voice showing exertion. Once he ducked, he went to use the stunstick again, forcing it upwards into the abdomen. Instead he saw the opponent now in front of him drop the pistol, instead gripping the stunstick with both hands and snapping it in two, causing a couple sparks to fly.

Maly froze for a moment, only to hear a thud and see his HUD showing damage to the back area of the suit. “Not breached yet, good.” He then turned around counterclockwise, ending up behind and to the side of the first opponent. Maly’s left hand took the left wrist of the opponent now in front of him while his right hand grabbed his upper arm. Then he started to force the arm down rapidly with his right hand while not moving his left hand. This didn’t stop until Maly felt the arm snap and give way. This was punctuated by a scream from the opponent that could be heard even though both were in suits.

The other opponent rushed forward while Maly was doing this, landing an armored punch to his right torso area. The HUD flashed red as this happened. “Yes, I know.” Maly muttered as the alarms about damage to the suit started going off.

Maly stayed at his current range, throwing the opponent with the snapped arm aside in order to punch with his left hand, using his right arm as a guard now.

Unfortunately this opponent was faster, blocking the blow with his own arm and counter punching. Maly avoided this by taking a small leap backwards. He tried to take a moment to look and see how the others were faring, but the moment he tried to check his HUD for that a lunging punch was incoming, forcing him to focus on a swift block of the incoming attack instead.

“Everyone but your team is inside the Goddard, can your team activate the shield?” It was the colonel speaking over the comm.

Maly looked over to see one of his team unoccupied by the shield console. “Yes, but we’re pretty much stuck in here.” This was punctuated by the sound of his armor taking another hit again and his HUD showing an unconfirmed breach of the armor.

“It will be fine, we have a plan.” Colonel Skousen said with certainty, “Activate the shield now.” she ordered.

“Activate shield!” Maly ordered quickly.

“Shield active!” the marine at the shield console replied a moment later.

Maly felt the armor her was wearing begin to move slower, suggesting a significant amount of damage. He managed to use the legs in his suit, which were just fine, to launch a lunging punch right at the abdomen. This attack hit, forcing his still standing opponent to stagger back slightly. Maly followed this up with a similar punch, using his legs to provide the momentum rather than the arms.

After this punch, the opponent went to the ground. Then Maly heard something from his right side making a “thud” sound. He looked over to see it was the marine previously at the shield console stomping on the right hand of the opponent with a broken arm. The right hand had the pistol that had previously dropped to the ground in hand. The stomp forced the fingers open and the marine picked up the pistol, quickly pointing and firing it into the chest of the last remaining opponent.

“We need him alive!” Major Maly warned as he saw the bullet make a dent in the armor.

“He’ll be fine, it’s not like I hit the neck.” the marine replied.

Then Maly looked around, seeing all five of the men were now on the ground. The three Maly wasn’t fighting had already had their suits removed and were restrained. Maly tackled the one just shot and forced him to the ground, quickly taking the helmet of the suit off. This revealed an older man with greying hair. “Still breathing.” he said.

--

In the command center of the Goddard Colonel Skousen was giving orders. “Major Novak, don’t wait for the walkway to fully detract, put the Goddard in between the Wilhelm and the incoming projectiles.” Then she muttered, “I am not going to be denied my prize.”

“Yes, colonel.” Major Novak said as the Goddard began to move.

“Colonel, now two sets of incoming projectiles, first one is ten minutes out, second is twenty-five.” Captain Yi announced.

“More great news.” Colonel Skousen said flatly. Then louder she said, “Major Metharom, do you have a shield solution yet?”

“I do, colonel.” Major Metharom confirmed.

“How much power will it take up?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“Should take 40% of the shield power after the weapons reactor is added in.” Major Metharom confirmed.

“Be ready to activate the shield solution. Captain Lagunova, any communications?” the colonel asked next.

“None, colonel.” Captain Lagunova announced. “Want to send something.”

“I have nothing to say to them right now.” the colonel responded.

“Weapon power is drained. Everything is offline.” Major Hafner reported next. “This feels wrong somehow.”

“I assure you, blocking a shotgun’s worth of projectiles feels even more wrong.” Major Metharom countered. Major Hafner was going to reply, but saw that he was busy focusing on coordinating the shield solution.

Then the first wave of projectiles hit, “All projectiles blocked by the Goddard, but some stray ones got past us.” Captain Yi confirmed.

“How much shield power do we have left?” the colonel asked.

“58%.” Major Metharom announced.

“2% deviance.” Colonel Skousen observed. “Major Novak, Major Maly, start moving both spacecraft to Rukast. Keep the Goddard between the Golem and the Wilhelm.” She received affirmative answers to both.

“Second wave incoming in ten minutes now.” Captain Yi announced. “There’s also a third wave at twenty five minutes.”

“Major Metharom, can you block and only use 25% shield power?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“Even with blocking this precise, I might be able to get it to 35.” Major Metharom said. “Anything lower and even a split second off will lead to us getting hit pretty badly.”

“Major Nagi.” Colonel Skousen said into her comm. “We need more power within twenty-five minutes, anything you can give me?”

“No, impossible, colonel!” Major Nagi protested. “I’m already giving you weapons and shields combined and I don’t know how much longer I can even do that much.”

“We need more power or the Goddard is dead.” Colonel Skousen said sternly.

“I can probably cycle out the life support reactor for up to an hour.” Major Nagi offered. “Artificial gravity might be enough, how much do you need?”

“I’ll get back to you when I know that, major.” Colonel Skousen answered.

Then the second wave hit, “Second wave blocked.” Captain Yi announced.

“What are our shields at, Major Metharom?” the colonel asked next.

“24%.” Major Metharom answered flatly.

“We need 16% for shields.” Colonel Skousen said over her comm to Major Nagi.

“I can give you that with artificial gravity, but I hope that’s the last salvo because there’s not much else I can give you that isn’t propulsion.” Major Nagi offered.

“Do it.” Colonel Skousen ordered. Then she activated her comm to be heard on the entire spacecraft. “In five minutes we will be losing gravity for an unknown duration.” Her voice was flat and calm. “Secure as many supplies as possible.”

Five minutes later the colonel strapped herself into the command chair instead of standing as she normally did. Then she felt the sensation of zero-g. Then she saw the others in the command center were strapped in as well.

“Looks like the third salvo is the last one. Maybe they ran out. Not seeing any more.” Captain Yi announced.

“Good.” Colonel Skousen said.

Then the final salvo made contact, “Fully blocked.” Captain Yi announced.

“How much shield power do we have left?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“5%. The artificial gravity was just enough.” Major Metharom said.

With that, the journey back to Rukast for both spacecraft began.

--

Even with the immediate threat of the incoming projectiles over, Colonel Skousen didn’t relax. “Major Nagi, how much time before you can bring systems back online?” she asked over her comm.

“Depends what systems you feel like using. We drained most of the Goddard’s power on shields and I need to recalibrate the weapons and life support reactors.” Major Nagi replied.

“How long for weapons?” was the colonel’s next question. “I get the sense they didn’t stop firing out of the kindness of their hearts.”

“You want to fight with the Goddard still?” Major Nagi asked incredulously. “The shield capacitors might be damaged from the overload, I’m not sure they’d come on completely right now. If you’re lucky I might be able to have weapons on by the time we get back to Rukast.”

“We’re eight hours out, major, are you sure you can’t give me anything faster?” the colonel asked.

“I’ll do what I can to give you something.” Major Nagi promised. “But I won’t even bother with artificial gravity if you want the Goddard in fighting shape quick.”

“Colonel.” Captain Yi interrupted, “A Loki is showing up on sensors coming from the Golem. It’s about an hour out from combat range.”

“This must be why they stopped, they sent out something to hunt us down.” the colonel muttered. “Major, we have incoming, you have an hour to give me something.” Colonel Skousen said sternly. “Report back within forty-five minutes.” With that she ended the communication with Major Nagi and activated it again, “Major Maly, is there any way to speed up the Wilhelm?” she asked. “We have the Loki incoming in an hour.”

“Without a damage control team doing an EVA? I doubt it.” Major Maly replied. “The Goddard could try towing, but again, that would take an EVA and be slow. Not to mention exposing the Wilhelm to any potential fire from the Golem.”

Colonel Skousen sighed at this. “This Wilhelm better be worth it.” she grumbled.

--

Major Nagi was in a briefing room full of the engineering crew he could assemble quickly. With artificial gravity off, it was more a floating crowd than a standard sit down briefing. “We, being engineers, are, of course, being asked for a miracle. The colonel wants some combat capability returned to the Goddard within forty-five minutes to deal with an incoming.”

“Does she not realize the weapons reactor needs recalibrated to not risk frying the capacitors?” one of the younger enlisted men asked.

“I explained that to her, yes. At least she didn’t tell me it worked at Vanar so it should work here.” Major Nagi then sighed, “Nevermind that. We have forty-five minutes. Any idea with a reasonable chance of success needs to be brought to my attention immediately. You have fifteen minutes so we have time to implement the miracle.”

“What about the canisters made to overload the beam weapons? The ones meant to breach the Golem.” a brown haired woman asked. “They’re independent of the standard power sources.”

“We haven’t even tested if they hold a charge yet. Not to mention they’re designed to be put in place ahead of time with an EVA.” Major Nagi objected.

“What if we wire it to the missile bay?” a male enlisted engineer asked.

“Those canisters are designed to be attached to a beam weapon!” Major Nagi said suddenly. “You think you can just rewire that into a missile bay and have it work?”

“How many canister prototypes are built?” the male enlisted engineer asked.

“We have two. No one’s even run tests on them yet!” Major Nagi sighed, “Go, see if it will even work. You’ll need both of them.” Then he got on the comm with Colonel Skousen, “We might be able to get a missile usable.” he said. “Might.”

“A missile is all that you can give me?” was the reply from the colonel.

“And we need you to point the Goddard towards the Loki in case any of this goes wrong.” Major Nagi added.

--

“Major Novak, turn towards the Loki.” Colonel Skousen ordered. She kept her comm on so Major Nagi could hear it. “Major Hafner, be ready to deploy a missile.”

“Yes, colonel.” Major Hafner and Major Novak replied as the Goddard started to turn.

--

The two enlisted engineers that asked about the canisters had them fifteen minutes later. “Fire control and the missile bay doors are separate.” the enlisted woman said to the man, another enlisted engineer with her.

“Do you really think this will work?” the man asked cynically. “This is pretty desperate.”

“I’d prefer not to die on my first assignment.” the woman replied. She opened up the front of one of the canisters, revealing an array of wires. Then she opened a control panel linked to the missile bay door. She took a knife, cutting the wires leading to the missile bay door and started to jury rig the canister to be attached to it. Then she hit the activation button on the canister. “Missile bay door opened.” she reported.

The man went to work on the canister prepared for the fire control system, similar cutting the wires open on both and activating.

--

“Shit!” Major Hafner exclaimed from the command center. “Fire control systems just had a surge. I see the door is open but I can’t enter coordinates or target the Loki.”

“Damn.” Colonel Skousen muttered. “Is there anything you can do with it?” she asked.

“Let me see.” Major Hafner said, trying to see if any part of her console was online. “I think I can enter a distance for the micro-FTL drive and then have it explode on dropping out of FTL.”

“Do you have any mobility on the missile otherwise?” Colonel Skousen asked.

“Not that I’m seein-“ Major Hafner began, then suddenly her voice became more panicked, “I’m losing power fast on fire control.”

“Enter a distance as close to the Loki as you can get and fire it now, maximum yield.” Colonel Skousen ordered.

“That’s a quarter an AU away, will that be close enough?” Major Hafner asked.

“It will have to be.” the colonel responded. Her voice still composed.

“Firing missile.” Major Hafner announced. Then ten seconds later, “Weapons console is completely dead. We won’t get another shot.”

Then the waiting began as the missile left the bay and entered FTL. Colonel Skousen looked over the command center as silence fell over it. Captain Metharom’s hand trembled. Captian Lagunova looked over her comms for any incoming traffic. Captain Yi stared at the sensors display, even though she knew it would be at least a half hour before knowing if the missile had any effect.

“The missile has a wide blast radius.” Colonel Skousen finally said, breaking the silence. “Two light minutes will make the Loki reconsider.” Her voice was quieter, but steady, showing a calmness during the wait.

“We’re up to 10% shields.” Major Metharom added.

“10% is enough to protect any critical systems.” Colonel Skousen added. The silence overcame the command center again.

“Sensors are showing the missile exploding.” Captain Yi finally said.

“Put it on the viewscreen.” the colonel ordered. Captain Yi did so. The explosion was large, taking up a couple inches on the large viewscreen. “The missile exploded. What’s the Loki doing?”

“It’s-“ Captain Yi began, staring at the sensors, “It’s turning around!” she said excitedly.

“Maintain TAC-2.” the colonel ordered over the comm to the entire spacecraft. “The immediate danger has passed, but we will be maintaining a heightened alert condition until we return to Rukast. Estimated time, eight hours.” Then she switched her comm to Major Maly, “Get the Wilhelm moving, we are returning to Rukast.”

“Yes, colonel.” Major Maly replied over the comm.




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