Also, keep in mind, the samples won't be contiguous from now on. There's a gap between #2 and #3 here, and this pattern will continue. But you'll at least get an idea of where I'm going with the book.
“Clear all moorings, and ahead one quarter thrusters.” He couldn’t hear or feel the connections to the drydocks disengage, but he felt a subtle vibration in the floor and his chair as the gravitic drives powered up and began to push the Bastille forward. The other five ships did the same, and, within moments, they were clear and sailing into space. Their speeds increased as they cleared collision hazards, and the fleet began to move into formation, staying several dozen kilometers apart from each other.
“Time to contact?” du Saniel asked.
“Approximately fifteen minutes, sir,” Lieutenant Biggs reported. du Saniel studied the readouts, compiling strategies in his head, for several minutes. As they neared the furthest edges of weapons range, he stood and walked into an open space several meters wide, ringed in standing consoles. Beyond the windows, he could see the hull of the Constitution-class carrier stretch ahead, like a blunt dagger protruding into the black body of space.
Slipping on another pair of control gloves, he activated the system, and the view of space became obscured as he was surrounded by holographic representations of all nearby objects. The ships of his battlegroup floated by as a half-dozen greenish shapes, while the bloody red of the Great Enemy ships approached. All this floated between the blue spheres representing Belladrix and Terranis. Small bits of information floated around each object, giving information such as speed, direction of travel, and general status.
“Standby all weapons, prepare to fire on my command. All starwings and All-Terrain Suits stand ready to launch.” He heard footsteps approach, and didn’t need to look to know it was Captain Legun, his executive officer.
“Once more, eh dear friends?” Renoir manipulated the holograms around him to observe the disposition of his ships.
“So it would seem.” he heard Legun respond. “We have even numbers, but we are likely outgunned, and it will take all our cunning-“
“All MY cunning,” du Saniel interrupted. Legun continued as if nothing had been said.
“-To have any hope of wearing them down enough they withdraw, let alone outright defeat them.”
“We will defeat them, Gerros, it’s just a matter of what it will cost us.”
“Hopefully not too much. Humanity’s numbers are depleted enough as they are.” du Saniel turned to look at Legun.
“You think I don’t know that? I’ve seen what those demons are capable of. They will not stop until every last sentient being in the galaxy is either dead or enslaved to their will. I will NOT be defeated now, after all I’ve done to fight against them and everything I’ve done for this system.” Though they were speaking quietly, he was sure at least some bits of their conversation was reaching the junior officers on the bridge. He leaned in a little more and lowered his voice further.
“Have no fear, my friend. I will see us through this.”
Legun’s face was its usual impassivity, and his violet eyes reflected the light of the holograms. “Of course. I believe in you, as always. I didn’t mean to imply that was in doubt, I simply wanted to reiterate the precariousness of our situation. If we are not cautious enough, every human in this system will be dead by the week’s end.”
“No pressure, then,” Renoir said with only a hint of humor. He made to speak further, but was shook from his spot as something impacted the ship. Through the windows outside, the shields of the ship flared to life for a moment as they absorbed the impact, their glow filling the bridge.
“Report!” du Saniel yelled, turning back to fore.
“Impact from ahead. The enemy destroyers are firing their long-range guns at us!”
Legun’s brow furrowed in confusion. “I thought we were still outside their maximum range.”
“Like I said in the briefing,” du Saniel replied, “sometimes they have surprises. Increase thrust to 110% of maximum and begin firing railguns and flak screens! I don’t care if we can hit them, just try to throw off their aim!” A glance to starboard showed the Brattain’s shields flaring as the Nautilus-class cruiser took a hit. As the shield-flare faded, the other ship continued on undeterred, though its shield induction coils were glowing red-hot from the strain of the hit.
The Great Enemy ships were little more than particularly bright stars in the sky. The distance between them could still be measured in terms of the entire diameter of Terranis or more, though that was quickly changing as the Alliance ships powered forward at dozens of kilometers a second. A few moments later, the ship gave short shakes as the powerful rainguns mounted along the hull flashed to life and manipulated gravity itself to hurl human-sized slugs of tungsten at half the speed of light towards the Great Enemy ships. Meanwhile, smaller, blunt-nosed turrets tracked back and forth, vomiting hundreds of explosives laced with exotic particles into the space before the ship, trying to cause any incoming attacks to explode before hitting the shields. A couple were caught, obscuring the ship in blooms of explosions, but otherwise leaving it unharmed. Though the view from the windows was blocked, the ship was otherwise unimpeded in its view of the battlefield.
du Saniel manipulated the holograms, studying the status of the ships and relative positions of the combatants as the gap closed. He didn’t react as dozens, then hundreds, of tiny red dots began to swarm out of the enemy capital ship. Many floated around the ships like flies around a corpse, but waves of others began to make for the Alliance ships.
“Deploy starwings and ATS groups! Interceptors and Numbergs in defensive formation. I want our bomber wings and Janissaries ready to launch and attack once we close to within ten thousand kilometers.” Officers scrambled to relay his orders.
“You’re attacking with the fighters and suits after all?” Legun asked.
“I need to make sure that Humbaba dies on the first pass. It’ll likely cost a large swathe of our fighters and suits, I know, but the effect on the enemy will balance that out. As long as we can maintain our flak batteries, we should be able to repel most of their fighter attacks.” For an instant, Renoir considered also deploying the contents of hangar bay 47, but dismissed it for now.
“What about boarding ships? You know the suits are best-suited to destroying them.”
Renoir was silent for a second. “I’m not worried about those. If they become a threat, I’ll deal with them.”
Silence and darkness. He sat suspended in his flight harness, half-drifting in a meditative state. The engines of his craft were kept at little more than an idle, as if it was meditating like him. To an outside observer, both might have seemed to be coiled, bristling with pent-up energy, waiting to strike.
Through the neural link with his craft, he was fed a trickle of data from the ship around him. They were nearing the enemy. Guns were already blazing. Soon the word to strike would come, and both he and his craft would awaken and once more streak into battle amidst a blazing tail of fire.