Red Storm Over Ganymede
“Tristan, take the firing controls,” Captain Kali roared over the chaos on the bridge.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much left in the way of cannons to work with. Both the port and starboard guns had been decimated by repeated attacks from the Regina One and the other ships from the First Fleet. It was hell, being here and being fired on by my own ships. I had to constantly remind myself that they were no longer my ships, however. Right now they served my enemy.
I jammed the targeting visor over my head and instantly saw views from each of the remaining gun ports. We still had our bow and stern long-range cannons available, as well as the anti-small craft dorsal and ventral guns. They would have to be enough to protect our flanks now as well.
The particle shield that protected our ship was low, almost down to twenty perfect efficiency. Several of the emitters had been damaged, and I was fearful that a well-placed hit could cripple the ship.
The Regina One lorded over our smaller Shakti with grappling cable guns outstretched. The moment our shields were down they would fire those, and we would be at their mercy. Not that we expected any if the situation came to that.
Captain Kali was controlling the helm herself now, and I had no doubt she was using every terraquad of processing power at her disposal to keep her ship from taking any more damage.
“Captain, call in the reinforcements,” I finally said, as we took another hit.
She glared at me. “That is my decision, Tristan. I do not want to risk them being discovered so soon.”
I tightened my grasp on the manual firing controls and let off a volley of energy blasts that crippled an outrider and set it adrift. “And I don’t fancy getting destroyed, dying, and losing the whole purpose of this campaign, which was mainly centered on getting me back to Ganymede. Or have your forgotten that?”
“My memory core is functioning perfectly, and certainly less fallible than your electrochemical brain,” she bit back.
“Well this electrochemical brain just noted that the rest of the fleet is converging on our position, and we have no word from the team that went to take the orbital defense platform.” Worry for Isul and Grace gnawed my at my belly; they had last radioed they were okay after the Scheherezade crashed into the platform, and were continuing their part of the mission. But it had been radio silence since then.
Captain Kali shot me a dark look as her six arms flipped between countless controls. “I was against sending a Jovian team from the start. Our codebreakers could no doubt have taken command of the platforms.”
I said nothing, not trusting my tongue to form words that wouldn’t come out like a slap. I was more than grateful for the support from the Plutonian Collective, but I wasn’t wild about giving them access to Ganymede’s last line of defense. Grace and Isul would come through, I knew it.
One of the other Bio-droids announced, “I’m detecting a massive energy buildup from the central cannon.”
“What are they doing?” Captain Kali shot back.
My mouth was dry and scratchy as I swallowed a hard lump. That gun drained a massive amount of power, so was not used often. But in our current state, it had the power to destroy the Shakti.
“You need to get us out of the range of that cannon right now!” I yelled.
Captain Kali obviously understood the danger of the cannon due to the rapidity with which she fired the engines, which almost toppled all of us to the deck. The Regina One’s cannon lit up and fired.
We were not yet clear of the blast radius. The beam seared through the stern of the Shakti, blowing us open to the vacuum of space.
The Gates of Babylon and the Orpheus dropped their cloaks and soared in front of us before letting loose a volley of missiles. The projectiles flew true, and soon explosions blossomed over the hull of the Regina One, and I saw several of the smaller craft completely vaporized in the attack.
The force of the multiple explosions pushed us backward. Alarms were going off all over the ship, which activated repair droids who scurried about trying to contain leaks, do emergency repairs to damaged bulkheads, and fix damaged crew members.
“Damage reports,” Captain Kali said with a groan as she picked herself up off the floor. One of her arms had been torn off as she was thrown against a sharp corner, and an exposed mass of sparking wiring and circuitry was exposed at the stump.
I rushed to help her up, but she brushed me aside. “Back to your station, Tristan. We’re going to need those guns.”
Nodding, I stepped back into the control chamber. “The blast knocked out power supply conduits that fed both the rear and ventral guns. All we have left are the dorsal and forward turrets.”
“Not much good,” Kali said.
I grinned. “Not unless we’re making a forward attack. We should take this ship and start moving for the spaceport.”
She raised one eyebrow. “And what about our rear? Who’s going to stop us from being lasered in the back by those cruisers?”
Just then, a comm line opened from Orbital Defense Platform Six. “Shakti, do you read us?”
Isul’s voice. I practically wet myself in relief.
I jammed the comm buttons, even though our comm officer was still securing the connection. “We read,” I breathed.
“By the Red Storm, you had us worried,” Isul replied. “When the Regina One hit you, we feared the worst.”
Captain Kali cleared her throat. “We’re tougher to kill than that. What’s the status of the Orbital Defense Platform?”
Isul’s voice crackled back. “Under our command. We’re bringing all available cannons back online.”
A grin ghosted across my face as I looked at Captain Shakti, “Then are you ready to cover our butts as we go for the spaceport in Catamitus City?”
“You can count on us,” Isul replied.
I turned to Captain Kali. “Then hold onto your butts, because we’re going in.”
The battle raged behind us as we passed the orbital defense platform’s defensive perimeter. We launched two small fighters to fully cover our exit, but the Regina One was in no shape to pursue after expending so much energy on that shot, especially as it was being dogged by the Gates of Babylon and the Orpheus.
“All right people, we’re entering a hostile city, and by the time this ship lands it’s doubtful she’ll fly back out under her own power. It’s our objective to get Prince Tristan back to the Imperial Palace, take out his clone, and secure the Empress Dowager and Uranian Oracle for trial,” Captain Kali said.
“And not get killed by the Jovian military stationed in the city,” I added.
Captain Kali shot me a withering glare. “Yes, that would be preferable too.”
We returned to our stations when a transmission from the Gates of Babylon appeared on the central holo-projector. Captain Marduk stood there, his paws folded over his chest. “I hope you’re not thinking of going alone down there, Kali. I received an order from the Voice of the Collective: we are to accompany you. I’m leaving a skeleton crew on the ship and taking our outriders and assault vehicles to see you safely down. The Voice has determined you don’t have enough personnel left to take the city.”
I saw a look of pure irritation pass over Captain Kali’s face. “And the Voice did not trust me with this information?”
“The Voice trusted you would believe me,” Captain Marduk challenged.
Silence settled between them until Captain Kali acquiesced. “Acknowledged. Just make sure your ships are ready soon. I’m starting my landing procedure, with or without you there.” She ended the transmission with a wave of her hand. She turned back to the remaining crew and barked, “Don’t just stand there, we’ve got a spaceport to crash!”