Culmination, Part 34

“The 7th Fleet has just arrived, Your Majesty,” said Admiral Termaina, a note of relief creeping into his voice. The IDF had been forced to retreat beyond the orbit of Calexis, the farthest of the three moons that orbited Trisitania. The Emperor and his advisors had hoped that the IDF would be able to hold out longer, and the fact that they hadn’t meant that part of the rebel fleet had managed to achieve a stable orbit around the planet and had begun landing ground troops. But the 7th Fleet had finally arrived, so the rebel forces would be forced to cease, or at least slow down, landing operations in order to defend themselves. It was something, anyway.

“That’s good news, Admiral,” Neminatrix said with a small smile. “What about the enemy ground troops?”

“Looks like 11 dropships managed to unload before they were engaged by our fleet,” Termaina replied. “We’ve attempted to engage the landing craft, but we’re not having much success. Valador’s got some new landers that we’ve never seen before, and they’re much more maneuverable than we’re used to. The ground defenses are having a surprisingly hard time targeting them.”

“11 dropships,” Neminatrix said, musing. “So, at most, 55,000 troops.” He thought for a moment, gazing off into space, and then his eyes refocused and he looked at Admiral Termaina. “They will come straight for the Palace.”

“Of course,” Termaina said, meeting Neminatrix’s gaze, calm but intense.

“I will not flee,” Neminatrix replied, his eyes mirroring the intensity of Termaina’s.

“I would never even suggest such a thing, Your Majesty,” Termaina replied, not looking away. Neminatrix held his gaze for a moment, as if he was searching for something, and then he nodded sharply and turned his attention back to the displays showing the progress of the battle.

***

“Helm, adjust heading to 5542.9 and intercept enemy destroyers at 3926.1,” Kryla ordered, not taking her eyes off of Decimator‘s viewscreen. Commanding the fleet from the bridge rather than from the CIC was proving to be more challenging than she’d anticipated. She was finding that it was necessary for her to leave most of the tactical decisions to her XO, because the bridge simply wasn’t equipped to give her a good view of what was going on in the battle as a whole. Fortunately, as far as Kryla could tell, her XO was handling the job with aplomb. But, she couldn’t help but worry a little bit.

“CIC, status report,” Kryla ordered.

“Understood,” responded her XO over the intercom. A few seconds later, a detailed accounting of the battle appeared on Kryla’s personal information screen. Kryla scanned it quickly and nodded. Yes, her XO did indeed have things under control. Hopefully, “under control” would prove to be enough to win this battle.

***

In the CIC deep inside the battleship Magnificence, “under control” was about the best that Admiral Tred could say about the progress of the battle. The opposing commander knew what she was doing. A lesser commander would have attempted to push the weight of her heavier ships on Tred’s fleet, which would have given Tred’s smaller and faster ships an opportunity to slip in between the rebel fleet and the planet. But whoever was in command of the rebels was patient, and more than willing to let Tred come to her and keep from ceding the planetary orbit.

“Gamma Wing, alter course by five degrees and engage the two cruisers at 2916.4,” Tred ordered, studying the holographic map of the space around Trisitania carefully.

“Admiral, Alpha Wing is being hard pressed by enemy battleships,” called out one of her tactical officers.

“Tell them to pull back to rally point Enterial,” Tred responded, “and form up with Beta Wing. Together, they can push back against those battleships.”

Yes, this battle was winnable, but only if the rebel commander made a mistake and Tred was able to capitalize on it. So far, the rebel commander had given no indication that she was liable to mistakes.

***

For a moment, Hana just watched and waited. The moment she’d been waiting a decade for had finally arrived, and she wanted to savor it. But she couldn’t savor too long, or else it might pass her by. She looked at the other three members of her team, and nodded. It was time.

“Echo Two, you are clear to engage,” she said.

“Copy that, Echo One,” replied Arcten. “Preparing to engage.” For a few moments, nothing happened. And then there was a flash of light and an earth-shaking rumble. Beyond the Imperial Palace, a great cloud of smoke could be seen billowing up into the sky. Hana watched it for a moment, and then she unholstered her assault rifle from its cradle on her back and fired a few rounds through the window, shattering it. Then she gestured sharply to one of the members of her team, who was carrying a rocket launcher.

Smoothly, the young lieutenant stepped up, hoisting the launcher onto his shoulder as he did so. He crouched down on one knee, took a moment to aim, and then pulled the trigger, sending a rocket zipping across the plaza to slam into the front gate of the Imperial Palace. As soon as it did, he stood up, slung the launcher back across his back, and looked at Hana. She nodded sharply, and gestured toward the stairs to their right. He nodded in reply, unslung his assault rifle, and led the way out of the building, with Hana and the other two members of her team following close behind.

A few moments later, they were outside the building and slipping through deserted streets and alleys. As they moved, they could hear another explosion from the direction of the Palace. After a few twists and turns, they reached their destination. The young lieutenant bent down, pulled out a laser cutting tool, and used it to slice through the lock on a manhole cover. Then he picked it up, dragged it aside, and dropped down into the sewers below. As Hana and the others followed, a fourth explosion could be heard ripping through the air near the Palace. Hana grinned. Neminatrix had no idea what was about to hit him.

To be continued…

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