“Zyxos Group, intercept enemy destroyers at 9021.7,” Kryla ordered, frowning at the display attached to her chair. “Atarash Group, cover their left flank.” The battle was starting to wind down now, but that only made the situation more dangerous. As the enemy commander lost more and more ships, and the tide of battle turned against them, they would be more likely to attempt something reckless. After all, Neminatrix’s forces had nothing to lose at this point.
“Admiral, I think your presence might be needed in CIC,” said her fleet XO suddenly. Kryla’s frown deepened.
“What’s the problem, Captain?” she asked in response.
“I’m…not sure,” her XO admitted. “I’m sending you a report.” There was a moment while Kryla’s display updated, and then her frown deepened to the point where she was somewhat worried that her cheeks were going to drop off.
“I see what you mean, Captain,” she said, her voice not betraying a hint of the unease she felt. “I’ll be there shortly.” She turned to Decimator’s XO, Commander Farlen, who was sitting to her left. “Commander, you have the bridge.” Farlen nodded, and Kryla unstrapped herself from the command chair and strode briskly to the CIC. A few minutes later, she arrived and took the command chair that had just been vacated by her fleet XO. “Show me what we’ve got,” she ordered.
“Yes, sir,” her XO said with a nod, and began pulling up information on the many holographic displays suspended over the command console in the center of the room. The XO of Task Force Spearhead, as Kryla’s fleet was called, was a young captain named Trainia Lotoren. Captain Lotoren was tall and willowy, with skin so dark it was almost black and hair to match. She was one of the most efficient, courteous and professional officers that Kryla had ever served with, when she was on duty. Off duty, she was notorious throughout the fleet as a practical joker, and Kryla had yet to meet the person who could drink Lotoren under the table. Not only that, but she was also loud, raucous, and extremely crude, farting, belching and cursing more than anyone else Kryla had ever met. As much as Kryla appreciated Lotoren professionally, she spent as little time as possible with her off-duty.
“Here’s the current position of the enemy fleet,” Lotoren said with a slight frown, highlighting a specific display. “And here is their position as of ten minutes ago,” she said, highlighting a second display.
“It looks like they’re getting ready to retreat,” Kryla said, frowning so intensely that a slight crease appeared between her eyes.
“That’s what I thought, sir,” Lotoren said. “That’s why I called you down here. It has to be a trap, but I don’t see what it is.”
“Indeed,” Kryla said, not taking her eyes off the display. “There’s no way the enemy forces can retreat in this situation. If they do, Trisitania is lost to them, and if Trisitania is lost, the war is over. So they can’t retreat, and they must realize that we know this. If they really were retreating, normally we would just let them go, because the real objective is the planet. But since we know they’re not retreating, the logical thing to do would be to pursue them, because that’s the opposite of what we’d do if they were actually retreating. But since they know that we know that this is a trap, that’s exactly what they expect us to do. So, we will hold our position and resume sending troops down to the planet.”
“What if they figure that’s our line of thought, and it’s really what they want us to do?” Lotoren asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Captain, I can only reason in so many circles before I get dizzy,” Kryla said with a wry smirk. “If I knew exactly what the enemy was doing at all times, the war would be over and we would have won. I can only make decisions based on the information I have and my own gut. And this is what my gut tells me.”
“Understood, sir,” Lotoren said. “The fleet will hold position.”
“What’s the situation, Admiral?” Neminatrix asked grimly. He could see very well for himself what the situation was, but he needed to feel like he was doing something. Men and women who were loyal to him were out there fighting and dying at his command, while he sat deep in a fortified bunker, safe and sound. Of course, if those men and women failed in their mission, he wouldn’t be safe and sound for very long, but that wasn’t a very comforting thought either.
“Not good, Your Majesty,” replied Admiral Termaina. “Our fleets were pretty evenly matched, but the rebel commander is damn good. We’ve lost about half our strength, while the rebels have only lost about a quarter of theirs. Meanwhile, the rebel ground forces are slowly but surely taking key positions around Selorin and other major cities on the planet.”
“I see,” Neminatrix said coldly, grinding his teeth. Things were definitely not going well. He had thought that the plan he’d formulated with Admiral Termaina and Admiral Tred would be enough to defend the capital, but it was becoming apparent that it wasn’t so. If only there was some news about the task force. The task force was the key element of their plan, and if it failed in its mission, the entire plan would fall apart. But so far, there hadn’t been any news about it one way or another.
“I know the answer to this question, but have we received any word from the task force?” Neminatrix asked, trying to remain calm.
“No, Your Majesty,” Termaina replied, “but we have no reason to believe that they’ve failed so far. Indeed, they most likely have just arrived at their target.”
“I suppose so,” Neminatrix said, somewhat mollified. “They need to succeed. The capital will be lost if they fail. We cannot hold out against this force.”
To be continued…