The Darkest Heart, Part 21

As big as Heart of the Galaxy was, Peltoren still felt a slight shudder as the Imperial cruiser slammed up against it. She grinned a feral grin as she thought about what was going to happen next. An alarm blared suddenly, and one of her officers called out, “Intruder alert! Boarders on decks 37 through 40!”

“All marines, prepare to repel boarders,” Peltoren ordered, and then she said to her communications officer, “Comm! Send a message to Iron Dragonfly: it’s time.”

“Aye-aye, sir!” came the response.

***

“The marines are reporting that they’re all on board,” said Decimator‘s communications officer.

“Good,” Zomulin said. “Get us back into the fight.”

“Aye-aye, sir,” replied Sahrinae.

The cruiser shuddered slightly as it disengaged from Heart of the Galaxy‘s hull, and then it turned toward the nearest enemy vessel and accelerated. Suddenly, the tactical officer called, “Admiral! New contacts! Hadramoran ships are dropping in behind our forces!” There was a pause, and then he turned slowly to look at Zomulin, his eyes wide. “And there’s another Starfortress with them!”

Zomulin froze for a moment, letting those words sink into her mind. “That’s impossible,” she finally said, her voice flat. Then she shook herself, and snarled, “It was a trap! And we fell for it, like idiots!” She thought for a moment, and then she shook her head. “We need to hold as long as we can. Keep the enemy ships away from Heart of the Galaxy, so they can’t land reinforcements.”

“Aye-aye, sir,” Venrel said heavily.

***

Colonel Hobalgen Nerevor followed his troops through the breach made in the Starfortress’s hull, assault rifle at the ready, alert for any threats that might present themselves. It was quiet inside the Starfortress. Nobody in sight. Most likely they had an ambush planned somewhere, in a place that the Imperial marines would have to pass through to get to the bridge. Hopefully they didn’t have too many soldiers onboard. They wouldn’t, unless they expected an attack. It was expensive to carry around a bunch of people who probably wouldn’t be needed, because resources were at a premium on a starship. Although, maybe not as much on one this size.

Colonel Nerevor had 400 troops at his command, spread out evenly among the four decks they had landed on. They didn’t have plans of the interior of the Starfortress, so they needed to try and make their to the bridge without knowing exactly where it was. Split up into four groups, it would be more likely that one of them would be able to find it. Nerevor didn’t expect it to be too difficult to find. As big as the Starfortress was, there were only so many ways to lay out a ship, and only so many places the bridge could be.

Suddenly, Nerevor heard Admiral Zomulin’s voice through his in-ear communicator. “Colonel Nerevor, this is Decimator. Come in, Colonel!”

“Yes, Admiral,” he replied. “I read you.”

“Another Hadramoran fleet just dropped in behind us,” Zomulin said. “We’re going to hold them off as long as we can, but you will probably be on your own soon.”

“Understood, Admiral,” Nerevor replied. “We’ll find the bridge double-quick, and be back to Imperial territory before you know it.”

“Then I’ll see you soon, Colonel,” Zomulin said, and Nerevor could almost hear the tight grin on her face when she said it. “Decimator out.”

“We’ve got company, troops,” Nerevor said on the channel that would broadcast his voice to his soldiers. “Let’s find that bridge on the double, and bring this baby home!”

***

The look on Kryla Zomulin’s face was grim as she surveyed the situation displayed on the main screen. Her forces were badly outnumbered, and caught in a vise. She had arrayed her ships around Heart of the Galaxy, in order to keep the other Hadramoran ships from getting close and transferring reinforcements to it, but that meant they had enemy ships on both sides of them. Until her marines had control of the Starfortress, it was going to keep shooting at them, and so she was in the unenviable position of trying to defend a hostile target.

“Come about to heading 9921.7 and target the destroyer at 3245.8,” she ordered, and there was a slight vibration as the ship sped up and turned around. Then suddenly, the ship rocked violently as it was blasted by another round from Heart of the Galaxy.

“Admiral, our shields are down to 20 percent!” the damage control officer yelled.

“Dammit,” Zomulin growled. “We can’t take much more of this. We’re going to have to retreat.”

“Those marines won’t last long if the Hadramorans land more troops,” Venrel said grimly.

“They won’t last long if we get destroyed either!” Zomulin snapped. She opened her mouth to give the order to retreat, when suddenly there was another violent shudder as Decimator was blasted again.

“Admiral, we just lost subspace capability!” the damage control officer yelled.

“Get it back!” Zomulin yelled. “We’re not going to last much longer! We need to retreat!”

There was yet another blast from Heart of the Galaxy, and the damage control officer yelled again, “Shields are gone! Hull breach on deck 5!”

“Engineering, ETA on subspace!” demanded Zomulin.

“Best case scenario, it’s going to be at least half an hour,” came the response from Commander Moskoren.

“That’s not good enough, Commander,” Zomulin snapped.

“I understand that, Admiral, but the damage is just too extensive,” Moskoren replied. “Half an hour, and that’s if we don’t sustain any more damage between now and then.”

Zomulin was silent for a moment, and then she scowled. “All hands, abandon ship,” she ordered in a voice that sounded as if it had been dredged up from the bowels of Nerzaga. “Evacuation plan Zeta. All hands get to your assigned escape pods.” She turned off the all-ship communicator, and then looked at Commander Sahrinae. “Commander, set the auto-pilot for evasive maneuvers until all crew have evacuated, and then direct it to crash into the second Starfortress.”

“Understood, sir,” Sahrinae replied, her face as grim as Zomulin felt.

To be continued…

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