Two Worlds – Chapter 353

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Perimeter is set, sir,” the company NCOIC was briefing the LT in the shadows thrown by a building, and Coop’s kneeling bulk. “It’s looser than the homecoming queen after the quarterback’s done with her under the bleachers, but it should hold,” that got gruff laughs from the others present. “I’m worried about here and here,” the NCO pointed out two sections of the line. “These men are yellow, and could use a hand.”

“We’ll cover those sectors,” Coop spoke up for him and the other MOUNT.

“Chief, I’d really like to save you for a quick reaction force of some kind,” the LT replied.

“Honestly, sir, this is the make-or-break part of the fight. We either get in and finish this, or they’re going to be able to hold, and we need to beat feet it to those caves I was talking about,” Coop respectfully disagreed. “There is no QRF here. No reserve we can pull from until the rest of your squads and my MOUNTs arrive. We also can’t wait. We have the initiative. The Confeds are on their heels, and they’ve got nowhere to run.”

Coop had a great 3D mapping of the battlefield now that the enemy had been pushed back. The Commonwealth occupied to entire settlement minus the main administration building. It was the biggest structure in the place, and held all the remaining troops and civilians. If they could just bomb it from orbit, or have the Spyder put a nice missile right up its ass, this whole thing would be over and done with. Life just isn’t that easy.

“Assault force is staged here,” the NCO continued. Like Coop, he knew they needed to hustle.

The MOUNTs were no good in this situation. They were too big to get into the building unless the LT wanted Coop to play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with the place’s structural integrity. Coop and the SGT would have to sit the assault out, while the LT threw everything but the kitchen sink and the guys necessary to hold the perimeter at the Confeds.

Everyone looking at the 3D projection knew this was a risky bet. The Confeds had proven extremely competent. Their weapons and armor were better, and the only way the Commonwealth grunts had come out on top so far were their superior numbers and attached armored cavalry.

“They’ll have heavy weapons set up in a crossfire here and here,” they were lucky enough to have the blueprints to the building. The Confed’s hadn’t been able to get rid of everything when they scrubbed their servers.

“Which is why we aren’t going in through the front door,” the LT confirmed.

<Thank sweet baby Jesus,> the LT had defied expectations for the typical shavetail, but you never know when he wouldn’t be overcome by some grand idea that officers get right before they get a bunch of people killed. For Coop, this just confirmed the LT knew his shit.

“Charges will go here, here, and here,” the NCO and LT continued to game out the coming breach, while Coop turned his attention to the troop’s readiness. The SGTs would be on top of it, but it was better to have a log of the chief checking in on you than the LT. Especially, with his reputation.

The men were hurting. Close to half were KIA or too wounded to fight. That still gave them a good ratio against the Confeds, but he already knew that didn’t mean shit. About a third of the remaining men had some type of injury, so the number of green, good-to-go grunts was no bueno. He wanted to make sure they had the will left for one more fight. It isn’t always numbers and medical statuses that win battles. Morale was a big deal, and it was up to NCOs, and chiefs like him, to ensure the troops were still ready to fight.

Things were looking good until a blared warning from his suit made him turtle protectively. “Incoming!” someone yelled, and for a few critical seconds no one had any idea what the fuck was going on.

It sounded like god himself was cutting the cheese. There was a loud boom as what could only be an orbital energy weapons struck down from the heavens and sliced through the atmosphere. Compared to that, the Spyder carrying the rest of troops, MOUNTs, supplies, ammo, you name it; exploding was pretty anticlimactic.

“Motherfucker,” the NCOIC started cursing up a storm, but he was smart enough to keep it on the command channel.

The loss of everything was a tactical nightmare, but it also meant morale took a header down the shitter at the worst possible time. They were early, but the Confed navy was back; which meant the grunts were out of time. They needed to take the last building yesterday.

“Chief . . .”

“On it, sir,” Coop marched to the perimeter. “Three-sixty security, people, keep those eyes sharp for any rabbits.”

Coop would have put money on the Confeds using the orbital fire as a chance to attempt a breakout. He expected heavy weapon’s fire to cut a hole in the perimeter so they could make it to the mountains and disappear until their friends arrived. Of course, Coop and the SGT would be there to spill their guts all over this alien ball of rock. So, maybe it wasn’t much a surprise when the Confeds didn’t burst from their hiding place. They’d proved competent in every way so far.

“We’re going in sixty seconds,” the LT sent as he joined the assault team.

As one, they moved forward under the cover of the MOUNTs’ guns. They found whatever segment of the building they planned to breach, placed the charges, and blew them in short order. They rushed inside, and soon, the sounds of gunfire and screams echoed though Coop’s speakers.

<Well, this sucks,> all he could do was sit here with his thumb up his ass until this was over.


Eve Berg

Location: Alamo, Equatorial Sector, Lone Star System, United Commonwealth of Colonies

Eve slowly backed out of the room. Emily was finally down. She had the next few hours to herself, and all she wanted was to take a bath and take a nap. She crept down the hallway, like the slightest creak of the floorboard would wake her daughter; because it would. Emily was a terribly light sleeper, and the last thing Eve wanted was peace and quiet ripped away from her.

She’d learned early on to silence her IOR, all notification messages from the apartment AI, and especially the auto-close feature on the door. The little whoosh noise the door made when it sealed woke the baby up every time.

She hadn’t even made it halfway down the hallway when a priority message bypassed all her presets and made a racket. There was a screech in her head and lights blinking in her optic nerve. Lights flashed in the house as the AI went batshit trying to grab her attention; and, of course, a piercing cry came from the room she’d just left.

“What the fuck do you want?” she picked up the call without looking at the ID. “I swear to everything holy in this universe that if someone isn’t dying, I will personally rip off your balls and shove it down your throat!”

“My ex-wife would join you in a heartbeat, Chief Warrant Officer Berg,” a man’s face with Commander bars on his shoulder gave her a tired look.

Usually, when a mere CW2 told an O3 she was going to do destructive things to his testicles, there was getting busted in rank and forfeited pay involved. Judging by the look on the CMDR’s face, he had bigger issues.

“This is an immediate recall chief,” he continued.

“Sir, I’m still on maternity leave. I don’t have anyone . . .”

“An MWR nanny has already been dispatched, and will be there in ninety seconds. Your orders are being forwarded now. There’s trouble, and we need you to lead a team to get some of our boys and girls out of trouble.

“Sir, I’ve got a little girl right here who needs me,” it was the first time she’d ever put something in front of being a soldier.

“I’m sorry, Chief,” the guy must have kids, because they shared an identical look. “CWS Pride of Summer sent out a distress beacon. They need help. Their infantry landing part is . . .”

She didn’t watch the rest. She was already moving. Summer was Derrick’s ship, and he’d been deployed on last-minute orders. Coop had also been sent away with no warning. Despite the secret nature of their orders, it didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. She might love her little girl, but she loved her brother and her man.

<I’ve got to go fix their mess,> she had her go bag over her shoulder when a harried-looking, elderly woman arrived eighty-six seconds later.

“Sorry,” Eve pointed over her shoulder in the direction of the crying baby.

The woman just nodded and Eve was out the door. It didn’t even cross her mind, she might not see her little girl ever again.



Two Worlds – Chapter 352

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

The Confeds had a fire team caught in a crossfire. Coop didn’t know how the team leader walked into that one, and it really didn’t matter. All that did matter was that one grunt was dead, another injured, and the rest were huddled under a dwindling shield that was going to give out at any second.

<Bad day to be them,> he grunted as he looked over his options.

Per the LT’s request, he couldn’t just blow the enemy to hell. They’d set up on top of one of the compound’s buildings. That told him a lot about the enemy’s stealth gear; namely, it was better than the Commonwealth’s.

<Is everything they have better than ours?> he growled.

The LT had drones out, Spyders were flying overhead, and the most obvious place to look for an ambush was on top of the roof where a bunch of marines could fire at you in defilade. All of those eyes on that space, and they still didn’t spot the trap. That said a lot about the enemy.

Still, and it was a long shot, but the fire team leader might just suck. Coop had been with enough units, and fought enough battles, that he knew some officers, NCOs, and grunts just sucked at their jobs. Hell, Murphy could have set up this whole situation. Coop could see it now. The LT thought the Spyders had cleared the area. The Spyders thought the LT had it covered, and the team leader was a CPL who just put on his second chevron. Coop knew firsthand that more and more of the squad-level NCOs were as fresh as a never-been-kissed version. It was likely someone who’d never been in the shit would miss something like that.

<Technology is great, but you’ve got to know how to use it,” he thought. It was the same with the size of the ocean, motion of the boat, or something like that. If you didn’t know how to use it, you were fucked.

It was Coop’s job to unfuck them without leveling the building and taking out all the nice marines and possible civilians that would make up their human shield once shit went sideways. He didn’t have some brilliant idea of how to neutralize the Confed marines while keeping everyone all safe and cozy. He just walked out into the crossfire, and used his bulk to shield the beleaguered fireteam.

“Move!” he snapped at the CPL when they didn’t immediately seek better cover. “Do you need me to call you a cab?” he shook his head inside the metal war machine, and turned to the Confeds.

He had to give credit where credit was due. The guys and gals that broke away from the Commonwealth had balls; big, heavy balls. The building only came up to my MOUNT’s shoulders, so he was literally looking down at them. If anything, they took advantage of that. Heavy rounds started to punch into the shield right in front of his face.

<So that’s where you’ve been hiding them,> he grinned.

So far, they hadn’t encountered many heavy weapons. It made sense to hold them in reserve for some final defensive position, but the enemy commander obviously wanted to try and take an enemy MOUNT out of the fight. The problem was, there was no way a heavy machine gun, energy or projectile, was going to scratch a MOUNT’s paint. There had to be more to it.

Thankfully, he was already on high alert, when the AI beeped a warning. The alert was something he’d custom programmed into the armor based on his experience. If this was a fresh pilot, and not a season veteran, they’d get a chance to see if the rocket moving at supersonic rates actually had a chance at penetrating the MOUNT’s shield and armor.

<Maybe next time,> systems designed to control a MOUNT’s flight path during an orbital drop – yeah, you could drop one of these babies from a starship in orbit with all the shield capacity they had – fired and propelled Coop out of the way.

At the same time, EW systems started blaring to confuse the incoming ordinance. If he’d had more space to work with, the swatter would have engaged, but this was a close-ranged attempt to off him. The difference would have been the swatter maybe knocking the rocket out of the sky. Instead, there was a hiss boom and Coop’s sensors whited out for a second to compensate.

Shield power dropped on his left flank, but only to three-quarters power. Whatever had exploded had been big, but nowhere near big enough to kill with a near miss. On the other hand, the building was not so lucky; which meant the Confed marines were shit out of luck.

“Report!” the LT’s voice yelled over TACCOM.

“It wasn’t me,” Coop fired back, as bits of construction material, and people started to rain down around him.

He sent the sensor data to back him up, which explained the new ordinance. A bomb-pumped laser closely followed by a bomb bomb. It was meant to be a one-two punch strong enough to get a shield down and do some damage. AI said the jury was still out on it being enough to damage a MOUNT, but it had backtracked the angle of attack to a position outside the settlement. A micro-missile went off to whoever fired the weapon.

Coop was still waiting on a battle damage assessment when he got orders to reposition. The LT had located the enemy HQ in the settlement, and they were tightening the noose. The Confed’s were falling back, and the loss of the heavy weapon and rocket-propelled laser bomb was going to hurt them.

Coop barely even registered that he’d been within a dozen meters of possibly dying. It didn’t even crossed his mind. This was all in a day in the life of the Commonwealth infantry.


Benjamin Gold

Location: CCIWS Stakeholder’s Views, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Get me a sitrep,” Ben’s foot hit the ground like a jackhammer. It was easy to forget how big he was until he put his weight behind something.

A1 was settling into orbit, and the AI was getting a rundown of everything that had happened. The marines’ short-range nodes should hit the databanks any second, and then . . .

Data started to spit onto the holo-tank. It wasn’t good. Sixty percent of the marines were dead, another ten were WIA. That ratio was usually reversed, so that told you just how fierce, and deadly, modern ground combat had become. Even worse, there wasn’t much Ben could do from all the way up here.

“I want the battlefield on the holo-tank, now,” he ordered.

It took a couple minutes to happen, but when all the systems were linked up, and protections against viruses put in place, a 3D rendering of the settlement came into focus. His staff gathered around him to brainstorm, but there was a reason they were naval officers and not marines.

The big difference was the scope. Every single weapon on A1, which had nothing on the battlecruisers still en route, and might as well be spitballs compared to the Collie’s battleship, were just too damned big to engage the enemy.

“Still too close,” they ran simulation after simulation of virtual fire support strikes, and every one of them came back with them basically blowing the whole settlement to hell.

Whoever the Commonwealth commander was, he’d done the smart thing to get in close.

“Sir,” tactical’s voice was brighter than usual as she zoomed out and brought up a wider view of the area. “We’ve got an enemy Spyder inbound for the settlement. If we move fast, we can . . .”

“Guns?” Ben was way ahead of her. “Can you do it?”

“Thread the needle? Absolutely, sir,” the chief looked back with a grin. “Give me a minute.”

“You’ve got twenty seconds.”

That was probably being too generous. The bird was moving fast. The gunnery department had to plot the route, decide what the best weapon would be, prime the weapon, aim the weapon, take into all the mathematical equations necessary to adjust for a weapon going through the atmosphere, and only then could they fire.

By Ben’s count, it was twenty-three seconds when the chief came back to him. “Ready to fire on your order, sir.”

Ben didn’t hesitate. “Fire.” He just hoped no one had misplaced a decimal point somewhere.



Two Worlds – Chapter 351

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Clear,” the SGT’s voice echoed over TACCOM.

Coop had been watching his battle buddy closely. The MOUNT was hard to miss passing over the battlefield. Currently, the big metal war machine was standing at the last trench before the settlement itself. The trench had been torn apart, with large gouges dug into the earth around it. After seeing what happened to the last grunt squad that made it into the trench, the SGT might have gone a little overboard. Not two minutes ago, he’d fired his next gen accelerator into the center of the trench.

That triggered the mines, and boom. It looked like some angry monster had torn the earth apart in a rage. Not that anyone in the Commonwealth attack force gave a shit. If there were Confed marines in the mix, all the better.

“Moving,” the LT and the main body of what was left of his people started moving forward.

Coop kept his missiles primed, and accelerator scanning for targets. While the force was moving across the open ground, they were vulnerable. As everyone had learned today, shields didn’t stop people from dying, they just made it harder to kill or be killed.

No shot rang out off the mountain walls as the troops moved forward, and Coop brought up the ass of the formation. The battle wasn’t over yet. They still had the enemy settlement to get through. It wasn’t much. A few clusters of prefabbed buildings, but that almost made it worse. If they were operating in the mountains, or even a city, the MOUNTs would be able to operate with impunity. With small, flimsy buildings, the grunts would be taking the lead. After what he’d seen of the Confed marines, that wasn’t a recipe for success.

“Get me full-spectrum scans,” the LT was saying when Coop joined him at the modified command post the LT had set up.

It basically consisted of the young officer standing in the SGT’s shadow, in a one-meter hole, talking with his NCOIC, while the communications specialist hauling the node made sure he was well inside the command group’s shield radius.

“I want to know where they are so we can fix them in place and finish them,” the LT continued. “Assign your heavy weapons where you think they’ll do us the most good.”

“Yes, sir,” the NCO headed away, and Coop squatted down next to the LT. He was still a head taller than the man.

“What’s the next play, sir,” Coop asked.

“We’ve got to go door to door and smoke them out. We’ve probably already taken down half their force, but we want to minimize casualties if we can,” there was something else in his voice Coop couldn’t totally place, but the LT didn’t make him wait for it.

Summer was hit bad upstairs,” the officer pointed up. “They had to retreat and call for reinforcements from Alamo.”

“Motherfucker,” it didn’t take Coop long to do the math on that.

“How long?”

“Last we heard, about six hours until the closest Confed vessel can make orbit and send down their own reinforcements.”

Coop nodded. “So, we’ve got a few hours to take this place, grab a few hostages, and have our human shields in place before the roles in all this get reversed.”

“Chief, we’re Commonwealth infantry. We don’t take human shields,” the LT’s voice was hard.

“Of course, sir,” Coop nodded, but knew full well the LT was full of shit.

When reports were written, they’d dress it up all nice and call it something like securing valuable resources and leverage to counter enemy movement in the area of operations; but it was essentially the same thing. They’d fight here, take the civilians and whatever marines were left alive hostage, and use them to make sure the Confed’s didn’t bomb their little force to dust.

“There is another option, sir,” Coop spoke up.

His job, as much as the NCOIC’s, was to alert the young officer to possibilities he might not have discovered yet.

“What?” the man’s voice told Coop he was desperately trying to figure out a way out of the shit they were all about to be hip deep in.

“We scamper,” Coop stated plainly. “We’ve got Spyders circling. We call them down, load everyone up, and get find somewhere to lie low. I doubt the brass back at Alamo are going to take this shitshow lying down. They’ll send an entire squadron of battleships when they realize how bad the fighting has been. We find a nice cave, eat the MREs stored in the Spyder for a few days, and wait this out. No one else has to die, and if we move fast enough, the enemy will never find us.”

The last part was true. However, advanced their tech might be, if the Commonwealth shut everything down and hid in a big cave somewhere, the Confed’s would never find them. This wasn’t a big planet, but it was still a fucking planet. It’s not easy to search this much space on the ground, and the Confed’s wouldn’t have the troops to do it anyway.

The LT was quiet for several seconds; chewing it over. Then, he was a typical LT mistake. “We have our orders. We’re to take this compound. We’ve got a few hours to do it, and then we’ll have a solid negotiating position.”

“Stupid,” Coop shook his head inside the armor.

Orders were always subject to change based on the situation on the ground, and it was so like a naval officer to forget to radio down to the ground pounders about change of missions as they ran for their lives.

“Damnit, Derrick,” the little shit was going to get Coop killed, and a bunch of good grunts as well.

“At least get the reserves moving, sir,” Coop pressed.

There were a couple of squads and half the MOUNT squadron back at the FOB they’d quickly established. It would take them time to hump it to the settlement, but they could have the Spyders swoop in, and pick them up quickly.

“We could use them here, and its better to have our forces consolidated when the Confeds come calling,” Coop pressed.

“You’re right,” the LT nodded, and started sending messages over TACCOM. Coop could access them if he wanted, but there were other things happening.

A loud explosion echoed from the far side of the settlement, and small arms fire started to ping around a few of the positions where grunts had taken cover.

“They’re destroying servers so we don’t get any data on their operations,” the NCOIC announced.

Coop gave zero fucks about some server farm with mineral ratios and shit like that. He cared about the people shooting at him, their fields of fire, the ordinance they could bring down on his head, and the friends they were going to bring to the party in a few hours.

A few rounds pinged off his shield, but it only dropped a percentage point or two. He kept his attention on his scanners, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Whoever the enemy commander was, he was as wily as a fox, and Coop hadn’t been able to predict what he was going to do next. Coop wasn’t arrogant enough to think he was going to miraculously pull something out of his ass now.


Benjamin Gold

Location: CCIWS Stakeholder’s Views, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Are we clear?” Ben asked as he studied his holo-tank.

“Another twenty minutes and we should be out of their hypothesized maximum engagement envelope,” tactical informed.

In twenty minutes, he would breathe a sigh of relief, but it was only the beginning. His marines were still on the ground, fighting for their lives, and likely dying. Twenty minutes to get out of their engagement envelope, and several hours to get back into orbit; he had a decision to make.

“Start making for the planet now, least time course,” he ordered.

Spacers who’d been starting to relax felt the pucker factor reassert itself. “Sir?”

“Do it, they’re running, and won’t waste the missiles. We’ll see plenty of their friends soon enough, but they want to get to a safe distance and affect repairs. We’ve got to start worrying about our people on the surface. If we wait twenty minutes, that’ll add more than an hour to our return time. We turn back now, we can help sooner,” Ben explained. Then added, “Last time I checked, I wasn’t asking for your approval. Get it done.”

“Yes, sir,” came the chorus of responses as people made it happen.

Ben saw his holo-tank blink with an incoming message as soon as their course changed. He’d deal with the task force commander, but he wasn’t going to wait to get back to his marines.

If he didn’t, the fight would be over by the time they go there.



Two Worlds – Chapter 350

Benjamin Gold

Location: CCIWS Stakeholder’s Views, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“And . . . boom goes the dynamite,” the tactical officer pumped her fist as the lights dimmed.

A1 unleashed its fury, which in this particular battle, wasn’t anything to gawk at. The destroyer, acting in concert with the rest of the task force, was steadily hammering away at the Collies’ battleship. But it was still a battleship. The behemoth was designed to do just this; trade blows and take punishment. It was living up to its design.

“Minor damage, skipper,” the tactical officer’s pupils were dilated as she ran over the data scrolling across her vision.

Ben didn’t blame her. Combat, especially in space, was a lot of waiting around followed by pure terror. That was normal combat. This was anything but. He couldn’t remember the last time a bunch of smaller ships had swarmed a much more powerful boat. This wasn’t how combat was done. In the old days, the battleship would just be able to drown them in missiles. Shields had completely changed the game, or at least given the little guys a chance.

“Evasive pattern delta,” he commanded as all the confederation’s ships started to shift in concert. It was like a million tons of ass-kicking potential executing a carefully choreographed ballet.

 It was clear the enemy fire control was having issues keeping up, which meant, as usual, Gold Technologies products were the best on the market. For once, Ben was fine with his father’s anal-retentive need to be the best.

A1 sliced through space like some sleek, deep sea predator. Its EW throwing out signals, while disguising others, enough to give the Commonwealth officer onboard that colossus an aneurism. The battleship took a shot at them, just to keep them honest, and almost got lucky. Alarms squawked as a near miss still caused issues. A quick look at the damage report showed it was nothing mission critical.

“Twenty-two seconds to next fire mission,” tactical announced.

The Confederation task force danced through space, and prepared to line everything up perfectly for just a few seconds. That was all they needed to mass fire on targets their AIs said were vulnerable.

Ben’s eyes flickered from the main holo-tank to his command chair’s private readouts, and back again. Even with all his training, he could only process a few things coherently. His IOR did the rest, and pointed out anything pertinent he might have missed. Neither he, nor the IOR, missed what happened next.

Fighting in space was weird. A climate control bridge surrounded you. They only danger you felt were colorful icons on a holo-tank, but there was a degree of separation from the threat. You weren’t on the ground, in the shit, with bullets and energy blasts flying all around you. People sometimes forgot it was just as deadly, and death could come just as suddenly.

One second, the Confed task force was thirteen seconds away from launching their next attack, and the next, there was one less destroyer in the system. In the span of a heartbeat, a warship and its entire crew died.

“Shit!” tactical was all over it, but Ben knew it was too little too late.

The Commonwealth’s systems weren’t totally obsolete. They’d plotted this attack run somehow, and the damage reports were starting to come in. The destroyer was an expanding cloud of atoms, and one of the battlecruisers had been hammered. It was limping along, but looked like it was just about out of the fight. They’d be able to fire off this last broadside, but then they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the dance, and would be forced to withdraw.

Even worse, the other battlecruiser would need to help cover their retreat.

“If I hadn’t switched to evasive pattern delta,” he shivered at the thought. A1 might have joined the other destroyer in the great harbor in the sky.

“Take that, asshole,” tactical snarled at her holo-tank as the countdown neared an end. It wasn’t going to be as nearly as coordinated or on target, but it was better than nothing.

“Game over,” Ben sighed. They’d held out as long as they could, but after those types of casualties, they’d have to fall back, wait for more firepower, and effect repairs where possible.

The clock reached zero, and he closed his eyes along with the dimming lights. He was tired after all the fighting.


CWS Pride of Summer

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“Finally!” Derrick Berg pumped his fist as their AI finally got it right.

The battleship’s more powerful cannons ripped into a destroyer trying to hit their injured flank with its other little friends. The direct hit from the beam weapon dissected it like a middle school science lab. A half-second later, it exploded in a cloud of exotic matter.

A complete loss to the enemy was exactly what his bridge crew needed, and the good news kept on coming. The tactical officer wasn’t assigning anything heavier than a medium laser to the destroyers. They simply weren’t worth the firepower when they couldn’t really hurt Summer. The main energy armaments were targeted on the battlecruisers, and so far, hadn’t had greatest success. They were plenty powerful. A direct hit might even breach the smaller ship’s shields, a pair would really jack up the enemy.

Berg’s face split into a huge grin as he saw one of the battlecruisers take a one-two punch from Summer. The first beam didn’t completely take down the shields, but it paved the way for the second beam that was hot on its heels. Even though there wasn’t a blink of an eye between the impact of the two beams, the battlecruiser shifted enough that it wasn’t a fatal hit. Berg still watched as several secondary explosions ripped through the enemy ship, acceleration dropped, and his IOR told him the ship would need a yard to get back up to full, fighting strength.

“Finally,” he regained a little of his captain’s decorum while the rest of his crew cheered. He let them have the moment.

“Okay, people, let’s get back to . . .” he didn’t hear the explosion as much as feel it.

He pitched forward onto his face, and lucky got his hands out in front of him; or unluckily as it turned out to be. He felt the snap in his wrist, and wasn’t able to stifle his scream.

“Medic! Skippers down!” junior officers rushed toward him, which was exactly the opposite of what they should be doing.

Something critical had just blown up, everyone needed to be at their stations. He let everyone know that by grabbing the first LT to get to him and throwing him away while flinging a slew of curse words at him to make any spacer proud.

Berg cradled his wrist to his chest and got back to his feet. His IOR looked like it was having a seizure from the amount of data flowing in. It wasn’t good. A lucky beam had gotten through shielding, armor, and taken out cooling conduits and fail safes. Three separate generators went into overload; two successfully shut down before going boom, but one didn’t. The explosive material in the other two generators still went up with the first going critical, but it could have been a lot worse. Summer’s structural integrity was still intact, its shields were just down in one section, and there was a medium-sized hole to exposed space.

The XO immediately took control when the call for a medic for the skipper went out, so the ship was already spinning and putting the gaping wound away from any attackers. With the enemy destroyer gone, they had a cone of safe space for the moment.

Of course, this mission just went from a ‘drive the enemy away from the planet’ to ‘get the battleship out of this alive’.

“Shit.” It was a poor performance for Summer’s first combat, and they were leaving a good number of Commonwealth soldiers to the mercy of the enemy.

One of which happened to be his sister’s fiancé.

“Get on the QE to Alamo. Alert them to our status, and the need for reinforcements. If they want this system, we’re going to need some backup.”

It hurt his pride to ask for it, but his pride didn’t come before the mission. The mission always came first.