Thought I’d share this with you, the first section of Core War Book Two: Break The Dawn, which I’m writing for Nanowrimo 2014. This section follows the first few moments of the HMS Roland Westwood as it is part of the Terran Navy’s effort to relieve the embattled Tyvas VII, the focus of the war to this point.
And yes, I’m attempting a romance subplot that DOESN’T involve a man named called Caine…
Tyvas VII orbit.
1000 Hours Navy Time.
HMS Roland Westwood.
Fire and metal splashed like water.
Plasma filled the void with a fatal light show.
Stars provided a twinkling uncaring backdrop to a macabre theatre, whilst death stalked space like an avenging angel.
“Are our shields even up?” bellowed Commander Vanderhak.
It was a fair question, the big ancient battleship Roland Westwood was listing to one side in comparison to the flat expanse of the fleet outside. Flames and molten metal spewed from its port side. The Churchill-class warship, larger than most of its type, was dying and he knew it.
The tactical officer, Arcillion, didn’t dignify his outburst with a response.
The shields were failing, the bubbled energy field no longer fully protecting the ship from harm. As a result, the bridge was tipping to one side, the gravity field fluctuating, and competing with the gravitic mass of the planet below.
Vanderhak’s tall frame clung on to an empty console to the portside of the bridge, keeping an eye on proceedings with his stern gaze. His hairless dome was streaked with sweat, not to mention a smear of black soot, smoke having ejected at him from a ruptured power line. Sparks threatened to singe him and his uniform. The readouts around him were flickering and twitching, throwing a bizarre light show onto him. For a time, he had been hated, but now he was tolerated, his past actions becoming more and more distant with time and understanding.
The ship rumbled and shook again, and Ubis was thrown back against the active row of sensor consoles behind him. He grunted, refusing to let the crew see him in pain. They’d enjoy it too much.
The ship shook again as the destroyer Gallows Runner immolated, the chemicals in its conduits and lines igniting and defying the airless laws of the void. The shockwave battered the Roland Westwood, and the curmudgeoning old ship rolled another inch towards the planet.
The taskforce was being hammered all around them.
As they clung on, the HMS Deeds Done split messily in two, the bow dragged slowly and inexorably towards the planet. It fell apart, and the rear end exploded like an egg hit by a sledgehammer.
Vanderhak looked over at his captain.
Brag Franks looked right back at him, and the pair locked eyes, both the same grim finality on their faces.
Franks was a naturally tall, thin lifelong spacer, his body stretched and bearded by his long life and career. He looked pale, the dark of his thick salt-and-pepper beard making a terrible contrast. The captain was stood by his centralised command chair, clinging on. Vanderhak had wondered why for only a few seconds, and then saw the rattling bolts where it was attached to the raised dais, almost out of their screws.
Franks was trying to stay upright, to show the crew that he was there with them, a shining beacon of example.
Vanderhak slowly traversed the bridge towards him.
Plasma drilled in against the ship’s pointed bow, and ripped fresh holes where the shields should have protected. A flurry of vaporised coolant seeped into the bridge like a mist, one of the enlisted rushing to get it locked down, hacking and coughing when it was done.
Vanderhak hopped over the conduits still exposed along the floor, where Edgkin’s engineers had done an insanely tremendous job of repairing the ship after the fight at Ranger Station. The ship had taken a beating, but nothing like at Marosh.
“Commander?” questioned Franks as he stepped up to the captain.
Vanderhak lowered his voice, though with all the noise and screech of tortured metal, it wasn’t necessary.
“Captain. We can’t take much more of this.”
“Orders are orders, Commander,” Franks bit back.
He instantly regretted his words.
“Not just us, sir. The whole taskforce is being ripped apart.”
“At least we got those supplies through,” Franks shrugged. “The Army boys needed that more than anything on the ground. But we can only go when we’re told to.”
Vanderhak looked out of the wraparound windows, the panoramic view from the ship’s bridge showing that that moment had passed long ago. Probably before the taskforce had jumped into the system via FTL and knifed down straight towards a geosynchronous orbit over Tyvas City. That hadn’t happened easily, the Core leaping on them straight away.
The intercom crackled to life.
“Bridge, this is engineering. Would you mind keeping the ship still? It’s kind of hard to repair the engines properly when the deck is trying to imitate a large cliff.”
Vanderhak snorted, shaking his head, imagining the diminutive pixie-like chief engineer climbing the deck like it was a mountain whilst still repairing everything. She would do it too, he knew, the ship’s chief engineer utterly dedicated to the vessel. His mind wandered for a second to that kiss.
This is not the time dammit, he mentally chided himself.
“Do what you can, Lily,” Franks ordered. “We’re having a similar problem.”
“Frag, that means the artificial gravity is playing up.”
“Well yes,” Franks started to say.
“But the computer is showing gravity normal all over.”
Franks nodded to Vanderhak, who immediately crossed to a dark console, firing it up out of standby and looking at a status of the ship.
“She’s right,” he murmured.
“Of course I am,” she snapped. “That means the computer is affected as well.”
Vanderhak turned to Franks.
“We need to get the hell out of here,” he said curtly, no longer hiding it from the crew.
“That would be my suggestion too, Captain.” Her voice sounded strained, as if she really were attempting to climb a mountain. “This ship can’t take much more.”
Vanderhak didn’t say out loud that it had taken worse, and survived, but he didn’t want to jinx it. Because that would be all kinds of bad.
It was Lieutenant Pe’Darn, the Innnian comms officer, that broke the air. His perfectly alabaster skin was clammy and tight his face a show of distracted concentration.
“Captain, they’re calling a retreat. We’re to jump to FTL and return to Fort Hera, if possible.”
Franks and Vanderhak breathed a massive sigh of relief.
“Tell them we’re happy to, Freg,” nodded Franks.
The lights flickered.
“That’s not good,” somebody said, though Vanderhak couldn’t see who had made the understated comment.