Klingseis Chapter Thirteen
“The Commander wanted me to inform you before I broadcast it ship-wide. …This incoming ship is not part of the war games. The ambassador believes it to be an actual Ralgoth attack frigate.”
Ice cools my veins as I hear Richards words through the comm in my helmet. I reactively grip the railing harder as I climb the ladder into my XVJ-3728 attack fighter, known as the ‘Wyvern’ class throughout the fleet. Mine in particular is known as ‘Andarta’ and both her name and mine are emblazoned across each side of her nose. We’ve been through a great deal together: endless patrols, almost as many mock battles, even the occasional tense skirmish between the separatist movement and the government. But this will be different.
First time for everything…
Once inside the cockpit, the small image of Richard’s face appears on the lower left corner of my holographic display. The display is nothing more than a computer-generated illusion against the solid alloy that makes up the entire hull of Andarta. We save the transparent windows for tourist vessels. Space is so vast and we fight at such distances, they do nothing more than sacrifice hull integrity. Human eyes aren’t powerful enough to see anything but adjacent ships and neighboring stars. Even if the military allowed transparent cockpits, the odds of blindly finding the right path to follow once you get disoriented are staggering. So, we are at the mercy of our computers in these ships. If the computer goes out, there is nothing to do but hope search and rescue finds you before you run out of air.
I shake the thoughts of a possible death by asphyxiation and get back to the task at hand.
“Ensign. Keep me patched in when you broadcast the brief.”
“Roger, Lieutenant. Give ‘em Hell.”
I’m not exactly a religious person. I’ve always thought it hypocritical when soldiers only found faith right before battle. If there is one God or many gods, or a general force for chastity and sobriety behind the scenes of the universe, I assume the opposite exists. If my ass were on the line and I was like a good portion of this crew, having spent the last twenty years rotating between being inside random bars and having random bar patrons inside me, I would probably pray to the evil side to let me keep doing their work here in this universe.
Richards’ voice breaks through the comm again, informing me of what I already know. We are about to engage with a Ralgoth attack force for the first time in our species’ history. As he speaks, I can feel the plating of the deck shifts like a giant puzzle, carrying the fighters and bombers to their respective launch tubes. The ground crews have already moved to the safety of launch control stations, flawlessly shifting us around as a conductor would operate an orchestra.
Richards’ is finishing up a slightly longer message from what he told me moments ago. Commander Prendable’s voice cuts in at the tail end.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Commander, Thomas Prendable. I don’t need to tell you the significance of what stands before us. We are about to engage an alien species in combat for the first time in human history.
“After we nearly destroyed ourselves with domestic conflict, the Hycain people offered their hand in friendship. They shared their technology, their knowledge, and restored our economic viability.
“For years, some of the Counsel feared the Hycains would drag us into their age-old conflict with the Ralgoths. The Hycain government has yet to even ask us for the slightest of support.
“We didn’t have to be asked today. Their enemy has shown up at our doorstep. If they came here to fight, we’re going to give them more than they can handle.
“Some of you may have heard that I was on Hycai Prime during the Ralgoth attack twelve years ago. I have seen, first hand, what some Ralgoths are capable of, the blood-lust that drives them. With the Hycains by my side, we pushed them back. Today, I don’t have Hycains to rely on. I have something much better, the men and women of the Ironsides. The most highly trained military force in the United Peoples of Earth. If the Ralgoths are here to test our resolve, let’s let them know we are not to be fucked with.”
The Commander’s message ends with cheers erupting through the comm in my helmet. I’m sure everyone from the bridge crew to galley cooks are getting caught up in the moment as the adrenaline pumps through them. The Commander always could give a speech.
I finish up the last of my pre-flight checks, and confirm everything from climate control to navigation are operating as expected. I force my thumb down hard on the ignition switch, and I’m caressed in an almost sensual vibration as the fission reaction in the engines kicks off and Andarta switches over from battery power.
Nothing to do now but get on with it.
I punch the comm to link me to the bridge and launch control.
“This is Lieutenant Klingseis, call sign Reaper. Ready to launch.”