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“’ I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in this dark, for so you frowned

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.

I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.

Let us sleep now....’”


Wilfred Owen, “Strange Meeting”


8 NOVEMBER, 2225 11:30:31 TAI


“What did you guys find?” Doctor Joanne Leavitt, director of the Commonwealth University of Cor Leonis’ Roving Observer Four asked the two astrophysics graduate assistants manning the spectorheliograph in the top dome, now engaged in a close-up study of the A2 main-sequence star Chort.


“Oh,” Joanne said, when the spectrum revealed traces of lead, refined dyspropsium, cryogenic helium and monomolecular carbon,“ okay. Sienna, let’s see what the radar telescopes come up with.”


“I’m reading a mass of refined dyspropsium and cryogenic helium sandwiched between two layers of hyperdense monomolecular carbon at zero degrees solar latitude by eighty-three degrees solar longitude, and 28,522 klicks inside the star ,” Sienna Kyle, a second-year undergraduate majoring in astrophysics, with a specialisation in cosmology, reported,“ total thickness thirty metres...there’s another layer of lead behind the superconducting composite, also thirty metres thick, not even the neutrino radar can scan clearly through it...shape’s rectangular, total mass is 722 kilogrammes, length two metres, width one metre, total volume two cubic metres.”


“Remote section from Leavitt,” Joanne said into the link clipped to her t-shirt. “Jess, I need you to send a ‘bot into Chort, solar coordinates zero by 83, 28,522 klicks inside the star itself.”


“I see the object myself, Doc,” the holoimage of Jessica Shane, a third-year engineering student specialising in robotics, replied. “Deploying Fred to go get it now.”


Joanne watched as “Fred,” technically known as a Snowbird Mark XV-Alfa Remote Fine Manipulation Instrument Package, left Rover Four’s right-side remote instrument bay, immediately plunging into the solar equator, the view from the probe’s own cameras displayed immediately in front of the top dome...they could see the object now...a box, matte-black, seamless, no motive power, no markings....


The words were out before she even knew she was saying them or why:


“Jess, pull it back.”


“What?” Jess asked.


“I said, pull the goddamn thing ba—” Joanne shouted, Sienna screaming:


“Starcraft emerging from hy—”just before everything got blown to hell.


8 NOVEMBER, 2225 12:21:00 TAI


“We’ve got to make damn sure no one survives,” Lieutenant Coloniel Patrick Malone said, watching those meddling, goddamn Commie dyke bitches get exactly what they had fucking coming to them.


“Governor Zellner’s orders,” he added, smiling as he watched Republican Union Starcraft Atlanta Three’s ten 406-millimeter railguns smash the roving observatory apart.


“Sir,” the Atlanta Three’s weaps officer, Captain Kevin Welch reported,“I am detecting multiple spaceplane and escape vehicles launched from Rover Four.”


“He said no survivors, Captain” Malone said calmly, still watching the shower of blue sparks tearing into that ass.


“We’ve got another problem, ” 1st Lieutenant James Bohannon reported. “They’re sending a 303-X comm out, the Commie Forces are bound to know—”


“He wants them all to know ,” was all the command astrogator of the Atlanta Three would say to that.


“He wants them all,” he repeated, 100 more 26-ton degenerate masses flying towards the doomed oberservatory and those trying to escape their intended fate,“to know.”


“...Mama?!” the thirteen-year old girl screamed, kneeling over her mama, holding her hand...she was bleeding from the ears and the mouth, her chest was all crushed, legs bent out of shape...she wasn’t moving.


“Mama,” Jami pleaded, hearing the engine roaring, tires squealing as he turned around again, “ you gotta get up, now, please, he’s comin’ back, Mama, please, please, you gotta get up.”


The roar of the gasburner’s engine grew louder, he had gotten up speed, Jami felt the headlights burning into her as he charged back down Long Street, horn blasting the first few notes of “Glory to the Union,” into the night, he’d be on top of them any second now, out to finish what he’d started doing.


“Mama, please,” Jami sobbed,“please, get up, please get up, please—”


Hot, burning white lights....


...flooded the astrogation deck, more alarms screaming in her head, goddamn Mountaindickhead and Yanker warbirds everywhere she looked in the flickering master holodisplay...they didn’t have one fucking chance in Hell of making it out of this alive....


“AG shielding reduced by 95%!” Stevie shouted from the weaps station. “Primary and secondary electrical systems are trashed out, teritary electrical system 78% disrupted, AG drive severely damaged, no better than c times point three possible, both reactors running wild, AG containment destablizing, reaction rate now 320 microgrammes per second and rising rapidly, auto-repair system off line, railguns two, three, five, seven and eight knocked out, AG force beam forward and starboard emitters destroyed, electronic warfare subsystems destroyed, waist section and drive room both open to space, hangar and Raptor bays both destroyed...heavy casaulties, 21 dead, 27 wounded.”


“S.A.,” the bleeding holoimage of Astrogation Lieutenant 1C Micki Phillips, Unbroken’s chief flight engineer, shouted,“ I know you want to save as many of them as you can, we all do...but—”


“All excess power to the AG shielding!” the frightened senseless nineteen-year old girl now at the conn of this busted-up warbird screamed.“ Return! Fiii-re!”


“—you’re in command now,” that bitch of a chief flight engineer fucking had to remind her,“you have to think of your ship and crew as well...you’ve done all you can, you have to....”


8 NOVEMBER, 2225 12:22:31 TAI


“...battle ready! Battle ready! Flight crew to stations! Commander to astrogation, on the double! Commander to astrogation, on the double!”


Jamieson Sue Lanier, command astrogator of the Commonwealth Forces Ship Unbroken, was already out of her quarters, fumbling with her suit of Commonwealth grey, trying to seal herself up, halfway down the red-lit corridor to the inter-section connector by the time her senior astrogator had started shouted over the intecom for everyone to come running.


Jami had learned long time ago to sleep light....


She barely acknowledged the cry of “Commander on deck!” made by one of the security tac squad standing guard on the astro deck, barely even heard Senior Astrogator Stephanie Rhoads telling her “transferring command to conn,” as she sat down at the command conn, belted herself in, felt her ship break out into normal space, switching over from her Rittermark generator to her artificial gravity drive, hurtling headlong at c times one towards....


Motherfuck...that was a Rover...that was a fucking Rover, now just twisted, shattered bits of monomolecular carbon falling slowly into the white A2V star filling up most of the master holodisplay, the Yanker Freeman Lang-class warbird who had killed her now turning his railguns on the escape vehicles and spaceplanes full of people just trying to get the fuck away from the goddamn kill zone....


Someone using her voice screamed,“Kill the motherfuckers!” one hundred electric blue bolts of light hissing out of the veteran Commonwealth Forces warbird’s ten 457-millimeter railguns, a hundred 31.5-tonne hyperdense masses of monomolecular carbon streaking towards the enemy machine at the speed of light, all of them striking home as he turned to engage Unbroken, bluish-white-hot flashes giving way to a shimmering rainbow, spotted with black where some of the shells had smashed through the shielding and monocarbon skin of his fusela—


Shit!


The astrogation deck shook, sparking briefly in places, more alarms howling inside her helmet, her weaps officer, Astrogation Lieutenant 1C Prudence Davidson, shouting over her commlink,“AG shielding reduced by 83%, primary electrical system 64% disrupted, secondary el system 41% disrupted, reactor one AG containment destabilising, antimatter reaction rate passing critical li—”


“Return fire!” Jami screamed. “All nonessential systems to secondary power, all excess reactor output to AG shielding!”


“Hit the son of a bitch again!” she added, unnecessarily.


8 NOVEMBER, 2225 12:23:04 TAI


Malone laughed, even as his own astro deck smoked, sparked and briefly burst into flame.


“That’s got ‘em, for damn skippy!” he exulted, Welch reporting:


“Primary electrical system’s 100% disrupted, secondary el system’s 88% disrupted, teritary el system 82% disrupted, railguns two, three, six and nine knocked out, AG drive badly damaged, no better than c times point four-one-oh available; drive room and waist section opened to space, habitat and life support decks are holed, heavy casaulties, fourteen dead, 23 wounded, recommend we—”


“Bitch, we ain’t goin’ nofuckinwhere, not until they all fuckin’ burn in Hell!” Malone told him point-blank.


“Bring us back around, S.A.,” he told Major Phillip J. Snead,“ we’ve got our—goddamn!


That interjection had been forced out of him, Atlanta Three taking a blow which threw his commander forward to the limit of the straps about to cut him to little pieces, before slamming him hard back into his chair.


“We’re fucked now,” Captain Andy Walden’s holoimage shouted. “AG shield jenny just gave up the ghost, Coloniel, I think it would be a real good idea if we did the Foxtrot outta D—”


After uttering a word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet, Malone told Snead to get them into hyperspace as fast as he could, his senior astrogator playing his fat sausage fingers over the astrogation holodisplay, the Rittermark generator kicking in with a teeth-rattling whine as Atlanta Three ducked into hyperspace.


8 NOVEMBER, 2225 12:23:57 TAI


“No, fuck you don’t, son of a bitch!” Jami screamed, as the Yanker frigate went NGE.


“Pursuit vector, S.A.!” she ordered, Stevie’s fingers already flying across the astrogation holodisplay, Unbroken’s own Rittermark generator whining as it kicked in, the field forming around the Commonwealth warbird simulating the precise mathematical conditions of her intended band of hyperspace, driving her through it at over a half million times the speed of light...if her wife had anticipated correctly—and she had, she was the best Jami had seen—they should be on his sorry ass when they broke out of hyperspace and finish the job they’d started of sending him straight to Hell to burn where they all fucking burned best...Tau Ceti hadn’t settled a goddamn thing, nine fucking years of war, all those billions of people dead, worse than dead....


....oh, dear Jesus God, she was a skeleton with skin, sores and bruises and welts all over her naked body, her eyes vibrating with fear and fever as she got up to the limit of the fucking chain around her neck, kneeling on a floor full of piss and shit and hoarded food amongst the crap....


...hands tearing her panties off her, ripping open the tank top, grabbing her arms and legs, slamming her down onto the cold ferrocrete as she stupidly tried to climb the walls of the fuck tank, opening her mouth to scream as they held her down and shoved themselves into her, only to have someone ram a fucking dildo down her throat, telling her ”bitch, that whut yo’ fuckin’ mout’ good fo’....“


...no, not now, damnit, not now...later, she could give in, but right now, she had to be the commander of this bird, directing the efforts of 57 women and men towards making those murdering Yanker animals pay for what they’d done...only thing they could fucking do, they’d fallen down on the goddamn job, 397 scientists, scholars and students murdered in Commonwealth home soil because she had not gotten there in time to save them....


...the broken body of what had been a permanent terraforming station tumbling end for end into Sirius C, she just had to direct the view tailward, to all those she couldn’t fucking save, the fingers of her left hand blindly playing over the astrogation holodisplay, the generator whining as it took Unbroken into hyperspace....


...sons of bitches had to die, only thing she and hers could do.


It wouldn’t even come close to being enough.

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