Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Location: Rangstadt, Allied Europe, Earth, NEC
|Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:24 pm Post subject: Winter 5 1944 - Part One
|Winter 05 TN 1944, 2800h PRR (Peace River Reckoning)
In Orbit of Zeus
Something didn't seem entirely right to Commandant Averis Duceppe. The Republican man was in his fiftys now - he'd seen an awful lot. He was a spacer through and through; he had spent the War of the Alliance dodging the Earther fleets and raiding their string of supplies for his own use, spent the Interpolar War lobbing rocks at Northern armoured columns and Landships. He could feel the condition of his ship by feel alone and knew what to do in any emergency by instinct.
That's why he was given command of one of the Republican Space Defense Bureau's "SRS Paigemont", one of the newer Robbespiere class destroyers. Perhaps not the most prestigious assignment, it was just what Duceppe wanted - small, comfortable, and mobile with more than ample firepower. This sort of a ship was an excellent escort for the Deep Space Exploration divisions' science frigates, as it needed no further support. Which is just how Duceppe liked it. Quiet tours away from the chaos of Terra Nova, floating serenely around the orbit of Zeus, The Helios systems' largest gas giant. Commandant Duceppe liked his peace and quiet, and he had more than earned it.
However, the sensor trideo that hovered above him bothered him. There was a speck of something, a strange pinching in the misty clouds of Zeus's halo. His radiation specialist, an attractive thirty-something woman named Leutenant Clea Obsente, was lost. "I don't know what it is at all, Captain. I've sent the scan over to Bijou," She referred to one of Exploration's ships, "but they won't be able to get back to me on it for hours." Her tone turned somewhat excited - she had such a cute squeal to her voice when she got excited, "Do you suppose this is how the storms form?"
Scientists back home had speculated that the inexplicable shadeward-side storms on Zeus were caused through some internal welling of the planet's core. Dueceppe wasn't a planetary physicist, but that didn't seem right. No, it seemed like something else, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He put his finger to his lip instead, tapping as he thought.
Something crawled up from the recesses of the Commandant's memory. The beast was still in the shadows, but glints of it gleamed and hinted. "When was this taken, Clea?" he asked, pointing at the electromagnetic dimpling.
She turned her head to look at the timestamp on her projector, "Mm, thirty seconds ago, Captain. Do you want to see a fresh scan?" He nodded, and she replied with a few presses on her terminal keyboard. The trideo shivered and renewed itself, then turned to look at the projection again.
The dimple had become a well, puckering in the surface of the planet as if it were being sucked down a tiny. She screwed her eyebrows together and commented in that same absently-cute manner, "What's that? I've never seen a storm act like that before. Oh, maybe it's-"
"That's not a storm, Leutenant!" The Commandant cut her off as the beast revealed itself to him. Incredibly, it was a gate well forming right before their eyes. He didn't bother to wonder how such a thing could be here - within the gravity well of such a massive planet as Zeus. He shouted orders to his confused crew. "Call Bijou and Berel, get them out of here! Drone control, open the launcher and give me all the nuke drones we have!"
The electromagnetic speck bled into the visual spectrum as writhing coils of light - cerenkov radiation spilled out from the well as the gate opened its gaping maw. "Thrusters - get us back, get us back!" The Captain cried as the gate anomaly spilled x-rays and worse across Paigemont's shielded hull. But it was too late - a silvery-grey speck streaked out from the hole.
Duceppe's navigation officer yawed the ship about, but as he did so he spoke up, "Captain, it's just a gate coffin - we know they can put those in almost anywhere in the outer system."
"That's not a gate coffin!" the Captain roared. A second shape slipped through the hole just behind the first - heading straight for Bijou. The torpedo drone slammed into the science ship's hull with an explosion bright enough to obscure the ship entirely, forcing Paigemont's computer to flip off its sensors for brief moments. The crew was in shock, but Commandant Duceppe them working. He gripped his seat harnesses tight. "Back! Full burn, 160 degrees pitch!" Navigation replied sluggishly, timid without his sensors, but the ship began to lurch. Duceppe knew that it wasn't fast enough.
When the sensors returned to life, Berel was wreckage form the wake of Bijou's destruction. Worse, drones were swarming out form the pocket Gate. To their credid, Paigemont's gunners spared no time in opening up with their railguns - the drones were shredded before they could get close enough to detonate.
The beast that lurked in Duceppe's memory reared its head fully. A blunt-nosed shape began pushing itself into reality, slow and languid, as the toothed gate yawned wider than it ought to be able. Duceppe stared blankly at the thing a moment as cycles of civil war and peace shrank to nothing, and he was once again a young navigation officer. He could recognize the forebidding grey hulls of the CEF without thinking. This was an Io class destroyer.
He also knew that destroyers never travelled alone.
The world rushed back in on him as she ship shook. Drone Control had just loosed its entire payload at once, and Paigemont was beating a hasty retreat. The destroyer crawled into Zeus's orbit while a second one was traversing the gate - still opening - alongside it. Drones flitted amongst them like flies.
Duceppe swallowed and he found his hands shaking - the same jitters that had consumed him those long cycles ago. Still he managed to shout out, "Communications! Get me Terra Nova! The Earthers are back!"