Chapter Ten: Station Under Siege
There was a tense air on the bridge of Andromeda as they watched Slipspace go by.
Refractions of Dawn was working at his station, though he'd had to be relieved several times. That had left them waiting in deep space while Harper continued to work busily on one repair or another.
And all the while reports filed on about Nietzschean ships. Andromeda had taken to scanning the entire surrounding area as best she could. Reports came in of planets that had once been thriving economies now lying in ruins. Fortress worlds lay abandoned, while farm worlds were being ruled by warlords.
Dylan heard worse things from the tentative crew he'd put together. Magog raids were a daily threat to many worlds. Earth was a wasteland, fought over by Nietzscheans and Magog, and caught in the middle with humans. The Vedran were nowhere to be seen, having disappeared over time. Though the Than had set up a government with some degree of order, at least.
And now Dylan was trapped on a ship with a group of pirates and mercenaries. His second-in-command had betrayed him, and his crew was gone. And a fleet was pursuing them with lethal intent.
Finally, Hunt spoke. "Andromeda, give me a yes or no answer. Did we lose them?"
"Yes," said Andromeda, taking him literally. "Would you care for a more detailed report?"
"Yeah, go ahead," said Hunt.
"Our engines are verging on shutdown," said Andromeda. "I estimate that we do not have much more than enough time to reach the outpost Beka directed us to. Slipstream will not last much longer."
"Your instruments are incorrect. We'll make it with energy to spare," said Refractions of Dawn in irritation.
"As an AI, my ability to calculate slipspace jumps is unreliable," conceded Andromeda. "Refractions of Dawn may well have a better assessment."
"How are the nanobot repairs going?" asked Dylan, deciding to change the subject.
"They are underway," said Andromeda. "However, we lack the nano paste to initiate a full repair, and all of our systems were damaged in the black hole. I am focusing on essential systems and excluding all superficial systems.
"We are likely to have a great many scorched walls for the foreseeable future."
"Beka, does the Maru have any materials we can use to jury rig repairs?" asked Dylan, wishing they'd had time to restock supplies. The standard procedure for Commonwealth ships had been to remain as active as possible. Better to use the fleets when they weren't needed than to not use them and not know how to when the time came.
"I've got some spare parts, obviously," said Beka, still wearing her gun. "But no way am I letting you scavenge my ship."
"I wasn't suggesting we do that," said Dylan. "We'll need the Maru if we have to make a sudden getaway."
"Why don't we do that now?" asked Gerentex suddenly. He'd been the initial commander, but Beka seemed to hold more sway.
"Gerentex, what are you talking about?" asked Dylan.
"We're being pursued by Cuchulain, and he'll kill us as soon as find us now," said Gerentex. "None of us want to die, and most of us don't want the ship in his hands. But at the rate things are going, we'll be pursued until we get wiped out.
"So we should scuttle the ship.
"Take all the materials we can salvage that are of real use, then blow it up. We'll make an escape on the Maru. We then sell our wares at the Than Republic, and be done with this."
"Your lack of ambition does you no credit, Nightsider," said Tyr, sitting in the shadows. "We have an opportunity to reshape the universe with this ship if only we have the courage to seize it."
"Let Cuchulain seize it, you mean," snapped Gerentex.
"We're not scrapping Andromeda," said Dylan.
"There is a logic in the Nightsiders plan," said Andromeda. "My AI core could be stored temporarily-"
"I'm not blowing up my ship unless I have to, Andromeda," said Dylan flatly. "We don't even know if your systems are compatible with modern computers. Besides, with all the chaos and the Long Night having come while we were sleeping...
"I have the feeling that a working Andromeda could do a lot of good." The last thing Dylan would want is to lose Andromeda. It was the only element he had of his old life. And...
Could he get back?
There were theories about time travel using slipspace. Maybe he could utilize that? But could he alter time? Or would it just create a self-fulfilling prophecy? And if he could stay here, couldn't he do more?
"Fine, we'll do repairs with my spare parts," said Beka. "Harper, can you handle that?"
Harper was not with them.
At the moment, he was looking at a computer screen while working on the mechanisms in Andromeda's ship. He glanced up with a smirk. "Can birds fly?
"Beka, I'll have you know that I, Harper, am an absolute genius when it comes to mechanical matters. And digital matters. You really think a little thing like a hundred years of tech progress will slow me down?"
"Technological degradation, you mean," said Andromeda, irritated. "The ships I have detected are inferior to the basic Commonwealth standard vessels."
"Maybe so, beautiful, but we've made a few upgrades of our own," said Harper. "Nothing breeds efficiency and adaptation like a little resource shortage, am I right?"
Andromeda paused. "...Indeed.
"Perform your work on my systems, then."
"Are you certain it's a good idea to post the Magog to watch Rhade?" asked Tyr suddenly.
"Rev is a master martial artist, Tyr," said Beka. "He doesn't kill, but if he needs to, he can make you wish he would."
"Rhade hates Magog," said Dylan.
"I know, that's why I assigned him to the pod," said Beka. "Do you have any idea how many people he killed?"
"Billions at the least," said Dylan bitterly. But it was far far more than that.
Beka flinched. "...Since when?"
"He's the one who orchestrated the opening moves of the war," said Dylan. "Rhade played everyone. If we hadn't gone into the Black Hole he'd probably have carved himself out a place as Warlord." Then he looked to the violet-skinned woman who Beka had brought with them. She'd seemed to be staying out of things, letting them develop as they will. "Trance, any thoughts?"
"I think we should be prepared to fight as soon as we come out of slip space," said Trance. "We don't know what might be waiting for us on the other side."
"Fair enough," said Dylan. "Everyone take battle stations.
"Refractions, what's our ETA?"
"We should be arriving in three minutes," said Refractions.
Dylan had taken their brief journey to give the various members some instructions. They, at least, had a general idea of how to use them now. While Andromeda did have the ability to calculate and use the weaponry. However, doing so tended to have vastly inferior results to a manned crew.
He was grateful he'd done this.
Because as soon as they emerged, they saw the station Beka had recommended, and it was under attack. Magog vessels were rushing toward it, trying to board. At the same time, others were flying around, firing at it. Many of the guns on this side of the station had been destroyed. But Dylan noticed that on the other, many were still intact. The Magog attacks weren't as heavy there.
"Captain Hunt, I am detecting Magog spacecraft. They are inbound to attack the station," said Andromeda. "It appears that some have already boarded, and others are on their way. Weapons fire is detected from both."
"Well, that means we got here at the right time," said Dylan. "Full power forward, Andromeda, target weapons on the Magog ships. I'm on fighter defense; the rest of you pick your targets and shoot."
"Don't you have a strategy?" asked Beka.
"Nothing, I'm confident you'd be able to pull off," said Dylan flatly. "I don't know your level of training, and I don't have time to make one."
Everyone manned the fighters and went in for a full-scale attack with Andromeda's weapons. Many of the Magog vessels were obliterated in an instant, unable to respond. Dylan moved the device as quickly as he could.
"Captain, the Magog appear to be turning to attack us now," said Andromeda.
Sure enough, a whole flight of the spidery vessels was heading toward them. Dylan looked to Refractions. "Refractions, take evasive action. Try to draw them around the guns of the station; they may be able to pick them off."
Refractions moved instantly. Andromeda moved with practiced ease, keeping the Magog following them. Soon they rounded to where the guns were, and the Magog were blasted down en masse.
"Ships eliminated, Captain," said Refractions.
"Good, make contact with the station and prepare to board," said Dylan. What was he thinking? He didn't have any marines.
"Unidentified commonwealth vessel," said a voice. "I am Admiral Isabella Ortiz; identify yourself?"
On the screen appeared a blonde-haired woman with short-cut hair. She halted, and Dylan came forward. "I am Captain Dylan Hunt of the Warship Andromeda. We're here to help."
"We're under attack by borders," said Isabella. "Do you have any marines to send aboard?"
"No, however-" began Dylan.
"They have me," said Tyr. "I'm wasted on these snub fighters. Beka and I can go aboard on the Maru and aid them."
Dylan reflected that Tyr was correct. And there were other reasons to go along with it. "We've got two people who might be able to help."
"Then send them; we're hard put to it," said Ortiz. "Can you get between this station and the Magog? We've got more incoming. If they break through this station, it'll be an open shot to the worlds beyond."
"We'll do what we can," said Dylan. "Tyr, Beka, move. Gerentex, Trance, you take over for them."
Not that Dylan thought they'd be of much use. Tyr and Beka rushed down, taking the Maru and heading toward the station. For his part, Dylan had Andromeda rerouted a large part of the reserves to weapons. Sure enough, there was the Magog fleet, coming with further reinforcements.
"The Maru has landed," said Andromeda. "Captain, are you certain Tyr will be able to survive this venture?"
"No," admitted Dylan. "But he and Beka volunteered, and Ortiz probably needs the help more than us. At the very least, they can tell us the situation."
"Dylan, the Magog approaching us are vulnerable to our long-range armaments?" said Trance. "Should I shoot?"
"Fire at will, Andromeda," said Dylan. "Let's use them before we lose them."
And then the long-range attack began.
Andromeda had many weapons at its disposal. The greatest among them was the Nova Bombs. Less powerful was the ship to ship weapons. However, she also had access to weapons of mass destruction. These were usable only at long ranges and could destroy the ship if utilized too close.
As the first volley hit the unending tides of Magog, there was a tremendous explosion of blue. Vast numbers of them were consumed in the explosions that followed. And yet even more Magog were coming now, only to be curbed by another volley.
Trance looked on unsteadily. "Can you actually replace those?"
"I have no idea," admitted Dylan. "But if we're dead, we won't get a chance."
"Andromeda, save at least one of every kind of ammunition," said Gerentex.
"Why?" asked Trance.
"The Nightsider makes a good point, Captain," said Andromeda. "The may have universe has lost the ability to produce armaments we use. Retaining one for analysis could allow local scientists to reverse engineer them."
"Do it, then," said Dylan.
And so they waited as one line of Magog vessels were obliterated in droves. These weapons would have been of little use against capital ships, of course. But nothing was more lethal against a massed army of fighters.
"...Magnificent," said Gerentex. "I see now why Cuchulain was so focused on getting this vessel. If I'd only found the crew dead, I should have been rich as an Emperor."
"Well, money isn't everything, I guess," said Dylan, liking the man less by the moment.
"I assure you, Captain, you are quite mistaken," said Gerentex.
"Let's just make sure we stay alive long enough to find out," said Dylan with a sigh. "It's going to be a long night."
Dylan just hoped Beka and Tyr were alright.