If you have made it this far and enjoyed reading it then a big thank you - I enjoyed writing it for you. One more part to come after this. If anyone out there is artistically inclined please drop me a line as I'd love to discuss getting some art commissioned for this story! And these are the Days of Our Lives...
It took a few tries but Attacks-First finally managed to convince Tainui to become his room-mate instead of applying for his own quarters. He put through a request to the base leader for larger quarters so they would have a bit more room.
"If we work together, this will make it easier," Attacks-First said reasonably.
"Sure, but what about privacy? Wont having me around cramp your style?"
"Sorry, cramp your style? This one does not understand."
Tainui sighed and put his arm around the young engineer's shoulder in a friendly manner, which made the reptile look at him with a curious expression on his face that Tainui couldn't quite read. "Mate, if you ever have the guts to talk to this girl that you've got the hots for and she likes you, well... Three's a crowd, y'know?"
Attacks-First looked back at the design schematic they had been working on and stared at it for a few moments before responding. He had come to the conclusion that trying to have any sort of relationship with the alien other than simple friendship was foolish, no matter what his feelings were telling him. "That is no longer issue. This one knows where he stands."
"What? Oh... Damn, I'm so sorry bro."
"Such is life. This one is content with life the way is at moment."
"Sounds like someone needs a night out and a damned good drunk. Let's finish up here and head into town eh?"
"Hrrr, very well."
They made a few changes to the electronic pathways needed for the project and shut down the datapads. After getting cleaned up and changed they made their way into Base City to find what passed for a bar on New Home. Managing to find a place not far from the lakeside, they went inside. It was relatively crowded but they managed to find space at a table not far from the bar. Alcohol had little or no effect on Vanguard physiology but the inhabitants had discovered a type of native fungus that had a similar intoxicating effect when processed properly.
Tainui looked at the greasy looking red liquid in the goblet that his friend was slugging back and shuddered. Pulling a battered looking water-canister from his small backpack, he poured some of the contents into a goblet and took a swig, almost immediately coughing and wheezing. "Woooo, smooth," he choked out with watering eyes.
Attacks-First leaned over and took a sniff of the contents, jerking his head back in distaste. "What is that? Smell like parts-cleaner."
"Hooch. Moonshine. Sweet sweet candy," Tainui replied, wincing as he took another sip.
Although most of the inhabitants of New Home knew that there was an alien on the planet, not many of them had actually seen him in the flesh. After a while Attacks-First started getting a little annoyed with the sidelong glances being directed at them from the others in the room. He was also getting quite blasted from the effects of the fungus-juice. Despite the fact that he was also quite drunk, Tainui saw that the reptile was starting to get quite agitated and decided that it was time to go. "Let's get you home to bed," he moved the young engineers half-empty goblet out of his reach and put away his canister of home-brew before getting unsteadily to his feet, pulling at Attacks-First to get him to stand.
"This one likes sound of that! This one does not," Attacks-First swayed alarmingly before shaking his head and looking at Tainui with only two of his four eyes open.
"Does not what, man?" Tainui asked as he struggled to pull a backpack strap over his shoulder.
"What? No, you the man."
"Yeah, you're right. I da man and don't you forget it!" He looked at the wasted Vanguard and burst out laughing.
They were a few hundred metres from the bar when Attacks-First suddenly stopped, looking a little panicked. "Whatsh... What's wrong?" Tainui stopped, swaying as he looked at the intoxicated Vanguard.
"This one forgot!"
"What?" Tainui asked alarmed. The reptile looked at him and grinned.
"You the man! Hrrr!" he bent over laughing while Tainui glared at him through bloodshot eyes.
"That's rotten, bro. If you bloody lizardsh wore shoes I'd be pukin' on 'em right 'bout now for that. Let's go before you say anything else dumb."
Half supporting each other they made their way unsteadily back to the base, passing a few other defense force warriors heading into town who looked at them curiously as they passed. Each earned a glare from the intoxicated engineer who put a rear arm possessively around the human's shoulders, nearly knocking Tainui off his feet in the process. "Steady on!"
"This one likes you."
"Yeah I know you do, mate. And I like you too. Almost there, don't fall over on me, big guy." He got them through the entrance and to the engineer's barracks without further incidents.
Tainui steered the Vanguard towards the sleep-webbing where the big reptile collapsed, rolling over while trying to get undressed. There was a ripping noise as Attacks-First ran out of patience and ripped the skinsuit off, kicking the shredded remains onto the floor.
"You have nice body," He lay there staring at Tainui as the human got undressed and went over to the cleaning pool to brush his teeth.
Rinsing out his mouth, Tainui finished up and turned around and flexed his arms, giving the staring reptile a bit of a show. "Yeah, I like it. Random kinda thing to say though ishn't... Err, isn't it, even for you?"
"This one likes you."
"So you keep saying." Tainui turned off the light and scrambled drunkenly onto the sleep-webbing next to his friend. "You're funny when yer drunk, y'know that? Goodnight bud."
Tainui had just closed his eyes when the Vanguard suddenly pulled him into a tight embrace and started nibbling at the back of his neck. "Dude, that tickles, cut it out, need to sleep!" The reptile stopped biting at his neck and started licking his face instead. He also felt something hot, hard and slippery sliding between the cheeks of his butt. "Hey I mean it, you're starting to scare me, man!"
Trying to free himself just made Attacks-First hold him tighter, the young engineer slipped his tail in between Tainui's thighs spreading them apart and twined it around his legs, the scales rough against his skin. "Stop it you're hurting me!" Tainui yelled and twisted desperately trying to get away. He managed to break out of Attacks-First's grasp and scrambled off the sleep-webbing, grabbing his skinsuit off the floor and running out the door.
Attacks-First sat up and made an awkward grab for the human but missed completely, getting the claws on his legs tangled in the webbing. Dizzily he wondered what had gone wrong before giving up and falling back onto the webbing. This was not supposed to be how it worked, he thought to himself. He was sure that Tainui said he liked him? The spinning room turned to blackness as he passed out.
Groaning, Attacks-First came to several hours later feeling like his head had been stepped on by a Rank beast which had then crapped in his mouth. Opening one eye he blearily looked around the room before his gaze settled on the human. Tainui was sitting on the floor, back propped against the edge of the doorway with his arms wrapped around his drawn up legs, chin resting on his knees. A stormy expression on the humans face told him something was very wrong. Trying desperately to remember what happened the night before he recalled a few drinks in town then... Attacks-First suddenly felt extremely sick.
"There never was a girl was there?" Tainui asked quietly.
With everything suddenly unravelling around him, Attacks-First opened his jaws but found he couldn't say anything, he was frozen in fear and could only stare with wide, desperate eyes as the only friendship that really mattered to him turned to ashes in his hands.
"It was never about another Vanguard, was it?"
Helplessly Attacks-First watched as tears streamed down the human's face. He managed to stutter out a few words but Tainui was too upset. "Was never supposed to happen like that -"
"Why didn't you stop? I was your friend! I trusted you!"
"This one loves you -"
"You tried to rape me!"
Trying to untangle himself from the sleep-webbing, Attacks-First managed to free his legs and got unsteadily to his feet, holding out his arms beseechingly. "This one never mean to hurt you. Was not in control..." His voice trailed off and his hearts wrenched as he saw Tainui flinch at his movement. "This one never meant for that to happen! Please forgive, would never hurt you!"
"You have a funny way of showing your love." Tainui got to his feet, warily watching Attacks-First as he backed towards the door.
"Do not let it end like this, Please. This one Sorry!"
But it was too late, Tainui was gone.
Thankfully Thunder didn't ask any questions when Tainui got her to fly him to the crash site, she could see he was upset and decided that if he wanted to talk about it then he would in his own good time. She stayed with the scout-ship after they landed, nodding respectfully to him as he exited the craft. Clearing a flat rock of accumulated snow, he sat down beside the cairn and brushed some of the snow off the top before pulling out the battered water-canister from his backpack.
"Hey Andrej, sorry its been so long since my last visit, bro. Been quite busy but have lots to tell you. Brought you a drink as well - it's pretty rough but have enough of it and you'll stop caring after a while." Tainui tipped some of the contents onto the cairn before taking a healthy swig himself, spluttering as the liquid burned down his throat, lighting a fire in his stomach. "Good shit eh? That'll put hairs on ya chest."
Putting the top back on the canister he dropped it into the snow beside him and looked out over the plateau at the plains far below. "Well your boyfriend has gone back to school again - you'd be proud, I'm now an engineer would you believe? Heh, didn't think you would. S'true, though. They've got me coming up with new and interesting ways of killing people." Tainui frowned and picked up the canister, taking another swig and pouring some more onto the pile of rock, imagining the look on Andrej's face. "Don't be like that, bro - a boy's gotta make a living. Oh hey on a happier note ol' Mr Lizard and his boyfriend got married the other day. Got a picture here somewhere."
The only response was the cold wind blowing gently over the plateau and the occasional tick of cooling metal on the scout-ship a few metres away. Tainui looked back at the cairn as he picked up the canister, but he stopped with it halfway to his mouth and lowered it again. "Yeah yeah I know this shit is bad for me, you can stop your nagging - tastes like old socks soaked in cat-piss, that's punishment enough I reckon. Built myself a still after I finished school, works quite well," he sighed. "Too well it seems. Met someone at the school and we became friends. Seemed like a nice guy, if a little shy. Hey don't get all jealous on me Andrej - he will never replace you in my heart, you know that."
This time when he picked up the canister he took a healthy swig of the potent brew, letting out his breath in a rush after swallowing it. He tipped a bit more onto the cairn before stoppering the canister and dropping it into the snow again. "So that's my secret. The lizard strung me along a bit, thought he had a crush on some lady who wasn't returning his affections somewhere. Turns out he has a thing for me. We both got a bit drunk last night and when we got back to his place he was all over me and wouldn't stop even when I struggled and yelled. Think he wanted to do the whole alien anal-probe thing, but I don't think he honestly meant to hurt me - even said he loved me."
Taking another large swig from the canister, he poured the remaining contents onto the cairn. "Well, maybe I might find it funny further down the track but at the moment feeling a little... I dunno, vulnerable I guess. Whole thing is just weird y'know, like bestiality only the animal getting fucked is me."
The wind whipped up a bit of loose snow against the side of the shuttle-wreck behind him and he turned looking for the source of the noise. Bits of tattered insulation and wiring hanging out of gaps in damaged bulkheads fluttered in the stiff breeze before settling down as the breeze died away. Turning back he leaned against the cairn, watching the snow sparkle wetly under the red sun.
"What do I do, Andrej? Give him another chance? Trust issues aside, I don't know how I feel about the guy. Can I ever develop feelings for someone that tried to rape me? Hell, develop feelings for an alien at all?" Getting to his feet, Tainui swayed a bit unsteadily. "Hoo-boy, you've had enough to drink today, mate! Might let you sober up a bit first. I better be headin' back, don't want to make Lightning mad at me for keeping his wifey away for too long. I love you Andrej, thanks for listening, bro."
Tainui smiled sadly and took a step towards the scout-ship then stopped abruptly. "Oh, almost forgot - here's that picture." Pulling out a copy of the photo he'd taken, he placed it under the same rock that was holding down the tattered remains of the letter he'd left on the last visit.
Picking up the empty water-canister, Tainui stowed it in his backpack and made his way through the snow back to the scout-ship where Thunder was waiting patiently for him. He smiled gratefully at her as she opened the hatch for him and he made himself comfortable in the support webbing inside as she lifted off and set course for the base.
Tainui went hunting for Attacks-First as soon as they landed back on the base. He tracked the engineer down to one of the hangars where they were in the process of building a singularity mine prototype. Attacks-First was working on the sensor array with his back turned when Tainui walked into the hangar. Waiting until the reptile had finished tuning the array, he cleared his throat and Attacks-First turned around with a forlorn expression on his face. When he saw who it was the look quickly changed to one of guilt.
"OK, I'm still angry about what happened but I don't wanna to throw away a good friendship over a drunken mistake. I dunno if I can ever become what I think you want me to be - but I'm not gonna say it wont ever happen either." Attacks-First briefly met his gaze with an unreadable look on his face, secretly relieved. "Oh and one last thing: No more booze - for either of us. If you're OK with that then shall we get back to work?" The engineer smiled and snapped his jaw shut in agreement.
"Tainui asked me a rather strange question today," Two-Talon mentioned to Hunts-In-Grass as they lay together in the sleep-webbing that evening. The warrior turned to him in the darkness.
"Hrrr? What did he say, lover?"
"Well he did not call me his lover for a start - Ow! Hrrr, alright, alright!" The medic huffed with laughter, rubbing the spot where his bond-mate had thumped him. "He asked me if there was anything about him that could harm a Vanguard, or the other way around."
"Not sure I understand? Even a spawnling could take on a human and he would have difficulty hurting a grown Vanguard."
"I do not think that is what he meant."
Hunts-In-Grass looked at him, startled. "You are not joking are you?"
"No. He has been spending a lot of time with that young engineer friend of his."
"The shy one that seems to avoid us? Vanguard and human together, do you not find that a bit strange?" Hunts-In-Grass looked at Two-Talon, eyes wide in the dark.
Two-Talon leaned over and licked the side of Hunts-In-Grass's face affectionately. "There is something I told him not too long ago: We cannot always control who we love. He will never see his home again, never going to see another human now that his mate is gone. We have each other - can you blame him for seeking love wherever he can find it, even if it's not one of his own species?"
Hunts-In-Grass considered this for a few moments. "When you put it like that, no. So - is there?"
"Any biological reason why a human and Vanguard should not have sex?"
"Physical size differences aside, no. Humans would be unable to interbreed with Vanguard, but that is not something he needs to worry about anyway."
"Alright. As long as he is not being taken advantage of then I am happy."
"Careful, your soft, loving nature is starting to show through," Two-Talon licked his face again.
"Hrrr, I will show you my soft loving nature..."
"Lies! That is not soft!"
Four years passed quickly as New Home prepared for the inevitable return of forces bent on the destruction of the outcast colony. The Original Home leaders had decided to end the 'myth' once and for all, intending to make an example of it to anyone - Vanguard or alien - who thought to challenge Vanguard empire. New Home was to be beaten into submission and if that were not possible, wiped out entirely. Weakness could not be tolerated and would be trampled under claw.
Far out beyond the ecliptic plane of the New Home planetary system, there was a small distortion in the deep, cold interplanetary vacuum which quickly developed into a tear into sub-space. A fast-attack frigate slipped through the hole with a flash of violet-blue Cherenkov radiation and coasted slowly towards the large red sun, the big generator gantries along the front of the ship sliding into recesses in the hull. Within a few minutes there were several dozen distortions appearing behind the frigate. Within an hour there were several thousand tears of varying sizes appearing in space as the fleet dropped out of sub-space. Several of the tail-enders powered up their engines and moved off to a safe distance from the last distortion which was several orders of magnitude greater than the others.
The tear in the fabric of space-time stretched kept growing, leaking all sorts of exotic radiation into real space until the massive Vanguard Capital ship Hammer-Of-The-Ancestors lumbered through the artificial gateway. Pride of the Original Home military, only three of the Capital ships had ever been constructed. Many of the military leaders considered it a foolish waste of resources sending one to what was considered by many to be nothing more than a mopping-up mission. Large sensor arrays unfolded out of recesses on the hull and started scanning the star-system. Behind it, the violation of conventional physics collapsed as several specially designed support tenders powered down their generators and docked with the ship. It was far too large to be able to create a rip into or out of sub-space big enough to fit through by itself.
Hunts-In-Grass happened to be on duty in the command centre when one of the deep-space sensors on the control console in front of him chimed softly. He looked with bored disinterest at the console as it flicked up a holographic display of an area of space towards the edge of the New Home star-system. What looked like hundreds of small blue-purple pin-pricks of light were highlighted by the computer. Boredom was quickly replaced by alarm as the number of contacts multiplied into the thousands and were positively identified as Vanguard warships by the computer. He activated the comms and alarm panels simultaneously. "Multiple inbound contacts, confirmed hostile. They are coming..."
Less than a minute later several senior defense force warriors came running into the room, including the leader, Dark-Mist. Activating the main viewscreens he displayed the sensor readings on those as well.
"Alright then, they have arrived sooner than we expected. Hunts-In-Grass, have we got a count on the number and types of ships please. I would like to know what sort of force they have sent." Dark-Mist then turned to one of the other warriors nearby. "Please notify the civilian population centres to prepare for evacuation to the shelters. Get your ground forces mobilized. When they land troops we need to be ready."
"They are still too far out to be sure but the sensor computers calculate approximately 2000 frigate-class ships or smaller, 300 battle-cruisers and one unidentified vessel - it is large, whatever it is." Hunts-In-Grass managed to pull up a grainy and blurred image of the ship on the main viewscreen.
Dark-Mist looked at the screen blankly. She had expected a show of force of perhaps several hundred ships, not several thousand. Her shoulders slumped, there was no way they could even contemplate defeating an enemy this strong with the resources they had. "Please assemble the council of elders immediately," she said quietly to an aide beside her. He snapped his jaw shut and took off at a run.
One of the older warriors stepped forward for a closer look at the grainy image on the viewscreen and shook his head in surprise. "I believe that may be a Capital ship. They were talking about building them before I defected to New Home. Heavily armed and heavily armoured, the idea was for them to be launch platforms for planet-busters."
"Planet-busters?" Dark-Mist looked at the warrior in alarm.
"Experimental anti-matter weapons. Early tests indicated that several of them were enough to completely destroy the entire surface of a planet to a depth of several kilometres."
"Is there any way of telling whether or not they are carrying such weapons?"
"I am unsure, that is a question best answered by an engineer."
"Very well. We have at least a couple of days before they get within range of our defenses but plenty to do in that time. Do what you need to in order to prepare yourselves, your families and your crews for what lies ahead. May the Ancestors guide and protect us in this time of crisis." She turned to Hunts-In-Grass. "See what you can do to get an accurate count of the enemy forces as soon as you can. Report any progress to me directly."
Dark-Mist made her way to the briefing room where her aide was waiting for her. On the viewscreens around the room were the elders responsible for the major clans and cities scattered around New Home. She tilted her head back, exposing her neck to them in a sign of submission and respect. "Sorry to have disturbed you but the time has come. The enemy approaches in greater numbers than our worst-case scenarios ever allowed for. We may be able to hold them off for a short time but in the end I do not believe we can be successful, we will fail. One of the vessels that approaches may be carrying weapons capable of destroying every living thing on this planet."
She looked at each of the elders in turn as they silently waited for her to continue. "I come before you to ask for guidance. Given the hopeless nature of the situation I believe the best option may be to unconditionally surrender in the hope that they will display mercy on our clans. Or we fight on regardless and possibly face the complete destruction of New Home and everyone on it. What say you?"
The elder from one of the oldest New Home clans looked at her through his three remaining eyes which were still bright and clear despite his age and spoke to her after getting the nod from the rest of the assembled elders. "We are all in accord and speak with one voice. Many generations of Vanguard have fought hard to make New Home a sanctuary from all that was wrong with the traditional Vanguard way of life. If we perish protecting that ideal then so be it. There is no more to be said - you have our support and respect, young Dark-Mist. Go with the Ancestors blessing."
One by one all the viewscreens blanked out, leaving Dark-Mist standing in the middle of the briefing room alone with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
"You are sure?"
"I wish I was not, but the sensor array hidden in orbit around the fourth planet has confirmed it. That Capital ship is carrying anti-matter in some form. Can only assume those are the planet-busters that Shining-Scale mentioned." Attacks-First stared at his datapad, not wanting to meet Dark-Mist's eyes.
"Hrrr, I wish we had some good news for a change. Very well, have we got an update for when they will reach the singularity mine zones?"
"The bulk of their fleet will be in position in a little over two hours. Assuming they do not detect the mines I would suggest that as an optimal time to activate them."
"Very well. Keep me informed."
The defense force fleet was waiting in geo-stationary orbit around New Home, the last line of the space-based defenses. 350 ships of varying sizes and types orbited in a loose pattern surrounding the majority of the planet. Two large heavily modified asteroids orbited in the Lagrange points between New Home and its two moons. Stripped of most of their useful elements in the construction of the space-docks and defense fleet, the hollowed out remains proved useful for hiding yet more surprises for the attacking fleet which was now only hours away.
All of the defense force bases on the planet were on full alert, troops armed and ready for the inevitable ground-based invasion once the space defenses fell. The civilian populations had been moved to vast underground bunkers and were as well protected as they could be. Everyone was tense and impatient, waiting for action. It started with a single word.
Still several million kilometres out from the planet the Vanguard fleet had yet to meet any resistance. On board the Hammer-Of-The-Ancestors the fleet leader, Deep-Cut was getting quite irritable and suspicious - he had expected some sort of resistance long before they had got this close to the planet. He paced around the bridge, ill at ease.
"We have almost cleared the debris field. Getting energy readings from the large asteroids in orbit around the planet." The chief engineer was studying his control console, trying to keep a low profile to avoid annoying the leader any more than he already was.
"What are those Ancestor-damned rogues up to?" Deep-Cut glared at the engineer and continued pacing. He didn't like surprises.
A small flash from near the front of the fleet made them both look up at the main viewport. Suddenly there were hundreds of flashes appearing throughout the fleet, some followed by bright explosions as overloaded shields on the smaller ships collapsed and the ships inside were destroyed or damaged beyond repair by the as yet invisible weapons. Deep-Cut grabbed the engineer by the shoulders and shook him roughly. "What is going on, Ancestors damn you!"
"I do not know! There is nothing... Wait, I am picking up a large number of gravitational anomalies throughout the fleet," the panicked reptile stared at his console in disbelief. He blinked reflexively as a bright flash shone through the viewport from something exploding against the Capital ship's shields.
"Get me some answers immediately or I will send you out the airlock to look for them personally," Deep-Cut snarled at the engineer. "I want to know the second you find their fleet. And get me a damage report!"
He watched, seething, as several explosions rocked one of the battleships not far ahead of their position, the shields on the ship sparkling briefly before falling. The battleship started to break formation to avoid more damage, the leader on board obviously panicking in his attempt to escape. Another couple of explosions rocked the already scarred battleship and it started tumbling out of control as it lost main power. "No you fool!" Deep-Cut hissed as he watched the battleship start to break up as more explosions blossomed around it.
Several smaller fast-attack frigates were not quick enough to get out of the way as the power generator confinement fields on the battleship failed, a massive shockwave from the resulting detonation spreading quickly through the crowded ships.
"The enemy appears to be using some sort of gravity weapons dispersed throughout this area," the chief engineer studied his readouts carefully before continuing. "Looks like they are camoflaged by rubble."
"What kind of trickery is this? Where are their ships? Hrrr, contact the fleet, tell them to destroy everything, even if it looks harmless."
Following the instructions he'd been given, the chief engineer passed along the orders via the command-net to all ships. Soon the bright flashes of the detonating mines were replaced by smaller points of light as any suspicious rubble was blasted into dust. "We have lost 12 battleships and 273 frigates. Two of our tenders will require minor repairs but we are otherwise unharmed."
"Very well, disperse the frigates and battleships into their assigned squadrons. Send three full squadrons to each of the two asteroids - I do not want any more suprises," Deep-Cut pulled out his datapad and made a few notes.
Gravity weapons? While disguised weapons were not unheard of in classical Vanguard battle strategies, he was more than a little surprised the New Home renegades had come up such an effective new idea. The concept of using mines as weapons had not been used for many generations as they were generally not powerful enough to be useful against Vanguard shielding. The fact that the wily renegades had come up with something new had him intrigued - he was going to enjoy personally running some of the prisoner interrogations.
Back on New Home, Dark-Mist smiled wearily at Shining-Scale. "Those singularity-mines seem to have been somewhat more effective than the human's critics said they would be."
"Indeed, let us hope that the rest of his ideas are as successful. If you will excuse me, I am needed with the ground-defense warriors."
"Very well. May the Ancestors watch over you and your warriors, Shining-Scale. When this is all over we shall have some grand stories to regale the spawnlings with."
As he walked away, the old warrior considered Dark-Mist's words. When this is all over... If he didn't know her better he might have even believed her.
Dark-Mist turned to the warrior manning the command console. "Send word to the two asteroid stations - they are free to fire when they aquire targets, but to concentrate on the Capital ship as a priority."
Snapping his jaw shut, the warrior acknowledged her order and sent the command. On the surface of the two Lagrange asteroids, massive bunker doors slid silently open exposing dark tunnels leading deep inside the hollowed out rocks. From each of the exposed tunnels a convoluted arrangment of crystalline-looking tubes surrounded by super-cooled refridgeration units emerged slowly into the sunlight. Sensor arrays attached to each of the units activated and started searching nearby space for targets. Deep inside each of the asteroids a subsonic rumbling started up as hundreds of generators came online, powering up the large banks of capacitors attached to each of the Gamma-ray laser cannons now studding the surface.
Targets aquired, the lasers fired their invisible beams of concentrated death into the cold vacuum. The crews on board the smaller attack-frigates didn't stand a chance as the beams passed completely through the less powerful shields and ships as if they weren't even there. While the radiation had only a slight heating effect on the metal it passed through, organic matter was incinerated within seconds - the hapless Vanguard crew literally exploding at their posts before they even knew what was happening. Suddenly without crew, dozens of frigates and a couple of battleships started drifting slowly out of squadron formation, no responses returned to the increasingly angry attempts at communication from the squadron leaders. They had no idea the crew of each of the stricken ships was no more than smoke and greasy ash now being scoured clean by the life support systems.
The larger battle-ships were better shielded, but not quite enough to save several hundred crew on board each of the affected ships who died slowly over the next few hours of severe radiation poisoning. Surviving medics on the affected ships unable to save their crew, watched helplessly as their crewmates died. Sensor reports quickly alerted the chief engineer on the Hammer-Of-The-Ancestors to the danger. Thinking quickly he modulated the shields to reflect the Gamma radiation, bouncing it harmlessly into empty space. Nervously blinking he notified his leader of the attack. "The fleet is being fired upon by powerful radiation weapons. They appear to be coming from the two large asteroids orbiting the planet."
Deep-Cut looked at him and snorted dismissively. "The squadrons we dispatched should take care of that shortly. What is of more concern is their battle fleet. Where is it?"
"Sensors detected many ships in geosynchronous orbit around the planet a while ago, they -" The chief engineer collapsed to the decking making a hideous gurgling from the torn wreckage of his throat.
Deep-Cut stood above the weakly convulsing body, blood dripping from the talons on one of his hands as he watched the life fade out of the unfortunate reptile's eyes. He motioned to a couple of armed warriors standing nearby to remove the body once it had stopped twitching then turned to another engineer standing nearby watching him with barely concealed terror. Smiling slightly he addressed the quaking Vanguard. "What is your name?"
"Well Loader, congratulations, you are now the chief engineer. I am not sure why your predecessor chose not to notify me as soon as he found their fleet but I trust that you will not make a similar mistake." He held his hand up to his snout and sniffed at the dark Vanguard blood covering it before licking his hand clean. "I want to know their fleet numbers and strength. You will not find that information by staring at me like a frightened spawnling."
Loader quickly moved over to the sensor controls and started scanning them with some urgency, hoping desperately that he hadn't stood in the pool of blood staining the decking.
One by one each of the gamma-ray laser cannons on the asteroids were silenced, the delicate crystalline mechanisms blown into glittering fragments amidst clouds of coolant, dust and debris as the squadrons dispatched earlier skimmed low over the surface of the asteroids below the firing range of the deadly weapons. As the fast-attack frigates finished mopping up the last of the cannons and moved away, the battleships launched several fusion bombs towards the asteroids before rejoining the main fleet. Bright flashes exploded across the surfaces of both asteroids, the smaller of the two breaking into several slowly spreading pieces from the force of the explosions.
"We have lost the asteroids, Dark-Mist," The warrior manning the control consoles informed the defense forces leader as he studied the sensor read-outs. "Lunar weapons platforms report ready, although once they start firing they probably will not last very long before coming under attack also."
"Hrrr, so many brave Vanguard already gone. Have we inflicted much damage on the enemy?"
"Checking... Unclear, the weapons were designed to affect biological matter not mechanical so difficult to tell. It appears to have slowed their attack however."
"Alright. Alert the lunar bases to attack as soon as they are in position to do so. They need to give the fleet as much support for as long as they are able. How are ground defense preperations?"
The warrior turned and checked another set of console screens before looking at her nervously. "Ready and waiting. Do you really think we - that we have any chance?"
Dark-Mist avoided meeting his eyes when she replied. "We have the advantage once they land and a few surprises courteousy of our resident alien. I am confident of eventual victory."
End of Part 6