That was ten years earlier.
Ten years of non-stop war, of death and destruction, of whole planets being vaporized by an incomprehensible alien force. War a previously unseen scale.
He hadn’t seen his home planet once in that ten year period.
It was the same for other first generation veterans; those who from the original Trade Militia or those who enlisted in those dark early days. They never got the cycle home. They were always at the front.
Still, he thought darkly, it wasn’t the worst thing- far worse to see your home planet. Because that meant that it was on the front line; and invariably came under attack. And considering defeat meant the systematic and unstoppable genocide of the entire planets population, and the harvesting of their resources until it was barren rock... It was better to have ones home in the relative safety behind the lines. Many a soldier had crumbled under the crushing thoughts that everyone they had ever known, everything that had seen, was now wiped from existence by an alien that wanted nothing, it seemed, but their annihilation.
But the outlook was starting to look better. The alien front was slowly stabilizing; defeat was no longer a matter of when and more if. In some sections, they even advanced.
Advance to shattered and barren planets, husks of their former glory. In that sense, it was harder to advance than defend.
But whether they advanced, retreated or held the line- the death and destruction continued.
Jon was no longer a pilot- he was now the commander of the TDN Argonev; a mighty Kol Battleship. But he was still going to be in the thick of it. Already, they were undergoing a refit after their last battle, as they prepared to hold the line against an alien attack.
A new, experimental forcefield was being installed, ready for the next mission. Hopefully, their shields would be better resistant against the alien missiles, which had a nasty habit of ignoring their shields completely.
Despite an increasingly positive outlook, he was no more happy for it- he did not relish his job, he did it out of duty. It was the way it had always been, and always be. This war was too violent, too far-reaching to allow feelings to interfere.
The massive battleship detached from the space dock, engines powering up as they pulled away from Solust. The metal jungle of the orbital factory fell behind them as they fled the unrelenting grip of the planets gravity.
Their escorts moved down from above the planet, moving into position behind the Argonev.
It was no insignificant force- two twenty strong wings of Cobalt light frigates, and one of Javelis long range frigates.
“Prepare for Phase Jump” his navigator transmitted to the fleet, from her position at the fore of the bridge.
Before them, a shimmering and static blue field generated. It took a moment to completely generate- by which stage the light blue field became interlaced with bolts of yellow and more rarely green. It looked very much unstable, with the flickering and the pulsing.
The navigator watched the system checks go green systematically.
“Anti-matter core is stable, power core is calm, shields are hold-“
“Just jump already.”
Jon settled into his seat, the navigator abandoning the formality of her first jump in the Argonev.
“Standby for jump.”
The blue field enveloped them, the Argonev lurching forward at incredible speeds.
They were away.
Argonev in the lead, the fleet emerged from the Phase Space.
Into a massive battle.
An alien fleet was trying to penetrate the two defensive permitters’ set up around an arctic world and a scarred volcanic world. The latter was principally a stationary line, populated by defensive platforms that were seeing off the few alien frigates that tried to attack the planet. The former had a full battle fleet with a ring of defensive platforms and hangar bays hung in low orbit.
Just beyond the volcanic planet, a bright green star illuminated the otherwise dark space.
“Open a channel with the defenders” Jon ordered as the fleet accelerated to the icy outer planet.
“I have them sir, Read Admiral Lycas is leading the defensive fleet.”
Manipulating the buttons on his armchair, he linked into the channel.
“Commander, your timing is impeccable. The alien fleet is attempting to outflank us and I haven’t the ships to spare to try and stop it. The defensive plans are holding bravely, but I fear they cannot last much longer. Both sides are being turned, reinforce both.”
“All right. I’m sending a wing of Cobalts and a wing of Javelis to hold the right flank, and I’ll hold the line with the Argonev and the other Cobalt wing on the other side.”
On command, they broke off and separated to the flanks.
The arctic planet was a mosaic of light blue and white- only a fraction of which would have been settled, so harsh was the environment.
A stark contrast to the natural, but deadly, beauty of the colony, the ships of both sides cluttered in low orbit in a brutal fight.
As Lycas had informed them, the alien fleet was trying to roll up the left and right flanks and crush the main fleet as it fought it out on the dark side of the ice planet.
Bulky Gauss Defense Platforms hung motionless in orbit, keeping the enemy at bay for now.
But their valiant defense was not without casualty- lacking shields, they were being slowly pulled apart by a combination of missiles and beam weapons.
As Jon directed the Argonev down into position between the enemy and the planet, one Platform was sheared in two as a beam sliced straight up its middle.
Both halves plummeted back down to the planet, illuminating the thick stormy sky with twin streaks of fire as they burned up on re-entry.
The Argonev shuddered as the first of the barrage impacted the shields.
A sole alien capital ship bore down on them, with a quartet of smaller, but still deadly, cruisers. Beyond them, a set of ten sleek and angular frigates fired missile upon missile into the fray.
The alien capital ship was not of the same class as the one he had fought at Formatis; rather it consisted of a central angular prism- with soft edges and a gentle pattern of white lights and black hull. Linked to this was a more harsh and hardened pair of rectangular guards. Somewhat like medieval shields, held horizontal; except these had weapons ports on them, from which energized death sprayed forth.
“Priority fire on the enemy cruisers” Jon ordered.
Huddling at the underbelly of their bigger comrade, they fired deadly energy waves at the terran battle group. Powerful and stocky; they pounded the Argonev and its escorts. Jon flinched as one of the Cobalts detonated, turning from combat ship to discarded scrap metal in moments as the shields collapsed. The frigates were surely overpowered in this fight.
“Deploy bombers to deal with the long range frigates- how are the shields holding?”
“Slowly weakening. The hull is compromised at three separate locations; those missiles are playing havoc with our shields still.”
“Damnit! Bring the ship around and ready the rail gun for fire.”
The mammoth Kol Battleship pivoted in space, no longer presenting a broad side, but rather the deadly bow of the ship to their foes. The compromised sections were shielded from further damage, while most of their batteries were fully capable of turning to fire forward. They suffered no major loss of damage output- in fact, they gained a great deal, as the powerful beam arrays were now brought to bear.
Orange beams raked across the cruisers’ shields, highlighting them as a soft, faintly visible bubble surrounding the vessel. The impact points condensed and took on a more opaque appearance as the shields stopped the beams from passing.
Their own shield was more starkly highlighted, as it bore the brunt of enemy fire, flickering from the powerful energy weapons. Purple missiles exploded brilliantly against the shields- some passing straight through, ignoring the barrier as if it was not even there- scorching and damaging the armoured hull beneath it.
From within the deep bowels of the ship, fuelled by the independent, secondary power source- the antimatter core- the railgun slowly came to life.
The rails of the tube went cherry red as they became charged with incredible amounts of energy.
At the very core, sparks flew from the mighty solid slug to the rails.
A moment after that, the railgun activated and the slug was flung from the ship at speeds almost comparable to that of light.
It completely ignored the target cruisers shields.
Doomed as it was, it fired a final volley before the dense, armoured ship crumpled inwards upon impact, killing the crew and rendering it inoperable. A second after that, the slug burst through the far side and out into the void of space.
“Target is confirmed disabled!”
“Reload the railgun and target the next cruiser. Focus all fire on it.”
“Aye aye sir.”
Laser bolts, flak bursts and mighty beams of energy flickered out from the valiant defenders. The second cruiser saved them a railgun slug as its shields collapsed, and it hobbled away, leaking atmosphere.
“Aim for the next cruiser.”
In the distance, Jon could see the alien and TEC fighters duelling around the missile frigates, as their bombers attempted to do a run on the enemy.
Incredible dog fighting, dodging and rolling as those horrific alien fighters sent beams every which way and that.
Piloting one of these TEC fighters was Flight Sergeant Lucile Doperman.
Deadly and sleek, the curved wing alien fighters slid around the sharp corners with apparent ease.
Her less nimble, but better armed and armoured, fighter tried to evade them, while the fast firing forward railgun chewed up any alien fighters who she got on their tail.
She swooped down over one of the alien frigates, the hull mere meters from here fragile fighter. It resembled something of a bizarre boat, with long tubes attached to the bottom of the super structure. These shot out brilliant purple missiles, which hurtled down to the battlegroup.
More acid green beams tried to slice her in two, as she curved into the wide open expanse of the interior of the frigate, evading their fire for a brief moment.
Her intercom was full of chatter- as the brutal dogfight played out.
“Gold Leader; we’ve are covering your run, you are clea-“
“Thank you Red Leader.”
“There’s one on my six! I can’t shake it!”
She chipped in here- still evading her own pursuers.
“Idle-3, calm down and pull down to the first frigate-“
“What, are you nuts? This thing is right on my as-“
“I wasn’t asking.”
Idle-3 stopped dodging and made a beeline for the first frigate, momentarily getting a getting away from his pursuers.
But the fighter was dogged in his pursuit and dived after him, the superior craft running him down.
A second fighter sensed prey and broke off to chase after him as well.
“Pull inside the superstructure!”
“Are disabled for some reason, just do it!”
Idle-3 did so, and his alien aggressors raced after him- right as Lucile shot up in Idle-3s exhaust, her own pursuers chasing close behind.
An instant after she passed behind Idle-3, the two separate groups collided. They veered away as they crossed paths, the leaders scraping wings and being sent spinning, while the wingmen swerved away at the last moment.
All four lost tract of both their prey and the larger battle as a whole.
“Get out of here!” Lucile barked, Idle-3 raced out, her fighter close behind.
“This is Gold Leader, first missiles are away.”
The alien frigate exploded in a ball of fire and energy.
Along with the fighters still inside the open structure.
Gold Squadron soared down the lane of targets, easy pickings with the alien fighters otherwise engaged.
The dogfight continued, now in their favour as they had a numerical advantage with Red Squadron free from escort duties. Lucile chased down the survivors, showing them the same amount of mercy as they themselves had been shown.
She dropped onto the tail of one fighter and splintered in into pieces under sustained fire.
Two more tried to dodge away- only to be hunted down like sparrows by an eagle.
The frigates meanwhile, exploded one by one, none moving away from the obvious threat.
“You’d think they’d try and run.”
“They must’ve disabled their engines- or taken previous battle damage I suppose.”
As Gold Squadron finished off the final frigate, it alone tried to escape the danger, reactivating their engines at the last moment, only to be pounded by the powerful missiles until it broke apart.
“All squadrons, fall back to the Argonev.”
“Yes Flight Commander.” Lucile transmitted.
The trio of squadrons flew down from their elevated position, watching the battle unfold.
The Argonev had taken some serious damage, one whole beam emitter having being vaporized, and the hull scorched and damaged in numerous places.
Many of the escorts were either destroyed or crippled.
As Lucile flew into the hangar, she got a brief glimpse of another Cobalt exploding as the energy waves overwhelmed the shields- hardly a quarter of the original compliment remained.
Yet the aliens had taken heavy casualties as well, only a single cruiser remained, listing and damaged to boot.
As she pulled into the hanger, the final cruiser exploded violently from the force of the lasers pounding its hull.
Against the obsidian black backdrop of space, the sudden surge of light was blinding.
Gold Squadron docked first, the heavy bombers dwarfing their smaller kin.
“Oh my god, look at that ship-“
Lucile twisted in her seat to catch a glimpse of the alien vessel-as the whole thing energized.
Rings of faint light rippled down the width of the ship- and it trip[led its barrage, the Argonev listing slightly from the sheer force of the barrage that now sprayed forth- exposing the hangar to a pelting.
Missiles, energy waves, beams and pulses- all rained down on the exposed flank- and the jutting out hangar was a prime target.
The shots sheared straight through the hull as the shield failed- detonating the ammo and fuel-
The entire hangar became a firestorm, emergency protocol forcing them to seal it from the rest of the ship as the missiles started exploded, breaching the fuel cells- and then the entire hangar vanished in a horrible chain reaction. The blinding flash faded quickly- to reveal the hangar, save for a few still attached shards, was gone.
Lucile, her squadron had been the last to dock, but it proved cold comfort- they got to see the hangar first burn, then explode, their comrades dying before them- prior to the shockwave tearing them apart.