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Exiting the tube network Jane found herself in a chaotic mess of engineering staff running around. “Admiral!” Jake’s voice cut through the jumbled noise of dozens of people talking and arguing.

“I didn’t expect to see you here at times like these.”

Confused Jane looked around. “Times like these?” Barely having spoken these words her glasses started buzzing, it was Derek calling her from the command centre.

Another Harpy ship had joined them, on the backboard side, but it was a matriarchy ship, so the alarm had been cancelled, still the engineering crews were abuzz. “They believe a patriarchist attack is imminent. Better get back up here.” He closed the line to instuct cews, as battlestations needed manning if that attack was to take place.

“Jake, I need to get back up there. Before I leave, there was an anomaly in the magnetic field in tube 2, between sections 22 and 21.” Promising her to investigate the matter Jake saw her off, before returning to his duties.

Again there was a bump in the ride, although she had the faulty tube closed off, looking into the matter while waiting to arrive at subalpha she found a few reports had been filed concerning that section in the last half hour.

Before she even left the tube network her glasses began buzzing again. It was the ambassador, probably to inform her of the latest developments concerning the patriarchists.

“Admiral, there is no reason for concern, the Valhak is here to assist in the possibility of a patriarchist attack on your vessel.”

“I know.” Although the alarm had been cancelled, still the hallways were filled with people, heading to, or from, battlestations. A few men and women in pressure suits rushed by, heading to the combat vessels. “We are merely preparing for the same eventuality, besides, I would’ve liked to be noted before hand.”

As she entered the command centre Jane was greeted with a rare sight, a sight she had hoped to never see. Simultaneously alarm sirens began to blare, the hectic in the hallway outside the command centre increased.

Not only where the Valhak and the Farkahl on the screen, but also another Harpy ship. The latter was on an intercept course.

Before anyone could give orders the two Harpy ships flanking the Horizon opened fire on the new arrival.

“Ready the fighters. Gun control, lock target, wait for my command!” Jane sat down, since the assumed patriarchist ship hadn’t been shooting at them, she didn’t want to draw fire on the Horizon by also firing on the Harpy ship.

“That is the Dhrakal accoring to its transponder.” Derek yelled over the noise of several people talking and stating readings of their sensors.

Access to a database of Harpy ships, both friendly and hostile ones, also disclosed that the Dhrakal was very successful warship, matching the Farkahl.

“The only very successful ship the patriarchists have I presume, since they loose on all fronts with the matriarchy.” Jesting Derek looked back at the main viewscreen.

To his horror did he find the Valhak was damaged beyond fighting capabilities. Shields and armor virtually gone, weaponsystems inoperable. Now the patriarchists concentrated their fire on the Farkahl. Both ships dodged enemy fire, or were only grazed by it, returned fire. “Lock on their weaponsystems, and open fire when lock is confirmed.” Stern faced Jane gave the order she had hoped never to give, but with the two warships engaged in a deadly dance of fire and return fire, it was only a matter of time until the Horizon was going to be hit.

“Dhrakal deployed fighters, Valhak and Farkahl are as well!” Most of Valhak’s fighters were unmanned and functioned as shield around the ship, only a small percentage of them were manned and engaged on the enemy fighters.

“Keep ours ready for launch.” Since the DEHumans came and took almost all of the beta ring with them these fighters hadn’t been launched in ernest. Testruns from time to time, to ensure the engines were still working, or that the pilots had been properly trained.

But not in full ernest.

Lasers were discharged from Horizon, the Dhrakal and its crew were taken by surprise, as they cut through their defenses and directionally enforced shields striking right at the weaponsystems of the Harpy ship.

“Reading little damage, they redirected their shields to block further hits from us.” Derek barked the results as if he had truly believed their technology was a match for the Harpies.

Sarisfied with their results Jane watched as the shots fired from Farkahl penetrated the shields hitting the weapons of the patriarchists. “Perfect.” She allowed herself a victorious smirk, but the battle was far from over, as the advancing fighters concentrated on both the Harpy vessel to starboard and Horizon herself.

“Launch.”

Like a swarm of flies rising after being disturbed, two dozen, small one-man vessels flew out of the sides of Horizon’s subalpha and subgamma rings. Changing heading to face the oncoming enemies. “Remember to track your IFFs, I want no friendly fire!” Reminding the pilots of their responsibilities Derek switched their com lines over to flight control in an office two corridors away, as neither he, nor the command centre were equipped to, or capable of, handling all the small ships at once.

“They’re dodging our fighters!”

It was the navigation officer yelling on top of her lungs, she was panicking.

Jane rushed over to her console and stared at the displays.

She was right.

The patriarchists fighters cunningly outmanoeuvred the fighters from Horizon and her protectors, heading straight for the human ship.

“They’re too fast for a proper attack, even with their fancy technology.” Derek stated, he knew what that meant, but didn’t want to believe what his instruments and common sense told him.

“They’re on a suicide run.” Jane stood up straight, the fighters were moving too fast for a weapons lock from the lasers, but still the gunners kept firing at the swarm of incoming fighters, taking out most of them.

Glad that the laser canons had been converted to manual firing instead of the tedious automatic firing, Jane returned to her station. “All hands, brace for impacts.” She barked into her station, screaming out of every communication device on the ship.

Only moments later there were the reverberating sounds and shakes of impacts. A few had hit the forwad facing dish, designed to with stand a nuclear explosion and asteroid impacts, but some made it to subalpha and alpha.

“Casualties, damage, asap!” Jane clenched the armrests of her chair, the sudden shaking of the entire room, half the ship in fact, unsettled her more than she had thought.

Another wave of the suicide fighters was on their way, both friendly Harpies and Horizon fighters had cleared the area around and beyond them, to avoid being hit by Horizon’s lasers.

Again the gunners fired in the general direction of the incoming enemies, taking out a lot of them. Memories of being stuck inside a cab that had been propelled into space came to her mind. As the fighters struck and the ship shook again around her, those memories faded away, making way for reality.

“First wave killed twenty people, thirteen missing, sixty four injured. Eight pods on subalpha, seventeen on alpha shot to pieces. Waiting on reports from scond wave.”

Digging her nails deep into the armrests Jane regretted her next decision already. “Ready the dish.”

Derek looked at her with an empty expression. The dish had at its center an opening through which the nuclear bombs were to be released in case they needed to use the front as as the new propulsion dish.

These bombs were too slow to be used as a weapon, but during her years ascending the ranks and being Admiral, Jane had helped in developing an attack against targets in front of the ship.

“Are you serious?”

“They have a clear path now, they can ascend to ballistic velocities now. Unopposed. But so can we.” She growled those last words.

Deep in the bowles of the ship the tubes of the central spine were cleared of traffic. An extension of the tube, reaching all the way to the dish and the now opened lid, was opened to that tube.

From the alpha ring a spare cab was released into the central tube, and brought to incredible speeds by the magnetic fields.

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