Characters: Command crew, Storm Squadron, Desell Squadron
Captain Hale took the command chair as Helm Officer Carlacci’s announcement rang out all over the main bridge.
“Approaching Quadrant 37 Jumpgate.”
“Take us in to 500 kilometers of the jumpgate signal. Then hold position. Keep a low profile.” Captain Hale turned her chair to face Morgan’s tactical station. “Anything from our probes?”
“Detecting four ships in normal space,” Morgan said. “One Drazi Sunhawk. One Brakiri cruiser, Avioki-class. One Earthforce cruiser, Hyperion-class.” She blinked. “And an Abbai cruiser, Lakara-class. Logging transponder ID’s.”
“Quite a motley crew,” Hale said to herself, as bewildered as her XO. “So Earth and Abbai are doing their part–”
Morgan’s tactical board chimed with a warning. “Eight Centauri warships on approach, heading for the jumpgate. Three battleships, five Vorchan cruisers.”
“Have they seen us?”
“Negative. But if their scanners found our hyperspace probe, they’ll know someone else is out here.”
Morgan ran her fingers over the control board, pulling in new data. “Strange…I see some high power readings, but no life signs.”
Hale scowled. “Bodies?”
“Neg–scratch that. We got something. Vague…they might be life signs, but not enough for even a skeleton crew.”
“This doesn’t make sense.” She went to the console to see for herself. “Analyze the power readings. Find out exactly where they’re coming from. And why.”
Morgan nodded as she keyed in the commands. “The strongest reading is from a cruiser behind the rest of the group.”
“What about the others?”
“Negative. But the jump engines on that one are charged up…rather high.”
“If that’s true, it shouldn’t even be–”
Morgan and Hale exchanged a glance. They had the same frightening thought.
Captain Hale ran for the command chair. “Intercept that cruiser! And hail the Alliance patrol!” As soon as the comm system chirped, she cried, “ISA Phoenix to jumpgate patrol! Eight Centauri ships are attacking the jumpgate! Centauri in hyperspace are attacking the jumpgate!”
“Closing!” Carlacci said.
Breaking into a run, Morgan led her tactical team to the tactical chamber hatches. They vaulted into them and slid down into the centers of the egg-shaped gun pods, each Ranger floating at the heart of a gravimetric field. Like a torrent of flame, the holo-image of hyperspace overran the round gun-metal walls as their holo-grids activated. Holographic readouts rolled out like a curtain of fireflies around their heads as fire control systems scanned their eyes and limbs, adapting, awaiting commands.
Morgan’s voice came over the comm system. “Tac chambers online. Energy levels on Centauri ship increasing.”
“Hail the Centauri.” She turned to the main holo-projector. “This is Captain Hale of the ISA cruiser Phoenix. You are ordered to stand down and return to Centauri space. Respond or we will take action.”
She waited. “Electro-pulse guns, target that cruiser. Lock fusion and neutron cannons on the others. Engineering, can we use the gravitic projector to push that cruiser back?”
Jordan Toussant’s voice came over the intercom. “It’ll take several minutes.”
“We’ve got one.”
“Not enough time!”
Helm Officer Carlacci chimed in. “Jumppoint forming! They’re running for it!”
“Electro-pulse, fire! Shut that cruiser down!”
The gunner teams delivered virtual blows and sent the ship’s guns raging, raking the Centauri cruiser with bursts of electromagnetic pulses. The Vorchan cruiser rolled onto its side as its fellows raced for the expanding jumppoint.
“Two from the main group are turning,” Carlacci said.
Over the comm, Morgan added, “They’re locking on us!”
“Boost ECMs! Jam their targeting!” Hale called.
“Got an energy spike…it’s from the cruiser’s engines,” Darquin called out. “They’re overloading!”
Hale slammed her fist on the chrome rail around her chair. “Head for the jumpgate, full power!”
“Full power, aye!” Carlacci said.
“Sir,” Morgan said softly over the intercom, “we could plow right through the Centauri–”
“If they destroy the jumpgate,” Hale answered, “we’ll lose the beacon and probably ourselves out here–”
A furious lurch cut them off. The ship was coming about, Centauri plasma bolts flying past and detonating around them. Stars washed over the forward viewports, the orange jumpgate vortex growing, pulsating, the Phoenix bolted ahead.
Yoshino was grappling with her shaking console. “Shield failing!”
Bracing himself against his seat and his console, locking his legs in place, Carlacci kept his hands on the helm. The starfield churned and expanded.
A swarm of engine pods, firing white-hot, was getting bigger in the viewports.
“Stay on course, Helm! Get us clear!” A slight tremor in the Captain’s voice told him she saw the Centauri ships as well.
Carlacci nodded. He wasn’t sure if the ship could take the damage, but theirs–
The Centauri cruisers broke formation, peeling away as the Phoenix soared through the flaming jumpgate.
“Keep going! We need room to fight!” Captain Hale was pulling her off the railing around the command chair. “Report status!”
“All weapons online,” Morgan announced over the comm. “Passive shield at 14 percent, minor damage to the outer hull. Auto-repair systems are on it now.”
Captain Hale stumbled to a holo-projector, commanding it in religious caste dialect. “Odelann.”
A tactical map bloomed out of the crystal pillar as Morgan described the battlefield. “The Centauri cruisers are heading straight for the other Alliance ships. Their battleships are between us and them. Two are still in firing range, turning to engage us.”
“And no fighters.”
There was a pause as Morgan checked her readouts. “Confirmed.”
“Signal online–weak. Getting stronger. The mains probably failed, but the backups must have kicked in. Some thermal damage. It’s a mess.”
“One crisis at a time.” Hale keyed the intercom. “Launch fighters. Battle sequence D. Desell Squadron, take the jumpgate. Storm Squadron, use your Blacklights and get in position.
“Mr Carlacci, keep the Centauri battleships in range. Morgan, target the battleships and fire when ready!”
Phoenix–“Battle Sequence D” © 2002 ISA Phoenix
Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.