Characters: Command crew, Storm Squadron, Desell Squadron
The Phoenix opened a blinding salvo on its first target. The shower of energy bolts, then a burst from the neutron beam cannons, struck a Centauri battleship, scorching its broad wings. Sparks were bursting all about its hull.
Captain Hale watched the holo-projection as the battleship begin to tip with the force of the attack. She nodded as Darquin reported in over the intercom.
“Enemy weapons losing power. Their pulse cannons are offline. I think they’re switching to backup generators!”
“Another round with the fusion cannons,” Hale said. “Give our fighters some cover.”
The flash from the next volley turned the holo-image into a brilliant haze. The Minbari fighters from Desell Squadron raced in, the way now clear.
As darkness returned she monitored their progress. Pivoting after their initial burn, Desell Squadron passed and strafed the Centauri capital ships, bombarding their weapon systems before turning back to the jumpgate.
“Second battleship disarmed,” Morgan cried. “Two Centauri cruisers turning–Storm Squadron has uncloaked and engaged the cruisers.”
The six Thunderbolt Starfuries wheeled and rolled around the two Vorchan cruisers like stinging flies. In Storm One, Cat Rosha maneuvered her fighter with expert hands, while in the seat behind her, G’fen fired the Thunderbolt’s weapons with skilled aim and murderous enthusiasm. Pieces of the cruiser’s armor began to buckle under the barrage.
Hale nodded, encouraged. The Centauri forces were now confused and boxed in. The battleships were rapidly becoming big, slow targets in need of protection from their escorts. Without weapons, retreat was the only practical option they had.
“Centauri cruisers are taking defensive positions around the battleships,” Morgan called.
“Storm preparing for their next attack run,” Darquin chimed in.
“Tell them to pull back,” Hale said. “I don’t want them between the Centauri and our–”
Morgan’s voice jumped in from the comm system. “Battleships are turning…now on attack vector.”
“Us–they’re on a collision course!”
“They’re on full burn!” Darquin said. “Damn fanatics, they’re nuts!”
“I get the idea, Tactical!” Hale said. “Disable them, before they reach full velocity! All fighters, intercept! Take their engines down!”
Ayeshalan keyed her comm. “Desell One to Desell Squadron. Concentrate fire on the lead ship. Take her apart before she gets to the Phoenix!” Leaning her head and shoulders forward, she sent her fighter into a plunge toward the Centauri battleship, raking the engine pods with slicer fire.
Morgan was announcing over the comm, “Missiles locked…and away!”
Fighters from Storm and Desell Squadrons were racing into his view on the holo-grid around him. They were jumping into the fray like a swarm of outraged bees, firing all their weapons at once, staying above the first wave of missiles from the Phoenix.
Fire was splashing all over the Centauri battleships. The leader had begun to swerve under the impacts, to buckle under the fighters’ barrage. At the center, it was beginning to fall apart. Even as it shattered in a cloud of hot plasma, its guns were still blazing.
Storm Squadron faded out of sight as their Thunderbolt fighters activated their Blacklights, pulling back for their next attack run. Desell Squadron was still pressing their assault, darting over the dying battleship, hugging its disintegrating frame, as it fired on the two ships behind it.
“Take us around, now!” G’fen cried to Cat. “I’ve got a shot right down their filthy throats — Take us around!”
With a silent nod, Cat pivoted the Thunderbolt, sending it back toward the second battleship, joining the Minbari ships of Desell Squadron. “Storm One to Storm Squadron,” she said over the comm, “Concentrate fire on the last Centauri battleship — Desell and I will cover the second.”
The shower of plasma bolts from Desell Squadron was blackening the hulls of the Centauri battleships. Slicer beams were shearing off sections of pockmarked armor.
In one of the tactical chambers, Darquin was raising his fists and lining up his sights. The Centauri battleships were barely in range of the electro-pulse guns. He couldn’t wait. Even if their engines died in that instant, all three ships were riding on momentum, on course to ram the Phoenix.
Speed and trajectory stats in Minbari script were scrolling across the void projected by the holo-grid. The numbers were grim. Armed the electro-pulse guns with a gesture, he delivered an open-hand strike on the nearest battleship. And prayed.
The view of the space battle around him began to tilt. The Phoenix was veering, a last-ditch effort to avoid the collision.
Darquin switched to the heavy neutron cannons and brought his fists up, watching the fiery exchange for an opening he could use.
Morgan’s voice came on again. Not good news. “Desell and Storm, watch your backs! Centauri cruisers coming your way!”
Darquin aimed a glance and the holo-grid obliged him by zooming in. The claw-like Vorchan-class cruisers were pulling back from the Alliance blockade.
And as the Zen’thas fighters of Desell Squadron were corkscrewing away from the battleships, the cruisers fired into their path.
The fighter pilots heard Darquin gasp when the first few fighters crashed into the plasma bolts and started spinning off madly into space. “Storm One, Desell Three and Four, do you copy? This is Phoenix, do you–”
Cat Rosha recovered control quickly, and sent Storm One bobbing wildly as the next barrage began, but there was no clean path free. With no place to go, Cat dived toward the firing cruiser and held her breath as a volley of plasma bolts seemed to approach in slow motion —
— until a single Zen’thas fighter plunged in front of her, taking the oncoming fire that was meant for the Thunderbolt.
Plasma bolts tore the elegant little ship apart.
The fighter pilots heard Darquin’s voice thick with dread over the command channel. “Ayeshalan…?”
In Storm Three, Brenda Mawarra had been racing to cover her squadron leader. As Ayeshalan’s ship shattered into lifeless fragments, she silently mouthed words — a title, an epithet. “She Who Must Be Obeyed …”
Brenda Mawarra suddenly yelled at D’val behind her. “Give ’em everything we got! Send the bastards straight to hell!”
Storm Squadron came down on the Centauri cruisers with their plasma cannons as the Alliance blockade on the other side closed in on the common enemy.
As she brought her damaged fighter under control, Manaar Rashid reached for Desell Three’s firing grips with a bloodied hand — and swore in frustration to find they weren’t functioning. With no other weapons, she yelled curses at the Centauri in three human and two alien languages, coated in shattered instrumentation.
Hovering at the center of his tactical pod, Darquin stood frozen in the half-second between the Centauri strike and the Rangers’ reprisal.
Captain Hale’s voice blasted out from the comm system with a rage no one had ever heard before. “FIRE AT WILL! EVERYONE, FIRE AT WILL!”
The darkness all around the Centauri erupted.
Tears in his eyes, screaming, Darquin lashed out at the void along with the rest of his shipmates. He kicked up at the nearest battleship, into its double-pronged nose, and drove his fists into its spine. Fusion cannons opened on the cruiser, clawing its hull with the ferocity of his blows. The energy bolts kept coming, slashing back and forth along the same horizontal arcs across the capital ship’s dorsal section. Fire devoured it from stem to stern, no relent until it melted in tatters.
Desell Squadron turned their slicing beams on the two remaining, slashing through the boiling gas cloud. They didn’t stop until cross-sections tumbled out, trailing fire and debris into the void.
The collective firepower of 100 Rangers, fueled by their rage and sorrow, was raining down upon the enemy. The other allied ships held back at first as if horrified. As the Centauri battleships fell, the Abbai and Earthforce cruisers led the charge, lancing the Vorchan-class Centauri cruisers with blood-red slicing beams. The Brakiri cruiser and Drazi Sunhawk raced in, eager to join the Rangers’ killing strike into the roiling mass of white-hot debris.
“Targets destroyed!” Morgan shouted over the comm to anyone still listening. “Cease fire, targets destroyed!”
The comm system fell into silence, feeling barren after the heated chatter of the fight. Captain Hale announced the end of battle. “Stand down. All units report in…to Tactical.” She sounded weary. Empty.
Darquin raised his fist over his head to disarm the gunnery pod. He shook his head. This wasn’t how the day was supposed to end.
His teeth grinding, letting himself hang in space, Darquin put his hands over his eyes and began to cry.
Phoenix–“Battle Sequence D” © 2002 ISA Phoenix
Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.