The following is Part 2 of Chapter One of my second novel submission to Black Library, entitled The Charge of the Danoans.
Chapter One, Part 1 is located here.
arrived first, in his naval security uniform and body armor. His
helmet was tucked under his arm, his combat shotgun slung on his back.
His belt was fully stocked with shells and grenades. His face was grim,
and far too young for this.
Lieutenant Horsten arrived a moment later, still fiddling with his
flight suit and gear. The news that he had already lost a third of his
pilots hadn’t quite hit him yet. He looked eager to fight.
Pierce got right to the point. “We’re under attack by unknown forces.
They’ve already taken out four fighters, our vox-communications
antenna, and our weapons systems. They have at least one ship inbound,
and it will be here in an hour.”
“I’ll have a fighter ready for launch in less than fifteen minutes,” said Horsten.
already too late for that,” replied Pierce. “It’ll get destroyed the
second it takes off. We attempted to send a message to Danoan, but I
don’t know if it got off in time. Best case, help is days away.” They
all knew what that meant.
“Any idea who the attackers are?” asked Simms after a moment.
Pierce shook his head. “But if they wanted to destroy the station,
we’d be dead already. My guess is, whoever they are, they want it
“Then we deny it to them.”
nodded. “I know we don’t have much in the way of interior defenses, but
we have to make do with what we have. Simms, I want you to distribute
the weapons as best you can--to the pilots, staff, everyone. And come
up with a defense plan in case we get hit with assault troops.”
sir. I think they’ll either try to come in through the launch bays,
the defense laser turret, or the missile turrets. Those are the only
parts of the station that have easy access to the interior.”
“Can we rig the launch bays with explosives?” Pierce asked Horsten. “Maybe we can use them against the attackers.”
could try to set up something with the fighters’ missile warheads. But
without an tech-priest? We’d be just as likely to blow ourselves up as
“I don’t see that we have much choice.”
“You know, they might not be after the station,” said Horsten thoughtfully. “They might be after us.”
That sent a chill down Pierce’s spine.
Pierce gave them their orders and dismissed them. He took a deep
shuddering breath, then returned to the Operations Center. “Anything
Rogell was pale, but so far he was keeping it together. “No. The
contact is still approaching, course and speed unchanged.”
“Very well. Open the station-wide circuit,” he said, picking up a
vox-mike. He needed to get the announcement over with, and decided to
just plow into it. “This is Lieutenant Pierce. The station is under
attack by unknown forces. We have sent a message to Danoan informing
them of the situation. It is likely that the enemy will attempt to
board the station. Petty Officer Simms and his Naval Security Team will
be distributing weapons to all personnel and positioning them
accordingly. I command everyone to follow his orders in this matter.
We will repel any assault, and hold out until reinforcements arrive.
The Emperor protects.”
He wished he believed it.
Five minutes later the external sensors went offline and Pierce no
longer had any eyes to the outside. Ten minutes after that a pair of
Naval Security personnel arrived in the Operations Center and
distributed laspistols to the staff. Pierce was already wearing his
sidearm, but took another. His naval saber was in his quarters, but he
didn’t see the use of it here. Another gun would serve him better when
the time came.
Though the external sensors were down, he still had full access to the
station’s internal pict recorders. Through the displays he could see
Petty Officer Simms organizing the defense, setting up makeshift
barricades along the choke points. Maintenance personnel were using
plasma-welders to seal off doors leading to the missile bays and defense
laser. Horsten was directing other maintenance and ordnance crews in a
frantic attempt to extract missile warheads from the Furies’
Thirty minutes had gone by, each one an interminable agony. Finally
Pierce picked up the vox-receiver and keyed in the launch bay’s code.
Watching the pict-display he saw Horsten walk quickly over to vox by the door and pick up the receiver. “Horsten,” he said.
"What’s your status?”
good, sir,” he said, looking up at the nearest pict-recorder, his face
bleak. “We’ve detached several warheads, but we don’t know the proper
rites to set them up properly. If we don’t treat the machine spirits
right, these things will blow up in our faces. If we had an
tech-priest, this would be simple...”
we don’t have one, Lieutenant,” Pierce cut him off in irritation. “We
probably have less than twenty minutes until we’re in the middle of it.
You need to rig those warheads up, and you need to do it now. Out.” He
hung up the receiver.
the display he watched Horsten hang up his own receiver, glaring at the
pict-recorder in helpless anger. Horsten turned and started to walk
away, but then jerked his head toward the launch bay doors. Every other
maintenance crewmember did the same. The pict-recorder that focused on
the launch bay doors was showing a blast of sparks as something began
to burn through it, arcing around to make a circle. Smoke billowed away
as the ceramite reacted violently to whatever was destroying it.
instinctively grabbed for the vox-receiver again, his eyes glued to the
pict-screen. When he saw what was happening, he didn’t bother dialing
in the code. Along with him, the operations staff watched the horror
play out in silence.
Horsten was waving frantically to his men, directing them to evacuate,
his laspistol in his hand. Some them dropped what they were doing and
ran for the exit. Others lingered, trying to salvage the warheads they
were working on. A few more drew their pistols, trying to evacuate the
others while keeping an eye on the door.
a final blast of smoke and sparks, the circular chunk of ceramite, more
than two meters across, was heaved into the launch bay to crash into
the floor. After a long second, a vague shape burst through the smoke,
followed by another and another. The shapes were roughly man-sized, but
distorted and semi-transparent. Pierce didn’t know what to make of it.
Immediately upon entering the launch bay, the shapes began firing.
Streams of pulsing blue fire lanced across the bay, cutting down
everyone who was still in the open.
of the crew had escaped the bay by now, and Pierce looked from
pict-screen to pict-screen, trying to find Lieutenant Horsten. He found
him splayed out on the deck, dead. He recognized Horsten’s distinctive
flight suit, but his head had been reduced to smoking charcoal. The
remaining maintenance crews got off a few panicked shots before they
were killed. The last tech was able to get the door shut behind him.
The massacre had only taken a few seconds, and now more transparent
shapes were visible entering the bay.
Pierce had a sudden thought. “Quick,” he said to one of the techs. “Override the launch bay doors and command them to open.”
“Why? We want to keep them out, not give them an easier way in!” objected Ensign Rogell.
it!” Pierce reiterated to the tech. He looked at Rogell. “They have a
docking tunnel clamped onto the launch bay doors. If we open them, in
addition to depressurizing the bay, it might wreck their docking system.
Do it!” he repeated urgently, looking at the pict-screen and seeing
“Negative, sir,” said the tech apologetically. “The doors aren’t responding.”
slammed his fist onto the console. In the silence that followed they
watched the intruders pile into the bay, more than a dozen now, moving
about the bay, apparently exploring it.
“They’re leaving the pict-recorders alone,” Rogell noted uselessly.
“That’s because they don’t care,” Pierce snarled.
A static-filled voice came over the speakers, causing Pierce to jump. “This is Simms, vox check.”
Pierce keyed the vox-mike. “Pierce here. They’re coming in through the launch bay.”
“Already on my way,” Simms said through heavy static. Wireless vox had never worked well in the station.
“They’re also using some kind of advanced cameoline. They’re visible, but barely.”
“They look to be using some kind of rapid-fire plasma weaponry. We can see at least a dozen in the launch bay now.”
“I’ll be there in thirty seconds.”
Pierce and the operations staff followed their progress on the
monitors. The naval security fire team of four men armed with combat
shotguns led a much larger group of station crew through the
passageways. The second fireteam was already in position outside the
launch bay entrance, two of them trying to organize the panicked
maintenance crew while another two covered the door.
Pierce keyed his mike again. “They’re beginning to mass on the other
side of the door--it looks like they’re getting ready come in. Move!”
Simms didn’t have time to respond. One of the shapes fired a shot that
turned the heavy steel door to slag. The sudden blast of heat caused
some of the defenders to recoil, but the security team, protected by
their body armor, responded by opening fire. Their shotguns boomed as
they fired dozens of rounds through the door. Blue pulses answered.
The doorway was obscured by thick smoke, illuminated by the pulses of
blue light shooting through it. Pierce saw one of the security men go
down, but the rest of the action was swallowed in a chaos of flashes,
smoke, and explosions. One of the displays suddenly went to static as
its pict-recorder was hit by a stray shot.
Simms was shouting orders over the vox. His fire team arrived on the
scene only to plow into a crowd of crewmen trying to escape. The fire
team shoved their way past. Simms finally broke free of the press and
took up a firing position, shouting into the vox to get a status report
from his other team. The only answer was bursts of pulse fire. Pierce
watched Simms prime a grenade and hurl it down the passage. Before it
exploded he had another one out, and he threw that one as well, followed
by a third. The pulse fire stopped, but only for a moment. It was
enough for Simms’ team to get into firing positions.
A small object appeared from the obscuring smoke in the passage,
skittering along the floor in the midst of the fire team. “Grenade!”
someone shouted over the vox, and the pict-screen went to static.
From another pict-screen they could see down the passage but it was
impossible to see what was going on amidst all the smoke.
“Fall back!” Simms’ voice came over the vox. “Fall back to...” His voice was suddenly cut off in a rush of static.
Several curses and unintelligible shouts came over the vox. There was
still gunfire, but now the pict-screen was completely obscured. Finally
there came a flurry of shotgun blasts, a rapid fire burst of more than a
dozen booming shots, and then as quickly as it started it stopped. The
vox was reduced to chittering static, and after a moment Pierce reached
out and turned down the volume.
For the next few minutes the operations center was deathly quiet as
they watched the rout on the remaining pict-screens. They showed
terrible images of desperate crewmen running for their lives, only to be
cut down from behind by relentless fire. A few brave souls attempted
to fight back, but the result was always the same. They were outgunned
and outclassed, and they never had a chance.
At the speed they were moving obvious that the attackers would reach
the operations center in only a few moments. In order to survive Pierce
knew they needed to hold out for days. It looked like they were going
to last less than thirty minutes.
Fear gripped Pierce’s throat but he forced himself to speak. “They’ll
be here soon,” he said, his voice a dry rasp. “Check your weapons, and
find a firing position.”
The operations crew looked terrified, but did as they were told. The
act of checking their weapons gave them something to do. They moved
around the room slowly and uncertainly, picking their final resting
places with fatalistic care. They settled into their positions,
watching the door.
had chosen a position near to the center of the room, crouching behind a
bank of consoles. He checked his field of fire, and saw his cup of
caffeine sitting on the console, distractingly in the way. He reached
out to move it. Still lukewarm. He contemplated just tossing it onto
the floor, but instead he twisted around and gently placed it on another
console behind him.
took out both of his pistols and laid them on the console ahead. Then
he took out every power cell he had on him, and laid them on the floor
within easy reach. Picking up his pistols again, he checked to ensure
the safeties were off, and rested his forearms on the edge of the
console. He focused on breathing slowly and deeply. He was ready.
“The Emperor protects,” one of the crewmen said in the silence. There
were a few quiet replies and murmurs as each man prepared himself for
their last stand.
It didn’t take long. They could hear noises outside the door, and
every man raised his weapons. The door flared red hot, the paint
blackening and blistering. Pierce felt its heat on his face and hands.
The door went from orange to white, and then slumped into a molten
pool, tiny bits of metal and paints burning into ash. No one waited to
see a target. Nine laspistols opened fire, sending red pulses into the
smoke. Streaming bursts of blue light answered.
pulled the trigger of his two pistols in sequence, steadily and
repeatedly. He could see the distorted shapes moving in the smoke, and
aimed at the center of mass. His shots flashed as they connected; he
knew he was hitting his targets, but it was hard to tell if they even
noticed. He was unaware of most of the action around him, but his men
were putting up a fight, and dying.
twenty shots from each pistol, the power cells were empty. He dropped
the left pistol and thumbed the release on the right one, and its power
cell fell to the floor. His left hand had already retrieved another
one, and he slapped it home. He brought the laspistol back on target
and was firing again in less than three seconds.
When it came, the end was quick.
A burst hit the console in front of Pierce, causing him to stagger back
and into the open. A follow-up burst stitched diagonally across his
body, hitting his kneecap, chest, right forearm. The pistol flew from
his grip. He fell down with a thud, slamming into the console behind
him and cracking his head against the metal. He sat dazed as discrete
bursts of firing lasted another few seconds and then went silent.
distorted shape moved in front of him and shimmered, then solidified
into dark suit of battle armor. Its right arm consisted of an integral
multi-barreled burst cannon, the muzzle smoking. The battlesuit’s large
helmet covered the front of the torso in addition to the head. The
unblinking optics on its faceplate aligned on him, and the suit took a
knee in front of him, a startlingly human gesture.
The suit regarded him dispassionately for a moment. Pierce looked back, feeling nothing.
His final thought was the recognition of his enemy.