There had been twenty mechs in his plasma trail and three, colorfully painted Terran transports slowly navigating towards the Sirius’s wormhole.
His heavy assault machines, in true tried and tested Jaern tradition, lay cloaking shields on, waiting to ambush the relief convoy. The Sky Hunter knew that Clan forces had heavy fightercraft patrolling this system and intentionally waited for them to attack the Terrans first, then, just after they had launched their anti-ship missiles, the Jaern raid lance pounced. Clan pilots were first to eat a hail of flak but relying on their strong shields and armor, they thought themselves safe – the Humans had to shoot down their heavy missiles first.
Terran point defense fire was very intentionally not aimed at said munitions but focused at their ships; even the small cannons these transports had, fired bout after bout at the heavy fighters. The ships which were in essence commerce raiding fighters were blasted apart while their missile salvo hit a wall of hastily modified containers. Someone on those transports manually controlled said crates and rammed them into the advancing missile barrage. This created a wall of scrap, which rapidly spread in all directions and to the Jaern pilots’ amazement even interfered with their sensors. Later the Sky Hunter learned that was a Spacer thing – jerry-rigging stuff that was not intended for war and turning it into a deadly weapon.
Despite the sensor interference, the Jaern raid lance decloaked, lunged forward, then split its formation to assault each of the Terrans from close range. There was nothing more feared than a space mecha bashing or cutting into your vessel’s hull with its melee weapons. The Sky Hunter expected resistance but... what he and his sky warriors were met with was a brutal assault instead. Where other sentients would otherwise attempt to make a run for the wormhole, or even leave one of their ships behind to cover their retreat, the Terrans charged them.
With pinpoint accuracy, their cannoneers blasted one mech after another, despite the great piloting skill of his sky warriors. To make matters even worse, their transports launched escape pods fitted with dumbfire missiles. Amazed, he saw on his sensors that they were piloted by spacesuit wearing humans. Those insane people stood tall, mag boots locked on the hulls of their pods and with mad persistence, chased after his raiders, sometimes firing salvos of missiles from point blank range.
Even the sensor afterglow which his cloaking shields caused and its well-known targeting interference didn’t help his mechs much. It was as if the crazy humans predicted where his machines would be a star-second later and, completely disregarding their sensor input, fired “by feel”. His younger self got really angry, mad even. He ordered his mechs to concentrate their attacks and kill the suicidal armed escape pods, then, after losing two more machines, his sliced in half force, instead of spreading, focused on one of the transports.
That was yet another mistake on his part; not being engaged directly, the other two Terran starships outmaneuvered his lance with speed and precision more akin to starfighters than transport craft. The Sky Hunter suddenly found himself boxed in, surrounded by the very ships he intended to raid, assault from perfect ambush, and hopefully even capture. Not that day... not ever. He had to resort to dishonorable action in order to survive.
A word, charged with so much negative connotation, dishonor was.
Indeed, honor meant more to him in his youth than it did now. Certainly, he obeyed the Jaern code and always looked for the weakest pray to pounce at from the shadows. It was the way of his people, it was how things were done, always. Not for him back then and not now, since he’d walked onto this disgraceful path for the last twenty star-years. He relayed a false link, which for some reason he’d had prepared in advance; that he did craft this order as a jest, something for him to pass the time while in hyperspace.
Suddenly the joke turned into a crutch for him to save his life and advance up through the ranks even. Despite what others might say, this old Jaern was still alive and in command of this refitted starship, still able to swipe at his enemy, aim at their throats. The fake order called in a corvette, which was supposed to reinforce & supply raider lances with fuel or munition.
Indeed, this ship too was fitted with cloaking shields yet, with hangars void of strike craft, the vessel’s only defense was its main particle gun battery and one big, slow firing PPG. Considering that was a fairly uneven fight for the Terrans – one capital ship versus three transport craft – the Sky Hunter hoped things would turn in his favor. There were six mechs remaining from his raider lance which could still attack the Terrans.
The Jaern corvette dropped out of hyperspace, its cloaking shields shimmered for a short star-second only, before they turned the warship invisible. Immediately the Terrans switched tactics and abandoned their encirclement of his lance, which, of course, gave him enough precious seconds to cloak himself. Amazed, the Sky Hunter then observed how the transports opened their cargo holds and each fired another, heavily-modified munition. If what his sensors were showing was true, they had launched planetary bombs, which in no case were effective against a fully mobile warship with undamaged propulsion, let alone a cloaked one. Then the Terran craft promptly shut all their main systems off, reinforced their shields with what reserve power they had and detonated the bombs.
Too late had he noticed on his sensors that instead of fully powered nukes, those munitions were actually jerry-rigged into large EMP bombs! Two exploded and hit nothing, but one blew up too close to the corvette and collapsed its cloaking field. The distorted energies wreaked havoc upon its armor and warped part of its hull, ripping off pieces of metal just like a predator bites chunks of flesh from its prey. With terror, he watched how the heavily damaged Jaern warship was brutally blasted apart with railguns, its hull sliced by Terran lasers and then, all areas of heavily-damaged hull showered with concentrated flack by their point defense guns.
In counted seconds the corvette was turned into a heap of shrouded by plasma fires slag, the corpses of its irradiated crew trailing like grizzly twinkling stars, behind and around it. Then, the relentless Terrans, the hulls of their starships still aglow with the damage that they had suffered from the firefight, turned around and came back for him and his mechs.
Unaffected by the EMP, he and his proud warriors were still under cloak – they had a chance to attempt something and change their fate – which they did. What was left of his raid lance enacted a fighting retreat; they aimed at surprising the Terrans by launching all of their munitions in one devastating salvo, then hyper-jumping while their enemies were shooting at the missiles and not at them. In essence that was a good plan, though those Spacers somehow managed to nullify his advantage of stealth once more during this ill-fated encounter.
His mechs couldn’t even fire all of their missiles, so fast and accurate were the Terran gunners. The Sky Hunter was the only one skillful and quick enough, who managed to evade their weapons fire and plot his escape jump. While the rest of his lance died behind him, desperately struggling, terrified that they’d lose all of their honor and never be accepted by Holy Darkness, the energies of hyperspace shrouded his mech.
The last thing he heard, right before his hyperdrive engaged was a message on open comms from his enemy. Short it was, very short, but long enough to keep him awake during the cold nights, disrupt his appetite when he dined and make his whole body stiff with worry before launch. Uttered by a young voice, perhaps no older than a teen, these words changed his entire life, made him think of ways more dishonorable, ways which none of his peers would even dare imagining, though through these underhanded actions of his, he remained alive and in command.
The rest, those born in his year, they were all felled by Terran arms and that perhaps was the main reason why he defected to Count Omasa’s side, why he joined the Coalition. The Sky Hunter still had the message recorded on his PDA and sometimes ran it, listened to it, over and over during the dead of night. Always he tried to fight the words, engage in a bout of threats inside his mind, with a Terran who might be already dead. That message was not so much a threat but rather a menacing promise:
“It is only a matter of time, Jaern...”
This is an excerpt from my fifth Starshatter book, you can find Secrets of Lothoria here. I am posting this to honor the brave Canadian Truckers, who, just like the Spacers in my books are defying tyranny and are determined to fight for freedom.