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Dying starlight

AragmarSep 11, 2021, 6:00:28 PM
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After traveling in normal space for eons, the starlight finally reached its unintended and for some rays, final destination. In their billions, the scintillating rays reflected off or were soaked by one large object. This elongated item was of sentient construct and ominously floated in the dark of space, quiet as a tomb.

Its armored shell covered with frost and engines long since dead, this spacecraft could only be seen by naked eyes or on the screens of well calibrated sensors. Whoever wanted to explore her vast hallways, they'd have to be either very lucky or know exactly where she lingered, alone in the dark.

It would seem that on this particular star-day and after so many, unfortunate rays of starlight ended their millennium-long existence, somebody came to pay this spacecraft a visit.

Tiny in comparison, the swift and very much alive craft, left a long stream of plasma behind it. Speedily, the newcomer shortened the distance between her and the silent metal hulk. Fully unfolded, the smaller vessel's wings revealed missiles and bombs, hanging under them like ripe fruit dangling from a tree branch. Under her nose, the barrels of two long and well cooled beam cannons stuck out. They very much resembled the long, sharp teeth of some vicious, yet small predator.

More, thicker rays of light hit both vessels, revealing a sight most grizzly. Big that starship was and well outfitted indeed, yet her armor-plating was torn, her many turrets blown apart, and hull breached by boarding charges. Gutted like some prey animal did the powerful starcraft now float in the void...

The warship was, until recently, property of a mighty pirate Lord. He had led a huge armada, the greatest gathering of Clans, on a conquest most glorious across Fringe Space. Mahimm's latest choice of targets; a rather insignificant sentient race, barely capable of stellar flight, resisted. Instead of falling to their knees, these barbarians struck back, delivering a blow most devastating.

Their puny forces, a motley collection of hastily modified vessels, brazenly chased after and assaulted every Clan starship in sight. Months passed after this faithful star-day and many spacecraft were now considered lost without trace. Hundreds did not reply to urgent comm links or had simply vanished altogether, never to be recovered.

The Clanners who now mag-locked their landing struts atop its ravaged by enemy guns hull, were on a star-year long journey. To discover what happened to this starcraft in particular was their mission, and they aimed to complete it or die.

Twenty, clad in heavily armored spacesuits shapes, cautiously exited the moored starcraft. Hands holding powerful-looking rifles, boarding vibro axes or rapid firing beam guns, these star warriors took cover among the debris. Then, after their scan carrying brethren were assured that there were no traps or enemies ready to ambush them, everyone boarded the derelict.

However brave, relentless, and anxious to uncover the fate of this vessel the Clanners were, nevertheless one of them lingered behind. She was their best markswoman; armed with a long beam rifle, a Ranger of peerless skill, the woman kept her clansmates' backs safe.

Keeping her distance, masterfully lurking in the dark, she dared not use her spacesuit's integrated engines. Instead, by careful manipulation of her mag boots and grappling cable, she moved, always hidden, weapon ready to cover her brothers.

Ten star-minutes had passed since her team boarded the derelict and they already discovered the blasted apart, slaughtered remains of the ship's crew. While everyone made their way towards the vessel's command deck, she ran the audio recording they found on a dead body.

“One should've never descended upon these people! Theirs is a barbarity unseen by any of us, a most vicious refusal to be enslaved. They do not sleep, do not tire and are relentless in their vengeful pursuit! Always watchful were we, but these monsters could hide even from our best scanners! Their minds indomitable, these star marines slaughtered our brothers and sisters without pause. Not with all Clans can you conquer them! It was folly...”

There was the tiniest of bleeps registered by her scanning goggles and she rapidly swiveled around, rifle ready to fire. Suddenly, before her appeared a mountain of a man; his thickly armored spacesuit fitted with bulky exoskeleton, the long blade of a vibrosword pierced her heart. Gargling was all what her clansmates heard, seconds before explosives detonated, killing many of them.

More of the starlight came through a tiny hole in the gutted hull, and this time it reflected off the man's spacesuit. If the Clan ranger was still alive, her eyes would gaze upon a starship's emblem and certainly, a most dreaded barbarian flag.

INS Bremen was a Terran Minarchy warship, which all pirates of the Fringe now hated with the utmost intensity. They were so keen on killing the Terrans and destroying their armed with super weapons behemoth, that no sacrifice was too great. Yet, just as it had happened a thousand times before, the Human star marines out-maneuvered them.

Too late did the Clanners discover that this derelict was transformed into an elaborate trap. Terrans bid their time, slowed their breath even, long enough so their quarry would float inside a killing field. Then, unnoticed by eye and scanner, they leapt from the shadows, vibroblades in hand.

Carrying the ranger's still twitching corpse impaled on his sword, the star marine activated another of his weapons. An armor piercing laser cannon protruded from behind his shoulder and flickered; its only visible on scanners beam melted two more Clanners and with a single sweep nonetheless.

Before the man mag-locked his blade, he flew through some of the floating around his suit blood blobs. The star marine, uncaring that in addition to the battle damage his armor-plating was now covered with bodily fluids, kept firing his laser until its heatsink glowed red. Caught in a flesh melting, laser crossfire, what was left of the Clan boarding team perished to the last star warrior.

In the dead of space, only those who were in your immediate comm range could hear your screams, them or your enemy.

“Commander Alric, we boarded their vessel. Sir, they forgot to wipe their FTL logs.” - Reported one of the Terran marines from inside the Clan dropship.

“Good. Copy all of their ship's recent navigational data and star maps. We must know where their filthy kin came from! Then take the fuel and leave a nice booby trap for their clansmates.” - Ordered Alric von Englebert, before taking the ranger's personal computer and her rifle as his trophies.

Much akin to space ghosts did the Terran star marines vanish, their assault shuttle swallowed by the flickering energies of hyperspace.

Many more star-days, months passed in deathly silence.

In the dark of space, illuminated by dying starlight, the derelict pirate ship floated. Filled with traps, mines, and the mangled, mummified corpses of her unfortunate crew. Once these enslavers dreamt of glory, riches, and in their folly flew too far, awoke those they should've never attempted to invade. A merciless, armed with barbarous railguns terror now stalked their kin, and rained down thermonuclear death upon their heads.

More Clanners came to look for their brethren and, in their hundreds, the ghastly derelict swallowed them whole. Like many other starships bested by the Terrans in combat, this frozen hull became their final destination, their tomb...

                                                                                          ***

This is episode one of the Starshatter Clips, a new series inspired by reader feedback. I will write and post these on my Patreon page. You can read many short stories there, all set in the Starshatter scifi universe of my books.

The new Starshatter scene is up on Patreon! 

Those of you who like space opera and science fiction, follow the adventurous crew of IMS Starshatter!

Art by Lucasz Matuszek - visit his artstation page here