Tales of the Commonwealth: 2420: The Shots Heard 'Round the Galaxy


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  1. #1

    Tales of the Commonwealth: 2420: The Shots Heard 'Round the Galaxy

    Third chapter in, bit of a short one but with a bit more action focus.



    2420: The Shots Heard ‘Round the Galaxy

    “That’s the third frigate to arrive in the last twelve hours.”
    Captain Celina Yuen accepted the datapad being handed to her and gazed over it, barely acknowledging her First Officer with a brief nod.
    “Evenly matched then,” Yuen said, handing the pad back as she gazed at the viewscreen mounted on the forward bulkhead. To the left, the blue-green world of Haven spun lazily, with the black abyss – dotted with tiny pinpoints of white – occupying the other half of the screen. The Nixin warships were too far away to be seen, but they were there.
    Her ship, the cruiser Reverent – along with the cruiser Horatio and three smaller destroyers – had been tasked with safeguarding the successful delivery of supplies to the colony world of Haven. First contact with the Nixin had resulted in the destruction of a science outpost on Gallus IV over a decade earlier, and since then, relations between the Commonwealth and the Nixin had gradually disintegrated – they were blockading Haven, along with two other colonies, in response to the Commonwealths “aggressive” colonisation efforts.
    Because of this, the Commonwealth High Command had sent a relief convoy to resupply the struggling colony, now on the brink of starving. The taskforce Yuen had been assigned was meant to ensure the supplies made it to Haven – without, hopefully, starting a shooting match. They’d been facing off against each other for fifteen hours, with Nixin reinforcements trickling in for the last twelve.
    “More or less,” Commander Shelby affirmed, her hands fixed firmly in the small of her back. “But they haven’t made a move or communicated since before we got here.”
    “Maybe they’re just waiting for us to move first, and thus, make their decisions for them.” Yuen sighed, her mind resolute. “Well, this has gone on long enough. If they’re not going to move for us, we will just have to call their bluff.” Yuen looked up at the taller woman and then returned to her command chair, fixated towards the aft of the bridge. “Instruct the convoy that they can begin landing at their discretion.”
    “Aye sir,” Shelby affirmed. Without moving away from her spot, she nodded at the communications officer, who immediately began relaying orders. Shelby then turned to the Tactical station. “Battle Stations.”
    The first two freighters – small, boxy things carrying foodstuffs – made it to the surface of Haven within an hour, and were already unloading their vital cargo when the third freighter – the Luna-class Acavus – began its decent.
    “Sir!” Lieutenant Hargrove called from the helm. “Nixin frigates beginning to manoeuvre, looks like they’re preparing to make a run on the Acavus.”
    “Visual!” Yuen snapped, shutting down her virtual array and bringing her attention to the viewscreen. Sure enough, three Nixin frigates were bearing down like dive-bombers on the Acavus. “Lock weapons, prep torpedo tubes one through six.”
    “Inform the Nixin that if they don’t break off we will open fire,” Shelby added, almost talking over her.
    “Engines ahead, two-thirds,” Yuen ordered without skipping a beat. “Bring our destroyers up to act as a shield and intercept the frigates, while we take on their Heavy Cruisers.” The Commonwealth destroyers easily outmatched the Nixin frigates, but the Nixin Heavy Cruisers outgunned the Reverent and the Horatio, and they also had a destroyer of their own that Yuen would have to contend with.
    “No response to our hails,” Lieutenant Harper reported after nearly a minute.
    “Weapons range in twenty seconds,” Shelby said, leaning over the railing behind Yuen’s command chair. “Destroyers are entering range in ten.”
    Yuen watched in silence as the frigates got closer to the Acavus, silently annoyed that none of the military ships she had available were capable of atmospheric flight – otherwise she would have had a ship escorting the freighters down from the start, instead of watching like a hawk all the way up here.
    “They’re not slowing down,” Shelby continued, watching the sensor screen. “Or adjusting course.”
    Yuen, knowing full well that how history would record this date, nodded once. “Fire at will.”
    *
    “Coming out of FTL in five… four….”
    Captain William Dawson felt his attention focus on the viewscreen on the forward bulkhead as the countdown finished. Right on cue, a blinding flash gave way to a darkness dotted with tiny pinpricks of light.
    And a shit-tonne of debris.
    “Full evasive!” Dawson snapped instantly, leaning forward in anticipation and alarm, before his ships forward momentum had come to a steady speed, clamping down on an order to raise shields – the status board next to the command chair showed that they were already up and at full power. “Damage control teams to standby. Sound collision!”
    Even as Ensign Bates started rotating the Yorktown to port, the collision alarm was blaring. Bates managed to avoid the charred half of what had once been a Manchester-class cruiser, only to have to reverse the tilt and begin a steep decline to avoid the other half of the cruiser.
    “Report!” Commander Jeremy Hawthorne snapped, stepping up to the side of the command chair.
    “Radiation flares are blinding my scanners, Captain,” sensor specialist Mikayla Svetlanov said, furiously stabbing at her console in front of her as Dawson watched her work. On the viewscreen, the Yorktown was just clearing what had to be the remains of either the Horatio or the Reverent, coming in below the systems ecliptic.
    “Visual is telling me all I need, Lieutenant,” Dawson said, rising steadily from the command chair, his hand reaching to stroke his whitening beard. He took a step towards the viewscreen, incredulous as to how breathtaking wanton destruction could be.
    “My god,” Hawthorne breathed, coming up to stand beside Dawson.
    Stretching into the yellow abyss that was Haven’s sun was a string of broken, scorched and otherwise mauled pieces of metal that had once been spacecraft with people on board. Pulsating electrical arcs sprawled and tittered from one piece of debris to the next, and there were more than a few bodies – and pieces of bodies – strewn throughout the carnage.
    “Bring us to one third, Ensign Bates,” Hawthorne said, shuffling down slowly to the helm. “Clear from the debris field.”
    “I’m picking up beacons from lifeboats, Captain.”
    “Not all of this debris is from Commonwealth vessels.”
    “Commander,” Dawson called, holding up a hand to stall any other announcements. “If the area is secure, you can begin recovery actions.”
    “Aye, sir,” Hawthorne said, already bounding up beyond the command area to the starboard work area of the bridge. “Sickbay, prepare for casualties.”
    “The area is secure, isn’t it, Lieutenant?” Dawson asked Svetlanov pointedly.
    “I’ve managed to compensate for some of the radiation interference, Captain,” the lithe woman said, still not turning her attention away from her console. “That cruiser we passed was the Horatio, and I’ve got the remains of the Kirov and the Cook on scanners.” She paused slightly. “I’ve now also isolated three distinct derelicts that are of Nixin origin, all of them frigates.”
    “That’s only a fraction of the force that was here,” Dawson said, trying to keep an ear out on the progress Hawthorne was making.
    “I’ll keep looking,” Svetlanov said, rather redundantly. “There’s a huge radiation band where we entered normal space, suggesting further debris behind us, but we’ll need to adjust our line-of-sight to get a better read on it.”
    “Noted,” Dawson said, but making no effort to move the Yorktown just yet. They still had unaccounted for bogies, and missing allied vessels. They could be in the radiation belt Svetlanov had mentioned… or they could be out there, hiding, lying in wait. “What’s the status of the colony?”
    There was a few moments of silence. “Emissions quiet, Captain,” Lieutenant Yi said finally said from his console.
    “Scan the colony,” Dawson snapped at Svetlanov, but she was already ahead of him.
    “It’s gone,” the woman said, her thickly-accented voice breaking as she bought the scan results up on the viewscreen. Where a colony of thousands had once stood was a series of blackened craters – all of varying sizes, indicating a myriad use of ordinance – starting at its northern quadrant and winding its way to the southern harbour region. Brush fires were still burning, and the scanners were having to compensate for the smoke obscuring the aerial view.
    Dawson silently cursed.
    “Let’s not hang around people,” he said, taking a controlling breath. “Let’s save who we can and get out of here.” As he returned to his command chair, feeling far heavier than the ships artificial gravity could ever do, he made eye contact with his First Officer. “I guess they win this round.”

  2. #2
    Ive always struggled a little bit with futuristic shorts but this is pretty good.

  3. #3
    Really well thought out for a short story/flash fiction. Whatever it is...

    A bit hard to read though. Not sure what it is about the formatting exactly but it feels like a giant block of text no matter how I look at it. Try indenting your paragraphs, maybe?

    Otherwise it was well done

  4. #4
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    First off, I rather liked it and am intrigued to find out more. Keep that in mind as I nitpick a little.

    I do agree that the formatting issues made it much harder to read. I have been struggling with these forums too. Every way I try to paste text in causes some new problem. That you don't have lines between your paragraphs really does make this harder to read. When I pasted in my very long stories, I got two lines between each paragraph. It looks like you are losing the lines between paragraphs and spending a little time going back and re-adding them would help a great deal. Use the preview button when you are publishing here. A lot of things look good when you have pasted them in but get changed when the forum's software converts it to a post. (personal experience)

    I think my biggest beef, such as it were (remember, I rather like your piece) is that it reads too much like a Star Trek episode. The captain's chair, the forward view screen, the way everyone talks, the loading of the torpedos, the way they can't see normal space from FTL and popping right into a debris field. I could envision almost everything you describe on Federation starship especially someone's "lithe" body, they do a lot of that on Star Trek. Can you re-envision your bridge and your characters and command structure to break that replication? I think doing this would make it much more your own universe.

    As part of the formatting issue, the one asterisk wasn't enough to signal a complete break from one scene to the next. My style is to use three asterisk centered on a line with space above and below but whatever you use, it needs to be more prominent. As a reader, it stopped and confused me just as a formatting issue in a place where I should have known I was switching scenes.

    Lastly, before I get to to nitpicking, Capt. Dawson seems mighty cool when popping into real space to see the wrecks of sister ships to his own and the floating body parts of the men and women who are his brothers and sisters in arms. Most military folks I know would be extremely upset and angry at this. Sure, he has to be cool to do his job but he and his crew should have some kind of personal reaction as well. It would draw people in to your story more if we could identify with their loss

    Quote Originally Posted by Aleph01 View Post
    Captain Celina Yuen accepted the datapad being handed to her and gazed over it, barely acknowledging her First Officer with a brief nod.
    I think you mean "glanced" Gazing is looking a something long and hard with emotional content
    Because of this, the Commonwealth High Command had sent a relief convoy to resupply the struggling colony, now on the brink of starving.
    Nitpicky style thing. I've always heard the phrase as brink of starvation, a thing has a brink, not sure a verb does.

    The taskforce Yuen had been assigned was meant to ensure the supplies made it to Haven – without, hopefully, starting a shooting match. They’d been facing off against each other for fifteen hours, with Nixin reinforcements trickling in for the last twelve.
    Again, a nuance, "hopefully" is something you really want. I would say "preferably without starting a shooting match." but either way, I would put the word before "without" (Don't know if this a a US vs English(?) syntax.

    “Maybe they’re just waiting for us to move first, and thus, make their decisions for them.”
    People sometimes waith for other people to "make their decisions for them" Not sure a reasonable military operation would wait for someone to make a decision for them and Capt. Yeun would probably not think this. I also think the next line where her mind was "resolute" is already better shown when she says "This has gone on long enough."


    Yuen looked up at the taller woman and then returned to her command chair,

    “I’ve managed to compensate for some of the radiation interference, Captain,” the lithe woman said, still not turning her attention away from her console.
    Not sure why you just occasionally throw in physical descriptions in almost randon spots. I think you either need more or to pretty much leave them out unless they are important. The story works fine for me when I can picture them all for myself. I think the use of the word "lithe" most stopped me just because it is usually a term to describe beautiful women and nowhere else is the character's sex appeal described.

    Anyway, I look forward to future chapters to find out what these Nixin's are up to.

    Bill CK
    Only the curious have something to find. --Nickel Creek

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