Online Publication

The Passage of the Hemingway by Nate Cunningham

The ACS Wyvern.

A starship of majesty and imposing power. The crown jewel of the Armada. Her bullet-shaped body – the prime example of the top-of-the-line Xerxes class – carries the best weapons, the best shields, the best crew. Her captain, the galaxy-renowned James Johnston, is a veteran of many large battles, including Harm’s Way, Cavera and Flagstaff. Her cannons, capable of obliterating any foe, are each powered by an energy coil; enough energy to power a city for a day is fired off with each blast. This flagship has seen more battle than many men in the Armada, decimating tens of enemy ships and leading attacks to take and retake colonies.

However, she had never seen any task quite as this.

An escorting mission. For a cargo ship. The Hemingway.

The Hemingway is an old, beat-up Banister class vessel. Her boxy armor, serving as the only protection against the weapons of pirates and enemy ships – having been made before the invention of shielding systems – is scarred from previous attempts at piracy. She has no weapons, and is powered by a nuclear core reactor. The difference between her and the Wyvern is as stark as night and day.

The Hemingway carries a very important cargo, however. Important enough to warrant the protection of the flagship of the Armada. Both ships have been charged with the safekeeping and delivery of this cargo – the details as to what it is undisclosed on any document or record – to the Alpha Centauri system.

The only identifying factor that this cargo is at all different from any other are the security measures taken.

And the ship following just beyond sensor range.

This ship, dubbed as the Sun’s Tide, is a pirate.

And a powerful one at that.

Her captain, a man as smart as he is ruthless, is notorious for the daring and successful raids against many colonies, human and alien alike. Captain Henry Pasternak is his name. The Sun’s Tide is his brainchild, every weapon and system being his design.

She’s made of a black metal to blend in with the dark void of space. Both on top and below are large sails, to mimic the sailing ships of old, that catch solar winds from even the most distant of stars to propel the ship forward. Her prow points straight forward, a lance of silver with large points jutting out at forty-five degree angles back toward the ship like barbs.

And her sights are set on the Hemingway.

Captain Pasternak holds in his hand a copy of a record. It’s a transcript of a conversation between Armada Command Central on Earth to the Armada Centauri Outpost.

[Is the shipment coming in?]

{Yes. Expect it in four days. The Hemingway, designation 22152-165, is making the transfer.}

[Something that important should probably have an escort. The asteroid field that they will be flying through is a hotspot for pirates.]

{We’ve got it covered. The Hemingway will be coming in with the ACS Wyvern.}

[Wonderful.]

{Trust us. Project Ruby is in good hands.}

As one would expect, this intrigued Pasternak. So much so that he decided that an attack would be necessary. What is Project Ruby? Why is it so important to warrant the protection of the Wyvern?

On the Wyvern, Captain Johnston braces himself for the entrance into the supposedly pirate-infested asteroid field. His bracing himself is for good reason, though not for the one he expects. See, Pasternak had cleared out all the pirates from that field, with the “promise” that they would all receive a share of the spoils.

It’s at this moment that Pasternak gave the order to attack. The Sun’s Tide trains it’s mighty guns on the Wyvern, intending on knocking her out of the fight before swooping in to take the Hemingway and her cargo. The cannons fire, sending massive pulses of EMP waves hurtling straight toward the Wyvern.

The waves set off the mighty flagship’s sensors, Johnston immediately alerted by the alarm. He shouts to the Weapons Officer to raise the stern shields. The shields immediately go up to cover the back end of the ship, blocking the power-draining EMP blasts. Pasternak smiles, loving the challenge.

“It’s not every day that you can go up against the Armada’s flagship.” He chuckles to himself. He immediately turns to his men and orders them to fire everything they have at the Wyvern. Torpedoes, EMP bolts and flashes of blue energy go off from the Sun’s Tide. The weapons start taking their toll on the shielding systems of the Wyvern. Spiderweb cracks appear on the glowing blue sphere around the ship. The shield’s integrity percentage falling bit by bit with every impact.

The Wyvern readies her weapons in retaliation, cannons swiveling into place to face the marauders with metallic clicks.

“Sir!” The weapons officer shouts. “We can’t shoot unless we lower the shields, or we’ll damage them too!”

Johnston bites his lip. “Swivel us around!” He shouts to the pilot. “The sideward cannons can deal more damage to our foe!” He looks to the weapons officer. “On my mark, unload the port cannons on the enemy!”

The Wyvern’s engines rumble to life, the large ship gracefully rotating ninety degrees, the port side of the ship now facing the enemy. The Sun’s Tide doesn’t let up her assault for an instant, sending bolt after bolt, torpedo after torpedo, streaming toward the flagship.

But what Pasternak didn’t expect was the anti-missile guns. Firing small but high-powered blue bolts deliberately into the paths of the oncoming missiles and energy blasts. Explosions go off around the Wyvern, but not a scratch is on her hull. Large guns raise, each coil-powered cannon readied.

“Fire at will.” The command is given.

If the Wyvern was in an atmosphere, or a bystander could somehow hear in space, the sound would have been deafening. Fifty powerful cannons firing, all at once. Fifty streaks of blue light rush toward the enemy.

If the Sun’s Tide hadn’t evaded downward, she would have been destroyed.

However, she did.

The captain of the Hemingway, a timid man by the name of Elijah Harrow, saw the volley from behind the mighty Wyvern. He saw the black pirate ship dip beneath, the blue lights of raw power almost scraping her top mast. He turns to his pilot and instructs him, his voice quaking with fear, to proceed forward. Obviously, since the Wyvern hadn’t been attacked from the other side, pirates aren’t in the rest of the asteroid field. So why not leave the battle and rush to safety?

The Hemingway’s engines, contrasting yet again the powerfully smooth growl of the Wyvern’s, fitfully cough to life. The Hemingway lurches forward, knocking an asteroid aside, intent on reaching the Armada Command station in the Alpha Centauri system like before. She reaches her top speed, just under 20 au/hr.

Pasternak sees his quarry leaving. He pounds his console in anger as his ship is forced to weave around another volley from the Wyvern’s guns. The decision is plain. Does he break off battle with the Wyvern to chase the Hemingway? The only result in that would be the destruction of his ship. Does he continue his battle with the Wyvern? That would result in the same thing. Wave the white flag? That would really hurt his pride and reputation, but that could be easily rectified.

He decides to take Door Number Three. He orders his first mate to disengage the weapons, and turns to leave.

Johnston can barely contain his surprise. His opponent, a notorious pirate, just gave up and is turning to leave. “There is no such thing as honor when dealing with these pirates.” He mutters, looking over to his weapons officer. “You know what you have to do.”

The weapons officer nods. He readies the cannons for one last volley.

Fifty screaming bolts of death incarnate streak toward the fleeing pirate.

But Pasternak isn’t done. He still has a trick up his sleeve.

An experimental shield that he calls a refractor.

The green protective shield goes up around the Sun’s Tide, a large lime bubble stretching to envelop the entire ship. The blue bolts make contact with the shield-

And ricochet off of it.

The high-tension and high-vibration of the refractor shield makes it so that, instead of absorbing the blast like traditional shielding systems, it reflects them.

Johnston’s jaw drops. Never before has tech like this been in anyone’s, let alone a pirate’s, hands.

This entire time, however, the Hemingway has slowly and surely made its way through the asteroid field and is now a solid hour away from reaching the station. Finally, her mission’s almost over and she could rest a bit at the luxurious, and terraformed, colony there.

The Wyvern is now giving chase after the Sun’s Tide, who is after the Hemingway and her cargo. The Wyvern, a massive ship, is getting pounded from asteroids left and right. The Sun’s Tide, however, still has the refractor shield up. The asteroids are just bouncing off.

Both ships reach the end of the field, both ships bursting out with a spray of smaller asteroids and dust.

The Wyvern is a little battered and bruised, her hull dented in several places from crashes with asteroids.

The Sun’s Tide is completely fine, though the refractor shield is starting to drain on the power coil.

The Hemingway is no more worse for wear than she already was.

Weapons on the prow of the Wyvern focus in on the Sun’s Tide.

The Sun’s Tide is becoming more strained. The refractor has been up for too long.

The Hemingway is thirty short minutes away from safety.

The Wyvern is just itching for when the Sun’s Tide’s refractor goes down.

The Sun’s Tide’s refractor goes down.

The Hemingway is not in the line of fire.

The Wyvern’s guns fire.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s