Henry considered what the captain of the Vigilant had to say, she had only told him something he had already concluded for himself but he still had one last move to play before he conceded. “As an alternative Captain Colbert you could recognize that the orders issued to you are the ones that are invalid and illegal and stand down. We would then proceed to Ezekiel and seek to persuade the authorities there to also obey Alliance law and carry out the arrest of those individuals accused of sedition and treason. That is the only reasonable option to defuse this crisis.”
Gina choked down the desire to say something like, good one. It wouldn’t fit with the seriousness of the moment, “No, Captain I’m sorry but I and the men and women serving under me have made our choice. We will not let you pass. I would deeply regret having to fire on you and your brave crews but I will do so if you attempt to jump to Ezekiel.”
Henry settled back in his seat. Well that’s that, he was sure everyone from Admiral Suarez upwards would want a piece of him, but it couldn’t be any clearer for the record and the inevitable board of inquiry that Taskforce 106 had been faced with no choice but to withdraw in the face of a superior hostile force. He was about to advise Captain Colbert of his decision, and that its consequences would entirely rest on her and those who had issued her orders, when he suddenly had the decision wrenched from his hands.
It was hard to blame Henry Moses for not noticing that Pale Horse and Bloody Sword had failed to maintain their position behind the screen of warships. His focus and that of every officer in Taskforce 106 was on the threat from the ERG. That the two transports were running parallel with their escorts instead of being tucked safely behind them was a trivial problem, or it was until Pale Horse’s targeting system began to track one of Force Alpha’s fast destroyers.
That triggered a chain of action and reaction that moved too fast for any rational thought to overtake it. The ERG Light Cruiser Crossbow locked on to Pale Horse in near automatic response. Seeing one of the ships they were supposed to protect being locked up Mombasa targeted the Crossbow, the battlecruiser Valiant targeted Mombasa, and at that point somebody, or possibly several somebodies given the conflicting data that was retrieved later, fired.
The shields on the light cruiser Crossbow shimmered and flickered for an instant before snapping back into rock solid stability as it was hit by Mombasa. Even as they were stabilizing Crossbow fired its entire primary armament right into Pale Horse. The transports shields didn’t flicker; they shattered and half the rounds dumped their energy straight into the hull, almost breaking the transport in half, with air, fragments of molten metal and bodies billowing out into the vacuum.
Before Mombasa could launch another broadside Valiant intervened. Mombasa’s shield stopped the incoming rounds in a blaze of luminescence, but it was the last contribution they would make as the generating nodes overloaded and burned out leaving the ship practically naked to the next attack.
After that space was filled with weapons fire and the ships of Taskforce 106 found themselves on the receiving end of practically all of it.
So if that seems like something you would like more of: