Lieutenant Syreen thinks of herself as a skilled spaceship pilot in the Duchy Fleet. When another stellar nation invades her home system, her skills are put to the ultimate test. Before long, all her wingmates are shot dead, all their other spaceships are destroyed, and she soon she finds herself as Fleet’s only survivor on active duty. How is she supposed to fight the already victorious enemy battleships all alone?
Giving up is not an option, at least not for her. Forced to withdraw and find new answers, she must also keep control of her own body that begins to demand warm blood.
After her escape, she starts looking for support for her cause. However, no other nation wants to become the invaders’ next target. Instead of support, she only finds a few lucky survivors, and a researcher who will at least fund her while following his own goals. His mention of the remnants of an ancient race triggers her curiosity—because the invaders were also looking for a relic of an ancient race. Could these two goals be related?
A red light flashed over the door. Syreen jumped up and grabbed her bag and was out of her bunk before the klaxons went off. Not this time, no more disciplinary penalties for being late.
Half a centicycle later she met her wingmates on the flight deck.
“Get in your gear,” Cap barked, “this is not an exercise!”
Not? Aw shit. Syreen dashed toward her skirmisher—basically a seat, a power plant, an engine and one light pulse cannon wrapped in a thin, spindle-shaped metal sheet—and let herself drop into her cockpit. Okay, let’s give ‘em raiders a good time, shall we?
She ran through her routine. Buckles, headgear, data glove, flight stick, stimulator. She waited for the short prick of the syringe in her right thigh. Ouch. I so hate needles. Her status went green.
“Silver Seven?” she heard her wingleader on the private line.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be there, I won’t chicken out.” Not while we’re doing real business. That’s not me.
“I didn’t want to imply that.”
Oh yes, you did. “Trust me, Cap. Now where’s the target?”
“You’ll get your fun soon enough. Silver Wing, prepare for launch in five.”
A little wave of heat shot through her right leg, and the psyjuice started its work. The colors around her looked brighter, the fine hissing sound of the oxybox became a rhythmical melody. There was a brief moment of dizziness before her body adapted to the drug. She began to enjoy the warm presence of the stimulator and adjusted herself in her seat. Not for the first time she wondered what it would feel like for the males, but obviously she lacked some imagination.
Like a gush of sperm, her wing’s slender skirmishers were shot out of Base Four’s launching tubes. Her tac came to life with a scatterplot of purple icons. Oh heck! At least five dreadnaughts, the obligatory wake of cruisers, and a cloud of stingships. Who had ever seen dreadnaughts, the largest warships ever built, in operation? This was not the expected raid they had been preparing for, this was full-scale invasion.
“Silver Wing, here’s our order. We’ll engage Daddy Five’s escort and make room for the tanks. Score well!”
Daddy Five’s icon turned yellow together with its escorts.
This is madness. You think I have issues with discipline? Nope. I have issues with stupidity, and to think our three outdated destroyers plus eight wings of skirmishers could stop this armada is outright stupid. But Fleet won’t retreat, that’s a given. She sighed. So be it. At least we’ll die on the crest of ecstasy today.
She didn’t need much of her concentration to stay in formation. Cap—Silver Leader—wasn’t very creative. He flew by the Books, fought by the Books, and he would die by the Books, as their enemy quite certainly knew the rules just as well.
Unless I can do something about it. No, she wouldn’t be able to win this battle. But a few unconventional maneuvers—which she was infamous for—might buy her wing some time, perhaps even enough time for someone with brains to stop this massacre.
“Combat config,” Cap commanded.
“Check.” Her headgear picked up the spot her glance was focusing on and triggered the reconfiguration. Delicate antennae reached out of the main hull to weave the protective shield, which could deflect stray shots and thus might let them live a few centicycles longer. No way a skirmisher could survive a direct hit from one of the tanks—be it a destroyer, a cruiser or a dreadnaught.
As if to prove her thoughts, behind her Base Four silently melted away. Poor bastards—they had been a sitting duck for the dreadnaughts’ long-range missiles. The other bases followed within millicycles. They might have had a chance to launch their own score of missiles, but those would be wiped out by the enemy cruisers’ tight mesh of countermeasures.
“Bandits—outer seven,” Cap noticed. “Keep positions.”
Sure. Give ‘em easy prey. You know you’ll be the last—your wingmates’ shields will amplify yours. Bandits will start shooting the tips—that is, me—and work inward. Meanwhile you get your chance to return fire.
A slight pull on the flight stick, and her skirmisher pranced around the almost invisible beams of energy which crossed in the position she had assumed until a blink before. Fuck yourself, bastards. And take this. She triggered her own pulse cannon and struck home. “Score!”
Her tac acknowledged the kill. Her stimulator pulsated joyously inside her crotch. Ah! More of that! She aimed and fired again. “Score!” Now dodge, gal, it’s never good to stay in one place too long. Her shield flickered. That was too close. How dare you, bastard? Take this! “Score!”
Cap yelled something about formation and discipline and rules. Meanwhile she plucked another hostile stingship from space. “Score!”
In all simulations, she had been the best. Now she could show her talent. If Cap wouldn’t get so busy quoting the rules, he’d score as well. “Score!”
Sadly, this had been the last bandit. A few wingmates had scored as well. She felt the stimulator slow down. No! I want more!
More kills, more stimulation. So simple. To get more kills, she’d have to engage more enemies. With one swift move, she reassumed her position next to Silver Six.
“You’ve left formation,” Cap accused her over the private line. “You’ve weakened Basil’s defense.”
“True. I’ve dodged three hostile beams. If I was hit, I’d have weakened Basil, too—but permanently. I’ve promised to cover your ass, so I’d better survive.”
“We’re at war, Syreen. This is no game.”
“I know. I don’t play games. And that’s what’s in the Books. Games.”
“You can’t whip me now. Let’s make a deal—if you score better than me, you’ll chastise me. If I score better, I get away with it. If it matters at the end of this tencycle, that is.”