tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 015

Three Square Meals Ch. 015


"I take it that's bad then?" Sparks asked, startled by John and Calara's shocked reaction to the mystery ship. "Who are the Kirrix exactly?"

"They are kill on sight to all species in the Galactic League" John explained briefly. "They're a parasitic insectoid species that use other life forms to incubate their young. When their larvae hatch, they eat their way out of their victims!" he said, his mouth twisting with disgust.

"I can't believe these pirates would capture slaves for them. That's diabolic, even for pirates!" Calara exclaimed, looking sickened.

"They must have been getting paid huge sums of money. At least we know how the pirates were able to afford to buy all these ships" John reasoned.

"It looks like they're making a run for it!" Alyssa said, pointing at the tactical map.

The Kirrix hive ship had undocked from the Heavy Cruiser and was pulling away from the Gas Mining facility. Similarly, the Heavy Cruiser had also disembarked from their base and was turning to run in another direction, the Destroyer and two Corvettes moving to flank it as it fled the Chendar system and the rampaging Invictus.

"We can't let the Kirrix escape!" Calara pleaded, "There's over four hundred captives on board that ship!"

"Move to engage the Kirrix please Alyssa" John said resolutely. "It can't be helped, we're going to have to let the rest of the Pirates escape" he said sadly.

Sparks turned to her console and hit a series of buttons and then focused intently on a series of reports in front of her.

Alyssa changed course to intercept the Kirrix hive ship and the Invictus surged ahead, beginning their frantic pursuit.

"Three minutes until we're in range" She said confidently.

"How long until they're far enough away from the planet to go to Hyper-warp?" John asked.

Alyssa did a few quick calculations "Five minutes" she said, looking worried.

"Diverting weapon and shield power to engines" Sparks said distractedly, swiping her hand across the subsystem distribution hologram floating above her console.

The Invictus shuddered as the massive engines throbbed with power and propelled the assault cruiser forward at a speed remarkable for a vessel that large.

"Two minutes until interception!" Alyssa exclaimed. "How did you do that Sparks?" she asked amazed.

"I disengaged the safeties. We'll be perfectly fine for a few minutes, do it for too long though and we risk rupturing the power core". Sparks replied unperturbed.

John, Calara and Alyssa exchanged worried glances.

"We'll be fine" the redhead grinned, "trust me".

Calara returned her focus to the Tactical readout of the Kirrix hive ship. She counted at least 24 turreted weapons on the top deck, each weapon barrel over 20 metres in length.

"Those are neutron beams" John warned her, "We can't go toe to toe with that kind of firepower"

"Ok we'll attack them from below" Calara said "if they change course to try and bring those guns to bear, it'll stop them jumping out of the system".

John nodded his agreement and the Invictus charged after the departing alien ship, closing the gap between them rapidly.

"One minute until we're in range" Alyssa advised everyone.

On the tactical map overhead, the icons depicting the Heavy Cruiser and its escorts blinked and disappeared as the pirates jumped out of the system.

"They got away" Calara said, disappointed.

"Maybe not!" Sparks said eagerly, as her hands glided in a blur over the console.

"What do you mean Sparks?" John asked curiously.

"Take a look at this!" The redhead exclaimed proudly.

A map of the sector appeared above the Engineering station, large enough for the rest of the bridge crew to see. The Chendar system was clearly marked and a glowing green path left the system and headed outbound, extremely complex calculations flashing alongside the route.

"I used the ship's sensors to track them and when the pirate ships jumped out, I was able to calculate their flight path. As long as we don't delay too long, we can chase them and use the ship's Interdictor to pull them out of hyper-warp" the redhead said confidently.

"Wow! That's amazing honey, great job!" John grinned at her, delighted.

"Thanks John" Sparks said thrilled that her plan had worked.

"Ten seconds until we're in range" Alyssa warned them.

Sparks made some more manipulations to the power distribution hologram that was hovering above her console.

"All systems back to normal operating levels" She said with satisfaction.

Alyssa pushed the nose down on the Invictus so that they were heading on a trajectory below the Kirrix vessel. The alien ship maintained their current heading, so the assault cruiser was able to slip out of the fire arcs of all but the two rearmost neutron beams. As they closed to their own beam laser range, the Kirrix ship opened fire, sickly green energy streams lancing out at the Invictus. Somehow Alyssa was able to dodge one of the beams with a slight course correction, but the other hit the shields with a throbbing green glow.

"Shields down to 90% John!" Sparks warned him. "We won't last long if we get hit by too many of those!"

Alyssa brought the nose of the Invictus up slightly, bringing their beam lasers to bear. Calara pulled the trigger and the six beams slashed across the shielding on the alien ship, causing blinding spirals of light as the surging energy was dissipated.

"Enemy shields still holding" Sparks called out as she began active scans of the huge alien behemoth.

Alyssa dipped the nose of the Invictus again, so that they continued on their downward course. They were no longer burning out the engines with the extra burst of speed from before, but their ship was still considerably faster than the lumbering Kirrix craft. The enemy ship fired again, hitting with both beams this time.

"Shields down to 70%" Sparks said with concern.

Fortunately they were now flying directly underneath the alien vessel and it's weaponless underbelly was exposed to the topdeck of the assault cruiser. Calara opened up with the laser cannons and a cascade of laser blasts ripped into the bottom of the enemy ship, their shields blazing brightly as they absorbed dozens of hits.

Suddenly the shields winked out, overwhelmed by the ferocious barrage of laser fire and the laser cannons began to strike home on the hull of the Kirrix ship.

"Stop firing!" Sparks yelled in alarm, causing the others to look at her in surprise.

"The active scan is showing all the humans located in the belly of that ship. If we keep hitting the bottom of those segmented sections, we risk killing the captives!" she said urgently.

"What are our options Calara?" John asked the Latina.

"I don't have technical readouts for the ship, so I'm not sure where the vulnerable systems are located. I can take out the engines easily enough though" She replied confidently.

"Good plan, take them out!" John ordered.

"Yes Commander", the gorgeous brunette said resolutely.

Calara targeted the bulky sections at the rear of the alien ship that were obviously engines, given away by their ion trails and the laser cannon turrets swung around to focus on them. She began to carefully strafe the rear sections of the engines, landing repeated hits and blowing chunks off the armoured engine housing. Finally realising the serious danger presented by the Invictus, the Kirrix abandoned any idea of escaping the system and began to roll the ship to bring their neutron beams to bear.

"Adjusting course to maintain position" Alyssa stated as she brought the Invictus around, turning so that they began to gently loop around the alien ship, matching their roll rate.

The relentless laser impacts began to take their toll and one of the three Kirrix engines ruptured, spewing smoke and debris out into space. The Kirrix suddenly reversed the direction of their roll, causing Alyssa to pull the nose up hard on the Invictus to avoid flying right over the top of the enemy ship and right into their killing zone. Unfortunately they were still exposed to fire from some of the Neutron beams and three of the four enemy beams scorched their way across the Invictus' shields.

"Shields down to 40%!" Sparks shouted in alarm.

"I know, I know!" Alyssa exclaimed, her calm countenance finally shaken.

John had been watching the active scans as the Kirrix opened fire on them and he spotted something interesting.

"There was a power surge when they fired on us!" he said hopefully.

"Calara, target that rounded section near the rear of the ship on the port side" he ordered the brunette.

"I see it Commander!" the Latina said excitedly as Alyssa brought the Invictus back in a tight loop so they were pointing directly at the alien ship.

Calara pulled the trigger and the six beam lasers sheared the entire bulbous section from the side of the hive ship. The ship's hull was left with a glowing wound, where the beams had gouged deep furrows through the craft and when the bulbous section exploded a few seconds later, the port side was peppered with debris. The Kirrix craft seemed to shudder and half the ship went dark, all lighting on the port side extinguished in an instant.

"Nice shooting lieutenant!" John said, impressed by her incredible pinpoint accuracy.

"No problem Commander" she said, grinning at him.

"Now take out the last of those engines" he said, to which the brunette nodded her agreement.

Alyssa had brought the Invictus back around and their ship was now positioned directly under the Kirrix's underbelly again. The loss of the port power distributor had badly affected the hive ship's ability to make rapid directional changes, so it was now easy for her to stay directly beneath them and she grinned confidently. Calara renewed her assault on the enemy engines, scoring numerous hits with the laser cannons.

"John something just launched from the ship!" Sparks said in alarm.

John narrowed his eyes as he looked at the small shapes on the system map. "Dropships!" he said with alarm, "Calara take them out!"

Calara flipped over to the defence grid and the Gatling lasers span up as they targeted the incoming dropships. Ribbons of laser fire arced out, lighting up the Kirrix dropships with strobing flashes of light as they were hit by multiple streams of laser bolts. The shields on the first dropship collapsed and the laser fire punched through the cockpit, sending the small craft spiralling out of control. The second was hit multiple times and dropped the shields, but the armour proved resilient and the dropship was able to weather the storm of laser bolts. It moved around to the flank of the Invictus and began to close in to begin a boarding action.

"Sparks, can you fly the Invictus?" John asked bluntly.

"Nowhere near like Alyssa, but I can keep us out of trouble" she replied apprehensively.

"Good, take control" he ordered brusquely as he lurched to his feet. "XO we need to repel boarders!" he said urgently.

Alyssa nodded and the two of them dashed for the elevator.

"You've got about 30 seconds until they dock John!" Calara warned him.

John nodded his understanding as the doors closed and they disappeared from view. The elevator only took five seconds to drop to deck 2 and for the doors to open, but when every second counted it felt like a lifetime. The two of them raced to their quarters and grabbed their rifles.

"We need armour piercing not hollow point!" John said to his young companion, as he grabbed two magazines of the correct type of caseless ammo.

Alyssa nodded her understanding and grabbed a couple of mags of armour piercing rounds and the two of them sprinted back to the elevator. John hit the button for the bottom deck and they used the 10 seconds it took for the lift to descend, to slam their magazines home into the bullpup ammo slot and check the weapon sighting.

"Kirrix have armoured carapaces" John explained. "We need the armour piercing rounds to punch through that, but we can't afford any stray rounds going through the hull, so be very careful!".

"No problem" Alyssa replied steadfastly.

The elevator door opened and they were looking down the corridor towards the airlock.

"Let's move!" John said and the two of them dashed up the hallway to the airlock door and hugged the walls on either side of the reinforced portal.

They could hear heavy clunking on the other side of the airlock as the insectoid soldiers attempted to bash their way through the armoured door. The two of them shared a glance and Alyssa nodded her readiness as John placed his hand on the DNA reader. The green light flickered across and scanned his DNA, beeping softly in recognition.

The airlock door spiralled open and a six legged creature that was attempting to bash through the door with heavy scythe like claws, lumbered forward and sprawled on the floor. If insectoid faces could show surprise, this one would have been utterly astonished. Alyssa whirled and followed its motion as it fell forward to the floor, before firing a burst into its armoured head at point blank range. Green ichor spurted outwards from the wound, as the rounds bored through its brain.

John swung into the now open doorway and began to fire bursts into the tightly packed insectoid soldiers. It was like shooting fish in a barrel and the interior of the Kirrix dropship echoed with high pitched death squeals, as viscous green fluid gouted out from fatal wounds. One of the Kirrix managed to fire his rifle in return, but the sickly green blast went wide of the mark as John ducked for cover. Alyssa swung out and shot the insectoid soldier in the head, her armour piercing rounds punching into the Kirrix soldier's compound eye and through its brain, before bouncing off the armour plating at the back of its skull and sending the rounds back through the brain a second time. Utterly dead, the hulking insect crashed to the floor in a heap of chitinous limbs.

The Kirrix dropship pilot had been intending to join the boarding party, but it frantically tried to return to the cockpit when the accursed humans massacred it's podmates. The last thing it felt was a sharp pain to the back of its skull as Alyssa shot it in the head, spraying the cockpit in green blood.

A few of the insectoid soldiers twitched feebly, badly wounded but not quite dead, until John executed each of them with a single round to the head.

"That'll teach you to try and board a marine's ship!" he muttered indignantly.

"What do we do about this dropship?" Alyssa asked him pointedly. "We can't jump into hyper warp with it attached".

"Shut the airlock and disengage the docking clamps I guess?" John said, wondering why she was asking.

Alyssa was glancing over the controls "This looks pretty straightforward to fly, I could land it in the hangar bay if you like?"

"Sure, if you want" John replied. "At the very least Sparks will be able to take a look at some alien tech" he said smiling.

"Ok let's do this" Alyssa said confidently. "You go back to the Invictus and seal the airlock, then open the hull doors to the hangar bay, I'll bring the dropship around".

"Yes ma'am!" John grinned and moved to follow her instructions.

Alyssa stepped over the mangled Kirrix pilot she had gunned down earlier and wiped his brain matter from the control surface. She pushed a couple of buttons that sealed the dropship's airlock and fired up the engines. Taking hold of the flight stick, she found she could operate it ok, even though it was designed for an arthropod forelimb and she gently eased the dropship away from the docking collar on the Invictus' airlock. She then rotated the ship cleanly so that it was facing the hangar bay and waited for the doors in the outer hull of the Invictus to open. She nudged the Kirrix dropship in cautiously, the alien craft enveloped in the pressurised force field sealing the hangar bay, before landing it gingerly in the middle of the cavernous room as the hull doors swung closed. She opened the airlock and then powered the small ship down, before leaving to go and meet up with John.

"Nice flying honey" he said, moving forward to give her a kiss. He was surprised when she raised a hand to stop him.

"You're covered in green goo!" she said grinning and pointed at the alien blood that had splashed over his face. "You need a shower first, then you can kiss me as much as you like" she said playfully.

"Ok I'll take you up on that!" he grinned "First, let's see what's happening on the bridge".

They rode up in the elevator and stepped out on to the bridge a few moments later.

"How are you two doing?" John asked, "everything ok up here?"

"All engines on the Kirrix hive ship destroyed Commander!" Calara told him proudly.

"Nice work Calara!" John grinned at her "So, they are totally immobilised?"

"They aren't going anywhere!" she said excitedly. "We're safe now too, we're out of their fire arcs"

"I'm recharging shields again John, we're back up to 62% now!" Sparks chimed in.

"Great job, the pair of you" John praised them sincerely.

"What happened with the boarding party and why is your face covered in green goop?" Sparks asked him.

"They were no match for our surprise Counter-attack!" Alyssa said grinning. "They messed with the wrong marine, right John?"

John chuckled good naturedly. "Yeah, I'm wearing Kirrix at the moment" he said, wiping his face for emphasis.

"I'm afraid we're not done yet though honey, we're going to have to go in and save those captives" John said blowing out a sigh.

"Well we slaughtered that last bunch, this should be a breeze!" Alyssa grinned.

"We had all the odds stacked in our favour, those bugs had no chance" John said solemnly. "If we board their ship, we're going to be heavily outnumbered and we won't have the advantage of surprise. It's going to be really nasty" he said grimly.

"We have to do something though John" Calara interjected, "We can't leave the prisoners to die like that. You've seen the vids right?"

John nodded, his face showing his distaste.

"What vids?" Sparks asked curiously.

"It's part of the Terran Federation Academy, Xeno familiarisation training" The Latina explained. "The last time we stopped a Kirrix incursion, they took videos of what they found on board their ships..." She paused, recalling the horrific images. "No-one should die like that" she continued looking sickened.

"Maybe we could still have the element of surprise" Alyssa said, tapping her finger against her chin thoughtfully.

"How so?" John asked, curious as to what his devious Executive Office might have thought up now.

"The dropship" Alyssa said, smiling at him. "The Kirrix won't know we've captured it and we can just fly back, dock with them and then sneak on board"

"Oh that's very good" John grinned slyly.

"Do you want either of us to come with you?" Sparks asked hesitantly.

"No, I need you two here on the bridge to cover our butts!" John grinned.

John wasn't being completely truthful however, as neither the redhead or the brunette had much firearms training and he didn't want to expose them to unnecessary danger. Not only that but Alyssa worked with him like an extension of his own will, they synergised so well together and her shooting skills probably surpassed his own, he admitted to himself honestly. He glanced over at the stunningly beautiful blonde who was ever present at his side.

Alyssa gave him a tight smile, nodding slightly to show she agreed wholeheartedly with his decision.

"Ok John, you can count on us!" Sparks said, somewhat relieved. She never liked bugs much and the thought of facing eight foot tall, heavily armoured homicidal ones left her quaking in her boots.

"I'll contact you if the situation changes up here" Calara said dutifully.

"Ok good luck you two, we'll be back soon" John said, and he and Alyssa took the elevator down to their quarters.

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