tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 034

Three Square Meals Ch. 034

byTefler©

Alyssa walked towards Rachel with open arms, but then paused as she looked down at her glistening black Phalanx armour.

"Maybe this would be more inviting if I wasn't wearing power armour!" she said to the brunette with a smile.

Rachel laughed and ran over to her, giving her a hug regardless.

"I thought my time was up! I've never been so relieved to see anyone!" she exclaimed happily.

"We flew all this way to see you," John said with a smile. "It was rude of the Kintark to interrupt our interview process."

The brunette laughed, then abruptly stopped and stared at him, as she remembered what she had just seen. "You ripped the door off its hinges!" she gasped in amazement.

"Ah, yeah... It's incredible what you can do in power armour," John said awkwardly.

Alyssa leaned in close, whispering in the brunette's ear, "We'll explain later."

Rachel turned and stared at Alyssa, seeing that those piercing cerulean eyes hid a wealth of mysteries. She nodded tentatively as she gazed at the blonde girl, and Alyssa's beautiful face lit up with a dazzling smile.

"We better get moving," John said to Alyssa, ejecting the spent magazine from his railgun and slotting in another clip of caseless ammo.

"What about us?" One of the Central Command staff asked tentatively.

"I'm Commander John Blake, Special Forces, are you the senior officer here?" John asked the man.

"Yes, my name's Lieutenant-Commander Mortensen. I think I'm the only one left out of the Command staff," the man said sadly.

"We wiped out two squads of Kintark Warriors before we fought this last group. Based on the troop capacities of the dropships that landed, you should probably be safe from boarding parties now," John said confidently.

"Probably?" Mortensen asked, looking nervous.

"There's a squad of troopers we saved back at the entrance to Central Command. I'll ask them to come back here and link up with you. Your first priority should be to get the power back on up here," John advised the man firmly.

Nodding his agreement, Mortensen stopped John with a hand on his arm as he turned to leave. "Thank you, Commander, you saved our lives," he said, with sincere gratitude.

"You're welcome," John replied. "All part of the service," he added with a grin, and gave the man a friendly salute.

They strode over to the loading lift, with a chorus of "Thank you, Commander!" following in their wake from the grateful survivors. John and Alyssa waved goodbye as they descended down to the ground floor, and then strode over to the corpse of the Kintark Royal Guard.

"I can't see any signs of regeneration," John said cautiously as he studied the huge reptilian body. He prodded its head with an armoured boot, and it flopped lifelessly to the side, a massive gaping hole still yawning at the back of its cranium.

"Thank God for that!" Alyssa laughed with relief. "Killing that thing twice was bad enough."

"I can't believe you charged that monster," Rachel murmured to John, shaking her head. "It was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen!"

"He's full of surprises," Alyssa noted. "You get used to it after a while."

"I couldn't risk fighting up on the platform, it was too dangerous with all the people up there," he explained.

"But you just ran up and punched it in the face," the brunette said in awe.

"Yes, about that. It looks like me banning you from bringing your sword just made you go and punch things instead," Alyssa said wryly.

John grinned and shrugged, before glancing up to see that the big crowd of survivors were watching them in wide eyed amazement from up on the level above.

*We have an audience,* he thought to Alyssa. *Let's move this along.*

He gave the crowd a friendly wave, and they broke into a spontaneous round of applause. The sound of cheering echoed around him as he walked away down the corridor.

"Where to now?" Alyssa asked him curiously, as she and Rachel fell into step with him.

"Dana would be upset if we didn't bring her back a present..." John grinned wickedly as they headed back to the Admin complex.

"And what kind of gift did you have in mind?" Alyssa smiled at him.

"I was thinking about something along the lines of a Kintark dropship," John suggested airily.

"It's just what she's always wanted," Alyssa laughed.

"Rachel, we're going to be leaving the station in a few minutes. Is there anything you want to bring with you from the medics dorm before we go?" he asked her in a friendly tone.

"Nothing I'm too attached to, but I could do with some spare clothes, if I'm coming with you," she said hesitantly.

"I'd offer to lend you some of mine, but they won't quite fit you yet," Alyssa said speculatively to the shorter brunette.

"Yet? What do you mean?" Rachel asked her curiously.

*Alyssa...* John warned her, sensing the blonde girl's amusement.

"Oh, nothing. We could probably swing by the dorm on the way to the hangar bays, right John?" Alyssa asked him innocently.

"Sure, that's no problem." John nodded agreeably as they walked past the dead troopers and base personnel, who had fallen defending Central Command.

"But what about my contract with the military?" Rachel asked, looking up at him. "I've still got nearly five years to serve before I can leave."

"Don't worry about that," John said reassuringly. "I've pulled a few strings, and assuming you want the job as our chief medical officer, you can stay with us for as long as you want."

"But I've only just graduated from medical school!" Rachel said in protest. "Why are you even considering me for the vacancy? If I were you, I'd be looking for a medic with at least five years experience."

"I think you'll fit in just fine," Alyssa replied reassuringly.

"Don't worry about it for the moment. We'll get you to safety aboard the Invictus, and we can discuss everything in much more detail later," he suggested soothingly.

*Alyssa! We need you back here soon, things aren't looking good...* Calara's worried voice sounded clearly in the blonde girl's mind.

*What's the matter?* Alyssa replied, sensing concern from all three of the girls back on the Invictus.

*The Terran Federation forces are losing the battle, they won't last much longer!* Calara replied with alarm.

"We need to move fast, John, they need us back on the ship," Alyssa said out loud for Rachel's benefit.

He turned and nodded, then looked at Rachel. "We won't have time to collect your gear, we have to get back immediately. Let us know if we're going too fast for you," he said considerately.

When the brunette nodded at him tentatively, he gave her a reassuring grin, and they broke into a loping run. They cleared the last of the Central Command area, and ran into the surviving troopers they had encountered earlier.

"We rescued survivors in Central Command," John called out to them as they jogged past, "Regroup with them, and get power restored up here."

"Yes, sir!" one of the troopers replied along with a snappy salute, before turning to the rest of the troopers and saying, "You heard the Commander, let's move out!"

John heard the troopers booted feet disappearing into the distance behind him, the Terran soldiers jogging back to the command centre. As John and the girls sprinted through the administration complex, Rachel darted wide eyed glances at the headless Kintark corpses that John and Alyssa had neatly dispatched. They slowed to a jog to avoid any mishaps with the treacherous footing in such a darkly lit area, and as they were passing one of the dead lizardmen, Alyssa reached down to scoop up one of the plasma rifles, which she then slung over her shoulder.

*Dana will think I don't love her any more if I don't pick her up a present too,* she joked to John.

They eventually made it to the elevator and after hitting the button for the retail zone, the lift descended smoothly to the shopping district. The elevator emitted a jaunty chime when they reached their destination, and the doors swished open onto the bloodbath in the plaza. The soldiers here were still milling around aimlessly, having lost their senior officers, and no longer receiving orders from the rest of the Chain of Command.

"Corporal Gibbons!" John yelled across the plaza to the ransacked coffee shop, as the three of them jogged over to the troopers. One of the men turned and looked around pensively to see who was calling him, and his face relaxed when he saw it was John.

"Yes Commander, what can I do for you?" the trooper replied respectfully.

"What's the fastest way down to the lower hangar bays?" John asked quickly.

"There's a security elevator on the other side of the plaza, which will take you straight down there. Here, you can take my keyfob," he offered, producing a blue plastic card with a number of indentations in it.

"Much appreciated, Corporal!" John thanked him gratefully. "We eliminated the Kintark boarding parties, and the garrison forces are regrouping in Central Command. Lead your men up there."

Corporal Gibbons and his troopers saluted, and began to move out, obediently following John's orders.

"I've seen the security elevator he was talking about," Rachel said helpfully. "I can lead you to it."

They followed after Rachel, her white doctor's coat billowing out behind her as she ran, and she led them over to the other side of the retail zone, to a solid looking security door. The doorframe was marked in yellow and black chevrons, and there was a device set into the wall that looked like it was designed to take the keyfob. Sure enough, the fob slotted smoothly into place, and the robust security doors slid open quietly to reveal the elevator within. John and the two girls stepped inside, and once Alyssa had hit the button for the lower hangar bays on deck nineteen, the doors slid shut smoothly before the elevator began to descend rapidly.

When the doors finally opened, they revealed the huge lower hangar bay. A quick glance outside revealed they were in the right place, as there were two Kintark dropships in the middle of the enormous open space. Unfortunately the vessels were not completely abandoned, and there were a handful of green armoured Kintark Warriors standing nearby. Their hissing, unsettling voices could be heard echoing across the massive open space, as the creatures chattered to each other in their own tongue.

"Stay back, Rachel," John warned her, before he and Alyssa put their helmets back on and crouched by the doorway.

"Prrrkow," the railguns purred as they fired three-round bursts, sending the caseless bullets rocketing across the hangar to slam into the unsuspecting group of Kintark soldiers. The first two died instantly, their heads exploding in a fountain of yellow gore as their stunned compatriots stood by helplessly. The other two Lizardman warriors raised their weapons, and began to look around frantically before they were hit too; the first was cleanly decapitated, while the other hit repeatedly in the torso flinging him backwards.

"Let's go catch a ride," John said to the girls, as he led them in a darting run over to the dropships. The first one had greasy smoke pouring out from the burned out engines, but the second one seemed to still be fully intact. It was a big transport, almost the same size as the Raptor, but this vessel was designed purely for troop movement, rather than combat.

The loading ramp into the iridescent green ship was down, and they crept on board stealthily, trying not to make a sound. They found a big empty troop compartment at the back, with a sturdy door that led further inside. The door at the back of the compartment was sealed, so John placed his hand in the Kintark shaped hand indentation on the wall, squeezing his middle two fingers together, to make his hand fit into the four digit space. Nothing happened, so he pushed, and the rounded panel depressed into the wall, activating the door which rose up into the ceiling.

A Kintark called out to them in its hissing native tongue from deeper within the ship, so John strode through the next room purposefully, before finding himself in the cockpit, face-to-face with a shocked Kintark pilot. Recovering quickly from the surprise, the armoured Lizardman went for the pistol at his belt, so John quickly reached out to grab the alien's head and twisted it savagely, breaking its neck instantly.

"We're all clear, let's get back to the Invictus," he called back to Alyssa, who was walking into the room he had darted through moments before.

The room was the armoury for the Kintark troopers who had already disembarked, and although nearly all the racks were empty, there were still several plasma rifles hooked up on the wall. "It looks like a few people had the same gift idea for Dana," Alyssa said with a smile, as she unslung the plasma rifle from her shoulder, and hooked it on the racks.

"Who's Dana?" Rachel asked curiously as she followed behind Alyssa.

"Our chief engineer," John explained. "She's great fun, I think you'll like her."

Alyssa smiled at him as she brushed past, and then moved to sit in the pilot's chair. A long focused glance at the controls told her all she needed to know, and she pressed a button that was covered in Kintark script, powering up the engines.

"Can you read Kintark?" Rachel asked Alyssa in surprise.

"No, just a lucky guess," the blonde replied with a grin.

*How did you know?* John asked her curiously.

*It... felt like the place to start,* Alyssa said cryptically, as she held the flightstick carefully in her hand. She increased the throttle and the ship began to lift up off the ground.

Once she was familiar with the flight controls, John returned to the troop compartment at the back, and then placed his hand in the Kintark shaped hand print on the wall next to the loading ramp. When he pushed the hand print in slightly, the ramp began to slowly close, and he smiled to himself with satisfaction.

***

"There they are!" Jade said urgently, pointing towards the Kintark dropship that was smoothly leaving the Port Medea hangar bay.

"I'll bring us around," Dana said, as she brought the Invictus closer to the departing green hulled vessel.

She hit the button that opened up the huge hull door for the cargo bay, and the girls on the bridge used the internal security cameras to watch Alyssa bring the Kintark dropship in, landing nice and gently in the centre of the room. A few moments later, John, Alyssa and Rachel strode down the ramp at the rear, and began to jog towards the grav-tubes.

"Shall I take us out of here?" Dana asked Calara cautiously, as she closed the cargo bay doors, now that her friends were safely aboard once more.

"No, John needs to make that call," Calara said firmly as she gazed up at the tactical map.

"What call might that be?" John said with a smile as he stepped onto the bridge, much to the delight of Jade, Calara and Dana who beamed relieved grins at him.

Alyssa pointed at a free seat for Rachel to take, while whispering to her quietly, "I'll make the introductions later."

The brunette nodded while walking over to the unlit station that she had been directed to, then settled into the comfortable seat, and looked around the bridge in wonder. Alyssa jogged hurriedly over to the briefing room, before disappearing inside to remove her body armour.

"Port Medea isn't out of danger yet, Commander," Calara said, dampening down her urge to run over and give him a hug; such was the urgency of the news she needed to deliver.

"Explain, Lieutenant," John replied, as he strode purposefully up the steps to the command podium.

Calara turned in her tactical chair so that she was facing him. "There was a Terran Federation cruiser, several frigates, and a number of destroyers based here as a garrison force, along with the CAP fighters launched from Port Medea. They would have been an even match with the Kintark fleet, if it weren't for that heavy carrier, and the sheer number of fighters and bombers it's launched into the fray," she explained hurriedly.

"What have we got left?" John asked grimly, looking up at the tactical map.

"The Cruiser Hermes is seriously damaged and attempting to retreat, while the last two frigates are providing cover. All other ships, destroyed." Calara said in a sombre tone.

"Alright, and what about the Kintark?" he asked hopefully.

"They've lost all their destroyers and a lot of their strike craft. They have their undamaged heavy carrier, a lightly damaged cruiser, and a few wings of fighters and bombers, which are all in pursuit of what's left of our forces," Calara informed him grimly. "Once they destroy the Hermes, then this system and all its assets will be finished."

"Well we didn't go through all that trouble to save Port Medea and the refineries, only for them to get blown up now!" John said decisively. "Plot an intercept course please, Alyssa," he said to the blonde who was gliding up the steps to sit in the Executive Officer's chair.

"Will do!" she replied eagerly, as she used retro thrusters to turn the Invictus around to face the combatants, and powered up the engines.

He turned to the redhead who was staring up at the dramatic battle on the tactical map. "Dana, please open a wide beam broadcast to all the Kintark ships."

"You got it, John," she said eagerly, turning back to her console. She paused a moment, unsure how to open a comm channel to only the Kintark vessels, then shrugged and just broadcast to everyone in the system.

"This is John Blake on the Invictus. The Terrans in the Iota-Leonis system are under my personal protection. Kintark forces, I give you this one chance to flee like cowards, or I'll rip you apart, just like I crushed the rest of your pitiful band," he announced contemptuously.

After a nod Dana's way, she ended the transmission, and then looked up at him in surprise.

"That ought to get their attention," he said with a grin, and winked at her.

"All Kintark forces moving to engage us," Calara said in warning as she studied the tactical map. The heavy carrier and cruiser were adjusting course to engage, with the bomber and fighter wings racing ahead on an intercept course.

"Good," John nodded with satisfaction, "We need to give the Hermes time to withdraw."

"Aren't we biting off a bit more than we can chew?" Jade asked, looking up at him in alarm, remembering full well how deadly the Kintark ships could be.

"I have every confidence in the expert marksmanship of my Tactical Officer," John said resolutely, smiling at Calara encouragingly.

The Latina cracked her knuckles, and then took a firm grip on the weapon controls, not bothering to reactivate the holographic targeting matrix. Everyone on the bridge watched in tense silence as the Kintark strike craft draw closer. There were three wings of fighters charging towards them, followed by two wings of bombers, with the Kintark cruiser some distance behind. The slightly slower but much larger heavy carrier turned ponderously, and moved up to engage at the rear of the elongated Kintark formation.

The enemy fighters reached the extreme edge of the Assault Carrier's Beam laser range, and Calara opened fire, the pulsing orange beams lancing out to disintegrate four of the eighteen fighters. The Kintark ships raced on regardless, and she switched to laser cannons, raking the wings of ships with uncannily accurate laser blasts.

The Invictus surged forward, making a beeline for the Kintark cruiser, which brought the enemy bombers closer at an alarming rate. Calara quickly switched to the mass drivers, and the Invictus trembled as the two-hundred-metre-long railguns accelerated their shells to hyper-warp. The light blue tachyon trails from the shells lit up the map, before there was a tremendous explosion as the barrage detonated, enveloping the hapless bombers in the blast. When the bright flare of the explosives dissipated, they could see that the bomber wings had been devastated, with seven of the twelve ships blown to pieces by a combination of the explosions themselves, and the concussive forces they had unleashed.

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