Into the Breach
“Captain! Reality convergence detected!”
The bridge of The Discovery fell into silence at the navigator’s call.
Captain Jaine Hick, currently sitting on her captain’s chair in case of just such a call did not hesitate however.
“Coms! Send a warp probe to the closest World Ship immediately.” “Yes, captain!” “Nav, get the convergence mapped.” “On it!” “Pilot, get us into the breach.” “On our way.” “Reality-Ops, get ready to start stabilising our reality.” “Heard and understood.”
And just as quickly, the ship’s crew sprang to action. A reality convergence so close to Empire space could be devastating, they would need to get backup ASAP. Until they did, it was up to them to keep their reality from crumbling under the pressure of the one on the other side of the breach.
“Captain, an asteroid field is in the breach location.” Nav called out.
“Shields and cannons are at peak.” Gunnery replied
“Then we’re going in. Nav, focus on threat detection.”
The ship veered starboard, and a low hum could be felt as the engines kicked in. In a few seconds, a line of small dots could be seen on the front viewports covering the bridge to allow for visuals outside the ship. A few seconds more and those dots grew to reveal them as asteroids and The Discovery started small manoeuvres to avoid collisions.
“We are in the breach, stabilization commenced!” Reality-Ops called out, working quickly with her screens no doubt processing the data coming in.
The call came as a giant mouth erupted out from behind a large asteroid, moving much faster than something of its size would seem able to.
The Discovery swerved, narrowly avoiding getting swallowed as the giant worm, twice as thick as the ship was long, barrelled past.
“Engage!” The captain yelled, and not a moment later a series of explosions erupted from the worm’s side as its body continued past the ship.
The beast roared. The crew felt its mental wave through the aether, but were protected from the adverse effects by the ship’s shields. The vessel rolled, zooming past the worm's head while still firing its cannons, as the beast turned for another attack.
“It’s tough! Maybe two minutes before we start harming it!” Gunnery called out.
“Pilot?” The captain asked.
“I can’t keep this up! One Minute before the chance of it getting a hit is at 20%!”
In a split second, the Captain made a decision.
“Evasive manoeuvres. Keep us dancing for another three minutes. Gunnery, keep your fire to debilitation.”
“Aye aye!” “On it!”
The Discovery twirled through the belt, placing an asteroid between it and the beast.
It didn’t work for long however; the asteroid burst apart, peppering the ship’s shields as the worm ploughed through it, twisting its body using the Aether and the asteroids around it for momentum as it rocketed after The Discovery.
Even with limited effectiveness, two more sharp evasive manoeuvres gave enough time for the first reinforcements to arrive.
Ark 9, an Atlantis Class Battleship that had seen some action, hurtled through real-space towards the reported breach.
She would be the first responder, after the ship that found the breach of course, and the captain hoped they would be on time.
Even without warp drives, The Ark 9 had the shortest ETA according to this sector’s World Ship.
“Coms, details on the first-responder.” Captain Jared stated. He was a vet of many battles and chose to keep his greying hair grey, to amplify the image.
“Yes sir!” The coms’ officer responded. “She’s one of the smaller experimental crafts from the Casper Belt, first production ship with a functioning warp. Should have been engaged at the convergence point for 243 seconds before we arrive.”
Jared hadn’t fought with a warp-capable ship that small, nor one as a first-responder, but he was briefed on the craft when it was built, and knew the co-ordination procedures to be similar to larger warp-capable craft.
“Gunnery, prepare to fire immediately upon arrival.”
From the bridge, you could hear Ark 9 groaning, as the structure strained against the G-forces as the reverse thrusters and Aether breaks engaged, the crew protected from the forces by the force mesh in the bridge.
Because of the Aether breaks, the deceleration only lasted seconds, and the second the ship came into particle-entanglement com range of The Discovery. The crew sprang to action.
“Requesting Firing solutions!... Received!”
“Discovery, this is Ark 9, Warp out, we are holding our reality.”
To the starboard side of the battleship, space cracked, turning black, and seemed to swirl for an instant, before the streaking white form of The Discovery materialized, flying past Ark 9 trailing Aether streams in its wake.
Not a second passed as the battleship silently shuddered, firing its main cannons, and barely a heartbeat later, the asteroid belt exploded.
The cheers were short-lived however. Either something else would come out of that breach to push its reality over theirs, or said reality would slowly die, each convergence ripping away more pieces… And since realities which don’t exist cannot converge, it was almost certainly the former.
It took less than 10 seconds for Jared to be proven correct. Massive worm-like creatures started to become visible from the breach, as they came close enough to the convergence to become super-imposed onto their reality.
“Ark 9, we see you. The cavalry has arrived.” The message came over the command com-link, as another five Atlantis Classes came into view lining up, defiant, ready as the first engagement of the system-spanning battle that was about to begin.
“Red 5, we have hull-damage, disengaging.”
“Dread 16, we have you covered Red 5, exchange telemetry.”
“Knight 2 is down-!“ “-Selachonid sighted rimward! 30 seconds to contact!” “-Knight 3, fall-back!”
Jaine monitored the command feed as The Discovery coasted behind the front-line of the battle. The bridge was active but relatively quiet as each station focused on providing computing support to the rest of the fleet.
A second wave of reinforcements had arrived a few minutes ago, a set of Mk5 Assault Carriers loaded with Exotic Matter Cannons, Atlas Destroyers and a Vanguard Gateway which was currently stabilizing its portal well behind the front line. The two former crafts were specialised in dealing with the waves of smaller threats which the Atlantis class’s were not designed to combat, keeping them from being overwhelmed and allowing them to disengage when sustaining critical damage.
The standard tactic had worked… Until the next beasts, dubbed “Selachonid”, made an appearance. The star-sized worms could shrug off the barrages from the battleships, and a single strike from them could completely debilitate or outright destroy a battleship, keeping the line on a razor’s edge when kiting the beasts. The whole fleet had to constantly shift position, expending vast computing power to co-ordinate precisely, pulling the line back when pressured by one of the worms but quickly advancing wherever possible to keep the space stable.
The carriers, after unloading their ships, didn’t retreat. They stayed behind the line, contributing computing power and using the reality stabilizers every ship sported to keep their reality from being overtaken by the one colliding with it in the Aether Sea.
“Four more Selachonids detected spinward -!” “-We can’t hold here, pulling back!”
The line was starting to break.
“This is V.G. 4, portal sequence completes in 8 seconds.”
The fleet reacted immediately, pulling back the line and re-grouping well before the tear in space steadily growing larger and brighter as spacetime was bent to their will.
Jaine could practically hear the crew counting down in their head. “3… 2… 1…”
“Goliath has arrived.”
The room lit up, the tear in space just barely visible through the glare, even after being dimmed through the bridge screen filters. From it, the cataclysmically large keel of a Goliath Class poked out of the tear, then, with a resonance you could feel in your bones, the tear ripped down the ship, revealing the rest of it, spanning nearly the whole port view of the bridge. Jaine could feel the acceleration as The Discovery burned to keep out of its gravity well.
Then the universe seemed to groan. Jaine recognised it as the feedback across the Aether by the lack of actual sound, as the gigantic pincer-shaped reality cannon lit up, charging for what felt like an eternity, but was no more than a blink, and reality screamed as the projectile shot off across their view into the hoard held back by the remnants of the fleet.
Not a second later, there was a second, even larger flash as reality shattered, golden cracks exploding out and behind the impact point, scything through the beasts converging on the fleet, clearing out scores at once.
The world seemed to shudder, gaping black holes appearing and just as quickly disappearing like horrifying disco lights.
"Reality convergence is collapsing! Disengage!"
As one, the fleet pulled back, continuing to fire at the remaining beasts on their side of the convergence as they descended behind the shadow of the Goliath, its point-defence engaging to cover the fleet.
Soon enough, the remaining beasts were left floating, lifeless, the breach fully closed with the Aether in the area still raw and unstable.
"Well, that was a wild field-test." Gunnery piped up, triggering the rest of the bridge to start relieved chatter, congratulating themselves on the battle.
Jaine sat in silence, considering the implications of a warp-capable ship of their size, and where they would be sent to in the coming year.
--- end ---
Thank you for reading!
This short story is set in the universe of Cosmos: Infinity.
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