|Cassandra's Tears - Issue 2|
|Source||Cassandra's Tears - Issue 2|
|In the series|
In our last installment, a distress call went out as Vanduul raiders hit the Centauri system. Cal Mason went against Admiral Showalter’s orders and hopped in a fighter to help Penny and her wing while the Gemini braced itself to clash with a Vanduul flagship.
Cal’s ship jolted the second it hit Yar’s atmo. Penny and the rest of her wing had already punched through and disappeared into the dense clouds of the upper atmosphere.
His comms went screwy as he sliced through clouds. Cal kept his bearings and held firm until he burst through.
Right into the middle of a brawl.
Fighters on both sides screamed through the air as they coiled and twisted around each other above the craterous planet of reddish brown rock below. One of their Zippers took a hit to its thrusters, clipping its speed, i.e. the one strength they have. Before Cal could even react, two Vanduul pounced and busted him up. He saw Penny mixing it up with a raider and decided it was his turn to jump in.
On the bridge of the Gemini, Admiral Showalter watched the approaching Vanduul flagship.
“Talk to me, Corporal.” Showalter said, his expression barely moving. Corporal Whitacre studied his SIG-INT scanners.
“Weapons were powering up before shields overtook them, sir. Looks like it’s shifting course just a couple degrees.”
Showalter glanced the sphere, at its new trajectory. “It’s trying to cut us off from Yar.” He plotted a trajectory of his own on the Nav and shot it over to the deck-pilot. His eyes went wide.
“Sir, that will put us into the upper atmosphere. I don’t think we’ll be able to resist the planet’s gravity if it gets ahold of us.” The deck-pilot shouted.
“I don’t care. I’m not letting our people drift. Max shields to port, I want to slide in before they get dig in and spin up those Arc-cannons.”
The massive Typhoon engines fired, launching the Gemini toward Yar.
Down below, Cal twisted through the air avoiding Raider fire from his six. He kicked his compensator thrusters to induce a swerve. The Vanduul raider on his tail suddenly swung into his sights. Cal squeezed the trigger. Energy burned through the sky, the Vanduul tried to weave around them but there were just too many. Six shots punched through its wing. The seventh hit the cockpit square. The Vanduul started that long fiery trip down.
Cal took a moment to suss out the situation. Right now, it was anyone’s fight. One of the Anvils was gone. The other pounded out heavy arty rounds, slow but packing a big damage radius. Two Cestus pilots were tangling with a Raider. Its main wing looked like it was dipped in black warpaint. While he’d never seen Vanduul markings like that, it didn’t matter. That raider wasn’t going to last much longer. Cal knew one of the pilots, Poll, and he was as slick as they come.
Penny just blasted her second Raider. Past her, Cal saw the distant pop of ships breaking through atmo. The clouds were still messing with his scans, so he couldn’t get a clear lock. He started to intercept. If they were Vanduul, he wasn’t going to let them sneak up behind-
“Heads up all. We got some company.” Cal looked down just in time to see the Vanduul Raider, Mr Black Talon, dance-fire his mod-thrusters in a ridiculous combination to weave him around the combined firepower of Poll and the other pilot. He sliced Poll’s ship in half with his wing and unleashed an aimed burst at the other Cestus. The energy bursts whittled the shield down enough for a rocket to connect. Cal had never seen a move like that. Whoever this pilot was, he was serious.
Meanwhile, on the Gemini, impact alarms were blaring. Some yeoman was desperately trying to shut them off. Showalter had swung the Gemini within spitting distance of the Vanduul flagship.
These two titanic ships were in a nose-to-nose boxing match, trading bodyblows at point-blank range. The space between them flashed as the massive shields flared up to divert or absorb the heavy shots, illuminating the entire bridge.
The plan had worked though. For the moment, the Gemini had wedged enough of itself between the Vanduul ship and the planet to keep an escape avenue open but the Gemini’s starboard compensators were firing at full burn to keep it from falling into Yar’s atmosphere.
“Sir, shields at thirty percent. Generators aren’t going to be able to sustain a full-burn and our defenses.” The deck-pilot reported.
“Noted, lieutenant. Finch, what’s the damage?”
Finch, the weapons officer, was locked on his scanners, coordinating the massive amount of firepower.
“We’re whittling them down, sir.”
“Not good enough. We need them to back off so you hit them with everything. If you need to put on a suit, climb out and shoot at them with your sidearm, you do it. Clear?”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Back on Yar, Cal turned back to the Vanduul reinforcements, ready to… they weren’t attacking. They were speeding towards an old settlement on the ground.
“Penny. Any idea what’s over there?”
“Not the time, Cal.” She muttered. Her tracking systems finally beeped with missile lock. She squeezed. A stream of tiny AP rockets hissed from the rocket pod, tracking and exploding another Raider. Cal saw something else.
Black Talon was heading for her.
Penny didn’t hesitate and dove her ship. A full burst of shells screamed through the air she had occupied milliseconds ago.
Cal traded some shots of his own. Eight missed, three caught but the shields ate them up.
“Oh boy.” Cal sighed.
He now had Black Talon’s attention.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED