Chapter 3

The 12th Galaxy

Chapter 3

Mr. Goldstone sat in his office on Orto. He was wearing a brand new suit, as always, and he had a hot cup of java on his desk along with a big box of donuts. His desk was full of papers, and his monitor was blinking.
– Yes, he shouted annoyed as he brushed sugar off his  suit. The rather large man did not like his lunch interrupted.
A bold man appeared on  his monitor, clean shaven and in military uniform.
Mr. Goldstone sat up straight.
– Minister of defense, he recognized.
– Yes, Mr. Goldstone, Sir! the man said, standing as straight as a tree trunk.
– The Northern Star and the Southern Star is ready for joining the alliance of ships, Sir!
The two spaceships were the only warships Orto had. First of all, they were only a small planet. Secondly, they were so close to Xyver II that they could always call on their help if necessary.
Mr. Goldstone nodded as he picked up his cup of java.
– Excellent! he exclaimed.
– It’s time to kick some robot ass!
– Yes, Sir!
The minister of defense did not say any more, but he was not totally happy to send both of the spaceship along and leave themselves with hardly any protection at all. The Hillman-guns situated at the four corners of the planet, was now all they had for defense if necessary. Mr. Gladstone was well educated when it came to making money and running mining operations and businesses, but warfare was not his area of expertise. The minister of defense, Clark Dawson, was different. He was a military man. Most of his ancestors had been in the military and made careers there. Dawson had climbed all the way up to be a general now, and Mr. Goldstone’s chief whip had headhunted him for the job of leading the ministry of defense. His leadership qualities were very good, and he got results. He was a popular man within the military, and an honest man too. Now, he said his goodbyes to Mr. Goldstone, feeling his chest burning. He had mentioned his concerns for this campaign earlier, but Goldstone had brushed him off.
He was hoping that his fears and concerns about the emperor were ungrounded, and that everything would turn out okay. In training he had been told to “know your enemy”, but in this case, he felt he hardly knew anything, and that worried him.
General Dawson, the minister of defense, turned to his secretary Mrs. Hill.
– Gloria, my dear, he breathed heavily.
– Please get in touch with all the military bases right away.
Tell them we’re in a state of yellow alert nationally, and there will be no week-end passes given this week.
Mrs. Hill looked at Dawson with a sore expression on her face.
– I realize your son Danny is at Galloway this year, the minister said with a low voice.
– However, this is just a precaution. If there be any fighting, it will be far away from here. We just want to make sure.
Mrs. Hill didn’t look comforted at all. With hands shaking, she grabbed her phone to pass on the message.

– Captain Turner?
Turner stood up with a jerk and turned around. Two privates stood in front of him, both cleanly shaven, both with short hair. They were both in their twenties, one with red hair, and one with black.
The red haired private spoke again.
– Sir? This is Alistair Brown, the survivor from the Blackbird!
– How do you do, Mr. Brown? Turner said in a grave voice.
– Thank you, Sir! Not too bad, Sir! Alistair Brown replied.
Turner inspected his bandaged head and arm in a sling.
– How’s your head, private?
– Just a scratch, Sir! was the reply.
Turner put out a hair for Brown, and dismissed the red haired private.
– Okay, he started.
– I need to hear what happened in your own words, and it’s vitally important to know what’s happened to our president.
Alistair Brown nodded seriously.
– President Hooper came back to the Blackbird before it blew, he said, looking thoughtful.
– There’s no way he could have survived that explosion!
Turner leaned forward.
– Who blew up the Blackbird? We found trails from two major spaceships out there!
Brown started to shiver as he thought of the big, black war bird that had suddenly appeared out of nothing.
– It was a warship called the Bakhtak, Sir! he panted.
– I’ve never seen the likes of it before. It was pitch black, awfully big, and it had firepower like ten of our warships.
Turner leaned back in his chair.
– Tell me everything that happened, starting with the beginning…

President Lynda Stockton threw down the phone and turned to her senate.
– That was a message from captain Tucker of the Bluebird, she huffed and puffed.
– An eyewitness has confirmed that president Hooper was aboard the Blackbird when it blew.
She stood up quickly, feeling a dizzy spell and had to grab on to the table in the meeting room. The foreign minister, Bob Challey, grabbed her arm, helping her down on her seat.
– Madame President, he said.
Stockton was pale for a few seconds, then regained her strength. She turned to admiral Woods, top of the military chain.
– How are we doing, admiral? she barked.
– How many ships are we sending off right now?
The admiral stood up, old and silver haired, a thick, bendy mustache in the middle of his face, and long sideburns.
– Well, he coughed.
– We’re sending the Swan, the Eagle, the Falcon, and the Spine-tail are all going to join up with the Northern Star and the Southern Star.
He cleared his throat.
– The Raven is not back from it’s latest mission yet, and the Bluebird is searching for survivors from the Blackbird.
The president nodded seriously.
– That’s six warships even before we arrive to Xyver, she said satisfied.
– When the others join us, we shall crush the emperor and his robots…
The other people in the room all nodded carefully in agreement.

– Private Brown?
Captain Tucker had finished his questioning, and was now addressing the young private in a most serious tone.
– Yes, Sir!
Brown stood as straight as a doornail.
– It has been agreed, Tucker started,
– That as the sole survivor of the Blackbird, that you will be promoted to quarter-master. I hope that is agreeable to you?
Alistair Brown raised his eyebrows, and his jaw fell down to his chest.
– Sir?
Tucker smiled, and his voice became soft as velvet.
– Mr. Brown, it is often practiced that survivors of great massacres get promoted, although their only accomplishment seems to be simply…surviving.
He looked over his glasses at quarter-master Brown.
– You won’t mind, will you?
Brown blinked a few times and cleared his throat.
– No, of course not! he said out loud.
– Not if that is common practice, Sir!
Tucker laughed so that he almost got winded.
Then his voice was all serious again.
– I’d be honored if you would join me and my crew here on the bridge, quarter-master Brown. Would that be acceptable for you, or should we drop you off in port?
Brown shook his head quickly.
– No, Sir! he said.
– I’d be honored to serve here on the Bluebird with you!
Captain Tucker stood up and went over to the main screen.
– Excellent! he said.
– Now, get me admiral Woods on screen!  We need to get our new orders! Brown?
He swirled round.
– I believe you are a good fighter-pilot. Are you qualified to drive a starship?
– I’m sorry, Sir! Brown replied quietly.
– But I’m a good at communications, he blurted out.
Tucker smiled.
– Okay, that’s fine, but today, as the sole survivor of the Blackbird massacre, you’re going to fly this spaceship!
Brown went over to the first pilot who showed him what to do. Slowly, the big spaceship turned around and went towards the main spaceport on Xyver II, Capitalis.

General Samuel Duffy was the youngest general in the fleet. He was tall, dark and handsome, cleanly shaven, and a face and a body that made him extremely popular with the girls. Now he was given the command of the Spine-tale, the fastest warship in the galaxy. As the ranking officer, he made sure that all six spaceships were together, plotting in the same speed and distance before they jumped into hyperspace. It would take eight hours before they would reach Xyver, and Plinky was only an hour from there. Then it was another three hours of hyperspace to Minnus, the last planet of the galaxy. From there, it would be another twelve hours to get to Axomorphilidad where the emperor was hiding out.
Duffy sat in his seat, heavy in thought. The stars were whistling by when they were in hyperspace.
He was concerned that he was not sure what to expect at the end of the road, but he felt fairly confident that their big fleet of warships would be able to crush any resistance they would encounter. But there was one little thing that worried him. When emperor Hoff had first come to Xyver and the 12th galaxy, he had said “I’ve been watching you for a long time”. That implied that the emperor probably knew their military strength, but the alliance didn’t know the emperor’s military strength.
Duffy leaned back in his chair. With his right arm he reached for his pipe of Shaar-weed. He turned it round and round in his hand before he got up from his chair.
– Colonel, he barked.
Colonel Stevens stood over by the scanner station, an old man with pondus and no hair.
– Yes, general?
– I’m going for a smoke, Duffy exclaimed.
– I’ll be back in about 15 minutes! You have the bridge!
Stevens knocked his heels together.
– As you wish, general.
Duffy left the bridge with his pipe and his thoughts…

***

The planet Minnus was comfortably bathed in sunshine. The capital of Minoa was busy as ever, people going about their business as any other day. Dragon Hill, their answer to Wall Street, was crawling with life, and high above, the Minoa Spaceport looked like a beehive, smaller spaceships going in and out, up and down. There were one incredibly huge spaceship hanging in midair about a mile over the spaceport. That was the warship McManus, the pride and joy of the planet. It’s captain looked like a pirate with red hair and a red beard. He was big and tall, and his tummy shook and wobbled  when he laughed. His name was John Anderson., and right now, he was hurrying trying to get in touch with the other great spaceships he was going to join to join from the allied forces.
In desperation, he pulled his beard and shouted:
– Commander Swift?
A young, dark, gangly guy with the bluest eyes you ever saw and a cute, little black mustache stood up at the back of the bridge.
– Sir?
– Who the devil are we meeting up with?
The commander scratched his head a little.
– Eh… he looked at his screen.
– The Powell and the Brixton from Plinky are meeting up with us, Sir! he managed to spit out.
– They are on their way here, sir! Estimated arrival, one and a half hour, Sir!
Anderson gnarled like a dog.
– What about Xyver? Are we meeting up with their ships?
Swift shook his head.
– They have been delayed, Sir! They will join us, hopefully in a couple of hours.
– Quarter-master?
A female voice answered right beside the captain.
– Yes, Sir!
The captain turned facing her.
– Quarter-master Ripley, ma’am!
He lowered his voice.
– Anything happening outside our old dingy that I should be aware of?
Helen Ripley was a middle aged woman with short, brown hair that stood scanning  everything she could on the outside of the McManus.
– No, Sir, she said in a soft voice.
– Still a lot of activity at the spaceport, but outer space is still quiet. No activity on sensors.
– Good!
Anderson tried to sit himself down in the captains chair, but bounced up again.
– Are those thrusters fixed yet? he shouted.
Commander Swift had come further forward on the bridge now. He made a funny face.
– It will be about an hour before their fixed properly, Sir, he answered his captain.
-Well, said Anderson, his voice a bit lower now.
– It looks like we’ll be waiting here till the Powell and the Brixton arrives.
– Sir?
Quarter-master Ripley stared at her screen.
– I see some fluctuations on my screen, Sir! I’ve got no idea what that can be.
Anderson hurried over to her and peaked over her shoulder.
– How many are there? He almost mumbled.
Ripley turned towards him.
– Three, Sir!
The screen suddenly started bleeping like crazy.
– Sir?
– Yeah, I see them! the captain commented.
– Red alert! He shouted at once.
– Battlestations, everybody!
The light on the bridge suddenly turned red, and a loud alarm bell rang all over the ship.
Captain Anderson yelled so all could hear him.
– On screen!
On the main screen three big warships had dropped out of warp.
– They’re charging weapons, quarter-master Ripley said.
Anderson grabbed his chair as he stood behind it, his knuckles turning white.
– Load aft torpedoes!
Commander Swift shouted:
– Load aft torpedoes!
– Sir, they’re ready to fire, Ripley shouted.
– Raise shields!
– Shields are up, Sir, Ripley replied.
Two of the approaching warship fired on the McManus, and the ship shook violently.
– Shields at 62 percent, Ripley called out.
– Drop shields, fire at two torpedoes at the closest one, then raise shields again! Anderson barked.
Ripley typed on the consol.
– Shields down! she said.
The commander pressed a red button on his desk.
– Bombs away, Sir!
– Good, Anderson replied.
– Shields up again, Sir! Ripley called out.
On his screen, Anderson could see the torpedoes explode by the nearest warship.
Ripley’s voice came again.
– I can’t detect any damage on them, but we must have reduced their shielding, Sir!
Anderson hit his fist on his chair.
– Let’s try it again! he said.
– Lower shields, shoot torpedoes, then raise shields again.
Commander Swift shouted:
– Load aft torpedoes! Load forward torpedoes! Get ready to turn McManus around.
Ripley called to Swift.
– Thrusters aren’t working that well, commander! Our only way of escape is jumping into hyperspace!
Captain Anderson shook his head.
– That will leave Plinky defenseless, he reasoned.
– We have to try to make our stand!
– Yes, Sir! the commander said,
– But if we get blown up, we can not continue fighting later!
Anderson rubbed his chin.
Two of the warships fired again, and the McManus shook again.
– Report!
– Shields down to 48 percent, Ripley replied.
– That’s good enough for now, Anderson growled.
– Commander?
Swift called out.
– Drop shields!
– Shields down, Ripley replied.
– Fire! The commander pressed the button again.
– Raise shields!
– Shields are up!
Anderson peeked at the screen again. A small explosions was visible on the nearest warship.
– What is it called? the captain demanded to know.
Ripley looked at her screen.
– It’s called the Dullahan, Sir!
– And the others?
Ripley checked her screen again.
– The biggest one is called the Erlking, and the smaller one is called the Adlet, Sir!
– Okay, Anderson stood straight.
– Can we do another round on the Dullahan before they and the Erlking can shoot us to pieces? I presume the small one you’re talking about is the Adlet, hiding behind the two others warships?
– That’s correct, Sir.
The Erlking drew closer and fired some blue rays on the McManus. Again, the ship shook violently.
– Load aft torpedoes! Swift called out.
– Shields down!
– Shields down!
– Bombs away! Raise shields!
Suddenly there was a big, blue ray coming from the Adlet.
The McManus got knocked out of position, and the lights blinked.
– Report, Anderson yelled.
– Shields are down, Sir! Ripley said from her station.
– Another blast like that will rip us apart, Sir!
Anderson swore quietly.
– Prepare for hyperspace, commander!
– Yes, Sir!
– Can we manage to get another two blasts in at the Dullahan?
The commander looked at his screen.
– Possibly! We must get the coordinates from the computer before going into hyperspace. Load aft torpedoes!
Ripley called out from her station:
– The Erlking is charging weapons again, Sir!
– Fire!
Swift pressed his red button, and there was a great explosion on the Dullahan.
– Ready for hyperspace, Sir!
The Erlking shot out a blue ray that hit the rear of the McManus.
– Hull breach! Ripley shouted.
– Go into hyperspace! Anderson shouted.
The McManus shot into hyperspace with a bang as people and cargo were being sucked out of the back end of the ship. The people screamed out in black space for a few seconds, but nobody heard it. Soon, they were floating around as dead corpses.

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