Read a sample : Earth - Last Sanctuary
On this page you can read the first Chapter of my Sci-Fi book “Earth - Last Sanctuary”, out now on kindle and paperback. If you like it, please don't hesitate to share this page via the social media buttons at the bottom of the page.
The text on this page is near to its final form; some slight changes might have happened since release.
Artwork by Christian Kallias
Chase looked at the display with unmasked satisfaction as the last red dot disappeared from his radar. The remaining pieces of the fighter he had just blown out of space came burning against his frontal shields, illuminating the cockpit with radiant blue light for a brief instant. He took the opportunity to make a quick systems check. His shields were still in the green, standing strong at eighty percent and recharging. He had also only exhausted half of his torpedoes against the eleven kills he had made in the last twenty minutes of combat.
Not bad, he thought. Not bad at all...
The thought quickly died as the ship's computer broke the triumphant silence. The computer spoke with a soft, sexy, female voice – probably way too sexy for a star fighter navicomputer designed mainly for dogfights. But this was an old Manticore Mark II model, which was equipped with rather outdated software. Chase had to admit, when it came to the voice, there were times when he didn’t mind.
“Multiple enemy targets on approach vector,” said AINI, the Artificially Intelligent Navicomputer Interface. The radar let out four successive, high pitch beeps as each of the targets progressively appeared on the scope. They were flying in a standard square formation, one pair of fighters covering for the other.
The grin slowly faded from Chase's face. A dogfight against four enemies with no wingman was not to be taken lightly, not if one wanted to live long enough to talk about the encounter. It wasn't the first time he’d had to face such odds, but each time he had, it had cost him and his ship dearly. And here he’d hoped to bring the fighter back to bay with as few scratches as possible. Wishful thinking.
As the fighters approached, his mind raced over the different tactics that applied to such a situation. The academic ones as well as the crazy ones – those that most dogfight instructors would consider not only insane, but also directly against practically all the rules in the flight book. Standard by-the-book tactics would dictate prudence by trying to reduce the number of enemies from the first pass, allowing the pilot to concentrate on killing the next target while avoiding only a pair of bogies. A feat which in itself was far from easy. Chase’s main instructor and war hero, General Tharowni, would say that a couple of torpedoes locked and fired at the exact moment bogies entered firing range had a ninety percent chance of scoring a kill, reducing the odds to three against one. Again, not easy, but statistically preferable to trying to engage in a dogfight while being pursued by three enemy vessels.
But Chase never fought thinking about the statistics or the odds. While he respected the wisdom in such a course of action, losing two out of his three remaining torpedoes so early in the fight was not something he was prepared to do, at least not today.
“Enemy craft entering firing range,” AINI purred with all the charm programmed into her vocal subroutines.
Time to make a decision. In only a few seconds, Chase’s fighter would be in a shower of enemy laser fire. He needed a plan.
“Let's try something new, shall we?” he said aloud. This rhetorical banter was rather routine for him and his sensual computer. One-sided, but routine.
Three seconds later, heavy laser fire started to fall around his fighter’s canopy like a red rain, occasionally igniting the shields. Pulling hard on the stick, the fighter effectively rolled and dodged, avoiding most of damage. But his enemies were still closing on him at high velocity, firing all the while.
“Missile lock!"” AINI sounded as alarmed as she could, humming with the familiar buzz that warned of imminent danger.
A slow smile spread up the side of Chase’s face. Time seemed to slow, then for a split second, it stopped altogether.
He released counter measures and his fighter veered sharply and made a tight break to the right, still not firing a single shot. The incoming torpedo fell for it. The port shields received part of the showering laser fire while the internal structure of the fighter moaned in disagreement over its rough handling. Clearly not designed to be subjected to a brutal ninety-degree break while at full after-burner speed, the ship made warning noises and lit a red LED light across the primary alarm panel. The ship's inertial dampeners were clearly not made for this kind of abuse. As always, the dangerous creaking and flashing was accompanied by the silky vocal explanations of AINI.
“Structural integrity failure imminent,” she explained with a wink.
Unfortunately for the ship, in Chase’s mind “imminent” still meant that he had a couple more seconds. That was, coincidentally, all the time he needed. Once he pulled out of his break, the primary alarm LED turned from red to yellow. Automatic systems were redirecting power to structural integrity to compensate for the ship’s mistreatment. Soon, it would turn green as power would be siphoned off other systems like shields, guiding systems, weapons, and even life support.
A quick glance at the radar showed Chase that his maneuver had gone exactly as planned, forcing the quartet of ships to break hard left to follow him and take position at his six o'clock. He could almost see his instructors holding their heads in their hands; such a display would most certainly be defined as "reckless flying." He brushed the thought away and shook his head to clear it. He would need perfect concentration if he intended to leave this dogfight as something more than a floating pile of space rubble.
Streaks of laser fire passed by his canopy again, but this time from behind, and while many of the hits reduced the aft shields, he still thought that this tactic, however highly dangerous, would pay off. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. He was about to find out.
“AINI, prepare to execute maneuver Theta-4 on my mark.”
“Loaded and ready,” she answered almost instantly.
The next instant, AINI killed the after-burners and engaged the reverse thrusters while simultaneously boosting their power by redirecting ninety percent of every other system’s power into them, leaving the ship with minimal shielding for just a few milliseconds. Chase sucked in a deep breath. If the enemy had anticipated such a maneuver, those milliseconds would no doubt mean the end of him. But sure enough, the fighters were caught completely off guard and sailed past him like shooting stars into the quiet night.
Once AINI’s sensors detected that the targets had passed by, she automatically re-balanced the power, re-distributing it equally between two main systems: forward engines and weapons. The Theta-4 maneuver was programmed to stay in this distributed power scheme for ten seconds. More than enough time for Chase to rain deadly supercharged firepower upon his foes, effectively draining their aft shields while they undoubtedly tried to understand what had just happened to them. After a few seconds of showering a full spread of laser fire, he quickly selected the two enemy fighters that had lost more than half their shields and locked onto them with a torpedo each. When AINI acknowledged the locks, he simultaneously fired the torpedoes and turned quickly on the third craft's vector, the one which had its aft shield at the minimum. Chase aligned his vessel perfectly to his foe, not letting it breathe. Each of its attempts to dodge were carefully anticipated and compensated for. There was no escape. Its structural integrity started to decrease rapidly and most of his laser shots were now scoring holes in its metal armor, leaving a trail of sparks and chunks of metal in its wake. A few seconds later, it finally exploded in a bright fireball.
One down, thought Chase.
He glanced at the rest of the ships just in time to see the first torpedo reach its target, effectively tearing a port wing to shreds and sending the craft into a twirl before it detonated brightly. Chase couldn't help but crack a smile.
Bold maneuvers. Worked every time.
The second torpedo-locked fighter launched a decoy and the torpedo fell for it, but its late deployment still weakened its shields and caused enough damage to effectively remove the fighter from the fight for a few moments as the pilot broke off to recharge. Glancing at the radar to find the fourth fighter, Chase was rewarded with a spread of fire on his port side shield. He pulled hard on the stick while cutting its velocity by half, allowing the enemy to pass him by and using the momentum of this last attack to reposition his fighter back into the hunter's position.
“Port shields failing,” AINI advised.
“Dammit!” he swore. One more hit on this side of his craft and he was history.
He quickly checked the status of the damaged fighter only to swear again as he realized that it was already back on course. Two to one, and he was in bad shape. He had to act fast. The only good news was that his maneuver to place himself behind the only undamaged fighter had been a success. He started showering it with all the laser fire he could, hitting it many times on its aft shield. But it wasn’t enough to get it out of the sky before the second ship would reach him.
An almost zen-like state came over Chase as he considered his options. He had still one torpedo left, but he knew that firing it meant using his final ace. As he deliberated, he saw the vessel in front of him effectively spinning around, avoiding his lasers and keeping its shields up despite being in the red. Chase had no doubt that the pilot had redirected every ounce of energy to keep his shields up, probably even cutting life support. A risky strategy, but it had worked; it bought him enough time for his wingman to rejoin the fight.
The situation was beginning to grow dire. Chase wondered if the standard by-the-book tactics wouldn't have been wiser, but he quickly disregarded the thought. He’d made his bed, now he had to blow up two fighters. Such was life.
“Missile lock!” AINI cooed, displaying two new torpedoes advancing quickly on his position.
“Looks like this guy doesn't want to see if I have any more tricks up my sleeve, now does he?”
Sometimes Chase wished AINI’s programming extended to sarcasm. In moments like this, her silence twisted his stomach.
“Launch two flares on my mark.” He pushed his stick to the left, a little more, and a little more, before shouting “Mark!” as he performed a hundred and eighty degree spin. Then he double clicked his after-burner, activating a fifty percent power boost transfer from other systems. One of the torpedo scored the decoys, and as Chase had predicted, his spin took him far enough away to avoid any critical damage from the blast. However, he no longer had any side shields, as the starboard ones had failed upon the second torpedo’s detonation.
Nervously glancing at the radar for the last torpedo’s position and trajectory, he suddenly smiled as he saw that he still had a few seconds to complete his plan. With quick fingers, he soothed his lasers from rapid fire to concentrated beams. He only had one shot at this, and it had to be enough. His instincts took over as he aligned himself perfectly behind his foe’s engines and fired. The concentrated beams scored multiple hits, knocking out the remaining vessel’s aft shields and disabling one of its engines. As it struggled to recover, Chase passed quickly by and broke hard on the right. The last torpedo still on his back adjusted course only to find Chase's crippled foe right in its trajectory. With a screeching rip, it tore through the metal like paper and the ship exploded in a million pieces.
“Three down, one more to go!” Chase shouted in triumph.
And one torpedo left. Perfect. Just like he’d planned.
With a fierce concentration that came from years of fighting, Chase locked on the last enemy craft with his final torpedo and fired away. At the same time, he continued blasting away with his lasers, delivering a concentrated burst of fire at the precise moment the torpedo made contact. A blazing explosion sent it straight to hell, leaving pieces of debris and a sudden silence in its wake.
“Phew, that was too close a call…” Chase murmured to himself, glancing at his ship's status. But he couldn’t help but be proud.
He had succeeded in eliminating all four enemy craft without compromising his own ship’s armor. The only damage was to the shields and they were already recharging. He clicked a few buttons and looked at the fight’s statistical display: a more than satisfactory sixty-seven laser hit ratio and a total fight time of two minutes forty-two seconds. That had to be a new record for this kind of fight.
“Hey AINI,” he smirked, “looks like we just made heist – “
“Multiple inbound system jumps detected.”
The words echoed in Chase’s mind, but before he had time to process them, there was more.
“Enemy vessels on approach vector.”
“You have GOT to be kidding me!”
A series of high-pitched beeps answered back from the radar. No less than six foes, two of which were highly shielded Corvettes. Way too much firepower for a ship even twice as solid as his was now. His beauty had seen better days, and that was before dispatching fifteen enemy vessels.
He quickly glanced at a map readout and keyed jump coordinates as fast as he could, only to be rewarded by another vocal alarm.
“Jump engine inoperable, one of the ships has erected a JIF.”
“A jump interdiction field, great. Why am I not surprised? Well, I guess I'll go down in a blaze of glory then.”
“Enemy ships entering firing range.”
Chase rolled his eyes. “Some comfort you are.”
Then all hell broke loose.
Both Corvettes’ long range laser cannon fire sprayed heavily towards him. He jerked on the controls, trying to evade in every possible direction, but it was only a matter of time. It would just take just one or two direct hits to vaporize him. A quick glance at the displays showed the quartet of fighters protecting the Corvettes as they vectored towards him. They were only a few seconds away from entering firing range themselves, at which point any attempt to dodge fire from six simultaneous targets would be all but futile.
“Unless...” he let the word hang in the void while his brain worked away at light speed. Glancing at his star chart, he bellowed, “Full power to engines, vector zero by four by six, towards that blue moon.”
The ship’s engines roared to life, doubled by a big rumble from the after-burners. The enemy craft were heavy fighters; that gave him just enough of an advantage in speed to outrun them for a little while. His fuel gauge, however, indicated some rather alarming readings, not to mention, main power was almost in the red.
“It will have to do... AINI, give me an ETA on the moon and the time difference for the enemy fighters to reach us.”
“At present speed, we'll reach the moon in one minute, twenty-five seconds. The vessels will enter firing range approximately twenty-five seconds before we reach it.”
“Damn and I thought this could work…” he muttered. “Well, maybe it still can. AINI, what if we redirect all power to the engines, including life support?”
"Simulations project that we would reach the moon with an advance of five to ten seconds if we execute that command immediately,” she crooned. Amazing, even in a life or death moment, his computer sounded like she was inviting him to bed.
“Execute now!” he cried. “And…goodbye AINI,” he added, knowing full well that executing the command would also take the power away from her artificial circuits. He would have to fly by the stick and pushing buttons from now on.
A few moments later, the moon was on the view screen, growing fast. Chase aligned his fighter into a near atmosphere entry vector line. Red LEDs started to blink all over the cockpit as each of his systems siphoned off their power. At this rate, if he even brushed the upper atmosphere, the ship would transform into a big ball of fire. Chase pushed the thought from his mind and tightened his hands around the navigational stick.
His enemies were closing in fast, but not fast enough to get a clear shot before he disappeared behind the moon. They would, no doubt, pursue. But it didn't matter now.
He pushed his ship to the upper limit, only few meters off the moon’s atmosphere, and used its gravity to start a slingshot run around it. His speed grew exponentially and he redistributed some power to his shields and life support when the air started to become too thin to breathe. Now was not a good time to be light-headed. The energy drain for propulsion was no longer necessary, thanks to the formidable gravitational forces of the moon. The ship would accelerate with incredible velocity even if he only gave the engines a little rub.
“Space Applied Physics wasn't such a dumb course after all,” he reflected, trying to boost the inertial dampeners to avoid having his bones crushed under the pressure of the Gs pulled by the maneuver.
A few minutes later, his fighter was on the other side of the moon, ready to finish the slingshot. He adjusted his course towards one of the Corvettes, and once he was away from the gravitational forces, he disengaged his engines. Then he quickly keyed a set of commands as his ship entered the Corvette’s firing range. He pulled hard on the controls to put the ship in a wild spin, trying to avoid enemy fire, then he submitted the command he’d keyed earlier, diverting power to the shields and the weapon systems.
He was only a few seconds away... He’d entered what he liked to call the “dead zone,” the stretch where enemy craft were at optimal firing range and during which the probability they scored a hit was much higher. Not a moment later, the ship took one hit on the starboard shields, disabling them on the spot and sending a few metal pieces of the hull floating off into space.
Streaks of red laser fire streamed all over his canopy, and he was mere moments away from the Corvette. Then suddenly, he keyed a flurry of other commands. His shields went down and his lasers started to fire at full power. Then, before he could even brace himself, he pulled very hard into outer space, spinning in his chair just enough to watch his plan play out.
His ship collided with enormous velocity into the Corvette’s frontal hull, causing a massive explosion. Its fractured momentum sent it hurtling full speed into the second Corvette, which promptly split in half.
And that was the end of it.
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