XO

Author's Note: Little something I did on the side. Might write more, but I'm not certain just yet. Be sure to check out the author's note for more info.

Commodore John Calder eyed the display in front of him, scanning it with scrutiny. It showed the three dozen ships that were currently in jump space, his battleship Resolution, a pair of destroyers, a trio of heavy frigates, seven light frigates and a collection of civilian and support ships. After quickly glancing at the military ships, who made up the head of the formation, he focused specifically on the civilian ships. Cruise liners and mining ships. Auxiliaries and farmships. Barges and tankers.

Somehow the ragtag group of civilians had managed to keep the fleet in general going this long, each of them contributing to keeping his warships running in their own way, but they worried him. He had had plenty of problems with the commanding officers of the warships in the fleet. His command had extended solely to his battleship and the trio of heavy frigates when the invasion had start, and had been forced to assume command of all the other ships.

Not all of their commanding officers had been happy about that, some of them suggesting that they should take over. Calder could still remember Captain Alicia Drayton of the destroyer Thunder angrily insisting that she be given command over the fleet, due to the fact that she had a much longer military record than he did. While looking over it, he did find that she had fought in much more battles than he had, much like she had claimed. She had also gotten more people killed than he ever had. When hunting down pirates before the invasion, she had always charged them directly and defeated them in a blaze of glory, no matter how many of her men got killed in the process.

Still, while Drayton argued that she should take command, she at least had the courtesy to not do so while the safety of the fleet hung in the balance. Despite all her bluster and bravado, she was military through and through, and knew when she had to follow orders in order to prevent disaster. Something Calder couldn't say about the civilians.

He remembered a particularly memorable experience he had had with the Captain of one of the cruise liners, the Copia. The Copia had been planning to go on a route that would take years to complete, and such had its food stores stocked to prepare for it. To Calder, that had been a godsend. The food stores on the fleet had been running low, down to half rations, when they had rescued the liner from a pack of alien fighters. With there being legitimate concerns about food riots, the liner had been a blessing. At least, that is what he had thought until he met the Captain.

Alec Kennet was, to polite about it, the most insufferably smug prick that Calder had ever met. To top it off, he was rather thick as well. When he had been asked to distribute the food, he had actually asked the rest of the fleet to pay for it. By his logic, the clients of the cruise liner had paid for all the food that they had been going to eat over the years. Therefore, to take without paying for it would be stealing. Apparently it hadn't occurred to Kennet that money didn't have value anymore and that if his fleet didn't defeat the aliens, all of his passengers would be dead within a year.

Ignoring Drayton's suggestion to send in Marines to take the food by force (Which had sounded more appealing to Calder than it probably should have) Calder had managed to eventually get Kennet to relent. Kennet still seemed rather bitter about it, but that had been nothing compared to what had happened when Calder had started moving refugees onto the Copia.

"Oh my clientele payed for a first rate experience, you can't just dilute it," Calder muttered in a mocking tone, still looking at the map. "I swear some people just divorced from reality." The rest of the crew from the cruise liner had been easier to work with, but still seemed unable to truly grasp the true nature of their situation. They had been slow to react, underperforming at times, and on more than one occasion ignoring an order that they had simply thought not to be that important.

One time that had been hair pulling levels of incompetent had been when the fleet had ordered some passengers be given first class housing. Apparently the crew had thought that Calder had just wanted already housed refugees to be more comfortable, and as such shoved it to the bottom of their to-do list. In reality, fifty odd refugees had been all they had been able to save from a remote mining outpost and there had been no other place for them to stay than the vacant first class rooms.

Without proper clearance to move them to their new rooms, the fifty traumatized refugees had been forced to sleep on the cold hard floor in the cargo bay with barely anything to eat. Any complaints that they had issued gotten stuck on their way up the corporate ladder. Calder personally suspected that Kennet had prioritized his original passengers over them. With no way to contact anyone off of the ship, they had been forced to live like that until one of them committed suicide, swallowing a poisonous chemical. Paramedics had been unable to revive him, which brought the situation to Calder.

He remembered boarding the cruise liner and spending the better part of an hour roaring in the face of Kennet, using more than a few choice words about his crew and the poor order on his ship and how his obsession with corporate regulations would get them all killed. At least Kennet had had the decency to look ashamed after that and gave the refugees proper housing. The threat to put the ship under martial law probably helped. Still, Calder was glad they had a farmship in the fleet now, he didn't think he could handle depending on Kennet for tomorrow's food.

He groaned as he looked at the fleet. Twenty thousand souls in total. They were the only ones that he had been able to save when the invasion started. Calder found it hard to believe that it had only happened two months ago, sixty days ago seemed like a different world now. He still wasn't sure what exactly had happened, or why it had happened. He had been stationed near the frontier on picket duty when the aliens started attacking colonies, abducting humans. His token force had been meant to scare off pirates, not combat the massive numbers of the aliens. It had been all he could do to grab as many civilians and ships as he could and jump out of the system.

He had never stopped moving since then. From system to system, grabbing all the materials and ships that they could before the aliens caught up. Every system was the same. If the aliens hadn't already started their attack, they were usually moving into position as Calder got there. The frontier, for all intents and purposes, had fallen. The few planets that the aliens hadn't gotten to yet did little to change that.

It was why Calder was steering his fleet in the direct of the core worlds and Earth, where the bulk of humanity's military might was. Despite humankind's massive jumps in technology, they had never figured out a way to communicate from star system to star system. The only way to get a message out of a star system was to have a ship carry it, He had to get word to Earth about what was happening on the frontier.

That was, if they didn't already know. Calder knew barely anything about the aliens. Every time one of their ships was crippled or critically damaged, their cores would overload, reducing the ship and crew to atoms. There was nothing left behind, no ship logs, no parts of their technology to study, even their bodies were vaporized. He hadn't been able to find a single thing out about their plans or their progress For all Calder knew, the aliens had invaded Earth first and conquered it already. The attacks on the frontier could just be a clean up campaign to them.

He shook his head. He couldn't afford to think like that. One way or another, he had to get this fleet to Sol. If Earth was still there, it would be a point to rally around. If it wasn't, then his fleet deserved to know that Earth had fallen.

"We're coming out of jump space," a navigator sitting at a row of computer banks below him said. "All other ships are as well, no problems being reported."

"Status of the system?" Calder asked.

"Coming in now," the navigator said. "Transmitting it to your map now."

Calder nodded as the image of the fleet was shrunk in front of him to make room for a display of the Gamma Suden System. It was a system that had never been colonized, while the planets had been rich with minerals, none of them had possessed an atmosphere. In the rush to colonize the frontier, settlers had moved on, looking for new worlds that they could settle right away. He had expected the system to be empty, but he had been proven wrong on that account.

No sooner had the map formed then an alert appeared at the bottom of it. A distress call, text only. "This is BHV Indomitable. We are under attack by unknown forces. Our engines have been disabled and our munition reserves are low. Please assist. This is-" Calder ripped his eyes away from the message and focused on the image of the system.

Sure enough, near the third planet of the system, a battleship was drifting. The debris of countless ships surrounded it, human and alien in equal measure. Just out of the Indomitable's weapons range, an alien carrier sat, launching another wave of fighters. The Indomitable's flak cannons and laser banks were still firing at the swarming fighters, but they were weak and infrequent. The Indomitable was on her last legs.

"This is Commodore John Calder to all ships," Calder said hastily, pressing a button on the side of his chair. "We have received a distress call from a BHV that is under attack. All civilian ships hold position here. All FFLs, form up defensive positions around the civilians. Shoot down any fighters that come close, but do not break formation. DDC Rage, you will be accompanying the Resolute in a direct assault on the alien carrier. Captain Drayton, take all three FFEs and assist Indomitable. Once the fighter swarms have been eliminated, turn about and attack the carrier from behind, we'll catch it in a pincer. That is all."

He wondered if Drayton would appreciate being allowed to play the hero by rescuing the Indomitable. He didn't have time to think about that now, he couldn't afford to have the Resolute chasing down the fighters. He needed that carrier taken down before it could launch anymore fighters, or worse, moved in to finish off the Indomitable itself.

For whatever reason, the aliens seemed to prefer to disable human ships and capture the crew. If, however, they were backed up against a wall, they would break this rule and flat out destroy military ships. He needed the heavy arsenal of the Resolute to kill the carrier fast. The image of the fleet that had been pushed into the corner of his display split apart into the groups he had ordered. The light frigates formed a defensive line in front of the civilians, while the Thunder shot out ahead with the heavy frigates in tow.

The Resolute and Rage broke away from the fleet as well, moving more slowly as a result of the Resolute's lower top speed. By this point, the carrier had noticed the arrival of other ships and had rotated to face the two incoming warships, its weapons facing them directly. "Rage, fall back to slightly behind the Resolute" Calder ordered. "Let us take the brunt of the fire, our shields are stronger."

The destroyer hastily obeyed, reducing speed and falling behind Resolute, ten seconds away from weapon range. "Charge the particle accelerator and laser banks, all fire on my mark," Calder said.

Lasers were standard on all human warships, even the tiny light frigate, though the heavier the ship, the more power they could pour into the laser. The particle accelerator on the other hand, was a fairly new weapon and devastatingly powerful. It was unique to battleships, a ship design that had only been introduced to the navy five years ago. Overall the battleship was massive, heavily armored, and was armed with the most powerful ship to ship weapon ever built by man.

While he would've tried to save any ship in the Indomitable's situation, he particularly needed another battleship in his fleet. He had had no luck finding other ships of its magnitude in the months he had been on the run, only light frigates and a destroyer if he was lucky. He wasn't terribly surprised though, even before the invasion they had been rare.

They were expensive and experimental, to the point that so few were made that only Commodores and more senior officers were ever given command of them. Admittedly, a few Captains had been given command of battleships, but they tended to be veterans with outstanding service records. Calder paused. He wondered if Drayton was angry that she hadn't apparently met that classification.

He shook off those thoughts as he came into weapon range of the carrier. "Mark." On the map, bright lines shot out from the Resolute, one of them much thicker and bright than the rest, impacting on the carrier and causing its shields to flicker. He watched as the carrier returned fire with its own volley of lasers, the ship shaking around him as their shields held. As Rage opened fire itself, Calder's eyes darted back to the Indomitable.

Drayton's battle group had reached the battleship, opening fire on the fighters with their flak cannons. Flak cannons had actually been removed from ship design a few decades ago, when shields on warships had become too strong for them to be effective. Powerful lasers with a low rate of fire had become the default weapon for warships after that. With alien tactic of swarming ships with fighters, however, flak cannons had been given new life with the way they could shred through the numerous but light craft. Calder had taken to gathering any and all mothballed flak cannons that he could acquire and arming his ships with him. Even Resolute had no less than six flak cannons primed and ready at all times.

He barely had any time to watch the fights blip out one by one before his attention turned back to the carrier directly in front of him. To his horror, it had darted to the side, firing its bank of lasers not at the Resolute, but at Rage. The beams of energy tore through the destroyer's shields, hull buckling under the blasts.

"Laser batteries 4 and 2 are offline!" the Captain of Rage reported "Power core operating at 57%! We've got hull breaches and wounded!"

"Can you keep fighting?" Calder asked, feeling his heart pounding. He could barely afford to lose and of his light frigates, he most certainly couldn't afford to lose one of his only destroyers.

"I've got at least a dozen dead over here," the Captain of the Rage hissed, venom in his voice. "I'm going to make those alien bastards pay. For my crew. For Indomitable. For everyone they ever hurt, I am going to make them BURN!"

"In that case, all weapons, fire!" Caldern shouted. He bit his lip as the Resolutes arsenal sent another wave of beams at the carrier, hoping it would be enough. Another volley would mean death for Rage. His heart soon leapt though, as he saw the shields of the carrier collapse. "Several hull breaches detected on the alien vessel!" one of the crewmen reported. "Their power levels are fluctuating!"

"Rage, end it!" Caldern bellowed, but it wasn't necessary. What lasers Rage still had left had already fired, ripping through the hull of the carrier, all of them aimed directly at its power core. Whether it was because the core had rupted solely because of the laser fire or whether it was programed to do so when defeat was imminent, a massive ball of light consumed the carrier. It faded away within a second, nothing left but chunks of debris.

"Commodore, this is Captain Drayton," said a stiff voice over the speakers in his chair. "All the fighters have been dealt with. The Indomitable has taken heavy damage but she still has life support. She's going to need to be towed out of here."

"Understood, good work Drayton." He spoke before he could stop himself. When your subordinates do a good job, you tell them, that had been a habit he picked up over years of service. With Drayton however, every tiny compliment only served to fuel her ego, and Captain Drayton with a pulsating ego was the last thing he needed right now.

Hoping she would be too frustrated at not being involved in the destruction of the carrier, he opened a channel to the civilian fleet. "All civilian ships, the alien forces in the current area have been eliminated, you are clear to proceed towards the planet. Auxiliary Titan, move forward and secure the Indomitable, start working on repairs. Move onto the Rage once you're done. Mining ship Dwarf and Refinery Alchemist, start collecting and processing resources from the planet. All other ships, follow standard procedure and forward all needed resources to Dwarf and Alchemist."

He grimaced. He hated referring to ships as "mining ship" and "refinery". It was so clunky. Mining ships were M and Refineries were R in the military. Streamlined and effective. However, the civilians hadn't like being referred to as such, some of them had even gone so far to say it was a sign of military dictatorship. Reluctantly, he had dropped the practice with civilian ships, though not willingly.

"All FFLs, maintain defensive perimeter around the civilians." He paused. "We will have a conference in one hour, baring no surprise circumstances." He sighed, rubbing his face. While he had had conferences with his officers before the invasion, those had been short and clinical. An update on current situations, a clarification of orders, they were in and out with minimal fuss, the way he liked it. Now that he had to keep up to date with a civilian fleet, as well as Captain Drayton, conferences were much more headache inducing.

There was always something that he was doing wrong that was brought up at every meeting. They weren't moving fast enough, they didn't have enough supplies, they needed more food, ship X deserved more protection. And since conferences were held safely out of battle, Captain Drayton's military professionalism slipped away and not so subtly suggested that she have a increase in influence. All in all, conferences were something that he needed but could very much do without.

"Ensign," he said to a crewman to his right. "Set up a private communication line with the commanding officer of the Indomitable. Transfer it to my quarters." Whoever commanded that Battleship was part of the fleet now, and he wanted to get them up to speed before they were thrown into a conference unprepared. Now that Calder thought about it, if the commander was an Admiral or a Vice-Admiral, he might very well have to turn over command of the fleet to them. He chucked softly. That actually didn't sound so bad, if it meant another person between Drayton and command.

He left the bridge, his XO, nodding as he left before moving and sitting down in the recently vacated seat. He made his way towards his quarters, which wasn't more than two minutes away from the bridge for the sake of efficiency. As he entered the room, he took it in. A small bunk in the corner, a basin across from it, and a chair with a table in front of it. It was a rather spartan room, but then again nearly every room on a spaceship was, space was valuable.

He slid down into the chair, letting out a small sigh of exhaustion. He would never get used to how tried he always felt when a battle was over, no matter how short it had been. Something about it just sucked all of the energy out of him. He barely had had time to slouch into his chair, when a small metal stand on his table beeped loudly. With a groan, he reached forward, gently pressing a button on the side.

A hologram of a woman in an officer's uniform appeared over the stand, saluting him. "Commander Delila Kinton of Indomitable reporting sir!" she announced crisply. "Thank you for your assistance. My crew and I are indebted to you."

Calder blinked, not certain he had heard correctly. "Commodore John Calder of Resolute." He paused, before deciding to ask for clarification that he had heard correctly. "Commander? Isn't Commander a bit low to be the commanding officer of a BHV?"

Commander Kinton faltered slightly. "Vice-Admiral Calista Hartjen was the originally the commander of Indomitable. I was her XO. She was honorably killed in action when she fought off the initial assault. No one else could've driven that ship off."

Calder felt a small twinge of regret. They could have used a Vice-Admiral's experience, but more importantly than that he could hear the sadness in Kinton's voice. She was trying to hide it, trying to stay professional, but he could hear it. "I'm sorry for your loss. I would've liked to meet the woman who could go toe to toe against a carrier. Even though I have just as much firepower as she did, I still needed the help of a destroyer."

Kinton blinked. "A carrier? She didn't fight off a carrier. She fought off one of those other ships. Wait...you've seen them right?"

Calder felt a horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach. He didn't like the way this conversation was going. "No, we've only seen carriers and the smaller craft that they launch. Commander, if there's a type of alien ship out there that I haven't encountered yet, I need to know everything I can about it."

Kinton nodded. "We designated it "Devastator". It didn't show up initially. The Vice-Admiral had a rather sizable flotilla under her command. Four DDCs and seven FFEs. We were actually able to repulse the initial attacks. five carriers came each time, four times, and we were able to beat them back. We had numbers on them. We lost three FFEs and two DDCs, but we were holding our own, we overwhelmed them with our numbers. Still, they were chipping away at our ships, and the Vice-Admiral sent a scout ship to bring back reinforcements."

Kinton swallowed. "I don't know if it ever found any, because we were forced to abandon the colony we were protecting. Two Devastators jumped into the system and rushed us. They shattered our fleet. They're just short of being twice as big as a battleship and have twice as many laser banks. Most of our ships were destroyed, but I think a couple of them managed to escape." She shook her head, "I don't remember, it was such a chaotic mess. Indomitable had taken a lot of hits and we barely escaped in time"

"Wait, destroyed?" Calder said in surprise. "The aliens have been trying to disable and board ships in my experience with them, they only try to destroy them when they have their backs against a wall."

Kinton grimaced. "I have a hypothesis. It's just that because I've only seen Devastators in action one time. The alien carriers are sent in initially, to disable ships and capture as many humans as possible, defending themselves when they need to. But if a target proves to be too hardened for the carriers to take out, the aliens send in the Devastators. Who shoot to kill."

Calder swallowed. He could see the logic behind Kinton's words. It was rather sociopathic, but it did fit in with the aliens' actions. Capture where possible, destroy where you can't. "How did you escape?" he asked.

"The Vice-Admiral managed to focus all of our working guns long enough to disable a few of the nearest Devastator's laser banks. It managed to give us enough time to make a jump." She stumbled as she spoke. "S-she was badly hurt when a laser hit near the bridge. Shrapnel everywhere. But she ordered that we keep concentrating fire. It was only because of that that we were able to charge the jump drive without being obliterated."

"I see," Calder said slowly. "Have you seen any Devastators since then?"

Kinton cleared her throat. "Thankfully no. We wouldn't be able to survive if we did. Half of our current battle damage is leftover from our escape. We haven't been able to repair it."

"My fleet has the capabilities to repair that damage, we can tow you until your engines are back online," Calder said. "It'd probably be for the best if you stuck with us. We're heading for the core worlds, trying to stay ahead of the aliens."

Kinton nodded. "Makes sense. That and you're technically my superior." She gave a weak smile. "Wherever you need me Commodore."

"I'll be having a conference of ship Captains in about an hour, holographic of course. I'd like you to attend. It's how we manage the...well for lack of a better word, 'politics' of the fleet."

Kinton frowned. "Little unusual isn't it?"

"Oh you don't know the half of it. The idiots I have to deal with." He bit back a sigh. Most of the military officers can be trusted, but keep an eye out for Captain Drayton. She's a rather ambitious woman. She was already angry with me for having command of a BHV while she didn't. She'll be livid when she sees a Commander in charge of one. She'll probably push me to put her in command."

Kinton's eyes narrowed. "She doesn't know this crew, she doesn't know this ship. I may be junior to her, but I've spent three years on Indomitable and I'm not about to hand it over to a glory hound."

"No argument from me. Still, I want you to be ready for her. And the civilian captains as well, they aren't used to the rigid efficiency that we military officers are used to."

Kinton blinked. "How are you keeping this fleet together?" she asked.

"I'd tell you if I knew," Calder said. "But I'm glad to have you as part of it now."

Kinton nodded. "I'm glad to be a part of it Commodore."

Calder allowed himself a small smile. "I'll see you at the conference then." As Kinton nodded and her hologram blinked out, he put his head in his hands. Dedicated alien ship killers. For every piece of good news he seemed to get two pieces of bad news.

Author's Note: This is something that I wrote for the kickstarter XO. It's a rather interesting looking game that I backed and one of the stretch goals was fan fiction, so I decided to help out there. Check out the kickstarter page if this story interested you, it DOES look pretty interesting.

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