Author's Note: I started playing with this idea a while ago, and considering my 2012 November Novel Project is a similar sort of setting and concept, I figured this would be a way to warm up for that. (I plan on having all my November releases finished before November 1st so I can concentrate on my original story for November). As this is post series and based on a bit of fragmentary information on the newest Japanese Light Novel releases, you should probably consider it AU for safety's sake.
Disclaimer: Crest of the Stars and its sequels are the intellectual property of Hayakawa Publishing, Bandai Visual, Sunrise, and Hiroyuki Morioka.
Reminder: All my stories are on a monthly update schedule. Please see my profile for the schedule.
Standard of the Stars
Volume 1: The Destroyer Scourge
Chapter 1: The New Threat
After the Battle of Lakfakalle in the seventh year of the war, we went from the brink of victory to a desperate struggle for survival against a newly energized Four Nation's Alliance. Territories gained in hard fought combat were abandoned as fleets were recalled to defend the capital city as the fratricidal fight in Abriel Country cost all combatants the cream of their military forces. Lakfakalle went from being the City of Love to a graveyard for millions of Abh inhabitants including Empress Abriel Ramaj.
In the resulting power vacuum, Abriel Dusanyu rose to take the throne and a great deal of reorganization and confusion filled the Laubrec during the transfer of power.
The Four Nations Alliance would use the opportunity presented by the power vacuum to recapture lost territories, lick their wounds, and attempt to overcome the tactical superiority the Abh had demonstrated time and again with new technologies, ship designs, and training. In the early months of the following year, they pushed these new technologies into frontline use with small lightning raids that inflicted thousands of casualties on the defending Abh fleets. Patrol squadrons and their Attack or Assault Ship escorts simply disappeared from the line of battle, destroyed in short vicious engagements.
Rumors swept through the fleet of the existence of a new class of ship, an intermediate class between attack ships and the larger patrol ships.
At the time I was a newly minted Deca-Commander serving under Vice Hecto-Commander Abriel Lafiel as the Flight Logistics Officer for the 2nd Flight of the 1st Devastation Squadron and Supply Officer for the Flicaubh. I remember being shaken awake early in the morning to wake the Princess… the crewman said just one word: "Destroyers."
- Count Hyde's Memoirs of the Great War published 1016 ICY
The Korelia Sord, one of the thousands of gates to that realm which enabled faster than light travel. It was set within a rather plain system, one that seemed almost boring if not for the fact that it sat upon the current border between the Humankind Empire of the Abh and United Mankind. There were countless systems like it, settled upon the effective front line guarded by small flotillas.
This one was guarded by an Abh Flotilla called Task Force 989, composed of the 501st Patrol Squadron, 959th Assault Squadron, and 1203rd Guard Squadron. Some eighteen vessel in all.
One of the largest was the Laurth-class patrol ship Seiglauth, commanded by Kilo-Commander Deral Lobec, who sat in the command chair rubbing his temple idly as the ship completed yet another slow orbit of the Sord. The six patrol ships of the squadron were in a rough line as they encircle the Sord. The guard ships hung close to the patrol ships, ready to defend them in an instant if attacked while the faster and more maneuverable assault ships floated in the distance as if waiting for an opportunity to hurl themselves into battle.
Deral sighed as he stood and began to pace around the room, his blue eyes shining in the dim light of the command center. He put a hand on his command baton and scowled out at the glowing light of the Sord.
"Kilo-Commander! Contacts emerging from the Sord!" The radar operator yelled and Deral stared as a dull green-gray vessel slid from the center of the Sord, it's space time bubble collapsing around it. Behind it more than dozen other ships began to follow it through. Each of them seemed to be six hundred meters in length.
"They're right on top of us," one of the sensor operators said.
"Combat stations!" Deral yelled as he pulled out the command baton. "Come about!"
"Aye!" The helmsman yelled as the sensor operators stared at their displays. The guard ships opened fire, sending bolts of golden plasma arcing toward the emerging threats. The United Mankind ships surged forward, bobbing and weaving as they closed like oversized attack ships. A volley of eight separate antimatter missiles shot from each of them. Blue lances of laser light shot from the Abh ships to intercept the missiles. One of the missiles exploded as a point defense laser caught it mere seconds from impact.
Then the sensor operator yelled. "EMC fire from the enemy!"
"No ship that size carries a railgun!" Deral yelled before an explosion on the displays showed two of the guard ships disappearing from a blast. "Firing solution on the closest hostile!"
"Firing solution aye, EMC ready!" the gunnery officer yelled.
The entire ship rumbled as four EMC shells rocketed from the rails and slammed into one of the enemy ships. Some exploded in gouts of flame and plasma as the Seiglauth turned toward another foe. The magnetic shielding thrummed from a laser impact before four shells from one of the onrushing ships slammed home.
An alarm roared to life overhead and red emergency lighting flickered on as the deck heaved. Booms echoed through the whole ship from the four shells impacting one after another and the helmsmen's hands ran over their control boards trying to maintain control of the ship.
"Hull breaches, deck one section five, deck nine through twenty-six and sections twenty-four to forty-four. Emergency bulkheads engaged and holding. Casualty reports coming in now..." His executive officer's eyes turned dark as she stared at the display. "Eighteen are missing."
"Gunnery get me another firing sol-"
"Leilauth is gone!" the sensor operator shouted and Darel spun toward the display's his eyes widening. "Vaslauth, Lorlauth, and Gaslauth have all taken damage. Our assault ships are being decimated!"
"Forget the EMC." Darel snapped. "Laser stations, shoot at anything you can get a lock on! Gunnery, switch to the anti-proton cannons!"
"Another salvo inbound!" The sensor operators yelled.
At the same moment, the gunnery station officer called out. "Firing!"
Then another boom echoed through the ship and the lights flickered and went out. Deral was thrown toward the floor moments before the gravity generators failed and he found himself floating in the red-lit bridge. "Report?"
"Sensors are offline..."
"I can't get anything from engineering." His executive officer said quietly."We're dead in space."
A low whistling drew Deral's attention, and he knew instantly what it was. "No... No Lalon... we're just dead." He felt his head beginning to grow to muddled and confused as the air was slowly sucked out of the bridge compartment from a hull breach he knew none of them could find before the last of the air was gone.
He floated down to the command seat, buckled himself in, closed his eyes, and waited for the end.
Another volley tore through the ship, and he caught the engineering displays turn brilliant red before he was engulfed in a blue white light and knew no more.
It was inevitable really. Bad news always came in the dead of night, when it was least expected and least welcomed. The same could not be truer then that moment as Jinto Lynn rubbed his sleepy eyes and stared up at the crewman that had shaken him awake. Still groggy he felt the man press a data-pad into his hands and blinked at it, trying to focus on the Baronh script before him.
"What?" He grumbled.
"Destroyers." The crewman said and instantly Jinto was awake, as if he'd be struck with a blast of electrical current. He shook off the lethargy that tried to claim him and straightened up.
"I'll wake up the Princess..." He said before heading for the hatch. Deca-Commander Jinto Lynn yawned again before stepping out into the hall and glancing down at the data-pad. He quickly scrolled through the script, noting the most important bits of information as he walked to Lafiel's quarters.
Task Force 989 had failed to report in, and command was worried that they'd fallen victim to the newest threat that the United Mankind had produced, a rumor intermediate class of ship that most had taken to calling destroyers. Biting his lip Jinto stopped before Lafiel's hatch and knocked once before opening the cabin and stepping inside.
The living quarters were dark, lit only by the holographic screen of one of the terminals in the corner of the room. Jinto sighed as he stepped past Diaho, his cat, and walked over to the terminal.
Lafiel was lying with her head atop the terminal, her blue hair shimmering under the holographic light. Jinto let a slight smile play across his lips at the sight of her sleeping peacefully in the familiar position. Then he laid a hand on her shoulder and gently shook her. "Lafiel..."
"Hmm..." She slowly stirred and blinked her eyes before pushing back from the desk and leaning into the seat with a jolt. Her eyes blinked in the dim light and she quickly ran a flustered hand over her uniform before tucking a few strands of hair behind one of her pointed ears. "Jinto?"
"Sorry... we have orders." Jinto said before handing the data-pad to her and leaning against the desk. "Task Force 989 isn't reporting in, we're to go to their last reported position and check in on them."
"Command is getting jumpy." Lafiel said quietly before standing up and heading for the hatch. "All these rumors of this new... 'Destroyer' type of ship."
"They could be true. This class was created after the Roil-class was shown to be a bit... costly." Jinto said before shrugging. "But, one would think someone would be able to report the appearance of the new class."
Lafiel scowled before opening the hatch. "Perhaps they are just using a very large group of Attack ships to ambush and destroy these forces."
"It's possible." Jinto allowed before Lafiel lead them to the bridge.
As the officer on deck clambered out of the command chair Lafiel nodded to the communications officer. "Flight Channel, we have orders."
"Aye." The Abh woman answered before tapping a few buttons and the main screen filled with the image of the captains of the other two other ships under Lafiel's command.
"Wake your commanders, we have orders to proceed to the Korelia Sord and investigate the disappearance of the Task Force 989." Lafiel said before plugging in her crown to the ship's sensor array and slipping the pilot glove on.
"Acknowledged." A chorus answered and after a few minutes, each ship's commanding officer appeared. Lafiel relayed the new orders as Jinto sat in his post, a bit bored.
Being a supply officer or logistics officer was usually a rather boring job once the ship had sortie, as once on a cruise there was little for him to do except get parts out of storage or drinks for the rest of the command staff. His job really didn't get busy until they were docked and he had to requisition replacements, supplies, food, fuel, and anything else one could imagine to keep a starship running. Now, as the flight logistics officer, his duties included supplying every one of the ships in the flight, authorizing the requisition forms from the other members of the flight, and making sure his subordinates did their job.
He knew that it was nowhere near as stressful as the job Lafiel did, running the whole flight, piloting a ship, overseeing crew discipline, and every other thing under the stars. He also knew that it would only grow worse if they were promoted again
"It'll be three hours until we arrive at the Sord." Lafiel said quietly.
Jinto nodded and rotated in his seat. "I assume we'll all want some sort of caffeine to insure we're awake then?"
A slight smile played across her face for a moment before she nodded. "That would be excellent Jinto."
He stood to get some drinks from the galley as the ship rumbled through the Sord and started on its journey.
After three hours, the flight of three Caubh-class Assault Ships entered the Korelia System, their antimatter-water drives flaring for a moment as they disengaged the space time bubbles and slowed to a stop.
Aboard the Flicaubh, Vice Hecto-Commander Abriel Lafiel stared at the display before her, a scowl playing across her features. Through the ship's sensors she could see even more thant the display showed the rest of the bridge crew.
Task Force 989 had been reduced to a debris field close enough to the Sord to be a navigational hazard. Amongst the scattered remains of the ships she could see a snapped off pylon from a Lauth-class Patrol ship's EMC cannon battery, the laser turret from a Roil-class Attack Ship, and the shattered remnants of a guard ship that tumbled slowly through space, venting atmosphere and other fluids as it did so.
"Flicaubh to Task Force, please respond." Lafiel asked the static despite knowing that in all probability it would be of little use. Her crew's escape from the Basroil was a rarity, in space a ship loss often meant a total loss of her crew. A single lucky shell could breach antimatter containment and destroy the ship with its own fuel or an inertial dampener failure in the midst of a maneuver could smash every member of the crew into the bulkhead before them at something like the force of twenty Gs.
Lafiel glanced at Jinto as he chewed his lip and glanced at her. "Escape Pods?"
"They might not have functioning radios." Lafiel said with a nod. "Flight, spread out through the wrecks and sweep for escape pods. We'll see if we can find out what did this..."
Front Flyer Baseil glanced up from her displays. "Sensors are working to identify the wreckage... I'm running metallurgical analysis via spectography."
Lafiel nodded to the young officer and smiled faintly. "Have you picked up any EM signals?"
"There was some activity on our arrival, but it quieted." Baseil focused on the display. "Radar lock detected!"
Lafiel bit her lip. "Point defense guns, ready. Identify the source Baseil!"
"Identified! Mine!" She answered immediately.
Lafiel growled, "Gunnery! Engage that mine."
The Flicaubh's thruster array blazed to life as the ship backed away from the wreckage as the mine shot toward it. A blaze of brilliant blue light from the ship's point defense lasers lit up the space around her before destroying the mine with a glancing blow.
Lafiel let out a sigh of relief. "Flight, stay alert... the enemy have seeded the debris field with mines."
"Acknowledged." One of the communications officers on the other ships answered through a crackle of static.
"Commander, the mines wouldn't have needed to make a radio call on our arrival, would they?" Jinto said quietly.
Lafiel's eyes widened. "We're not alone out here." She set her teeth and slowly flew the ship back into the debris field. "Gunnery, stay alert."
Then she saw it, in the same moment that Front Flyer Baseil gasped. Flying just past one of the patrol ship hulks a large grey-green ship appeared from the wreck's shadow. Its engines and systems were dark, its hull scorched by anti-proton fire, and its hull looked pockmarked by craters from glancing blows.
"Sensors, record everything." Lafiel snapped as she slowly rotated the ship toward the new contact. "Tactical analysis?"
"Eight antimatter missile tubes – empty, four laser cannons, one mobile mine launcher, and... four electromagnetic cannons... Total mass: 1,650,000 metric tons. Length: 600 meters." Baseil rattled off, her voice suddenly nervous. "I am picking up damage to their antimatter containment system and main reactor. It appears that they dumped their fuel."
"They have no power, that's why they're not shooting." Lafiel said before she pulsed the thrusters and slowed to a stop before the craft. "Jinto, do any members of the crew have experience with close combat?"
"Beside you and I?" Jinto scowled. "I do not believe so. I'll check the service records."
"Hurry... we have an opportunity here, there's no telling how many enemy personnel are aboard that ship, but command needs information on this new threat." She started to remove her harnesses. "Front Flyer Laseith, you'll have command while we head over. Get the Calike prepped."
"Aye, Vice Hecto-Commander Abriel." The male abh stated as he clambered out of the operations seat and headed for the command chair.
Jinto scowled as he scrolled through the data records. "Crewman Kor Reliesh and Crewman Lauren Keen, report to the shuttle bay with combat and recovery gear. You'll be piloting it yourself?"
Lafiel nodded and headed for the hatch. "Come on Jinto..."
She scrambled toward the armory as Jinto clambered after him, his boots clapping against the deck plating as he hurried after her.
Jinto swallowed as he stepped inside the armory and saw the two crewmen finish suiting up. One of them, a pale woman with mousy brown hair glanced up at the two of them as they entered. She stiffened and saluted as the other pulled a laser rifle from one of the lockers.
Lafiel nodded to the woman before walking to the ordnance locker and pulled a pair of pistols from its innards. With practiced ease, she spun it in her hand after checking the power cell and handed it to him. As he took the gun, he swallowed and stepped toward the space suits.
"We'll be going aboard a disabled enemy vessel. I expect each of you to fight with spirit if called upon." Lafiel stated as she pulled a space suit from one of the cabinets and began to check it.
"We're boarding them?" Kor Reliesh, the male crewman, asked. "But… why, err… Ma'am?"
"The disabled ship is a new class of vessel, this represents an opportunity to get intelligence on their ship, its capabilities, and forward the information to command." Lafiel said.
"Oh." He said quietly.
Keen's eyes widened and she glanced at the two officers for a moment. "It's a destroyer?"
"We believe so or at least what the rumors have taken to calling a destroyer." Jinto said as he pulled out a space suit and began to put it on. "Hopefully any survivors aboard would prefer surrendering and waiting out the war then trying to resist us…"
"I would not put too much hope in that. The United Mankind has proven to fight fanatically and occasionally rather stupidly." Lafiel said.
"I was just being hopeful." He said before running the space suit through a series of checks. "We'll be in for a hard fight if they decide to resist us."
"True." Abriel finished her preparations, holstered a laser pistol, and shut the locker before her. "Our objective is information gathering... not combat, but you may use any means you feel necessary to insure your survival."
"Yes ma'am." The two crewmen answered as Jinto finished suiting up and sealed the space suit.
"Comm check." Jinto called.
"I hear you, loud and clear." Lafiel said before glancing at the crewmen who had just finished sealing their suits. "Magnetics check."
Jinto tapped the control at his hip and felt the boots grip the floor under his feet he nodded once. "Functional."
The crews reported the same as Lafiel wrapped a bandoleer loaded with small detonators around her waist and pulled it tight. Then she nodded to the others. "Let us go."
Jinto followed her to the hangar bay and shuttle, quickly boarding it along with the two enlisted sailors. They sat in the back with the laser rifles at the ready. On a private channel, he heard Lafiel grumble about the manual controls since the suit prevented use of her piloting glove and crown. A few moments later the shuttle detached and slid out into the debris fill vacuum. The dark hulk of the United Mankind Destroyer floated before them, and as they closed, he could make out some writing along the side of its front hull. He recognized it as Rikpal, and saw Lafiel wince as her eyes flickered over the hull.
"It says: Death to the Machines." She said quietly before focusing more on the details of the hull. "I see a hatch."
"Jinto... stick close." Lafiel said quietly.
"I will." He glanced at the crew and made sure his suit was still on a private channel. Then he squeezed her shoulder. "I trust your genes more than my own."
"Stupid Lander genes," She joked quietly before bracing in her seat. "Hard contact in ten seconds."
The ship hit with a thump before a coffer damn extended from the shuttle's underside.
"Contact," Lafiel grumbled. "Stupid manual controls."
"Securing the hatch." Keen called out as the ventral boarding hatch hissed open to reveal the Destroyer's hatch below. She clambered down onto the hull and pulled open a manual panel to reveal a long handle and locking mechanism.
"Get ready." Lafiel said as she pointed her pistol toward the hatch. "Wait for my signal."
Jinto pointed his own pistol toward the hatch as Kor focused his laser rifle down at the hatch.
A burst of air rushed from the hatch as it opened and Jinto peered down at the dark interior. His heart hammered in his chest. Red emergency lighting lit up the ladder down from the hatch and he swallowed.
"Okay, into the dragon's lair." He muttered as Lafiel tapped the side of her pistol and a light activated. He followed her down the ladder into the bowls of the metal beast.