Planet Fall

Image by ImaArtist from Pixabay

The red strobe of the proximity alarm woke Station Commander Nyrl with a start. He fumbled out of his bunk and pulled on his jumpsuit within seconds and stormed out of his quarters towards the command centre of the planetary ring. It was a sleek white band around the tiny blue lit world that their species colonised centuries ago. The system had not been directly threatened since then, not until today.

“Report?” Nyrl was speaking before the pressure doors fully opened, shoving his way into the command centre through the widening gap.

One tech turned and saluted before he was scolded by Lispeth—Nyrl’s second in command, “Nyrl doesn’t give a damn about protocol if it wastes time,” she said before turning to Nyrl. “Sir, a detachment of space trolls broke past Hydma’s fleet, we have two dozen contacts approaching the ring as we speak.”

Nyrl surveyed the situation through the view screen that spanned the whole deck. “I doubt it’s a detachment, Lispeth, just whatever vessels of their hoard happened to break through unscathed.” Nyrl scratched the stubble on his chin, “Range?”

“Point three AU’s and closing, they’ll be in range of our cannons in two minutes.”

“Deploy fighters, I want us attacking these craft from every angle, they got through Hydma’s fleet by sheer luck, we’re going to deny them any opportunity to slip through.”

“Sir, it wasn’t luck.”

“Then how?”

“Since they started raiding the system they’ve salvaged the wreckage from every battle. They’ve welded every scrap of debris they can find to their hulls. Nothing we have can penetrate the sheer density they’ve created. And their vessels are a pointed cylindrical design, they just rammed through Hydma’s fleet. They forwent long ranged engagement, weathered our fire as they closed in and used their own ships to penetrate Hydma’s hulls in order to board them. They’re winning the battle through close quarter’s combat, not fleet tactics.”

“Our ion shields would have repelled them. With such a patchwork hull they can’t ground themselves from ionisation… the EM fields should have them ricocheting out of the system.”

“No sir, they taped magnets to their bows. The magnets dissipate the shield around their vessel, letting their bow penetrate the hull. Then the shield acts on their stern to slow them down so their warriors can offload… it’s almost brilliant, given how stupid it is.”

Nyrl’s eyes narrowed on the staggered formation of conical ships roaring towards them through the void. “They ‘taped’ magnets? We spent trillions of chits developing those shields and they’re being subverted by big-fuck-off magnets?”

“I’m afraid so, sir.”

Nyrl bit his lip, the stars behind the approaching vessels were peppered with miniature explosions from the battle raging further back in the system—from Hydma’s failing fleet.

“Sir, they’re accelerating to ramming speed. If they get boots on our decks, the orbital ring will fall,” Lispeth said.

“Sir, our fighters are in flanking positions and seeking permission to engage,” A comms. tech said.

“Sir, cannons are primed, awaiting orders to fire,” the weapons tech said.

“Sir?” Lispeth said, “What are your orders?”

Nyrl grit his teeth, if these morons were going to subvert their defences, then he wouldn’t give them that opportunity. “Call off our fighters, hold fire with those cannons and power down our ion shield.”

“Sir?”

“Just do it!”

The command centre buzzed with activity as Nyrl’s orders were relayed.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Commander,” Lispeth said quietly.

“Me too,” Nyrl wiped sweat from his brow. “Without our ion shields to decelerate them from the stern . . . they should pass right through us without enough time to adjust for re-entry. They’ll burn.” The crude, pointed, cylindrical ships of the space trolls grew larger in the view screen, highlighted red by the smart display. Each vessel was a grotesque amalgamation of bastardised wreckage and poor planning . . . yet they were here at the last line of defence for the world. “BRACE FOR IMPACT!” Nyrl ordered, and the ring rocked as the vessels penetrated the station and drove straight through the other side. “Isolate those decks! Seal all breached compartments! Get me an image of the trolls’ vessels!”

An image of the two dozen vessels spiralling out of formation flickered into life on the viewing screen as they hit the planet’s atmosphere, the heat from their sudden slowing burning around them like a shell of fire.

Nyrl smiled, “Too fast, they expected to be stopped by the ring’s ion shield acting on their sterns, but we used that against them, now they’ll fry without correct entry alignments and deceleration protocols.”

“Sir…” Lispeth groaned, “Their hulls are so dense they’re acting as a heat shield, they’ll survive re-entry and now their free to land on our planet…”

“Well . . .” Nyrl furrowed his brow when the ships did not break apart, but stabilised. They became trails of fire as they arched towards the surface, met by panicked—and useless—orbital flak fire from the ground, “Shit.”

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