The Siege of Starmount

(Originally Published Under The Pen Name John Blackemire)

Teril was a nondescript asteroid in the Jaii Solar system. Barely one hundred miles around its equator, Teril used to be just another rock floating in space. Until the Corbarans came.

The Corbaran fleet terraformed the asteroid, smoothing its surface and plating it with metal. They put bunkers, laser batteries, torpedo launchers, force-fields and docking ports on the surface. They mined the interior for metals. Within months, Teril was the home of the Corbaran military’s newest naval base: Starmount.

Starmount was built like the typical Corbaran military complex. The outpost was spread out over fifty miles on the asteroids dark side, each metal building spaced over three hundred meters apart to protect the base from easy destruction from orbital bombardment by starship. Laser, Torpedo and EMP batteries covered the rest of the asteroid’s surface.

In addition to Starmount’s impressive defensive capabilities, the Corbaran Navy had two of its finest Destroyers docked at all times–one on each side of the rock Two Destroyers in orbit, two battalions of shock troops and a complement of over one-hundred and sixty-seven Valiance star-fighters made up the rest of the asteroid’s defenses.

Thy Faulnker peered his head around the corner of one of Starmount’s box-like structures, paying close attention to the dimly lit metal avenues that ran between the buildings. A squad of black-armored Corbaran soldiers trudged by Faulkner, oblivious to his presence. His hand moved slowly to his 972 Tundrarian heavy laser pistol. The squad continued on its way, never noticing the man.

I gotta be crazy for letting Marisheba talk me into this, Thy thought as he began to creep his way to one of a dozen nearby laser batteries.

He checked his magnetic boots, making sure the power cells in them were charged. He checked his helmet’s oxygen supply and the fittings on his black own composite armor. Finally, he checked his automatic Tundrarian Heavy particle beam assault rifle to make sure the weapon was ready for use. When he took out the base’s force field generator and gravity systems, half the base’s military personnel–all those on the surface–would simply float off the base, the outside air along with it.

For these reason’s, the field bunker was one of the most heavily guarded buildings on Starmount. Thy was going to have to use every ounce of ingenuity to even get close to the bunker.

He watched intently as the squad rounded a corner and again, he checked the road. He sprinted the two hundred yard distance between himself and the communications building. He glanced at his armor’s chronometer. He had an hour and a half to complete his mission.

He held his breath as he placed his digital lock breaker on the door’s security panel. He waited tensely as the lock breaker began to decode the security code for the communications bunker. He smiled slightly as a green display button on the device glowed a gentle green in affirmation. Thy, activated the white noise generator built into his armor, readied his assault rifle, pressed the button on the lock breaker and charged into the bunker.

A sensor on the lock breaker detected him as he passed through the metal doors. The device slammed the doors shut behind him and scrambled the security code.

“What are you doing here?” a comm. officer tried to scream but all sound in the room was canceled out by Thy’s white noise generator.

The comm. officer reached for the panic button but was cut down as Thy began his attack.

Thy drew no satisfaction as his assault rifle sent out its beam of particle energy. The beam sliced quickly into the communication officer, starting a chain reaction within the man’s body. The man cried a silent shriek as the first fistful of his molecules burst. Energy from the particle beam rapidly moved from these into adjacent cells and continued until nothing was left of the man but an organic and molten metal glop on the floor. In less than an instant, the man was vaporized.

Thy turned the beam on the other six personnel in the room, slicing across consoles and through body armor. Within seconds, the room’s defenders shared the same fate as the comm. officer. Thy lowered his rifle and scanned the room for survivors.

Thy then moved to a maintenance hatch in the rear of the room. Communications were wired throughout the entire base; its conduits lead to every important station. Thy crawled into the maintenance hatch, slinging his rifle onto his back.

He was cautious as he made his way down the cramped maze of faintly lit passages under the base, following the map displayed on his helmet’s HUD Quietly by-passing alarms and trip lasers, Thy managed to get into the duct leading into the force field and gravity shield generator maintenance walkway.

He paused before entering the tunnel–he knew it would be patrolled. He braced his back against the corner nearest him and activated his helmet’s periscope.

The tiny instrument exited the side of his helmet in sections, over Thy’s shoulder and finally stopped as its tip rounded the corner.

Thy winced as the display appeared in one corner of his helmet’s visor–Narkils.

Narkils belonged to race of genetically engineered human beings called Sarans. They were robust creatures, standing an average of seven feet tall. They could wear the heaviest body armors and carry the heaviest weapons. They were far stronger and slightly more dexterous than the average human being. Both of the sentries Thy saw on his head’s up display indicated that they were, indeed, wearing the trademark black Narkil heavy infantry armor and carry the trademark Narkil heavy infantry machine rifles, complete with metal backpacks of 30,000 rounds. Their loyalty to the Corbaran Military was more than likely borderline fanatic. But for all their strengths, Narkils had one fatal flaw. They were genetically stupid.

Thy rotated his periscope and found two more Narkils were waiting on the opposite end of the walk way. Thy thought of lobbing a plasma grenade at both pairs, but quickly dismissed the idea. That would block his way to the field and gravity generators.

“Damn,” Thy muttered, his voice shielded by the white noise generator. “And I’m due to retire in two days.” He pressed a button on his belt that activated a communications jammer.

Thy fingered the trigger on his 972 as the periscope retracted. He rolled out into the corridor snapping off a shot as he rolled. The blast struck the first Narkil in the face. The Narkil reeled for a moment as the one beside him raised his rifle.

Thy rolled back into the hall as the bullets from the Narkils’ rifles spun down the hall. Thy put his 972 back in its holster, pulled down his rifle, switched it to fully automatic fire, and backed his way down the hall. As expected, the Narkils followed. Thy blasted the first one full in the chest as the Narkil rounded the corner. Thy’s eyes widened momentarily as the Narkil continue to walk forward; its armor had taken the brunt of the blast, leaving only a burn showing on its chest.

Thy dumped another shot into the Narkil’s chest, where the first shot hit. He then ducked into another corridor as the remaining three Narkils advanced and began to fire.

The first one that came around was the one Thy had shot in the face. Thy winced when he realized his 972, the most powerful one-handed pistol available on the open market, had only scored the Narkil’s face-plate.

Thy ducked behind a sub-processing unit and flinched as sparks from bullet impacts flew around him. Thy was jolted as a few of the bullets passed through the sub-processor and struck his armor. Luckily, the unit took the brunt of the impacts, allowing Thy’s armor to take the weakened shots.

It was a running joke that Corbarans over-engineered everything from computer consoles to holo-projectors. In that quick instant, Thy promised himself he would never joke about it again.

Thy leapt from hiding sending particles beams full force into the Narkil. Thy drilled the Narkil densely until, at last, it fell to the ground. He ducked for cover as the two remaining Narkils burst from concealment around the corner and began to spray bullets down the corridor.

Thy switched his rifle from automatic fire, to compressed fire. He darted out of hiding and blasted the first Narkil he saw. This time, the Narkil fell as three compressed particle beam shots pounded into its body. Thy again ducked for cover, but managed to drop the final Narkil before returning to concealment.

He sighed as the final shots escaped from the Narkil’s rifle and began to continue his walk. He checked his chronometer once more. He only had thirty minutes left to disable the generators and get off Starmount. He shut off his communication jamming equipment and gingerly stepped out into the corridor.

Thy smiled in surprise as he reached the end of the walkway and crawled into a maintenance duct. Within five minutes, Thy had reached his destination–a dead end. He took out his 972 and put it on its lowest setting. He turned it toward the wall in front of him and began to use his pistol as a torch. Soon, Thy was crawling though an air duct toward the field and gravity generators.

Thy gaped in awe as he arrived at the end of the duct and reached a metal grate. Through it, he could see the massive room containing the generators.

Although the bunker for the generators only stood one story off the ground, rendering it indistinguishable from any other building on the planet’s surface; the room for the two generators extended into the ground for about five stories. The actual generators were integrated into one unit, a bulbous, cone shaped shaft that began at the room’s floor and spiraled to a point at the bunker’s ceiling. Thy estimated that the generators’ bases were at least one hundred and fifty meters around.

Thy carefully slung his rifle off his back and placed the bottom of its hand-grip on the floor. He pressed a tiny button on its top and smiled lightly as the unit magnetized itself to the bottom of the duct. Thy checked his chronometer. He had roughly fifteen minutes left.

Thy pressed another button on his assault rifle. The rifle’s handle disjointed from the rifle, revealing that the handle was actually a robotic arm. Thy slid a small cover off the rear of the rifle. He dialed in fifteen and then one to the rifle’s microcomputer and set the targeting computer on the generators. Then he began his trek to one of the pilots’ bunkers.

Within fifteen minutes, the rifle will raise itself on its robotic arm and begin dumping particle blasts throughout the generators. Within another, the rifle itself will detonate.

It took ten minutes for Thy to exit the duct and to get back into the maintenance areas. Thy had planned his mission to the second. It will take him roughly two minutes to make it to the pilot’s bunker, conveniently situated nearby to make it easier to defend the generators. Thy thought it ironic that he was headed into the lair of the generators’ defenders. Thy paused as his HUD indicated the presence of electronic communication nearby. He shut off his white noise generator–it would give him away.

He homed in on the source of the signals. It was coming from a nearby corridor. Thy braced his back against the corner and used his periscope. There was a Corbaran foot patrol made up of six armored soldiers with laser assault rifles at the end of the corridor. Thy needed to get past the corridor to get to the pilot’s bunker but Corbaran soldiers were far more discipline than the Narkils he had fought earlier. Thy didn’t think he could handle six. He readied a plasma grenade.

Thy winced as one of the soldiers stiffened. “We’re on level two alert. There’s been some sort of trouble at the communications bunker,” he explained to the others. “They want us over there as soon as possible.” The soldiers began to move toward Thy.

Thy quietly crept away until his eyes fell upon an access hatch. He quickly opened the hatch and crawled into the dark and tiny tube behind it. He closed the hatch just as the Corbarans rounded the corner.

“Wait a minute,” the same soldier said as he reached the hatch. He tensed as he waited for the hatch to open, for the soldiers to blast him. Thy readied his grenade. If he was going to die, they all were.

“We’ve been put on a level-one alert,” the guard said. “Someone took out the communications bunker.”

Thy exhaled as he heard the guards moving off. He checked his chronometer. He had only a minute left and the pilot’s bunker was in about two minute’s walking distance. He considered switching on his white noise generator, leaping out of the accessway, and lobbing a grenade at the soldiers. He shook the thought away, realizing that even if the white noise generator muffled the sound of the blast, the shock wave would move throughout the base.

He delicately pushed the hatch open and peered out using his periscope. His heart nearly stopped as the soldiers turned down the corridor that lead to where he killed the Narkils. He turned on his white noise generator and leapt out into the corridor. He was running out of time.

Captain Hars Dreffel paced the bridge of the Tundrarian battleship, Solar Sail. The Solar Sail was the only battleship that Dreffel knew of that was still in service in any military. The Solar Sail was recently recommissioned for the assault on Starmount only because of the nearly unrivaled firepower it possessed. It was also the most heavily armored ship in the Tundrarian fleet.

Up until six months before, the Solar Sail was a planetary monument, orbiting Tundria as a space museum, a relic of a bygone era. Battleships just required too much manpower to crew and maintain even for the Corbarans. Dreffel chuckled as he tried to imagine the stunned faces of Corbaran intelligence when the Solar Sail suddenly tunnel-spaced out of Tundria’s orbit.

A spacecraft carrier could command more space with her fighters. The newer classes of Destroyers could easily outflank her, were faster, more maneuverable. But a space installation was not maneuverable at all and would be easy prey for the weaponry aboard Solar Sail.

Dreffel set his wizened gaze onto the view-screen, amazed at how Solar Sail dwarfed the other ships in his task force. The largest Destroyer in his group was the Tundrarian Flagship, Starfire, his normal command.

Starfire was six-thousand one-hundred and seventy-two feet long and one thousand eight-hundred and forty-seven feet wide. She was twice as large as almost any other Destroyer in the Tundrarian Navy. Solar Sail, on the other hand, was four miles in length! Dreffel only knew of one ship that was bigger–the Corbaran Destroyer, Knight’s Vigil.

Dreffel shuddered as he thought of the Knight’s Vigil and her commander, Admiral of the Fleet Taverian. Taverian was feared even more than his flag. The Knight’s Vigil was the mightiest starship the Corbaran Navy ever created, but it was her Admiral that moved the Corbaran Navy. Dreffel knew that he would probably face Taverian at Starmount after the initial assault began. Even though Dreffel knew he had one fifth of Tundraria’s Navy at his command, he knew they would be hard pressed if Taverian was at Starmount.

He turned his attention to his bridge crew, gazing solemnly at each member, wondering grimly if this confrontation would be their last.

“ETA to tunnel-space,” he barked.

“Two minutes,” his tactical officer replied.

“Prepare all torpedo and artillery launchers for point blank engagement,” Dreffel commanded. “Ready all laser and EMP batteries for fire. Order all space carriers to ready for star-fighter deployment.”

He wandered around the expansive bridge, making sure that all the bridge crew were ready for the Starmount assault.

“Damn it Faulkner,” he muttered, “you better be ready when we get there.”

Thy ran through the maintenance dark corridors, artfully dodging patrols when necessary, but no longer was he taking any of his normal precautions. He arrived at the maintenance corridor for pilots’ bunker with only moments to spare.

“Hello Zara,” he said to the corridor’s only guard, a woman dressed in full Corbaran battle armor.

“You’re late,” she hissed. “Quick! Get into these.”

Thy winced as he looked at the Corbaran pilot’s armor and laser rifle she pointed to on the floor.

“What’s this?” he asked. “Why aren’t you in uniform?” Zara was supposed to be in the guise of a Corbaran shuttle pilot.

“We can’t leave by shuttle,” she replied. “You’ll have to steal a star-fighter.”

“What happened?” Thy asked as he changed clothes, removed the chronometer from his old armor, and strapped it to his wrist. He then set his old battle-suit to self-destruct.

“As soon as they found out about the communications bunker, they closed all shuttle bays,” Zara replied.

“Damn!” Thy spat, his eyes riveted to his armor as it melted away into a composite goo. “Does this armor have magnetic boots?”

“They all do,” Zara spat. “Shut up and follow me. I’m expected at my duty station in ten minutes.”

Thy followed Zara to the maintenance ladder and followed her until they reached the hatch leading to the pilot’s bunker. There they waited until Thy was ready to go.

Thy smiled as an immense shudder shook the base and alarms began to sound. Zara opened the door and stepped in. There were only empty bunks in the room; the pilots were already on their way to their fighters.

“Go!” Zara growled, pointing to the door.

“All ships open fire!” Dreffel ordered as the whipsy environs of tunnel-space faded and Starmount appeared on the Solar Sail’s view-screen.

Simultaneously, all of the Tundrarian Destroyers and Cruisers opened up on Starmount. Dreffel frowned as the two orbiting destroyers moved to engage his battle group. As the barrage of torpedoes, warheads, and laser blasts struck the base’s force field, Dreffel’s frown grew. Even the powerful weaponry of the Solar Sail was making little headway. The surface quickly returned fire and began to inflict damage on the Tundrarian task force.

“Prepare to abort,” he ordered.

The generator room was thrown into to chaos as the first alarms sounded. Technicians and soldiers hurried about, frantically moving to man their battle stations. Seconds later the chaos ended as Thy’s particle beam assault rifle activated and began streaming compressed particle beam fire randomly into the generator.

Thy stopped running, letting the Corbaran pilots outdistance him as he looked at his chronometer. He smiled as he switched on his pilot armor’s electro-magnetic boots and put them on their strongest setting. He then turned on the suit’s internal oxygen supply.

The base was shaken by another explosion, this time on the surface. Thy faced east as the force-field and gravity generators went up in a fiery pillar.

Thy watched in awe as the star-fighter pilots were sucked off the ground and began to drift away into space, along with Starmount’s outer atmosphere. The pilots frantically tried to activate their magnetic boots, but it was too late.

“Damn!” Thy shouted as even the Star-fighters began to drift away. Unlike the deck of a space-craft carrier, the surface of Starmount wasn’t magnetized–the fighters had nothing to hold onto.

Thy ran as fast as his magnetic boots would allow, switched them off and leapt for the nearest star-fighter. He winced as his fingers grazed a landing strut, and he too was beginning to hurtle into space. In desperation, he pulled the rifle Zara gaze him off his back and swung the strap over the strut. It caught, allowing Faulkner to pull himself up. He grasped the strut tightly, activated his magnetic boots and placed them on the ship’s hull. He then began to crawl over the ship’s hull, making his way to the cockpit.

“Resume fire!” Dreffel roared in delight as the field and gravity generators went up. “All ships resume fire!”

Dreffel watched intently as the firepower of the Solar Sail bored into the Corbaran asteroid. Bunkers, weapon batteries, metal plates and the rocks under them were ripped from the surface in fiery flashes. Although the asteroid had more weapon emplacements than the battle group, the battle group still had their force field generators and were dishing out a lot more damage than they were taking.

“Order six Cruisers to intercept the Corbaran Destroyers,” Dreffel ordered. “Launch all star-fighters and torpedo bombers.”

Thy crawled into the Valiance’s cockpit with little difficulty and climbed into the seat. He skipped the pre-flight and charged the engines. He checked his radar and noticed that some of the other fighter pilots had managed to make it to their fighters. Thy turned on the fighter’s radio and made careful note of the frequency. He listened momentarily to the frantic battle chatter before switching to the Tundrarian frequency.

“This is Colonel Thy Faulkner. I’m aboard a Valiance fighter-craft. Requesting instructions.”

Thy waited but was momentarily answered.

“Thy, this is Captain Hars Dreffel,” the static filled radio spat. “Turn on your running lights and head for the Silent Wind. You’re cleared for landing.”

“Got it,” Thy replied. “Oh, Captain. Turn a receiver to 8 dot 75 dot 6. You’ll like what you find.”

Thy cut his transmission and turned for the spacecraft carrier, Silent Wind. He chuckled as he turned on his running lights and veered for a pilot trying desperately to climb into his cockpit. He depressed the firing mechanism on his flight-stick watched as the Valiance’s auto-cannons blew the other star-fighter apart into a shower of sparks. Without power, the enemy fighter’s shields were down.

He banked the fighter hard as a warning alarm began to blared. He jolted as he was thrown against the cockpit. “Damn,” he muttered as he reached for the switch for gravity suppression. Thy promised himself he would never skip another pre-flight.

He dove, bringing the fighter low against Starmount’s surface. He switched to turbo lasers and raked nearby artillery emplacements, all the while trying to avoid the guns of the Tundrarian fleet and the pursuing fighter.

“Captain,” he shouted into the radio, “I got a tail. Can you have a gunner clear the guy off my back?”

Thy yanked his stick back, bringing the Valiance into a climb. He recoiled as a laser blast struck the shields of his canopy and dissipated.

“Thy,” the radio spat. “This is Tara Yurielle of the Silent Wind. Bring your fighter to 0, 8, 7. We’ll give him a welcome he’ll never forget.”

Thy glanced back, finding his pursuer lining up for another shot. The missile warning system began to sound as the enemy fighter pilot attempted a lock.

“Jat!” Thy screamed as a group of six Tundrarian Space Trooper Torpedo Bombers swept into view ahead of him and began to launch their payloads and then pull away.

Thy swerved as the torpedoes hammered past him and his pursuer and into the ground below. His fighter was blasted aside as the Torpedoes detonated on the surface below. Thy’s pursuer was vaporized as the fiery cloud of plasma erupted, spiraled up and engulfed the helpless Valiance.

“Thanks,” Thy stammered into the radio.

“No problem,” Tara replied. “We were going to blast that bunker anyway.”

His nerves shaken by the blast, Thy veered his fighter away from Starmount and turned for the Silent Wind. Within minutes, Dreffel’s task force had reduced the base on Starmount to rubble. Within a few more, they were safely speeding away in tunnel-space. Fortunately for Dreffel, Taverian and his ships were nowhere to be found.