Orbit of Inos Thirteen
Lt Colonel Senth sat strapped into his seat watching the countdown display on the screen in front of him. It was nearly time. He glanced around the dropships cabin. It had been stripped down to decrease its weight and balance the additional armor the ship had been given. The assembled troopers sat silently like himself, either trying to remain calm or considering the mission ahead. Past them in the corner the Overlord sat with several clan members likewise strapped in. For safety the members of the Summit were in different ships, so that if anything went wrong with the hazardous landing some of the leadership would survive. That alone highlighted the danger of this mission.
He glanced again at the display. He was hoping they had got this right. From the study of the gravitational forces the weakest point in the cycle had been calculated when they had the best chance. If they were wrong it was highly unlikely anyone would survive the landing. It would be a colossal failure for the Clan’s intelligence and scientific community. On the bright side no one who mattered would be around to care.
In the cockpit Cerys Dagen sat in her chair, her left hand pressed against the pad that was relaying signals to her regarding the ship’s systems. She was apprehensive. She had volunteered for this mission after eight months of trying to get back on the flight roster, when the old prejudice against a Miraluka pilot had reemerged. For a year before that she had been on secondment to the unpredictable Battlelord before he had joined the Shar Dakhan Summit. She had enjoyed it, partly because it took her to interesting places doing interesting things, and partly because it got her away from the fleet bureaucracy. Sadly following his downgrading to a one person ship her secondment had ended. Now apparently the Battlelord was dead. She had her doubts but she had to accept the official line.
“Perdition C&C to all dropships. The window is now, repeat the window is now. You are cleared to launch. Best of luck.”
Captain Dagen went through the launch sequence rapidly. She had spent the last forty eight hours familiarising herself with the controls and she knew them by heart. She felt the ship humm under her as it’s powerful engines came on line and lifted off the flight deck. She waited while the other three modified craft powered out of the hangar in front of her, each to her a glass box with the crews huddled inside. Then it was her turn and she pushed the dropship forward, compensating for the increased weight and slight imbalance of the reinforced armor. The ship passed through the doors and into space, and ahead she could sense the moon of Inos Thirteen, their target. She could hear the other dropship pilots reporting in. “This is Delta Four. We are clear of you, Perdition. All systems report normally.”
“Acknowledged Deltas.” Behind her as she followed the other ships she felt the immense engines of the Imperial Class II destroyer turning, and then powering away from the moon, it’s escorts following. They were being left alone. It was not ideal, but the risk of the Clan flagship being overrun by the Sigmas or being dragged to a fiery destruction on the moon’s surface was too high. Several smaller ships were monitoring from a distance.
The four ships formed into a line and moved forward. Cerys was concentrating on the view ahead of the moon, the gravitational forces visible to her as whirling energies and the constant stream of data through her pad updating her. She could sense the forces growing as they drew closer. This might be the weakest point in the cycle, but that was relative. The ship was beginning to accelerate slightly, as the forces slowly began to pull on them, and she adjusted the engines to compensate. She took a deep breath. “This is the captain to all passengers. We are about to descend towards the target. I am deactivating life support in t-minus thirty seconds. Ensure you are strapped in securely and your helmets and vacuum seals are in place.” She resisted the urge to throw in a comment about tray tables and devices.
She waited and then clicked the switches transferring the available power to the engines and shields, and the lights dimmed, having no effect on her sight. She gripped the controls as a warning beeped in the cockpit, notifying her and the other pilots that they were entering the atmosphere. Immediately the dropship began to rock and it’s acceleration increased. Her fingers continued to move over the controls as she struggled to keep the ship’s descent as smooth as possible as it was dragged about. She looked to her left. “Delta Three you are deviating from course. Adjust your trajectory.”
The drop ship was still accelerating and Cerys focused on the target location as around her she could sense the powerful forces buffeting the ships that suddenly felt tiny. She could also sense a powerful energy ahead, emanating from the fissure that was the nexus of the energy. It was pulling at them and she was forcing the ship away, as the other three did likewise. The ground was growing larger and as the vessel rocked back and forth she focused on the location, sweat beginning to form on her brow. If the intelligence was correct they ought to pass out of the disturbance once they were near the ground. If not the journey would have an abrupt end.
Then she felt it weaken, and she fired the retro rockets, attempting to slow the ship’s descent to a manageable level. Ahead she saw Delta Two pull clear as the pilot was a second too late and hit the ground, bouncing along the surface with mini explosions emitting from around the hull. Then she dragged back on the controls levelling the ship as much as possible as the engines screamed. She braced herself and then the ship rocked as it hit the moon’s surface, carving a groove as it fought to slow down and its systems recorded failures as alarms sounded around her and lights flashed. After a few seconds the craft finally slowed to a halt and smoke began to fill the cabin. Quickly she pressed the button to release the cabin doors and then sat back in her chair, exhausted.
Colonel Senth joined the troopers, filing quickly out of the smoky interior, as they began to form up on the moon’s surface. He gave orders for them to move out and secure the perimeter of the landing site, as the Clan Overlord led the members who had accompanied him. He was shaken. He had been in a lot of landings over the years but nothing like that. He looked around at the three other dropships where similar evacuations were taking place, and noticed fires emerging from the cabin of one of the drop ships as the passengers and crew scampered out quickly and broke into a run. Then he shielded his eyes as the ship exploded, the troopers and Clan members hitting the ground as they were thrown forward. His eyes narrowed in concern as he recognised the figure of the Clan Pro Consul amongst them, a familiar sight in his decorated armor sprawled on the surface. Then he breathed a sigh of relief as the Battlelord got to his feet and walked forward towards the centre of the ships where the Overlord stood on a rock surveying the scene.
Bentre looked down as DarkHawk approached. “Everything okay?”
DarkHawk nodded. “We got out just in time,” he replied, “though several troopers and the pilot did not survive the crash. We have suffered our first casualties.”
The Consul nodded and then looked around proudly as his fellow members and the troopers formed up and readied themselves. “Under the circumstances we are fortunate to have got so many down safely,” he replied. He waited until he had their attention and then prepared to address them.