She watched as the flames flickered like dancing faeries across the city. Fire control teams were slowly bringing them in line. A somewhat literal metaphor of the progress of her own fight to wrest order from the chaos that had recently erupted. Why couldn't they understand that everything she did was for their benefit? She was here to protect them from a cruel universe. And she would shield them from it whether they wanted her to or not.
Commander Walsh was a busy man. He'd been a busy man before when he was the first officer of The Macedonian, but he was much more active now. Becoming Governor Pro Tempore of a newly reclaimed colony on the verge of collapse will do that to a man.
He closed a report on the improvements to the hydroponics that were occurring across the Agricultural Domes. Thankfully Admiral Fletcher had been able to meet those needs easily enough. He'd also been able to leave him a single mobile shipyard, named The Svarog, in orbit along with his previous command. The Macedonian, a light frigate that, while powerful, could hardly defend the system on its own. It was there to make sure the shipyard could safely escape the system if need be. Regardless its presence was comforting.
Another report came up on the screen as Commander Walsh continued his work. The Svarog was making good progress on the refinement of the ores that were being sent and was well on its way to creating a manufacturing dome. It would take care of two problems with a single swing. While there was still room in most of the domes, it had begun to become somewhat crowded, and some of the old environmental systems were feeling the strain of not only age, but too many people. A new dome with a residential sector would take some of the strain off of those domes. And this dome, in particular, would have refineries and factories that would increase the planet's manufacturing capacity by a factor of ten.
What little manufacturing capacity the planet did have was essentially small repair shops and what they could cobble together from that baseline. There were people who had legitimately brought back hammer and anvil style smithing in order to make sure at least some basic metal components could be made. That likely wouldn't end immediately, and if anything, Commander Walsh was sure it would remain as part of the planet's culture. Already he had someone drafting propaganda campaigns about the strength of the planet's people. He was still waiting to hear back from Avalon about not only any supplies they could send him but also about the name he had submitted for the planet, as was his right as Governor.
His musings were interrupted by a knock at his door. He frowned and put away the report on his screen for later. "Enter," he declared. He sincerely hoped it wasn't any more bad news. He was still having nightmares about the sewage incident in Dome South-2b last week.
The door opened, revealing his secretary. She was a civilian and had been the last Governor's secretary. She'd been completely innocent and moreover unaware of the previous Government's crimes. And upon learning of them, she had swiftly come to the side of the new temporary Government. She had already proved instrumental in keeping the current bureaucracy from falling apart. Whatever she had for him would likely be too important or complicated for her.
She entered the room without further prompting, not bothering to look around at the largely bare room as she entered. The room was far less appointed than it had previously been. One of Walsh's first acts of Governor was to have his new office cleaned of unnecessary trappings. As she approached, Commander Walsh noted the distress lurking underneath the stony mask of the woman's face.
"What do you have for me Anna?" he asked. He already knew it wouldn't be good. He also knew she wouldn't bother to answer the question. She already talked to too many people during the day, and he'd made it clear he'd rather read reports directly. So he was not surprised when her only response was to pair her tablet with his console and send a folder his way.
He dismissed her with a wave of his hand, and she bowed before exiting his office, leaving him alone with whatever news she had brought. He was right in assuming it was bad news. The Macedonian had deployed satellites at the far edges of the system to act as an early warning just in case. They were far from the fighting, and there was no evidence to suggest that the slugs had knowledge of humanities colonies out this way. So the chances of picking up anything not friendly was beyond unlikely.
That being said, the dark matter ripples that had recently been detected indicated ships traveling through subspace towards the colony. Specifically, those ripples had been detected as coming from a direction of space known to be firmly occupied by the slugs. Ripples had also been detected coming from Avalon held space, but there was no guarantee of who would arrive first.
The Svarog had already begun maneuvering towards one of the planets further out in the system. It would hide in the 'shadow' of the planet to avoid detection. They had a rough idea of where the enemy fleet would come from, so it was relatively easy to know where to position the ship to hide it. By contrast, The Macedonian would be positioning itself in a spot that was closer to where the enemy fleet would come out from. But also hidden from view so that it could hopefully take out at least one ship with torpedos before they knew what hit them.
Unfortunately, there was little he could do on his end. Informing the populace in advance would do nothing but incite panic. He prepared a memo to be sent to his subordinates so that they could begin preparations. The repair of the emergency shelters that had been neglected the past few decades was going well but would need to be sped along. They might need them if things went wrong. Luckily the defense screens that the domes all had and on this planet required were in good order. If for no other reason than they were somewhat required when molten rock was known to rain down on a semi-frequent basis. They would still need to be checked over again just in case.
Tasks were assigned, and instructions were given. The memo was sent out, and he knew his people would see it done without letting the populace know until he gave the word. It wouldn't be enough if the Slugs had fielded anything more than a standard scout squadron to check out this system. He could only hope that reinforcements would be arriving in time.
***Specialist Rahul Bava was in more trouble than he'd ever been in his entire life. Which was saying something since he tended to find himself in trouble quite often. If he were counting the amount of times he'd found himself in too deep per the dozen, he would still run out of fingers to count them on. But not one of those times could compare to this. Nothing could compare to being alone on a Slug ship in the middle of subspace flight going gods know where.
Though, to be fair, being alone could be considered an advantage if one was being optimistic. At that moment in time, Rahul was choosing to be optimistic. After all, one person is harder to find than a whole squad, he thought to himself as he stealthily patched his Electronic Warfare Deck (EWD) into the ship's systems.
As the EWD did its work, he thought about the sequence of events that had led him to this point. They had been in a space battle near a gas giant. The system had previously held a human colony that was currently being sieged by human ground forces. Their battlegroup had been detached to deal with the incoming Slugs, which should have been relatively routine, except that the Slugs had veered to an escape trajectory about halfway into their approach towards the planet.
The battlegroup had nearly gotten into range to start getting accurate firing solutions for torpedos. Apparently, the Admiral in charge of their little battlegroup didn't want to let them go and had presumably obtained permission to chase. Part of not letting them get away had been to launch boarding torpedos. Which were really just drop pods, but with a different name because, SPACE.
Rahul had been on one of those torpedos and had gone unconscious on impact with the enemy vessel. When he awoke, he found himself to be the only one still alive. The inertial dampeners must have failed, leading to a much harder impact than anticipated. Hopefully, some of the other squads had survived, and he could link up with one of them.
The EWD pinged his implant, informing him it had completed infiltration of the Slugs computation systems. They weren't really computers in the traditional sense, more like purpose-grown brains. Which also meant they couldn't be modified easily, making security patches nearly nonexistent. And when they did implement one, it was usually broken within a day or two. The Slugs were extremely bad at Electronic Warfare. They made up for it by having a seemingly endless amount of bodies and ships to throw at Humanity.
Rahul began browsing through the ship's systems. He pulled up the navigational data and compared it with his own star charts. They were apparently headed towards a system that had been marked for reclamation by The Avalon Fleet. Whether it had been by now or not wasn't in the data that he had on board. It wouldn't be surprising if it had been claimed by now, and the update just hadn't propagated through the communication network yet. Faster than light communication was extremely difficult and energy-intensive. It had turned out to be much more efficient to just send glorified hard drives through subspace for anything that wasn't of complete and immediate concern.
As Rahul was browsing through the security section, his EWD flagged some files for his review to try and save. He pulled up the translation rough as it was and began reading. Apparently, the Slugs had managed to successfully infiltrate a handful of officers. Unfortunately, they hadn't been stupid enough to list names which would have been nice. They did, however, leave the report from one just lying around for him to read. It had apparently been the reason they'd broken off instead of engaging. They'd received new orders to cull the planet in that system, of humans before it could be fully integrated.
Rahul wondered what was so important about that particular colony that they'd be in such a rush as to use FTL communication to mark it for destruction. As far as they could tell, the Slugs had just as hard a time with FTL communication as Humanity did. He shrugged to himself and saved the files to his implant. Intelligence would find something to do with the files, he was sure. A whole lot of not his immediate problem, he thought as he returned to scanning security footage.
After a few minutes of his own manual scanning aided by his EWD marking relevant sections, he confirmed what he had feared. He was completely alone on the ship. Three torpedos had hit the ship, and the other two had seemingly worked fine as the squads from both of them had begun tearing their way through the ship's internal defenses.
They hadn't lasted very long, though. Only two squads versus the defense system of one of the Slugs Heavy Carriers. Especially this one, as it had been primarily loaded out with dropships and the ground forces to crew them. Rahul sighed, allowing himself a moment of self-pity, as he leaned back against the wall of the tiny closet he'd managed to tuck himself into.
He shook his head in an attempt to clear it of the negative thoughts. At least he had woken up while they had been still fighting. The ship's security systems being distracted with the other teams had allowed him to sneak into a good hiding spot without being noticed.
After reflecting on his dire situation, and the even worse situation that was coming for that recently reclaimed colony, he knew what he had to do. Rahul interfaced with his deck via his cybernetic implant and began to go to work. If everyone else was dead, that just meant he'd have to pick up the slack. And when it came to making trouble, well, he was a Specialist after all. He grinned to himself at his own joke as he went to work, diving deep into the ship's systems.