The Pyre rounds were the only reason the Jinar continued to exist at all, burning wreck that she was. The plasma fire unleashed by the exploding shells blinded most sensors, and could overload or fry sensors sometimes. At any rate, the unfolding waves of plasma fire had severely depleted the damage enemy’s shields. For some reason, there had been no further missile salvos from the second cruiser, which remained in formation with the forward cruiser. All three ships had gained some distance on the colony, and the Jinar only needed to continue existing for another few minutes to achieve its mission of saving the colony. Prallan, obviously, desired the ship to survive until it was relieved, but that wasn’t how the admiral of the fleet would think. Saving his ship why allowing the colony to be damaged would not be looked on kindly.
The forward cruiser unleashed a volley that missed wide. They didn’t have a chance of hitting while the Pyre rounds still burned across their shields. A return shot by the Jinar shredded the cruiser’s engines. Not an injury that would make them quit their attack, but a significant turn of events. The unmaneuverable cruiser would become even more unwieldy missing one of its two engines. The gunner’s duel continued, the Jinar landing several more shots, and the enemy cruiser missing wide. The last of the plasma fire cleared, and the enemy cruiser was looking in bad shape. Large sections of its armor were peeled away, along with some of the weaponry and sensor pylons. Battle damage hadn’t significantly reduced its ability to fight, as another salvo hit the Jinar squarely, causing the power to flicker off for a chilling two seconds.
“Sir, the Medical Bay has depressurized, along with the bottom half of the ship….deck 5 and down. We’ve lost engineering, all lower guns, ammunition locker C and D…”
“That’s enough, Technician. Engines are still operating, and we still have the main turret, so we keep fighting.” Prallan made a sharp maneuver, turning the Jinar’s bow towards the enemy, narrowing their profile. With most of the lower guns no longer firing, there was no need to keep a broad firing arc. With the narrow approach it would be harder for the enemy to hit her, but her main guns could still target forward. If she had had any shields left, they could focus them forward and help weather the assault. The maneuver was rewarded with a volley from the enemy missing wide, passing through empty space where they would have been.
“That maneuver shook loose some thruster couplings, sir. Port thrusters are down.”
Prallan’s mind didn’t even register the reports anymore. The ship was sluggish in rolls to starboard, but rolls to port were normal. The engines were starting to lose power, a sign that something was wrong in engineering, but with two minutes until help arrived, and no atmosphere in the engineering bay, let alone the corridors leading to it, it wouldn’t matter. The range between the three ships closed quickly. The forward enemy cruiser was no longer firing broadsides, but individual guns were firing as they could. Most missed, but a few were hitting the ship’s battered bow hard. After one hit, the gunners started yelling frantically, and the main battery stopped. The barrel of one of the guns was damaged, and had fouled its sister. Now only a handful of popguns along the top two decks of the ship were firing. Guns meant to handle fighters would not do much to the rapidly closing cruisers.
Reluctantly, Prallan vectored off his attack, setting a course for the jump point that a friendly fleet should be arriving in any moment. If the cruisers took the bait, he could get them in close enough for the fleet to destroy or capture. The clock on his console counted down the last minute, as several shots impacted the hull around the engines. One luck shot would end this battle. The second cruiser had peeled off and headed for the colony, but it wouldn’t be in range to do any damage for several minutes, long enough for the fleet to arrive and scare it off. The Jinar shuddered, as warning lights lit up his screen. The main coolant lines were perforated, and the engines were overheating now. He ran them as hard as possible, shunting all available power into the engines. The warning lights increased on his screen, and an alarm sounded. The engine shut down, whatever was left of it would be an unrecognizable heap of metal. The Jinar drifted through space, barely under control by damaged thrusters.
The cruiser fired, and they braced for the inevitable impact of the shots. The Jinar shuddered, and began spinning from the force of the impact. As the cruiser lined up the killing blow, dozens of ships jumped through the nearby jump point. Two Imperial Defense Cruisers opened fire on the cruiser immediately, explosive shots tearing through the hull. Those captains had been reckless, as it was incredibly dangerous to jump with loaded guns. Several frigates and a battleship arrived next, the frigate flying towards the colony to head off the other cruiser. As more and more ships of the Core Defense Fleet jumped into the system, the battle was surely won. Only then did Prallan realize how tightly he had been holding on to the console. His hands and arms were cramped.
“Report.” He said to the two technicians, even though he could see the sorry state of the ship for himself.
“Deck 2 is the only deck with atmosphere. Some isolated cabins and compartments may have breathable air, but no idea for how long. I have communication with ten crewmen, not including ourselves, in various sections of the ship. Medical Bay, Engineering, Bridge, Launch Bay, are all depressurized at best, and gone at worst. Casualty estimate is one hundred twenty two.”
“Send a message to the flagship. Request immediate aid to rescue trapped crewmen.” He looked over to the medic. “How are those three?”
“These two are badly burned, the sooner we can get them to a proper medical facility the better.” He said, nodding to the two burn victims. “She will be alright, as soon as she gets a transfusion. She lost a lot of blood and will be light-headed, but I patched her up. A surgeon will need to look at the lacerations to ensure they heal properly, but ten minutes with a Regeneration Beam and she will heal up properly. Should be on her feet again in a day or so at the most.”
Prallan felt relieved. At least he managed to save a handful of his crew. It had been a hopeless battle from the beginning, but they had survived. Even now, tugs bearing repair crews from the battleship were coming aboard to restore atmosphere, seal off any breaches, and get main power back running. The Jinar was probably a loss, destined for the scrapheap, but such measures were necessary to rescue stranded crew. A message came through the console from the flagship, it read simply “Captain of IDF Jinar, report to Admiral Wintan immediately onboard IBS Flare.” Prallan looked down at his shabby uniform, tattered from crawling under the consoles, stained with blood, sweat, and grease. Then he realized his quarters were probably still isolated by depressurized hallway, if they still existed at all. The admiral would just have to come to terms with being reported to by a shabby Ensign.
“Jinar to Flare, will come aboard immediately.”