The Shang are truly determined enemies when it comes down to it. They are insanely rational, and I use that phrase with malice afore thought. For all their human appearances, they are alien in their ways of thought. They are merciless and calculating, willing to perform the most horrible acts in the understanding that it is done for the greater good. As they see it. That is why we stand against them. Because the only thing more devastating than fighting them would be losing to them, and they would be as merciless in victory as they have been in war.
Malcolm McDonnell’s Blackhawk starfighter screamed through space on four blue fusion flames towards Wolfenheim’s seven hundred meter bulk. He nodded towards Dawn as she maneuvered their starfighter through the outer ring of fighters protecting the colonization ship and her ten thousand sleeping colonists.
“Get me Yarl Torson, please.”
Dawn nodded and gave him an impish smile. “By your command.”
Erik appeared on one of his displays in a few moments with a nod. “We meet again.”
Malcolm aimed a rueful smile at the Aesiran. “Yes, it would appear our subordinates conspired to make certain we stuck together.”
“It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?” Erik said with a chuckle. “I think I’m going to have to remind them who’s in charge around here.”
Malcolm echoed the Aesiran’s chuckle before answering him. “I know exactly who’s in charge on my warships.”
Erik snorted. “The professionals, right?”
“Exactly,” Malcolm said with shrug. “Though it does us bureaucrats a disservice if we let them lord it over us too much.”
“Agreed.” Erik cleared his throat and leaned back in his chair. “So how do you suggest we make the lesson stick this time?”
Malcolm paused to give Dawn’s holoform a long look.
She just leaned against the back of the console and waved for him to continue, seemingly confident in his ability to come to the correct decision.
“Oh, I think some commendations for forward thinking and risk analyses may be in order,” Malcolm finally said as he turned back to Erik’s holoform.
Erik laughed again. “You do know how to deal with professionals! It is good to work with a man who recognizes the lay of the land.”
Malcolm glanced at his sensor display. “Speaking of the lay of the land, I’m seeing a lot of Shang ships out there.”
“Yes.” Erik rubbed his jaw and looked away from Malcolm for a moment. “This is what happens when Shang battle fleets come to play.”
Malcolm frowned. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“You’ve never been out here before,” Erik said with a shrug. “The Shang may think you will be dangerous in the future, but the Arnam and Peloran weigh on their minds far more than you do.”
“Right.” Malcolm cleared his throat at the obvious dismissal in Erik’s tone. “They hit us awful hard considering their lack of concern.”
“Oh, they are concerned about you,” Erik said with a smile. “They believe you will destabilize the delicate peace that has reigned for over two thousand of your years.”
“So they start a war to protect the peace?” Malcolm said in a derisive tone.
“The irony is strong, is it not?” Erik shook his head. “And yet their logic is sound from a certain point of view.”
“You sound like you agree with them.”
“I do not.” Erik turned a grim look to Malcolm. “Their policy of general planetary bombardments will not break your will as they believe. They may defeat you, but you will neither forgive nor forget, and the chaos, death, and hatred that comes from that will divide us further when this is all over.”
Malcolm frowned and nodded as that brought another question to mind. “Then what do you intend to do?”
“What I must to protect my people,” Yarl Erik Torson said with narrowed eyes. He leaned in close to the camera and stared at Malcolm for a long moment. “Don’t take me for a fool, Malcolm. You are a warning to all of us that your people will not always be stuck in your little corner of the universe forever. You are coming for all of us in time, and we treat you as harmless little barbarians in your nest of ruined empires at our peril. You truly are the greatest threat to galactic peace we have seen since the Albion and the Ennead erased each other and several thousand star systems from the cosmos. Can you tell me I’m wrong in any of that?”
Malcolm heard the dull echo of the speech he’d given to Caroline a few short months ago, and couldn’t say that at all. Malcolm and his people really were out here to tell everyone that Earthborn humanity was here to stay. But he was at least partially wrong about one thing.
“We do not want to threaten you or your peace,” he said in the most earnest tone of voice he could manage. And considering he’d been trained by one of the Great Families of Earth to be very earnest indeed on command, it was a most convincing tone.
“You speak well, Director McDonnell.” Erik smiled, leaned back into his seat, and nodded in understanding. “Not surprisingly, I suppose. For someone who grew up a member of the Hurst Family.”
Malcolm did not blink. He didn’t move at all. This man knew far too much about his life for his peace of mind and he was determined to keep the man from learning anything else from his expressions.
“Forgive me,” Erik said and waved a hand to the side to cut the tension. “My people have long engaged in the policy of keeping your people at arm’s length. Of not inviting you to come to our space so we could keep your influence at a minimum. When I learned you planned to move so near us, I chose to study your history. I wished to know the man who thought he could be my neighbor. And then I planned a trip to go meet you far enough from my home that I could protect my people from you if I chose to.”
Malcolm did not lick his lips as the gravity of the alien’s statement fell upon him. He also didn’t clear his throat despite a great need to do so. He spoke very clearly instead. “How would you protect your people from us?”
Erik nodded in approval of the question before reversing it on Malcolm. “How would you do so if you were in my position?”
Malcolm shifted his gaze to the sensor display that showed the Aesiran ships. They were still over half a lightsecond from Wolfenheim, which would make any weapons fire inaccurate. But the closer they came, the more accurate they would be if they chose to open fire. He glanced at Dawn’s holoform.
Dawn nodded and pointed at a display showing the little fleet’s point defense systems coming up to focus on the Aesiran.
Malcolm returned his eyes to the Aesiran and gave the man a firm look. “The Arnam would not be happy if you opened fire on us.”
“That they would not,” Erik said with a calm smile. Then he leaned into his camera again with an expression of complete and utter honesty. “But they are rather busy at the moment. Not a situation of my making, I assure you. But they would not be able to stop me if I opened fire on your ships right now. And so I promise, Director Malcolm McDonnell, if I believed your people were a threat to mine, I would destroy every one of your ships, kill every last one of you, and then surrender myself to Arnami justice for violating their decree of safe passage for all. All of those actions would be required of me by my duty to defend my people. Do you understand me?”
“Like crystal,” Malcolm said through dry lips. Instincts honed by a century of negotiations told him the Aesiran was telling him the complete and honest truth. Unlike most people. They also told him that the Aesiran had already made his decision and nothing he could say now would change it.
“Good,” Erik said with a firm nod. “It is good for people like us to be honest with one another.”
“I’ve found that honesty is usually the best policy,” Malcolm said with a calm smile.
“No you haven’t,” Erik returned with a snort. “Not growing up in the Hurst Family, you didn’t.”
“Why do you think I left?” Malcolm asked in a hard tone.
Erik cocked his head to the side for several moments before nodding. “Well played.”
“I do try,” Malcolm said and carefully did not pull in a long breath of relief.
“Though we both know that if you’d been fully honest they would have killed you,” Erik slipped the verbal dagger in so slightly that it actually took Malcolm a second to register it.
Then he did blink.
“Their error, I suppose.” Erik smiled. “You will make a good neighbor. And that is why I am happy to fight at your side.”
Malcolm did not let out a long breath of relief. He remained utterly still for a moment before responding in his smoothest of tones. “And my people?”
“Your people do not worry me.” Erik gave him a warm smile. “They follow you well, and I will defend them as I defend my own people.”
Erik chuckled at the question. “Because my people are wrong. Keeping you at a distance will never protect us from your people. Not in the long run. It will only promote distrust on your side and arrogance on mine. And we have all seen where that leads with the Shang. I will not see my people take that road.”
“For what it’s worth, I agree with you,” Malcolm said with a relieved smile.
“That agreement is worth a great deal, actually.” Erik gave him a solemn nod. “It is why I have chosen this path. It is those who pursue you whom I have not yet decided upon. Their motivations have my rapt attention.”
“That’s fair,” Malcolm said with a frown. “They have my rapt attention as well.”
“You must think much of Commodore Murphy.”
“Yes, she is foremost on my mind,” Malcolm said with a chuckle.
Erik nodded and smiled. “I will not interfere in her pursuit of you, as long as it does not spill over onto my people.”
“Thank you.” Malcolm sighed as that concern went away. He could deal with her as long as Erik didn’t interfere. He didn’t know how, but he had faith that he could find a way in time. For now he just had to figure out how to get out of the Arnami Prime system alive. He glanced at the sensor plot again and his mind shifted to studying that far more important matter to his immediate survival.
Most stars kept their planets orbiting on a generally flat plain that surrounded them. Asteroids, gas giants, and other objects moved further away or closer to the star as gravity spun them around it, but they almost always remained on that nearly two-dimensional field. It caused most people to think of solar systems as flat disks, with nothing above or below them.
Most people were mostly right in this case.
“Being pursued by that woman is a great danger and a great opportunity.” Erik’s words barely registered in the light of Malcolm’s concentration on the sensor plot. “Only a fool would waste it.”
The main Shang invasion fleets now controlled a broad swath of the main system ecliptic and were quickly moving towards Arnami Prime’s important infrastructure nodes. Two of their task forces currently held position ahead of Wolfenheim, but space above and below them appeared utterly empty of heavy combatants. There were scouts and other small ships out there, but nothing worth worrying over.
“I don’t like the look of those task forces in front of us,” Malcolm said with a scowl. “We might need to pull up a bit before they pull the trigger on us.”
“Totally wasted,” Erik muttered.
“Yes,” Malcolm said in answer. “I have confidence we can utterly defeat anything we see out there.”
“Of course we can,” Erik returned and let out a long sigh. “My worry is what’s waiting in hyperspace to intercept us if we try for the obviously uncovered escape route.”
“Yes.” Malcolm nodded as the Aesiran caught up to the situation they found themselves in. “You thought about that too, did you?”
Erik nodded. “It’s how the Shang think. Sometimes I have to think like them if I wish to survive.”
“But you’re wrong,” Erik said with a sad smile. “We should go down.”
“Think more like the Shang.” Erik leaned towards the camera to give Malcolm a closer look at his very serious face. It was amazing how much less threatening it was now that he knew they were on the same side. “They have a rigid sense of status, and higher is better to them. Only their least prestigious commanders will accept lower positions. We should find a less capable commander who will be easier to outsmart if we go low rather than high.”
“Prestige and capability don’t always go hand in hand,” Malcolm noted with a smile.
“Very true,” Erik said with an answering smile. “But do you have any better information to work with?”
“No,” Malcolm returned with a frown. “And I don’t think we can afford to wait much longer before making our move.”
Erik pursed his lips and studied Malcolm for a long moment. “I think we will work well together, Son of Donnell.”
Malcolm considered correcting the man on the correct way to say his name, but decided it was the better part of valor to let it go for now. So he smiled and said, “I certainly hope so.”
Then Malcolm turned back to Dawn. “Get me Olivia.”
“By your command,” Dawn answered and nodded her head towards one of the displays.
Olivia appeared on it with a questioning look. “Yes?”
“I and Yarl Torson have been talking. He says the Shang are rigid about status, and that lower battle positions are less prestigious and probably less competent.”
“That makes sense. What does he suggest?”
“That we dive beneath the system ecliptic and make for the Red Line down there, rather than face those task forces ahead of us.”
Olivia pondered the idea for a few moments before catching his eyes. “It could be a trap.”
“There could be many traps out here,” Malcolm returned with a smile and held her gaze. “But there’s no chance at all we’re going to get through those two forces without heavy damage we cannot afford. We must take other risks if we are to prevail.”
Olivia nodded in agreement. “I will speak to his commanders about the idea. Thank you for bringing it to me.”
She faded out of the display again.
Malcolm gave Dawn a sly smile and turned to Erik’s display again. “And that’s how you deal with competent subordinates.”
“They are a true blessing, aren’t they?” Erik asked.
“I couldn’t lead without them,” Malcolm said with all truthfulness.
Then he relaxed back into his acceleration chair and waited for the change he knew had to come. They had to keep Wolfenheim safe. The Class One Colonization Ship and her ten thousand colonists in cold sleep were the entire reason they were all here. If they died, the Wolfenheim Project would die with them.
The change came without further warning. Normandy and her escorts dove down towards the empty space below Arnami Prime’s sun, with the entire Aesiran fleet diving with them. The sensor plot stabilized in a few seconds and projected course lines showed their combined force would soon move well outside the range that any known enemy could intercept them.
It was the unknown forces lying in wait that had Malcolm nervous.
A familiar face and smile appeared on one of his displays.
Chadwick Austin Adelman was an heir to the Adelman Family fortune in the innocent days when humanity thought they were alone in the universe. A real life Boy Scout, who helped old ladies cross the street in his spare time, he could say the sun died while you slept with such guileless sincerity that you’d have to go outside and check for yourself before questioning his honesty.
Malcolm remembered the way Chad wooed the attractive young ladies who came to the many long parties of their youth with gentle words and powerful moves. And money. There were always those who would give anything to be part of the Great Families of Earth. The trick back then was finding the ones who were worth it, and those who would be trouble if you fell for their feminine wiles. Things had been so much simpler back then.
Before Contact. Before The War.
Malcolm still remembered the day he heard the news that Bad Chad died in the Battles of Alpha Centauri. There’d been state funerals. Flags had flown at half-mast over the Republic of Texas for weeks.
Then one day John Smith walked up to him on New Earth and volunteered to join the Wolfenheim Project. He looked even younger than he had before The War, and he wore different clothing. He’d even acted differently than when Malcolm had known him.
But Malcolm recognized that Boy Scout smile the first time they met. The kid swore up and down that John Smith was his real given name. Though that seventeen-year-old baby face concealed a man who’d become one of the cutest little killing machines Malcolm knew in all the worlds.
That’s what made him such a perfect recruit for this mission. He was an officially registered dead Real American Hero from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, the Cowboys. Going back home would have been awkward to explain. But disappearing into the trackless void of alien space? Nobody would look for a scion of one of Earth’s Great Families thousands of lightyears from Earth living under an assumed name like this.
And he wasn’t the only one.
Malcolm had never asked the new recruits that appeared out of the woodwork who they really were. Charles hadn’t told him, they hadn’t told him, and so it was obvious they didn’t want him to know. But there were a finite number of dead Cowboys, which limited the possibilities greatly. He was certain Jackie White was Drew Keawe, first daughter to the Star Kingdom of Hawaii. A real life princess. John Jones of Mars had once been Louis Mattioli, one of the best Pre-War Martian lawyers. There were major court cases and settlements named after him. They’d both died during The War’s early months.
And then there was John Anderson. He’d never been a Cowboy, and he hadn’t died, but just about everyone on New Earth knew he’d gone by the name Hunter Roberts back when he was an American Navy pilot flying off the USS Los Angeles. And they knew he’d resigned in protest after they took away Captain Olivia Wyatt’s ship. They also knew that he was one of the Star Kingdom of Hawaii’s real life nobles, and a childhood friend of the now-deceased Drew Keawe. That made him a Real American Hero on two counts. Maybe three, depending on how you tabulated the results. Four if any of the tabloid stories about them were true.
Malcolm was amazed at how many rich and powerful people were out here over Arnami Prime. There would be state dinners and grand receptions under any other circumstances. But they were at War right now, and the stakes for humanity were far beyond a bit of botched diplomacy and spilled wine.
“Mister McDonnell,” Smith said with his standard, innocent smile.
“Mister Smith,” Malcolm returned their strange little ritual.
The man was never Captain, Major, or Whatever Smith. He was Mister Smith. Just another kid flying a retired starfighter for corporate money. Assuming anybody ever heard their conversations. It was a friendly little fiction born out of the necessity to be certain that nobody else realized the truth until the time was right.
“We appear to be escaping this battle rather handily,” Smith said.
Malcolm heard the “but” in there and sighed. “Feeling suspicious, are we?”
Smith nodded. “They’re coming for us. Any minute now.”
Chad, Malcolm, and Charles had all grown up with the best anti-aging regimes the Great Families of Earth could create. They’d taken the Peloran Treatments to improve their immunity to age after Contact, and then they’d had the rarest of all reactions to those treatments. They’d become stronger, faster, and healthier than other natural humans. Able to heal from any wound that didn’t kill them. Their bodies knew what they should look like, and so they would never age another day until something finally managed to kill them. It made them far too similar to the Peloran and the Arnam for Malcolm’s full peace of mind. He had a feeling there was a link there, but had never been able to prove it.
The final and most powerful ability the Ageless received was a serious case of limited precognition that made killing them a non-trivial task for anyone who couldn’t see the future as well. It was hard to kill someone who could sense danger coming and adapt to it before it even arrived.
Malcolm had spent his life doing little more than dabbling with his abilities. He could tell if someone was about to shoot him, but he’d never refined his ability to sense danger from someone who wasn’t even here yet.
He certainly couldn’t sense it from lightyears away like some of the crazier rumors said the Peloran Admiral Aneerin could do. Which was why Malcolm relied on the instincts of the professionals when it came to that. And John Smith was a professional worth listening to.
“We need to go to full alert, then,” Malcolm said with a shake of his head. “Could you tell Captain Wyatt about this?”
Smith smiled. “I just did.”
Another display flashed with a warning from the flagship to prepare for a surprise attack.
Malcolm chuckled. “Well played, Mister Smith.”
“Thank you, Mister McDonnell,” Smith returned before his display cut out.
“Erik?” Malcolm asked and turned his head back to the display showing the Aesiran.
Erik was already frowning. “Our hyperspace probes have not picked anything up.”
“Be that as it may, they are coming,” Malcolm said without any doubt at all.
“How can you be certain?”
“Have you ever fought with the Peloran?”
Erik blinked. “They are formidable warriors.”
Malcolm smiled as the man didn’t answer his question, but he could work with that. “There are some who say they can sense danger coming before it arrives.”
Erik nodded very slowly. “I have heard those rumors.”
“Do you believe them?”
Erik cocked his head to the side for a long moment before nodding. “I do.”
“That is how I know.”
“Your Mister Smith does not look Peloran.”
“He’s Earthborn,” Malcolm said with a smile. “As am I. But we do share some of their more…interesting…capabilities.”
Erik blinked. “That possibility was in your file, but never confirmed.”
“You can confirm it now.” Malcolm leaned in to aim an intense stare at Erik’s image. “I am Ageless. So is Mister Smith, and he has far more experience than I do. If he says the Shang are coming for us, then they will be here soon.”
Erik pursed his lips in thought. “The Sights are…easy to misunderstand.”
“Smith fought with Aneerin,” Malcolm said.
Erik leaned back in his chair and nodded again. “Many people have fought with Aneerin over the millennia. Most of them are dead.”
“He is alive,” Malcolm said. He didn’t need to say that Smith had died with Aneerin as well. That would just make everything much more complicated.
“Thank you for the warning.” Erik stared at him for a long second before continuing. “I shall inform my captains. It appears we will measure each other’s mettle, today, Son of Donnell. May we find each other worthy of the challenge before us.”
Malcolm thought again about correcting the Aesiran, but then squashed that thought. It was the literal meaning of his name, after all. So all he did was smile and say, “I’ll drink to that.”
“After the battle,” Erik said with a smile.
Malcolm nodded. “I’ll provide the beer.”
Erik returned the nod. “And I will drink it with honor.”
The display winked out and Malcolm leaned back to watch the two fleets prepare for battle on his other displays. The small Aesiran warships and fighters spread out to cover every approach to their larger transports, their active sensors beating the very fabric of space as they sought out any threat.
Wolfenheim’s defenders deployed for battle far more stealthily. The frigate Cochrane and destroyers Philadelphia and Rouen moved ahead of the fleet in a wedge as their passive sensors looked for any gravitic distortions. Surprise, Normandy, and the four remaining frigates held a far more close formation with Wolfenheim, ready to instantly react to any threat the forward wedge detected.
Malcolm glanced at the displays to see the approaching hazy Red Line denoting Arnami Prime’s hyperspace limit. Hyperspace jammers pushed it far beyond what most systems could claim, but they were rapidly approaching the jamming field’s edge.
Malcolm’s ships sported the very best Peloran hyperdrives, which could cut through an impressive amount of gravitic distortion to enter hyperspace. No Pre-War American warship could match their power, speed, or finesse.
A display blinked for his attention and Malcolm turned to see Murphy’s destroyers disappear into the rainbow light of a dive into hyperspace and frowned. It would seem they had received some Peloran upgrades as well. That was going to complicate matters for him.
His frigates and destroyers could skip out ahead of her right now, though he doubted Normandy could manage it. Wolfenheim certainly couldn’t. They needed to open more distance so the larger ships could safely make the shift. It would be minutes before they could gain that, and now she would be waiting for him out there. It would be all but impossible to get away from her if she got a sniff of them in hyperspace.
“They’re coming at us from behind!” Smith suddenly shouted on all frequencies.
Malcolm jumped at the interruption of his thought processes, his heart slamming at his ribcage in protest as shocked voices filled the frequencies.
“All ships. Bug out immediately.” Olivia’s steady voice calmed the frequencies, and Malcolm thought once more that he had won the lottery with her. “I repeat. Bug out now. All ships, bug out.”
And with no more warning than that, Wolfenheim’s squadron formation came apart.
Wolfenheim moved first, her ungainly gantry of assembled colony modules leaping like a scalded cat as engines the size of frigates exploded to double their normal maximum power. Surprise’s manned forward wedge dropped away from her cargo pods as their main engines powered up to maximum burn. The four frigates surrounding the pods powered up as well, and kilometers long fusion torches lit space as the colony ship and her escorts followed the bug out order to run for the safety of hyperspace.
Normandy’s maneuvering thrusters came to life and spun her around. Cochrane, Philadelphia, and Rouen dropped straight down so Wolfenheim could pass over them as they began their own spins. And Surprise came around as energy readings spiked from all of the weapon systems that a glorified cargo transport was never supposed to have. But Surprise was no mere cargo ship. She was a warship, and today she would fight as one.
Then Malcolm’s Blackhawk came to life and her four fusion engines rocketed her past the warships and into Wolfenheim’s wake. Other fighters scattered and spun to face the incoming enemy, but Malcolm understood his part of the bug out plan. Wolfenheim had to be protected. No matter the cost. And Olivia had decreed in her infinite wisdom that Director Malcolm McDonnell also had to be protected as well.
So as five armed starships and four dozen starfighters spun to fight the enemy coming from behind, Wolfenheim, her escorts, and one fighter nominally piloted by Malcolm ran for their collective lives.
Hyperspace opened up behind them in a conflagration of rainbow light as saucer-shaped Shang ships began to appear. They arrived long before any of Wolfenheim’s defenders could finish their spins, and missiles and lasers lashed into exposed flanks.
Point defense networks chattered away, clawing down dozens of missiles, but deflection grids flared as leakers broke through everything the squadron could throw at them. They were the best deflection grids the Peloran could build, and they redirected a truly titanic amount of weapons fire. But Normandy’s portside hangar pod boiled armor, air, and wreckage into space as her grids flickered under the assault. Flames licked out to consume the air as hatches exploded and shattered. Shot after shot drove in, punching more holes into the carrier’s hangar bay.
Normandy’s two dozen turrets covering her main hull spun to return fire and sent missiles streaking out past the burning hangar pod and into the teeth of the Shang assault in a rippling wave of death. Then three dozen Blackhawk starfighters swarmed around the carrier and added their own gravitic, missile, and laser fire to the effort.
And that was when Surprise finally finished her turn and a gravitic beam linked her with the lead Shang destroyer for a single second. The destroyer’s weakened deflection grids failed entirely and Surprise’s missiles and lasers melted her armor like butter even as the gravitic beam tore deep into her core.
The Shang destroyer came apart under the unexpected assault and her compatriots scattered as Smith's Avengers came in for their own slashing attack. Over three dozen gravitic beams stabbed into the attackers, followed by hundreds of missiles and laser pulses that stripped deflection grids and armor alike.
Then three more shapes darted past Surprise. Cochrane, Philadelphia, and Rouen dove straight into the Shang formation, spraying dozens of point defense missiles and lasers into everything that moved with reckless abandon. The two destroyers carried a pair of capital-class lasers and a quartet of heavy missile launchers that slammed into ship after ship far more rapidly than even the most optimistic fireplan envisioned. Any tactical officer who generated a plan guaranteed to burn the weapons out through unsafe firing times would be cashiered in most cases after all. But the plucky defenders were outnumbered and outgunned by the Shang destroyer squadron, and they needed every advantage the new Peloran weapons could give them.
Deflection grids failed under the unexpectedly vigorous defense and one Shang destroyer after another belched atmosphere, flames, and debris.
But even in their sudden desperation, they reaped a painful harvest on Wolfenheim’s defenders. A salvo of missiles smashed through Cochrane’s grid and tore her entire starboard flank apart. The frigate lurched away as flames vomited into the vacuum of space, and Philadelphia moved into the stream of fire tearing her apart. The destroyer’s heavier grids and armor managed to intercept the fire that would have killed her smaller compatriot, but they couldn’t possibly hold out for more than a second.
Shang missiles tore through them and struck Philadelphia’s hull like the hammers of gods. Armor shattered, structure buckled, and flames lit space. And then the missile stream ended as Surprise struck once more. She smashed the Shang destroyer with the power of gravity itself and shattered it without mercy.
That was when Normandy finally brought her bow around to face the alien attackers and energy poured out of her open gun ports in a torrent of destruction.