As part of expanding the Drop Commander Universe, some of our TTAgents have been writing short stories. These will be a semi-regular feature here on TTCommunity, helping us to grow and expand the lore of both Dropzone Commander and Dropfleet Commander.
Our first story in this series is part of a trilogy being written by Dave McLennan. Please let us know what you think and if there is any part of the lore you want explored as we dive deeper into the Drop Commander Universe.
Shutdown Part 1.
Executive officer Vitaliy Babichev extended his arm towards the Commander. Without looking she took the coffee mug and nodded in acknowledgement. Their shift change had become ritual; XO on deck followed by coffee shared in silence. Only and when she was ready and Vitaliy had reacclimatized, handover. Commander Yasmin Bahar had been on deck for eight hours, they would both be on duty for eight more before she retired for the night, debrief could wait until after the coffee. Around them dozens of officers monitored their consoles, watching endless data stream across displays while each managing different sectors of the station.
The crew worked at the core of the massive station Meduza, a military shipyard in close orbit of Sessrumnir, the second moon of Asguard Prime. Pulling sixteen-hour shifts for two days straight the men and women aboard the Meduza had been frantically trying to triage and repair the half dozen ships that had managed to limp back to their station from the Battle of Vega.
Clunking plastic on hard steel signalled that the Commander had finished her coffee and she wasted no more time before speaking.
“We’ve managed to reseal the hull on the Pilum, and we cannibalised the ignition system on the Taureus’ lower portside thruster to get the Bayan voidworthy again.”
Vitaliy let a hiss of annoyance escape his scowl.
“Vac-brained Traitors! The lot of them. We’re stripping ships weeks from completion to patch the damn holes they punched in our fleet, it’s insanity.”
Yasmin listened but her eyes remained locked on her crew, closely watching the subtleties in their movements. Vitaliy continued undeterred. He had been fuming ever since word had reached them about the Battle of Vega. The navy was crippled, but nobody wanted to admit it.
“If they’d only waited a month our Elysium class would have joined the fight, bloodied some damn traitor noses and kept more than a few sailors from the black. We should-”
He stopped mid-sentence, expert eyes catching the same thing that had been drawing the captain’s attention. The crew were moving with more urgency than normal, their hands racing across controls while screens flashed with more intensity. None of them had reported yet, they were career professionals and would be confirming their readouts first. They didn’t get a chance to finish.
The Commander shouted. Officers raced to scan their overlays and gather the information she demanded, eventually a cracking voice echoed from the sensor suite station.
“Unconfirmed…We’ve got hot flashes from the node.”
A steadier voice from an older bridge officer overrode her.
“It’s probably nothing Commander.”
Vitaliy and Yasmin exchanged a short glance, their decade long service together allowing them to read each other without speaking.
A week ago, maybe. But after the Sphere, then after Vega. Anything is possible.
“Put the station on red alert!”
Yasmin ordered without hesitation. Lights dimmed and alarms began to blare. The signal to fasten loads, cease construction work and prepare for the worst. Throughout the bridge officers raced to confirm scattered signals and captured bites of open comms. Controlled chaos reigned for a full minute before the young woman who initially reported from the sensor suite dashed to the command plinth.
“Commander! Reports confirmed from multiple sources. Weapons free near the node.”
Yasmin’s brow furrowed as she took in the information, while she processed Vitaliy addressed the deck.
“We’re still on the far side of Sessrumnir, signals are being relayed from Asguard Prime orbitals, correct? What’s the lag?”
Adrenaline and urgency had quickly replaced trepidation and his crew answered immediately.
“Correct Sir, we’re in the dark. Thirty-one-minute lag.”
The Commander barked.
“Unknown Sir, signatures do not match any known patterns of warbird.”
All eyes snapped across the room as a young ensign stood from his station, headset clattering to the table. He was shaking.
“T…The Horatius is gone. The Titus too.”
Another glance was shared between Commander and XO. Their faces were now knotted in concern. The pair knew every defensive asset in the system. The Horatius and the Titus were grand cruisers, they made up the backbone of the depleted node fleet left behind before the Battle of Vega. No pirate or crippled traitor ship could bring them down so quickly.
“GET ME MORE INFORMATION ON THE CONTACTS!”
Vitaliy shouted in barely controlled panic. Yasmin remained silent. He turned to her, eyes pleading with sudden desperation.
“Sir, we should launch what we can. There are two cruisers and a dozen frigates void worthy. We need to get them into the fight.”
An officer report cut into his request.
“Confirmed launches from the surface of Asguard Prime. Planetary defence is sending everything Sir.”
Another voice followed immediately.
“Dozens of contacts confirmed, numbers growing by the second.”
Vitaliys’ eyes pleaded with Yasmin. He wanted them in the fight, but he knew her answer before she spoke.
“Vitaliy, the ships are crippled with less than a skeleton crew. The sailors are all on Asguard Prime recovering. We’ve got no launch capable assets that can help in this fight.”
He slapped his coffee cup from command table, furious in their helplessness. He knew she spoke the truth. Yasmin placed a gentle hand on his arm and brought herself close enough to talk quietly without being overheard. A moment of calm in a room exploding into chaos.
“It is already decided Vitaliy. We’re thirty-one behind. The battle is lost. All we can do now is salvage what we can, these ships are vital and this station is vital. When the fleet comes from Earth and kicks the arse of whoever is spacing our ships, they will need them. This is the biggest non-corp shipyard outside Olympus, we’ve got half a Grand Fleet moored here unfinished or blasted to hell.”
The XOs eyes fell, he was an excellent officer but she was a master of calm under pressure.
“So, what do we do?”
Yasmin sighed deeply as if building her resolve for what was to come.
“We go dark. For now, we’re dark-side, with all the flash out there in void battle they won’t be paying attention to our residuals. But we’ve got a few hours at best before orbit shows our underbelly and less than eight until they’re close enough to come looking. We need to activate lockdown on the entire station, ships and all. Then we shut down.”
Vitaliy nodded along, her logic was impossible to ignore. One of many traits he had always admired in her. But his job was to ensure her plans were watertight, so he pried.
“Assuming full shutdown we’ve got six hours each in void suits, twelve at a push if we can find spare tanks for everyone. After that, we die.”
Yasmin pulled up a hand console and began scrolling down a ship manifest. Vitaliy swallowed nervously, taking her silence as acceptance.
“A… Worthwhile death then? To save the fleet. They’ll blow us out of orbit anyway.”
He paused, mouth suddenly feeling dry.
“We can’t tell the crew. I will advise that the shutdown will be for nine hours only. We should be able to keep them busy until the air runs out.”
Yasmin’s finger finally stopped scrolling, suddenly tapping a single name on the manifest and opening the file. It was classified, only the XO and her had access.
“We don’t have to die today Vitaliy…”
I hope you enjoyed that, and we’ll have part 2 soon for you!