by Max Barry

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Region: Lazarus

Starship L/KRV Morgenröte, 200 km above Hyperborea, 8:36 am in Loftegen 2

ACHTUNG, RAKETENSTART ENTDECKT!
The warning appeared in big red letters on the main screen of the Morgenröte, accompanied by an annoying audio warning. The report from the crewman at the sensors was unnecessary: "Vizekonsul, we have detected a single missile launch in West Loftegen. It looks like the warhead is headed for us!".
Leonhardt Schulte, seated in the command chair on deck of the ship, remained calm. "That was to be expected. Please check again that our point defense Lasers are operational and set to automatic mode, engaging missiles at up to 100 km." "Jawohl, Herr Vizekonsul!"

Schulte looked at the screens. The missile was incoming fast, already nearly at orbit. Looking outside the windows, it was invisible to the naked eye, but at the blue-tinted horizon far below and in front of them, a thin line of smoke was visible where the missile had climbed through the atmosphere.

"IMPACT IN 30 SECONDS". The sensor officer was obviously nervous. Schulte tried to maintain a confident expression, despite feeling uneasy himself. A timer counted down the time until impact. At merely 5 seconds until impact, two things happened simultaneously. The onboard lasers fired, barely visible against the backdrop of the planet below them, while the missile exploded at the same time, a blinding flash of light fast expanding into a circular cloud of fire, which vanished quickly. Screens began to flicker, some went black, and the ship rocked slightly.

"Damage report?" Schulte inquired. The first officer was the first to reply. "Must have been a live nuclear missile. Significant EMP effect, some systems will need to be rebooted. Weapons and engines remain fully operational.
No hull damage reported."

"Okay, then let us give them some of their own medicine. Ready the Ragnarok, target that missile launch site. Fire when ready." Schulte had an evil grin on his face now.
"Loading primary laser capacitors now", the weapons officer replied. The interior lighting flickered and then went dimmer as most of the ships energy was sent to its main weapon.
"I have a firing solution", the weapons officer reported.
"FEUER!" Vizekonsul Schulte's voice was brimming with hate now.
Firing the laser did not produce a sound by itself, but the unloading of the capacitors was audible throughout the Morgenröte. Unlike the smaller point defense lasers earlier, the beam of the 500 MW cannon was clearly visible as a bright green stream, connecting the ship and its target hundreds of kilometres away near instantly. It faded away after a second, leaving a bright "shadow" on the retina of everyone who had looked outside, even though the windows were specifically designed to filter the light as to avoid eye damage. A small explosion erupted from the Loftegen missile silo. It had obviously been hit, but none of the nuclear warheads went off, or there would have been a bigger explosion.
"Target hit, damage unknown ", the WO reported briefly.

Aigania, Fluffiness, and Loftegen 2

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