by Max Barry

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Region: Lazarus

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

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.

"Imperial corvette Morgenröte, this is the Loftegen 2 West Regional Aerospace Defense Center. We are advised that your intentions are hostile. Alter course to avoid our airspace immediately, or we will fire on you."

Everyone the the WRADC control room was looking at the big board. The rogue Imp ship was highlighted in red, as was its projected orbit. There was no reply to the warning, and the ship held its course. (It would later be determined that the challenge, and indeed all transmissions from WRADC, were not heard by the Morgenröte, due to an insufficiently powerful transmitter.)

The brigader general in charge gave a three word order. "Launch warning shot."

At a nearby battery site, the local crew carried out the order. A silo cover popped open, and a single Spartan ABM leapt skyward on a pillar of flame, racing toward the heavens. Three minutes later, 200 nautical miles up and 450 nautical miles down range, a 5 megaton warhead detonated in a flash of visible light and an even brighter burst of x-rays.

"That was your first and only warning, Morgenröte. Alter course immediately or we fire for effect."

The answer came in the form of a perfectly straight lightning bolt that reached down from the heavens to strike the now empty silo. There was a flash and a boom, like a large conventional bomb going off, and then silence. For a few seconds, at least.

With time for just one more salvo before the enemy was overhead, WRADC sent two more Spartans up to say 'Hello!' to the Imp ship. As feared, the Morgenröte was able to use its engines to evade the warheads, though one detonated 'just' fifty miles away from the ship, close enough to give everyone on board the equivalent of a hundred or so chest x-rays worth of radiation. At that dose, a few of the crew might become slightly ill over the next twelve hours.


Three army SuperScarab helicopters clattered toward downdown Altenburg. Aboard them was all of 3rd Platoon, A Co. 1stof the72nd Special Forces Brigade; and the 1269th Jaegertruppe.

<"Where are we going?"> Trenturio Marcus Höfner asked, shouting to be heard over the noise of the rotor blades and engines.

<"The Altenburg Grand Hotel,"> 2nd Lt. Beka Hamlin, leader of 3rd Platoon answered. <"Something about an assassination attempt against Emperor Leo by the NLO. We're to reinforce the security there.">

"Holy God!" someone swore. It was PFC Clay Dawkins, the platoon radio operator. "They just raised the alert level again."

There was much swearing at that news. Some of the members of 3rd platoon made what Marcus took to be religious gestures.

"Defcon 2," Beka said, her expression grim. She looked at Marcus. "That means 'War is Immenent'."


"Return fire!" Major Kenn Whitworth of the 1st Security Police Squadron shouted into his radio. Most of the vehicles in the column he was leading were variants of the Eciton armored car: four, six, and eight wheeled types with a mix of weapons. Just about every one of them carried an M2 heavy machine gun for air defense as well as fire support, and all along the column muzzles lifted skyward, as the Imp plane swung around for another pass. The odds of actually hitting the Imp weren't all that great, but shooting back would be good for morale, and facing a blizzard of tracers might throw the Imp pilot's aim off. "And spread the <bleep> out!" he added. "Encircle that hanger!"

"Son of a motherless whore!" Airman 1st Class Dann Tanna exclaimed as the Imp casually evaded the shoulder launched, IR homing missile he'd sent its way. The missile, on losing its target, went ballistic, then self destructed. Yanking the fire control unit off the now empty disposable launch tube, he gestured for his assistant to hand him another missile.

Captain Lee Gwin was swearing too. Strapped into the cockpit of his Rapier III I.6 interceptor, he was fighting for his life, in a plane that wasn't designed with dogfighting in mind. Unlike its F.6 half sisters (and they really shouldn't have given them the same name: it was confusing) the I.6 sacrificed manuverability for speed in a straight line. That made sense, given that its role was intercepting incoming bombers. Still, they outnumbered the Imp three to one, and even though they couldn't get a lock on the damn thing, it hadn't been able to get one on them either (at least not long enough to fire, so far). And, whether the Imp knew it or not, more Rapiers, proper F.6's, were on their way.


Legat I. Klasse Conrad Kunkel lay flat on the floor of Hanger 415, along with all of his people and the Loftegen 2 personnel who had been assisting them in their work. The sound of gunfire and explosions erupting outside the hanger was the more frightening than he'd ever imagined it would be. Worse yet, Tribun Böttcher was shouting orders and preparing to lead his people out into whatever was happening outside. Kunkel could hear bullets (and larger projectiles) hitting the hanger walls. Suddenly, most of the windows on the side of the hanger facing the noise shattered. Small cylinders landed on the concrete, spinning in place and discharging a reddish vapor that wasn't thick enough to be smoke. A smell like paprika became noticeable, and Kunkel felt his eyes and nose itch.

One of the Lofties cried out, "Gas!

"Scheisse!" Kunkel thought, as people began to cough and tear up. Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, he heard Tribun Böttcher cry, "Folge mir!"

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