The first news reports came in at about twelve in the afternoon, reporting about large, unidentified vessels descending down from the skies. Even the smallest one was bigger than the biggest spaceship ever built for Earth Union Space Fleet. The unidentified vessels took up positions above many of the major cities across the planet and hovered there.
Earth Union government attempted communication but those efforts didn’t yield any result. They also initiated city-wide curfew to get everyone home to be with their family, for both safety and ease of management reasons. Riots broke out across many cities on Earth as people fought to secure the basic necessities to survive. Even members of the police force didn’t bother with keeping order and joined in.
As it drew closer to mid-afternoon, Central European Time, Earth Union government unanimously agreed to deploy the military. However, they didn’t want to present themselves as threat to these unidentified visitors. So the military mobilised in secret, relying on hand-delivered messages as they suspected the enemy probably could listen in on their conversation, encrypted or not.
Due to the distances involved, news of the unidentified visitors only reached the outer colonies beyond the Kuiper Belt by evening. As the outer colonies relied on Earth for half of their basic necessities to survive, the colonists grew concerned about their survival. They asked themselves what if the visitors attack, what should they do and how would they defend themselves if Earth was lost. Uncertain of the future, they started stocking up on food and water. Little did they know, the war had started.
Built in 2242 and completed in 2245, the Earth Union Space Service (E.U.S.S) Mu Ren was a joint effort between the Chinese, Americans and Europeans to mark the start of next generation Tian-He class cruisers and to serve as a statement issued to the terrorists, separatists and other criminal organisations that they were willing to put aside their differences and put an end to any illegal activities that were rampant especially in the outer solar system. The cruiser was also one of the three in operation with five more were still under construction.
At six hundred and fifty-four meters long, two hundred meters wide, and one hundred meter tall for the ship’s front and back, the Mu Ren was easily one of the biggest military ship ever deployed by the Earth union. The main hull of the ship resembled that of a tapered hexagonal tube that was wide at the rear and thin in front. Close to the mid-section, a trapezoid tower, adding another thirty meters to the ship’s final height, sat on top of the ship. It housed the bridge, majority of sensors, and communication arrays the ship needed to do its mission. To ensure the ship had a minimal radar cross section, all the edges were rounded. The ship also came equipped with the latest in hardware and software that made it a highly advanced military cruiser. Powered by twin fusion engines, its six rear thrusters arranged in a grid manner provided enough power to accelerate the ship to speeds up to 0.001 percent of light speed. At those speeds, it was easily one of the fastest ships in the E.U Space Fleet and could reach any planets or colonies within the inner solar system within a week and a half.
The ship’s primary weapon was the four forty-five meter long gauss-guns on turret mounts, two in front and two to the rear. Each of the guns could fire a twenty centimetre-wide, 800 kilogram ferromagnetic projectile with a muzzle velocity exceeding eight kilometre per second. At those speeds, each round could level a small town or city. Complementing those guns were the anti-ship missiles housed in the ship’s internal weapon bays, allowing for engagement at longer ranges. For defence, the ship featured an array of point-defence turrets mounted along the aft, broadside, top and bottom of the ship. Those turrets could take out any incoming threats like enemy missiles or space debris. As the human mind could not possibly track, aim and fire those turrets at targets in realtime, the turrets utilised an artificial intelligence that ran on an independent, separate control system. It was to ensure the turrets could operate at maximum effectiveness and not interfered with by the primary fire control system used by the rail cannons. The ship also carries four twenty kiloton tactical nuclear weapons for use as last-resort.
Like the other cruisers, the Mu Ren had relied heavily on its electronic and digital systems for a lot of purpose, ranging from controlling the bulkheads to firing the weapons. That was why the cruiser only required about two hundred people to operate. Internally, it had at least 600 cabins spread across four decks near the front and mid section of the ship to house the crew and other personnel, military or civilian. It also had a separate storage deck for supplies meant for the people onboard. Depending on mission, the two cargo decks towards the rear of the ship could be reconfigured to either carry a complement of fifty combat fighters, supplies their pilots and support crew as well the supporting equipments and weapons, or carry a battalion of 400 Orbital Drop Marines and the equipments they needed to successfully complete any mission.
At five hundred thousand kilometres away from the moon, the ship began the process of decelerating, firing its front thrusters in a controlled manner. It also began receiving reports of large unidentified vessels descending towards the planet’s surface. Long distance scans revealed these vessels were actively avoiding collision with any of the existing spacecrafts, Space Defence Platform and satellites in orbit around the planet as they went down.
Captain Zhang Hao was in his room reviewing the latest report of the ship on the computer on his desk when the call notification appeared on display. It was the XO. He accepted it.
“Sir, you’ve got to come to the bridge. You need to see this.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Zhang Hao unstrapped himself from the chair, pushed himself up and walked towards the coat rack. The magnetic boots kept him grounded though the rest of his body were in constant free-fall, which created an odd sensation in his brain, one that he had since learned to accept. He grabbed his military-issued coat, put it on and stepped out onto the T-shaped corridor, making his way towards the other end. He walked past a crossing corridor on his left that leads to a door. Behind that door would bring him to another corridor connected to the CIC and alternative escape pods.
The door at the end of the corridor slid open once the biometric scanner above authenticated him. He walked through only to have the guard standing by the door announce his arrival, “Captain on deck”.
He called out before the crew could react, “As you were.”
He sat down behind the console and tightened the strap around his waist before reviewing what the XO wanted him to see. He studied the information, a collection of text, drawings and numbers, on the display in front of him and wasn’t quite sure he was ready to believe what he was seeing.
The communication officer, a young Japanese man fresh out of training, called out about an incoming audio transmission from headquarters. Zhang Hao nodded his head and the officer accepted the transmission, broadcasted it for everyone in the bridge to hear.
“To anyone receiving this transmission, we believe you have seen what’s going on. As of this transmission, we don’t know whether these visitors are friendly or intend to do us harm. We will be going EMCON until further notice. Until then, ships are to implement Protocol Zulu-Delta-Lima-Sierra-Sierra. May god, whichever you believe in, help us.”
At the end of the broadcast, Zhang Hao sat there in silence while stroking the top of his lips with his index finger as he considered the situation and the order to implement Protocol Zulu-Delta-Lima-Sierra-Sierra while the rest of the crew continued with what they were doing until they were told otherwise. Throughout his career with the military, it was the first time this protocol was ever implemented officially and the other times were during his officer training course.
When he came to a decision, he spoke in a measured and calm manner, “Communications, open ship-wide broadcast.”
“Aye Captain,” The communications officer flipped a few virtual switches and pressed a few buttons on his holographic display. “The channel is ready.”
He activated the microphone on the console, “This is the captain speaking. The ship will not be docking with the station and will begin its process of coming to a full stop in one minute. We will enter orbit around the moon. Once that happens, we will be EMCON. All personnel are to get ready for combat action.” After switching off the microphone, he ordered, “Begin countdown. Helmsman, get ready to bring us to a stop around the moon on the edge of the dark side and give us a full view of Earth. We will use the backdrop for stealth.”
A ship-wide countdown began. Everyone onboard went to work to strap down anything moveable to make sure nothing became a projectile due to newton’s third law before strapping themselves down at the various acceleration couches placed around the ship. At the end of the countdown, the helmsman input commands to his console. The ship’s onboard navigation software, which was a form of artificial intelligence, processed the commands and activated the corresponding sub-routines across multiple systems to slow the ship down further and put the ship on a path to enter the moon’s gravity well, all the while taking into account the effects of g-force on the ship crew and the structural limitation of the ship.
After an hour of manoeuvring, the ship was finally in a holding position around the moon with its front facing Earth. With EMCON and protocol in effect, there was nothing else the crew could do except to keep the ship ready to move on the captain’s order.
They were having pizza in front of the television when the news reports came. Dexter and Hayley grew anxious and lost their appetites. They found themselves embracing each other to give each other some kind of emotional support. Nobody, not even the authorities, knew what was happening. All they were hearing coming from the so-called experts on television were speculations after speculations. One thing was clear though. Those vessels were aliens.
And the fact that aliens have visited Earth made some segments of the population excited, as there had been no hints of life beyond Earth even after the formation of Earth Union in the late twenty-first century and humans spreading themselves across the solar system. Some scientists were optimistic that the aliens were peaceful while many others were more skeptical.
War with the aliens on the other hand was unthinkable. Nobody knew how it would turn out as the only kind of wars they had in the last one hundred years or so was amongst themselves with weapons they invented themselves. And those wars had always been about rights, freedom, or access to resource. The same can’t be said for these aliens and that made military officials jittery though they never publicly admit or show it.
Around two in the afternoon, the main door opened and Sam came through. He was tired after a long night at work. He wanted to get a bottle of beer from the fridge when he saw the news about unidentified vessels hovering above major cities across the planet.
At first he was intrigued and went closer to the television to watch more. The more he watched, the more frightened he became. He gripped the top of the couch tightly. He felt like he was that ten year old kid again. He had lost his mom to a car accident when he was seven and lived with his dad until he was nine when his uncle moved into their house. They loved to take their anger and frustration out on him when they were drunk. Yet in a weird way, they never went too far with anything that would kill him. He thought maybe they didn’t want to go to prison for murder and risk the discovery by the authorities that they had been abusing poor, young Sam too. At night when his dad was asleep, his uncle would be in his room every day to have sex with him.
The physical abuse by his dad stopped when he was sixteen. His dad collapsed on the floor from a heart attack while beating him up with a belt. His uncle took custody of him and continued to abuse him physically, sexually, and emotionally until he turned twenty-one.
The day after his birthday, he came up with a quick plan and setup the house to encourage some kind of accident. Then he made his uncle mad and chased after him around the house. During the chase, his uncle slipped on one of the bottles in the kitchen and fell into a hot pot of soup that landed on his chest and the floor. During his struggle to grab a towel nearby, he slipped on the soup, which had mostly lard and pig skin with a mixed of lean meat and some vegetables. His uncle hit the back of his head against the kitchen table and died on the spot.
Authorities ruled the whole thing an accident and cleared Sam of any charges. For once in his life, he was free and back in control of his life. He spent the rest of his adult life working hard, establishing control and dominance over others. Then he lost his job to machines and software. He drifted aimlessly for half a year and taking out his anger through sex with young male prostitutes before coming across a single mom, Hayley, having lunch with an eleven-year-old son, Dexter, at the local bistro. Dexter reminded him of his childhood and saw an opportunity to bring back control to his life.
He spent half a year dating Hayley and getting Dexter to like him. The latter was hard because the kid was shy and distrustful. It was during that time, he found a job with the shipyard. Though it didn’t bring him much money, it was enough for him to get by. Three days before Dexter turned twelve, Sam married Hayley and moved in with them. He spent the next three years establishing control and dominance over the mother and son. He felt good about the whole setup.
Now with the news of these unidentified visitors, he didn’t like what he was feeling. He looked down and saw Dexter seated on the couch embracing his mom. They were focused on the television that they didn’t notice his presence. He bent over and pulled Dexter up by the armpits over the top of the couch.
Dexter cried out as Sam dragged him across the living room floor into the kitchen. Hayley rushed over and fought to free her son. Sam pushed her away. She tumbled backwards and fell to the ground, landing on her right hip. He ignored her cries and lifted Dexter up before tossing him onto the dinning table. Dexter tried to kick Sam away but the kicks bounced off that big belly. Sam swatted the legs away and got closer.
“Mom! Help me!” Dexter cried out as he continued to fight off Sam.
Hearing her son’s high pitch cry, her maternal instinct kicked into high gear. She got up and pulled Sam’s belt as hard as she could. He managed to tear off Dexter’s boxers partially when both Hayley and him stumbled backwards. She used the momentum to swerve Sam around and pushed him into the living room. She almost lost her balance when Dexter caught her and righted her.
Sam staggered forward and landed face first on the ground with a thud. He was lucky that his big belly absorbed the brunt of the fall. He roared as he got up and stormed towards Hayley. He grabbed her by the neck, tightened his grip and slammed her against the kitchen wall. She cried out in pain as her body and head struck the wall.
Sam bellowed with a finger pointing at Hayley, “You worthless bitch! I only married you because of your son. I want him not you. I should have kill you when I had the chance.” He went over and started strangling her.
Dexter scanned the kitchen for something to use against Sam and saw the kitchen knife on the counter top. He ran over to get the knife and stabbed Sam in the back where the left kidney was with it, causing him to howl in pain. He tried to pull out the knife but it only caused more pain, making him give up. He grunted and backhanded Dexter from the right, causing him to lose his balance and fall to the ground.
Sam released Hayley and turned his attention to Dexter, who was now scrambling to get away, “You stupid kid! Are you trying to kill me?” He grabbed Dexter by his legs, pulled him closer before bending over to lift the kid up by his neck.
Hayley collapsed to the ground wheezing. She coughed several times before she recovered enough to see Dexter lifted above the ground struggling to breathe and naked with the torn pair of boxers now on the floor like a piece of rag. There was no fight in him anymore and she could see the whites of his eyes. She felt her heart ached seeing her son’s vulnerability.
The fear of losing him forever forced her into action. She gathered whatever strength she had, lunged towards Sam and pulled out the knife, causing red blood to run down his back. He yelped from the pain and dropped Dexter, who was now barely conscious, to the ground.
Time seemed to slow down for Hayley as Sam turned around. Blood was still dripping from the tip of the knife when both their eyes met each other. Before Sam could say anything, Hayley plunged the knife into that fat belly of his.
He stared at Hayley wide-eyed and tried to reach for the knife but wasn’t fast enough. She pulled out the knife again and plunged it in. This time the knife went into that belly at a different spot. And she continued to stare straight into Sam’s eyes as she repeated the stabbing action without hesitation, spraying blood all over their bodies while soliciting grunts and whimpers from Sam.
When she finally stopped, Sam dropped to the ground on his knees and uttered, “What have you done?”
She didn’t let go of her intense stare. She was like that of a cat hunting prey, “Nobody touches or hurts my son!” She drove the knife through Sam’s throat, causing him to choke on his own blood. He collapsed to the ground in a pool of his own blood and expired seconds later.
She ran over and knelt down beside her unconscious son. She shook him while calling out his name. But there was no response. Worried that her son was dead, she placed her finger on his neck to check for a pulse and heaved a sigh of relief when she found it. She found the strength to coop up her son in her arms and carry him to the couch. She placed him down, prepared a warm towel and put it on his forehead before going to his room to get him a new pair of boxers.
Now, all she could do was wait.
Dexter opened his eyes and the first thing he saw in front of him was his mom’s left breast before seeing her face. Her eyes were closed and her left arm was resting across his chest. He uttered, “Mom?”
Hayley opened her eyes and looked down with a weak smile, “Hey baby. Are you feeling better now?”
“Yes…it hurts all over. How long was I out?”
“A few hours.”
“Sam’s dead. I killed him,” she started sobbing from the sudden realisation that she killed someone.
Dexter sat up and embraced his mom. He wanted to comfort her and knew just what to say, “Thank you for saving me, momma.”
That made her stop crying as the comment reminded her she did it for a good reason. She patted the back of Dexter’s head as she looked at him with a smile with tears hanging by the corner of her eyes, “Silly boy. That’s what moms do.”
They remained in each other’s arms, reminiscing about their life before falling asleep shortly after.
The sound of distant explosion woke them. They weren’t sure what happened with the television off. Hayley tried to turn it back on but there was only static. More explosions reverberated in the air while the shockwaves could be felt across the house.
They got out of the house only to find there were other families doing the same in their town. They all looked towards the main city only to see columns of smokes rising into the air. Most of the buildings were burning. There were a few more explosions and some of the buildings in the city started going down. Although they didn’t see Earth Union forces battling it out with the visitors, they could hear sound of weapon fires. The distance didn’t do much to mask out those sounds.
Dexter and Hayley went back inside, bolted the front door and went out the back through the window in Dexter’s room. Since there was a wall separating their home and the neighbour behind, they could get into the shack without being seen.
They went inside the shack and stayed in there for what seemed to be hours. But it didn’t matter what was going on outside. There were enough food and water in the shack to last them for at least a month. After a hearty dinner, they slept through the night with the sound of explosions their lullaby.
Notifications from his social media accounts started popping up at around eleven thirty in the morning. Shane woke up from the vibrations generated by his wristband computer. He checked some of the notifications and became excited. He ran around the house to gather his family to watch the television for the latest news.
After watching the news, Blake and Carter grew scared and decided to go home as they wanted to be with their own family members should anything went bad.
By mid-afternoon, it became clear that it wasn’t such a good idea to be staying in the house. Being close to the city had its advantages. Everyone in the family didn’t have to commute far if they needed to do something or do something in the city. But in times like this, there were only disadvantages since the nearest alien vessel was just eight kilometres away.
His parents argued about what to do next before agreeing to staying in the family forest cabin in Upstate California until it was safe to come back. The drive there would take two hours and was as far from the city as they could be but Shane refused to go without ensuring someone else was safe. They went back and forth for a while only for him to lose the argument.
They packed the stuff they need and threw everything into the two SUVs in their garage. Shane and his mom would take one vehicle while his dad would take the other. After they loaded up the vehicles with their belongings, they sent home all the hired help.
They drove towards the highway leading into the city. While on the road, they saw there were other people who had the same idea of leaving the suburbs. Some of these people turned and headed south while some travelled north like Shane and his family. At the first junction on the highway, they turned east to take the beltway around the city, knowing travel through the city would be suicide. The alien vessels were all there.
Traffic was light on the beltway until they went further along. It was a clear indication of people leaving the cities in droves.
The first series of explosions in the city sent large debris onto the beltway, striking cars on the inner loop and sent them flipping. Some were crushed when debris fell on top of them. Drivers activated manual control and tried to avoid the carnage only to lose control and crash into other vehicles on the outer loop. It soon became a cascading series of incidents. Casualties mounted but there won’t be anyone to take care of any survivors.
Shane’s parents had the foresight of driving on the outermost lane and had a much easier time avoiding crashes but their luck ran out when one of the crashed truck up front exploded. Chunks of plastic and metal became shrapnels and slammed into the car Shane was in. One of the larger shrapnel struck the SUV’s engine block with enough force to cause an explosion, creating more shrapnels. Some struck the windshield and driver side door and one blew out the left wheel car. The momentum of the vehicle did the remaining damage.
Shane blacked out when he hit his head during the crash. He didn’t know how much time passed when he woke up upside down. He turned to his left to see his mom unmoving and had blood flowing across her face.
“Mom, are you ok?” He shook his mom.
There was no response.
“Mom!” Shane called out and shook his mom again. There was no response. He grew concerned. He looked up and down his mom’s body and found two metallic shrapnels sticking out her chest. His mind registered what’s going on and grief came over him. “No!” His mom was dead. Tears started rolling down. He cried for a while but knew there was nothing he could do.
He unbuckled his seatbelt and landed awkwardly on the roof of the car. He shifted himself and tried to open the door but it won’t budge. He cursed before giving the door a hard kick with the ball of his feet. It didn’t work. He tried again and the door swung open. He crawled out and saw the devastation around him.
The city was burning behind him. Many of the once shiny and beautiful buildings with their highly reflective glass windows and holographic advertisements now a bunch of charred metal skeleton. Columns of thick toxic smoke rose up and formed tiny black clouds. Cars on the beltway and other roads became nothing more than twisted burning metal coffins for people trapped inside. The southeasterly winds showered everything with ashes.
Shane went to the back of the vehicle to grab at least one of his bags. He didn’t know where his dad went. For all he knew, his dad could be dead further ahead and there was no point for him to travel northwards. So surviving this invasion and finding the person on the photograph became his only obsession. He went south with his bag slung over his shoulder.
Little did he know he would walk into a battle between the alien invaders and Earth Union soldiers.
With EMCON, intelligence could only be gathered via visual imagery using the telephoto cameras installed outside of the Mu Ren. Plans had to be made with a lot of assumptions.
For the first few hours, it was mostly peaceful and the alien vessels weren’t doing anything.
The first visual confirmation of an explosion in space came in the evening or dawn depending where you were from in the world. One of the military space stations seemingly exploded as it was transiting between the night and day side of earth.
Recognising this was war, Zhang Hao gave the order for the ship to move towards Earth. The helmsman’s finger went to work. A few flicks of some virtual switches and a few keystroke into the keyboard, the rear thrusters fired up and the ship lurched forward towards the blue marble. Some crew members found themselves nearly splattered against the walls when the ship accelerated without warning. They reoriented themselves and strapped into the acceleration couches.
E.U.S.S ships in orbit around Earth engaged in battle with the alien ships. But they were vastly outgunned. For every scratch done to the enemy, humans lose two ships. Even the orbital defence platforms around earth with their larger gauss cannons and missiles didn’t do much to stop the enemy.
Mu Ren stopped itself five thousand kilometres above Earth’s surface and came under fire from enemy fighters that seemingly appeared out of the nowhere. Or that they were stealthy enough to evade detection. The point-defence turrets with their integrated radar and multi-spectrum sensors, found the enemy fighters and made short work of them. They also detected several inbound missiles and shot them down. A few fighters did managed to get a few shot out from their plasma auto-cannons, carving large holes along the port side hull and causing atmosphere to vent out into space. The violent depressurisation sent a few unlucky crew members out into space through the holes. They screamed as they went but didn’t do much to help them. As they didn’t have the time to put on any protective suit, froze to death within seconds. The ship’s safety system kicked in seconds later and sealed off the damage sections.
In the midst of battle, Mu Ren’s sensors detected an enemy ship twice the size of Mu Ren approaching it through the clouds accelerating at speed four times that of the escape velocity. Based on the rendered image of the ship, the enemy ship had a spherical front connected to a hexagonal tube for body that was connected to a giant cone at the back. Judging from how rugged the edges of the vessel looked from the telephoto images, it was clear that these aliens valued functionality over aesthetic. Even the Mu Ren, despite its functional-first approach, looked much better than the aliens.
Seeing the data sent to his console by the Combat Information Center (CIC), Zhang Hao shifted in his seat, obviously uncomfortable. But he knew the response couldn’t be conservative. He spoke into the air, “Weapons Control, I want missiles on that incoming enemy ship. Send them half of what’s in the bays.”
A thirty-two year Staff Sergeant led the Weapons Control team. She re-enlisted just last year after going on a half-year break. Before that, she served five years in the Space Navy onboard another, much older cruiser called Shinomori. According to the Space Navy’s ship movement chart, The Shinomori’s last mission put it on patrol around the asteroid belt to quell a secession and was on its way back to Mars before the aliens invaded.
“Aye Captain,” Charlie replied before giving the order to the Master Gunner who was seated by the weapons control console in front of her.
The Master Gunner’s fingers went all over the display as he input the targeting information, which missile bays to use and what missiles to load and the launch protocol. He waited until the enemy entered into the missiles’ maximum effective range before tapping on the giant flashing red ‘Execute’ button at the bottom right of the display.
The doors to the five of ten missile launch bays underneath the ship opened with each bay revealing grids of vertical launch cells arranged in rows of four by five columns. The first row of missiles came flying out of their cells after being ejected. A second later, the missiles fired their navigation thrusters to align their heads with the target before engaging the main thrusters. The missiles surged forward through space at speeds exceeding forty times the speed of sound. Within a minute, all one hundred missiles were flying towards their target—the one alien ship now a hundred kilometres away.
Another minute later, the missiles were within two kilometres of the alien ship when its own point-defence turrets activated. The turrets took out a quarter of incoming missiles but due to the missiles’ speed, the turrets couldn’t catch up. The missiles struck multiple areas of the ship with their high-explosive thermite warheads. The alien ship looked as though it was surrounded by a massive display of orange fireworks which made the crew in the bridge and CIC to cheer.
However, fear came like a wave, sweeping over the crew of Mu Ren when they saw alien ship continued forward. It fired its missiles in response. Ten missiles shot out of their pods mounted on the side of the ship and surged forward.
At first, Zhang Hao thought it was weird the enemy only responded with ten missiles until he realised those missiles weren’t normal missiles. He ordered the ship to take evasive manoeuvre immediately and hoped the point-defence turrets could take out those missiles. If just one of the enemy missile scored a direct hit, the ship would be sitting duck for subsequent attacks, if not outright destroyed.
The helmsman’s fingers went to work as he began submitting a series of commands into the console in front of him. Almost instantaneously, the ship began firing its thrusters so that the starboard side of the ship was facing the enemy while the ship moved forward against the direction of the planet’s rotation. By having the starboard side of the ship face the enemy, he hoped to take advantage of the arrangement of the point defence turrets for a more effective counter against the inbound threat. At the same time, the Threat and Risk Management Unit in the CIC submitted a special command to the Ship Defence AI to use high-explosive and armour-piercing rounds for the turrets.
The Ship Defence AI switched out the rounds in the turrets via the automated loader systems while taking account into the threat profile. The AI also launched several drones into orbit around the Mu Ren. Those drones would then launch countermeasures in a bid to fool the incoming missiles.
The cloud of junk metals and flares littered around the former location of Mu Ren flash boiled when the first four enemy missiles struck and exploded. The point-defence turrets took care of the remaining six. One of them got too close before being destroyed, unleashing its plasma payload that tore a huge hole out of the rear of the ship, destroying one of the thrusters and reduced the ship’s overall effective speed. The boron carbide armour beneath absorbed the remaining heat and protected sensitive components on the inside.
By now, the alien ship was within effective range of the gauss-guns.
After hearing the announcement of ten more casualties, Zhang Hao felt anger surging through his body yet he managed to keep his cool, “Unleashed the remaining missiles. Fire the guns. XO, I want those marines deployed now.”
The doors to remaining five missile bays opened and the missiles went flying. At the same time, the second Master Gunner programmed the four guns to aim at the enemy ship. He input some commands to get the capacitors charging and the autoloader load rounds into the chambers. He set the guns to fire in a staggered manner: front guns first then the rear guns. Once the capacitors in the guns were at full charge, the system automatically fired them as programmed.
The missiles, each armed with either shrapnels or high-explosive thermite warheads, struck the target first. As the Master Gunner programmed them to hit the target randomly across the surface, they destroyed many of the enemy’s point-defence turrets. And unknown to the crew of Mu Ren, the missiles took out several supporting structures of the alien ship and weakened certain areas of the hull. A few seconds later, the first two gun rounds struck their target on the front and unleashed massive shockwaves that dispersed the nearby clouds while creating its own set of mushroom clouds. The alien ship’s armour ensured it was unscathed. It continued to punch through the thick greyish cloud before the second wave of projectiles struck.
When the dust and cloud cleared, smoke was rising out of the hole created by the guns. Satisfied with the ship’s effort, Zhang Hao ordered the guns to fire again. More rounds went out and this time struck several areas of the alien ship, damaging the hull and destroyed even more of the enemy’s point defence turrets. At this distance with the telephoto cameras, they could see aliens sucked out into space.
The alien ship returned fire with plasma missiles and plasma cannons. With only approximately ten kilometre between it and Mu Ren, the plasma missiles and cannons were more effective and difficult for the human ship to evade. A couple of plasma shots landed on the starboard side creating two huge holes near the front while one of the plasma missiles exploded near the trapezoid tower, superheating the metal enough to create a slag that ran down to the main body of the ship like waterfall and weakening the structure. Multiple section suffered explosive decompression shortly after, sucking several crew members out into space killing them.
In response, the Master Gunner on orders from Zhang Hao unleashed the missiles from the first bay once Mu Ren completed its reloading process. The second bay of missiles went out too once they were done loading. Then the third bay. By the time Mu Ren launched missiles from the tenth bay, it had exhausted its supply of missiles.
Luckily for the crew of Mu Ren, the alien ship couldn’t take any more punishment. It started breaking apart from the outside in. It didn’t take long for the destruction to reach the engine room. The containment for the alien ship’s antimatter fuel failed causing them to come into contact with matter. The antimatter-matter pair annihilation created a massive explosion and unleashing huge amount of radiation into the area around it. The countless space junks rode on the explosion and started slamming into the Mu Ren, causing major failures across multiple decks killing dozens more. Ionising radiation struck the ship at speed of light, causing multiple system failure. Even though the internal of the ship were hardened against most radiation, it wasn’t enough to block out sheer amount of radiation unleashed by antimatter-matter reaction. Crew members closest to the exterior of the ship were the hardest hit and suffered from radiation sickness while those in the center of the ship suffered mild illness.
He woke up to the sound of alarm blaring with a voice blasting through the speakers placed around the ship that repeated itself over and over again, “This is not a drill! Everyone to their battle station!”
He stripped off his pyajamas, a tight-fit polymer-based full body suit meant to keep him warm during the night, and put on the black under-suit he hung by the side of the metal cabinet by the side of his bed. This under-suit was meant for combat and active lifestyle with its array of smart sensors and temperature regulating technology. Going on top was his standard military-issue combat suit that could also operate in vacuum and provide protection against low to medium velocity shrapnel and projectiles. Additional platings placed in the pockets around his torso provided additional protection against high velocity projectiles. He placed his finger on the thumbprint reader and subject his eye to a retina scan before the shutter on the weapon locker in his room slid open. A MC-20 Gauss Carbine stood on its butt and leaning against the back of the locker. On the top shelf were eight empty magazines for the carbine stacked by the side. In the middle was a MS-30 .357 semi-automatic pistol and three empty magazines with a set of combat knives to the right. He pulled out the carbine, checked the weapon to make sure the chamber was clear and all the mechanisms were working as intended. He slung the carbine around his body, tucking it nicely in the small of his back before putting the empty carbine magazines into the pockets of his combat suit. Then he checked his sidearm and shoved it into the holster hung on the right side of his waist. He tuck the magazines for the pistol into the side pockets of his combat pants. The knives went into their respective pouch by the right breast pocket and another hanging off his belt. Satisfied with his outfit, he tapped the button by the side of the door and checked the clock on his wrist computer. He took two minute to get ready. He thought to himself, not bad at all.
He stepped out onto the metallic corridor, finding members of the 8th Battalion Orbital Drop Marines running past him towards the deployment deck, located towards the back of the ship, near the engine room. He saw someone he recognised and called out, “Hey Mark, what’s going on?”
“Hey Amin. I have no idea. But we better get going. They are mobilising everyone.”
Mark shrugged and jogged off with the rest. Amin joined the run to the deployment deck.
The two cargo decks was configured into the E.U.S.S Standard Marine Deployment Deck, which was a term used to describe the switching of the cargo decks for the pre-configured module that was just a massive cube made of titanium alloy, separated into four regions internally with the use of barriers and bulkheads. Two of the regions served as the garage and hangar respectively. The hangar was huge enough to serve as the home for the fourteen exoatmospheric assault crafts. Each of those assault craft was capable of carrying thirty drop pods for thirty marines and were armed with four missiles pods mounted on its wings, and twin 40mm cannons under its nose. For the garage, there were ten light-strike buggies and at least two AV-10 light tanks, both of which could be ferried into the combat zone via the assault craft. And both garbage and hangar had their respective armoury to equip the vehicles. The other section was the armoury, with enough supplies to outfit all the marines with ammunition, additional weapons, special equipments for special missions. And the last one was the staging area where the marines would gather and get their briefings for any upcoming mission.
The marines arranged themselves into four grids of twenty by five within the red boxes drawn on the ground. Standing in front of them was Lieutenant Colonel Lee, a Chinese with a lighter skin tone and short brown hair. Despite his rank, he looked like he was in his late thirties with a youthful looking face.
Beside Lee was Major Jameson, who was obviously a British judging from his accent and was the one giving the briefing. He stood half a head shorter, looked way older than he actually was with a rough face and square jaw and had a thick mop of sandy-blonde hair, which was obviously non-regulation. His uniform said as much since it was all black and doesn’t have any insignia or rank but marines who had contact with him knew his official rank and he was from a special branch of the British SAS, on loan to help train the marines.
After the briefing, Amin thought the whole situation was beyond weird. He sneaked glances at the marines around him and they too looked bewildered.
Several hours ago, unidentifiable vessels had entered Earth atmosphere and took up positions above major cities and population centers. For now the vessels were not doing anything. Despite the Major’s attempt at sounding politically correct, he knew the military higher-ups take on the situation: The government don’t know what was going and not sure how to respond. The military would be treating it like a potential invasion.
And the orders for the marines was simple—they were to prepare themselves for counter-invasion operations against military targets on Earth. Individual squad would be given their respective mission by their Captains. In the meantime, the ships would engage the vessels in space and in-atmosphere, and provide ground support whenever possible.
The other weird thing was the use of paper-based briefing packages issued to the Captain of each company. Most mission details were generally sent through the Earth Union Military (E.U.M) Net where marines could access using their wrist computer and view information on their helmet’s Heads-Up Display.
After the Major gave the permission to hand out briefing packages, the Captains turned around and began moving around with the briefing packages in hand, stopped in front the sergeants of each squad and handed over a briefing package. Once all the packages had been issued, the Captains went back to their original position and faced the front.
This time, it was Lieutenant Colonel who spoke. He gave a quick speech to rally the troops before sending them off to collect their ammunitions and board the assault crafts.
Amin followed his squad to the armoury and lined up like everybody else. When it was his turn, he put his signature on the tablet in front of him for a box of ammunition for his carbine and pistol, two fragmentation grenades and high-explosive grenades, and the GH-150 Powered Exoframe.
Amin stepped forward onto the exoframe outfit platform, a large circle with robotics arms hovering around, ready to help with the wearer with putting on the exoframe. Setting it up the first time had always been a tedious process. After that though, it was as easy as taking off and putting on your clothes. In the event of any major failure, taking off is as easy as tapping any of the eject buttons located on along the thighs or the wearer could issue a voice command in an event of emergency when the wearer could neither move any of his arms.
The mostly black exoframe came through the opening in the middle of the platform and was held up by a series of clamps. Without the wearer, the exoframe looked like a series of metal bars and poles connected to each other with moveable joints powered by hydraulics, and had braces for every aspect of the body, maximising the integration. The body braces also had the secondary function of allowing the installation of ceramic armour-plating.
He climbed up the stairs, placed all his weapons on the nearby shelf, and proceeded to put on the exoframe like he was wearing another suit on top of his existing ones. After he was done securing all the straps, the robotic arms went to work to install the armour-plating for both lfront and back before connecting the exoframe to the neural interface near the base of his skull. After a series of checks completed, he stepped off the platform with his weapons attached to the various attachment points located on his exoframe.
He made his way to the assault crafts, joined his squad on one, and waited until the rest of the marines were ready.
No one bothered to check how much time had passed since the marines boarded the assault craft. The ship and everything within shuddered often from the explosions as the ship engaged in battle with the enemy, causing groans and moans from the marines in the assault crafts. Some of them whined that they were going to die on the ship before they get to see any action only to be shushed by the officers onboard.
When the deployment orders finally came, the pilots gave an announcement and lights in the cabin turned red as the ramps behind the crafts came up, whining as it went. Cranes secured themselves around the crafts with clamps before lifting them up, and moving them above the double sliding doors on the ground. The pilots did a synchronised countdown after the doors opened. Most marines used that chance to put on mouth-guards and tightened their jaws around them. On reaching one, the pilots hit their respective button to release clamps, allowing the assault crafts to free-fall towards Earth, causing marines to scream from excitement, like one would when riding the rollercoaster on a downward fall.
The pilots fired up the engines, manoeuvred the crafts such that the noses were at a forty-five degree against Earth’s atmosphere, shut down the engines and closed all intake ports, and let gravity did the rest.
The re-entry process wasn’t a smooth one. The craft shook violently as it went against the atmosphere that was getting denser every second. The bottom of the craft, particularly the nose area, flared orange from the intense heat and superheated gas white hot as they flowed around the curves that defined the crafts’ bottom.
Once cleared of the upper atmosphere and the crafts slowed down enough, the pilots restarted the engines to fly the assault crafts to where they were needed. At about forty kilometres above ground, the pilots gave the signal for pods deployment.
The front hatch of the drop pods came down with the hydraulics whining. The whining stopped and a thump followed, signifying that the hatch was locked shut. If anyone wanted to get out, it would not be possible without pressing the eject button that would send the hatch flying outwards from the explosives laced along the connecting edge.
The pods hung precariously above the hexagonal opening beneath as the doors opened, revealing the green, brown and grey expanse that was the continent of North America.
The clamps holding the pods in place released their grips and the pods fell towards the surface at terminal velocity.
Enemy fighters in the vicinity saw the pods and switched their mission from patrol to engaging the pods. Soon the airspace around the pods were filled with plasma rounds. Some pods lost their chute and began accelerating downwards while some exploded in midair. In either case, the marine inside was dead.
At 800 meters, pods that escaped the enemy fighters deployed their parachutes and began controlled descents to the ground. Even so, the situation on the ground wasn’t any better. Many of the pods landed in the middle of battle between E.U ground forces and the enemy. Marines lucky enough not to get shot joined the fight but many didn’t last long because of their lack of experience fighting aliens with superior weaponry. They did however last longer than the ground troops because of their trainings.
The pods carrying Amin and his squad managed to stay within a hundred meter of each other despite the rough descent and landed in an old town called Dunk, on an old field where the grass were overgrown.
Amin grunted when the pod impact the ground despite the parachute. His butt felt like someone had given him a kick despite the cushion. He shook his head to clear away the tension headache he had before pushing the hatch eject button. An explosion followed the hissing sound, blowing the hatch away from the pod, sending it flying a couple of meters. It continued to tumble across the field for another two more meters before landing flat against the ground.
During that time, Amin unstrapped himself, stepped out of the pod and pulled out his guns from weapon compartment, attached the sidearm to his suit and held the carbine in his hands in a swift and continuous action as though he had completed ten thousands hours of practice. He was ready to shoot at anything that so much threatened him.
He did a quick sweep of his surrounding to find that it was clear. He located his squad members on his heads-up display and made his way to the nearest one.
“Hey Vassie, how was your way down?” Amin asked as he went on one knee and sweep his weapon around to make sure no one sneaked up on them. Vassie was a big man of pure muscle at one hundred and ninety centimetre weighing just over one hundred and ten kilogram. He was the squad’s heavy weapon specialist. He was wearing the Heavy-variant of the exoframe, also known as exoarmour. The exoarmour with its thicker armour also came with at least twice the strength of exoframe, allowing it to lift more weight.
“Surprisingly smooth given the situation,” Vassie replied as he pulled out his MK45 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) from the storage compartment and weighed it in his hands, feeling secretly satisfied that he had such a powerful weapon in his hands. His carbine was attached to his back at a forty-degree angle against the magnetic holder. “But we definitely lose a lot of our people to enemy fighters. What the hell is the Air Force doing?”
“Beats me,” Amin shrugged but with that chunky exoframe, the nuances of a shrug didn’t quite show.
“Squad, on me,” the earpiece crackled. Amin and Vassie recognised that voice as their squad leader, Jacobs.
Both of them jogged over to find Coen, the squad’s scout and marksman, standing beside Jacobs.
“What’s the plan?” Amin asked.
“Reinforce any local resistance and get as many civilians to the school as possible.”
Amin looked across the field to a random distribution of houses. There were sporadic gunfire and explosions across the town, “Where do we start?”
Click here for Chapter 4
Click here for Chapter 2.