Trouble Downwell

Captain Miim Sesset bonked her face shield with the bow of her wrist, absently trying to wipe the sweat from her brow. They didn’t prepare her for this bullshit back at the academy. The countdown timer was hard to read with her cockpit in blackout mode, but she knew there was under a minute to go.

The Wing Commander broke the tense silence with a final systems check. Miim Sesset waited her turn and confirmed: “Harpy Seventeen, Ready!” She put more enthusiasm on it than she’d meant. Nerves. Her hands shook and she gripped the sticks more tightly. Kaffaljidhma was more than the capital; it was her home. And it was under siege.

Harpy Wing was on patrol at the outskirts of the system when a battlecruiser took out its carrier from four billion klicks. The shot came from downwell. Little one-seater fighters like hers had no jump capabilities, but the attacking cruiser did, and it was most certainly inbound, planning to sweep up after itself. When it arrived, for the briefest moment its jumpsphere would hang open, and the fighters could just barely squeeze around the cruiser’s bulk and into its wake, effectively borrowing the larger vessel’s FTL capabilities to make an escape and join the fight elsewhere.

In theory.

The Wing Commander was either a tactical genius or suicidal with rage. Too soon to tell.

Miim Sesset had run out of time to mull it over; the battlecruiser was suddenly right on top of her. The squadron redlined past the cruiser, falling centrally like entering a funnel. All but Miim Sesset. As fate had it, a massive g-wave antenna jutting out from the cruiser blocked her path, and try as she might to swerve around it efficiently, the jumpsphere snapped shut before she could reach it, separating her from her unit.

She kicked her ship into drift as fast as she could and prayed she hadn’t been spotted. But praying was not enough to ease her mind, so she chanced a view of the cruiser through her rear monitor. It looked…wrong.

There was something on the hull. Something…organic-looking. What the hell…?

And then, under pressure from the strangling growths, the cruiser split open like bloated roadkill. Tiny sparks flickered out into the void; it was the crew. She could see now that whatever was on the cruiser’s hull was packed into the crevices of every deck.

With horror, Miim Sesset watched in silence. The cruiser nearly crashed into the downed carrier. Nearly. And when it sailed by, one of the growths snapped out, snagged the carrier, and the two spiraled off together, tethered by…whatever this was.

No, the academy had not prepared her for this at all. What in heaven’s name was happening downwell?

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