Chapter 13: Planetary AssaultA gate of pure light opened in the darkness of space and from it emerged X-Bomber and its escort of X-Fighters. The journey had been instantaneous; one second they had been in the depths of Sargasso the next they had been spat out into the dark void of the Thalian Zone. It was actually hard to tell where one ended and the other began as The Thalian Zone seemed to be devoid of all star light, however the crushing gravity of Sargasso had ceased and X-Bomber's power system's were slowly returning to normal so they were out of danger, for the time being.A few millitons ahead lay their target known as the so-called: ‘Lost World of the Ancients’ by some, but designated by Star Fleet Command for the purposes of this mission as Gelma 2. The small fleet of ships that had vacated the now closed warp gate remained stationary. Energy supplies needed to return to normal and a tactical plan of action was required to be formulated. They had found their planet, but who or what would they encounter on its surface and how would they find them?‘Ok that was fun! Let’s not do that again in a hurry though eh guys? said Lee in his comically sarcastic tone.‘You can say that again, Lee!’ agreed Hercules. ‘That’s twice now we’ve escaped Sargasso by the skin of our teeth. We’re tempting fate here!’‘I am speechless. I must re-check my computations as for once I seem to be in full agreement with Lieutenant Hercules.’ blurted PPA.‘Knock it off you guys, we made it in one piece. Lamia didn’t let us down!’ said Shiro, who for a brief moment in Sargasso had thought that Lamia might have indeed forsaken them. ‘Father, Gelma 2 is four millitons away. What’s our next move?’Professor Hagen pondered the question. He had found of late that he was being asked more military questions than scientific ones. He had completed basic training in his academy days, like everyone else who wanted to serve with Star Fleet Command, but his incredible scientific abilities guaranteed his path would be an academic one. Truth be told he would have made a good Commander, maybe even a General if he had chosen to take the military path. Now the fates had conspired to place him in just such a position. All those games of chess with General Kyle had paid off and the Professor possessed a solid strategic mind to complement his other more well known abilities.‘Shiro. Take Braincom and assume command of the X-Fighter wing. Fly towards Gelma 2 in a protective formation in advance of the X-Bomber. We don’t know what to expect, but this is the domain of the Imperial Master, so be vigilant, my son.’ said the Professor.‘Yes Father.’ replied Shiro as he made his way to the docking car.‘Hercules, Lee, mount the gun ports.’ said the Professor.‘Yes sir!’ replied the two lieutenants although with differing levels of excitement.‘PPA you’re with me. Monitor systems and be ready in case of a trap.’‘Yes Professor Hagen.’ responded PPA in a proud electronic tone.Professor Hagen had learned many things from his games of chess with General Kyle; one of those lessons was that an entire game can change with one move. Little did he know that the Imperial Master had already made his decisive move in this cosmic game of chess and that this particular game was indeed about to change.Briancom launched from the underside of X-Bomber and took up a position well ahead of the main ship. The wing of X-Fighters then split into two groups and formed up in a diagonal formation either side of Shiro's Dai-fighter. Professor Hagen's garbled voice sounded in Shiro's cockpit. 'The lead is yours Shiro. Head to Gelma 2. Full quantum speed!' Shiro replied and launched his formation towards the direction of the planet with the X-Bomber following behind. The planet soon appeared in their sights, gradually growing larger as they neared it. Before Shiro could get a good look at the planet a searing electronic warning tone rang out in his cockpit. 'X-Squadron. We have multiple missiles inbound! Take evasive manoeuvres!’ called out Shiro to the small fleet he now spearheaded. The Imperial Master's planetary defence system that had remained idle, save for one rogue platform, when Arkama's battle cruiser had entered its gaze had now awoken. The X-Fighter squadron broke formation and prepared for the onslaught of missiles heading in their direction. The first missile struck one of the X-Fighters head on. The initial blast only damaged the fighter, but the explosion had released many smaller explosive pods which attached themselves to the star fighter and exploded; tearing the ship into thousands of pieces. Shiro looked to his left, another X-Fighter had been destroyed. To his right, Emma Steel had successfully shot down the missile that was locked onto her and was targeting another. 3 missiles had passed through the formation, though, and were now heading towards X-Bomber.PPA raised the alarm. 'Professor we have 3 missiles closing in on our position!''PPA, adjust speed and direction. Give Hercules a clear shot!' ordered the Professor.Hercules checked his gun-scope; he could see the 3 blips approaching. He squeezed the trigger, letting off a salvo of laser fire that destroyed the first missile, but the other two still remained and were closing quickly. He fired again, destroying the second, but the third and final one was coming in too fast. Hercules shouted to his crew mates, 'One's broken through people. Brace for impact!' The missile hit the underside of X-Bomber and exploded followed shortly after by many smaller explosions. X-Bomber shook all over, but was still intact. PPA gave a status report. 'We have sustained minor damage to the hull, but all systems are stable.' The crew of X-Bomber wondered how many more hits they could take before their situation became critical. Meanwhile ahead of them the depleted X-Fighter squadron had made it through the first wave of missiles. It had cost them dearly, though, and they had already lost five of their number due to the ferocity of the attack. They could now make out the origin of the missile salvo as the ominous sight of a dozen ancient weapon platforms faced them. Shiro gave the order for half of the remaining fighters to fall back and cover X-Bomber while he and the others took the fight to the weapon platforms. The X-Fighters came into their own in close quarter combat and were able to knock out a couple of platforms with some well aimed laser torpedoes. The weapons platforms were unable to obtain a missile lock on the attacking X-Fighters, so instead relied on short ranged bursts of super high velocity projectiles. These passed through the energy shielding of one X-Fighter, cutting it in half. The ancient, but powerful weapons onboard these platforms represented the Gelma Empire in its prime. They weren’t as sophisticated as a laser torpedo or as devastating as a Delta laser, but they were never-the-less effective and a reminder to Human and Thalian alike not to underestimate so-called obsolete technology.The battered X-Bomber prepared to make its way through the orbital blockade and into the planet’s atmosphere. The X-Fighters created a pathway for the X-Bomber to fly through, keeping the remaining ancient weapon platforms busy while it flew through a wall of flack. Superheated metal bombarded the ship, lacerating its metal frame, as it passed through the atmosphere. The great vessel had taken a considerable beating and now, with its engines on fire, prepared to make a crash landing on the planet’s surface.
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