Aurora Dancing With The Sky
Chapter 3
Chapter 5

Chapter 4

It had been over a week since the hand to hand combat test and Sky sat in his quarters alone looking over the intelligence reports he’d just been sent by Captain Nether. They detailed the reported activities of a group suspected to be part of the Tongalin Empire in the area. He knew of Tongalin as all people serving personnel did. They were an aggressive race prone to unprovoked raids on Hereclisa's territory. They supposedly had a shared ancestry though he'd always found that hard to believe. The Tongalin had a strong Space Fleet and were never to be taken lightly. Trading freighters and other commercial traffic had reported sighting Tongalin ships on the extreme range of their sensors. So the trader's guild had requested that the Admiralty send out to investigate and if necessary drive away the Tongalin ships. Sky stood and began pacing back and forth in his usual fashion when absorbing information.

The first week of patrol in the Arachnid sector had been uneventful. He'd been ordered by Captain Nether to sweep all debris either side of the star lanes for enemy ships. This was no small task. In his last watch on the bridge he had begun the sweep of an asteroid field that must have been several millions miles long. After a ten hour stint in the command chair he had been barely halfway through searching the field. He knew that Captain Nether's orders were the correct ones but he couldn't shake the feeling that they were missing something.

The door to his quarters buzzed. "Enter!" Sky called. The door slid aside to reveal Harmony standing in the doorway. "I've completed the task you set me, sir. All record the false charges have been gathered onto this memory crystal." Sky stopped pacing and sat down in his desk chair. "Excellent Lieutenant Dentelle, you have followed my orders to the letter." Harmony was slight taken back by her leader's unusual formality. "Yes sir." Sky activated his kettle and waved one hand at the small sofa signifying that Harmony should sit. "I order you to hand those records to me." Harmony did as she was told. "I hereby order you, Lieutenant Harmony Dentelle, not to reveal anything you have done regarding the gathering of these false charges without my express permission." It was at that moment that Harmony realised what Sky was doing. By openly reiterating that he had given her orders and by ordering her not to reveal what she had done, he was protecting her. She and anyone she had involved would just have been following the orders of their commanding officer, also the order would keep anyone from finding out about the records unless a superior officer to Sky ordered her to reveal what she had done.

In that moment Harmony understood why she had been passed over for this younger officer. He was a true leader, who guided and protected those who followed him and with his other skills he was most likely a candidate unmatched. She saw him slump slightly having given this speech. He must have been thinking of the danger his career was in already. "Thank you, Sky." He looked up sharply and then smiled so broadly Harmony imagined that she had made his day, by the mere utterance of his name. “What are we going to do now?” As if to a cue the kettle on the desk chimed. “We shall have some six spice tea and discuss our next move.” He looked down at the memory crystal in his hand. “It’s time to dispose of these.” He grasped his sword again and deftly threw the crystal in the air. The sword burned an ark through the air before striking the memory crystal sending it’s shards across the room. “You could have just sent it out the air lock you know.” Harmony said wryly. Sky flashed what she felt must have been the cheekiest smile she had ever seen. “Where would be the fun in that?” He then took the tea pot and filled it from the kettle. Sky laid two cups next to the desk. “The reports from Intelligence said the Tongalin ship that was spotted must have been large." He activated his wall screen and brought up a sensor log. "They could tell from the energy signatures that they were Tongalin, but the readings were too hazy to get anything more." Harmony nodded and studied the readings. "The ships would have had to have been big to energy signatures to be detected at 10 billion miles." She said after considering the readings for a moment. Sky hadn't thought of this and obviously neither had the Intelligence Staff. "Well done Harmony. They must have had to have been Harbinger sized at least." Harmony nodded her agreement. "That means there is no point searching this asteroid field. There's no way a Harbinger could even get into this field never mind hide." He stood up and activated the intercom. "Commander to the bridge officer. Cease all searching of the asteroid field and set course for the Demi-God maximum velocity." The startled voice of Soren responded. "Aye Sir. Setting Course for the Demi-God, maximum velocity." Sky quickly poured the tea which Harmony took gratefully.

Sky called up the local star chart on the wall screen. "There aren't many places that something like a Harbinger can hide in this sector. We need to work out where they're most likely to be." He sat down on his desk chair his fingers stroking his chin as his face took on a contemplative look. Harmony watched the screen as is passed over the larger possible hiding places in the sector. "What do you think of this one?" She said at last as the wall screen showed a small nebula. Sky continued to look thoughtful. "It’s along the most likely heading from the nearest point of Tongalin space and passes through where they were detected. It would also mask their energy signatures from any sensors except at extremely short range." Sky gave a short not of ascent. “It’s the most logical place for them to go. If it hadn't been for a freighter passing when it did, they never would have been detected." He sipped his tea. "This is our Prime suspect, however we should explore other possibilities before making our report." The two spent the next half an hour exploring possibilities. However in the end the only logical place was the Arachnid Nebula.

The intercom twittered as Sky cleared away his tea set. "We're approaching the Demi-God sir. They were out of position a lot closer to the asteroid field than they said." Sky decided to ignore the annoyed tone in Soren's voice, as by the sound of it he was right. "Understood Mr. Soren, I'll be there presently." He turned to face Harmony "Shall we?" Sky pulled on his uniform jacket again and the two left.

The bridge was in a buzz of activity as Sky entered the room. "Comm.." was about as far as Soren got through calling 'Commander on Deck!' before Sky had cut him off with "At ease". He sat in his chair for a moment before turning it to face the communications centre. "If we are clear of the asteroid field's interference then open a communications channel to the Demi-God." Within seconds Captain Nether's face came up on the screen.

"Have you found something in the astaroids Commander?" Sky took a deep breath before launching into his explanation. "No sir..." That was as far as he got before Captain Nether exploded. "Then why have you bothered to return now? Return to your search immediately!" Sky stood up from his commander chair. "We're searching in the wrong place, sir." Captain Nether hesitated and Sky jumped on his hesitation. “The information in the intelligence reports says that the ships were detected at 10 billion miles. The ships would have to be huge to be detected at that range, at least the size of a Harbinger. Assuming that’s true there’s only one logical place in this sector that something the size of a Harbinger could hide. That would be The Arachnid Nebula itself, sir.” Captain Nether looked stunned for a moment and then regained his composure. “Very impressive Commander, even Intelligence missed what you spotted.” Sky knew Captain Nether was stating the obvious but he decided to take it as a compliment. “I can’t take the credit for the discovery sir. It was my first officer Lieutenant Dentelle who made the observation.” Captain Nether gave a slight nod “Very well Commander, congratulate your first officer on my behalf. Set course for the arachnid nebula keeping pace with The Demi-God. I will contact you later with an attack plan, Demi-God out.” The view screen returned to the view of space directly ahead of the ship. Sky looked over at the helmsmen to see that he was already setting course. “Keep pace with the Demi-God. Mr. Soren the bridge is still yours till the end of the watch.”

Sky headed to the door off the bridge signalling to Harmony that she should follow him. The short walk that returned them to Sky's quarters was taken in silence. Harmony used the time to consider how much her relationship with her commanding officer had changed in barely half of an hour. Sky had prevented her punishment, protected her from harm and elevated her in the eyes of his own commanding officer when most others would have stayed silent and taken the credit. It was an impressive display and Harmony knew from this point onwards she was going to go above and beyond for this man.

As the door to Sky's quarter's slid open, he broke the silence. "Congratulations Harmony. You seem to have really pleased Captain Nether." Harmony could feel the blush in her cheeks and shouted at herself within the confines of her mind for such a display. She was rather grateful that Sky had not yet turned around to face her. "Thank you sir" Sky headed for his desk chair again and Harmony took her place on the small sofa. "We need to have formed our own plan of attack by the time Captain Nether contacts us again with his." Harmony agreed and together the two set about their work. They analysed every piece of information they had about the Arachnid Nebula and looked over the intelligence reports for anything they'd missed. It was not long before they had their plans laid out on the screen.

Harmony stood and gave Sky a quick salute. "If you'll excuse me sir, I need to prepare to command the next watch." Sky stood and returned the Salute. "Very well, when you relieve Mr. Soren have him gather a team and perform the pre-battle checks on the ship. Then he may take his rest." Harmony dropped her salute as Sky did his. "Aye Aye sir." She turned on her heel and left Sky to his thoughts.

He sat back in the desk chair. In a few moments he could be entering the first battle of his command. Only his second battle ever. He let his mind drift back to the day on Battleship Nemian when they had gone into battle. He'd been in his bunk as the screeching alarm had blasted out interspersed with a voice say "Emergency! All Crew To Battle Stations! Emergency! All Crew To Battle Stations!" He thrown on his clothes and ran for the lift. The bridge was in chaos as he had exited the lift at the rear. He'd taken up his position as the backup weapons controller. He immediately began his system checks as he'd been shown to do. The ship rocked and Sky heard a thundering crack all round him. "They hit the starboard quarter, sir. There's no detectable damage." Sky saw that his checks were done and turned to look at the Captain. "Charge the Nero." Sky watched the man he was backing up activating the main offensive weapon of the Battleship Nemian. The weapon was named after an ancient emperor who it was said to have played the fiddle whist the ancient city Rome burned on the original human home world. It was named such because the high energy beam electrons had the side effect of causing spontaneous combustion in surrounding areas when a ship’s hull was breached or when fired at a planet. “Heat and ladar signatures found, one ship found. A Tongalin Battleship, 163° by 219°. Nero target lock obtained.” The captain looked around his bridge. “Match our course to their location, take us in close.” The helmsman quickly began punching in commands into his console. The power surge caused by the manoeuvre was so harsh that it momentarily threw the ship’s gravity out of alignment and the ship felt like it was lurching around a sharp bend like a vehicle in gravity.

"Range two hundred thousand miles, one fifty, one hundred, fifty thousand, twenty five." The weapons controller called out. "Fire the Nero!" The Captain called. There was a great hum that reverberated throughout the hull. "A direct hit sir. Their hull is breaking." The sensor controller called. Now Sky understood why they hadn't simply sired immediately. The decreased range had caused the enemy ship's armour to become partly ineffective. "The Battleship has come about sir; they appear to be trying to withdraw." Although nobody moved the entire bridge crew were transfixed on their captain. The tension in the air was palpable. "Send them a message 'You are not worthy of our time.' Then return to our original course." The crew couldn't help, but smile. The message would not only annoy the Tongalin, but take their honour."

Sky laughed at the memory. He had heard that in dispatches that the Tongalin Battleship had challenged the Nemian again and had been destroyed.

The intercom twittered and Sky activated the speaker. "Go ahead." He said quickly "Captain Nether is on the line for you sir. Shall I patch him through?" Sky simply responded in the affirmative before he sat in his chair in front of his wall screen. "We now have a plan of battle Commander. You will Dark Shift the Bolt into the Nebula and provide a diversion. You will open fire of the Harbinger and Draw their attention away from the point where you entered the Nebula. With their attention drawn The Demi-God shall Dark Shift into the Nebula and open fire on their stern; any questions?" Sky immediately felt that the plan was a bad idea, every instinct he had told him that the plan was too simplistic, also the chances of his crew being annihilated on his first battle command was not an appealing idea. However he could not give his concern for his crew’s well being as a proper reason for disagreement with a superior officer's plan, it would be seen as perceived cowardice. "Sir, I believe that a little more contingency planning might be in order. In case the situation does match our assumptions." Sky hoped that the use of the plural tense in his sentence would be enough to make the Captain not take the recommendation as a personal criticism. Unfortunately it most definitely wasn't. "You'll follow orders Lieutenant Commander Praetora and you'll like it." Sky's military discipline stopped him from openly sighing. "Yes sir." Captain Nether shook his head "You will enact the plan as soon as the Bolt has been readied for battle." He ended the communication and the screen went black. Sky reluctantly hit the intercom. "Lieutenant Dentelle, order all hands to battle stations."

Sky stood and walked over to his wardrobe and used its mirror to ensure that his uniform looked its best. He opened wardrobe to take out his tribal lockbox and laid out his ritual mat. If he was to enter battle he would do it as a Misalli warrior not just an officer under orders. He placed his sword on the mat and knelt behind it. The ritual was a tradition his father had taught him, the pre-battle ritual of his people. He took out the earthen paints of the box and began to make his markings. He painted twin lines on his forehead as he knelt behind his sword, then began twisting them into the pattern of his family's war face. It's spiked spiral was said to channel the warrior's energy so that he would keep his mind in battle. He gave his sheath the revered markings before attaching it to his hip and walking out of his cabin.

The bridge crew snapped to attention as he entered and he responded with the usual “At ease.” He could see their amazed looks as he sat down in the command chair and slid his Katana into the holster beside it. Sky pressed broadcast button on the arm of his chair. "This is Lieutenant Commander Praetora on the bridge. You have all been ordered to battle stations, but I'll never take you into battle without telling the plan if possible. We're about Dark Shift in the Spider Nebula, where our orders are to distract and draw the fire of the enemy Harbinger to allow the Demi-God to Dark Shift in behind and disable them. This is not going to be an easy task, so I need you all on your top game. Any issue that any crew member is having their station must be reported to Lieutenant Dentelle in the C.I.C. In the next two minutes. After those two minutes are up I expect all crew to be back at battle stations. Good luck to us all." He shut down the broadcast. He didn't look back but could hear a few crew members moving to Harmony situated in the tiny C.I.C. (Combat Information Centre) behind him. He counted a minute passing before he heard a quiet voice in his ear "Sir, all crew reports ready." Sky nodded "Very well, our plan is this. We head full speed straight for the enemies sensor array as soon come out of Dark Shift, a close range shot could blind them and have them at the mercy of the Demi-God. The sensor array is your primary target Lieutenant. After that take whatever target presents itself as we evade their fire." Harmony gave a quick salute and returned to her place in the C.I.C. "Helm, charge for Dark Shift set a course for the Spider Nebula, into the middle of the largest cloud." The helmsman was immediately calculating the length and direction of the shift needed, not showing the hesitation he knew the man must be feeling. Sky knew that somewhere in the back of the mind of every crewman on the bridge was the thought 'what happens if we exit Dark Shift inside the enemy ship?'. They all knew the effects would be catastrophic and deadly to both ships, but it was a risk they had to take because of their orders. "Course laid in, sir. ZPE Drive charged." Sky took a few steadying breaths, he could feel the rush of going into battle already seeping into his calm. The God of The Lightning Step was commanding his first battle. "Engage Dark Shift."

Chapter 3
Chapter 5
Aurora Dancing With The Sky