Terminal Resignation by Todd Skaggs

The Music Be The Food flash fiction event continues with round three. This time, the song is one of my all-time favorites, from prog metal master, Devin Townsend, called Kingdom. Give a listen to the tune and then read the first flash fiction piece, by the outstanding Todd Skaggs.

Terminal Resignation

The hull of the ship rocked concussively.

“One more hit like that and we’re not going to be able to jump.”

The ensign was worried and I didn’t blame her. We found ourselves in a fire fight in neutral space that was supposed to be clear. And what’s worse, we didn’t have a goddamned clue who was shooting at us or why.

“Do we have those coms yet?”

“Negative sir. The array was the first thing they hit. Whoever these assholes are, they know a thing or two about crippling a Command Class Cruiser.”

“Not helping, McArthur.” I gave my number two a sideways glance. She knew I appreciated her candor. I looked over and made eye-contact with Jax. He looked up from the console long enough to shake his head in a side to side motion.

“So, weapons are still offline, too. Fantastic.”

This is the worst moment a captain can face.

I would like to say I wasn’t prepared for this moment. But that would a lie.

There’s a class at Fleet Command Academy that every captain is required to take. This class is not on any course catalog and no captain will ever acknowledge its existence. To even discuss it is an offense that brings court martial and a tour of duty in the outer rim territory.

Not like it matters now.

The class is effectively, how to die. The official name is Fleet Command Terminal Resignation Protocols.

I paid attention in class. It was one of those classes you prayed you never needed. I held a command card in my left hand. Pulled from the arm of my captain’s chair, it illuminated a barely noticeable panel. None of the crew would have any idea what it was. Save my Number One. She doesn’t miss anything. She didn’t acknowledge it, but I know she saw me weighing the option of the TRP.

As I was surveying my bridge crew, they were a mosaic of calm. Not even one of them had any doubt in my leadership or that we would somehow overcome this pickle we found ourselves in.

They were dead wrong. I knew we were dead. Hitting communications arrays and the weapons array with the first two hits were textbook disabling maneuvers. We might have still had a chance to out run them if that was all they hit.

But they also went for Command Functions. Doing so meant we had to route some of the power from the shields to manage Life Support. That told me all I needed to know. We were not going to be spared.

The other telling sign was that there were no hits to the FTL drive. Not that they needed to. Without the communications arrays, we couldn’t ping any sub-space nav beacons and were effectively dead in the water anyway. Short range thrusters and a sub-light drive gave us maneuverability but not much else.

The fact that they didn’t go for the engines meant they wanted the FTL drive. The Command Cruiser Corwin was the pride of the fleet. And for good reason. It had the cutting edge faster than light drive. There was a new algorithm in the drive and as soon as the AI had finished its preliminary calculation cycles, the nav beacons wouldn’t be need to make the jumps. Once those initialization cycles were complete, the FC-Corwin would be one of the only ships in the known galaxies that would be able to jump to faster than from anywhere and to anywhere without any navigational beacons or way-stations.

The cycle was set to complete tomorrow.

Didn’t matter. We were going to die today. And I’d be damned if these assholes got my ship.

My com panel lit up, “CAPTAIN!”

“What is it Perry?” If engineering was calling me we were either very fucked or saved. I was praying for the second.

“Ma’am. They hit our coms, so we can’t ping the nav beacons.”

“Tell me something I don’t know Perry.” I didn’t have time for redundant information.

Watching the long-range sensors, I could see that our attacker was coming around for another hit. They were taking their time, though. They could afford to. The weapon they hit us with was an advanced plasma torpedo. It targeted specific systems instead of a broad spread of damage. It was a smart weapon. None of our known enemies had it. That made it all the worse. We were dealing with an unknown hostile.

“Well, ma’am. I think we can patch in to the coms on the shuttles. The shuttle bays haven’t been hit yet. We won’t be able to get all the way home, but we might be able to at least get out from under these plasma torpedoes until we can get our main communication array repaired.”

“Dammit, Perry, I think I love you right now.”

“Careful, Captain, I’m a married man and you know how jealous my husband gets.

For the first time since this encounter began, I allowed a smile to cross my face.

“How long?”

“I think I can have it patched through in 10 minutes.” Perry said as though running the calculations the same time he was speaking.

“You’ve got five.” I closed the channel.

“Alright people, look alive. We have to buy Engineering five minutes. Nav, stay in constant communication with Engineering, I want to be able to jump as soon as they give us the go ahead. We need shields diverted and give us some short range maneuverability. Air’s gonna get tight. Run lean.”

I looked down at the white knuckles at the end of my hands gripping the command card. The TRP panel glowed a dull red. I held to the slightest of hope that I wouldn’t need to complete the command sequence.

“We might just make it out of here alive, team.”

Read more from Todd at toddskaggswrites.com.