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Titans (Part 1)
Posted By: Mr Bill Jr V<mr_bill_jr_5@hotmail.com>
Date: 21 October 2004, 3:56 PM

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      "...Put simply, such a force was far out of place in protecting the Canis Majoris system from the impending Covenant invasion.
      "In fact, as only two light-years separate the Majoris star from the Eridani star, and a mere eight light-years stands between Delirium and Earth, at least one member of the United Nations Star Command Joint Staff should have been able to recognize the need to withdrawal the Second Fleet Group, unless of course there had been an agreement between Delirium and Earth Command in regards to fighting the aliens at the former planet, in some form of preemptive engagement. However, as best as can be determined from official dispatches, no such order was ever given by Earth. Thus, we can conclude with some certainty that it was the initiative of local commanders within the Delirium defense structure who approved of the engagement itself.
      "Furthermore, it was well known that the aliens had been massing a fleet of staggering scale around Reach in preparation for their strike against Earth, and it was certainly known that the aliens could launch a successful attack from the Epsilon Eridani system on Delirium without slowing their buildup of forces. Clearly aware of this fact, the Covenant had dispatched a battle group of some scale to the Canis Majoris system. Again, how such knowledge was overlooked by Earth but not Delirium command is utterly unknown. Nonetheless, a Covenant fleet launched from Reach orbit on 10 September, 2552.
      "It took them two days to arrive..."

      --- From, A History of The Later Great Colonial War

      This beginning, seen through bursting stars and growing worlds, is in what we have learned all that we now know. Riding high across our sun things have still not changed, and why? We will survive this fall in our time, this glimmer of another's hope. Those who traveled so far across endless stars to ravage us shall fail in that duty. Oh, we speak of death and horror but the truth is known- we cannot be defeated. We are immortal in our glory and genius, and they, so contrived and single-minded, are heartless. Alien and bestowed with the energy of that name, they are beasts seeking but to kneel at the feet of men. Our worlds burn, yes, but in chaos we will prevail.

      Star split to spiral and blooms twine,
      Bleeding distance comes sweeping as morn
      Flowers over flamed horizon shine.

      Fall, fall further.

      Pale shore bleach warming of mine
      Own birth and land thence seen scatter torn
      Star split to spirals and blooms twine.

      Spirals of his sight and a stream of worlds. Magnificent space a pristine definition of beauty. Temples rise and fall before what can be seen, as men live and die before what they know. Planets glow in star fire, ringed by an apex of light. Ice burns as flames flicker and thus is it known endless. A man grasps but falls. A great ship is dashed amongst the sea. Towers of marble crumble at whim. Oh, the glory of this godless age! And our oblivious end draws nearer still....

      Closing these eyes blinked upon this sign
      Imagined dark lay new light as born
      Flowers over flamed horizon shine.

      Do you see it now?

      Glory straight elemented sun-line
      Streaks over our world worn.
      Star split to spirals and blooms twine,

      Night sky. Stars seen from solid ground; up. Street lamps fading backwards from empty windows high above vacant streets. Like a summer's eve anywhere. And to see it all ruined, how can it be described? In a thought: as men burned the New World, we died to that equally alien. We all saw it, and still fell helpless to stop it. It comes closer now, one moon vanishes behind a thousand starships and another burns in primal fire. The day streaked sky falls into darkness. Horror rains from the clouds.

      Vision bathed white symphony such of wine
      Bright, yet ourselves known true forlorn
      Flowers over flamed horizon shine.

      A million bodies stacked high....

      False found brilliance fine!
      Hark its coming stare rising over mountain horn-
      Star split to spirals and blooms twine,
      Flowers over flamed horizon shine.

      And triumph! Yet, a dream?

      Lana opened her eyes. An alarm sounded, blocking out the constant drone of powerful engines. Unnatural air flowed in circles, moving from one end of the cockpit to the other, before being vacuumed and recycled. Her breath was icy, clouds of moisture forming when she exhaled. The heaters had failed. She ran a gloved hand across the dashboard, deactivating the alarm. Blue trails, like a tunnel of fire, raced past her view, the chaos of slipstream gliding around the ship. Ice had begun to collect on the windshield, tinting her view. She reached above the windshield and flipped a set of switches. After a brief moment she felt heated air flow back into the cockpit. Lana shook her head, trying to clear away an after image left from the dream. Checking a number of electronic readouts, she found her ship to be in working order, aside from the temporary heater failure. She tried to relax, zero gravity flight always made her nervous. Without warning another alarm sounded. She recognized the pitch as the faster-then-light indicator. The ship would be dropping back into real space in five minutes. Reaching to her helmet she activated the heads-up-display. A long string of numbers rattled off, giving her approximate location, speed, and fuel load-out. The best she could judge, the ship was somewhere, roughly six billion kilometers from planet Delirium. She leaned her head back, resting against her seat. It would almost be time to kill the engines, and make her approach in real space. Reaching down to a side panel, she flipped away the faster-then-light deactivation safe guard, then killed the main switch. The ship took a sudden bump, jostling for several seconds like an airplane caught in terrestrial turbulence.
      As the estimated-time-to-arrival counter reached the zero mark she flipped the twin ion engine ignition switches, listening as the slip-space engines powered down, and the ion drive came online. A long whining alarm began, followed shortly by the windshield tinting over. As the alarm reached its apex the main engines silenced. She set her hand against the ship's master ignition switch, waiting several seconds for the ion engines to finish starting up. She flipped the switch forward, then quickly back. Within a second the windshield went black, a blinding flash of light engulfing the ship. She felt herself thrown forwards, then pressed back against her seat as the ship's inertial dampers countered for the sudden change to real space. The alarm went dead, indicating that the switch to real space had gone through successfully. The windshield changed from opaque to transparent, the cockpit's interior lighting coming on.
      There, centered perfectly in the windshield, like a great pearl, hung the paradise world of Delirium. Four hundred million souls, a world of ocean and beauty. For a moment, Lana could hold no thought, as her vision and mind trailed over that marble in the viewscreen. Aside it spun a pair of moons, countered off so that tides refused to act with any consistency. From three-hundred-thousand kilometers she watched Delirium float and turn- and orbit in unity. And there was something else, something hiding just beyond the waking morn of Alpha Canis Majoris; she could see the new day widening over Delirium's vast seas. Briefly, she wondered how many people would be eating breakfast and how many dinner- how many would great a new day, and how many would sleep until another morning dawned.
      A proximity alarm went off. Looking to her right, through the heads-up-display, Lana could identify the outlined shape of a United Nations Star Command frigate, bristling with antennae, and communication equipment. She was deadly close, almost brushing the ship's armor. She grabbed at the controls, burning her ship's engines to open some distance on the frigate. Her sleek transport shuttle responded quickly, minute engine bursts propelling her away from the much larger warship. Through her windshield she watched as the frigate slipped away, half a kilometer of brute engineering vanishing from view. It was only one of many. Lana could see them in the distance, small images enhanced by the heads-up-display. Each ship grew progressively larger as she closed distances with Delirium. After passing several frigates, she slipped beneath the endless bulk of a Titan-class battleship. She pulled in low, avoiding the warship's massive ion engines. She watched in awe, a sudden shadow cutting across the cockpit, as the battleship blocked out Delirium's sun, the rising Majoris. Looking skywards she was given the illusion of flying upside down, the ship's features rolled past like a planet's horizon. The effect became total as she passed a long spire of communications equipment. Thinking fast, she made a quick burn, rolling the shuttle one hundred and eighty degrees to counter the unnerving horizon effect. Like water the cold grey of hull metal washed over the windshield. After what seemed an eternity, Majoris's terminator threw itself across the shuttle, the battleship vanishing like all the others. Yet still they came, each ship like a star; a single pinprick spread across the void.

      Looking down upon it, one could feel its glow: a world seeing back. Like, water reflections it seemed. A great spiral of cloud was condensing somewhere over the southernmost Pole- like a swarm of thrown steam caught in the wind and flashed over sand. There was ice, great staggering caps of it; they stretched on endlessly. Continents of green forest and quite deserts. Strewn water in puddles, as lakes. Moving jet-stream from dieing clouds and new born rain ran over the ocean and fell off the horizon. And, more indifferent still, single pinpricks of detail: human cities and ships seemed almost lost amid the green and darkling blue. Seventy kilometers and they could see all this.
      Truly, it was like sailing into the distance of a painting. Alexander, of countless titles, stood aboard the battleship Titan and considered this moment. Of the ship, he neither new nor cared much, it was simply another work of steel and industry, wrought in some horrible shipyard four years ago. It was captained by a competent man- the noted German commander Maximilian Herrscher, who's career in the United Nations Star Fleet had been so far distinguished by several encounters, two of which had resulted in established one-sided victories. Particularly, Alexander could recall the man's much lauded victory at Orleans, where the Sixth Fleet narrowly escape destruction- only to escape it once again at Reach. Oddly enough, defeats could pass for victories these days without one blinking an eye, such was the state of the Empire.
      He was a commodore, an admiral of a United Nations Star Command armada; the Second Fleet Group. He was a competent man, or so his position claimed, for few individuals, at least those outside the Joint Chiefs, rose to a higher position in the fleet. And a fleet it was that now lay spread around him in celestial orbit: the prow of the Revenge, named in the archaic British style for its guns and title, arched not more then five and a few kilometers off the Titan's bow, as the pocket battleship Prey drifted silently away to the west, over a vast plane of ocean and titling islands. Such constructs meant nothing alone, and this Alexander knew, to him they were united or destroyed, and that was the end of it. Delirium fell below him, visible to the naked eye through the large sheet of quartz built into the ship's control room. He could hardly describe the effect it had upon his senses, except to those who had experienced it equally- but it was awe made tangible, if such words do the slightest of credit.
      As a man, as a human, Alexander had known love. That for another and that for his people and his world. In all its own, he had experienced nay enough emotion to tilt a feather scale if need be. But despite his well met acquaintance with such finer aspects of human thought, he still found himself standing upon the deck of a ship of war. To kill in this hatred had meaning- he knew- just as to love in a passion had feeling, for indeed, he hated them all. The alien, the Covenant. There could be no rationale about it, and it was that which Alexander saw as both his fear and their terror: the utter lack of motive which encompassed their actions. Had they not fired the first shot? Had they not killed and killed when peace had been sought? Oh, how he hated them all. The Covenant... the very name; it chilled him. Yet, it was this hatred that led him to the paradoxical love he felt for his people. Soon, if unknowingly, he would lead his fleet into an inferno unlike any humanity had ever seen. Historians of new have likened the coming battle to that of endless naval conflict, ranging from Greco-Roman to Napoleonic and beyond. Reach; that supposedly great battle were a single alien fleet had defeated a sorrowful collection of men, paled in comparison. What was to now be seen would be battle of hundreds of ships, countless numbers, spread across the sky like the stars themselves... and all of them burning in fury. Circumstance had placed this battle, and this Alexander soon knew: it seemed fitting that the smallest of battles should yield the greatest of importance, as it had been at Reach, while the largest of battles should in the end mean nothing.
      Nothing, this is what came to be known in truth, for the battle had already been predicted. Alexander could see it all played out in his mind hours before it would even begin: the aliens would arrive, spread themselves into an unimaginative and ridiculously simplistic formation and drive straight for Delirium proper. The fleet of Earth would valiantly stand against that which threatened, and be utterly destroyed as a result. Devastated, those few remaining ships would limp back to Earth for her final defense, while the Covenant killed four hundred million people. They would call it a victory back on Earth. But this time it would not happen in such a manner, and the Second Fleet Group would instead prove what all great admirals had known for so long: winning the war is not everything.
      "Captain Herrscher, order the Sixth to form a battle-line," spoke the admiral, referring to his fleet- one of the three fleets comprising the Second Fleet Group. The order waited, the dumbstruck captain standing still, his head turned in Alexander's direction. Before responding he was quick to look to his observations officer. The women gave a shrug, indicating that there were no enemy ships within fleet radar range. Alexander looked down upon the captain, his eyebrows furrowed under the brim of his naval cap, his gaze insisting.
      "Yes, sir," was all Herrscher spoke to his admiral. The captain turned away, passed on the order. Alexander was rewarded immediately with a striking view of four capital-ships, his own included, forming into a standard battle-fleet. They were arrayed directly before the Titan's bridge; the Prey and Aurora on his right, with the Revenge on his left. Alexander could see the remaining capital-ships of Eighth and Fourteenth fleet still standing awkwardly at the ready, their brilliant hulls near vanishing in the rising Delirium sun.
      "Take us to twenty-thousand kilometers, please," spoke Alexander, hands clasped behind his back. Herrscher relayed his order, and after a moment, the four ship fleet began to ascend, maneuvering engines pushing the big ships into a higher orbit. Support craft scuttled around in a vaguely coordinated manner, as smaller civilian ships scurried to avoid a collision amongst the military maneuvering.

      "What...?" Lana whispered to herself, as a series of proximity alarms once more strummed into life. She looked up, craning her neck around until she could see the polar oceans of Delirium. Cabin lights hummed lowly, new light from Majoris providing far enough illumination. Her radar display appeared distorted, and showed not a single space-bound contact. Still, the alarms sounded. She could see nothing save the vast outstretch of ocean some hundred kilometers above, tilting away as her shuttle orbited in slow revolutions. Even the mass of military shipping and naval warships that had so cluttered her view had drifted away, out behind the planet's horizon. There was simply nothing... Through her tinted windshield ice crystals brushed past in silence, warm orange light casting strong shadows.
      Turning down to the control panel before her, Lana flipped off the alarms manually and was rewarded by a moment of tender peace. She pushed up the sunglasses resting on the bridge of her nose, and increased the tinting on the ship's windshield. Her heads-up-display flickered and added a contact point to her radar system. From behind and below- twelve kilometers away as the observation computer calculated- a single ship tilted into view. Increasing the power of her active radar yielded further information, which scrolled back across the display. The small black ship was civilian in make, nothing more then a light-transport. Its power-plant spiked, and a moment later Lana saw a plume of ion burst from one of its maneuvering engines. The ship slid sideways and began a lazy descent towards Delirium, no doubt carry passengers to some polar city. Those passengers would just be waking now, relieved that their hour-long trip was coming to an end. Most likely a few of those passengers would even now be gazing out their view-ports, gauging the size and make of Lana's own shuttle, and wondering its story.
      By all rights, despite the lack of viable terminology caused by space-flight, it was indeed a 'morning'. Lana had known this when she first arrived, but only now did she grasp the desire that had clung to her senses: she wanted to walk across a Delirium shore as one might do on arriving to a vacation resort. She had rested, and now wished only to act, but in a more physical sense of the word. Plying through space, however marvelous a thing, left one vacant of a constancy that could only be wrought by the touch of earth and soil and sand. Smiling, her mind convinced, Lana watched the transport disappear into Delirium's atmosphere, clouds obscuring the craft as trails of flame embraced its hull in a harmless manner. She would finish an orbit, which- by looking to her display and switching between space-time and local-time- would take about forty-minutes. Then she would bring the shuttle down, make sure to find a coastal city, and spend a morning in relative comfort. Things could wait a day or so, and besides, she owed it to herself and her ship to take a little rest now and then. She closed her eyes and felt the sunlight filtering through the windshield on her eyelids. Still it felt warm, the feel of Majoris' light sifting through quartz and sweeping into the somberly lit cabin. Then it darkened.
      Lana opened her eyes. A new alarm was sounding, and she looked out through the windshield. A shadow of foreign starships blotched over the glorious Alpha Canis Majoris like an ugly smear on an ancient masterpiece, as the ripple of a faster-then-light shockwave vanished off at the edges of her vision.
      More ships slipped in behind her view, arching calmly over the Delirium horizon. Lana turned her head, a radar warning signaling the reappearance of the United Nations star-fleet, a full armada compliment drifting into the sunlight of the new morning. Windows gleamed and portholes shone, running lights tapering off as daylight cut into the shadows of the fleet's bulk. Lana rubbed her eyes, holding aside her sunglasses with one hand. She could count a near dozen ships with her own sight, while the computer scrolled off data and listed endless information across her display. There were hundreds of ships, ranging in scale from lowly escorts and sloops to the single largest warship ever built. All radiant now. Lana turned her head away, looking back to the controls spread before her.
      She had personally witnessed a fleet engagement several years before, between rebel mutineers and loyal elements of some nameless Star Command armada. It had been a brutal display as she recalled, hulks left dashed and sundered, burning from end to end where they had been split and gutted by raking gunfire. Nuclear weapons had been detonated and the void had crackled with their energy as men burned alive in an inferno of radiation and firebombs. It was something she had wished to forget, and until this day had remained satisfied in that. But here she could hardly look away from the engineered glory now arrayed in her vision. One word slipped into her mind and held firm- 'unity'....