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   Chapter 2 No.2

Demonspawn By Christina Engela Characters: 5719

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

Or was it? In space, not all things were certain… not even death.

And yet, here they were. So many men and women, confined together in a floating metal, artificial, technological tomb – so much collective talent, skill and experience – and none of it any use to them! There was nothing they could do to prevent it! So they'd given up… They'd already done all that was Humanly possible, after all. There was only so much that a superbly skilled crew could do with tons of steel and plastic.

Two shuttles were left intact onboard the ship, but they were useless as they were well out of range of any safe haven. In emergencies, one shuttle could carry 40 people – but would run out of oxygen in as many hours. That minor detail had settled any argument. If they couldn't all go, then none of them would. Besides, where could they go to? They were well out of range of any of the nearest colonies. Lofflin sighed, fighting back the heavy tide of emotion. He'd been sitting on his sofa most of the day, staring numbly at old pictures of his friends, family – of home. …A home he'd never see again.

Unless there was some kind of miracle.

Commander Lofflin had seen too few miracles in space to expect one now. Every breath he drew was one less – another step closer to the end. Death was certain… by asphyxiation and cold, as the life support systems inexorably drained their remaining power. The collar of his tunic seemed to tighten around his throat, choking him. He tugged at it, cursing his captain again mentally.

'Damn Blaine! Damn the man! The bastard knew we weren't fighting fit, but he had to go and engage them!' Pouring another glass, Lofflin allowed his mind to rewind three days back, to the circumstances that had brought them to this accursed part of space…

Some people said space was like the ocean. Never turn your back on it, they said. Never let your guard down or treat it lightly. If you play with it, it'll kill you.

In all of known space, including the vast reaches of the Terran Empire, the Omegan Quadrant – which lay on its fringes – was very likely the most dangerous place to go. Within its unexplored wastes lived the Corsairs. The Corsairs were space pirates, who had their own fleet, colonies and society. They were originally of Earth stock, but followed their own code, and were known to act mercilessly against any foreign ship or colony encountered. For the most part, they made forays into Terran space, harassed colonies and arbitrarily laid waste to anything that took their fancy. As the expansionist, though generally peaceful policy of the Empire pushed back the frontier of unknown space, exploring and establishing outposts and colonies along the way, they were met with an increasingly hostile threat to their young colonies… Corsairs would often rain down on the youngest, most under-defended colo

nies from the dark reaches of space, looting, sacking and pillaging. In the space lanes, lone unmarked black Corsair marauders raided convoys of supply ships, plundering loderunners and even stealing the ships themselves to build their fleet.

For many years now, colonists had borne the burden of Corsair attacks. The Space Fleet had ships on patrol, but space is a big place – there were only so many ships, and a lot more space… The Corsairs often slipped through the net, and got clean away with their loot, before the blood on their hands even dried. Everybody knew what the Corsair's called their home world – Turtle Island, or its other name – Meradinis… but what nobody knew – that is, except for the Corsairs themselves, was the location of Meradinis. So, the Corsairs would raid here, and while the Fleet responded as quickly as they could, the Corsairs retreated, and raided there… and so it went, on and on, for years and decades, seemingly without end. The Fleet's inability to find the Corsair home world after all this time was what had prevented the Terran forces from actually combating the threat and taking it out at the root – and until they knew where to find the Corsairs, or figured out how to be everywhere at once, nothing would change.

The Corsair's intelligence was excellent. This led to the suspicion that they had spies and agents at ship yards, space docks, star bases, colonies, and perhaps even in the Space Fleet itself. They seemed to have a knack for striking only at the least well-defended settlements, which seemed both terrifying and abhorrent at the same time. Raping, killing, looting, pillaging, wanton violence – hell, if there was a word to describe all the things they did in one word, Lofflin still hadn't found it! Their list of crimes against Humanity was piling up to the point of becoming an obscene parody of the Space Fleet's inability to protect the Colonies.

These horrific and small scale attacks had been gradually increasing in size, scope, brazenness and frequency until just two years before, a fleet of black Corsair ships had descended on three local colonies simultaneously and killed almost a hundred thousand people, mostly civilians. The commonwealth media named the atrocity the Christmas Massacres.

In a desperate attempt to even the odds, Space Fleet increased recruitment efforts, and instead of retiring several older ships, put them into a refitting program to prolong their lives and increase the ship-count of the Main Fleet. The Phoenix Refitting Program resulted in a twenty percent increase in patrols to be made of the frontier worlds, while newer, larger warships were built to directly tackle this invisible enemy. Finally, just three months ago, the Imperial Senate had tasked the Space Fleet to make forays into the Omegan Quadrant with the following objectives:

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