The Nevada Desert.
TCC manufacturing base.
Designation: "Alpha Bravo"
I watched it happen on my monitor, powerless to stop it. As the command center around me exploded into a panicked frenzy, calculating trajectory, bracing the ship for impact, I simply stood quiet.
A man of finance knows when loss is simply unavoidable. This was one of those times.
The initial impact crippled the ship's starboard side, rolling it over mid-orbit. The bulk of the Dreadnought remained intact as decompression savaged the hangars within. Dropships ejected from both sides, carrying their precious cargo to safety like sparks escaping from a flame.
All at once half of the computers in the room cut out in a wave of white noise.
Captain Andros Oakley stood behind me, face grim.
“Confirmed nuclear detonation, sir.”
I grimaced, and spoke in as calm a voice as I could muster.
“Is the autopilot online?”
“No, sir,” Oakley responded.
I sighed. The ship had been mostly automated, ready to deal with any minute threats it could’ve encountered, but clearly a nuclear blast had been too much for the system to handle.
“Give me video footage of the bridge,” I said.
The overhead monitor, still displaying information about the Dreadnought, cut to a shaky, distorted video feed. I could see the silhouette of a man standing before me.
“Status report, pilot,” I said, marching forward until I stood directly beneath the monitor.
“Report, pilot!” I barked, turning my glare on a technician.
“Can the video connection be any more stable?”
“Cleaning it up now, sir,” the technician responded.
The image slowly reassembled itself, features drawing themselves out of a distorted haze. Grey hair, dark skin and a strong complexion tucked beneath body armor. The Dreadnought's pilot, one of the bridge’s five-man skeleton crew, stood before me.
Or rather, he floated.
“Confirming complete depressurization of the forward half of the ship,” Andros said.
“Five crew deaths confirmed, all other living personnel are evacuating via dropship.”
Onscreen, the pilot's body began to move, pulled by invisible string towards the back of the ship's spacious bridge. His movement slowly gained speed until he was pressed against the back wall. He hadn't moved an inch, willingly.
The Dreadnought was the thing moving.
“Orbital decay has begun,” Andros said. “The Dreadnought is entering Earth’s atmosphere.”
As it's engines failed and its own immense weight tore it apart, gravity slowly began to catch the edges of the ship, pulling at the vessel with invisible fingers. The Earth’s influence, impossibly pervasive, pulled the ship it ever slightly downward into it's domain. The Dreadnought, caught by gravity's fatal embrace, gave one last surge of effort before it's engines gave up completely.
Years of effort. Millions upon billions of dollars. Lives. Families. All dropped from the heavens like it had been rejected by God. I clenched my jaw as the video feed cut out in a burst of static and flame. The command centre was silent as the remaining video screens were overwhelmed with static. I could feel the tension in the room, a quiet, cautious feeling as the others waited for my reaction.
Andros was the first to speak.
“Sir,” he began-
I wheeled on a frightened technician.
“Where is it going to land?”
Both Andros and the technician jumped, but a moment later I got my answer.
“Estimated zone of impact is somewhere on the US border, near the Mojave Desert.”
“Good. Deploy projects Steelheart and Hermes to that location. I will be attending the cleanup in person to make sure no incriminating evidence is left behind.”
Andros leapt forward into my field of view, concern etched on his face.
“General Fisk, as your loyal captain I strongly advise against going in person-”
“Enough, Oakley,” I snapped. “I have no need for your prattle.”
Andros frowned, and I caught a glimpse of something hard in his gaze.
“In that case, are we to send project Velocity to that location as well? Twelve dropships survived the Dreadnought's crash and await orders.”
“Do nothing of the sort,” I commanded, “we have to conserve troops while I assess the financial damage the Dreadnought’s loss.”
I turned to march out of the room, but something stopped me. A hand on my shoulder, holding me back. I turned, slowly, to see Captain Andros Oakley glaring at me, expression hardened.
“Enough conservation, sir,” he growled. “Enough calculations. It’s time we hit them hard.”
I stared at the man I’d grown to respect, but only saw insubordination.
“Unhand me, Captain,” I snarled, “or it will be the last thing you do.”
The hand disappeared from my shoulder with a moment’s hesitation. Andros stared at me.
“Send project Velocity, Draco,” he said. “Trust me.”
I turned away from him in one swift motion.
“I trust only numbers,” I growled, “and I’m General Fisk to you. Nothing more.”
I gazed through one of the command center’s windows, gazing at the canyon and sky. Outside, a burning line of fire traced it's way down through the sky, splitting it like a curtain in a blaze of orange.
The Dreadnought had fallen.
YOU ARE READING
Iron EmpireScience Fiction
[UNDERGOING MAJOR REWRITES] The Great Iron War has been raging for ten years. The Earth is divided. War has changed. An unstoppable Iron Empire sweeps across the globe, conquering the world in giant robots known as mechs. The year is 2042. Our wor...