The mighty ship had defended Earth from the onslaught but found itself too damaged to continue in its service. As the remainder of the armada continued and eventually won the day, the Orion, which had decimated the incoming force, found itself floating, it’s crew evacuating as quickly as they could. The victory was only possible because of the men and women serving upon the Orion, and now the ship floated, dead in the solar system.
Aboard a salvage and rescue vessel, we flew back and forth to the wreckage. Docking where we could to save those who managed to maintain the airlock. We grabbed the occasional crew member who managed to get into their EVA suits. Sadly, we recovered as many bodies as we could. For three days, we ran recovery missions, our findings continually becoming darker, and hope was gradually waning. The reactor in the Orion was becoming unstable, and it wouldn’t be long before it would explode, becoming its own tiny ball of gas surrounded by a universe full of them.
The radiation sensors finally went off about 11 hours into the fourth day. All vessels serving in the recovery effort went engines full in an attempt to put as much space between them and the blast as possible. Unlike within the atmosphere, the danger here was less about the blast itself, and more about the weaker shielding around these vessels being pummeled by debris.
Just a few minutes later, in a brilliant explosion nearer Jupiter’s orbit than Earth’s, the Orion became an immense ball of flame for but a moment. Command gave the order for the fleet to turn round and return to Earth’s orbital ring, and all of the recovery vessels docked with larger freighters and warships. On the Kingston, our captain was slow to relay that order to his command staff. He and the long-range sensors officer were staring at something incoming.
“Battle stations! Any cruisers carrying soldiers all engines toward Earth, the rest of us need to buy you time to fortify. Notify Earth Command that we will only be able to slow them down… Everyone else… about-face… we face them here and now. God help us.”
Beyond the debris field, the enemy was coming again, in far greater numbers. Our victory against their first wave, purchased with the death and destruction of thousands, was but a test of our mettle. It seems we’ll be fighting all the way back, and on our beloved Earth.
The Orion fell in the hopes that Earth would live to see another day. We have to make sure it does.