This is the ninth section of the ninth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
The captain sat in his command chair casting a tired eye over the screen. he was trying to free up forces from the clean up crew to allow them to move the schedule ahead for taking the enemy base, but as usual prudence held back his lieutenants. He went back to the display in the middle of the room depicting the Freedom at the centre, the potential targets, potential mines and the cleanup drones moving around the local area. The initial strike had done much to clear the area, but the space that enemies could have resources hidden in was vast so this was a slow project. He’d first been worried that things were too quiet but as the scale of the securing operation took on its hour by hour monotony his fears dropped. Now there were hundreds of drones out there investigating what could be mines and could be just hunks of rock. Or they could be rocks with mines deeply embedded in them. It was a slow process.
“Sir” came the voice of a Commander at a console “We’ve lost a drone”
“Any flash of an explosion”
“It’s not a nuke no. Could have been chemical”
“Could be. Anything in the area pick up what happened.”
“No, there were no engine trails either” he paused a second “We’ve lost another” a brief pause “And another I think we’re under attack”
“Any idea by what or where from?”
“No they’re just disappearing from contact”
“No sign of their scramble. It’s as if someone just pulled the plug from three drones”
“Unlikely, unless we’re looking for the wrong thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s not missiles, it’s not lasers, it’s not ships. What have we left?”
“Nothing we know of”
“Okay few options. We have point to point communications lasers on the drones, try getting into contact with them that way, if it’s just jamming then we’ll be able to work around it with those. With the point to point lasers at least check for the albedo of the drones. If they’ve been destroyed or disabled we should be able to detect that from the reflection. What about drones, we know the ‘roids robotics is very advanced, could they have sent in micro drones to disable them? Get on it.”
The bridge came alive with activity and before long one of the Lieutenants spoke up “Sir we’ve got something.”
“Yes?” asked the Captain.
“Cloud of dust approximately twice the rest mass of drone moving away from the drone’s expected position at nearly half c.”
The Captain whistled his appreciation “How is that even possible?”
“Unknown but closer examination of the drones we’ve lost since then implies that they’re being hit by an object of similar mass travelling a good fraction of the speed of light that is hitting them and taking them out of the picture”
“We’ve lost more since then?” asked the Captain
“No we know where they’re coming from?”
“They’re all disappearing in the same direction so we can assume the projectiles are being launched from this vector” she indication a line on the central display.
“There’s nothing along there”
“Nothing known for a few light years no.”
“Get all scopes looking on that region I want to know before anything hit the ships and who to fire on.Con start up the engines and direct the engine exhaust in that direction. If anything is out there I want it to come head on into a storm of accelerated particles and start extending the AM drive I want whoever is out there chewing on a lance of relativistic particles themselves. With any luck we might be able to light them up. Marines prepare...” The Captain never finished the last sentence as the ship rang with the sound of a massive explosion followed by a series of smaller but still deafening thumps.
“Report!” barked the CO
“Unknown damage, over half the ship is either missing or out of contact with the AI, Engines are mostly intact, but secondary explosions have taken out four of the Ks.”