A purple swirling storm suddenly grew out from the emptiness of space, un-natural lightning streaking within it as the dark purplish clouds rotated to form a whirlpool. A spaceship suddenly appeared in the eye of the storm and the particles almost immediately dispersed.
"All departments status report!" The XO of UNS Singapore spoke into his comms while he unbuckled out of his station chair. The battle shutters of the viewports rolled up, exposing the dim light from a white dwarf in the Rammas system. "Captain Blake, all departments reporting green." Commander Kevin Ford looked up from his communications console after several minutes.
"So slow." Sighed Richard Blake, captain of the United Nations of Man, heavy cruiser Singapore turn training ship. Commander Ford's face turned slightly red with embarrassment as he coughed and said, "Captain, with due respect. Almost the whole crew just graduated from the naval academy. This is their first trip out so far."
"I know" Blake sighed again. He used to be in command of a battlecruiser before losing it to the damn Swarm, losing both his ship and his left leg. Commended for his actions and sacrifice, he was given command of the heavy cruiser UNS Singapore.
The ship measured over 210 meters with a beam of 33 meters and a sleek rectangular predator shape. More than a third of the length was occupied by seven bulbous engines and its warp drive. A huge mass of sensor arrays stabbed out from the bow. It was armed with two dual 155 mm rail cannons on the dorsal side and a single dual 155 mm on the ventral side, 16 dual 50 mm pulse laser point defense turrets - four on each side of the ship and 10 light missile launchers on the port and starboard side. Protected by a 200 mm armor belt and electro-magnetic repulse shield, a crew of over 840 men and women manned the ship with berths, laboratories, and even a flight deck.
A ship with this potential was considered state of the art 80 years ago. As mankind ventured out in the unknown and colonized planets, they met the Swarm nine years ago. All attempts to communicate failed as the Swarm attacked with mindless abandon. Creatures out of nightmares dropped from the skies above Himpra Prime, while the unsuspecting colonists watched the beautiful meteor shower which later turned into death with claws and ichor.
A typical Swarm warrior drone stands two meters tall and has two sets of legs and arm claws. A flat triangle carapace protects its braincase and teeth covered mouth which was located at the chest area. It uses its four claws to rend, tear and pull its prey into its mouth. Typical low caliber weapons bounce off or were unable to penetrate its carapace and by the time a relief fleet arrived over Himpra Prime, the survivors counted less than 15,000 out of 1.1 million colonists.
Richard Blake was one of those 15,000 survivors. He was in a polytechnic lecture on mechanical engineering when the Swarm fell on the other side of the planet. Soon a planet-wide emergency was declared and he was called up to his reserve commission as a part of the Planetary Defense Force. Over several months, he has been part of the desperate action to delay the Swarm as the government attempted to evacuate as many people into space as possible.
Spores the size of buildings constantly rained from space for over two weeks and by then the land was forcefully terraformed into a mass of gooey substance. The Swarm used the organic materials of living beings and spawned more creatures. Several months later, the fleet arrived but everything was overtaken except for a last stand of survivors. Himpra Prime was then bombed from orbit, turning the whole surface into glass in order to wipe out all traces of the Swarm.
After that, Blake enrolled in Fleet Naval Academy and fought in several distinguished actions before having his ship boarded with Swarm spores and losing it along with his leg. As the war with the Swarm continued, he felt left out and discarded in the safety behind front lines.
"Captain, I recommend we push more drills so the crew can gain more experience." Commander Ford handed a tablet with details of the drills to Captain Blake. He felt resentful to be the Executive Officer, or XO, of an outdated ship even as a trainee. He was a career officer who graduated with top grades at the academy. His first command was a destroyer that fared fairly well in combat. He was summoned to Fleet Command to meet Chief of Staff Admiral Spencer, thinking that he will get a promotion and a new ship to command. To his dismay, he was "awarded" this position as XO. Admiral Spencer patted his shoulders and said. "You are still green, and inexperienced in command. Learn from Captain Blake." Shortly Ford departed after he was convinced this was a requirement for a promotion.
Taking the tablet, Captain Blake scrolled through the list of drills his XO detailed out. "Alright, run the crew through the drills. But I want you to do it randomly, at all hours." He handed back the tablet.
"Aye Cap-," Ford replied halfway when a sudden alert sounded in the bridge.
"CAPTAIN! XO! We are detecting gravitational anomalies ahead!" Sensor Officer 2nd Lieutenant Randy yelled excitedly. "Two... no, five anomalies. Eh... 9,852 km away!" He added. "Wow! Estimated mass 50,000 tons each!"
Captain Blake gripped his armrest as he swallowed the retort and counted to 10 to calm himself down. They are kids just fresh out of school. He glared at Commander Ford and signalled with his eyes.
Catching the gesture, Ford sighed inwardly. To be fair, it was his job to teach and train the bridge crew. He stepped over to Sensor Officer Randy and leaned over his shoulder and said in a low voice. "Lieutenant, please control yourself and report properly. You have learned it in the academy, keep your excitement down!"
"Yes, Sir!" Randy swallowed his excitement and turned towards the Captain. "Sir! Five anomalies detected 67 degrees off to starboard, estimated mass of 50,000 tons each! Sir!" He nearly jumped up and saluted as he made his report, forgetting he was buckled into his crash seat. The rest of the bridge crew quickly turned away as the XO glared at everyone on the bridge.
"Relax." Captain Blake said. He knew they were just as green as he once was. He should not be so harsh on them. "Do we know if there is a fleet operating in this area?"
"Negative Captain." Replied the comms officer. "According to our logs and fleet schedule, we should be the only ship in this system."
"Merchant fleet? Or smugglers?" Captain Blake continued asking.
"Captain, this system is designated as a training sector. There are no stations here nor do we have a pirate or smuggler base here for target practice." Commander Ford answered.
"Captain, the contacts are moving. Sensors are picking up ion emissions. Computer analyzing the data reports 83.7% resemblance to Swarm parasite cruisers!" Sensor Officer Randy reported.
Hearing that, the bridge crew started to get anxious. "Isn't this a safe zone?" someone muttered.
"SILENCE ON DECK!" Captain Blake yelled. Damn these newbies. "This is not a market! Do your duty!" The crew instantly quieted down. "XO, set Condition Two!"
"Aye, set Condition Two throughout the ship!" echoed Ford. He pressed onto the ship-wide intercom. "All hands, this is your XO speaking. Set Condition Two throughout the ship. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill!" Following that announcement, the ship's alert system blared out.