Space Battleship Omega: Circle of Death

by Chris Morin

Chapter 5

    The Bollar virus was unrelenting in its deadly onslaught on the crew of the Space Battleship Omega. Twenty crewmen were dead and that number would dramatically increase as the days progressed. The ship's doctor had given the crew the most potent anti-biotic to help suppress the virus until a cure could arrive. On the bridge, the ship had been put on automatic pilot and the on-duty crews had been reduced to skeleton shifts. Most of the crew had been restricted to quarters for bed rest.
    In the Captain's quarters, Hudson Taylor was sitting in a chair reading the latest information on the progress of the virus. He was running a slight fever, was a little fatigued and was visibly shaken by the latest turn of events. He was powerless against the enemy that was slowly destroying his crew.
    Preliminary testing had confirmed Desslok's information. The airborne virus mutated quickly, was deadly to humans and had two stages. The first stage was like the common cold. A person would develop flu-like symptoms and have a reduced energy level. Eventually the virus would begin to mutate into stage two and quickly destroy the body's immune system. The time frame between the first and second stages varied depending on the individual so it was hard to pin point how long a patient had to live. Work was being done to find an antidote but the results of the research so far had been very disappointing.
    Taylor wiped his brow and took a deep breath. He wondered how much time he and his crew had left and hoped that the Galman fleet would be able to help. He stared out into the vastness of space unaware that secret plans were already underway for his ship's destruction.

    Aboard the flagship of the Galman fleet, Commander Malisk was trying with all his of might to stay awake. He had been on duty for nearly twenty-four hours and his eyes were just about to close when his communications officer's voice startled life back into his lethargic body.
    "Commander Malisk, we have a priority one transmission coming in from Planet Galman."
    Malisk's heart raced wildly as he tried to regain his composure. A priority one message was highly unusual. He adjusted his uniform and sat up in his chair. He straightened his hair and wiped the sleep from his eyes.
    "Put the message on the main video panel," ordered Malisk.
    General Plimkin's face suddenly materialized on the six meter long by three meter high video display. Despite his lack of rest Malisk immediately noticed that General Plimkin was sitting on the Emperor's chair. Malisk stood to address the General.
    "What can I do for you General Plimkin?" Malisk asked.
    "Commander Malisk, I have some unfortunate news. It is with great sadness that I tell you of the untimely death of our great Emperor Desslok."
   Malisk fell back into his chair. He was overwhelmed with shock and disbelief. Emperor Desslok had been immortalized throughout the Galman culture. There were some who believed he would rule the Galman Empire and live forever. Malisk desperately tried to pull himself together.
    "How did this happen?" Malisk asked.
    "The planet Earth and the Bollar Federation sent spies to Galman and were working secretly with the Circle," answered Plimkin. "They planted a bomb at Galman Headquarters and assassinated the Emperor."
    "Those Earthlings, we should have destroyed them while we had the chance!" Malisk snarled. "Planet Galman needs us General! We will return at once!"
    "No Commander. The future of the Galman Empire depends on you and your fleet. You will rendezvous with the Omega and destroy it! Once that is complete, you will continue to Earth and release the Bollar Virus into the planet's atmosphere."
    "Certainly the Earth will have reinforcements," answered Malisk. "Our fleet is no match for the entire Earth Defense fleet."
    "Our long range sensors have discovered that their forces are strewn throughout the galaxy," said Plimkin. "Surprise is on our side. We only need one missile to penetrate the atmosphere to release the virus. Succeed and you will be a hero. Fail and you will be a disgrace to the Empire."
    "For the Galman Empire!" Malisk said as Plimkin's face disappeared from the video panel. Within moments the Galman fleet prepared for battle. Malisk's men would fight. They would fight in memory of their great Emperor even though his was still very much alive.

    It was three in the morning and Jordy Venture was in his quarters sitting at his desk. The small three by three meter room also contained a bed, a dresser and a small bathroom facility in the far corner. The room was fairly neat except for the bed which recently looked like it had been slept in. Jordy was wearing a gray casual outfit as he wrote a letter to his brother on his computer:

    Dear Mark,
        I wanted to say that I'm sorry for being angry with you for so long. You see, I always hated you for
    being away on missions. I wanted you home with me helping to take care of Mom. But I now know
    why you were out there. You were doing something really important for the whole world. You were
    making a difference.
        Knowing that the end may be hours away, I am not scared. Because you taught me to face death
    like a man, I will die with dignity. Please forgive me for not seeing you or talking to you before it was
    over. I know you are in deep space and communications are impossible. I wish you were here but
    you will always be in my heart. Please do not forget me and always remember to keep making a
    difference in other people's lives.
                                                    Your Brother,

    Jordy turned off his computer, got up from his chair and left his room. He looked around the corridor and noticed how eerily empty and quiet it was. Further down the corridor he stepped off the moving walkway and knocked at a door. The door opened and Reemer appeared at the entrance.
    "Jordy, what's up? Is everything okay?"
    "Sorry to bug you Reemer, I didn't know if you were sleeping."
    "Who can sleep with all this crap going on?" Reemer asked.
    "I just wanted to say I am sorry I was so short with you the other day," Jordy said.
    "I understand pal," answered Reemer. "I think we can forget about that now huh?"
    "I suppose so," said Jordy. "What are you doing to pass the time?"
    "I can't sleep so I've been sitting here reading but I can't seem to get past the first page of my book," Reemer answered. "It's amazing, I feel fine but there are others on this ship who are dying and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. I feel a little helpless."
    "I know what you mean," said Jordy. "I wrote my brother a letter and now I can't get any sleep."
    "Hey, I got an idea," said Reemer. "You up for a little one on one? Let's go to the gym and play a little Astro Ball. It might take our minds off of things. What do you say?"
    "Gee I don't know," answered Jordy. "If the Doctor and the Captain find out that we broke curfew, they'll kill us."
    As soon as the words left Jordy's mouth the two young men broke out in laughter.

    The next morning what was left of the ailing crew had reported to their stations. Any person deemed too sick to report to duty had been confined to quarters. The bridge crew was all accounted for as they prepared for the day's big event - their meeting with the Galman fleet and the solution to their fatal problem.
    Reemer closely watched the approaching vessels on the bridge's large video panel. "Mister Fazi, give me numbers and star classes of those ships."
    "There is a half compliment of Galman Destroyers," answered Fazi. "Twenty altogether. They more than triple the fire power of the Omega."
    "Quite a bit of hardware for a medical mission, huh Captain?" Reemer asked.
    The Captain nodded. "Expecting trouble Reemer?"
    "Let's just say I have never trusted the Galmans," answered Reemer.
    "I agree," answered Taylor. "But let's not forget that Galman is still at war with the Bollar Federation. It would be risky to send out a smaller contingent to meet us."
    "Granted that is true Captain, but all of our intelligence reports say that the Bollar space program is in shambles," answered Reemer. "They wouldn't have the time or the resources to deal with a fleet of ships heading away from their system."
    "The Galmans are a proud people who believe in showing force in numbers," said Taylor. "A good size fleet like this one may be their way of displaying their power and position in the galaxy. But let's ere on the side of caution and put the ship on yellow alert."
    "Thank you Sir," answered Reemer. "You heard the Captain! Yellow alert! Department leaders stand by!"
    Sirens blared throughout the ship as the crew prepared to go to full battle stations at a moment's notice. It was a very delicate time as the two former enemies came together on a mission of peace. Unfortunately, one side would not keep their end of the agreement.
    "Mister Fazi, I want you to keep a close eye on that fleet," Reemer ordered. "If the Galmans move even one meter out of standard formation, I want to be notified immediately."
    "Yes sir!" Fazi answered.
    "Any communication from the Galman flagship Mister Osgood?" Reemer asked.
    "No sir," said the Communications Officer. "Shall I hail them?"
    "Immediately!" Reemer answered. "Jordy keep our course steady and prepare for evasive maneuvers."
    "No problem Reemer," answered Jordy.
    As the bridge crew followed Reemer's orders, the Deputy Captain bit his nails in anticipation.
    "Reemer, I am getting no response from my hail," said Osgood.
    "Try it again Mister Osgood," said Reemer. He hoped it was just a communications glitch.
    Ollie Osgood sent out the communique on a continuous loop hoping for a response. There was none. The situation grew more tense aboard the Omega.
    "Something's not right," said Reemer. "Comet, get the pilots to their fighters and prepare my ship for launch."
    "Yes Sir!" Comet answered.
    "Reemer," interrupted Jordy, "don't you think you're being a bit too cautious?"
    "No," answered Reemer.
    "Our crew is barely able to stand!" Jordy responded.
    "If I'm wrong and I hope I am, you can add your protest to the ship's log!" Reemer replied.
    Nobody made a sound and the Omega's hail continued to go unanswered.
    "The Galman fleet is breaking formation!" Fazi reported.
    "Put it on the video panel!" Reemer ordered.
    The Galman fleet appeared on the screen. They had split into two groups and were in a standard Galman battle formation. The first group of ships contained seven pairs of destroyers. The other was a group of six ships which fell behind the lead group.
    "The Galmans are firing their weapons!" Fazi reported.
    Reemer did not hesitate. "Red Alert! Battle stations all hands! Venture, evasive maneuvers! Mister Osgood, get me the Captain of the flagship immediately!"
    Sirens blared throughout the ship as the crew frantically readied for battle. Gunners relayed the Galman fleet coordinates into their guns targeting computers and all of the Omega's attack planes were readied for launch.
    "The Galman fleet still does not respond!" Fazi reported.
    A rumble was felt as the Omega shook and swayed to the port side. Comet's computer flashed with red lights indicating damage to the outer hull.
    "We've take a direct hit to the starboard side!" Comet said.
    Captain Taylor knew that the Omega was terribly outgunned. The longer the confrontation continued, the less of a chance the Earth battleship would have to survive.
    "Reemer, I want you to command a squadron of fighters," ordered Taylor. "Make sure you disable as many targets as you can. Move!"

    Reemer saluted Captain Taylor and then ran to the elevator. Moments later he was in his fighter. He put on his helmet, pressed a control button to close the cockpit hatch and then strapped himself in by fastening his seat belts. After going over his pre-flight check list that included checking engine stability, power to the weapons systems and environmental controls, Reemer turned on his radio and turned the dial to a predetermined channel.
    "This is Reemer to all planes, begin launch sequence."
    The launch door at the bottom of the Omega's hull opened exposing the ship to outer space. Three fighter planes were lifted by magnetic cranes and were placed on a runway leading to the opening. The lead position fighter plane's engines ignited and the fighter flew down the runway and out into space. Nearly ten seconds later, the second plane launched followed closely by the third. The procedure continued until all twenty-seven planes in the squadron were launched.
    When the final plane left the ship's hold, Reemer's fighter was then transported onto the runway. The crane placed the plane down gently on its three landing gear mechanisms. Each mechanism contained two tires and would get retracted once the fighter had successfully made it into open space.
    After pressing a small button on his control panel, Reemer's plane was launched and he was hurled into space. Behind him, the Omega's hangar door closed and environmental pressure was restored to the hangar. Reemer joined his squadron and took over the lead position as the planes flew in perfect formation.
    "Stay sharp everyone," ordered Reemer. "We'll be flying close to the action and things are going to get a little exciting in the next few seconds."
    The Galman destroyers had no fighter planes but their main guns were a deadly deterrent. A destroyer aimed for the fighter squadron and fired. The blast enveloped seven fighter planes and incinerated them immediately. Two other planes, damaged by the blast, spun out of control and slammed into a nearby destroyer blowing not only themselves up but also the Galman ship.
    Reemer's plane spun wildly but he was able to get it under control. One blast had reduced his squadron by one third before his group could fire a single shot.
    "We need to concentrate our attacks on their main guns!" Reemer said. "If we don't we'll be wiped out before we know it! Ships nine, and ten follow me! Everyone else split up into teams of three. Let's go!"
    Reemer and his two wing men flew toward a nearby destroyer. They simultaneously released two missiles from each of their attack planes and the six deadly projectiles slammed into the destroyer blowing it to bits. Debris from the explosion was sent everywhere making for a bumpy ride.
    Reemer noticed that one of his wing men had been lost in their bombing run. He did not have time to dwell on the loss. Reemer and his remaining wing man flew around the back of a Galman ship barely avoiding its laser defenses. They each fired two missiles into another destroyer's main guns. The resulting explosion reached the ship's engine core and the vessel exploded in a blinding flash of light.
    Three other fighters in Reemer's squadron decided to attack a destroyer head-on. One fighter launched a missile into the port side of the vessel while another hit the starboard side. The third fighter launched a missile and it pounded into the deck of the Galman ship. But it didn't explode. It fired two of its functioning laser guns and two of the three planes were destroyed. The third fighter dodged six laser blasts and on a return trip to the destroyer fired two more of its missiles. One of them was destroyed before it could hit the ship but the other connected with the destroyer's bridge. The Galman ship was obliterated.

    Back on the Omega the situation continued to grow worse. A sickened and badly reduced crew were getting pummelled by the attacking fleet. The Omega tried to use evasive maneuvers to avoid an attack from a Galman ship but a blast slammed into the stern and opened a huge hole in the hull. Three crew members were sucked into space before the emergency doors could close and seal the ship from the vacuum of space.
    "Comet, fire main guns," ordered Taylor.
    Brilliant blue and perfectly straight lightning erupted from the ship's guns. The blast travelled through space and collided with a Galman destroyer. The ship was blown to bits. Another shot from the Omega pierced another destroyer and a huge explosion erupted sending the vessel into a suicide dive into another spacecraft.
    "Mister Osgood, get me the Planet Galman!" Taylor ordered. "I want to speak with Emperor Desslok!"
    "It's no use!" Osgood reported. "Our long distance communications are being jammed!"
    A laser blast hits the Omega and one of its forward main guns exploded. The flash from the explosion filled the entire bridge and it momentarily blinded the crew. Another laser blast collided with the Earth spaceship and three of the Omega's auxiliary cannons were wiped out.
    The Omega's secondary main gun fired again and they obliterated another Galman ship. The Omega's counterattack had begun to show some success.
    "Comet, I want a status report!" Taylor ordered.
    "Sir the ship is badly damaged and all departments are reporting high casualty rates," said Comet. "Reemer has lost half of his squadron but we have destroyed more than half of the Galman ships."
    "Venture, continue evasive maneuvers," ordered Taylor.
    Jordy Venture had been sitting at the controls of the Omega trying to evade as many laser blasts from the Galman fleet as possible. If not for his expert piloting skills, the Omega would have been destroyed long ago.
    "Sir, what about the antidote?" Jordy asked. "If we destroy all of those ships won't we be destroying ourselves?"
    "Good point Venture," replied Captain Taylor. "Comet, order the gunners to cease firing on the flagship of the Galman fleet. Just concentrate on the escort ships."
    "Yes Captain," said Comet.
    Ollie Osgood's transmission reception light began to blink on his computer. "Captain, we're receiving a transmission from the Galman flagship."
    "Put it on the main screen Mister Osgood," ordered Taylor.
    A brief moment later the Galman commander appeared on the Omega's video panel.
    "I am Commander Malisk of the Galman Empire."
    "Commander, I am Captain Hudson Taylor of the Earth Battleship Omega. Why have you attacked us?"
    "Do you think I am a fool, Taylor? You know perfectly well why we have attacked you."
    "My apologies Commander but to what are you referring?" Taylor asked.
    "The assassination of Emperor Desslok!" Malisk yelled.
    "Emperor Desslok is dead?" Taylor asked.
    "Killed by your spies," answered Malisk.
    "I am sorry Commander Malisk but the planet Earth and the planet Galman are at peace," said Taylor. "We have no spies on your planet. You must have been given false information."
    "No Captain, our Emperor is dead and Earth is to blame!"  Malisk replied.
    "I give you my word that Earth had nothing to do with the death of your Emperor," answered Taylor. "Let us both cease our aggressions toward each other and try to work this out together. We must end this situation now before more people are killed. As a sign of good will I can take a transport over to your ship and discuss this with you in person if you wish."
    "I am contacting you so that you may know who destroyed you," said Malisk. "The Galman Empire will live forever and we will fight to the bitter end in the name of our beloved Emperor Desslok!"
    Malisk's face disappeared from the main video panel.
    "That went well." Taylor commented sarcastically.

    Reemer ordered his remaining fighters to retreat to preset coordinates to regroup. His squadron had been nearly wiped out by the Galman fleet. Of the twenty-seven planes under his command, only twelve survived the attack. Before he started his next assault on the Galman fleet Reemer wanted to get an update on the Omega's condition. He switched his transmit button to the on position.
    "This is Reemer calling the Omega. We have taken significant losses and are running dangerously low on fuel. We would like to return to the ship and refuel before we resume our attack."
    Captain Taylor's voice was heard over Reemer's communications equipment. "Negative Reemer. The launch bay has been damaged and will not open. Repair crews are working on it. Concentrate your fire on the escort ships. We cannot afford to destroy the flagship because it may contain the antidote to the virus."
    "Assuming they have the antidote," answered Reemer. "This whole thing could have been a big setup."
    "I don't think so Reemer," answered Taylor. "There's more going on here than we know. The Commander of the Galman flagship thinks that Emperor Desslok has been killed by Earth spies."
    "That's impossible!" Reemer responded. "Earth would never dare threaten the fragile peace with Galman."
    "Agreed, but until we can get a handle on what's going on we have to keep this conflict from spreading," said Taylor. "Stay clear of the Omega's firing zone. We are going to try to destroy as many of the Galman ships as we can."
    "All right, but do it quick," answered Reemer. "We've been hit pretty hard and if we don't refuel soon, our planes will be dead in the water."
    The contingent of attack planes broke up into two groups. Within moments they began to bear down on the Galman fleet. Reemer flew close to a Galman ship and as he dodged multiple laser blasts, he released his remaining two missiles. Within seconds, the Galman ship was paralyzed and ceased firing its guns. Another fighter followed up Reemer's attack and launched its two remaining missiles. The disabled ship exploded.
    But the Galmans were not out of the game. A destroyer fired its main guns and three fighters were vaporized. Another fighter's wing was clipped and the plane spun wildly out of control. It slammed head-on into a Galman destroyer. Reemer followed up the collision by firing his lasers at the same Galman ship and his shots destroyed the vessel's main guns.
    Meanwhile, the other group of fighters had begun to attack another portion of the Galman fleet. Four of the planes launched their missiles and two more Galman ships were destroyed. One of the fighter pilots pulled up on his ship's throttle to avoid hitting a large piece of debris from a Galman ship only to take a direct hit. It swayed to its port side and slammed into another fighter destroying both planes.
    Two more fighters launched their remaining missiles. Two of the missiles hit the bridge of a Galman destroyer. The other two hit the base of the same bridge near the deck of the ship. The entire bridge was blown clear from the Galman vessell. Another fighter flew by and before he could launch his missiles, the Galman freighter exploded.

    Sirens blared throughout the Galman flagship. Commander Malisk was sitting in his command chair and watched a small computer monitor. Little green blips representing each ship in his fleet were disappearing off of the screen at an alarming rate. A large red blip representing the Omega blinked as it fired its main guns and moments later another green blip disappeared from the screen.
    "Commander Malisk, we are taking heavy damage," reported the first officer. "We should retreat!"
    Malisk violently pushed the computer screen aside and got to his feet.
    "Nonsense!" Malisk screamed. "We have the Omega right where we want it!"
    "But Commander, the Earth fighters are attacking again," reported the first officer. "They are breaking through our defenses! Our escort ships are nearly wiped out."
    "Then step up the attack on their planes!" Malisk ordered.
    "Sir, the rest of the ships in the fleet have had their guns disabled," answered the first officer. "They are helpless and are slowly being destroyed one by one."
    "Are we not still fully functional?" Malisk asked.
    "Yes Commander, but for some reason the Earth ship has spared us," replied the officer. "We're also receiving a message from Emperor Plimkin. He wants to speak with you."
    Plimkin's face appeared on the bridge's huge video monitor.
    "Commander Malisk, how is the battle progressing?" Plimkin asked.
    Malisk was at a loss for words. In thirty minutes or less, his entire fleet would be wiped out. His mission had been a failure and he and his ship would be destroyed at any moment. What else could he do but tell the truth?
    "Emperor, the Omega's planes have broken through our defenses," answered Malisk. "We are the only ship left in the fleet."
    Plimkin's eyes grew large with anger. "What do you mean Malisk? You had an entire fleet of Galman's most powerful ships at your disposal and now you are telling me that they are destroyed?"
    "Emperor, this fleet was not equipped for battle against fighter planes," answered Malisk. "We were sent on a medical mission. Most of the officers in the fleet are science or medical technicians."
    "No excuses Malisk!" Plimkin yelled. "You were given one small task to accomplish and you have failed miserably. If you cannot destroy that ship you must find a way to permanently disable its long range communications equipment. That ship must not be allowed to contact Earth! The planet Earth must not know of this attack! I do not care how it is done just do it Malisk!"
    Plimkin's face disappeared from the video screen and Malisk's heart sank. He knew that Plimkin had just signed the ship's death warrant. But as a Galman officer, it was his honorable duty to fight to the death.
    "Helm, prepare an all stop," ordered Malisk. "Aim all guns at the Omega. Target their communications equipment."
    "But if we do that we'll be an easy target for the Earth ships," said the first officer.
    "Just do it!" Malisk ordered.

    Captain Taylor ordered only necessary repairs be done to the Omega. Other less vital repairs could wait until the battle was over. One of the most important repairs needed to be completed was the landing dock hatch. During the battle the launch hatch took a direct hit and could not be opened. Repair Crew B had been sent to repair the hatch and discovered that the heat from a laser blast had welded it shut. They positioned large anti-gravity welders on the hull and it took them over an hour to get the hatch opened.
    After the repair work was completed to the hatch Reemer's squadron, which was in desperate need of fuel, returned to the Omega. Reemer's fighter was the last to land and it came to a slow stop on the runway. Reemer opened the cockpit, pulled off his helmet and left it on the seat. He climbed down from his plane and dejectedly walked toward the elevator on the far side of the hangar. He had already lost a few good friends and had no idea that before the day was over he would lose a few more.
    Later, Reemer was on the bridge preparing for the Omega's final assault on the Galman flagship. He was studying a computer screen and saw that the Galman ship had powered down its engines, or at least it appeared that way.
    "Comet, prepare for a precision strike on the Galman flagship," ordered Reemer. "Target their engines. We want it disabled not destroyed."
    "All done Reemer," answered Comet a few moments later. "I can't guarantee anything but the odds are good that she won't blow."
    "Captain, the Galman flagship is firing its weapons!" Fazi reported.
    "Comet, fire all guns!" Taylor ordered.
    Shortly after Comet fired the Omega's guns the lasers from the Galman flagship struck the Omega. The ship was shaken by a thunderous blow and the communications station where Ollie Osgood sat was obliterated. The young man was blown to pieces and the smell of burnt flesh filled the Omega's bridge.

    Two hours after the death of the Omega's communications officer Reemer walked over to the main computer, touched the screen and an outline of the Omega appeared on the main video panel. There were many red lights lit up on the screen. It was not a good sign.
    "Captain, the Omega is badly damaged," said Reemer. "We have lost three of our four main guns, many of our auxiliary cannons and our long range communications are down. The good news is that the hull breaches have been sealed."
    Taylor watched the screen for a long time and thought his ship looked like a big pin cushion. But he was more concerned with his crew. Reemer, Comet and Jordy all looked fine but Pudi Abdul Fazi looked terrible. He had been sweating and coughing uncontrollably.
    "Mister Fazi, you are dismissed," ordered Taylor. "Please get some rest."
    Fazi walked across the bridge and left through the rear elevator. He would die in his sleep four hours later.
    "Comet, what is the status of the Galman flagship?" Taylor asked.
    Comet pressed a button on the computer and a schematic of the Galman ship appeared on the video screen. It was littered with red lights.
    "The ship has been badly damaged," answered Comet. "Her engines are disabled, her environmental controls are shot and there are hull breaches all over the ship. I doubt many of its crew survived our attack."
    Taylor thought about his options and knew they were limited. He needed to know if his gamble of sparing the Galman flagship would pay off. There was only one way to find out.
    "Reemer, I would like you and Comet to board that ship," said Taylor. "Your mission is to locate the science labs and see if you can find the antidote to the Bollar Virus." Taylor pointed to a small section of the Galman ship. "You can board the vessel where it is damaged here. But be careful, you may run into some grumpy Galmans! In the meantime we will see if we can patch up our ship and some of our crew."