Acting Admiral Harris wrote:Lord Admiral, it has been months since Blackdog left known space in pursuit of a mysterious vessel which he believed to be a threat to the Empire. At this point, I doubt that he will ever retur--
"Sir, I have two new vessels on sensors. One of them is flying the Admiral's flag."
"Captain Harris, this is Vice Admiral Blackdog. We're in pursuit of an unidentified craft heading directly towards Fleet Central. We can't close the range! Get in position to intercept!"
"Excellent! This will be a good opportunity to try out that new satellite-defense network you designed."
"Captain, that defense network is still in the experimental phase. We don't know if it'll even-"
"This is the master control, right? I don't quite understand all this newfangled technology" [BEEP. TARGET IDENTIFIED].
"Good shooting, lads! Extra crumpet rations all round!"
"Actually, the targeting was handled entirely by a bank of networked quantum computers --"
"Well, extra crumpets for them too."
"Sure. Why not. Be advised, some of the debris is re-entering directly above Squadron House. You may want to get under cover."
"Captain, we're getting some strange readings. It looks like a piece of the debris is under power and maneuvering. It's heading for Defense Station 5."
"Bloody Hell! Attack us in our moment of triumph, will they!"
"OW! My arse!"
"Ensign, tell your aviators to prepare the spotter plane. I'm going to see those blighters off myself!"
Some Time Later...
"I say, good chap, I think the jet engine just ate my hat."
"There's the fort up ahead. Good to see they're keeping a stiff upper lip."
"Target up ahead, closing fast!"
"What exactly is that thing?"
As Captain Harris approaches the fort, the hostile aircraft comes into view.
As it flies towards the fort...
... A pair of hulking, monstrous figures drop from its belly.
"Good bloody hell! War automatons! How the Devil can this be!?"
The first automaton fires a railgun bolt at the repeating cannon atop the fort, but misses. The cannon responds with a hail of lead shot, but it cannot pierce the automaton's thick metal armor.
The second automaton fires, enveloping gunner and weapon alike in a ball of scorching plasma...
... but both emerge unharmed. "Wanker! Is that all you've got? My afternoon tea is hotter'n this!"
Meanwhile, the strange aircraft gains height and flies over the fort, opening up with a pair of miniguns. Two soldiers fall, riddled with bullets.
But the terror has only begun; the flyer deploys a third automaton, which also aims its guns at the men atop the ramparts...
... and sweeps the wall clean of any resistance, save for the gunner.
The spotter plane hurtles towards the strange aircraft poised above the fort...
And Captain Harris leaps onto the strange craft and, with tremendous strength, forces its cockpit, only to find it empty save for a large computer core. "Bloody hell, another automaton! Shall we all soon be murdered in our beds by these newfangled devices!?"
Harris leaps from the aircraft's wing and shoots the computer system through the open cockpit.
With its electronic mind heavily damaged, the ship veers out of control...
...And comes crashing down just beyond the fort.
The spotter pilot pulls his aircraft into a dive (just imagine he's diving, okay?) and opens fire on the automatons below.
Once again, his efforts prove vain as the automatons' metal skin seems immune to attack.
Inspired by Captain Harris' victory, the ratings manning the bombard charge the colossus in the middle of their fort, but their cutlasses fail to draw blood. Er, electricity.
The swordsmen join in the effort, but they cannot seem to connect with their target, despite its size.
The gunner fires another volley from his repeating cannon, but his shots fall wide of the target.
In retaliation, the automaton with the plasma cannon fires a second blast at him. The plasma sweeps across his position, and when it passes both him and the cannon he manned are gone.
Another automaton fires a railgun shot at the spotter plane, but misses.
Surrounded, the third brings its guns to bear on Captain Harris, but mere electronic calculation will never surpass human skill with the musket. Harris stands unflappable amidst the maelstrom of bullets.
The spotter plane finally gets close enough to the action to perform its function. The pilot relays target coordinates, and the bombard fires a round... but despite his efforts, it falls far from the target.
Captain Harris leaps down from the parapet to rally his troops, and both swordsmen strike as one...
...dealing a death blow to their metallic foe.
But Harris knows their victory is short-lived. Having observed the effects of the automatons' plasma cannon, he orders his men to disperse so that one blast cannot kill them all.
A railgun shot smashes through the bombard, rendering it useless.
The second remaining automaton fires into the fort, intending to strike down the good Captain, but misses.
Captain Harris charges out of the fort, his rotary musket flaming as he makes a reckless assault on the robotic titans outside. It seems like an utterly hopeless endeavour...
Until a stream of bullets from his musket severs the railgun from its owner's shoulder mount.
Behind him, the surviving defenders form up to take the fight to the enemy.
A bolt from the automatons' plasma cannon engulfs them, but it is too weak to pose a real threat.
Deprived of its weapon, an automaton rushes Captain Harris. "Hah! Do your worst, metal man!"
"Oof... you're faster... than I suspected."
Despite his injuries, Captain Harris gets back on his feet to lead his men in their counterattack. Sparks fly as cutlasses and beam sabers slice at the war machine's armor.
Meanwhile, the spotter plane makes its second strafing run, damaging the other automaton. Captain Harris attempts once again to shoot its weapon, but misses.
With cold calculation, the last armed automaton on the field fires a bolt of plasma into the fort's entrance...
... turning it into an inferno that leaves no one, not even its weaponless comrade, alive.
Finding himself nearly alone on the battlefield, Captain Harris discards his rotary musket and picks up a more suitable weapon -- the beam sabres from the dead swordsmen. To avoid his enemy's scorching plasma bolts, he hides behind the wall, hoping to bait his target into coming to him.
Meanwhile, the automaton tries to take down the spotter plane, but has little luck.
The spotter pilot goes into his turn, swinging past the fort. "Captain, you need a ride?"
"Jolly good old chap". With tremendous athleticism, he leaps into the cockpit...
"Ouch. I suppose I'm not as spry as I once was."
In a most ungentlemanly fashion, the automaton takes advantage of the Captain's distress to finish him off with a plasma bolt.
Knowing he is the last man standing between this ruthless automaton and its objective, the spotter pilot decides that drastic measures must be taken...
...and sends his plane diving into the ground, taking the foul machine with him.
Lord Admiral, I have chased these mysterious ships for months but I am afraid I am no closer to discerning their purpose. This automaton attack was the strangest yet -- an entirely robotic force sent on a brazen assault against the command center of Blue Sector's fleet. My guess is they wanted to assassinate the naval officers at Squadron House, but we will never know their true goal. As for the Captain, the reserve force sent to hold Defense Station five found him severely injured but still clinging to life. Despite his advanced age, he is a man of stout constitution and I have no doubt he will make a full recovery.
In better news, the automated satellite defenses that Captain Harris inadvertently tested seem to be quite capable of defending our space against incursions such as this one. I am pleased to report that the system has performed flawlessly in every test I have administered since the battle, and is ready to come on-line in an official capacity. Just as soon as Maintenance gets those crumpet crumbs out of the main computer bank...