Lieutenant Alex Peters sighed and pushed a button on his console that would activate the ship's scanners and send out a burst similar to SONAR. The scanners could pick up any other ships or debris in the area, but the lieutenant wasn't holding his breath for anything exciting to show up. The ASD Guadalupe Hidalgo was making a routine supply drop to a colony so new it was still designated CIV-4117. The ship would arrive, enter the planet's atmosphere, drop off Allied Space Defense approved rations, and return to the closest ASD spaceport.
Such had been the lieutenant's life for the past six months. He wasn't fighting aliens like he had dreamed he would as a child (learning there were none to be fought had broken his heart) but the job had helped him get through university, and allowed him to keep his one-bedroom apartment back on Charis. He'd be lying if he said he liked his job, but it did have its perks, foremost among them being the captain.
Captain Marianne Conway had won her fame in the Anglo-Guatemalan Revolution and, according to scuttlebutt, had requested her transfer to the Guadalupe Hidalgo. Peters wasn't sure why anyone would want to be stationed on the dinky little ship, but he wasn't complaining. The captain was the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on. He knew the rules about fraternization were strict, but a guy could hope, right?
An alert beeped on his console and the lieutenant reluctantly roused himself from his thoughts. The scanners had picked something up, which piqued his interests, but only momentarily. The silhouette that popped up on his display was vaguely oval-shaped and lumpy. Probably nothing more than garbage expelled by another ship. The computer had calculated a probable course based on the object's current speed and direction, and it looked like the object was going to go right past them. More than likely it wasn't anything to worry about, but Peters tapped off a message to the pilot, just to be safe. No one could say the lieutenant didn't do his job.
Peters returned to his daydreams. He planned on seeing this tour to the end, but as soon as they got to the closest spaceport, he was going to leave the ASD. There'd be no rules against fraternization then, so he'd tell the captain how madly he was in love with her. She'd surely feel the same, and the two of them would marry. They'd go back to his apartment on Charis for a while, but they'd have to look for a new place to live when they started thinking about kids. Peters imagined that they'd have three: two boys with his chin, and a pretty little girl with her mother's blonde hair and cute snub nose.
He was wondering whether the captain would let him name the girl after his grandmother - and whether Ruth was an appropriate name for a little girl - when he was thrown from his seat by a violent tremor. He landed on his console - hard - and slammed his face against the display screen with a sickening crunch. The ship was still shaking, but Peters struggled to right himself, blood gushing from his broken nose. He rushed to close everything that had been opened when he fell against the keyboard and tried to concentrate on the numerous alarms and status reports that were popping up on his console. He could hear klaxons wailing outside and felt a lump of cold fear in his stomach.
The door behind him chimed and opened to admit Captain Conway. Her blonde hair was in danger of falling out of its normally pristine bun, and concern was evident in every line of her face.
"Peters," she shouted over the klaxons, "what just happened to my ship?!"
"I'm not sure, ma'am," he answered, aware of just how panicked he sounded. He quickly tapped a series of commands into the console. Most of the external cameras had been damaged by the - whatever it was that had just happened - but one opened up. The grainy film revealed what looked to be a spaceship, but it was larger than any spaceship the lieutenant had ever served on. It had to be at least thirty times as large as the Guadalupe Hidalgo.
"What - what is... oh no." His voice cracking, Peters realized with sudden, unwelcome clarity that this was what the scanners had picked up. He didn't wonder how it had managed to change course and reach them so quickly - that wasn't important now. In the camera's feedback, he could see a small white light glowing on the bow of the gargantuan ship. The glow became larger, blinding even through the low resolution of the film, until it burst forth and impacted the Guadalupe Hidalgo. The ship shook again, more violently this time, and Peters could hear it screeching as its internal frame was torn apart. The sound was eerily similar to a human scream, and Peters wondered for a second if the ship was protesting its own demise.
He had no further time for musing, however, when a synthesized voice said calmly, "Fire in the main deck. No life support in Sections Z through P."
Peters realized just what that meant, and by the look on the captain's face, she did too. "My crew," she said hoarsely. She turned to leave, but stumbled as the ship shuddered.
Peters grabbed her arm. "Captain, no! You can't do anything for them now."
"My ship," she snapped, "is-"
"The ship is being torn apart!"
The tremors grew more and more intense and Peters could see that the white light - a beam that originated from the hostile ship - was moving towards the ship's bow. He watched in horror for a few seconds before the remaining camera was destroyed. His door was closed, and so for now they still had life support, but it wouldn't be long before the beam reached them.
"We are going to die," Captain Conway said, sounding almost calm.
"We... we are."
His computers had died, now, and the room was black. A violent shudder threw him towards the captain, and he grabbed her, shouting to be heard over the deafening sounds of destruction. He had to tell her now. She had to know before they died.
"Captain, listen! Captain... Marianne, I lo-"