TheT.R.S. Ozymandias was the most powerful warship ever built by man. She had never been surpassed by any single ship, and never would. Over five kilometers long, she had been built nearly a hundred years ago by the Terran Republic, a symbol of the awesome power and wealth of that nation. She had more armor and firepower than an entire task force, and her spinal rail gun fired a projectile that could shatter an assault carrier in a single shot. It had been without a trace of irony that the dockworkers had inscribed the massive words of Percy Bysshe Shelly along the side:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair
Vice Admiral Martin Weisman laughed bitterly inside at the hubris of the words. Shelly's ironic words still rang true seven hundred years after he died. A century before, the Terrans had been supreme. The very idea of another nation challenging their dominion over the stars had been absurd. Now they had been reduced to Earth and a bare handful of colonies. Ozymandias was the last Terran warship left between the invaders and the billions of refugees fleeing Earth. The last task force had been overwhelmed in orbit around Mars. The last Marines were dying on the surface of the Red Planet, defiant to the last, praying that their lives would buy time for more refugees to escape Earth.
"Sir, the enemy fleet has broken orbit around Mars."
"Move to intercept," Martin ordered. He sighed. This was the beginning of the end and every single crewmember knew it. They didn't have a prayer of making it out of this battle alive. Despite that, every single one had declined the chance to be on a refugee ship instead of aboard the doomed Ozymandias.
It would be four hours until they came into contact with the lead elements of the enemy fleet. Martin had experienced that crushing feeling that coasting into battle gave, the irreversible charge that could only end if you or your opponent died. This was a thousand times worse and a thousand times easier. The utter certainty of the conclusion magnified and took the edge off any fear he felt.
A million thoughts traversed Martin's mind as the Ozymandias cruised through the silence of space. He spared only a moment to think of his family. His wife and daughter were safely away, having departed on the first wave of refugee ship. That was the only reward the volunteer crew received. His oldest son, Jonathan, had died during the siege of New Jakarta. Thomas was probably already dead down on the surface of Mars. He had refused to leave his regiment when he received notice that he was being sent on the refugee ships. Matthew had died at the outset of the war, ramming his frigate into an enemy battleship, allowing for millions of civilians to escape the onslaught.
That led to the real reason Martin had volunteered for this command. He wanted to die, but he still had a duty that could not be neglected. His oath had been to defend the Republic to the death or until release from service. Ozymandias fulfilled that oath.Ozymandias was the boatman's fee, the price Martin needed to pay to be granted access to the afterlife.
Martin laughed at the thought. Matthew had always been the religious one in the family. Martin had hardly given God a thought his entire life; Matthew was probably singing one of his hymns when he rammed his frigate into that battleship. Too late now, Martin thought.
Martin glanced at the sensor displays around his chair and wished, not for the first time, that the bridge had a view port. The bridge was at the center of the ship, and even if a view port was possible, there was nothing to see until they got into the miniscule engagement envelope that space combat took place in. He would have preferred to engage them in orbit around Earth, but that would leave the refugee ships open to attack. So instead they had to attempt to force a void engagement and pray that they didn't miss the enemy fleet entirely. It was the world's largest game of darts with the smallest bull's-eye.
The silent cruise ended with what should have been a skull shattering roar. The spinal rail gun of the Ozymandias had a longer range than any other weapon made by man. It speeds across the gap towards the lead enemy ship, but the vacuum of space denied it any sound.Ozymandias followed it, blitzing through the wreckage of the smaller ship with hardly a thought.
"All weapons stations, fire at will," Martin ordered. Clouds of nuclear missiles spewed forth from the dozens of missile tubes along the flanks of the gargantuan warship. Rail gun turrets, tiny compared to the spinal gun but still massive next to their opposing weapons, fired tungsten bolts that knifed through enemy armor. For the briefest moment Ozymandias must have struck a terrifying sight, a behemoth letting loose a firestorm.
"My name is Ozymandias," Martin muttered with a grin. There was a brief rush, a feeling of invincibility as half a dozen enemy warships were ripped apart by the maelstrom of weapons fire before they could respond. As numerous as the enemy was, they were nothing but a swarm of ants, annoying but unable to harm the giant that strode among, crushing them left and right.
Then the enemy returned fire.
Ozymandiasshook as countless projectiles battered the armored sides of the warship, every hit coming closer to slicing through the suddenly very flimsy protection the crew had from the vacuum of space. Martin saw the looks of terror on the crewmembers' faces. He supposed he should be feeling something similar, but anything of the sort was in absence. There was no fear, only certainty.
The damage reports started to come in.
"Missile arrays 11 and 14 are offline!"
"Gun turrets four and nine have sustained critical damage."
"Hyperdrive is down, thrusters are at 70"
Martin ignored the frantic chatter. He had just discovered what he needed to do. He gave the order for Ozymandias to head for the center of the enemy fleet. Unlike many Terran admirals, the enemy leader was no idiot. His flagship was at the center of his formation, not on the leading edge. Ozymandias dove down through a torrent of enemy towards the flagship. Several of the bridge crew had looks on their faces that said they though they had guessed what he was going to do. They were almost certainly. Martin saw more enemy ships breaking apart in the wake of Ozymandias. It was a tribute to the shipyards that built her that Ozymandias not only held together, but also gave back more than she took.
"FTL comm is damaged," a tech reported. "We're capable of short ranged FTL transmissions only." She glanced down at her console. "Incoming transmission from the enemy flagship."
"Put it through." The face of Martin's counterpart appeared. He looked irritated but slightly frightened. He knew Ozymandias was coming for him.
"Admiral," he said. "You've done well. But now it is time to lay down your arms."
"You have thousands of men under you. They have all performed valiantly. Give them a chance at life. Besides, your Marines on Mars have already surrendered."
"Bullshit. The Marines wouldn't surrender if it was two grunts with a nail gun between them against the legions of Hell. And I'm not going to be outdone by a bunch of groundpounders."
"Believe what you like, Admiral. The blood of your crew is on your hands if you do not surrender." Martin resisted the temptation to laugh in the man's face. He was smart enough to know that Ozymandiascould tear a huge chunk out of his fleet. Too bad there was nothing he could do to stop her.
"Why do conquerors always try to blame it on the people they're killing for not giving up?"
"Admiral, I will ask you once more. Surrender now."
"Fuck you." Martin cut the connection. "Is the FTL comm working well enough to reach Earth?" It would be nice to get off one last transmission.
"Alright. Prepare a laser transmission." He looked around at the crew. The knowledge of the Marines' continued resistance gave them new strength. He sighed. What he was about to do wasn't fair to any of them. They deserved to be remembered, even if none of them asked for it. He did his best to make sure they would. All the other preparations were complete.
Martin didn't know any hymns, but the song they had played at his father's funeral came to mind.
"The minstrel boy to the war is gone..."
Without hesitation Martin mashed a small button on his console.
The last refugee ship was departing Earth. They still had several hours to the jump point. The captain prayed that the enemy was being delayed long enough for them to escape.
"Incoming laser transmission from Ozymand- holy shit!" The captain agreed with the communication officer's exclamation. In the void between Mars and Earth, where the battle should have been taking place, a miniature sun had formed. It faded rapidly. The refugee ship lacked the FTL scanners to do a timely sweep, but the captain could guess what had happened. The captain looked down at the console. It was a complete roster of the crew of Ozymandias, along with a brief text message.
This is our story: Nothing beside remains
The rest is silence