Struggling with newfound sentience and desperately trying to repair itself, The Indescribable Joy of Destruction is a ship trying to find a new home. In a galaxy torn apart by generations of civil war, that isn’t an easy task.

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Chapter 1

“All stations, stand by to engage. Full burn on my mark…” said Captain Hapsburg in measured tones. “Mark.”

The Indescribable Joy of Destruction powered forward, and swung around the moon it had been using for cover. The tactical sensors marked their target, a Congressional destroyer in orbit around the planet Orpus-4. The navigational routines offered a set of courses to the pilot, who approved a pseudo-random corkscrew approach. The Caretaker watched all this with mild interest; there was little else to occupy its thoughts right now, the ship was in prime condition and the crew were all locked down in their acceleration couches.

The Rampager class was an experimental design, The Indescribable Joy of Destruction the eighth to be constructed by the Republic. They were built around their main beam weapon and their engines. Unheard-of levels of computing power allowed a high-level AI to take over most of the basic functions of the ship, leaving a crew of only seven. This, in turn, meant that very little room was needed for living space, so the power plants, weapons and engines could be far larger for a ship of its size.

A minute after The Indescribable Joy of Destruction cleared the moon, the enemy started a slow turn to meet them. Ten seconds into their manoeuvre, they launched a spread of missiles.

“I’ve got them,” said the tactical officer, and the Caretaker switched perspective from the ship’s functions to the simulated bridge. The tactical officer tagged the missiles with sweeps of his hands and passed them to the point defence systems.

The Indescribable Joy of Destruction continued its unpredictable approach as the missiles rushed towards it. The enemy ship completed its turn, and lit off its main drives. There was no doubting her commander’s bravery; no Congressional destroyer had ever survived an engagement with a Republic hunter-killer.

Railgun rounds spewed out of the destroyer’s turrets. Moments later the first missile entered the range of The Indescribable Joy of Destruction’s point defences. The ship hummed as the lasers drew power. Systematically the missiles were picked out of space, detonating harmlessly.

The cloud of railgun rounds wasn’t far behind. The pilot worked with the navigation routine to dodge the denser regions, but the occasional metal slug impacted on the hull, sending dull clangs reverberating around the ship.

The tactical officer pulled up a magnified image of the target, which flowed into a three-dimensional model. A lurid orange highlight followed his finger as he marked a line across a pair of large turrets. He sent a command through the Electronic Interface System embedded in his brain, and the ship’s throbbing intensified as the main weapon came online.

They streaked past the Congressional warship and the beam fired, slashing through the turrets.  The pilot twisted The Indescribable Joy of Destruction about, swinging around in a wide arc ready for another pass. The enemy vessel turned too, but was completely outclassed in terms of manoeuvrability.

“Same again,” said Captain Hapsburg. “This time break across at the last second and hit the turrets on the opposite side.”

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