The vastness of space is hard for anyone to comprehend. Navigating the void is difficult. So much of it is empty vacuum, without proper references you could end up lost for all time. Much like the mariners of ancient times one must rely on the positions of the stars to figure out where they are. It was for this reason that Harry has setup the subspace beacon back on Earth in order to find his way in the solar system. So long as he could lock onto the Terra-1 beacon he could plot a course using it as a reference point, an interplanetary North. Of course to plot a course you needed seven points of reference, six to define your destination and a point of origin to plot your path. Harry hadn't exactly done that, he had plotted his course like one would a two-dimensional map, forgetting that space operated in three dimensions... if you were lucky.
Harry Potter defiantly was what one would call lucky. The question at any point in time though was if it was extraordinarily good or horrifically bad.
Today the answer was horrifically bad.
Before he even had a chance to check to see where he had ended up and radio Teddy with a report he felt the ship rocked hard. Lily immediately said, “We've just been hit on the port side wing. Incoming fighters of a design not on record.”
“What? There isn't supposed to be anything out here,” Harry practically yelled as he started flipping controls on his command chair and linking directly with the ship to take control of maneuverability. When he was connected like this it was almost as if he was the Ascension flying through space as instinctively as he did on a broom. He asked the question, “Where are we Lily?”
As he dodged more weapons fire from the fighters attacking him Lily checked, then rechecked. Her surprise was obvious as she reported, “I don't know. We seem to be in orbit of a planet that is currently under heavy nuclear assault. This planet shouldn't be here. I'm trying to get a star fix now.”
After another shuddering hit on the port side she reported, “We're losing the port ion drive. Jump drive is damaged. We're not getting out of here the same we we came.”
“Raise our defense shield, put the point defense railguns on autofire!”
All along Ascension's hull doors retracted and the ends of some kind of weapon emerged. As soon as one of the strange fighters got within range they opened fire. Harry did his best to dodge the incoming rounds as the ship tried to target and destroy the attackers. Not exactly a warm welcome, and not exactly the way to make First Contact with an extra-terrestrial civilization. But to be fair, they had fired first.
Harry pulled a quick three-hundred and sixty degree turn to face his attackers. The fighters looked almost like crabs without any legs, but with the forward pincers far ahead of the fuselage. He could see some sort of red sensor scanning back and forth along what he thought might be the cockpit, or whatever these things used for control.
“Lily, are these things flying themselves?”
“From all indications yes. They are trying to upload some sort of package into the mainframe. I think it might be a cyber attack.”
“Any risk for our systems?”
“No, not at the moment. It's just too different from the mainframes design, it can't even unpack itself into our data network. I've isolated it, I can't guarantee that we will remain unaffected though,” Lily responded.
“Okay then, time to go on the offensive. Can you give me a target, whatever command ship these things are coming from?”
“I'm working on it.”
Harry flew hard and fast towards the enemy formation. The weapons on their ships were firing what he thought were solid projectile rounds, those were now being deflected by the defense shield he had designed. Most of the shield was a runic sequence that was etched on the inside of the ship, protecting the runes from being damaged from outside. The power for these runes however was being pulled from the three CRPB's at the ships core. Harry wasn't certain how much punishment they could take over time, but he didn't want to find out in this environment. Trial by fire was not something he enjoyed.
“I have a target. The large ships in orbit of the planet seem to be where the fighters are coming from. I've scanned them, I can't be certain of anything inside there though,” Lily said. If one looked at her they would see a look of intense concentration on the constructs face.
“What do you think a full power burst from the energy canons would do?”
Lily thought for a moment, “If we target the central axis it's possible we could cripple their command ship, if not destroy it completely. I can't be certain how much damage we'll cause however. That ship is heavily armored.”
“So heavy plate armor but no energy sheilds?”
“Why would they focus on heavier armor over developing some kind of energy shield?”
He got his answer from an alarm sounding through the bridge, “Radiological alarm. I'm detecting a thirty-kiloton thermo-nuclear warhead heading straight for us!”
Harry flew hard and fast, even trying a few old Quidditch maneuvers to try to lose the missile. He turned towards the command ship and decided to lead it in. Harry quickly asked, “How will our shields hold up against that if it goes off too close?”
“It will filter out most of the hard radiation but not all of it. I can't be certain as we never considered that a possibility,” Lily responded.
“Great, just great Potter. You think up as many possibilities as you can and you leave off running into people who just want to nuke you first ask questions later.”
The missile was still locked on him and didn't seem to be letting off. It was then that more of the fighters launched a lot more missiles, all of them nukes. Harry couldn't help cursing. He rolled hard starboard and pointed the nose of Ascension directly towards the command ship. He calmed himself and said, “Lily, keep the rail guns firing at anything that gets too close. Target the primary energy cannon for a sustained burst at the command ships central axis. Doesn't matter if it's critical or not, we just need a hull breach.”
A powerful beam of pure energy lashed out from the Ascension's underside. The sustained beam was able to burn through the armor of the command ship, but did very little internal damage to the ship. Harry kept flying hard towards the large construct that he figured would fit maybe a few hundred thousand. He didn't know if this would work but he hoped he'd at least get a chance to make it out alive.
He through the ship hard to starboard and slingshot around the command ships central access, then headed hard and fast towards the planet. The missles however were not as manuverable. Many impacted the command ship, several detonated due to the force from the explosions. Harry didn't bother looking back as the command ship exploded, the combined explosive force of several mega-tons throwing off a blast wave that he nearly out ran. The problem is that he only nearly outran it.
Sparks started going off all over the bridge, alarms and red lights filled the screens as Harry tried to shield himself from the worst of it. Ascension was plummeting down into the planetary atmosphere quickly. “We've lost ion-drive completely, switching over to flying enchantments. Multiple hull breaches, we are venting atmosphere.”
“Activate the disillusionment and perception fields. We need to cloak now and get out of sight. Try to find us a landing spot, fast.”
It took Lily only a second, “Got it, approximately ten kilometers outside what looks like a major city. Caution, the entire planet seems to have been irradiated. Our landing zone should be in one of the areas of least contamination.”
“Set shields to maximum, keep an eye on how much radiation is getting through.”
Even if his defense systems had seen him through, Harry knew he hadn't designed Ascension for combat. She was equal part explorer and experimental test bed. As he tried to slow her descent towards the planet he couldn't help but think about all the people he had left behind on Earth. He had hoped that this would just be a quick trip, but that was looking to be getting further and further from reality.
It was rough but Harry still managed to land his ship in one piece. He confirmed that they were still cloaked and fell backwards in his chair, the adrenalin draining from his system quickly. Harry looked at his hands, seeing how much they were shaking. He had hoped he had left things like this in his past. He held on hand tight in the other and asked, “What the hell was that all about?”
“Unknown,” Lily answered.
Harry sighed and closed his eyes, “So how far off are we?”
“I didn't have time to get a fix on our position before we were attacked. I can tell you however that I can not lock on to beacon Terra-1,” Lily said.
Harry's eyes widened at the implications, “But that beacon was broadcasting through subspace, we should be able to pick it up no matter what is between us and Earth.”
“Yes, but it was only designed to broadcast within our star system,” Lily explained.
Harry let that sink in for a moment. He asked, “Just how far off course are we?”
Lily looked worried as she answered, “I don't know. From what I was able to record prior to our being attacked I could only tell that none of the current star positions match from within the Sol system. Assuming that we'd still be able to tell the constellations and get a fix with the astrological data available prior to our departure within a few light years; I'd have to assume we have somehow ended up far outside our local galactic area. We'd need to know where we are in reference to Galactic Center before I could give you anything even close to accurate.”
“Okay, one problem at a time. How's the damage looking?”
“Not good. We suffered significant hull damage from the initial attack. Ion drive is down from the nuclear blast, and the Jump Drive is significantly damaged. Several power transfer conduits were overloaded. The self-repair enchantments are running on ambient magic only. I've had to sever the connections to the central CRPB array to prevent us from leaking too much energy. Cloak and perception fields are online, but also only on ambient magical energy.”
Harry sighed, “Time to repair?”
“Hull plating should be repaired and the ship airtight within twelve hours. The power conduits are going to take longer, as well as the Ion Drive. We won't have sublight propulsion for at least thirty-six hours. The major problem is the Jump Drive. Right now I can not give an estimate on how long it may take for it to even be capable of testing let alone plot a jump,” Lily reported.
Harry ran his hand over his face, “Subspace radio?”
“We're too far out of range. We just don't have anyway of even sending a message back to Earth,” Lily replied.
Harry was barely holding it together as it was. He stood up, his legs still rather shaky. He walked around a little and then said, “Ok, forcus on getting main power back online and ensure we can't be spotted by anyone right now. Once we have the little things all fixed channel the power into the repair enchantments on the Ion Drive and the Jump Drive. I'm going to go lay down and try to figure out what our next move is. That is... if there is a next move.”
Harry slowly walked off the bridge, using a hand to steady himself with the wall. Before he got to his quarters he stopped in front of the door to the room Teddy had decorated for himself. Harry smiled as his hand traced the figures on the name plate, then opened the door and looked inside. He walked in and looked around slowly, seeing the touch of the boy he had raised as his own son. He picked up a photograph that Teddy had set on the night stand, one of the two of them standing in front of the Ascension when they had first started building the structures.
“Don't worry buddy. I'll find a way home.”
He had not been able to sleep since he got to his quarters. He knew what Lily had told him was true, but he had to try something. So he went to his desk, turned on his terminal and activated his subspace radio.
“My name is Harry James Potter, Lord of the Ancient and Noble Houses of Potter and Black. I was testing a new propulsion drive and I somehow got shot across the galaxy. I'm now surrounded on all sides by a genocidal enemy, that I know nothing about. I don't know where I am, or if I have anyone to call on for help. If anyone can hear me, then I just want it to be known that I'm not going to give up. I'm going to try to find a way back home. Back to a small planet called Earth.”