Okay, this is much shorter than my usual work, but it's only a prologue/beginning.

The Imperial Dreadnought pushed forward through the empty void of space. Well, almost empty. Thousands, perhaps more, of the machines simply called the Swarm were forced out of the way by the massive battleship’s forceshields. The metallic beasts fired small pulse lasers, slowly draining the shields of their strength. Yet the Dreadnought kept its insane pace, forcing its six engines to critical levels. From tens of kilometers away, an encrypted message was sent.

“Accept hologram,” said Admiral Chester Nimitz, his gravely voice filling the command center. An ensign touched his computer screen twice, and a large holographic image of a very angry woman appeared in the midst of them.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing Renaissance? Your orders are the same as mine: retreat. The Commonwealth is lost; we’re not getting the planet back. This war has enough dead heroes,” High Admiral Samantha Nimitz’s angry voice seemed to crack slightly over the com. Her brown eyes searched the command center, until they found the Admiral. His back was to her hologram, which was against all military protocol. His gaze remained fixed on three large screens which conveyed the situation around his ship.

“There isn’t enough time, Ma’am. Even if every ship were to make an emergency high-energy jump, the Swarm would follow your energy signatures. My crew and I are putting our line in the sand; we’re not running anymore. We’ll hold the Swarm off long enough to give the rest of the fleet time to jump safely,” The Admiral said with conviction. He was decided; the Renaissance would put its best foot forward, so to speak. Finally, he turned to the High Admiral’s holographic form.

“Chester,” the High Admiral said, dropping all the military bullshit, “what will I say to Tom?” Tears seemed to swell up in her eyes, something unseen in public since the war began. Her upright posture lost most of her composure, and it appeared as though she might slump to the floor. Her military upbringing held firm however, and she wiped away her tears.

“He’s a big boy. We all have to grow up sometime,” the Admiral almost reached out to try to wipe away the tears on her cheeks, but squelched the reaction. “Promise me this, Sam. Take care of our boy. Spoil him more than any prince; we may not have long before even Old Earth is besieged. May the Emperor protect us,” he said as a way of goodbye. This was too hard, he couldn’t say goodbye in any other way. Not to her, nor the memory of their child.

“Ches…” Samantha Nimitz began to respond, but the Admiral motioned to the same ensign who had brought up the hologram. He quickly pressed something on his screen, and the holographic image of the High Admiral froze in mid-sentence. Her paused image seemed to plead silently for the
right to be heard.

“Message aborted, sir,” said Ensign Harry Spruance in his best naval tone. The Admiral nodded and turned back to the logistic screens. Displayed upon it was a sea of red dots, with his green triangle pushing toward the main cluster of enemy units. Behind his icon, a few dozen green squares began to disappear from the screen.

“You all know your history. What we do now is not unique; during the Civil War in the United States on Old Earth, Vermont soldiers were known to disobey orders to retreat and instead led charges against the advancing infantry. Now we shall do the same; this is our duty,” the Admiral said with dignity, and every soul in the command center seemed to be lifted with his good spirits. Ensigns ran to and fro, establishing and reaffirming links with the weapons systems, forceshield generators, and the engines. Fighters flew into space from the launching bays, and began clearing a path for the behemoth ship.

“All missile tubes, fire. All pulse-laser batteries, acquire targets at will. Give them everything, people! EMP, Shiva warheads, a rock if you think it will do any good!” Chester Nimitz roared, causing even the most experienced ensign to jump.

A Dreadnought is the largest and most powerful capitol ship the Imperial Navy can produce. Its armaments include thousands of missiles, pulse-lasers, Shiva class nuclear warheads, and even EMP charges. Fully engaged in combat, it was a sight to behold. Like an avatar of destruction, it slew its enemies wholesale in the silent vacuum of space. White lightning struck metallic beings and continued further, clearing whole sections of space.

Dozens of fighters flew into the Swarm, forcing their way with EMP charges that shut-down the enemy. Nuclear charges exploded deep in the sea of enemies, sparing few. Yet there was always more.

Slowly but surely, each fighter was eventually swarmed by metallic creatures, each almost as large as the ship they destroyed. Men yelled their last prayers to the Holy Emperor as their engines failed and they fell victim to the ravages of space.

The Dreadnought continued forward, heedless of its failing shields and crying engines. Again and again it struck, but a flood of enemies threw themselves against it. With a flicker of visibility, the forceshield failed and thousands of creatures crashed into the hull.

More pulse-laser batteries opened fire, desperately trying to clear the hull. The numbers were too many, and they began to dig. It wouldn’t be long before they had chewed their way through the five meter hull.

The logistics showed only one ship remaining in the fleet behind them; deep down, Admiral Nimitz knew which ship it was. Now was the time for the final goodbye, the last hurrah before the howling dark.

“Execute command Omega,” the Admiral said softly, his order barely heard by the ensign to his left. Harry Spruance ran to his console, and began bellowing into an intercom. Warning sirens began to blare throughout the ship, after a moment they were silenced. A countdown appeared on the logistic screens, and the Admiral finally smiled. Twenty, nineteen, eighteen…

Most ships in the Imperial Navy are powered by unique plasma producing engines. Plasma is inherently unstable, but physicists were able to subject it to our will over a century prior. With his last command, Admiral Chester Nimitz was forcing those engines to go super-critical, restoring that plasma to its unstable state.

Harry Spruance walked up beside his commanding officer. As the clock slowly wound down, the Admiral took out a worn picture from his pocket. It was an old-style picture, probably digital. On it was a young boy enjoying what appeared to be his first toy model of a battleship. The Admiral turned to him.

“Hurrah,” he said weakly, as the clock struck zero.

The resulting explosion could be seen in a separate arm of the galaxy. A burning white light appeared in the space where previously the Renaissance was located. It immediately incinerated the surrounding Swarm, and burned a hole in the atmosphere of the previously human-settled planet kilometers away.

The last human ship in the system watched this dazzling display until the light faded. After surveying the damage, the Dark Ages prepared to jump.

“On my mark,” said High Admiral Nimitz, recently widowed, “mark.” The ship jumped faster than light to the nearest Fleet rendezvous, located in the Phoenix system.

Amongst the shattered machines, movement was visible. Unseen by the naked eye, nanites slowly collected pieces of elements from the debris.

The Dreadnought’s sacrifice had only bought humanity a brief respite. Even now, the broken creatures of the Swarm were being patched together again, undoing everything the fleet had done.

After a while, some of the Swarm descended on the broken planet they had conquered. It’s name? New Earth.