Space 2315, Chapter 21

Admiral Moore leaned back on the comfortable couch in her day cabin, holding a cup of coffee while she eyed the small coffee cake left for her by Master Chief Steward Bethany McBright. Her steward did like to spoil her. The admiral willed herself to look away from the pastry; dinner with her flag staff was in two hours and the last thing she wanted to do was spoil dinner with sweets. Her mouth twisted in a rueful grin as she contemplated that the upcoming meal could very well be their Last Supper. No matter how the battle in Sol System went she wouldn’t see many of these captains again.

She could very well be leading herself, her fleet, and the only hope of a swift victory for the Allied Colonies, to their deaths. The Sol Defense Fleet, even the smaller portion of it that her fleet would be facing, was nothing to sneeze at. The fleet throughout humanity’s home star system was the largest one assembled to defend any star system. It was the best of the best, the most highly trained, the most disciplined, the most anything you could think of. And the mobile forces were backed up by some of the most potent fixed defenses humanity had ever built.

That was for one reason. Terra. The planet held almost religious significance to humanity. Terra was the cradle of life for humanity, the home of their most ancient and revered ancestors, the birthplace of Man’s religions, and it needed to be defended at any cost. To look upon Terra was akin to looking upon the Ark of the Covenant. Some said that looking upon that cloud dappled blue and green orb changed people, that they had an almost religious experience while others were stunned into silence or tears by her beauty and majesty. It was Terra and it would always be humanity’s home, no matter if a person was born elsewhere. Terra was Home.

Luna and Mars, while still significant in their own ways as the steppingstones to Man’s march to the stars, didn’t, couldn’t, and would never hold the same level of reverence as Terra did.

First Fleet was a few hours from the jump point from the border of Allied Colonial/Human Federation space when Lieutenant Maria Roman called out, “Ma’am! I’ve a flash priority message from a courier boat that just left the jump gate.” A flash priority message was the highest priority that any message could have.

“What does it say lieutenant?” Fleet Admiral Moore asked her flag communications officer.

“Only one word repeated three times, ma’am,” Lieutenant Roman replied. “Yankee. Yankee. Yankee.”

Admiral Moore looked up, her eyes widening slightly at those words. After a second’s hesitation she called out to the crew on the flag bridge and the command bridge where Captain Brooks was. “All ships, this is the flag. Immediate execute, come about at maximum speed and return to the jump gate.” As soon as each ship received those orders, they turned in space at the ponderous speeds that her largest ships needed to complete their turns in space. “Yankee” meant only one thing. Recall.

Moore walked from her cutter that just landed in the fighter bay at the top of the Triangle. A part of her mind idly noticed that it was a different one than the one she landed in a few weeks prior. She barely noticed the officer of the deck saluting her and calling out, “First Fleet Actual arriving!” She returned the salute before she made her way to the bank of lifts near the back of the fighter bay. She entered the lift and punched in the destination code for the head of the navy, Fleet Admiral Erica Skyla. The recall order hadn’t told Admiral Moore why she was recalled and the only thing they got out of anyone since arriving back in Altair was that she was to report directly to Fleet Admiral Skyla’s office at the Triangle when she got back.

“Admiral Moore,” the Fleet Admiral’s secretary said as he looked up from the computer at his desk, stood, and came to attention for her. “The fleet admiral is expecting you. I’ll let her know that you’re here.” He pressed a stud on his desk to speak softly into the intercom. After a few seconds he looked back up to Admiral Moore. “You may enter ma’am.”

Erica Skyla stood up from her desk as Admiral Moore walked in. The fleet admiral was a slightly built woman with pale skin, light blonde hair and chocolate brown eyes. “Admiral Moore, I’m glad you’re here. I apologize for the brief recall order that brought you back here, but I can explain everything.”

“With all due respect ma’am, I’d like to know that too. I never received the top-secret orders that brought me back. Only the basic recall order on the secret level.”

“Please admiral,” Skyla said, gesturing to a chair before her desk. When Moore seated herself, Skyla took her own chair. “Would you like refreshments?”

“Please ma’am.” Skyla pressed a stud on her desk. “Crafton, coffee for Admiral Moore and myself if you will please.”

The coffee arrived a few minutes later atop a tray laden with a carafe of coffee, cream, sugar, two mugs, as well as four small croissants. The secretary left the tray on the fleet admiral’s desk before he departed to the outer office. The admirals poured coffee and doctored their drinks before taking sips. Admiral Moore sighed appreciatively. It was better coffee than got aboard ship, and not for lack of trying by her steward.

Skyla took a few more sips before she pressed another button on her desk to activate the security features on her office. It turned her office into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) until she disabled the features. Admiral Moore looked up and saw that the office’s windows had tinted in such a way that only allowed light in, not out. “Now that we’re cleared to talk, you should know admiral that we didn’t issue the recall order on a whim. The top-secret information that you didn’t receive came to us from multiple sources both inside and outside the Human Federation. But the latest information that we have has indicated that the Human Federation has heavily reinforced the Sol Defense Fleet with elements from their Second and Fourth Fleets. If you had jumped into the Sol System, you’d have faced something on the order of three or four times your tonnage.

“Not only that, but the latest intelligence reports from agents we have inside the HF’s R&D revealed that they’ve deployed the latest in deep space sensor platforms. These things have been deployed inside and outside the Sol System and have the capability to see into hyperspace across several light years.”

“I thought that was impossible,” Moore said around another sip of coffee.

“Apparently it isn’t anymore,” Skyla responded after she took a sip of her own coffee. “Somehow or another the HF has developed these deep space platforms and deployed them around the Sol System. They’d have known exactly when your fleet was going to jump into the Sol System and been able to position their forces to counter you. So far though, it appears that the Human Federation hasn’t been able to deploy them anywhere else so far.

“And before you ask how they knew to bring the two fleets into Sol System, someone must’ve had the same idea you did; that Sol System, Terra specifically, is the schwerpunkt in this war. That eventually someone would go for Terra in order to try and take the high orbitals and force a surrender. It’s a logical assumption and they responded accordingly. It’s almost certain they were reinforcing Sol System long before you left Altair for the border.” Skyla shrugged her shoulders at Admiral Moore. “I’m sorry, but your original ops plan was probably out-of-date the minute you presented it. It’s not your fault admiral. We knew they’d reinforce the Sol System, but not that heavily.

“Which gives us another opportunity,” Skyla told her as she pushed her chair back from her desk, crossed her legs and tugged at her skirt while tipping her chair back.

“Since the HF has pulled so much back to cover the Sol System it’s possible that they left other star systems defense forces’ understrength. Granted, striking a place such as Alpha Centauri or Tau Ceti wouldn’t have the same psychological effect that a strike on Sol would represent, but attacking and taking one of them would still send a message to the HF public that they can’t be strong everywhere and that the ACF can and will attack even some of their other most important star systems. The public outcry from that would make the HF government think twice about suing for peace, or at least a cease fire.”

“That might work,” Admiral Moore thought about it for some time. “Attacking a Core system could very well make those protests on Terra and her other colonies that are small at this time become even larger. They would be the ones calling for peace which would allow us, the ACF, to safe face. We would come out at the end on the winning side.”

Skyla paused for a moment as she thought and then sat forward. “If you can come up with a viable ops plan, we’ll approve it.”

Moore stood up and came to attention. “I’ll have one within two days!”

“Very well admiral, thank you.”

As Moore walked out of Skyla’s office, she found her Chief of Staff, Erana Trueblade, standing outside. She turned to her and asked. “How long have you been standing there?” Erana was about to speak when Moore cut her off. “Um… forget it, I need to talk to you. Walk with me captain.”

“What’s up ma’am?” Erana asked as she matched Moore’s walking pace.

“I want to know just how the Human Federation was able to develop that hyperspace detection technology?” She paused for she knew that Erana wouldn’t like the next questions. “Did your people give them it?”

“You know that the Zaltaens have a strict policy when it comes to sharing tech.”

Moore stopped walking and turned about which caused Erana nearly to walk into Moore. She put her hands on her hips. “Oh, cut the bullshit already. Everyone knows there are often two things that happen; what is publicly said and what actually happens behind closed doors. I want to know if there was sharing of tech behind closed doors.”

“Admiral, if there was covert technology trading, my superiors certainly didn’t tell me. And that’s the Great Maker’s honest truth.” She paused. “There’s another possibility ma’am,” Moore gestured for her to continue. “What about Midas or Sirius?”

“But they’re supposed to be…” Moore began and then stopped midsentence. “Neutrality doesn’t mean anything, especially when it comes to business and profits.”

Erana nodded her head. “Yeah.”

“That shouldn’t surprise me, either star nation could see a lot of money in selling that kind of tech to someone.” Moore paused again. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say Sirius because… profits.”

“That may be true, but the Siriusian Government has largely been the side of the ACF. They’ve even went so far as to allow your fleets to camp out in their space. Wouldn’t there have been more incentive, diplomatic or financial or otherwise, for them to allow your ships to stay in their star systems and lead a Human Federation fleet right to it?”

“Don’t underestimate the duplicity of some Siriusian-based mega corporations. If it means money, someone will do it. Its laissez-faire capitalism run amok in that star nation. Have you ever been to Sirius?”

“No,” Erana shook her head. “If the reports that I’ve read have even an ounce of truth in them, I doubt I’d like the place.”

“No, I doubt you would like it,” Moore shook her head. “Anyways… you’re dismissed captain.”

It took a better part of two days for Moore, Erana and the rest of her flag staff, along with others from the admiralty to formulate an ops plan to attack Tau Ceti. She and her entire flag staff returned aboard the Dwight D Eisenhower within the two days that she said she’d need.

Her flag captain, Avery Brooks was in the fighter bay gallery when she came back aboard. “Welcome back Admiral Moore, I take it from your general demeanor that your talks with the admiralty were fruitful.”

“Yes, they were,” she looked about the fighter bay gallery and at the side party and rows of enlisted men and officers drawn up to welcome her back aboard. “Follow me to my office, we’ll scare up some coffee from the wardroom on the way there.” Brooks nodded his head as she walked out the fighter bay. Some moments later the two were sitting in her office and she tapped a few keys on the computer on her desk, locking the door and activating the security features.

Brooks sat down in a chair across from her desk, looked to the coffee and blew on it to try and cool it down. He generally didn’t like hot coffee and this was damn near scalding. He reached forward and put it on her table within reach. “What’s going on admiral?”

“We’re going to attack Tau Ceti.”

Brooks eyebrow raised. “Why there? I thought that we were going to attack the Sol System.”

“The Sol System has been heavily reinforced, so attacking the HF there would be suicide. Our recent intelligence has indicated that the HF has pulled the better part of two fleets back to the Sol System to reinforce it. This, of course, has left some of the Core Worlds lightly defended, comparatively speaking.”

“But it’s just a colony ma’am, it’s not Terra.”

“I wouldn’t call Tau Ceti just a colony for they’re only second to Alpha Centauri in terms of population and industry. If we can hit them there it’ll just put more pressure on the HF government to finally come to the negotiation table and bring this bloody war to an end.”

“Their morale is already very low; this kind of attack might just do them in anyways. And if our human and open-source intelligence is correct, their people are already screaming for peace.”

“Correct,” Moore smiled she took a sip of her coffee. “It could end the war. Now, what say we go and do just that?”

“Let’s go get the bastards,” Brooks said with a vicious glint in his eye as he too sipped coffee.

Continue to Prologue of Book 2…