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Home of my tech rants, free programs, and a story or two…

Space 2315, Chapter 21

It was the waiting that got Fleet Admiral Moore every time. The horrible waiting. Her fleet was seven light years from the Sol system, roughly ten days of travel in hyperspace while redlining the inertial compensators for she was pushing 0.5 light. Sure, 0.5 light didn’t seem like it was very fast, but it beat the hell out of traveling in normal space at what seemed like a crawl in comparison.

Her fleet would have to drop out of hyperspace within the next hour to allow for the cooldown of the hyperspace engines. Considering that her fleet was pushing the engines as hard as they were, the engines were running much hotter than her fleet engineers were comfortable with. They knew that if they didn’t jump back to normal space and bleed off some heat soon, they’d blow their engines to pieces.

Fleet Admiral Moore looked to her flag captain Avery Brooks and he gave the order to the fleet to jump back to normal space. There they’d spend the better part of a day bleeding off heat to get ready for the final jump to the Sol System in what Fleet Admiral Moore hoped would be the final battle of the war. A day later, her fleet jumped back to hyperspace.

Unfortunately, unknown to Fleet Admiral Moore, her fleet had set off several sensor nets in and around the Sol system placed at one, two, three, and four light year intervals. Fleet Admiral Moore knew about these sensor nets, but she paid them no mind; that, unknown to her, would be a big mistake. It was an epic intelligence failure on behalf of her government. She didn’t know that they had recently been upgraded with new sensor hardware specifically designed to detect hyperspace movement. With a fleet as big as hers traveling through hyperspace, there were telltale signs; ripples of sorts that crossed the dimensional barrier into normal space. You just needed to know what energy signatures to look for.

Admiral Grace Chamberlain paused as she looked at the telemetry data that came from the sensor nets at four light years from the Sol system. Though it was a blip, it was a massive blip. She turned to her Chief Science Officer, Lieutenant Commander Eugene Radcliff. “What do you make of it?” she asked as she looked over his shoulder.

“Well,” he shrugged his shoulders. “The data is from our newly deployed hyperspace travel detection sensor systems. The bad part about these systems,” he paused, “is that we get false positives all the time. Hyperspace is, after all, quite noisy.”

Admiral Grace Chamberlain was annoyed by that answer, or rather, non-answer. “OK, but what do you make of,” she pointed to the big screen, “That!?”

The Lieutenant continued to look at the telemetry data while the computer continued to crunch the data. Minutes passed, which of course annoyed the admiral, until he looked up from his console. “Admiral, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think something’s coming for us.” Her other advisors nodded their heads in agreement. “If I had to hazard a guess, it’s something huge. Only a massive fleet in hyperspace can cause a disruption like that.”

“Alright,” Admiral Grace Chamberlain said as she turned to her other admirals. “I want an immediate order for the First, Second, and Third Fleets to pull back to the Sol System.” She paused. “Whatever it is that’s coming, I want to be ready for it.” The White House Situation Room became a flurry of activity as communications went out to the various fleets to turn about and haul ass back to the Sol System.

Within a span of just three days, the First and Second fleets had arrived in the Sol System by way of the jump gate network. The Third Fleet was waiting for the first two fleets to vacate the area in and around the space surrounding the jump gates before they too came through said jump gate. They then all fired up their hyperspace engines and set course for Earth.

It was said that if you travelled in hyperspace while in-system, it tended to play holy hell with your hyperspace engines. With massive gravity wells, being the planets themselves, it took far more power to keep said ship in hyperspace than while out in between systems. But the orders from Fleet Command were urgent, haul ass by whatever means. If that meant pushing their hyperspace engines nearly to the point of literal destruction, then that was what they were going to do.

Within three days, the three fleets were in between Earth and Mars; completely unknown to Admiral Moore and her attack fleet.

Fleet 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 her Last Supper.

With First Fleet hurtling through hyperspace to a point not far from Sol System, 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. Earth, or Terra as some called her, held almost religious significance to humanity. Earth 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 Earth 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 Earth and it would always be humanity’s home, no matter if a person was born elsewhere.

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

Fleet Admiral Moore’s 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.

Fleet Admiral 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 Admiral of the Navy, Skyla’s office.

“Fleet Admiral Moore,” the Fleet Admiral’s secretary said as he looked up from the computer at his desk. “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 can 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. “Fleet 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 admiral?”

“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, and two mugs. 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 she’d ever get aboard ship.

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 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 Core Worlds and the Inner Colonies, 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. Admiral Moore was surprised, she never thought that Skyla would wear the skirt uniform. Admiral Moore never wore it herself, she found it to be something that diminished the power that she held in the eyes of her staff since it expressed too much femininity.

“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 world could very well make those protests on Earth 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 come up with a viable ops plan, we’ll approve it.”

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

“Dismissed!”

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.” Moore began to walk away. “Walk with me captain.”

“What is it that you want to talk about?” 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 question. “Was it your people that gave it to them?”

“You know that the Zalteans 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 looked to Erana and put her hands on her hips. “Oh, cut the crap already. There are often two things that happen; what is publicly said and what happens behind closed doors. I want to know if there was sharing of tech behind closed doors.”

Erana looked to Moore. “Admiral, if there was covert technology trading, they 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 Serius?”

“But they’re supposed to be…” she 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.” She paused. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say Serius because… profits.”

“That may be true, but the Siriusian Government has largely been on your side. They’ve even went so far as to allow your fleets to camp out in their space.”

“Don’t underestimate the duplicity some Siriusian-based corporations. If it means money, someone will do it. It is basically Capitalism run amok in that star nation.” Moore paused. “Have you ever been to Serius?”

“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,” Moore shook her head. “Considering how your people are, shall we say, more advanced than humans I’d probably say that you’re right. Anyways… you’re dismissed captain.”

It took a better part of two days for Moore and Erana to formulate an ops plan to attack Tau Ceti. It didn’t take long for her plan to be approved for she was already on her cutter to go back up to her fleet that was stationed in orbit of Altair. Her flag captain was the one to welcome her onboard.

After she went through all the formalities of coming aboard, Brooks stepped forward. “Welcome back Fleet Admiral Moore, I take it from your general demeanor that your talks with Fleet Command were been fruitful.”

“Yes, they were,” she looked about the fighter bay. “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, she sat down at her desk and pressed a button on it locking the door and activating the security features.

Brooks looked to her as he sat down, 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 then 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 Earth.”

“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 Sol. 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 Earth.”

“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 would be a massive blow to an already sagging domestic morale.” He paused. “And if the intelligence data is right, people are already screaming for peace; this will make their voices even louder.”

“Correct,” Moore smiled she took a sip of her coffee. “It would end the war.”

Continue to Prologue of Book 2…