Author Topic: The Terran-Numerian War  (Read 1711 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
The Terran-Numerian War
« on: May 06, 2009, 01:51:45 PM »
At first the Numerians were just a name, a mysterious player in the galaxy, a power that could be safely ignored it was thought at the time.

Eventually the United States of Terra sent a request for a meeting between the President and the Numerian Prime Minister. Then things began to go wrong. The Numerian prime minister was assassinated while giving a speech of friendship to a joint session of Congress. On the word of the President to the Numerian ambassador it appeared that the differences between the two peoples could be worked out.

Then it happened. His remains were, with solemn respect, put on the grave ship the Numerians had sent to take him home to Numeria. Then the Grave ship was ambushed in Terran space. That was the straw that broke the diplomatic camel's back. The next day the Sanei issued it's declaration of Saruchi and a statement that the Terrans were to be wiped from the face of the universe. Of course no Terran believed the Numerians would do such a thing. They figured the Numerians would wipe out the military and leave the civilians alone. They were wrong.

The Ships were gathered, the soldiers deployed, and public support was strong as the United States of Terra flexed its muscles. No one had challenged Terra in over twenty-five years, not since the Denevans and for all that time the Fleet had been resting happily on its laurels and with some justification. The warships that eventually took on the Numerians were even stronger than those that had flattened the Denevans, and yet it had made no difference. What. So. Ever.

Unthinkably the UT Navy had been defeated, more than defeated it had been a slaughter. The Numerians threw aside the best Terra had with contemptible ease. Creating undisguised panic in the military, which really had not gone down well with the civilian population. Reservists were at once called up and the plans to initiate a planetary draft set up during the Denevan war but never used were put into effect.

As the years dragged on the age and suitability of the recruits dropped steadily, highlighting the increasingly dire straights Earth was in. Over the next four years Terra and her forces were steadily pushed back towrds the homeworld. Finally there was just Rigel and Earth, and Rigel was the obvious target for the next stage of the Numerian advance.



October, 2732 A.D, Neu Bayern Colony
Terran Space
Numerian Occupied.


Local space was dominated by debris, twisted and tortured metal rent from the hulls of Terran ships. Blackened gray material floated in a wide thin cloud slowly dispersing across the system and eventually into the depths of interstellar space, eternal monuments to the fallen of this battle and this war. Some of the ships and fighters maintained formation, momentum taking the bulk of their forms forward at the same speed with which they died, cut down before they could even break or evade, so swift was the fury of a Numerian Fleet.

It was rare for Terra to commit large numbers of ships to battle anymore, usually only when the need was great or when there was no other choice. At Neu Bayern the fleet had been surprised, caught unawares close to the planet where they were refitting and taking on fresh supplies before splitting up into raiding groups. In ideal circumstances a Terran Fleet was of little concern to the Numerians, but caught like this it was even more of a shooting gallery.

Neu Bayern was away from the main Numerian thrust, and no one had expected it to be attacked. So picket ships had not been properly posted. It was on oversight the UT Navy should not have made, but this was no longer the extremely professional force that had faced the Denevans. Experienced officers were increasingly rare as losses mounted, the veterans of past wars had been some of the first to fall as the pre-war fleet was sent into the first disastrous battles without any understanding of the gulf in technology they faced. Those that were left were frequently under-trained, ill-equipped, and mentally untrained for the rigors of space combat and prone to slips and errors, especially after long deployments.

The Numerians exploited it ruthlessly, wiping out the Fifth Fleet including the Commander in Chief of Terran Naval Operations, Admiral Donald Ferguson on the bridge of his flagship, the Dreadnought Charlemagne. The loss of the highest rated Naval officer in the Navy had been a crushing blow to morale, almost as great as the loss of the colony itself. No defense had been prepared and only the barest contingencies had been laid. Instead of a brutal war of attrition as had happened elsewhere, Neu Bayern had been taken almost overnight with the army as unprepared as the fleet.

On Numeria the victory was lauded and had cemented Laosin Aerobhin d'Suchen as the greatest of warriors, finally crushing any disparaging comments from the more obtuse members of the Military Orders sneering at his Religious heritage. On Earth it was the bitterest blow of the war so far, a loss that could not be replaced.

The Numerian fleet had long gone from Neu Bayern, leaving a small garrison of warships and a few supply bases in the area to mark their presence. Any Terran assault would be spotted far away and reinforcements could be deployed, if required, but Tominoei was confident the Terran Navy would not be making any moves on Neu Bayern. He was partially right, for while no offensive could be made Terra was not content to simply let the Numerians live a simple life in the system.


***


Among the debris, floating serenely alongside a destroyed Dreadnought between the colony and its primary moon was a Perry Class Frigate, a common enough light ship in UT fleets. Armed with gauss cannons they had fallen out of favor with the Navy as their limited stock of ammunition required an extensive supply train to maintain. All the while the newer pure energy weapon armed ships could operate far more independently. Despite this the Perry class could pack a surprising punch, and its solid slugs had proven devastating to Numerian crystalline armor on the rare occasions they hit, making them a very useful vessel among the UTSN, and a prime target for the Numerians who tended to engage them first. A Perry posting was usually a guaranteed death sentence.

This particular ship was a mess, its armor shredded, its weapons silent and inert, its hull missing about a third of its mass. It hung cold and silent in escort formation with the equally ruined dreadnought, bent metal and internal supports clearly visible through the damaged sections, decks and bulkheads bent out like a stack of burnt cards. The ship had literally been torn apart at enemy hands, but unknown to anyone in the system that enemy had not been the Numerians, but the Denevans.

The USS JP Jones was a veteran that had fought its last battle twenty-nine years ago over Deneb, there it had met a Denevan Blood Drinker Dreadnought of the Home Fleet and come off second best. The ship was smashed but the internal bulkheads had  done their job and most of the crew survived to be rescued afterwards, the ship towed home to be repaired. Ultimately budget cuts meant she was not reactivated and simply dumped in a scrapyard and left, her career seemingly over.

The Numerian war changed Terran priorities, and the old stockpiles and mothball yards were raided for ships, and when they ran out Terra turned to the scrapyards. The JP Jones had been extensively damaged forward, but her aft section including her engines and reactors were still in reasonable condition, good enough to be reactivated without much trouble. The weapons and sensors required more effort with the entire forward half of the ship requiring replacement, though with the star yards now at full tilt the work was expected to be done rapidly. At that point however fate intervened in the shape of the CIA.

The CIA had been faced with the problem of reconnaissance in occupied space. Normal missions involving flybys had been quickly outlawed as far too dangerous and messages from resistance fighters on the ground were often short and could not reveal the disposition of Numerian warships high above in space. They needed an alternate method when one of their number, Kelly Locklear, had suggested using a Trojan Horse.

One thing that was common in systems taken by the Numerians were wrecked Terran ships, common enough to be part of the background and ignored. They had no need to study them and could not salvage them for resources, so simply left them to drift. Kelly had proposed they quietly refit a handful of scrapped ships with sensors and drop them into occupied systems to coast through and gather data from right under the enemies nose. It was of course incredibly dangerous, the ships chosen were barely spaceworthy, would have no support and most had no weapons and glaring gaps in their armor. It was however also the only plan on the table, and so received the green light.

The JP Jones had been deployed over a month earlier deep in the system by a Des Moines class Light Cruiser, the jump point hidden behind one of the outer planets. It had proceeded on a pre-plotted course to reach the colony at a specific time on a specific day, soaking up data on the way. Conditions on a fully operational Perry were cramped and uncomfortable, but on these flying wrecks they were a nightmare, especially as the ship’s energy signature had to be kept to an absolute minimum to avoid raising suspicion. Service on these ships were for volunteers only, even in the hard fighting of the Numerian war there were some jobs the Navy would not force on its crews.

The JP Jones had held its cover for the duration of its harsh mission, logged, registered and then ignored by the Numerians. If they had been paying attention they may have noticed the ship slowing at an infinitesimally small amount over the weeks of its journey, altering its velocity so it did not rocket past the colony but instead passed at a reasonable speed. The small group of people within the ship, living in a fraction of the normal space due to power concerns and the massive internal damage had been incredibly patient, and now at last the end of their mission was in sight.

“Crossing Neu Bayern orbit in ten minutes,” Lieutenant Kathryn Bailey informed her commander, the intense young woman focused entirely on her display. Like the rest of the bridge crew she was in a full environmental suit and had been for the past eight hours, the life support having been shut down as they crossed the Numerians at their closest point, doing all they could to remain unnoticed.

“Just one more piece of junk, nothing to see here,” muttered the Commanding officer, praying in those words that the Numerians would be too busy chanting or something to notice the small vessel. Captain Alexi Karamazov didn’t put a lot of faith in pure prayer but every little bit helped, especially at this crucial juncture.

“Passive sensors at full,” Bailey reported. “No indication we’ve been spotted yet.”

“Stand by on active sensors,” Karamazov barked, “but not until the last second, we don’t want to give the game away after sitting in this tin can for a month.” Karamazov had implicit trust in his twenty person crew, and no one more so than Bailey. He wasn’t fully aware of her background, he knew from her record the her grandfather had served on Stygia and had turned into a drunk afterwards, finding himself booted out of the Corps to die in a gutter somewhere. He also knew she had been a true wild child, constantly in trouble with the police. Whatever had happened it had changed her, she joined the Navy a couple of years before the war and had served with distinction, always volunteering for the hardest jobs. This mission certainly counted, and would likely see her make Commander, if they lived long enough.


***


Karamazov himself had an adventurous spirit, but the war had quickly knocked that out of him. In the past he would have taken a mission like this just to see if he could do it, but now he was here because he wanted closure. Somewhere out there among the wrecks was his former command, the Des Moines class Light Cruiser Fresno. Like the rest of the fleet he had been surprised here, but had the presence of mind to roll his ship before it was hit, turning a killing blow into merely a crippling one and allowing him to evacuate the ship. He hadn’t seen the ship yet, but he knew it and one hundred fourteen souls of her crew were still out there.

Karamazov left the Graalthak war as a full Commander with an enviable reputation under his belt. His conduct as a Corvette commander had become a textbook example of how best to operate behind enemy lines raiding convoys and ambushing hostile supply lines. He had been given command of a Des Moines class Cruiser, a rare privilege given the Navy was downsizing and command of a capital ship was a prize most officers fought tooth and nail over. During his time commanding the ship he had learned even more about deep space operations and was recognised as an expert on First Contact protocol.

Ironically that knowledge had ended his time as a ship's captain, seeing him transferred to the UT Naval Academy at Annapolis while another man took his ship and crew. The promotion to Commodore was not much of a compensation. While there he taught First Contact protocols to future officers and gave them a series of ethical and moral dilemmas to solve, ingraining in them that simply following orders like a robot did not make a good officer.

When the war came he applied for a frontline post and was accepted, First contact scenarios no longer being an effective use of such an officer. Before he was transferred out Admiral LeMay had personally handed him his orders of command, and remarked bitterly that he should have sent Polowatski to one or two of his lessons. The UTS Fresno had been waiting for him, a fresh ship and fresh crew that he had quickly whipped into shape.

The Des Moines class were fine ships, the backbone of the Navy with a commendable combat record. They had borne the brunt of the Graalthak war proving themselves clearly superior to their equivalents in enemy service, indeed they had been known to stand up to dreadnoughts and survive long enough to withdraw or wait for help. Their thick armor and sturdy construction had been matched by potent firepower, heavy cannons that had been made even more formidable after the war, upgrading to pulsed laser weapons back-engineered from captured Graalthak technology combined with Terran principles.

The ship’s combat record ended up being its undoing. So effective had they been against the Graalthak that Congress had greatly reduced the budget for new designs, convinced the older ships would be more than adequate for the foreseeable future. They had received only one upgrade in their lifetimes and their replacements had only just entered the design phase when the Numerian war broke out. The Numerians quickly demonstrated that their armor and weapons counted for precisely nothing when compared to D'Orly Heavy Cruisers and their escorts.

Command of a Des Moines had been a pre-war dream for most officers, the usual mission of patrolling the borders and showing the flag appealing more than command of a Dreadnought consigned to lumbering around the core systems scaring aliens and reassuring civilians. That dream had quickly become a nightmare, and the stately Cruisers proved just as vulnerable as any other Terran vessel. The conquerors of the Denevans falling themselves one after another.

After the first couple of battles the Numerians had clearly gathered extensive information on Terran vessels including full technical readouts. Initially they had simply cut the ships to pieces with long raking volleys from their Anti-Matter cannons, but later they became far more efficient and pinpointed weak spots. A good Numerian crew could knock out a Des Moines in less than three seconds with just three shots, one hit on the reactor in its central block, one hit on the fuel tanks on the engine section, and one hit on the bridge at the front of the main hull. Even if one of those hits didn’t trigger a catastrophic explosion, it would at the least cripple the ship and leave it helpless to be destroyed later. The famous UTS Bunker Hill had narrowly avoided such a fate after suffering similar crippling hits, most ships didn’t.

The Fresno had been luckier than most, Karamazov's roll serving to throw off the Numerian aim enough so that his ship did not immediately explode and so that the strike aimed for the bridge missed. It was a measure of the clinical precision of the Numerians that they always tried to hit the bridge first, decapitating the warship and killing the command crew. It was said no Captain survived battle with the Numerian fleet, though the crew was often more fortunate.

The concentration of damage usually left large portions of the crippled ship intact with many of the crew surviving, helped by the extensive compartmentalization and emphasis on crew survivability built into UT ships. The Numerians had no problem killing crews trapped on ships or wiping out escape pods, but usually there was a small window for the crew to abandon ship and try to escape while the enemy was busy engaging other Terran assets. Karamazov had seized one such opportunity, evacuating his vessel as swiftly as he could and just running for the gate. His crew and many others had been scooped up by the fleeing civilian ships, and while at one point it looked like the Numerians might have engaged the unarmed vessels they ultimately did not. While they killed Terran soldiers no matter what, they treated civilians with complete indifference until they had no other soldiers to shoot.


***


Their scans had indeed confirmed that the civilian population centers on Neu Bayern had been glassed from orbit. Small scale Guerrilla activities had commenced, but no real armed resistance was possible despite the willingness to do so. The Numerians kept to their bases well away from the former Terran settlements unwilling to interact with their victims. That distance was a mistake and one soon to be exploited.

“Coming up on zero hour,” Bailey reported.

“Standby to cold start the reactors,” Karamazov ordered. “What do we have out there?”

“At least one D'Orly,” Bailey reported. “Three or four escorts to.”

“How about the planet, got any data?”

“We’ll know more when we go active, but looks like three concentration sites down there.”

“Away from the cities?”

“Yes sir, just like the CIA predicted.”

“Good, we can go ahead with the operation.” Strictly speaking the operation would go forward, no matter what, and he had orders to facilitate an attack on the Numerian surface installations regardless of the risk to civilians, the war was just too desperate to pass up an opportunity like this.

“One minute, all system checks show green, enemy ships right where we expected them to be.”

Karamazov huffed, “Thank heaven for unimaginative Numerians.”

He watched the mission counter approach zero, a clock that had been slowly counting down for a month only now, finally, approaching the end. The anticipation was palpable, the culmination of so much patience and the sudden arrival of so much danger. A lot was riding on this, a lot of coordination had been invested and Karamazov was just one piece in the puzzle. If the other pieces weren’t in place, or were running even a minute late, he was dead.

The clock reached zero. “Go active.”

The JP Jones powered up, her sensors first followed by communications and finally engines. The surge of energy was spotted at once by the Numerians who began to respond, the power curves of their own vessels increasing as they slowly alerted themselves to the Terran presence.

“Confirm one D'Orly Class Heavy Cruiser and three Numerian Viur Class Frigates,” Bailey barked. Finding the Numerian ships was no problem, Terran sensors could tell something was there and retrieve a rough profile to make an identification. Hitting it at anything beyond point blank range was an entirely different prospect.

“Focus on the planet, get me the coordinates of those bases!” Karamazov quickly ordered.

“Scanning.” She reported, the arrays hidden amid the wrecked hull working quickly. “Got it, one military base and two supply dumps!”

“Download now, then push the engines to redline!” Karamazov proceeded to part two of the operation. “And better hope Kevin gets his jump coordinates right.”

The JP Jones began to move, the engines pushing hard against the cold. Far to her side the Numerian ships spotted her and changed course, powering their weapon arrays and sensing an easy kill. The JP Jones had an excessive ECM package, one powerful enough to affect even Numerian sensors at long ranges, forcing them to close in before they could achieve a precise lock-on. Fooling a Numerian weapons lock had been something the UT Navy took a tremendous measure of pride in, even though the system was nowhere near as effective as the enemy ECM arrays.

“We’ve got incoming, thirty seconds to contact!”

“Come on old girl, don’t fail me now,” Karamazov said as he nervously tapped the chair arm. “You got your crew home once before, you can do it again.”

“I’m reading Darolari Class starfighters,” Bailey warned. “Wait, jump point opening, here they come!”

The mission was a masterpiece of timing, coordinating a ship launched a month ago with others sent just a week earlier. Two vessels had been deployed from Rigel travelling circuitously on minimal power around the edges of the gate network hoping to pass undetected through enemy lines. Like most missions against the Numerians it was risky, but while a hundred ships were easy to spot in space two vessels alone moving slowly and quietly were far harder to pick up, even for the Numerians.

Their route was planned so that they would arrive over Neu Bayern the exact same minute that the JP Jones went active, and that they would receive from that ship jump coordinates for a precise insertion just above the colony along with exact location of the Numerian facilities on the surface, data that was fed into targeting computers before the ships even made their jump.

The red vortex opened behind the JP Jones and from it raced two Des Moines at full burn, one of them holding open the entry point while the second one immediately opened an exit jump point a few thousand miles away. Again it was a risk, hyperspace physics were still a new study and opening two jump points so close to each other was not smart, the chances of them mingling destructively was a very real and deadly possibility.

“Jump point confirmed!” Bailey cheered.

“Get us out of here!” Karamazov yelled, salvation close enough to touch. “Give it all she’s got!”

The JP Jones had a head start but the two Terran Cruisers were moving much faster, still accelerating from hyperspace. If they left the jump point would close, stranding the JP Jones or destroying it if it was still in transit when the point collapsed. Bailey drove the old ship for all it was worth, the two bigger ships closing astern and beyond them the Numerians.

“Nearly there!” The Lieutenant willed them on. “Almost!”

Karamazov was virtually out of his chair, leaning forward unconsciously as he shared Bailey’s wish. “Come on old girl! Only a few more miles!” The ship made it, clearing normal space with a few seconds to spare, much to the huge relief of Captain Karamazov.

“We’re through!” Bailey laughed as she released the tension. “Locking onto the temporary beacon.”

“Amen to that.” Karamazov pushed himself back down into his chair. “Better cross off one of our nine lives Lieutenant, that one was by the skin of our teeth.”


***


Behind them the two Des Moines' headed for the jump point, their own missions only halfway complete. Recovering the JP Jones and its vital information was one thing, but after sneaking two ships this far into occupied space the Joint Chiefs wasn’t going to leave without a little calling card.

“Enemy Frigates approaching range, energy spikes!”

Commodore Kevin Collinwood grimaced, the idea of running from Viur Frigates was despicable in his mind. Yet these were Numerian Frigates, and those three ships were quite capable of taking apart his Cruiser with ease. Even if they didn’t the Numerian D'Orly Class Cruiser Yanokei d'Gavin hot on their heels surely would.

“Are the coordinates locked in?” He asked.

“Yes sir,” his First Officer replied instantly, an able young woman named Tomiki Fuchida. “Batteries locked on the surface targets.”

Collinwood hated doing this, he was firing on UT territory, on Terran soil, but that ground was no longer theirs and had become a sanctuary to the enemy. His job, like the resistance fighters below was to show the Numerians no ground was safe for them. “Open fire, drop mines and launch nuclear weapons.”

Collinwood’s ship, the UTS Trenton, fired first, his companion Cruiser close behind. He had to fire first, as mission commander he would take the responsibility for lacing destruction on this colony world. Pulse Lasers spattered red fire downwards, the second ship engaging soon after. The laserfire was focused on the military base, suppressing ground based anti-ship and anti-fighter defenses while the hanger bays unloaded a series of megaton yield hyper-velocity missiles. They were small enough not to affect the ecosphere, but big enough to utterly annihilate the two Numerian supply bases.

The two Terran ships arced through orbit at the top of their barrage, nuclear missiles streaking to the ground in balls of fire and friction ignited gas, streams of vapor in their wake. The pulse lasers tore up the ground, smashing troop formations, vehicle parks and any defenses that could intercept the surprise missile strike.

“Numerian Cruiser inbound!” Fuchida said. “They should be walking right into our little surprise package.”

At the same time as the JP Jones had begun her voyage, so too had the Navy launched a few other devices on ballistic trajectories. Fusion mines. They were unguided as any propulsion systems would have been spotted and as such were imprecise, but in another example of exquisite timing they arrived exactly in time to screen the retreating UT warships.

“Nuke ‘em,” Collinwood ordered with cold relish.

The mines detonated, none of them, sadly, close enough to repeat the glorious demise of the Numerian Battlehip Tamarolei, though one did manage to burn away most of the D'Orly Cruiser’s drive pods, a very commendable achievement in itself. The remainder forced the Numerian Viur Frigate's to break off their pursuit, and that was all Collinwood needed.

The planetbound missiles hit their targets after a five second flight, easily outrunning the Numerian fighters hastily sent to stop them. The multiple nuclear detonations bracketed the bases, highlighting why it was a poor idea for the Numerians to put their installations so close to each other. The explosions would be visible from the nearest destroyed Terran city as lights on the horizon forming into mushroom clouds, a hated sight but now a small beacon of hope, a signal the survivors had not been forgotten and that in some small way the UTSN was still fighting. It might not be a liberation, but it was a gesture that the war was still raging on and that Terra wasn’t about to quit any time soon.

“Confirm detonations, primary targets all destroyed!” Fuchida reported with glee.

“Get us out of here,” Collinwood said pointedly, keeping them focused on the needs at hand. “Straight through the jump point.”

The Trenton roared through in triumph, the second Cruiser on her tail closing the vortex after them and sealing their escape. As a final assurance they dropped a small brace of mines behind them, mines that would be lost in space within the hour but would catch any pursuer before then. After an hour the UT ships would be long gone and the temporary beacon they were following would shut down.

“We’re clear,” Fuchida smiled, turning in her seat to face the Captain. “We did it, no sign of pursuit.”

“Well done Commander, well done everyone.” Collinwood sincerely congratulated his hardworking crew. “Pass the word throughout the ship, we nuked the enemy bases and we’re heading home.”

The bridge crew engaged in a few cheers and a round of applause, it was a hell of an achievement and would go down well back home. Collinwood let them celebrate, any success was rare in this war and while what they had done was an insignificant embarrassment for the Numerians, for Terra it was something to be lauded.

“Comm, get me ship to ship,” Collinwood said after the initial joy subsided.

“Aye sir, patching you through,” the beaming officer said.

“Trenton to Bunker Hill, still with me John?”

From the other ship an equally proud voice replied, “Yes sir, we gave those holier-than-thou's something to cry about!”

“Sure did, it’ll be hard for them to pick up the pieces after that one. Any damage?”

“No sir,” Commander John Carter replied. “Bunker Hill is still in one piece, and those new weapons worked as well as we had expected.” Following her near death experience the Bunker Hill had been extensively rebuilt and brought up to the latest Des Moines specifications, including the addition of enhanced gauss and pulse lasers based on Atheri designs acquired from the Romans. While still far from a match for Numerian weapons in terms of pure ability, they had given UT warships a significant boost to their range and firepower, something which had made abject massacres more like fighting massacres instead. It wasn’t much, but it at least counted for something.

“Very good Commander, we’ll jump on the temporary gate and then wait for the scheduled activation of the Rigel Gate.”

“Understood sir,” Carter replied.

“We’ll stop off at Rigel, make our reports, then head back to Earth. I think we’ve earned a week’s leave while our ships refuel and resupply.”

“Looking forward to it sir.”

“Good work out there John, I always knew you weren’t a one-hit wonder, Collinwood out.”

John Carter couldn’t help but laugh a little at that. “One-hit wonder? If he means the Tamarolei that was one hell of a hit!”

“It certainly was sir,” Lieutenant Commander Justine Clark answered in a quiet voice. “Not an experience I’d be happy to repeat.”

“You and me both,” Carter agreed readily. “But we showed those holier-than-thou's a little lesson there. Try to kill a defenseless ship, get fried in a thermonuclear microwave hell.”

“That we did sir.”


***


Clark had been the Communications officer on the Bunker Hill at the time and like the rest of the crew hadn’t been expecting an ambush so close to Earth. When the Numerian Battlehip Tamarolei jumped into the middle of them it was a swift and brutal display of the sheer level of technology and destructive power the Numerians could command, four warships were wiped out in less than a minute, the Bunker Hill surviving only by pure luck. It was a measure of fortune which had not extended to Captain Quartermain.

The veteran officer, a survivor of some of the worst battles of the Graalthak war, a man who had exchanged fire with Grush'ran was killed instantly when a bulkhead imploded, driving debris through the ship like a battering ram. It had put Carter in command whether he liked it or not, and Clark had become his de facto first officer.

The destruction of the Tamarolei had been half the victory, the stately ship drawn into a ring of nuclear weapons that blasted the ship, triggering a critical failure deep in its hull that immolated the flagship from the inside out. However the small squadron of vessels that answered the Bunker Hill’s distress call picked up several more Numerian ships waiting in hyperspace, detecting their transmissions as they tried to raise their fallen comrade. Carter guessed that when they didn’t get an answer they would eventually jump in at the same coordinates to look for the Tamarolei, and when they did they were going to be in for a big surprise.

Using the missiles on the rescue ships Carter repeated the trick, deploying dozens of nuclear weapons of various sizes in and around the Tamarolei's initial jump point, seeding the asteroids, the wrecks, even pieces of the Tamarolei itself. Sure enough, after a day of waiting the Numerian warships jumped in exactly where predicted, arriving right into a pre-planned fire sack with no warning or preparation. It was a massacre, coming out of hyperspace the D'Orly’s were sensor blind and their jump engines were operating at full power, a volatile combination that was easily destabilized by the wave of nuclear blasts. One of the ships made it out, streaming atmosphere and plasma as it turned and ran, the Terran ships not quick enough to hunt it down.

It was a clear victory, the one time the Numerians had lost more tonnage in a battle than the UT Navy, even though the UTSN had still bled for it. Carter became a hero, his name and deeds broadcast galaxy wide and of course picked up by the Numerians. They regarded him with a level of hatred surpassed only by the Nephilim themselves, and it became a stated war aim of the Military Orders to bring him death. Carter was flattered.

After a couple of covert missions Carter had found himself back on the Bunker Hill, his quick-witted thinking and resourcefulness had given him a role in Admiral LeMay’s Long Range Raiding Group. When it became obvious standup fights were a terrible idea the Joint Chiefs had begun adopting Guerrilla tactics on a starship scale, deploying small groups of raiders behind enemy lines to raid supplies, hit convoys, basically do whatever they could to slow the advance and buy Earth some time to create a viable defensive strategy. The ships chosen for the mission were the best, the most independent-minded and creative who could operate far from home without orders for months at a time, in the case of Captain Joel Foster that deployment was eighteen months and counting with no sign he’d be back anytime soon.

The men and women chosen for these missions would have been commanding Exploration ships in peacetime and during the course of the war had discovered many new worlds that would never make it onto the official starmaps. Some were turned into bases to support the raiders, others were mined for valuable materials, and one deep beyond Terran space was being prepared as Eden, the final hidden refuge of Terranity if the war should reach Earth and destroy the cradle of mankind.

Carter had been a wise choice and had constantly outfoxed the Numerians, further enhancing the utter hatred felt by most of the Military Orders. They viewed these raids as without honor and had a hard time adapting to match them, the concept of Guerrilla war utterly alien to their sensibilities. If they considered him a nuisance before that estimation increased vastly when Carter teamed up with Commodore Kevin Collinwood, the other hero of the Long Range Raiders.

Together the two officers had formulated new strategies, enacted a massively complex deception campaign designed to keep the Numerians constantly looking over their shoulders, and on several occasions had actually penetrated Numerian space itself and knocked out a handful of bases within their borders. The sheer level of rage those missions had caused was hard to fully estimate, but it amused Carter and his crew no end. He figured the Numerians hated his guts anyway, so anything else he did to annoy them was just a bonus and he went out of his way to let the Numerians know exactly who it was that ran rings around them. He had even gone so far as to leave a calling card, a beacon painted with a Pirate cutting up an image of the Tamarolei. It had the desired effect.

The Raiders, or as they were better known among themselves ‘Collinwood’s Cutthroats’ were fighting their own war with the Numerians largely separate from the formal command structure. The dozen ships of the group had their own bond of comradeship, their own customs and traditions, their own awards, even their own slang and jargon. They were utterly loyal to one another and devoted to defending and embodying the greatest qualities of Terra. They had taken enormous risks on a nearly daily basis and knew they were the closest thing to a success Terra had. In terms of pure materiel contributions their operations had only a slight affect on the course of the war, but in terms of morale, both Terran and Numerian, their contribution had a significant effect one way or another.


***


“All told sir,” Commander Clark remarked conversationally, “I’d rather have our job than the JP Jones’.”

Carter smiled. “Yeah, poor old Karamazov, I bet he’s freezing his ass off on that tin can.”

“A whole month squeezed into just a dozen rooms. Must have been like the early exploration missions.”

“Must have been,” Carter agreed. “And just as daring.”

“I assume sir you noticed the crew roster on the JP Jones?” Clark broached the subject carefully.

“If you’re referring to Lieutenant Bailey, then yeah, I noticed,” Carter answered plainly. “That was a few years ago now Justine.”

“Yes sir, no implication,” The officer replied quickly. “Just good to see we brought that ship home in one piece.”

Carter nodded. “Yeah, yeah that is a damn good bit of news.”

His relationship with Kathryn Bailey had not been the smartest move of his life, but like pretty much everything else he had done it had seemed like a good idea at the time. He could still recall the look of utter horror on his parents faces when he informed them he had been married. In Las Vegas. By Elvis. While just a little bit completely drunk.

He had an affection for Bailey, and he sure as hell respected her as a forthright officer with absolutely no sense of fear. She’d tasted the worst life had to offer and after that there was nothing left that would scare her. It made her a brave officer and fearless leader, but it also made her almost impossible to live with, especially when Carter’s personality tended to clash with hers in a series of blazing rows that could have melted tri-titanium.

While both of them were in the same fleet he hadn’t met her, indeed he’d gone well out of his way to avoid crossing paths with his old flame, the end of their brief marriage still quite an open sore to them both. Carter had moved on, meeting a bright young biologist named Amy Madison on Mars during his first operational deployment on the Luna-Mars run. Bailey, as far as he could tell, had not and was just as much of a spitfire as before.

But she was also alive, and that made Carter a happy man, even if he didn’t, strictly speaking, want to have a reunion, one that would almost certainly cost him parts of his anatomy that could not be replaced.

“Well one thing is for sure,” Carter beamed. “There are going to be some very angry holier-than-thou's out there tonight.”
« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 08:20:10 PM by Þórgrímr »
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2009, 10:18:39 AM »
18 Months earlier
New Washington DC, Kenya, Earth


“This isn’t going to happen, no way, I won’t allow it!” Senator Stansfield Turner snarled, his face red with anger and frustration. “Exactly who the hell do they think they are?”

He paced up and down the room, the simple living quarters, with increase rage. The annoyance and outrage boiling within him like a pressure cooker. “This isn’t justice!” He said firmly. “It’s a damn kangaroo court! A media show to deflect blame, that’s the bottom line!”

Sitting on a couch in the same room, hunched over and paying only scant attention to the rant was Fredrick Polowatski, at one time a Captain in the UT Navy and now stripped of rank, bereft of decorations and regarded by almost all of Terra as the most vilified and hated creature on the planet.

“They aren’t getting away with this,” Turner grunted again. “No way, they do not know who they are dealing with!”

Polowatski was under house arrest, locked in his quarters with two guards on the door at all times. Not only was he confined to his apartment, but the entire block had been emptied, the fifty other officers who would have lived there given other rooms in a different building ostensibly for their own safety. Security was expecting vigilante attacks on Polowatski constantly and didn’t want any innocent and valuable personnel killed or injured as collateral damage. It had not reassured Polowatski of his own safety, but by now he couldn’t care less.

It had been three years since the Henesie incident, three years since he had been told by the Numerians to stand down and allow that strange ship to pass the escort, the same one that then fired on and destroyed the Numerian Prime Minister's grave ship. Three years since the war started. It hadn’t been his fault, the Numerians had tricked him. He had eventually destroyed away the mysterious ship and had done so effectively, but it had killed the Numerian leader's family, along with destroying his corpse.

It was a set up, clearly the Numerians wanted a war and engineered this situation. He was just a scapegoat, why didn’t anyone else see that? It wasn’t his fault. Polowatski had repeated that defense time and again, and each time he said it the more hollow it became, the cheaper it sounded. In the end even he didn’t believe it anymore. He had fumbled, he had followed an uncoded open transmission, a risk, because he wanted fame, glory and promotion. The whole mission had been one big opportunity to make a name for himself, to create a reputation.

It gave him a reputation all right, one that hung around his neck like a chained weight.

“You did what anyone in your position would do!” Turner stated confidently. “They can’t blame you for that!”

“I shouldn’t have followed that order,” Polowatski managed to croak quietly. “I let this happen.”

Turner stormed over and grabbed him firmly by the shoulders, violently forcing him to look up. “You never, never say that! You hear me? Never!” He let him go and went back to pacing.

“They aren’t even bothering with the law anymore! To hell with that! We’ll get you a fair trial, and a fair trail will never convict, not with the lawyers I can afford!”

“I’m ready for whatever they decide.”

Turner sneered at the broken officer. “You drop that defeatist attitude right now Fred. This isn’t just you on trial, if you go down you are going to take a lot of other people with you. Me included.”

Polowatski shook his head sadly, “so, that’s the bottom line then? You're helping me to save yourself?”

“You’re my son-in-law,” Turner said. “And yes, I’ve invested a lot of effort into you. I made your career, I set you on the path towards becoming an Admiral, and I am not throwing that away.” He glared at the man, “and neither are you.”

Turner sighed loudly. His fortunes had been waning lately and the political power he had accumulated over the decades was decreasing rapidly. He had been Secretary of State under the Hickman Administration and was a viable candidate to succeed him as President. That dream had failed to materialize, his support drying up at the last minute and allowing the former Vice President to move into the top job. To make matters even worse his old rival Kurt Townsend, the former CIA chief had taken the role of Vice President from under Turner's very nose.

He had been fuming, but worse was to come when Levy shuffled his cabinet and retired Turner from his role as Secretary of State, replacing him with some jumped up diplomat called David Carter. He was furious, and had immediately called in his backers, and not the ones he knew from the Senate.

Stansfield Turner was a man of many contacts. He had friends in all aspects of government life from the Navy to the CIA to the Senate, but of all his contacts by far the most valuable was a young French girl called Clare. On the surface she looked utterly inoffensive, a low level telepathic clerk in the Psi-War department. It was all a façade, she was in fact a full Psi operative, but more than that she took her orders not from the Department but from an organisation buried so deep and dark it had taken Turner eight years just to find a name. Bureau 13.

He knew virtually nothing about them, the only thing he knew for certain was that the Bureau had the power to make or break anyone, even someone as highly ranked as Turner himself. They had promised to help him achieve power in exchange for certain favors he had been able to perform in the Senate. Turner had done his part, but the Bureau seemed to be reneging on theirs. Turner began pulling strings of his own, calling on his own resources to rebuild his influence in the government. One such scheme had involved elevating his son-in-law through the ranks of the Navy to give Turner a louder voice in military matters. That plan had backfired spectacularly.

This was not the first time Fred Polowatski had been in trouble. At the start of the Denevan war he had triggered a shooting conflict before the Navy was properly placed to intervene, forcing Admiral Luken to commit to battle with his local forces or completely lose all pretense of surprise. Polowatski was removed from duty and courts martialed, though ultimately Terra’s success in the war saved the officer from a dishonorable discharge. Turner hired an incredible legal team that managed to get all the charges dropped, and not by honest means, and allowed Polowatski to remain in the Navy, albeit commanding a desk in the payroll office.

Over the years Turner positioned Polowatski so that he would eventually be placed back in command of a ship, hailing him the hero of the Haloar whose prompt actions saved millions of lives by forcing the UT to intervene just in time to prevent Tera'Kah from bombing the planet into oblivion. It eventually worked and Polowatski took the Samarkand, a veteran Heavy Cruiser assigned to the 1st Cruiser division, the Navy's show squadron. After that it was childs play to ensure the escort mission went to the Samarkand, and that Polowatski would have credit for being the Terran given the glorious job of protecting the Numerian Leader's grave ship.

Turner did not even pause to ask himself if his son-in-law actually had what it took to command the mission, he only cared about the reflected prestige he would gain.

For the second time he had been forced to deploy damage control, concocting a story that the Numerians were to blame and that Polowatski was just doing his job in difficult circumstances. Like the incident during the Denevan war he expected early successes to shift the focus away from how the war started and simply let the controversy get buried under the news of Terran victories. But there were no victories, only defeat after defeat. It took a while for the full extent of the defeats to filter through, but when the news broke that the entire Third Fleet had been wiped out to the last ship, the best naval combat force in the entire United States of Terra was gone with barely a single enemy kill, then the public had begun to look for someone to blame.

Polowatski was clearly doomed, The Navy released the transcript of the order to stand down to the media and the Captain’s faults became immediately known. He was doomed, and Turner had no hesitation in cutting his ties and throwing his son-in-law to the wolves. Unfortunately someone had discovered and then leaked details of Turner's involvement as the driving force behind Polowatski’s assignment, which had tarred the Senator with the same brush. If Polowatski went down Turner was going with him, so to save himself he had to save the Captain. It was looking like an impossible task, and Turner could see his dreams of power slipping away by the second. He was not at all pleased.

“We are going to fight this all the way!” He snarled harshly. “Every single step!”

Anything further he was going to say was cut off by the sound of lock bolts retracting from the front door, the recently reinforced portal designed to keep the enraged citizenry out as much as to keep Polowatski in. It swung open to reveal two men, neither of them were welcome in the apartment.

“What the hell do you want?” Turner demanded. “Come to gloat?”

Christopher Coleman did not answer, the dark-suited Director of the CIA simply entered the living room and took in the scene, noting the location of the surveillance cameras around the room. While he was now middle-aged, Coleman maintained a strong physique, a reminder of his violent history as a field agent. The other man was even more grim looking, hard-faced and scarred he also wore a business suit but would have been better suited in a military uniform.

“Who’s your friend?” Turner huffed. “Too scared to come alone? Had to bring yourself a guard dog?”

Coleman remained impassive as he placed himself in an armchair near the door, his associate standing at his side without so much as changing expression at Turner’s jibes. From within his pocket Coleman took out a small device, an electronic jammer, and activated it with a whine. “No surveillance.” Coleman spoke at last in his gravely voice. “Just us four in this room.”

“What do you want?” Turner asked, hiding curiosity.

“I’m here to hand you a deal,” Coleman said with finality.

“A deal?” Turner smiled. “Scared about going to trial?”

“This isn’t going to make it to trial,” Coleman said flatly. “Not an issue.”

“It will go to trial, I’ll make sure of it,” Turner snarled. “A public trial where we can air all our little secrets. The longer it goes, the worse it will be.”

Coleman regarded him coldly, “all that will do is harm the UT.”

“I don’t really care. Clear him fast or it’s going to be a nightmare for the CIA. You’d be surprised how much I know about your operations.”

“That might have worked before, but not anymore,” Coleman shook his head. “We’re getting our asses kicked, and Polowatski is to blame. Twelve billion people want to see justice done and I’m going to deliver.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“It doesn’t matter, he’s finished.” Coleman glared at the officer. “I’m not here for him.”

Turner paused, “that a fact?”

“My deal is for you Stan,” Coleman said. “Like it or not I’m the only thing standing between you and a fate worse than death.”

The Senator laughed. “Very good, real theatrical. Try again.”

“You’re about ten minutes away from a one way trip to Teep town,” Coleman continued. “Seems someone in Psi-War is pissed with you, and I mean really pissed.”

Turner huffed in derision, but inside was beginning to feel really, really nervous. “What can they do? I’m a Senator.”

“It isn’t going to make any difference,” Coleman shook his head. “I have it from a trusted source they are coming for you, and they will make you disappear.”

“I’m too high profile.”

“After what’s happening out there, no, that won’t save you.”

Deep down inside Turner believed it, but he had his own resources, he wasn’t about to accept help from the CIA, of all people.

“Well I appreciate the warning Director, selfless as it was,” he mocked. “I guess I better be going then.”

Coleman’s associate moved to block the door. “No Senator, I don’t think so,” Coleman said flatly. “You see I have a little bone to pick with you. Several really, and on top of that you haven’t heard my deal.”

“All right Chris, what is your deal?”

“Easy, you come clean. You tell us what you know, all the dirty deals you have, all the little cliques and secret societies you are in cahoots with, and in return we take you somewhere safe.”

“To live in hiding until I die?”

Coleman shrugged, “it's better than the alternative.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I’ll hand you over to Psi-War myself.”

Turner grinned. “Now I know you’re bluffing. You hate Psi-War Chris! You’d never work with them! Never give them what they want!”

Coleman kept a straight face. “Wrong. You see, I also want you gone, and this way it happens with no blood on my hands. Now you’re right, I hate the Psi-War, I think they’re jumped up communists who think they run the planet. But to beat them I need one thing, you have to take the deal.”

“Tough choice, hide out with you or die. You know it’s hard to decide which is worse.”

“Think fast Stan, the clock’s ticking.”

Turner smiled thinly, his mind working through the possibilities. “Know what I think Chris? I think you’re bluffing.”

“You think wrong,” Coleman replied deadpan.

“I think you need what I know, and you’ll pull any trick to get it.” Turner shook his head. “I’m in no danger, you just want me out of the way so I can’t run any trial.”

“You just aren’t getting it are you?” Coleman sighed. “You stepped on too many toes, blew out of the water too many plans with this war. You’re finished.”

“I’m too valuable to these people Chris, they need me.”

“So I guess that’s why everyone has rallied to support you,” Coleman grinned. “Oh, wait, let me push through this group of friends you’ve got surrounding you.”

“Yeah, very funny Chris.”

“Your so-called friends have hung you out to dry. They do what rats do best, they jumped off the sinking ship.”

“Some of them, but not my real friends.”

“No, you’re right, they haven’t left you. In fact they’ll be here in a few minutes.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know the sort of circles you’ve been running in,” Coleman replied. “And I know people like that don’t leave loose ends hanging around untied.”

“Are you trying to scare me?” Turner sneered.

“You’re already scared.” Coleman pointed out simply. “Because you know I’m right. Why don’t you examine your options, what are you going to do?”

“You think I don’t have plans Chris?”

“What can you do? Run? Hide?” Coleman asked. “We both know you won’t get far.”

“If that’s true what makes you think you can help?” Turner wondered. “These people, they know everything you’re doing.”

“Not everything.”

“The CIA is a bunch of idiot amateurs compared to them, and we both know it.”

“I wouldn’t write us off so quickly,” Coleman countered. “Come with me.”

Beside him the other agent touched his ear, receiving a transmission. He merely nodded.

“Looks like your friends are here,” Coleman remarked. “Last chance.”

“No Chris, nice try, but no.” The Senator folded his arms.

“You see they owe me some favors, and I think now’s the time to get some of them delivered.”

“Doesn’t work that way, they aren’t here to rescue you.”

“Yes they are Chris, and you want to prevent it. One last desperate gamble for information. I’m not buying it Chris,” He snorted. “Kurt was better at this than you are.”

“Your funeral,” Coleman shrugged. “If you’re lucky.”

“Game over Chris, talk to your friends, get them to make this trial go away, blame the Numerians.”

“Come out of fantasyland Stan, look around you,” Coleman said still calm as ever. “No one is walking away from this.”

The door unlocked again. “Actually Chris, I’m about to do just that.”

Once again the door opened, this time revealing a diminutive man dressed entirely in black, the only color coming from the gold badge pinned to his chest, the emblem of Psi-War.

“Senator Turner, we knew you’d be here.” The man smiled sickly sweet. “My Name is Cody Baumann, I’m here to escort you to a safe location. There have been a number of threats made regarding your life. Considering the good work you have done in the past for us it would be wrong of us just to leave you unprotected.”

Turner bowed his head. “Thank you Mr Baumann, your regard for my health is much appreciated.”

Baumann glanced around the room with a smile. “Director Coleman, so good to meet you again.”

“Morning Cody, how’s the head? Nasty fall down those stairs you had.”

“Just fine, and thank you for your concern,” Baumann answered. “I will find the man who pushed me.”

Coleman hid a smile, “I’ve narrowed the list of suspects to sixteen billion, I’ll forward it to you.”

“I’ll remember how helpful you’ve been,” The Psi Operative said with insincerity. “Mr Senator, a car is waiting.”

“What about Fred?” Turner looked down at Polowatski, still on the verge of catatonia.

“I’m afraid we only have room for one,” Baumann replied. “We can take him instead?”

“No.” Turner answered a little too quickly. “That won’t be necessary.”

“We should go then.”

Turner pulled his jacket down over his shoulders, gave a parting glance to his son-in-law, then left him behind without a thought. “Goodbye Chris, see you later.” He grinned as he walked to the door.

“No Stan, you never will,” Coleman gave a simple wave. “Better take a cold drink, I hear it’s pretty damn hot where you’re going.”

Two more Psi-War Operatives were waiting outside the door, they fell in beside Turner and walked him down the corridor to the stairs and then out of sight, leaving Coleman and Baumann staring after him.

“Off the record,” Coleman said. “What will you do to him?”

“Out of my hands.” Baumann replied smugly. “He’s got enemies way beyond you or me.”

“Now I know you have more information than that.”

Baumann nodded, “I’m just a Psi-War Operative Director Coleman, what could I know of such things?”

“Theoretically.”

“Theoretically? I’d say he’s going to be driven to a very quiet room where some very scary people are going to take a trip in his mind.” Baumann stated with no emotion. “I suspect they’ll then implant a few living nightmares in his consciousness and see how long it takes him to die from just screaming. Quite remarkable, I hear you scream so hard it shreds your throat and you drown in your own blood. Should be interesting to see if its true. In theory.”

“In theory, of course,” Coleman nodded.

“If it was true, would you try to stop it?”

Coleman stepped back into the doorway, his expression blank. “Let him rot.”

He slammed the door shut, leaving a grinning Baumann to trot along after his friends. He left the building and found two black sedans waiting outside, one for Turner and one for the rest of the team.


***


“This is yours Mr Senator,” Baumann walked up and opened the door for him. “You won’t have to worry anymore, you are in our hands now.”

“I like the sound of that.” Turner grinned and ducked in, finding another person already waiting for him. He recognised her at once as Clare, the blonde haired agent sat comfortably in the car.

“Welcome.” She said as the door closed and the vehicle set off.

“I knew you’d come through,” Turner said happily. “You have a safe house for me?”

“Very safe, mon cherie,” She nodded. “No one will find you there.”

“Great, now about my family.”

“We will deal with them, depending on what you have or have not told them.”

Turner frowned, “I don’t understand?”

“If you have informed them about us Senator, we will have to take steps to make sure such information remains discrete,” Clare remarked smoothly. “I pray for their sakes you have kept quiet.”

He swallowed hard, “You didn’t come to protect me did you?”

“We protect ourselves and Earth, you have jeopardized both mon cherie.” She commented with a calm smile.

“Leave my family alone, please,” Turner begged with increasing despair. “Your secret dies with me.”

“Yes it does Senator,” Clare said. “That you can be sure of.”


***


Coleman saw the cars driving away, slightly annoyed to have lost such a source of information, but not in the least bit sorry for the man himself. As the main architect of the fiasco Turner got what he deserved, but while justice was catching up with Stan Turner there was still the matter of Polowatski.

He turned away from the window and grabbed a chair, dragging it in front of Polowatski on the other side of a coffee table. The officer barely noticed him, his uniform jacket hanging open and his badges of rank slanted at an unkempt angle. He looked like hell, and damn well deserved it.

“It's just us now Fred, you don’t mind if I call you Fred do you?” Coleman began. “I thought you might want a little update. Two billion five hundred million.”

Polowatski’s haggard eyes moved up, “what?” he managed weakly.

“Two billion five hundred million. That’s how many people are dead because of you,” Coleman simply stated. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our offers of surrender turned down, the Numerians are expanding their offensive and we haven’t got jack that can stand up to them. We tried to negotiate, we tried to plead, we even offered to surrender. They don’t care, they just want us dead. Thanks Polowatski, really, thanks.”

The Captain barely responded, he had no emotion left.

“You know they even offered to give you away, to pin all the blame on this for you,” Coleman said. “Which you know, is right because it is your fault. They were going to let the Numerians try you and execute you, probably slowly. The law books just went right out the window, that’s how desperate we are Fred, thanks to you and your blundering.”

“It... it wasn’t just me...” Polowatski defended weakly.

“I’m sorry Fred, I missed that, speak up a little. Because it sounded like you were going to weasel out of responsibility.”

“I know I have to carry some of the blame.” The officer weakly responded.

“Some of it?”

“I might have been derelict in my dut...”

His words were cut off in that moment by a sharp blow to the side of the head, Coleman leaning forward and crunching a fist into his temple with shuddering force. “No Fred, stop listening to Turner!” Coleman snarled. “What happened out there?”

“I... I...” Polowatski stuttered.

“Tell me Captain!” Coleman demanded with an enraged snarl. “You’re in that uniform, for once why don’t you act like it!”

“You know what happened!” Polowatski yelled in fear and anger.

“I want to hear it from you! I want you to tell the truth and accept it!” Coleman pushed the man. “Tell me!”

Polowatski bit down on his lower lip, then looked up. “I had orders to escort the Numerian grave ship and they sent a false order to let the unknown ship past the perimeter.”

“Wrong answer!” Coleman shouted. “You had orders to escort the Numerian burial ship to Numerian space. Did you have orders to ignore comm protocols?”

“No.”

“What?”

“I said no!” Polowatski grunted.

“You know why? Because Admiral LeMay knew you weren’t up for this! He knew you were a snivelling political apron rider and he wanted you to stay the hell on the leash! He wanted you to remain in constant contact to prevent you from triggering a major damn war!”

“They sent us a false order!”

“You ordered your ships to let that ship inside your perimeter, despite standing orders to prevent any unknown contacts from approaching!” Coleman jabbed his finger. “You broke orders, you played your own little game because you thought you were smarter than the Joint Chiefs and because daddy Turner would smooth things over! You screwed up bad you stupid bastard, and we’re all dying because of it!”

Coleman sat back down, his anger subsiding. “You aren’t fit to draw breath.”

Polowatski looked up, but couldn’t meet his gaze. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you even dare,” Coleman said coldly. “You do not get to say that and make it alright.”

“I’m sorry,” Polowatski said louder. “I made a mistake, but what am I supposed to do now?”

“There isn’t going to be a trial,” the CIA Director said. “Morale is already rock bottom, dwelling on what started this won’t help.”

“So I’m going to disappear? Get in a car and vanish?”

“No, not you. The sad fact is you’re too high profile.”

“Then I’ve got a proposal,” Polowatski said. “Give me my ship back.”

“Are you insane?”

“You’re going to need officers, hell even if I don’t have a command I have skills! Demote me, put me on a flying junkpile, it doesn’t matter! I’ll do my part.”

“No one will serve on the same ship as you.”

“So I’ll take a fighter, a... a shuttle!”

“No you won’t.”

“I deserve a chance at redemption!”

“You had it after the Denevan war. You screwed up in the Gamma Incident, then you screwed up again even worse. No way are we letting you try again. You’re a walking apocalypse.”

“If you just let me try... let me back on the Samarkand, just as a rating, anything!”

“I can’t do that.”

“Please!”

“I can’t because the Samarkand was destroyed two days ago over the New Columbia colony,” Coleman informed him. “Thirty one crewmen managed to survive.”

Polowatski fell back with a gasp, the air literally knocked from his lungs. “My ship...”

“And many more besides, all your fault.”

“I’m ready to fight!” Polowatski affirmed. “I’m ready to die.”

“Good, then you’re in luck.”

Coleman reached into his pocket and took out a lumpy black cloth bag that he upended on the coffee table. From within a handgun fell out with a loud clank, its gleaming silver body laying perfectly still n the suddenly perfectly still room.

“Wha... what is this?” Polowatski asked with trepidation.

“It’s a plasma pistol. Actually it’s yours, signed, registered, and documented.”

“I don’t own one.”

“You do now,” the former Agent said. “Pick it up.”

Polowatski shook his head. “No.”

“Pick it up or I’ll give you to Psi-War.”

The former Captain slowly reached down with a shaking hand and picked up the small pistol, gripping it tightly in his white knuckles.

“Now this is the easy part,” Coleman continued. “You put it to your temple and pull the trigger.”

Polowatski’s eyes shot up to the CIA Director in utter shock. His mouth moved but no words came out.

“Yeah, you heard me right.” Coleman went on, ignoring his reaction. “Suicide Fred, quickest cleanest option for all of us.”

“You’re insane!” Polowatski screamed. “What the hell is going on!”

Coleman remained emotionless in the face of the outburst. “No trial Fred, no firing squad, no alien extradition, no chance of a glorious death in battle. You have one choice, you pull that trigger or you don’t and we do it for you.”

He looked down at the gun in his hand, and then at the man who sat opposite of him, slowly almost subconsciously turning the muzzle to point at Coleman.

“You’re problem here Fred is that you don’t plan ahead, which we all kinda guessed already,” Coleman said with a sneer. “If you shoot me my friend here will finish you. You don’t know him, he’s called Ivan, say hello Ivan.”

The scarred CIA Agent grinned, revealing teeth artificially filed to sharp points like an animal. Polowatski nearly wet himself.

“You see, Ivan is an expert at what he does. He’s a killer. Hell, he’s killed more people than World War Three, but lets say you get lucky and shoot him first. Then you shoot the two Commandos on the door, and the eight outside, and fight your way out of DC. Then what? Where do you go? Your face is known everywhere Fred. Think you can outrun the CIA? What about the whole planet? Twelve billion people baying for your blood. What do you think they’ll do to you Fred? Think it’ll be quicker than that gun and your head?”

Polowatski looked back down at his gun, gradually turning it inward.

“I didn’t want any of this.”

“No.” Coleman stood. “Nor did the two billion five hundred million families who lost kids or parents to the Numerians. Do something honorable for once.”

Coleman nodded to Ivan who opened the door, leading the way out. The Director paused to put on the rooms video displays, each screen showing images of the hopeless battles and the annihilation of Terran fleets as a reminder of Polowatski’s responsibility.

“And Fred,” Coleman continued, “straighten your damn uniform and go out like a man.”

They stepped out into the hallway and closed the door, waiting there for a minute in total silence until finally there was the hissing report of a single plasma shot. Coleman and Ivan shared a look, then the Director cracked open the door, looked in, then shut it behind him with a click.

“We should have done this after the first incident,” Coleman said darkly. “Wait a hour, then call the police.”

He nodded to the guards, both prospective CIA field agents and entirely loyal to Coleman.

“My people will fix the surveillance tapes, simple suicide, his conscience finally got the better of him.”

The Director paused for a moment to look at the door, reflecting on the scene within with a grim sense of satisfaction. This was by no means the first suicide he’d fixed, though it was probably the easiest, Polowatski hadn’t needed much pushing to fall off the edge. Somewhere deep down maybe he really did feel sorry. Coleman couldn’t care less.

“I’ve got a meeting.” He set off, turning his back finally on the room and its history. “And you Ivan have a team to pick out, see what sort of pain those Holier-than-thou's can stand.

He took the stairs three at a time, bursting through the doors to the apartment invigorated with purpose. He had been close to retiring as Director, but he couldn’t leave now, not with this war raging around him. The CIA had its job to do, and so to did Christopher Coleman. It was going to be a lot messier than today’s little bit of wet work.
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2009, 11:45:27 AM »
The Present Day
4 November, 2732 AD


“You with me Chris?”

Coleman looked up suddenly, pushing the memory of that day out of his mind. Polowatski was long gone, but the legacy he had created still burned across Terran space inching ever closer to the homeworld itself.

“Just reminiscing.” He said as he stood up from the wooden chair in the richly appointed waiting room deep inside the White House, the surroundings designed to enhance calm but utterly failing in the current situation.

“Good memories?” the other man, his good friend Kurt Townsend asked.

Coleman smiled a little at the question. “Actually, yeah, yes it was.”

“Well we’re on, the President is ready to see us.” The bright-eyed Australian stated, still energetic and optimistic even after all that had happened.

“Finally,” the new Director of the CIA said to his predecessor. “When we say important you’d think by now he’d understand that meant right away.”

“He’s got a lot to deal with,” Townsend allowed on his behalf. “Not everyday you preside over Armageddon.”

“Which is why he should be happy to see us.” Coleman picked up his briefcase and started walking, treading through the carpeted halls of the White House. Usually the corridors were busy, bustling with clerks and attaches but lately that level of activity had reduced. Some people remained, but only enough to keep the building operating. Most of the workers had been drafted when the manpower shortages really began to bite.

Townsend knew the way like the back of his hand, he’d been a regular guest at the Presidential meetings for thirty years now, since before the Denevan war, in one form or another. Today he was attending as Vice President with responsibility for gathering and sifting through whatever information he considered relevant for the President to know. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, part of his job as Vice President, but his old skills as a CIA agent had proven a godsend, releasing a whole team of government analysts to join other intelligence departments while Townsend did their work himself.

It kept him constantly busy, but Townsend liked that. The way things were going nobody should be idle, there was always something that needed to happen and Townsend was a big believer in leading by example. There would be time to rest when the war was over, one way or another.

The two men paused at the doorway and knocked gently, their signal answered by a muffled voice inviting them in. The office itself had changed little, only the assorted ornaments and trinkets were different reflecting President Lehman’s particular tastes. The Great Seal still dominated the room behind his desk while tall windows looked out over the still well kept grounds of the White House stretching along the shores of Lake Victoria and beyond.

“Good Morning Mister President.” Townsend started proceedings. “How are those sleeping pills?”

Roger Lehman was slumped in his chair, a man who looked like he’d run two marathons over broken glass only to get punched repeatedly in the stomach at the end of the race. When he appeared on the news he was always alert and smiling, he had to in order to keep up the public perceptions that the UST was still in the war. In truth his energy was supplied in a small bottle by the President’s personal physician.

“No so good Kurt,” he answered tiredly. “Gets harder and harder to sleep nowadays.”

“I understand Mister President.” Townsend stood before his desk, waiting for an invitation to sit down. When it seemed clear he wasn’t catching on he coughed politely.

“Oh, sit down gentlemen,” he said quickly, pulling himself forward and forcing some energy into his eyes. For all his difficulties Lehman still had an incredibly strong personality, it was probably his greatest asset and a quality that even now engendered respect across the whole demographic of Terranity. Townsend had seen him at his best and worst, through incredibly deep bouts of depression and through some of the most stirring speeches the galaxy could recall. He had never found himself thinking he was not the right person for the job, and was always impressed at how swiftly he rose to the occasion.

“So what do you have for me?”

“Good news,” Townsend smiled. “Commodore Collinwood managed to attack some Numerian supply bases on Neu Bayern.”

Lehman clearly brightened. “Excellent, how did he do?”

“Razed them to the ground.” Townsend reported happily, glad to have even one piece of good news to share. “He also winged a D'Orly Cruiser, put it out of action for a few months at least.”

Lehman genuinely chuckled, the weariness lifting away like the morning mist. “Did we lose anyone?”

“Not a soul.”

“That’s just brilliant Kurt, brilliant. We’re giving this to all the networks?”

“After we delete some classified references, yes sir,” Townsend confirmed.

“This is exactly what we need to pick up the flagging morale,” he spoke gleefully. “Commodore Collinwood again, he’s getting quite a reputation.”

“Yes Sir, there’s a lot of talk in the Senate about promoting him to Rear Admiral.”

Lehman mulled over the idea. “Be a nice PR move, you think he can handle it?”

“I think he has what it takes,” Townsend confirmed. “He just never stays still long enough for us to bring him down for a ceremony!”

Lehman smiled, “a good officer, dedicated to his people. They all are.”

“Yes Sir, they are.”

“And all we can give them are orders to fight in a battle they have no chance of surviving.” The President said, the returning depression creeping back into his mind.

“We are saving more people Mr. President, with better evacuation procedures and the use of jump equipped civilian ships to open a jump point for escape pods. Our overall fatalities are far less than the beginning of the war.”

“But the end result is still the same,” he sighed. “Director, what about the spy ship from New Bavaria, did you get it back?”

Coleman confirmed it, “Yes Sir, my people are going over the recorders now in detail, but I have a summary right here.”

“How are our people?” he asked with genuine concern, the thought of such a large colony under occupation truly painful to him.

“They seem as well as can be expected,” Coleman confirmed, delivering some measure of trepidation. “There’s evidence of orbital strikes on the population centers, but no Numerian troops are in the immediate area. It looks like they’re following their standard procedure of nuking the cities and then ignoring the surviving civilians and simply blockading the planet from orbit and concentrating ground troops around their own bases.”

“Their layout is designed to make guerrilla attacks very difficult,” Townsend took over. “They set up in remote areas, build their bases close to each other so they can be easily monitored and patrolled, set up a large central command point surrounded by supply yards and barracks, very formulaic.”

“It works well for what it’s designed for,” Coleman agreed. “But it’s the worst possible arrangement for surviving a nuclear strike. Which is what kind of happened.”

“Can we expect further retributions against the civilians for this?”

“That's impossible to say,” Townsend was forced to admit. “Some Numerian factions would do it in an instant, but from what we know the current dominant Numerian group has strictly forbidden attacks on unarmed civilians beyond the initial bombardment.”

“Regrettably, not an act of mercy Mr. President,” Coleman added. “Simply their belief that killing the survivors stains their honor as true warriors. The Bad news is plenty of Numerian warriors disagree with that and eventually once our defenses are gone they will turn on our surviving civilians.”

“And that will end the Terran race, since the Numerians will turn on the Romans after us. They cannot afford to leave such a powerful Terran state in the galaxy,” Lehman spoke heavily. “Unless we find a way to stop them.”

“Unless we find a way,” Townsend unhappily agreed.

Lehman poured himself a drink of spring water drawn from the nearby Lake Victoria, offering the cool liquid to his two experts. Deeply he drank the clear water, wishing it would wash away the dark foreboding in his soul, but all the while knowing somewhere that such a thing was impossible. He did not know what to do, every day seemed to bring them closer to defeat and he could not steer them clear, he couldn’t fulfil his sacred task as President and guide Earth based Terranity to safety and salvation. No matter what he did things just got worse.

“Fity-eight months, fifty-eight months of fighting,” he said. “Fifty-eight months of death and destruction and loss. What have we got left? What can we try?” He shook his head sadly. “What chance do we have?”

“Our research division is working around the clock Mr. President,” Townsend said. “Even now we’re bringing new technology into play, new sensors, new safeguards, new ships.”

“All right then, what do we have that can take on a Numerian warship?”

“There are some designs, a couple are reaching the prototype development stage...”

“Prototypes,” Lehman sighed. “We needed these ships a year ago.”

Townsend refrained from saying that if the budgets hadn’t been slashed after the Denevan war they probably would have had them by now.

“We have almost completed the Colossus prototype,” Townsend continued calmly. “Similar to a uprated America class Dreadnought and fitted with our version of the Roman Spinal Laser. It still needs some ironing out, however the weapons work and are capable of blasting clean through a D'Orly Cruiser in one hit.”

“So all you need to do is get a hit?” Lehman said dismally. “What about the other one, what was it?”

“New York Class Sir,” Townsend said. “Designed to carry twice the firepower of a Des Moines and defeat enemies by sheer weight of fire and armor. It’s about sixty percent complete.”

“Will it work?”

“Yes Sir, the design is sound. How effective it will be... well no one can answer that until after it sees action.”

Lehman rubbed his eyes in exhaustion. “What about the new technology, the stuff we bought from the Romans?”

“We’re reproducing it at full capacity, most of our remaining ships are already refitted with uprated weapons. We’ve managed to greatly increase our firepower with only a negligible increase in mass.”

“Has it helped?”

“It has made a difference,” Townsend confirmed. “In terms of raw firepower our ships can actually match the Numerian weapons, our ships are equally destructive, or in the case of an America massively more powerful. Unfortunately, we are still no closer to cracking the Numerian ECM arrays. Our ECCM arrays just cannot put out the power to burn through their signal noise, and if we can’t hit them all the firepower in the universe won’t make a damn bit of difference.”

“We have new ships and fighters in advanced development,” Coleman added in. “New Starfighters, a Mega-Capital Ship we’re codenaming ‘Terra’ and massively improved satellite defenses based on Particle beams. The bad news is we need time, even at full capacity it’s going to take at least a year, for the super ships a lot longer.”

“What about the battlecruisers, the Alaska type?”

“They should be ready sooner, the technicians have been busy fitting them with the Atheri weapons, a full rebuild,” Townsend said. “Enough to reclassify them as a new ship, the Kongo class.”

“Can they take on a D'Orly?” Lehman asked.

“They have heavily upgraded weapons, excellent range, and the latest armor means they can withstand several direct hits.”

“Kurt, can they win?”

He exhaled, “without a clean lock? We estimate a three to one loss ratio.”

The President closed his eyes and held in his emotions.

“Which is better than the five to one loss ratio for Americas, and eight to one for the Des Moines,” Coleman pointed out. “But we estimate eighteen months until production is advanced enough to field Kongo’s in large numbers, and that’s assuming the yards in Lunar orbit and at Io, Mars, and Titan are operating at full capacity.”

Lehman looked up at the two men, each in turn. “We don’t have eighteen months do we?”

Kurt Townsend returned his gaze confidently, “we don’t know Mr. President. Things are bad, but if you remember at the start of the war most powers gave us three months, tops, and we’re still fighting nearly five years later.”

“I see the maps gentlemen, we’ve lost every colony between Earth and the Numerian border, there’s only one left... Rigel.”

“That is true Mr. President,” Townsend had to agree.

“If Rigel falls, Earth is next,” Lehman said.

“The Navy is working with the CIA to try and delay that possibility Sir,” Townsend said. “We’re lucky in the fact that Earth is in a difficult position with regards to Hyperspace and jump points, there is only one reliable jump route through and that is from Rigel. We’ve been keeping the hyperspace beacons turned off and that has given us some time, but even if the Numerians do find us they can only approach from one direction.”

“We also know the Numerians are methodical,” Coleman added. “They won’t move on Earth until they are positive Rigel is secure. What we need to do is to keep Rigel contested, even if we have no real chance of taking it back we have to make the Numerians think we can.”

“Basically Mr. President we’re shifting the battle for Earth to Rigel, keeping the fighting there instead of here,” the Vice President explained. “Our one and only goal is to keep the Sol system free of Numerians until we can implement our new weapons.”

“But for eighteen months?” Lehman asked. “Most battles don’t last eighteen minutes.”

“We do have a plan for that Sir,” Coleman mentioned. “Based on our early reports of Numerian ships shutting down our jump drives.”

“We solved the problem didn’t we?” Lehman asked.

“We did Sir, through extensive shielding we managed to prevent the Numerian sensors from disrupting our hyperspace jump engines.” Coleman affirmed. “However, we have been trying to duplicate the effect to prevent any enemy ships from jumping in.”

“We trialed a test model with Collinwood's Cutthroats.” Townsend took over. “Since then the Numerians haven’t been able to jump on top of our ships like the Tamarolei enjoyed doing. Ultimately though our goal is far more reaching.”

“We’re going to prevent them jumping in anywhere in the Sol system,” Coleman said point blank.

Lehman looked at them with obvious scepticism. “How in the name of heaven can you do that? The power requirements must be enormous!”

“That’s right Sir, our team believes the only way to do it is to alter Sol to emit a particular type of radiation that will...”

“Alter the sun?” Lehman said with incredulity. “Gentlemen, is this something we should be playing with?”

Townsend inclined his head slightly, “we’re out of options Sir, we don’t even know if it will work. But if it does it will keep the Numerians out of our space and buy us the time we need to counter them.”

“Even if this does work, we are still outgunned,” Lehman pointed out.

“Yes Sir, any prospect of a total victory is frankly untenable,” Townsend agreed. “But we can try and force them to a settlement, drag the war out beyond their ability to sustain it. The Numerians have a much harder time replacing losses than we do, even a moderately damaged ship can be out of the war for months at a time and their entire way of war is extremely time consuming, especially with our constant raids. Every day drains their resources more, especially when we have people like Commodore Collinwood and Captain Carter taking out supply bases.”

“There is going to come a point where the Numerians won’t be able to keep their fleet deployed,” Coleman stated confidently. “They don’t have the flexibility to adapt to our way of war, they’re set up for a straight fight, fleet to fleet, a type of war they excel at.”

“They put all their resources into a massive fleet blitz, a huge hammer blow designed to flatten us in a few months,” Townsend informed in turn. “They just can’t afford to maintain that intensity of warfare for much longer, and they can’t reduce their commitments because they know we can damage ships, put them out of the war and erode their strength slowly but surely until they have to withdraw. They fought themselves into a corner and they only have one way out, maintaining their rolling offensive.”

“What we have to do is stall it, drag it out, it’s a war of attrition,” The CIA man continued. “Not ship for ship, but economy for economy. We can force them to postpone their attacks until they rebuild their supplies, and before they do that we can have our new ships in service and make the war even more costly for them.”

Townsend nodded in agreement. “A General once said wars aren’t won by the side with the best equipment or the bravest men, they are won by the side that can stay on its feet for five seconds longer than the other guy. That’s all we have to do Sir, just stay standing for the next eighteen months. And we do that by holding Rigel.”

“I’d like to believe this will work,” President Lehman tapped his hands on the desk. “But we’ve tried before to force the Numerians into a battle like this, to make them fight for every inch of space between Earth and the border. They’ve always just rolled over us.”

“The problem has always been the Numnerian fleet,” Townsend said. “They cut through our ships then bombard our army formations, reducing us to low level resistance. Make no mistake, our soldiers fight like hell but without heavy equipment and with no supplies there isn’t much they can do.”

“There have been times when some of our units have managed to preserve some gear,” Coleman took up the story. “A platoon of tanks, battery of guns, a few gunships, and on those times they’ve done a lot of damage. In space the Numerians have all the advantages, on the ground it's much closer.”

“If we can separate the Numerian fleet from the ground forces, the Army Command is confident it can repel any assault on Rigel,” the Vice President said simply. “We’re already moving our best troops out there, hiding them beneath mountain ranges or in disused mines widened by engineers. And the Romans have even volunteered their best armored legions to fight alongside our troops.”

“How many?” Lehman asked.

“A full Consular army, the First,” Coleman answered. “Three hundred thousand Roman soldiers, about five thousand tanks and twenty thousand other vehicles.”

“With the Roman help we’re confident we’ll be ready,” Townsend said. “And we’re already setting up a deception plan to keep the Numerian fleet positioned deep in space far from Rigel III.”

“And if they don’t buy it?”

“Then we lose Rigel, which is going to happen anyway if we don’t try,” Townsend said. “We still outnumber the Numerians three to one in terms of ships, they don’t have more than a thousand vessels in the field at any given time. This is a gamble, and it might not work, but we have to try.”

Lehman had to agree, “I can’t see any other alternatives. You have my authorization to proceed.”

“Thank you Mr. President.”

“The eyes of the United States of Terra and the galaxy will all be resting on Rigel Kentaurus again, the first colony we had beyond Sol, and now the last one before our enemies reach Earth.”

He considered the duality of the location, the importance it held. “The First Colony, and now the Last Colony,” he said mournfully. “And our last chance to survive this war.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2009, 08:28:02 PM »
10 December 2732 AD
Numerian Occupied Space


The speakers crackled, the signal was distorted by distance and the poor conditions in hyperspace between the source and the receiver, making the transmission sound like it was made in a howling blizzard. Garbled and mangled as it was, the voice came through loud and clear, and the sheer terror held in its words was unmistakable. “We need evac immediately!” The voice demanded, “Now, now God damnit! It’s tearing us apart, we need to get the hell off this rock!”

Jenny Nakamoura’s face was like stone as she listened to the words, sympathizing entirely with the team deployed on the moon in question.

“It’s coming through the walls!” The voice continued yelling in utter panic, screams and weapons fire audible in the background. “Get away from there! Get away!”

Static filled the channel, punctuated by sounds of fighting and death, something all too familiar lately. But here there was something different, something apart from the normal cries of a recon team under attack.

“Poor bastards.” Sergeant Isuro Taichi announced with a shudder.

“Yeah,” Jenny agreed quietly, “Sounded like the gates of hell were opening down there.”

“Still worth it?” The Terran of Japanese descent asked. “I mean are we going to find anything down there?”

“Yeah, it’s worth it,” she said firmly, “there might still be someone alive down there.”

“Pretty slim chance Colonel,” Taichi grimaced.

“If it was you down there Izzy, wouldn’t you want us to try?”

He looked into his fellow officer’s eyes, seeing the utter resolve cemented into the dark brown orbs. “Yeah, yeah we should try,” He sighed.

“I’ve been there, trapped on an enemy world. So damn straight we’re going to try. Begin the pre-flight checks.”

She leaned forward in the pilots seat of the shuttle and began running through the start up sequence, Isuro was doing the same thing beside her. It was a familiar enough process, almost a ritual by this point and something she had done scores of times before despite asserting once upon a time that she would never, ever, do anything this stupidly dangerous again.


***


Jenny certainly had the skills for this kind of work, a protégé of Terran Special Forces she had been picked out of the Marine Corps for service with the CIA. Her mix of physical ability, mental sharpness and the ability to calmly put rounds through the head of anyone who opposed the good of Earth made her the perfect Field Agent, a role she fulfilled magnificently for a number of years. Until she went and fell in love.

She had found a soulmate in the form of Paul Dugan, a scruffy opportunistic freighter captain who had had a genuine desire to help people and oppose the horrors of the Denevan war machine. Together they had defied death and helped gather vital information for the Navy, playing an important role in the war. Then one day he had been killed, and Jenny stopped living a normal life, so crushed by grief she had no idea how to go on. She had stayed like that until she learned that she was in fact carrying Paul’s child, a son whom she named Eric in honor of the man who saved her life in more ways than one.

Her son had given her a new and powerful reason to live, but the old Jenny was still gone, she died on Stygia with Paul and with her died the best Field Agent in recent years. She retired, taking over Paul’s old ship, the freighter Star Fall, and continuing his family business with the intention of handing it over one day to his son.

She had not entirely severed her ties with the CIA and still did occasional jobs for them, hiring out the Star Fall like old times and moving agents quietly to and from missions. Sometimes she was required to use some of her more practical skills as her assignments turned dangerous, making sure she kept sharp and in shape, but those missions were few and far between. Her son, now fourteen, was her constant priority and that never changed. Her other great concern was her niece Kelly, a concern which had only increased when the war broke out.

Kelly had joined the Navy before the war over the protests of most of the family. Jenny invariably received the blame for glamorizing the military lifestyle, something she usually answered with a stare intense enough to melt crys-steel. Jenny knew better than anyone the sacrifice and loss such a choice could bring, but also knew the benefits of serving Earth and had been one of the few to fully support Kelly, helping her settle into the academy and giving her some advice during officer training. Kelly had graduated to pilot school, which was no surprise to Jenny, and there had met a dashing officer named Terrance Kirkland who seemed to embody almost the exact opposite personality traits of Kelly, yet oddly they clicked and became an item.

The war once again changed her life, and Jenny found her responsibility to keep her dearest safe suddenly became a lot harder. As a qualified pilot Kelly had naturally volunteered for starfighter duty, requesting a posting in Kirkland’s squadron. Jenny knew full well the life expectancy of such a role and was not about to let her niece become a statistic, using her influence she had Kelly assigned to the scout department seeking out and surveying new worlds to feed raw materials into the gaping maw of the war effort. She was angry of course, but accepted her role and recognised there weren’t many pilots as skilled at the job as she was.

The reassignment however had its price, and that price had been Jenny’s return to active duty. She wasn’t pleased about it, but recognised that it was a price worth paying, and that as the war grew worse and worse her skills were going to be vital to Earth. With the Star Fall alongside she formally rejoined the CIA and became the main method of picking up or dropping off teams behind enemy lines. It was dangerous, but the Star Fall and its crew were used to it, both Toby and Hans were secretly pleased to be back doing their bit for Earth.

To improve their efficiency they had been given two extra pieces of equipment. One was a new atmospheric shuttle considerably better than the usual type. Sleek, stealthy and lightning fast it was perfect for ducking in and completing its mission before the Numerians could react. The second addition was Sergeant Taichi, a serving member of the elite Special Boat Service, a descendant of the British force, with a very handy specialization in battlefield medicine, an often unfortunate requirement when pulling out a team that had been under attack.

They had gelled into a good team, mixing military training, CIA know how and some civilian wisdom to drag them out of danger numerous times. They had become one of the most welcome sights in the universe, the thing a team of operatives stranded behind enemy lines with the Numerians closing in hoped and prayed for. Sometimes they worked along side of dedicated SBS teams picking up life pods from raging battles, risking Numerian fire to save as many lives as possible. On several occasions the Star Fall had been packed full of rescued servicemen and women, snatched from the jaws of death and delivered safely home. It was a job she had grown immensely proud of.

This was one more job, one more emergency extraction she had to perform. This particular type of mission was often the hardest with a good chance of being shot down. It was also unlucky that by the time they received the message and moved to launch the team would often have been wiped out. The success rates for missions like this were extremely low, and coupled with the danger were the worst parts of the job.

But she was still going to try.


***


“Angel One to control, we’re just about ready here,” Jenny announced from the shuttle.

“Confirmed, we’re getting ready to initiate a jump point,” a German accent answered her. “Make sure your civvie pilot stays close.”

“That’s Hans you’re talking about Manny!” Jenny grinned widely. “He can stay latched to a laser beam.”

“All right, get ready then,” the naval officer said, “We’re going in.”

“Roger that, Hans, you hear that?”

“I'm on it,” the heavy-set Swedish pilot of the Star Fall answered from higher up in the ship’s own flight deck. “You just get ready to launch, I hate this part.”

“We’ll make it quick, I don’t like the sound of this one at all,” Jenny related. “We’ll be ready, just stay close to Manny.”

“I’ll be hanging on his moustache,” Hans joked. “Ready for transition to real space.”


***


Beside the Star Fall, dwarfing the light freighter was the UTS Temeraire under the command of the well known Captain Mannfred Richtofen, legendary for both his name and his daring deeds during the Denevan war. Like most other characters in the UTSN he was part of the LRRG, Commodore Collinwood’s Cutthroats operating behind enemy lines on raids or other covert missions, such as supporting special forces teams today.

The Temeraire had seen plenty of action against the Denevans starting its life as an Alaska class Battlecruiser, built on an elongated Des Moines hull with better armor and stronger weapons. Following the war and advances in weapons design the Navy found that its original policy of arming one type of ship with long range weapons, the Alaska, and another with short ranged ones in the form of the Des Moines was now redundant as plasma cannons could now do both. The Kirov class was officially retired, the hulls upgraded to the modern Kongo Class standards with long ranged lasers, medium ranged plasma cannons and short ranged gauss carronades allowing it to punch its weight in any combat mission.

They were significantly better than the first generation Alaskas sent against the Denevans, the equal of anything the Medians or most of the other minor spacefaring powers had, but against the Numerians they were frighteningly vulnerable and rarely committed to stand up fights anymore, used instead on raids and patrols while the America’s tried their best to take the Numerian fleet on alone.


***


The Temeraire opened its jump point and cruised through, the Star Fall right on its flank keeping perfect formation. “Alright Angel, we’re taking cover behind the fifth planet,” Manny informed them. “Don’t drag your feet, no enemy ships on the lidar, but it doesn’t mean it’ll be like that forever.”

“Roger that, see you soon Manny,” Jenny confirmed. “Angel one out.”

The Star Fall broke away, its system drives roaring at full burn as the Battlecruiser turned about and headed for its hiding place, waiting to escort them out, if necessary with all weapons blazing. The Temeraire would be easy prey for most Numerian ships, but Manny had more than a few twists and tricks to ensure he escaped with his skin, and his friends intact.

The system itself was largely unimportant, so uninteresting it didn’t even have a name, just a stellar location number on the star charts. It had no habitable planets and one moon with a moderately breathable atmosphere. Initial surveys found it pointless, and it took a follow up by Wegman-Yamashiro to discover that at one point the system had been habitable. One world showed the remnants of an advanced civilization, while the still habitable moon had several large ruins of a type unknown to history. Further exploration was scheduled, but never initiated due to the war.

The system was abandoned without a fight and the Numerians claimed it, deeming it just as worthless as the UT. They left a small garrison on the moon and set their sights on bigger fish. Sensing an opportunity here to observe the Numerians in a non-critical area, and hopefully, get an insight into their character while at rest, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had authorized a small surveillance operation to study the Numerian garrison, and also to monitor any passing signals traffic relayed through the system between the fleet and their home commands.

It was a low priority mission, but important enough to maintain a presence. The UT had several teams deployed at once, with a Cruiser usually deployed in hyperspace to support every three or four teams as required, either dropping supplies, picking up transmissions or in cases like this rescuing the ground troops if at all possible.

The Fall did not slow down, the small ship having no intention of establishing orbit and waiting almost stationary for the shuttle to return. It would drop the small craft off close to the planet, blasting it out of the hanger, then loop around and pick it up again a few minutes later. It minimized the risk for all concerned, and meant if one vessel was lost the other still had a good chance of getting away.

“Coming up to our launch point,” Hans relayed to Jenny, “opening the bay doors.” Through the windows of the shuttle Jenny saw the metal doors spread apart like a metal mouth, jagged teeth retracting from their path.

“Engines read green across the board,” Isuro informed Jenny. “Full power available, all flight systems green.”

“We’re ready down here,” Jenny relayed back to Hans, “Catapult us into the deep black.”

Isuro braced himself, “I really hate this part...”

“Launching in three, two, one...” Hans counted down, “Adios Amigos!” Beneath the shuttle an electromagnetic catapult activated, throwing the ship out of the bay with a jolt like the best theme park ride ever, or in the case of Isuro, the worst. The catapult had belonged to a Carrier but with a few tweaks and a lot of lost paperwork it had found itself on the venerable independent vessel Star Fall. The shuttle was gone in a heartbeat, Jenny quickly recovering and gaining control, dropping the nose towards the moon and their plotted landing site. Behind them the Fall was already leaving, angling to slingshot around one of the other moons and swing back in a few dozen minutes to collect them.

“Still no enemy contacts,” Isuro informed Jenny with clear relief.

“Understood, landing zone confirmed.” Jenny put the shuttle on course. “Coming in five by five.” She quickly checked her instruments, confirming everything was clear. “Any signals?” she asked.

Isuro checked the comm net, “nothing, just static.”

“But it’s still broadcasting?”

“Yeah, though its just the carrier wave, they aren't broadcasting anything, just static.”

“It hasn’t been switched off or destroyed, so that counts for something,” she said with a hopeful tone. “Lowball, this is Angel One, do you read me? Please respond, over.” There was no answer.

“Lowball, do you copy? This is Angel One, respond, over.”

Isuro shook his head, “not a thing.”

“All right, we’ll put down and check it out on foot. How’s the weather?”

“Beautiful, full scale thunderstorm and gale force winds.”

She sighed, “makes you appreciate the inside of a ship sometimes. All right, wrap up warm when we hit the deck. I really don’t like where this is going.”

The shuttle was rocked hard as they passed through the storm, the sleek shape helping cut through the atmosphere but it was still a rough approach with all the turbulence, the computer guidance working hard to keep the ship level. Jenny was half focused on the landing, and half on the last transmission from the planet. It had chilled her, and that was not something she was used to.

Jenny didn’t scare easy. It wasn’t just her training and her experiences, it was something in her character which was not easily upset or overturned. She could keep a straight face and an even set of nerves in virtually any circumstance, but right now she was beginning to get the creeps. She had run missions like this before, heard the panicked calls for extraction knowing help was probably too far away. Those voices had been scared, a desperate call, but the voice from this planet had something else to it... pure unadulterated terror.

The team deployed on this planet were USMC Force Recon, the same branch of the special forces Jenny herself had been commissioned into. They were dedicated recon troops trained to be secretive, cool and calm under all circumstances. They were patient and utterly in control at all times, chosen from those recruits with the most stable psyches. They were expected to operate alone with no contact for months on end, they didn’t snap, didn’t panic, didn’t get cabin fever or lose their minds. Even if their whole team was annihilated a Raider never, ever panicked, it just wasn’t in their consciousness. To drive someone like that to such a level of panic needed an event that terrified them at the core of their psyche. For Jenny it had taken Paul’s death to snap her out of her professional demeanor, for the people on this planet she had no idea what it had taken. Whatever it was she was not thrilled about setting foot in the same place it inhabited.

“It’s coming through the walls,” she repeated. “That’s what the message said.”

“I remember,” Isoru agreed. “The voice sounded absolutely terrified.”

“Yeah, but why did they say it? Why not them? Or him?” Jenny wondered aloud.

“Heat of the moment maybe?” The other man shrugged. “If the Numerians are storming your position I guess its hard to talk straight.”

“These guys were good, we put them down here remember?”

“I remember, they all seemed to have it pretty well together.”

She exhaled loudly, “I hate this war. Standby to drop the landing gear, I’m lowering flaps and firing the breaking thrusters.”

The shuttle dropped through the cloud cover into the pouring rain, the usual weather for this planet, and doing little to make it a more appealing destination. The craft held steady against the crosswinds, looping over a set of ruins and touching down on a cracked square outside the remnants of a large stone building highly decorated in an alien motif.

“This is where they were based,” She said, “some kind of old temple.”

Lightning burst overhead, filling the cockpit with volumnous peals of thunder and silhouetting the ruined building.

“This is like a freakin' horror holovid!” Isuro grimaced. “Let’s get it over with, fast.” They unbuckled their seatbelts and quickly proceeded aft, putting on their body armor and gathering their weapons. For Isuro his armament consisted of a standard plasma rifle and handgun, for Jenny a similar rifle but entirely different handgun.

“I’m amazed you can even lift that hand cannon,” the Sergeant grinned at her choice of sidearm.

She hefted the weapon, an ancient Smith and Wesson .454 Magnum that had been Paul’s pride and joy, and now travelled everywhere with her.

“Never know when we’ll have a close encounter,” she said as she holstered it and pulled on a boonie hat to keep off the rain. “Ready?”

“Why not? Not like I have anything else on my adgenda.” He he quiopped as he opened the hatch. The bulky metal door falling open to the ground. “Rain, great.”

The two operatives darted out into the dim gray light, the heavy clouds heavily filtering the already quite poor sunshine. They swept the area with their rifles, located no threats, and at once darted forward, on their way, keeping low and moving from cover to cover. There was so much broken masonry it was hard not to find a place to hide, and while it helped the two CIA Agents it also meant they had to be especially wary of an ambush.

Isuro raised his hand, then pointed to the ground. Jenny followed his gesture and spotted a pair of well hidden mines, standard UT Army issue. The two agents had IFF beacons in their clothing and would register as friendly to the sensors on the mines, but it did confirm that no Numerians had moved through this area.

With great caution they moved up the steps to the temple itself, rainwater pouring down the stone stairway like a small waterfall, the two agents with their rifles held tightly at the ready, sensors mounted on the barrels scanning with each step. They reached the door, peered in, and then with a swift simultaneous move leapt around and flattened themselves against the inner walls.

Nothing met them on the inside, no gunfire or surprised Numerian faces. Just quiet. Their scanners checked for heat or movement, the basic indicators of life, and found nothing.

“Clear,” Jenny said.

“Clear,” Isuro agreed. “This is the place though, look over there.”

Jenny looked over at a corner and saw a selection of electronic devices set up on stone ledges and tables looking very out of place in the ruins. They were standard issue communication sets and monitoring devices, the equipment the recon team had brought with them.

“Looks intact.” she said, walking over to it. “And still active.”

“The Numerians hate our technology, they’d have smashed it up before they left,” Isuro said quietly, leaving unsaid what they both were thinking.

“Yeah, so why didn’t they?” She examined the equipment, finding the main comm unit still broadcasting.

Isuro continued looking around the large temple, rain dripping from innumerable cracks in the roof and tapping loudly on the floor. It was roughly circular with an altar of stone in the middle and a second doorway on the far side opposite the one they had entered through. There were dark hints of color, old paintings that had once been magnificent, now as desiccated and weary as the building itself. Debris choked the floor, the remnants of a first and second story that had long since fallen in exposing the roof above.

“I’m seeing evidence of a fight, plasma burns on the walls,” he said. “Pretty wild, not what I’d expect from Force Recon Raiders.”

“Yeah, I got some evidence too.” Jenny paused, “look here.”

The Sergeant stepped carefully around the rubble towards his colleague, seeing what she was looking at. A body.

“One of ours?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “Pretty messed up though, but it doesn’t look like he was shot, more like ripped to shreds.”

Isuro winced at the expression on the face of the body, one of utter and complete terror. “This is really creeping me out,” he paused and frowned, looking around the temple. “Where are the rest?”

“Nine man team.” Jenny confirmed. “Eight to go.”

“We’re going to get confirmation on all of them?”

Jenny reached down, taking the dogtags from the body and dropping them in her pocket. “Every last one.”

They began to look around, but after a quick search found no further bodies, there was evidence that more than one Marine had tried to hold this place.

“They could be anywhere,” Isuro sighed. “We can’t check the whole moon.”

Jenny tapped her personal radio, “Lowball team, please respond.” She waited briefly, “Lowball this is Angel, is anyone there? Does any member of the team copy?”

“Nothing.” The other man grunted.

“Damn it.” Jenny looked over the still functioning equipment. “Absolutely nothing, look at the readings, this whole world is dead.”

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“Not just our team, look, no Numerian signals either.”

Isuro saw what she meant, his face dropping. “What the hell?”

“If the Numerians did this, why leave all this gear behind and working?” She asked. “And if they won why are they just as quiet?”

“Might be a trap,” Isuro warned.

“Possibly, the base was pretty close by, our people could observe it through binoculars.”

“We really want to go out there?”

“Hell no, but I guess we have to,” Jenny checked her rifle once more. “Okay, grab the data record crystals from the equipment and then join me out back, let’s see what the Numerians are doing.”

She blew out a breath of warm air, the exhalation misting before her eyes as she held the rifle in her hands just a little bit tighter and started stalking towards the far door. She could hear Isuro emptying the trays in each of the monitoring devices, retrieving the information that had been bought at such a high price. It had better be worth it.

Beyond the far door the rain still poured down from the heavens in a torrent, a hazy gray sheet that pelted down on the landscape. Behind the temple was a small courtyard that revealed a sheer dropoff beyond. The temple had apparently been constructed on this cliff face to look upon the rising sun on one side of the sky and the moonrise on the other. No doubt once upon a time it was a spectacular scene, but the ruined atmosphere of the planet obscured all past majesty and glory that this vista once may have held.

There were ragged rocks at the edge of the cliff, like rough jagged teeth they served both as a fence to keep people from the edge and as cover for those peering over. Some areas had masonry or broken stone showing where the natural rocks had been enhanced by artificial structures, but those walls were now long since broken and uncared for, the priests and monks who attended them just dust and forgotten memories.

The rain thumped on the brim of her boonie hat, annoyingly interfering with her pricked up ears as she moved quickly from rock to rock, looking and listening for any indication of life. There was nothing, no sign of the team, the Numerians or for that matter any animal life at all. That caused a brief moment of pause, no birds or insects or mammals, no small creatures sheltering from the rain amid the ruins, no calls or whoops. Nothing at all. Clearly the civilization that lived here was long gone, but the air was breathable and climate fresh, there should have been something that could live here. It was definitely unnerving, a completely silent, and dead world.

Towards the corner of the small courtyard she saw an out of place object, a tripod surmounted by a set of high powered binoculars, clearly equipment brought by the team. Carefully she made her way over and came to crouch beside them, staying low and hidden behind the jagged rocks dominating this slice of the planet. The binoculars themselves seemed perfectly functional, and a quick peek over the cliff showed several assorted buildings that were unmistakeably Numerian in the distance, a collection of green hued structures and arrays that sat by a riverside a few miles away at the edge of a valley. The river itself a muddy torrent. Again no movement was visible.

Jenny huffed in annoyance and began looking more closely around herself, ducking along the edge of the cliff and checking behind each of the increasingly large rocks. Some bore carvings that caught her eye, lurid scenes of quadruped creatures fighting beasts that looked eerily like demons from Terran culture. Some fears were perhaps universal she mused.

She very nearly tripped over the body. It was lying face down at the edge of a rock, the green uniform soaked almost black. The male body had no weapons or clear wounds, but the feature that really caught her eye was a tangle of viscous yellow fibers draped around the figure. It was like nothing she had seen before and had to be alien in origin, but for what purpose she had no idea.

She touched the strands with a gloved finger, pushing them aside with a mild look of revulsion. She doubted this was the work of the Numnerians, it made no sense, and was beginning to wonder just how alone they really were here.

No real survey work had been done here, nobody knew exactly if this world was deserted or not. It was possible something survived here, something leftover from the race that had lived here or some native predator. The world below had been rendered uninhabitable by a massive orbital barrage five thousand years earlier, the sort of atmosphere churning strike the Denevans had tried but ultimately failed to copy with their fleet of Mass Drivers. Whatever and whoever had hit these dwellings had done so with a power no living race had demonstrated, not even the Numerians, and that just added to Jenny’s increasing discomfort.

She rested a hand on the body’ shoulder and turned it over, the skin as pallid and gaunt as the last victim. She noted the dogtags around the neck and unfastened them, trying to figure out where to look for the other seven team members.

As she stretched out her hand to take the tags, suddenly the eyes of the apparently dead body snapped open, wide and full of fear and terror.

Jenny almost let the man's head slam back onto the hard stone in her surprise. She cursed herself for not checking for a pulse first and simply assuming the man was dead. His eyes darted about, not fixing on any one thing, blinking in the rain as he took quick shallow breaths.

“Hey, hey.” Jenny grabbed his attention. “Listen, can you hear me?”

The man fixed his wide terror filled eyes on her, giving no real response.

“Where’s the rest of your unit?” She asked slowly. “We’re here to get you out. Where are they?”

His mouth moved, his breath still ragged as he tried to formulate his words.

“You’re safe Marine, it’s over.” She reassured him. “Whatever happened, it’s done.”

Gradually the wide-eyed man shook his head before speaking very hoarsely. “No... it isn’t.”

A rock scraped behind Jenny, and in a flash she twisted her body and swung around her plasma rifle, water flying from the chrome barrel as it lined up on the noise.

“Whoa! Check your fire!” Isuro raised his hands, “it's just me, not the bad guys!”

“Damnit to hell Izzy! Do not ever sneak up on me like that, especially not on God-forsaken and haunted dead worlds!”

“Sorry.” He exhaled, clearly shocked himself at havng a weapon thrust his way. “Hey, you got a live one?”

She turned back nodding, “yeah, but he’s out of it though,” she sighed, “Post traumatic stress, I think.”

“One of your guys? A Raider?” Isuro asked. “I thought your guys could handle everything?”

“Guess we missed something in the training.” She said warily. “Marine, what happened?”

The man was still incommunicado.

“Has he got a name?” Isuro asked. “His dogtags?”

Jenny checked briefly. “Adams, Reinhardt, Corporal, with the fiftieth Recon Regiment,” she said, sounding confused. “Standard tags for a Raider, but there is no Fiftieth Regiment.”

“Walls...” The man muttered, “through the walls...”

Jenny helped him up, propping him in a sitting position behind a rock. “What was that Corporal?”

“Through the walls...” He exhaled quietly, his eyes still rolling about with little control.

“Didn’t the radio message say that?” Isuro remembered. “about something coming through the walls?”

“Yeah, but the walls are intact, no sign of a breach.” The female agent frowned, “Corporal, Corporal Adams?”

The man still lolled his head from side to side as if he was completely drunk.

“Reinhardt?” she tried, and at that name he stopped and stared at her. “Reinhardt, where are the others?”

He stuttered out a breath, “dead.”

She gritted her teeth. “Numerian?”

He shook his head.

“What then?”

“Death.”

“I know they’re dead, but what killed them?”

“Death.” He repeated in a whisper. “Death itself, come straight out of hell.” He breathed more harshly, screwing his eyes shut. “It killed them! Through the walls, through the walls! We couldn’t hit it, no time, just from nowhere...”

“Some sort of creature?” Jenny asked. “A predator?”

“No animal, no,no,no.” Reinhardt shook his head, shivering his whole body. “It knew what it was doing, it killed some, kept others, kept me.”

“Why?”

He chuckled, the sound turning into a sob. “To have for dinner later on.”

Isuro swallowed nervously, “Colonel, what the hell is going on here?”

“I dunno, but it doesn’t sound like the Numerians caught them. Reinhardt, where did it keep the rest? Are they alive?”

“Not anymore,” He sobbed out. “It only needed one, just me...”

Jenny held her nerve, the utter terror in the man was still palpable. “Where are the bodies?”

“I don’t know.”

“I need to find them, make sure before we leave.”

“You can’t do anything for them.”

“I want to try,” she answered in reply. “Or at least confirm it, take their tags home.”

“It came through the walls...” He said in quiet sadness. “We didn’t have time to fight... The walls.”

“It’s over.” Jenny put a hand on his shoulder. “We’re getting you out of here.”

Reinhardt looked up at her, his eyes drifting to look over her shoulder before widening in pure fear. He drew a breath and just screamed, a shrill sound, alien to Marines as well trained as these men would be. He fought to stand and Jenny had to push him back down, fighting to keep the writhing man still.

“Izzy, don’t just stand there give him a shot!”

The Sergeant snapped out of his trance, enthralled by the horror filled tale he quickly remembered his place and took out a hypospray filled with a sedative. He knelt down by the panicking man and applied the sedative, at once stopping his struggle and returning his breath to normal. He slowly began fading into unconsciousness, his eyes drooping.

“This is so not cool,” Isuro managed to stutter out. “We should go, now.”

“We’re still seven men down.” Jenny answered. “We can’t until...”

Reinhardt grabbed her arm, his fingers like claws as his eyes widened briefly, his mouth open. “...run...” He finally faded into a dreamless sleep, totally under the effects of the sedative.

“Now that's down right creepy,” the Sergeant said in a whisper.

Jenny stood and turned around, finding herself face to face with a demon, a snarling white lined face with three sets of pitch black eyes highlighted in the electric fire of a lightning bolt. She almost stumbled back in shock before her brain told her it was just a picture, another image carved into the rocks and painted. She let out a nervous breath, she was letting this place get to her. “I found what set him off.”

Isuro looked over, “Damn, thats one scary son-of-a-bitch. Lots of images like that around here, demons laying waste to cities, sucking souls from people, usually Armageddon sort of things.”

“Pretty much what appers to have happened by the looks of these ruins.” She said as she glanced around at the broken temple. “And no, I didn’t say I believe in demons.” She quickly added.

“No, but he does.” Isuro looked at the sleeping survivor.

“We better get him out of here,” she said. “Can you carry him to the shuttle?”

“Not a  problem boss.”

“I’ll give this place another once over, see if I can see anything from up here,” Jenny said as she screwed up her resolve. “Keep in touch.”

“Will do.”

“I mean it Izzy,” she stated firmly, “This place is already weirding us out, keep your radio on.”

The Sergeant hefted up the surviving member of the recon team and began carrying him back to the shuttle while Jenny finished her sweep of the courtyard, taking particular notice of the images. Each one seemed to tell an increasingly violent tale until they finally stopped, the final image a mix of demons, Winged Lizard looking creatures and big flying spiders. She guessed it was some abstract sort of image, some symbolic representation of the enemy that probably doomed the planet this moon orbited. She shivered involuntarily, and not because of the cold.

She finished her search, once again beside the binoculars, and having nowhere else to look settled beside them and peered through. They were set on the Numerian base, logical enough considering the team was here to observe them, but she unlocked the device from its tripod and began checking the rest of the valley looking for a small figure or two in green among the ruins or outcroppings. The rain made it hard to focus, but even so she managed to pinpoint at least one at the foot of the cliff. Based on the angle it looked like he had jumped.

Once again she had to fight back a case of the nerves, something she’d done more in the last half hour than she had for ten years previously. She kept up her search, coming up to the Numerian camp and pausing to investigate more thoroughly. Again their dwellings were empty, not a single worker or warrior was visible. A camp of that size would have had a few dozen people to operate it, with so many there at least one should have been visible. There was nothing.

She lowered the binoculars and looked out with her own two eyes, the weather closing in and growing colder as the moon began to shift behind its twin. A slight rumble of thunder sounded, joined by a few shocks of lightning in the valley, one that struck the pinnacle of a small hill at the valley edge. Her eyes saw the fork strike, and lingered as she saw something moving there, a small speck that betrayed something unusual, something that should not be there. It did not look Terran or Numerian, it was intangible, unreal, and she forced herself to raise the binoculars and take a closer look, to examine this supernatural manifestation.

She looked upon it for a full ten seconds, then dropped the binoculars, turned tail and ran for her life.

Jenny vaulted over the rocks and debris like an Olympic class hurdler, not even pausing to gauge distance or time, she just went on instinct at full pelt. She did not examine the insides of the temple, deliberately ignoring the carved demons watching her, faces flashing in reflected lightning while their open mouthed fangs dripped with rain like salivating animals.

Isuro had already loaded Reinhardt and was on his way out to join her again when he spotted her leave the temple, launch down the stairs with a thud, and then head straight for the shuttle.

“Are we done?” He asked with building relief. “Are we going?”

“Damned right we are!” She delivered her mother’s favorite expression. “Get the ramp up!”

She made it into the shuttle in two strides and went straight to the flight deck without even changing, splashing water on the instruments. Fortunately a little water was no detriment to them. Isuro closed the ramp, letting it fit snug with the body as the shuttle roared to life.

“Did you see something?” he called up, moving to join her.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I think so, but I’m damn well not staying to find out!”

Her comrade sat beside her, the shuttle lifting up with a hurried wobble. “Some sort of creature?”

“I think so.” She confirmed, rushing the takeoff sequence and punching the main engines with a violent blast of power. “Looked like it was doing to the Numerians what it did to our people.”

Isuro muttered a quiet Buddhist chant of protection over himself and the shuttle.

“I didn’t think you were religious?”

He tilted his head, “I am now.”

Jenny nodded a little, “yeah, I think I know the feeling.”

Clouds passed the cockpit windows and were replaced by black space and stars, cold yet familiar and incredibly welcome.

“The Fall is on scanners,” Isuro said as he spotted their ride home. “Plotting to intercept.”

“Course locked in.” Jenny said, then collapsed back in her chair and left it to the autopilot.

Isuro looked down solemnly, then turned to his fellow agent. “What happened on that moon?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t think I want to know,” Jenny answered honestly. “The Numerian base is gone, we don’t have anymore business here. I’m going to have this place locked down, quarantined.”

“You can do that?”

“I have friends in high places,” she answered. “No one is setting foot here again, ever. It’s a dead world, a murdered world. Something wants us to let it rest in peace.” The shuttle angled to meet the familiar shape of the small cargo ship.

“And I’m not about to argue with it.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2009, 09:09:55 PM »
Interstellar space.

There were no landmarks or places of interest out here, no colony worlds or jump gates, rumors of valuable resources or treasures to hunt. It was cold empty worthless space with no value or interest to anyone, and it was that disinterest from most that gave it value to some. It was a good place to go unnoticed, and the people gathered there had learned the hard way that unexpected guests were not always bringers of good tidings and wonder.

{{Summoned, I come.}} The tall warrior sent in a noble voice with a depth of understanding and patience uncommon in his kind. {{I stand in the circle and become Sanei. I stand between the dark and the light.}} He turned in the middle of the black room, illuminated in a bright white light, his strong features commanded by pale thoughtful eyes and a dark beard that was regarded widely as a sign of great wisdom among Numerians. {{Between the dark and the light.}}

Around the darkness was banished by a series of spotlights, a circle of twelve in total that revealed beneath them twelve individuals each dressed in volumous robes and a truly massive wolfhound lying beside each of them. One of them carried a staff, the symbol of leadership though it was born merely of formality and as a necessity. The Sanei had no truly elected leader, not until they finished mourning the passing of their last one, Hrumen.

The man with the staff removed his hood, revealing his salted dark gray crest of hair. His face was serious, but behind it was some joy at the meeting. {{Aerobhin d'Suchen, Laosin'Damen, the Sanei welcomes you.}}

At the center of the gathering Aerobhin d'Suchen, senior warrior of Numeria, bowed formally to the speaker. {{Ever a pleasure Saneia Hanlen d'Nambur.}}

d'Nambur smiled slightly. With Hrumen passed beyond the veil to the land without shadows d'Nambur had inherited his position based purely on seniority. He was the longest serving member of the Sanei still drawing breath and by coincidence a member of the Priesthood, though that mattered little in these circumstances. He was the de facto leader and responsible for calling the Sanei and leading meetings, but did not have the power Hrumen had wielded, and nor did he have the pure charisma and powers of persuasion that his illustrious predecessor enjoyed.

Hrumen’s death was still keenly felt, his loss a great sadness to most and a furious anger to others. Those dual emotions of pain and anger had pushed the Sanei and the Numerian race at large to a fury unseen in recent history, an anger that had even eclipsed much of the Great Nephilim War. For some that anger had cooled over time, for others it still burned bright.

{{You are summoned to inform us of the latest developments in the war.}} A light but stern female telepathic transmission said. {{d'Suchen of the Family Mir.}}

{{I protest.}} Another figure, a tall and proud male interjected. {{While d'Suchen was born to the family Mir, he has since chosen to become a member of my clan, clan Pelion.}}

The female bowed slightly, {{my mistake, Pelion Ollenen d'Suven.}}

The warrior was not so sure, and grunted as he sent a thought. {{Your mistake indeed Sarochia, you should watch those oversights of yours.}}

She was pleased the hood prevented her true expression from being seen. It was rare enough she felt some joy anymore, but d'Suchen was one of her friends and teacher, and it raised her spirits to see him again.

{{I am indeed of the clan Pelion now.}} d'Suchen confirmed turning to Sarochia, delivering a little wink to show he knew she was testing the pride the warriors felt at having such a successful leader. Sarochia found it amusing they celebrated d'Suchen as a great warrior yet conveniently ignored his origins as a priest and scholar of the Priesthood, something she enjoyed reminding them at any opportunity. It was more than a joke, it was a cruel twist on her part, reminding the warriors that it took a priest to lead them properly.

d'Suchen had been a wise teacher and a learned student of the Dream, specializing in the battle strategies and orders used in the Nephilim War. Records of that time were scarce and d'Suchen was widely regarded as the greatest military historian on Numeria. The Military Orders found him amusing, laughing at a man who spent his life seeking glories in wars long past and not indulging in wars of the present. To them he was a typical anachronistic priest.

d'Suchen had been a great friend of Hrumen, and his death had impacted deeply on his life. With Numeria at war Aerobhin took a sacred oath to fight for his people and for the memory of his fallen friend, swearing to take up the warriors path and smite his enemies, or else to die in glorious battle. It wasn’t until sometime after he had made that oath that he realized exactly what it had heralded. The Terrans were not the great enemy he expected of Hrumen’s slayers, they were backward, primitive and could barely harm the Numerian fleet. They were not the bringers of doom, they were little above target practice.

But his oath was made, and so he stood for duty with the Naff'Bei and was laughed at. He forwarded strategies based on the Dream’s teachings and was mocked. He warned the Terrans were more dangerous than the presiding Laosin'Damen gave them credit for and he was ridiculed.

The jokes stopped when the Tamarolei failed to return home, taking with it the best of the Military Orders, including all three supreme elders and the Laosin'Damen, effectively decapitating the Military Orders.

It fell to Aerobhin as the wisest and most skilled warrior to take over and he quickly demonstrated his grasp of combined arms tactics and flexibility. Numerian losses were already light, but fell further as he implemented new tactics and adopted a more cautious strategy. There were no more rash assaults by lone ships deep into Terran space, he imposed order and a unified chain of command on the Military Orders, and despite much grumbling his clever doctrines and with the full support of the Sanei ensured Aerobhin’s place as supreme Military Commander.

{{Honored Laosin'Damen,}} d'Nambur put them back on topic. {{We have heard reports of an attack at New Bayern.}}

{{This is true,}} Aerobhin confirmed. {{A raid which cost us three bases and sixteen thousand lives.}}

{{A steep loss,}} remarked Engrei Thorgrym d'Tamsen. He was a dedicated man and shared Hrumen’s vision of the future strengthening of ties between Terra and Numeria for the Nephilim war ahead. {{Perhaps we should slow our offensive to make sure we have secured our rear echelons?}}

{{Slow the offensive?}} Gloated d'Galon of the Aero'Bei. He was young and still obnoxious, now even more so as his clan stacked up kill after kill. He, like his clan didn’t care that the Terrans could barely defend themselves, blood was blood and the Aero'Bei would take as much as they could and glory in it. {{Every time the Priesthood speaks on the war they want us to slow down, to pause, to wait.}}

{{There is wisdom in not over extending ourselves.}} d'Nambur mentioned calmly.

{{And there is foolishness in standing still while our enemy prepares to counterattack!}}

{{The Terrans will not counterattack.}} d'Suven said simply and confidently. {{What good would it do?}}

{{How do you measure good?}} Sarochia added her voice quietly. {{How do you quantify it? Measure what it can achieve, balance what may be gained or lost? We may not see what good an attack would do, but it does not mean the Terrans will not attack us all the same.}}

{{And let themselves be slaughtered in even greater numbers?}}

{{Living or dying as an individual is one thing,}} Sarochia answered. {{Living or dying as a world, a nation, a species. That is something else. You judge the Terrans still as cowards and barbarians. Have you seen nothing this past year?}}

{{I have seen slaughter after slaughter,}} d'Galon preened. {{I have seen futility, impotent ships and weapons falling at our feet like so much cordwood. I have seen the Terrans fail over and over and over.}}

Sarochia shook her head. {{They have never failed. We defeat them in battle, we kill them, but even now they fight on. Their spirit remains alive and burning, unbowed and unbroken by the worst we have thrown at them. For as long as that spirit endures, they can never fail.}}

{{Sarochia is right.}} Aerobhin stepped into the debate. {{The Terrans are not broken, if anything they fight with greater skill and vigor now than they did at the start of the war. They should be exhausted, tired, without hope. Maybe they are, but where we would bow down and accept our defeat, resign to fate, the Terrans do not. They do not understand the concept of giving in to their destiny. They do not know when they are beaten, and so can never be beaten. Just killed.}}

{{Then kill them we will, whether they stand and fight or fall and beg,}} d'Galon dismissed. {{It is not a concern.}}

{{It is a concern when their resistance costs us more lives than necessary,}} Aerobhin countered.

{{They have never once stood up to a determined assault.}}

Aerobhin shook his head, drawing on his immense patience. {{They stand their ground all the time. They still lose, but it does not make their bravery any less. When faced with great odds in the past we too have fought bravely, sacrificing ourselves for the good of others. It is one of our core beliefs as Warriors, it defines us.}}

{{They bombed our bases from orbit without giving battle? What honor and bravery is in that?}}

{{They fight us according to their own rules, not ours.}}

{{They are without honor!}} d'Galon snapped mentally. {{They should meet us on equal terms!}}

{{There will never be equal terms, our forces are far superior to theirs.}} Aerobhin sent as he shook his head. {{Unless you are suggesting we go to war with our ECM suites turned off and our weapons half powered?}}

d'Galon did not reply.

{{I thought not,}} Aerobhin smiled. {{And nor should we, we have the advantage and should use it. We should not want an equal war, we should be glad this is unbalanced, but we should also not cry when the Terrans use their own advantages against us. It isn’t fair, but it is war.}}

{{These raids are of little consequence,}} d'Suven mentally boomed. Of all the warriors he probably had the greatest influence in the Sanei despite being only second in seniority. His Order, the Naff'Bei, held the greatest power among the Military Orders and that power had ensured the Naff'Bei played the most prominent role in the war. The fact that Aerobhin d'Suchen was a Naff'Bei was no accident, and d'Suven had supported him fully after his initial applications and victories.

{{The Terrans cannot take on our main force,}} he continued. {{These losses are mere annoyances, flesh wounds.}}

{{Enough flesh wounds can drain the blood of the largest beast.}} Sarochia stepped in. {{These raids are gradually draining our blood, our supplies, and if enough are successful it will affect our ability to wage this war, and the other to come.}}

{{I’m sure that would be a great disappointment to the Priesthood,}} d'Galon sniped with heavy sarcasm.

Sarochia accepted the remark without faltering. {{It is no secret I oppose seeing this war through to its bloody conclusion.}}

{{Ironic as it was your vote that started us on this path,}} d'Galon pointed out, as he always did whenever this discussion arose. {{Unless you have forgotten? Kill them all, no mercy, didn’t you say?}}

{{I said that, and I meant it,}} Sarochia confirmed sadly. {{But I have changed my mind.}}

{{Changed your mind!}} d'Galon laughed. {{Well lets just stop the war now then shall we? We will tell Hrumen’s soul it will go unavenged because Sarochia has changed her mind!}}

}}This war has grown beyond Hrumen,}} Sarochia sent simply. {{He would never have wanted a whole race extinguished in his name. It would have filled him with such fury and disgust he would have cast you out of the Sanei!}}

{{Hrumen was a warrior, he understood...}}

“He was my Mentor!” Sarochia snapped back outloud. “I knew his soul d'Galon, he was not a man to destroy those that could not harm him.”

“No he wasn’t, yet we know the Terrans could harm him don’t we? Unless Hrumen is hiding in the corner of this room perhaps?”

“Enough d'Galon,” d'Suven spoke harshly. “Show some respect.”

He bowed his head to the superior Warrior. {{My apologies Laosin'Damen d'Suven.}}

d'Suven acknowledged the remark, then turned back to the circle. {{We have made a commitment to destroy the Terrans not just for Hrumen, but as a warning to all races that we are not to be trifled with.}}

{{Like we did to the Coufwei? Did that stop another war?}} Sarochia demanded in her transmission. {{Has any war ever prevented the next one? Has there ever been a war to end all wars?}}

{{Only the dead have seen the end of war,}} Aerobhin recited, only Sarochia knowing he had learned that from a Terran text. {{I have sworn to see this war to whatever end the Sanei decides.}}

{{And the Sanei has decided the Terrans must be wiped out,}} d'Suven sent heavily, he himself no longer entirely supportive of the idea. {{We cannot go back on our word, Numerians never lie. The war will continue.}}

{{Our ships are ready for it Saneia.}} Aerobhin simply informed them.

{{So tell me Laosin'Damen, what is the status of our forces and how soon may we see the end of this war?}}

The briefing continued for some time, Aerobhin diligently reciting every detail he had about the fleet and army, right down to the exact amount of supplies they had available and an up to the minute casualty list. Most was only of interest to the other Warriors, and some to the Worker Caste as he touched on the repair needs of the fleet and the rate at which certain spare parts wore out. In general though Sarochia largely coasted, listening but alone in her own thoughts. Only the timetable really caught her attention, and that was summed up simply as undefinable. Earth was still at an unknown location, and until it was found the war would not end.

The meeting however did, and one by one the members of the Sanei withdrew to their own quarters to attend to their own matters. Sarochia’s course took her past Hrumen’s old room, the portal sealed and guarded on her personal orders. Within that room stood Hrumen’s greatest legacy, not a trinket or item but members of the Elohim Empire. The presence of the Elohim more than anything else told Sarochia that the time of great darkness was near and action had to be taken. Both they and Hrumen had told her to join forces with the Terrans, that they were vital in the coming Nephilim war. Against such accumulated knowledge she could not argue, but actually ending the war was proving nigh on impossible.

If she could reveal the Elohim to the Sanei, show them hard evidence that the Nephilim were almost upon them then she had no doubt the war would end, but she could not. The Elohim had to be kept secret, even from the Sanei as the more who knew of them the greater the danger they would be in. With Aera Thorgrym d'Bouraln gone only she knew of their existence and it had to stay that way. She alone had to end this war, and sometimes she wondered if the Elohim were testing her abilities by giving her such an impossible task.

It was certainly testing her faith.

She entered her simple quarters with a heavy heart, the oil candle still burning atop its crystal pyramid where she left it. Only candles lit her room these days, dim flickering lights that barely held back the encroaching darkness. It was an echo of her soul, of the weight of responsibility she felt pressing down on her. Fifteen billion lives were in her hands, perhaps many, many more and she had no idea what to do.

Sarochia had never been more alone, with her friend and mentor gone and with no one else truly sharing her desire to stop the war. She knew d'Nambur and d'Tamsen would support her, but could not act alone. Sarochia could trust them to follow her lead when it came to making the Warriors stand down, and could rely on the Workers to make no complaint one way or the other, but convincing the Warriors was proving to be all but impossible. Even hinting at an armistice ended in snarled words and veiled accusations of cowardice. With the desire for blood still raging among many ordinary Numerians it would require an extraordinary act to end the war, and she just did not have it.

“Sarochia?” a voice questioned from her doorway. “Do you have time for a friend?”

She turned and smiled. “There is always time for a friend Aerobhin d'Suchen. Please come in.”

“That is a sad smile Sarochia.” He closed the door behind him.

“They all are these days, my joy has no warmth anymore.” She admitted, her figure slight and frail beside the larger male. “How can there be joy in this war?”

“Many still feel it.” Aerobhin answered. “But you are right, there is no joy here. Even among my Warriors I sense weariness, they are no longer earning glory, they see this for what it is. Genocide.”

“So why do they still fight?”

“Because we tell them to, and they will never stop unless we give the order.”

She sighed in defeat. “And the Sanei will not give the order because they cannot be seen to have lied about destroying the Terrans. Numerians never lie.”

“Except to save another,” Aerobhin added. “Words are there to be interpreted.”

“I have tried old friend, I have tried to show them that we are destroying ourselves just as efficiently as we are destroying the Terrans. Rifts are opening between the castes, clans, and Orders, we are breaking apart and all the while we should be uniting for the coming darkness.”

“If by winning this war we doom our race, then it must be stopped. To save Numerian lives in the future!”

“I know.” Sarochia nodded. “But the Sanei will not agree. They say there is no danger, that when the war is over all will be resolved and return to normal. They do not understand.”

“You must keep trying Sarochia,” Aerobhin pleaded. “I have tried to give you time, I do all I can but there are real limits.”

She smiled, “I know it was your orders to leave civilian structures untouched, that killing the unarmed stains our honor.”

“A temporary measure only,” Aerobhin warned. “When the war ends they will be slaughtered, I cannot stop that save by decree of the Sanei.”

“It gives us something at least.” She said. “And if the warriors are growing weary we have a chance.”

“Some are, but many are not.” The Laosin'Damen answered. “Mainly the Aero'Bei, they more than any others push to continue the war. They revel in death, enjoy the slaughter. For them this war provides purpose, and when it ends they return to being unfulfilled. They will not easily let this go, especially not d'Galon.”

“The Death Merchant’s friend,” Sarochia spat out. “He has spent too long with him, he is more Denevan than Numerian.”

“The Military Orders are a battering ram Sarochia, once it is moving it is hard to stop. That is our great strength, and our most serious weakness.” Aerobhin considered. “If we can stop that ram for long enough we can end this war.”

“What about the Aero'Bei?”

“They will obey.” Aerobhin said firmly. “I will see to it. The other Warriors, many of them will be glad to go home, all will obey. Unfortunately stopping it will not be easy.”

“What could do it?”

“Direct word from the Sanei.” Aerobhin said. “That is the only sure way. No one would dare disobey an order from the Sanei, not even 'd'Galon.”

“But so long as the war goes on, as long as it keeps moving forward, there will never be an order.”

“The only other ways I can see is a Terran victory, a staggering one that halts our advance. Or the truth of Hrumen's death. There has been something wrong with that whole scene. I do not think it is something that the Terrans would do. I have studied their history, and even in the aftermath of their third world war they always treated diplomats with the utmost courtesy. The act of assassination after giving their word is just something I do not think they would do,” Aerobhin said solemnly. “Yet I fear that these are even more remote possibilities.”

Sarochia paused in thought, “You could engineer it? Allow a Terran victory?”

Aerobhin smiled slightly at her words. “I cannot Sarochia, I cannot lead my warriors into a battle that I have already lost, I cannot throw away even one life. They have put their faith in me to lead them true, I cannot deny them.”

She bowed her head. “I understand, but I had to ask.”

“You would not be Sarochia of the Family Mir if you had not, or be my friend.”

She turned her face to the candle, the flickering light reflected in her eyes. “Do you ever wish Hrumen was still here?”

“Every day.” Aerobhin sighed. “Not just to end this war, but because he was like a brother to me.”

“Do you ever wonder what he would say?”

“After he finished mourning for all the blood spilt in his name?” Aerobhin remarked. “He would be glad to see the woman you have become.”

Sarochia looked down. “I do not think he would... my actions at his death...”

“Were those of a woman who had lost her most beloved friend and teacher. He would understand. He would also understand that the ears that so readily heard your words that day are now closed to you today. I know you bear a great responsibility, but do not believe it is yours alone. There is far more at work here than we know Sarochia. Something is not right, so do not blame yourself.”

“But, maybe we can try and find the truth to Hrumen's death,” Aerobhin mused outloud, “I will have some of my people look into the possibility.”  

She turned back to her friend, Aerobhin looking oddly like Hrumen in both manner and appearance. Like her he served a greater purpose, he had followed his heart and it had led him down a dangerous and ruinous road.

“We have lost something here in this war. Something fundamental to our souls.”

“But it can be regained,” Aerobhin comforted her, “We have hope.”

“But do the Terrans?”

He smiled, “As long as you draw breath, yes they do.” He grinned wider. “And I realize the irony that you of all people are their best chance of survival.”

She sighed. “What have I done Aerobhin? What have I set in motion?”

“The future. And you are not done yet,” He said. “You must end this for both our races. Our scouts are closing in on another Terran world, from information from... from that thing the Aero'Bei keep, we know we are close, at most one colony world from Earth.”

“Time is running out.”

“Many of my subordinates believe the Terrans have a plan, a great weapon or mighty fleet they are marshalling. Our fleet is cautious, they think the Terrans are buying time to prepare some great and evil surprise for us. You and I know better Sarochia, but feeding these rumors helps keep my Warriors careful in battle and saves lives, and it gives us time. You must try and convince the Sanei to stop the war, while I try to find out just why it started.”

“But not much time. Not much at all.”

“We must try Sarochia, the Terrans are a noble race, they are not Saruchi, and I do not think they did the evil thing they are accused and judged of, they can be a great power for good,” Aerobhin said. “Did they not break the Denevans and save the Halaorians and Romans as a species? Did they not save hundreds of billions of lives from torturous death? Did they not pay to rebuild the Roman Republic and save billions more from starvation?”

Sarochia could only nod in agreement.

“They are heroes Sarochia, soldiers of light,” Aerobhin said. “We know that from the past, and we see it every time we battle them and watch as they throw themselves at our guns. If we wipe them out, if we extinguish such goodness and light from the universe, what will that make us?” He exhaled heavily, staring at the dim flame of Sarochia’s candle.

“I have heard the whispers of the Dream, its stories of the Nephilim war. It speaks of our people fighting against all odds, sacrificing their lives to buy mere seconds before the darkness comes. The Nephilim had power beyond us and cut through our fleets without mercy or pause. When I hear those words Sarochia, I see Terrans defending their homes, not the Ancient Numerians. The story is so similar, the courage and honor so close as to be the same. And then when I read of the Darkness, may the Dream help me, I see us Sarochia, I see Numerian ships slicing through brave defenders without mercy, intent on nothing but slaughter and genocide.” He took a step back, moving for the door as Sarochia stood in the dim orange light.

“We have to find a way to end this war Sarochia, every day it goes on we become more and more the servants of darkness,” Aerobhin spoke coldly. “If we destroy the Terrans, remove that noble light from the universe, we will never be redeemed and after death the Elohim will cast us to the Nephilim, for that is where we will belong.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2009, 08:34:29 PM »
14 June, 2554 AD
Titan Jump Gate
Sol Outer Defensive Zone


Deputy Director Ricardo Alvarez reviewed the report one final time, rubbing his chin and raising his eyebrows in a frequent sign of interest. Sometimes he would tap his fingers on the textured black rubber of the desk he sat behind, and once or twice a concerned hum emanated from his throat. “Well Colonel Nakamoura, it seems you have discovered an entirely new lifeform.”

Jenny Nakamoura was inclined to agree, seated opposite the CIA’s senior representative for offworld operations. Based on Titan, Alvarez had the responsibility for maintaining security on the inner colonies including Mars. Normally this meant dealing with smugglers and organised crime, but in recent months his duties were mainly focused on scouring the system for Numerian probes and scout ships. Along with making sure nobody leaked the true location of Sol.

“I took an hour or two on the way home to review the Xenological records,” as she shared her investigation. “We don’t have anything even remotely like this on record.”

“But you say there were images of it carved into the temple's walls?”

“Yes sir, the civilization out there knew about them, and they died out about twenty-five thousand years ago,” she confirmed. “On a hunch I checked our cultural records for races who were around back then and got some stuff from both the Median and Iskarendi mythology that sounds a lot like these guys. Plus, of course, they match our image of demons pretty well.”

“You’re saying this thing was a demon Colonel?”

Jenny resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “No sir, simply that it shares some characteristics, too many to be pure coincidence. I’d say it warranted further investigation, something like this could be a major threat.”

“An invisible ten foot tall winged lizard that can walk through walls,” Alvarez stated as he reviewed his notes.

“And that took apart one of our best units in seconds,” Jenny added. “Before wiping out three dozen Numerian warriors.”

“Only one of them, one creature like this is known to exist.”

“There will be others sir, I strongly recommend investigating the matter further. The ruins could give us clues about what they are. Based on what I saw I don’t think they were native to that world, I think they were introduced as weapons by whoever destroyed the natives.”

“Normally I’d agree Colonel, but with the war going on we can’t spare the resources.”

Jenny frowned in annoyance. “My instincts are telling me that this could really come back and bite us in the ass.”

“I appreciate that Colonel, but our researchers are too busy elsewhere, even the National Astrographic Society is overwhelmed looking for new worlds to fall back on, if we have to,” Alvarez sighed. “I’ll recommend a quarantine, effective immediately. The way things are I sincerely doubt anyone would want to go there anyway.”

She nodded, if she was honest with herself it was the best she could hope for. “Understood sir.”

“When the war is over, if we’re still here, we’ll look into it further. Until then just stay the hell away.”

He closed the folder, opened a desk drawer and shut it in with a resounding thump. The memory of the creature still gave Jenny the shivers, it was like something from a nightmare.

“So Colonel, what about the survivor? Reinhardt Adams was it?” Alvarez asked.

“Unfortunately, he’s a complete write off,” She answered. “Not to overstate the matter, but he’s completely lost his mind. Even with our need for troops there’s no way he’s going to see service again.”

“That bad huh?”

“Every bit sir,” She nodded grimly. “He had an excellent record, they all did.”

Alvarez shook his head. “They aren’t the first people to die in this war without the Numerians firing a shot. Accidents, mistakes, threats we never saw coming. We’ve had to abandon most of our safety protocols just to try and gain even a tiny advantage over the Numerians. We’re giving barely trained soldiers high explosives, we’re expecting them to ride in gunships or drive tanks, people die every day because they just don’t know any better. Reinhardt’s team is just one more accident of war, officially we’ll list them as killed in action taking out the Numerian base. Heroes, one and all.”

“Probably for the best sir.” Jenny found herself in agreement, some truths were better kept quiet.

“What about the monitoring equipment?” Alvarez moved on. “Did we pick up anything useful?”

“As a matter of fact we did, we picked up accurate reports on the strength of the Numerian fleet and coordinates of their scout missions.”

Alvarez chuckled, “Heaven help us if the Numerians ever figure out proper communication security.”

“They consider their messages secure, no one has ever broken their signals encryption before, so they speak openly across their channels, no codenames or decoy broadcasts.”

“They never met someone who put so much effort into recovering enemy intelligence,” Alvarez smiled. “They're too arrogant to believe a lesser race like us could ever surpass them in something, I bet it never even crossed their minds that we could break their codes.”

“Maybe sir, but we’re confident the data is accurate,” Jenny related. “The bad news is their scouts are getting closer to Rigel, by the process of elimination they’ll be there soon.”

“How soon?”

“A few weeks, a month at best,” she said grimly.

“Doesn’t give us long to act.”

“No sir.”

Alvarez nodded and leaned back in his chair. “Thank you Colonel Nakamoura, I’ll forward these onto the Director in person.”

“Yes sir,” Jenny stood and straightened her uniform. “Give my best to Chris.”

“Will do Jenny, we want to put you on a milk run for your next job, a simple and boring supply run. Until then I think you’ve earned a break. That will be all.”

Jenny left the office with a sigh, stepping out into the gray corridors of the Freedom 7 class starbase. She still held great concerns about the beast she had seen and knew enough about how the intel agencies worked that someone somewhere would see it as an opportunity, not the threat it truly was. Hopefully the CIA could handle it first, Chris Colton being a man who knew danger when he saw it and how best to deal with it, usually in a permanent manner. But with the war messing things up and with the Numerians almost on their doorstep even Chris would be too busy to deal with this, and Jenny couldn’t handle it alone. Not unless she could ‘borrow’ a tactical nuke and a Battlecruiser from someone.

Reluctantly she put the thoughts aside, like the rest of humanity she had more pressing matters to be concerned with. She set off through the station, one of two large bases dedicated to guarding the gateway to Earth. The area around Titan was massively fortified in peacetime, but since the war started it had been massively enhanced with mines, satellite weapons and patrols. While it was highly unlikely the Numerians would just fly through the gate, they would need to secure it to bring in supplies efficiently which turned Titan into a prime target.


***


In the meantime Titan acted as the main transit hub of the Sol system, the primary transfer point of fuel, cargo and warships returning or departing to the forward lines. The two stations were almost always surrounded by floating supply dumps of interlocking containers and canisters gradually growing or shrinking as the Terran Export & Trading Company freighters conducted their runs to and fro, heading out to Rigel or back to Mars and Earth. Travel to the colonies was difficult as the Navy had ordered the deactivation of the beacon network to hide Earth and prevent the Numerians simply bypassing the other worlds and launching a decapitation strike at Earth itself.

To travel through US space required exceptional timing, for a few hours each day the Navy activated one particular section of the beacon network in coordination with a naval fleet, a TETC or W-Y convoy, and kept the grid active only for as long as it took for those ships to complete the journey. It worked reasonably well, but if one ship was late or fell behind the Navy wouldn’t wait for it. The risk of leaving the beacons on for too long was just too great, and a disturbing number of ships had been marooned in hyperspace when the beacons were shut down. None of them had ever been seen again, and while most were freighters a handful of warships being pursued by the Numerians had also been sacrificed to maintain security.

The only bright spot was that they had undoubtedly consigned several Numerian ships to the Abyss in the process, and after the first few losses the Numerians no longer chased UST ships into hyperspace after a raid or battle for fear of losing their beacon locks and wasting a prime warship for nothing. The strategy had also slowed the Numerian advance to a crawl and forced them to use scouts and exploration ships to check out every single star in UST space to find those tiny few that had colonies settled among them.

It had bought the Terrans a lot of time, but that time was now draining away fast. The Titan defense net looked impressive, one of the most powerful in existence and even then with all its weaponry it was just a shadow of the massive firepower orbiting Earth. It was a comfort to see, a morale boost to witness the rows of satellites, missile batteries, stations and mines, but Jenny knew that in the end it wouldn’t count for much. She’d seen the Numerians at work, watched their fleet mass in a wall of heavy warships and drive through everything in their path like a juggernaut.

Once the Numerian fleet began moving there was nothing that could stop it. Jenny had seen three major fleet battles, the largest being the defense of 61 Cygni, which was situated on a vital convergence of jump routes. At that battle the Navy had gone all out, they established a broadside line of America Dreadnoughts directly in front of the Numerian advance while deploying gauss equipped ships and Des Moines to flank the main enemy advance. On top of that they had managed to deploy virtually every surviving ship of the Ticonderoga class of dedicated missile ships fully loaded with nuclear missiles. It was to be the grand showdown, a repeat of the tactics that had so devastated the Denevans twenty-five years before.

The Numerians had simply cut through the defenses like paper. Their pinpoint beam weapons cut missiles down in swathes, thousands of green beams sweeping back and forth across the sky like a laser light show wiping out the nukes before they got close. America salvoes had lit up the sky, the Dreadnoughts had seen their firepower increase over their Denevan era sisters but it hadn’t helped as their shots invariably went wide. Sometimes they hit, and each hit was zeroed in by several other ships. On those rare occasions even the mighty d'Orlys fell, smashed to pieces by the sheer brute force of the Terran warships. But those events were rare, and all too often it was the Numerians doing the killing.

The America class Dreadnoughts armor was strong enough to absorb a few hits before collapsing, but the Numerians rarely missed and could destroy anything in the Terran arsenal long before they could make an adequate reply. The flanking forces were intercepted by Numerian light ships, Viur class Frigates and Urien class Light Cruisers easily bringing down the Des Moines and Longbow class ships.

A few UST ships got in close enough to fire accurately, most of their gunfire was refracted or absorbed by the tremendously strong Numerian crystalline armor leaving the UST ships just one final option, a suicidal kamikaze run that eliminated both vessels.

61 Cygni had been the most costly battle for the Numerian fleet, the one place where the UST Navy had been able to assemble a real multi-layered defense. Unfortunately, their losses were nothing compared to the cost the UST Navy had paid, with two full fleets destroyed, hundreds of first rate ships and crews gone, and the exhaustion of the main nuclear stockpiles, it had made Earth incapable of fighting another set piece battle for months. To make matters worse the colony had still fallen on schedule, and several vital resource stations had been destroyed before they could be evacuated.

That battle had convinced most on the JCS that the war was lost, or at least that the tactics and strategies that worked so well previously were now all but useless. In theory they were still sound, against an equal opponent they would have been devastating and especially against someone who attacked in the way the Numerians did. The Numerian fleet was inflexible, their tactics were childish, their strategies blatantly obvious even to first year cadets and their formations would have made any missile ship commander or Dreadnought Captain weep for joy, but none of it mattered and all because of the technological gap. Technology allowed the Numerians to be insular and uncreative, it let them make mistake after mistake and not only survive but also win. In a fair fight with equal technology the UST would have been orbiting Numeria within six months, but there was nothing fair about this war.

Earth was losing, even the government had been forced to admit that. There were continual messages of hope, of victorious raids and new technologies, but none of it had stopped the Numerian advance, none of it had opened negotiations, none of it had given Earth a realistic chance of still being here in a years time. There was a sense that everyone was dead already, so you might as well make that death count and take a holier-than-thou bastard down with you, preferably several. Earth based humanity might not win, but it could make any Numerian victory taste like ashes, a final last act of defiance.

The resignation to fate was everywhere, tempered by some small hope that the next battle might be different, that finally something might go right. There was certainly a buzz about Rigel, word that the military was planning something big to finally hold up the Numerian offensive and do to them what they had been doing to Terrans for so long. Hope was important, it kept people fighting, but so did the feeling of being pushed back and given no choice but to fight or die. The Terran Military was more and more like a cornered animal, and of course fought just as viciously as one.

Titan Starport was full of soldiers, almost all of them in army green with just a handful of blue or gray naval uniforms showing crews from docked ships or off duty station personnel. Many of these soldiers seemed quiet cheerful, a sure sign that they were fresh recruits with only the tiniest inkling of what was ahead of them. Some units were more quiet, grim-faced and hard-eyed as they stood in line waiting to embark on their transports. Jenny knew veterans when she saw them, and the fact there were so few amidst the crowds was a source of concern.

Every ship was going to Rigel, both troopships and TETC freighters. The JCS was massively reinforcing the planet, sending in its mobile reserves to strengthen the three separate armies already on planet. Of those troops the Roman First Ala Consular Army was the best, built up of veteran units, the best the Romans had. Among the Terran 2nd Army was the 23rd Colonial Marines, a unit Jenny knew well from those tough weeks on Stygia. While the ground forces were being built up, the space forces were not. Rigel had a strong defense fleet, but the bulk of the Navy was still deployed at Sol and despite requests from Rigel command, would not be sending any naval forces to face any invasion. The Navy knew, correctly, that Rigel space could not be held and was planning a different type of campaign.

The plan was still shrouded in secrecy, and even with her security clearance Jenny had no idea what was happening. If Earth was seeking a major ground battle it would first have to find a way to clear orbital space of enemy ships. As a rule Army and Marine ground components had proven excellent counters to the Numerians, matching Numerian technology and fanaticism with Terran ingenuity and courage. On the ground battles were much closer and Earth had secured several victories until the Numerian fleet levelled the playing field, quite literally. While success on the ground was a great morale booster those victories had caused only a minor impact on the course of the war and were fleeting in their success.
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2009, 08:08:17 PM »
Most of the crowds in the station wore some sort of uniform, Jenny included, though some still wore civilian clothes. Those people tended to be either too old or too young for service and were instead employed in supporting the fighting branches of the military. However, among them there were still a selection of fit young people of military age who were not in uniform and invariably those people were members of either the Terran Exchange and & Trading Company, or it's chief rival, Wegman-Yamashiro.

Like all Terran groups the Mega-Corporations were subject to military conscription, indeed their employees were among the first to be drafted containing as they did many experienced pilots and starship crews. The TETC and W-Y had lost the vast majority of their employees to the Navy with only skeleton staffs remaining. Those people required to keep the ships running and the life blood of trade and commerce flowing. They had hired a lot of aliens to make up the shortfall, something the Navy disapproved of, but recognized as necessary. Without the mega-corps' and their vast fleets of freighters and tankers the economy would grind to a halt and the war would be over, not to mention the fact that most military supplies went through a mega-corps' hands at one stage or another.

The remaining W-Yers and TEACers had to put up with a lot of abuse from serving military personnel who tended to look down on them and mock them for not serving on the frontlines. If given the choice most of their employees would gladly swap places with their navy counterparts, for while a Heavy Cruiser might not last long against a Numerian ship they offered a far better chance than the mega-corps' gunboats and auxiliaries. As armed vessels the Numerians deemed the company's escorts as combat vessels and therefore not subject to exemption under the rules of war, a decision that spelled certain death for any mega-corps' assets caught up in a firefight. Any Freighters caught were usually impounded and their crews deposited on a nearby Terran colony for orderly disposal later, if they were lucky. Although the Aero'Bei had a reputation for simply blowing any Terran ship out of the stars, even those with alien crews.

The Star Fall crew had suffered its fair share of dirty looks, snide comments and outright accusations of cowardice, accusations Hans had responded to personally and usually with violence. Between them the three core members of the Star Fall crew had seen more action and danger than any serving ship in the Navy, but by their nature could never reveal that fact. As a qualified officer Jenny had the right to wear a uniform and sometimes did, but Toby and Hans did not. As employees of the CIA, Director Colton had offered them military rank equivalent to Lieutenants but both men had refused. They were proud of their appearance and would not change it even knowing the constant harassment they courted. Jenny herself was proud of that decision, and usually wore her own practical civilian clothes on assignment slipping into uniform only for official duties or for combat.


***


After a brief walk she found her crew gathered around a table in one of the numerous bars and clubs in the station, seated between bustling throngs of green-clad infantry grabbing a last off duty drink before shipping out. Besides Toby and Hans in their customary scruffy attire was Isuro, all of them clutching a hand of cards each with a small pile of coins in the middle of their table. Despite his recent assignment to Jenny’s side Isuro had slotted in perfectly with the group, displaying a sense of humor very similar to that of Hans. He was still a military man, but his Special Forces training had made him far more relaxed than the fresh troops around him and installed a buccaneering, almost piratical attitude that went down real well with the crew.

There was a fourth figure at the table, also clutching a hand of cards and also looking scruffy. He was somewhat smaller and leaner than the other men with a mess of dark hair and a clean face, two dark eyes betraying no hint of the rather pathetic selection of cards fate had dealt him. Unlike the rest of the crew he had not received much abuse from the military personnel being too young to be drafted, at least he was at this stage of the war.

“I’m going to raise you ten.” Eric Chad Dugan said simply, pushing a coin to the middle of the table.

“I’ll see that,” Isuro said calmly. “I'm in.”

Hans said nothing, merely matching the bet.

“I think you’re bluffing,” Toby smiled, the Star Fall Co-pilot and communications officer happily putting up some money. “So I’ll raise a further...” he counted out the money, “fifty.”

“Not me,” Isuro put down his cards in defeat.

Hans shook his head, “me neither, not this time.”

Eric cracked a predatory smile, “I’ll see your fifty, and raise another fifty.”

“Now I know you’re bluffing.”

“That a fact?” The much younger player asked, “then how about I raise you another hundred instead?”

Isuro stifled a laugh as he saw Toby go from confident to wavering, the small pile of cash by his side dwindling. Jenny stood a little ways away, unnoticed by the group watching with interest how the events unfolded.

“Come on Toby, step it up,” Eric said with amusement. “You’ve already lost, now you just gotta decide how badly.”

Eric had an uncommon amount of confidence for a fourteen year old, but considering his parentage that was perhaps no great surprise. He kept an even gaze, staring straight at Toby with the predatory smile daring the older man to put up the money and prove him wrong.

“Fold!” Toby slapped the cards down. “Damn you and your Dugan genes, I just know you’re way too lucky to lose.”

With a shrug Eric showed his cards, a very poor assortment of low colors.

“No hard feelings,” he said as he grinned and scooped up the cash. “All goes in the college fund.”

“Good thing to save up for,” Isuro nodded. “Which one are you planning on going to?”

“Going to?” Eric grinned, “At this rate I’ll be buying one!”

“Yeah very funny,” Toby huffed. “Ha ha, outsmarted by a fourteen year old!”

Hans cocked his head. “Now you mention it, that is pretty damn hilarious.”

“Don’t you start,” the co-pilot grumbled. “I tell you it’s the Dugan curse! No one else can take such bad luck and come out so damn successful!”

“Life’s what you make of it,” Eric was still grinning. “Besides, poker is easy. Uncle Chad taught me everything I know.”

“Uncle Chad has a lot to answer for,” Hans said in good humor.

“Typical of the family,” Toby continued complaining. “Just look at his dad, he gets into the middle of a war against the most powerful enemy ever, with a couple of popguns and no armor, and he winds up a multi-millionaire spy hero with a hot secret agent ninja chick girlfriend! It isn’t fair!”

“No it isn’t,” Eric agreed happily. “But damn it’s fun!”

Jenny couldn’t help but smile, she didn’t often like to dwell on the past. It had too many painful memories to it, but sometimes she was reminded that before her loss there were some great days, the best of her life. They had been incredibly dangerous and blood soaked, but for a young CIA agent on her first mission they had been days of high adventure.

She hated to admit it, especially as now she had a son, but she really missed those days sometimes, and of course always missed her true love.

“I can’t believe you let him clean you out again,” She announced her presence wryly, sauntering up to the table and sitting down beside them. “You know my boy is good at this.”

“It’s all Chad's fault,” Hans pointed out. “When did he get so good at poker?”

“He picked it up from Secretary Carter,” Jenny answered. “Now that is a man you never try and bluff, he’ll read you like a Teep.”

The Terran Government Poker club was an institution, a small circle of senior diplomats, agents, politicians and officers who met regularly to play each other at cards. It was an exclusive club and though a lot of people played with them only a handful were considered full members. Less well known was the true nature of the group, something Jenny had been inducted into and had sworn never to reveal, not even to her own child. There were a number of dark groups in the United States, groups that operated beyond the control of the Government or the military. Thanks to the small circle of utterly loyal people who made up the core of this little club, those shadowy groups did not operate unopposed.

“So are we done here?” Eric asked. “Time to go?”

“Pretty eager aren’t you?” Jenny smiled sideways.

“Just a chance to make time on the Fall,” He answered honestly. “I love that little ship.”

Toby pointed at the boy, “Told you, Dugan curse! Who else looks forward to hopping on a ship instead of getting planetside?”

There was a beep which drew the attention of most of the room to the widescreen displays in the bar, usually reserved for sporting events or feature films. They blinked on showing a view of space, the easily recognizable struts of the jump gate dominating the foreground. The whole room fell silent in anticipation as the system energized, flickering lights heralding the build up of power that would break through normal space and open the way for an incoming ship.

Half the crowd was expecting a Numerian ship to show up, guns blazing as it foretold the extermination of mankind, but no such portent arrived. Instead the vortex opened brightly and briefly, just long enough to deposit two Heavy Cruisers that coasted towards the transfer point.

“Ours,” Toby stated the obvious.

“Always good to see them come home though,” Isuro related honestly.

“Bunker Hill and Trenton,” Jenny caught the names. “Captains John Carter and Kevin Collinwood.”

“We’re going to be in good company,” Hans remarked. “Only guys more reckless than we are.”

“I heard they nuked a Numerian base.” Eric said with glee. “Gave those holier-than-thou bastards a shock!”

“All right young man, a little less of that language,” Jenny chided. “And yeah, I bet they did.” She watched as the ships decelerated, moving to take station outside and begin transferring supplies. “Everyone knows the most dangerous thing in the galaxy is John Carter sitting on a pile of nukes.”

“Or a certain Jenny Nakamoura with a Smith and Wesson and a bad attitude,” Hans added with a grin.

“At least a nuke is quick,” Toby agreed.

“So’s a bullet to the skull!” Jenny defended. “Well, usually.”

“Yeah, it’s the beating you get before then that sucks,” Toby laughed. “But they always deserve it.”

“I never dealt with anyone who didn’t have it coming,” Jenny nodded firmly. “Just a little professional pride there.”

“So how many people have you killed Mom?” Eric asked to awkward silence.

For a few moments the table was quiet, until Isuro sighed and broke the atmosphere. “I remember when I asked my mother the very same question,” he smiled. “Six she said, and after growing up with her cooking I can believe it.”

“My mum killed thirty four,” Hans nodded. “She was a devil with an axe, real Valkyrie. I mean literally, she was a Valkyrie.”

“Funny guys, very funny,” Eric winced. “We’re not like other families are we?”

“Not many have a parent with a body count in the hundreds,” Toby answered with a nod, getting a sharp look from Jenny. “Not that this one does either... shutting up now.”

Jenny turned her attention back to her son, “We are different, but not in any of the ways that matter. We’re a family, all of us, and that’s all that counts.”

“And if anyone tries to break us up, you can break their necks, right mom?” Eric teased.

Jenny winked at him, “With one hand tied behind my back.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2009, 11:26:58 PM »
Rigel
Terran Space

The planet was not much to look at, a shrouded rock of browns and greens dominated by scrubland and rocky savannah. It had none of the qualities of Earth, its seas were shallow and few, its temperate areas were clustered beneath the dusty skies in the north and south close to the poles. The majority of the world was harsh, unlovely and only just able to support Terran life without relying on domed colonies.

But none of that really mattered. Rigel Kentaurus was mankind’s first extra solar colony, it commanded the only Apollonian Gateway to Sol and as an extra bonus held a couple of worlds in the inner reaches of the system that were rich in Tri-Admantanium, a tremendous stroke of luck for humanity as it took its first steps into the wider galaxy.

There were colonies far more lovely, demi-paradises with lush climates, temperate vegetation and beaches that stretched for an eternity. There were richer colonies, systems with greater reserves of Tri-admantanium or other valuable minerals. There were more populous colonies where a more pleasant environment allowed people to spread out and settle more easily, but none of these colonies were Rigel, and regrettably many were no longer in Terran hands.

In addition to it’s location Rigel was also one of the most industrialized locations in the United States of Terra. It’s surface dotted with factories, and orbit dominated by the famous Rigel star yards. With easy access to raw materials, manufacturing facilities and Tri-admantanium, Rigel had become a natural hub of shipbuilding, rapidly growing during the Denevan war into Earth-based humanities largest and most extensive manufacturing facility of any kind. The vast spiderweb of star yards, space docks and refuelling booms had only grown during the current war and in its current incarnation the Rigel star yards were a sprawling mass of barely organized metal.

Besides the star yards, a quartet of well-armed Freedom 7 stations were dotted around the planet along with an extensive defense net reflecting the value of the world. Alongside these modern defenses were several older battlestations, the earliest one dating back to the first colonization efforts many decades ago. They were not worth much in a fight, but had been upgraded to hold and maintain the latest starfighters, and that was something.

Large convoys passed daily through the system, waiting for the timed activation of the Apollonian Gate segment between Rigel and Earth to deliver their cargo or passengers. Ships arrived laden with fresh troops or weapons and left filled with refugees heading for the imagined safety of Earth or Mars. Everyone knew Rigel was next, that the Numerians would be here soon and so those who could get out were going.

It was a bitter parting for most, abandoning their home and possessions in the realization they would likely not see either ever again. Within a few weeks their world would be a battleground, one more colony to defend, one more Numerian victory to stomach. The only difference here was that the UST was prepared to fight tooth and nail for Rigel, which probably meant even more widespread destruction than usual.

No one thought they would hold the world against a determined attack, and that was the attitude the system commander had to change.

That responsibility fell largely on the shoulders of General of the Army Bai Rui Tian, the newly appointed military governor of the Rigel system and the woman all of Earth-based humanity would be looking towards when the time to fight came. Normally Rigel had a civilian government largely responsible for running its own affairs, though naturally it had representitives in both the Terran Senate and House of Representatives. That right of self-governance had been suspended during the war when martial law had been declared as a reflection of the dangerous situation that was brewing. General Tian had full authority and could essentially rule by decree, if she wanted to she could exercise her draconian powers and become a full blown military dictator and remain within UST law. Fortunately Tian was not such a woman.

While she had not seen frontline action in the Denevan war Tian had been instrumental in the planning and organizing of the offensive. Her actions had focused on logistics, convoy organization, and the quick and efficient redeployment of warships from one sector to another, anticipating the needs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combat commanders. While her role didn’t get her into the papers it was no less valuable than any other contribution, and her skills as an organizer and administrator were well recognized by the military.

Those same skills now came into play on Rigel III. Tian had two main areas of responsibility, the first being to deploy her ground forces in such a way that the Numerians had no idea exactly how many soldiers they were facing at any given time in the campaign. That had been a serious test of her long term vision, forcing her to anticipate where and when the Numerians would land, what their objectives would be, and how she could best upset them. Tian had ordered the excavation of vast underground caverns and a network of subterranean tunnels that allowed the swift and safe movement of large forces without exposing them to overhead attack. She had placed the tunnels and deployment areas near expected targets, mainly industrial centers and open plains suitable for Numerian bases, and then sat back and crossed her fingers the Numerians followed their usual deployment plans.

Her second and no less vital area of responsibility was the evacuation of Rigelian industry out of the path of the Numerians and relocate it back to Sol. If preparing the defense was a nightmare of forward planning the relocation of something as vastly complex as the Rigel star yards was a Logistical hell. There were hundreds of miles of interlocked structure, none of which was designed to be mobile and certainly never expected to fit through a jump gate. In peacetime neither of Tian's jobs would have been considered realistic, but with the Numerians on the way it hadn’t even been discussed. She had her orders, and remarkably she had actually done a thorough job of fulfilling them.


***


“Just can’t be done,” The short man fumed. “Not happening.”

“Mr Spinelli,” General Tian replied patiently, resting behind her desk in an ocean of calm. “I assure you it can be done, and it will be done.”

Leo Spinelli, one of Wegman-Yamashiro's high rollers and member of the Executive Board just shook his head. “I’m telling you General, the tolerances won’t work.”

Tian’s office was located on one of the four Freedom 7's, somewhat larger than most to reflect her importance and boasted a window that looked out into space, the rotation of the space station giving her a sweeping view of both the planet and star yards in sequence.

“We’ve already dismantled and moved huge sections of the star yards,” the General continued patiently. “We sliced them up, your haulers pulled them through the gate, and then we bolted them back together at Mars or Titan.”

“Yeah, and that was fine,” Spinelli said. “They were big and bulky but didn’t have a whole lot of mass, my tugs could handle it.”

“So I don’t see the problem now.”

“Problem is you’re asking me to tow sections of the star yards with ships still in them.” The W-Yer countered. “And that’s a whole new deal.”

Tian shrugged, “I don’t see any problem. I worked with Wegman-Yamashiro in the last war, I know what your haulers are capable of.”

“Don’t get me wrong, they got plenty of power, but this...”

“If I recall correctly your ships had no problem towing pieces of starbases across the Roman Republic.” The General referred to the prefab Earth One stations that had been a vital contribution to maintaining the UST offensive against the Denevans.

“Those were different, again bulky but light. You’re talking about half-built warships. Those things are heavy, especially if you’re pulling a whole crapload of space dock with it.”

“So use some extra ships,” Tian suggested. “I know most W-Y freighters have tow cables, use them to supplement the haulers and tugs.”

“I don’t have any to spare, they’re all loaded up with refugees.”

“They can’t do both?”

Spinelli scowled. “Those ships are already overloaded, having them pull a cargo too...”

“Since you claim it cannot be done Mr. Spinelli, maybe your competitors in the TETC can do it,” Tian suggested.

“Now hold on a second, I never said it could not be done, it’s just going to kill the engines. Towing something like that in hyperspace is like driving a big rig truck in a hurricane. You catch a bad current or edge of a storm, you lose everything. In this case that includes ten thousand civilians.”

Tian nodded and smiled to herself as she turned to the window, distant ships moving slowly like fine dots of light in the far distance. Maintenace ships and bots divided up the extended pieces of the star yards with tiny showers of sparks that faded quickly in the vacuum.

“Then do it Mr Spinelli,” the General said. “We can’t afford to lose two dozen Dreadnoughts before they are ready. So either W-Y does it, or we will find someone who can, namely the Terran Exchange & Trading Company.”

“It’s a big risk for my people.”

The General gave him a cold stare. “Maybe you’d like to have us conscript your freighters and hand them over to the TETC and then send your people to join the soldiers on the ground?”

Spinelli averted his gaze.

“We all have risks to take,” Tian informed him. “Those ships capable of moving under their own power will do, the others will require your assistance.”

“Can you give me any extra resources?”

“The only thing I can give you is a deadline,” Tian answered. “Two weeks.”

Spinelli’s eyes widened as he got ready to protest, but then thought better of it. “I’ll do what I can.”

“Wegman-Yamashiro is the only group that can handle this job. You have my full confidence.”

Spinelli nodded before inhaling, “there is one thing, the Colossus.”

Tian nodded slowly. “Go on.”

“I’ve got nothing that can shift that beast and its yard through hyperspace, nothing. It’d take my four biggest tugs and I can’t spare them. I just can’t.”

The Colossus was berthed in the center of the Rigelian yards, a pure Mega-Capital ship and the largest ship in the UTSN. It was nearly two miles long and massed as much as three America class Dreadnoughts due to its extraordinary armor. It’s flanks bristled with twice the firepower of an America, it simply could not fit more guns onto its hull without compromising its massive armor belts. At its stern were a series of titanic engines fed by a cluster of reactors generating four times the power of its Dreadnought siblings, able to provide it with a respectable speed for something so hideously large.

If the Navy pursued a policy of bigger equalling better, the Colossus was the ultimate expression of that philosophy. She was expected to live long enough and keep enough guns operational to close with the Numerians, get in among them and just fire in every direction at point blank range. It was exactly the same principle that had led to the America but on a grander scale, and in theory it could work. On the handful of occasions an America had actually managed to broadside a d'Orly they had demonstrated enough raw firepower to gut the enemy vessel in a very short period of time, about the same time it took for the d'Orly to kill the America, resulting in mutual annihilation. With its extra armor and mass the Colossus should be able to survive such a confrontation, finally giving Earth the tools to take the war to the Numerian fleet.

All they needed were about five hundred of those monster ships, all they had was one partially built prototype, which hadn’t even been tested yet.

“We’re focusing on the Colossus' engines.” Tian answered. “You worry about the rest of the ships, we’ll worry about getting her out under her own power.”

The Wegman-Yamashiro Official allowed himself a small amount of relief, he still had a mountain to move but at least the worst offender was no longer his concern. “I better start assigning ships.”

“As soon as possible please,” Tian agreed.

The W-Yer sighed heavily, “Never thought I’d see us leave Rigel.”

“We aren’t leaving, we’ll stay until the last Terran draws his or her last breath.” Tian said flatly. “Unfortunately that might be what happens, and if we can save something for the future we should at least try.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Those ships out there might save Earth when they are finished,” Tian said somberly. “They’re no good to us here, but what happens at Rigel could decide the fate of Earth. We all need to play our part, whatever that turns out to be.”

“Then I better go,” Spinelli stood. “I’ll keep you up to date.”

“Couldn’t do it without you,” Tian said honestly. “If you need an escort let me know.”

“I think we can handle it, until later General.”

Spinelli left in a hurry, and Tian shifted her arm over the desk, grabbed a pen and ticked off another item on her todo list. The final item on that list read ‘Survive the war’ and while certainly her most cherished wish she had severe doubts about being around in a few months to tick it off the todo list. She had a job to do and she’d do it, but survival didn’t look like it was going to be in the cards.

She was interrupted by a chime from the small silver link on the back of her hand, the almost forgettable communication device that was ever present on Terran military personnel.

“Tian here,” she answered calmly, drawing on her spirit to avoid sounding dejected. She had to provide a positive example for her people at all times no matter her own thoughts and feelings.

“Ma'am, you wanted to be informed when the Dreadnought Justinian arrived,” A voice responded.

“Very good, thank you control.”

She rose from her chair and with a quick parting glance at Rigel made her way out and to the main transport tube. On the way she exchanged greetings and pleasantries with the station staff and officers passing through, grinning, passing on one or two bad jokes and generally livening up the atmosphere. Tian projected an air of utter certainty and confidence, a woman who was willing to not only stand up to the incoming storm but to laugh in its face and mock its ferocity.

She wasn’t a field commander and probably never would be, but despite her rather crabby attitude at times Tian was rapidly becoming one of the most widely liked and respected women in the Terran military.
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2009, 05:35:35 PM »
***


Tian arrived at the edge of the docking bay, waiting in what would have been customs when the station still handled civilian traffic. A group of refugees had recently passed through leaving empty food wrappers and paper cups lying on the floor and seats along with a few forgotten items of clothing and a well worn cuddly toy. Tian reflected on whether some small child somewhere would be bemoaning the loss of its favorite toy, or whether its loss would even be noticed amidst the flight. Every tiny trinket, discarded item or footprint on the floor had a story behind it, a life that had touched it. Everything was an echo of some person that had lived and breathed in this space before moving on to an uncertain future. One day those echoes of worlds touched and history altered may be all that remained of the human species. Legends in the Median mythology spoke of a people who had turned back the demons, only to grow prideful and fall as so many others had before.

Not much of an epitaph for such a people.

The airlock to customs slid open and allowed a single man through, middle-aged with graying hair but a straight posture. He wore Navy blue and on his shoulders bore the five gilt stars of a full Admiral.

“Alexei, welcome aboard.”

“Bai,” Admiral Denisov firmly shook her hand. “Been too long.”

“Glad you made it in all right, with the beacons and the Numerians it’s getting harder each time.”

Denisov could only agree. “It was necessary, what we do here shapes the war and I have to be here in person to see it.”

Alexei Denisov had been a hero of the Denevan war, the Ukrainian career officer holding the position of Chief of Naval Operations. In that capacity he had been the senior most Sailor in the Navy and largely responsible for setting policy and formulating the strategies that carried Terra from Altair to Deneb. Overall his role had been praised and he had been well regarded in all circles, though fame did not especially appeal to him. Denisov had stepped down as CNO after a few years following the unwritten rule that no one person should serve in that role for too long and had accepted a position back in the fleet out among the stars, something he relished. Denisov had no problem living behind a desk and working with politicians, but after so long on Earth it was something special to be back in space.

The dream had faltered when the war with the Numerians began and Denisov was recalled to Earth. For most of the war he had been trying to formulate strategies for beating the Numerians, ways to slow them down and hinder them without throwing away ships and lives. With Admiral Cunningham he had created the concept of Guerrilla war on a stellar scale, as best exemplified by Collinwood's Cutthroats. But he had focused most of their efforts on forging a grand plan to finally halt the Numerians. Cunningham's death had been a tragic shock to the Admiral, but Denisov finished the work he started and had set up the Naval final battle plan, the last chance they had of beating the Numerians.

“So Bai, how are things shaping up?” Denisov began walking, standing taller than Tian by a good foot and looking a lot younger, despite the difference in age being rather small.

“We’re on schedule,” Tian confirmed. “It’s going to be close with the star yards, the bad news is we’re likely to lose about twenty percent of our capacity.”

“Unfortunate, but unavoidable.”

“We’ve saved the big yards first and any ships under construction have priority. With luck our losses to manufacturing won’t be too damaging.”

The two officers proceeded to one of the small conference rooms before continuing. While it was hugely unlikely the Numerians had spies here, largely because they felt they didn’t need such subtlety in such a simple act of military slaughter, training and instinct kept the two officers mindful of security. They closed the door before Tian went into details about the plan itself.

“Our forces are also building up on schedule,” Tian continued. “We’re expecting another troop convoy from Titan tomorrow which will bring us up to full strength.”

“Do we have sufficient underground cover?” Denisov asked.

“Enough for the plan, yes sir.” Tian confirmed. “We can hide a million troops and enough supplies for four months of sustained combat.”

Denisov grinned widely, “Hell of an achievement Bai, carving out all that rock.”

“We used natural space wherever we could, especially under the mountains,” Tian said. “They should hold up to orbital strikes and are easily defended in case the Numerians try to break through.”

“We’ll give them a tunnel war like they’ve never seen,” Denisov grunted. “They thought New Idaho was bad? Wait until they try to fight tanks underground.”

“We kept the excavators down there so we can make new tunnels as needed.” The shorter General added. “Keep the Numerians guessing where we’ll show up next.”

“Excellent. So which units did you get?”

“Roman First Ala and the Terran Second armies will be our main force, they’re already underground and receiving their final supplies. the Terran Third army will be our first defense and the lure to draw in the Numerians.”

Denisov nodded, “Tough job for them, are they up for it?”

“Only the senior officers know,” Tian admitted. “Most of the army are green recruits, if we tell them they’re being used as bait...”

“Point taken,” Denisov allowed. “I’d prefer they knew, but its an ugly job.”

“They have to endure the inevitable bombardment and then meet the initial waves unsupported,” Tian said mournfully. “We project eighty percent casualties within the first three days.”

“Bloody business,” Denisov growled angrily. “But necessary, we have to show the Numerians what they expect, make them think this battle will be the same as all the rest.”

“Even at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives?”

“Even at that cost,” Denisov stated instantly. “If it’s what we need to do to survive this war, then it will be done.”

Tian did not argue, given what was at stake such a desperate strategy seemed justified, though only just.

“Once the Numerians are down in force we will launch our counterattack. Given the size and skill of our forces we can roll them up and force them into a battle of attrition.”

“The Numerians won’t abandon Rigel,” Denisov said firmly. “Once they put soldiers on the planet they won’t withdraw, their honor won’t allow it. They’ll feed fresh troops in no matter the cost because they won’t let us drive them away and inflict a major defeat. This is our chance to bleed their armies dry and force them to expend lives and resources better used elsewhere.”

“I agree they’ll fight, but if we don’t remove their orbital superiority once our armies hit the field they’ll be decimated.”

“That will be our job in the fleet.” Denisov said. “We know the Numerians are jittery the closer they get to Earth. They think we killed Hrumen and can’t understand why we haven’t inflicted more losses, they think we’re saving our elite until they get close to our homeworld. The CIA has been fuelling these rumors, making fake broadcasts, forging reports from Numerian scouts, that sort of thing.”

“All well and good sir, but we don’t have anything like that and the Numerians will find out soon.”

“Exactly, so our aim will be to keep them guessing and make them think the counterattack by our elite is due any day during the campaign.”

Tian huffed in concern. “Tall order to keep them guessing like that.”

“I know, but the CIA has put its best people on it. We’ll be conducting raids that look like spoiling attacks and recon work to draw the Numerians away from Rigel, try to keep them away from their soldiers long enough for our people to make a difference.”

“Even if they do move the fleet into open space, they’re bound to keep a couple of ships on sentry duty to prevent our vessels making flyby raids on their bases like Kevin did at New Minnesota,” Tian pointed out. “Even a single ship could smash our forces.”

“The CIA is on that too, we’re going to turn it to our advantage.” Denisov assured. “The hard bit will be the first day of the attack. We have to make it look like we’re hitting the Numerians just as hard as always, make them think we’re throwing everything into the defense but at the same time try to conserve as many lives as we can.”

“Whichever way it goes we’re going to lose a lot of people during the assault,” Tian said with certainty. “It had better be worth it.”

“It has to be.” Denisov said simply.

“We’ve fought the Numerians plenty of times,” Tian considered the situation. “We never won before, so why this time?”

“Because we’re loading the dice, making them play by our rules,” Denisov said. “We can’t beat them in space, but on the ground we have a chance. The problem is how to turn a decisive victory on the ground into an event that can turn the war.”

“Losing an army is bad, but as long as the Numerians have their fleet I can’t see it making much of a difference.”

“We need time Bai, that’s what this is about,” Denisov replied. “We draw this battle out until the boys back home figure out some new weapons or build more ships. All our intel says the same thing, the Numerians were geared up for a quick war and they can’t handle a prolonged bloody conflict. So that’s what we give them.”

“It’s sure as hell what they’ve been giving us.”

“We don’t need to defeat them, just stop them long enough for someone somewhere to come to their senses. The Numerians are still on some insane Crusade, they need a sharp slap around the face to wake them up, make them realize what they are doing. A defeat would do that.”

“They still might just flatten us.”

“They might.” Denisov acknowledged. “But even damaging them makes a difference. Look at our ships, we get one back full of holes and a month or two later its back in action. You remember the Charybdis? Whole forward bow shot off. We cut it away, slapped a new one on and it was back in action within four days, just four days!”

“Beauty of modular design.” Tian nodded.

“But a Numerian ship, they aren’t built like that. Our reports show that a ship that takes damage requires a massive overhaul to fix. Those ships aren’t built, they’re crafted, they’re pieces of art. Our ships are pure function, there’s are a statement and they take forever to fix. Ships hit at the start of the war still aren’t back on the field. The Numerians are having a hard time keeping up their numbers.”

The senior Admiral started ticking off examples on his fingers. “We’ve seen damaged ships in the Numerian frontline, we’ve seen ships operating slower or firing less than their sisters and we know from intel that spare parts and fuel are beginning to run short. We are wearing them down Bai, the fact they have to use damaged or ineffective ships to bulk up their numbers proves we’re having an effect.”

“So essentially our plan is to disable their ships by forcing the Numerians to use them too much slaughtering us?”

“Think of it as a prize fighter standing still and letting his opponent hit him in the face seventy or eighty times,” Denisov smiled slightly. “Either we fall down with brain damage, or he has an aneurysm from the strain of punching us.”

“That has got to be the craziest plan ever to be invented.”

“It’s the only thing we’ve got that will work.” Denisov shrugged. “They are pushing themselves to the breaking point by pursuing this war fanatically. If they had planned to fight it over a course of five or six years, it’d be a different story.”

“Different for us too,” Tian mentioned wistfully.

“This is where we make them fight us,” Denisov said with firmness. “We back them into a corner and give them no choice, fight or be dishonored.”

“If they lose it’ll break the idea of Numerian invincibility, that their gods are guaranteeing victory,” Tian thought outloud.

“And if they withdraw it breaks the credibility of the Military Orders and weakens public resolve that they are on a course to glorious victory. Plus as a bonus we force them to burn more supplies than necessary, and that is never a waste.”

Tian could see the point of the plan, classic attrition that favored the large reserves Earth still had to call on, but the Numerians still had huge technological advantages to exploit that could upset things badly for Terra.

“If they do stand, they’ll go all out with their army,” Tian warned. “Our guys and the Romans are good, but the Numerians are still lethal. These Aero'Bei guys have had centuries of practice at armored warfare, and the Naff'Bei are supposed to be the most mobile mechanized infantry in the galaxy.”

“That they are,” Denisov agreed. “The Numerians are fast, ruthess and hit like a sledgehammer. But they also lack initiative and have a glass jaw. They’ll fight to the death, but break their lines and they won’t be able to recover. They’re warriors Bai, we’re soldiers. You know what happens when Warriors fight Soldiers.”

“These Warriors outgun us by about a thousand years.”

“It isn’t going to matter. We picked the ground, we picked the forces, we’ve picked the terms of victory. For the first time in this war the Numerians will be fighting on our terms. Time to turn the tables Bai, show the Numerians what it really means to fight Earth.”

“Think we can win?”

“Win?” Denisov considered the thought, “probably not, but we don’t need to hold Rigel, we just have to wear them down enough so that they can’t move on Earth. That’s our victory, no matter the cost.”

Tian nodded, her heart echoing hollowly in her chest. “As Sun Tzu once wrote, 'when in death ground, fight'. So whatever the cost then, we’ll be ready.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2009, 04:45:07 PM »
Mars


The mag-lev transport tube was unusually empty, the multiple cars usually packed with commuters heading home remained largely silent save for a few scattered souls alone with their thoughts. It was a reflection of the times, the type of jobs that had required frequent commuter trains, jobs in the city, in financial institutions, offices and shops, they had all been declared non-essential and the people that worked in them had been transferred to the armed forces. It was subtle at first, but by these days of the war the lack of young fit people in everyday life was palpable and constant. The UST-wide draft had been popular and the conscript armies were little more than cannon fodder, but there was no other option.

Some industries were still burgeoning, the Martian mining corporations had never been larger and had plenty of fit men and women working for them who would otherwise have seen service. The TETC was still operational as were most military manufacturers and infrastructure maintenance groups. But generally those people worked long shifts and rarely crowded onto rush hour trains like the city workers once had done. The quiet in the streets was even more disturbing than panic and bustle. The whole planet felt weary, spent and exhausted. Its vibrancy and energy was gone and without its youth the whole of the Terran core worlds seemed to sinking down to sleep, a sleep from which they would not awaken again.

Eric Ritterman Sr. stepped off at his designated stop along with just two other people, both of them clearly too old for military service. Ritterman himself wasn’t exactly a young man anymore and middle age was rapidly sneaking up on him. But he was still in good physical shape and would have been on the frontlines, if not for his infernally wounded leg. He walked with a limp, but was quite capable of sprinting and jumping if needed. The only downside was that such actions came with a shock of pain that lingered for nearly an hour afterwards. As far as he cared it was a small price to pay.

At least he was back in uniform and that meant a lot to the Master Gunnery Sergeant. Ritterman’s life had meandered a lot in his youth, finding him in and out of trouble, which invariably haunted his attempts to make a decent life. He was refused acceptance into the NBPD due to his criminal record, a record he didn’t really deserve and despite his clear talent for police work. He had tried to indulge his other passion, cooking, but his restaurant had never really taken off despite, again, his exceptional talent. The Marine Corps had taken him in, given him something to aim for and surrounded him with like-minded people. His service had made him who he was, a better person than he could have hoped to be otherwise in his view, and he was glad to be back contributing even in such a small role. But he wanted to do more, it was his duty to fight and never more so than now.

It was not helped by the fact his only child, Eric Jr, was now on Rigel with nowhere near the level of training he needed, and about to face the most deadly army Earth-based man had ever encountered.

All these thoughts haunted Ritterman, the fact that not only his son but his whole race was in a fight for survival and he could not bear arms in it. He felt ultimately useless, like he was depriving Earth of one more fighting man because of his old war wound. It was not fair or acceptable, and he increasingly needed to do something about it.

He arrived at his home, swiped his card in the lock and entered. It was a nice house, a big step up from his old Marine married quarters on New Carolina and funded by profits from his security business. He had made a success of himself between wars, lived a good life and helped a lot of people in between, including his son. However, he had not done enough, and it was perhaps Eric’s biggest regret that he had not helped drag his son up and out of his alcoholism that came close to ruining his life.

But that was all in the past. The Marines had beaten back his sons demons, at least for now, but Eric still considered it a massive failing in his role as a father and one that was essential for him to put right. He hadn’t done enough to help his son before, he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

He was greeted by a welcoming smell of cooking food as he sealed the door behind him. This evening was an opportunity to try and push down his worries and enjoy some welcome company. He was going to be joined by Jenny Nakamoura, one of his oldest and dearest friends. His wife Lucy had been hard at work all day creating a traditional German meal and he was, quite frankly, really looking forward to it.

“Now that smells delicious!” He called out as he hung up his coat. “You still make the best dinner! I should be worried about my reputation as a supreme chef!” He stepped back and headed for the kitchen but never made it, with complete suddenness his world suddenly spun out of control and pitched him to the floor in darkness.

He came to looking up into the dark eyes of his wife, Lucy gently soothing his brow with a look of extreme anxiety on her attractive features.

“Wow, that was unexpected,” he said, confused.

“No it wasn’t,” she said stiffly. “This is a symptom of your illness.”

“Yeah, but it hasn’t happened to me in months,” he defended point of view. “I thought I was over it.”

“You will never get over it,” she said as she helped him sit up. “You can’t get over it, not... not ever.”

She was shivering even though the house was warm, and gently Eric grasped her hand. “We’ve come to terms with this.”

“I never did,” she said bitterly. “And I never will.”

He grinned widely, “hey, what do doctors know huh? They said I’d be dead two years ago! Well I’m still here and kicking aren’t I?”

She nodded quietly, “Yeah.”

“So don’t worry about it, it’s all just mind over matter, if you don't mind, it won't matter.” He stood up, feeling queasy but not showing it. “I’m not ready to die just yet, so the Grim Reaper will have to take a seat and wait until I’m done with my life before he gets me in is bony grasp.”

The leg injury was not the only, or indeed the main reason Ritterman was not on the frontlines. He also suffered from a neurological disease called Alzheimer's, something that attacked the nervous system, gradually reducing its victims to mental children before it killed them. There was no known cure, and it was unlikely one would be found in the foreseeable future. One of the symptoms of the syndrome were blackouts as the centers of the brain were briefly cut off from their blood supplies. Sometimes Ritterman remained conscious and paralysed, sometimes he just woke up with no idea what had happened. Understandably the Marine Corps could not risk such a thing happening on the frontlines when Ritterman might be needed to make a critical decision.

There was no history of the illness in his family and most doctors were confused as to where it had come from. Until some research on Stygia stumbled onto the records of the Denevans using variations of Alzheimer's as a biological weapon. It seemed that the horrifying truth was that Eric had picked it up during his service in the war, and that the Denevans would, seemingly, have their final revenge. Such exotic illnesses were disturbingly common among Denevan war veterans, sadly any longterm studies had been rendered moot thanks to the Numerians prematurely ending the lives of many veterans during their own quest for bloody vengeance.

For his part Ritterman refused to give up or accept his days were numbered. He had too much to live for, not the least of which was protecting his son. He owed Junior a great debt, one he was going to repay no matter what. Through pure willpower and determination Eric had proven the doctors wrong, surviving long after their predictions said he would be gone. His blackouts had all but vanished despite the disease progressing more and more. He wasn’t going to be beaten by this, not when he still had so much to do.

“Back to normal,” he beamed for Lucy’s sake. “I just need a good meal.”

She was ready to protest, ready to tell him to get into bed and rest, but she did not, she knew it would have been useless. Her husband had decided he was going to live a normal life to the end and not spend his last months in a bed. He might not last as long, but his last days would be good days, normal days, and that meant the world to him. Lucy was not going to disappoint his wishes.

“I have just the thing,” she smiled weakly. “Even with your appetite!”

“Can’t beat good food, one of the great pleasures of life,” he held her closely. “I am a lucky man you know, even with all that’s going to happen, look what I have.” He smiled widely and they shared a meaningful kiss.

“I wouldn’t change it, and even if this is the price I pay, I wouldn’t give up anything even if I could live forever it’d be torture if all this was gone instead.”

They embraced like that for several minutes, accepting for the thousandth time what was coming, the parting they would one day endure, and resolving not to let it sour the remaining days.

“I’ll go set the table,” he said at length. “You better check on the oven, can’t let your perfect record slip by letting the food get overdone.”

She smiled back. “It’ll be a great evening, we all deserve it.”

He nodded in complete agreement, “The best.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2009, 07:23:06 PM »
***


Jenny had an odd laugh, more of a cackle really, combined with a horse like snort. It was entirely out of place and bore nothing in common with her rich voice or classical looks. More a quirk of her nature that on the surface was not especially appealing to listen to, but when taken as a whole merely enhanced her personality. It made her unique, contradictory, something that defied expectations and Eric liked that. It suited her.

“It did not happen like that!” She managed through her cackling uncontrolled laughter.

“It absolutely did!” Eric retorted back. “You were there in your birthday suit, glaring daggers at the Median Ambassador, and he just couldn’t look away!”

“How did I know the shower would short out the doorlocks!” Jenny shot back. “And he wasn’t due for the meeting for an hour!”

“So this guy Swi*435 just stood there like a statue, with his jaw in his glass bubble on the deck, he’s just speechless!”

“So I asked him to leave,” Jenny remarked.

“Yeah, but not not in those exact words!” Eric laughed. “I can’t even repeat the language that you did use, I’m a Drill Instructor and even I wouldn’t say those things!”

“He came this close to losing his metallic head,” She pinched her fingers tight. “You’d think he’d never seen a Terran female before!”

“Not like that!” Eric roared with laughter. “I’ve never seen a Median so big run so fast!”

“At least it didn’t create a diplomatic incident,” Jenny shrugged. “Well, not a bad one anyway.”

“Funny ending though,” Eric said. “I hear that after that he can’t get enough of Earth girls. Nice one Jenny, looks like you turned him on!”

The two old friends roared with laughter at the memory, before Lucy raised an eyebrow.

“So Eric, what were you doing there at the same time Miss Nakamoura was standing in the doorway buck naked?”

He went very quiet, before both women broke out in laughter.

“I was escorting Swi*435!” he defended himself. “Honestly! I wouldn’t peek in on Jenny, she’d break every bone in my body!”

“I wouldn’t have the chance!” The CIA agent chuckled, “you’re wife would beat me to it.”

“Yeah, you better believe it!” Lucy nodded. “I have a radar, an early warning system for situations like this. I find a good backhand solves these problems before they get out of control.”

“She isn’t wrong.” Eric said with a broad grin. “But with a girl like this, who needs anything more?”

“Aww,” Jenny grinned. “You’re a great couple, sometimes I guess marriage works.”

“With a backhand like hers, damn straight it does!” Eric said as he finished a glass of wine, “those were the good days.”

“Good days,” Jenny agreed. “Can’t beat a little freelancing now and again.”

“That Median job paid for this house,” Eric agreed. “And always good to have the old gang working together again.”

“Always,” she agreed readily.

“Speaking of, how’s my nephew? Honorary nephew anyway.”

Jenny smiled broadly at the mention. “Eric is doing great, all things considered of course.”

“Of course,” Lucy agreed. “This war doesn’t help anyone.”

“He’s quite the pilot, I think he could give his cousin Kelly a good run for her money,” Jenny said proudly. “He wants to fly a starfighter, but there’s no way i am going to allow it. He’s going to survive this war, even if I have to kill every Numerian in the galaxy with my own two hands to ensure it.”

“Count me in on that,” Eric promised.

“That leg still keeping you out here?” She frowned. “No justice in that.”

“No, but I’m working on it,” he answered. Eric’s other illness remained a closely guarded secret, only his immediate family knew of it.

“They’ll be at Rigel next,” Jenny said quietly. “I know Eric Jr. is going to be okay.”

“He’s got his father’s luck,” Lucy smiled. “How many times have you beaten certain death?”

“Four or five,” Eric grinned. “Almost as many times as Jenny.”

“Yeah, we had some hectic times,” she had to admit. “But we did our best, and they were all worth it. Every single one.”

“That they were,” Eric affirmed. “And at a high cost.”

“But blood well spent,” Jenny stated. “I’ve come to see that fighting in this war makes me see the last one in a different light.”

“Still running those missions?” Eric asked. “That's a dangerous game you're playing Jenny.”

“Especially with the Numerians,” Jenny nodded in agreement. “Got scorched a few times, but we’re still here,” she smiled thinly. “Last mission was something different though, whole new world of creepy.”

“Numerians?” Lucy asked.

“Worse, and also classified. Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Eric dismissed it. “I’m probably happier not knowing.”

“Take it from me, you really are.”

As they returned to finishing off their dinner there was a chime from the front door. “Expecting anyone else?” Jenny wondered.

“No, not today,” Eric said as he shook his head. “I’ll go see who it is.”

Jenny sat back in her chair, loosening her jacket a little so she could swiftly draw her hidden plasma pistol from its holster. Old habits died hard. She listened carefully, and was relieved when she heard Eric’s laugh welcome the guest.

“Look who it is!” He returned to the dining room with a suited man in tow, a face Jenny recognized at once.

“Chad?” She exclaimed. “Talk about surprises!”

“I brought drink,” The CIA analyst said as he waved a bottle of wine.

“That pays your way,” Eric said with a chuckle. “Sit down, we haven’t got much food left but you’re in time for dessert.”

“Even better,” Chad said with a grin and found himself a chair.

“Chad Schneider,” Jenny mused with a smile. “I’m shocked, I expected you to be much too busy to come out here.”

“It does get pretty hectic,” The man said in agreement. “Especially with my new responsibilities.”

“They made you the Codebreaking department head?”

He nodded. “Codes and communication.”

She smiled warmly at him, “You deserve it, I mean you’ve been running your own team for a while but this is something more. Well done.”

“Nice work Chad,” Lucy congratulated him. As part of her husband's security business Lucy had in the past worked alongside the CIA and had a particular level of clearance similar to that enjoyed by Eric himself or the crew of the Star Fall.

Eric returned to the table with the desserts and handed them out. “It’s been years since we last met like this.” The Master Gunnery Sergeant said with a smile. “How are the kids?”

“Growing fast!” Chad smiled. “They will be twelve this year.”

“Twins weren’t they?” Ritterman checked.

“Yeah, but not identical.” He confirmed. “AJ and Julie.”

“Alex Jenkins and Julie McCain,” Jenny remembered more properly. “After your friends?”

“That’s right, You met Alex in the war, he was in Eric’s platoon.”

“He runs it now,” Eric said. “He made Staff Sergeant before the war. Good for him.”

“Yes, good for him,” Chad agreed.

“So what brings you out here?” Lucy asked.

“Business I’m afraid,” He said. “I have another job for the Fall.”

“That came around fast,” Jenny said.

“I know, but it’s urgent. That’s why I had to come and find you.”

She nodded. “Well I guess the war won’t stop for me to have a vacation. What do you need?”

“The usual, we need you to take a team and supplies for the post, and while there pick up the posts latest intel reports,” Chad said. “This time to Groombridge 34.”

Eric raised his eyes at the mention of Groombridge, but kept eating.

“I thought we still owned the planet?” Jenny asked.

“We do, and if you go soon enough it might be just a simple drop and pick, no risk,” Chad said. “But if the Numerians do show up...”

“Then you’ll need a ship with experience to run the blockade.” Jenny guessed. “I see what you mean.”

“Standard recon team is located there,” Chad informed her. “Same job as usual, Get them re-supplied get their intel then leave them to it.”

“Are they waiting for us?”

“You're scheduled to leave at three tomorrow morning.”

Jenny nodded, “We’ll be ready. I mean we’ll be grumpy at that time of the morning, but we’ll be ready.”

“Good, it’s vital we get this team's intel before the Numerian fleet reaches Rigelian orbit. That information is going to be very useful to us.”

“We’ll get it done,” She said. “The Dugan Co. hasn’t failed to deliver a package yet.”

Chad grinned, “I believe it. How is your son anyway?”

“He’s got his father’s gift for finding trouble,” Jenny smiled.

“And his mother’s gift for getting out of it,” Eric added. “He’s a good kid, he’ll go far.”

“I’m going to make sure of it,” Jenny said simply. No one doubted it.

They spent more of the evening sharing stories and catching up, enjoying memories of better days while the future collapsed about them. There might never come a day like this again, there might not be anyone left to reminisce about these times around a table of friends, but it didn’t matter. They enjoyed their time for what it was, then made their gestures and parted.

“Next time come earlier,” Eric said as he walked Chad to the door. “You missed Lucy’s cooking, and that’s just a crime.”

“I will,” Chad solemnly promised, ignoring whether or not he would ever have the chance. “it was a good evening.”

“They always are.”

He shook Eric's hand, “See you around Crowbar.”

“Take care Chad, and take care of the family,” Eric returned. “Whatever it takes, keep them safe.”

“I will,” he nodded. “Whatever I have to give up, they’ll survive.”

“That’s a true father talking.” Eric said with a smile. “I know they’ll be fine with that attitude. See you after the war.”

Chad stepped into the night, looking up through the Martian dome at the stars. “So much changes down here, but up there it always looks the same.” He looked back at Eric, “we’re not going to go into the night so easy. I can’t say anymore, but even if they make it to Earth, we’re far from finished.”

Chad headed away, and Jenny followed him to the door, fastening her coat. “Your wife is the best,” She said simply. “When I hit Groombridge I’ll get you some news on Junior.”

“About that,” Eric said. “I sort of need a favor from you.”

“A favor?”

“Yeah, say, you remember that time when I saved your life and the life of your unborn son?”

Jenny raised an eyebrow, “Well I’ll say this Eric, you know how to open a negotiation. What is it?”


***


Eric didn’t sleep much this night. He rose at One A.M. and quietly got dressed, putting on his old but still crisp BDUs and recorded a video message for Lucy. He had his responsibilities, he had things he had to do, and he couldn’t ignore them. He snuck downstairs, tied his boots and headed from the door.

He wasn’t especially surprised to see his wife waiting for him in the hallway, arms folded. “We’ve been married way too long for you to pull off something like this Eric.”

He stood up straight, “I got somewhere I need to be.”

“Rigel?” she asked.

“So you heard then?”

“I didn’t have to,” She tapped her head. “Radar, remember?”

He nodded. “I’m going for our son. I’m going to find him and keep him alive.”

“I know.” Lucy looked down and with a heavy heart and stepped aside. “And you need to go.”

Eric walked forward and paused beside her. There was a lot he felt he should say, but the beauty of it all was Lucy already knew. It remained unspoken, but not unsaid.

“I’ve seen you go to foreign worlds, get into the middle of wars, risk your life so many times.” She said in barely a whisper.

“This will be the last one.”

“I know,” She replied quietly. “That’s what makes it so hard.”

“We’re never really apart, not ever. Never have been, never will be.”

She smiled, “I’m going to miss you, you stubborn old bugger.”

“At least you’ll have some peace and quiet around the house,” he chuckled. “Less cleaning with just you here.”

“Stop looking on the bright side,” She gently chided him.

He nodded slowly, “It’s better this way. Better than the other way.”

Lucy nodded slowly, “You’re going to be late.”

“Yeah, I better get moving,” Eric said. “Until we meet again, beyond the veil.”

“I’ll be waiting,” she said with a weight of immense sadness, but tempered with incredible strength. “Goodbye my love.”

“Goodbye love,” He said back.

“Eric,” she stopped him at the door, “Bring our son home.”

“You can count on it.”

Lucy Ritterman stood by the door as her husband walked into the dark night, respecting his final wishes. She always knew he wasn’t the sort of man to just fade away, that wasn’t who she married. If his life ended doing something good and grand and noble, then he would pass from the world happy, and Lucy would not resent that.

She was still there when the sun rose brilliant and firery, above the horizon, making her own wish on the rays of the rising star. She had two men in her life, her husband and her son. One would not be coming back, but she prayed that the other would.
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2009, 10:12:41 PM »
***


Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

"Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
For to fight is but to die!
There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set."
And Sir Richard said again: "We be all good English men.
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the devil,
For I never turn'd my back upon Don or devil yet."

Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we roared a hurrah, and so
The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of the foe,
With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety sick below;
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen,
And the little Revenge ran on through the long sea-lane between.

And the sun went down, and the stars came out far over the summer sea,
But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three.
Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built galleons came,
Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her battle-thunder and flame;
Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with her dead and her shame.
For some were sunk and many were shattered, and so could fight us no more—
God of battles, was ever a battle like this in the world before?

And the night went down, and the sun smiled out far over the summer sea,
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay round us all in a ring;
But they dared not touch us again, for they fear’d that we still could sting,
So they watched what the end would be.
And we had not fought them in vain,

But Sir Richard cried in his English pride:
“We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory, my men!
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore,
We die—does it matter when?
Sink me the ship, Master Gunner—sink her, split her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain!”


Terrence Kirkland turned the yellowed page, crisp but supple, in the ancient book he held dear above all other possessions, his eyes reading the same lines they had many times before but never finding them plain or bland of depth and meaning. This book he held was more than ink and paper bound in soft leather, it was his history and his ancestry. This book had been among the Kirkland family for generations, passed down one to the next, father to son, mother to daughter for almost eight centuries. It was a relic, preserved and honored all that time and for Terrence it meant more than he could express.

The book had been printed in the nineteenth century, a first edition collection of poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a man whose words had imprinted themselves indelibly on the young pilot. The book had been signed by Tennyson himself and gifted to one of Kirkland’s ancestors, Reginald Kirkland who had participated in the legendary Charge of the Light Brigade so vividly described by the poet in his most famous work.

Kirkland kept the book in a metal box, airtight and precisely engineered to preserve the manuscript. Really it should be in a sealed glass case back home, but instead it was here out at Rigel never more than a few inches from its owners heart, both literally and figuratively. Kirkland had considered it for a long time, but with the war going the way it was Earth was no more safe than anywhere else, and laying the book to rest in his home may simply have postponed its destruction. No, if this piece of history was to be snatched away by Alien fire then it would go to eternity beside the heart of its final owner, both lost in a final defiant battle against the enemies of man.

It was something Kirkland knew his ancestors would understand, that it was better to face the inevitable with a fire in the heart and defiance in the soul instead of hiding broken beneath the glare of raining destruction. It was a message the book told him time and again, the words imbued with the spirit of courage that for so long had been a hallmark of the fighting men and women of humanity. As far as Kirkland was concerned that fundamental truth was captured no where better than in Tennyson’s words, the writings in the book the truest expression of what was great and what was terrible about the Terran character.

He continued to read the poem in the Squadron ready room, his colleagues in the 361st Fighter Squadron smoking and joking, a couple of them tossing a ball back and forth while all waited for the next chapter of the war. They had no idea what would come next, only that it would probably be their last battle. They faced it with high spirits, drawing on a courage that stemmed from something deeper than bravado. As Kirkland read on, drinking in Tennyson’s ballad to the ancient warship HMS Revenge and it’s hopeless final battle he saw in those words the reality that lived around him.

Hope was thin on the ground, but for Kirkland that was nothing new. His ancestors seemed to have an unnatural ability at getting into the middle of hopeless battles and seeing them through, from defending his ancestral home in 1940 to taking on hordes of Chinese jets in World War Three, right up to the more recent Battle of Stygia where the outnumbered and exhausted UTSN had met the elite of the Denevan navy in a decisive confrontation that decided the war.

His Father had been a part of that, Gerrold Kirkland, Commander and Squadron leader of the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron. They had been legends, the best unit in the Navy and his father the greatest of their pilots. Those skills had seen him become one of the best allied aces of the war, but that had not saved him in the final hours of that conflict and like so many men and women before him Gerrold Kirkland had fallen in battle. His death had been honorable, met with courage in an attempt to save lives. He sacrificed himself for others, the sort of fate he would not have been disappointed with, but it had not made his passing any easier for his family.

Terry’s mother Gladis had been unable to cope, sinking into a depression and a form of mania that made her very difficult to live with. Witnessing her fall was heart-wrenching, and it was with mixed relief that Terry and his younger brother Richard had been taken in by the Jesuits on Earth, there completing their education and learning how to live with the loss.

It wasn’t an easy transition and Kirkland was finding himself constantly in trouble, pushing his boundaries and acting like the quintessential troubled teen. The Jesuits were patient and understanding, they treated him like a grownup, showed him his actions had consequences and instilled over time a strong sense of responsibility. It might have been the most valuable thing he had ever learned.

Terry joined the Navy despite his Mother’s pleas not to follow in his Father’s footsteps and perhaps share his fate. He went through the academy, volunteering for the toughest of courses and committing himself to becoming the best pilot he could be. He knew he had the ability to be a first rate pilot and that Earth needed people like him in the service. He had a responsibility to use his talents in the best place for the good of others, and so by twenty-two was a fully qualified fighter pilot with the most legendary test scores in UTSN history.

He had risen quickly through the ranks, earning command of his own squadron after just one year of active duty. Kirkland resisted the temptation of asking for a transfer to the Ghost Riders, deciding to stay with his own unit instead of joining his father’s old squadron. For a time he also worked as an instructor at the academy, and it was there that he first met the woman who was his most constant companion.

Kelly Nakamoura was not his type of woman, from the first meeting he knew that. Kirkland had always known the sort of woman he was attracted to, the sort that complemented his sensibilities and shared his interests. Kelly was none of that, but she had a fiery spirit and a fervor for life that was impossible to look away from. They hadn’t made the best of starts, Kelly had been a cadet in the Academy and Kirkland had been given the responsibility for showing her some of the more advanced tricks a pilot could use. She’d been cocky and clearly a highly skilled pilot to begin with, so Kirkland had pushed her to her limits and not gently, something she had been furious about.

That anger had turned into mutual respect, and then something more. As fellow officers there could be no formal relationship, but that didn’t really stop them from trying. Their romance had been on and off as they moved around the galaxy, sometimes spending years apart. When they met they invariably clashed, fought, and ultimately made up until the next time. They were complete opposites, and yet somehow just couldn’t stay apart, no matter how hard they tried.

Even the Numerians had failed to separate them, and already they had rekindled their passions during the conflict, the possibility of death merely intensifying their brief moments together. They still served in different squadrons and usually in different theaters, but now with the concentration of units at Rigel Kirkland had learned Kelly had just arrived to aid the defense a day earlier. Once he was off duty he’d look her up.

Like Kirkland Kelly had found herself assigned to an interceptor squadron where her piloting skills and reflexes came to the fore. She was still a Lieutenant and still young, but was already a squadron Executive Officer thanks to her natural talent and an increasing scarcity of other senior officers. Kirkland was naturally concerned when she dropped him a line, telling him she was heading to the front or on a mission somewhere, but she always came back and had even accounted for several Numerian fighters, no small achievement.

“Don’t you ever get bored reading that same book?”

Kirkland’s eyes flickered up. “Class never gets old.”

“You’re right, I can watch that show ‘Cheerleader Detectives’ all day and never stop grinning.”

Kirkland grinned at his Squadron XO, the fair-haired man returning the amused look. “Thank you for proving my point,” Kirkland joked.

Billy Mitchell shrugged, “mainly it’s the Cheerleaders that don’t get boring. The detective stuff I can take or leave.”

Kirkland felt a genuine laugh coming on, something that was a rare event these days. Mitchell had been a great friend since the academy, the sort of utterly dependable human being who would always be there to watch his back. He had often acted as the voice of reason, especially when Kirkland had been in two minds about whether or not to kindle a romance with Kelly Nakamoura. His exact words were, “Are you crazy! Shut up and kiss her!” Which had left a permanent mark on the young officer.

Like Kirkland Mitchell could boast a long history of aviation in his family, indeed the ancestor he was named for had been hugely influential in the earliest days of military aircraft. It had given them a common ground to relate to, and it inspired a certain rivalry between the two. A rivalry Kirkland was comfortably winning.

Kirkland was simply the better pilot, arguably the best in Terran military history outperforming even his own father. Mitchell held no resentment over this, warmly congratulating his friend on each success. It was a camaraderie hard to find outside true professionals, and Kirkland was lucky to serve in a squadron of legends.

“Cheerleader Detectives,” Kirkland laughed. “Sorry to burst your bubble, but they’re all over thirty.”

“When they look like that, who cares?” Mitchell grinned. “You know the star said she adores fighter pilots.”

“You’ve got more chance with the Atheri Emperor’s wife.”

Mitchell paused, “You know, that feathered head thing is a little hot. Doesn’t he have three or four? Think he’d mind?”

“Go for it, like our situation could be any worse!”

“I’ll remember you said that,” Mitchell retorted. “Probably wouldn’t work, I heard things about Atheri anatomy. And I mean crazy things. Really crazy.”

Kirkland raised a curious eyebrow. “Why haven’t I heard about this?”

“Mainly because you’re really stuffy.”

Kirkland balked at the description, “I am not stuffy!”

Mitchell tilted his head, “We’re all watching reruns of Beach Volleyball High, and you’re reading that book. Again.”

“It’s a rerun! I know who wins!”

“It’s beach volleyball Terry, who care’s who wins?” Mitchell beamed. “Come on, it'll take your mind off things,” He gestured. “And I’ll tell you the Atheri thing I swear you won’t believe what those guys get up to.”

The mystery of the Atheri would have to remain just that. Before Kirkland could stand the air split with sirens, screaming electronic wails accompanied by pulsing flash of red or yellow lights.

“Great.” Mitchell sulked.

“Alpha Squadron!” Kirkland shot to his feet, full of urgency, “Scramble! Get spaceborne now!”

His people moved with all due haste, stumbling up and out of the ready room leaving their distractions behind them. Each man and woman was already in their flight suits, all they needed to do was grab their helmets and gloves on the way out and then sprint the short distance to the Raptor bays. Kirkland sealed the small book in its container and slipped it into a pocket, encouraging him not to get shot down and lose such a valuable piece of history.

“Move along people, scramble!” He shouted behind them. “Launch in three minutes! Show these station jockeys how a combat squadron handles things!”

He grabbed his own helmet from the rack and left the room, twisting the metal and glass bowl onto his neck clasps before repeating the process with each glove. Ground crews were already in the raptor bays removing refuelling lines from the row of starfighters, the mean looking craft held firm in their launch bays.

Kirkland’s fighter was at the front and he jogged down to it, running along the gantry above the still sealed airlocks and stepping into the cockpit. Two flight techs in protective suits helped him in and tightened his straps and belts, then quickly retreated as the pilot lowered his canopy and began to spin up the fighter.

As far as he was concerned the raptor starfighter was a work of art, an object of remarkable simplicity which had grown beyond the sum of its parts. It had a personality, a simplistic and businesslike desire to get the job done. It wasn’t as aristocratic as an Atheri fighter or as scrappy as a Median one, it was a workman, something with a job to do and an attitude of simply getting on with the job. No frills, no clean edges, just what was needed to do its job.
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2009, 10:50:07 PM »
***


The Raptor Fighter was an excellent craft and Kirkland had immense pride whenever he controlled one. Externally they were little different to the Eagle Fighters of the last war, possessing a slightly more swept wing shape with the wings themselves being slightly thinner, an improvement in materials allowing more strength, but less mass than its predecessor. The real differences were internal, and there the Raptor really stood out compared to its cousins.

During the Denevan war one single craft had come to symbolize the dominance of the Denevan Empire, namely the Needle Starfighter. Certainly the Mass Drivers did more harm, and the mighty Denevan warships were just as instrumental in the blitz as their fighters, but it was the Needles with their clever design and breathtakingly daring use that really showed what sort of people the Romans were dealing with. Denevan pilots simply dominated their opposition, even the superb Roman pilots could not beat the combined arms doctrines and clever tactics of the Denevans.

Finally it came down to Terran Forces, and only then did the Needle meet its match. The Eagle Starfighter became the new symbol of the war, lauded for its mastery of the Denevan fighter squadrons. This was, however, as much a propaganda initiative as anything else. While the Eagle starfighters were excellent dogfighters ton for ton the Needle remained the more sophisticated of the two designs, and it was as much Terran tactics and Denevan overeagerness for battle that killed the Empire's fighter Corps.

When the war ended the CIA found itself in possession of scores of needles and set about taking them apart. The Boeing-DeHaviland mega-corps, the company that made the Eagles, resolved to build the ultimate warplane, combining the best of both worlds. They came up with the Raptor, and most people were unimpressed.

In this case though first impressions were proven false. While nothing revolutionary to look at the Raptor had a lot beneath the hood. Her plasma pulse cannons could deliver a far heavier weight and rate of fire than an Eagle, her sensors were cutting edge, her controls far more responsive, and critically she used reverse engineered Denevan engines and fuel cells. Throughout the war the Eagles had always been short-legged and sluggish compared to their opponents, with the Raptor that was no longer an issue.

The new fighters allowed Earth to keep its edge in the field, leaving the Romans with their new Limitani class craft fuming and prompting the Atheri to seek their own equivalent using the latest technology. The starfighters had appeared to be the final word in fighter combat craft, and amazingly even then were being improved upon with Boeing-DeHaviland working on an even more revolutionary craft, an atmospheric capable Raptor.

The bubble surrounding the Raptor starfighters burst when the Numerian Darolei fighters suddenly arrived on the scene with a vengeance. Initial combat losses were terrible, with the Numie starfighter using the same stealth system as the capital ships they were extremely hard to engage at long range, while their speed made closing in for a dogfight almost impossible.

Numie Darolei’s attacked in swarms, their shockingly potent weapons working in unison to saturate UST formations and wiped out whole squadrons before they even knew they were in danger. New tactics were quickly implemented, but the losses remained high.

The only bright spot was that when a Raptor did get lucky enough to close the range it still maintained an edge in agility and its weapons were more than able to breach Numerian armor. Proportionally Numerian fighter losses were much higher than their warship losses, a respectable monument to the efficiency of the Raptor starfighter design despite the massive odds they faced.

The Numerians were disdainful of humanity and looked down on the Terran Military. But even the most militant of their race had learned not to underestimate a well-flown Raptor, some had even come to respect the unusually designed craft. They knew that if a Raptor got in close they were in big trouble, and Numerian fighter pilots quickly learned caution in battle, much more so than their brothers and sisters in the navy. Numerian pilots often viewed their battles as single combat, and in that respect shared a philosophy with some of the elite of the Denevan fighter corps. Like those other pilots, they did not hesitate to shoot down Raptors but did appreciate the courage of Terran pilots more than most of their race.

The only other Earth spacecraft to elicit the same amount of respect was the America class Dreadnought, which likewise was regarded with a serious sense of foreboding if it managed to get in close. It was the only opponent a d'Orly Captain was careful around, and those that weren’t often paid for their arrogance. One group among the Naff'Bei were so in awe of the concept they commissioned their own copy, not for this war but for the next. It was hoped the Nephilim would be just as surprised by this new Numerian Dreadnought class as the Aero'Bei had been when they first ran into an America broadside without preparation.

Respected or not the Raptor starfighters still had an uphill struggle before them. While their odds of survival were far better than those of naval crew they still were not particularly healthy, and it was the approach to battle which usually proved the most dangerous and decisive moment of a pilots life.

Kirkland’s systems all read green, the data uplinked to the station control. With a slight hiss the air outside the fighter disappeared, sucked into storage tanks for later use as the airlocks cycled.

“All fighters this is Alpha Leader, stay loose when we drop, be ready for anything.”

Beneath him the airlock doors opened and with a jolt the launch rack dropped down, his squadron moving downwards with him. They were lowered into an outer airlock, the red lights showing the zone was already unpressurized and ready for use. Nose to tail the fighters paused briefly, the upper doors closing and the last lot of space doors finally cranking upon revealing the deep black beyond.

“Alpha Squadron this is CiC,” A voice fed through. “No hostiles in close contact, unknown forces still at long range.”

“Roger that Control, thanks for the tip,” Kirkland replied.

“Standby to drop.” The voice returned, “In three, two, one, drop.”

Kirkland braced as the launch rack twisted, sliding his fighter from its rails as the central spin of the station hurled him outwards. He was only just clear of the gray walls before his engines flared on, twisting the fighter away from the obvious target of the launch bays and eating up empty space as he assembled his unit into combat formation. His fighter like the others was colorfully marked, in his case with black and yellowy green stripes on the upper wings that stood out clearly in black space. It was in part a morale boost to customize their craft, and in part a vital part of recognizing your leaders and being aware of who was where in the battle space.

Each fighter also had a number on the hull reflecting their designation, all except Kirkland. As leader his fighter should carry the number One, but just to confuse any Numerians that might catch on to the concept his fighter was marked with a large ‘Zero Two’ on the upper wings. There was no craft marked ‘Zero One’ and he secretly hoped some Numerian ace had wasted his time trying to find one in the heat of battle.

“Alpha Squadron, standby to engage.” He said. “Let’s see what command has for us.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2009, 12:46:43 AM »
***


Not far behind them General Denisov walked through the doors of the Rigel Prime Station and onto the CiC, focused but pleased to see his officers rapidly analyzing the situation and ready to give him a report the instant he arrived.

“General Tian, what happened?”

“Unknown jump signals sir,” The shorter officer said, already pouring over data feeding through the computers.

“Anything scheduled?”

“Not for another four hours,” Tian informed him. “And all the beacons are inactive.”

Denisov nodded, “So they navigated here the hard way.” That could mean only one thing. “Numerians.”

“We estimate two ships, we guess they’re still there right now, we haven’t picked up any jump points.”

“Get some units out there to check it out,” Denisov said.

Tian turned quickly to her aide. “Give Collinwood the go order, take his Cruisers in and hit them hard. If it’s two scouts we can take them.”

“Aye Ma'am.”

“And make sure they’ve got plenty of fighter cover.”

The orders swiftly went out and the ready warships began to move, a squadron of six Cruisers and a heavy escort of twenty Corvettes and Frigates. Most UST fleets tended to be balanced in a similar way with two or three times the number of escorts as capital ships, simply because escorts could be built faster and therefore in larger numbers. At the start of the war it was rare to see anything smaller than a Des Moines deployed for frontline battles, UST Naval doctrine emphasizing massive concentrated firepower that only heavy ships could deploy. Soon after the loss of the Third Fleet Denisov had pioneered a new strategy based on avoiding direct battle unless absolutely necessary, and even then fighting in loose fluid formations.

Unfortunately, UST formations were still vulnerable to even a trace of Numerian heavy ships, and even a pair of Scout Cruisers required a significant deployment to engage. The ships Tian was deploying would have matched a Denevan Dreadnought task group, but in this war were only suited for hunting down enemy screening forces.

The assortment of warships passed by Kirkland, their lumbering engines working at full burn to push them into action. Against a normal enemy the Frigates would already be training gauss cannons while the Cruisers made ranging shots with their lasers, but against the Numerians they conserved their strength and waited until they could trust their visual sensors to lay their weapons by.

Nothing had frustrated Earth as much as Numerian ECM, electronic systems that resolutely refused to give up their secrets. They did not cloak the Numerian ship, they were still plainly there on the battlefield and Terran forces could narrow down their locations enough to engage, but could not achieve a lock on. Every time a ship tried its sensors just refused to focus, finding themselves scattered, deflected, overwhelmed or simply redundant.

Nothing had worked, from the most expensive and advanced sensor arrays the Terrans possessed right down to ancient radar. Sensor technology had leapt forward both in terms of power and accuracy, and there had been a notable improvement in the ability of UST ships to zero in on the Numerians, but it simply wasn’t enough. The best technique the UST had was to use telescopes, simple optical telescopes fitted with cameras lined up with the fire direction control computers. UST targeting had stepped back five hundred years in one fell swoop, but it was literally the best they could do.

Unfortunately, at long range visual tracking left much to be desired, especially as plasma cannon rounds took an infuriatingly long time to reach the target, long enough for a sharp evasive turn from the Numerian ship to turn the salvo into a miss. Only the lasers really benefitted, and did often strike Numerian ships, unfortunately the Numerian crystalline armor proved incredibly resilient to the heat based energies of the lasers rendering them woefully ineffective.

By comparison the Numerians had no such concerns, although UST naval forces had managed to perfect blanket jamming to a point where at long ranges even the Numerians had a hard time getting a clean lock. Sadly even when forced into medium and close ranges Numerian ships still dominated battle, their a-mat weapons cleaving UST ships into pieces without much difficulty. They still had much to fear from an America ambush or a suicide attack, but generally speaking the Numerians were winning the war by leaps and bounds.

The only time a UST ship could lock onto a Numerian vessel was the instant before it fired, when the ECM could not mask the open gunports and fully primed weapons. By then, of course, it was invariably too late.

Despite this knowledge the warships poured on the power and prepared to intercept, expecting to face two light vessels, but ready to face down a fleet of d'Orlys if that was required. Survival was not much of an option in that sort of scenario, but even damaging one of the deadly bronze vessels helped the Terran war effort, and was worth the sacrifice.

“Orders coming through,” Kirkland noted to his squadron, flashing text informing him to take escort stations around the ships. “We’re going in, take position on me, pair off and stay loose.”

The Raptor starfighters quickly joined him, their formation looking sloppy to the untried eye, but in fact perfectly planned to keep the unit in position to cover each other but not get wiped out in the first few seconds of a battle. Each of his pilots had at least three Numerian kills, a significant achievement in this war, with a handful having over ten.  

Becoming an ace against the Numerians was almost impossible, few survived the experience and even fewer lasted long afterwards. Kirkland had twenty kills, an unbelievable figure that even veteran pilots were surprised to learn.

Kirkland’s squadron was the best in the Navy, though he had strong competition from the equally famous Ghost Ryders, which had been the top scorers of the last war, and of course his Father’s command. The Ghost’s currently answered to Captain April Green, Gerrold Kirkland’s former XO and current wife of Captain Kevin Collinwood. April had been an excellent pilot although after promotion found herself commanding a warship. That vessel had been crippled in a minor skirmish and she had barely escaped with her life, hiding out on a mining station for three months until engineering a daring escape. While she was able enough commanding a ship, she requested a posting to the starfighter wings, which was eventually granted.

That Squadron was currently attached to both the Lexington and Trenton providing cover for the Cutthroats, and while Alpha squadron, or ‘The Grim Reapers’ as they liked to be known after their unit crest which showed a hooded Death complete with skeletal features and scythe against the starry background, had seen plenty of deep range missions, but they were more at home in a pitched battle.

“All units be advised, possible fighter contacts on approach,” The station warned, its utterly vast sensor arrays able to pick out targets more effectively than those of a fighter.

“You heard the man,” Kirkland informed his squadron. “Heat ‘em up!”

From his vantage point Kirkland could see twinkles of light, reflections from canopies or the crystal shells of the enemy craft as they orientated towards them. His sensors confirmed a fuzzy electronic mass up ahead telling him there was indeed something there, but giving him nothing on their strength or numbers. Like his ancestors he was going to be relying on his own two eyes for target identification and tracking.

The lights in the distance changed suddenly in both color and intensity. The Numerian anti-matter beams were scarily fast moving, but did not travel at light speed, meaning an alert pilot could spot the muzzle flashes a few short moments before the beams reached him. Kirkland lost no time in reacting, throwing his fighter into a rapid sideways tumble out of the line of fire.

“Break, break,break!” He yelled at his unit, and they too threw themselves into evasive roles and dodges just seconds before the carpet of green beams cut through the area the Reapers had previously been occupying.

“Sweep around, circle and engage!”

The starfighters roared away in pairs adopting a circular formation spreading out like ripples in water before arcing back, turning inwards and accelerating back towards a central point. The Numerian squadron found itself at the center of that circle with fast moving Terran craft coming in from all sides presenting them with a rapid choice. Either they could cut their engines, rotate outwards, and fire on the Terrans while holding formation or they could break into small groups and try and take on the Terrans before they closed.

If they took the first option they would be sitting targets while if they took the second they would sacrifice the security of numbers and find themselves forced into a furball with the nimble gray craft. Kirkland was happy to exploit either alternative. If he had been Numerian he’d have ignored the circling Terrans and driven on past them, accelerating out of danger and focusing on the warships, but not these ones. They had challenged Kirkland’s squadron to battle and now broke up, split formation and advanced in pairs towards the  Terran starfighters.

Kirkland just about managed to smile as he cut afterburners and flipped open the covers on his gun triggers. His main sensors still refused to give him more than a vague indication that two enemy craft were incoming, fortunately though his fighter like most others had been refitted with optical gunsights that projected a magnified image of the enemy fighters rapidly advancing on his position. It was enough to engage with, but Kirkland was much happier getting into close visual range.

A couple of rounds flew past as Mitchell engaged, his trusted wingman trying for a long range kill with his plasma cannons flaring blue in the night. Understandably the Numerians evaded, sliding away from the pulses exactly as Kirkland had predicted right down to the angle, speed and distance of the evasion. It was an instinct that dwelt in his blood, the instinct of a hunter of the skies. Kirkland knew how the Numerian pilots thought, he had observed their tactics and strategies, their formations and deployments.

He had learned the Numerian fighter pilot training regime simply by watching them in action and studying every movement they made in exacting detail. Their training was formulaic and left little room for creativity, something Kirkland found efficient but utterly predictable. Once he knew the basics he could guess how a Numerian pilot would react to any given situation, and he would then be ready to pounce.

Kirkland adjusted his position ever so slightly lining up his guns on the speeding bronze shard of crystal, gauging the distance by eye and working out how far his opponent would shift after Mitchell’s next salvo. Once again his wingman opened fire and once again the two enemy fighters dodged, only this time they weaved their way directly into Kirkland’s waiting gunsights.

The twin plasma cannons shook releasing a stream of hydrogen on the verge of fusing into helium at the Numerian fighter. In the past Kirkland had prided himself on being able to bring down an enemy with just one shot, but the Numerians had taught him that it was best to make sure and not trust purely to skill. As it was his first shot did do the trick, passing clean through the front of the bronze craft in a shattering of crystal and flowering of orange flame.

The second Numerian fighter engaged in an attempt to avenge its fellow, the green lances stabbing at Kirkland as he rolled hard and flickered over the cooling embers of his kill. The Numerian fighter turned to give chase, cutting its velocity to make the turn safely and in so doing giving Mitchell a perfect shot. The Numerians understood how to work as a team, but they simply hadn’t mastered the flexibility Terran squadrons displayed with its wingman system.

While the Terrans constantly shifted between attack or defense the Numerians were always one or the other, always leader or always wingman. It meant that when one Numerian fighter was gunned down the other one did not instantly break and try to partner up with another unit, but instead continued to fulfil its role in relation to its now deceased wingmate. Against a squadron as well trained as the Reapers it was a death sentence.

Mitchell swept in beside the Numerian fighter within fifty yards, cutting his thrusters and pivoting to aim his twin cannons at the target while it was at its most vulnerable. Deflection firing was hard enough with a sensor lock, trying to hit a target as you shot past by eye alone was an incredibly difficult skill to master. Fortunately Mitchell was able to justify his place as Kirkland’s chosen wingman.

“Scratch one holier-than-thou!” Mitchell chortled.

“Nice work, now reform.” Kirkland replied professionally. “Back up Gina and Max, go!”

The two starfighters darted into action again, falling through the void to help out another embattled pair of fighter craft. Ahead of them the UST warships were engaging the fast blurs of Numerian fighters with vigor but little success, plasma cannons and phalanxes tracing blue and white patterns in the sky around the task force.

Kirkland’s pilots were performing well, with the numbers even they were using their tricks and training to draw the Numerians into a dogfight they couldn’t win. However other units around them were not so smart and were trying to take the Numerians head on, a series of fireballs underlining the futility of seeking an equal duel with a Numerian Darolei.

“Alpha ten, break right!” Kirkland commanded briskly. “Go right Gina, I’ve got him!”

The fighter in question turned away as Kirkland raced towards it, drawing one of the Numerian fighters to follow it in a spiralling dive towards the UST fleet. Kirkland dropped in, pushing his engines to reach effective range before loosing a blast of plasma downrange towards the Numerian craft. The enemy dodged, but stayed focused on Gina despite the newly arrived threat on its tail. Kirkland was aware that the Numerian pilot was waiting for his wingman to handle the problem, and luckily for him Mitchell was hard at work making sure it didn’t happen.

Gina swung another right turn, and once again the Numerian fighter gave chase just as Kirkland had hoped it would. The starfighter shuddered again as its guns spoke their message snatching up the Numerian fighter in sudden heat and light.

“Alpha Leader, check six!” Mitchell barked and without waiting Kirkland took evasive action. Green energy beams illuminated his cockpit as they passed disturbingly close by, forcing the Commander to throw some violently random manoeuvers to keep the Numerian craft off balance.

“Mitchell!”

“I’m on it, Gina, on me!”

The two nearby starfighters quickly linked up, Mitchell and Gina dropping in behind the careening duel and saturating the area with plasma cannon fire. It wasn’t neat or pretty but the deluge of fire winged the Numerian fighter, blasting off a drive vane and sending it spinning into space. Infuriatingly its ECM prevented a finishing hit finally killing it off.

“Let him suffocate!” Kirkland snarled. “Follow me!”

There was a massive volume of plasma fire ahead, yet while the blue lights outnumbered the green ones it was almost always the green blasts that ended in a flash of yellow.

Kirkland’s computer showed him unfeelingly that one of the rookie squadrons was already gone and another one was down to just two survivors. The enemy force hadn’t been more than two Numerian squadrons to begin with, and it looked like they’d already killed more enemy planes than they could lose. It angered Kirkland, but he kept it in check. Like so much else this battle was not fair, but that merely made it more rewarding to earn a kill with such odds against him.

“Bastards!” Gina snapped over the intercom. “We lost Max! Alpha Nine!”

“Stay close, put it out of your head!” Kirkland ordered. “We’re getting in close to the warships, stay awake over there! It’d be embarrassing to fly into one of our own Cruisers.”

He dodged past the shattered hull of a rookie fighter and looped hard over the upper hull of a Perry class Corvette, its batteries chugging fire at the Numerians. The Perrys had proven themselves a rather useful escort especially as its gauss cannons could fire flak bursts. The area of effect weapons were far less dependant on accuracy unlike phalanxes and had given the Numerian fighter squadrons a rude surprise, one of the few of the war. This particular vessel had notched up two more kills for its tally although with the range now reduced to point blank it was unlikely to score any more.

Kirkland worked the controls, pushing against the G-Forces and rotating his ankles to work the foot pedals. The responsive craft sang past the Corvette, control thrusters and magnetic vanes steering and flexing, the metal on the wings rippling like elastic under the stresses of the turn. He glimpsed a Numerian fighter flash past and turned on it, snapping a few rounds after it but missing. He accelerated sharply after it, noting the streams of blue from Mitchell and Gina sailing past frequently as they tried for a shot.

This Numerian pilot was a little better than the rest, his evasive turns seemed more random and much sharper, far more Terran-like. Kirkland had seen one or two like this and he had guessed they were veterans. Most Numerian pilots only ever flew by the book, and as a rule never needed to do anything else. They scored easy victories and there was never any impetus to change, never any challenge they had to adapt to.

But sometimes a Numerian pilot went up against a Terran ace like Kirkland or April and that forced them to ditch the rulebook and learn to fly naturally. Not a lot survived an encounter like that and those that did became very dangerous, a perfect blend of veteran creatively minded pilot and advanced technology. People like that killed entire squadrons single handed, he had to die.

Kirkland pushed his engines but the Numerian pilot was already pulling away thanks to his far better acceleration. The sky was alive with plasma shots as a neighboring Des Moines let loose with its main armament, massive bolts of blue joining the quest to kill this skilled opponent. The weight of fire had increased in the few seconds it had taken to pass through the task force, Kirkland hazarded a guess that five starfighters were on this one fighter and the Numerian pilot seemed utterly unfazed, leading them a merry chase through their own formations.

“Come on prayerman,” Kirkland muttered. “One mistake, just one.”

The Numerian fighter snapped around again, leading the flying circus behind it back the way they had come in a hail of fire. It skipped over the hull of a Cruiser with mere feet to spare, rolling literally beneath the warships gun barrels and forcing most of the Terran starfighters to change course in order to avoid a collision. But not Kirkland, and the striped fighter matched his daredevil moves like for like, not giving in and not faltering. It wasn’t working, for although Kirkland was still on his tail the Numerian craft was simply too fast and was already beyond the effective range of his guns. Once upon a time it wouldn’t have been, but with most successful engagements taking place at less than a thousand yards the chances of hitting the Numerian fighter were getting slimmer with each heartbeat.

Until it exploded, with no warning at all it ceased to exist and by the time Kirkland registered that the chase was over his fighter was already skimming past the fireball. He exhaled and checked over his shoulder craning his neck to find the pilot who had taken his kill. He wasn’t really surprised.

“Hi Terry, miss me?”

He smiled and shook his head, “Kelly, nice entrance.”

“It just looked painful seeing you chasing that guy, you sure you’re up for this fighter pilot game? Gotta be awake you know.”

“Don’t suppose we can share that kill can we?” He chuckled. “I did do most of the legwork.”

“Let me think... ah, no,” Kelly Nakamoura answered. “And he was the last one.”

Kirkland shrugged at the comment, watching the other pilot move closer. “I’m not complaining.”

Kelly’s fighter angled upwards slightly, displaying its own gaudy wing art, in this case a deep red rising sun emitting a dozen thick sunbeams over a blue sea. It reflected her Japanese-American heritage and suited her unit, the appropriately named ‘Rising Suns’ squadron.

“So because I saved you from looking like a puttering old man, I think you owe me a drink.”

The twenty-nine year old grinned at the idea of being called old, a joke she loved teasing him about. As she liked to say he had the body of a young pilot and the attitude of a middle aged Victorian Duke.

“Sounds like a good deal, I’ll see you on Rigel prime.” He looked around with a grunt. “Looks like we’re done here. All fighters, return to to the barn.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

  • BTS! Playtesters
  • Rear Admiral
  • **
  • Posts: 863
    • The World of the Gunny
Re: The Terran-Numerian War
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2009, 09:03:23 PM »
***


General Denisov brushed a hand over his deeply lined brow, grimacing in resignation at the situation that had passed before him.

“Enemy scout ships are gone sir, our ships weren’t fast enough to intercept them,” The station sensor officer offered as a report.

“And those two squadrons of fighters kept our fighters from pressing in to try and disable them.” General Tian added.

“That could have gone better,” Denisov said flatly. “Hell, that’s the epitaph of this whole war. Could have gone better.”

“We’ve activated the comm screen,” Tian said. “As far as we know even Numerian ships can’t send signals until they move out of range, it gives us a few hours at least.”

“Get some fighters through the gate, lets try and prevent them from getting that far.”

“Sir, in normal space Numerian ships are tough enough to track at range, but trying to hunt them down in hyperspace...” Tian tailed off.

“I know, but do it anyway. Better than just letting them go,” Denisov ordered. “Gives the illusion that we can still make a difference.”

Tian nodded and the station officer set about delivering the orders. The smaller officer saw him set to work, then stepped closer to Denisov and lowered her voice. “Five or six hours for them to clear the jammers, three days travel time for the Numerian fleet to reach us, maybe a day for them to organize. Doesn’t leave us much time.”

“Not much time at all,” Denisov agreed solemnly. “Get as many people to Earth as you can. Load them on the half-built warships if you have to. If it can move I want it full of refugees and through the gate in four days or less.”

“And our combat ships?” Tian asked.

“They have to stay,” Denisov said. “Under my personal command.”

“Understood sir.”

The taller Admiral sighed slightly and looked up from the console, staring out through the CiC window into space beyond. “Everything is in place on the surface, we’ll be ready in time. I just hope it’s enough.”

“We’ll do all we can on the ground,” Tian confirmed. “What about in orbit?”

“We’re still going to have civilians up here.” Denisov said. “We hold them as long as we can, buy time to get one more ship through the gate.”

Tian nodded slowly, well aware of what that likely meant in regards to their chances of survival.

“Four days then.”

Denisov nodded, only too aware of what those words now encapsulated. This was their last real chance for victory, and many of his people would not survive to know whether or not they would succeed.

“Four days.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

 

Sitemap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52