Author Topic: The Forever War - Part 03  (Read 745 times)

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Offline Haji (OP)

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The Forever War - Part 03
« on: September 17, 2022, 12:49:42 PM »

   The government have just received information that two additional jump points have been found in HRCC 4421 although both led to desolate stars. In the end the decision is made to claim the system.
   Aside from freighters with infrastructure, a colony ship and a jump tender, Poland also sends four frigates and three destroyers to the area. As their movements will be easily observed by the massive Korean sensors they decide to forgo any attempt at subterfuge and declare their intention to annex one of the three chains that begins two jumps from Parana. They are met with immediate protest from PDRK but they ignore it.
   In addition names for the systems have been chosen as the catalog numbers aren’t very inspiring. The system adjacent to Parana is named Bialomost (White Bridge) the next system from which the three chains start is named Wrota (Gateway). The first system annexed by Poland is named Pogranicze (Borderland) while the system with potential colony sites is named Solidarnosc after an illegal workers union that was instrumental in felling Communism in the twentieth century.
   Last but not least the only Polish stabilization ship is ordered to begin work on opening those systems.
   The body targeted for colonization, named Kleczanow, is a moon orbiting gas giant Baltyk. It will require over fifty percent more life supporting infrastructure per person than Marzanna and terraforming will be slow but once modified it will be a reasonable place to live. The only potential problem is water coverage of only thirteen percent which means the moon will have one large but shallow sea but that will still create a habitable area for well over four billion people.


   A Korean survey vessel enters Solidarnosc. The jump point is picketed by a single frigate, the ORP Dabie as the rest of the task force was deployed in the Wrota system. Dabie informs the interloper that the system have been annexed by Poland and she has to withdraw but the survey ship was in space for a long time and had no knowledge of those events. It is impossible to say whether this is true or just a cover but even if it is many suspect the Korean survey ships have orders to ignore Polish claims anyway.
   The Frigate does what it was ordered to do as the situation was pretty much predicted. The Republic knows Korea will push as much as they can and the only way to stop them is with force so Dabie prepared one of her railguns and fired a single burst. The target had very little armor and no armament, and quickly begun to withdraw.
   The problem was communication. The frigate had no jump drive and the jump points were not stabilized yet. An exploration ship was in one of the systems beyond, conducting a gravitational survey and another was together with the larger force in Wrota to serve as a messenger. Fortunately the colonization group was still some days away from Kleczanow so the jump tender could be detached and sent to Bialomost to use the stabilized jump point there to send message to the capital. And while this will leave the freighters and the colony ship stranded, with no knowledge of what was happening elsewhere, sending them back was considered too risky.


   Korea announced their exploration ship was illegally fired upon while also denouncing what they called illegal Polish blockade in the Wrota system. They claimed to be preparing military response.
   By this point DPRK had seven cruisers and six destroyers, plus two destroyers that were on rotation between Perun, where both sides were harvesting fuel, and Kim Jong where the vessels were undergoing shore leave and overhaul. It would be easy for Koreans to create a task group powerful enough to destroy the blockading force and the government was unwilling to send their own primary battle group comprising six escort cruisers, six destroyer escorts and two frigates as their ability to win a battle was in doubt due to no longer having technological advantage and inferior tonnage. For that matter the cruisers and destroyers were an important part of planetary missile defenses and some speculated Korea wanted them away from the planet so that their bases could actually strike the capital. The risks were simply unacceptable.
   Because of this Poland have announced that if any Korean warship tries to leave the system it will be fired upon by the bases on Baszta. DPRK claimed that this was nothing less than a declaration of war. The Republic responded that the planned Korean invasion of Polish territory was a declaration of war.
   Nearly two hours later the destroyer ORP Notec, guarding fuel harvesters in orbit of Perun, reported taking hits from a Korean destroyer. Both ships were only a couple hundred of kilometers from each other and there was no warning. It begun with Notec being hit by a plasma carronade from point blank range, receiving a hit equal to what a twenty four mega tone warhead would do and was followed by the enemy firing every missile and anti-missile they could. Outstandingly of the thirty shipkillers launched nine were intercepted by point defense and most other missed, resulting in only a single hit followed by sixteen anti-missiles striking the Polish vessel.
   The failure of Korean missiles was decisive. The Polish destroyer was just as large, faster and focused entirely on short range combat. Within seconds her railguns and gauss cannons begun hammering her assailant and disabled her sensors before DPRK warship could fire again. In the end Notec suffered only light armor damage and she now had nine Korean fuel harvesters at her mercy.
   The Republican government believed this to be some sort of limited show of power and begun trying to negotiate with Kim Jong, but they were met with silence. Over an hour later however one of the cometary mining groups came under attack. The four ships were hit by one hundred and sixty interplanetary missiles. Fortunately the mining vessels were so large that all survived but nearly a thousand people died aboard them. Poland was furiously trying to reach someone within the Korean government still unable to believe that a full scale war have just erupted but an hour and a half later a second mining group came under attack. Five ships were hit and another eleven hundred people were killed.
   The government went into emergency session and ordered Korean shipyards destroyed. Notec was also ordered to order the fuel harvesters to surrender. If they won’t the warship was instructed to destroy them. The commanding officer asked for confirmation, pointing out that those ships were crewed by civilians, but Poland was done. As far as they were concerned they entered a total war against DPRK and crewed by civilians or not, those were extremely important economic assets.
   ORP Notec ordered the harvesters to surrender, but was refused. In the end the commanding officer followed her orders and destroyed one of them, after which she repeated her plea for the enemy to surrender and save lives. She was again refused. She begun destroying the vessels one by one, giving Korean opportunity to surrender after each kill, but they steadfastly refused. Her executive officer pointed out to her that those people had families at home and were likely terrified what will happen to them if they were accused of cowardice. In the end all nine ships have been destroyed and not one was abandoned before firing started. Nearly a thousand Korean civilians died in the short action and over seven hundred were in life pods awaiting rescue.
   While Polish missiles were in flight Korea launched another attack at the mining ships. Four hundred and fifty explosions were detected resulting in the loss of seven ships.
   The Intelligence was working overtime on what was happening and their theory was that Korea was fighting a full scale war but form a position of insecurity. They knew Polish missile defenses were heavy so they wanted to weaken the Republic as much as possible before launching a strike on Marzanna itself. This way if the strike fails, Poland will still be weakened but if they started by going after the capital and failed, they would have nothing to show from this war.


   Poland had seven missile bases each capable of firing sixty Osas. Now those were finally in range and released a total of twenty one hundred Zadlo sub-minitions that begun zeroing on Korean shipyards. The enemy begun intercepting them one million and six hundred thousand kilometers from the planet, but their first volley scored only ninety five hits. In the end over twelve hundred submunitions have been intercepted and over eight hundred managed to hit. Unfortunately Zadlos had very weak warheads, only two mega tonnes and as a result only two yards have been destroyed but it was unknown which ones.
   Baszta had only forty five of the new missiles, but it had over sixteen hundred first generation Osas in storage. This meant Poland could fire three more full salvos and a fourth partial one but reloading required time.
   An hour later the last two mining ships that were close to the inner system have been destroyed. Over twenty five hundred people waited to be rescued, but nearly five thousand and four hundred died. The one piece of good news was that Korea have used nine hundred and ten of their interplanetary missiles to accomplish this. Poland was left with seventeen mining ships plus two under construction.
   An hour after that the Korean fleet begun moving towards one of the Lagrange points. The Polish officers realized immediately that their enemy was aware of the need to reload and flight times and sent their warships to wreak havoc on the Republican industry, likely starting with the fuel harvesters. Those could not be ordered to retreat as they were capable of only seven hundred and twenty kilometers per second and were escorted by only a single destroyer. The crews were ordered to abandon those ships and ORP Notec was ordered to try and withdraw. Her commanding officer decided to head towards the nearest Lagrange point and jump towards Brazilian space, not caring whether or not this will spark a diplomatic incident.
   Several hours later the Polish sensors detected a massive missile wave moving towards Marzanna. Four thousand and two hundred missiles were expected, but there were twelve less than that indicating that Korea have just run out of previous generation munitions.
   As there was fear the enemy will target population centers, the fleet was stationed above the capital rather than Baszta which meant gauss cannons and railguns won’t be able to contribute if the naval yards were being targeted. Nonetheless the first volley of Polish anti-missiles intercepted over five hundred Korean missiles. The last one was destroyed fifty thousand kilometers away from the planet, but that was once again due to the Republic striving for as economical use of ammunition as was possible.
   With the Korean strike over, Poland had a difficult decision to make. The Intelligence was confident the enemy had developed ion drives, but they had no idea how many improved missiles they have built. It stood to reason that they didn’t have enough to arm all the bases or they would have begun with those but it was also very likely that however many they had they were going to fire them now. If there were only a couple thousand the Republican anti-missile bases would be more than enough to deal with them, but if there are more the warships will also be needed. The issue was the Korean force that was now around Perun as they had free reign to destroy the cometary mining colonies or go for the crippling blow – Turow.
   The dwarf planet is extremely important to Poland and has five hundred mining complexes, two hundred of which are automated. It would take Marzanna seven years to build this back. More over there are nearly thirty million people living in orbital habitats whose death would be unacceptable and the habitats themselves represent another three years of investment.
   The one piece of good news is that the enemy fleet would need ten days to reach Turow from its current position and Poland has both positional and speed advantage. As such a scout is sent to try and find the DPRK warships while the fleet continues to guard the capital.


   Early morning another Polish strike reached Kim Jong. The planetary defenses shot dawn a over a thousand Zadlos, nearly half their number, but the rest slammed into the yards again, destroying two more.
   Several hours after that the Korean response have arrived. The incoming missiles were first detected by their active sensors and their speed was quickly calculated to be twenty two thousand and five hundred kilometers per second – sixty percent faster than the previous ones. The defenders were ordered to fire two anti-missile at each incoming one. Unfortunately only a very limited number of Iglas B was produced and those were loaded on three escort cruisers so those munitions will be almost irrelevant.
   Once the incoming wave entered active sensor range their number was calculated at thirty one hundred and sixty two missiles, most likely all Korea managed to produce. It was very likely that DPRK had no interplanetary munitions remaining so if this wave could be defeated, Marzanna would be safe.
   The new Polish interceptors had sixty seven percent interception chance, but the older model had only thirty five percent chance to hit. As a result the first Republican volley intercepted three hundred and seven incoming missiles, far less than previously. The last Korean missile was destroyed only thirty thousand kilometers from Baszta, which appeared to be the target, and a thousand kilometers away from Marzanna.
   Believing Kim Jong was out of long range munitions, the Polish fleet was quickly reloaded and send to hunt the Korean fleet. They were ordered not to use Lagrange point as the enemy planet may still have normal anti-ship missiles they could potentially use.


   Poland launched another strike at the Korean shipyards. Seven hundred and fifty Zadlos were intercepted, the rest managed to destroy three of the remaining four shipyards. The decreased performance of Kim Jong defenses implies they were using modern interceptors previously but they are out of them now.


   Poland launched their fourth strike at the Korean shipyards. Seven hundred and eleven missiles were intercepted and the rest destroyed the last of DPRK shipbuilding. So far there has been no response from Kim Jong, confirming they no longer have ammunition to threaten Marzanna.
   Both sides are determined to do as much damaged to their opponent as possible. Because of that Korea isn’t willing to negotiate as they are still hoping to strike Turow while Poland isn’t sitting to the table specifically to destroy what remains of DPRK fleet. Brazil has been screaming at both sides since the combat begun, but to no avail.
   Late evening the Polish scout got the Korean fleet on sensors. The Polish warships moved to intercept.


   While closing on their opponent, the Polish fleet detected a wave of nine hundred and forty missiles moving at twenty four thousand kilometers per second. The speed indicated the enemy force was armed with the best they had to offer. The Republican force came about and begun preparing their anti-missile defenses. They had a total of one hundred and ninety two launchers but unlike the bases they could fire once every ten seconds rather than five.
   Four hundred and forty four missiles were destroyed by anti-missiles and fifty four more by gauss cannons and railguns. Seventy six slammed into the destroyer escort ORP Lodz. The rest begun seeking new target even as additional Polish anti-missiles and gauss cannons were desperately trying to intercept them.
   The frigate ORP Sniadrwy was the next vessel to be destroyed. She was soon joined by the destroyer escort ORP Warszawa. During the re targeting the Republican defenses were cutting dawn the Korean shipkillers and the remaining ones converged on the destroyer escort ORP Krakow, but caused only light damage that included her active sensors and fuel storage and killing twelve of her crew. In total four hundred and thirty two Polish servicemen died.
   The remaining eleven Polish warships headed towards the enemy.


   As the distance between the two forces fell to eight hundred thousand kilometers, the Korean fleet launched anti-missiles in offensive mode. Their destroyers carried interceptors in single shot box launchers, giving them a strong initial punch but limited sustainability while their cruisers had sixteen repeatable launchers. The initial volley contained five hundred and ninety two anti-missiles but fortunately those were all previous generation ones, using only nuclear pulse engines. The Polish defenses did their best but one hundred and forty four got through. The destroyer escorts were the target but the damage was minimal. ORP Poznan and ORP Gdansk had only armor damage while ORP Wroclaw have lost crew quarters but had no casualties. The only ship hit somewhat hard was ORP Krakow which was previously damaged and she lost two people and several systems, including one of her railguns.
   The enemy had taken a break, most likely to see what they managed to accomplish before having their cruisers fire full salvos at the Polish force. Unwilling to risk the ships, the commanding officer ordered the use of his own anti-missiles despite the fact not many have remained back on the homeworld. This proved to be a wise decision as dozens of enemy interceptors managed to get through, targeted at the four escort destroyers.
   By the time the barrage was over the destroyer escorts ORP Poznan and ORP Wroclaw have been destroyed and ORP Krakow was heavily damaged, although still capable of full speed. Only ORP Gdansk managed to get away with only armor damage.
   The two destroyer escorts and the frigate were ordered to withdraw. They were equipped with two hundred millimeter railguns with range of one hundred and sixty thousand kilometers which was believed lower than what the Korean plasma carronades were capable of. The escort cruisers however were equipped with two hundred and fifty millimeter railguns capable of reaching targets two hundred thousand kilometers away.
   The six Polish warships have closed to one hundred and ninety five thousand kilometers and opened fire. They scored thirty seven hits, every one doing a damage an anti-missile would do, but the enemy was unable to respond. While it took nearly an hour, the entire Korean fleet was wiped out.
   The only Korean warship remaining was a single destroyer that was in overhaul when the war started. She and the various civilian and support vessels in orbit of Kim Jong weren’t targeted because the government wanted to have a reserve of missiles and those targets weren’t valuable enough to use what little ammunition remained.
   The battle group set course towards Perun to rescue fuel harvester crews that got away. ORP Notec and the damaged warships was ordered to pick up survivors of destroyed Polish warships and mining vessels.
   While that was happening the two sides entered negotiations with Brazil being a somewhat unwonted part of it. Korea no longer had an ability to project power outside their planet and Poland was unwilling to get into range of anti-missile bases on Kim Jong. For that matter there was still the issue of normal shipkillers being launched from missile bases as it was unknown how many DPRK had in storage. Overall the two sides couldn’t really do anything else to each other but the jump point to outside space was within range of their missile bases which meant they had to reach some sort agreement.
   As a sign of good will Poland announced they won’t be firing on Korean vessels trying to recover their life pods. However they also announced that their ships will likely be using Lagrange points to come back home with survivors and if DPKR will fire on them, the Republic will bombard the missile bases irrespective of collateral damage.


   All polish survivors are now back on the home world. There have been no incidents with Korea.


   The negotiations have been progressing slowly. At its core Poland wanted to be just left alone but there were several problems with that. First the Republic wanted its claims on the systems beyond Pogranicze as it believed Korea will use any free movement treaty to threaten Polish colonies. Second Poland wanted the right to inspect and limit Korean interplanetary strike capabilities. While somewhat dangerous considering the alien threat, the Republic simply couldn’t afford a constant arms race. Third due to the loss of two mining operations Poland wanted the salvage rights to Korean wrecks in order to create a mineral stockpile that will last until sufficient number of new mining vessels can be build.
   With the help of Brazil, which was very keen on keeping the two states alive as a buffer against kinhalans, the first point could pass easily. The other two not so much.
   In the end Poland had to accept it won’t be able to limit the Korean military build up unless they are willing to demolish those bases with missile strikes and doing so would not only be morally dubious and politically risky it would also turn Brazil into an enemy. However they did win their claims to systems and wrecks. The war was over.
   The week long conflict have been devastating for both sides. Korea has no shipyards, almost no warships and their stockpiles of interplanetary munitions have been exhausted. They are almost certainly out of modern interceptors as well but they should have some older anti-missiles remaining. They also lost their fuel harvesting operations, but they still have planetary refineries.
   The cost for Poland was much higher. They’ve lost their entire fuel production capability and while they have two hundred and fifty million liters of fuel in storage, it will still have to be carefully managed. All their bases and ships are armed, but they have no reserve. Worst of all their mineral situation was never great and the loss of nine mining ships will hit them greatly over the long term.


   The Polish jump tender is finally in a system with stabilized jump points allowing her to report the events in Solidarnosc to the government. She is quickly briefed on the Korean War and ordered to bring back the colonization group.


   Poland moved their naval base to Baszta and Marzanna have completed its current industrial project – a hundred automated mines for Turow. Considering the recent war the most obvious goal for the nation should be increasing its military but its not that simple.
   The colony of Kleczanow in the Solidarnosc system has population of only a hundred thousand and it won’t be expanded further any time soon as the freighters are necessary to move the new mines to Turow. An additional problem is infrastructure as Marzanna is using all that is being produced and the other colonies produce only a minuscule amount. Orbital habitats are also problematic as their large size means slow travel and huge fuel expenditures when using tugs, an issue even greater since there is only one fuel harvester in operation.
   In the simplest possible terms, the Republic needs two industrial sites, one of which will be focused on the military and another one which will be focused on colonization. Fortunately Baszta is already on its way to become one of such sites as it has one tenth of the Marzannas industry while also having lesser manpower problems. Its current population is forty five million and there is enough space for nine million more.
   In the end the government decides to take a gamble. Yes, the kinhalans are still a threat and with Korea knocked out for at least a decade, that threat can easily become greater than ever. However without developing other planets, Poland simply won’t be able to compete in the long term. As such their current plans are to build and expand three new commercial yards, even if this will lead to small manpower shortages in order to produce more freighters, colony ships, mining vessels and fuel harvesters and then keep expanding Baszta until it can keep developing military on its own. The project will take a lot of time, but if the Unity gives Poland that time it will be an important investment into the future.


   Since stabilized jump points have been extended all the way to Pogranicze, both exploration ships were now working together, supported by the two early gravitational survey vessel that had no jump drives. This was especially important as Poland expected to run into other nations out there, be they human or alien, so the doctrine demanded that such vessels operate in pairs, so that every time a new system is found one stays on the jump point to escape if needed while the second one checks the system for signs of habitation.
   The survey group recently discovered the system of HRCC 7261 located four jumps beyond Solidarnosc. What was special about the system was that it contained a fantastic candidate for terraformation. The planet was small, only ninety six hundred kilometers in diameter, but it needed only one hundredth of an atmosphere of oxygen for the atmosphere to become more or less breathable. The problem was carbon dioxide that would have to be removed and a temperature that was lower than what humans could bear, but even so it was the best potential colony site found so far.
   While ORP Kopernik was staying on the jump point the second exploration ship, the ORP Maria Sklodowska-Curie have been moving towards the planet. The standard operating procedure was for the active sensors to be off, as they were very powerful and could be easily detected. Suddenly a weak thermal signature was detected at three million kilometers moving at an incredible eighteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty kilometers per second. The commanding officer ordered active sensors engaged and they showed five contacts, one massing thirty two thousand and two hundred tonnes and the other four massing sixteen thousand and eight hundred tonnes. The craft were obviously using stealth engines which coupled with their size and speed indicated them to be warships.
   The commander ordered his vessel to turn about while also sending first contact packages, but those ships knew about him for some time and didn’t try to communicate. Worse his ship had no weapons and even if she had, she was badly outnumbered by the incoming vessels.
   The unknowns closed to two hundred thousand kilometers before firing. Three beams hit Maria Sklodowska-Curie, punching straight through her and exiting the other side of the ship. The damage was catastrophic and the vessel simply fell apart. Kopernik, which was observing this from billions of kilometers away, detected three hits each doing a damage equal to what a one hundred and fifty nine mega tonne warhead would do. This kind of weapon could mission kill any Polish warship with a single hit.
   There was no way to save the few survivors who got to the life boats. Kopernik turned around and headed towards the nearest system with stabilized jump points to inform the government of what happened.


   Kopernik have entered the Pogranicze system, sending a message through stabilized jump points to the capital. As she was in space for a long time now and it was also possible to refit her to magneto-plasma drives, she was ordered home.
   While that was going on, the government decided to check if kinhalans know something. The nine hundred and eighty six survivors were initially held in prisons, but as the lack of contact dragged on they were allowed to create their own community, although one that was under observation. Their numbers grew to nearly four thousand over the previous thirty six years but they were generally staying away from humans despite the attempts at integration. And as it turns out they knew what the Republic have encountered.
   When the Union begun launching sublight colony expeditions, most of those run into systems that were not inhabited but were occupied by highly advanced warships. As far as kinhalans can tell the picketed planets had several things in common – they had potential to develop life, the stars they orbited were old enough to develop intelligence and the star they orbited wasn’t active enough to kill the developing life. This led to them theorizing that those ships were either protecting potential new intelligent civilizations from outside interference, or were positioned to murder them while they emerge. The colony of those particular kinhalans was successful because it was a moon in a system with bright A class star that was obviously far too young to develop life. For that matter such stars were so short lived that it was impossible for intelligence to develop around them.
   With the explanation out of the way Poland wanted to know why weren’t they warned. The answer came in two flavors – ‘you didn’t ask’ and ‘why would I help the enemy?’. When the Intelligence services were asked why they didn’t pick on that despite apparently knowing the history of the aliens, they explained that the history they presented was put together form very fragmentary data coming from destroyed ships and filled through interrogation of captives. In short it was definitely incomplete and may even be inaccurate. For that matter the Intelligence warned the government that this was how kinhalans presented their own history and it may be a lie manufactured by their own government.
   When the military was asked about the possibility of attacking the HRCC 7261 system, they were told it was impossible. The aliens, tentatively called the Guardians, had such crashing superiority in energy combat that it was virtually impossible to defeat them with the kind of forces Poland had. Missile strikes were a possibility but the anti-missile defenses of the enemy were not known and their ships were so fast that a huge percentage of missiles fired would simply miss. The military flat out stated that the system has to be off limit and that it would take decades of effort to create a military that would have even the most minuscule of chances of conquering the system.
   The government wanted numbers. The officers presented their best educated guess. A Projekt 019C escort cruiser, the newest and most powerful Polish warship would require about a thousand anti-missile hits to be destroyed. Considering the alien technological superiority it stands to reason that one of their four lighter warships would require about three times as many hits and their larger ship would likely require about six times as much for a total of eighteen thousand hits. The current generation Iglas would have eighty percent chance to hit, bringing the total number to twenty two and a half thousand interceptors fired. The officers also stress that while dedicated anti-ship missiles would be doing more damage, they would have lower chance to hit such fast moving targets. Korean shipkillers would have only thirteen percent chance to hit for example.
   The critical point here however is that it is unknown what kind of anti-missile defenses the enemy carries. For example the current escort cruisers could fire thirty two salvos. If the enemy can intercept a hundred anti-missiles from each salvo that would mean additional three thousand two hundred interceptors would be needed.
   In the end for the military to feel completely secure they advise that any attack should be made by anti-missile armed warships because of chances to hit or by new vessels armed with special purpose shipkillers. If interceptors are to be used it is advised that the fleet contains at least thirty thousand of them which translates to sixty escort cruisers. Six were in service and three more would launch this year.
   The government tried to find a better solution but there was none. In the end the system of HRCC 7261 was declared off limits and survey ships were ordered to use their active sensors as the stealth drives of the Guardians made passive systems essentially useless.


   Korea have announced their claim to one of the moons in the Bialomost system which they named Chogjin.
   The moon is the only body with any sort of colonization potential. It has acceptable, if low, gravity but has neither water nor atmosphere and the temperature is too high. The Intelligence believes their primary motivation is to move their shipyards away from Polish planetary batteries but also close enough for the development of the planet to be relatively quick. It is in fact possible that once those yards are in Chogjin Korea will being developing a planet deep in their own space, as the three nations did divide the three stars beyond Wrota between themselves.
   Their claim has an additional complication. The jump point from Parana is very close to the orbit of the planet Chogjin is orbiting which means that at some times the planet will have all the traffic between the home system and colonies under threat. There is however nothing that can be done about it.


   Poland discovers the system of KRC 62217 two jumps from Solidarnosc. The system is a binary of a white dwarf and an orange star, slightly smaller than Sun. The secondary is orbited by a planet that would fulfill the requirements for a Remnant picket although long range observations show no biosphere of any kind, almost certainly due to the primary star cooking the world while it was becoming the white dwarf. Nonetheless the system is declared off limits for the time being.


   For over nine years now Marzanna have been working on turning Baszta into a self-sufficient industrial site and now the process is considered to be more or less complete. The small moon has half the industry of the planet it orbits and it has population of over ninety million. It can build enough orbital habitats for five million more people every year without having to employ a significant portion of the population in life support jobs.
   With that Poland can finally enact its plan of Marzanna focusing on colonization and Baszta focusing on military but it won’t be that easy. Due to enormous pressures on Republican shipbuilding there are very few freighters in operation, all of which are needed somewhere else and only two colony ships have been built both of which are trying to deal with Basztas manpower shortages. Because of this expanding Kleczanow through infrastructure is difficult. To make matters worse there are only two tugs in operation and moving habitats over interstellar distances is slow.
   Poland knew about all of this and commercial shipbuilding is expanding but it needs time. The only piece of good news is that Marzanna have surplus workers that can be used. In addition fuel never really became a problem like was expected after the war and the loss of the harvesters. Stockpiles never fell below two hundred million tonnes and currently six harvesters are in operation producing over seven million liters of fuel per year. Minerals are also mostly a non-issue with the exception of mercassium which is always in short supply due to habitat construction. The only real problem on economic side, other than manpower, is the slow progress in salvaging wrecks. The Polish vessels were designed with limited number of alien wrecks in mind and they work slowly while having innate cargo capacity. At current rates the task will take decades.
   Last but not least during the Korean war the government found itself with a dilemma as to whether they should bombard Korean colonies or allow DPRK to keep their mineral income. They want to make sure this problem never arises again and ordered Marzanna to create ground force training facilities and develop appropriate technology. If there is another war with Korea, their colonies will be seized but for that transports will be needed which will put further stress on shipbuilding.
   On the military front things are looking grim. There is enough ammunition to arm all installations and warships, but reserves are almost non-existent. To make matters worse, development of new engines and new railguns that can utilize the full range of fire controls have triggered refits that are still not complete. And to add to the mess Marzanna is close to developing new, faster firing missile launchers that will double the rate of fire of the cruisers. New armor was also developed. As a result the ships that have recently been upgraded will soon begin a whole new round of refits. The older destroyers and frigates are left as they are and demoted to, essentially, picket and scout duty. As a result the main Polish battle fleet holds steady at nine escort cruisers.
   Baszta has the industrial muscle to solve the problem, but it doesn’t have the manpower to do so. As a result the moon will have to focus on further expanding its habitats before it can actually start building up a large naval force.


   Poland have designed a new version of their exploration ship that sacrifices some range for a drone deployment system that can check planets for hostile forces from nearly one and a half billion kilometers away using a modified missile with enormous range and on board active sensors. Now the first such ship, ORP Ignacy Moscicki, have entered the system of KRC 62217 to check for signs of the Guardians. In case something were to go wrong another survey ship, ORP Jerzy Neyman, is standing by on the jump point to record the events.
   The planet itself is no great prize. While it has far lower infrastructure requirements than Kleczanow, due to huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it would require significant amounts of terraforming. For that matter once modified it wouldn’t be that pleasant place to live due to huge oceans that are generating furious weather, extremely long day-night cycle that would require for all instances and purposes a constant artificial lighting and heating and other problems. Nonetheless the planet has potential for developing life even if it was likely sterilized when the primary star became a white dwarf so it has to be checked.
   In the end the system was empty. The two ships will now move to KRC 98252, a recently discovered system that also may be picketed by Guardians.


   The system of KRC 98252 was very compact with the only known jump point being located billions of kilometers from any planets. ORP Jerzy Moscicki have entered the extreme deployment range and fired a drone at the planet.
   Several hours ago, when the drone was only about a third of the way in, it detected three Guardian warships, massing sixteen thousand and eight hundred tonnes. The ships were moving straight for Moscicki. The commander of the vessel decided to move to the side, rather than towards the jump point, hoping the aliens didn’t have his vessel on sensors just yet. The maneuver was further complicated by the fact that due to the aliens stealth engines he couldn’t track the enemy and he dared not use his active sensors as those would be readily detected. Several hours later she was destroyed by lasers.
   ORP Jerzy Neyman was on the jump point and the adjacent system was part of a stabilized jump point network, so the government could be updated with limited lag. Neyman was ordered to observe the jump point for two weeks to ensure the Guardians won’t be venturing out while the capital considered how to deal with the issue.


   There has been on sign of the Guardians, confirming they are not leaving their systems. The military has been working hard on understanding what have happened as the drones were supposed to protect the ships from exactly what just happened. They think they have an answer.
   The commander of Moscicki wasn’t stupid. He was not only practicing strict emission control, he was also moving into the system at half speed, all in order to avoid passive sensors. It appears to have worked as the three ships were not moving directly towards the Polish vessel. Instead, judging by the enemies final vector, they were moving towards where they thought she’ll be, found her and moved to intercept. All of which means that Moscicki was never actually detected, but rather something tipped the aliens that she’s in the system and there is only one possibility – the drone. This is further corroborated by the timing as it appears the aliens have left their planet right when the drone was launched.
   The consensus of the military is that the drone has such a powerful active sensor that it was detected at launch from over a billion kilometers away.
   The good news was that there was a reasonably easy fix for the issue. A two stage drone will be designed. The first stage will be very slow, so much so that it will take it days, if not weeks, to reach the target allowing the launching ship that much time to reposition. The second stage will be faster and equipped with active sensors.


   The development of Kleczanow has been progressing very slowly with only nine million people living there. This heavily limited the number of terraforming installations that can be operated, slowing dawn the entire process. Now however the first in a new type of planetary modification center have been opened, one that requires almost no manpower. Unfortunately it had to be prefabricated on Marzanna, transported and assembled on Kleczanow and while its manufacturing was quite quick, the transportation and assembly was not. The colony can operate only twenty factories which means each such installation takes three years to become operational.
   Even so more will be produced and transported. While recently Poland have begun producing a lot of freighters and moving infrastructure to the colony, it simply isn’t enough. For that matter a planet requiring life support is no prize for the Republic. If Kleczanow is to become an actual asset it has to be fully modified to human standards.


   Poland launches their first Projekt 032 class tug. Previous ships like this were one hundred thousand tonnes and equipped with ion drives which, while more than enough to move stuff around Parana, was grossly inadequate in the age of interstellar travel. As an example the smallest habitats, capable of housing one million people, required over eighteen months of travel in order to be delivered to Kleczanow. The new tug, massing two hundred and fifty thousand tonnes and equipped with magneto-plasma drives will require less than six months.
   The colony however wasn’t the reason for the construction of this new vessel. The Republic is facing periodic mercassium shortages and construction of mining ships is simply insufficient. As such a new mining colony will be established above the planet Wieliczka in the Malbork system, formerly known as DTSC 091 B I. It is a venusian world which is why normal colony is not a possibility and the system itself is the only route to HRCC 7261 where the Guardians were first encountered. However as the colony is orbiting the distant secondary component that can be reached only through Lagrange points it likely won’t become a fleet base even if one will be established in the system.
   Aside from mineral deposits the planet is very close to the star and bathed in unusual radiation that will significantly improve research into sensors so an R&D sector is also planned, although far into the future as construction and transport of orbital habitats will take a long time, especially since support for Kleczanow will also be needed. Aside from mercassium the planet has significant and easily accessible deposits of duranium, which is needed for almost everything, tritanium, critical in missile production and uridium, a necessary material for sensors and fire controls. Other resources are also present but in minimal accessibility. As Marzanna was preparing for the launching of the tug for a long time one hundred mines and three hundred automated mines are already waiting in the capital to be moved, although freight capacity will be an issue.
   Wieliczka is so far away that even the new tug will need nearly a year to deliver the first habitat. Fortunately internal confinement fusion drives have been researched although development of actual devices is still ongoing. Retooling and construction of a new tug will also take time, but those new drives should significantly improve the Republican capability of colonizing distant space.


   Brazil completes construction of a Bishop’s Ring, a massive habitat that can house a hundred million people. They intend to build more.
   One of the sad truths about the universe is that habitable planets are few and far between and even those that are technically habitable can have a huge array of issues. To allow various agencies to quickly judge a planet a habitability score was created, ranging from 0 to 10. Zero score is given to worlds where humanity would die off if technology failed, most often given to planets with no water or covered in water or ice completely. Highest score is given to the more Earth-like worlds. For any characteristic that is too far from what Earth was, a point or two is being deducted. Most planets have habitable score between four and seven and while this may sound good it isn’t, for every point represents a problem that is expensive to deal with. For example a planet may have a gravity that is technically within range, but is so low or so high that a significant percentage of the population will require medical support to avoid side effects. A planet may not have magnetic field, requiring special protection for electronics. It may have a very long day-night cycle that effectively requires a year round artificial lightning.
   The best planet found so far has a habitable score of nine and it is a very cold place that would require significant amount of terraforming. Kleczanow, once modified, will have score of six and Brazil haven’t found any planet with a score higher than seven, while their home planet of Amazonia has a score of six. As a result the Federal government have decided to start investing into orbital habitats to give its people the best lives they can have but it took them ten years to build the first Ring.
   Construction of additional ones will require additional industrial sites outside their home planet and of course more mining locations. Their two largest mining colonies, Paracatu and Morro Velho, located in the Parana system, are both exceeding three hundred million people and their industry is almost as large as that of Marzanna but likely even more will be needed in the future.


   Poland has been surveying the system of HRCC 5277 which turned to out have five jump points in total, more than any other system known so far. One of those led to a star that is fit to have Guardian presence prompting the exploration ship ORP Stanislaw Ulam to test the new doctrine of checking such stars. She moved to a random point in space, close enough to launch the drone and far enough from the jump point to not make the aliens move towards it, fired the drone and begun creeping away at five hundred kilometers per second. Several days later the drone detected six ships massing sixteen thousand and eight hundred tonnes moving towards the drone and destroying it, most likely moving further trying to find the launch platform. It’s been several days since then and Ulam is still safe, showing the doctrine worked.


   The Polish exploration ship ORP Jacek Karpinski have checked another system. This time the drone was destroyed by an anti-missile before the active sensors could come online. It seems obvious the Guardians are there, but it is not known at what strength. This means two of the five systems around HRCC 5277 have alien presence.
   One thing that is proving to be a much greater issue than expected are the passive sensors installed on the exploration ships. As those vessels were designed in a hurry to get ahead of the competition, they got only very basic systems and there is simply no space in the hull to put something better. For now those ships will have to rely on their drones.


   Poland have to suspend infrastructure transport to Kleczanow and they also decide to slow dawn sending colonists while buying fuel from civilian corporations. While the destruction of harvesters during the Korean War didn’t seem to have an effect, the tugs transporting habitats over interstellar distances have been using enormous amounts of fuel which is now in very short supply despite the fact no habitats have been moved in the past several years. Once the exploration ships are back they will stay in orbit as well to conserve what is available.
   The government knew of the problem for some time now. The shipyard building the harvesters have been expanded from one hundred thousand tonnes to two hundred and fifty thousand tonnes of capacity but is still retooling for a new ship, a process that will take two more years. Two new commercial yards have been constructed but those are in the early days of expansion. For now the current production rates of eighteen million liters per year will have to do.
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