Authors: Stephen W Bennett
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Military, #Space Opera, #Colonization, #Genetic Engineering
The Rise of the Kobani
By Stephen W Bennett
Koban: The Rise of the Kobani
Text copyright © 2013 Stephen W Bennett
All Rights Reserved
Cover art designed by
Misha Coutinho Richet,
This is the third book in the Koban Series
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Thank you for respecting the many months of long and hard work of the author.
This book is written in “American” English, so there may be some differences in spelling and usage than in other countries use of the language.
This is a work of fiction and all characters are fictitious or are portrayed fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Poldark’s Planetary Defense Command (PDC) immediately detected the three clanship White Outs in a tight formation, at just over one thousand miles above the northern Bosnian Sea at mid-latitude. They were more than four times the distance at which the Krall usually made their exits, and well away from the conquered territory on Poldark’s second largest continent. They weren’t an immediate threat to any particular population center, but three ships arriving at once was serious in any case, and stealthed meant they could be headed anywhere after the White Out.
The orbital defenses were keyed to react most quickly to close-in White Outs, usually between one hundred fifty to two hundred miles. It took nearly five seconds before the first heavy duty lasers reoriented and sought the parent targets of each gamma ray burst. The three ships were stealthed, so the assumption was that they had entered with a high velocity vector towards the planet, imparted to the three ships before they had even Jumped. The beams all passed through locations in space where the targets were reasonably assumed to have moved. Locations that were below the points of the three closely clustered White Outs
A formation arrival would typically split up immediately, and start independent vectors towards the planet, dividing the defenses. In vacuum, the enemy always used Normal Space drives powered by tachyon energy, rather than the reaction mass thruster system, because the latter would leave easily detectable trails of ions from the exhaust. The Krall never waited to mix it up with the defenders, driving into the teeth of the defending lasers, plasma beams and missiles.
A recent addition to the defenses was hundreds of rail guns, used on small orbital fusion powered platforms, which could spew a sleet of cheap heavy slugs to cover possible approaches to the planet. They were not a high risk to a clanship unless it was hit many times, but if they struck anything invisible to radar, they would explode with a brief transmission of their position. The triangulation from the Doppler shift of their return signal would indicate something of the trajectory of what they had struck, providing a clue of enemy location and possible future track. The slugs were a risk to legitimate shipping, communications and spy satellites, and other railgun platforms, therefore an Artificial Intelligence was fed the orbital radar data, and it coordinated the rail gun firing to minimize collateral damage.
The spent shells had multiple self-destruct modes, where they could fire a small reverse thrust to fall out of orbit and burn up within a day or less, they also would detonate on their own after a short flight time, or they could be given a command signal to apply either self-destruct method sooner. The space above Poldark was already full of tiny to medium- sized debris. A thousand small orbital sweeper bots with wide scoops and powerful magnetic fields were constantly chasing down and cleaning up particles and larger objects, melting them down for reuse. On occasion, they cleaned up pieces of other sweeper bots, destroyed by the Krall or by accident.
The only occasions the necessary sweeping task wasn’t dull routine or irritating, was when they were collecting bits of destroyed clanships or single ships. Unfortunately, that wasn’t very often because the usually electromagnetically invisible Krall ships moved extremely fast, and were unpredictable and nearly undetectable before reaching atmosphere. Most of the debris in orbit came from destroyed human spy satellites and weapons platforms, or ships that the Krall killed via ground fire, or attacked in orbit with their stealthed single ships and clanships.
Arriving enemy clanships didn’t normally give the PDC the opportunity to start shooting at them from a thousand miles away. Even in a large volume of sky, with ships invisible to radar, lidar, maser, much of the visible light spectrum, and which emitted no Infrared, any refraction or reflection or beam deflection could be revealing. That could briefly reveal where a ship had moved from their gamma ray centered entry point, thus providing an intelligent guess for the AI systems of where to probe with plasma and laser beams. Combined with a launch of some larger reusable missiles, and mass firing of railguns, they could quickly strike towards potential ship locations before the clanships plunged into the atmosphere. The missiles would probe the places near any suspicious radiation returns or beam deflections. Invisible or not, the clanship would definitely feel the explosion of even an accidental impact of those larger missiles.
Corporal Caldwell called out. “Captain Reykic, no joy on orbital scans, and all three ships have had time to hit atmosphere by now, they could be anywhere, including half way around the planet.”
“Turb has no refraction trails at all?” The captain referred to the Turbulence Detector watch, which could trace fast moving clanships as they passed through atmosphere. Their fast passage produced visible refraction in their wake, if not outright contrails. The ships would alter speed and trajectory constantly, making the guessing game continue, but with a bit more predictability.
“No Sir. They either stayed in orbit, slowed and entered at low velocity, or departed without attempting a penetration.”
“We know we won’t spot them in orbit, and they damn well never pull out and just leave. A slow approach is much harder to detect. Ask Turb to focus on visible light. The reactive hull skin will blend with the sky and clouds, but we have a chance to see the ripple as they move.”
Caldwell, avoiding a roll of his eyes followed the order, but he knew the response he was going to get back from Turb control when he told them how to do their job.
The sharp reply in the transducer behind his right ear was expected. “Charley, you watch frigging space, we’ll handle the damned atmosphere. We were already checking for slow moving ripples, it’s automatic, for craps sake.”
Charley looked at the image of the man he’d contacted, displayed on half of the right side lens of his computer-linked cyber glasses. “Brek, I just did what I was told. OK?” He looked over his shoulder to be sure the captain was out of earshot. “Reykic micromanages everything, you know that.”
“Right. Didn’t mean to snap at you. I’ve transferred the search to the south Turb Division, since we don’t see anything in the northern hemisphere. The Krall always plunge right into the pool, no testing the water first. I wonder where those
alien assholes went this time.”
“assholes” were coasting slowly away from the planet, retaining the modest velocity Mirikami had imparted to his three-ship flotilla relative to Poldark, and was allowing gravity to slow them. Their Normal Space drives were ready for maneuvering into an orbit, once the activity to find them had died down. There also were tachyons in their secondary Trap fields, available for a possible Jump to the Oort cloud if forced to retreat briefly.
The three ships had their facing view screens active, and the tight-beam laser coms had all three linked in a secure closed circuit that could not be intercepted.
“Sarge was right on the money,” Mirikami confirmed for them. “They expected us to exit closer in, and to dive towards the planet. A slow coast away at a higher altitude was completely out of character for the Krall.”
Noreen had noticed a defense Reynolds had not mentioned. “Are the railguns new, Sarge?”
“They are to me,” he answered. “I heard about their development on Tri-Vid news, and read about the Navy building the platforms for every inhabited planet, as low cost protection from the Eight Balls, like the one that blasted Rhama. Naturally, government bureaucracy and politics saw to it that
worlds got them first, instead of the Rim and New Colony worlds, which were already under attack.
“Poldark didn’t have them six months ago, when the Krall caught my bony butt. However, the need for depleted uranium slugs with diamond tips, which they talked about for Eight Ball use, would seem to be resource expensive for several hundred railgun platforms, spread around seven hundred or so planets, requiring millions of rounds of ammunition. Particularly if they also use them to wildly shoot at clanships they can’t see, nor kill one if they can only hit them at random.”
Sergeant Reynolds, late of the PU Army on Poldark, freed from Krall captivity six months ago, sounded far more erudite today than if someone were trying to push him into a position of authority. His unconscious desire to stay in the background would then cause him to shift into a different persona, and speak as if he were an uneducated hick, in an effort to demonstrate he was unsuitable to assume any leadership role. If all that was required was advice or information, or attacking the enemy when ordered, then his University education sprang forth.
“I don’t know. Those small platforms can really throw the slugs.” Marlyn noted. “Are you sure they can’t knockout a clanship? How could they take out an Eight Ball of collapsed matter if they can’t kill one of these ships? I wonder how they even keep them all supplied with slugs.”
Mirikami had a speculation. “I see some small unmanned ships in orbit, collecting debris. Perhaps they smelt the material down out here, and make more slugs on the spot. They would have plenty of ferrous materials in most of the debris for the magnetic railgun launchers to push. They could reserve a supply of better, diamond tipped ammunition for use against Eight Balls if they appear. I don’t think they expected to knock out a clanship with them, unless it’s an extremely lucky shot.”
Dillon and Thad were also on the Bridge with Mirikami, and Dillon had been checking the AI’s sensor reports after their White Out. “Jakob reported thousands of small flashes along the trajectories of each burst of slugs.” Jakob was the human made AI installed on the converted clanship, renamed the Mark of Koban. “I think the shells self-destruct if they don’t hit anything, to reduce the danger of other ships hitting a high speed ten or fifteen pound solid slug. That’s a lot of kinetic energy to encounter, at eighteen to twenty thousand miles per hour. Military ships will have heavy shielding that can hold up against the smaller fragments, but not very well against a solid slug.”
“If the railguns can’t knock out a clanship, how will they kill an Eight Ball?” Noreen asked.
Her com image showed Reynolds shrugging. “The ball that the battleship Gauntlet hit, when defending Rhama’s orbital transfer station, exploded with almost the energy of a midsized nuke. They apparently have an enormous amount of binding energy holding the partially collapsed matter together, and they normally can take the tremendous punishment of ramming into our ships multiple times at safer velocities. They sure shrug off normal missiles, lasers, and plasma beams.
“I heard some scientists, interviewed on Tri-Vid, say they had calculated that if the stress at any point on the collapsed matter surface exceeded a certain high pressure threshold, they completely let go with a blast. It’s like a crack caused from a very high velocity impact with a large dense mass like the Gauntlet, or when striking a planet’s deep crust or mantle. A high pressure strike at a tiny spot, such as by a fast moving, diamond-tipped uranium slug could cause a single microscopic crack to propagate through the ball and release all of that energy. A clanship doesn’t have that sort of brittle structure, and it will simply puncture or absorb the shot.”
Thad, using zoomed in detailed visual images from the Krall sensor suite at his console said, “Tet, I think you’re probably right about the ammo being remade in orbit. I just watched one of the debris collecting robots dock with a railgun platform. It probably transferred freshly manufactured slugs to its magazines. The railguns could easily have a supply of better quality ammunition on the platforms for use against an Eight Ball. That leaves me wondering why they create the mess of an orbital debris field, shooting cheap slugs at clanships that can’t really be hurt by them, not with only a few random hits.”
The video feed on the laser com sets revealed Mirikami in his usual lip-tugging mode of thinking.
He suggested an answer, as he also looked at Jakob’s sensor records. “The spent slugs eventually all exploded, except for some that slowed and burned up in the atmosphere. That means they have electronics built into them, some sort of timer chip, a power supply, and an explosive charge or small propulsion source. If one of the slugs had hit us it might not do enough damage to disable us, but its explosion would probably tell them where we are. I note the railguns all fired along low orbits, parallel to the planet’s surface, where presumably they expected our three stealthed ships to try to sneak into the upper atmosphere. I think they were shooting blindly, hoping to hit and reveal something radar couldn’t see. They could then focus fire power in that vicinity, increasing their chance of more hits and damage.”
With a nod to Reynolds, Mirikami added, “That sort of defense response was exactly what we needed to know, or else we would have blundered into a dangerous situation we could simply avoid. Let’s stay formed close enough for secure laser com, but I want to go into orbit back down at a thousand miles or so. There Sarge and I can use passive scanners to search for a place for the Mark to hide, once we make a successful penetration over Krall held territory.”
Even stealthed from human equipment, the Olt’kitapi designed ships the Krall used could track one another. Mirikami led the other two captured clanships, renamed the Avenger and the Beagle, into an orbit that would repeatedly take them over the continent where the Krall had first invaded Poldark. Reynolds would use his knowledge of the region, and fresh observations to find a place where they could hide the big craft in mountains. They needed to avoid not only the Poldark defenders that considered them a Krall ship, but also stay away from the Krall. The latter would be “energetically” more unfriendly than the PU Army, if they discovered humans had captured one of their ships.