The Lost Command (Lost Starship Series Book 2)

BOOK: The Lost Command (Lost Starship Series Book 2)
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SF Books by Vaughn Heppner

 

DOOM STAR SERIES:

Star Soldier

Bio-Weapon

Battle Pod

Cyborg Assault

Planet Wrecker

Star Fortress

Task Force 7
(Novella)

 

EXTINCTION WARS SERIES:

Assault Troopers

Planet Strike

Star Viking

 

LOST STARSHIP SERIES:

The Lost Starship

The Lost Command

 

Visit VaughnHeppner.com for more information

 

The Lost Command

(Lost Starship Series 2)

 

by Vaughn Heppner

 

 

“Friends are the family you choose.”

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by the author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

 

FROM:

OFFICE OF THE LORD HIGH ADMIRAL

STAR WATCH SUPREME COMMAND

PLANS AND OPERATIONS DIVISION

 

TO:

BATTLE GROUP COMMANDERS

SITUATION ALERT

TOP SECRET

 

Captain Maddox has returned from the Beyond on a secret Intelligence mission to locate an ancient alien starship. He has delivered this ship to the Oort cloud in the Solar System. [Star Watch experts continue to examine the alien vessel, searching for superior weaponry.] Several weeks after the captain’s return, the New Men invaded the Commonwealth.

Supreme Command believes the two events are related. The New Men conceivably wish to defeat the Commonwealth before we can discover and use the ancient technology to shift the balance of power.

The attack started on the rim of “C” Quadrant. In the last seven months, the New Men have annihilated four Star Watch battle groups and an allied flotilla of rim system warships. There are unconfirmed reports the enemy has bombarded habitable colony worlds with nuclear warheads.

Two and a half months ago, Supreme Command sent the augmented Fifth Fleet to “C” Quadrant. [Half the warships carry the new wave harmonics shielding.] Admiral Fletcher’s orders are to engage in battle under favorable conditions. Otherwise, Fifth Fleet must practice a fighting withdraw, slowing down the enemy but keeping the fleet intact.

Detailed
Combat Studies
in the Strategy Council suggests that Star Watch must commit to maximum mobilization. Henceforth, all leaves are canceled until further notice. The New Men represent a category one emergency. The personnel of Star Watch must respond with utmost vigor in what might be the very existence of the human race.

 

CARIA 323, “C” QUADRANT

 

 

-1-

 

The senior officers of Star Watch’s Fifth Fleet sat in the conference chamber of Flagship
Antietam
. Most of them looked worried. They had a right to be.

“It’s definite,” Admiral Fletcher said. He was a big man with harsh features, sitting at the head of the table. “Commander Guderian came through the Laumer-Point an hour ago. She spotted the enemy in the Lamia System. The New Men could be here in three days, maybe less.”

That caused a visible stir among the officers. The fear intensified in a few. Others looked more determined.

The admiral understood both emotions. He felt them himself.

“How many star cruisers did Guderian see?” Rear Admiral Blake asked.

Blake was thin and balding with pinched features, an officer with a mathematical bent of mind. The rear admiral commanded nine monitors: big, slow-moving vessels with dense shields and heavy-mount lasers. The monitors were almost the equal of the older generation battleships, lacking the
Bismarck
-class’s speed and space marine pods.

“Over twenty star cruisers,” Fletcher said. “The New Men were jamming, of course. There could have been more. Guderian’s
Osprey
is a Patrol craft and has excellent sensors, but the enemy—”

“Excuse me, Admiral,” Blake said, interrupting. “Did the New Men spot the
Osprey
?”

“We can’t know for sure,” Fletcher said, “but we must assume they did.”

Blake glanced at the others before saying, “The New Men know the Fifth Fleet is here, Admiral. They know we’re waiting for them.”

“It’s possible,” Fletcher conceded, “although I doubt it.”

Blake laughed bleakly. “These are the New Men we’re talking about. Their technology has trumped ours at every turn. Their beams bypass our shields and drill through our hull armor with ease. On the reverse, their deflector shields shrug off our heaviest lasers, and whatever alloy they use for armor resists our best efforts. With all due respect, sir, we’ve brought our fleet too far forward. We should retreat and consolidate as per orders, gathering greater reinforcements.”

“I don’t agree,” Commodore Garcia said. She sat across the table from Blake. The small woman was old, with dark eyes and hunched shoulders. Many considered her the cleverest tactician among them. She ran Taskforce 31, which was the highest-rated in the fleet.

“No one has faced the New Men and survived,” Blake told her. “Why are we going to be any different?”

“For one thing,” Garcia said, “many of our vessels have the new wave harmonics that changes a shield’s frequency at high-speed. That should stop the enemy beams for a time, a new and critical advantage for us.”

“Let me point out that only
half
our ships have these new shields,” Blake said. “And if the shields are any better than the old ones, no one knows that yet. But even if they are, that means
half
our ships are still criminally exposed to the enemy beams, including all nine of my monitors.” The rear admiral paused, as if letting that sink in. Then he added, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We should retreat and refit
all
our ships before thinking to face the high-tech star cruisers.”

“No,” Fletcher said in a low voice.

The senior officers gave the admiral their attention.

“We’re Star Watch,” Fletcher said. “We’ve sworn an oath to protect the people of the Commonwealth. That includes the five hundred million souls on Caria Prime. If we pull out, the New Men might bombard the planet, maybe annihilating everyone.”

“I agree that’s a war atrocity of the first order,” Blake said. “Caria 323 is also the pivotal star system of “C” Quadrant. If there’s any place to face the New Men out here on the rim, it’s this system. The Commonwealth has poured vast sums of money into strengthening it. I refer to the star base guarding Laumer-Point Alpha.”

Faster-than-light travel mandated tramlines, or as some called them “wormholes” or “jump routes.” A ship with a Laumer Drive opened a Laumer-Point and jumped along the route, traveling the many light-years connecting the two star systems in a matter of seconds. Once in the new star system, a ship had to travel the ordinary way to the next Laumer-Point. The journey across a system often took a week or more before the ship could jump again.

Caria 323 was a critical rim system, particularly as it was now the last easy route from the Commonwealth to the Wahhabi Caliphate.

“Star Base Alpha has collapsium hull armor,” Blake was saying. “I happen to know that beggared the treasury fifteen years ago when they installed it.”

Fletcher was aware of all that. Star Base Alpha guarded Laumer-Point Alpha near the system’s G-class star. Laumer-Point Beta was way out here on the edge of the system, near the last gas giant. Caria Prime, the inhabited world, had its own star base, making this the most heavily defended system of “C” Quadrant.

“We can’t let the New Men capture such a collapsium-armored star base,” Commodore Garcia said. “As the admiral has pointed out, we can’t just leave Caria Prime to its fate.”

“Don’t you see yet?” Blake asked, his voice rising. “Don’t any of you understand? The New Men have deliberately left this star system alone because it’s so valuable to us. They
wanted
to lure us out here. They want to catch our main fleet and destroy it so they can continue the invasion at their leisure. It’s like Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon needed to defeat the Tsar’s armies early, in the Russian provinces nearest Europe. Instead, as we should do, the Russians marched their armies deep into the motherland, luring Napoleon to his doom far from his home base.”

“We can defeat the New Men here,” Garcia said.

“Where is the evidence of that?” Blake asked. “We must be coldly rational in this. The survival of the human race could be at stake. No. My thought is that whatever the enemy wants, we should avoid. That means we should use the Fifth Fleet as the kernel to creating a
gigantic
armada.”

“Where are these extra ships that will make up your super fleet?” Garcia asked.

“I’ll tell you,” Blake said, pointing at her. “We must add the Wahhabi Navy to ours; do everything in our power to convince them to join us. Then we must add the Spacer Forces and those of the Windsor League as well. If the enemy has superior technology, we must match it by overwhelming numbers.”

Fletcher had heard just about enough. He’d hoped to win Blake and his adherents over to the plan. If the Fifth Fleet were going to beat the enemy, they needed unity.

“Admiral,” Blake said. “You have the right idea. You’ve gathered every remnant from the defeated battle groups, keeping everything together. But this is too little too soon to face the enemy’s superior technology. Instead of losing Caria Prime with its five hundred million people, you’re risking the billions upon billions of the entire Commonwealth.”

“You call this too little?” Commander Musgrave asked. He was a red-haired officer with wild eyes who ran a flotilla of heavy cruisers.

“I most certainly do,” Blake said. “I’ve given each star cruiser a numeric value in relation to its combat power, and I have computed the same for our vessels. Despite the fact that we will have more ships, they will have the superior force.”

Musgrave slapped the table. “We have seventy-four capital ships,
seventy-four
of the finest vessels of Star Watch.”

“I’m aware of how many ships the admiral commands,” Blake said, dryly.

So was Fletcher. It still awed him. There were seventeen
Bismarck
and
Gettysburg
-class battleships, thirteen motherships, nine monitors and thirty-five heavy cruisers. It’s true he had fewer destroyers than he would have liked. The enemy often used speed and flanking maneuvers. Masses of destroyers would have aided against that. Instead, Fletcher had missile boats and escort vessels. Despite those numbers, he’d also emptied a dozen troop transports of their space marines. The transports now bristled with the latest electronic gear, turning them into highly expensive decoys.

“According to my calculations,” Blake said, “we have enough ships to make our losses critical, but not enough to hurt the New Men, to say nothing of defeating their invasion fleet.”

“Wait a minute,” Musgrave said. “You think the enemy knows how many ships we have and that we’re stationed here?”

Blake took a deep breath. “I know what you’re thinking, all of you: that I’m a defeatist. But I’ve studied the enemy. The New Men are smarter than we are. They’re stronger, quicker,
better
in every way. Unless we are very, very careful, they will make monkeys out of us.”

In the ensuing silence, Admiral Fletcher picked up a clicker. He turned on a holoimage that appeared above the center of the table.

Everyone could see the ships of the Fifth Fleet. They waited behind the last gas giant of the system, a blue Jovian world with Saturn-like rings. Laumer-Point Beta was on one side of the planet, the fleet was on the other side. That was by design.

Just like Blake, Fletcher understood the enemy’s superiorities over them. But even New Men experienced Jump Lag when coming out of a Laumer-Point. Jump Lag was a temporary, but often debilitating, effect of “jumping” that people experienced in a variety of ways. Some people vomited. Some had blurry vision. A few had even died. Computer systems also suffered most of the time. The duration of the effects varied, but these disturbances could be critical.

Therefore, jumping through a tramline under combat conditions called for a strict procedure. One first sent through nuclear warheads. They used a timer and a spring, which were impervious to Jump Lag. The thermonuclear explosions cleared away any nearby defenders. That allowed the invader time for Jump Lag recovery.

Fletcher, with Garcia’s help, had developed a plan to defeat the enemy. When the New Men sent thermonuclear warheads through Laumer-Point Beta, the blasts would strike the gas giant and its rings, but do nothing to the fleet waiting behind the planet. The explosions would be the signal. Fletcher would order his battleships, monitors and long-range-firing heavy cruisers to swing around the planet. As the New Men appeared, disoriented from Jump Lag, he would destroy them as mercilessly as they had destroyed previous Star Watch battle groups and allied rim warships.

“I appreciate your concerns, Rear Admiral,” Fletcher said. “They have merit. But let us suppose the New Men come through with double the number of star cruisers Guderian counted. We will still heavily outnumber them. What’s more, we will have the advantage. Yes, they have better shields and beams. But we will catch them at the worst possible moment for them. It will mean a resounding victory for us. It’s possible we can even end this war.”

“What if the enemy doesn’t come through?” Blake asked. “What if he stays in the Lamia System?”

“Why would he?” Fletcher asked.

Blake looked distressed. “I don’t know, sir. I’m just worried we may have overlooked something.”

“Maybe this will put you at ease,” Fletcher said. “I suspect the New Men have something I call ‘victory disease.’ They have beaten us every time, often decisively. It is my belief they have come to view us with contempt. Instead of worrying about their so-called invincibility, we should see this as a golden opportunity to catch them with their pants down.”

Blake frowned thoughtfully.

“The New Men will come through,” Fletcher said. “Of that, I have no doubt. They will trust their star cruisers to defeat us as they have defeated everyone else. Do you doubt we can defeat them if they appear?” he asked Blake.

“If they come through exactly as you expect…” Blake put his small hands on the table, his eyes unfocused, thinking. He looked up with resignation in his eyes. “If they come through as you say, we should defeat them.”

“You truly agree with that?” Fletcher asked, surprised at the concession.

Blake looked around before staring up at the admiral. “If they come through as you say, yes. But I’m betting that’s a mighty big if, sir.”

Fletcher felt his temper slipping. He reminded himself he’d called the meeting to sound out his senior officers. Well, he had what he wanted: their real opinions. Now it was time to wrap this up.

“We can’t win a war if we grant the enemy supernatural abilities,” Fletcher said. “Maybe the New Men are smarter than us, but even geniuses can make mistakes. This time, they’re walking into a trap. The tactical situation at the jump point will nullify their normal advantages.”

Rear Admiral Blake looked as if he wanted to say more, but he held his tongue.

Fletcher could live with that. Blake was scared, and maybe the man had a right to be. The legend of the New Men’s invincibility had been growing for some time. Here in the Caria 323 System, they were going to shatter that idea and smash the invasion fleet for good. Later, they could search the Beyond for the New Men’s homeworld, and end the war.

The admiral gazed at his senior officers. It was good to let his people air their differences, as long as they could come to a working consensus in the end. He just hoped Blake’s nerve held for a few more days.

BOOK: The Lost Command (Lost Starship Series Book 2)
12.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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