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Authors: Harvey G. Phillips,H. Paul Honsinger

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To Honor You Call Us

BOOK: To Honor You Call Us
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To Honor You Call Us

 

A Novel of Interstellar War

 

Book One of the “Man of War” Trilogy

 

by

H. Paul Honsinger

and

Harvey G. Phillips

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by H.Paul Honsinger

 

Cover art/design Copyright © 2012 by Kathleen Honsinger

 

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

To our dear wives, Kathleen and Laura Jo, without whom this novel simply would never have come into being.  Thank you for your incalculably valuable practical assistance in bringing this book to print and, of far more importance, your patience, your endurance of our many faults and thoughtless acts, your encouragement, your advice, your example, your fundamental decency and goodness, and—of course—your insistence in September 2012 that we just sit down and start writing.  Thank God for you.  You are the light of our lives.

Northwest Arizona

October 28, 2012

The Man of War Trilogy

 

To Honor You Call Us

 

For Honor We Stand (Early to Mid 2013)

 

Brothers in Valor (Late 2013)

 

 

 

 

Prologue

04:13Z Hours, 11 November 2314 (General Patton’s Birthday)

 

Lieutenant Max Robichaux, Union Space Navy, stood in the crowded boarding tube breathing the scent of fear-acrid sweat from the thirty-four other men he had been able to round up from the
U.S.S. Emeka Moro
.  With over fifty Krag boarders on his own ship, it seemed nothing short of insane to be counter-boarding the enemy vessel instead of defending his own.  Except that, his shipmates were losing the battle for their own vessel.  Except that, unless the Krag ship could be disabled and the two vessels separated, the more numerous crew from the enemy Battlecruiser would continue to flow into the
Emeka Moro,
overwhelming the less numerous compliment of the smaller Frigate.  Except that, unless this desperate gamble worked, his own ship would be taken, refitted, crewed with Krag, and sent back into battle against the people who built her.  And, of course, there would be the small matter of the enemy brutally killing Max along with his shipmates and dumping their mutilated bodies into interstellar space.

Call it an incentive to succeed.

Max adjusted his gloves which not only chafed his large hands, but trapped his own nervous sweat against them.  “Five seconds, brace yourselves,” yelled the Engineer’s mate.  Every man covered his ears and opened his mouth to help prevent his eardrums from rupturing.  “Three, two, one.”  Just as Max could see that the young man’s diaphragm was beginning the contraction that would allow him to utter the word “now,” the slowly telescoping boarding tube struck the outer hull of the Krag warship, triggering the breaching charge with a deafening THOOOOOOOM blowing a nearly two-meter opening into which the boarding tube penetrated just under an arm’s length.  Within a second, a polymer collar around the exterior of the tube folded out and adhered to the inside of the hull, making an airtight seal.  Just as the seal formed, the door at the end of the boarding tube dropped to form a ramp and the men under Max’s command stormed into the Krag ship, weapons at the ready. 

They found themselves in a large cargo hold full of assorted containers, at least thirty meters square, with a hatch on the far wall.  Immediately, three men slipped off packs and pulled out three components which they assembled into a device, about a meter and a half square, which they activated.  Max noted that both the blue and green lights came on, indicating that, for now, the Krag ship’s internal sensors and comms were offline until their computer managed to decrypt the scrambling algorithm, which typically took from fourteen to twenty-three minutes.  He hoped it was long enough.

A quick hot wire job by the Engineer’s Mate (what was his name, Tumlinson?  Tomlinson, Tomkins?) and the hatch slid open, admitting the boarding party to a corridor.  Max was the first one through the door, sidearm in hand.  “After me,” he whispered hoarsely and the men followed him at a trot.  The Union had captured enough Krag ships in the decades’ long war for Max to know the general layout.  So, he had no trouble leading them to the Main Engine and Power Control Room.  The boarding party made its way quickly without encountering any Krag for about sixty-five meters, and then turned a sharp corner into a short corridor that ended at the entrance to their destination. 

There to be met by a hail of gunfire.  Ducking quickly out of the way of the bullets, Max pointed to three men behind him, then made a fist and a throwing motion, indicating that the three men were to use grenades.  They pulled the fist-sized devices from their web belts and yanked the pins while holding down the safety levers, then looked back at Max.  He held up three fingers and counted down silently:  “three, two, one.”  A full second after the “one,” and in unison, all three men threw their grenades hard against the far bulkhead of the corridor to land at the guards’ feet in a banking shot.  The grenades went off about a tenth of a second apart.  Max and his men scrambled around the corner shooting as they came, in case anyone was left standing. 

No one was.  Four dead Krag lay bleeding near the door, rifles in their hands.  “Remember men, once we get in, no shooting.  Boarding cutlasses only.  There are too many things in there that can kill us all if they get punctured by a bullet.”  He turned to the Engineer’s mate.  “Ready, Tomkins?” 
That
was his name.  Tomkins.  “Blow it.”

Tomkins pressed and held two buttons on the side of his percom, the green light on the small breaching charge he had just stuck on the hatch changed from green to red, and with a sharp BANG, the shaped charge shredded the door.  Max led the way, his 63.5 centimeter boarding cutlass drawn, his men immediately joining in separate one on one and three on two engagements with the twenty-five or so Krag engineers who had been manning stations in that space.  Spotting the panels that he needed to reach near the far end of the room, Max strode in that direction.  Immediately, three Krag converged to block him.  The closest drew its own sword, a short, straight affair resembling a Roman
gladius
and stabbed at Max’s midriff.  With a powerful downward swipe of his own, longer, heavier blade, Max blocked the blow and struck his opponent with the back of his hand hard in the snout.  Stunned, the Krag staggered, allowing Max to bring his cutlass back up and chop into the Krag’s neck, cutting about three quarters of the way through, severing its spine, and dropping it to the deck.

The second, more skilled with a sword than the first, held its weapon in front of it like a fencing foil, ready to duel.  Max charged, leading with the point of his own weapon as if to accept the Krag’s invitation to a fencing match.  At the last moment, Max lunged forward and grabbed the end of the Krag’s sword in his gloved left hand, pushing the point away from himself while plunging his own weapon deep into the Krag’s abdomen and out its back.

Sensing rather than seeing the approach of the third Krag, Max quickly pulled his sword from the second and pivoted to his right to fend it off just as the one Marine Max had been able to find for the boarding party caught it from behind, stabbing swiftly into the Krag’s right lung with a distinctly non-regulation dirk.  The Krag fell to the deck on his back, gasping as its lungs collapsed from the air filling its chest cavity.  The Marine silenced the sound with a savage stomp to the Krag’s throat.  The way to the panels was now clear. 

Max took a quick look around the compartment, seeing that all the Krag were out of the fight, except for four who were standing back to back mounting a last ditch defense.  Twenty or so lay dead or badly wounded on the deck, along with seven of his own men.  Confident that the remaining boarders would shortly overwhelm the four hold-outs, Max reached the panels he sought in three long steps, struggling briefly with the unfamiliar labels on the controls. 

He pulled a small cylindrical device from his web belt, ripped off a piece of plastic film exposing an adhesive strip, and gave the end a quick half twist.  Max pressed the cylinder, adhesive side down, to the panel and stepped back.  He then repeated the procedure, attaching a second cylinder to a second panel.  A few seconds later, each made a loud, high pitched whine that started out near the top of the musical scale and rapidly ascended beyond the range of human hearing all the while emitting a brilliant red-orange glow that became brighter as the pitch became higher.  When the noise and the light both stopped, Max saw that all the displays in that entire area of the Krag engineering deck were dark, the delicate micro-circuitry of their components hopelessly fused.

Until the Krag could bypass those units, a process that might take hours, their ship’s grappling field was off line and its motive power limited to maneuvering thrusters.  “Men, her claws are cut and her legs are broken.  Now, let’s get away before we overstay our welcome.”  Max had always been amused by the idea of boarding with a nuke rather than sabotage gear, but the thought of what would happen if the boarding party’s exit from the enemy ship got delayed didn’t bear contemplation.  Being caught inside the fireball of a nuclear explosion may be a quick and painless way to die, but it was also awfully damned certain.  Boarders always took or crippled the ship they boarded, but never destroyed it.  That was best done at a safe distance from your own vessel.

Max led the men back the way they came, turning into the main corridor only to be met by about two dozen Krag Marines, probably drawn by the sound of the earlier gunfire.  Each side fell back from the intersection too startled by the sudden appearance of its respective enemy to get off a shot.  Knowing he had only a second to act before the Krag got the same idea, Max pulled two grenades from his own web belt, one in each hand, extracted the pins with his teeth, and tossed them both around the corner.  As soon as they went off, he charged around the corner, his men behind him, the front rank of five men shooting from the hip and taking out about half of the Krag who were not felled by the grenades. 

The two clumps of combatants merged in a close order melee, shooting at point blank range with side arms and hacking at each other with swords.  Max shot one Krag through the bottom of the jaw and was turning to meet another when he felt an odd tug at his left arm.  Turning, he saw a Krag sword slicing the back of his wrist, just as Ordinary Spacer First Class Fong shot it through the back of the head.  As both groups started to thin from casualties and room between the fighters opened up, what had been an even balance between shooting and stabbing turned more and more to shooting with the advantage going to the slightly more numerous boarding party.  The remaining Krag ran with the Union crew shooting at their fleeing backs and bringing down four more.  Stepping over the bodies of friend and foe, Max led the remainder of his men, now numbering only nineteen, back into the cargo hold, down the boarding tube, through the airlock, and onto the
Emeka Moro

Tomkins pulled a large lever sealing the boarding tube airlock, then slapped a red button.  A loud WHUMP marked the explosion that blew the tube, cutting the near end loose from the
Emeka Moro

Max gave himself the luxury of half a minute—five quick breaths—to savor the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of being back aboard his own ship.  The boarding action had been a success, with the bonus that Max and most of his men were still alive.  There were Navy crewmen left behind on the Krag ship, probably all dead by now, and there they would stay.  Sentimental notions about retrieving bodies of comrades had perished in the first weeks of this desperate war for the survival of the Human Race.  But, if things continued according to plan, the fallen would receive the most thorough cremation known to man.

Leaning against the nearest bulkhead, Max hit the orange SND/ATN button on his percom.

“Robichaux to CIC.”

“CIC,” the voice from the ship’s Command Information Center responded over the tiny device strapped to Max’s wrist.

“Boarding party is Romeo Tango Sierra.”  Max said, informing the command crew that the boarding party had “RTS” or Returned To the Ship.  “Enemy main sublight drive and grappling field disabled for estimated one hour minimum.  Nineteen effectives remaining.  Rest are Kilo India Alpha.”  Killed In Action.  Dead.  Almost half. 

“Excellent work, Lieutenant.”  Max recognized the cool, well modulated voice of Captain Sanchez.  “Make your way to Auxiliary Control with your party.” 

“Heading for Auxiliary Control, aye.”  Auxiliary control?  With enemy boarders to be fought?  Fighting the desire to shake his head at the order, he turned to what was left of his command.  “Men, we’re ordered to Auxiliary Control.”  Down a corridor Max led his men, now huffing and puffing, through the series of access ladders and corridors that would take them to the deck on which AuxCon was located.  Then, CRACK-BOOOOOM.  A sharp blast followed by a long, deep rumbling shook the ship.  Max knew that sound.  It was the detonation of an implosion charge array collapsing a heavy spherical pressure bulkhead.  Like the one that surrounded CIC.

Now the order made sense.  The Captain must have known that the Krag had taken the spaces surrounding CIC and were setting the carefully calculated arrangement of explosives that, when detonated together, would crush the CIC pressure bulkhead like an eggshell, instantly killing everyone inside.  Everyone in CIC, which likely included every officer on the ship senior to Max, was now dead.  Captain Sanchez had just issued his last command.

Max and his men poured out onto Deck 8 and ran toward Auxiliary Control.  Dead men and dead Krag littered the corridor.  No one was left alive, save one Krag with a shredded right arm trying and failing to set a breaching charge on the hatch.  Setting a breaching charge is a two-handed operation.  Max drew his sidearm and shot it cleanly through the head, absently kicked the body to the side, put his palm on the scanner, and keyed the access code.  The hatch slid open admitting Max and his men to the room from which the ship could be fought if CIC were destroyed. 

Only two Petty Officer 3rds were manning stations.  The rest of the crew who would ordinarily have been there had probably been sent out to fight boarders.  Max threw himself into the seat at the Commander’s station and divided his attention between pulling up the displays he needed and putting people to work. 

“Tomkins, Woo, and Lorenzo, take maneuvering.  Adamson, Tactical.  Marceaux, Weapons.  Fong, SysOps.  Montaba, Sensors.  Everyone else cover the rest of the stations as best you can—keep an eye on what’s going on and go where you’re needed.  Don’t be afraid to sing out if you see anything, need anything, or have a question.  You’ve all got your Comets, so you know how to run every station in the ship, but you’ve never worked together doing these jobs, so you’ll just have to talk to each other, pitch in, and be flexible.  Now, let’s see about getting the old girl back into the fight.”

BOOK: To Honor You Call Us
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