Location: Cobalt Station, System 1776, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Able, I don’t want to rush you, but if you don’t get that fucking door open then we’re going to be human popsicles inside of an hour.” The pirate lord of Cobalt Station stood impatiently beside the Maccabee mercenary.
Despite his brutish appearance, Able was quite good with electronics and engineering. He kept Dawn –or whatever pseudonym she was boasting at the time – flying and ready to fight, so a piece of junk mining station should have been a breeze. It would have been, if the rowdy miners hadn’t gotten a taste of power and decided to wreck the place.
Currently, Able and Noah were two corridors away from the sealed off Administration Level because the miners had tried to burn the door open and scorched the circuitry beyond repair. Able was bypassing bypasses to get the door open and get at the remaining workers loyal to the corporation.
<We need hostages.> Regardless of whatever else the miners wanted, Noah knew what they needed. <Without leverage we’re screwed.>
The Collie marines had taken a huge chunk out of the rebellious miners, but had taken their own losses along the way. Despite losing over a hundred and fifty men and women, the rowdy folk were ecstatic that they were able to beat back the attempt to retake the station.
They were headstrong and confident in their success now, which meant Noah needed a fine touch to manipulate them. He needed to give them a new target, and that target was the Administration Level. That would give them access to the cash the corporation kept on site, the expensive personal property of the managers that had been fucking them in the ass since the day the mining facility opened, and the managers themselves who the miners were planning to fuck in the ass.
<Payback’s a huge, thick, merciless dick.> Personally, Noah didn’t give a shit. All he cared about was getting off this bucket of bolts, and he needed hostages to do that.
“Almost,” Able grunted as sparks flew. “And…there.”
The cheering of the miners mingled with gunfire was all the reassurance Noah needed that the job was done. He slowly walked the corridors back to the thick blast door and waited for a couple of minutes. The level was still defended by half a dozen Corpies, but they wouldn’t last long with the modern weapons the pirate had been supplied by his mysterious benefactor.
<A benefactor who’s going to be pissed we lost Gold.>
A person who could front the kind of cash for this mission was not a person to be insulted, so Noah’s plan was simple: get the hell out of York Sector and not come back for a decade. He could take Dawn and find work somewhere else. With war brewing, things would be ripe for the taking.
Able led the way once the fighting died down. Dozens of miners littered the walkway into the Level. Being sectioned off for precisely this reason, the limited defenders had superb defensive positions. Only the miners sheer weight of numbers and huge balls allowed them to overrun the positions. Mutilated corpses were all that was left of the defenders, and more than one of them was getting pissed on when Noah and Able walked by. The miners might have turned on Noah if not for Able walking beside him with the giant Buss weapon that Collie heavy infantry used. The miners had seen that weapon and Able in action, and they didn’t want to screw with the mercenary.
“That’s enough!” Noah shouted when he finally reached the living section.
Within his view, one woman was getting gangbanged and another was about to. A couple of guys were on the ground bleeding from head wounds, and the looting was in full effect.
“Take what you want but leave the people alone.”
“What?!” One guy – a big guy – rose up at Noah’s commands…and Able promptly incinerated his head with an energy blast.
“Any questions? Good,” he didn’t give them time to ask any. “Property only.”
The remaining miners were cowed by one of their leader’s cauterized stump, but they took to pillaging the place like champs.
“Th…thank you.” The woman who’d nearly been brutally violated stuttered as Noah approached.
“Shut up bitch.” He snapped raising his hand to strike the woman and making her flinch. “If you don’t do what I say when I say it I’ll let them ruin you.” That shut her up, and allowed him to focus on the situation.
The Administration Level held the corporate command center for all of the system’s sensors. <Ah fuck,> was all he could think.
Seven big contacts were decelerating on a course to take up perimeter positions a few thousand kilometers from the station. They weren’t transmitting the transponder IDs of Collie warships, but the blazing icon of Gold Technologies. The Corpies had come for their property back.
“Able.” Noah got his partner’s attention without alerting the miners. “We need to get the fuck out of here now, and we need cover to do it.
Noah figured this went one of two ways. First, the Corpies stormed the station with a shit ton more people than the Collies, they slaughtered the miners, and retook control. In that situation, the pirates got strung up and hanged like in the old days. The second way was worse. The Corpies wanted to make an example of the rebellious miners. Instead of sending troops to retake that station they just blew it up. He was pretty sure they’d be able to write it off their taxes since New Moon had fucked up everything and this could technically be deemed a pirate stronghold now.
The more he thought about it the more he was sure the Corpies were going to go with option two. He had to think fast. They’d be in energy cannon range in twenty minutes, but would probably wait the full hour and get into position before blowing them all to hell. The pirates needed to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
“I’m on it.” Able stated when Noah shared his certainties.
The Corpies cutting costs wherever they could actually helped them in this situation. The station was a modular design. As it grew, more sections were added to the central structure, which just happened to be the Administration Level, refining apparatuses, and cargo bay.
Noah quickly caught on to what the big mercenary was planning.
Dawn was docked on the far side of the station from the approaching fleet, so by sheer luck they had that advantage. Able was currently programming the central computer to blow the modular sections of the stations. When they were blown apart, the pirates would drift in Dawn like a piece of wreckage. Once clear, the sections would self-destruct and the pirates would escape in the ensuing chaos.
“We good?” Noah’s foot wouldn’t stop tapping against the desk as the twenty-minute mark passed. The Corpies could technically wipe them out now.
“I’ve slaved the system to my PAD. We’re ready.” Able slipped the slender device into his pocket and picked up his Buss.
“I changed my mind.” Noah bellowed to the miners still ransacking the place. “You can have the women!”
Cheers were mingled with screams as the pirates used the commotion to slip out. They didn’t run, but they moved with a purpose across the station and to Dawn. That took five minutes, and another five minutes to get minimal life-supporting functions active on the ship without drawing too much attention.
Noah checked the station sensors from Able’s PAD and saw the Corpie fleet dispersing to take up positions on three sides of the station.
“Now or never,” he muttered as he released the docking clamp and Dawn began to drift away from the station.
They gave it a few minutes to gain some distance before Noah activated the subroutine. Two things happened at once. The first was that all of the lifepods fired simultaneously at the approaching fleet. It could be taken as a desperate attempt to flee the station or as a suicide attack on the warships. Either way, it gave Noah a look at the fleet’s intentions.
The lifepods only made it within a thousand kilometers of the warships before point defense lasers lashed out and destroyed them. Noah almost thought he’d misjudged the situation and this was a rescue operation after all, but his initial assumption was correct.
At the same time the lifepods launched muted explosions cut the station into a dozen separate pieces. Those pieces started to drift apart, or in a few cases thrusters activated and drove the sections farther into space.
“Angle us toward the planet, quarter pulse.” Noah commanded.
There was a large gas giant close by, and if Dawn could get close enough, the volatile atmosphere would cloak her from the Corpie Fleet.
“Wait for it…wait for it….” Thousands of kilometers opened up between Dawn, the dismembered station, and the Corpies. “Wait for it…”
Unfortunately, the Corpies weren’t willing to wait for it anymore. Dozens of energy blasts ripped through space and into the various station sections.
“Now! Evasive maneuvers!”
They were too late on some of them. The energy beams sliced through some parts, detonated others, and turned the section of space into a brilliant inferno followed by a space junkyard. The few sections that didn’t explode outright from the attack were taken out by Noah.
Dawn successfully evaded the blast meant to destroy it and went to full power. They ran like hell for the planet as more energy blasts chased them.
Admiral Sonya Berg
Location: New Washington, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Sonya walked into the Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center ten minutes late, but she didn’t care. She’d planned on missing this meeting altogether and sending a deputy before the good news arrived. One of the recon drones Admiral Ward sent out had returned with the location of CWS Hoplite – one of the lost battleships – and a manifest of its surviving crew. Eve was on that list.
Even though she was late, the ADM was riding high on life at the moment. Her daughter was alive, and from the few reports uploaded to the drone, she had performed her duties with considerable heroism. Awards and commendations were in the young woman’s future, and if Sonya was lucky enough, the taste of combat had wiped away any illusions of the Infantry her daughter still possessed. If Eve put in her application from the Naval Academy, Sonya could have her daughter enrolled and in classes within a few months.
That would be the perfect outcome. <Nothing about this meeting is going to be perfect.>
Her arrival caused a commotion. The Prime Minister looked up and gave her a small smile. The man was a military imbecile, but he knew how to politic. The two men standing at the end of the room next to the holo-screen were not smiling. High Admiral Gilmore – her superior –and Commandant Garrett – the head of the Infantry – looked like they were in the middle of a briefing. Sonya’s deputy showed no emotion as he vacated his seat for her.
“Thank you for joining us, Admiral Berg.” Gilmore acknowledged her with more than a little frost in his voice.
“How are things in Syracuse Sector?” the PM asked, and successfully derailed the briefing.
“The remaining units of the task force are being repaired as quickly as possible, Sir, but I would be lying if I didn’t say Third Fleet is a little rattled from the defeat.”
That is not what the PM wanted to hear, but it was the truth.
“They’re also chomping at the bit for vengeance, Sir.” She waited until she had the PM reeled in before delivering the punch line. “All they need is a target.”
“Finally, you and I are in agreement.” Garrett “The Bear” dared a smile. He’d been the one to argue an offensive strike into Blockie territory instead of rescuing the units trapped at Rogue Island.
“In the broader goal yes, but time will tell with the details, and we all know the devil’s in the details.” She gave the Commandant a measured nod.
“Then, with your permission Prime Minister, I would like to continue the briefing.” The High Admiral directed everyone’s attention back to the holo-screen.
It looked like Sonya had arrived at the end of the more tedious bits of information. She just got to hear the end of how the losses affected overall fleet disposition. In a nut shell: they used to be spread pretty thin, now they were even thinner.
Despite that, everyone was in agreement about one thing. They needed to hit back, and the blow needed to hurt.
“The recommended targets are quite similar to the ones we suggested during our last conversation.” The holo-screen split into three sections and showed three different enemy systems. “Xin Omsk, Yangon, or New Petersburg.”
Xin Omsk was a lightly populated system that was growing rapidly. It had the potential for a lot of industrial capacity, but it was in the Rim so it was slow going. Yangon was an important juncture system with half a dozen different valleys leading into it. It would be hard to get to the system undetected, but for that same reason it had lighter defenses than a system like it should have. Lastly, New Petersburg was a Blockie Sector capitol like Syracuse. Personally, Sonya thought even having it as a potential target was stupid.
“I suggest we hit New Petersburg. Kick them in the nuts for the sucker punch they hit us with.” Of course, Commandant Garrett went against what she thought.
“I don’t think Third Fleet can do it.” Sonya immediately dissented. “Admiral Ward is good,” she added quickly to not sound like a defeatist, “but he’s not good enough to crack those defenses with just his fleet. Plus, we still don’t know where their Sixth Fleet is.”
“One of our drones registered them passing through this system.” One of the thousands of randomly numbered systems popped up on the holo-screen. “With that information, it looks like they’re heading back home.”
“So they didn’t want to give us more than a punch on the nose or they’d be driving farther into Syracuse Sector. I think our response should be proportional.” Sonya delivered her advice. “We hit Xin Omsk with a task force from Third Fleet and wipe out the infrastructure they’ve managed to build there. We’ll have several skirmishes over the next year or two as a result, but things will settle down after that. That’s the way these things always play out.”
“High Admiral?” The PM turned to Gilmore.
“I suggest the middle road, Sir. We hit Yangon. It’ll be a solid body blow. It will greatly affect the Sector economy, but not enough to constitute an extreme counterattack. Then Sonya here can get with some of her contacts and have privateers and mercenaries harass any merchant traffic heading through the area. It will blacklist the system for years, hamstring them in this section of space, and be the military victory the Commonwealth needs.
“I’m glad all of my advisors are in agreement.” The PM chuckled and then asked for them to convince him.
That conversation went on for hours. Everything from Infantry resources to Fleet tonnage, transit times, and logistical matters were discussed. In the end, the High Admiral won his confidence.
“Yangon it is.”
The attack would take three months to prepare for, another month in transit due to the route they’d have to take to get them there undetected, three quarters of third Fleet under Admiral Ward would conduct the attack with the other twenty five percent to serve as a QRF for any raid the Blockies might launch in the meantime. Lastly, several troop transports would make the journey with the warships with a full division – with appropriate special operations support – to stamp out everything on the planet’s surface.
It would be the largest assault of the twenty-fifth century: over a hundred thousand soldiers, three assault carriers, ninety battleships, forty battlecruisers, a mix of another fifty cruisers and destroyers, six troop transports, and an armada of supply ships to carry everything that the force would need to be victorious. Over half a million soldiers and sailors, trillions of dollars of equipment, and tonnage numbering in the hundred million range would be going deep into enemy territory to defeat the enemy.
Sonya did not envy the task that Admiral Ward was being given.