Admiral Michael Ward
Location: CWS Agincourt, Yangon System, Eastern Block
<This is what it is all about.> Admiral Ward watched the information flow across the side of the holo-tank as his fleet rocketed through Alcubierre, and there was so much information.
<Three assault carriers, ninety battleships, forty battlecruisers, ten cruisers, ten missile cruisers, thirty destroyers, six transport ships carrying the bulk of one hundred thousand troops, and a shit ton of support ships.> The ADM took a deep breath in and steadily let it out as the responsibility for the sheer mass of men, women, and equipment at his disposal fell squarely on his shoulders.
It was one thing to plan an operation – to spend days staring at a holo-tank and war gaming what could happen – and trying to figure out the best way to limit casualties, but it was something entirely different to be standing on the precipice with the intention of order half a million people to jump straight into the fire. Fortunately, it was something he had some experience in, and he planned to leverage all of it over the next few days.
There were so many green icons on the holo-tank that he had to scroll down to ensure everyone was good to go. “Send it,” he ordered when he’d double checked everyone’s readiness.
“All hands, BATTLESTATIONS! Five minutes to transition.”
Of course, everyone in the fleet had been at battlestations for the last hour. Things were double and triple checked during that time, and everyone knew they were five minutes out, but he still needed to send it, and he needed to say the following:
“All hands, this is Admiral Ward.” His voice was being piped to every ship in the fleet. “I’m not going to bore you with some ooorahrah speech. I’m sure you’ve received an earful from your squad leaders and section chiefs, but I will say that you will remember this day for the rest of your life. This will either be an operation to halt the cocky Blockies’ forays into Commonwealth space, or it will be the start of a fresh escalation between us and them. Don’t ask me which one it’ll be, I don’t have a clue. That’s for the suits on New Washington to figure out.” A couple of senior officers around the flag bridge smiled. The ADM wasn’t one to sugarcoat things.
“What we are going to do is kick down the Blockie’s front door and shove our boot up their ass for what they did at Rogue Island. We are going to show them that Third Fleet isn’t going to take getting sucker punched. We’re going to show them that we mean business, and we are going to do that by turning one of their up-and-coming systems into a bunch of space junk and bombed out cities. We, Third Fleet, are going to make them think twice about where they want to take this fight, because they know if they try something else we’ll be there to stop them and knock them down a peg or two.” He could see people nodding and determined faces in his peripherals. “Good luck, everyone. Do your jobs and you’ll make it through this. Ward, out.”
He cut the TACCOM link and looked back at the holo-tank. No one on the bridge moved a muscle. “Are you all waiting for a written invitation? We transition in two minutes, move it!”
The last couple of minutes were a flurry of activity as the crews of Third Fleet prepared for one of the most dangerous parts of their voyage. The transition back into normal space was always a little jarring, but the Yangon system sensors – if they weren’t caught with their pants down – would know they were coming. A several-hundred-warship-large FTL footprint was impossible to miss. They’d be scrambling everything they had, and if the Dark God Murphy was ready to fuck Third Fleet, then the Blockies would have ships waiting for them at their transition point. Space was so big that it was unlikely, but that was a Fleet commander’s worse nightmare. The ADM didn’t mind dying in battle, but to die before the battle even started was bullshit. He didn’t want to be remembered for some stupid bullshit like that.
“ES armor at full power, Sir.” The ship’s Captain relayed their defensive posture.
“Thank you.” The ADM was fully confident in Agincourt’s captain’s ability to fight the ship. If he wasn’t he’d have fired the man because Aggie was taking the lead on one of the biggest parts of the operations.
“Transition in three…two…one…” Third Fleet dropped out of Alcubierre in Yangon.
It was the first time most of those half million men and women had been in a foreign power’s space, and only time would tell if it would be the last.
Thankfully, no energy blasts or missiles came roaring in from pre-positioned defenders. The ADM let out a breath he wouldn’t admit to anyone he’d been holding, and concentrated on the rapidly expanding one-light-minute bubble around his Fleet. STRATNET had dozens of ships overlapping and analyzing data, so what he was looking at was much better than what Aggie herself could see.
At the end of that one minute, the score was several hundred green icons to one red.
“Sir, enemy destroyer, Mao Class, is hauling ass in the direction of Yangon-2.”
“Let him go.” The ADM waved off the enemy patrol. They had bigger things to worry about. “I want the drone net up, plot course for the rendezvous, support ships and escort fall back.”
Alcubierre jumps without the assistance of a Launcher weren’t perfect, so a spot in space was usually designated as a point to consolidate and step off for whatever the mission was. There was also no point in having the supply ships come any further into the system. Once things were clear, the ships could come in and resupply the combatants, but until then it just put them in jeopardy. By having them fall back beyond the FTL limit, it allowed them to jump away at a moment’s notice.
<Ok, Yangon, let’s see what you’ve got waiting for us.> An armada of stealth sensor drones shot out of every warship in the fleet to blanket the space in front of them as they pushed forward.
The fleet still moved with a purpose, but the drones pushed farther and farther inward to show them what they were up against. The holo-tank expanded accordingly, and by the time Aggie had reached the rendezvous point the holo-tank was showing everything within two hundred million kilometers of the fleet. With that data the ADM was able to make his decisions.
“We’re going with Plan C.” He stated as he studied the data. The order was relayed to the rest of the Fleet and it started to separate.
They had a Plan A through a Plan Z in place, ranging from best case scenario to a ‘we need to retreat now’ ordeal. Plan C was pretty good. The drones were starting to get picked off by the system defenders the closer they got to the targets, but they’d shown the ADM what he needed to know. The fortresses around the planets and Alcubierre Launchers were still there, and the Fleet’s operation’s department was already computing the best time to hit them. In addition, sixteen battleships were milling around in orbit of Yangon-2. Four more were getting ready to transition through the Launchers. All four were turning to meet the new threat, and system control seemed to be getting everyone the hell away from the launchers ASAP.
Twenty battleships and a few floating fortresses would be a piece of cake for Third Fleet. <Looks like taking the long road worked after all.> From what the ADM was seeing, they’d caught the system unprepared. Murphy worked both ways after all.
Plan C involved dividing and conquering. Agincourt would take a screening element of destroyers and thirty-five battleships to attack the Launchers. That was more than fifteen battleships per fortress. The globes rotating around the Launchers were tough and had the heaviest throw weight of anything in the galaxy, but their lack of maneuverability and the battleships’ interlocked point defense would be enough to handle them. While they duked it out, Aggie would slip right up the middle and launch the real attack on the Launchers.
A lot of people thought it was reckless to risk the Admiral and the flagship on a run like this, but the ADM told them all to shove it. If you weren’t willing to lead from the front then you were a chicken shit. Plus, Aggie was probably the toughest ship in the fleet. If anyone was going to survive it, it would be her.
“Give Rear Admiral Jamison my best wishes.” The ADM ordered the comms specialist to radio the RADM who would be leading the rest of the ships and infantrymen toward Yangon 2. “First one of us to capture their objective buys the next round.”
The bet was totally rigged in the ADM’s favor. The Launchers were tens of millions of kilometers closer, and he only had to take three of them while the RADM would have to take a planet. The RADM brought up that point ten minutes later as the newly minted Task Force 3.2 headed toward their target.
The ADM dutifully told him to suck it up, and when the RADM made ADM he’d be able to set the terms of the bet.
Location: CWS Agincourt, Yangon System, Eastern Block
The whole brigade stood on Agincourt’s flight deck. Ten thousand soldiers were lined up in blocks of one hundred. The blocks were fully manned, everyone was fit and ready to fight, and the CMDR standing at the front was giving a rousing speech.
<That’s a good line.> Eve thought from her spot imbedded with the 2511th BN.
The CMDR was a charismatic speaker and there were war boners all around, but they were for guys making the ride over in Spyders. Eve was getting shot out of a missile tube in a Parasite pod. She’d be tracked by point defense lasers, and the PODs couldn’t do anything but juke in space and hope their stealth systems were up to the task. The Spyders could at least shoot back, but it was the hope that the troops from the Parasites would be able to take out some of the defensive weaponry before the Spyders even launched. Which meant Eve’s squad of grunts, GYSGT Cunningham, and a communications guy were going to have to take on the defenders and try to knock out critical systems before the main bulk of the force even launched.
Anyone else would have thought that was some total bullshit, but Eve just nodded her head and went back to running diagnostics on her V3 LACS. This was what Rangers did. They were the first boots on the ground, and they broke the enemy’s spirits before the main body even set foot on the objective.
An SGM was at the front of the group now. It wasn’t SGM Queen. He was doing something else from the invasion. He didn’t tell Eve all the details, and she hadn’t asked. The SGM was a bit of a legend in the SPECOPS community and nobody exactly knew why. Eve knew why. She’d been trained by the man. He was just that good.
“Brigade…Battalion…Company…Attention!” Ten thousand soldiers snapped to the position of attention.
“Take charge!” The CMDR was done with his motivational number and was turning things back over to the unit commanders to get prepped.
Aggie and the rest of her newly designated Task Force were moving quickly toward the objective. They’d be launching in under an hour.
“Alpha Company, you know what to do. Fall out!” The GYSGT dismissed everyone and started jogging toward the designated Spyders.
Eve stood her ground and waited for the NCOIC. SGT Sullivan and the other eight Rangers stood with her like metal goliaths as soldiers streamed around them.
The GYSGT didn’t say a word to Eve or anyone else. She led by example. While everyone else was queued up and ready to get into the Spyders, a select few headed for the exits. The massive contraptions that fired capitol missiles, and would be firing the Parasites, were several decks lower. The 2511th teams needed to split up and head to different launchers, but Eve continued to follow the GYSGT. As the newly appointed liaison, she was now attached to the NCO’s hip.
“It’s going to be tight.” The PO3 in charge of their launchers looked at all the hulking suits of armor and shrugged. “Better suck it in.”
“Sound off for equipment check.” The GYSGT didn’t yell it like the last time Eve had gone through this procedure. They were all Rangers or hardened soldiers at this point. The GYSGT didn’t need to scream at them to do something.
Eve and the GYSGT took turns running diagnostics on themselves and the Pods. The PO3’s team had already done that, but Eve wanted to do it for herself, and the GYSGT approved.
“Two, ok.” They called off their numbers until everyone in their Pod reported they were good to go.
One by one they dropped into the pitch-black interior. Eve’s armor compensated for the darkness, but she quickly disabled that feature. When they fired she’d have to turn everything into standby mode. Any extra sources of energy could give the enemy gunners targets, and Eve’s ES armor being at full power wouldn’t mean shit if she got hit by a Launcher’s point defense laser. If the pod exploding didn’t get her, flying off into the void eventually would. The biggest invasion in recent memory wasn’t going to get put on hold because Corporal Eve Berg was floating in space.
“What’s got you all twisted, Berg?”
The voice in the darkness made Eve jump. It was easy to forget that there were other people nestled in cradles around her.
“The usual,” Eve replied. “About the get shot through space, in the middle of a soon-to-be legendary space battle, in nothing more than a thin-skinned pod. Then we’ve got to kick enough ass to stay alive until the rest of the Company shows up, and after that we’ve actually got to complete the mission before the Blockies send reinforcements and we fuck the entire Fleet. So, nothing much.”
The GYSGT chucked from her cradle. “Just another day in the Infantry.”
“Rangers lead the way,” Eve replied. She’d done her bitching, and now she was ready to fight. Her fingers itched to run another diagnostic, but she was powered down until they hit that Launcher.
They had to wait for a while. Aggie needed to get close enough to fire the Parasites and give the teams the best chance of survival. The first rumble of a near-hit sent a shock up Eve’s spine, and a wave of claustrophobia rushed over her. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths as several more explosions rocked the assault carrier.
In the back of her mind she remembered a conversation with her brother back in Basic. He’d told her she could still find herself on a ship with no more control of a battle than a spacer. She told him off and said she was willing to take that chance. Now, she realized she didn’t have any fucking idea what she was saying back then. She sure as hell didn’t want to be a spacer, but she was finding more and more that a Ranger’s career put them in just these types of vulnerable positions.
<This sucks.> She was willing to admit to herself seconds before her feet leapt into her throat as the parasite pod was fired toward its target.
The one good aspect of the blackness, and not having any access to sensors, was not being able to see how close you were to dying. The experience might suck, but that part was a blessing.