Location: Aurum System, Gold Technologies Corporate Territory, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Lord Daemon Wright, Duke of Cockshire, stood on the bridge of the cruiser Othello and smiled. Trailing behind the cruiser in a wedge formation were six destroyers, three of the same new, advanced construction as Othello, which consisted of three fourths of House Wright’s naval strength.
House Wright was not a large house. They’d ruled over Cockshire since Windsor was colonized, but they’d never advanced much in social standing or in favor to the crown. The dukedom was large, but mostly agricultural, and lacking of much industrial capacity. Daemon wondered if that was why the royal cartographers had christened his holdings Cockshire. The name had dogged his family for generations. Thankfully a rooster wasn’t on the family crest or they would be the laughing stock of the high nobility.
<Not anymore.> The Duke’s spine straightened as he looked at the two hundred and seventy degree holo that surrounded his position on the flag bridge. The Duke was not a navy man, even though he’d done a tour in the royal fleet to get to know his subjects. Even then, he’d been an engineer. That was his strength. <This situation doesn’t require strategic finesse, just the brute application of force.>
House Wright had been given a part of Operation Grand Sweep; a part that the Duke found lacking. They’d been tasked with taking – and this irked the Duke to no end – an agricultural world with limited defenses and population. There was no honor and prestige to gain by attacking defenseless farmers. He’d made his complaints known to the Lord Admiral, but the man sidestepped the complaint by citing supply needs for future offensive operations and other logistical matters.
The Duke didn’t want to be a logistical footnote when the history books wrote about their grand offensive. He wanted to be the highlight, so he set his sights on a nearby world.
Aurum was the corporate capitol of the Gold Technologies empire. Representatives from the corporation had made overtures when the Queen was building her forces, and the merchant shipping guilds had been forced to grant shipping rights to the carpetbaggers. That animosity never went away as more and more Gold Technologies ships supplied goods from the blasphemous Commonwealth into royal markets. The Duke found Windsor craftsmanship to be superior in every regard, and he’d tried to enact local legislation to stem the flow of the inferior goods. He hadn’t made much headway before the royal call to war abruptly ended the trading, but now he had a chance to strike his own blow.
Othello’s small task force had transitioned in as close as possible to the capitol planet to maximize the element fof surprise. They’d carried there acceleration over from the portal and were hurtling toward their target. As the approached the more populated space, the light-minute radius of their sensors began to populate. Nearly a hundred cargo ships were abruptly changing course to flee before the Duke’s forces.
“Engage anything in range of our beam weapons. Let’s not waste missiles.” Like everything else on the new construction, Othello’s lasers were better than anything humanity had produced before. Despite that, you couldn’t overcome physics. The laser might be much stronger, but you couldn’t fight beam dispersion that eventually decayed the laser’s effectiveness.
Othello had four lasers per broadside, less than similar Commonwealth cruisers, but the designers had correctly assumed the Kingdom’s ships would be chasing there enemies for years to come, so they’d mounted two cannons at the bow of the ship giving it a total of ten. Othello compensated for having fewer laser cannons by having a half dozen more missile launchers. With the enhancements in missiles technology imparted by their alien trade partners, coupled with shielding, Othello was capable of taking on anything the corporation could throw at it.
The Duke didn’t feel anything as the cruiser opened fire on nearby freighters. The lasers had a maximum range of one and a half million kilometers, which put only three ships in range, but three was better than nothing. The beam weapons raked the three ships from bow to stern. One, a quarter million ton hauler, blew apart as their reactors went critical. The other two spewed hull plating, atmosphere, and people as they spiraled out of range with barely enough power to perform minor course corrections. It wasn’t a satisfying attack for the Duke, but it would have to do.
“Your Grace, enemy ships accelerating to meet us at bearing three-five-two. They’re twenty million kilometers out.” The flag captain informed from the bridge.
The ships new onboard AIs began refining the ships’ signatures for the next thirty minutes until the Duke had a good idea what he was facing. All of the ships were in the Kingdom’s database because the ships had all been identified before at New Lancashire, now the freshly subjugated New Britain.
At the center of the enemy formation was the GSFS Midas. The assault carrier was smaller than the Commonwealth version, but it still could dish out more hurt than a mere cruiser. Surrounding the carrier in a diamond formation were four battlecruisers. Just like the carrier, the battlecruisers were smaller than their Commonwealth counterparts, and way smaller than the Kingdom’s designs. The battlecruisers were only thirty percent larger than Othello. Lastly, two destroyers occupied positions on the flanks.
When all the numbers were added up, it was seven on seven. When the tonnage was added up, the Gold Technologies ships outweighed the House of Wright’s forces by a considerable margin. When missile and beam weapons were tallied, the Gold Technologies carrier group had a two-to-one advantage in missiles and a three-to one advantage in beam weapons. When combat effectiveness in the new world of naval warfare was measured the House of Wright held all the cards.
Since the corporate fleet tended to deal more with pirates and close up action, the high beam weapon count made sense. As such, the Duke’s plan was to engage with missiles. The Kingdom’s missiles had better drives, a longer range, and a more explosive payload than the corporations. They’d batter the corporate forces until drawing into closer ranges where their shields would protect them. If any of the carrier groups ships survived when they sailed within one and a half million kilometers, the Duke would finish them off with laser cannons.
“We’re being hailed, Your Grace.” His communication’s specialist, who was his sister’s, daughter’s, youngest son stated. Just like the Duke nearly sixty years ago, the young lord wanted to gain some valuable life experience, but his mother didn’t want him in harm’s way. So, he was sitting safely on the flag bridge of a modern cruiser that was supposed to be attacking an agricultural backwater.
“Video on the holo.” The Duke took a deep breath and put on an expressionless face.
“Unidentified vessels, this is Commodore Zahn of the Gold Technologies Security Fleet, you have unlawfully entered corporate territory. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.” The man on the screen looked surprisingly calm in the face of the Duke’s force.
<The man must not know what we’re capable of.> The Duke fought back a grin.
“Commodore, this it Duke Daemon Wright, Sixth Duke of Cockshire, Order of the Sword. Stand aside or perish.” The Duke wanted to keep it short and sweet. There wasn’t any legal loop hole he was trying the sell the corporations lawyers. This was war.
The CMDRE’s calm expression cracked for a moment, and a chuckle escaped before he could regain control. “Wow, I never thought I’d meet the duke of cock, but I’ve done my duty and warned you. If you pass this line, we will consider your intentions hostile and engage. Good day.”
“It’s Cockshire!” The Duke roared at the CMDRE as the insufferable man disconnected. He looked at the holo as a green line was drawn in space in front of them. It was three million kilometers away. The Duke’s force would be there in less than twenty minutes. “Full speed ahead, Captain.”
“I said full speed ahead! I want that man’s head on my wall inside the hour!” The Duke was seething.
“Yes, Your Grace.” The CAPT cut the connection and the numbers on the side of the Duke’s holo ticked down as the time to the line was recalculated to fourteen minutes.
Those fourteen minutes dragged by. The ship was already at battlestations, but the tension in the air was now palpable as there was a countdown clock to combat. The Duke couldn’t help but grip the sides of his command chair as they reached the line and crossed it. When nothing happened, he grinned at the rest of the flag bridge.
“All bark and no bite,” the Duke laughed. “Othello, target the assault carrier. I want us to be the ones to end that man’s existence. The destroyers can pair up and target the three nearest battlecruisers. Once we finish them off we can move on to the remaining three ships.”
“Yes, Your Grace, repositioning…” red lights and a blaring claxon interrupted the CAPT.
“New contacts! Fifty…seventy five…one-twenty…two-eight…three hundred and ninety five new identified threats bearing down at us from one-three five and two-two-five!” There was and edge of panic in the tactical officer’s voice.
“What?! Where did they come from? What are they?” The Duke spewed questions like a broken hydrant.
“They’re moving fast…they’re…BRACE FOR IMPACT!” The man didn’t even have time to relay what he was seeing.
The tactical officer’s first impression was that they were missiles. There acceleration was so high that they couldn’t be anything else. It would also explain why they hadn’t seen them. The enemy commander had lured them into a trap. Stealth missile platforms must have been placed along avenues of approach to ambush any unwanted visitors. Nearly four hundred missiles bearing down on them would usually be cause for alarm, but a quick glance at his screen showed Othello and the destroyers’ shield were at one hundred percent, and their point-defense clusters were already opening fire and taking out the missiles…except then the missiles started maneuvering.
“What the hell?” Was all the time the tactical officer had before smaller red icons emerged from what he thought were missiles and the pulse of computer confirmed beam weapons filled the space around the House of Wright’s ships.
It quickly became clear Othello wasn’t the target as the destroyers took the full brunt of the attack. Hundreds of lasers and micro-missiles smashed into the four destroyers bringing up the rear. The Duke had ordered the three new built to be dispersed between the older ships to ensure the obsolete models had better protection. That was sound thinking when developing a movement plan that would shift into a wall of battle, but not for an ambush.
The two rearmost destroyers: King Lear and Henry VIII were old models. The missiles and lasers that hit them tore them to pieces in seconds. The two destroyers in front of them were Twelfth Night and Merry Wives of Windsor both new builds. Both destroyers bucked as dozens and dozens of missiles and lasers smashed into their shields. They both held out better than King Lear and Henry VIII. Twelfth Night’s side of the wedge did a better job with point defense. She was still combat ready, but she was venting air and trailing debris after the attack. Merry Wives of Windsor’s side of the wedge was less effective. Her acceleration cut to zero and she started to coast ballistic. Compensators and positioning thrusters were still online because it didn’t go into a tumble, but it took the engineering crew more than an hour to reroute power to get the engines back online.
To the surprise of the Duke and everyone else in the House of Wright’s fleet, there combat strength had nearly been cut in half in the surprise attack. Even more revealing was that two of the new destroyers had been damaged to an extent.
“Missile launch!” The Duke’s head snapped back to the holo where the space around the approaching carrier group suddenly filled with over four hundred missiles. These had to be missiles this time because their acceleration rate was higher than the previous contacts.
The Duke recognized he was in deep shit as a forty second count down clock appeared until missile impact. He was an avid hunter, and in a primarily agricultural shire, he hunted frequently and was quite good; so he understood what had happened. The initial attack had come from behind. It had come in fast and hard and cut his proverbial Achilles Heel. Now he was bleeding and unable to maneuver his forces as well when the enemy went for the jugular.
“Evasive maneuvers!” He yelled as the clock hit thirty seconds. He gripped his chair with white knuckled furry and prayed he’d survive.
Commodore George Zahn
Location: GSFS King Midas, Aurum System, Gold Technologies Corporate Territory, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Mad” George Zahn sat back in his command chair and sipped the cup of coffee. Unlike coffee back in the Fleet, this cup didn’t suck. Good coffee was one of the perks of being in corporate security. Another perk of working with Gold Technologies was that his employer always wanted him to have the best. It had been an exhausting five months in the docks getting refit, but now he could see it was worth it. He was also hoping his strategy to have pre-placed fighter drone squadrons in standby around the system was going to get him a healthy bonus. It also helped that George always knew how to push a person’s buttons.
His ambush had worked perfectly. He’d lured the brazen duke of cock-whatever headfirst into the ambush. Hundreds of drone fighters armed with updated micro-missiles and beam technology had sprung the ambush and cut the enemy forces off at the knees.
“What’s the tally?” he asked as he put the coffee on a grav-coaster. The little piece of tech was expensive, but would keep the much upright and the coffee inside it during minor tremors.
“We’ve got one hundred and forty-seven red drones, another seventy-two are showing as damaged, but operational. They’re heading back to dock. One hundred and seventy six drones are still reading as green and are coming about. ETA to next pass is fifty-eight minutes.”
“Have them return to dock.” George did see the point in wasting more drones. He’d already lost fifty five percent of the contingents and the battle would be over before they came back for another pass. That was the downside of the high-speed passes. That acceleration would throw the fighters far and wide and limited second wave options, but anything moving slower would be easy pickings for the enemy’s point defense.
“Volley one ETA twenty-two seconds.”
George still marveled at the speed of the new missile drives. He’d fired from twelve million kilometers, fifty percent longer than the previous effective range of capitol missiles, and that wasn’t even the edge of his effective range.
<This duke isn’t exactly a tactical genius either.> George watched his holo as the enemy forces scattered, which was the worst thing they could do when over four hundred missiles were bearing down on them.
“Stagger volley two, so we have time to recalculate after volley one’s even spread.” George sipped his coffee and waited for the impact.
He didn’t bother targeting the drifting destroyer, but targeted the four remaining combat effective ships. One destroyer went up after only a few missiles hits. The other two hung on and took a pounding, but eventually were knocked out: one permanently, with the other one becoming nothing more than battered, powerless husks.
“That’s a hell of a cruiser though.” George had to give the designers props. The ship had just had the shit kicked out of it, but it was still limping along after dozens of hits.
It even fired off twenty-two missiles back at the carrier group. They missiles were just as good as George’s so he didn’t take them lightly, so none of them made it to the ships.
“Should we call off volley two?” the operations officer asked as more missiles barreled down on the injured cruiser.
“Negative. You know the boss’ standing order. We need to keep our tech under wraps.” He watched the wave kill the cruiser with extreme prejudice. “Get boarding parties to the damaged vessels. If they’ll live, take prisoners, if they won’t, put them out of their misery. After you’re clear scuttle the ships. Send Diamonds are Forever after the drifting destroyer with those same orders.” George finished off his coffee with a sigh and headed to his quarters just off the bridge to fix another cup.
His crew could handle the rest of this without him, and no one would ever know the Windsor’s tried to attack Aurum and got their asses kicked.