Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
The small group made their way out of the maglev station and down to the PHA Administration Building. The place looked like a beehive that had just been kicked. Everyone seemed to be on a mission, and by the shouting going on, everyone thought their mission was more important than everyone else’s. The group stuck to the anonymity of the stairwell as much as they could. They emerged into the packed main-floor foyer and Hailey, who was in the lead, skidded to a stop. About a dozen men and women in reservist CMUs looked up from what they were doing at the recent arrivals.
It looked like the SGT in charge of the small detail was about to say something when Eve stepped out in front of everyone. If her active duty CMUs and black stripe didn’t convey authority, her tone of voice sure as shit did. “What the hell are you looking at SGT?” she stalked toward him, and literally made him almost trip over a weapons crate as he backpedaled. “Why isn’t that crate locked?” she continued as she kicked over the unlatched crate and weapons toppled out. “Regs say these are all to be locked tight unless an armed guard is present. Is there an armed guard here, because I don’t see one.” She swiveled her head pretending to scan while giving Coop a “keep moving” gesture behind her back.
“Let’s go,” Coop took Hailey by the elbow and guided her along the wall. There was a single side door directly ahead that would take them out into the main courtyard. She shrugged off his help after a few steps, but allowed him to lead the way.
“It’s not rocket science, sergeant!” Eve yelled behind them as they reached the door. “I don’t give a shit if it’s hot in here! You aren’t going to think it’s hot when I grab one of these weapons out of an open crate and beat you to death with…” the closing door cut off her tirade.
“Where to?” Coop asked as he took in the courtyard.
There were more reserve troops milling around, and a quartet of armored vehicles sitting in front of the building. They were track vehicles, without modern anti-grav, but the 40mm cannon mounted on the front would still get the job done. The question was, what job needed doing? He’d been present for more than one riot as a Rat, and they’d never rolled out light armor before. Armored troop carriers full of cops in riot gear…yes; but never old military gear.
A nearby rumbling echoed down the wide boulevard leading to the administration building, and Coop caught sight of another half-dozen LAVs rolling up to create an armored perimeter.
<Where’s the riot?>Coop thought as he looked around for the surging mob of Rats who were here to bitch about their miserable lives. Except…there was no one in sight.
“Coop,” Hailey pulled on his shoulder and broke his attention from the approaching vehicles. “This way,” she directed him away from the LAVs and toward the side of the building where several alleys branched off.
Coop had some not too pleasant memories of alleys off a government building from not too long ago. He remembered Rats high and out of their mind. He remembered Spyders going down. He remembered splattering a man’s brains on the walls of an alley as a torrent of bodies tried to rise up from the sewers and overrun his team’s position. For all of that, he’d been in LACS armor. Now, he felt naked as they moved into the alley where a car was idling.
It was a clunker, but when most people in the PHA didn’t have a vehicle, this thing was worth its weight in gold, which was why two armed guards were watching over it. The car was shitty enough not to draw attention from the reservists or cops, but nice enough for anyone with PHA street-smarts to know not to fuck with whoever was inside it. Coop guessed it was Hailey’s idea to drive them out of there, which was a shitty idea. They’d never make it passed the checkpoints. The PHA was on lockdown.
Eve joined them a minute later, and together, she and Coop took up most of the back seat. An unlucky PFH goon was shoved up against the window on Coop’s left so tightly he’d never be able to get his gun up in time if Coop needed to dispose of him. Hailey on the other hand took the comparatively spacious front seat, where she could easily draw on them. The driver took off, bottoming out on a nearby speedbump because of the increased weight in the back seat. He headed west.
“Ahhh,” Coop nodded as he caught up with the plan. The brown sludge of Lake Erie was not nearly as tightly patrolled as the roads in and out of the PHA.
“Yep, we’ve got a boat to take us down the coast and then a car to take you to the nearest mag-lev station,” Hailey smirked.
“How long?” Eve kept her eyes on Hailey since she was the only threat.
“Should be a few hours before you can make the nearest station.”
“But that’s too late. We’ll miss formation,” Eve’s fingers dug into the faux-leather arm rest.
“Not my problem,” Hailey shrugged.
“You little . . .” Eve glared.
“We’re getting out of here, which is a lot better than we were doing ten minutes ago,” Coop put a calming hand on Eve’s tense shoulder. “If the Commander couldn’t get us transport then he’s going to have to deal with the fact we might not be able to meet his time hack.”
Eve was still pissed, but no guns had been drawn, or punches thrown, so he took it as a win. They were on their way, and would get where they were going eventually. He just hoped the mask he’d bought back at the station worked. The lake smelled like a giant toilet, and being on it for an hour or more was going to be a literal shit storm if he had nothing to breath but rotten ass.
<Things could be worse.>
ADM Janet Blackbird
Location: Orbit, Mars, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“…MANEUVERS!” the ADM finished yelling just as the screen blossomed with energy signatures and missile launches.
A tally of incoming missiles scrolled up all the way to twelve thousand on the right side of the holo-tank as their preprogrammed guidance systems, designed to be used against the Blockie and Windsor’s capital ships, went to work against the Commonwealth formations.
While the missile launch made sense, the energy attack didn’t. The drones were small, designed to dog-fight enemy drones in space, atmosphere, and if they were lucky enough, to get within close range to harass capital ships until railguns or point defense eventually killed them. Despite their small size, their armaments were heavy. Their missile bays were modular to meet the mission’s objectives, and for this one the ADM had ordered them loaded with the larger missiles able to take the fight to the huge enemy ships. That meant they only had a few shots in their internal magazines. As far as she was concerned, more missiles in the tubes didn’t amount to much when they couldn’t even scratch the paint.
However, energy weapons were pretty straight forward. Despite the drones packing a solid punch from something as small as them, that punch wasn’t nearly enough to travel over six million kilometers and have anything left to hurt Biggie or any of the other assault carriers and battleships making up the shielded front of the wedges.
<Even an ensign fresh out of the academy knows that,> Blackbird frowned as the energy beams dissipated over the next eighteen seconds into a light breeze of particles that didn’t even rustle their shields.
<Anyone who knows the drone’s specs knows that, and everyone knows them. At least . . . every human knows them.> The realization hit her harder than losing her fleet’s entire drone compliment. She was willing to put the weird ship design and unorthodox tactical movement doctrine to something new the Windsor’s were rolling out. God knew they had enough surprised up their sleeves. But not knowing basic energy weapons degradation over such a large distance was just too much to be a coincidence.
She probably should have seen it earlier, but had been waiting for more and more evidence to present itself. It was the wrong type of mindset to have in the middle of a battle this lopsided, and the delay in her acknowledging what was really going on was going to cost her fleet a pound of flesh. Probably more. <Stupid…so stupid,> she chided herself.
“Comms, get me a priority channel to headquarters. This isn’t the Blockies or Windsor’s. This is someone else.” The bustle of a warship bridge in the middle of combat operations ceased at her statement, but it quickly picked back up again. No one had time to stop. The countdown clock to twelve thousand missiles hitting them was ticking down. “Comms?” she turned to the CMDR and his team in their pit next to her raised station.
“Sorry, ma’am. I don’t…” he cut off with a panicked look. More MALCON warnings flashed across his screens.
“TACCOM is compromised!” she yelled out. “All stations switch to manual operations.”
The command would normally elicit a groan during a drill, but no one complained this time. With the flip of a switch the communications OIC sat down at a terminal and started typing out her message. That message would be transmitted through a hardline to an array of tight-beam laser emitters throughout the ship. Those emitters would fire of the message to receiver panels mounted on hulls of nearby ships or land-based arrays. The message would then be transmitted over hardline to the other ships’ bridges where it would appear in their holo-tanks. Nothing in the process was wireless or capable of being intercepted, unless the enemy was between the laser emitters and the receiver panels. It was the modern-day equivalent of semaphore, and as such, there was a programmed shorthand to speed up the communications process, but it was still extremely slow compared to TACCOM and STRATNET data processing. Even worse, the old-school systems weren’t integrated with the new IOR tech, even in the upgraded ships. It was a critical oversight the ADM needed to bring up to the refit team’s attention.
<If we survive that long,> doubt reared its ugly head in her mind.
The minutes ticked by as the confirmation of her orders trickled back. Line of sight issues were making things even more difficult as sometimes her orders would have to be transmitted ship to ship along a daisy chain before the flanks of formation got the information. It was hard to imagine how anyone used to competently fight wars without adequate communications capabilities.
“Enemy missiles entering outer engagement envelope in three…two…one…” Biggie rumbled as the first countermissiles launched into the void. “Seven-one seconds to interception.”
The incoming missiles internal computers identified the launch and took evasive action of their own. Some attempted to dive under and over the wave of countermissiles. Others started zigzagging through space, while other bunched up to give fewer targets, which would draw less countermissiles onto them, so when they split, the countermissiles couldn’t interdict them all. The ADM waited for her fleet’s countermissiles to disperse and engage the enemy’s evasive tactics…but nothing happened.
“Guns?” she spun to the weapons department that controlled the missile and countermissile batteries. MALCON warnings were flashing on their screens.
“Son of a bitch!” she cursed, not bothering to hide her frustration from the crew.
Whoever these bastards were, they were hamstringing her entire fleet. She was back in the stone ages. They’d taken the drones, she couldn’t effectively pass orders to her people, and now they couldn’t even shoot back. The ADM had zero confidence in her missile and countermissile capabilities after the outer envelope of countermissiles passed harmlessly through the center of the dispersed enemy missiles.
“Don’t waste the missiles,” she ordered when the Gunnery OIC started prepping for a second wave of countermissiles. “Comms, order the wedges to Formation Tortus. We need to close the distance with these bastards to the point where we can just use old fire-and-forget gunnery principles.” No one liked to hear the complete degradation of the fleet’s combat capabilities, but reality didn’t care if you didn’t like it. It was what is was. “Guns start warming up those energy cannons. Things are going to get hot.”
The ADM gripped her chair and watched as twelve thousand missiles continued to barrel toward her formations. The ship’s AIs were still cataloging possibilities and refining results, but if she was the enemy, she’d shoot at the biggest and deadliest opponents first, which meant she would probably see her fair share of those missile barreling directly at Biggie sooner rather than later. Formation Tortus should help that with the battleships on either side of her drawing closer and providing overlapping defensive fields of fire, but her flagship was still going to take a beating.
<The whole fleet will,> she might show her frustration to the crew, but not her wavering confidence. The enemy fleet had the advantage in tonnage and numbers. She just hoped the orbital weapons would be able to give the enemy enough pause to… <I’ve got no idea what I’m hoping will happen,> she sighed. She didn’t even know if those weapons were still operational. She hoped the massive cannons could be manually aimed and fired without too many components that could be hacked.
As far as she could tell, this was a worst-case scenario. First Fleet wasn’t coming to the rescue. They had to protect Earth. Even the other allied fleets in the system wouldn’t come for the same reason. If Second Fleet fell then Mars fell. <At least we’ll make them pay for it.>
A surge of pride refocused her mind on the task at hand. She’d trained these people. Despite having task forces regularly sliced off to be sent away, she still believed Second Fleet was the best because of what she’d trained them to do. She needed them all to trust in that training now so they could send as many of these assholes as possible straight to hell.
<I doubt they’re even have assholes,> she would have chuckled if she wasn’t busy getting her comms OIC to get in touch with the orbital cannons to arrange firing solutions that avoided friendly fire.